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Quite the World, Isn't It?

South Pasadena school kids channel Woody Guthrie

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Road trip -- NYC

I'm in New York City for a few days, staying with a friend in Brooklyn and then moving to a hotel in Manhattan while attending/covering the annual Book Expo America (BEA), the trade show for the publishing industry.

It's a massive gathering of book publishers and book buyers (mostly commercial and for libraries) focusing on books to be published late summer trhough the fall/winter season. This is my fourth or fifth time -- I lose track -- and it's always a lot of fun, if a bit overwhelming. Among the notable authors on tap: Joyce Carol Oates, Francine Prose, Pat Conroy, Tracy Kidder and rockers Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) and Clarence Clemons ("The Big Man" sax player from Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band).

I'll be posting a bit while here, and will also be contributing to the Los Angeles Times' book blog, Jacket CopyRead More 
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Prop. 8 stands. Civil rights, not so much.

Well, the California Supreme Court did the expected this morning and upheld Prop. 8, which bans gay marriage in California. With no legal background, I'm not going to try to parse the details of it -- I'll leave that to Maura Dolan, a former LA Times colleague.

But given how each state has a different take on this issue, it's clear this needs to get to the Supreme Court -- where, admittedly, the deck seems stacked against gay marriage. But I would hope the Loving v. Virginia case would be precedent here. In that case, from 1967, the Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a state ban on interracial marriage.

That decision held that marriage is a basic civil right and thus eligible for federal protection. A civil right is a civil right, and it defies logic that the federal protections would be limited to opposite-sex marriages. At its heart a legal marriage license, which grants all the perks (tax, survivorship, etc.) is a contract, and such it should be available to all.

And if, instead, it is deemed to be a function of religion -- which is the undercurrent of the anti-gay marriage argument -- then you have to wonder what business any level of U.S. government has in sanctioning a religious rite.

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Smear campaign allegation leads to poet's resignation

UPDATE: Ruth Padel now says she tipped off journalists to the old harassment complaint. So much for the early denial ....

Ruth Padel, the first woman to ever be elected Oxford Professor of Poetry, has resigned the post over allegations she was involved in a smear campaign that earlier led fellow poet Derek Wolcott, a Nobel Prize winner, to withdraw from consideration.

The smear campaign involved anonymous letters detailing a sexual-harassment allegation against him from 1982, while he was teaching at Harvard. Padel denied involvement in the letter campaign, but stepped down anyway.

And I thought presidential politics was a full-contact sport.  Read More 
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Any Nero Wolfe fans in the house?

I have to admit to a certain fascination with the trial underway in Manhattan over the alleged plundering of the late Brooke Astor's estate. The drama falls somewhere between Tom Wolfe and Rex Stout, the creator of the one-seventh of a ton genius detective Nero Wolfe.

At its heart it's a throwback story, drawing in the top layers of Manhattan's high society, beginning with Astor, at one point the hostess in New York City. Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair's legendary editor, and Henry Kissinger (a war criminal in some quarters; the hero of American diplomacy in others).

But it's also a deeper tale of crumbling families, greed, probably a little jealousy and, deepest of all, betrayal. And that the victim was elderly and infirm takes the story out of all those zones and places it in the heart of nearly every American family that has dealt with a matriarch or patriarch reaching such advanced, and debilitated years.

Damn, it should be a novel.
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