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Showing posts from March, 2011

The Best Opening Sentence of a Novel

If you have to pick one desert island, all time favorite first sentence of a novel, what would you choose? Though deceptively simple, I always think of the opening of Melville's Moby Dick when I consider memorable first sentences. It's the utility and purposely vague phrasing -- just three words, but a sentence that absolutely sets the stage for the rest of the novel: "Call me Ishmael."

Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal by Joel Salatin (Book Review)

I first learned about Joel Salatin from the 2008 documentary Food, Inc. Salatin was one of the farmers featured in the film extolling the virtues of local food. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to hear him speak earlier this year , and learn more about his Virginia farm and strident beliefs about community-based agriculture. After his talk, I picked up a copy of his book, Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal , and I'm pleased to report it's one of the best things I've read so far this year. Call it the book Michael Pollan would have written if he had been a farmer. Much more than a rallying cry for local food, Salatin illustrates in painstaking detail the everyday bureaucracy and issues with the entrenched industrial food system. He writes about how the system is setup to favor big agribusiness and not the small farmer or the consumer, and the many obstacles small, local farmers face from burdensome regulations. Zoning, wildlife, farm labor and housing, insurance, t

Waiting for Superman (Review)

I really wanted to see Waiting for Superman when it came out in theaters, and I finally had a chance to see it a few weeks ago. That I ended up watching it the day before the Oscar's was coincidence, although I was shocked that the film wasn't even nominated for Best Documentary. A lot has already been written about the movie, so I'll stick to my immediate impressions, which I logged right after seeing the film: The American public school education system is broken. We now lag the other major powers in student performance. Good teachers are vitally important, but unfortunately there aren't enough of them and there are too many mediocre and bad teachers. Even worse, bad teachers are almost never fired. We don't measure teacher performance well enough. We need some way of rewarding excellent teachers. Some public schools are essentially "dropout factories". Charter schools have arisen as a viable alternative to public schools. If you're an