May 13th 2018

The Red Sparrow Trilogy. Jason Matthews

The -foot ( m) diameter granite CIA seal in th...

The Red Sparrow Trilogy. Jason Matthews 2013 – 2018.  Three titles in this;  Red Sparrow, Palace of Treason, and The Kremlin’s Candidate.  The story line follows the background,  recruitment and handling by  CIA operative Nathaniel Nash of Dominique Ergogan through her almost 20 years  in the Russian equivalent of the CIA.   You will never look at Putin’s statements the same way again nor those of his surrounding people. This could completely reset your views to the CIA and Russia etc.  The author and his wife worked for the CIA for many decades in many cities as well as Washington. I suspect that many of the characters in the stories reflect those they saw in real life.   This much rings true. Great tales which move right along.

 

April 30th 2018

Brave New World Revisited. Aldous Huxley

Aldous Huxley, Famous Last Words

Aldous Huxley, Famous Last Words (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Brave New World Revisited. Aldous Huxley. 1958. ISBN 0795300166. Twenty-seven years after writing Brave New World , Huxley revisited his despairing view of the world trends and found that the downward spiral had accelerated. People were entranced by TV so that “amusing themselves to death” was trivializing history, politics and journalism.  Propaganda was replacing truth and repeating a lie often enough was a set policy. Demagogues and dictatorships were following his cookbook for control. Creation of short sound bites had replaced intelligent discourse.  A president was reduced to a TV personality . The pursuit of recreation had supplanted most of the non working life. The power elites were grabbing more of the wealth and control with the disparity tween top and the  rest widening.  What is telling is this was in 1958 and if he was alive today and saw the state of the US and other large countries he would not be surprised.  A thinking person should be quite taken with his prescience.  Every educated person should read this and Brave New World. An easy read but also disquieting.

April 23rd 2018

Amusing Ourselves to Death. Public discourse in the age of show business. Neil Postman

 

Ronald Reagan wearing cowboy hat at Rancho del...

Amusing Ourselves to Death. Public discourse in the age of show business. Neil Postman. 1985. ISBN 0140094385.  This book is over 30 years old – yet it reads as if it was talking about the US today.  Ronald Reagan said politics is like show business. Postman says it now is show business. Mcluhan  said the medium ( television) is the message -Postman says that television has redefined all messages.  The erosion of literacy, interest in history, journalism and intelligent discourse has been accelerated by the transformation of messages into entertaining small sound bytes. He exposes the various lacks of TV to do anything but serving the seeing public – not the learning public. ( To be fair he traces the erosion of learning back to the telegraph which created a flow of news from many other locations, news that to most of us we could not do any action in response to it, just absorb it) , He also draws much out of Huxley’s Brave New World – where learning is dulled by the pursuit of activities and entertainment so that the population is uninterested in anything but being entertained with holidays on soma. ( Huxley in Brave New World revisited speaks to the acceleration of this.

For any leader, educator or intelligent thinker this book is important to read.

April 16th 2018

Fools and Mortals. Bernard Cornwell

William Shakespeare by John Taylor

Fools and Mortals. Bernard Cornwell.  2017. ISBN  9780007504114.  Cornwell, a master of the historical fiction turns his hand to William Shakespeare. Told by his brother Richard we are led through the day to day life of playwright and player during the days of the fixed playhouses in the Elizabethan era. Mixed in is the power of the Puritans and town Councils ( Who both wanted to close the playhouses) . It was only due to the support of the monarchy and aristocracy that the theatres and playwrights grew to fame. The author does a very well in having the reader experience the daily grind of life at this time in a crowded, dirty London, replete with crime,  jealousies and feuds. As ever he is meticulous in his research so that you can expect the framework of his story to be rooted in fact. His historical notes are speak to that framework. Great read and holds your attention.

April 9th 2018

The Doomsday Machine. Daniel Ellsberg.

 

English: Daniel Ellsberg

The Doomsday Machine. Daniel Ellsberg. 2017. ISBN 9781608196746.  This may be the most terrifying non fiction book you may read.  Ellesberg ( He of the Pentagon Papers) was a long time RAND  nuclear war analyst. Along with the Pentagon papers, exposing the lying to the American public around the Vietnam War, he also retained  papers he worked on for many presidents about the lies and misrepresentations about the nuclear build up.  Japan was willing to surrender before Hiroshima due to the heavy firebombing the cities were being subjected to. Truman did not have to use the A bomb.  There was never a missile gap between US and Russia . The US had 100’s of missiles when the Russians had 4.  Once a missile, airplane or subs are sent out with a nuclear mission, it can not be recalled, as a deliberate military decision, since politicians may second guess.  Between Eisenhower and Kennedy the military industrial complex spent unneeded billions on nuclear buildups.  This continues today so that the overkill is still mind boggling. Worse yet is that in the unnecessarily manufactured race, both Russia and US have put in place Doomsday machines such that if one missile/bomb strikes Moscow or Washington it will trigger end of the world flash launches. Estimates of 500 million dead immediately, the Northern hemisphere is bombed and burning while the rest of the world dies off in 3- 6 months as nuclear winter kills all food and animal life. The smoke and ash from fires etc is driven high into the atmosphere and cuts off all sunlight rendering the earth uninhabitable for eons. So one madman can kill us all.  There can be no limited nuclear engagement.  It renders sleep difficult to consider this.

