Jun 26th, 2009
Reading: The Longitude Prize, by Joan Dash. Officially, this is a “children’s book” (one that I spotted on a shelf while Sylvia and I were on our weekly library trip), and the publisher’s note even specifies that it’s suitable for ages 9 to 12. It’s written at a much higher level than most books targeting that age group—and I’m delighted about that, since I find that most so-called children’s literature isn’t particularly well-written or intellectually challenging. This book happens to tell a terrific tale, too: the true story about how one self-educated, poor clockmaker figured out how to determine longitude at sea. Reading about his genius is thrilling, as is learning about the science of the day. How exciting* it much have been to be alive during the 18th century, when so many discoveries were being made.
Eating: The last of this season’s sugar snap peas and spinach. The pea plants are yellowing and will surely be spent within the next couple of days; the spinach was already starting to bolt, so I pulled it all up two days ago.
Watching: As We Forgive. I’m not even sure where to begin in talking about this documentary film. The words “amazing” and “powerful” and “moving” come to mind, for all that they are trite. The synopsis for this film begins with “Could you forgive a person who murdered your family?” I’ve heard this question before, especially in the immediate wake of the September 11 attacks, when there were numerous interviews and articles about people who’d lost family members in the Twin Towers. But in those cases, the connections between killers and victims were distant or anonymous. This movie, about the reconciliation movement in Rwanda, is about situations in which the connections were quite close and personal: people who had been neighbors and friends turned on each other—not only killing, but killing in extremely gruesome and hands-on ways. Over one million people died in less than four months. There are over one million stories to tell, but this short film focuses on two. In each case, we hear a killer describe in detail what he did, and then we hear from the victim’s family about how they feel about the crime and about offering asked-for forgiveness for it.
*If you were a wealthy, highly educated, upper-class, western European man, of course.
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