What is the best way to sum up this book? A load of crap. The idea that the Vietnam era was the last to "play war" is so categorically untrue that itWhat is the best way to sum up this book? A load of crap. The idea that the Vietnam era was the last to "play war" is so categorically untrue that it boarders on absurd. This book reads like yet another Baby Boomer insisting that his generation is the only one that matters. This book predates that other load of crap about the "Greatest Generation" written by another Boomer who finally realized that his parents weren't all that bad.
Anyway, Engelhardt goes through post-war culture, demonstrating how the earlier myth of the United States and its view of war as a just and noble cause was altered as the Cold War and more specifically the Vietnam War progressed; making Americans look like brutes, savage and quite less than noble. He tries to make the case that the opposition to the war and many of those fighting was some kind of significant shift in American culture. However, two big mistakes in that analysis. First, throughout many conflicts in US history, there was considerable opposition and commentary surrounding its injustice, see for example the Mexican War, The Spanish-American War and especially the post World War I cultural examination of war. Second, Engelhardt kind of negates his own thesis by demonstrating how the first Gulf War along with many conflicts since the 1980s are very much like the victory culture that he assured us was over. I would argue that, especially in the wake of 9/11, that victory culture is even more pervasive than in was in the 1950s, that terrorism make for such a convenient bogey man, it justifies in the eyes of many (depending on who the president is at the time) some of the greatest abuses of power the United States has every seen. Don't be fooled, victory culture is alive and well....more
A decent sequel to the Long Halloween, but it follows too closely to the LH plot. The origin story of Robin is also part of this book, but it feels foA decent sequel to the Long Halloween, but it follows too closely to the LH plot. The origin story of Robin is also part of this book, but it feels forced. Pretty much the entire Robin arc could be taken out and the rest of the plot would not suffer at all. ...more
As you might have guessed from my recent reviews of old dissertation books, I've read a lot of history. For the most part they all fell into the acadeAs you might have guessed from my recent reviews of old dissertation books, I've read a lot of history. For the most part they all fell into the academic style. That style being bled dry of interesting language, compelling narrative or anything resembling entertainment. Relatively few of the books I read for my dissertation or comprehensive exams were memorable, let alone entertaining. History, like so many other disciplines, has books published for a small audience, only read by an even smaller audience and actually found useful by a smaller number still. The old joke was to call a book a "$20 book." What that means is that one could stick a twenty dollar bill into a book and return in a year and find it, untouched. In all the time I had the better part of the cultural and 1930s history books from the university library, I think I had to contend with three recalls. All three of which I knew the person who needed the book, small audience indeed.
Atkinson's work is not in this vein. He writes with a very readable, sometimes almost lyrical style. His attention to detail is almost mind-boggling. Atkinson also makes the major players come alive, Ike, Patton, Montgomery and the rest of the leaders are all presented using personal correspondence, diaries and subordinates recollections. He also doesn't neglect the common GI, using many of the same types of sources to get the boots on the ground view, and the overview of the command post.
I found his treatment of the Battle of the Bulge to be particularly compelling, perhaps the best treatment of those pivotal weeks I've ever encountered. Atkinson captured the desperation of Hitler and the German high command and also the battlefield desperation of the Allied Army. He doesn't necessarily delve into "what if" scenarios, but leaves that to the reader to draw those conclusions. Namely, I couldn't help but think of two things, especially considering Hitler was bound and determined to attack in the west: one, if the ambition of the offensive would have been smaller, what would have been the Allied response? In conjunction with that idea, if Hitler would have kept the scope smaller, say just to cutting the allied armies in two and then suing for a separate Western peace as was an initial goal, could Germany have survived to a greater degree? Of course, the overestimation of German strength and the fevered dreams of Hitler of pushing the Allies all the way back into France became the goal which even to his general staff was so much a pipe dream. Finally, in the final assessment of the battle, Atkinson demonstrates how costly the offensively truly was to Germany. In short, speeding up the Allied victory as opposed to prolonging the war.
As most American accounts of the war, Atkinson in no fan of Montgomery and he is a little easy on Eisenhower, especially his relationship with Kay Summersby. Atkinson almost falls over himself to establish that Ike was committed to his wife. I find it particularly curious that even today, in 2013, that it has to be some kind of zero-sum game; either devoted to his wife, or devoted to his mistress. Haven't we seen enough of powerful people, mostly men, engaged in affairs who also remain committed to their spouses, if for no other reason than good PR? What is amazing is that even after 800+ pages, I wanted Atkinson to delve more into post-war Europe, about German reconstruction and the emerging Cold War. Alas, perhaps that is the next trilogy. ...more
Let's see how do you create innovators? According to Wagner it take three easy steps. 1: Be Wealthy. In almost all of the examples provided, the innoLet's see how do you create innovators? According to Wagner it take three easy steps. 1: Be Wealthy. In almost all of the examples provided, the innovators came from middle-class to upper class backgrounds. If you want to learn about innovation, get insights about it, talk to CEOs, COOs, and other top executives of major companies. 2: Gain Exposure to the top Universities in the United States. Along those same lines, try and get into Harvard, Stanford, Vanderbilt, Emory, and the like to get the education you need to be an innovator. If you don't finish at said schools, that is ok, remember step one, you are wealthy so you have that to fall back on. 3: Be White. While not absolutely essential, it certainly seems to help. Almost every innovator Wagner profiled seemed to be of Caucasian descent. Again not every single one, but pretty close. It also doesn't hurt to have a trendy name like Zander or Taylor.
