Well written with a compelling narrative. At times philosophically heavy and hard to chew but in a good way.
However, the narrative is no longer as enWell written with a compelling narrative. At times philosophically heavy and hard to chew but in a good way.
However, the narrative is no longer as enticing because many forms of art have explored this theme in the past few decades rendering, in my view, the work less potent. Films such as Minority Report, Equilibrium, and Gattaca have visually captured this "futuristic" reality that Orwell conceived of and in turn it's very power, the power of a shockingly new but believable reality becomes weak and feeble from mere exposure; as a reader I felt desensitized.
Some of my favorite quotes below:
"Throughout recorded time, and probably since the end of the Neolithic Age, there have been three kinds of people in the world, the High, the Middle, and the Low. But the essential structure of society has never altered. The aims of these three groups are entirely irreconcilable" (152).
"But in a physical sense war involves very small numbers of people, mostly highly trained specialists, and causes comparatively few casualties. the fighting, when there is any, takes place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at" (153). - modern war has changed; and just like the British in the Revolutionary war, we can not afford to mis-represent it, mis-understand it or our wrong thinking will take us to wrong conclusions.
"Secondly, in a material sense, there is no longer, anything to fight about" (154).
"The primary aim of modern warfare is to use up the products of the machine without raising the general standard of living. Ever since the end of the nineteenth century, the problem of what to do with the surplus of consumption goods has been latent in industrial society" (155).
"The essential act of war is destruction, no necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor" (157).
"While wars could be won or lost, no ruling class could be completely irresponsible. but when war becomes literally continuous, it also ceases to be dangerous" (163).
"The essence of oligarchical rule is not father to son inheritance, but the persistence of a certain world view and a certain way of life, imposed by the dead upon the living" (173).
I didn't finish this book. It started out entertaining enough with intriguing characters and a rich historical backdrop. The writing is good. As the bI didn't finish this book. It started out entertaining enough with intriguing characters and a rich historical backdrop. The writing is good. As the book continued though- I lost interest in the characters and all that kept me reading was the historical content. I finally concluded I could get that more efficiently from a history book. Simple and lacking characterization, the book is UN-fun.
Here's some notable quotes:
"How do you fight an enemy who fights from neither enmity nor anger, but in submission to orders from superiors, without protest and without conscience?" (pg 30).
"With the first rain, the puddles along the streams' beds would stir and stretch and join hands, rising slowly" (pg 69)
"How was it possible to imagine that one could grant freedom by imposing subjugation? that one could open a cage by pushing it inside a bigger cage? How could any section of people hope to achieve freedom where the entirety of a populace was held in subjugation?" (pg 189)
This is the first book I've read that deals primarily with the inner workings of foreign policy. It has opened my eyes up to how media is used by poliThis is the first book I've read that deals primarily with the inner workings of foreign policy. It has opened my eyes up to how media is used by politicians to shape public opinion and how clandestine our nation's leaders can be. As for our relationship with China, I think this is a book all should read because this is a relationship that will only become more important as the future unfolds. Below is my completely personally biased ranking on the presidents covered regarding their foreign policy with China:
1. Reagan (is #1 mostly for a few times he had the balls to do what he wanted, unlike any of the other presidents (excepting Nixon) who were controlled by previous policies and advisers.
2. Nixon (While I abhor his policies and rationale, he knew how to wield power and make things happen politically more than most of the later presidents that would deal with China. Somehow I admire this more than puppets who are blown about by whomever).
3. Ford (I don't remember much about him; he mostly just went along with what Nixon had been doing).
The Three Biggest Losers
4. Carter (the fact that he's hailed for his humanitarian efforts during his presidency throughout the world lands Carter in the bottom three. Per official documents, Carter dropped all of his ethical principles in dealing with China making him a big fat hypocrite. Don't flout your humanitarian ideals when you gave it up secretly in dealing with China please).
3. Bush (I don't like his presidential style for one- Bush places personal relationship as the foundation for his dealing with China. While not a bad quality; its not very balanced and doesn't yield effective results, especially when your "friends" are using you. Bush just kinda seemed like a putz to me).
