Best of February 2010

In five (or six) units…

1. Articles I Read:

A. Popular
“God Said Multiply, and Did She Ever” (Joseph Berger, New York Times, February 18, 2010)

When Yitta Schwartz died last month at 93, she left behind 15 children, more than 200 grandchildren and so many great- and great-great-grandchildren that, by her family’s count, she could claim perhaps 2,000 living descendants. Mrs. Schwartz was a member of the Satmar Hasidic sect, whose couples have nine children on average and whose ranks of descendants can multiply exponentially. But even among Satmars, the size of Mrs. Schwartz’s family is astonishing. A round-faced woman with a high-voltage smile, she may have generated one of the largest clans of any survivor of the Holocaust — a thumb in the eye of the Nazis.

B. Geek
“Ski Switching and Waxing in the 30km Classic” (Topher Sabot,, February 28th, 2010)
A great, if technical examination of an interesting new twist to cross-country ski racing: allowing athletes to change skis in the middle of certain long races so as to find a faster or otherwise better pair. Ski switching builds in new tactical element, since athletes have to carefully choose when to take the 10 to 20 seconds needed to change, as well as an element of luck, since they (and their technicians) might choose the wrong skis, and thus ruin a good race.

2. Book I Started
At a friend’s recommendation, I started Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, a novel about Thomas Cromwell, a power behind the throne of Henry VIII. I’m going to dole this book out to myself in very, very small doses, because – as signified by winning the Man Booker prize last year – this is a fantastic work of art. The writing is superb, but even more impressive than the prose style is the intellectual power deployed by Mantel in making someone like Cromwell both comprehensible and admirable. (Here’s a laudatory review of the book, which mentions a sequel.)

3. Photo I Saw
Shot by Al Bello and seen in the “Big Picture” photo series of the Boston Globe. (The first and second “Big Pictures” from the Olympic Games are both incredible.)

Vancouver Ski Jumper (Al Bello/Getty Images)
Vancouver Ski Jumper (Al Bello/Getty Images)

4. Video I Watched:
“Demong sprints away” | NBC Olympics – the “raw feed” of Billy Demong attacking from the front of the last nordic combined race, dropping Bernhard Gruber of Austria and Johnny Spillane (USA), and surging to America’s first-ever Olympic gold medal in a nordic discipline.

5. Music I Enjoyed
“You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Shirley Bassey (composed by Rodgers and Hammerstein). Ignore the goofball sentimentalism of the commercial and enjoy the goofball sentimentalism of the song.

2 thoughts on “Best of February 2010”

  1. Love that song. I’m afraid to read your book choices because my small brain might have to give up and admit that I’m not that smart. Guns Germs and Steel almost killed me.

  2. My best score at the bookstore to date was a publisher’s copy of Wolf Hall (paperback) for $5. My mom was looking for it and I figured that we wouldn’t see a hard back for a while and even then it wouldn’t be less than about $12 because of demand. I was totally shocked to see the weird paperback come in. I’m not really interested in that time period, so I am not going to read it, but I hope you enjoy it.

    P.S. Still looking for the books for you. Nothing yet.

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