"Young woman, either you have been raised in some incredibly rustic community where good manners are unknown or you suffer from the common feminine delusion that the mere fact of being a woman exempts you from the rules of civilized conduct, or possibly both."
When we were kids, one of the highlights of a family trip to New Brunswick was a stop at Harvey's Vegetable Stand to see the Big Potato Man. He's a little more weather-beaten these days, but still standing tall (about 19 ft). I'm sure he'll look a little more youthful in the summer, when he's surrounded by flowers again. Still, not bad for the world's largest potato, who's been standing out in the elements since 1963.
“What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.” ― A.A. Milne
"Consider: mines themselves are exhausted; cities perish; kingdoms are swept away, and man weeps with indignation to think that his own body is not immortal. *Muoiono le citta, muoiono i regni, E l’uom d’esser mortal par che si sdegni. Yet this little body of thought, that lies before me in the shape of a book, has existed thousands of years, nor since the invention of the press can anything short of an universal convulsion of nature abolish it." - Leigh Hunt, My Books
* So cities fall, so perish kingdoms high, Then why should mortal men repine to die?
The pilot episode of Jack Ryan was really a decent series opener. It introduces us to the main characters as well as some ones who may become important later, and sets up the plot which will run through all of the season's episodes. The titular Jack Ryan is ably played by John Krasinski, who's a lot more buff than he was in his Office days. He does the "everyman" thing very well although, as it turns out, Ryan isn't exactly your average Joe. He's a former marine who has a doctorate in economics which he uses in his present job in the counterterrorism department at the CIA, to track the money supplies of terrorist organizations. At first, Ryan seems a little too good to be true: brilliant, skilled, idealistic, and principled- he even bikes to work at the CIA- he's not too far off from what his previous employer calls him: a "self-righteous boy scout". Fortunately over the course of the series, Ryan's character is fleshed out and given more depth. Gradually we find out more about the helicopter crash which ended Jack's military career and still haunts him- and discover it occurred because of a decision he made. We also see his idealism take a mauling as it becomes clear that tracking down a ruthless and deadly terrorist means doing things- and dealing with people- which are morally questionable. Jack's new boss Jim Greer is a good foil for Ryan. A military man who has been relieved of his command in the Middle East under murky circumstances and demoted to a desk job at the CIA, Greer is no boy scout. Cynical and pragmatic, he is interested in getting the job done and has no time for- or interest in- playing nice with people who get in his way, whether that's his underlings or his superiors, and this doesn't endear him to either group. He and Ryan butt heads several times during the pilot episode and the argument they have over freezing Suleiman's finances is a good distillation of the differences in their outlooks. Jack argues that they should shut down the terrorist's accounts immediately to prevent him from using the funds to perpetrate a 9/11-style attack. Greer refuses, saying that freezing the account will alert Suleiman that they are on to him; they will lose their advantage and miss the opportunity to apprehend him and all his henchmen... the Coventry conundrum.
It is an interesting choice to not reveal the identity of Suleiman until almost the end of the pilot. Instead, we see more of his wife and children throughout the episode. Hanin knows what her husband is involved in, and she is afraid for herself and her children. Her fear is given visual form when, at one point, her kids- two girls and a boy- are playing by tracing each other's outlines in chalk on the pavement. When they run off, Hanin stares down at the drawings, which look rather like the chalk outlines at murder scenes.
Suleiman is portrayed as being intelligent and ruthless, and it doesn't take a clairvoyant to see that the series will eventually lead to a showdown between the terrorist and the CIA's resident smart guy Jack Ryan. They have a preliminary face off in Yemen, when Jack interrogates the then unidentified Suleiman. This scene ends in the escape of Suleiman and is very effective, but I do have a few issues with it. One of these is, this is an American military facility which is attacked by a group of terrorists in a couple of pickup trucks. Not only do the American soldiers appear to take more casualties, but the terrorists escape again in the two trucks. Maybe I'm wrong, but I feel like in real life the casualty count would have been reversed and there probably wouldn't have been enough left of the two trucks to drive away. The reason why terrorists more often than not use IEDs, etc. is because in a straight fight they generally get decimated.
