“One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been”, begins The Power Broker. And it ends with a question. A bitter question in th...more “One must wait until the evening to see how splendid the day has been”, begins The Power Broker. And it ends with a question. A bitter question in the minds of Moses’ disciples - “RM was right as usual. Couldn’t people see what he has done? Why weren’t they grateful?” In-between there is the whole life of a complicated individual, his highs and lows in terms of morals, achievement, power, reputation, creativeness. An individual so influential that his personal/professional ventures are intertwined with those of a city. Robert Moses reigned New York for 44 years – from 1924 to 1968. The Power Broker came out in 1974 – a time when NYC was falling and failing on a massive scale. “Dirty, dangerous, and destitute. This was New York City in the 1970s. … Economically, stagnation coupled with inflation created a sense of malaise. The Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 delivered another blow to the U.S. economy, and brought the misery of long lines to buy gasoline. Conditions in Harlem and Bed-Stuy were horrendous, with abandoned buildings and widespread poverty. The subways were covered everywhere with ugly graffiti and they were unreliable. It seemed as if the entire infrastructure was in decay. Political corruption, sloppy accounting, and the cost of the war were killing the city. Times Square, the crossroads of the world, was seedy and sleazy. Pimps, hookers, and drug dealers owned the night there. Crime was rampant, and the police were powerless to stop it. Random killings by the “Son of Sam” made New Yorkers even more fearful. The parks were in decay, with litter and bare lawns, and it was home to muggers and rapists. When the proud City of New York had to beg the Federal Government for a financial bail-out, the President said no. The Daily News headline said it all: “Ford to City – Drop Dead”.
“The 1970s are regarded by some as New York's nadir. The city had become notorious the world over for high rates of crime and other social disorders.”, says Wikipedia.
… You know there is a ten year delay in the Soviet Union for the delivery of an automobile. And only one out of seven families in the Soviet Union own...more… You know there is a ten year delay in the Soviet Union for the delivery of an automobile. And only one out of seven families in the Soviet Union own automobiles. There is a 10 year wait, and you go through quite a process when you are ready to by, and then you put up the money in advance. This man laid down the money, and the fellow in charge said to him: Come back in 10 years and get your car. The man answered: Morning or afternoon?
(big pause for laughter)
And the fellow behind the counter said: Ten years from now, what difference does it make? And he said: Well, the plumber is coming in the morning.
Throughout this book, I was thinking of bits and pieces from my childhood under the Regime. I have to admit it was nice to hear of Sofia and Bulgaria (not so nice to hear of Georgi Dimitrov) being mentioned as we are so often left out of world history. At times though I was picturing the famous Thatcher - Reagan dance viewing it as the other extreme. Godless communism vs. ruthless capitalism. Stalin’s quote “When we hang the capitalists they will sell us the rope we use" sums it up perfectly.
A great little book that clarified lots of issues for me and made me even more aware of the current ulta-right tendencies. The attitude of some Bulgar...moreA great little book that clarified lots of issues for me and made me even more aware of the current ulta-right tendencies. The attitude of some Bulgarians towards Syrian refugees as well as the attitude of some Brits towards the "Bulgarian invasion" are just as alarming and troublesome as history suggests. Especially in a time of economic crises. Once again, remembering history may save us from repeating it. (less)
This is what happens when you read Sedaris. You start paying attention to your thoughts and reactions to mundane, little experiences. And he writes wi...moreThis is what happens when you read Sedaris. You start paying attention to your thoughts and reactions to mundane, little experiences. And he writes with such ease, he makes you think you can do it too. You don’t need big subjects or grand ideas. You don’t need cataclysms, heroism or much or a story plot. And that is refreshing. As Kalin Terziyski – a popular Bulgarian writer – put it “Ordinary life ought to be heavily advertised”. Through literature, the insignificant and trivial events in everyone’s life become valuable and noteworthy as in fact they are. They take up so much of our time anyway, they are universal and thus a part of the human condition. Of course the banal should be explored and glorified.
Interesting and of course well written. On the other hand, it is very particular in time and as opposed to Orwell's other works, it is outdated. Factu...moreInteresting and of course well written. On the other hand, it is very particular in time and as opposed to Orwell's other works, it is outdated. Factually that is. The bigger points are still there but they are nothing you already didn't know. (less)
The last episode of season one of House of Cards ends with Francis J. Underwood (FU) sitting at his desk in his cabinet conspiring with the audience...more The last episode of season one of House of Cards ends with Francis J. Underwood (FU) sitting at his desk in his cabinet conspiring with the audience in the style of Richard III, and on the table there is a book lying. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. IV by Robert A. Caro. For someone watching the show that is familiar with Lyndon Johnson’s bio, the parallels between him and the protagonist in House of Cards, played by Kevin Spacey, are obvious. Both FU and LBJ are savvy politicians and master strategist; both are obsessed with power, skilled at manipulation and ruthless in their approach (e.g. the infamous "Johnson treatment"); both men are aiming at the highest office in America and arguably – the world; both unbelievably smart and combinative, but most importantly – capable of passing bills through Congress.
