Sunday, July 18, 2010

A year later...

Hard to believe it has been a year since I started this project. While I haven't posted on here since January (has it really been that long?), I have still been keeping up on reading. Since Botany of Desire, I have read the following books (even included a brief thought on each book):

  • Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks - Book based on a village's self-quarantine during the plague. Compelling account, especially in the fear and irrational behavior of the villagers.
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Burberry - Love the writing in this. Fell in love with the characters.
  • Among the Thugs by Bill Buford - I have been a fan of Buford's since his book, Heat. This book is an insiders account of soccer hooligans. It is haunting to me still the explosion of violence in the crowds; like an electrical current pulsating. Despite the shocking nature of the violence, it is a very well written book and one of my favorite on the list so far.
  • The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright - The rise of radical Islam with the history of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Very informative and important book to read for our times.
  • Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely - Through various experiments, Ariely demonstrates how little we are in control of our own decisions. Fascinating read.
  • Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child - A highly entertaining thriller that as my mother-in-law, whom also read the book, asked "if this sort of thing really happens in our country." Very easy read...I am sure I will catch up on the other "Reacher" novels later.
  • American Prometheus by Kai Bird & Martin Sherwin - I never knew much about Robert Oppenheimer or the Manhattan Project; it is only touched upon in school. This biography was absolutely fascinating to me. With a documentary about the frightening number of nuclear weapons still in existence (and the evil powers trying to get their hands on them) coming out soon, it seems that Oppenheimer's words still live on.
  • American Pastoral by Phillip Roth - Interesting novel of a writer who manufactures a story of a childhood acquaintance's life after meeting him just briefly prior to his death.
  • Whittaker Chambers by Sam Tanenhaus - Another biography of a person just briefly touched upon in school. I never thought I would enjoy the biographies on this list as much as I do. The account of the Hiss trials and the rise of the anti-communist frenzy in America were particularly vivid.
I hope to someday write posts up for each of these books, but life has been giving me very little extra time to work on them (I prefer to be reading books when I actually have free time).

In a year, I have read 17 books, or 5833 pages. I am proud of my accomplishments considering my schedule as father, husband, salesman, and contributing editor for my CSA's newsletter. I have read recently that 1 in 4 Americans don't even read one book a year and that men who do read, read an average of 5 books a year. Based on those statistics, I feel pretty good about what I have done so far.

Let's see what another year brings! Thanks for all those who have read and/or posted on my blog, it's nice to know I have people rooting me on. As I mentioned, I started this blog partly because I wanted to have a record for my sons when I am older. Now, I am incorporating the project with them by reading the Dark Rising books to my oldest son (almost 6). While some of the books are probably hard for him to understand, he says he likes hearing me read the words; it is a special time for us both when we read at night.


Monday, January 18, 2010

The Botany of Desire

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World
Michael Pollan
258 pages
Read in 24 days

Recently, Michael Pollan has become a voice to the slow-food movement. Slow-food, as the name implies, is the antithesis to fast-food; the focus being on foods that are organic, free of pesticides and grown in a setting far from the factory farm systems.

Pollan has authored such books as The Omnivores Dilemma and In Defense of Food that discuss his views further. Before all of this, there was The Botany of Desire where you can see the seeds (non-genetically modified, I'm sure) being planted in his brain to help form his core beliefs. Newsweek says that "before Pollan became a food-world demigod, he wrote this insightful, engaging account explaining our appetites by tracing the evolution of four plants: potato, tulip, marijuana, and apple tree."

The basic premise of the book is looking at our relationship with nature from the viewpoint of the plant. Through the examination of these different plants, he discovers that we humans are in the web of nature, not outside of it. Pollan writes, "seeing these plants instead as willing partners in an intimate and reciprocal relationship with us means looking at ourselves a little differently, too."

Each chapter covers a different plant and the relationship that humans have with it. The first plant covered is the apple. It is the source of our desire for sweetness. However, as he discovers, it wasn't always that way. The apple, though it originated in Kazakhstan, has evolved into a truly American fruit. He looks at John "Johnny Appleseed" Chapman as the eccentric who planted orchards ahead of the pace from people headed west rather than the Disney-manufactured character that we have come to know. Pollan writes:

Chapman had a sixth sense for exactly where the next wave of development was about to break. There he would go and plant his seeds on a tract of waterfront land (sometimes paid for, sometimes not), confident in the expectation that a few years hence a market for his trees would appear at his doorstep. By the time the settlers came, he'd have two-to three-year-old trees ready for sale.


