MAIN STREET

Sinclair Lewis

This worthwhile book has some flaws but many remembrances of times when human beings relied on one another. Trustworthiness, honesty and reliability had different meanings and importance in society. When human beings were apart, there was no communication. Telephone and telegraph lines could send messages but most news was one, two or three days late. Gossip slanted the news in town.

The novels establishes this complete setting in spades for a town, Gopher Prairie (3500 population). Town folk have nothing but one another to pick on and gossip about. The heroine, Carol, tries to remain apart from the settlement and its people, airing attitudes which town people attribute to her being city born and bred. Carol is married to home town boy who is the best doctor around.

Almost every limitation and opinion Carol has about the town is substantiated and correct. Her reactions to simplicities, ignorance and misguided loyalties are mostly justified. She is not always courteous, and not political. The Doctor’s position and stature protects his wife from her complete vilification. She wants the town and its people to improve – beautify the place, toss around a little architecture, and the citizens to uplift themselves with social and intellectual activities and conversation. She expresses much enthusiasm for her outside thinking.

There is a cheat in the story. Carol is not the woman she believes herself to be; she has enthusiasm but no skill, no talent and no education. She puts together a group for a play, but she has never directed; she’s never acted. She complains about hard-nosed church goers (as though going to church is the sin itself), yet she doesn’t go to church much herself. Her education is in librarianship but her efforts are a void there. Carol is not unlike any woman who complains about a new environment but lacks training and experience in psychology, sociology, history, politics rudimentary business, or any other practical discipline to do anything about the new place.

Carol wants people to be receptive to words, visions, poetry and music – anything to shift people from their stupor. What Carol faces is expressed well by Miles Franklin in My Brilliant Career: Sybil is confronted by her mother and the daughter responds (paraphrased), I wish I were born low with common desires. That I never learned. I never asked why. If I were born and lived like an idiot, I would never fear for lack of company. I would be among my people. Sybil’s mother believes her daughter is going to hell.

That attitude and adjusting to it is what Main Street is about. And Sinclair Lewis has Carol get through various scenarios: Attractive, artistic young man arrives in town; Carol befriends him. Town folk believe their love is hot and heavy. Nope, but after 150-200 pages, young man leaves. Carol later learns he is in New York City not Minneapolis; he’s changed his name and is acting in movies. An enlightened school teacher, fresh from the city, goes to a dance with a town ne’er do well, the son of a hard-nosed church goer. The son buys liquor and tries to assault the teacher repeatedly; she beats him off, repeatedly. The mother accuses teacher of corrupting her son. Everyone in town knows it’s a lie, but the teacher resigns rather than being fired. Carol loses a friend. She loses another friend when death takes his family.

Carol leaves Gopher Prairie and ends up during World War One working in Washington D.C. The War ends; she works for Women’s Suffrage. She has her son with her. Her husband at home remains steadfast and loyal to the marriage. Carol likes the work and independence, but there is a true grind: True work and effort result in uncertain accomplishments and outcomes. Life and work in Gopher Prairie and Washington D.C. are not that much different.

An older woman in the leadership of the Suffrage Movement befriends Carol, after meeting the husband. She gives the best advice about work in the public sector that I remember reading. The older woman believed Carol, a fine advocate and valued worker, does not have the correct mindset to ultimately succeed: Carol is sensitive and worried about criticism or strong feelings directed toward her. The woman says (paraphrased) You cannot be sensitive. Most people don’t know about the work I’m doing and whether it truly affects them at all, if they know about my efforts. When they hear of successful outcomes, they grumble. The older woman makes Gopher Prairie palpable. Indeed, when Carol returns home a few changes have been made and more are planned.

The power and force of the writing of conclusionary confrontations between characters (young man – Carol:Doctor) (school teacher: Carol:Prominent town’s people) (Suffrage: Carol:Older woman) surpass the issues of 1916-1920. Some of those events and words happen and are uttered today. Sinclair Lewis earned his money when he wrote and published Main Street.

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GERRYMANDERING

The United States Constitution, Article l, section 4, states, “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives shall be prescribed to each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.”

The Fourteenth Amendment can be considered as subsequent authority allowing changes and modifications in decisions made by the the Legislature of each state. But generally, before setting national rules applicable to the entire country, it is the job of local governments and local people to set the local districts electing members of the House of Representatives. Not everything can be uniform.

Can a District be strictly segregated? No.