4. Clinton (I didn't except to like Clinton's presidency the least but here he is. As a governor, he really didn't have enough experience, which I am now seeing as really important for future presidential candidates. He pretty much waxed eloquently about how our relationship with China should be; much like an idealistic college student. But when faced with challenges Clinton did not rise to the occasion rather became the king of political flip-flops and pulling them off by well timed and eloquent PR events and speeches).
Below are some important quotes and why I think they are important:
Regarding our relationship with China and policy reversals: "Procurement won out over idealism" (240).
On China's MFN status (Most Favored Nation - tied to abilitiy to trade with other nations): "The was one China issue in Washington that Triplett avoided. He steered clear of the annual campaigns to revoke or restrict China's most-favored-nation trade benefits. He often argued that for those opposed to the China's Communist regime, MFN was a losing issue, because the power of the U.S. corporations would always hold sway in Congress. (It is worth noting that in this respect, too, Triplett's position ran parallel to that of Taiwan. The Taipei government never sought to curb China's MFN benefits, because many Taiwan-based companies were running factories in mainland China, earning handsome profits by exporting their products to the United States" (244). This quote is interesting because it shows how tangled up foreign policy can get; there are many factors influencing it. It is important to understand this reality because presidents and people alike have often proposed policies that are too far reaching in their ideals and can never be enforced (Clinton's proposal of linking MFN status to China's advancement of human rights). While human rights are important (and should be advanced), it causes more damage when impossible standards are set and then reversed and lied about. We must understand the system within which we are working before we can best assess how to affect change.
Regarding China's offical view on Tinanmen Square: "The actions in Tiananmen Square were a good thing. We do not regard them as a tragedy...Chinese leaders had tirelessly pressed the theme that political liberalization leads to chaos (per Soviet Union collapse). Although Baker didn't realize it at the time, Chinese security officals had resorted to old-fashioned thuggery to make sure the secretary and his aides didn't see or talk with anyone in China who might give them a different point of view" (251). Living in Taiwan, close to China, has made the politics of our foreign policy hit much closer to home. For as much as China opens up economically and even liberalizes (perhaps), the mindset of the country is fundamentally different from ours. It is a country built on communist ideals; these ideals irrevocably change a people- whether they adhere to them or not. I would argue this for Eastern Europe as well even post Soviet collapse. Once again, this reality must be ever present as we deal with China and other nations. I don't believe in cutting China off internationally, but I do believe we must understand where they come from and who they are in order to effectively negotiate with them and not delude ourselves.
Another great read in line with Malcolm Gladwell that uses scientific approach and logical thought to help make sense of the world and trends. It wasAnother great read in line with Malcolm Gladwell that uses scientific approach and logical thought to help make sense of the world and trends. It was interesting though that a few of the studies in this book were also mentioned in Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers", but both authors drew different conclusions from the statistics- I guess a warning that even these books are merely guides on how one can choose to think and not concrete conclusions. Funny- that's all we want sometimes as humans; something or someone to make it all make sense for us.
Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life. The conventional wisdom is often wrong. Dramatic effects often have distant, even subtle causes. Experts use their informational advantage to serve their own purpose.
"Cheating is a primordial act: getting more for less." (21). - I just listened to An America Life that delves into the market crash last year and certain companies that were not only hedge betting but creating probable investment failures in order to collect on them (foreseeing the impending doom so to speak). Are people by nature honest? Sometimes, but it depends on the the conditions surrounding them.
"The supreme court gave voice to what the mothers in Romania and Scandinavia- and elsewhere- had long known: when a woman does not want to have a child, she usually has a good reason. She may be unmarried or in a bad marriage. She may consider herself too poor to raise a child. She may think her life is too unstable or unhappy, or she may think that her drinking or drug use will damage the baby's health. She may believe that she is too young or hadn't yet received enough education. she may want a child badly but a a few years, not now. For any of a hundred reasons, she may feel that she cannot provide a home environment that is conducive to raising a healthy and productive child" (126). - There is a strong social incentive here to consider abortion based on, I believe, true and a rather insightful look into a women's psyche and nurturing instinct.
"Emotion is the enemy of rational argument" (134).
