28 November 2010

92. Amnesia Moon

Amnesia Moon - Jonathan Lethem

This is an excellent novel. 250 pages of writing that I just could not put down. It had me running with it from the very first page and I could not stop until it was over. It took less than two days. I could not stop. What a wild ride!

It is a dystopian novel, which is a big plus for me. I love the genre.

This one actually had a number of dystopian worlds within it's own world. As Chaos (the protagonist) and Melinda (a mutated teen girl with fur like a seal) travel from Wyoming to San Francisco they run across many different places.

Each place is different. One has a green fog that blinds everyone. They said it was like having green paper covering your eyes. Opaque, but you could actually see nothing. That was interesting.

Vacaville, California was too. The entire social system is based on a persons score on a test for having good or bad luck, and everyone is in love with the government television stars. That was a particularly nasty place.

Los Angeles is in a perpetual war with aliens. The humans must always be in flight. If they land they become slaves to the aliens on contact with the ground.

All the while the dreams of certain people are transmitted to others and are used to alter realities, change memory, and to control people. Each place uses this function in a different way. All are used to establish tyrannical controls, of course.

I loved the book and I think I will read it again in a few years. I will keep it on the shelf. Yes, it is a keeper.

91. Do-Gooders

Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim To Help (And The Rest Of Us) - Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a Conservative columnist who has written for many years in publications such as Jewish World Review, National Review, and Townhall. She is syndicated in over 200 newspapers nationwide including Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun and Washington Times. She has been around a while and is obviously a well educated woman.

The level of education and the tremendous depth of research definately shines through in the book. The facts are not just stated. They are backed up with references to legal cases, publications, speeches, articles, reports, etc. That is done throughout the book and it definately makes her case stronger.

This book is not a cover all bases bash the liberals across the board slam. It picks a few subjects and goes deep into why liberals are not only wrong, but are liars. The things they do in the name of helping the poor, women, racism, the children, and who knows what else, actually end up hurting those that they are trying to help and take a bunch of the rest of us down with them.

Do I think that is shocking? Not at all. I think the real goal of liberals, at least the real left-wing type of liberals, is to cause havoc and problems. They want people to be in need and to turn to government for assistance. That is the end game for them.

What subjects did Ms. Charen choose to cover in this book? Public Education, Affirmative Action, and Welfare.

In my opinion, she tore liberals to shreds. I think she did it with logic and reason. She did not go into a bunch of name calling and the inflammatory tone of many other books. She makes statements and then backs it up. I loved it.

I am going to check out Useful Idiots (thank you Josef Stalin for that wonderful moniker). The other book that she wrote a few years before this one.

26 November 2010

90. Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation

Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation - Ronald Reagan

"Every legislator, every doctor, and every citizen needs to recognize that the real issue is whether to affirm and protect the sanctity of life, or to embrace a social ethic where some human lives are valued and others are not. As a nation, we must choose between the sanctity of life ethic and the "quality of life" ethic."

"The real question today is not when human life begins, but, What is the value of human life?"

This is an essay written in 1984 by then President Ronald Reagan. It is rare that a sitting President writes an essay at all, but couple that with the fact that he wrote about the most controversial moral issue of the time...well, it is amazing that the essay exists at all.

It was a quick read that I wanted to knock out to pass the book on.

89. The Conscience of a Conservative

The Conscience of a Conservative - Senator Barry Goldwater

This book was first published in 1960. My copy was printed in 1964. I guess it was sitting in someone’s garage or attic. It stank of mildew and caused my nose to twitch as I was reading it. While my wife was driving and I was reading, I fanned the book toward her. She sneezed and had to open the windows to keep from choking. Despite the mold issue, this is probably the one book I have read where a politician stated his position on issues where I feel like I am in agreement with just about everything. Why can’t this Goldwater guy be around today?

