First audiobook! Worth listening to Aziz's personal rendition, can't imagine reading the prose to myself quietly would have been as colorful of an expFirst audiobook! Worth listening to Aziz's personal rendition, can't imagine reading the prose to myself quietly would have been as colorful of an experience.
If you've seen Aziz's standup set on this topic, you'll get the basic gist of what he says about the technological color to modern romance. The elaborate text etiquette that causes so much frustration, the creepiness of dudes, the often unrealistic modern expectations of romantic relationships. The parts of direct contrast of expectations and structural realities of dating between today and the WWII american generation was particularly illuminating. My takeaway: I'm happy to likely meet my eventual partner beyond the confines of my apartment building or street block, but I will be more mindful of being realistic with the heaps of expectations our generation heaps upon romantic fulfillment.
Also super interesting are his vignettes of romance in foreign countries. From the herbivorous romantically passive and even apathetic men of Tokyo to the excessively carnivorous to the point of outright mysognistic men of Buenos Aires, and the liberally tolerant Parisians who cast a much less puritanical view towards infidelity. All in all, makes me happy to be dating in America....more
An unfortunately forgettable book on a topic that deserves better. Grandin gets in his own way by not organizing the rich history he's mining from inAn unfortunately forgettable book on a topic that deserves better. Grandin gets in his own way by not organizing the rich history he's mining from in a coherent way. American Imperialism in Latin America has way too much history to fit in 300 pages, I was hoping that this book would give me a good survey of the basic contours, but while the author DOES cover each country where the US had a significant influence, I came out of each story with more confusion. The author does not set enough context before each chapter, but dives right into indignant diatribes. I'm not saying the apparent anger in the text isn't warranted, but it gets in the way of readers looking to learn more about just what US involvement in this part of the world has been.
The most riveting parts of the books are on the period of violence, civil war, and death squad in Guatemala and El Salvador. There are some truly disturbing episodes described here, but, I suspect like many other Americans, the labels and the sides are muddled for me. I kept asking myself, just who are the Sandinistas? Which side is who on? It's a lot to keep track of.
Would have liked for the book also to cover more of US-Mexican relations going back two centuries, and also on the narcoviolence in the 90s in Colombia as well. On to the next bleak account of American neoimperialism.......more
Having moved to San Cristobal de Las Casas, where the EZLN's armed insurrection started in 1994, I figured it was sensible to get more informed aboutHaving moved to San Cristobal de Las Casas, where the EZLN's armed insurrection started in 1994, I figured it was sensible to get more informed about the Zapatistas. Before starting this book, I felt the indelible impression that the movement has made in the region, and have sensed its wider repercussions in the country. Contrary to my belief coming into Mexico that the Zapatistas are a fringe group far to the left of the Mexican political mainstream, each of the handful of Mexicans whom I had a chance to talk politics with are all more or less within the rough proximity of where the green party would land on the US political spectrum, and all spoke more or less approvingly of at least some aspects of the Zapatista movement. 20 years ago the EZLN struck a vein in Mexican society (as I was soon to learn in this book); it had tapped into a progressive, social justice, socialist, and egalitarian vein that runs deep and whose fervor has been feed by the ongoing injustices and egregious inequalities that has been the rule throughout Mexico.
Other marks that the movement has made is manifest in the smattering of EZLN bookshops and coffee shops that sell Zapatista key chains, bumper stickers, and t-shirts. It's also manifest in the invigoration of San Cristobal as a whole as a destination. Over the last two decades, what has always been a beautiful colonial town as become a bustling destination for Western tourists here for the scenery as well as the poverty tourism, European hippies here for the anarchist vibe and cheap cost of living, Mexican creatives and intellectuals here for the same things who have since cultivated a hot bourgeoisie arts scene in the midst of the poverty of Chiapas. It's hard not to smell the heavy scent of irony, that the Zapatista's renown has brought its archnemesis neoliberalism to its very doorsteps, and it not going anywhere.
Okay what about the book. First let's describe what it is not. This is not a book of investigative journalism. It is not an objective or critical account of the Zapatista movement from a third party. It is not, as traditionally conceived, a historical chronicle of a political movement. Why? Although the author/editor/compiler of this book is a journalist by trader, she has created this work as an activist.