Overall the American people have seen elected officials of all races ineffective and/or corrupt: Have Latinos been well served by the Latino senator from New Jersey, or is he representing someone else? Were white people well served by the white mayor of San Diego, or did a small group of others benefit? African-Americans have gladly elected members of their own race to learn later of mismanagement and/or corruptions ending in guilty verdicts. Race, itself, is not a good means on which to base Representation. If race is the primary element determining whether a district is legitimate, God help America, and ask did Martin Luther King ever live?

Are the Republican and the Democratic Party a better means? Suppose the choice is between Colin Kaepernick and Don Trump – shouldn’t Americans hope a third person can emerge? The choice might be Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein – someone’s daughter ought to run and kick their butts. If Democrats leave Detroit or New Orleans, does that mean that Democrats should retain Congressional seats there? NO, there are no dead boroughs – designated seats – like Great Britain had until 1909. Likewise Alpine County, California (population 1175, one fifth Native American) does not have as many state senators as Los Angeles County, as it once did. All Congressional and legislative districts do and must change. All legislative districts will be approximately the same size. That is the outcome of the court decision that we now call, One Man, One Vote. In her senility Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg does not understand One Man, One Vote.

What have elected officials done? Some have accomplished much in state office, but the sad tale of New York state needs telling. Governor, Attorney General and local attorney generals are mostly Democrats. Federal prosecutors were Democrats. During the real estate collapse in 2009 members of the Trump family made representations about sales in a building they were trying to unload. The representations and actions surrounding the non-sales went to the local District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., a scion of the venerable Cyrus Vance. The current generation of the Vance family apparently likes things fast and loose.

It is reported and emails show two Trump children by were trying to agree by constructing and arranging which lies to tell while they were testifying. [It is truly amazing that the Trumps criticized Hillary Clinton for lax and improper use of email, whilst they left electronic pavement smeared across the Internet proving the worst of their actions indicating guilt.] But the pay off was to Cyrus Vance Jr. He needed money to pursue the next political office. The Trumps paid. [Note, in Florida the Attorney General of the state, Republican, declined to participate in a suit against Trump University in exchange for campaign contributions. That was all right, though, because she’s blonde, or bleach blonde.] [Before being recalled in 2003 Gray Davis was noted for dropping administrative and regulatory actions against offenders in exchange for contributions.] Needless to say nobody now remembers who Cyrus Vance Sr. was, or anything he did.

What does gerrymandering have to do with corruption? Everything. As people become entrenched in office, corruption flows. It is easy to stop – bring legal actions, taint a candidate at election time, taint the public official while in office and damn the opposing tweets from twitter-brains, make all provable facts known and supply supporting documentation. Corruption or perceived corruption is one means how political power shifts from party to party, or ideology to ideology: How was the first African-American elected President? He was a change from the Republicans, and he delivered a message different from the Clinton’s.

The exact rules to follow to avoid gerrymandering is a big and diverse issue. Despite changes who makes up electoral districts, California remains a heavily gerrymandered state. The Los Angeles Times reports there is No California Congressional District with Registered Republicans In The Majority. The Democrats have two-third majorities in the legislative houses.

I know residents of Morgan Hill, California whose congressional district extends 80 miles east through 40 miles of wilderness and 40 miles of fields to the cities along Highway 99 and the Sierra foothills. One cannot drive to their house directly from the Central Valley. Their land and residence is continuous to the congressional district of Silicon Valley where they both worked. They are up the hill, but they are part of the Salinas Valley: School district, local government, law enforcement, library district, water district, etc. I asked, “What’s happening in Fresno, or Modesto?” They have no idea.

Democrats should be careful about complaining of gerrymandering. A federal court can come along and rule a state is gerrymandered. The Democratic Party could lose 15-20 seats in the California House of Representatives delegation.

In 1779 General George Washington told the government of Virginia to send its best people to represent it in Congress. Virginia sent James Madison, likely the best Congressman to join the National government, ever. That’s the problem. Americans are not finding and sending the best persons.

My Congressman is a Democrat. I don’t dislike him because he is a Democrat; the Republicans have run real losers against him and that Congressman remains in office. But I refer to and will vaguely quote Mark Twain for a proper description of my House Representative: He is somewhere between the apes and the French.

WISDOM OF THE CROWD?