I think I will just post a bunch of quotes from the book. I found them to be very interesting. Yes, this was written FIFTY years ago. So what. The principles and reasoning Senator Goldwater professed then still apply today. He, just like I am today, was critical of liberal policy, but was also dissatisfied with the Republican party.

The chapters in this book covered “The Conscience of a Conservative”, “The Perils of Power”, “States’ Rights”, “And Civil Rights”, “Freedom for the Farmer”, “Freedom for Labor”, “Taxes and Spending”, “The Welfare State”, “Some Notes on Education”, and “The Soviet Menace”. Looking at those chapters and knowing this man is conservative will probably give you a good idea where he stands already…but why does he take that stand? That is what I discovered while reading this book. Not just that I agree, but that it makes perfect sense when he explains the reasoning.

I was having a problem liking Barry Goldwater before reading this book. The reason? I had heard that he stood against the desegregation of schools during the Civil Rights movement. He opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That he was a racist. Well, after reading this book I think that is a bunch of manipulative political hooey and that I was lied to. (I later found that LBJ had run ads in the north saying Goldwater was a KKK member...a flat out lie...but it worked)

Why did he not push for desegregation as a Senator from Arizona? Because he did not believe the federal government had a right to shove it’s will down the throats of the states and that the people in the states would take care of these problems within their own borders in their own time…as free people! Well, that sure is a far cry from an old white guy saying he thinks black folks are inferior and would “dirty” the white children in desegregated schools. So I no longer think Barry Goldwater hates black people. That is good.

Goldwater was Conservative Republican with libertarian viewpoints. He butted heads with many in the GOP later in his career because his libertarian views conflicted with those of the religious right wing.

I also found this quote attributed to Mr. Goldwater. I found it interesting that decades later we are still having the same argument. 
"You don't need to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight."

Anyway…here are some quotes from the book:

The Conscience of a Conservative

“The root difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals of today is that the Conservatives take account of the whole man, while the Liberals tend to look only at the material side of man’s nature. The Conservative believes the man is, in part, an economic, an animal creature; but that he is also a spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual desires. What is more, these needs and desires reflect the superior side of man’s nature, and thus take precedence over his economic wants. Conservatism therefore looks upon the enhancement of man’s spiritual nature as the primary concern of political philosophy. Liberal’s on the other hand, -in the name of concern for “human beings”- regard the satisfaction of economic wants as the dominant mission of society. They are, moreover, in a hurry. So that their characteristic approach is to harness the society’s political and economic forces into a collective effort to compel “progress.” In this approach, I believe they fight against nature.”

“…each member of the species is a unique creature. Man’s most sacred possessions his individual soul – which has an immortal side, but also a mortal one. The mortal side establishes his absolute differentness from every other human being. Only a philosophy that takes into account the essential differences between men, and, accordingly, makes provision for developing the different potentialities of each man can claim to be in accord with Nature. …to regard man as part of an undifferentiated mass is to consign him to ultimate slavery.”

“The Conservative has learned that the economic and spiritual aspects of man’s nature are inextricably intertwined. He cannot be economically free, or even economically efficient, if he is enslaved politically; conversely, man’s political freedom is illusory if he is dependent for his economic needs on the State.”

“The Conservative realizes that man’s development, in both it’s spiritual and material aspects, is not something that can be directed by outside forces. Every man, for his individual good and for the good of society, is responsible for his own development. The choices that govern his life are choices that he must make; they cannot be made by any other human being, or by a collectivity of human beings. If the Conservative is less anxious than his Liberal brethren to increase Social Security “benefits,” it is because he is more anxious than his Liberal brethren that people be free throughout their lives to spend their earnings when and as they see fit.”

“With this view of the nature of man, it is understandable that the Conservative looks upon politics as the art of achieving the maximum amount of freedom for individuals that is consistent with the maintenance of the social order. The Conservative is the first to understand that the practice of freedom requires the establishment of order; it is impossible for one man to be free if another man is able to deny him the exercise of his freedom. But the Conservative also recognizes that the political power on which order is based is a self-aggrandizing force; that its appetite grows with eating. He knows that the utmost vigilance and care are required to keep political power within its proper bounds.”

