Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ecclestone tells Mosley to quit...eventually

I'm a little baffled by this if Mosley can't function now then why then hold on until November? It's not like after he makes the announcement all the people who refused to talk to him will suddenly change their mind. Ecclestone can't believe that. Can he? There's no chance at a legacy.

Quotation [occasional]

"SATC[Sex and the City] spent its entire run TRYING to convince us that NYC was filled with great looking, rich, talented guys who wanted nothing more than a veiny-handed skinny broad in a nurse's uniform and stilettos." From an anonymous comment to They're Just Not That Into You

Fortress Without a Roof: The Allied Bombing of the Third Reich by Wilbur H. Morrison

Fortress Without a Roof: The Allied Bombing of the Third Reich by Wilbur H. Morrison. This book tries to do 2 different tasks. The first is to be a history of strategic bombing against Nazi Germany from the American perspective. The second is to further the American argument that daytime precision bombing was more damaging to the German economy than the British nighttime attacks on German cities. Unfortunately this second task makes the book rather polemic in places. Part of Morrison's argument is that Germany could have been defeated through bombing alone without the cross Channel invasion. This seems quite fanciful considering that the German leadership was unwilling to admit defeat until Berlin had been taken and the linkup between the Allied armies had taken place.

The history of the 8th Air Force is decent enough. Descriptions of heroic actions are sprinkled into the narrative of bureaucratic infighting. If an individual supported daytime precision bombing they are complemented if not they are criticized. This gets rather tiresome after a while. I get the idea he could have made the book about 100 pages shorter and not lost any of his argument.

Recommended for its perspective on the bombing but not as a history.

Is available through Abebooks.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Hal Spacejock by Simon Haynes

Hal Spacejock by Simon Haynes is a science fiction novel written by an Australian. This is first in a series, the fourth book has just been published. Spacejock is a chronically broke freighter pilot who needs to make some quick money fast. He has some nasty bill collectors who will not just take his ship but his life if he doesn't pay. Fortunately there happens to be a transport mission for robot parts. At the same time he has to drop off a robot who thinks he's going on a refit actually he's going to be junked for the tax write-off. A desperate competitor also wants the cargo.

The humor is decent enough. I did chuckle a couple of times. There are only a few puns which is nice. That sort of humor tends to be overused in most books like this. Sarcasm is wielded with great effect frequently by the ships navigation computer or Clunk the robot.

This is a fine summertime read. There really isn't anything profound here but it's still quite nice. I'm going to have to figure out a way to order them from Australia because I want the second book. If only the shipping from Australia was reasonable or for that matter if an American publisher picked up the series.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Berlin 1945: End of the Thousand Year Reich by Peter Antill

Berlin 1945: End of the Thousand Year Reich by Peter Antill is part of the Osprey campaign series. As usual for one of these titles this is a decent enough introduction to the battle, units and personalities. There are photographs or maps on just about every page. The text is readable but also has quite a bit of information in it. I was quite happy to see an extensive further reading bibliography section. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to whether one is included or not in a particular title.

there is particular coverage of the operations around the Reichstag and Hitler in the bunker. One minor criticism I do have is that the book actually tries to cover the campaign from the Soviet invasion in to German territory. I would've preferred if it had focused more on the battle for Berlin itself.


Is available through Abebooks.

History of the Later Roman Empire: From the Death of Theodosius I to the Death of Justinian [2 volumes] by J. B. Bury

History of the Later Roman Empire: From the Death of Theodosius I to the Death of Justinian [2 volumes] by J. B. Bury. This is a narrative of Roman history that spans approximately 395-565. It is written in the grand tradition. I suppose in many respects it helped create this tradition. There is a narrative of events with substantial footnotes that often argue points of analysis as well as provide citations. This is primarily political and religious history with occasional nods towards warfare and the citizens. It was originally published in 1958.

Bury is trying to show that the collapse of the Western Empire was less of a fall then a continuation by the barbarian peoples. They often looked to the Byzantines to provide legitimacy and support. They also continued many Roman traditions both legal and political.