The fight scene between Ryan and Suleiman's brother seems a tad unrealistic, too. Jack, after being knocked down, gets repeatedly pummelled in the face but then gets right up and continues fighting. Well, maybe... but Jack also slams the terrorist bro's head into the stone wall and he just shakes it off and continues on fighting as well. In any case, these observations are mere quibbles- no one really expects fight scenes in movies and shows to be realistic. All in all, Pilot was a successful series opener- introducing most of the major characters and setting up a compelling plot. The beauty of it being a multi-episode show rather than a two hour movie is that it gives time to slowly unravel the story and reveal the characters' history, motivations, and intentions little by little and after this premiere episode, I was invested enough in the people and plot to continue watching Jack Ryan.
This image is from one of my favourite movie musicals, Fiddler On The Roof, which was released in 1971. It's a film adaptation of the Broadway musical, which premiered in 1964. The Broadway show for a long time held the record for the longest running musical- seventeen years- until it was eventually and inexplicably beaten by Grease. Admittedly, I haven't seen either Broadway show but, judging by the films made from them, Fiddler is far and away superior to Grease. And if I had to choose between watching Chaim Topol's Tevye or John Travolta's dopey Danny Zuko, it would be Tevye every day of the week. For anyone who hasn't seen it (you should) Fiddler On The Roof is the story of Tevye, a Jewish milkman living in the Russian village of Anatevka in the early 1900's. He and his wife- Golde- have five daughters, the three eldest of whom are of marriageable age. They try to live their lives following the traditions of their faith and culture against the increasingly threatening backdrop of Imperial Russia. The above picture is from a scene in which the three oldest daughters speculate about the type of husbands that Yente the matchmaker will find for them:
I spent last evening making pickles (there was a sale on cucumbers), which I'll bring to our family's Good Friday and Easter Dinners:
"Oh, Hamlet, how camest thou in such a pickle?” -Shakespeare, Hamlet (Act 5, Scene 1.)
People have been pickling for thousands of years; Cleopatra was apparently a pickle-eater, and in BC 850, Aristotle was extolling the health benefits of pickles. Of course, not everyone's a fan... back in the 1800's, American doctor William Andrus Alcott (who was some sort of cousin to Louisa May Alcott's father) was sure that pickles had a deleterious effect on one's health: “Some may smile at the idea of ripe cucumbers, and say that the very thought of them, like the smell, is offensive....But whatever other uses are made of the cucumber, I entreat the reader not to use it in the form of pickles. These, of almost all the forms of vegetable substances, seem to me worst adapted to the human stomach; and I cannot but hope will be shunned by every reader.” -The Young House-keeper, William Andrus Alcott (1846) Of course, Alcott was a vegetarian and therefore already suspect, and he seems to have been rather an over-opinionated killjoy. He wrote 108 books, only some of which were about health and diet. He also wrote works expressing his views on exercise, school reform, school house design, morals, courting, and family life. in his 1856 book The Physiology of Marriage, for example, he attempts to advise young people on how to conduct their courtships, urging them to avoid "conversation which is too excitable" and the "presence of exciting books". He sounds like he was a laugh-a-minute. In any case, I wouldn't put too much stock in his opinion on pickles. I prefer to give Benjamin Franklin the last word on the subject:
When I'm sewing or cooking, I like to listen to podcasts and audio books. Lately though, I've been listening to lectures from Hillsdale College's Online Courses. They have a lot of them available to listen to for free (my thrifty soul rejoices!) on a wide variety of topics. I'm currently in the middle of Great Books 101: Ancient To Medieval, which is a series of eleven lectures on- obviously- great books. So far I've listened to lectures on The Iliad, The Odyssey, Oedipus Rex, The Aeneid, The David Story (I & II Samuel and I Kings 1-2), and The Book of Job. Still upcoming are lectures on St. Augustine's Confessions, Dante's Inferno, Canterbury Tales, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I'm finding the lectures really interesting and am quite enjoying the course. I intend to follow it up with Great Books 102: Renaissance To Modern which covers Don Quixote, Hamlet, The Tempest, Paradise Lost, Faust, Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground, Albert Camus' The Fall, Eliot's Poetry, Pride and Prejudice, and Huckleberry Finn.
