Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Great Minds Read Alike?

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

Barack Obama and I are reading the same book.

Estes Kefauver Was a Blithering Idiot

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

Interesting article at CNN on a nearly forgotten chapter of twentieth century history: the Great Comic Book Scare:

World War II was over, but as the 1940s gave way to the 1950s, a new evil lurked in the land. Ten-Cent Plague

It attracted a youthful audience — boys, mostly — who fell victim to its colorful images, dripping in red, and gave money to its purveyors.

Authorities took notice. The United States had a new menace, they said, one whose name started with “c” and whose first syllable rhymed with “bomb.”

Comic books.

At the time comic books were very popular among youth, perhaps because they were quite good at pushing the envelope. Comics of the time frequently featured gory violence, attractive (if unrealistically drawn) women, and controversial social commentary. A few years before Elvis shocked the world on the Ed Sullivan show, do-gooders and politicians believed comic books were corrupting the youth. A well-meaning but goofy psychiatrist named Frederic Wertham even wrote a book (sensationally entitled Seduction of the Innocent in which he argued that comics were responsible for juvenile delinquency.

Across America comic book burnings were held. Entire cities banned the sale of comic books. Tennessee’s very own Democratic Senator Estes Kefauver, fresh off his hearings on organized crime, took the logical next step in his anti-crime crusade and launched a Senate inquiry on comic books and their effects on children. He brought in Wertham himself, as well as Bill Gaines, boss of the popular and controversial EC comics line, proving that the wasting of taxpayer money by the federal government is hardly a new problem.

All in all, it was a very strange time. If any of this sounds interesting, you should definitely read The Ten-Cent Plague by David Hajdu. I read it over the weekend and loved it. A true story of mass hysteria, it is both amusing and frightening.

UPDATE: No, I don’t really think Kefauver was an idiot. The title of this post is a bit of hyperbole. Kefauver did some good things while in the Senate, but on this issue I do think he was out to lunch.

Madeleine L’Engle, 1918-2007

Friday, September 7th, 2007

Madeleine L’Engle has died. As a child I really enjoyed her classic A Wrinkle in Time, which is one of the most imaginative books out there. RIP.

Harry Potter

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

So I made the mistake of going to Borders at about 10 PM; the latest Harry Potter book was set for release at 12 AM. It was not a pleasant experience. Lots of kids in bizarre costumes there. But the strangest had to be a girl with a crutch; on the crutch a poster was attached which read “Harry Potter must die” and included a crudely drawn picture of a dead Harry Potter. She also wore a shirt which read “Harry Potter = The Devil.” Very, very strange. I don’t know if she was for real or just trying to be funny, but I am afraid it might have been the former.

Culture War = War on Terror?

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

Dinesh D’Souza’s latest book, The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11, seems to be getting negative reviews. One such review comes from Warren Bass:

In other words, D’Souza’s answer to the famous post-9/11 question of “Why do they hate us?” is that it all depends on the meaning of the word “us.” In arguing that it’s liberals who have brought al-Qaeda’s wrath down upon the United States, he vents his indignation largely at his fellow Americans, not the fanatics who’ve declared it a holy duty to murder us all — civilians and soldiers alike. Obsessed with a “near enemy” of his own, D’Souza endorses much of the jihadist critique of American society and gives at least a partial moral pass to al-Qaeda and the perpetrators of 9/11. It should go without saying that bin Laden’s self-styled fatwas make no distinction between liberals and conservatives. There was a time when Americans at war did not do so either.

As someone who has generally enjoyed D’Souza’s books, I can’t say I’m impressed that he would blame 9/11 on the “cultural left.” It is true that the moral decadence from Hollywood, for example, fuels some anti-Americanism among traditionalist Muslims. But so what? Such decadence is a symptom of freedom. Perhaps we could curtail freedoms, outlawing skin flicks, homosexuality, provocative clothing, and rights for women. Perhaps this would cause radical Muslims to hate us less. Sorry, but no thanks. I’d rather have freedom and take the chances that come with it.

The Duh Vinci Code

Monday, May 15th, 2006

So yeah, I finished The Da Vinci Code. I’m no longer excited about the movie. The book was pretty blah.

It wasn’t bad, exactly. But it kind of reminded me of a good B- movie; good for what it is, but nothing more. Now imagine said B- movie being the biggest blockbuster of the summer. Yet, it’s still a B- movie. A good one even, but still a B- movie.

In a way it reminded me of National Treasure, a movie that was all the rage a while back but which I also thought was kinda lame. It had an interesting basic story, but it got far too implausible. How much can happen in one night? A lot, apparently.

I can vaguely understand the claim that this book is offensive to Christians, particularly Catholics, but it’s so ridiculously over the top that I doubt anyone can take it seriously. Sure it makes you wonder about what the church might be hiding, but only in a goofy sort of way, like Marvin Martian makes you wonder about life on other planets.

Anyway, if you have any interest in the book, I recommend reading it. You may love it (obviously, lots of people do). But color me unimpressed.