Journal Entry #5

October 21, 2007

I had an opportunity, after Necronomicon had ended, to spend two days with students in the School of Mass Communications at the University of South Florida. The invitation came from Rick Wilber, who doubles as an essayist and novelist, and a journalism professor.

As you'd expect, the students were bright and energetic. A substantial number of them want to be writers, and they all seemed to be interested in the arts. I enjoy visiting colleges and high schools. I almost get the impression sometimes that the smartest people we have are sitting in classrooms around the country. What on earth happens to us after we graduate?

I participated this past weekend in the Gwinnett County Book Festival in Lawrenceville, GA, outside Atlanta. It's a 14-hour ride, round trip, and Maureen and I used it to finish listening to the audio book edition of American Theocracy, by Kevin Philips. We went on to Alan Alda's Things I Overheard while Listening to Myself, written and read by Alda. On an earlier trip we had enjoyed his Never Have your Dog Stuffed. The second book was not a disappointment.

We also had a collection of BBC broadcasts of Sherlock Holmes with Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson. I have a lifelong passion for anything Holmes.

In the last entry I mentioned failing in an effort to read Balzac. I talked with Bruce Boston at Necronomicon. He sent me a copy of "Passion in the Desert." 'Try this.' I did, and it's a powerhouse. Some who read my comments made recommendations also, which I will get to when I can.

Periodical Watch:

The 150th anniversary issue of The Atlantic is out. Cover story: "The Future of the American Idea," with commentaries by Tom Wolfe, John Updike, Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Fallows, Joyce Carol Oates, George F. Will, Sam Harris, P.J. O'Rourke, David Foster Wallace, and a legion of others. Also, the Nov/Dec issue of Mother Jones has a cover story asking how we can get out of Iraq. It consists of "conversations with more than fifty experts, from General Petraeus's inner circle to antiwar activists."

The current (Nov 2007) Scientific American has an article for SF readers who like their science far out. It's titled "When Universes Collide."

I recently picked up a copy of History in Quotations, edited by M.J. Cohen and John Major. It's a doorstop, list price at 30 pounds, but on sale for $10. Paging through it reveals comments like this by Domenico Hierosolimitano (17th cent.):

"The principal thing of beauty in Constantinople is the Arsenal."

Or, from Theodore Roosevelt:

"The men with the muckrakes are often indispensable to the well-being of society, but only if they know when to stop raking the muck...."

I eat lunch regularly with old friends from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. A question came up two weeks ago, and we haven't settled it yet to our satisfaction. When Lincoln reacted to the attack on Fort Sumter, he seems to have had no idea the ensuing struggle would consume anything like four years and 620,000 dead. The question: If you had been in Lincoln's place, and you were reasonably sure what the actual cost of holding the union together would be, would you have reacted with military force?

If you'd like to vote on the question, feel free. A simple yes or no is sufficient. I'll tabulate through midnight, November 6, 2007, and publish the results. If you comment, you thereby grant permission for me to publish the comment if I choose. Please add an identifier, also for publication. It should be either a name, or the place where you live.

— Jack

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