The Perils of Power

“State power, considered in the abstract, need not restrict freedom: but absolute state power always does. The legitimate functions of government are actually conducive to freedom. Maintaining internal order, keeping foreign foes at bay, administering justice, removing obstacles to the free interchange of goods-the exercise of these powers makes it possible for men to follow their chosen pursuits with maximum freedom”

“…the corrupting influence of power, the natural tendency of men who possess some power to take unto themselves more power. The tendency leads eventually to the acquisition of all power-whether in the hands of one or many makes little difference to the freedom of those left on the outside.”

States Rights

(Speaking about another book)...Mr. Larson states“…while there is a “general presumption” in favor of States’ Rights, thanks to the Tenth Amendment, this presumption must give way whenever it appears to the federal authorities that the States are not responding satisfactorily to the “needs of the people. This is a paraphrase of his position but not, I think, an unjust one. And if this approach appears to be a high-handed way of dealing with an explicit constitutional provision, Mr. Larson justifies the argument by summoning the concept that “for every right there is a corresponding duty.” “When we speak of States Rights,” he writes, “we should never forget to add that there go with these rights the corresponding States’ responsibilities.” Therefore, he concludes, if the States fail to do their duty, they have only themselves to blame when the federal government intervenes.
          The trouble with this argument is that it treats the Constitution of the United States as a kind of handbook in political theory, to be heeded or ignored depending on how it fits the plans of contemporary federal officials. The Tenth Amendment is not “a general assumption,” but a prohibitory rule of law. The Tenth Amendment recognizes the States’ jurisdiction in certain areas. States’ Rights means that the States have a right to act or not to act, as they see fit, in the areas reserved to them. The States may have duties corresponding to these rights, but the duties are owed to the people of the States, not to the federal government. Therefore, the recourse lies not with the federal government, which is not sovereign, but with the people who are, and who have full power to take disciplinary action.”

And Civil Rights

“The intentions of the Fourteenth Amendment’s authors are perfectly clear. Consider these facts. 1. During the entire congressional debate on the Fourteenth Amendment it was never suggested by any proponent of the amendment that it would outlaw segregated schools. 2. At the same time it approved the Fourteenth Amendment, Congress established schools in Washington in Georgetown “for the sole use of…colored children.” 3. In all the debates on the amendment by the State Legislatures there was only one legislator, a man in Indiana, who thought the amendment would affect schools. 4. The great majority of the States that approved the amendment permitted or required segregated schools at the very time they approved the amendment. There is not room here for exhaustive treatment of this evidence, but the facts are well documented, and they are all we have to know about the Fourteenth Amendment’s bearing on this problem. The amendment was not intended to, and therefore it did not outlaw racially separate schools. It was not intended to, and therefore it did not, authorize any federal intervention in the field of education.
           I am therefore not impressed by the claim that the Supreme Court’s decision on school integration is the law of the land. The Constitution, and the laws “made in pursuance thereof,” are the “supreme law of the land.” The Constitution is what its authors intended it to be and said it was-not what the Supreme Court says it is. If we condone the practice of substituting our own intentions for those of the Constitution’s framers, we reject, in effect, the principle of Constitutional Government: we endorse the rule of men, not of laws.”

Freedom for Labor

The natural function of a trade union and the one which it was historically conceived is to represent those employees who want collective representation in bargaining with their employers over terms of employment. But note that this function is perverted the moment a union claims the right to represent employees who do not want representation, or conducts activities that have nothing to do with terms of employment (e.g. political activities), or tries to deal with an industry as a whole instead of with individual employers.”

“We have seen that unions perform their natural function when three conditions are observed: association with the union is voluntary; the union confines its activities to collective bargaining; the bargaining is conducted with the employer of the workers concerned.”

