Ernest Cassara

Overflowing Bookshelves

Some time back, I mentioned that my study was overflowing with books, so much so that I resorted to using several plastic milk crates, until, at last, I picked up a new bookcase, and, actually found some floor space for it.  Well, the case is now filling up nicely.

In expressing it this way, my mind was jogged and I remembered a conversation with the Reverend Principal Fred Kenworthy of one of the colleges that make up the University of Manchester, which I visited while living in old Cambridge.  He was reminiscing about a parish he ministered to before entering academe.  The parish had just expanded the graveyard.  One day, he was standing with the sexton, looking over the graves, when the sexton remarked, “It is filling up very nicely.”

Among the books filling up my new bookcase nicely is Dr. Johnson’s famous Dictionary. This is a volume of selections from the great 1735 masterwork, edited by Jack Lynch.  Over the years, I had read references to Johnson’s definition of “lexicographer,” so that was the first entry I looked up.  Sure enough, he defines the person as “a harmless drudge”!

Also, gracing my new bookshelves has to do with one of my other favorite historical characters, Adam Sisman’s Boswell’s Presumptuous Task: The Making of the Life of Dr. Johnson.  I recall asking my history students to name the most famous biographer.  No one thought to mention James Boswell.  But, when I posed the question in this manner, “Which is the most famous biography in the English language?” several students would immediately call out The Life of Samuel Johnson.

Katrina and My Study

Among the items overflowing my study is a precious copy of Extra: The Magazine of FAIR, The Media Watch Group.  It is dated December 2005.  On the cover are two photographs with the heading, “Racism, the Media & Katrina.”  One photograph, by the Associated Press, has the caption, “A young man walks through chest deep flood water after looting a grocery store in New Orleans on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2005.” The young man is Black.

The second photo is by Agence France Presse: “Two residents wade through chest-deep water after finding bread and soda from a local grocery store after Hurricane Katrina came through the area . . . .”  The two residents are White!

Have things changed since in New Orleans?

Jon Stewart Re CNN 

Jon Stewart’s Daily Show was particularly brilliant on 16 August, as he included extensive excerpts from CNN’s coverage of “terrorism,” which was a long catalogue of American sites that terrorists would find it easy to attack.  Toward the end of the report, one reporter remarked to another that they should not give possible terrorists ideas!

What, by the way, ever happened to the “land of the free and the home of the brave”?

On Board Luggage

First, because some nutcake intended to blow up an airplane with a bomb in his shoe, we all have to go through the security lines unshod.  Now, because it is alleged that some Englishmen were planning to mix some fluids, to create explosives on board, we cannot bring fluids onto planes. 

With my perverse sense of humor, I am looking forward to my next plane trip in November, so I can observe the security folks going through the humongous bags that people are allowed to bring on board, despite the fact that the airlines have wire frames into which one’s bag is supposed to fit.

Oh, and by the way, I read in The Guardian that the folks who have been retained by Scotland Yard do not possess passports, nor airline tickets!

CNN, the Most Trusted Name in Entertainment!

Could not help but notice that, although there were no facts to report, CNN went on endlessly about John Mark Karr, who, at this writing (18 August 2006), is suspected to be the murderer of JonBenet Ramsey.  He was picked up in Bangkok.  Also, could not help but notice that the CNN camera repeatedly returned to Karr’s arm entwined with that of the fellow standing next to him.  What message was that supposed to convey to the viewer?

In this regard, my mind went back to an international conference I attended in Cairo several years back.  At one point, I observed one of the American organizers entering the meeting hall with an Egyptian official hand in hand.  Practices do differ across the world, but CNN, apparently, is unaware of that fact.

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Harvard Square Commentary, August 21, 2006