Progress On Wheels

“It is always exciting when a book challenges basic assumptions and makes us look again at issues we thought we had fully grasped. Daniel Ben-Ami’s new book does just that. With Ferraris for All, Ben-Ami has identified a very important new trend: widespread questioning of whether economic growth benefits society. Indeed, many now conclude that the pursuit of growth and prosperity is on balance detrimental, and therefore should be tightly constrained. If Ben-Ami is right – and I believe he is – then current debates over economic development and social progress need to re-evaluated.”

Sean Collins reviews Daniel Ben-Ami’s Ferraris For All: In Defense of Economic Progress (due to be released on July 14th) in Why More Really Is More in the Spiked Review of Books.

Published in: on July 11, 2010 at 9:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

This Time Is Different

While not so much a book review as the story behind the book, in a perceptive and enlightening essay Catherine Rampell discusses Carmen M. Reinhart and Kenneth S. Rogoff’s This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. See They Did Their Homework (800 Years of It) in the New York Times.

Published in: on July 10, 2010 at 1:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Walking the Plank With Pirate Frank

Our first Friday Special Summer Reading Program featured ventriloquist/illusionist Kevin Horner, a crew of animated puppets and an even more animated crowd of enthusiastic kids. Fifty-three children, 13 adults and 3 young adults shared in a rousing, fun performance as the Summer Reading Program resumed following our 4th of July break.

Published in: on July 9, 2010 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bottoms Up

“After the first few years, alcohol consumption dropped only 30 percent. Soon smugglers were outrunning the Coast Guard ships in advanced speedboats, and courts inundated by violations of Prohibition began to resort to plea bargains to speed ‘enforcement’ of laws so unenforceable that Detroit became known as the City on a Still.

“Prohibition agents cherished $1,800 jobs because of the bribes that came with them. Fiorello La Guardia taunted the government that it would need another ‘150,000 agents to watch the first 150,000.’ Exemptions from Prohibition for church wine and medicinal alcohol became ludicrously large — and lucrative — loopholes.

“After 13 years, Prohibition, by then reduced to an alliance between evangelical Christians and criminals, was washed away by ‘social nullification’ — a tide of alcohol — and by the exertions of wealthy people, such as Pierre S. du Pont, who hoped that the return of liquor taxes would be accompanied by lower income taxes. (They were.)

“Ex-bootleggers found new business opportunities in the southern Nevada desert. And in the Second World War, draft boards exempted brewery workers as essential to the war effort.”

America’s thirteen-year experiment with alcohol prohibition was abandoned more than three-quarters of a century ago, yet its legacy of organized crime remains to this day.

The Washington Post’s George Will reviews Daniel Okrent’s Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition in Another Round of Prohibition, Anyone?

Published in: on July 8, 2010 at 4:00 pm  Comments (1)  

On Books, #52

Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better.
— Sidney Sheldon

Published in: on July 8, 2010 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Read A Book, Make 5 Bucks

From June 15th through August 15th this summer, 4th, 5th and 6th grade students in Prince Georges County, Maryland, can make five dollars a book for up to 5 books they read from an approved reading list of 16 books for each grade level.

The program, a project of the Prince Georges County Schools and the nonprofit Luke Foundation, is open to the first 500 eligible students to enroll.

For a much more detailed description of the program, including the reading lists for the program and the requirements for the book reports, see this page at the Luke Foundation’s website.

Published in: on July 8, 2010 at 2:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

On Books, #51

1887 Map of Wichita (Kansas Historical Society)

Cultural development is considered by most twentieth-century urban areas a fairly important function of local government. In Wichita in the 1870s, however, it was definitely a frill. No one seriously suggested anything like a city-supported art museum, and even the public support of a library was controversial. In 1878, the state legislature of Kansas authorized Wichita to donate two thousand dollars to aid in building a library, but the city council objected to becoming involved. Instead the library was run by a private library association, which had a bookcase built in 1878 to house its one-thousand volumes. For a time the city provided housing for the library, but the association soon had to rent quarters. As a result, the Library’s funds were limited, and it was open only on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.
— H. Craig Miner, Wichita: The Early Years, 1865-80

Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 9:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chocolate Day

Cocoa Beans in an Open Cacao Pod (US Department of Agriculture)

Wired makes the case for declaring July 7th Chocolate Day.

Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 10:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Special Summer Program: Pirate Frank on Friday at 11

Published in: on July 7, 2010 at 10:07 am  Comments (1)  

The Scent of Rain and Lightning

“Jody Linder is infamous in the town of Rose, Kansas. On a dark and stormy night 23 years earlier, someone shot and killed Jody’s father; her mother disappeared and is presumably dead. From that night on, three-year-old Jody Linder was a girl with a story. Now Jody’s three uncles have upsetting news: Billy Crosby, the man convicted of killing her parents, has been released from prison and granted a new trial, thanks to the effort of Billy’s lawyer son, Collin. After years of comfortably living with justice—knowing the man who killed her parents is behind bars—Jody’s world crumbles as everything she has believed is thrown into question.”

A short, sharp review of Nancy Pickard’s The Scent of Rain and Lightning from Kari Edgens at BookPage.

Published in: on July 6, 2010 at 2:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

A New Twist On Dickens?

“The biographies of most writers tend to be fascinating up to the time their writing begins in earnest. Perhaps poets of short verse have the time to get up to drunken shenanigans and commit adultery in ways that might prove interesting to read about later, but novelists—especially novelists whose books number pages in the high hundreds—are usually too busy sitting at their desks to do more than go out to dinner occasionally. The more prolific the author, the duller the life. Charles Dickens, in this as in so many things, is an exception. Despite writing fifteen long novels and producing reams of journalism and short stories, he still had time to father ten children; edit magazines; gad about the continent; tour and perform in America; devote himself to worthy charitable endeavors; appear at a stream of public banquets; write and act in amateur theatricals; and, as was revealed after his death, maintain a thirteen-year extramarital relationship with the young actress Ellen Ternan. This list of activities was crammed into just thirty-four years. He died—of a stroke, but it’s hard not to think it was fundamentally exhaustion—at the age of fifty-eight.”
— Alexandra Mullens

“There are a few writers whose lives and personalities are so large, so fascinating, that there’s no such thing as a boring biography of them—you can read every new one that comes along, good or bad, and be caught up in the story all over again. I’ve never encountered a life of the Brontës, of Dr. Johnson, of Byron that didn’t grip me.

“Another such character is Charles Dickens. His history, of course, is less obviously dramatic than that of Byron, but the turbulence of his emotional life, the violent contradictions in his nature, and the amazing story of his instant accession, before he was twenty-five, to the highest level of literary fame and popularity—where he remained for thirty-five years, and where he still resides—are endlessly recountable, and have indeed been endlessly recounted.”
— Robert Gottlieb

The publication of Michael Slater’s new 696 page biography Charles Dickens is the occasion for two excellent and discerning essays worth reading, each a review, but also something more.

In The New Criterion, Alexandra Mullens evaluates The Artful Dickens.

In the New York Review of Books, Robert Gottlieb asks Who Was Charles Dickens?

Published in: on July 4, 2010 at 12:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cutting Your Own Carbon Footprint Has More Impact Than Previously Thought

Individuals and families who act to reduce their carbon footprint by switching off lights, turning appliances off with surge protector switches or unplugging them, washing clothes and dishes with cooler water, have a much greater impact than has previously been estimated, according to a British study published in the current issue of the journal Energy Policy.

The study concludes that “the figure used by government advisors to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide saved by reducing people’s electricity consumption is up to 60 percent too low.”

For further details on the study conducted by the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, see this report in Science Daily.

Published in: on July 2, 2010 at 3:03 pm  Leave a Comment