You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2011.
I’m reminded by the following entry in The Writer’s Almanac that today is the 271st birthday of the famous scribe and biographer. Read much more about him and his contemporaries in my essay for the Chicago Literary Club, “Samuel Johnson and His Clubbable Friends’ (www.chilit.org).
“It’s the birthday of the biographer James Boswell (books by this author), born in 1740 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His family was descended from minor royalty, and they had occupied the same more than two hundred years. Boswell’s father was a judge who insisted that his son study law. So James Boswell passed his bar exams in Scotland, but he didn’t really like law and he didn’t really like Scotland. Boswell loved gossip, drinking, and traveling, and he wanted to be in London, to be in the company of the rich and famous. He also wanted to be known as a great lover, so he bragged constantly about his love life.
“James Boswell was a good writer with an incredible memory, and he started keeping a journal as a teenager, and he kept it for the rest of his life, filled with reflections and anecdotes about the famous people he befriended—Voltaire, Rousseau, Oliver Goldsmith, John Wilkes. Most of all he wrote about his friend Samuel Johnson. When Boswell was just 22 years old, he met Johnson, who was his idol, in the back of a bookshop. Johnson was 53, and he gave the young Boswell a hard time when he met him, but Boswell went back to visit him anyway and they soon became good friends. Over the next 20 years, Boswell followed Johnson around, and he always had paper and took notes constantly. Johnson was often frustrated with Boswell, and Boswell could be critical of Johnson, but they still liked to spend time together, and they traveled together through Scotland and the Hebrides.
“After Johnson’s death, Boswell spent years writing a biography of his friend. He used letters, interviews, as well as his own diary, of which he said, “A page of my Journal is like a cake of portable soup. A little may be diffused into a considerable portion.” Finally, in 1791, The Life of Samuel Johnson was published, and people loved it. There had never been a biography like it before. Instead of a dry recitation of facts, Boswell filled his book with personal anecdotes and vivid descriptions, and overall it was fun to read, and he made Johnson sound like a real person who wasn’t totally perfect. It’s still considered one of the greatest biographies ever written, and it’s a big part of the reason why Samuel Johnson is still so famous today.”
For any who remain skeptical about whether the earth is in a warming trend, as evidence of climate change, watch this moving graph: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=YB_VxEQVGBw
Of course, the new factual graph does not indicate whether that warming trend is man-made or not, but the proof of the science is in. The news media has played down this revelation. I suppose many in Congress will too. But since when did the facts get in the way for Congress?
When censuses and surveys today ask people how often they “dine out,” I don’t think people know what is being asked. While the intent may be to determine how often and where people eat away from home, I think the “dining out” question suggests to many people a white tablecloth “dining” experience. Many Americans, I believe, seldom go to “white tablecloth” restaurants, yet I find it hard, no, impossible to believe, that if you include fast food and all the kinds of eating experiences other than home, even if you exclude food brought from home, that no-one but an invalid does not participate in “dining out” experiences. Statistics should always be suspect, but fallible humans write the surveys. See this article for some good example of what I mean: http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/voracious/2011/10/majority_of_americans_havent_d.php
What is increasingly clear is that the U.S. Senate cannot govern. They cannot negotiate between the two parties, and they cannot reach decisions that benefit the people, even when the people are suffering. The Senate, I’m afraid, has got to go. Why do we still need this holdover from the ancient imperial British House of Lords, especially when they can’t legislate and compromise in a manner that credits our U.S. democracy?
On Oct. 12, I wrote here about how the Senate, which represents real estate (the States) rather than people (because of the disparity of state populations), was gridlocked on the President’s jobs bill. Now the Senate yesterday entertained a portion of the bill that would support hiring or rehiring some of the teachers, firefighters and police that had been cut back by local governments because of their reduced revenues due to the economic depression. This portion of the bill would have been funded by a 1/2 percent tax increment on individuals with a million-dollar or more income. The Senate again gridlocked at 50-50.
So, thanks to the Senate, we must forego any federal relief for the agencies of government that educate and protect the people. This is an inexcusable default by this dysfunctional relic of our supposedly representative democracy. This country needs a Constitutional Convention before we get a 21st century version of the people’s French Revolution to sort things out. Or, maybe, just maybe, our two even more dysfunctional political parties could resolve to negotiate in good faith on behalf of the best interests of the American people?
Read my major essay, “One Collage Too Many,” on the history the Electoral College has been part of, and the trouble it has and will cause if it is not eliminated from the U.S. Presidential election process. The Electoral College has been trouble since its beginnings, as Thomas Jefferson recognized, and will again threaten our democracy if it is not changed. Read why and how at:
My major essay on the history of the French Fry, called “French Fried: From Monticello to the Moon,” is full of the lore of the French Fry and its complex and fascinating historical and cultural background. McDonald’s unique relationship to the French Fry is highlighted. You can find the essay at:
My major essay titled “Acceleration” tells the inside story of Toyota’s early acceleration and growth in the U.S. market, from the 50s through the 70s. Learn why and how Toyota was accepted by Americans as an alternative to U.S.-built cars. The U.S. auto industry has now learned how to be competitive at home, and is doing better and better all the time, while established offshore brands like Toyota are often now built here, or offer features, design and value that appeals to American tastes.
Read my essay at: http://chilit.org/Papers%20by%20author/Ebeling%20–%20Acceleration.htm
The Senate is an anachronism, in that it is the most undemocratic institution in the U.S. federal government. With two senators from every state, from the smallest to the largest, it doesn’t represent people, it represents real estate.
In another example of its increasing fatal relationship with our democracy, the jobs bill passed last night, 50 to 49, but lost because the Senate, in its arcane rules, requires 60 votes for an issue to pass. Thus, the U.S. Senate voted against jobs for Americans. Not a single Republican voted for the jobs bill. They ate American jobs for dinner.
If we had an election for the Senate today, wonder how the American electorate would vote? See the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/the-senates-epic-fails/2011/10/11/gIQAl15cfL_story.html
Looking forward 20 years or less, from 1995, Bill Gates of Microsoft foresaw the computer as the ubiquitous communication device it is today. From his address to the Economic Club of Chicago, April, 1995, at the dawn of the internet age:
“Certainly within the next 20 years the impact here in the United States will be very, very dramatic…
“The first 20 years were really about creating a tool that would allow us to build documents, and it was a tool of the individual. That’s very different than the computer that came before, which was a tool of organizations. But the primary way that you got a benefit out of the tool was that you would type in your word-processing document or your spread- sheet or your database and you’d print something out; take it to a meeting. And so it was only you, working alone, that was sitting at that device.
“What I’ll talk about that comes in the next 20 years is that, rather than being a device for an individual, or even a computation device, these will turn into communication devices. And devices that are so far beyond, in terms of their presentation capability and their location capability, something like the phone is, to redefine how we reach out into the world at large…”