Taxes and Spending

“It has been the fashion in recent years to disparage “property rights” –to associate them with greed and materialism. This attack on property rights is actually an attack on freedom. It is another instance of the modern failure to take into account the whole man. How can a man be truly free if he is denied the means to exercise freedom? How can he be free if the fruits of his labor are not his to dispose of, but are treated, instead, as part of a common pool of public wealth? Property and freedom are inseparable: to the extent that government takes the one in the form of taxes, it intrudes on the other.”

“The size of the government’s rightful claim-that is, the total amount in may take in taxes-will be determined by how we define the “legitimate functions of government.” With regard to the federal government, The Constitution is the proper standard of legitimacy: its “legitimate” powers, as we have seen are those the Constitution has delegated to it. Therefore, if we adhere to the Constitution, the federal government’s total tax bill will be the cost of exercising such of its delegated powers as our representatives deem necessary in the national interest. But, conversely, when the federal government enacts programs that are not authorized by its delegated powers, the taxes needed to pay for such programs exceed the government’s rightful claim on our wealth.”

“The government must begin to withdraw from a whole series of programs that are outside its constitutional mandate-from social welfare programs, education, public power, agriculture, public housing, urban renewal and all the other activities that can be better performed by lower levels of government or by private institutions or by individuals. I do not suggest the federal government drop all of these programs overnight. But I do suggest that we establish, by law, a rigid timetable for a staged withdrawal.”

“By reducing taxes and spending we will not only return to the individual the means with which he can assert his freedom and dignity, but also guarantee to the nation the economic strength that will always be its ultimate defense against foreign foes.”

The Welfare State

“The currently favored instrument of collectivization is the Welfare State. The collectivists have not abandoned their ultimate goal-to subordinate the individual to the State- but their strategy has changed. They have learned that Socialism can be achieved through Welfarism quite as well as through Nationalization. They understand that private property can be confiscated as effectively by taxation as by expropriating it. They understand that the individual can be put at the mercy of the State-not only by making the State his employer-but by divesting him of the means to provide for his personal needs and by giving the State the responsibility of caring for those needs from cradle to grave. Moreover, they have discovered-and here is the critical point-that Welfarism is much more compatible with the political process of a democratic society. Nationalization ran into popular opposition, but the collectivists feel sure the Welfare State can be erected by the simple expedient of buying votes with promises of “free” hospitalization, “free” retirement pay and so on…”

Some Notes on Education

“I agree with lobbyists for federal school aid that education is one of the great problems of our day. I am afraid, however, that their views and mine regarding the nature of the problem are many miles apart. They tend to see the problem in quantitative terms-not enough schools, not enough teachers, not enough equipment. I think it has to do with quality: How good are the schools we have? Their solution is to spend more money. Mine is to raise standards. Their recourse is to the federal government. Mine is to the local public school board, the private school, the individual citizen-as far away from the federal government as one can possibly go.”

“What the White House conferees were saying in 1955, and what proponents of federal aid to education have been saying ever since, is that because a few States have not seen fit to take care of their school needs, it is incumbent upon the federal government to take up the slack. My view is that if State X possesses the wealth to educate its children adequately, but has failed to utilize its wealth for that purpose, it is up to the people of State X to take remedial action through their local and state governments. The federal government has neither the right nor the duty to intervene.”

“The truth, of course, is that the federal government has no funds except those it extracts from taxpayers who reside in the various States. The money that the federal government pays to State X for education has been taken from the citizens of State X in federal taxes and comes back to them, minus the Washington brokerage fee.”

“…federal aid to education inevitably means federal control of education.”

“Subscribing to the egalitarian notion that every child must have the same education, we have neglected to provide an educational system which will tax the talents and stir the ambitions of our best students and which will thus insure us the kind of leaders we will need in the future.”