Throughout much of this book, Wagner doesn't really define what innovation is. He gives some examples of interesting projects and especially products, but how innovative those things are is a matter of perspective. For example, Wagner's lead profile in on the young man who developed the first iPhone. Sure, as a product it was marginally innovative. Ultimately though, it is just another phone with a few more bells and whistles. What's more it is already obsolete. So the strategy of planned obsolescence, a mid-twentieth century stalwart, is being passed off as innovation. Finally, the iPhone doesn't exist without some of the worst labor practices in the world. Of course those concerns are ignored by Wagner, much like the Apple advertisements meant to distract us from 19th century labor practices, "Designed in America" but built in China.
Even the "social innovators" profiled in this book are more concerned with dressing up the status quo and calling it new. Is anyone really against funding projects in Sierra Leone? To be truly innovative, let's think of ways to distribute wealth in a more equitable manner so microfunding and other novelty schemes are as necessary. To be truly innovative, let's start working on the roots of social problems instead of applying new band-aids to old gun shot wounds.
In the Afterword, Wagner does back track a bit on some of is ideas. He realizes that charter schools are not the panacea of education and though he is not tenured, I think getting a paycheck from Harvard has blunted some of his criticism of the tenure structure. If you want to be an innovator, don't read this book. Take that time to develop your own ideas. If you want to create innovators, don't read this book. Raise your kids to be responsible, curious and disciplined. Only you know how to achieve that balance for your children. ...more
Now, moving on to the Early Modern English books. There really aren't many books on this list. Most of what I read, way back when, were pivotal articlNow, moving on to the Early Modern English books. There really aren't many books on this list. Most of what I read, way back when, were pivotal articles in the field. I also don't remember much of these books to be completely honest, so the reviews might be few and far between.
Bostridge is an exception to the above rule. I think because my own work is a counter to the prevailing narrative I was drawn to Witchcraft. Instead of the great march of reason and progress as seen in Keith Thomas, Bostridge shows us that though the public trials and executions of witches ended in 1685, the belief and even the laws prohibiting witchcraft remained on the books well into the eighteenth century. We can probably argue that belief in witchcraft is with us to some extent.
Perhaps what I enjoyed most about Bostridge was his thorough discussion of three key points. First, though Keith Thomas and his disciples were too quick to relegate belief in witches to the common classes, when in fact, there is ample evidence that every strata of society held on to witchcraft to some degree. Second, related to the first, that the belief in witchcraft disappeared piecemeal, not quite the shutting of a door on a period of history. And lastly, that the "rational canon was not monolithic. It only appears that way in retrospect." Take that you Whigs! Huh? a book on witches just in time for Halloween :-) ...more
I remember reading this and thinking, "God being part of the Protestant Reformation was a pain in the ass." Duffy takes a page from the French AnnalesI remember reading this and thinking, "God being part of the Protestant Reformation was a pain in the ass." Duffy takes a page from the French Annales School and looks at the longue duree of a specific village in Devonshire. It is quite telling what the everyday folks went through during the great English upheaval that was their version of the Reformation. Starting with an examination of pre-Henrician reforms to the final settlement under Elizabeth, the people of Morebath had to do their best to roll with the whims of those in power. Especially during the time of Henry it must have ranged between an inconvenience and a serious moral and financial dilema.
Duffy doesn't find an England hungry for reform, quite the contrary. From his examinations of the parish of Morebath, the citizens there were quite pious and supportive of their local church and were willing to spend a great deal of the towns resources toward decorating and caring for the church. The reforms of Henry didn't seem to disturb much and when Henry had his change of heart and basically wanted to return to Catholicism, without the interference from Rome, Morebath seemed to roll along.
It was during the time of the Edwardian Reformation that things get crazy in Devonshire. Under the leadership of Cramner, the English Church turns almost 180 and the results lead to rebellion of the more conservative counties and parishes, including Morebath. The rebellion is systematically crushed, all vestiges of popery removed.
Almost as soon as the Edwardian reforms are put in place, Mary takes the throne and it's back to Catholicism. Elizabeth finally brings some measure of stability but the pious, devoted community that thrived before and during Henry's reign had been replace by a much more secular and cynical population, probably not the goal of any of the reformers.