If taken as literature it is middling at best, if taken as propaganda it's a bit too meandering and lacks the cutting clarity and simplicity that great propaganda has. What it is is the autobiography (actually more memoir) of a movement. As such, it is not hindered by criticality, and it announces its positivist beliefs and convictions in each passage and chapter. It's construction is a patchwork, much as it likes to believe it's movement is as well. It is a patchwork of first hand accounts of the movement's history, and specific chapters of the progression by members and supporters of the movement, most prominently featuring a large amount of dictations by subcmdt. Marcos. These testimonials are tied together by historical and political context by Munoz Ramirez, but give no doubt, the context is through the lens of a true believer. Due to the degree of conviction this is written with, it often suffers for clarity and coherence, but nonetheless the book will give you a feel for how a movement views itself....more
"America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation ever to exist, a lone champion standing between the white city of democracy and"America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation ever to exist, a lone champion standing between the white city of democracy and the terrorists, despots, barbarians, and other enemies of civilization. One cannot, at once, claim to be superhuman and then plead mortal error. I propose to take our countrymen’s claims of American exceptionalism seriously, which is to say I propose subjecting our country to an exceptional moral standard."
This book reads as many stories: the story of the plight of the black man in America, the telling of realities from a black father to black son, the critique of institutional racial violence in America, etc... For me however, with the above passage Coates set up the book as a biting critique of the American dream. He writes of how the mythmaking of America, and especially by white Americans, clustered around ideas of patriotism, exceptionalism, freedom, individuality, progress, etc... has been used as a cloak to obscure the culpability of those who perpetrate the continuing structural violence against African Americans. This critique resonated deeply with me, because I am one of Coate's dreamers. I do believe in large part much of the self-made myths we construct as Americans, and it is devastating to read in such ringing and cutting prose how these beliefs of mine are not only excuses for racism, but seem to be the core obstacle to change.
To be clear, this is not a policy book. One will not find statistics, and structural details of how racism and institutional violence continues in our country. What one finds are personal accounts of how a black American experiences the effects of these wrongs, how these things shape Coate's psyche, how he has come to situate himself in our society because of these ongoing wrongs. I must also note that this book seems to be written for a white, or at least non-black audience. The book reads as an explanation of the black experience for those who do not live it. I say this because it does exactly that so well. I'm not sure it's problematic that Coates anticipates a primarily white reader here, but I'm not sure it isn't problematic either.
The below passage I consider one of the more concentrated summaries of the central critique in this work. If this book has the effect of waking up even a handful of dreamers in addition to me to think more critically about the myths they've internalized, it will have been a markedly good thing.
"You must struggle to truly remember this past in all its nuance, error, and humanity. You must resist the common urge toward the comforting narrative of divine law, toward fairy tales that imply some irrepressible justice. The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine. Enslavement was not destined to end, and it is wrong to claim our present circumstance— no matter how improved— as the redemption for the lives of people who never asked for the posthumous, untouchable glory of dying for their children. Our triumphs can never compensate for this."...more
A neutered uninspired more or less mandatory self-promoting political memoir released ahead of Hillary's latest run for the top job. I say this as anA neutered uninspired more or less mandatory self-promoting political memoir released ahead of Hillary's latest run for the top job. I say this as an disappointed ex-volunteer for Hillary in 2008, and I'm inevitably drawing natural comparisons to the memoirs of our current president Obama, who has proven both a more charismatic politician, and a MUCH better writer.
In this book, Hillary dri-ly lists out her accomplishments as Secretary of State, promoting her accomplishments notably in the opening up of Burma, the slow inroads with Iran that led up to the recent nuclear deal, and the tightrop management of the turbulence of the Arab Spring.
Taken as a memoir or history, this book is sorely disappointing. But as pointed out in thoughtful reviews in the New Republic as well as the NYTimes, this book belongs more in the genre of "one of those books that people write when they are running for president," and counts among its cohort the likes of Romney's No Apology, Obama's Audacity of Hope, Kerry's A Call to Service. The book turns from droning monotony of a memoir to a much more respectable work of pre-presidential race guile when evaluated as a piece of self-promotion, although I do not go as far as the Times in judging the work to "demonstrate a greater mastery of the world than... “The Audacity of Hope.”
