This one is a re-read for me. It had a deep impact on me in college. Its bleak portrayal of broken dreams probably helped mold my fever in getting thiThis one is a re-read for me. It had a deep impact on me in college. Its bleak portrayal of broken dreams probably helped mold my fever in getting things done. I wouldn’t want to be one of the walking dead, whether in a bar or not, who have given up on their dreams or are too scared to face them.
Harry Hope runs a dive bar in 1912. Certainly a place without hope as each bar patron tells their “pipe dream”; a twisted hope that all they have to do is to talk to an “old buddy” to get their job back. It’s these delusions that really keep the men in the bar. It’s not until Hickman “Hickey” shows up do they get jolted back to reality and face their demons. For that matter, so does Hickey. The story takes the saying "mañana is the busiest day of the week" to frightening proportions with only one of the men at the bar able to end their walking death. It’s not a story with a happy ending.
Favorite parts: “No one here has to worry about where they're going next; because there is no farther they can go. It's a great comfort to them. Although even here they keep up the appearances of life with a few harmless pipe dreams about their yesterdays and tomorrows, as you'll see for yourself if you're here long” p 30
“I was born condemned to be one of those who has to see all sides of a question. When you're damned like that, the questions multiply for you until in the end it's all questions and no answer. As history proves, to be a worldly success at anything, especially revolution, you have to wear blinders like a horse and see only straight in front of you. You have to see, too, that this is all black, and that is all white” P 35
“I meant save you from pipe dreams. I know now, from my experience, they're the things that really poison and ruin a guy's life and keep him from finding any peace. If you knew how free and contented I feel now. I'm like a new man. And the cure for them is so damned simple, once you have the nerve. Just the old dope of honesty is the best policy--honesty with yourself, I mean. Just stop lying about yourself and kidding yourself about tomorrows” P 84
“But now I've seen the light, it isn't my old kind of pity--the kind yours is. It isn't the kind that lets itself off easy by encouraging some poor guy to go on kidding himself with a lie--the kind that leaves the poor slob worse off because it makes him feel guiltier than ever--the kind that makes his lying hopes nag at him and reproach him until he's a rotten skunk in his own eyes. I know all about that kind of pity. I've had a bellyful of it in my time, and it's all wrong” P 86
“Ah, shut up, you yellow faker! Can't you face anything? Wouldn't I deserve the Chair, too, if I'd--It's worse if you kill someone and they have to go on living. I'd be glad of the Chair! It'd wipe it out! It'd square me with myself!” P 215 ...more
A world where the human race can no longer propagate, Theo, once an advisor to the Warden of England describes the aftermath of a dying race. It's beeA world where the human race can no longer propagate, Theo, once an advisor to the Warden of England describes the aftermath of a dying race. It's been 25 years since the last child was born and the world has learned to adjust to it's own extinction. It's a fascinating study of human nature.
There are two styles of writing, one from Theo's perspective, and the other from a third person omniscient. Theo's writing in his diary was very profound. Reminiscing about the end of humanity. It's waxing philosophic on our own mortality, but in this case, it is all of humanity. He can reflect on his own life and in doing so there are many moving passages about children, generations, ageing, and love.
There are problems in England dealing with the de-population. The old can no longer be cared for and are drowned on a massive scale known as the Quietus. Criminals are shipped to remote islands where anything goes. A small group called The Five Fishes seek to redress these ills, recruit Theo to speak to the Warden, now his former advisor. This relationship reveals a secret, one of their members is pregnant.
Theo's diary entries lessen as the book progresses and the narrator takes over. This is the part of the story where it becomes a bit more formulaic and more of the crime novel/cat and mouse game comes to a head.
This is the point where I was disappointed. I didn't feel the second half of the book matched the first. You have a science fiction type of book asking and examining deep questions about our humanity, and then it's just a cat and mouse game to find the pregnant woman. I felt more could have been done with that part of the story and I just felt let down. Overall, it was a great book, but the ending just let me down.
"The children’s books have been systematically removed from our libraries. Only on tape and records do we now hear the voices of children, only on film or on television programmes do we see the bright, moving images of the young. Some find them unbearable to watch but most feed on them as they might a drug."
"If from infancy you treat children as gods they are liable in adulthood to act as devils."
