Archive for December, 2008

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Friday, December 26th, 2008

The road less traveled is the road I took before it becomes clogged by the traffic sure to follow its arrival on movie screens across the region. I speak of course of Revolutionary Road, the once-acclaimed but almost forgotten Richard Yates novel that was nominated for the 1961 National Book Award.

As I read this compelling but heart-wrenching story of life in the 50s, the decade of quiet despair, I was reminded of The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, not so much for the story line but for the feeling of claustrophobia that pervades the atmosphere of a generation reaching for financial success and often finding emotional failure.

The Wheelers seem to be a perfect couple, he with his semi-important job in the city and she the perfectly groomed wife in the perfectly groomed house in Connecticut, caring for the requisite two children that make up the ideal family. They do what suburban families did and still do: they participate in the community and pretend that they are happy in their little cocoon. This illusion hides the fact that Frank is unfulfilled in his make-believe job that demands little more than his attendance at the office, and April is unsatisfied with her life as a middle-class wife and mother. Both yearn for something more, some intangible element that will separate them from their dull neighbors. So self-absorbed are all the members of this social set that they are unaware that they are also bored by everyone else. To compensate for the lack of stimulation in their lives, they drink too much and work too hard at trying to convince themselves that they are better than all the others, even when socializing with everyone else.

When April Wheeler comes up with a plan to change their lives from ennui to excitement, they begin to see a new dimension of possibility and make plans to implement a future in Europe. preferably Paris, the city of dreams, the magical “City of Light.” At first they decide to keep their plans secret but eventually conclude that a major part of the pleasure of planning is to let the neighbors know of their wonderful scheme to escape the confines of Revolutionary Road by doing something truly revolutionary.

But life has a way of intruding upon dreams, and as the novel unfolds, the reader watches the unraveling of the fantasy that is built on the foundation of illusion. When illusion falls apart, disillusion follows. There is no single event but rather a series of disparate events that come together to produce the inevitable conclusion. Each character in the book has a role to play, and each life has its own story that ultimately impacts on the central story of Frank and April. I wholeheartedy recommend this story–but not for the reader seeking a light romance or a “beach book.” This is for the reader who appreciates realism even when it hurts.

Ann Dow, December 2008

Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000 by Pete Blackshaw

Friday, December 26th, 2008

     “For thousands of years, humankind has been telling its own story.  Today, we’re telling that story through an incessant, uninterrupted flurry of computer keystrokes.  The global multichannel exchange of information and ideas via the Internet is destined to be come the Great Library of the modern age.  Now that people are plugged in, they are rarely disconnected-and the result is a constant channel of thoughts and opinions from the brain directly to the screen.  This is the era of what I call consumer-generated media, or CGM.  What exactly is CGM?  It is the currency of a new commercial relationship between business and consumers.  It is the endless stream of comments, opinions, emotions, and personal stories about any and every company, product, service, or brand, which consumers can now post online and broadcast to millions of other consumers with the click of the mouse.  It is the neverending consumer-to-consumer conversation-across blogs, wikis, message boards, video-sharing sites, social networking pages, and more-about all the issues, topics, and experiences that matter to consumers themselves.”
  Read more about it on page 3.

     Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000 offers solid observations on today’s shift in media development and transmission.  Pete Blackshaw notes the importance of harnessing quantitative and qualitative date to support new media exploration and adoption costs.  He shares six core drivers in today’s marketing environment:
 
trust
authenticity
transparency
listening
responsiveness
affirmation

     I believe business success is enhanced by the ability to address the core drivers while balancing small staff and budgetary constraints commonplace in today’s profit and non-profit sectors.  This is no easy task given today’s economic outlook.  The author states, “CGM not just a variation on media; in most cases it’s more trusted, more credible, and even more permanent that traditional media.”   It may be too soon to discuss permanancy of consumer-generated media, though now is the time strategize on ways to extract added value though use of CGM’s core drivers. 

