Spotty. Some very good history in here but buried under a lot of Hitch just talking. Recounting silly word games among friends.
The audiobook is parti...moreSpotty. Some very good history in here but buried under a lot of Hitch just talking. Recounting silly word games among friends.
The audiobook is particularly difficult to consume because his low voice gets muddled unless the sound is turned up so loud that the fricatives make your ears hurt. Also it's very low key and over 17 hours long, so it's more likely to lull you to sleep than make a road trip more interesting.
I enjoyed it but I feel like I missed so much(less)
I should have been able to give this at least 3-4 stars for the interesting subject matter, but I did not like it, it was only "okay" according to the...moreI should have been able to give this at least 3-4 stars for the interesting subject matter, but I did not like it, it was only "okay" according to the definition of the Goodreads rating system. I listened to the whole thing, but it left a bad taste in my mouth, and in some ways I found it irresponsibly glib. If you're interested in the subject, I think you should read The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature instead.
There was so much sarcasm, so much negativity, so many bad jokes and puns and TERRIBLE ANALOGIES strewn about the place. There was a lot railing against other scientists and of course "the standard model" but the stuff that was posited in its place just seems like speculation, especially when bad analogies are used as rationale and little attempt is made to even understand that your intellectual opponents might have reasons for the things they believe. These are some serious blind spots.
Many of the chapters start off with quotes. Vonnegut quotes always are nice, but a gaggle of chapters start with quotes by Francis somebody-or-other, and if I wanted that much of his opinion I'd read his book.
There was entirely FAR too much time devoted to complaining about how little time other authors give to the bonobo ("only 11 mentions in over 200 pages!" Can you even believe it?! - Or have you already fallen asleep?)
Still, I learned a little. I learned that the average life span of humans has never really been around the stated 35-45 yrs, unless you factor in infant mortality, which skews the numbers downward drastically. And that anthropologists have often pinpointed the age range of bones at only "35+" because most of our growing is done by then. Of course it was also mentioned that not every society has measured the start of "life" at the same point and infanticide has been widespread and seen in a more practical than amoral light (this I already knew).
I learned that there are human societies that have survived and thrived in different ways than the "nuclear family" model. It reinforced that community and a sense of belonging are important, and supported a possibly objectionable belief I already held and that kids raised by 2+ adults fare better than kids raised in single-parent situations, and that's one way we're failing a lot of people in today's society. And that as long as we're thinking about ways that today's society has failed a lot of people, we should consider that the Hunter-Gatherers did not do so badly for themselves. If you're interested in this, I recommend Beyond Civilization: Humanity's Next Great Adventure.
And I thought a little about what I might be looking for in a partner, what I bring to the table as the female of the species (and I admit, in a mate "selective generosity, fidelity, and sincerity," sound pretty appealing), and viewed my previous relationships in this context. I think thinking/talking about these kind of things is important, but ultimately I was just too frustrated by this book as my conversational partner.
As a footnote, the audible audiobook readers left a lot to be desired. For example, "185 - 235 x 10^6 compared to 85 x 10^6," the dash should be pronounced "to" not "minus" as it reflects a RANGE, and context makes clear the first group's measurement should be higher than the second, in contrast. Oh, and TED Talks: nobody pronounces it "TEE-EE-DEE" that I know of, just "Ted", like the name.(less)
I adore the contributions from Sarah Vowell’s three-year-old nephew, Owen:
"[My sister Amy] phoned me, saying, “I asked Owen what he wanted to do today...moreI adore the contributions from Sarah Vowell’s three-year-old nephew, Owen:
"[My sister Amy] phoned me, saying, “I asked Owen what he wanted to do today and he said, ‘Go look at stones with Aunt Sarah.’ Do you know what he’s talking about? What these stones are?”
"I do. “He means tombstones,” I told her. “When you were off parking the car at the cemetery in Cleveland, Owen and I walked around looking for John Hay’s grave. Owen climbed on top of it and hollered, ‘This is a nice Halloween park!’” (That’s what he calls cemeteries.)"
