Thursday, April 30, 2009

Food and Drink

Check out a new post today at my blog, Something Good to Eat (somethinggoodtoeat.com).

Flu News Round-Up

Slate gathers together the A/H1N1 flu stories from this morning's newspapers.

"The Lions of Mara"

The Lions of Mara, a book by wildlife photographers (and brothers) Anup and Manoj Shah, is scheduled for publication in 2011. Today you can check out some of their excellent photos at The Daily Mail.

(Via Gizmodo)


I want to play with those kitties.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Judge Bybee Defends Torture Analysis

The New York Times reports that Judge Jay Bybee of the Ninth Circuit issued a statement defending the memos he signed concerning torture while he was employed at the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel as a "good-faith analysis of the law".

Bybee's statement said: “'The central question for lawyers was a narrow one; locate, under the statutory definition, the thin line between harsh treatment of a high-ranking Al Qaeda terrorist that is not torture and harsh treatment that is. I believed at the time, and continue to believe today, that the conclusions were legally correct.'”

Nonetheless, in thinking about this it is useful to recall the Washington Post story from the other day in which Judge Bybee's friends said he never sought the job at the Office of Legal Counsel. Bybee interviewed with then-White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales for appointment to a position that would be opening on the 9th Circuit when a judge retired. "The opening was not yet there, however, so Gonzales asked, 'Would you be willing to take a position at the OLC first?'" according to a source in the WP story.

Questions for further consideration:

Do you think the Bush Administration would have advanced Jay Bybee's name for appointment to the Ninth Circuit had the Bybee memos condemned the so-called extreme techniques or if Bybee vigorously opposed the legality of these techniques?

Would an individual's ambition to serve on the United States Court of Appeals, and perhaps then someday be a contender for the Supreme Court, influence his or her level of satisfaction with the quality of the reasoning DOJ offered to support what the Bush Administration wanted to do?

Is "good-faith analysis" sufficient for the United States Department of Justice on the question of torture?

This Wikipedia link will get you to a page on the Bybee Memos and links to the actual documents.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Best Seller Round-Up

"A man is known by the books he reads, by the company he keeps, by the praise he gives, by his dress, by his tastes, by his distastes,by the stories he tells, by his gait, by the notion of his eye, by the look of his house, of his chamber; for nothing on earth is solitary but every thing hath affinities infinite."

Ralph Waldo Emerson


I. The New York Times.
Published April 24, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: Just Take My Heart, Mary Higgins Clark.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.

II. Los Angeles Times.
Published April 26, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: New Moon , Stephenie Meyer
Fiction Hardcover: Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers.
For the week ending April 19, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri



Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List.
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending April 19, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows .
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.
Nonfiction Paperback (Trade): Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.


Saturday, April 25, 2009

NYT: Chinese Police Dog Tibetan Blogger

This morning's New York Times profiles Tibetan poet and blogger Woeser. Woeser's blog, Invisible Tibet, "chronicles life in Tibet amid a continued yearlong crackdown on dissent." According to the story reported by Andrew Jacobs, Woeser's books are banned in China and her blog blocked. Police track her moves, interrogate her friends, searched her mother's home in Lhasa, and placed Woeser under house arrest at one point for speaking to the foreign news media.

An important story describing the steps the Chinese government takes to suppress speech it objects to, and the fear generated by the government's actions.

People without free speech are not free people.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Torture Memos

In memos released recently we learned more about how the Bush Administration crafted a legal justification for torture.

Art helps illuminate truth; that's why I like this video:




(Via Boing Boing)

More on Judge Bybee here.

New Orleans Jazz Fest

The 2009 New Orleans Jazz Fest starts today. Even if you can't get there, you can add a little New Orleans to your life this weekend:

Listen to the music: Start with some Dr. John, the Neville Brothers, and Wynton Marsalis. Add in community radio WWOZ 90.7 FM, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station; WWOZ will be broadcasting live from the Jazz Fest grounds.

Enjoy the food and drink: Prepare something from Judy Walker's book Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans or check out her blog at The Times-Picayune. Ms. Walker is that paper's food editor.

The Times-Picayune also has an excellent recipe index. Creole Julep anyone?

Read books and view movies set in New Orleans: Rent A Streetcar Named Desire. Read Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, John Grisham's The Client and The Pelican Brief, or the classic A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, a few of the many books set in the city. A list of more works of fiction set in New Orleans can be found at this Wikipedia link.

If nothing else, have the right attitude: Laissez les bons temps rouler!



