July 22, 2014

Review: The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 9:02 pm

The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea
The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading this book was like watching episodes of Deadliest Catch. You can see how the show borrowed from Junger’s narrative.

I had heard bits about this book along the way, never saw the show, but the wife had picked up a copy at Goodwill and after hearing a bit more on Inquiring Minds of what to expect; I set to it. The book is fantastic, excellently paced; and haunting. The emotion one experiences for what these people went through drips from every page. While the story carries on Junger pieces in historical events, scientific facts, horrific and compelling experiences along with bits and pieces of psychology and sociology.

I have always had a love of fishing and at times pondered what it would be like to fish for a living. After reading this book one must seriously weigh one’s decision. The sea is a harsh mistress and does this book show it.

I cannot recommend The Perfect Storm enough!



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Review: Alas, Babylon

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 8:57 pm

Alas, Babylon
Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a bit of a gut punch and reminded me of the dread after watching the Day After back in the ’80′s. Frank presented a very through experience of what it might have been like to live through a Nuclear Holocaust in the 1950′s. Character development was compelling and while there were scraps of happiness pulled from the ruins here-and-there; this was not a joyful story.



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June 5, 2014

Review: Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 11:50 pm

Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I very throughly enjoyed this book and not only that; but it really sparked my motivation to try some new cooking techniques. Cooked consumes the four basic elements in each chapter with fire equaling barbaque, water as braising, air as baking, and earth as fermentation. Not only is a specific cooking tecnhique explored by the author but a lot of historical, anthropological and philosphical tidbits are exposed along the way. This is all completed by recipes at the back of the book he culled together from his research. Definetly worth a read and worth a test.

I myself have started favoring wood as opposed to charcoal for smoking now; focusing very much on a low and slow process. I also cultivated my own sour dough starter which is going strong now after three failed attempts. The family is truly digging the bread. I also got down to finally making my own Kimche. Thus, I must truly say, this book is infectuous. Give it a read!



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May 14, 2014

Review: Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas and the Weather of the Future

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 8:43 am

Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas and the Weather of the Future
Global Weirdness: Severe Storms, Deadly Heat Waves, Relentless Drought, Rising Seas and the Weather of the Future by Climate Central

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a good primer on understanding the issues surrounding the climate challenges the world is attempting to understand today. Topics are broken down into short chapters covering what is pretty well known about an issue, how the knowledge surrounding the issues was attained, and what more needs to be explored. For one who wants to get caught up rather quickly on issues regarding climate change this is a good place to start.



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April 2, 2014

Review: Divergent

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 11:14 pm

Divergent
Divergent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I primarily read this book because my daughter wants to see the movie and I figured I better get it in before it would be spoiled. I did not have very high hopes but I did find myself getting pulled into the story. Putting aside what my wife would call “the special flower” syndrome, the story was not that bad. The pacing was very well done and the character development hooked me up until about the last quarter of the book where I thought things just moved way too fast.

I suspect now that I have read the frist part I will eventually complete the trilogy.



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March 8, 2014

Review: Tales of the Jazz Age

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 10:32 pm

Tales of the Jazz Age
Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tales of the Jazz Age is a collection of eleven stories. While the requesite cadre of flappers, fops, and dandies dally through a few of the tales, there are some interesting seques taken. The first collection of stories, My Last Flappers, are what I come to expect from Fitzgerald. Privileged middle to upper-middle class characters drinking and partying and the woes there in, sprinkled with some bandits and socialists along the way. There are tales of longing; Oh Russet Witch and The Lees of Happiness, which reminded me a bit of Vonnegut but without much of the humor and aliens. Those stories spoke of paths taken and those not taken and regrets into one’s waning age. I include the Strange Case of Benjamin Button with these, but that story itself is more fantifical and memorable; illiciting a more power reaction in me; yet a similar one. A telling of a life in reverse that unsurprisingly ends the same way but comfortingly without the regrets.

The inclusion of the rather odd Button is buffeted by a more fantifical tale: The Diamond As Big As the Ritz. This was a story I was completely unprepared for in this collection and quite a treat. More of and adventure, survivalist tale, Diamond is a story of a Pre Civil War plantation owner who set about with his wealth on quest of discovery and chanced upon a mountain that was literally a diamond. Packing up his family and slaves he creates a fortress at the at the peak of the moutain, a castle of jewels and extravagance; isolated from the rest of the world. He sends his children off to private school and that is where we meet the protagonist of the story: A Southern boy of meager, yet proud heritage who is invited to spend the Summer with his fellow classmate, the son of the antagonist. I won’t spoil the rest of the story here, suffice to say it is rather wild and thoroughly entertaining.

I will part with another tale that felt more at home in Western magazine, perchance written by Howard if not for the bit more of romance in this tale; Jemina. A veritible Hatfields vs McCoys kind of story in the south. While a bit comical, it was even more short and quick to end rather oddly.