Ultimately, what we see in Morebath is a population that seemed content with their religious life. The political motivations for the reformation in England were not the concerns of the people living in the countryside. As the church moved through its reform spasms, we also get an idea of how far people are willing to go with changes to what they know. The Henrician reforms, and later his pulling back most of those reforms, allowed most people to continue in their faith practices almost unmolested. It was when Cramner and his great overhaul occurred that people resisted, even resorting to violence to protect their lifestyle. By the time of the two sisters, one definitely gets the feeling that the people of Morebath were finished with reformation and restoration and when Elizabeth allowed a certain measure of tolerance, everyone was happy to make that the status quo. ...more
Quick review: Joe Hill weaves a great tale with a new take on the idea of vampirism, family and imagination. He definitely plays in the same sandbox aQuick review: Joe Hill weaves a great tale with a new take on the idea of vampirism, family and imagination. He definitely plays in the same sandbox as his dad, but he brings a younger, more modern voice to the New England horror scene. Unlike, say, Salem's Lot, where vampires run amok, killing/feeding/ stalking and no one outside of the town seems to take notice. Instead, in Hill's vampire story, police get involved, the FBI, hospitals, mental institutions and varied places throughout the United States. Make no mistake, the King boys are thoroughly American. Hill brings into stark contrast the real, modern world and the fantastical one he creates. He takes the logical path that if a person claimed to ride across a bridge to find lost things, later had dead children call her on the phone, any phone and swear that a dead man was alive and well that it would be assumed, quite rightly that person was insane. Of course being a horror story, all of the above is true, and then some.
Admittedly, I bought NOS4A2 on a bit of a whim, a Kindle sale for a $1.99. At that price especially, an incredible bargain. It was my vacation read and quite hard to put down in the airport, on the plane and on the beach. I can honestly say that I feel Joe Hill is a strong writer, but the best is yet to come....more
Lary May has made a living out of investigating movies and their place in the cultural history of the United States. The Big Tomorrow is a bit of a seLary May has made a living out of investigating movies and their place in the cultural history of the United States. The Big Tomorrow is a bit of a sequel, or follow-up, to his other work, Screening Out the Past. In Tomorrow, May looks at the radical message of 1930s movies and how that message was first changed by war then by the new realities of the post-war era. The great star of the book is Will Rogers, folksy, American humorist that was at his height during the 1930s. I don't think May's interpretation of Rogers is off, but I wonder if most people who sat through his movies saw him quite the same way. As the interest in folk music, folk art and "The American Way" were all being investigated or rediscovered in the decade was Rogers, to most of the audience anyway, more of a representation of that thinking, that connection to the past, to a more "simpler time?" I tend to go with the latter, Will Rogers as folksy American hero, not so much an embodiment of the New Deal.
The second half of the book, I hate to say, is a bit of the "Well Duh?" school, especially at this point. Even when it was published in the early aughts, I'm pretty sure we knew that the United States took a sharp right turn both politically and culturally. The fact that Hollywood reflected this shift is about as big of a surprise that Liberace was gay. Having said that, May presents his case in a very informative, easy manner. Also his look at the subversive nature of film noir (another kind of "duh!" argument) is really worth the read. I would say that May's other work, Screening Out the Past is a more important book to the overall canon of cultural history and his wife's work, Homeward Bound, is the best book produced by the May family....more
Just a quick iPhone review: you cannot serve two masters. Larson tries too hard by half to make the World's Fair and the work of a serial killer dovetJust a quick iPhone review: you cannot serve two masters. Larson tries too hard by half to make the World's Fair and the work of a serial killer dovetail together. Other than temporal space the two shared nothing. Simply put take one away, does the other exist? In both of these cases, the answer is yes. A more thorough examination of the fair OR a more thorough discussion of Holmes would have served his research and audience far better. ...more
I have to admit I was disappointed that I couldn't get into this book. I've heard so many good things about the overall series and it seemed right upI have to admit I was disappointed that I couldn't get into this book. I've heard so many good things about the overall series and it seemed right up my alley. Unfortunately I found the pacing almost unbearable and the main character was forgettable. It just didn't do enough to make me want to continue with the rest of the books. ...more
I'm putting together a bookshelf here on Goodreads of my old comprehensive exam book list. Some I don't remember at all, some I remember simply becausI'm putting together a bookshelf here on Goodreads of my old comprehensive exam book list. Some I don't remember at all, some I remember simply because I disliked them and some I remember because they are profound, worthwhile and still relevant. Cronin's Nature's Metropolis falls into the last category. I'm sure in the intervening 20 plus years other works have come to flesh out Cronin's original ideas, but it is still worth your time.
Forgive me if I'm a little sketchy on the details, it's been a while since I've read it, but basically Cronin posits the idea that instead of the commonly held idea that the city "sucks" all the resources from the country side, the old trope, "without the farm, the city dies" it is much more of a symbiotic relationship. To wit, without the city, the farm will die as well. Cronin does a fantastic job of establishing how agriculture, despite the dreams of Jefferson to the contrary, was a business enterprise almost from the earliest days of the Republic.
The main character of this work, if you will, is the city of Chicago and how its relationship with the hinterlands built the city, but also built the middle west. The discussion of the advent of the railroad in particular alters the old historiographical idea that the railways were a blight on the countryside, but rather they were the engine that spurred growth much faster after the Civil War. ...more
Quick review: a great look at baseball, but even forty years on, still relevant. While the salaries and access to athletes has risen, at its core, BalQuick review: a great look at baseball, but even forty years on, still relevant. While the salaries and access to athletes has risen, at its core, Ball Four gives us an insight that we just don't get....more