The second plant that he discusses is the tulip and how its beauty created a desire in humans that was so great that trading in 1635 for futures of the bulb in Holland reached limits that were 15 times the normal price. The irony of the story is that the most treasured Tulip at the time was actually caused by a virus in the flower.

The next chapter goes into human's desire for intoxication with the marijuana plant. After Pollan goes into a history of the plant with shamans and alchemists, he talks about marijuana’s place as the poster-child in the “War against Drugs” and how this took the drug underground. With the crackdown by law enforcement, the plants were taken from fields outside to indoor locations where, because of the ideal controlled growing conditions, the drug has increased its potency; the THC that was normally 2 to 3% is now at 20%. So, I guess thank you “War on Drugs”. Good job. Pollan does make an effort to try to understand why the plant exists in the first place:

What is harder to comprehend is why virtually all people, and more than a few animals, should have acquired such a desire in the first place. What good, from an evolutionary standpoint, could it do a creature to consume psychoactive plants?

Pollan ends the chapter discussing the effects of marijuana on consciousness. I love how he ends the chapter saying that “letting nature have her way with us now and again still seems like a useful thing to do, if only to bring our abstracted gaze back down to Earth for a time.”

The first three chapters are very good, but I feel this book was included on Newsweek’s list solely for the last chapter. It’s a chapter on human’s desire for control and talks about the potato. Not just any potato, rather, the genetically modified potato called “Newleaf” that came from the agricultural biotechnical company, Monsanto. They have altered the seeds so that it produces its own insecticide to combat a common enemy to the potato called the Colorado potato beetle (versus the farmer applying insecticides on his fields throughout the growing season).

As I said before, Pollan has become one of the harsher critics of genetically modified foods. In this chapter, he is one of us. As he grows the Newleafs in his own garden, discusses the genetically modified seeds with farmers (both organic and industrial) and even discusses with the scientists and management at Monsanto, you can see his mind start comprehending the potential impact on our lives and ecosystems. As he simply states in the chapter, “Monsanto’s aim, it would appear, is to become its Microsoft, supplying the proprietary ‘operating systems’ to run this new generation of plants.” What bothers him and continues to bother scientists (Atlantic Monthly just discussed Monsanto and genetically modified corn effects http://food.theatlantic.com/nutrition/how-safe-is-gm-corn.php) is that Johnny Appleseed or the pot growers all have manipulated (by selection or cloning, etc.) what they were growing, the “species themselves never lost their evolutionary say in the matter…(however,) with genetically modified seeds the wildness has been reduced. Whether this is a good or bad thing for the plants (or for us), it is unquestionably a new thing.”

Pollan ends up asking a molecular biologist whether there was any scientific evidence on whether the Newleafs were unsafe to eat. She admits that there is no scientific proof, but she talks about genetic instability which “suggests that a biotech plant is not simply the sum of its old and new genes, and she talked about the fact we know nothing about the effect of the insecticide in the human diet, a place it has never been before.” When he presses if there was any reason not to eat the potatoes, she replies, “Why would you want to?”

What worries me most, and Pollan makes the connection, is that organic farming fights the beetle by consistently rotating crops in their fields or they just won’t plant the potato that has the greatest incidence of the beetle. With industrial farms, however, they are at the mercy of their customers’ demands. The largest customer of the industrial farmed Russet Burbank potato is a small company called McDonalds. Apparently to make the “perfect” French fry at McDonalds you can only use this potato which the organic farms just don’t plant. The key of the industrialized farm system and what the genetically modified seed ends up promoting is a monoculture for crops. They get high yield but are not at the whimsy of nature (as organic farmers are) but rather are susceptible to the nuances specific to the monoculture. Another famous example of a monoculture crop? The potato in the Irish Famine of 1845.

