Thursday, December 29, 2011

For the Love of Physics

From the End of the Rainbow to the Edge of Time - A Journey Through the Wonders of Physics

Walter Lewin with Warren Goldstein

Waltr Lewin, professor of physics at M.I.T. does spend a lot of time in this book, which describes his intro to physics lectures, talking about rainbows. He even had his young daughter hold a spraying garden hose up over her head on a cold December day in Cambridge, MA to pose for a rainbow photo.

Lewin likes to do dramatic demonstrations of the principles of physics for his M.I.T. students, swinging on a pendulum across the lecture hall or holding one, a 15.5 KG ball, up to his nose and letting it go, to show that it won't come any closer than 1/8 of an inch from that nose on it's return trip. He has so far stood still enough not to get hit in the nose with his demonstration. His enthusiasm for the subject is contagious, which is why Lewin's introductory physics class has become so popular.

Electricity, magnetism, light, Newton's laws of motion, general relativity and Maxwell's equations are all touched upon in this book of science popularization. As is customary, all this is done, even Maxwell, without taxing the reader's math skills.

Lewin's work at M.I.T. besides teaching, has been in X-ray astronomy. There is an extended section of the book covering this subject, his adventures with giant helium balloons in Australia and the reasons for studying X-rays from outer space. This work is now done with satellites, but when Lewin started either a short rocket launch for a few minutes of observation or a stratospheric balloon ride of a couple of hours were all that could be done. X-rays are absorbed by Earth's atmosphere or we would all be fried.

M.I.T. has kindly put the whole series of Lewin's lectures, in video, on the web. You can watch to your heart's content at MIT Open Courseware.

By the way, Professor Lewin wants you to know the degree of uncertainty in all of your measurements. If you don't know that, you don't know anything!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

THe Filter Bubble

What the Internet Is Hiding From You

Eli Pariser

Social scientists have been telling us for a decade or more that we tend to associate with people that are just like ourselves, watching either Fox or MSNBC but not both, even moving to cities where more people share our own political and/or religious views. Eli Pariser proposes that the algorithms written into Google, Facebook and other social networks and search sites have been written to reflect ourselves like a mirror.

This results in the ghettoization of society. One person's Facebook feed is filled with vegetarian, Buddhist and Occupy Wall Street posts. Another's has Sean Hannity, climate change denial and right to life posts. In the next cubicle the screen is filled with Ron Paul, Iggy Pop and the latest home fusion technology schemes. My Google search on the same keywords will not give me the same results as yours. Google is trying to give each of us what we want, according to the history of our internet use, as stored in "cookies" deep within our own hard drives.

The companies which run these sites are storing up detaied profiles of each of us, in order to feed us advertising for the things we, individually, are most likely to buy. Their approach is much more sophisticated than the coupons that supermarkets print for us at checkout time, trying to woo us away from the dog food we just bought with an offer of 25 cents off on a can of the competing brand. According to Pariser, they know all about or personal, work, recreational and political lives and stand ready to sell that information to any bidder. Perhaps this is why my Gmail spam folder always has an ad for recipes for Hawaii's favorite tinned meat product.

Pariser contends that these algorithms serve to accelerate the breakup of civil society. All we see on the internet is the same as we see on our favorite cable channel, hear from our friends and hold strongly in our hearts. We must be right, because everyone we know agrees with us.

The solution? I know it can be painful, but I suggest that you go ahead and "like" Michael Moore's Facebook page and Rush Limbaugh's. Search for the latest news from Pope Benedict and from Vladimir Putin. Watch those Fox News clips and a few from Al Jazeera. Cognitive dissonance is a good thing.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Whiskey Rebels

David Liss

This is my third review of a David Liss novel, my most recent literary enthusiasm. The title might lead you to think that this historical novel is about the 1794 western Pennsylvania insurrection, put down by George Washington with troops provided by Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In fact the action predates that rebellion by two years, although the whiskey tax, imposed by congress to raise funds for Alexander Hamilton's efforts to pay off the debt incurred during the revolution and finance the Bank of the United States, plays a big part in the story.

It was an undue burden on the farmers of the west, which means Pittsburgh in 1792, to pay a tax in cash on the production of whiskey. These farmers could not get their grain to market, due to a lack of roads to the east and the closure of the Mississippi river to American commerce by Spain. They made whiskey instead and bartered that whiskey for the necessities of life. Lack of access to markets also created a shortage of hard money, so whiskey became the currency of the west. Thus the farmers had no money to pay the tax.