The Soviet Menace

“The American government does not have the right, much less the obligation, to try and promote the economic and social welfare of foreign peoples. Of course, all of us are interested in combating poverty and disease wherever it exists. But the Constitution does not empower our government to undertake that job in foreign countries, no matter how worthwhile it might be. Therefore, except as it can be shown to promote America’s national interests, the Foreign Aid program is unconstitutional.”

23 November 2010

88. It Can't Happen Here

It Can't Happen Here - Sinclair Lewis

This was an outstanding book written by an author who has stood the test of time. Lewis is more famous for writing Babbitt, Main Street and Arrowsmith, but this book is awesome. If those are better then I will enjoy reading them in the future.

This book was written in the 1930's and was Lewis' response to what he saw as a rise in nationalism in response to Hitler's growing power with the Nazi's in Germany. "It can't happen here" is satirical (sarcasm and irony), meaning that America becoming a facist nation is not possible because we are a nation of free people with Constitutional guarantees to those liberties. But, it does happen in this story.

It is an intricate plot where the stage is set by a political group where they are able to win the presidency, stack the Supreme Court judges, abolish Congress, gut the Bill of Rights, send dissenting citizens to rehabilitation camps, have unfriendly press just disappear, etc etc...and all this is done while the American people support it because there is an "emergency" situation. All the freedoms will be restored later when the problems are solved. Yeah, right.

Anyway, the plot was so in depth that I was lost at times. Why did Lewis need to include such detail? Why not? In the end it made the book that much better. The details piled up so much that it felt like it was far more real.

I find it fascinating that this book was published in 1935 and so much of the detail actually applies to the situation we find ourselves in today. Was this book prophetic? Did Lewis predict the future? I doubt it. I think the situation we are in today is the same situation he found our country in back in those days. I don't think the country changes all that much politically. Socially it does. Economically is does. Politically, I think we are still having many of the same arguments today that were being had back them. Therefore, the book seems like it is speaking for today's political climate...because it is still the same.

At the same time, I did find some of the tidbits quite fascinating. One, for instance, was that "due to war hysteria" people started calling sauerkraut "Freedom Cabbage". I found that very interesting. Mostly because 60+ years later France makes us mad and we start calling french-fries "Freedom Fries". Prophecy? Nah. Just a pretty neat coincidence.

Another interesting little detail...during the primaries for the Presidential election...before Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip won...there were campaign signs for other candidates. What did those signs say? "Save the Constitution!" "Robinson for Sanity!" Sound a little like some of the buzzwords over the last few months?

I learned a new word that I will be able to use in everyday conversation. :-)
SLATTERN: a slovenly, untidy woman or girl. a slut; harlot.

There was one other thing. Much of the story took place in Vermont, where Doremus Jessup lives, and a woman there had an accent that was used in a conversation. In that conversation she said "Freavensake." I remember hearing this used by my grand parents in Massachusetts. I remember thinking for a while that it was one word because of the accent they had and the way it was said so quickly. I found it hilarious that Lewis used it as a single word in this book and brought me back to my preteen years instantly. That was awesome. By the way, freavensake means "for heavens sake".

I purposely avoided blogging about the plot of the book. I do not want to mess it up for anyone wishing to read it. I think you should some time.

22 November 2010

87. Chariots of the Damned: Helicopter Special Operations from Vietnam to Kosovo

Chariots of the Damned: Helicopter Special Operations from Vietnam to Kosovo - Maj. Mike McKinney and Mike Ryan