There still is a lot of research that needs to be done to understand the effect of eating genetically modified crops. I look forward to reading Pollan’s other books to see how his thoughts have been further honed to where they are today. I think Pollan has seen the future and he is frightened by what he sees. It will also be interesting to read The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry and its views on the industrial farm system.

Up next, the plague novel, Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Magers and Quinn

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog to throw in a little plug.

On a recent business trip to Minneapolis, I had a little downtime between meetings so I decided to visit a used book store I had seen online. For most of my books that I have read (or will read) with this project, I have purchased them in a used book store. If you think about the costs if I bought every book new at a bookstore, this could be a costly project. I could get these in a library, but I do like to have these books for my collection later. I do not own a Kindle or Nook so buying digital versions is not an option. Besides, there is something about holding a book in your hands that I love...I know, I am old-school.

Anyway, we have a few used books stores in the Chicagoland area that are decent and I have gotten quite a few books there. What is infuriating at these stores is that it is very difficult to actually find books there. While the books are usually put in general categories, they may not be in order by author or you may be at the mercy of the staff and how they interpret where it should be filed. Many hours have been spent looking through stacks upon stacks of books that come up with no decent finds.

Completely different at the bookstore Magers and Quinn in Minneapolis. It is a large store that is very well organized and laid out. Unlike the stores around me, they keep a computer inventory of what is actually in the store. Their staff is very friendly and were there to answer my questions. I ended up picking up seven books that were priced slightly higher than the unorganized stores around here. But, to be honest, I would pay the extra money for the time that it saves me. Yes, I know there are the people who like to while the day browsing the shelves. I like doing that too, but there are days that I don't have that time.

If you are ever in Minneapolis, I highly recommend you visit them. Hey, it won't get you anything as far as a discount, but tell them you heard about them from me. Maybe I can get a discount instead.



Magers & Quinn Bookstore
3038 Hennepin Ave. South
Minneapolis, MN 55408
http://www.magersandquinn.com/index.php?main_page=index

I will admit that I am very slow to write up my posts right now. I have 3 books finished (Botany of Desire, Age of Wonders, and Elegance of the Hedgehog) and I am almost finished with another, Among the Thugs. I need to catch up! I may start up a longer book so I don't get further behind.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Random Family

Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx
Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
401 pages
Read in 21 days

It has been a month since my last post. I have read three books since I finished the blog but unfortunately I haven’t had time to update it because December is the busiest month of the year for me at work. Even though I have been travelling a lot, with all the time in the air and down-time in airports, it has been nice to have a book to turn to. I like the escape that a good book can provide and the most recent ones with this project have been just great.

Newsweek says that "it took LeBlanc 10 years immersed in the lives of one Bronx family to produce this gripping, cinematic account of urban poverty and its causes. It will take you two days to read it." Newsweek, bite me…two days, my arse. At least say that it is two days where you are not interrupted by kids, work, or life. Two days, sheesh. On your summary of the book, however, I can't agree with you more.

The book follows two women, Jessica and Coco, through all of the highs and lows of their lives. As stated above, LeBlanc became a part of these families for over ten years and the detail reflects this. As a reader, you are there in the moment. You cringe as she describes rodent infested apartments or as abusive threats are hurled. Jessica becomes involved with a dangerous drug dealer named Boy George. Coco is involved with Jessica's younger brother, Cesar. Cesar is more small-time than Boy George but still dangerous.

I can't say that Jessica and Coco don't try. Jessica thought that her way out was by living on the fast lane with Boy George. She did taste the "good-life" with nice cars and clothes, trips on yachts, and fancy dinners. That moment was short-lived as Boy George and Jessica are arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. Jessica is very distant with her children (she has 5 with different fathers). Coco also has 5 children (again, from different fathers), but she seems to always have her heart in the right place but unfortunately constantly makes decisions that are focused on the short-term and are ill-fated. While Jessica is in prison, the story follows Coco as she tries to make a better life but lacks the skills and funds to pick her family out of the grips of poverty. As I mentioned, LeBlanc does a superb job in chronicling what Coco goes through without having to launch on a "what is wrong with this country when any population has to endure this" diatribe. Rather, her style is straight-forward: tell the facts and let the reader decide.