Thursday, April 23, 2009

The NYT This Morning

First, become alarmed about the Taliban's continuing surge into Pakistan. Personally, I'm tired of the Taliban. Why can't they engage in something productive like getting a good education and then pursuing advancements in science, technology, or the arts?

Second, become alarmed about the tussle that will surround achieving computer system security (computers that run the military, the financial industry (such as it is), that support intergovernmental communication and so on).

This article has the quote of the morning: “One of the things that I’m looking at is establishing a sub-unified command at Stratcom for cyber,” (Defense Secretary Robert M.) Gates said. Well, if a "sub-unified command at Stratcom for cyber" will do the job, I'm for it.

Third, check out Gail Collins' column "Forgive and Forget", in which she asks whether it is time for New Yorkers to forgive Eliot Spitzer. After all, she writes, there are other things to do such as figuring out "what to do with the federal judge [Jay S. Bybee of the Ninth Circuit] who approved the memo specifying the number of insects you could throw into a box with an arachnophobic suspected terrorist."

Maybe there is a bright side here: With what we know now about Judge Bybee's legal thinking, lawyers practicing criminal defense may at last have a reason to be glad that the federal sentencing guidelines are in place.

With the paper read, I'm now in the correct mood to read the first quarter 401(k) statements that arrived in the mail recently.

Uff-da.





Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Recommended: "The Archivist's Story" by Travis Holland

The Archivist's Story, a novel by Travis Holland, is set in 1939 Moscow. It is a relatively short book (about 240 pages) that communicates one powerful feeling: dread. The archivist in the story, former teacher Pavel Dubrov, works at Lubyanka prison. His job is to catalog, and ultimately destroy, writings by authors who are the victims of Stalin's persecution.

Dubrov steals from the office some work by Isaak Babel, although he knows that even such a small act could lead to arrest and death. This adds another layer of dread to the already horrifying world of the Soviet Union under Stalin, its Secret Police, and pending war with Germany. In the course of these extraordinary times, ordinary life continues and Pavel Dubrov must also cope with the death of Dubrov's wife in a train accident and his mother's failing health.

The situation is grim, but author Travis Holland writes delicately and beautifully of this dangerous world. As bad things happen, it's like watching a window slowly crack and disintegrate; we wait for the glass to fall out and a dreadful storm to rush in through the destruction.




"Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout Wins Pulitizer

A highly recommended read from February, Oliver Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.



Sunday, April 19, 2009

Slate Summarizes Sunday's Headlines

A look at what's in today's major U.S. papers from Slate.

Best Seller Round-Up

"When I got [my] library card, that was when my life began."
~ Rita Mae Brown.


I. The New York Times.
Published April 17, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: Turn Coat, Jim Butcher.



Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.

II. Los Angeles Times.
Published April 19, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: Twilight, Stephenie Meyer
Fiction Hardcover: Eclipse, Stephenie Meyer
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers.
For the week ending April 12, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): Unaccustomed Earth, Jhumpa Lahiri
Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List.
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending April 12, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows .
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.
Nonfiction Paperback (Trade): Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Zombies and Vampires and Books - Oh, My!

Are you already reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, in which author Seth Grahame-Smith takes Jane Austin's classic novel and salts it with scenes featuring zombies? Well, someone is reading it because the book is in the number three spot on The New York Times trade paperback fiction best seller list. While zombies do sound intriguing, it is not enough to lure me into another go-round with Pride and Prejudice.

I may, however, fall victim to this author in the future. The New York Times reports that Grahame-Smith has two more books in the works, the first called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. While I declared myself through with vampires after Lestat, and completely ignored Stephenie Meyer's The Twilight Saga Collection I have to admit: Lincoln as a vampire hunter sounds like a book that could find a place in my beach bag.






(Via Papercuts)

Recommend Reading: "People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks

People of the Book, a novel by Geraldine Brooks, is an interesting read that offers a great deal of opportunity for reflection.

The novel is spun around a real object, the Sarajevo Haggadah. The haggadah is a Jewish religious text used during the Passover sedar. The Sarajevo Haggadah is an illustrated manuscript of the haggadah text created in 14th century Spain. According to Yale University Library, which has a facsimile of the manuscript, the Sarajevo Haggadah was brought to the former Ottoman Empire by Jews expelled from Spain in 1492. In 1894 it was acquired by the Sarajevo Museum.

Sarajevo, as you will recall, was under siege by the Serbs from 1992 until 1996. The Sarajevo Haggadah was almost destroyed during the bombardment, but was saved by museum staff. In her novel, Brooks uses these contemporary facts about the Haggadah as the base camp from which she journeys into its past and then back again.