     “The global multichannel exchange of information and ideas via the Internet is destined to be come the Great Library of the modern age.”   Reflecting on the author’s strong statement presented in the first quoted paragraph gives cause to ponder whether this author has visited a great local brick and mortar library lately. 

     Just curious.

The Appeal by John Grisham

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

I had already returned one book and checked out three more from my hold list when I happened to pass the express book table and noticed that John Grisham’s latest novel was prominently displayed. I know that books on that table are available for just one week with no renewals permitted. Immediately the thought crossed my mind that my problem with a Grisham novel is not whether I can read it in seven days but rather whether I can stop reading once I’ve read the first page. I decided to go ahead and check it out because if I did not, it would quickly disappear and not be available again for ages.

I had a few chapters yet to read from a prior loan and so finished that shortly after my return home. I waited until after lunch before picking up The Appeal. It occurred to me that this author’s page-turners should come with a warning–something Like Dante’s “Beware all ye who enter here.” I knew that I was hooked as soon as I read the first line: “The jury was ready.” At that point, there was no turning back. Once again, I had been caught up in a journey which allowed for no stopovers.

I interrupted my reading long enough to prepare and eat dinner, but I wasted little time before getting back to the characters involved in the long drawn- out lawsuit against a company whose reckless behavior had caused a small town to become a “cancer center” due to disposal of carcinogenic waste into the town’s water. The story was not a new one; it has been told all too often, but the primary focus on this one was the length and strength of the appeal waged by the guilty company to avoid admitting wrong or paying claims to the victims.

According to the premise of the book, an individual or corporation with deep pockets is willing to pay far more money to cover up its sins than to pay for them. Thanks to an enormous outlay of cash to an enormous cast of shadowy and often downright shady characters, it is possible to buy people to fill public positions which have the potential to make decisions favorable to the one(s) paying the bills. I am not so naive as to be unaware of the wheeling and dealing of lobbyists and others who exist for the sole purpose of making things happen, but I was intrigued by the depth of the depravity. The fact that there is seemingly no connection between the buyer and the sellers of influence peddling makes it all the more frightening. Occasionally the candidate chosen to occupy a position solely for the benefit of a rogue corporation is completely innocent of the reason for his selection. He starts out as a virgin and ends up as a prostitute for the party that selected him and bought his victory. Along the way, he has no idea that he has compromised his integrity and abandoned his principles.

As Grisham states in his disclaimer, the book is fiction and only loosely based on fact, but the reader can speculate on how closely the fiction parallels the facts. The author is himself a lawyer and has seen examples of both the noble and the “no-good” plyers of his trade. He knows that money can be used to purchase a man’s time or even his very soul. The latter is far more costly for the buyer and more profitable for the seller.

I took time out from my read to watch Washington Week, my Friday night must-see PBS summary of the previous seven days. I had also made up my mind to turn out the light at 10 pm when my husband came to bed. But by then, I was too caught up in intrigue to close my eyes and I moved across the hall to the room I use as my office. It was 12:45 a.m. before I finished the last page and closed the book. At 11 the pre-set thermostat had dropped eight degrees and I ignored the cold rather than take time to fetch slippers or a blanket to wrap around me. Even after I had crawled into my warm bed, I was unable to fall asleep immediately as I considered how many times similar behind-the-scenes manipulation might have resulted in outcomes favorable to a few predators instead of to the victims of these predators. At last. I fell asleep and put it out of my head. After all, it is merely a book–one that you might consider if you don’t mind a late night.

Robert B. Reich discusses Supercapitalism

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Much thanks to North Carolina State for pushing the envelope in higher education and life long learning.  

ncstate has sent you a message on YouTube:

Re: Supercapitalism Video

carolyn,

by all means, feel free to embed it!

hope you are having a wonderful morning

mark mclawhorn,
web communications
nc state university

This free video partnership is greatly appreciated as WDFPL Adult Services programming runs on a very small budget.  The Library could never afford to secure Mr. Reich’s services for an in house book talk.