All posts tagged: Timothy Egan

Beyond Identity Politics

We all saw the same thing. Yet, what we saw differs sharply in our mind’s eye, and in our retelling of the story. Over the past two weeks, all Americans had access to the same impeachment inquiry hearings. We all saw the same witnesses testifying. We all heard the same Members of Congress asking the same questions (or making the same speeches). And yet, taken individually, what we saw and heard during those hearings differed widely. Why is there this contradiction if we all saw and heard the same testimony presented to the same Congressional committee? One answer to that conundrum may lie in the increasingly narrow ways in which we identify ourselves. It just so happened that I was reading Francis Fukuyama’s smart and insightful 2018 book Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment during the hearings. A Japanese-American political scientist, Fukuyama’s thoughtful take on how our nation, and how much of the world, came to a place where we are identifying ourselves with a series of smaller and smaller tribes while …

Observations from the Road (Or The “I’ve Been Everywhere” Edition)

Life on the road can become a blur.  I began writing this from the Molly Pitcher Inn’s dining room which overlooks the Navesink River in Red Bank, New Jersey. Candice and I have come here to celebrate the 40th wedding anniversary of her cousin Mary Beth and husband Greg.  It is the second time we find ourselves in Red Bank in three weeks, as we were here earlier in the month to celebrate with family and friends the life of Candice’s aunt and godmother, and Mary Beth’s mother, who passed away at age 90. June is perhaps a bit more than typical in terms of travel (16 out of the first 24 days spent on the road), but only at the margins.  Good thing that I enjoy it.  In June alone I’ve not only visited Red Bank twice, but I’ve also been to Madison, Wisconsin (one of prettiest small college cities in America…in the summer); Athens and Atlanta, Georgia (my God, they never stop building highways); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (a gem of a city with much …

Two Unexpected Books for These Times

It wasn’t until I was well into the second of two books I’ve devoured in the past few weeks that the timeliness of these very different works dawned on me.  Nothing in either the biography or novel – both released in 2016 – would have suggested that they were important books for our time, much less that there would be common threads. And as a bonus, both are terrific reads. Timothy Egan has produced a page-turning biography that captures the incredible saga of Thomas Francis Meagher (pronounced Mar), one of the most famous Irish Americans of all time.  Egan – one of my favorite writers (see the “Writers I Enjoy” list on the side of my blog page) – has previously written highly readable and well-researched histories on the Dust Bowl (The Worst Hard Time) and the founding of the U.S. Forest Service (The Big Burn).  In The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero, Egan bring Francis Meagher’s time and story to life. Meagher was born to comfort in Ireland, but …

Observations From the Road (The “We Made It [Well, In One Sense]” Edition)

Arriving in Seattle Sunday evening, Claire and I celebrated making it cross-country with a dinner in the revolving restaurant atop the Space Needle. We did the Atlantic to the Pacific thing! I can check off one bucket list item. Who hoo!! Of course, we’re just one day into the second half of our tour. Now that we’ve done the width of the country, we still have the length to go. Southern California or bust! So this edition of Observations From the Road is the “We Made It (Well, In One Sense)” edition. Sunday was a long day on the road – from Kalispell, Montana to Seattle, Washington. Three states (Idaho is in the middle there, for those who are geographically challenged.) That’s why this post is being finished on Monday morning. The trip was made longer by an hour-long back-up on I-90 in  Washington State.  There might have been an incident, but we suspect it was tied up as people gawked at the forest fire smoke that was coming over the mountains.  More on that …

10 Reasons Super Bowl 48 Will Be My Last…

…or how I came to the decision to stop watching NFL football. Long before Super Bowl 48 came to an end and Seahawk fans were dancing in the streets of Seattle, the realization that pro football had lost any fascination for me – and, in fact, was beginning to feel like a really bad choice for how to spend 3 – 9 hours on approximately 20 fall and winter Sundays – had begun to sink in.  But being away from the games for a few weeks and with some time to think, I’ve come to the conclusion that not watching pro football is a great change to make for my Next Third of life. Football has always been a distant second to my real love of baseball.  I still subscribe to Tom Boswell’s Why Baseball is So Much Better Than Football philosophy.  (Reason #63: The baseball Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown, N.Y., beside James Fenimore Cooper’s Lake Glimmerglass; the football Hall of Fame is in Canton, Ohio, beside the freeway.)  But I’ve always watched football …

From the Bookshelf

Despite a busy fall schedule of work and travel, I’ve managed to finish several books that have sat on my bookshelf for various periods of time. Some are hot off the press, others have been waiting for me to pick them  up for more months than I care to admit. All were worth reading, and two were terrific finds.  So here are a few thoughts on a season’s worth of reading – beginning with the one I finished earlier this week, and working backwards from there. Lawrence in Arabia:  War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson. This new work on the Middle East of World War I falls in the “terrific finds” category. Obviously much has been written about the exploits of T.E. Lawrence – the famous “Lawrence of Arabia.” In this book, however, the veteran war correspondent Scott Anderson weaves in Lawrence’s story with those of three spies from the era (German Curt Prüfer, American – and Standard Oil employee – William Yale, and Zionist Aaron …

Disappearing Governance, Disappearing Heritage

Preservationists  have grown increasingly concerned about the nationwide trend to balance national and state budgets on the backs of our heritage. This isn’t a new issue but the impact is now being felt nationwide, not only in national programs but in state after state.  A large number of legislatures this past winter went for  disproportionate cuts to historic preservation, historic parks, and incentives for reusing and revitalizing our communities. It is such a short-sighted approach to governing.  But perhaps – just perhaps – the national media and the public are finally beginning to see the issue. Just yesterday, two stories came out that spoke to this folly. The first, a column by NY Times writer Timothy Egan, speaks to the misguided approach by the State of California.  Egan is a favorite of mine, who writes from outside the New York-to-Washington echo chamber and has two great histories out in his Dust Bowl-related The Worst Hard Time and The Big Burn, which chronicles the founding of the Forest Service.  Yesterday’s Fall of the Wild column in …