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Wednesday, Mar 12, 2014
Should the fact of Laura Wilder's dated prejudices lead us to abandon Little House and its sequels?
Above: Garth Williams original illustration.

Laura Ingalls Wilder had a hard life. Her family was always moving, and they lived in fear of attacks. Bobcats were a threat. Mom and Dad had to build at least one house, from the ground up. Mom badly injured her foot when she dropped a log on it. In those days, people thought you had to put an injured foot in a certain kind of water—which was exactly the wrong kind of water for an injured foot. So Mama Ingalls’s foot swelled and began to resemble a turnip.


That’s not all. For example, Laura’s sister, Mary, lost her sight at an early age. And a major treat for Laura was a trip to a housing wares store—can you imagine? How boring! But, to Laura, who rarely had the opportunity to see anyone other than her nuclear family, a trip to a nails-and-plywood store was like a trip to Disney World.


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Tuesday, Oct 8, 2013
Royden Poole is having a very bad day. Strong armed into investigating a break-in, the theft of everything but a half million dollars in unmarked bills, two missing-persons cases and a shooting with no body, all he wants to do is go back to pretending to be dead.

“The dangerous time when mechanical voices, radios, telephones, take the place of human intimacies, and the concept of being in touch with millions brings a greater and greater poverty in intimacy and human vision.” So wrote Anaïs Nin in her diary in the years directly after the great war.


Decades before the internet and its myriad entertainment traps, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and all the other social media platforms which have come to crowd out and clog our email in-boxes, creating their own two dimensional universes on the basis of binary code; so too go our thoughts. Paired down to 140 characters, a soundbite, or a catchphrase it becomes increasingly difficult for the old long form, the indepth and subjective rationalization of subject matter, to compete with the fizz and pop of trending tastes. Social media has become a world within our world, and Nin’s prophetic sentiment remains valid, perhaps moreso than when she penned it.


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Monday, Jun 17, 2013
An autobiography that includes stealing from priests, going to the navy with Artie Shaw and fighting the law (Dead Kennedys style, somewhat).

While reading How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, I grew to enjoy Lenny’s stream of conscience style, which becomes clear and concise by the end of the book (where he rants on about sex, religion and politics). Just when you think he has completely gone off subject, and maybe when you yourself have forgotten what he was originally writing about, he finds his way back. Chapter 27 on morality clauses come to mind; I might have to read it again:


“Recently I was offered a writing gig on a TV series (…).  But after two days, negotiations went right into the can. The company’s legal department killed it. Because of the morality clause.


(…)


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Tuesday, Oct 30, 2012
A boy who finds a big toe while digging in his backyard, morbid songs about the decomposition of human corpses, a dismembered head...

At first, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark doesn’t sound like a very scary book. The title is awfully benign, conjuring images of campfire ghost stories that end with an overexcited “Boo!”


Frankly, it sounds pretty lame.


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Thursday, Jan 5, 2012
The Beatles boy wonder sound engineer Geoff Emerick reel-to-reels in the years and makes tenderloin out of some sacred cows in the process.

Among the various source quotes on the back cover of Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles is one by David Letterman sidekick and bandleader Paul Shaffer. Lauding the book as a dream come true for Fab music scholars, he reminds readers that its author (in the recording studio at least) was that rarest of things” a true Beatles insider. “The cat was there!” Paul exclaims.


Indeed, the “cat” in question, recording engineer Geoff Emerick, was that and much more. A fixture behind the recording console for a large part of The Beatles’s career, Emerick did much to shape the ground-breaking sounds of The Beatles’s post-touring studio years (1966-1970). Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heats Club Band and Abbey Road all benefited from the sonic innovations of the young man known as “Mr. Golden Ears” by his EMI colleagues (though reading the book one can suspect the nickname was served up with generous helpings of English taking the you-know-what).


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