Looking for an engaging summer read? Here are two books I've recently read that I can recommend without any hesitation.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Oh, what a fine book. I've read Flynn's other two books, each of which was very good; this is the best of the three. This is a clever, ingenious suspense novel about a marriage gone bad. I don't want to say too much about the plot because the joy in this book is in the pleasure of uncovering for yourself what's going on. It's a dazzling, richly layered story. If you want to read more about it, here's Janet Maslin's review from the New York Times. You also can click on the book title to go to the Amazon reviews of it.
I also recommend Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. It's a character study, playing out over a weekend at a wedding set at a Nantucket-like locale. Exceptionally well done. See the review today in the NYT Book Review.
Newsweek has published a nice follow-up by David McCullough to the dazzling speech he delivered recently at the commencement at Wellesley High School, where he teaches English. (See post directly below.) Like the speech, this article is worth your attention.
I've previously posted some of the artful stop-action photo videos made by the good people at PES. Examples are here, here, and here. This time, they apply their art to the task of making hand-grenade guacamole:
Now that that’s settled, I am very much concerned with the ignorance of so many Americans. This may come from a minimum of interest, time, resources, or the inability to research, read, or access any media whatsoever. Maybe people don’t ever, ever use their computers to learn about issues or bother to open a newspaper.
And yes, I’m being a little facetious.
Maybe they do read, but fail to catch up on the news on a regular basis. Maybe they’re apathetic. Or lazy. Or gullible. Or afraid they won’t be able to process what they’re seeing and hearing. Or maybe they don’t understand what they’re hearing. Or perhaps their only source of news is Fox, which has proved itself to be a propaganda network, not a reliable source for hard news.
Whatever the reason, it saddens and infuriates me. We’re coming up on another presidential election, and people who will actually go to the polls and vote still don’t seem to understand, say, President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Here’s a headline I just ran across:
The breakdown: 41% of those surveyed said the court should strike down the entire law, and another 27% said the justices should overturn only the individual mandate, which requires most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty.
Do these people know what’s in the law or how it works, why the mandate is in there, or how lives will change if the law is repealed? Because other polls show that once they do, once it’s broken down and polled component by component (“Do you approve of the part where your kids get to stay on your plan until they turn 26?” or “Do you approve of the part where you can be covered despite your pre-existing medical conditions?”), suddenly it dawns on them that they kind of like it.
And how about the people in Wisconsin who voted against their own self-interests? What did they not know?
Or how about those relentless birthers? Or voters who just know that President Obama is a Muslim while criticizing his attending services at the largest church affiliated with the United Church of Christ (because they disapprove of the pastor)?
Unfortunately, there are some people who, despite easy access to all kinds of information, will still believe what they want to believe, will never be convinced otherwise, and will continue to thrive on oblivion and assumption instead of knowledge and instruction. Evidence schmevidence.
Democrats lose elections when voters are uninformed and/or misinformed, when they’re ignorant of the facts, of the full story, of who the candidates are, of how our election system works, of how to register to vote, of basic civics, etc.
Excerpts of this hilarious satirical song written and performed by composer Andrew Rindfleisch,playfully mocking the modern day conservative American conscience, its bigotries, and its hypocrisies, in a happy-go-lucky hybrid of musical styles.
Also available at Rhapsody, Amazon Mp3, Napster, Emusic, Nokia, Verizon, and dozens of other digital retailers.
Iron Knee offers a nice, succinct summary of Republican priorities:
Republicans in the US House are showing us their priorities. On Tuesday, they passed an energy spending bill that is riddled with amendments that are bad for our country. Compared to what Obama requested, they removed funding for clean-energy and efficiency programs, and added additional money for fossil-fuel and nuclear programs.
But the most ironic amendment was one that strips the government of the ability to enforce the light bulb efficiency standards that already went into effect this year. Even though the efficiency law was passed in 2007 — under George Bush — that hasn’t stopped the GOP from using it to attack Obama.
Assuming this amendment survives, it won’t actually do what its promoters claim. The light bulb efficiency law would still be on the books, and US manufacturers have already changed their products to comply with the law, so they will keep making more efficient light bulbs that generate the same amount of light with less electricity. Instead, it will open the doors to unscrupulous foreign manufacturers to dump cheap, inferior light bulbs on the American market (with no way for the government to enforce the law).
So, in one stroke, the GOP shows that it wants to increase our energy dependence, put US jobs at risk, hurt the economy, and increase pollution. Could it be any clearer?
As we await news of today's results in the Wisconsin election that will decide Governor Scott Walker's political fate, let's ponder the latest confirmation of just how polarized the U.S. has become politically in recent years. Take a look at these results from a report issued by the Pew Research Center, showing the widening differences in political values between Democrats and Republicans:
And if you don't feel like reading the report itself, here's a short take on it by the Washington Post's Don Balz.