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A Short History of Women

September 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Kate Walbert

[Photo by Deborah Donenfeld, from author website]

I wrote about Kate Walbert‘s A Short History of Women last week from Nantucket, noting that having just finished a Robert Crais crime novel, I intended to read it next. While stuck at JFK’s Terminal 5 Sunday night on our way home, I gave a progress report:

Now I’m reading it, and it’s beautiful. Understated, ironic, painful, humorous. Each chapter focuses on a particular woman among five generations, with only three featured at the point that I’ve reached in the book. (I’m about 2/5 through the book.) There’s the woman from whom everyone else is descended, her daughter, and her son’s daughter, the first appearing in 1898 and 1914, the second during WWI and just beyond, the third in the last decade, when she is a grandmother. You could say the book is about women who are tired of putting up with s— from men, if I may vastly simplify. I’ll say more after I finish it.

I finished it Tuesday. I don’t have much more to say, other than, “Read it!” It’s everything I said — beautiful, understated, ironic, painful, humorous. And it just gets better and better. If only it were twice as long. I so loved the characters. I would have enjoyed spending more time with them.

If you have an electronic reader, download it now. If not, I noticed it at the bookstore Tuesday afternoon, after I finished it, while looking at other Kate Walbert books, and saw that it’s recently out in paperback. Plus, as convenient as reading it on my Kindle and iPad was (I was traveling, after all), the physical book version is a lot more attractive, with its richer formatting. But no matter. Just read it, whatever the format.

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Categories: Books

Jimi Hendrix, Forty Years

September 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Jimi Hendrix died 40 years ago tomorrow. I won’t bore you with my own jejune reflections on his life and art. Instead, let me suggest that you listen to this morning’s interviewon The Takeaway with guitarist Vernon Reid of Living Colour. It’s about 9 minutes long. (Hat tip: Jerome Harris, my college classmate, who linked to the interview on facebook today. Jerome is himself a noted guitarist and bassist.)

Categories: Music

Save Channel 9

September 17, 2010 Leave a comment

In today’s news, shareholders of both United and Continental Airlines approved their merger. Many issues will need to be sorted out as they integrate their operations. I rarely fly Continental, haven’t in years, but still fly United on occasion. It used to be my principal airline, when it had non-stop flights from Seattle to New York as well as a huge route structure up and down the west coast. In order to compete with Alaska and Southwest, United spun off their west coast routes to their discount-airline-within-an-airline Ted, which went belly up almost two years ago. These days, except when I fly to Chicago, I don’t find United a convenient choice. Alas, I have a huge amount of mileage in United’s Mileage Plus program, which we’ve been slowly using up when the opportunity arises, such as for Gail’s trip to Scotland two springs ago.

What does this have to do with Channel 9? Well, I am one of thousands who believe that the best reason to fly United is to listen to Channel 9 on their audio system. United is the lone airline (US anyway) that lets you listen in to the conversations between pilots and air traffic controllers, which they play (at the captain’s discretion) through channel 9. It’s hit or miss — some pilots play it, others don’t. But when it’s a hit, it’s a home run. You hear not just your own pilot, but everyone on that frequency, all flights and controllers. You listen as your plane and others are cleared to descend to lower altitudes, at particular airspeeds and with particular headings. You hear the instructions to follow a particular plane in for the landing. And you hear the etiquette used in greetings and farewells, as pilots are handed off from one controller to another, until they are under the guidance of someone controlling taxiways.

Why is this so great? I suppose it’s a matter of taste. Some might rather be listening to music, or watching satellite TV, or reading, or sleeping. I like those activities too. But I can do them any time. I can’t always listen to controller chatter. It’s fun to hear that your flight should turn 30 degrees and drop another 2000 feet and then see it happen.

The point of all this is that it’s unclear if Channel 9 will survive the merger. Continental planes aren’t equipped with the capability. Some United pilots don’t much like it and choose not to broadcast their conversations. It’s possible that they will take advantage of the operations changes to push for its elimination. (See, for instance, the discussion here.)

Please, United, keep Channel 9. It’s what makes you special, and we love you for it.

Categories: Travel