January 17, 2005
2005 Favorites: Books, Music, DVDs
The Secret Man:
The Story of Watergate's Deep Throat
My personal knowledge of Bob Woodward begins with seeing him in the lobby of my high school, Richard Montgomery, in Rockville circa 1971, as he wrote an expose of the county's high school principals for the Montgomery County Sentinel. It continues with seeing him more than two decades later in his office at the Washington Post, and having him buy ice cream in huge buckets for the newsroom during one busy Saturday, perhaps just prior to the invasion of Haiti.
I had no idea that his work in the Navy brought him to the White House prior to his employment as a journalist, and it was in a corridor there that he first met Mark Felt, who was to become Deep Throat.
If you read this book, you will learn that Woodward lied to Richard Cohen, a Post columnist, who was prepared to write an article stating that Felt had to be Deep Throat; that Felt's motives will now never be known, as he is 91 and suffers from dementia; but that most likely, Felt believed (based on his service to J. Edgar Hoover) the FBI had an almost above-the-law duty to protect the country, that is, leaking information if need be to expose the corruption at the Nixon White House, or using extralegal means to capture the Weather Underground radicals.
Even though Vanity Fair scooped the Washington Post.
Really enjoyed Reichl's opening on the bizarreness of her hiring experience a the New York Times -- no one she is visiting seems to have any clear idea of how to conduct a professional interview, and she is astonished at how filthy the newsroom is.
She shakes up the New York restaurant world by visiting hoity-toity spots in disguise and reporting frankly on shabby treatment. Whle this does not endear her to Times management, readers applaud.
One Nation Under Therapy:
How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance
Christina Hoff Sommers
Thought-provoking look at the therapy industry and how little-trained vultures descend onto Columbine, the World Trade Center and insist that all in sight emote as if they are Sally Jesse Raphael.
Sommers writes with less pizzazz here than her earlier landmark,
Who Stole Feminism?, yet her targets are well chosen, especially Abraham Maslow, the guru who decided we all have a pyramid of needs, with self-actualization at the top. How many families have been broken up since as one parent or another decides they are more important than their kids?
Fascinating account of a pilot's 13-day hike out of the California Sierras following a crash in November 1994. Few could have survived the starvation and brutal conditions Peter DeLeo faced. He finds heavily padlocked cabins on the way, in contrast to the one-time tradition in Alaska to leave cabins stocked and open to a traveler facing an emergency. (The custom, according to John McPhee's excellent
Coming into the Country, is for the traveler to eventually restock what he takes on a return trip).
Reviews at Amazon.com note that the NTSB cited pilot error as the cause of DeLeo's crash -- that he took an ill-advised swing into a box canyon. Further, his emergency signaling device appears to not have had an antenna set up correctly, and he did not file a flight plan.
It seems the same person can be a crummy pilot and a determined survivor.
You probably know the outlines of how liberals have been sympathetic to Soviet Russia, Cuba and other totalitarian regimes, but Charen connects the dots to show similar patterns toward Nicaragua and even Cambodia as it descended into genocide.
Fantastic story of a young American Peace Corps volunteer murdered in Tonga by another PCV -- who essentially got off scot-free. The tale is an engrossing one, especially fine are the observations of Tongans who watch the Peace Corps bureaucracy fall in line to protect the murderer (!) and conclude that whereas a Tongan would simply confess and be hung, Americans don't mind murder so very much. I agree with the reviewers on Amazon.com that take issue with the writer's failings to explain the reappearance of characters, but still, the narrative has its own momemtum, and the writer is clearly quite good at reporting what happened.
What is perhaps more lacking is a look at why the heck we let barely formed adults in their early 20s, most hopelessly unprepared for live overseas, go around getting themselves into trouble and ultimately being "whack-evaced" home when their minds crumble. My new book, Romance on the Road, will look briefly at the issue of young female Peace Corps volunteers, who, if French speaking, are sent to West Africa, where they are likely to encounter strong, seductive men, often HIV positive. Up to five PCVs a year sero-convert to HIV.
Parents and young folks alike should think twice before deciding they are suited for the Peace Corps!
Excellent chapters including "How Liberalism Created the Crime Wave" and "How Liberalism Created Homelessness." Charen's book blasts out of the gate with this opening sentence:
If you were inclined to assault your neighbor and steal his car in 1958, you would have to consider that neither the police nor the courts would cut you any clack because you had a deprived childhood.
How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must): The World According to Ann Coulter
Was expecting some sort of social guide to conversing with liberals, including a decent run-through of social issues high on the conservative agenda. This is actually a collection of Coulter's weekly columns. I was pleasantly surprised to find Coulter's book full of witty asides, amusing observations ("at least Saddam wasn't at Tailhook!) and with an endearing humility about her failures to crack the magazine market (many freelance writers will enjoy chapter 16, "What you Have Read If You Lived in a Free Country," a compendium of flaky rejections).
Great idea for a book -- a lively look at punctuation -- yet despite interesting passages on the history of the comma, this effort will confuse the reader rather than clarify. Does Truss even understand punctuation? As a former copy editor, I find the Associated Press stylebook infinitely clearer. Part of the problem is that the UK has something close to punctuation anarchy, an almost Chaucerian disregard for correct use of commas and apostrophes. And alas, this is a UK book written by a UK author primarily for a UK audience. Again, where were the editors? The rules for comma use are not so difficult, but Truss makes it appear otherwise.
On Paradise Drive : How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense
An editor should have sat down with Brooks to figure out what he was really trying to say about life in the American suburbs and exurbs. This reads like a description of a drive from Washington's Georgetown out to Frederick, Maryland, with bits of clever prose but no overarching point.
Nicer long pieces that contrast with his newspaper columns, including a profile of Jesse Jackson.
by the members of Monty Python,
A gold mine for someone like myself who is a big fan of the show but knows little about the background of the group.
According to the Rolling Stones
An obviously incomplete history of the band but packed with great photos.
In Living Color
Hilarious and far more consistent than SNL.
Reasonably interesting but there will be some holes in the narrative to casual viewers who are not huge Eminem fans. We are left to wonder in the early going, as Marshall flounders and chokes at rapping competitions, why his friends see such promise in him (the film gives us no clue). And my husband Lamont makes an interesting point:
I thought it was a little strange in 8-mile that Rabbit seems to have no relationship at all with black women. All his buddies except the guy who shoots himself are black, but black women play only the most peripheral role in the movie. It may be that they don't like him or he doesn't like them. It wouldn't be important except that he has completely "dysfunctional" relationships with the only three white women who show up in the movie, his mom and two girlfriends.
There is an interesting twist in a sub-culture like this where there simply aren't that many potential mates within your ethnic group, so you end up either grabbing the first person like you even though you may be completely uncompatible or dating outside of your race. Years ago if you were a black professional you had this issue, so many people had to do a match-maker thing, never worked for me... Well this is never remotely explained in the movie. I kept wondering why he's getting wrapped up in these slags when there were so many sistas around.
The other thing is his outrage at the betrayal of the producer having an affair with the girl he's after. Seeing as Rabbit's only claim on her was a quickie behind the press, I wasn't sure he had any right to beat up the brother for doing the exact same thing. It almost came across as old-fashioned outrage at a black man and white woman being involved rather than outrage at a cheating girlfriend.
Whatever, not of this was made clear. It feels like M&M was either hostile to interracial relationships or he had it written in and cut it out because he was timid about what the public (his fans) or censors would think -- which seems unlikely considering the amount of profanity being thrown about and the topics of the raps.
Its inconsistent when you consider he's trying to make inroads into what has become the modern day black folk music, more reason for me to slag him off as a pretender.