A much needed reminder that war is hell. I spend far too much time reading war books written at the 5,000 foot level. Books by generals, by people ana...moreA much needed reminder that war is hell. I spend far too much time reading war books written at the 5,000 foot level. Books by generals, by people analyzing battles, and books that take the opinion of the good war. This is not one of those books. This is a book written from the front lines of a costly battle that saw too much bloodshed. Dakota Meyer is the first living Marine in 38 years to receive the Medal of Honor. Dakota served as a massive badass in an attempt to save his squadmates. While doing so, he tells exactly how much ammo he expended, the orders he attempted to get through, and how he physically killed an enemy fighter with a rock. He tried to kill himself in PTSD. It isn't pretty.
War is hell. This book helps serve as a reminder.(less)
During World War Tw, Germany attempted to infect London with an army of spies to report back on everything from public sentiment, troop movements, and...moreDuring World War Tw, Germany attempted to infect London with an army of spies to report back on everything from public sentiment, troop movements, and the goings on of the House of Commons. For the entire war, they did just that. They reported on everything they saw, established vast networks of agents serving under them and reporting on movements on all coasts, finally tipping their German holders off to the precise location of the forthcoming Allied invasion in France in Pas de Calais on June 13th, 1944.
Amazingly, every German spy to land in the UK during World War Two was caught by the British. More amazingly, several of them were turned in one of the most ambitious counter-espionage plans ever. This was the Twenty Committee, or the XX Committee, or better yet, the Double Cross. Through MI5, the British turned these former German agents into UK superspies. Their mission: feed the Germans what they affectionately called Chicken Feed - small amounts of true, but useless, information that's surrounded by complete and utter bullshit.
Macintyre, like he did in Zigzag and Mincemeat, focuses on the individuals in the program. People like Juan Pujol García, otherwise known as Garbo, who created a network of 27 fake agents and managed to get fake messages up as far as Hitler insisting that the attack on Pas de Calais, an invasion that was to be larger in scale than the Normandy landings, was coming still coming three days after troops started coming ashore. He covers six main individuals, weaving a thread between them despite the fact that none of them ever met. There were also, amazingly, British carrier pigeons that pretended to be German.
One criticism of this book is that it would be highly advisable to read Zigzag and Mincemeat beforehand. Key figures are referenced merely in passing in Double Cross that have chapters, if not major sections, of previous books dedicated to them. Regardless of that fact, it is still a solid read and a must for anyone who wants to know how a group of individuals (and a substantial intelligence network standing both metaphorically and literally behind them) can help change the course of a war.
Had the Double Cross not succeeded, it is possible to imagine that D-Day would have been met with even fiercer opposition. Multiple infantry and Panzer divisions were held up in northern France and and weren't moved for over a week. By that time, the Allies had firmly established their beach head and Axis forces were nowhere near as effective as they would have been had they been on the beaches from the start. And for that, they may have a group of turned spies to thank. Them and the pigeons.(less)
Do you want to know why NYC is shaped the way it is? Want to know how had a single man not did what he did, we could have potentially had built in mas...moreDo you want to know why NYC is shaped the way it is? Want to know how had a single man not did what he did, we could have potentially had built in mass transit on the LIE and pretty much every other highway?
Read this. Read this. Read this. Read and see why New York is as it is. (less)
Written by David Sedaris (not present), dedicated to Ira Glass (somewhere drunk backstage with his wife, having blown a .3 after demolishing a bottleo...moreWritten by David Sedaris (not present), dedicated to Ira Glass (somewhere drunk backstage with his wife, having blown a .3 after demolishing a bottleof McCallens 12), and signed by John Hodgman (who fell victim to Cthulu the next morning on the BQE)(less)
What if God exists, but is just as fucked up as your average New Yorker thinks he is? God, CEO of Heaven Inc (primary business - Xenon mining), is bor...moreWhat if God exists, but is just as fucked up as your average New Yorker thinks he is? God, CEO of Heaven Inc (primary business - Xenon mining), is bored and wants to retire and open an Asian-Fusion restaurant. Only problem is his other primary duty, Earth, needs to go away before he can do that. In his old age (14 billion years. Physics, kids. Physics) he's grown bored of the Earth and of humanity and now he's considering rightsizing the entire thing. So, all the angels that work in the human facing departments are being let go, but they're still more than welcome to stay on the company campus (A close competitor to the Googleplex in terms of awesome) once the world's been shut down.
Enter two angels at the Department of Miracles. Minor miracles only please, nothing that breaks any of the laws of the universe. Things like catching that bus or finding that $20 in your pants. One of them decides to pony up to God as an investor in his restaurant to gain the opportunity to call his shot on a prayer. Any prayer. The other accidentally inspired God to shut the whole thing down in the first place. Their mission: get a pair of socially awkward New Yorkers to kiss.
Simon Rich is Frank Rich's son and he's definitely inherited his father's way with words. He's no Butcher of Broadway, but he does put a sensible spin on a bored deity and parallels the joys of corporate life into a more heavenly sphere. (less)
This is the final aria of Puccini's "Madame Butterfly." It is here that the story ends - Cio-Cio San has committed ritualistic suicide...more"Con onor muore"
This is the final aria of Puccini's "Madame Butterfly." It is here that the story ends - Cio-Cio San has committed ritualistic suicide, Sorrow sits blindfolded, American flag in hand, and Pinkerton rushes in, too late to stop it all. Cut to black, applause applause applause, and the opera is over.
Only in David Rain's "The Heat Of The Sun," that's not at all where it ends. That's just the unwritten beginning. This is a book where working knowledge of an piece of the European opera canon (as of 2011 the 7th most frequently performed piece and home to the always beautiful "Humming Chorus") puts the reader in an advantageous position, but it's not required. Sorrow is no longer sorrow, nor is he Joy - he is Trouble. Trouble for everyone involved. Benjamin Franklin "Trouble" Pinkerton II is a ner-do-well. Having been kicked out of this, that, and the other boarding school, he winds up at Blaze, where Sharpless becomes his second in a boxing match, but unexpectedly becomes up his second in life.
The cast of characters of Butterfly are woven through a narrative that slinks its way from the Roaring 20s in New York City to Washington DC at the close of World War Two, bringing everyone's arc to a close, some in unexpected ways. The title itself comes to bear in an odd way that I won't spoil, but the Pinkerton men wind up doing more considerable damage to Cio-Cio San's memory once the book closes.
If you like opera, history, WW2, or any combination of the three, it's an advised read. (less)