Liss likes to use the financial sector of a society in his historical novels. In this case it is Hamilton's bank, the speculation in banking stocks and the panic of 1792 that he uses to create a plot,written like a crime novel, with lots of twists and mysteries. He writes the book from two points of view. One is a disgraced former spy, now a drunkard living in Philadelphia, who takes on the challenge of finding his ex-fiance's missing husband. The other is a woman who moved to the west with her revolutionary war veteran husband to homestead on land offered in exchange for his bounty warrant, promised by Congress but not delivered.

The action brings the two together in Philadelphia and New York working together, or perhaps against each other, as William Duer attempts to take over the Bank of the United States and causes a general economic collapse. Historical characters, like Duer and Hamilton and real events, particularly Duer's catastrophic attempt on the bank, are used in subtle ways, to move the plot forward to it's surprising conclusion. He weaves in the whiskey tax, the unmet promises to war veterans and the greed of speculators with their undue influence on the government. The Whiskey Rebels could be read as a metaphor for our current economic situation.

Liss is able to make banking and stock manipulation exiting, to mix historical fact with fantastic invention seamlessly. Chances are good that more of his novels will appear on this blog soon.


This post is in the 84th
Book Review Blog Carnival

Published at One Book Per Week.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Guild Guitar Book

The company and the instruments 1952-1977
Hans Moust

The Guild Guitar Book is the definitive guide for collectors of vintage Guild guitars. It contains a short history of the company, founded by Alfred Dronge in 1952. Dronge took the opportunity to hire skilled craftsmen, in New York, who were laid off by the Epiphone company when Epiphone was acquired by Gibson and all of Epiphone's production was moved to the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, MI. Guild quickly became a popular brand, played by musicians like Missisippi John Hurt, Dave Van Ronk, Paul Simon, Muddy Waters and Jerry Garcia.

Guild has gone through several moves and acquisitions itself over the years. The first being a move to bigger facilities in Hoboken, New Jersey. Fortunately for the former Epiphone employees, Hoboken was accessible to them by subway. Not too many years later, production was moved, again to larger facilities, in Westerly Rhode Island. This was more disruptive and new people had to be hired and trained to work in the Westerly factory.

The Guild Guitar Book does not go past 1977, while Guild was still located in Westerly. I had an exchange of emails with the author, who tells me that he would like to bring out a new edition, which would bring the book up to date. He has hinted that he might put a picture of my own Guild (built in Hoboken in 1964) in this new edition if it ever comes out.

It is certainly time for a second edition. This book covers only to first 25 years of this 59 year old company. Production has been moved, since the company's purchase in 1995, to Corona California, Takoma Washington and, just last year, New Hartford Connecticut. Most guitars Guild builds, though, are still based on designs developed before 1977. 

Most of the book contains detailed information, with photographs of the different guitar models built by Guild, to be used by collectors to identify and date instruments. It is only good for the older, New York, Hoboken and Westerly built guitars, of course, but those are the ones that collectors concentrate on and Hans is most helpful if you send him an email regarding any Guild from any period.

Most of the book contains detailed information, with photographs of the different guitar models built by Guild, to be used by collectors to identify and date instruments. It is a rather specialized reference. I was very happy to receive a copy as a gift. Now I need to expand my collection.

This post is in the 83rd
Book Review Blog Carnival

Published at Kitsch Slapped.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Coffee Trader

David Liss

With twists and turns of real or imagined conspiracy to rival a Thomas Pynchon novel and with meticulously researched historical detail, David Liss' second novel, set in Amsterdam in 1659. It involves one Miguel Lienzo, a Portuguese Jew who trades at the new Amsterdam Exchange, the worlds first commodities futures market. Presumably, the young Lienzo is the same person as Benjamin Weaver's uncle Miguel who appears as an elderly man in early 18th century London in Liss' first novel, A Conspiracy of Paper.

Readers who come to The Coffee Trader after reading that first novel may view it as a kind of prequil, although one could read them in chronological order (Coffee Trader first) or in the order in which they were written with no harm done. Much more is learned about the Portuguese Jews in exile during that historical era and the full dimensions of the split between Miguel and David Lienzo, hinted at in A Conspiracy of Paper are brought to light.

