Opening the Conversation

I notice from my statistics page that people are actually viewing this weblog already. And to all of you who’ve dropped by, welcome! I’ve not publicized Panorama of the Mountains in the slightest. I view it as a “soft launch” so that if I post for a couple weeks I can just delete this weblog and no one will be the wiser. Yet it is the nature of the game that people will be finding their way here through tag surfing and referal logs. This is all good since I do hope that Panorama of the Mountains grows into a dialogue instead of a monalogue.

With that in mind here are some of the blogs I read as well as many blogs I think I’d like to read regularly (after all, I spent a lot of time trying to find the rare liberal Catholic blogs so I might as start reading them). Here is the inaugural class of my blogroll:

Bobby’s Way — Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine’s blog from Japan.
Faith and Fear in Flushing — Possibly the best Met’s blog online.
Mets Guy in Michigan — As a Mets guy in Massachusetts (married to a woman from Michigan) I can sort of relate.
Mike’s Mets — New York Mets discussion, news and historical perspective.
Wright Now — The official MLBlog of Mets third baseman David Wright.

Streets Blog — Covering the New York City Streets Renaissance.

Bad Catholic — A Christian at a Crossroads.
Busted Halo — An online magazine for spiritual seekers in their 20’s and 30’s.
Cardinal Seán’s Blog — The head of the Archdiocese of Boston shares his reflections & experiences.
Catholicism, holiness and spirituality — This is a moderate, Jesuit-flavored Catholic blog.
Far From Rome — Orthodoxy is overated.
Googling God — Mike Hayes, managing editor of Busted Halo, a Catholic spirituality site sponsored by the Paulists.
In Today’s News — A progressive Roman Catholic noticing that conservatives and traditionalists Catholics take most of the Catholic space on the web.
Kicking and Screaming — A liberal Catholic’s diary on his first year in a Seminary with the Paulists.
The Lesser of Two Weevils — Adventures in Biblical Hebrew — and anything else that catches my eye.
Whispers in the Loggia — Rocco Palmo’s insider view of the Vatican.

Fun Stuff:
The Comics Curmudgeon — Josh reads the comics so you don’t have to.
Drink at Work — One of the world’s countless providers of humor and humor-related services to both the public and communal sectors.
Found Magazine — Collections of FOUND stuff: love letters, birthday cards, kids’ homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, telephone bills, doodles – anything that gives a glimpse into someone
else’s life.
Galactica Watercooler — Talk about the best show on TV and iTunes.
Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog — Something English majors may appreciate.
Liam Humor — Another guy named Liam and his comedy stylings (I found this googling my onw name).

Found History — Unintentional, unconventional, and amateur history all around us

Libraries & Librarians:
ACRLog — Blogging by and for academic and research librarians.
Blog About Libraries — The title says it all.
Laughing Librarian — Library Humor & Stuff. — putting the rarin’ back in librarian.
Library Dust — A small gift to the library world from Michael McGrorty.
Library Planet — A librarian’s look at the world at large.
Library Stuff — Stuff about libraries.
Lipstick Librarian — The diary of a library fashionista.
LIS News — Librarian and Information Science News
PLA Blog — The official blog of the Public Library Association.
Radical Reference — Answers for those who question authority.
The Shifted Librarian — How the change from pursuing information to receiving information is and will be affecting libraries.
Turn The Page — A clog – or a comic log set in a library.
Unshelved — My favorite web comic, set in a public library.
WebJunction — an online community where library staff meet to share ideas, solve problems, take online courses – and have fun.

Local: Blogs — Numerous blogs on the Boston Globe website.
Newton Streets and Sidewalks — Traffic Calming in Nearby Newton.
The Somerville News — The Weekly Paper with Daily News
Universal Hub — Boston’s community news and information resource.
WBUR News and Arts Blog — Boston’s NPR News Source.

Pandora — Backstage at the Musice Genome Project.

People I Know:
Baptized Pagan — Brian is a catechist and frequent lay reflector at my church.
Candy@GSLIS — Candy taught me everything I know about web authoring at Simmons College GSLIS.
Molliver’s Travels — I sort of knew Molly in college. Now she’s in Thailand.

Random Thoughts — Photos and thoughts by silverdsl.
Satan’s Laundromat — A photolog of New York, with an emphasis on urban decay, strange signage, and general weirdness.

