The Guardin (and what left-leaner doesn't know the Guardian describes this as a "rightwing paean to western values." Partly true, but we read to exposThe Guardin (and what left-leaner doesn't know the Guardian describes this as a "rightwing paean to western values." Partly true, but we read to expose ourselves to new and different ideas. Heere is my straight list of notes from this book:
Idea that the ever-present warfare in western Europe lead to innovation.
Chinese were very concerned with tribute, but it was the Portuguese who were concerned with economic advancement.
Competition in western Europe furthered great economic prosperity.
Perhaps the greatest mystery of the entire Cold War is why the Worker's Paradise could not manage to produce a decent pair of jeans"
"The mass consumerism, with all the standardization it implied, could somehow be reconciled with rampant individualism was one of the smartest tricks ever pulled by Western civilization."
Essentially six headings for why the West was best: 1.) Competition, 2.) Science, 3.) Property Rights, 4.) Medicine, 5.) Consumerism, 6.) Work ethic.
In reference to property ownership, Ferguson makes the point that private ownership of land in North America rather that South America makes a tremendous difference. Comment made that in Peru, as recently as 1958, 2 percent of landowners owned 69% of arable land.
Ferguson spends a bit of time extolling religious values and their contribution to Western Civ in general and the protestant work ethic in particular. Ferguson notes. "protestantism made the West not only work, but also save and read. The literacy that Protestantism promoted was essential to the Industrial Revolution workforce.
"From aromatherapy to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the West today is indeed awash with post-modern cults, none of which offers anything remotely as economically invigorating or socially cohesive as the old Protestant ethic."
"Why did the West dominate the Rest and not vice versa? I have argued that it was because the West developed six killer applications that the Rest lacked. These were: 1. Competition, in that Europe itself was politically fragmented and that within each monarchy or republic there were multiple competing corporate entities 2. The Scientific Revolution, in that all the major seventeenth-century breakthroughs in mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry and biology happened in Western Europe 3. The rule of law and representative government, in that an optimal system of social and political order emerged in the English-speaking world, based on private property rights and the representation of property-owners in elected legislatures 4. Modern medicine, in that nearly all the major nineteenth- and twentieth-century breakthroughs in healthcare, including the control of tropical diseases, were made by Western Europeans and North Americans 5. The consumer society, in that the Industrial Revolution took place where there was both a supply of productivity-enhancing technologies and a demand for more, better and cheaper goods, beginning with cotton garments 6. The work ethic, in that Westerners were the first people in the world to combine more extensive and intensive labour with higher savings rates, permitting sustained capital accumulation. Those six killer apps were the key to Western ascendancy."...more
Story of the American ambassador to Hitler's Germany primarily set in the years 1933-34. Interesting tidbits as follows:
Way that the Nazi system was uStory of the American ambassador to Hitler's Germany primarily set in the years 1933-34. Interesting tidbits as follows:
Way that the Nazi system was used to satisfy individual needs and salve jealousies. Sample of 213 denunciations, 37% from not political belief, but from private conflicts.
Pervasive fear everywhere. Among Jews, 1/3 feared arrest, 1/2 in small towns, but only 3% of non_Jews in Berlins.
Book culminates in the Night of the Long Knives, real takeaway from me was how uncertain the death toll was.
After the Night of Long Knives, no government recalled their ambassador or filed a protest, the populace did not rise in revolt.
German law forbade cruelty to animals, happiest groups in Germany were horses and dogs.
I once rear that you should always be careful when a biographer likes his/her subject a bit too much. This quote maybe went a little bit too far: "Dodd proved to be exactly what Roosevelt had wanted, a lone beacon of American freedom and hope in a land of gathering darkness."...more
Feels like I was one of the last people on Earth to read this Orwell classic. I was never assigned it in high school or elsewhere for required readingFeels like I was one of the last people on Earth to read this Orwell classic. I was never assigned it in high school or elsewhere for required reading and it always felt like one of those books that I never had to read because I knew too much about the story for it to be enjoyable. (Interestingly enough when I was reading some background on the book I discovered that there was a major effort three counties over to ban this book – if you knew Jackson County, Florida, you might think that was a lot more interesting.) I was wrong; the book was well worth the time. I knew the famous quotes well enough going in, but they are still awesome to read as part of the narrative flow. Certainly the book has a lot more relevance given today’s state of affairs, but I can’t imagine that its lessons would ever become irrelevant.