It is very hard to write about a book that is so plot driven and so dependent on surprising twists and turns in it's plot without spoiling things for future readers, but I am trying. Without revealing too much then: Miguel Lienzo has gotten himself into debt through some trades on borrowed money, that went bad on him. He is introduced to coffee, a new commodity brought to Europe from the east recently and is convinced he can repair his fortunes by making a masterful trade in coffee, which will soon be for sale on every street corner in a chain of Starbucks shops. (not really) The ramifications of trading in the future price of a commodity and the scheming that goes on behind the scenes by rival traders, a cute Dutch serving girl, and the complications of life for a Jew exiled in a foreign land lead to a lot of unexpected adventures.

Liss has written five, or is it six, or perhaps even seven novels and, surprise! a slew of comic books for Marvel comics. Most of the novels appear to be historical fiction, including one about the whiskey rebellion. I may become somewhat of a boor while read and review all the David Liss writing I can get my paws on.

This post is in the 82nd
Book Review Blog Carnival

Published at Mel's Mouthful on Mothering.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Conspiracy of Paper

David Liss

I picked up David Liss first novel, published in 2000, because the title appealed to me. It is set in London in the early 18th century and deals with a number of historical themes. The protagonist, Benjamin Weaver is a Portuguese Jew, one of a group that had begun to arrive in England at the end of the previous century. Jews were expelled from England by Edward I in 1290, so these Portuguese were all recent arrivals, coming from the Netherlands, where they were in exile from Portugal and Spain due to the 1492 expulsion there.

Weaver is a former prizefighter, retired because of an injury in the ring, except there was no ring at that time. Fights were staged in theaters and Weaver had fallen from the stage and broken a leg. He was lucky to have survived the treatment he received and luckier still to be able to walk. Professional sports is in it's infancy and medicine is based on folklore and trial and error.

Weaver has turned to recovering stolen property to make a living. He is in the process of inventing the role of the private detective. At this time London is inventing the police force and criminal justice. Corruption and bribery are the order of the day and thief takers are paid a reward for the conviction of those who they capture. He becomes involved in a case involving possible counterfeit stock certificates in the South Sea Company.

The idea of a stock exchange is just beginning to emerge in London at this time and the sale of shares in all kinds of ventures runs rampant. People had long bought shares in trading ventures by ship, then waited for their ship to come in, as the saying goes. In the 1700s shares in new inventions, public works projects, schemes of a very sketchy nature, but which promised to make money, and even lottery tickets were bought and sold in London coffee houses. Everybody who was anybody bought them.

The South Sea Company, a real company of the period, had been chartered by the English Government and given a monopoly on trade with the Pacific coast of South America. It was intended to be a great company like the East India Company, which traded with India, China and all of East Asia. The only problem is that the Pacific coast of South America was owned and operated by Spain, which was not about to allow some English company to trade there. Nevertheless, stock in the South Sea Company traded vigorously in the coffee houses and it's directors cooked up schemes to sell even more stock by exchanging Bank of England bonds for South Sea stock, thus relieving the government of debt. Eventually, after the time that this novel takes place, the South Sea Bubble burst and the first financial panic in the English speaking world, the first "bubble" got it's name and, apparently, nobody learned a thing.

The novel is full of ingenious plot twists and characters that seem right out of Dickens, including Jonathan Wilde, another real historical figure, who was the first organized crime boss. It takes the reader into the muddy, filthy streets of London's slums and into the posh clubs and ballrooms of the wealthy.Weaver has to thread his way through multiple layers of lies to find the murderer of his father, the forger of South Seas Company stock. It's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.

In the end both Weaver and the reader are left with ambiguity. We think that Weaver has found his man and justice is administered by persons unknown in a most irregular way. And room is left for a sequel.

This post is in the 82nd
Book Review Blog Carnival

Published at Mel's Mouthful on Mothering.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The 80th Book Review Blog Carnival

When I started the Book Review Blog Carnival I didn't expect that it would become such a vibrant part of the blogging, and the book reviewing community or last so long. This 80th edition contains 35 book reviews, ranging from illustrated children's books to the latest cutting edge conspiracy theory.

If you review books on your blog you can participate by submitting a link to one of your reviews through our submission form at, here. You can even host an edition of the carnival at your won blog. contact me at cbjorke(at) if you would like to host.

Here is our carnival, stop by some of our participating blogs, leave a comment and enjoy!