For me, it is the image of the kids living through all of this that stays with me several weeks after finishing the book. As a father, I think (read: hope) most parents go through this: you wonder whether you are doing a good job. And yes, it sounds clich├ęd to say this, but you wonder if you are a good provider, a role model to your kids. There are the frustrations, your words seem to never sink in or are just ignored. There are other times that you forget they are not adults and will make mistakes over and over again. Most of the time, though, they bring a smile to your face as they do something silly or amaze you as they learn words, the alphabet, and read. Every day, there is something new and every day you are amazed that you created them. I know the characters in Random Family must have had these thoughts at some point. They must have wondered if they were doing a good job also. However, there were times where I wondered what their definition means to them.

Coco's oldest daughter, Mercedes, is seven-years old when LeBlanc writes:

Everything Mercedes did seemed to bother Coco: Coco relied on her as a helpmate and confidante, then yelled at Mercedes for acting grown. She chided Mercedes for forgetting to charge Pearl's (Coco's baby) Pampers or for scolding Nikki (the middle child), but neither was Mercedes free to be a child. When she tried to be affectionate with her mother, even her hugs seemed to weigh to heavily around Coco's neck. "You ain't a baby, Mercedes!" she would threaten.


I can't imagine the weight of the family duties being put on a seven-year-old's shoulders. How difficult it would be to be an adult to endure this, let alone have a child take on the familial duties. The children can't live as children in this environment. Their daily life is bombarded with violence, drugs, and pests (among many other things that most of us take for granted). Sadly, as is illustrated with Jessica's oldest child, Serena, while they think they are better than their parents, they inevitably go down the same path and the cycle continues.

As an outsider, it is easy to read the book and wonder how the characters could make the same mistakes or wonder why they can't find a way to get out of their situation. I had a moment of self-reflection while reading this book. I often wondered what I would do in their shoes. Would I find a way out of that situation? The thing is, there is no way to know how you will handle yourself with the same, limited option available. I am fortunate; I came from a stable family life. I was given all the opportunities for advancement. We had food on the table, a roof over our heads, and a community that was safe. I never came close to the environment that is described in Random Family.

The term learned helplessness seems unfair to label on this random family to explain how they never seem to get out of their situation. The abyss that is poverty is a social problem that pulls the people who are trapped in it down further. They can glimpse the "better life" on the horizon and some have success through pushing themselves to better themselves through education. Sadly, a majority find it through the drug-trade in which incarceration or death are the more likely outcomes to that path. For the rest, the struggles of every day life are taxing and there is no clear path for the way out.

Up next (and I hope to write it up next week) is Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin
Edmund S, Morgan
352 pages
Read in 35 days

This is the kind of book that should have not taken as long as it did to read. Yes, I was busier with work stuff and couldn't find the down-time to read, but it is just terrible that it would take me this long. The book is an easy read. It's not bogged down, as a lot of historical biographies are, with tedious hypothesis about the motives for different characters. At the end of the book, though, I wondered if I really understood the man and why this book is one that Newsweek thinks I need to read now.

There are a couple things that I previously did not know about Benjamin Franklin that had I been paying more attention during school, I may have remembered. First, I did not know that Franklin was in favor of British rule in the new world. If the British weren't so darn greedy, perhaps that vision would come true. It seems that Franklin was trying to patch up the "mistakes" that the British were making and fought hard to hold the empire together. You can picture Franklin shaking his head at the vast corruption and greediness within Parliament when he confides to a friend, "…when I consider the extream (sic) Corruption prevalent among all Orders of Men in this old rotten State, and the glorious publick Virtue so predominant in our rising Country, I cannot but apprehend more Mischief than Benefit from a closer Union…To unite us intimately, will only be corrupt and poison us also." This is a man who does not have too much faith in the old system. The second thing that I learned is that John Adams is a paranoid loon. Franklin says of him, "he means well for his Country, (he's) always an honest man, often a wise one, but sometimes and in some things, absolutely out of his senses."

Morgan does a decent job painting the picture of a man who is always curious…always asking questions about the world around. Perhaps that is a trait for the great thinkers of the world. He has his own ideas about how things should be, but he is willing to have them changed; to be convinced of a new way of thinking. He seemed to be always welcome in circles to discuss scientific and political thoughts, but he wasn't one to force his view in conversation. Franklin was not some gregarious fellow whom always was the center of attention. Rather, he was the one who would ask a single question to help the speaker think of a different way of seeing things. Throughout the book, Morgan recounts how much people enjoyed his company and opinions.

