Jan 19, 2008

The Men of Man Book Club

We've been getting together since last May, but there's a lot we still don't know about each other. Just how much, we'll soon find out. At the end of an upcoming meeting, I'll administer the following "quiz" and we'll see who's been listening and who's been drinking. The one with the most right answers gets an extra fine bottle of red that has been reclining in my cellar since Terry sold me the house.

Before the quiz, you may do all the homework you like, but no fair volunteering your own (or someone else's) data unless asked....

(Note: Everyone is featured; a few come up twice.)

  1. According to his wife, this man is worth only $49.95, because that’s all she paid an internet dating service to find him.
  2. He played NCAA Division I hockey.
  3. These two attended Harvard.
  4. These two have wives who attended Harvard.
  5. He attended Yale (with his wife).
  6. He was the 20th employee of Netscape.
  7. After trekking through the Himalayas, he worked all winter at a ski resort in Austria.
  8. These two are longtime “power” engineers. (For extra credit, name their companies.)
  9. One was, until recently, a nationally-ranked cyclist; the other is on a nationally-ranked rowing team (3rd place at the 2007 Head of the Charles).
  10. His products are sold around the world using the trade name Red Line.
  11. These two attended the oldest boarding school in the country. (For extra credit, name the school.)
  12. He completed the Paris-Brest-Paris race, at 1,200 km the oldest bike race in the world. (He is not the cyclist mentioned above.)
  13. At the 2007 Burning Man Festival in Nevada, these two men designed, built and operated a communal shower and water recycling facility.
  14. These two were once PTA presidents.

Jan 16, 2008

Tom's Tortillas and More

Last night Tom fed us well and single handedly too. Okay, aided briefly by his sous-chef (John prepared the guacamole), and closely observed by a hungry Robin and Casey, Tom turned out a meal worthy of a Mexican Tenksgeevee. His enchiladas, chopped anchovies on Caesar, and Spanish rice were complemented by an exquisite homemade Mud Pie. The frozen hand emerging from the dessert was a delicious bit of culinary symbolism.

(Peter/Dean, since you didn’t finish the book, we’ll let you in on a secret: Garth’s high-concept dessert suggestion, which Tom executed so well, is explained in the last two pages of the novel. While you're at it, try to figure out why John arrived wearing an electronic ankle bracelet and Stan was sporting huaraches.)

Tom, thank you for hosting us with such grace and generosity. Fifteen bookmen arrived hungry and went home satisfied.

We welcomed Glenn to our group last night. He was an inaugural MBC member, but his yearlong stint in Colorado has prevented him from joining us until now. Now that he's back in Marin (and cycling with Terry), we know all's well in his and our world.

The Book
Our run around the table produced a surprising verdict on Tortilla Curtain: we all seemed to like the book enormously, but there was no scarcity of criticism. I put the book in my Top Ten, but learned that most of you quarreled with the novel’s accelerated ending (glad you read it this time, Roy), the implausible attitudes of the principal characters (including Delaney’s rapid conversion to the dark side), Boyle’s failure to capture more of the complexity of the migrant worker experience, and an alleged lack of originality (Larry, I'm putting words in your mouth). To all of your criticisms, I say rubbish! I’m still taking T.C. Boyle to the proverbial desert island (but maybe I’ll take Stan’s suggestion and bring along Water Music instead).

Despite the quibbles over tone and style and substance, the book pulled a 7.5 rating, our highest to date. Even Jack, voting absentee, gave it a 7. (Note to Dan: Jack missed because of a conflict NOT involving his wife or mother-in-law!)

In the Painful Parallels department, we have in our midst a self-described Mexican naturalist (Armando); two former SoCal denizens, one raised outside the proliferating gated communities (Glenn) and one inside (John); our carpetbagger from Rolling Hills Estates who declined to state on the gate issue (Terry); an Australian whose convict roots and dubious morals make him our poster child for immigration control (Peter); and the usual polyglot assortment from the Emerald Isle, eastern Europe, and Asia, whose ancestors were despised by the immigrants who preceded them. As Terry asked us, who will the Mexicans despise 50 years from now?

Next Up
In a serious breach of protocol, Roy proffered only one book for our consideration. But since our straw vote revealed that most were satisfied with the choice, we all agreed to read Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby for next month. For later consideration, George recommended Updike’s Rabbit series and others mentioned a desire for non-fiction (including Glenn, who touted The Last Place on Earth; Armando, who liked America in 1492; and George, who proposed a title (name?) about a 19th century US expedition around the world). Keep bringing your recommendations to future meetings.

Jan 7, 2008

Killer Angels Considered for Davidson Eighth Grade

The eighth grade history teachers at Davidson are considering Killer Angels as a supplemental text for their eighth grade honors history classes. I was asked by Mabel Bialik, my son's teacher, to provide input and agreed to meet with several Davidson teachers tomorrow (1-8) at 2:30 at Davidson. I obviously liked the book and would recommend it, but I know many of you were not as enthusiastic.   Thus I wanted to offer you the opportunity to provide Mrs. Bialik and the other eighth grade history teachers other views.

I will write in my comments that the book may not grab the interest of girls as there are few women mentioned in the book.

I'm sure they would welcome any comments you would have either tomorrow or via e-mail. You can also reply to this posting and I will see that it gets relayed to the teachers.

Of note, the eighth graders that go on the D.C. field trip this spring will visit Gettysburg. 
-- Larry