People of the Book begins in 1996. The Haggadah resurfaces in Sarajevo after the siege ends. The story's protagonist, Australian rare-book expert Hanna Heath, travels there to examine and restore the manuscript. Little is known about the Haggadah's history, and during her examination Heath looks for clues about its past.

Heath finds small things, including an insect wing, a wine stain, salt crystals, and a white hair. As she investigates each clue and speculates about its origin, in alternating chapters the author goes back in time to tell a story of how, for example, an insect wing got into the Haggadah, and how a wine stain appeared, and so on. The chapters that set forth these fictional, historical flashbacks are wonderful short stories and the most successful part of the book, transporting readers to Sarajevo in 1940, to late-19th-century Vienna, 15th-century Venice, Catalonia during the Spanish Inquisition and lastly to Seville in 1480.

Two downsides to the book. First, Brooks does a bit of direct sermonizing to the effect of 'why can't people just get along', which is unnecessary. The historical flashbacks alone do a great job of showing the evils of intolerance and hatred. Second, with the exception of the opening, the chapters concerning Hanna Heath are not the best bits.

Read People of the Book for the chapters that go back into the past. They are interesting, transporting, and provoke thinking about injustice, intolerance, and the importance of defending individual rights, freedom, and diversity in our communities.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spring



Spring flowers, including Daisy.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Everything Old is New Again: Today's Right Wing Supports Book Burning

The last post here discussed banned books, which ties in neatly with what's happening today on the politically conservative side of politics in the U.S.

As you may know, Fox News, lobbyists, out-of-power Republican members of Congress with time on their hands, and the right-wingers in our population - including neo-Nazis and secessionists - are getting ready to whoop it up at so-called "tea party protests" on April 15.

These folks do not like President Obama. Use your own experience and knowledge of these people to reach a conclusion as to why this is so.

With respect to taxes and the programs they support, it's not clear what government programs these protesters won't support: national defense, our men and women in uniform? health care for senior citizens? education? Oh, yes. It's likely education, don't you think? And according to Huffington Post, at a recent event one protester even shouted out that old chestnut, "burn the books."

How 13th century.

Push back, friends. Support publication and reading of controversial writing. Meet speech with speech: don't let what these people say go unchallenged. Instead, write letters to newspapers, call or email radio programs, and talk to your neighbors. Flex your First Amendment muscles.




Saturday, April 11, 2009

Best Seller Round-Up

"To choose a good book, look in an inquisitor’s prohibited list." ~John Aikin

If following John Aikin's advice for finding a good book, quoted above, sounds better than consulting the best seller list below, then check out the American Library Associations lists of banned and/or challenged books. The ALA collects this information as part of its promotion of the freedom to read. The lists include:

1) Banned and/or challenged novels from the Radcliffe Publishing Course top 100 novels of the 20th century. I'm proud to say that I've read most of these; hurray for liberal arts education.

2) The top 100 banned and/or challenged books of 2000 - 2007. Amazingly, the Harry Potter series is number one on this list. Go figure! Others books on this list I've read but haven't thought about in, well, in decades such as Go Ask Alice by Anonymous. In looking over the list, it seems like the world has changed so little, while at the same time it has changed so much.

As Aikin suggested, choose a good book while also flexing your First Amendment muscles by purchasing, or checking out from the library, a few banned books.


I. The New York Times.
Published April 10, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: Long Lost, Harlan Coben.



Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.

II. Los Angeles Times
Published April 12, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: True Detectives by Jonathan Kellerman.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Nonfiction Hardcover: Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Steve Harvey.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers.
For the week ending April 5, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Elegance of the Hedgehog Muriel Barbery.
Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows .
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List.
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending March 29, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows .
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.
Nonfiction Paperback (Trade): Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.

PBS Series "We Shall Remain" Begins Monday, April 13

"A home without books is a body without soul." -
Marcus Tullius Cicero

A contemplative view for this day of rest.

From The New York Times, new in the number one spot for hardcover nonfiction is Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto. Can't wait to find out which he is advocating for, liberty or tyranny; one can never assume when it comes to a conservative manifesto.
Published April 3, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: True Detectives, Jonathan Kellerman.
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Liberty and Tyranny, Mark R. Levin.



II. Los Angeles Times
Published April 5, 2009.

Fiction Paperback: Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows .
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell.