Many terrifically wonderful aspects of the book and one can obviously go on forever about the various themes presented. One theme that particularly struck a chord with me was the theme of understanding “true history” rather than the one presented to us. As I discussed with a friend, I think too often the version of history we learn is influenced more by who one’s biographer is than the real historical truth. For instance, I love me some Harry S., but I think that to some extent the current love many give him is motivated more by McCullough’s brilliance than Truman’s. Anyway, I think the point is that it matters who invented the airplane for a whole bunch of reasons.
The only real criticism I might make about the book is that with this and “Animal Farm,” Orwell seems like a bit of a Johnny One Note. As such, I think I enjoyed “Animal Farm” a bit more in that I thought the plot was a little better developed. The plot of this book, while still interesting, was a bit closer to a thinly veiled essay on Orwell’s principles. This book is still pretty amazing, though; any real criticism would be a bit sacrilegious.
I chose to read this novel for a variety of reasons. For many years now, I have heard of the brilliance of this book. This book has been billed as theI chose to read this novel for a variety of reasons. For many years now, I have heard of the brilliance of this book. This book has been billed as the “best work of fiction of the last 30 years” by the NY Times and has also been placed within the top 10 of various lists of best fiction of the 20th Century. With praise like that, it is almost impossible not to disappoint, but for a lot of reasons, I though this book was very much a four-star book instead of a five-star book.
The story concerns Sethe, an escaped slave living in Ohio after the Civil War. As one can imagine, she has suffered quite a bit and her body bears the marks of rape, torture, etc. More than the physical abuse she has suffered, though, she is haunted by her memories. In the course of learning about all sorts of brutal things in this book, we learn that Sethe killed her two-year-old daughter, Beloved, rather that risking the child’s return to the plantation in Kentucky from which she escaped. The bad thing is, though, Beloved has come back, and it is pretty hard for Sethe to move on with the incarnation of her deceased daughter living in the house.
Make no mistake, I thought the novel was very good and it is likely one that will stay with me for an incredibly long time. To rate something in the top 10 of the 20th Century, though, I think I expected a bit more.
The motif of slavery and the scars that Sethe and others have suffered as a result of slavery are certainly not lost on me. Sadly, I think a lot of people forget that reality of slavery and the abject misery and suffering caused by the most peculiar and evil institution. Whether it is because I live in the South or for whatever reason, I didn’t need the shocking scenes set forth in this novel to let me know how damaging slavery was for all involved, and how much damage the institution still causes today.
Whatever can be said about the plot, little criticism can be lobbed at Morrison’s style and ability. I think this book is as close to any Faulkner, Conrad, Joyce, etc. that I have ever read. The way various pieces to the larger puzzle are dropped throughout the text, often causing me to stop and say, wait, did she really just say what I think she said, is incredible. If you are bothered by scenes of violence (and this book, like the institution of slavery itself, was more violent that anything I have ever read and any movie I have ever seen), this book is not for you.
All in all, an impressive work that I am glad I tackled. I don’t know whether it is quite worth the high praise it receives, but there is no doubt that it is truly a very special book.
I was required to read this out-of-print masterpiece for a class in my final semester of law school entitled, “Law and Literature.” The class was a geI was required to read this out-of-print masterpiece for a class in my final semester of law school entitled, “Law and Literature.” The class was a general survey as to the 20th Century with each book representing a particular time frame. This book quote obviously represented the period of World War I.
The French Army is ordered to take a small hill called “the Pimple,” but fails and suffers heavy casualties. Believing that his men are in mutiny, a muckety-muck orders a commander to fire on his men, which he refuses. A court martial is held where each of the four attacking sections are to send one man to face the charges. As you might imagine, there is really not much of a defense with the court martial refusing to consider defense witnesses or to allow testimony of past bravery.
