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Archive for June 30th, 2019

How John Hersey Bore Witness

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Roy Scranton writes in the New Republic:

Some writers are known for their oeuvre. Some are known for their personality. John Hersey, as the subtitle of Jeremy Treglown’s biography attests, is known as the “author of Hiroshima.” Taking up most of the August 31, 1946, issue of The New Yorker, Hersey’s article was a media sensation, selling out that issue of the magazine, and a spectacular success when reprinted as a book a few months later. Nothing he did after—not his speculative novel imagining China conquering the United States and forcing its white citizens into slavery, White Lotus; not his nonfiction account of a grisly police murder in the 1967 Detroit riot, The Algiers Motel Incident (later fictionalized by Kathryn Bigelow in the film Detroit); not his social novel of bourgeois malaise, The Marmot Drive; not his commentary accompanying Ansel Adams’s photographs of Japanese-Americans interred in a concentration camp during World War II, Manzanar; not even his best-selling meditation on fishing, Blues—would reach the level of renown achieved by his slim book about the American atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. Indeed, little of Hersey’s other work is read or remembered today. Most of it is out of print.

Sadly, I’m not here to tell you that Hersey is a forgotten genius awaiting rediscovery. Some of his work is plodding and mediocre. His formative years at Time and Life left a deadening, middlebrow mark on his style, blunting the edges of an otherwise singular perspective. Hersey is at his best in extremity, as in his war writing and in Hiroshima, where his restrained, sober voice is able to describe violence and horror that in the hands of a more lively writer might seem lurid. He can write about the panicked tension of a bombing run, a sniper attack, and people’s skin melting off their bodies without letting his prose turn purple, without trying to make his sentences perform the reaction the reader must feel. Hersey is often regarded as a progenitor of the New Journalism of the 1960s and 1970s, but he couldn’t be further from the antic gyrations of Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, or Michael Herr, or even the brilliantly rococo self-dramatizations of Joan Didion. The title Treglown takes for his biography is apt: Not only morally but also stylistically, Hersey is “Mr. Straight Arrow.”

Yet Hersey’s writing is stranger and more obsessive than its conventional form would suggest. His lifelong fixation on East Asia and his insistent interest in the extremes of the human condition were no doubt related to a sense of alienation he seemed to have felt his entire life. His stories and books always seek out the victims of violence, the survivors, the men and women who are trampled by power yet find a way to keep going. Many of his stories might today raise ethical questions about co-opting others’ voices—victims of the atomic bomb, concentration camp survivors, black Americans brutalized by police violence—yet in his time he was one of the few to bring these stories into the mainstream of American culture.

He also happened to live during a time of epochal change, the dawn of what his employer of many years, Henry Luce, called “the American Century,” a period today shrouded in myth. People talk about “World War II–style mobilization,” the Marshall Plan, and the “Good War” without any real sense of what actually happened in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, or any apprehension of what those grim decades were like for the people who lived through them. We tend to forget that most Americans favored staying out of the war until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, or that, after that attack, most Americans saw the war primarily as a mission of vengeance against the Japanese, who many thought deserved complete extermination. The racial hatred that swept America in the war years is well documented by historian John Dower in his book War Without Mercy, and exemplified by an iconic photo that ran in the May 22, 1944, issue of Henry Luce’s Life, showing a demure young woman gazingthoughtfully at the Japanese skull her Navy boyfriend had sent her.

Likewise, we might remember Hiroshima, in part thanks to Hersey, but we tend to forget that dropping the atomic bomb was seen by analysts at the time as militarily unnecessary, since Japan was already near collapse and suing for peace, and that the decision to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians was made largely as a show of force against Soviet Russia, to keep the Russian army from encroaching on America’s gains in East Asia, and because of technocratic inertia: So much money and effort had been sunk into the Manhattan Project that the “gadget” simply had to be used. We also tend to forget about the American napalm raids on Japan before Hiroshima, such as the firebombing of Tokyo, which killed more than 100,000 civilians and displaced more than a million people.

Recalling these atrocities puts Hersey’s groundbreaking work in its appropriate context. Hiroshima may have turned out a massive success, but it was written against the grain. Treglown’s careful study of Hersey’s life and work helps shed light on a time as distant and mythic to us today as the Wild West was to Hersey. Mr. Straight Arrow stands out in Treglown’s biography as a writer of empathy and curiosity, a writer whose plain style conveyed the desperate struggle for survival and dignity in the face of oppression, violence, and political chaos.

A classic insider-outsider, never quite at home in the elite world in which he moved, Hersey spent his career shuttling between the margins and the center, struggling to connect. Born in June 1914, just before the start of World War I, in the Chinese port city of Tientsin (now Tianjin), Hersey was the son of Protestant missionaries, which fact helped him get a scholarship spot at the Hotchkiss School in Connecticut; he then entered Yale on another scholarship. His brother’s old Hotchkiss roommate, Sheldon Luce, helped get him a job offer from Henry Luce at Time-Life. He turned it down and spent a year studying English literature at Cambridge on a Mellon scholarship instead, then worked for a few months as a private secretary for Sinclair Lewis.