"Risks that you control are much less a source of outrage than risks that are out of your control" (136).
"There was, however, one group of students in Chicago who did see a dramatic change: those who entered a technical school or career academy. These students performed substantially better than they did in their old academic setting and graduated at a much higher rate than their past performance would have predicted. So it did help prepare a small segment of otherwise struggling students for solid careers by giving them practical skills" (145). - an interesting find considering the controversy that can surround vocational schooling." (145)
"To overgeneralize a bit, the first list describes tings that parents are; the second list describes things that parents do. Parents who are well educated, successful, and healthy tend to have children who test well in school; but it doesn't seem to much matter whether a child is trotted off to museums or spanked or sent to Head Start of frequently read to or plopped in front of the television. For parents, and parenting experts, who are obsessed with child-rearing technique, this may be sobering news. The reality is that technique looks to be highly overrated. But this is not to say that parents don't mater. Plainly, they matter a great deal. Her is the conundrum: by the time most people pick up a parenting book, it is far too late. Most of the things that matter were decided long ago- who you are, whom you married, what kindof life you lead. IF you are smart, hardworking, well educated, well paid, and married to someone equally fortunate, then your children are more likely to succeed. But it isn't a matter of what you do as a parent; it's who you are." (161)
"What kind of parent is most likely to give a child a distinctively black name? The data offer a clear answer; an unmarried, low income, undereducated teenage mother form a black neighborhood who has distinctively black name herself. In Fryer's view, giving a child a super black name is a black parent's signal of solidarity with the community" (168).
"But they are all trying to signal something with a name, whether the name is Winner or Loser, Madison or Amber. What the California names data suggest is that an overwhelming number of parents use a name to signal their own expectations of how successful their children will be." (188). ...more
Reading Willa is walking backwards to a brief moment in time that you can almost taste, that you can almost remember; a time whose remnants still rollReading Willa is walking backwards to a brief moment in time that you can almost taste, that you can almost remember; a time whose remnants still roll across our vision before tumbling out of sight, soon to be lost completely to those who follow. The west.
Like a pinprick flashed a brief moment in our history when European immigrants were arriving to survive or die, carving out a period of history on an indifferent land that changed the people who learned to live on it.
"My Antonia" tells the story of this relationship to the land simply, without frills. The book reads like a view that stretches out long and lonely, yet arresting. Lives are lived and hard times are endured, or not. I found it took me a bit to settle into the reading- it's not fast paced or thrilling, yet this in itself helps hold the very nature of the book to its honest roots. I'm glad I read it but it took a little perseverance; fitting perhaps.
Below my favorite quotes:
There was nothing but land: not a country at all, but the material out of which countries are made.
The earth was warm under me, and warm as I crumbled it through my fingers.
I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and I did not want to be anything more.
At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.
All day the storm went on. The snow did not fall this time, it simply spilled out of heaven, like thousands of featherbeds being emptied.
I knew that I should never be a scholar. I could never lose myself for long among impersonal things. Mental excitement was apt to send me with a rush back to my own naked land and the figures scattered upon it. While I was in the very act of yearning toward the new forms that Cleric brought up before me, my mind plunged away from me, and I suddenly found myself thinking of the places and people of my own infinitesimal past. They stood out strengthened and simplified now, like the image of the plough against the sun.
I had the sense of coming home to myself, and of having found out what a little circle man's experience is. ...more
I read up to page 117 and stopped. I actually found a review that precisely says what I think about this book so i'm going to paste it below; becauseI read up to page 117 and stopped. I actually found a review that precisely says what I think about this book so i'm going to paste it below; because honestly, it's not worth my time writing my own review.
"The point of the satire seems to be that these competitive reality shows are obviously highly engineered. The problem is, that point is so obvious that it's hard to be terribly interested in such an easy target, presented in such an easy fashion.
Chart Top is bloated with a variety of other subplots and contestants, who all fall into Calvin's categories of "Mingers, Clingers, and Blingers," and good lord do the characters ever repeat that phrase as if it were hilarious, every single time.
The contestants represent all the range of ego, delusion, anorexia, pathos, and questionable talent that you'd expect from the average reality show. The Prince of Wales is one of them, a pawn in a bet between Calvin and his soon-to-be-ex-wife to see if he can truly manipulate the audience into choosing his preferred winner.