Capitol Hill Blue — Because nobody’s life, liberty or property is safe while Congress is in session or the White House is occupied.
Faithful Progressive — Religion Politics Culture.
God’s Politics — A blog by Jim Wallis of Sojourners.
Greg Palast — Investigative journalist who I can’t resist reading even though he’s brash and obnoxious.
This Modern World — Tom Tomorrow’s cartoons and blog.
The Notion — Rapid reaction to breaking news and unfiltered takes on politics, ethics and culture from Nation editors and contributors.
Project for the Old American Century — Blog of the free independent online daily news source that presents and distributes under-reported news items focusing on corporate and government corruption.
The Quaker’s Colonel — Col. Dan Smith, USA (Ret.) Talks About Military Affairs

Scientific American

Soccer Shout — Phil and Tony are two expat Brits who give their opinions on the games and the news. Sometimes comical, sometimes cynical, always entertaining.

Judging on what happens when I actually read these blogs and who drops by here I will be dropping and adding blogs on this list.

Book Review: Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties

Welcome to the first edition of “What I Am Reading Right Now,” which I plan to have as a regular feature of Panorama of the Mountains.

The Roaring Twenties are a romantic period. Jazz. Flappers. Consumption of vast quantities of alcohol despite (or perhaps because of) Prohibition. Americans living in Paris on the cheap. Writers as celebrities exchanging witty barbs. The Algonquin Round Table. A golden era in New York, a city built on golden eras.

Marion Meade attempts to capture this glamorous period in Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties by focusing on the lives of Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, and Edna Ferber. I’d never heard of Ferber (her novels became the basis of the musical Show Boat and the film Cimarron), and really only knew just a bit of the reputation of the other three women.

The romance of the twenties crashes down in this book. In contrast to the romantic images we see these women’s lives scarred by depression, alcoholism, suicide attempts, failed marriages, abortions, and sexism. That they made it through the decade alive seems to be a great accomplishment, much less their great writing and contributions to popular culture.

Meade sticks to a straight chronology for the narrative with eleven annual chapters from 1920 to 1930. In each chapter, Meade goes through the year weaving in and out of the lives of the four principals in a series of vignettes. That the book is in a sense a quadruple biography makes it a challenge to read compared to traditional biographies especially since one has to learn the family, friends and associates of each writer. I found it more confusing that although Fitzgerald, Parker, Millay and Ferber rarely interact with one another the ancillary characters often do show up with each of them.

The book is gossipy at times, in a sense aping the writing style of 1920’s personality pages, but one does get a good sense of each writer. Parker – or Dottie as she’s called throughout the work — known for her quick wit and charm is revealed to have a darker interior life. She attempts suicide three times within the course of the narrative and never seems ready to acknowledge her inner demons. Millay – called Vincent – finds early success redefining herself in a Bohemian mold, yet seems to lose herself in it and by the end of this time period she seems to be leading and unsatisfactory life built on pretension. Ferber seems to me to lead the most conventional life and most devoted to the straightforward career of writing divorced from the glamour of the era. While it may make her story a bit dull, it also makes her accomplishments the most impressive. Zelda to me is the most heartbreaking yet inspiring. Her desire to define herself through dance and writing despite the constraints of her upbringing and the insults of Scott Fitzgerald (definitely the villain of this piece) was especially moving. Her descent into insanity seems inevitable but I can’t help feeling she’d have done well if only given a fair shake.

Overall, I’d say this is an interesting and educational book. It may not have the information value of a straightforward biography but it does capture the essence of the era and offer valuable contrasts among the four women writers. A particularly depressing afterword also demonstrates the wisdom of cutting short the narrative after 1930, while these writers were still at their peak.

Interesting Quotes:

Zelda Fitzgerald asserts feminist principles at parties hosted by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. An interesting counterpoint to reading The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas where Stein has Toklas stating her duty was to talk with the wives of famous men, as if the women had made no contributions themselves:

“From her vantage point in the ladies’ ghetto, Zelda found it all a little offensive. Of course Gertrude and Alice were eccentrics — and lesbians — but that was besides the point. What made her indignant was how they treated women. She had never cared for the role of the wallflower.” (p. 142-43)

Zelda on Ernest Hemingway:

“There could be little doubt who wrote The Sun Also Rises, because the author sounded exactly like a man obsessed with hunting and fishing — and killing bulls. Ernest’s tough-guy act was a fake, in her opinion, because nobody could be “as male as all that.” (p. 164)