Kids Growing Up Too Soon

67 Shots: Kent State and the End
of American Innocence
Howard Means

The first unsupervised business trip I ever went on with a client took me from New York to Tampa, Florida. But I went by way of Ohio to pick up Larry so we could work on the plane.

You’re riveted, aren’t you?

Here’s what I discovered at dinner that night. The mild-mannered man sitting across from me, deacon in his Continue reading


(Tell You ’bout) The Soul of a Man

The Souls of Black Folks
W.E.B. Du Bois

dubois_soulsI excel at avoidance. If there’s something I ought to do I am a world-class adept at finding almost anything else. That extends to the things I ought to read. The untouched stacks in my hideaway library stand mute testimony to my avoidance skills.

Which is why it’s  humbling to read something and come away realizing I was a damn fool for not getting to it sooner. There’s simply no excuse taking  decades to get around to this Continue reading

A Man of Singular Ambition

Hamilton: Writings
Alexander Hamilton, Prof Joanne B. Freeman, ed.
A Library of America Volume

loa_hamiltonWhy should we read history?

I should clarify. I’m not asking about textbooks. Nor do I really care about popular histories written by journalists or media personalities. Reading those beats reading no history but they are to the real thing as Danielle Steele is to literature.

I’m talking historical monographs and rooting around in the primary sources. The dry stuff that makes people hate history more than memorizing dates. Why do it? Well, to better understand what you’re talking about for one thing.

Which brings me to the Founding of these United States. Tackle that subject Continue reading

Crime of Being Hungry and Poor

The Working Poor: Invisible in America
David K. Shipler

I commited crime lord I needed
Crime of being hungry and poor
I left the grocery store man bleeding
When they caught me robbing his store
-Work Song
Oscar Brown, Jr. and Nat Adderly

Try this simplest of  experiments: For an entire day greet everyone you encounter with a ‘Hello’ or ‘Good Morning.’ And then ask them, with as much conviction as you can muster, how they’re doing.

The only rule is to interact with everyone you encounter, not just the people you Continue reading

All in the Family

Haven in a Heartless World: The Family Besieged
Christopher Lasch

Lately I’ve been thinking about feedback loops. I first encountered the concept in amplifier design. In that case you literally siphon off some output and direct it back to the input. If you do it right and the feedback is positive the result is a stronger, clearer signal.

Over in the Social Sciences building there’s quite a bit of feedback studying going on. Economists talk about signalling in both contract theory and, for the Austrian school, pricing. Either way you look at it, Continue reading

To Fish, Perchance to Dream

Fly Fishing for Sharks: An Angler’s Journey Across  America
Richard Louv

The parking lots where fishermen congregate always contain at least a few vehicles declaring the same wisdom on their bumper: A bad day fishing beats a good day in the office. Since one way humans learn is by extrapolating ideas beyond their origins you’ll understand how I at least entertained the notion that a variation held true for a book about fishing. Would that it were so.

Maybe we should start with fishing itself. While the animal rights crowd would have us believe that Continue reading

Not That Daniel Aaron

American Notes: Selected Essays
Daniel Aaron

The college I attended, during my years there, was in full experimental mode. That meant we got the workload of an Ivy-league school and none of the accolades. The centerpiece of this experience was a class loosely modeled on Columbia’s great books course. In the second semester one wrote a 30-page research paper somewhat related to the course content. That’s how I met Daniel Aaron.

Perhaps I should say made the acquaintance of; I never actually meet these writers, I’m just convinced I know them from their Continue reading

Most Honorable Detective Restored to Place of Honor

Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History
Yunte Huang

A new year well under way and I’ve been MIA since before Christmas. Well, all this snow has sapped my energy. But I’m behind and now’s the time to start catching up. We’ll start with the most recent book I’ve completed and move backwards.

And what better way to begin a new decade than to use a post title sure to tick someone off? Who might that be? Anyone carrying the banner of identity politics. What malarkey. Warmed over 1960s rhetoric rooted in identifying Continue reading