The Prince is presumably a caricature of the current holder of that title, but while I'm no Brit, and no royal watcher, the portrait didn't resonate at all. Chart Throb's royal is a goofy, eager-to-please idealist devoid of any wit and intelligence who calls himself "muggins." If that's how Charles appears in the UK press, I'd join those wanting to vote to overthrow the monarchy.
Bloated and ultimately meaningless, Chart Throb is on par with the kind of entertainment it's attempting to skewer."
At 400 pages it's a light read, irritating and completely unenjoyable, completely obvious in its intentions and execution,lacking in true wit and humour.
Mcnamara's honesty in looking back and objectively detailing how our country got into Vietnam is an account that everyone should read. He has an intelMcnamara's honesty in looking back and objectively detailing how our country got into Vietnam is an account that everyone should read. He has an intelligent and organized approach; along the way the reader learns much about how our government works and how decisions are made. It is a must read- also watch the documentary "Fog of War", excellent as well.
"The reward of suffering is experience"
"We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time" TS Elliot
"The beginnings of all things are small" (29).
"Was it true that the fall of South Vietnam would trigger the fall of all Southeast Asia? Would that constitute a grave threat to the West's security? What kind of war- conventional or guerrilla might develop? Could we win it with U.S. troops fighting alongside the South Vietnamese? Should we not know the answers to all these questions before deciding whether to commit troops?" (39).
"But was our judgement correct? Were the views of the problems we faced realities? ... How were we to know, when we were moving in an alien environment, alongside a people whose language and culture we did not understand and whose history, values, and political traditions differed profoundly from our own?" (43).
"Rather than increase military spending I told the editors we should assist those developing countries which genuinely need and request our help and which as an essential precondition are willing and able to help themselves. I noted the already dangerous gap between rich and poor nations was widening and that poverty within nation produced social and political tensions that often spilled over into conflict between nations. In sum, I believed that w would achieve greater security by transferring marginal dollar expenditures from defense to foreign aid." (312)...more
Interview with the Vampire is backed by solid, descriptive writing along with strong philosophical intrigue as the road into darkness, or the naked trInterview with the Vampire is backed by solid, descriptive writing along with strong philosophical intrigue as the road into darkness, or the naked truth, is exposed through Louis. I wish I had not watched the movie as it made the book a little more predictable (the book was far better).
"That is a much more mundane idea, said the vampire immediately. People who cease to believe in God or goodness altogether still believe in the devil. I don't know why. No, I do indeed know why. Evil is always possible. And goodness is eternally difficult" (13).
"The monument does not say that this or that man walked here. No, that what he felt in one time in one spot continues" (41).
"Because all aesthetic decisions are moral, really. . . What about the cliche of the artist who leaves his wife and children so he can paint. . . both were moral decisions. Both served a higher good, in the mind of the artist, the conflict lies between the morals of the artist and the morals of society, no between aesthetics and morality" (72).
"The ribbons crushed form the bonnet fell loose and I felt a palpable relief to see the childish dress, those ribbon, and something wonderfully comforting her arms, a small china doll" (206).
"Because if God doesn't exist we are the creatures of highest consciousness in the universe. we alone understand the passage of time and the value of every minute of human life. and what constitutes evil, real evil, is the taking of a single human life. whether a man would have died tomorrow or the day after or eventually. it doesn't matter. Because if God does not exist, this life, every second of it, is all we have" (237). ...more
The first half of this book was intriguing and entertaining. The philosophical arguments kept me engaged and thinking. However, as the book entered thThe first half of this book was intriguing and entertaining. The philosophical arguments kept me engaged and thinking. However, as the book entered the second half it got bogged down in free love new age shmalz and frankly, didn't have anything redeeming or insightful to add. I found Heinlein's context for his philosophies in the latter half of the book trite and trying. Sorry, Martian sex and water drinking for chapters at a time with new age spiritualism came off as tacky, uninspiring reading- i can turn to my local religious channel and get that kick if i need to. Not to mention Heinlein's annoyingly sexist. I didn't finish the book.
