Sunday, January 30, 2005


I finished Gaines, by the way. I was unimpressed. It was good, and I'm glad I read it. I would choose to read it again. But it was far from what I'd expected.

Gotta lower my expectations when it comes to best-sellers.

Readings on America 

I have two books on my shelf, demanding to be read and reviewed for two different websites, one on the teen drug epidemic and one on story cloths of Bali.

They will have to wait, however, until 1812: The War that Forged a Nation is over. The book by Walter Borneman is wonderful. I can't put it down. Captain James Lawrence just died, yelling "Don't give up the ship!" The ship wasn't "given up" exactly - it's just all the officers were dead, as were many of the seamen, and the British just walked over and lowered the stars and stripes.

That's okay - Commodore Stephen Decatur's victory over the Macedonian was glorious. Washington, D.C. has yet to burn, and Francis Scott Key has yet to watch with horror from a British ship as Baltimore's Fort McHenry is bombed but not taken.


Top ten books I read in 2004 

Top ten books I read in 2004 (as listed on MyShelf)
  1. 1812: The War that Forged a Nation - Walter Borneman
  2. White-Jacket - Herman Melville
  3. The Book on the Bookshelf - Henry Petroski
  4. Islands in the Stream - Ernest Hemingway
  5. To the White Sea - James Dickey
  6. A Rage for Glory: The Life of Commodore Stephen Decatur, USN - James Tertius de Kay
  7. More Guns, Less Crime - John R. Lott, Jr.
  8. To Ride, Shoot Straight, And Speak The Truth - Jeff Cooper
  9. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S. Thompson
  10. The Blood of Paradise - Stephen Goodwin

Monday, January 10, 2005


I'm finally getting around to reading Ernest J. Gaines's A Lesson before Dying, and so far I'm not impressed. We read a passage in a class I took years ago on J. R. R. Tolkien. We were studying heroes, specifically how heroes were defined in the "classical" age and how they're defined now.

I don't know what to think of this book. But I'm only half-way done, and I'm unsettled enough to keep reading. The gist of the story is that a black man, Jefferson, is implicated in the murder of a white man in late 1940's New Orleans. He's convicted on shaky evidence and sentenced to death. During a plea for his life, his lawyer compared him to a hog, as in, this animal is a fool, this animal has no modicum of intelligence, it would make as much sense to execute this boy as it would to execute a hog. Jefferson is sentenced to die anyway.

The narrator is a teacher, university-educated, and ambivalent about his status as an educated black man in the deep south. His aunt pleads with him to teach Jefferson to die with dignity, to die as a man, not as an animal.

But what kind of a lesson plan do you need for that? What do you say? The execution date is set. But the lesson plan is not. The teacher is unsure, and the student is reluctant at best.

The language is beautiful, the description of New Orleans is vivid, and the racial tension is ever-present, even when not explicit. The narrator doesn't know who he is, really, or what he wants, or even where he wants to live - he leaves New Orleans for a time only to return, unsatisfied.

And I, as the reader, am uneasy. But I'm intrigued enough to keep reading.

Friday, January 07, 2005


I got an article published in Bethesda Magazine! :) It's a glossy. The article's about the Madonna of the Trail statues, in particular (of course) the one in Bethesda. I got the magazine in the mail yesterday.

They accepted the article and pictures, then...the topic of my article ...disappeared...

There was a rainstorm. And a burst water pipe. And long story short, the base of the statue started to tilt, and cranes came in to take away the statue for "storage." No word on how long until things are fixed.

Suddenly a historical article became news.

Bethesda Magazine lives here. They don't post many articles, though, so mine isn't online. Buy the magazine if you want to read the story.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005


I got a letter to the editor published in the Journal (a local Maryland daily paper).

Don't laugh. It was my first serious attempt at a letter to the editor (well, I sent one letter to Time Magazine that I knew they'd ignore because it was yelling at them for portraying a soldier with her finger on the trigger of his firearm when obviously not aiming at something, and I sent one letter to the Wall Street Journal, but I'm not an executive of anything so they probably threw it away.).

Anyway, here it is (in pdf format): http://www.jrnl.com/PDFs/mtg/wednesday.pdf

I'm on page 12.

I talk about the arbitrariness of "shall issue" carry concealed weapon laws in Maryland.

I'm also a member of Maryland Shall Issue now. :) Visit us here. There's cool photography...

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