The season of House of Cards ends in the tense moment where, after a series of hard scheming and morally (and legally) reproachful actions on behalf of FU, he is on the verge of becoming vice president. That is if an article exposing those actions doesn't come out first. In comparison, a sizable part of Passage of Power is dedicated to a piece of investigative journalism about LBJ’s money that was on its way to be published if it wasn't for the sudden assassination of Jack F. Kennedy that led to LBJ becoming the new president. Moreover, weeks after ascending to the presidency, he cleared his way from critical journalists in his typical manner - concealed transactions, blackmail, bulling.
Whether the book is suggestive of how the story in House of Cards would develop, we’ll have to wait and see.
As the show is gripping, provoking and revealing more than some would like to admit, so is the book. The Passage of Power is written with such immediacy, with so much skill, that one gets so involved and impatient regardless of their general familiarity with the events and their outcome. Gosh, I think to myself, here is another reason why I love this country. I mean the Anglo-Saxon tradition of writing about history in a fashion that compelling and humane.
Поръчах я през нета за подарък, междувременно я прочетох и честно казано ми стана неудобно да я подаря. Не е хейт по дифолт. Просто книгата има прекал...moreПоръчах я през нета за подарък, междувременно я прочетох и честно казано ми стана неудобно да я подаря. Не е хейт по дифолт. Просто книгата има прекалено много претенция, до която не успява да се изгидне. Безконцептуална ми е и не особено забавна. Хартията е хубава и рисунките са готини, но е някак претрупано и в крайна сметка не се е получило сполучливо. Според мен. (less)
Economy, health care reform, tax politics, gay rights, ecology, social security, Newt Gingrich, Murdoch, China, gun control, birth control, Syria, Nor...moreEconomy, health care reform, tax politics, gay rights, ecology, social security, Newt Gingrich, Murdoch, China, gun control, birth control, Syria, North Korea, Osama bin Laden compared to a Bond villain, even judge Sotomayor gets mentioned. It is like during the 8 Bush years everything stopped and Obama picked up from where Clinton left.
It is very rewarding to re-examine recent history and events I more or less remember and to share it today is symbolic. Taylor Branch, the author of The Clinton Tapes, got the Pulitzer Prize for history for his work on Martin Luther King and today Americans celebrate the 50th anniversary of the I Have a Dream speech.
To be honest when I picked up the The Clinton Tapes I was hoping to get an impartial account of Bill Clinton’s Presidency and I was surprised to learn in the course of the book that Clinton and Branch were old roommates. Clinton was already my favourite US president (or let’s say he is in my top 3) and I didn't need more convincing. After all he is the first US president I remember and I tend to romanticise a little. At the same time I didn't want to go to the other extreme and begin with Christopher Hitchens’s book on the Clintons. This one I’ll leave for desert.
The Clinton Tapes may be not what I have hoped for – independent, balanced and critical analysis, but it is engaging and I deem it factual. However not even terribly revealing, and I understand it couldn't be, I got more from it than let’s say Mr Clinton’s own autobiography – My Life – which I am almost through with. I wish presidential autobiographies were more like what I imagine rock stars’ autobiographies are – less diplomatic, with a little more emotion, passion and edge. Something like “…and I told the motherfucker to piss off and I stand by my words.”
What I passionately recommend is getting the audio version. Byrne reads it himself. When an author does that with his own work it is usually an advant...moreWhat I passionately recommend is getting the audio version. Byrne reads it himself. When an author does that with his own work it is usually an advantage as he stresses where he intended to be stress making it in a way more authentic. Not only that. He put all those background sounds – traffic and people, original music (of course), noises that set the right mood. They are not excessive and don’t overwhelm. Just the proper amount to get the atmosphere and keep your attention. They prevent your mind from floating away as it usually happens when the speaker’s voice is monotonous and dull or when the recipient is not particularly used to this type of medium. (I’ve listened to such an amount of audiobooks that I even find radiolab too dynamic and chaotic, though still wonderful.) Still, if you are not a fan of audiobooks I urge you to trust a man who has received a Grammy award and an Oscar and a Golden Globe for film music. Good hands to fall into.
So many people died the last couple of years, one might well feel a whole generation of masterminds has been wiped out. Christopher Hitchens was so hu...moreSo many people died the last couple of years, one might well feel a whole generation of masterminds has been wiped out. Christopher Hitchens was so huge in the end of his life that the question where were you when you heard the news? is almost appropriate. Well, I was sitting in His apartment in Cologne with a couple of guys and waiting for more people to show up for a small gathering. He came back from work and said that some famous writer died today. He had been reading obituaries and quotations on His phone and thought he was pretty cool. He was excited about the discovery and annoyed He could not remember the name. “Oh no, is it Christopher Hitchens?”, I said.“ Yeah, how did you know?” To acknowledge the occasion we did not pray – we cheered.
Ironically, ever since He is a big fan of Christopher and I.. I always had problems with him. To put it simply, I love the way he talks but I don’t always like what he says.