A substantial chunk of the second volume is taken up with the Byzantine conquest of Africa and Italy by the general Belisarius. The descriptions of the military campaigns are pretty good. For once I don't have to quibble about this. More than likely this has to do with the work being published prior to social history rearing its ugly head.

There's quite a bit on church history particularly different theological debates within the Christian Church. There is also a discussion of Justinian's codification of Roman law. Not being an expert I was a little worried going in but the argument is laid out in a way that I could follow.

When reading through something this old the question arises of how much it stands up to modern revision. I still see this referenced in modern works so I presume it has stood the test of time. An important piece on of Byzantine history.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Rachel Ray is not a terrorist!

Okay she's kind of annoying but still. I have no words to describe the level of stupidity this is. Probably the nicest smack down is on John Scalzi's blog.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Maxime Bernier goes

It's about time. Truly a terrible choice. His lack of judgment and ineptitude will be remembered. An example for future ministers on not what to do. The talent pool is probably starting to get thin for Harper, if he has to go to David Emerson as interim.

Note: to BBC. I'm not sure a minority government is "swept into power".

On blog traffic

When I put up a quick post on the passing of Rob Knox I didn't think it would be responsible for the highest traffic day in my blog's history. For a while yesterday for Google's blog search it was number 3 in relevance. Currently its 4th. Funny how things like that work.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Two comments on racing coverage

ABC, very classy prerace to the Indianapolis 500. When we weren't seeing Danica Patrick's breasts we were hearing from crying family members about the deathtrap that is racing.

Fox, so NASCAR says Dale Earnhardt Jr. didn't endanger the safety teams during the Coca-Cola 600. Maybe you could show us a videotape so we could judge it ourselves. Unless of course you're covering up for NASCAR's favoritism like with all the fake debris cautions.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rob Knox RIP

Condolences to the friends and family of Rob Knox. He was killed in a bar fight. He played Marcus Belby in the upcoming Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince film.


Congratulations to my sister on the birth of her first born, 7 lbs. 7 oz. and 20 inches. Yes I'm being vague the kid doesn't need to be entered in the big government database quite yet..

Note: he was born on the 22nd apparently blogger ate this message instead of posting it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Envy of the Gods: Alexander the Great's Ill-Fated Journey Across Asia by John Prevas

Envy of the Gods: Alexander the Great's Ill-Fated Journey Across Asia by John Prevas is a colorful popular history of the Greek conqueror. What becomes quickly apparent is that Prevas really doesn't care much for Alexander. He considers him to be a megalomaniac. Unfortunately the book contains many of the faults of popular history.

The narrative starts with the Greek seizure of the Persian capital. Prevas says that this was the beginning of the madness that took hold of Alexander. With the seizure the war of revenge against Persia had been successful and it would be possible to break up Alexander's army. He didn't do this because he wanted to take control of the rest of Persia and kill the king. That would give him the authority to rule. Even after this was accomplished Alexander wanted to expand his empire through modern Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. This led to a series of disastrous campaigns for the locals. Only after the mutiny of his army did he turn back.

Much is made of the relationship between Alexander and his Macedonian contemporaries. The tension between Alexander's desire to be treated like an Eastern potentate and God with the traditional ideas of Macedonian leadership and law. The various assassination attempts and reprisals are described in gory detail.

There are some quasi-fictional sections to the narrative that I don't think are supported in any existing source. There's description of palaces and cities which sound like they've been polled right out of a novel. The most colorful stories of Alexander's cruelty and other failings have been trotted out without many provisos about the sources they are drawn from. Not much here from a military history perspective if you are looking for that. Some of the references to current conditions in Afghanistan and Pakistan were mildly interesting but were nothing new at least to me.

Not recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

2nd year anniversary

Today marks the second anniversary of this blog. I'm actually a little surprised it's lasted this long. This post will be the 539th that I have put up. Most are book reviews naturally. This past year I had a 70% increase in unique visitors over the first year. No idea if I'll be able to keep that pace up I guess we'll see. Probably the centerpiece of last year's activity was my rereading of Harry Potter in preparation for the release of book 7. You can revisit that through the Great Harry Potter Reread .

In the upcoming year I'm going to try to be more sociable in the blogosphere. There will probably be an announcement in the next couple of weeks. Which reminds me Maggie if you're reading this I need to ask your advice about something.

