Archive for the ‘Non-fiction’ Category
The Brain that Changes Itself
by Norman Doidge
Lantana Library Call No.: 612 82 Doi
When Dr. Doidge, an M.D. and psychiatrist, first noticed that some patients responded to treatment in ways that indicated that their brains were not hardwired and that brain damage might be undone, he didn’t believe it. Research led him to the relatively new science of neuroplasticity, which appears to allow a damaged brain to reconstruct itself. This is gripping stuff, and you do not have to be a doctor to understand it: It is also a pleasure to read, and the case histories give room for hope.
(From the Short List, March 11, 2009, by Catharine Rambeau)
When I saw the Palm Beach Post ad about free admission on Sunday, June 6, 2011, to the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, I couldn’t resist and drove on up there. It turned out to be Founder’s Day, in honor of the museum’s founder Jean Flagler Matthews.
I hadn’t been to the Museum in years, and it was well worth the visit. I lingered around the entrance of the original Whitehall building, designed by John Carrère and Thomas Hastings, with its neo-classical columns, urns, and bronze doors, and then also inside its front hall, with its Apollo fresco. Not only did I get to see artwork and furnishings of the Gilded Age: This time I was also able to enjoy a new pavillion built in 2002 behind the main museum to house Flagler’s famous private rail car. As you can see above, this new pavillion is reminiscent of an early 20th century train station. I especially loved its Tiffany clock at the entrance and the map of Flagler’s rail and ferry empire, which extended from Florida to Cuba.
Just as an FYI — Lantana Public Library has two excellent works on Henry Flagler:
Henry Flagler : visionary of the Gilded Age, by Sidney Walter Martin
(Library Call No. Fla B Fla), and
Last train to paradise: Henry Flagler and the spectacular rise and fall of the railroad that crossed an ocean, by Les Standiford (Call No. Fla 385 Sta).
The Godfather of Tabloid: Generoso Pope Jr. and the National Enquirer [Hardcover] by Jack Vitek
Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky
Lantana Library Call No: Fla 071 Vit
The Deeds of My Fathers [Hardcover] by Paul David Pope
396 pages, 2011
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Lantana Library Call No: Fla 071 Pope
Read all about it, Lantana residents, news media history buffs, tabloid fans, and enquiring minds!
The Library has two new books about Generoso (Gene) Pope, Jr., the famous self-made billionaire, long-time area resident and recluse, and media tycoon of America’s best-known tabloid, the National Enquirer. Remember when it was headquartered in our little town, just off Dixie Highway/East Coast Avenue, for nearly three decades? As a young girl, I vaguely remember the high, beautifully-lit Christmas fir trees, as well as the enormous Enquirer sign along the road.
Vitek, an associate professor at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, extensively researched and interviewed numerous associates, detractors, and associates of Pope, Jr’s, as well as the rise of tabloid journalism in the U.S. He claims, “Pope was not a visionary who theorized the National Enquirer into existence, but a central catalyst in the long and varied cultural dialogue that produced it.”
Readers may already know the Enquirer’s beginnings – that Pope, Jr. bought and sustained the paper with a $25,000 loan and subsequent infusions of cash from Mafia underworld boss Frank Costello.
What they may not know is that Pope, Jr. earned an MIT engineering degree and served briefly as a CIA officer in the early 1950’s. Even so, he set his sights on publishing at a remarkably young age, which had also been the source of his wealthy, influential Italian-American family’s power and influence in New York. Pope’s family, however, disinherited him. (Generoso Pope Sr. had made his millions in construction and gained power through ownership of Il Progresso, an Italian-American newspaper, and a New York radio station.)
After Pope, Jr. moved to Florida and relocated his newspaper in the early 1970s, he apparently distanced himself from the Mafia.
And the rest is history that Vitek vividly traces for us. The Enquirer eventually became the most widely circulated paper in U.S. history (its issue of Elvis’s death in 1977 sold around seven million copies within hours), built with a seasoned corps of Fleet Street British and Australian tabloid reporters, a large supermarket readership, and stories based on a constantly tuned formula or mix of stories of Pope’s own making, ranging from 100% true to the fabulously unreal. Moreover, Vitek sheds even more light on Pope’s cut-throat managerial style, possible sources for Pope’s legendary obsessiveness and social ineptness, and behind-the-scene accounts of some of the newspaper’s most famous breaking stories.
Paul David Pope’s well-researched inter-generational biography and frank, personal memoir of his father, Gene Pope, Jr., and his grandfather, Generoso Pope, Snr., is poignantly and vividly written. Readers will learn some of the sadder, darker events surrounding Gene Pope’s earlier marriages and two wives, as well as with his son. Readers will also gain a more complex perspective of the Italian immigrant experience in America, as well as learn more of American tabloid news industry and the stories that didn’t make it into the Enquirer. David Pope, who unsuccessfully sought to buy the Enquirer and its sister paper, the Weekly World News (known for its famous columnist, Ed Anger), on his father’s death, eventually went on to found his own media/entertainment business and philanthropic organization.
