A Letter to Senator Ayotte

Gals too Inspired by this post from the Minute Man, I sent the following e-missive to our state's finer Senator, Kelly Ayotte:

I oppose the gun control legislation proposed by President Obama and Senate Democrats, but I would suggest you NOT support the filibuster some Senate Republicans are proposing in response. The bill would not pass the House. There would be no harm, and a lot of good, resulting from getting all Senators to vote on the merits of the legislation. Specifically, I would enjoy seeing Democratic Senators, like your colleague Jeanne Shaheen, agonize over whether to outrage their liberal donors or their nowhere-near-as-liberal constituents.

I surprisingly find myself allied with John McCain on this issue. Oh well.


Last Modified 2013-04-09 7:59 AM EST

1493

[Amazon Link]

I read 1491 by Charles C. Mann back in 2011 and found it interesting enough to follow up with 1493. (As always: thanks to the library of the University Near Here for getting it.) Mann's topic is broad: how Columbus's journey upset the entire world's apple cart, with many of the apples still rolling around today.

It's a daunting subject, and one could (and some do) spend one's entire life in its study. But (fortunately) Mann is not a professional historian, he's a journalist, and this book (like 1491) concentrates on good stories and provocative ideas.

Those stories have a strong scientific component. Mann writes engagingly and comfortably in the realms of climate, ecology, biology, epidemiology, and other disciplines. It's a story of invasive species and ecological chaos, brought about mostly by human beings' lust for power and money. (Not that there's anything wrong with the latter.) Rubber, silk, silver, tobacco, potatoes, etc.; all started swirling around the globe with mostly unexpected consequences.

As did disease. It's well known what smallpox, introduced by Europeans into the Americas did to the folks already living here. Mann also documents the massive toll that malaria and yellow fever took on the incoming Europeans. (He raises the interesting point that slavery established itself in the South most firmly because Africans were more resistant to tropical disease than the other primary source of workers, indentured servants.)

Mann is a diligent researcher, visiting many of the historical sites he writes about, describing his encounters and observations. It's not all interesting, but a lot of it is. Recommended for even the person not all that interested in history.

Lincoln

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

My fellow Americans, I am a bad person. Probably I should move to Cuba or some other Commie hellhole. Because I fell asleep while watching Lincoln. It was boring.

Sorry, Abe.

Now (as always, I shouldn't even have to point this out) your mileage may vary. Lincoln was nominated for 12 Oscars (including Best Picture) and won 2 (including Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays Abe).

But I'm convinced that many of those Oscar folks were just running on autopilot, perhaps just after waking up from a Lincoln nap. To paraphrase an apocryphal quote from the man himself: People who think they are supposed to like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they are supposed to like.

It follows the last few months of Lincoln's life in 1865, as the Civil War winds down, and concentrates on the political maneuvering behind the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in the House of Representatives. It is like watching a filmed version of a history book, where the characters' dialog takes the place of the author's narrative, instead of resembling anything like what people might actually say to each other.

In fact, it would be a pretty good movie to show in high-school history classes. (I briefly thought that the language in the movie might not be appropriate for that (according to IMDB: "Two f-words. Four or five s-words.") but it's probably not a deal breaker for kids these days.

And Daniel Day-Lewis is truly amazing. Just not interesting.


Last Modified 2017-12-01 12:57 PM EST