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By Nathan Bierma

Content & Context

The Books & Culture Weblog


November is when the autumn leaves surrender and fall, but this past month was one of triumphs. After another tense Election Night, President Bush was re-elected. Among the most noteworthy voters were the 140,000 who made up the winning margin in Ohio, and Leroy Chiao, the first person ever to vote from space. There were other triumphs being celebrated this month, although the Red Sox' World Series victory parade was rained on, as was the opening of the Clinton Presidential Library. Dillon and Jesse Smith became the first set of twins to score perfect 1600s on the SAT's (neither, by the way, used those expensive review guides). Rome wasn't built in a day, and it took about 50 years for artist Gilles Chaillet to complete his full-color, 11-by-6 foot drawing of the Italian city. November was also a triumph for Faith—Leana Beasley's rotweiler Faith, that is. The dog dialed 911 and barked into the phone when Beasley fell out of her wheelchair.

Yasser Arafat, the beloved and hated figurehead of Palestinian nationalism, died this month at the age of 75. Vaughn Meader, who introduced presidential satire before being silenced by the Kennedy assassination 41 years ago this month, died at 68. Theodore Taylor was a Los Alamos nuclear physicist who spoke out against the perils of nuclear proliferation. Melba Phillips, student of Robert Oppenheimer and author of influential physics textbooks, died at age 97. Irene Ferrer, a renowned cardiologist, died this month of congestive heart failure.

Timeline: October 2004


From the Washington Post:

SHIRAHONE, Japan — The milk-hued hot springs of Shirahone have for a thousand years lured legions of stressed-out Japanese, who traversed mountain passes and paid small fortunes to wash away their troubles in the steaming thermal baths. But in a scandal that has precipitated a nationwide crisis of confidence in Japan's beloved onsen, or hot spring resorts, a national magazine this summer reported that spa owners were secretly conning their customers. Shirahone village leaders came clean in July—admitting they added artificial white dyes to baths after several springs had mysteriously begun losing their coveted natural cream color during the 1990s. The deception created an uproar in Japan, where few things are more cherished in life than stripping down to your birthday suit for a group dip in scorching thermal baths.

From the Chicago Tribune:

CHICAGO* — The draw of living close to water is so strong that million-dollar homes are going up along Bubbly Creek, an infamous stretch of the Chicago River lined with nearly a century's worth of waste from the city's livestock slaughterhouses. Hidden from most Chicagoans by factories, warehouses and scrap yards, the murky tributary has festered for decades on the western edge of Bridgeport. Bubbles that gave the creek its name still occasionally rise up from decaying offal and carcasses caked on the bottom, releasing bursts of foul-smelling gases into the air. It is a place where few things live, or stay for long. At least until now. Expensive homes under construction along the once-industrial banks of Bubbly Creek—officially known as the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River—are prompting a push from Mayor Richard Daley's office to clean it up. Regional and state officials also are taking a closer look at the creek as they decide whether the Chicago River's sewage-filled canals and channels should be disinfected to remove disease-causing bacteria.


Book Essay:

Nancy Drew: dainty tomboy, in the New Yorker.

Book Reviews:

New C.S. Lewis biography fails to improve on A.N. Wilson's 1990 volume, says the Boston Globe.


Nathan Bierma is editorial assistant at Books & Culture.He writes the weekly "On Language" column for the Chicago Tribune.

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