"Keeping things from the boy meant that I lived without siblings in an atmosphere of uncomprehended menace in which the three of us were moving inexorably forward to some unimagined disaster which, when it came, would be my fault. Children are always ready to believe that adult catastrophes are their fault."
"Why do I always have such rotten luck?” It seemed then to that twelve-year-old, as it seems now, an inadequate response to personal tragedy, and its banality influenced my attitude to my mother for the rest of my childhood. That was unjust and judgementat, but children are unjust and judgemental to their parents."
"It was then that I first heard the phrase reiterated by friends and neighbours who, in their unaccustomed black, I hardly knew: “You’ll have to be the man of the family now, Theo. Your mother will look to you.” I couldn’t then say what for nearly forty years I have known to be true. I don’t want anyone to look to me, not for protection, not for happiness, not for love, not for anything."
"For the last sixty years we have sycophantically pandered to the most ignorant, the most criminal and the most selfish section of society. Now, for the rest of our lives, we’re going to be spared the intrusive barbarism of the young, their noise, their pounding, repetitive, computer-produced so-called music, their violence, their egotism disguised as idealism."
"A failed marriage is the most humiliating confirmation of the transitory seduction of the flesh. Lovers can explore every line, every curve and hollow, of the beloved’s body, can together reach the height of inexpressible ecstasy; yet how little it matters when love or lust at last dies and we are left with disputed possessions, lawyers’ bills, the sad detritus of the lumber-room, when the house chosen, furnished, possessed with enthusiasm and hope has become a prison, when faces are set in lines of peevish resentment and bodies no longer desired are observed in all their imperfections with a dispassionate and disenchanted eye."
Lord, thou hast been our refuge: from one generation to another. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made: thou art God from everlasting, and world without end. Thou turnest man to destruction: again thou sayest, Come again, ye children of men. For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday: seeing that is past as a watch in the night.’" ...more
This book is about money. What can money do for you and what it can do TO you. It is a good stark look at poverty and the helpless. What if you just gThis book is about money. What can money do for you and what it can do TO you. It is a good stark look at poverty and the helpless. What if you just gave them money, would it improve their condition, or make it worse?
Eliot Rosewater is now the president of the Rosewater Foundation. A foundation that controls $87 million. An incident during World War II changes him forever and he decides to give his money to whoever asks for some. He also becomes obsessed with volunteer firefighters. Eventually everyone thinks he is crazy. There is an attempt to take away his money by another member of the Rosewater clan. Eliot's father is then forced to defend his son's "crazy" actions.
"Your devotion to volunteer fire departments is very sane, too, Eliot, for they are, when the alarm goes off, almost the only examples of enthusiastic unselfishness to be seen in this land. They rush to the rescue of any human being, and count not the cost. The most contemptible man in town, should his contemptible house catch fire, will see his enemies put the fire out. And, as he pokes through the ashes for the remains of his contemptible posessions, he will be comforted and pities by no less than the Fire Chief." Trout spread his hands. "There we have people treasuring people as people. It's extremely rare. So from this we must learn."
This book spends a great deal of time speaking about money.
"E pluribus unum is surely an ironic motto to inscribe on the currency of this Utopia gone bust, for every grotesquely rich American represents property, priviledges, and pleasures that have been denies the many. An even more instructive motto, in the light of history made by the Noah Rosewaters, might be: Grab much too much, or you'll get nothing at all."
"You gave up everything a man is supposed to want, just to help the little people, and the little people know it. God bless you, Mr. Rosewater."
There is a good commentary on how to teach people to make money.
"...people don't share things in this country. I think it's a heartless government that will let one baby be born owning a big piece of the country, the way I was born, and let another baby be born without owning anything. The least a government could do, it seems to me, is to divide things up fairly among the babies. Life is hard enough, without people having to worry themselves sick about _money_, too. There's plenty for everybody in this country, if we'll only _share_ more."
"And just what do you think that would do to incentive?"
"You mean fright about not getting enough to eat, about not being able to pay the doctor, about not being able to give your family nice clothes, a safe, cheerful, comfortable place to live, a decent education, and a few good times? You mean shame about not knowing where the Money River is?"
"The Money River, where the wealth of the nation flows. We were born on the banks of it -- and so were most of the mediocre people we grew up with, went to private schools with, sailed and played tennis with. We can slurp from that mighty river to our hearts' content. And we even take slurping lessons, so we can slurp more efficiently."