Children's Books

Read Aloud Dad likes Classic Children's Fairy Tales - Best Illustrated Edition.

Amy Broadmoore reviews 10 Children?s Books About Fall at Delightful Children's Books.

Young Adult Fiction

Trudy Zufelt previews Spartacus and the Circus of Shadows the debut novel of Molly E. Johnson, posted at Boys and Literacy.

Shayna, at A Pop of Colour, says that The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell is a prequil to Sex and the City, written for 10 to 20 year olds.(presumably girls) That seems like a pretty broad age range to me.

Laura Robinson, of Tattooed Books: A YA book reviewing, librarian-in-training, rather liked The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.

Katie Sorene , of Tripbase, suggests 8 Books to Teach Your Kids About the World.

According to Surabhi at Womanatics, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari has the power to change your life. Reminds me of my friend Norman, who changed his life on a weekly basis.

Jim Murdoch of The Truth About Lies was only dimly aware of Norse mythology through Marvel comic books until he read Ragnarok: the End of the Gods, by AS Byatt.

Crime Fiction

KerrieS is reading more Swedish crime novels, including THE HYPNOTIST, by Lars Kepler. Read her review at MYSTERIES in PARADISE

KerrieS says that before you read THE END OF THE WASP SEASON, by Denise Mina, you should first read the first book in the series, STILL MIDNIGHT.

KerrieS calls VIOLENT EXPOSURE by Katherine Howell. "world class."

Gothic Romance Mysteries

No, The Lantern by Deborah Lawrenson isn't a crime novel. It's a gothic romance mystery, posted at Colloquium.

JHS, at Colloquium gives the carnival a whole new category with Call Me Irresistible by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Stranger Than Fiction

Mark A. Vance is the author of an ebook Flight of the Forgotten - The Forbidden Fruit of US Government Censorship which appears to be the story of a WWII air crew murdered by the CIA as told to the author by the dead.


Rachel, at Books In The Sun just loved Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.

Not another talking animal book! Yes it is a talking bonobo in Primacy by J.E. Fishman, reviewed by Zohar, Man of la Book.

Bombay Duck Is A Fish says Kalyan at Heaven's Garden. It's also a book, I think.

Charlotte Vale points out that Heahcliff is not Sir. Larry in her re-review of Wuthering Heights posted at Estella's book smarts- Book Blog. What do I know, I thought Heathcliff was a cat.

Not one to shy away from classic literature, Charlotte Vale presents her theory that Marcel Proust, through the use of run on sentences, obscure punctuation and proto-stream of consciousness narrative technique, is capable of sending the readier back into a past episode of Star Trek - the one where Spok wears a watch cap to cover his ears and builds a radio with bear skins and stone knives: ah, but Captain Kirk's love interest of the week must die so that the United States will enter World War Two or we all will grow up in a Philip K. Dick novel: a well developed theme to be found at Estella's book smarts - Audiobook Blog.

Jim Murdoch at The Truth About Lies says that The Break by Pietro Grossi is a novel about billiards, paving stones and the inevitability of change.

Louise Marsh from The Reading Experiment reviews the Pulitzer Prize winning A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.

Zohar, Man of la Book is glad that he finally read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.

JHS, at Colloquium, reviews The Grief of Others. "The Grief of Others is an exquisitely written fictional account of one family in which each member is struggling with his/her own grief and isolation following a tragedy."


Melanie Grant reviews I Am Hutterite by -Ann Kirkby, at Mel's Mouthful on Mothering.

Alex Washoe, of Books and Beasts reviews two dog memoirs, Luis Carlos Montalvan's Until Tuessday and Martin Kihn's Bad Dog (A love story), in A Brace of Dog Memoirs.

Non Fiction

Mainstream Mom briefly frightened me with the news that there are only 100 Days to Christmas, until I learned that it is the title of an e-book by Jennifer Tankersley.

Persha, at Dumped Days is relieved to have finally discovered the e-book Men Made Easy. "Understanding men has been a life long struggle for me. Most men say one thing mean another and do something entirely different." Persha must know a lot of lawyers.

Mainstream Mom reviews Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim . I couldn't tell if this is a book based on a blog or just a blog imitating a book, but I'm all for escaping from the cube farm.

Pop Tart, of Inherited Values gives us American Pickers Guide to Picking by Libty Callaway, Mike Wolfe, Frank Fritz and Daniele Colby. Like Pawn Stars, American Pickers is an edgy cable TV version of Antiques Roadshow. Now you can learn how to buy and sell antiques for fun and profit.

