Between the Lines Book Club: All Charles Lindbergh

between the lines book club logoIn One Summer: 1927, Bill Bryson writes about Charles Lindbergh, the first person to cross the Atlantic in a solo flight. We will be talking about the book at Arden Dimick Library on February 27, 2017 at 10:30AM.

There is a lot of footage of Lindbergh on YouTube. Biography.com  has a full length documentary about Lindbergh and several shorter clips. You can find his infamous speech to the America First Committee on YouTube.If you want to learn more about the Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping, YouTube also has a full length PBS documentary.

The most famous biography of Lindbergh is titled Lindbergh as was written by A. Scott Berg, published in 1998. It won a Pultizer Prize. PBS Newshour did an interview with Berg that you can find online. Here’s a quote about Lindbergh’s antisemitism:

ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You include many quotes in your book from Lindbergh that leave little doubt that he was, it seems to me, anti-Semitic. He talks about a “western wall of race and arms–” speaks of inferior blood. He refers to Jews as — American Jews — as having interests different from “ours.” Did you end up with the belief that he was anti-Semitic?

A. SCOTT BERG: Well, I do believe he was anti-Semitic in ways that even he didn’t realize he was anti-Semitic. I ask a lot of Jewish friends and a lot of my own family what their definition of an anti-Semite is, and some of them just very readily say “Somebody who hates Jews.” And I say “if that’s your definition, I don’t believe Charles Lindbergh was an anti-Semite.” I don’t believe he hated Jews. Indeed, he did help some Jews get out of Nazi Germany, and indeed he did have some Jewish friends. At the same time, I think he was guilty of that other, more genteel kind of anti-Semitism, which is in some ways more insidious, because it is covert. And Lindbergh really was one of those who didn’t realize he was anti-Semitic, but he did believe they were different from the rest of Americans. He believed they controlled the media and the government in this country. He believed they had their own agenda that was different from the American agenda. And that’s just — that’s just anti-Semitism, neat and clean.

Berg did not know about Lindbergh’s secret families abroad – that information came to light after the biography was published. For a light-hearted interview that touches on the issue of Lindbergh’s many families, The New York Times has an interview with Lindbergh’s daughter, Reeve, who indicates that life as a Lindbergh is never dull!

“The siblings!” Ms. Lindbergh, now 62, calls them. “Bless their hearts! With us, every 20 years or so there is something that comes out that you don’t expect. Of course, now things seem to be happening more frequently.”

She ticked off the highlights: “There’s the flight, the kidnapping, the war, the speeches,” she said, referring to her father’s anti-interventionist speeches during World War II, “and now, aye yi yi, polygamy!”

Outrage, Ranked

86caec10e9fba576e60f51e24721e6d7Dear Readers, there are so many things to be outraged about these days that I have ranked them. Do with this what you will. Next week I’ll post something adorable, I promise.

 

Here’s my breakdown of things that are happening:

 

Things that are not actually Trump-related.

I won’t lie. It fills my heart with sadistic glee to hear rumors that the Trump staff can’t find the White House light switches. How I love to imagine that they are all working in the dark, possibly with the aid of candles.

 

However, according to the copy of Time Magazine that was so thoughtfully placed in my doctor’s waiting room today, we can’t actually use this as evidence that Trump and everyone who works for Trump is incompetent. Apparently, there’s no good orientation to help the transfer between administrations. Every new administration ends up with staff that doesn’t know where the bathroom is or how to find ballpoint pens. We can’t pen this on Trump’s crew being idiots.

Outrage level: Surprisingly unwarranted.

 

Things that are Trump-related but are irrelevant.

I don’t care about Trump’s hair or skin tone or appearance in any way. I don’t care if he can  or cannot spell (I have bias since I can’t spell either). I don’t care what job Melania used to have and although I do worry that she might be abused it’s not something I can do anything about. I don’t care what anyone on Trump’s staff looks like or what odd habits they may have. OK, I do care – that’s a lot of gum, Sean. But they don’t affect anyone’s ability to govern.