He took another shot at Time. Within two years, he was given a desk in the Foreign News section and sent to cover the war in China. He visited Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Chungking (Chongqing), saw Chiang Kai-shek, and returned to his birthplace, Tientsin, then occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army, just as a crisis broke out that nearly led to war between Japan and Great Britain. In autumn 1939, as Poland fell to German and Russian tanks, he courted Frances Ann Cannon, whose other beau, a roguish young man named Jack Kennedy, was seen by her parents as something of a problem.

Germany conquered France. Henry Luce published his now-famous editorial in Life declaring that in “The American Century,” the United States “must undertake now to be the Good Samaritan of the entire world.” Franklin Roosevelt signed the Lend-Lease bill, enabling economic and military support for the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, Free France, and China. In December 1941, the Japanese navy and army launched simultaneous surprise attacks on U.S. and British colonial military bases in Hawaii, the Philippines, Malaya, Hong Kong, Guam, Wake Island, and Sarawak.

Within hours of the attack on the Philippines, an editor at Knopf asked Hersey to write about it. This invitation led to his first book, Men on Bataan, a hasty synthesis of interviews, correspondents’ cables, and biographical sketches, one part biography of General Douglas MacArthur, one part apologetic summary of MacArthur’s disastrous failed defense of the Philippines, and one part oral history of the soldiers who fought there. Hersey then convinced Luce to send him to . . .

Continue reading.



Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2019 at 4:46 pm

Miso is also okay wrt hypertension

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From page 318 of Greger’s How Not to Die:

Cancer isn’t the primary reason people are told to avoid salt, though. What about miso soup and high blood pressure? There may be a similar relationship. The salt in miso may push up your blood pressure while the soy protein in miso may lower it back down.31 For example, if you compare the effects of soy milk to skim milk (to make a fairer comparison by removing the saturated butterfat factor), soy milk lowers blood pressure about nine times more effectively than skim dairy milk.32 Would the benefits of soy be enough to counter the effects of the salt in miso, though? Japanese researchers decided to find out.

Over a four-year period, they tracked men and women in their sixties who started out with normal blood pressures to see who was more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure: those who had two or more bowls of miso soup a day or those who had one or less. Two bowls a day would be like adding half a teaspoon of salt to your daily diet, yet those who consumed at least that much miso were found to have five times lower risk of becoming hypertensive. The researchers concluded: “Our results on miso-soup have shown that [the] anti-hypertensive effect of miso is possibly above [the] hypertensive effect of salt.”33 So miso soup may actually be protective overall.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2019 at 3:36 pm

A stop by the Market Garden in Vic West

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The Market Garden is a small but rambling grocery shop in Vic West (just over the bridge from the main downtown of Victoria), and in back it does have a garden, where a variety of flowers thrived. These are Clematis, and quite lovely they are.

“Small but rambling” sounds odd, but it occupies what once was a domestic dwelling, with some walls knocked out and others remaining, and you wander from room to room, coming upon one wonderful thing after another, including a white grand piano. For example, here is just a small section of the herb and spice shelves, with the herbs and spices in small glass jars with snap-on tops. I was very tempted to get the rose petals, but I want to think about what to make. (Rose-petal jelly is wonderful, but I won’t be cooking with sugar. They might be nice added to tea before steeping.)

I got enough for a good lunch, though, which I’ll sauté in my new Stargazer skillet. Here it is:

That’s local garlic (perhaps from their garden), trumpet mushrooms (so-called—I would say they are King oyster mushrooms), morels, crimini mushrooms, a patty-pan squash, garlic scapes, shallots, and some tempeh which I’ll marinate as described in the recipe in this PDF. The recipe says:

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
2 teaspoons chili powder (I used powder made from chimayo heritage chiles)
2 teaspoons agave syrup (I used honey)
½ teaspoon salt (I used a pinch)
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine liquid smoke with the next 5 ingredients (through pepper) in a bowl. Add tempeh. Toss well. Allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes.

I sliced the tempeh into strips before marinating and I used only half the package. Sounds good, eh?

Update: the local garlic turns out not to have been dried but is fresh. The peels are thick and flexible and easy to pull off. The garlic is lovely. The garlic scapes I’ve chopped, and the tempeh is marinating. Soon I shall put it together. Total of the mushrooms turned out to be exactly a pound.

Update: Here is the finished dish:

It is really tasty and turned out to be one (big) meal around 3:30pm, and that meal will serve for both lunch (late) and dinner (early). The chimayo chili powder gives nice heat, and the vegetables and mushrooms are tasty and nice to chew/eat. The tempeh turned out quite nice. I’ll be looking for tempeh again. I think I like it better than tofu.

One of the little sections of garlic scape I found on the prep station after dinner, uncooked. I ate it, of course. Intensely garlic but without the sharpness of the clove. Very interesting taste.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 June 2019 at 1:20 pm

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