Perhaps that is what makes Franklin such an appealing character to me and perhaps why this is a book to read now. Is Franklin the ideal as a politician? Some would say yes. He neither grandstands nor squelches your thoughts on an issue. He is willing to make a change to his opinion without compromising his ideals. He simply takes in more information to form his opinion. On the other hand, you have to wonder with the 24-hour news cycle these days, how successful Franklin would be in today's world. I could picture people calling him a "waffler" or watch the Daily Show replaying clips of him saying something completely opposite than what he is currently saying. Politicians don't seem to have the time or are too worried about their voters to change their opinions or take too long with making a well-thought decision (look at the flack that Obama is currently under for taking too long on Afghanistan strategy). We are a society that demands answers and change over night and raise our hands in the air incredulously when it doesn't happen.

What nagged me about this book, though, is I wondered why it was on the list in the first place. Franklin is indeed an engaging character and the way he was perceived during his time is admirable, but how does that help us understand our world now? Perhaps Newsweek wanted to say, "you think the world is bad now, we could have been under British rule?" I am not sure.

In the book, Morgan summarizes Franklin's life by saying:

We can know that many of his contemporaries came to recognize, that he did as much as any man ever has to shape the world he and they lived in. We can also know what they must have known, that the world was not quite what he would have liked to make it...Franklin knew how to value himself and what he did without mistaking himself for something more than one man among many…he honor(ed) his fellow man and woman no less than himself.
I guess those are good traits in today's world, but is it realistic in our political world?

Up next, the fantastic book (already finished it), Random Family, by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
Phillip K. Dick
241 pages
Read in 9 days


I grew up in a house that was definitely a science-fiction house. Both of my parents loved everything sci-fi. Every Sunday night, as I would be getting ready for bed, I would hear the beginning music to Dr. Who (of course after Dave Allen and Monty Python). They would watch reruns of Star Trek even though they had seen the episodes five times before and followed every generation after. When my dad let me borrow his copy of "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" it was like he was giving me a family heirloom. So, I guess a little bit of that need for a glimpse into the future is always with me. The "what would the world be like..." type of conversations I had as a kid has continued now into my adulthood. I’m still waiting for my rocket-pack, dammit!

After reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, I can emphatically state that I do not want the "what-if" world that Phillip Dick has envisioned. A world that in its post-apocalypse haze would rather lure people to Mars (now with your own robot!) than to live on the desolate Earth. A world where a person's status and basic self-worth is judged by whether they have a pet and if said pet is real or fake. A world, where your mood can be programmed for you by using a machine called a "mood-organ".

The novel follows the story of two main characters, Rick Deckard, an android bounty-hunter and John Isidore, a "chicken-head--a man with lower mental faculties--who works as a driver for a robot animal "hospital". Their stories are told in separate chapters until they meet later on. Androids were initially developed as companions to accompany people as they journey to Mars and then act as servants once they are there. Good marketing strategy apparently as it seems that most of the people have taken advantage of the offer, leaving a lonely, empty world. People insisted on more realistic androids and a certain version called the Nexus-6 is so darn close to human, that bounty hunters, like Rick, have to use a test called a Voigt Empathy Test to help make the determination. He has to do this test now since a group of androids have escaped Mars and are trying assimilate themselves back on earth. He is charged with “retiring” them at a price of $1000 per android. Empathy is important as this is the basic belief system of people on earth. They follow the belief system called Mercerism and “transport” themselves into Mercer’s world via empathy boxes. As John Isidore says, “An empathy box is the most personal possession you have. It is an extension of your body; it’s the way you stop being alone.”

There are a couple themes that I got from the reading of this book. One was the emptiness and loneliness that the humans on earth endure. John Isidore’s apartment building is completely empty except for him. Everyone on earth seems to be empty shells of what they used to be. As Deckard takes out the androids, you are left wondering: was it them or the humans who truly lived?

