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Preview: Mark Bernstein

Mark Bernstein

Mark Bernstein: hypertext research

Last Build Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2017 10:37:50 -0400


The Caine Mutiny

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 10:36:34 -0400

I wanted to revisit this classic in part because I have Wouk’s memoir, Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-Old Author, on my stack. In addition, I’ve been struggling all summer (along with Morgan Macri) against the problems of telling a story that requires a large cast, and of course this was Wouk’s specialty.

I remember my surprise on my first reading how the book is much larger than the (wonderful) movie, and how it is far more interested in Ensign Keith than was the film. Queeg, of course, is wonderfully drawn, and it’s interesting that Wouk did not return to that theme in The Winds Of War or The Hope.

Libraries and Nazis

Fri, 8 Sep 2017 17:06:47 -0400

I walked out of my office yesterday to find a sign, advertising a reading that very night at the Watertown Free Public Library. It’s a nice library. It has Harriet Homer’s sculpting tools, and some nice wood panelling in the old part of the building. They have public meeting rooms.

Tonight, the library was featuring a Nazi.

That’s not just my opinion. The Forward has an essay specifically about him: “The Jewish Left Needs To Call Out Real Anti-Semites.” The Daily Beast headlined him as “ Jew-Hater.” Medium has an entire guide for organizations like my library: “Oops: Your Guest Is A Nazi,” showing this fellow posing with his new book on the platform of Berlin-Wannsee — the suburb where, you will recall, his predecessors had a pleasant weekend retreat where they finally solved the Jewish Problem.

I could go on.

Somehow, this is now acceptable in the US. It’s just an opinion. Yes, it’s an opinion that I ought to be boiled down into soap — but hey! Free speech!

The trustees of the Watertown Free Public Library should be ashamed of themselves. The director should resign.

Night Rounds

Fri, 8 Sep 2017 17:06:06 -0400

A Diane Greco recommendation, in honor of Women In Translation Month. At a small private hospital in Goteborg, the power is suddenly cut and the emergency generator disabled. A nurse is found to have been strangled, a patient dies during the power outage, and one of the senior nurses is certain that she saw the hospital ghost, a nurse who committed suicide in the attic in 1945. This highly-competent police procedural focuses on a puzzling crime but is at its best when it spares a moment for its protagonist’s family problems.

The Black Powder War

Tue, 5 Sep 2017 14:57:10 -0400

Her Majesty’s Dragon Temeraire, having concluded his diplomacy in China, is dispatched to the Ottoman Court in order to pick up some extremely important dragon eggs. Inevitably, troubles (and Napoleon’s forces) interfere.

Tinderbox 7.2

Thu, 31 Aug 2017 16:41:12 -0400


Tinderbox 7.2 is now available.

The big effort behind this new release is far behind the scenes. Tinderbox documents help organize themselves: they follow your rules and enforce your constraints, and they do this without interrupting you. That’s tricky; we’ve worked hard to make sure different parts of Tinderbox don’t tread on each other’s toes.

There’s plenty of stuff you can see, too. Markdown support for those who want it, with built-in preview and with hooks for adding your own markup engine. (LaTeX anyone?). Even nicer typography, with better superscripts and subscripts. Tinderbox 7 offers lots of new import options like BibDesk, and improved import from plenty of old favorites including calendar and email programs.

As always, updates are free if you’ve purchased or upgraded in the past year, and just $98 from any previous version of Tinderbox. (It’s always special fun to hear from people who are upgrading from 2002’s Tinderbox 1!) No need to worry about your old codes or anything; we’ll have your records. Order here.

Diminished Democracy: From Membership to Management in American Civic Life

Wed, 30 Aug 2017 12:08:21 -0400

An extremely interesting and detailed look at vanished American institutions that once grounded the nation’s political life. Mason, Odd Fellows, Elks, the NAACP: until quite recently, these formed the center of much life in America’s towns and cities. Local organizations had officers, competition for honors was keen, and these organizations were designed to ensure that anyone, rich or poor, could rise to office and could be sent to represent their local at state and national conventions.

The center of my town is filled with relics of these structures: Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias. Many local organizations didn’t accept many (or any) Jews or Black people, so parallel organizations were created for Blacks and Jews.

They had parties, ceremonies, rituals. They had big dinners. They sponsored lectures. They got together and offered insurance policies; indeed, some survive as insurance companies long after the ceremonies and rituals have withered. But Skocpol argues convincingly that these were places where old folks and young people, workers and capitalists could all gather on a fairly equal basis, where mayors and bricklayers could discuss the issues of the day on an even footing, and maybe you’d wind up sending the bricklayer to Washington to tell your Senator just what your town was thinking.

After the War, this world was replaced in politics by professional lobbying organizations, and its place in civic life was taken by television.

Our sad little Democratic City Committee holds its meetings in the husk of one of these organizations, an Irish-American club with a wall of yellowing photos of the jovial old (and white) Irishmen who have been its president, a policy that forbids women from membership, and two separate bars in its small headquarters. The local Democrats still think, in their heart, that they’re another social club or a subcommittee of the Irish-American, a place for old people to get together a couple of times a year and talk about their grade-school teachers and my, how the world has changed.

The Circle

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 18:24:43 -0400

An intriguing story that, in essence, takes the American YA formula of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and translates it to Sweden. We have no Chosen One (though everyone expects one): we have a group. They are all essential to the survival of the world, but they only learn this fact after they learn they are chosen, and by then one of them is already dead. The collectivization of the hero is schematic at heart, but Elfren hides that capably by supplying each of her heroines with a plausible and interesting background. Above all, the Chosen Ones don’t like each other, but they recognize that they might need to put all that aside, at least until the world is saved.


Fri, 25 Aug 2017 16:53:28 -0400

An interesting novel about a graduate student in the department where I earned my degree. Some of the details are excellent; at one point, the narrator was describing the difficult relationship between graduate students and demanding advisors and I found myself thinking, “that sounds just like ____,” an advisor who was fairly notorious on this score. A paragraph later, I realized that she had ______ specifically in mind.

What is missing here, I think, is the love for science that’s almost certain to be shared by anyone who is likely to find themselves in that particular field at that particular school. Wang’s narrator doesn’t quite have that. To be fair, her boyfriend recognizes that, and so, eventually, does her advisor; they just don’t know what to do with that knowledge. Neither does the narrator.