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Sunday, September 24, 2006

F. Scott Fitzgerald, novelist, short story writer and scenarist, (was born on this date in 1896, he died when he was 44 from a heart attack).

Mr. Fitzgerald in his life and writings epitomized "all the sad young men" of the post-war generation. With the skill of a reporter and ability of an artist he captured the essence of a period when flappers and gin and "the beautiful and the damned" were the symbols of the carefree madness of an age.

The best of his books, the critics said, was "The Great Gatsby." When it was published in 1925 this ironic tale of life on Long Island at a time when gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession (according to the exponents of Mr. Fitzgerald's school of writers), it received critical acclaim. In it Mr. Fitzgerald was at his best, which was, according to John Chamberlain, his "ability to catch the flavor of a period, the fragrance of a night, a snatch of old song, in a phrase."

(Characters in his writing) became as much a symbol of Mr. Fitzgerald's own generation as, two years later, Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt was to become a symbol of another facet of American culture.

He lived (the last years of his life) near Baltimore, Md., where he suffered a depression of spirit which kept him from writing. He made several efforts to write but failed, and in an autobiographical article in Esquire likened himself to a "cracked plate."

"Sometimes, though," he wrote, "the cracked plate has to be retained in the pantry, has to be kept in service as a household necessity. It can never be warmed on the stove nor shuffled with the other plates in the dishpan; it will not be brought out for company but it will do to hold crackers late at night or to go into the ice-box with the left overs."

And on this date in 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower had a heart attack while he was on vacation here in Denver. In 1968 “60 Minutes” premiered on CBS.
Is this what's gone wrong with the RNC? Sounds a lot like the "Whiz Kids" that pulled LBJ under. Statistics are wonderful servants, terrible masters.

Lost Horizons
New York Times Magazine
September 24, 2006

In an arena that seems to value instinct, bravado, gall and undisciplined excess, Ken Mehlman (chair of the Republican National Committee) is empirical and deliberative. Why should a campaign manager direct resources based on a hunch when there is consumer data that can flush out Republicans living deep in Democratic enclaves? Why guess when you can measure what words will be most persuasive to the middle-class exurbanite voter marching on the StairMaster (watching, no doubt, the Republican ad that the Bush campaign placed on the closed-circuit gym channel after realizing that its voters were no longer at home watching the network news)?

When Mehlman talks about politics, he doesn’t talk about Machiavelli; he talks about “Moneyball,” Michael Lewis’s book about how the Oakland A’s employed statistical modeling to assemble a powerhouse baseball team, sending to pasture the old-line scouts with their years of calling it from their guts. “We are the party of ‘Moneyball!”’ Mehlman proclaimed, practically shouting and bouncing on the balls of his feet, talking to a room of slightly bewildered Republicans in California last year. “They measured everything. We are doing the same thing in politics.”

Tomorrow: A new direction for Wren's eJournal.

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