Tag changes

Over the next little while I'm going to be changing how I tag my posts. I have over 530 to work my way through so it may take a couple of weeks. I'm going to add subject tags to my book reviews and clean out some of the ones that I haven't used that much. I've fallen behind with my bookshelf subject posts. I'm going to discontinue updating them but I will leave them up. I'll provide a link to the relevant tag. Hopefully this will make navigation around here easier.

For instance here's my new and up to date British history tag.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Union: England, Scotland and the Treaty of 1707 by Michael Fry

The Union: England, Scotland and the Treaty of 1707 by Michael Fry. This is a history of the negotiation and passage of the agreement that unified England and Scotland in the early 18th century. Fry has written several books on Scottish history. They appear judging by their titles to be popular history.

the traditional historical analysis was that the act of Union was solely an economic bargain between the two countries. Fry acknowledges that the free trade clause was important to the Scots but it was not decisive. Rather the pressure brought to bear by the English was key in forcing the Scottish hand. They were however able to use the English ignorance of Scottish affairs to their advantage in areas such as religion.

The argument is well made however not enough time is taken up with describing the cast of characters. Many pages are spent on the debates in the Scottish Parliament. Lists of names of members of Parliament for different factions are listed off as if we are supposed to know who these people are. There are also long extracts from speeches and papers. I would have preferred a little more editing.

The most surprising thing I learned was that the author of Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe was a British agent who infiltrated Scotland to determine the perspective of the people for the agreement. His reports were a surprise to the English. He said the level of animosity was high.

Recommended rather difficult to follow in places but still enjoyable.

Is available through Abebooks.

Fandom has always had crazy

interesting piece on Claude Degler a crazy science fiction fan from the 1940s. Apparently people compared things to the Nazis even then.

In the outside world we are fighting a war for freedom and democracy — in fandom the P.F.F. has always stood for Democracy and the rights of newer and younger fans, as well as the old timers. I can only say that if this monsterous farce takes place here tonight, it will be a victory for the forces of totalitarianism and reaction all over fandom –- this concerns every reader of stf and fantasy fiction on this planet!
He also believed that science fiction fans also made up a new species that needed to be fostered. This would involve a farm in the Ozarks. Perhaps for a little breeding.... So crazy fans existed well before the advent of LiveJournal and the Internet. It makes you wonder if Homer had fan boys following him around pointing out inaccuracies in the Odyssey.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Captain Cook:the Seamen's Seaman by Alan. Villiers

Captain Cook:the Seamen's Seaman by Alan. Villiers this is a biography of the 18th century British explorer, he is best known for discovering Australia. There isn't much here about his early life this appears to be due to a lack of sources. The personal papers of Cook such as they were destroyed by his wife after his death. This means that his personality must be described through others and through his rather sterile official documents. This unfortunately makes the biography rather lifeless in places.

Villiers spends most of his time with the three voyages of discovery. He had done some sailing in a comparable vessel in the 20th century so he is able to provide some insights. This is geared towards a popular audience so various technical jargon is defined. The explanations are clear and I did learn something. The book concludes with a brief description of sailing vessels of the era and a further reading section.


Is available through Abebooks.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Arrow; Avro CF-105 Mk 1; Pilot's Operating Instructions and RCAF Testing/Basing Plans Edited and with a Forward by T. F.J. Leversedge

The Arrow; Avro CF-105 Mk 1; Pilot's Operating Instructions and RCAF Testing/Basing Plans Edited and with a Forward by T. F.J. Leversedge. This is perhaps one of the stranger things that I have blogged about as far as my reading goes. As the title would suggest this is a publication of two internal Canadian government reports on the Avro Arrow.

The Avro Arrow [with the Money Pit of Oak Island] is the perennial subject of Canadian conspiracy theorists. After a successful series of test flights the program was abruptly shutdown in 1959. Theories about this often involve meddling from the United States.

There isn't any real discussion of the termination in the introduction or the documents themselves. What is here is a fascinating description of the aircraft itself. Down to what various warning lights mean and the test program that was cut short. The description of the basing plans includes the assignment of different airframes to each battery of tests.

