Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We call it plagiarism Prime Minister

Update:someone order a sacrificial lamb?

Iraq Through A Bullet Hole: A Civilian Returns Home by Issam Jameel

Iraq Through A Bullet Hole: A Civilian Returns Home by Issam Jameel is a short book on the authors experiences when he returned to Iraq in 2005. Jameel a playwright emigrated to Australia during the reign of Saddam Hussein. It's not really clear why he decided to return. If he was looking for a job or just visiting. He couch surfs and gets into religious debates with his family members. He converted to Christianity. The final section of the book is a trip to the Kurdish north where he tries to regain control of a home he purchased in the early 90s.

The narrative is clear and readable. Pictures and some explanatory notes are included. There's nothing terribly profound here but it is still an interesting perspective on Iraqi society and the American occupation, not a major work but for someone with a pre-existing interest.


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

Monday, September 29, 2008

Safely Rest by David Colley

Safely Rest by David Colley is a slightly strange history. According to the jacket blurb this is a discussion of the return of American war dead after the second world war. This topic isn't discussed. So I was quite interested to hear about it. There is some material on that but most of the narrative is taken up with a long-winded case study. In the sections about the mechanics of the return of the bodies Colley keeps talking about the universality of death but the case study is quite remarkable. The study follows one family's attempt to learn the truth after their son is listed as killed. The father receives congressional help as well as moving to Europe. Not exactly typical.

Not recommended!

Oh shiiiiitttttt!

Bailout plan rejected - supporters scramble we are so screwed!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

On social and military history

This post is in response to a review of a book on Spartan history. I commented that it was surprising that it appeared that Spartan war fighting capability would not be a major portion of the contents. Instead being contained in the single chapter on foreign policy. I do admit that it could be argued that any sort of discussion of Sparta could relate back to the military but even so it seems like a strange and sadly frequent omission. I also haven't done a post laying out my own views on history.

First a little background traditional academic history tended to be political/military with emphasis on the" big men"[Hitler, Caesar, Napoleon etc.] of history. This history fell out of favor starting in the 1960s with the rise of Marxist economic historians. The major transition took place in the 1970s and 80s when the generation that could have served in the second world war retired. The Marxists weren't the only ones the major social movements also wanted to grab their own piece of the academic history pie [those interested in multiculturalism, feminism etc.].

This movement is usually referred to as social history. It attempts to highlight the lives of "average" people and considers historical events and movements to be resulting from the bottom up.

Military history tried to remake itself as either "new military history" or "war and society". These fields of study have little or nothing to do with the nuts and bolts of traditional military history. I can remember one particular professor in the history department where I took my undergrad who was quite excited by the economic aspects of camp followers. Some political and military historians managed to sneak into political science departments. Strategic studies and military science tend to be what they're labeled as these days.

Now to hopefully stop any angry commentsI don't believe that we should go back to the old style of history. I do think that the pendulum has swung too far and needs to be readjusted. To use my undergrad as an example I took 20 courses in history the maximum allowable. Three of these courses could debatably be called military history or have a large component. They were a fourth-year course on ancient warfare that was essentially traditional military history. The second was an independent study I set up with the same professor as the ancient history course. The last was called the world at war. It attempted in 13 weeks to describe both world wars. Suffice it to say it was compressed....

For a vehement defense of military and political history see Who Killed Canadian History? by J. L. Granatstein.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Harry Potter Lexicon appeal

Time for some more fun. Makes you wonder just how deep RDR's pockets really are.

Paul Newman, 1925-2008

Paul Newman is gone.
His finest achievement was at the 1979 Le Mans 24 Hours, where he finished second in a Dick Barbour Racing Porsche 935, alongside team owner Barbour and Rolf Stommelen.
Not being a big movie person, I'll remember him more for his racing than anything else.

Friday, September 26, 2008

New Osprey series

On raids. Seems a little strange like most of these could be covered as part of the campaign series. Not much information there. I wonder if it'll be the 48 or 96 page format.

Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life by Bonnie Friedman

Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life by Bonnie Friedman is sold as a book that deals with the psychology of writing it's actually a biographical look at Friedman's issues. In brief she can't get no respect, not that she does anything worthy of respect. Friedman views herself as a special snowflake that normal societal norms should not apply to. She should be able to write novels portraying friends and family in negative lights. In particular there is a long section describing her writing an exploitative manuscript about her sister's MS, under the guise of "educating the public". The subjects should be thrilled that she is living up to her "art". There's also quite a bit of pseudo-philosophical and Freudian drivel mixed in. She can't seem to take criticism so I'm sure her agent and editor must just love her. She goes out of her way to rant against the creative writing program she was in her adviser in particular. The whole thing is narcissistic.

