At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Tip for getting more blog hits

Misspell keywords? I got an unusual number of hits recently from people looking up "Scarlet Johannson" in Google and finding my review of Lost in Translation. I was surprised that my page would be ranked so highly for such a common search term, but then I figured out that the actress's name is spelled "Johansson." If my page were orthographically correct it would probably have been buried underneath thousands of other search results. Forthcoming: my review of House of Sand and Fog starring Jenifer Connely.


This is the sort of book that makes collection development difficult--plenty of good reviews, but its relevance to our collection is unclear...

Gildea, Robert. Marianne in Chains: Daily Life in the Heart of France During the German Occupation. Metropolitan Books.

Atlantic Monthly: “Stunning…succeeds brilliantly…nuanced and intricate.” Library Journal: “Extremely well-researched, highly readable, revisionist…An important book for interested lay readers and specialists in the field.” Contemporary Review: “To write good history is always difficult and to write well about the Occupation is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks facing any historian. Mr. Gildea has given us a good history.”History Today: “a riveting read which offers up new interpretative pathways. However, like all such books it must come with a health warning. Firstly, is it feasible to extrapolate from Chinon to the rest of France?...Secondly, to what extent, in down-playing ideological choices, is he creating a new straitjacket, that of the uncommitted centre which just muddle through?” New Statesman: “excellent…However fascinating Gildea’s picture of everyday life in the years 1940-1944, it is his dismantling of the Resistance legend that forms the spine of the book…Among Gildea’s finest qualities is an acutely developed sense of historical irony. One result of his scholarly labours is that no one will ever again be able to view the occupation as a crude division between German oppressors and French oppressed.” Foreign Affairs: “This distinguished British historian of France has written a very fine history of everyday life in the French heartland during the German occupation.”

Thursday, January 15, 2004


Barrow, John. The constants of nature: from Alpha to Omega--the numbers that encode the deepest secrets of the universe. Pantheon Books, 2003 (c2002). 352p index ISBN 0-375-42221-8, $26.00.

Choice: Barrow (mathematics, Univ. of Cambridge) offers an interesting combination of history, physics, and philosophy...Recommended. General readers." Economist: “The digressions that pepper the book are sometimes fascinating. Mr Barrow’s familiarity with the material allows him to glide from Pascal to Pasadena in smooth, informative paragraphs…a thoughtful survey of recent theory.” Booklist: “spices the story with lively biographical sketches and epigrams…an exemplary popular presentation of high-level science.” Library Journal: “Strongly recommended for college and larger public libraries.” Kirkus: “Scholarly though always accessible…good stuff.” Magill: “an intriguing read for anyone interested in the history and future of our universe and our place in it…lay readers may struggle with some of the equations, as well as descriptions of theoretical physics. Barrow’s prose also tends to be cumbersome and rather difficult to follow in places. To offset the negatives, Barrow includes numerous analogies and examples to aid understanding, as well as many interesting biographical sketches, charts, and graphs.” Publishers Weekly: “Lively…fascinating…Barrow explores these issues in erudite but lucid prose that draws on an array of thinkers from Einstein to Freud, and, because he withholds his answer to the changing constants question until the end, his book has surprising narrative pull. His account makes some of the most challenging frontiers of science accessible, even enthralling, to laypeople.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2004


Two recent articles praising Whit Stillman as a conservative filmmaker:

Julia Magnet of City Journal;

Victor of Right Wing Film Geek (scroll to "Last Days of Jane Austen")

Healthy Beverages Alert

Red wine is good for lungs as well as heart

Every semester K.L. hires a fresh batch of student workers to replace those lost by graduation, academic suspension, or the lure of juicier campus jobs. This week, for the first time since I've been here, he hired an attractive female student worker. J.M., our crusty old computer tech guy who has an eye for the fillies, said with a reformer's zeal, "It's about time. I always got annoyed that K. hired the most plain looking girls on campus, even though he would get applications from some pretty ones." He was quite serious about making physical attractiveness a consideration in hiring. Even though I'm old fashioned in many ways, this was a bit unreconstructed even for me.

This got me to thinking that the fundamental difference between liberalism and conservatism is over the extent to which human nature is malleable.

Monday, January 12, 2004

A desperate attempt to cobble together a tourist attraction in the featureless South Plains.

Psychiatrist diagnoses W. B. Yeats with Asperger's syndrome.


Kass, Leon. Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis. Free Press.

Publishers Weekly: “contributes little that is new to the academic study of Genesis…little that is original or provocative….In addition, the academic tone and sometimes thick, impenetrable prose…limit this book’s effectiveness and value.” Booklist: “profound reflections on natural and human origins.” Kirkus: “A learned and fluent, delightfully overstuffed stroll through the Gates of Eden…Mix Harold Bloom with Stephen Jay Gould and you’ll get something like Kass. A wonderfully intelligent reading of Genesis.” First Things: “expansive, curious, fascinatingly rich and digressive…Kass’ nonhistorical, analogical reading of Genesis isn’t ideal even for the first eleven chapters of Genesis; therefore we should not be surprised when the patriarchal narratives post rather a challenge for him...” Library Journal: “presents many enlightening insights…offers much to be pondered by thoughtful readers, both academics and, especially, educated laypeople…Highly recommended for larger libraries; essential for church and seminary libraries.”

Two book related stories on NPR's morning edition today: (1) Californian invents a low-cost print-on-demand technique; (2) Kiddie lit prof argues that the Newbury awards are biased towards historical fiction. (Will anyone be reading Crispin twenty years from now?) Click here and scroll down to audio links.