"He’s truly morbid. When he broke his collarbone by falling down some stairs he was playing on, an emergency room nurse tried to comfort him by giving him a cuddly stuffed lamb to play with. My sister, hoping to prompt a “thank you,” asked him, “What do you say, Owen?” He handed back the lamb, informing the nurse, “I like spooky stuff.”" (less)
Very interesting, but a hard read. I had to alternate between other things to keep from getting bogged down by the heavy subject matter. Here are my i...moreVery interesting, but a hard read. I had to alternate between other things to keep from getting bogged down by the heavy subject matter. Here are my impressions.
For context, I do remember when this happened, but I don't remember the footage or many of the media rumors mentioned; like many of my friends, Dylan and Eric were class of '99, I was class of '00 (like Patrick Ireland), several states away, with my own teenage world of self-importance. I only have vague memories of coverage of the standoff at Waco (I was 11) and the collapse of the Murrah building: I can't tell you where I was when I got news of Columbine or how much footage I might've watched. The author mentions that media attention on Littleton dropped off after a deadly tornado struck Oklahoma later that spring -- I do remember driving from Texas to OKC in May '99, that we happened to see signs of the tornado's devastation visible from the highway, and later visiting the site of the Oklahoma City bombing with my church youth group. Not long after, in November '99, I remember losing former classmates in the A&M bonfire collapse. My high school went on lockdown at least once because a gun (or two) was present in the school. It was a weird year to turn 18.
The author switches time frame and subject matter often, the book is broken up into 50+ chapters and several "parts", giving him a chance to start the telling over, but it is generally pretty easy to keep track of what's being discussed, except at the beginning when I had no idea who Dave Sanders and "Mr. D" were, if they were possibly the same person, or why we were bouncing into and out of their lives. Early on there is a preliminary description of what happened on 4/20/99 which kind of leaves you wondering how he is going to stretch the story out for 11 full CDs, but there were still interesting new details trickling in at the end.
The tone borders on flippant sometimes ("chugging brewskies"?), but I'm sure it's hard to bounce back and forth between the juvenile first-person perspective of the shooters and the more reverent tone that is generally called for in dealing with a massacre. I don't know which words were taken verbatim from other sources (interviews, the kids' journals), because I listened to the book on audio. Audio was fine, I just wish the author had read the book himself because the voice actor didn't totally fit the tone of the writing. And it was really hard for me to get used to Jefferson County being called "Jeffco" at nearly every opportunity; I understand that this is how the locals refer to themselves, but the constant use of local shorthand was jarring to me, as an outsider.
I think Cullen did a good job presenting the information and letting it tell its own story. I felt that a really thorough assembly was done of a lot of information that was not previously widespread, and I'm sure the author did his share of interviews. I liked the way old myths were acknowledged and set aside with explanations that felt much truer; I think the author did a very good job presenting the boys as a depressive and a psychopath, who were not spurred to action suddenly by any particular offense but had planned this, and suggested reasons they went through with this instead of getting caught or letting the plan fizzle out. It was fascinating to learn what their real plans were, and how the didn't really work out.
There was decent amount of attention on the police/FBI/justice system, and the ways that things went wrong, the precursors that were ignored, the files that were "lost", the victims that were left bleeding for hours after the shooters had already died while the cops did nothing - which led to new tactics about how to approach such situations actively. The mess that was made of investigating. It's haunting to think about Dave Sanders, and the kids whose bodies were just left outside overnight.
I was surprised by the evangelical spin on the tragedy, but I was also relieved the book didn't focus there for too long.
I'm not sure if Dave Cullen actually interviewed the Klebolds, but the Harrises apparently aren't talking. The book seemed to dispel a lot of myths about the cause of these events: it wasn't goth music or the trenchcoat mafia or jocks hazing nerds or racism, and he strives to show that it wasn't because the boys had terrible childhoods either. There are a lot of ways to speculate about the level of parental attention that allowed kids who had already committed at least one felony to hide alcohol, firearms, and explosives in their rooms without real fear of being caught, to have a "hit list" posted on a website that other parents knew about, to stay out all night drinking after prom (look at this half-full bottle of schnapps mom, see I didn't drink too much!), to have an unannounced sleepover with their known partner-in-crime (when did I ever have someone spend the night without asking first?), etc. It's really hard to say "they did their best, they did as much as they thought they had to, they aren't at fault" and leave it there.