Not recommended!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A note to my alma mater

Considering how proud you are at trumpeting the millions that you have finagled out of the provincial and federal governments it is unseemly to send me a clawing letter demanding funds. Thank you so much for the introduction to the tax code. That's something I needed. Considering we both know that anything I donate will disappear into the black hole that is student athletics or the neuroscience department. I think I'll pass.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Quotation [occasional]

"What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!"
- Letterman on McCain

McCain wants to pull plug on campaign

Whining about the media hasn't worked and the VP bounce seems to be over. So what's a candidate to do? Timeout!

Fan fiction and novel writing

An interesting review of a novel from a former fanfic writer. It does a very good job at expressing the differences between the two forms. Warning: the review uses various four letter Anglo-Saxon words you've been warned....

Bloody Sunday: Lord Widgery's Report 1972: Lord Widgery's Report of Events in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on 30 January 1972 edited by Tim Coates

Bloody Sunday: Lord Widgery's Report 1972: Lord Widgery's Report of Events in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on 30 January 1972 edited by Tim Coates this is the first government report that was commissioned on the controversial shooting of protesters by the British Army. Bloody Sunday is one of the most famous incidents of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

This book was published as part of a series called Uncovered Editions. These consist of material taken out of the British archives making it accessible for a wider public. This is a truly admirable program that entrepreneurial souls in other countries should consider doing.

The report itself essentially takes the side of the army units. The only real criticism of the authorities was that the rules of engagement were unclear and could be difficult to parse when being shot at. Today the report is considered to be flawed both in its acceptance of forensic evidence and in other particulars. Frustratingly I did not learn this from Coates' introduction I had to look it up online. There was no attempt to put the report in context. Definitely a lost opportunity.

Recommended for the report but not for the apparatus surrounding it.

Clay Aiken is gay

And in other news.... water is wet, the pope is Catholic and bears do in fact go number two in the woods.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New blogs in the sidebar

I just added two new blogs over in my sidebar they are Reading after the Robe and Christian Book Review. They were set up by an old friend of mine. If you're interested in something literary or Christian take a look.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hailer Publishing reading project

Most of the books I read and review here are either used or remaindered. I don't feel particularly guilty about this. First of all is the often overpriced nature of books particularly in Canada. Second I don't buy into the collective guilt argument that me failing to purchase the latest Jasper Fforde book new is going to cause the end of Western civilization. Authors in food lines, international publishing conglomerates going bankrupt and retailers closing up shop. If the Bush administration hasn't managed that yet I'm not sure how I'm supposed to.

All that being said when it's a niche publisher that puts out quite a bit of material I'm interested in at reasonable prices. I feel a little guilty. Since I have basically finished up my research on the Sudan campaign I have a little more time and cash to play around with. So roughly once a month I'm going to be buying something directly from Hailer Publishing. This also gives me an excuse to get more of their stuff. I'm not sure how long I'll keep this up or if I'll buy everything available, we shall see. There are currently 33 titles in their catalog I already have some of them.

For the month of September I just put in my order for Kingdoms of the Blind: How the great democracies have resumed the follies that so nearly cost them their life. by Dr. Harold William Rood naturally I'll put a review up.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mazower's HITLER’S EMPIRE How the Nazis Ruled Europe

In todays New York Times they are quite hot and bothered over HITLER’S EMPIRE How the Nazis Ruled Europe by Mark Mazower. For instance this extravagant praise.
In this important book, Mark Mazower provides the best available survey of the Nazi empire’s precipitous rise and violent demise.
I wonder if that will be on the dust jacket of the next printing. Looks like it may be interesting although I was grinding my teeth over the statement that the resistance groups didn't have any military impact. Poland?

Rowling's politics

Just in case there was any doubt about JK Rowling's politics this clears that up. Potter author in £1m Labour gift. I'm rather surprised that the article claims that the money won't be used to pay off part of their debt.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wild Life of the Army: Civil War Letters of James A. Garfield edited by Friedricks Williams

Wild Life of the Army: Civil War Letters of James A. Garfield edited by Friedricks Williams. This is a selection of correspondence from the future president of the United States from the outbreak of the Civil War through 1863. Unfortunately it's not as interesting as you might think.