There are a lot of other courses I want to listen to, with lecture series on the writings of C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, etc. I also want to listen to some of the history lectures; the economics ones don't particularly interest me but I'm sure they're worthwhile as well. If anyone is interested in checking out these lectures, you can click on the picture of Hillsdale to the right and it will take you to the page with their online course list.
"Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and diligence." -Abigail Adams
Previously in the novel, I discussed the unintended consequences which acts of rebellion can have, not only for those involved but for those around them. Early examples of this are Frederick's involvement in a mutiny and Mr. Hale becoming a Dissenter and leaving the Church. The death of Bessy demonstrates the effects the strike has on the families of the people involved with the union. Though already dying, the stress and hardships caused by the strike may or may not hasten Bessy's death, but certainly they make her final days chaotic and worry-filled. Nicholas realizes this, and his grief is mixed with guilt. On a positive note, Margaret's caring and helpful presence during this time, and their shared grief, draw Margaret and Nicholas closer together. This makes it possible for them to discuss issues like the strike peaceably, where before Nicholas would often respond in anger. Their growing friendship also allows Nicholas to approach Margaret and Mr. Hale for advice when the situation requires it. The relationship between Mr. Thornton and Margaret is strained and awkward. Thornton is on good terms with her father- and now her mother as well- so there is no chance of Margaret avoiding seeing him. For his part, despite his anger and disappointment, Mr. Thornton is still enthralled by her, longing to see Margaret although it pains him. Margaret's embarassment over the situation is augmented by the uncomfortable conviction that she behaved badly when Mr. Thornton proposed. This is a change, since before she frequently focussed on perceived flaws in Thornton's behaviour. Now, having reason to reflect disapprovingly on her own, she strives to soften her manner toward Mr. Thornton. Thornton's kindness to her mother and his refusal to prosecute the rioters also results in a corresponding softening in her opinion of him.
When Nicholas discusses the failed strike with Margaret and her father, a couple of points become obvious. One is that much of the anger and hostility between the masters and the millworkers is due to the fact that there is an almost complete lack of communication or understanding between the two sides. When Mr. Hale ventures to question Nicholas on the economic problem of cheap foreign cotton flooding the market, making it necessary for English mill owners to either reduce the cost of production or go bankrupt, Nicholas brushes the query aside, saying he doesn't know anything about all that stuff. What he knows is that the masters arbitrarily cut the wages of the workers, resulting in financial hardship for them and their families. Mr. Hale makes the eminently sensible suggestion that representatives from the two sides should meet and discuss the facts and figures of the crisis. After all, it would be in everyone's best interests to come to a mutual understanding if not agreement, as the two sides are interdependant. The workers need open, functioning mills to be employed at and- as we see when the untrained Irish hands make a hash of the orders- the masters need skilled labourers to keep the mills running and profitable. The fact that this approach is never tried does not speak well of either side as, in the end, the failed strike has hurt them all.
The methods of employed by the union also come into question when Margaret asks Nicholas why someone as unsuited for the role as Boucher waspressed to join the strike. She is aghast when Nicholas explains how, if millworkers refused to join the strike, they would be dead to all the other workers, the union ordering everyone to shun them. Defensive in the face of Margaret's disapproval, Nicholas says that, if the workers didn't all stick together, the strike would have no chance of succeeding. As it turns out, forcing reluctant and unsuitable workers into the strike ensures that it will fail, as when they become desperate, they disobey the strictures of the union and riot. The methods of the union have proved self-defeating. In addition, Margaret is not incorrect that the union is tyrannical and hypocritical, as they seem just as unconcerned with the well-being and opinions of individual workers as do the owners.