I distinctly remember the more interesting elements of the novel being the manner in which each regiment selected a representative and the Kangaroo Court nature of the court martial. I know this book was designed to teach us rather lofty ideals of justice and the sometimes absurdity of following orders, but mainly it just reinforced a belief I already had that war is a pretty awful thing. ...more
I recently re-read this book for the second time and I really enjoyed it. My favorite aspect of this book is that it is applicable to so much more thaI recently re-read this book for the second time and I really enjoyed it. My favorite aspect of this book is that it is applicable to so much more than war. Most directly, I am thinking about how both Coach Bobby Bowden and Coach Steven Orr Spurrier are both disciples. (Don’t turn the ball over, be deceptive, be prepared, stay organized, etc.) Most of the principles set forth in this book have universal application and should be periodically consulted by more than just those fighting the conventional definition of “wars.” ...more
Story of the events leading up to the end of the American Civil War and the decisions made by those on both sides that would bring the country back toStory of the events leading up to the end of the American Civil War and the decisions made by those on both sides that would bring the country back together again. I learned from this book that history is not inevitable, it takes good people making good decisions, for good things to happen....more
Story of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II. After helping in the delivery of the atom bomb, this ship was sunk by a Japanese subStory of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis during World War II. After helping in the delivery of the atom bomb, this ship was sunk by a Japanese submarine in the Pacific. Thousands perished through the heat, water deprivation, sharks, etc., as the military brass seemed to have forgotten about the ship. The survivors were miracuously rescued, but the ship's Captain would eventually commit suicide years later after being court-martialed....more
One of the finest historical biographies I have ever read. This sweeping biography details the life of President John Adams, whose very length of lifeOne of the finest historical biographies I have ever read. This sweeping biography details the life of President John Adams, whose very length of life, allowed him to play such an essential role in the formative years of this country. Some of the more memorable elements of the book concerned his relationships with his wife, Abigal, and his on and off friendship with Thomas Jefferson. Some critics point to this book, however, as an example of McCullough being a biographer who too readily falls in love with his subjects and too readily subsribes to the "good man" theory of American history....more
Inside story, with unparalled access by Bob Woodward, of the run up to the Iraq War in 2003 and the decisions made by the Bush Administration. I learnInside story, with unparalled access by Bob Woodward, of the run up to the Iraq War in 2003 and the decisions made by the Bush Administration. I learned from this book that in the eyes of the Bush Administration, the invasion of Iraq and its connection to the War on Terror were inevitable. ...more
Falling in love with Spanish women and death are two pretty decent themes. Young American, Robert Jordan, is fighting for the anti-fascists during theFalling in love with Spanish women and death are two pretty decent themes. Young American, Robert Jordan, is fighting for the anti-fascists during the Spanish Civil War and is supposed to blow up a bridge. War, especially civil war, is pretty darn brutal.
Like it or not, some of the greatest passages ever written are contained within:
If we win here we will win everywhere. The world is a fine place and worth fighting for and I hate very much to leave it.
There's no one thing that's true. It's all true.
Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today. It's been that way all this year. It's been that way so many times. All of war is that way.
That tomorrow should come and that I should be there. ...more
Tremendous account of the five Marines and one Navy Corpsman who would eventually be made famous by the famous flag-raising photograph. John Bradley (Tremendous account of the five Marines and one Navy Corpsman who would eventually be made famous by the famous flag-raising photograph. John Bradley (a Navy corpsman, and the author's father), Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes, Mike Strank, Harlon Block, and Franklin Sousley, all very different, but all linked in history. The more memorable elements in the book, however, are about the tremendous carnage and loss of life that occurred at the Battle of Iwo Jima. ...more
Story of Sherman's March to the Sea told from a variety of perspectives. Story of cruelty and destruction, yet hope in the wake of tremendous destructStory of Sherman's March to the Sea told from a variety of perspectives. Story of cruelty and destruction, yet hope in the wake of tremendous destruction.
I learned from this book why some in the Peach State view General Sherman as a war criminal....more