It is rather hard to review this. There are illustrations and pictures on every page. Explanatory notes are occasionally provided. Personally I would have preferred more explanation of technical terminology but I understand why it wasn't included. This publication seems to be aimed at aircraft enthusiasts who presumably would know what many of these terms already mean.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Quotation [occasional]

"Reading this book dragged like a government job,"
- From D. Matlack's Amazon review of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

The Catalans by Jan Read

The Catalans by Jan Read is a history of the people of Spain [and part of France] that have often strived for independence. This was published in 1978 so probably some of the analysis is out of date with current historical thought but it probably is okay. This is a narrative history written as an introduction.

Most of the narrative is discussing the various attempts to maintain independence from occupiers either Romans, Franks, Moors, various Spanish kings, Napoleon and Franco. There is not just a political history but also a cultural and economic one. Particularly this involves the literary and legal status of Catalan. There's also a further reading section which as noted above could be rather out of date.


Britain's Secret War: The Indonesian Confrontation 1962 - 66 by Will Fowler

Britain's Secret War: The Indonesian Confrontation 1962 - 66 by Will Fowler is an Osprey title on the attempted infiltration of communist agents into Malaysia from Indonesia in the mid-60s. Typically for one of these titles much is made of the uniforms and units engaged on both sides. Most of the emphasis is on the British Special Air Service and Gurkha regiments.

Much of the fighting was done in the jungle of Borneo. Tactics were mostly of the ambush variety. They had been created during the Malayan emergency and were further refined. Aircraft were integrated they were used for troop movements resupply and medevac.

This conflict is probably most famous for the "Claret" operations. These involved highly sensitive missions inside of Indonesia. Since Britain and Indonesia were not at war they were to be kept secret at all costs. This involved changing a citation for a Victoria Cross to obscure where the act was committed.

As usual for Osprey pictures on every page and maps. I would have preferred a further reading section even though I doubt there would be much on it.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks. they must

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Pretenders to the English Throne by Jeremy Potter

Pretenders to the English Throne by Jeremy Potter consists of short biographies of the following claimants to the English throne Robert of Normandy, Empress Matilda ,John of Gaunt, Henry Tudor, Lambert Simnel, Perkin Warkbeck, Lady Jane Grey, Mary, Queen of Scots, Edgar Atheling, William Clito, Edward of Warwick, Edmund and Richard de la Pole, Arbella Stuart. The book is only around 230 pages so some of the sections are very short. Some of them are too brief. Even with my knowledge of British history I was occasionally confused. Potter tries to put the various contenders in context. Fortunately family trees are usually provided to help explain the claims to the thrown.

He is at his best when discussing the later pretenders. I'm not sure if this is more his area of study or if it has something to do with the sources. It is actually quite noticeable that the quality of the sections seems to improve the later we go.

A book of this type naturally involves some reference to military campaigns. Unfortunately the descriptions are only narratives without any real explanation as to why victory was achieved or not. The occasional battle plan would have been nice.

Mildly recommended the coverage of the more obscure pretenders is interesting. I will probably try to find more though.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wrong language Prime Minister

"We are using the ancient language employed by our English and French ancestors to express the universal ideal that they shared," Harper said.

So shouldn't it be in a Germanic language not Latin? Or at least Vulgar Latin?

I know they're trying to wrap this in the flag but I'm a little sad. If you're going to redesign the Victoria Cross and change what it's made out of why not change the name also.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

So how much is it?

I thought the whole point of Stephen Harper muzzling his party was that he was the only one that could make sense if put in front of the cameras. So much for that theory. This whole thing is rather sad. If they actually want to get a majority they might want to straighten this sort of stuff out before an election.

Soldier of Fortune, the Story of a Nineteenth Century Adventurer by Ella Pipping Translated By Naomi Walford

Soldier of Fortune, the Story of a Nineteenth Century Adventurer by Ella Pipping Translated By Naomi Walford this is the biography of one of the leaders of the 1838 rebellion in Upper Canada [Ontario]. Nils Gustaf von Schoultz a Finn mercenary took command of the invading force from the United States during the Battle of Windmill near Prescott Ontario. This was written by a descendent and contains material from family documents. There has also been archival research done as well as reference to secondary sources. The research is actually pretty good, I would have preferred more on background but it's okay.