With such context, it makes sense that the work has a soul-draining level of hygiene. It offends no-one, betrays no unprofessional ism, deep personal motivations or passions either positive or negative, and any authentic judgments that Hillary might have had of her domestic colleagues or foreign counterparts. If one is looking to humanize the character of Hillary Clinton, this book will have much the opposite effect.
However after the 4-5 hours I spend unhappily reading such soul-draining prose would have been better spent as 4-5 hours examining the book as evidence of how Hillary plans to position herself in the '16 elections, as the New Republic suggests. The above-mentioned review posits that if read critically as such, the book strongly suggests that Hillary will run as "a hard-working, fact-oriented pragmatist—someone who finds ways to work with difficult opponents, and not only faces up to difficult problems but also makes the compromises needed to solve them." Only wish I had read the review before starting this book......more
Kudos to Ricks for once again writing a masterful account of the now latter half of the American War in Iraq. This book, in sharp contrast to Fiasco,Kudos to Ricks for once again writing a masterful account of the now latter half of the American War in Iraq. This book, in sharp contrast to Fiasco, is a portrait of hypercompetence and thoughtful decision-making, whereas Ricks portrayed the first half of the war as a disaster of incompetence and intellectual arrogance.
Interestingly, one of the examples of arrogance and stubbornness in Fiasco, General Ray Odierno of the Fourth Infantry Division who implemented heavy-handed policies against insurgencies as well as the local populace, is no presented as a convert to the counter-insurgency school within the US army alongside David Patraeus. Perhaps the best part of this book is the portrayal of the colorful military personalities who make up the major cast of the turnaround that is the surge. The triumvirate who drove forward the surge was Patraeus, perhaps the most directly responsible for the initiative and definitely the most responsible for its execution, Odierno, who was critical to the new doctrine's uniform acceptance within the army and also its execution, and retired General Jack Keane, who as the former mentor of both Odierno and Patraeus, helped to maneuver the two into positions of command, and pulls much of the strings behind the scene to turn around US strategy in Iraq.
Keane, the devoted soldier who broke precedence by actively influencing military strategy and policy by giving the White House advice bypassing the Joint Chiefs, fits the mold as the insightful, self-starting, devoted public servant. Odierno also provides a riveting portrait of a soldier going down the wrong strategic path, but was humble and wise enough to turn 180 degrees towards the right direction. Lastly, Patraeus is the centerpiece of the book. He is the consummate soldier but also the consummate intellectual. With just the right about of arrogance/confidence, he was the perfect man to implement a good plan in a difficult climate both politically (in the US and Iraq) and militarily with extreme levels of insurgent violence.
Ricks weaves a masterful narrative about how these three men along with others in the military and political spaces, managed to regain the strategic initiative in what looked to be America's second Vietnam, and it proved to be a very compelling story....more
Diamond's thesis is that the recent geopolitical dominance of Europe, especially over Africa and the AmeGreat book for anthropology and history buffs.
Diamond's thesis is that the recent geopolitical dominance of Europe, especially over Africa and the Americas, is not due to any genetic predisposition or superiority of European population but rather due to environmental factors which contributed to different developments of civilizations in each places.
Diamond presents fairly compelling evidence that points to differences in food production leading to the major differences in the development of advanced political organization, languages, and technology in each society. He argues that the avaiability of domesticatable animals and plants were the biggest factors. Eurasia had them in abundance whereas other continents did not (for the Americas and other continents where humans arrived later, often the newcomer kill off all the megafauna who have not had time to coevolve with humans to develop a flee-humans instinct). Also other factors like the long east-west axis of Eurasia contributed to quicker spread of domesticated crops, animals, and technology (whereas in contrast in the Americas for example, changing climates in the major north-south axis as well as geographical barriers slowed down this spread significantly). Finally, earlier and greater domestication of animals in Eurasia led to greater coevolution with animal-origin diseases in Eurasian populations.
Diamond argues finally that these ultimate factors let to the proximate factors of guns, germs, and steel that led to the lopsided conquest of the Americas.
Diamond's prose is very accessible. He is great at reiterating and making good examples for his major points. However as he himself acknowledges he tackles a topic that is much too big for one book, and his thesis is still closer to an educated guess than an informed theory in spite of the compelling logic and evidence. Definitely recommended!...more