Marianne Mathiasen doesn't often buy art books like Animals Real ad Imagined by Terryl Whitlatch, but she bought this one. Read about it at Marianne's Journal of Fantasy Art.

Jenn Palmer writes a dear John letter to Leo Tolstoy in Literary Break-up posted at A Love Affair with Words. I think she was talking about War and Peace.

Health, Fitness and Self Improvement

Danette Schott taught me a new word with his review of Beating Dyspraxia with a Hop, Skip and a Jump posted at Help! S-O-S for Parents.

Jonathan, of at World of Diets says You Are Your Own Gym in his review of Mark Lauren's Bodyweight Exercise Bible.

It sounds like an oxymoron, or maybe it's just that I haven't finished my first cup of coffee this morning. Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado is reviewed by Jon Milligan at Simple Life Habits.


OK, so it's memoir that came out in print first, but Peter at Audio Book Downloads thinks the audio version ofBossypants, by Tina Fey is way better than the print version.

This concludes our 80th Book Review Blog Carnival. Watch this blog for an announcement of the time and location of the next carnival. Did you subscribe in a reader or become a follower? Do it now, NOW!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


Bill Morrissey

Bill Morrissey was a singer songwriter who had his greatest success in the 1980's. This novel, published in 1996, is a fictional version of what it is like to be on the downside of your show business career.  Although not autobiographical, it is derived from Bill's life experience. It qualifies as a literary novel. - there is not a great deal of plot. I did not find that to be a particular lack. The characters are well developed in a way that makes the reader want to know more.

Henry, a man in his mid forties, has been sidelined from the music business because of artistic differences with the major label that bought his contract and demanded unacceptable changes to his just finished third album. Henry is living in the small mill town of Edson New Hampshire, a place where he used to be a regular headliner at the local music venue/bar. Caroline, the twenty one year old waitress in that establishment who lives down the hall from Henry in a ramshackle "hotel" becomes the love interest in the story. At the beginning of the book Caroline is unaware that Henry was ever a musician.

Pope Johnson is the current king of the Edson New Hampshire music scene. He has made himself into a replica of Henry at the peak of his career, mimicking his playing style, his gestures, even singing Henry's songs. He does not acknowledge Henry's influence publicly. Pope plans to move the New York and try for the brass ring. Caroline is one of the many young women whom Pope is seeing.

A singer songwriter that has made it big, Tyler Beckett, based on Morrissey's friend, Suzanne Vega, asks Morrissey's alter ego, Henry to come down to New York and co-write some songs for her next album. I doubt that Suzanne Vega ever made this kind of offer to Bill.

Henry has to choose between dragging his guitar out from under the bed and going off to write songs with Tyler or taking Pope's job pumping gas at a gas station in Edson. Believe it or not, this is a hard choice for him. The novel ends with Henry snowed in in a Connecticut Motel 6, drinking in his room.

Bill Morrissey died in a motel room this past July. He was alone, on tour and drinking in his room. Heart disease is the listed cause of death. It wasn't snowing.

This post is in the 81st
Book Review Blog Carnival

Published at Addicted to Media

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Accordion Crimes

Annie Proulx

A while ago I saw a movie, The Red Violin, which followed a violin through many owners, beginning with it's maker, who had varnished it with the blood of his just deceased wife. The violin made beautiful, tragic music and all the owners died badly. That film could have been an adaptation of Accordion Crimes, changed by Hollywood to a more sexy musical instrument and given all new characters and dialog, but keeping the core concept.

Instead of being bloodstained, the accordion that Annie Proulx has written into the center of this series of vignettes has fourteen one thousand dollar bills glued to the inside of it's bellows. Nobody discovers the money until the last page of the book, when one bill turns up in the hands of three children who want to use it to buy soft drinks at a country store.

Even minor characters, appearing only for a page or three, tend to die badly in Accordion Crimes, like the truck driver known as Snakes: "Some year or two later, Snakes, using a climbing rope with a single core in a color pattern of purple, neon pink, teal and fluorescent yellow, hung himself in the cab of his truck. A note on the seat read: "I'm not going to wear glasses." "

The green, two row, button accordion which is the star of Accordion Crimes was built in Sicily in the mid nineteenth century, by a man who then immigrated to New Orleans. He was soon disposed of, setting the tone for the book. The man was killed in a prison riot - citizens of New Orleans break in to the prison and kill a group of Italians being held there, even after they are found not guilty of conspiring to murder the chief of police. The accordion was stolen and the thief soon murdered and dumped into the Mississippi river. This sort of thing goes on, through many generations of unfortunate owners, until the mid 1990s.