"From lawyers! From tax consultants! From customers' men! We're born close enough to the river to drown ourselves and the next ten generations in wealth, simply using dippers and buckets. But we still hire the experts to teach us the use of aqueducts, dams, reservoirs, siphons, bucket brigades, and the Archimedes' screw. And our teachers in turn become rich, and their children become buyers of lessons in slurping."
Know the basics of how stuff works, just don't get mired in the details:
Knowing the small details of a large system leaves a leaderLeadership Guliani
Know the basics of how stuff works, just don't get mired in the details:
Knowing the small details of a large system leaves a leader open to charges of micromanaging. But understanding how something works is not only a leader's responsibility; it also makes him or her better able to let people do their jobs. If they don't have to explain the basics of what they need and why they need it every time they request more funds or different resources, then they are freer to pursue strategies beyond simply spending what they're given. P. 46
Early decisive victories over things you can clearly control.
Whenever I start a small endeavor, I looked to have a clear, decisive victory as early as I could. It needn't have been a large initiative, and, in fact, was usually better if the problem was small enough so that it was easily understood and yielded an unambiguous solution. P.40
Never assume, always prepare
As my own career progressed, I realized that preparation--thus eliminating the need to make assumptions--was the single most important key to success. Leaders may possess brilliance, extraordinary vision, fate, even luck. Those help; but no one, no matter how gifted, can perform without careful preparation, thoughtful experiment, and determined follow-through. P. 52
Clear accountability, easily understood and traceable.
All enterprises benefit from increased accountability. Naturally, there are difficulties in the way agencies achieve it. A corporation might not want to share its internal performance numbers widely, lest people who leave that information to a competing firm. In corporate America, at the core of many recent high profile Business collapses was a failure of accountability throughout top management. There will be endless debate over the specifics of "what went wrong" at these companies. What they share in common, however, is a refusal at the top to accept resonsibility for mistakes. "I don't understand this or that accounting procedure" is not a valid excuse--it's the duty of a leader to understand. If a chief executive cannot understand his own enterprise, he must become better informed, or consider the very real possibility that the accounting technique really is too complicated and ought to be replaced by one that's more transparent. P.91
Fact based decision making is critical, but don't be a robot
Important, complicated decisions require both statistical analysis and intuition. Statistics can provide the necessary data, but unless you apply your own intuition, gathered from your own experience, you a just a computer spitting out formulas. P. 154
You are the executive, execute!
...the leader should go ahead and lead--not in an arrogant way, and not without abundant input from others. But the fact is, a leader who fails to act until every group is heard from, every concern addressed, every lawsuit resolvedis a leader who's abdicating his responsibility. P.164
Don't tolerate people who are just there to create selfish disruptions. If it is for the good of the whole, great, if not root it out.
However, there is a line between spirited discourse and hijacking an open meeting for selfish purposes.We had some contentious meetings, with yelling and screaming and demonstrating. One time, a group handcuffed themselves to chairs, and had to be removed. So from the beginning I established a rule: you can ask any question you want. I will let you complete your question. I will not interrupt you, no matter how angry and upset I get. In exchange, you have to listen to my answer respectfully, without interrupting. And if don't, you are first warned, then thrown out, because I won't let you disrupt the other 400 people there. P.246
Don't leave it up to the experts
Any good leader must develop a substantive base. No matter how talented your advisors and deputies, you have to attack challenges with as much a your own knowledge as possible. That does not mean a mayor must know more about disease than his health commissioner or more about the intricacies of municipal finance than his budget director. The head of a restaurant company might not be a master chef, and plenty of airline executives are not qualified pilots, let alone mechanics or baggage handlers. But a leader should have independently acquired understanding of the areas he oversees. Anybody who's going to take on a large organization must put time aside for deep study. P.290
Don't let emotions carry the day, but don't be afraid to show your feelings.
