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Thursday, 1 December 2011
An Introduction to Orwell
Topic: Must Read


In response to a reader’s request, here are the five books by George Orwell that you must read, assuming that your acquaintance with his work is limited to Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-four.


The Road to Wigan Pier (1937): Orwell’s study of unemployment in Britain and his analysis of why so many people rejected the socialist solution. Commissioned by the Left Book Club, this book caused a furor on the British left.


Homage to Catalonia (1938): Orwell’s memoir of his service as a volunteer on the Republican side of the Spanish Civil War (during which he suffered a bad wound in the throat) remains one of the best books on that conflict.


Coming Up for Air (1939): This novel, written on the eve of the Second World War, looks back through the eyes of an English Everyman to an England that had already vanished, and forward to the grim years of war that lay ahead.


The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius (1941): Orwell’s extended essay on the character of the English nation, the impact of war on the English social system and the prospects for a future revolution. This one can be found on line.


A Collection of Essays: Includes “Such, Such Were the Joys…” (his memoir of school days), “Shooting an Elephant,” “The Art of Donald McGill,” “Politics and the English Language,” “Looking Back on the Spanish War,” “Reflections on Gandhi,” plus his well-known essays on Dickens and Kipling. Also includes “England Your England,” the first part of The Lion and the Unicorn. (It should be noted that almost all of Orwell’s essays are available on line. Just Google a title.)

Posted by tmg110 at 12:42 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2011 12:46 PM EST
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011
Mika Commits Facecrime
Topic: The Media


This little snippet from MSNBC’s Morning Joe is definitely worth a look. Joe Scarborough cites President Obama’s crappy poll numbers, adding that some people think “David Plouffe is now acting as president of the United States.” And as he speaks, the expression on co-host Mika Brzezinski’s face grows more and more tragic. It seems she’s having difficulty coping with the news that Barry’s less popular than Carter was at the same point in their presidencies. Priceless!

Posted by tmg110 at 12:30 PM EST
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George Nails It Again
Topic: Liberal Fascism


I knew from the start that the Occupy Wall Street protests would come a cropper. Why? Because I’ve read George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier. In Chapter 11, he noted one major reason why socialism had failed to catch on with most members of the English middle classes:


[T]here is the horrible—the really disquieting—prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words “Socialism” and “Communism” draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, “Nature Cure” quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.


Some things never change, and this long-ago literary sally strikes like a GPS-guided smart bomb at the heart of the OWS movement. It certainly helps to explain why crackpots and kooks like Stacey Hessler were attracted to Zuccotti Park. And incidentally, it explains why I so often cite George Orwell. He's always a day's march ahead of us.

Posted by tmg110 at 11:41 AM EST
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Monday, 28 November 2011
SF: Not What It Used to Be
Topic: Must Read


So what do you do on a rainy Wednesday in Newport, Rhode Island? (We had one of those the day before Thanksgiving.) Well, if you’re me you head to the nearest bookstore—a Barnes & Noble in this case. There’s nothing like a leisurely browse through the aisles to while away a wet autumn afternoon.


As usual, I headed first for the SF and fantasy section. But this turned out to be a slightly depressing choice, leading me to reflect on the sad decline of a once-vibrant genre of popular literature. For while it’s true that there are still talented writers doing good work in the field, it’s hard to feel optimistic when perusing the “just published” shelves of B&N’s SF section.


In the first place, those shelves were dominated by fantasy titles. Science fiction in the classic mold ran a distant second. And lots of the purportedly SF titles were in fact tales of alternate history of the type popularized by Harry Turtledove—in other words, only nominally science fiction. Now of course many SF classics—Ward Just’s Bring the Jubilee, Phil Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, H. Beam Piper’s Paratime stories—fall into the alternate history category. But alternate history titles have proliferated wildly in the past ten years or so, and for every one that’s half-way decent there are eight or ten poorly written turkeys.


Finally, I was depressed to note the usual slew of vampire titles. This cult, arguably launched by Ann Rice’s Interview with the Vampire (itself a classic, I admit) has grown into a mania. Rice herself contributed to this unfortunate situation with a barrage of lackluster sequels. And the vampires themselves? All too often nowadays, they’re fey, sensitive, conflicted, lonely—college sophomores majoring in fine arts who happen to have pointy incisors. Count Dracula must be rolling over in his, er, coffin.


It’s lucky for an SF aficionado like me that the classics are still readily available—often via Kindle at a knock-down price. I want to mention a few of these, but let’s leave that happy task for a future post.

Posted by tmg110 at 12:53 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 29 November 2011 8:36 AM EST
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Heads Up!
Topic: Scratchpad

I'm back from a Thanksgiving visit to the People's Republic of New England and ready to blog…

Posted by tmg110 at 12:23 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 28 November 2011 12:25 PM EST
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Thursday, 24 November 2011
A Holiday Greeting
Topic: Scratchpad



Best wishes to my readers and all Americans on this, the most American of holidays

And a salute to men and woment of the armed forces, especially those who are serving in posts of danger this Thanksgiving

Posted by tmg110 at 8:03 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 24 November 2011 8:44 AM EST
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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Greetings from Newport, Rhode Island!

It's a beautiful late-autumn morning here in the Ocean State. Jackie and I are having a fine time and looking forward to a Gregg family Thanksgiving.

Posted by tmg110 at 8:23 AM EST
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Saturday, 19 November 2011
Road Trip!
Topic: Scratchpad

Posting may be sporatic over the next few days: My wife and I are heading east for a Thanksgiving visit to the family in Massachusetts. Ten hours in the Highlander together should make for a stern test of our relationship…

Posted by tmg110 at 4:20 AM EST
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Friday, 18 November 2011
Mother of the Year Update
Topic: Liberal Fascism


Say, do you remember Stacey Hessler? She’s the Occupy Wall Street zealot who abandoned her family in Florida to join the Vanguard of the Revolution in Zuccotti Park. During her sojourn under a tarp in the park, she developed a deep, meaningful relationship with a male fellow protester. But now it looks as though she’s going to have to change her Facebook status from “in a relationship” to “busted." From the New York Post:


The hippie Florida mother of four who ditched her children and banker husband to sleep in Zuccotti Park’s squalor hit rock bottom yesterday when she was hauled off in handcuffs, her dreadlocks flying wildly in every direction, for blocking a street near the New York Stock Exchange.


Stacey Hessler, 38, was lifted off the pavement in the center of Broad Street by three cops who slapped plastic bracelets on her wrists and dragged her away kicking and screaming.

“What did I do? What did I do?” she kept shouting.


She was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct after she blocked “vehicular and pedestrian traffic” and refused orders to move, cops said.


Check out the photo accompanying the story—it’s truly priceless. Way to change the world, Stacey!

Posted by tmg110 at 1:42 PM EST
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Breakfast: The New Three-Mile Island
Topic: Decline of the West


Just noticed this warning on the door of our toaster oven, incidentally the most hated appliance in the Gregg kitchen: “If contents ignite, keep door closed and unplug oven.”


If contents ignite? What is that? Am I supposed to stand by with an extinguisher while my English muffin is toasting?

Posted by tmg110 at 10:17 AM EST
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