I had to keep reading to find out what happened to the money, pasted in the bellows by one of it's owners, a Tejano musician, a waiter during the day, who was paid in thousand dollar bills to pass documents from an obvious spy to various contacts who would then, cross over into Mexico.
Accordion Crimes is not light summer reading but it is well written and will hold your interest. It may turn you against accordion music again, though.

This post is in the 78th
Book Review Blog Carnival
Published at Colloquium

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book Review Blog Carnival # 74

Welcome the the July 31, 2011  edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival. Every other Sunday the carnival appears at a blog, somewhere in blogtopia. I am the founder of this carnival and today, it's host.

We have 24 entries in this edition. The books reviewed range from children's science fiction/fantasy to a discussion of the "fly by wire" system used in Airbus airplanes. There should be something here for you. Please leave a comment, even if you just say hello, both here and aany of the blogs you visit, that are linked here.

The next Book Review Blog Carnival will be hosted by Man of La Book on August 14th. If you write book reviews on your blog and would like to participate, you can submit your reviews using this form. Now, on to the book reviews . . .

JHSEsq at Colloquium says Stiltsville, the debut novel from Susanna Daniel, "is a deceptively simple, ordinary, yet beautiful story of a marriage spanning more than two decades. It is set in Florida near the community of houses built on stilts in Biscayne Bay which serve as a metaphor for both the delicacy and resilience of human relationships. Put this one on your must read list!"

Heather,at Proud Book Nerd, just adores Forever, the third book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater. I take it that this is a romance novel who's central characters are wolves, sort of a Watership Down for carnivores.

Rachel at Books In The Sun, reviews The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. ". . . the story of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who embarks on an adventure from his homeland in Spain to North Africa in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids."

Zohar, who must have a lot of free time in his hands, reviews Next to Love by Ellen Feldman, at Man of la Book.

Read Aloud Dad finally went out nd bought Lemony Snicket's The Complete Wreck: A Series of Unfortunate Events despite all his misgivings. "Happiness is overrated."

Lauren Shook, at RE//all things new. read Cry, the Belloved Country by South African author Alan Paton. Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear.  Let him not love the earth too deeply.  Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers, nor stand too silent when the setting sun makes red the veld with fire.  Let him not be too moved when the birds of his land are singing, nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley.  For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.

Crime Fiction

KerrieS enjoyed the peek that VILLAIN, by Shuichi Yoshida gave her into modern Japanese culture. Her review is at MYSTERIES in PARADISE.

Fantasy and Science Fiction

J. McManus may have already given away a copy of  Talee and the Fallen Object offered at Inside The Books. - A Sci Fi Fantasy coloring book.

Jason Ward presents the classic The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl & Cyril M. Kornbluth,  at ScifiWard Mad Men with rocket ships.

Non Fiction

Rebecca, or possibly one of her friends, gives us something to think about with a review of Review of The Garden of Emuna by Rabbi Shalom Arush , posted at Book Nerd - High Quality Book Reviews. "Why are some rich and some poor? Why is life so unfair? This book gives you the answers and lets you in on a secret that can change your life!"

Jo Bryant reviews Black Like Me at Chronicles of Illusions. This was a revolutionary book when it first came out in 1961. It canstill change you forever.
Mike Bergin, of  10,000 Birds, brings us the oldest book in this month's carnival, Aelian's On The Nature Of Animals, by the ancient Roman author Claudius Aelianus.  I wonder if there is a Kindle edition.

Malia Russell, at Homemaking 911, recommends The Companion Guide to Beautiful Girlhood for your ten year old, but suggests you read it together. Find out why at Homemaking 911.

 SillySimple highly recommends Urban Pantry: Tips and Recipes for a Thrifty, Sustainable & Seasonal Kitchen at Silly Simple Living. "Focuses on maintaining a frugal, simple, and delicious pantry with top-notch ingredients while living in a small city apartment."

Zohar, the unfatigued,  reviews Fly Navy  by Alvin Townley, a book about naval aviation, at Man of la Book.