This politically correct TV production from California, and I suppose Hollywood, is UNREAL. This production is set in Silicon Valley. Everyone in it is of dark complexion but salient places are ignored: An entire continent is missing.
NO ASIANS – the sub-continent Indians, no Vietnamese, no Malaysians, no Thais, no Chinese and no Japanese. As for Europe the characters look like they come from the Mediterranean places. There are no Frogs, no Krauts and no Limeys. No one looks ready to play a a role in Fargo except for the blonde victim. Where are the Ruskies, the easiest characters to write and cast: Thin guy, big eyes always looking at the walls, generally incoherent and absolutely brilliant. And there are no Irish!
There is also a black/white element present in the production. Everyone wears black. The bad guys were Northern European/North American.

AN IRISH SURVEY

MODERN IRELAND
by R. F. Foster

This books tells the politics, economics and general status of Irish society through the seventeenth century in an efficient and an excellent telling.

The author leaves politics and goes onto literature, beginning with Irishmen being in London, Swift to Sheridan. It is an impressive production of words, few about Ireland with little Irish influence. Most of those words were directed toward Britains, but they did not affect British policy toward Ireland. The author cites a source which he says is the best book on the literary production and subjects.

Next came chapters of cultural/sociological politics which is interesting. The British parliament made serfs of the Irish which the Americans no doubt knew and revolted beginning in 1765. British law had reduced Irish ownership to five percent of that island by the middle of the Eighteenth Century. There was a permanent underclass for the British to work on.

On the underclass were British owned estates of Lords, noblemen, genre and businessmen. Many estates were deeply in debt and administered separately from properties elsewhere: no profit, no investment, no improvement. For decades estates sat.

For a tedious, dull two centuries of life were a waste of time when rulers did nothing except quibble, harrumph and drink to the glories of the British Empire until the Twentieth Century. The British Parliament was talking about Home Rule for Ireland throughout July 1914. The death of the Austrian Archduke was not a significant event. The British prime minister liked long weekends when he could fish. British politicians were as petty as they could be. Forced into World War I unaware, the British left Irish issues to be unresolved.

The Irish had another way. By 1921 they had negotiated Free State borders with Northern Ireland and Britain.

This survey books tells all, but not in complete detail. It may suffer from flaws found in most surveys, but overall this book is an excellent place to begin studying Irish history.

THE NEXT OPERA

Cinderella & Company, by Manuela Hoelterhoff

This excellent book about the inside of the world of opera is amusing, well-written, to the point and short.

Initially, an impression comes to the reader. The book is a story of antedotes – the opera in the 1990s and in the past – but there is more.

A growing realization comes that the author has written the outline for a new opera libretto: Singers of all sexs, shapes and ages are themselves; most have great talent but do not want to sing. Every singer in a libretto based upon this book can sing a few bars from a famous aria and quit, as if to say, “see I know the whole thing.” In the songs of the opera singers sound out their excuses, reasons, or disgust why they will not perform. NOTE: Sets for the new opera cost zero because everything is backstage. It is all in this book including the ending where some singers mature and otherwise grow up, getting over their juvenile, wanton ways in order to return to the silly world of the opera stage. There’s a lot of money at stake.

Read this book to be entertained, or to write a libretto.

REMINISCENCES OF A STOCK OPERATOR

by Edwin Lefevre

This book came highly recommended, and for someone intensely interested in financial markets, it has value. It may be an Investment Classic. It is written in textbook fashion, meaning it is poorly written and prolix. It is a blue pencil special.

This reader read 100 pages and stopped. The first problem is the text is a narrative using I: Everything must be explained by I, and neither I nor the author do that. I does not explain well the stock market, stock picking or timing. It seems out of nowhere I is in a brokerage shop or a firm where he buys or sells. I happily tells when he’s made money, based upon what analysis of the market, a stock, conditions or being drunk or using drugs? (e.g. Union Pacific)

This reader tired of reading that I had talked to friends, brokerage people, or there was this stock or that, and all the while this reader knew he was reading too many words. There ought to be one-quarter or one-third fewer words in this book, because there is no explanation of analysis or the market or stocks. This reader did not need to read that many words about I’s social career. Hence, the text should be 200-225 pages instead of 300 pages.

GOOGLE GUY

Like everything else on the Internet, this incident has arisen to cartoon character status, because those are the only persons many Americans will believe. The Google Guy was given space on Saturday’s Wall Street Journal op-ed page.