April 2nd 2018

Stieg Larsson, My Friend. Kurdo Baksi

 

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson, My Friend. Kurdo Baksi  2010. ISBN 9780670065363.  A biography and reflection on Stieg Larsson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy) by his friend for many years as well as the publisher of Stiegs magazine. Expo. Stieg was a tireless worker for human rights and toiled relentlessly against ultra rightwing groups espousing racism, Neo- Nazism and anti-immigration.  He shunned the spotlight as well as having his picture taken, preferring to be in the background. His success as a fiction writer came after he died suddenly from a heart attack.  It seems Larsson worked non stop to the detriment of his health and well being, living on endless coffee and cigarettes.He said that there were ten books in his head for the series on Lisbeth and her life. Apparently he was a writer who worked on the book series in parallel.  He was also tireless in “getting it right”, evidently  destroying numerous early novels once the trilogy was accepted.  One wonders what he would have written had he lived.

March 27th 2018

Obsessive Genius. The inner world of Marie Curie. Barbara Goldsmith.

Obsessive Genius. The inner world of Marie Curie. Barbara Goldsmith.2005. ISBN 9780393051377. I continue my reading on strong women scientists.  Marie Curie was treated as badly or worse than Ada Lovelace by the scientific male dominated community. She and her husband toiled in poverty  and relative obscurity and discovered radioactivity, radium , polonium. The spent many years of both their lives in finding medical and industrial usages of their discoveries, while paving the way for many many other scientists.  This book does a very good job of illustrating the tight circle of scientists that the Curies moved among.  All this in the build up to two great wars.  The writing is clear and concise and you get to identify with the whole Curie family. Tragically it was their dedication and selflessness that led to their own radioactive poisoning.

March 20th 2018

Enchantress of Numbers. A novel of Ada Lovelace. Jennifer Chiaverini.

Ada Lovelace, 19th century British mathematici...

Enchantress of Numbers. A novel of Ada Lovelace Jennifer Chiaverini.  2017.  ISBN 9781101985205. A historical fiction novel the author has tried to use as much historical records as possible.  Ada Lovelace is still considered the first computer programmer as she was aclose friend of Charles Babbage – who is credited with designing ( albeit not building) the first computer – his Analytical Engine.  Ada was the daughter of Lord Byron the libetine poet – who it seems was a pretty awful  husband and father.  Lady Annabella Byron ( nee Noel) is a well to do noble women who leaves Lord Byron and raises Ada Byron on her own. Ada’s childhood seems quite draconian as her mother is terrified that Ada will inherit her fathers bad Byron blood – so the child grows up quite alone, most often in the care of caring and uncaring nannies, guardians and governesses. She is denied many of the joys of childhood. She develops a very keen mind early on, especially with maths and sciences.  Her mother  believed  that women are capable of anything and let Ava develop her skills.  The novel follows Avas trials and growth through to her marriage to Lord Lovelace, her three children and her role in London society up until her death from cancer at 34.  She was living in a golden age in England and was friends with Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Mary Shelly and many notable lords and ladies of the time.  This was despite the misogamy endemic to the time and age.  The author writes a clear concise prose and it holds your interest.

March 5th 2018

Travels. Michael Crichton.

English: American author and speaker Michael C...

Travels. Michael Crichton. 1988. The author of many famous science related thrillers and movies like Jurassic Park, Crichton pens a concise story behind his life. He  covers his time as a medicals student and why he quite after getting his degree.  It certainly seems that he  was a very efficient writer, publishing The Andromeda Strain while still in med school ! He  details his background  and physical and mental journeys through many different experiences.  I was surprised at his dedication to research, his eclectic interests and playful nature toward everything ( Ie a very open mind) .  A real bonus is the appended speech he was to give at Cal Tech on Science and Mysticism. It is a very coherent analysis which presents the material in an open fashion and is well worth the read.

February 19th 2018

Elon Musk. Biography of a Self-Made Visionary, Entrepreneur, and Billionaire. B. Storm

Elon Musk. Biography of a Self-Made Visionary, Entrepreneur, and Billionaire. B. Storm. 2014.   I label this book disappointing. It is more a larger Wikipedia article than an insightful book on Elon Musk. It does not appear that th eauthor evere interviewed Musk or his employees, but rather put together public material in one place. If you want a quick synopsis of what Musk has done- yes you will get it. What is missing is a deep dive into who and what Musk is as a person. So we will need to wait.