It is my duty, as a member of the Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service, to save lives and to aid the injured. I will be prepared at all times to perform my assigned duties quickly and efficiently, placing these duties before personal desires and comforts. These things I do-that others may live. ARRS Code (Originally written as the ParaRescueman's Code and adapted for all of Rescue.)
Any Time - Any Place (Special Operations motto)
This book was awesome. I will admit that I am surely biased in that opinion. I spent 21 years in the US Air Force in Helicopter Special Operations and Rescue Squadrons. I was there for many of the events discussed in this book. I know some of the pilots and other crew members spoken of in these pages. I could see thier faces, hear there voices, recall their mannerisms. All that has definately put a bias in my opinion of this book.
Was the writing amazing? Definately not. Was the story a nail-biter that wouldn't let the reader off the hook? Definately not. But, it is the truth, even when the truth hurts to tell. Special Operations by their very nature are high risk ventures and they are not always a complete success. This book not only covered the heroic exploits of these men, but aslo covered some of the massive catastrophies.
This book covered many events. Some of them were the SS Mayaguez incident in 1975, The raid on the Son Tay POW camp in North Vietnam, the disater at Desert One during the Iranian hostage crisis, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Desert Storm, Bosnia, etc.
The book wrote about many units I know of and some I was a member of. The pilots on some of these missions were men I know personally. I was surprised to learn that Col. Comer was a pilot on the raid on Son Tay in Vietnam. I did not know that when I was serving under the man. I wish I had.
I loved this book. I recommend it to anyone who was part of these missions or a member of the units. It brought backa a lot of memories.

Hurlburt Field and all the Air Force Special Operations Squadrons. Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) units. Fort Campbell, Kentucky and the Army Special Operations guys. Fort Bragg and Delta Force. Navy SEAL teams. The endless exercises and practising for missions at so many places. The people I served with.
I miss so much of those days sometimes. Those days when there was a real reason to want to go to work and job satisfaction was HUGE when a mission was completed. HUGE! This book brought back a lot of those memories.

86. Sellevision

Sellevision - Augusten Burroughs

This was a silly book.

Sellevision is a fictional television shopping channel. Think QVC of Home Shopping Network. The book is about the hosts on that shopping channel and stuff that happens to them.

There is the homosexual man who's junk is exposed on air..and the scandal that follows...and the trail of events that leads to his being a gay porn star.

There is the headliner woman with a huge fan following who suddenly has a stalker...and her fall into alcoholism and drug addiction...only to find that her son is actually the stalker in a bid for the attention of his own mother.

And there are other characters too...all of which are interesting, but none of which are worthy of having a story written about them. So, since the characters didn't seem all that interesting, and the premise for the story didn't seem all that interesting, why write the book?

Actually, despite the lack of "interesting", it did enjoy the book somewhat. It was just OK. I wouldn't recommend it unless you have read most everything else.

17 November 2010

85. The Soviet Union

The Soviet Union - Gail B. Stewart

I read this book because it was written in 1990. I recall the parades in 1989 where things were obviously changing. I know the union broke up in 1991. I know who Gorbachev is and what Perestroika and Glasnost were. I remember all this because I was alive and well and paying attention pretty closely at that time. I read this book because I wanted to see what it was like INSIDE the Soviet Union in 1990...at least from an outsiders perspective, and therefore not the whole truth anyway, but whatever.

This book touched on  many historical aspects of Russia and it's neighbors as it lead up to "Revolution Day" (7 November) 1989. That was the official state holiday where they celebrated the overthrow of the government that took place in 1917. It is much like our 4th of July.

1989 was the first year where there were actually two parades in Moscow. One was the official state parade with all the missles and tanks plowing theorugh Red Square. The other was quite different. It was about 10,000 people with signs. Signs reading things like "The 1917 Revolution was a TRAGEDY!" and "Democracy is what we want!". In 1989 these people did not end up in Gulags or disappear. That was a huge change.

Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985. He was a loyal communist, yet he was well aware of problems within his country and a need for change. His problem was a balance between changing too slowly and causing another Revolution or moving too quickly and everything falling apart. His plan had two aspects. Perestroika and Glasnost.

Perestroika: "restructuring". Gorbachev wanted to reshape the Soviet economy. He had already started that by allowing some private businesses, such as hospitals. He encouraged farmers to set aside some land for their own use. The private farm plots worked great. They made up only 2 percent of the farmland but yielded more than 30 percent of the fruits and vegetables sold in Russia.