Overall, I enjoyed the Tales of the Jazz Age.



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Review: Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies About the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior Into a Raging Homosexual

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 10:32 pm

Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies About the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior Into a Raging Homosexual
Blowing Smoke: Why the Right Keeps Serving Up Whack-Job Fantasies About the Plot to Euthanize Grandma, Outlaw Christmas, and Turn Junior Into a Raging Homosexual by Michael Wolraich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yes, the title is a mouthful, but the content is easily digested and I thought well presented. The book takes a decent look at the history and psychology behind persecution politics. Ideas that give rise to severe divisive stances and ideological blockades even in the face of contrary evidence. Focus is on the current persecution espoused by the far right and how the prominent voices; Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Pat Buchannan, etc.; achieved their status in society today. Looking at similar issues in the past, from the Red Scare to the Civil Rights movement and how those periods compare to today. What seems to have been the defining moment for what we see today is the IRS coming after the “Seg” schools. How from that challenge bloomed what we experience today. I found it very thought provoking and eye opening.



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Review: Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 10:32 pm

Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free
Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free by Charles P. Pierce

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was great! Witty, entertaining and enlightening. It made me really reflect upon many of the issues challenging our society today. It also spared a great deal of interest in James Madison and his works.

The premise that the great American crank, a once wonderful and uniquely American icon, has now been corrupted by being thrust into the limelight and give automatic credence with very little refutation is aptly explored. Where once cranks were curiosities that sparked imagination and wonder and often resulted in being run out of town; now they are given immediate expert status. Pierce posits that critical challenges have been push to the wayside and that now if and idea moves units, is shouted loud enough, and has enough people believe it is given as truth. Regardless of the idea’s merits or whether it passes scientific method. That crank ideas are then given truth and thus a debate is formed where hooey is pitted against scientific theory and gives credence that there is a middle ground.

Pierce’s hypothesis are backed up by his years of journalistic exploration and many first hand experiences and interviews with people help to draw out his points. That along with much discussion of the founding father’s ideals, especially lifted from the Articles of Federation and James Madison’s work I believe help him make a very strong point.

Read this book, it is awesome!



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November 5, 2013

Review: Nothing Gold Can Stay

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 12:28 am

Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nothing Gold Can Stay by Ron Rash

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rash’s collection of short stories spanned a goodly amount of years. While tinged with beauty they were often flavoured with a raw edge that left me troubled, provoked, yet entertained. I have not spent much time in Appalachia but Rash gave me such a vivid picture that I would both delight at the beauty but keep an ever watchful eye on my back and should my tongue trespass.

Each tale was a little treasure with teeth. There were a few that I was outright frustrated at the outcome yet pleased that while there was no sugar coating, I was left pondering the motivations of the characters and how they would challenge my own if in a similar situation.

Excellent work and I will read more from this author.




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October 30, 2013

Review: Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State

Filed under: Uncategorized — dann @ 9:59 am

Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State
Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State by Dana Priest

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was a difficult read primarly due to the amount of acronyms for the various governmental and privately run organizations. This type of book is one that shows one of the disadvantages of reading in eBook format. While there is a glossary in the back one can reference, doing so on a eReader is quite cumbersome. Aside from that the book was very approachable and provided a lot of primary sources, albeit aliases intact for most, to flush out the Author’s arguement that “Top secret America has become an institution that by it’s very nature is an unmanagable mess.”

A bit of history is presented to set the stage for what would become the explosion of survelience and covert military action post 9/11. An overall is presented of how this military industry kicked into high gear in reaction to 9/11 and then the book breaks down to exploring specific facets of Top Secret America including electronic survelience, drones, and secret prisions, and special forces. Most of this information is pretty mainstream today but what I find a bit disturbing overall is that while nation was shocked into awareness over the Snowden leaks, what Dana Priest was collecting and reporting on for the past 10 years was exactly what those leaks revealed. It is a wakeup call that collectively we have had our heads in the sand for far too long and let this monster run without fetters for too long.

What really hit home to me was the magnitude of the military industrial complex surrounding Top Secret America. The enormous amounts of money that goes into funding and the number of jobs it creates. Most of the money is going to contractors, private industry which in turn creates demand to steal away qualified individuals who were once employed by government institutions. As those employees leave the government sector for private employment demand for qualified personnel increases thus raising the reliance on private companies. The CIA, NSA, FBI, etc all become training grounds for these private corporations to pillage from. Cost increases and allegiance is no longer to the government but to the share holders.

Add in this increasing population of Top Secret America and what was once a specialized group is becoming more and more diverse. There is a monster of beauracracy in place defining levels of secrecy to the point that information is not shared effectively. Former chains of command are broken and confusion permeates the entire industry. You have multiple groups producing the same information in different ways and not sharing or working together. The amount of information is more overwhelming than effective that often the needle is lost in the many haystacks.

This is a very thought provoking book. How do we reign in this beast when there is so much money involved?



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