Friday, June 12, 2020

First Lines: May 2020 edition

Five books finished during May.   Except one of them was a short paper, not a book.

Book 1
Chapter One: The Other Minister
It was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting alone in his office, reading a long memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind.

Book 2
There’s no prize at Mesa Grande High School for being first to finish eating.

Book 3
Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a rabbit who was made almost entirely of china.

Book 4
The possibility of a worldwide influenza pandemic in the near future is of growing concern for many countries around the globe. Many predictions of the economic and social costs of a modern-day influenza pandemic are based on the effects of the influenza pandemic of 1918. This report begins by providing a brief historical background on the 1918 influenza pandemic, a short-lived, but tragic event that has all but escaped the public’s consciousness today.

Book 5
An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

And the titles revealed:

Book 1
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling © 2005
A good yarn, but I have to warn you, the ending is depressing.

Book 2
Other People's Crazy by Gregory Fletcher  (Young Adult lit).  © 2020
I read this at the suggestion of a friend, who knows the author.  She suggested it as a good YA book, without too much angst, and she was right.  This is a book about the largest kid in the high school being bullied by the smallest.  There is some angst, as there should be in literature, but I enjoyed the book a great deal.   Lots of calming philosophy here.

Book 3
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, by Kate DiCamillo.  © 2006.
This is the story of a toy china rabbit who has absolutely no agency – can only observe and eventually feel emotions, but cannot take any action on behalf of himself or others.  It is bold of the author to make such a character the main character, but it works.  It gives the reader some idea of how it must be to be a person with little agency in the world.  Quite relevant for these times.  This is presented as a children's book; despite the satisfying ending it felt quite heavy to me.

Book 4
Economic Effects of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic:  Implications for a Modern-day Pandemic, by Thomas A. Garrett, Assistant Vice President and Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, November 2007.
This paper may be a good place to start, on the topic of the economic effects of a pandemic.  It’s a short read.  I felt it glossed over huge concerns about income inequality and the inadequacy of the US health care system, and how those things would affect the outcome of a pandemic.  But it does show that some people in power were thinking about the economic impact of a pandemic, when the rest of us weren’t. This report is 25 pages.  You can find it here:

Book 5
The Gospel of Matthew, written ~85 CE.
A speed reading to try to see real quick what Jesus would do.  What would Jesus do about reopening the church building during a covid pandemic?  My main takeaways:
-       Jesus had compassion for the sick and he did a lot of healing, over and over. 
-       Jesus kept trying to social-distance from crowds, but was not very successful at it. 
-       He acknowledged that what comes out of your mouth is what makes you nasty. 
-       On the other hand, Jesus was particularly grumpy and cantankerous with religious leaders.  He constantly challenged the authorities of that day.
-       Jesus said he desires mercy, not sacrifice.  The greatest commandments are to love God and love others as yourself.  Be humble. 
-       He told the Pharisees (who, in my view, unfairly get a bad rap in the gospels) that the truly important things are justice, mercy, and faith. 
-       He told a famous parable, in which the king praises those who gave to the needy food, drink, clothing, healing, and visits while in prison.
No firm answers there on how often to disinfect the pews, or whether brand-name wipes (if you can find ’em) are more effective than generic ones.  No instructions on which room of the church to take a sick person to.  No bolt from heaven on how to do contact tracing.  But a clear image of an itinerant preacher who provided healing for the sick, without charging a co-pay.