Monday, January 29, 2007

Blog Birthday and Books

Yesterday was the second anniversary of this blog. Let's drink some tea and lemon in celebration.

And yesterday I read this somewhat odd column by Bob Hoover, book editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (whose work I usually like, I should say) where he laments the influence of the New York Times Book Review. For most of the column, he writes as thought he has forgotten about the Internet and of sites like this that link to a number of on-line avatars of newspaper book sections, highbrow and middlebrow magazines and even publications that call themselves "book reviews" or "reviews of books" or such similar things. Circa 1995, one might read a review of a particular book in the book review sections of the New York Times and of one's local Sunday paper (which unless one lives in Washington is likely to be a pretty small section). Now, someone who cares about books can spend all of Sunday reading book reviews, including multiple reviews of the same book. At the very end of the column, he does note that "unlike the 1960's world... the Internet offers unlimited possibilities." Right. But doesn't that makes the whole premise of the column false?

Also it seems a bit strange for a book editor to lament the out-sized influence of the New York Times while reviewing more or less the same roster of books in one's own book section week after week with a smattering of Pittsburgh or Pittsburgh-connected authors thrown in.

However, his opening comments about antiwar readers abandoning Max Ascoli's The Reporter in the late 1960s over Ascoli's support for Johnson's Vietnam policies appear to be quite timely given the current state of Leftist opinion about that venerable icon of liberal politics, The New Republic. See here for an entry point into the whole set of questions--follow the links and sample the comments at both places (but promise me you won't spend too much time with the comments or you may go as crazy as some of the commentators).

(I tried to stop reading The New Republic a couple of years ago after letting my subscription lapse. Partly I was annoyed that they hadn't fully made amends for spending a couple of years pretending that George Bush was the second coming of Woodrow Wilson [although they did come out strongly--with one exception--for John Kerry in 2004]. Partly I just wanted to save money. But I missed the book reviews and the arts coverage, so I subscribed again a few months ago.)

I got to that business about The New Republic via Bitch, PhD who has just posted a talk she gave at the Modern Language Association conference about the blogosphere and the eighteenth-century public sphere. Worth a look if one has an interest in the history of communication.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

I Love Miss Manners (Still)

Today's gem:

Dear Miss Manners:

How do I reply to people who ask me to guess how old they are?


Rick Santorum's next career(s)

So--I learn from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette--Rick Santorum is off to the Ethics and Public Policy Center. That he would head a program called "America's Enemies" is perhaps not a surprise, but the conventional wisdom had the defeated Santorum headed to a K street lobbying firm not to a think tank (however right wing). And Reg Henry, one of America's Greatest Columnists, wishes him well:
But I am just so glad he has a suitable job. We were all worried for him. After all, he couldn't very well be a lobbyist because he is friendly with so many that just choosing one firm would have given offense to the crowd. Now he can sit in the thoughtarium marinating in right-wing opinions until the tide again turns.
But it turns out the conventional wisdom wasn't so far off, after all. Check out this profile of the former senator from Penn Hills in The National Review Online. Actually I'll save you the trouble and just quote the crucial penultimate paragraph:
The former senator also plans to join a law firm in D.C. "I’m talking to a few firms right now, but working on the America’s Enemies program is my first priority."

Monday, January 08, 2007

A new example of anticlimax

You've heard the one about the example of an anticlimax in use at Harvard? "For God, for Country, and for Yale."

This was mine on the bus this morning: Isaiah Berlin, Virgil, Martin Peretz.

I haven't made up my mind about whether I would like Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee for President in 2008 or whether I would like her to be President. One reason I might not like to see her as President: 4 years of Martin Peretz using the Diarist page of The New Republic to rant about the Clintons might drive me nuts--especially when the "back of the book" in the January 15 issue was so interesting. After Isaiah Berlin on Jewish identity and essays on Robert Fagles' translation of the Aenied and Melvin Ely's book on free blacks in an antebellum Virginia community, comes another argument for the moral and political superiority of Al and Tipper over Bill and Hillary.

Some miscellaneous thoughts about Pittsburgh in January 2007

Can Pittsburgh still be considered a major metropolitan area without public transportation to the airport?

In my view, the North Side location for the casino is the second best. The best would be anywhere outside the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

If the Mellon Arena is the oldest venue in the NHL and has some kind of quirky charm, why not renovate it and turn it into the Fenway Park of hockey? If the eggs are broken, make an omelette (or whatever that expression is).