There were some great quotes though:
"Secrecy begets tyranny" (26).
"Three-fourths parasitic and the rest stupid fumbling-oh, Harshaw conceded that man, a social animal, could not avoid government, any more than and individual could escape bondage to his bowels. But simply because an evil was inescapable was no reason to term it "good" (95).
"By the time the Champion returned from Mars the principle of access to the sovereign was dead in fact, regardless of the nominal form of government, and the importance of a personage could be told by the layers of executive assistants, private secretaries, secretaries to private secretaries, press secretaries, receptionists, appointment clerks, et cetera- each held arbitrary veto over communication from the outside" (129).
"Jubal admitted that a long life had left him not understanding the basic problems of the Universe" (139).
"Religion is a solace to many and it is conceivable that some religion, somewhere, is ultimate truth, but being religious is often a form of conceit. the faith in which i was brought up assured me that i was better than other people; i was 'saved' they were 'damned'- we were in a state of grace and the rest were 'heathens' (240).
"But it pleased him that these women did not chatter, did not intrude into sober talk of men, but were quick with food and drink in warm hospitality. He had been shocked a Miriam's disrespect toward her master, then recognized it: a liberty permitted cats and favorite children in the privacy of the home" (214). ...more
This book had moments of magic; the kind that makes you young again, dreaming of adventure where life on the high seas as a pirate or living in the SwThis book had moments of magic; the kind that makes you young again, dreaming of adventure where life on the high seas as a pirate or living in the Swiss Family Robinson tree house is real and vivid- perfect in only the way a young child can dream it. However, once past the first part the book lagged for me; I actually found it a chore to finish. Stevenson does a good job of building up suspense in the beginning, giving the reader only a little information at a time like bait. But once the deceptions, sword fights, and shipwreck are accomplished, the writing drags on while David Balfour, the protagonist, spends the rest of the book sloshing over the Scottish highlands. A reader knows the thrill of good adventure reading when he/she reads it- hence why this book was such a disappointment to me, because it had moments of enthralling adventure but became muted and dull as the pages turned. Sure it's written well, but that's not enough- it all has to come together. Too bad- Kidnapped is like going to Sonic for a Lemon-Lime Aid and getting an over carbonated Sprite.
A few fun quotes I enjoyed:
"I make bold to say that ye would keep your breath to cool your porridge" - hmmm dawg not that's a good diss.
"The whole world now heaved giddily up, and now rushed giddily downward; confounded, that it took me a long while, chasing my thoughts up and down, and ever stunned again by a fresh stab of pain, to realize that I must by lying somewhere bound in the belly of that unlucky ship" - a perfect rendering of sea-sickness!...more
River Town is an intimate look at two years in the heart of China from the eyes of a peace corp worker teaching English. By the end of the book you knRiver Town is an intimate look at two years in the heart of China from the eyes of a peace corp worker teaching English. By the end of the book you know Peter, who know Fuling (the river town), and you know its people. I grew as did my understanding of the Chinese mentality and their culture; an emerging nation built upon its past and communism, and opening up to democracy to create a whole new dynamic. Below are some of the quotes I found most meaningful.