Alex Washoe presents A Flock of New Books for Birders at Birdland West.

Art, The Helpful Engineer, reports on a fascinating book about  The Airbus A320 and the miracle on the Hudson, Fly by Wire by William Langewiesche, which gives partial credit for the safe landing of the Airbus A320 on the Hudson River on it's controversial computerized control systems.


I was recently lent a copy of Molly Ivins: A Rebel Life. Molly Ivins was the enfant terrible of Texas journalism. My review appears in this very blog.

Zohar,  Man of la Book,  has read First Man  by James R. Hansen. It is a biography of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon.

Jim Murdoch stumped me with A.J. Cronin – The Man who Created Dr Finlay by Alan Davies posted at The Truth About Lies. ".J. Cronin, the creator of Dr Finlay’s Casebook, has been unjustly overlooked by literary biographers. In this, the first full-length life of this eminent writer, Alan Davies recounts the story of Cronin’s Scottish childhood, his subsequent medical career and ultimately his rise to literary prominence, focusing on Cronin’s tempestuous relationship with his publisher, Victor Gollancz, and revealing some startling revelations about the author’s marriage. Davies’s timely and moving book paints a clearer portrait of both Cronin the writer and Cronin the man than the world has hitherto seen." I guess PBS didn't carry the Dr. Finlay series.

Health and Self Help

Kristjan Gunnarson, of Kris Health Blog, reviews The Diet Solution Program by Isabel De Los Rios.  Isabel of the rivers: cool name.

Persha Davis reviews Getting Past Your Breakup:Good Book To Starting Moving On With Life After A Breakup at Dumped Days. I have a suggestion that might help. Change the name and focus of that blog!

Utpal Vaishnav, of Utpal Writes, has found a method for Discovering Your Dharma in a book  by Shivani Singh. Overcome that nagging discontent that plagues your soul.

Jason Ward , of The Word of Ward, learned a few things from Tricks of the Mind by Derren Brown. Jedi mind tricks?


Jessica Bell's Twisted Velvet Chains is a memoir, written in verse by the daughter of Australian punk rock star Erica Bach, reviewed by Jim Murdoch, of The Truth About Lies.

Obama's Wars

 Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward has  been given greater access to the White House, than any journalist I can think of, in the George W, Bush and now Obama administrations. His four books about George Bush's pursuit of the war showed an arc from admiration for, to disillusionment with, the pursuit of war, particularly in Iraq.

This is the first, presumably, in a series which will record the Obama administrations efforts to bring the Afghan war to a conclusion. The problem is that there are no clear goals to this war. According to Woodward, General McChrystal, the commander in Afghanistan at the beginning of Obama's term, and Defense Secretary Gates presented President Obama with a series of requests for more troops and an untenable plan to defeat the Taliban. Defeating the Taliban is described, by Woodward,  as an impossibility, because they are a non state, like al-Qaeda itself, loose, amorphous and shifting like sand.

Obama ordered a review, asking for options, recognizing the problem with stating that the defeat of the Taliban was problematical, yet all of the options given to him by the military were presented as untenable, with the exception of  a large "surge" dedicated to defending the population of Afghanistan from Taliban attack. The Pentagon's own analysis, however, showed that more than 80,000 US troops would be needed to make the entire country safe from Taliban attack, yet this many troops could not be gathered for the effort. The request was for 40,000: half of what was needed to do the job. Another unattainable goal, increasing the Afghan military and police to 400,000, was part of this plan. 

Obama asked for options and was given plans for a small deployment of 10,000 to train the Afghan army and the full, but not available 80,000 troops, or a surge of 35,000 instead of 40,000, but with the option to add a few thousand more if needed.  Eventually the 35,000 plus plan was what he went for.  "Defeating" the Taliban was changed to "degrading" them, making them less capable of causing serious damage in Afghanistan, meanwhile, building a 400,000 strong Afghan military/police to take over as we quietly exit stage left.

July of 2011 was set as the start date of a U.S. draw down.  Right now that withdrawal is beginning. This all looks like Nixon's "peace with honor" plan for Vietnam. I expect the fall of Kabul in the next couple of years. Unfortunately, this is probably the best we can do in the situation.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Molly Ivins

A Rebel Life
Bill Minutaglio and W. Michael Smith

I had a bottle of Shiner Bok this evening in preparation for writing a review of this celebration of the life of l'enfant terrible of Texas journalism.  Minutaglio and Smith have written Ivins life from her childhood in a wealthy Houston neighborhood to her death of breast cancer at 62.