But it's really not about the parents, it's not about laying blame, or reasons why the Harris and Klebold families shouldn't be allowed to mourn their losses too. (And what profound losses; the loss of their children and the futures they'd dreamed for them, the shock of finding out who their children "really were", the fear or guilt that they could've/should've stopped something, and the life-altering shame and rage directed at them... so different than the other experiences that came out of this tragedy.)
I think this book is just about telling what happened, so that we can all clear up our misconceptions and let it rest, which is probably what those injured, the victims' families, and the community would most appreciate at this point. Just understanding the truth and letting go. (less)
Interesting account of what the 350 US prisoners-of-war (and some European concentration camp prisoners went through) at and after the labor camp of B...moreInteresting account of what the 350 US prisoners-of-war (and some European concentration camp prisoners went through) at and after the labor camp of Berga. I'm not sure how the author chose the (Jewish) Hungarian civilians profiled in this story, which was not woven back in with the story of the American Soldiers until 2/3rds of the way through the book, and even then it was just a mention that they both happened to be at the same camp and did not interact.
We're familiar with the concept of concentration camps and forced labor camps at this point, but the Allies apparently had no idea of what was going on. Although the 350 US soldiers (mostly chosen because German soldiers felt they were Jews, whether or not this was true) were sent to Berga in 1944, when the war was nearly over, they were still worked to death in dramatic numbers. The book includes the story of their conditions in the camp, the labor assignments, their death march and ultimate liberation, and a couple escape attempts. How shocked they were that the German soldiers were not abiding by the Geneva conventions for prisoners of war.
Ultimately, 73 of the 350 died, in addition to the millions of civilians killed in similar ways. It's a tragic story. I'm not sure if there was any intent to make the reader/listener feel MORE compassion towards the American vs. European prisoners, or more shock? There was certainly some effort to show that the German people were at least complicit in much of the proceedings and the blame cannot be shifted wholly on to Hitler and the SS. That there is a lot of residual shame and denial in Germany - but that there are lessons to be learned. That acting as an agent of a government does not absolve one of having a conscience. That modern Germany can honor those who took a stand against the overwhelming current of the time.
I spent a lot of time thinking about modern interrogation, the conditions at Guantanamo, and how the American people are aware that we have been engaging in torture even if our leaders are not willing to call it that. Anyway, politics aside.
I really appreciate that the author took advantage of the 60+ year lag since the unfolding of these events to provide updates, some sense of closure to the story. It's worth explaining why we have not heard a lot about Americans being sent to labor or concentration camps. The survivors were made to sign confidentiality agreements, which is ridiculous enough, because apparently speaking out could have some detrimental impact against POWs in Japan or Allied control of Western Germany (where Berga was located)?? American survivors were ashamed and felt no one could understand their unique and terrible experience, and they were even prevented from testifying at the trials of their abusers, which ridiculously enough resulted in reduced sentences because a burden of proof was not felt to have been met. Some were even denied disability benefits, and little attempt at compensation was made until more than 50 years later.
Ultimately part of surviving seems to be the ability to move beyond past injustices and move forward with one's life in a direction of one's own choosing, rather than letting hate fester inside until the end of your time here on Earth. I do think there is something empowering about that. (less)
The audiobook seems to start with a headlong rant out of nowhere and finishes just as abruptly. There was TONS of repetition of facts scattered throug...moreThe audiobook seems to start with a headlong rant out of nowhere and finishes just as abruptly. There was TONS of repetition of facts scattered throughout, but very little distinction made between the victims, to the point where it was easier to assume she was describing the same crime scene over and over than describing totally different cases. There is SO MUCH focus on watermarks and stationery and paper manufacturers, it will put you to sleep. Apparently the actual book has photos that are well worth a look but the audio version does not! (less)