Friday, November 23, 2007

The Dead Guy Interviews

Conversations With 45 Of The Most Accomplished, Notorious, And Deceased Personalities In History

Michael A. Stusser
Penguin Books
ISBN 978-0-14-311227-3

Michael Stusser regularly interviews dead people and publishes the interviews in Mental Floss Magazine . He has other personality quirks, too, I'm sure. This is his first collection of dead people interviews in book form.

The material is written tongue in cheek, which makes it very hard to type. The writing style reminds me of Monty Python. The deceased interviewees always have something surprising to say. Genghis Kahn: "Helmet is key. Tell kids, when you ride - must wear helmet." Sigmund Freud: "Man says to his friend, 'I've been making a lot of Freudian slips lately.' 'Like vat?' asks his friend. 'Vell, last week I asked the train conductor for two pickets to Tittsburgh.'"

Some of the interviews chosen for the book are with people that might not make your, or my , A-list, particularly the women. Mae West, Frieda Kahlo, Coco Channel, Oscar Wilde . . . Oh I was talking about the women, never mind. Of course, you have your Napoleon Bonaparte, your Caligula and your Albert Einstein too.

I'm looking forward to volume two, as long as Stusser doesn't want to interview me for it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Blog of the Day, Whoo Hoo!

I just learned that I'll Never Forget The Day I Read A Book! has been named Blog of the Day by That may not seem like such a big deal to you but, let me tell you, I never got an award before like this one. In fact I don't remember ever getting an award. A nice lady said "thank you" to me in the supermarket the other day when I handed her a plastic bag for her potatoes , but that's about it.

But then my mother always did say that I was the best one.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Six Frigates

The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy
Ian W. Toll
W.W. Norton & Company
ISBN-13: 978-0-393-05847-5
ISBN-10: 0-393-05847-6

The US Ambassador to the Central Africa Republic excitedly posted on the Fender Discussion Page, , about this book, which had been given to him by a retired Royal Navy officer. Thanks, DiploStrat, for turning me on to this one.

There are lessons that we should learn from this narrative, as there are in every era of history. For one thing, Britain was a superpower – Britania Rules the waves and all that – and was quite arrogant in regard to it’s treatment of the ships and sailors of other nations, particularly the United States, “pressing” sailors into the Royal Navy, i.e. kidnapping them, whenever it suited. What’s the use of being a superpower if you can’t throw your weight around, right? Well It turns out that a smallish country at the edge of the known universe can become a royal PIA to a superpower without having to come anywhere near matching that superpower’s military might. The US managed to annoy Britain to exhaustion, for a second time, in the war of 1812.

Then there is the opposition of the Republicans (Democrats) in the US to wasting money on such a superfluous thing as a navy. American commercial shipping was growing by leaps and bounds and had no protection against pirates, privateers or arrogant naval officers. Congress finally agreed to build six frigates in 1794 after the Tripoli reneged on the protection agreement that the US had bought from them, pillaged an American ship and held it’s crew for ransom. Colonel Khaddaffi’s predecessor in Tripoli didn’t get his comeuppance until 1805, though, what with cost overruns, schedule delays, change orders, budget cuts and a small undeclared war with France.

Considerable attention is given, in the book, to the Presidential election of 1800, which made Harry and Louise and even the Willie Horton ads look pretty tame. It was the first time we actually had to chose between candidates in 1800 and there were no rules yet. It showed.

“Six Frigates” ranges over a lot of topics, Nelson’s victories at the Nile and Trafalger, Napoleon Bonepart and his wars in Europe, the Louisiana Purchase, Theodore Roosevelt’s study habits, (Teddy wrote a book on the war of 1812, standing up, while attending law school) and Winston Churchill, who said “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” It is well written, as readable as a novel and (don’t tell) educational. It isn’t just ships and cannons and whatnot, although buckles are swashed aplenty.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Conscience of a Liberal

Paul Krugman
W. W. Norton & Co. Ltd.
ISBN: 13-978-0-393-06069-0

Deriving it's title from the 1960 classic ghostwritten for Barry Goldwater, this book blasts what Krugman calls "movement conservatism" for being anti democratic, elitist, self serving, untenable, false, misleading and packed with lies. He goes on for several chapters in this vein before he gets down to his own proposal for a liberal, a progressive, agenda which is centered around universal, single payer, health care.

Krugman gives some simple, easily verified, easily understood numbers which show, in his opinion, that a single payer system would provide better health care to more people for less money than the nightmare system of health care by accountants that we have today. Simple put, he proposes to extend Medicare to everyone. Of course the insurance industry and the pharmas will fight tooth and nail to prevent this happening and doctors are always complaining about the level of payment from Medicare. I always feel sorry for my doctor whenever I see him pull out of the driveway of his McMansion in his Mercedes. I know he really wants a Bentley and who can blame him.

I never did figure out why Krugman's conscience is bothering him, though.