From my early childhood days, I had trained myself to control my emotions when others became emotional. My father had always told me to remain calm in a crisis. As others around me got excited, he said, staying deliberately calm would help me figure out the right answers. When a crisis occurred, it was my job to lead people t rough it. That certainly didn't mean I didn't have feelings. Of course I did. And it didn't mean I couldn't show what I was feeling. Of course I could.Leaders are human, and it actually helps the people you lead to realize that. P. 361 ...more
Surreal short stories laden with emotional content, it’s the need to connect with others. It is an emotional loss as well as a physical loss; even conSurreal short stories laden with emotional content, it’s the need to connect with others. It is an emotional loss as well as a physical loss; even connections with objects are desperately sought out. A woman holds vigil while her boyfriend devolves from knowing too much, a connection with a wrongly delivered bowl leads to an identity crisis, a woman deals with the loss of her father through desperate connections, a young boy’s special powers doesn’t help him find what he is looking for, all these stories are filled with the fantastic yet equally lost characters.
There are a variety of stories with some that pack a might punch while others fall flat. My favorites were The Rememberer, The Bowl, Quiet Please, Drunken Mimi, Fell This Girl, Loser, and The Healer. In all the stories there is something lost, but it isn’t always clear about what is lost and how to regain it.
I actually decided to read this after unlocking a small mystery. I remember listening to a story a number of years ago on NPR. I didn’t know the author or where I heard it. It was a year after my father had died and I really connected with the story as a result. Busy as I was, I never went back to check and see what story it was. It wasn’t until I began listening to This American Life Podcasts that I made the connection that it was from that show. I went back to the online archive to about the same time I think I heard it and there it was. The story was called Loser. It was about a boy who had the ability to find lost objects like a dowsing rod. His parents were lost at sea when he was very young. Even though he had this incredible power, in one case he found a kidnapped boy, he could never find his parents. I am very grateful for this grouping of surreal, fantastic, and visceral stories. ...more
This version of Gogol's Collected Tales includes his Ukranian and Petersburg Tales of which, now Tales can be complete without The Nose and The OvercoThis version of Gogol's Collected Tales includes his Ukranian and Petersburg Tales of which, now Tales can be complete without The Nose and The Overcoat (the story that Dostoyevsky's credits as the beginning of modern Russian Literature, "we all came from Gogol's Cloak"). If you have never read any Gogol, you need to read those two stories, it explains all his other stories. There is something about them a mystical quality along with folktales that all dovetails into criticism of human nature and politics. There are morality tales that damn Russian Beauracracy.
I first became fascinated with Gogol in College. He wasn't assigned reading for a literature class, but brought up during a 19th Century European History Class. The one thing I loved about that class was the literature references and how they defined and impacted the time. He focused on Gogol's Dead Souls which is a wonderful book that details the Russian character as Huckleberry Finn defines the American character. However, Dead Souls doesn't even touch his short stories. They are simply amazing and I read them, incredulous that someone could have that vivid of an imagination. I loved all these stories!
Gogol has the Devil pluck the moon from the sky, wrestle with his characters, and is tricked himself in one story. In others, fantastic images and hilarious incidents punctuate Russian life and exposes our own human nature. Our need to be recognized, to be important, to pull ourselves up by pushing others down, all combined in these wonderful and imaginative tales. I've always been a fan of Nathaniel Hawthorne, but Gogol's stories certain surpass him. What Hawthorne implies, Gogol implements, these are simply amazing stories.
"My God! My God! Why this misfortune? If I lacked an arm or a leg, it would still be better; if I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen--just take him and chuck him out the window!" p. 308 of the story The Nose
"But nothing in this world lasts long, and therefore joy, in the minute that follows the first, is less lively; in the third minute it becomes still weaker, and finally, it merges imperceptibly with one's usual state of mind, as a ring i the water, born of a stone's fall, finally merges with the smooth surface." p. 311 of The Nose
I imagined the story The Overcoat was part lesson, part ghost story that reminded me of the La Llorona. It's a class Russian tale that exposes how we treat our fellow man, corrupt and insensitive bureaucracy, and revenge.
"Let me be. Why do you offend me?" -- and in these penetrating words rang other words: "I am your brother." and the poor young man would bury his face in his hands, and many a time in his life he shuddered to see how much inhumanity there is in man, how much savage coarseness is concealed in refined, cultivated manners, and God! even in man the world regards as noble and honorable..." p. 386 from story The Overcoat
"Thus everything in holy Russia is infected with imitation, and each one mimics and apes his superior...His usual conversation with subordinates rang with strictness and consisted almost entirely of three phrases: "How dare you? Do you know with whom you are speaking? Do you realize who is standing before you?" p. 405 from story The Overcoat.