Glasnost: "openness". Mainly meaning the government should be honest with it's people and not report propaganda as news, and things like that. One problem this created for Gorbachev was it gave a green light to citizens to speak up. They could now start their own newspapers and discuss issues freely. They were now permitted to criticize the government. That had never been allowed in the history of the Soviet Union. That, to me, sounds a lot like freedom of speech and freedom of the press!

So, this openness created a lot of problems for the Soviet government because the people were now able to voice dissatisfaction with the status-quo.

What were some of the problems within the Soviet Union that Gorbachev had to deal with?

1.The country could not feed itself for one. It's agricultural entity had taken a back seat to the industrial complex since Stalin took power. The workers on the collective farms (kolkhoz and sovkhoz) didn't have any incentive and therefore the farm suffered tremendously. The book equated it with farming "in a prison". What they got was a lot of sour milk and spoiled fruits and vegetables.
 2. There was also a lack of consumer goods. Even for those people who did make a decent living and could afford to purchase something at a store, there was nothing to buy. They would stand in lines for hours to purchase the rarely found clothing, appliances or shoes.
 3. Medical care was a mess. Those who could afford to bribe a nurse or a doctor got cared for. Those who could not pay the "fee" to have the nurse change a dressing did not get new bandages. The pharmacy was always empty too. Even if you could afford to see a doctor and get a prescription, there was no medecine to purchase.

I found all that very interesting. Mostly because I know that a year after this book was published the Soviet Union shattered. We always say it was the arms race that did this. We and the Soviets built so much junk to fight each other that they could not afford to do anything else, while we could. I think that is partially true, but not totally in the way that is commonly spoken. Why couldn't the Soviet Union afford the same things we could? They had more land. They had more people. They had fertile farms. They had a ton of resources. They had much more direct access to both Asia and Europe than we had. The answer for me comes down to the basic differences in our countries. Within the USA it was people prospering. Within the USSR it was a government prospering. In the long run (which wasn't really that long) Communism got it's ass handed to it because of it's own shortfalls.

What is really disturbing is that the causes for the failures of the Soviet Union are still very much ingrained in the cultures of Eastern European countries. I hope those countries can grow. I hope they can let go of the chains that were binding them for so long.

A personal note: I have a fond memory or Mikhail Gorbachev. I was in the Air Force stationed at Andrews Air Force Base. This was probably 1988. Our base was having a sports day. No flying and lots of sports competitions, games and berbeques to let loose a bit. Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife Raisa were coming to visit then President Reagan and his wife Nancy. The Presidential entourage drove by the front of our squadron with these worlds leaders in the cars. At that moment we were having an egg toss. That is when you toss an egg to a partner and the team who can toss the furthest distance without the egg breaking wins. When I saw those cars all I could think was what it must be like to have people throwing eggs in a field in America while your own people are home standing in lines for hours in hopes of getting some bread! That thought has never left me and has defined my view of how spoiled and luxurious our lives are compared to the rest of the world.

13 November 2010

84. Play The Piano Drunk Like A Percussion Instrument Until The Fingers Begin To Bleed A Bit

Play The Piano Drunk Like A Percussion Instrument Until The Fingers Begin To Bleed A Bit - Charles Bukowski

Poetry again. Much different than Jewel's poetry. :-)

I am still trying to figure out how to determine if something is good poetry or if it is just someone who wishes they were "deep" writing a bunch of brooding words to make people think they are so cool.

I think this guy is probably a good poet.

Maybe I should read something that tells me what the heck to look for in poetry. Better yet, I should go take a college class about poetry.

I read this one because the name of the book is awesome.

83. Pinheads and Patriots

Pinheads and Patriots - Bill O'Reilly

I like Bill O'Reilly.

I expect him to be Bill O'Reilly.

He was and therefore I like this book.

It is whatever you want it to be. Either a man making sense with the ideas and thoughts that are clearly better than some others, or he is a crack-pot who is capitalizing on a situation to make a dollar in the media circus.