Garfield sat as one of the judges at the court-martial of Fitz John Porter. He also was Rosecrans chief of staff in the Chickamauga campaign. He spends most of his time writing about his health [he suffered from frequent bouts of diarrhea], the failure of people back home writing to him and his own political career. The military operations are dealt with quickly and as the editor frequently notes inaccurately.

Not recommended!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sequel

Andrew Wheeler passes on the information that Eoin Colfer will be writing a sequel to Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. These days I can't say I'm stunned. Maybe that it took so long. Typically for blog entries like this I should go on a 500 word rant about how my childhood has been sexually assaulted by the powers that be. I'm not doing that.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a classic don't get me wrong but let's face it the last two books in the series came off sounding like he was basically sharecropping it his own universe. So I can't get too worked up about the literary estate squeezing every Altairian dollar they can out of it.

How the book is received will be very interesting. They're still is a decent enough fan community about for the series. I'll be waiting for the reviews myself before deciding whether to pick it up. So anyone want to make any guesses about which series is up next for a posthumous sequel?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Two-block fox; the rise of the aircraft carrier, 1911-1929 by Charles M. Melhorn

Two-block fox; the rise of the aircraft carrier, 1911-1929 by Charles M. Melhorn is a history of the debates surrounding aircraft carriers in the United States Navy. The book covers two doctrine discussions. The first was whether aircraft would be wheeled or float planes. The second was the utility of the battleship.

I have a particular interest in how doctrine is formulated so I found this particularly interesting. Many of the characters are unfamiliar to me. The only one I really have any experience with was Billy Mitchell. Mitchell comes out in this book like even more of a manipulative weasel than I had thought before. He may have been right in the end but the way he achieved his goals were quite unfortunate.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

September September by Shelby Foote

September September by Shelby Foote was my third and final book for the Southern reading challenge. Sadly it wasn't shipped it in time I, was unable to get in before the deadline.

In 1957 Memphis 3 whites decide to kidnap the grandson of a rich black businessman. They decide to claim to be white supremacist to use the controversy over school desegregation to strengthen their hand. They end up getting more than they bargained for. The family of the kidnapped child attempts to come to terms with what has happened as well as what they will do about it.

Point of view shifts between characters every 10 pages or so. Just about every one is covered in at least one section. The technique is unusual enough that it takes some getting used to but I didn't mind it.


Sleep and Canadian politics

So much for the sleep experiment. Doesn't seem to be working as of yet. All its managing to do so far is make me tired all the time. Here's hoping in it will get better. Not fun at all. I had forgotten that I could actually do work while half asleep. A useful rediscovery.

I don't have much to say about the Canadian election. So far besides the juvenile behavior from the conservative war room it's been pretty lackluster. The Greens have a good opportunity if they don't blow it. I still think that Parliament is going to look much the same [a conservative minority] after this is over.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Theo Tams wins Canadian Idol

Congratulations to Theo Tams. He was announced as the winner of Canadian Idol tonight. I don't follow much reality TV but I have to talk about this. He is a local boy after all. Nice to know our area will be known for something more than crazy alderman and the occasional hockey player.

The Peninsular War, 1807-1814 by Michael Glover

The Peninsular War, 1807-1814 by Michael Glover is a highly readable and informative history of this series of campaigns in the Napoleonic wars. I was particularly glad to see coverage of the operations before Wellington entered the peninsula as well as battles that didn't directly involved his army. The one major drawback is that there is almost no coverage of the Spanish guerrillas. Glover tries to excuse this by saying it wouldn't fit into a logical narrative. I find this rather debatable. Even with that criticism this is an excellent book on the topic with very clear descriptions of the battles and sieges. There are short biographical sketches of major and minor figures. There is also a section on further reading as well as a bibliography.

Highly recommended!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Battle of Hamburg, Allied Bomber Forces Against A German City in 1943 by Martin Middlebrook

The Battle of Hamburg, Allied Bomber Forces Against A German City in 1943 by Martin Middlebrook this is an oral history backed up with archival research. Attempts were made to gather perspectives from those on both sides of the battle. This battle was a series of RAF and American attacks on the German city. The interviews and correspondence from witnesses is quite interesting. The Hamburg raid has gone down in second world war history as being particularly controversial. Middlebrook describes the ethics of the aerial bombing strategy from various points of view. I found it rather unfortunate that he was unwilling to give his own perspective. In books of this type the civilian infrastructure like firefighters and police are usually not referenced. Fortunately they are in this book.