Felice Beato: A Photographer on the Eastern Road by Anne Lacoste
(Fred Ritchin, contributor)
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: J. Paul Getty Museum (December 21, 2010)
Lantana Public Library Call No: B Bea
We usually think embedded journalism started with the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, when the American military allowed reporters and photographers to travel with them. Really, though, it started a century earlier, when Roger Fenton and James Robertson (Englishmen) and the Italian-born Felice Beato began to photograph the Crimean War of 1853-1856. And even though it was engravings of their photography that would be featured in newspapers (it was only new photographic and printing technology of the 1890s that allowed reproduction of actual photos in newsprint), colonial empires and public audiences were becoming large and extensive at this time. Beato saw and traveled much, and his photography of the lands, peoples, famous personages, conflicts, and vanishing cultures all attest to these developments.
Felice Beato was born in Venice in 1832 and raised on the Mediterranean island of Corfu, then a British protectorate, and later in Constantinople. In Constantinople, along with his brother Antonio, he began an apprenticeship with Robertson, traveling with him to the Holy Land, Egypt, and Greece, and also Crimea during the war. With Robertson, Beato photographed the fall of Sebastopol, one of the major sieges of the war and the subject of some of Leo Tolstoy’s earliest writings. On his own, Beato travelled on to India, Mandalay/Burma, as well as China and Japan. With the help of earlier contacts (ranking British officers), Beato photographed other conflicts in the Empire, including the Indian Mutiny (1857-1858), the Second Opium War between Britain and China (1860), America’s expedition in Korea (1871), and later the Anglo-Sudan War (of the 1880s). He lived in Hong Kong and Japan for many years, as well as Burma, returning to Italy and settling in Florence, and died in 1909.
Beato’s albumen silver prints are beautiful to look at, being clear, crisp compositions. Beato helped pioneer the panoramic shot, and his use of albumen negative process (new in its day, involving the use of egg white and silver nitrate solutions) and the wet-collodion method allowed durable negatives to be created quickly on-site, with multiple prints from the same negative. The processes allowed for experimentation with hand-coloring later on with the help of local artists. As a global photographer, he educated and influenced the following generation of photographers.
I’m partial to the picture of The 49 Gautamas in the Saigaing Temple, in Burma (Plate 80), and also to the shot of Beato’s colorist (Plate 50). The Japanese landscape and human photos are also moving. The photos of the conflicts, though staged, are nonetheless unforgettable.
Anne Lacoste curated and collected these photos for a Getty Museum exhibit from December 2010 — April 2011. With Fred Ritchin’s contributing essay on war photography, readers are in for a treat! Check it out at your library!
Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void [Hardcover] by Mary Roach
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (August 2, 2010)
Call No. at Lantana Public Library: 629.45 Roa
Does anyone know if Mike Rowe, the host of the T.V. show Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel, has explored what it’s like being an astronaut or training to be one?! If he hasn’t, he needs to head over to NASA and follow these men or women for a day, even if not in space but on Earth! He’ll be surprised to discover, as I was, how unenviably gut-wrenching, unhygienic, monotonous, hazardous, and psychologically challenging it still is to have lived and worked as one.
Fans of Mary Roach’s other works, including Stiff and Bonk, will enjoy this latest book. I hadn’t read these earlier works, though a colleague last summer had recommended the latter to me as an interesting read on how sex is scientifically studied. (Bonk is available at the Town of Lantana Public Library, by the way.)
In Packing for Mars, Roach reminds us that as was the case with the first astronauts did in the early days of space flight – confident, seasoned test pilots — astronauts today no doubt still require extraordinary physical courage, stamina, resolve, curiosity, discipline, and intelligence.
But pause and ponder, as Roach does, how lack of an atmosphere and zero-gravity can make the following functions extraordinarily challenging or at least, not straight forward. Breathing. Eating. Walking. Concentrating. Bending. Bathing. Resting. Landing (right side up and still alive). Urinating. Excreting. Vomiting. The list goes on. What are some challenges? Try complete weightlessness. Inevitable motion sickness. Incredible mental stress. Lack of privacy, little autonomy, or a sense overwhelming isolation. Having to wear diapers. Few opportunities for hygiene, and plenty of scurf (a.k.a. shed skin in the air). And EVA (extra vehicular activity) height vertigo (readers must read about that one). Not to mention the dangers and low or non-existent odds of astronauts surviving missions that go tragically wrong (the Apollo 13, Challenger, or Columbia missions). To name a few.
Readers will get a wonderful blend of science and wry and yet respectful humor, as Roach discusses crash simulation, the use of animals in experimental flights, and psychological and scientific studies on bed rests and irradiation (a significant problem, as there is no atmosphere to protect in outer space), among many other things. And more of the rich history and sacrifices (by people and animals, no less) of space travel.
All make for her interesting, thought-provoking conclusion. A must-read.
The German rocket scientist Werner von Braun once said, “Don’t ‘tell me that man doesn’t belong out there. Man belongs wherever he wants to go – and he’ll do plenty well when he gets there.” Roach’s book gives most of us a chance to see just how well we are doing out “there” in outer space.