I guess I am not the only one who thinks the guy makes some sense while he is entertaining me because he seems to be doing pretty well for himself.

What did I learn...everyone is a pinhead at times and a patriot at others...yes, even Barack Obama is sometimes a patriot. I think there may be an exception for Nancy Pelosi. She is lost in permanent delusional pinheadedness.  :-)

Just so you know where I stand...O'Reilly is not Beck, or Hannity, or Limbaugh, or any of those people who ALWAYS find fault with the left no matter what they do. O'Reilly is definately right-leaning, but is not like the aforementioned fellows he gets compared to. Most folks just say he is on Fox and is therefore a right wing hack. I say the same about MSNBC being leftist (to the real socialist degree). Who cares. Listen to and read whatever you want. It makes no difference anyway. If a guy like O'Reilly is able to change your position on something then you were just a wishy-washy flip-flopper anyway.

Have a nice day.

07 November 2010

82. Drive

Drive - James Sallis

The protagonist in the book is named....drum roll, please..."Driver". Well, I am sure that is not his real name, but it is the only name used throughout the book when referring to this character. Why is that? Ask driver himself. That is what he does. That is all he does.

Driver was an orphan. He was raised in foster care. As a teen he left and headed to California. He met a man who was a stunt driver in movies and the man took a liking to the kid. Driver became a stunt driver for films himself.

And then there is the other kind of driving. Driver is also a getaway driver. He is one of the best. He works with professionals. When he is hired for a job he makes sure they understand he drives, and that is all. He does not carry anything. He does not arm himself. He does not plan the job. He does not rob or make phone calls or anything. He just drives...and he is the best.

So, does this Driver guy think that if he is only driving and not actually doing the job that he is no breaking the law? I doubt that, but I think somewhere in his subconscious he is able to live with himself easier.

During a job there is a double-cross and Driver ends up with a lot of loot and trying to clean up the mess so he won't be murdered. All he wanted to do was drive, but it didn't work out that way for him this time. The bad guys come after him. Then he goes after them. It gets pretty violent, but it also has a bit of a humorous side to it also.

This was one of those books that took a while to get used to the writers style, but once I did I wanted to read the whole thing. It was a fun and exciting story with a twisty curvy plot.

01 November 2010

81. Reading Lolita in Tehran

Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books - Azir Nafisi

This is a woman's memoir of her life as a female English Literature professor at the university of Tehran during the revolution and subsequent times.

Ms. Nafisi spends a lot of time comparing the political and social factions within Iran and how the different groups of people associated with those factions reacted to different events.

Many of the friends and acquaintances she had were University type folks. There were the leftist Marxists, the Islamics and many others. These groups interacted with each other while discussing literature throughout all the regime changes and cultural transformations in their country. Sometimes this was easier and sometimes it was on the verge of criminal to even discuss certain books.

I found it interesting how many women were concerned with wearing the veil when the Islamic folks took over. Not because they didn't respect the religion or looked down upon those who chose to wear the veil, but because they had lost thier freedom to choose, and therefore they had become irrelevant in society. Imagine going from a respected English Lit professor at the countries number one university to feeling, and actually being, irrelevant.

The stories Ms. Nafisi relates are very interesting. They don't shed any new light on what I percieved to be the way of life in an Islamic state, but they do open my eyes a bit as to how the opression from the new powers above the women was seen and dealt with at personal levels.

I especially liked when Ms. Nafisi, her fellow university professors, and her students put The Great Gatsby on trial. They did not try Fitgerald. They did not try Gatsby the charachter. They had a trial for the novel itself to see if it had a place within their society. That was very interesting.

While I did find the book interesting at times and enlightening in a few instances, I did not find it to be all that great. It seemed dry and slow and lacked any kind of spark to keep me reading. I thought it was repetetive in many of the stories and ideas Ms. Nafisi was attempting to pass on.

It was not a bad book at all, but I expected much more for some reason.