Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Books · Helen Fieldings‘...
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Helen Fieldings‘ off-the-wall Imagination

Nancy Sundstrom - July 1st, 2004
In general, book reviewers tend to gravitate toward and steer other readers on to works of quality, ones that merit a solid recommendation and are worth plunking down your hard-earned dollars for or giving up spare precious time to enjoy.
There’s a flip side to that coin, though, as is the case with a seriously disappointing and sometimes even offensively bad new book from Helen Fielding that was expected to be one of the hot, bestselling beach reads of 2004. Consider this review a warning. In the case of Fielding’s “Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination,” just say no. 
Yikes. This book is just a mess. Fielding is actually a very good and funny writer who has virtually set the standard for the chick-lit genre with seminal works like her two “Bridget Jones” novels. Because of her pop-ularity and success, many will undoubtedly buy this book automatically, but what lurks inside is almost an anti-Bridget Jones tome that, at best, just doesn’t work. At worst, it is in horribly bad taste as it attempts to make light comic fluff out of homeland terror alerts, Islamic extremists and the war in Iraq, something that seems grossly inappropriate in light of our real-life tragedies and struggles with those issues.
The ludicrous plot, which seems to be fashioned in some kind of homage to Ian Fleming and his legendary 007 series, involves Olivia Joules, a globetrotting writer who has been demoted from the international news section of the Sunday Times down to the style pages due to her wildly over-imaginative writing style.
In the first chapter, “London,” Fielding introduces us to Olivia and boss Barry, who are debating the merits of her journalistic abilities:

“The problem with you, Olivia, is that you have an overactive imagination.”
“I don’t,” said Olivia Joules indignantly.
Barry Wilkinson, foreign editor of the Sunday Times, leaned back in his chair, trying to hold in his paunch, staring over his half-moon glasses at the disgruntled little figure before him, and thinking: And you’re too damned cute.
“What about your story about the cloud of giant, fanged locusts pancaking down on Ethiopia, blotting out the sun?” he said.
“It was the Sudan.”
Barry sighed heavily. “We sent you all the way out there and all you came up with was two grasshoppers in a polythene bag.”
“But there was a locust cloud. It was just that it had flown off to Chad. They were supposed to be roosting. Anyway, I got you the story about the animals starving in the zoo.”
“Olivia, it was one warthog — and he looked quite porky to me.”
“Well, I would have got you an interview with the fundamentalist women and a cross amputee if you hadn’t made me come back.”
“The birth of Posh and Becks’s new baby you were sent to cover live for BSkyB?”
“That wasn’t hard news.”
“Thank God.”
“I certainly didn’t imagine anything there.”
“No. But nor did you say anything for the first ten seconds. You stared around like a simpleton, fiddling with your hair live on air, then suddenly yelled, ‘The baby hasn’t been born yet, but it’s all very exciting. Now back to the studio.’”
“That wasn’t my fault. The floor manager didn’t cue me because there was a man trying to get into the shot with ‘I’m a Royal Love Child’ written on his naked paunch.”
Wearily, Barry leafed through the pile of press releases on his desk. “Listen, lovey…”
Olivia quivered. One of these days she would call him lovey and see how he liked it.
“…you’re a good writer, you’re very observant and intuitive and, as I say, extremely imaginative, and we feel on the Sunday Times, in a freelancer, those qualities are better suited to the Style section than the news pages.”
“You mean the shallow end rather than the deep end?”
“There’s nothing shallow about style, baby.” Olivia laughed.
“I can’t believe you just said that.” Barry started laughing as well.
“Look,” he said, fishing out a press release from a cosmetics company, “if you really want to travel, there’s a celebrity launch in Miami next week for some — perfume? — face cream.”
“A face-cream launch,” said Olivia dully
“J.Lo or P. Binny or somebody…there we go…Devorée. Who the (expletive) is Devorée?”

“White rapper slash model slash actress.”
“Fine. If you can get a magazine to split the costs with us, you can go and cover her face cream for Style. How’s that?”
“Okay,” said Olivia doubtfully, “but if I find a proper news story out there, can I cover that as well?”
“Of course you can, sweetheart,” smirked Barry.

That entrée seems harmless enough, but as Fielding attempts to show us how Olivia’s overactive imagination can play itself out, she steers the plot in the direction of the afore-mentioned face cream launch party, where Olivia stumbles upon a potential al-Qaeda plot headed by a Osama bin Laden look-alike who is part terrorist/serial killer and part international man of mystery.
Of course, he and Olivia are intrigued with one another, kicking off an implausible series of events that sends her from the Sudan to the Caribbean, bouncing from one absurd situation to another. And another. And another. There are kidnappings, bomb plots and disasters of all sorts that aren’t believable or funny, and mercifully grind to a halt with a terrorist attack at the Oscars.
So what was Fielding thinking? Darned if I know. The whole finale was simply creepy, given how plausible something like that really is and was, and not all that long ago. This is a talented comic novelist, but some plot lines just aren’t funny, unless you’re a rare genius like Joseph Heller and can make an intelligent and hilarious masterpiece out of a subject like war, as he did with “Catch 22.” But Fielding is no Heller and Olivia Joules is no Bridget Jones, and when things fall flat, as they do so often throughout this book, they do so with a resounding thud. Skip this one.
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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