"The peasants were agressive salespeople, shouting and shoving their wares in our faces. By the third stop, I imagined the coming waters inundating the tourist walkways and their stalls, and I thought: Good. This was how I sometimes felt on bad days in Fuling, when there was a hassle on the docks and I became a sort of Chinese Noah" (Living abroad in third world situations can wear on oneself, and I have often identified with this feeling of frustation; the way he writes about it makes me laugh with understanding)
"No land is wasted, and nothing is rushed or delayed; everything has its season, and every season rests on the simple work that the peasants do with their hands. . . Human history sits heavily on the land, as it so often does in China" (So much of what has formed "Eastern culture" and seperated it from western thought is built upon the land; the experiences the people have had with the land for thousands of years)
"She smiled as she spoke, but it was the Chinese smile tha served as a mask against deeper feelings. Those smiles could hide many emotions . . . When people smiled like that, it was as if all of the emotion was wound tightly and displaced; sometimes you caught a glimpse of it in the eyes, or at the corner of a mouth" (Living in Taiwan I daily witness the ability of the people here to control their emotions; life is lived in measures)
"For the people in Fuling, the sense of self seemed largely external; you were identified by the way that others viewed you. That had always been the goal of Confuciianism, which defined the individual's place strictly in relation to the people around her: she was somebody's daughter, somebody elses wife, and each role had specific obligations. This was an excellent way to preserve social harmony, but once social harmony was broken the lack of self-identity made it difficult ot put things back together again" (This quote has many implications for understanding a menality and social structure so different from our own in the West)
"Teacher Kong is not particularly worried. Instead, he is calm for the same reason that so many other Chinese are strangely placid in the midst of changes that seem overwhelming to outsiders. Quite simply, he has seen far worse. . . Teacher Kong had an idealistic streak- faith that the system would work itself out eventually, and he believed that it required a certain amount of forgiveness, patience, and loyalty form poeple like themselves. His faith wasn't so much specifically in Party theory as in the notion that people like them could, and should, contribute to society despite its flaws. It was in some ways a democratic line of thought, or at least a hopeful longing to find democracy buried somewhere within the corruption of the currenty system. He simply couldn't bear the thought of entirely refusing to participate" (Often we feel the need to fight for the "democratic freedom" of others failing to first understand the issue from their perspective; for many Chinese- life is vastly improved from what it was during the cultural revolution and the communist party has been there through it all- the bad and even improved times) ...more
A great read... I don't often read fantasy (my favorites are harry potter, lord of the rings, and narnia)... but this one is right up there. Great chaA great read... I don't often read fantasy (my favorites are harry potter, lord of the rings, and narnia)... but this one is right up there. Great characterization and plot, surprises, and well written. I highly recommend it!...more
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is popcorn for intelligent people; a fun read- perhaps along the lines of a sexy, updated John Grisham. The Washingt"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is popcorn for intelligent people; a fun read- perhaps along the lines of a sexy, updated John Grisham. The Washington Post touts: "Wildly suspenseful... an intelligent, ingeniously plotted, utterly engrossing thriller." My take on the book results in a hearty recommendation although not quite as sensational of a push: "Suspenseful... an intelligently plotted mystery with a good dose of thrill thrown in to keep you reading". The first half of the book does a good job of developing the characters so that by the second half it becomes a read you don't want to put down. Although not a mind-blowing phenomena or deeply meaningful, you'll want to pass the popcorn. ...more
After reading Asimov's second book in his Foundation series, I don't think I will actively pursue finishing the series. The first book, Prelude to FouAfter reading Asimov's second book in his Foundation series, I don't think I will actively pursue finishing the series. The first book, Prelude to Foundation, was great- a thrilling beginning to what I thought would be an epic battle of human survival.
Unlike Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter where the reader is engaged and attached the the protagonists struggle to succeed, Foundation falls off because there are no core characters that stay around long enough to invest in. The epic battle remains, yet the book leaves Hari Seldon (the previous protagonist) and jumps so quickly through time to follow the foundation that as soon as one storyline climaxes and you start to care, it's 50 years later with a new crisis to overcome and completely new characters. Too much time travel leaves leaves Foundation a dull read.
Here are some notable thoughts/quotes I encountered:
"Lord Dorwin thought the way to be a good archaeologist was to read all the books on the the subject- written by men who were dead for centuries... Throughout you have invariably relied on authority or on the past- never on yourselves. It's a worship of the past. It's a deterioration - a stagnation!... At best, he might indicate the problem, but if ever there is to be a solution we must work it out ourselves." - Bam! I'm finding that on an individual basis of intellectual growth that past works only provide a companion or guide to our own experiences. If we aren't out there- figuring out the world for ourselves- we are a useless collection of superficial knowledge. You can't just read, you have to read and live (and living doesn't mean just going to work everyday; you have to constantly be putting yourself in new situations, growing and changing- that's where humanity and the world reveal themselves.
"The fall of the empire, gentlemen, is a massive thing, however, and not easily fought. It is dictated by a rising bureaucracy, a receding initiative, a freezing of caste, a damning of curiosity" - ouch, watch out ye nations who are stagnant.