Fabric of the Cosmos sets upon the idea that what we se everyday is a veil, that there is a true reality that goes beyond our everyday perceptions. ThFabric of the Cosmos sets upon the idea that what we se everyday is a veil, that there is a true reality that goes beyond our everyday perceptions. The book starts out with very basic concepts that are easy to grasp and the heat gets turned up from there. There are some mind-bending questions asked, “Why does our memory only remember the past, why not things that are yet to happen?” Brian Greene attempts to explain these high-end concepts using real world examples (a la Star Wars and The Simpson).
The best example comes in the introduction where he gives the example of the rose. On its own we can appreciate its beauty, but using the knowledge of physics, we can be amazed at its existence so much more. That example demonstrates the passion of Brian Greene’s book, but it also reminded me of an episode of The Simpson where the teachers have gone on strike. One of the scientists is teaching a kindergarten class and is using a kids bubble popper. The kids want to play with it, but he retorts with something like, “You won’t appreciate the science of it as much as I do.”
I thought another example from the book is a good explanation of what it is like to read the book. Greene explains about space-time, in that, you are either taking up space or time. When you are resting, you are taking up space, when you are moving, you are taking up time. This kind of concept really blew my mind. I always like the concept of time travel. Scientists provided this theory by sending a plane around the world with an atomic clock to prove the point. When the plan landed the clock was one/one billionth of a second behind. It’s an interesting proof, but my first reaction was, “that’s it?”
I comprehended the first three-quarters of the book. While the book provides mind-blowing facts, you cannot discern them in everyday life, which is the point of the book. It's a fascinating history of physics told in laymen's terms. It’s fascinating to a point, but many of the concepts I couldn't fully comprehend. ...more
I love this book. I loved the relationship (what falling completely in love with someone feels like and the consequences of it.) I also liked how theI love this book. I loved the relationship (what falling completely in love with someone feels like and the consequences of it.) I also liked how the author played with the concepts of guilt particular to Germany after World War II. When the next generation had to deal with their parents actions as part of Nazi Germany.
Some great lines from the book:
"I know that I found it beautiful. But I cannot recapture its beauty." p.12
It was more as if she had withdrawn into her own body, and left it to itself and its own quiet rhythms, unbothered by any input from mind, oblivious to the outside world. It was the same obliviousness that weighed in her glance and her movements when she was pulling on her stockings. But then she was not awkward, she was slow-flowing, graceful, seductive--a seductiveness that had nothing to do with breasts and hips and legs but was an invitation to forget the world in the recesses of the body. p. 16
"Sometimes I had the feeling that all of us in his family were like pets to him. The dog you take for a walk, the cat you play with that curls up in your lap, purring, to be stroked--you can be fond of them, you can even need them to a certain extent, and nonetheless the whole thing--buying pet food cleaning up the cat box, and trips to the vet--is really too much. Your life is elsewhere. I wish that we, his family, had been his life." p 30
(SPOILER) "Hanna could neither read nor write.
That was why she had people read to her. That was why she had let me do all the writing and reading on our bicycle trip and why she had lost control that morning in the hotel when she found my note, realized I would assume she knew what it said, and was afraid she'd been exposed. That was why she had avoided being promoted by the streetcar company; as a conductor she could conceal her weakness, but it would have become obvious when she was being trained to become a driver. That was also why she had refused the promotion at Siemens and became a guard. That was why she had admitted to writing the report in order to escape a confrontation with an expert. Had she talked herself into a corner at the trial for the same reason? Because she couldn't read the daughter's book or the indictment, couldn't read see the openings that would allow here to build a defense, and thus could not prepare herself accordingly? Was that why she sent her chosen wards to Auschwitz? To silence them in case they had noticed something? And was that why she always chose the weak ones in the first place?" p 132
I had no one to point at. Certainly not my parents, because I had noting to accuse them of. The zeal for letting in the daylight, with which, as a member of the concerntration camps seminar, I had condemned my father to shame, had passed, and it embarrassed me. But what other people in my social environment had done, and their guilt, were in any case a lot less bad than what Hanna had done. I had to point to Hanna. But the finger I pointed at her turned back to me. I had loved here. Not only had I loved her, I had chosen here. I tried to tell myself that I had known nothing of what she had done when I chose her. I tried to talk myself into the state of innocence in which children love their parents. But love of our parents is the only love for which we are not responsible. p. 170