Much of the story is taken up with von Schoultz's relationship with his family. He left very little material himself. He's mostly seen through the writings of his relatives. Unfortunately much of the material was censored by a descendent.

He comes off mostly as someone who could not settle down for any length of time. He apparently had several moneymaking schemes including one for recovering salt from natural deposits. His mercenary career involved fighting with the Polish against the Russians and sometime in Africa although there isn't much evidence for that.

The attack on Canada is dealt with quite briefly. There is very little on the tactics or strategy of the battle. It seems to have been somewhat of a fiasco. There is material on his trial and execution. He was defended by John A. Macdonald the future prime minister of Canada.

Recommended an interesting part of Canadian history.

Is available through Abebooks.

Blue Rondo by John Lawton

Blue Rondo by John Lawton its 1959 London and several young men have been brutally murdered. It's up to Frederick Troy to solve the case while trying to juggle various sexual relationships. this is the fifth book in the series and series slump is starting to take hold. The first half of the book is basically a series of sex scenes [one including his sister] with occasional nods to a developing plot. Several of the characters come off more like satire than anything else. Troy is extremely well-connected with a brother as an MP and another as a top Fleet Street editor. It rings hollow. I had read the first two books Black Out and Old Flames before the blog and had quite enjoyed their portrayal of a time in British history. Much of the locale in this book comes off as being later from the 1960s with its extensive club life and underworld.

I will probably pick up the books from the series I'm missing but I won't be in a great hurry to do so.

Not recommended!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara by David I. Kertzer

The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara by David I. Kertzer is a book describing the court case surrounding this cause célèbre in 1850s and 1860s Europe. In 1858 a Jewish boy is seized by the Papal States authorities. Supposedly he was baptized by a Catholic servant. The narrative describes the international outrage and various attempts to get him back. Unfortunately the narrative is somewhat scrambled. There will be the occasional aside that jumps ahead 10 or 15 years for a paragraph then it is back to the main narrative. I would have hoped an editor would have caught this.

Kertzer is at his best when describing the geopolitics of the seizure. The French and British became diplomatically involved. This was also at the time of Italian unification. The issues surrounding the larger picture affected how the case was dealt with. I think there's somewhat of an overstatement about the French removal of support for the Papal States being directly related to the case but it is an interesting hypothesis. The book also discusses the media and partisan publications on both sides which would be interesting for anyone looking at the yellow press in this era.

After the main narrative there is a tacked on discussion of the suicide of a servant of the same family years later. The suicide was thought to be a murder by the authorities. Several family members were put on trial. I assume this was included to further underline the anti-Semitism of the community but I don't think it added anything to the narrative.

Recommended even with its flaws the story here is interesting and the history is fascinating. Apparently this is only the second treatment in English and first to use Italian and French sources.

Is available through Abebooks.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Civil War Command And Strategy: The Process Of Victory And Defeat by Archer Jones

Civil War Command And Strategy: The Process Of Victory And Defeat by Archer Jones is an attempt to analyze the strategy of the American Civil War. Jones breaks up the narrative of the war into several thematic sections. This strikes me as being a little simplistic but it does make the task of analysis easier.

The commanders of both the Union and Confederate forces were indebted to Napoleon for much of their strategic thought. Particularly the idea of turning the opposition out of an advantageous position. Much is also made of interior lines and concentration.

The one minor annoyance I have is that Jones will occasionally state something as fact without providing the evidence for the assumption. For example much is made of the myth of pursuit but it's never really explained why this is a myth.

The book contains a further reading section as well as diagrams of both civil war as well as other illuminating battles from the 19th century.


Monday, May 12, 2008

With Every Mistake by Gwynne Dyer

With Every Mistake by Gwynne Dyer is an edited collection of columns from between 2001 and 2005. Dyer an expatriate Canadian writes on current affairs, international relations, history and the environment. Each selection is prefaced with an update as well as some notes on his state of mind as he wrote the column..