In 1790 in Vienna an honest observer would say Mozart was the most original composer of the times. Franz Joseph Hayden was equally excellent, but in a different way. What about Beethoven? He had arrived and played the piano for Mozart, who unjustly wasn’t impressed. When Mozart heard Beethoven improvise, he said, “The world will hear from this young man.”
Hayden took Beethoven on as a student. The pupil fought with his teacher all the time, but something was conveyed. Fifteen years later during the performance of The Seasons the old man got up to leave. Beethoven was kneeling before him. Embarrassed and overwhelmed, Hayden got Beethoven to stand so he could look at his peer.

In 1793 who would have known the disagreeable student would be the best composer to live, ever. By 1808 Hayden knew it. Beethoven’s collective work shows a steady improvement and use of the imagination. Later pieces are consistently better than the earlier. And who knew after 1808 Beethoven would compose the Fifth Concerto, the Seventh Symphony, Eighth Symphony, sonatas, quartets and when deaf, the Ninth Symphony. He wrote Wellington’s Victory to pay the rent.

I’ve seen the Google Guy interviewed, and who is he? He does not realize there are big grand issues he is not addressing. The issue is, how to prompt an employee’s imagination to do the work presented. The answer is not forthcoming by comparing men to women. To do that one needs gobs of data, personal knowledge and be educated in teaching the disciplines which Google finds important. We’re talking about higher forms of mathematics where 2 + 2 = 5. If a Google employee can teach that, one might be able to evaluate other employees, if there is complete access to academic and psychological reports for each individual.

Remember the Google Guy is looking for distinctions in imaginations. In 1830 Chopin left Poland on his way to Paris. He stopped in Germany to hear Mendelssohn perform. They were both 20 years old. When the music wasn’t very good, Chopin went on his way: “No use meeting Felix.” Mendelssohn had every musical gift Mozart had, but did not know how to use the talents – focus to produce compelling music. Polish speaking Chopin was fleeing a failing revolution at home against the Russian occupier. Chopin’s music is almost always precise, surprising and pleasing.

Somebody who collects gross data off the Internet, and tries to make it comprehensible does not have the facts and figures to conclude anything about anyone. Hence, the Google Guy, likely has a storied career in education, perfect scores on the SAT, and everything else – ornaments for the resume. He also has a list of letters following his name longer than the alphabet, reflecting victories in science and wizardry contests and extending far into his Wazoo. Such credentials are why this guy should not write. There have always been exact answers in his world.

I can tell Google Guy that how he did it is not how writers do it. Sources may be available but what do they indicate? They are not formulas, equations and therms. The studies produced are by researchers seeking answers. Do they ever ask enough questions? Like a political poll the best any one can derive from studies are inclinations and trends. I assume that the A-Hole U which Google Guy attended did not teach him how to research any better than it taught writing and interpretation. Google Guy’s abilities are best left in the imagination, working through math problems, conceptual relationships among sets, numbers and equations and hoping to arrive at a defensible conclusion or a better product. Most human beings and situations are far from those efforts, and being human they don’t always act predictably.

What specifically is not happening at Google? Work is not being done? Someone in management is to blame. Employees need better training. Google is a choice employer. There should be enough scrutiny of new employees so urging them to work is not a problem. They are self-motivating; they have initiative; they use their brains to confront issues before them.

Or does Google hire employees who are not qualified? Are Google employees happy with their performances in academia, and now want to coast during employment? And since this is California, are there substance abuse issues? Perhaps some employees have psychological problems, and a few physical limitations.

What do Beethoven, Hayden and Mozart have to do with Google? I suppose Google hires employees hoping each will contribute often over the long term. Some may be standouts but not fully noticeable today. In a decade how will these people have helped?

FIRST PERSON NARRATIVE

In literature this voice is not used often; there are good reasons why. Having “I” tell the story greatly limits the options a writer has available in any writing. The reader and world already know whose point of view is being presented: I, and to be consistent I must fill in all the action and description. A derivation into description present in a third party tale is noticeable and a flaw.