Outrage level: Not worth it. These kinds of things may have a certain hypontizing effect, but they are a waste of outrage.

 

Things that are reprehensible but sadly normal for a Republican administration.

Now we get into things that require action. We have a Republican congress. Of course we are losing health care and women’s reproductive rights and civil rights for people of color and the LGBTQIA community. Of course the most vulnerable populations are losing funding. Of course the separation of Church and State is threatened. Dust off your signs from the Bush and Reagan years. As they say in Battlestar Galactica, “All this has happened before and all this will happen again.” Doesn’t mean it isn’t important – these issues are literally life or death for many people in our country and abroad. Call, protest, write, and look out for each other and for crying out loud vote in 2018!

Outrage level: Return to Bush years outrage levels. Unpack old protest buttons. Never give up, never surrender.

 

Signs that the end days are seriously nigh.

I’m not going to say that these are signs that we should panic, because panic is not useful. These ARE signs that our democracy as a whole is under attack. Man the barricades (figuratively speaking) when you see:

 

  • Attacks on the system of checks and balances. When Trump thinks that the job of the Legislative and Judiciary Branches is to rubber stamp his orders, that’s not normal.
  • Hate speech. Attempts to ban, deport, or target specific groups of people. Increased hate crimes. The rise of white nationalism and white supremacy. This is not normal.
  • Attacks on the press. I’m referring to Trump’s belief, and his staff’s repeated insistence, that the job of the press is to speak in favor of the president. The press functions unofficially as a fourth piece of our country’s checks and balances. They do not serve the president – they are independent entities. When the President expects the press to be his servants, we have a problem.
  • A President who admires dictators and strongmen. Trump seems to have a long list of leaders who he disapproves of as “bad people” but admires for their ability to “get things done.” This list includes Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Vladimir Putin, and Rodrigo Duterte. I’ll say one thing for Trump – he’s not cagey. He’s telling us quite directly that he likes leaders who ignore checks and balances, human rights, legal procedures and the democratic process in their efforts to accomplish their agendas. He also admires leaders who use power to get more power, and money, for themselves. For Trump, business conflicts of interest are a feature of his presidency (for him) not a bug.

Outrage levels: Maximum

 

Actions you can take? Call your Senators. Be active in local politics. Help elect Democratic politicians in 2018. Write letter to your representatives and to your local paper. Subscribe to a newspaper. March. Volunteer. Remember that alcohol and hand sanitizer can remove hate graffiti from many surfaces. Be a decent human to other humans. Speak up. Persist!

 

 

 

Between the Book Club: Interviews with Bill Bryson

between the lines book club logoWelcome back to Book Club, where we are reading One Summer: 1927 by Bill Bryson. This nonfiction book tackles American history by looking at a fairly short window of time in which a remarkable number of things happened. Here’s Bill Bryson talking about that crazy summer:

 

and here he is talking about why he decided to write the book:

 

If you live in the Sacramento area, please join us at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM on Feb 25, 2017!

Between the Lines Book Club: One Summer by Bill Bryson

between the lines book club logoCongrats, book clubbers, we made it through Hamilton! Our book for this month is another non-fiction, but much shorter and lighter. We’ll be reading One Summer: America 1927 by Bill Bryson. Ready for transatlantic flights, baseball, anarchy, and the mob?

Book commences right here in the comments, but you can also meet us in person at Arden Dimick Library. Our next meeting is on February 25, 10:30AM. See you there!

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Revisiting an Old Flame: Lost Season One

lost15Lately I’ve been re-watching that groundbreaking TV show Lost. Lost was one of the earlier shows to have a long-reaching arc combined with an internet fanbase. It had an international cast, which was unheard of at the time. It had multiple roles for women. It was thrilling until it went horribly off the rails, which took about five minutes.

