Tuesday, September 05, 2006

End-of-Summer Reading

This is a good time of the year to do some reading before the season starts in full swing with school and other activities. Yesterday morning I was up early and picked up a book called ‘The Death of Common Sense’, by Philip Howard, and finished it while waiting for the family to wake up. Subtitled ‘How Law is Suffocating America it gives ample examples of how good and noble ideas that were turned into laws became a ridiculous and even nightmarish waste of time and money, mainly because of greedy attorneys and people wanting to benefit from the system. Written a decade ago, it made the New York Times bestseller list. Naturally, my daughter Anna gave me a hard time about the views expressed and we had a lively but healthy debate as result.

By accident, while searching on the web, I came across an excellent article on trauma in the Middle East, and was pleasantly surprised that it was written by an old friend of mine, Gina Ross. A Sephardic Jew, she was born in Aleppo, Syria, and speaks Arabic among many other languages, and has an unusually well-balanced view of the area’s conflicts as seen from all sides. A charming and witty person who finished her school in Brazil in a French LycĂ©e, she married a Canadian screen writer and moved to Los Angeles where she still resides. Her son and my second daughter used to go to the same Hebrew pre-school and we became close friends. In addition to being a gifted painter, Ms. Ross became a successful therapist and founded trauma healing organizations in both the U.S. and Israel. She has published a book, "Beyond the Trauma Vortex: the Role of the Media in Healing Fear, Terror and Violence", plus articles in English, Hebrew and Arabic.

Finally I’d like to recommend a thought provoking article published In These Times and written by my own daughter Silja Talvi, ‘Narcissists “R” Us?. Partially a book review of Christopher Lasch’s “Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations” but with plenty of personal research and content, the article brings to mind many self-important people whom one can picture looking in the mirror the first thing in the morning and saying “God is great, but so am I”. Out of curiosity I checked on publicity of several arts organizations and discovered a few mug shots of conductors representing an orchestra, but of no directors of an opera or a dance company, unless they are performers themselves. Perhaps a truly charismatic conductor can attract an audience with his photo (Michael Tilson-Thomas in San Francisco comes to mind), but orchestras often play better for visiting maestros, and after all it is the players who produce all the music, not the man with the baton. Opera companies like to show scenes from a production, as do ballet groups, or perhaps they display photos of their star soloists. We would feel it was absurd if a baseball or football team would feature its coach as the main attraction, as important a function as he serves. Surely there are narcissists leading those organizations, too, but enough common sense is alive in this case to keep them in the background where they belong.