There is quite a bit of self-flagellation about his inability to discern neoconservative strategy quicker. This concerns the run-up to the Iraq war and the nonsensical claims of weapons of mass destruction. He does seem to be a little too hard on himself after all no one else connected the dots either. Hindsight being perfect sometimes makes it difficult to figure out just what we knew at the time.

Dyer is somewhat of an iconoclast He argues that terrorism is really not that bad. More people die of automobile accidents every year. Israel will have to make concessions. The North Koreans aren't crazy. I tend to hold opinions like these so I enjoyed it. If you don't your mileage will vary. There is a very interesting section on media ownership and how this can stifle different perspectives. His columns were tossed out of various newspapers for their perceived bias.

Highly recommended.

Is available through Abebooks.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The British Military: Its System and Organization 1803-1815 by S. J. Park and G. F. Nafziger

The British Military: Its System and Organization 1803-1815 by S. J. Park and G. F. Nafziger tries to combine in one volume a history of the British Army as an entity for the Napoleonic wars. If you're interested in battles and campaigns this is not the book for you however if you want to know just how many officers were in a particular unit or wait of British weapons this is a must. Extensive descriptions of the different units as well as tactics and strategy makes the book extremely important. It is often quite difficult to understand the way that ranks and administration was done. There is an admirable attempt to describe the convoluted process. Occasional diagrams and drawings complement the text. These are most useful when analyzing the various tactics of infantry and cavalry. Appendices contain discussions of each unit as well as notes on commanders. A massive amount of information crammed into a relatively small package coming in at only about 70,000 words. The book contains notes and a further reading section often with commentary on the reliability or lack thereof of some of the sources.

Perhaps most importantly the authors freely admit where evidence is unavailable and primary and secondary sources are lacking. This sort of intellectual honesty is something that other military historians would be well advised to take note of.

Highly recommended!

Is available through Abebooks.

This is why I avoid forum discussions

The latest slap fight in the science fiction and fantasy community is over the short story The Stolen Word by Lisa Mantchev that was in Fantasy Magazine. Was I offended? No not really. Did I like the story? No not really. I don't like phonetically spelled out accents. I do find the discussion [all 130 comments of it at this point] very interesting.

They appear to be stuck in some sort of time loop. At this point they've cycled through this series of responses at least four times. I wonder how many more they'll manage before the admin throws up their hands and shuts down the thread. It could theoretically go on forever. In brief the cycle looks like this.

"I'm offended!"
"I'm not offended calm down!"
"How dare you invalidate my anger!"
"Calm down!"
"I'm offended!"

Along the way there are occasional sidebars about European history, race relations and debate etiquette. It's exhausting just reading the thing let alone actually participateing. In the end it won't matter nobody's opinion is going to be changed. I probably would have stepped in and pulled the plug after the first cycle but it's not my bandwidth.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Goering by Richard Overy

Goering by Richard Overy. I get the feeling that this may have been sold to the publisher as a biography of the Nazi leader, instead it's a discussion of his policies and various bureaucratic fights. Overy in the introduction tries to brush aside any criticism about a lack of a discussion of Goering the individual by saying that there isn't much material. He could be correct I'm not sure. It does make the book that follows a little hollow.

The text itself is extremely dense. Background knowledge with both 1930s and war time Germany is a must.this is not a beginners text. There were a few things that I didn't get and had to look up in other sources. Overy is somewhat of an iconoclast.

Much of the book is discussing the four-year plan as well as war production. The "legality" of the Nazi state was bizarre. They made sure to get proper documentation when buying up foreign concerns even when it involved threats of force or kidnapping. The Luftwaffe its R&D and manufacturing are described in a brief section. I would have enjoyed more on him as the Air Force commander. What's here is quite interesting.


Is available through Abebooks.

Military parade contains military hardware

interesting I didn't know the Russians stopped parading tanks and missiles until now.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Southern Reading Challenge

I've been trying to read more widely lately so joining up with the Southern Reading Challenge was only logical. My three books will be:

All the King's Men Robert Penn Warren
Our Southern Highlanders by Horace Kephart
The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron

Perhaps surprisingly considering what this blog is usually about I managed to avoid the American Civil War.

