Dec 05

George Washington, by Paul Johnson

I’m a sucker for books about the Revolutionary War, its causes, its implications, and the people involved, so was glad to see this relatively short book in a new series called “Eminent Lives” published by Harper Collins.

It’s only 120 pages or so, so very quick to read, and focuses on the parts of Washington’s life that aren’t the War. A good book by a great historian that’s worth reading.

Dec 05

The Devil’s Teeth, by Susan Casey

This is a book that Mom sent in one of her highly fantastic semi-regular shipments of books that she gets as samples. I sort of brushed by it, since the cover & title makes it look like a pulp mystery.

Turns out, though, it’s an interesting non-fiction book about the Farallon Islands, just west of San Francisco, and the Great White sharks that frequent the place. It’s one of the most remote-seeming places anywhere — nobody lives there, it’s mostly shrouded in fog — but one of the very few places where Great White sharks will reliably return each year to do whatever it is that Great Whites do.

The beginning of the book is fantastically interesting — about a geography that’s so close but that I had no idea existed — and a little bit about sharks, which I think is an interesting topic. The last couple of hundred pages isn’t that interesting, though — just talks about how Casey gets trapped on a boat, bad things happen, everyone has a happy ending. (Age old story: woman meets shark, woman loses shark, shark tries to eat the boat. You know.)

Dec 05

The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis

With the movie coming out and all, plus Kathy & my somewhat reduced mobility these days (named “Sam” :-), I figured I’d go back to the source material and re-read the “Chronicles of Narnia.” Like a lot of my friends, these books were incredibly influential for me growing up — when Peter, Susan, Edmund & Lucy stumbled upon the wardrobe and were transported to a whole new world, well, that was a magical moment for me, too.

It seems to me that comparisons to both “The Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” are inescapable, given the material and the origins of each — and on this re-reading, I was pretty disappointed with the whole series. It seems clear to me that both Lord & Potter are significantly richer & deeper experiences and with less obvious agendas than the allegory of Lewis. Narnia seems flat to me today — the characters are very thin, the stories very simple, and the allegory transparent. I find that I’m not as entranced/overwhelmed with Narnia as I am with MiddleEarth; I’m not as in love with the characters and the story as I am with Hogwarts.

I do think that it’s an important series of books — in particular, I think the first book is important; I could do without the cosmology of the last two — in terms of setting up a template for talking about kids in fantasy worlds and for creating from whole cloth so many fantasy ideas. I do think they’re worth reading and hope that Sam will read them when he gets a little older (he’s still working through Good Night, Moon at the moment) and I hope they’ll open up as many new ideas & thoughts as they did for me.

One other note: the traditional ordering of the series was the order that Lewis published the books in — when Harper Collins purchased the rights in the 1970s, they reordered the books to be chronological, because Lewis at one point said that they might make more sense that way. This puts The Magician’s Nephew first in the series, and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe second. My own feeling is that this pretty well ruins the series. As I mentioned above, the magic moment for me and millions of other kids, I presume, was when the 4 kids stumbled through the wardrobe — that motivates everything else in the whole series. In the new order, you’re learning the “why” of things before you really care very much about the “who” or the “what.” Just my 2 cents.

Dec 05

Heading to Jacksonville

We’re about to take our first trip with Sam — we’ll be heading to Jacksonville tomorrow morning really early. About the farthest Sam’s ever been is to San Francisco — he’s pretty much lived on the Peninsula his whole 5+ months of life. We’ll see how the trip goes — I guess I’m both excited to be able to have Sam spend time with my family (we’re going to see my mom’s family in North Florida/South Georgia, and my brother’s family is coming, too), but also a little nervous about the trip & how Sam will do. He’s a happy, robust, kid, though, so I think things’ll be fine.

Lots to post the next couple of weeks while I’m off from work. A series of posts about mediocre books I’ve read the last few weeks, but also I want to reflect some on my new job, and more importantly what 2005 has been like & has meant to me.

Dec 05

Mozilla in The Economist

Great article about Mitchell & Firefox in The Economist this week. Very nice reporting.

Lots to blog about — I’m finishing lots of books, about to take a couple of trips. More soon. 🙂