III. Northern California Independent Booksellers.
For the week ending March 29, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Elegance of the Hedgehog Muriel Barbery.
Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows .
Nonfiction Paperback: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.
Nonfiction Hardcover: Outliers, The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell.

IV. Heartland Indie Bestseller List.
Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association
For the week ending March 29, 2009.

Fiction Paperback (Trade): The Shack, William P. Young.
Fiction Hardcover: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Mary Ann Shaffer, Annie Barrows .
Nonfiction Hardcover: Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Steve Harvey.
Nonfiction Paperback (Trade): Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What's all this about Iowa?

Iowa. Can it be that Iowa is a happening place? A place with a hip buzz? A state with more going on than just corn and beans?

Iowa, as you will recall, gave President Obama that big, first primary win. On Friday, its State Supreme Court mandated an opinion legalizing gay marriage. What did their Congressman call Iowa, "the gay marriage mecca" . . . oh,wait, I guess he didn't mean that in the good way.

In any event, something is happening in Iowa. Something cool. In Iowa.

Si, se pueda!

Friday, April 3, 2009

President Obama: The Week in Review

Yesterday on NPR's Talk of the Nation, Neal Conan interviewed Cary Fukunaga, the writer and director of a new movie, Sin Nombre. Sin Nombre follows two teenagers seeking to reach the U.S. border via a dangerous trip by train through Mexico. This movie sound great. While I couldn't find a link to the NPR interview, here is a link to reviews of Sin Nombre collected at Rotten Tomatoes.

The trailer:


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Administration

Hey y'all:

Some of you have said that the comment feature here is too laborious. I've adjusted the settings and hope this improves matters.

So to start, click the comment link below, type your comment, then click name/url . . . the rest should be intuitive.

Cheers,

Amy

The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award Shortlist

The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Eibhlin Byrne, today formally announced the shortlist of the 2009 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

According to IMPAC's web site, contenders for the award were nominated by public libraries in Australia, Barbados, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Lebanon, Norway and Sweden and the United States. The shortlist was selected from 146 novels nominated by 157 public library systems in 117 cities.

For more information about the award, check here.

. . .

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (Dominican / American).

Ravel: A Novel by Jean Echenoz (French) in translation.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistani / British).

The Archivist's Story by Travis Holland (American) Dial Press



The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles by Roy Jacobsen (Norwegian) in translation.



The Indian Clerk: A Novel by David Leavitt (American).

Animal's People: A Novel by Indra Sinha (Indian / British). This book was shortlisted for the Booker in 2007.



Man Gone Down: A Novel by Micheal Thomas (American).




(Via Bookninja)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

University of Wisconsin Law School Professor Ann Althouse: A bit too much, and on so many levels.

Ann Althouse is a Robert W. & Irma Arthur-Bascom Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin Law School. Having the absolute good fortunate to hold such a position, I assume Professor Althouse must have a rigorous schedule of legal scholarship, teaching, and activities committed to the school, the Wisconsin Idea, and the law. Really, I am going to assume this as it keeps to a manageable level the amount of acid in my stomach. What Professor Althouse is popularly known for, however, is her blog "Althouse."

I am not a regular reader of Althouse as its content does not interest me. I do, however, read legal blogs and that is where I learned of a swirling Internet story concerning Professor Althouse. Above the Law reports that she has become engaged to a commentator on her blog.

According to the Professor, "[M]y fiancé is someone who has interacted with me in writing on my blog for more than 4 years. We decided to meet in person after an exchange of email in December. We met in January and then, after a some additional email, decided to meet again in mid-February, and then we fell in love. We decided to get married after 2 more weekends and a 10-day spring break." Professor Althouse discusses her life in an interview for Bloggingheads.

After watching the interview, I felt a great deal of pity for Professor Althouse as she looks like a fool. Not because of who she is marrying, but because of how she presents herself, and the manner in which she has completely disgorged her personal life to the world.

In our personal lives, we all may look or feel foolish at some point. That is one reason why people seek to keep private certain aspects of life. Other people, like Britney Spears, are making a career out of the celebrity of personal revelation and public embarrassment. Ms. Spears arguably has fewer options in life, however, as she is not a graduate of the University of Michigan and the New York University School of Law, or a Robert W. & Irma Arthur-Bascom Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin Law School, as is Professor Althouse.

Professor Althouse has the good fortune to be a law school professor and as such can participate in the serious business of shaping the law, and thus the life of our country. Speaking as a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and the University of Wisconsin Law School, I hope that in the future she will keep some of her personal life to herself.

Professor, you are overexposed.