Twitter and creative writing


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Blogger ratings bad idea

Blogger in their infinite wisdom decided to add rating features to everybody's blog posts today. They didn't actually mention it on their official blog. Rage, surprise and anger was the not surprising result. Great idea guys you're really thinking there making us switch the feature off instead of opt-in. If like me you don't want the ratings check out this description for removing them that helped me.

Update: as mentioned in comments to this post apparently it was supposed to be "opt-in". well at least they disabled the feature. Pretty embarrassing. Full points for admitting it though, I wouldn't want to be reading their feedback e-mails today.

Jorgy: the life of Native Alaskan bush pilot and airline captain Holger "Jorgy" Jorgensen by Holger Jorgensen

Jorgy: the life of Native Alaskan bush pilot and airline captain Holger "Jorgy" Jorgensen by Holger Jorgensen. This is the memoir of a native [actually half native] Alaskan pilot. What comes across most strongly is his disdain of bureaucrats and other non-fliers. Some of the stories involving racism in Alaska were quite interesting. He certainly doesn't mince his words. Typical for autobiographies of this type are various stories of flying near disasters.

The book is really let down by some editorial decisions. According to the introduction this was based on oral history interviews. Apparently the tapes were just transcribed there doesn't appear to have been any editing. So there are occasional asides that could have been easily cleaned up. The chapters also seem to be somewhat random. They jump all over his career. They're not even thematic as far as I can tell.

Sadly not recommended there's a good story here but it's buried.

Is available through Abebooks.

This book was provided through Librarything's early review program.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Road to Gandolfo by Robert Ludlum

The Road to Gandolfo by Robert Ludlum is a satire of spy novels. The hero Sam Devereaux an Army lawyer gets himself entangled with the plot of General MacKenzie Hawkins. Hawkins is cashiered out of the Army after supposedly shooting the genitals of a Chinese statue. He decides to take his revenge by kidnapping the pope.

There is outlandish event after event it's all a little too much. There were a few good chuckles but no real outright laughs. Years ago I had read the Road to Omaha.a sequel which was as I recall a lot more funny. I'll have to dig up a copy and see if it still holds up.

Recommended for Ludlum completest only.

Is available through Abebooks.

Declassified: 50 Top-Secret Documents That Changed History by Thomas B. Allen

Declassified: 50 Top-Secret Documents That Changed History by Thomas B. Allen. This is a collection of 50 documents which were once considered secret by their governments. To say that they were "declassified" is somewhat of a misnomer because some of the German records were captured after World War II.

The oldest document is from the reign of Queen Elizabeth with the latest being the infamous "yellowcake uranium brief". Most of the standard espionage stories are touched upon. The only major exception was there was nothing on Mata Hari.

The documents are collected in thematic chapters. However some of the documents could easily go in different sections. They do seem rather arbitrary at times. Perhaps a chronological organization would have been better suited to the material.The author occasionally has to reexplain points about say Elizabethan England when they could have been covered at one point.

Each document is described, often there is a picture. Unfortunately a full transcript is not provided and considering some of the reproductions are quite lousy a transcription would have been helpful. There also is a short section on historical impact. No endnotes however there's a bibliography. Recommended for some light reading on the topic and I did learn a few things.

Is available through Abebooks.

This book was provided through Librarything's early review program.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Breaking news the elite are jerks

I am so happy that we have the Washington Post op-ed page to tell us these earth shattering things. That's just amazing that people who go to Ivy League institutions tend to be hypocritical and rude.

AbeBooks Affiliate Program moves

I received an e-mail today saying that the AbeBooks Affiliate Program is moving from Commission Junction to DoubleClick Performics. By writes I should be irritated by this because it means that I'll have to change the code on over 300 book review pages but I'm not. The Commission Junction site never actually worked various links on the user profile simply refuse to function. There were broken images everywhere. Truly an embarrassing display. When I had to contact them recently I actually did it through the media contact form simply because no other way actually worked. I fully expect DoubleClick will do much better. I also will probably end up losing a payment of $33 since I'm just short of the minimum payment for JC [$35 to Canada]. Frustrating but somehow that just sums up the entire experience.