It may seem that dialogue can be accurately reported by using I. Indeed, some of the sentences may have been previously uttered, but there is not enough paper in the world to record every conversation completely. In all literature conversations reported in dialogue are edited and representative. That selection process picks the jewels coming from the human brain through the mouth rather than a jumbo mix of participles, prepositional phrases and adverbs. Someone writing dialogue I, the first person narration needs to tone down and eliminate as many words as possible: First, the words come from I, a person the reader is familiar with. Second, unless the dialogue drives the story forward, it should be dropped. In a first person narration I is the primary mover of the story. If points in dialogue have not been made, they may have already been implied, or they are not important and possibly conflicting. An author cutting his dialogue – this is my styleHORRORS! It is an impossible task.
Writing a novel is the first person narrative and having flashbacks seems an impossibility. I have tried reading such a novel. The author tried to clarify by dating each chapter of the multi-decade story: Chapter 1, Winter 2008; Chapter 2, Autumn, 1982, etc. Embracing I along with keeping track of incidences in I’s life over the decades is more than a reader should endure: Chapter 3, Winter, 1983; Chapter 4, Spring 1984; Chapter 5, Summer 2008.

The author jumped relying on dates and seasons and dialogue from those times, but I wondered, why bother. The author supposedly wanted to tell a first person narrative about a police investigation of a local heroin distribution ring. It seems a timely subject beset by the awkward telling.

So I put the book down. There are others to read, one by Joseph Conrad.

TRUMP VULGARITIES

In the draft of the film script, The Lady Eve, which Preston Surges handed to Barbara Stanwyck read on the pages where she and her father watched Henry Fonda, the mark, come aboard:

JEAN [Stanwyck]
,,,and I hope he’s got a big fat wife so I don’t
have to dance in the moonlight with him. I don’t
know why it is but a sucker always steps on your
toes.

COL. H [Father]
(looking over rail)
And is a mug about everything.

JEAN
I don’t see why I have to do all the dirty work…
There must be plenty of rich old dames just
waiting for you to push them around.

COL. H
You find them and I’ll push them.

JEAN
Boy, would I like to see you giving some old
harpy the three-in-one.

COL. H
Don’t be vulgar, Jean. Let us be crooked but
not common.

(Axel Madsen, Stanwyck, Harper Collins, NY, 1994, p. 189.) A Brooklyn girl, Stanwyck, knew every vulgar term and could use each appropriately. She never did.

But last week we had Anthony Scaramucci mouth off, vulgarly, in the most ordinary, common ways showing no class, no education, of awareness or propriety, morals, ethics and comportment. Being a street thug was good enough.

Living the low life of a ground crawler was surprising to Scaramucci’s boss, Don Trump, and he was upset that Scaramucci upstaged him: Fire Scaramucci, who may now be mooching in his infamy and notoriety. Don Trump is on vacation.

SHERLOCK – Season 4

This series has begun the slide into fantasy and surrealism. Points are blocked out and seemingly follow one another. But do the blocks make sense? A headline from Favorite Internet Site leads to Sherlock and Watson to follow a line; a note discarded in the Underground on the other side of London stirs them in other directions.

The cartoonish coincidences of blocks mock the whole Sherlock idiom. Most of Season 4 is taken up with the future crimes predicted by past bad guys, James Moriety, killed in Season 2. Note that a few years or more have passed by Season 4. The dead man has joined forces with Sherlock Holmes brilliant sister, who supposedly has not been released from confinement for 30 years.

According to the cartoon story she knows everything. She’s more brilliant than either of her brothers, although she is severely mentally retarded. She keeps that handicap in check while having her brothers jump through her hoops. Episode three of Season 4 is not good science fiction, science fantasy, detective fantasy, etc. It’s more like a pseudo-psycho story with gaps, and the audience is to fill in the blanks while trying to follow improbable actions: A cross between Survivor and Alien [the original].

The Sherlock Holmes idiom presents a man who is different from other human beings. Note that Sherlock is not in a different setting. In the settling that is known to the audience, what delights readers and viewers is Sherlock’s observations of the unknown and unnoticed. When Sherlock pursues criminals, he does not leave reality, the setting the audience is in. When using fantasy leaps, grand coincidences and changes of setting in SHERLOCK – Season 4, the Sherlock idiom is lost. [Robert Downey Jr. movies came close but did not cross this line.]

What the audiences and the writers lose? Nobody cares about Sherlock or how the crimes are solved. Most of the crimes are obvious {cereal (serial) killer}and solvable by the cops; Sherlock isn’t needed. SHERLOCK – Season 4 lost its strongest human being when Mary, John Watson’s wife, is unnecessarily killed. If the truth be known the original Terminator movie has more human beings in it (including Arnold) than SHERLOCK – Season 4.