Lost is famous for having promised us that everything would make sense despite the fact that ultimately one must assume that the writers used an increasing amount of pharmaceuticals. But you know what, Season One is still amazing – and it’s tightly constructed. Everything from Season Two to the ending seems to have been constructed by a blindfolded monkey playing scrabble, but Season One is TIGHT. Examples:

  • Sayid never figures out how much English Sun understands, but as an interrogator he can tell when she’s trying to dodge a question.
  • Sawyer is supposed to be just awful but early hints of his inner good-guy are all over the place. The only thing we actually see him bartering is a tube of sunscreen to Shannon (and let’s be honest here, who doesn’t like to see Shannon miserable). When Boone gets hurt Sawyer not only doesn’t barter but he also asks Kate if she needs anything else right after loading her up with alcohol for Boone.
  • Jack focuses on the needs of the community from the first frames of the show. Locke focuses on his own interests. Sometimes these interests coincide with the needs of the group and sometimes they don’t – an early sign that Locke will always follow his own agenda.
  • Despite the bickering in the group, there’s an incredible amount of kindness. Michael and Jin fight in one scene and a few scenes later set that aside long enough to try to free Jack from a cave-in. Sayid makes a pair of glasses for Sawyer even though Sawyer and Sayid hate each other. Jack’s “Live together or die alone” speech from Season One defines the series and keeps it from being nihilistic.Everyone fights to the point of sometimes actually trying to kill each other until a more serious problem arises, at which point they co-operate.

 

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The Angsty Island of Perfect Abs

On re-watching the show, I realize that one of the show’ porblems was that over time the male characters tended to expand while the female characters tended to shrink. No one gave a shit about Kate’s love triangle or Sun’s affair that may or made not have gotten her pregnant. We all got tired of Claire looking for her baby. What a waste of fantastic women who kept being defined by their love interests and their babies.

The question isn’t “Why did we start watching Lost.” The question is “Why on earth did we keep watching it even when as early as Season Two it was clearly not going to pan out? Lost never lost (sorry) the core principles it started with – beautiful scenery, compelling characters, a lot of humor, and moments of kindness and joy. So even when Lost kind of sucked, it gave us episodes like “The Constant” and moments like this one from Season Five:

 

Or this one:

 

Remember when it wasn’t Penny’s boat? And when Hurley beat up Sawyer? And when Sayid killed a guy with a dishwasher? And when Claire was wearing Libby’s shirt? And how about that time when Nestor Carbonell joined the cast the only mystery we cared about was whether or not he wore eyeliner? Good times.

Yesterday I stared Season Two and thought, “Dude, this is all going to go downhill, I can’t even with this.” Today I’m back at it. Lost, like my imaginary TV boyfriend Sayid, is that messed up boyfriend that I just can’t quit.

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I’m here for you, sweetie!

Between the Lines Book Club: Five Fun Facts About Hamilton

between the lines book club logoDid you make it through this month’s book club pick, Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow? If not here’s five fun facts:

Hamilton was an immigrant.

Most of Hamilton’s contemporaries (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Aaron Burr, John Adams) were born in what became the United States. Hamilton was an immigrant, born of immigrants. His Scottish father had moved to the Caribbean where Hamilton was born, out-of-wedlock.

A hurricane secured Hamilton’s future.

Hamilton survived a hurricane and wrote about it. The townspeople of St Croix, where he lived at the time, were so impressed with his account of the hurricane that they took up a collection to send Hamilton to University in New Jersey.

Hamilton had eight children.

Remarkably, all eight survived infancy. His last child was named Philip after is older, deceased son who had also been named Philip.

Hamilton spoke out against anti-Semitism.

Hamilton was a on-again, off-again Christian, who became more devout towards the end of his life. There are stories that his mother was Jewish, but no evidence to support that. However, due to schooling shortages and the fact of his illegitimacy, as a child he went to a Jewish school. He used to brag that he had learned to recite the Ten Commandments in Hebrew as a small child. He admired the Jewish people and write positive things about them during a time when anti-Semitism was a serious problem.

Both Hamilton and his son Philip died in duels.

In most of the colonies duelling was illegal but still a frequently used way of resolving conflicts and preserving honor. Philip was shot during a duel with George Eaker and died of a subsequent infection. Alexander Hamilton was fatally shot by Aaron Burr – at the same duelling ground three years later.