I did find some of the writing style to be irritating. I don't mind the inclusion of introductory material in fact I learned one or two things about American Air Force organization but I do mind it when the author feels the need to apologize for including it.


Monday, September 08, 2008

Lexicon loses J. K. Rowling wins

In news that really shouldn't surprise anybody the judge has ruled that the lexicon does not have protection under the fair use doctrine. So far there has been no word from either RDR books or Steve Vander Ark about an appeal.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

The First Four Georges by John Harold Plumb

The First Four Georges by John Harold Plumb biographical sketches of the first four British kings to have the name George. Through their lives we learn quite a bit about British social and political history in the 18th and early 19th century. All four had various foibles which are described in loving detail. The last two get the most coverage. The loss of the American colonies by George III and the occasional insanity of George IV. This was originally published in the 1950s so it has many of the flourishes of nonfiction writing, from those days.


The Regiment's War by John Dalmas

The Regiment's War by John Dalmas this is the fourth book in a military science fiction series. There's a reason why I try to avoid picking up books in a series other than the first. This is a perfect example. The story as much as I could make out was that there are mercenaries who are regenerated into new bodies but don't always remember what they did in past lives. The plot of this book is the mercenary regiment fighting on a planet against an opposing military. The level of technology that can be used in the conflict is restricted. Sort of a military equivalent of the prime directive. Although it sounds like the restrictions are maintained by the threat of total annihilation, as opposed to the rather peaceful means of Star Trek. The action is done quite well. The characterization is rather stock. There's the usual new member who isn't sure they quite cut it and the grizzled veteran. I probably will get the first book in the series.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

McCain's speech

The person whose idea those last few paragraphs were needs to be fired. They had an easy high note to go out on but blew it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Fall of Toulon: The Last Opportunity to Defeat the French Revolution by Bernard Ireland

The Fall of Toulon: The Last Opportunity to Defeat the French Revolution by Bernard Ireland is a history of this forgotten campaign of the French Revolution. An alliance of the British, Spanish and royalist French took control of a key naval port of France. The book is particularly good at giving a summary of the French Navy both before and just after the outbreak of the French Revolution. I actually found this part to be the most enjoyable section of the book. The siege itself is dealt with almost as an afterthought. When mentioned in other books it's usually brought up to say that both Bonaparte and Nelson participated.

Highly recommended!

Quotation [occasional]

"Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?
Because her father is Janet Reno."
John McCain 1998

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Looking Glass War by John le Carre

The Looking Glass War by John le Carre is the fourth book in the George Smiley series. He's a rather minor character in this book. The story describes a military intelligence outfits attempt to determine whether there are Soviet missiles in East Germany under the control of the Germans. An introduction to my edition by le Carre says that he wanted to show the failure of the system. There definitely is a touch of farce about the squabbling between the different intelligence organizations. The characterization is particularly well done. The infiltrator being memorable.

Highly recommended!

1805: Austerlitz: Napoleon and the Destruction of the Third Coalition by Robert Goetz

1805: Austerlitz: Napoleon and the Destruction of the Third Coalition by Robert Goetz is a rather confusing history of this famous Napoleonic campaign. It sets out to describe the actions from the perspective of the Russians and Austrians instead of from the French. Goetz is to be commended for his extensive research in the archives as well as his grasp of scholarship. Unfortunately this occasionally makes the text difficult to follow unless one is already steeped in the narrative of the operations. He occasionally stops to argue with other historians over rather small details. The big picture is often lost in descriptions of small tactical engagements. They are only linked together in a few pages at the end of the book. I may find this book more useful when I have read more on the campaign.

Not recommended.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Summers over

I've always considered the Labor Day long weekend to be the end of summer. The school year starting and all that. This is the first year I don't have classes or thesis to worry about. I will be starting something new. I haven't decided yet how much I'm going to talk about it on here. I guess we'll see.

This gives me an opportunity to try to do something about my sleeping pattern. Over the last few months I've been going to bed later and later. I want to try to get back to something reasonable. So I can actually do some work in the morning. If the reviews are particularly cranky in the next few days you'll know why.

Speaking of reading I am on pace to get through 250 books this year. I've had a very busy last few months as far as reading goes. I'm actually behind in my reviews. I'm going to try to catch up. There's been quite a bit on the Sudan campaign. Longtime readers of the blog can probably guess what the project involves.