Another theme that I felt was captured in the story was the future’s dependence on technology. The mood organs and empathy machines are just a few examples on how, in Dick’s imagination, that humans need for technology to help them basic human emotions. Truly scary stuff working here.

I don't know if it was the deep-rooted love for science-fiction that made me embrace this book as much as I did, but I couldn't stop reading it. If it weren't for some work events, it would have taken me 3-4 days to read this. I could not wait until I had the time to read it again and I would cruise through the pages when I did. It is a pretty easy read. I know I am only 5 books into the “project” but this is my favorite so far.

Ok, now I am going to admit something that, after my sci-fi love-fest in the beginning, seems unforgivable…I have never seen “Blade Runner”. There, I said it. For those that do not know, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is the basis for the movie. After reading the book, I went to Netflix and watched the original (not the Directors Cut from a few years ago). You know what? I didn’t like it. With the Phillip Marlowe-esque voice over, and the androids sticking out like sore thumbs, I just could not get into the movie…that and Sean Young, blech. Stick with the book, you will get more out of it. Although, I should say that the visuals of the future world were pretty spectacular.

So, now that I have read this book, I am definitely going to read some more of Phillip Dicks’ books when I am done with this little project. Anyone have recommendations?

Next up, a book Newsweek calls a "model biography...(he) emerges as a quintessential hero of his time, and ours." They are speaking about Edmund Morgan's Benjamin Franklin.







Sunday, September 6, 2009

Winchell

Winchell: Gossip, Power and the Culture of Celebrity
Neal Gabler
553 pages
Read in 33 days


Newsweek says in the "What to Read Now and Why" article, that "before there was a Rush Limbaugh - or Us Weekly - there was Walter Winchell: gossip columnist, commentator, McCarthyite, radio celebrity, has-been."

Before reading the book, I didn't know much about Walter Winchell other than his catchphrase that began every radio broadcast: "Good evening Mr. and Mrs. America from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea. Let's go to press." I was surprised at how engrossing this book was for me. Winchell came from humble beginnings to become the voice of America heard or read by 50 million Americans. In 1948, he was the top-rated radio personality (beating out Fred Allen and Jack Benny). He was, at the same time, feared and respected by his peers, politicians, and celebrities. He was also plagued with self-doubt and lack of confidence. When he sided with Senator Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn against communism, public opinion turned against him eventually. He was extremely stubborn and would not apologize for statements he made. Indeed. his downfall does seem to be that he would never re-evaluate his views and would rather die than to back-down.

At the end of his career, it was he who was being viciously attacked...his attackers had years of pent up rage and waited patiently for their moment. As the book says, "Winchell's life had become a parable, the lesson of which was: He who operates in the cutthroat world of celebrity where reputations are quickly made and just as quickly broken will have no peace."

He was a guarded, egotistical, and vicious (especially retaliating against people he felt wronged him). At the core, though, was a man that was not self-confident and was constantly questioning his abilities. On the surface was a man that was seemingly unafraid to face the enemies of the world, but underneath, he was always questioning whether he was good enough. My only gripe with this book, and perhaps that is telling on how Winchell protected his public image, was that there was very little to explain his behavior. There were a lot of "perhaps he did this because" in the book.

He defined gossip and to his credit, as the gossip genre became more salacious and sensational, he kept with his formula. One thing I found amusing was that the "rule" was that you never did a story on a married man having affair...oh, how times have changed.

It is hard to imagine, while reading this book, that the roots of Winchell's gossip column would grow into the invasion-of-privacy, multi-million dollar industry that it has become. From US Weekly and People Magazine to TMZ and Perez Hilton, we have become obsessed with celebrities rites. Top-tier stars are hounded constantly by paparazzi and are not given a moment alone. We see stars who melt under the scrutiny and it only feeds our obsession. I can't even imagine my life being played out on a cover of a magazine as these celebrities do every week.

What have we become as a society where we can't get enough of knowing the trivial, private items in celebrities lives. Do we want to be like them? Are we jealous and want to know they can have messed-up lives too? The sad thing is that if was popular in the 1930s, there is no hope of it going away. We have always had the appetite for it.

Winchell popularized gossip and now we are taking it to levels that I think even he would shake his head at.

Up next, a little science fiction with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Phillip Dick...Loving it so far.