Tuesday, March 01, 2005

A clown of some renown

Last week, I decided I needed a text to write one of my term papers not found in the university library, and not currently available from the public library: the Pulitzer Prize-winning Gotham, a history of New York City to 1898. This particular paper is on the municipal rapid transit debate of 1866-1871, and while most of the details are aptly covered by primary sources (I've said it before, and I'll say it again - bless the NYT for having a full-text, online, searchable archive going back to 1851, and the university for actually subscribing to it after I badgered them about it last year, when the institutional free trial was about to expire), but I wanted to summarize the Tweed Ring very briefly, and citing a survey text is the most honest way to do that with the least effort. Besides, since I first read Gotham back in 2000 or so, I've wanted my own copy. It's a 1200-page monster, but it's still a surprisingly good read. However, it's not something that any of the nearby locations of Chapters (or any of its other brands, now the only non-independent, non-boutique bookstores left in town) stocks, and the price of a used copy from Amazon.ca wasn't great, when factoring in shipping. I therefore had to buy it online from Chapters. (An interesting side-note, which I only remembered the next day: You can get any size of special order from Chapters delivered with free shipping. It just has to be phoned in to a real, brick-and-mortar store. I don't know why that loophole in their shipping policy exists, but it's there, and I've used it repeatedly.) Having forgotten entirely that I could buy Gotham alone with free shipping, I wanted to fill out the order to qualify for free shipping - and ended up getting America (The Book). I was pleasantly surprised, on leafing through in a store before Christmas, at the ratio of genuine humour compared to unfunny "Republicans sure are evil, yup" boilerplate found in a few pages; it seemed nearly the complete opposite of what actually makes its way onto The Daily Show. I was similarly impressed with the rest of the book, when it arrived today. To conclude, then, a long and rambling voyage to the point: This was written by the staff of The Daily Show, the same staff responsible for producing entire episodes full of pandering Bush-bashing unworthy of more than a few scattered giggles. Why can't the actual show be this bipartisan? Who's cutting the good material? Are the producers so afraid of losing the idiot stoner demographic, if they were to let up a bit on the one-sided juvenilia?

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