Who was Molly Ivins rebelling against? Her father of course! Jim Ivins was a WWII Coast Guard veteran, a lawyer, an oil company executive and, somewhat of a martinet. His family called him General Jim.

Growing up in General Jim's home in Houston, Molly was exposed to the same private school/country club lifestyle that George W. Bush was experiencing. The two knew each other "to say hello," but were never close. Molly was expected to find a suitable husband, either at the club or later when she attended her mother's alma mater, Smith College; preferably a Yale man. She would then settle down and have children who would do the same, perpetuating the generations of  o'l bidness tycoons. It didn't work out that way.

 Ivins' folksy east Texas persona was not entirely a put on, yet she did study at Smith and Columbia School of Journalism. She studied a year abroad in Paris and spoke French like a native. She also lived in New York and worked for a while, unhappily, at the New York Times. The place she liked to be, though, was Austin and her favorite job was editor of the Texas Observer, a liberal, no holds barred publication, covering the Texas legislature and the Governor's office.

As a columnist, Ivins was perfectly placed to write, in her own critically sarcastic way, about "Dubya," her old country club buddy, as Governor of Texas and then as President. In a way the man she called "Shrub" would make her career for her. Having George Bush to rub her columns up against gave her writing a great deal of traction and some wonderful subject matter.

Molly Ivins A Rebel Life, does not quote from Ivin's writing very much at all, assuming that readers will be familiar with her columns and her commentaries on NPR. This may not be the case any longer, so I'll throw in a few quotes that I gleaned from the internet. Here's a bit of a piece she wrote in 2006, which has a little relevance today. It concerns the former Speaker of the House, now an imploding candidate for President; Newt Gingrich:

Of all the viral members of the media who have been suggesting that the Dems cooperate with their political opponents, the one who rendered me almost unconscious with surprise was Newt Gingrich.
Newt Gingrich, the Boy Scout. Newt Gingrich, the man who sat there and watched Congress impeach and try Bill Clinton for lying about having an extramarital affair while he, Newt Gingrich, was lying about having an extramarital affair. (This all took place during his second marriage. The first one ended when he told his wife he was divorcing her while she was in the hospital undergoing cancer treatment.)

This is the level of Republican hypocrisy that reminds us all how far the Dems have to go. I tell you what. Let's all hold hands together and sing, "Oh the Farmers and the Cowboys Should Be Friends!" Just not, please, Newt Gingrich, the man whose contribution to civility was to recommend that all Democrats be referred to with such words as cowards, traitors, commies, godless, liars and other such bipartisan-promoting terms.

Please, anyone but Newt.

I would recommend reading some of Molly Ivins columns before tackling her biography. One of her published collections (Molly Ivins Can't Say That Can She?, You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You, Nothin' But Good Times Ahead) would do, or you can get a quick look online at AlterNet.  If you are of a conservative bent, expect to be outraged. Also expect to be entertained and, possibly, educated.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Marilynne Robinson

Gilead is the first book I have read on my new Kindle. It was a reader's review book on the Diane Rhem show last week and, when I checked the Kindle store, there it was. 

Marilynne Robinson won a Pulitzer Prize for Gilead in 2005. The book is written as a journal or long letter, from John Ames, a 76 year old Congregationalist minister, to his six year old son, to be read some day when that son is an adult. Ames knows that he will not live to see his son grow up. In fact he is expecting to die at any moment because of his heart condition.

John Ames is the third generation of preachers in his family, all named John Ames, I believe. His grandfather, and his church, helped John Brown when he was raiding pro-slavery communities in Kansas before the Civil War and he may have ridden in some of those raids himself. His father was pastor in the same church in the (fictional) town of Gilead Iowa that Ames is now, now being 1957.

There are a number of major themes running through the book. Mortality, of course, but also romantic love as an unexpected, uncontrollable force. Ames fell for, and married, a much younger woman, the mother of his six year old son, at the age of 69. One of the other characters has had a child with a "colored" woman. Remember that this is 1957.  Ames feels a great deal of anxiety for his wife and child, whom he cannot live to care for in the years to come, or provide for from his very small savings.  Jack Boughton, named John Ames Boughton by his Presbyterian minister father, AAmes life long friend, is rejected by the family of his common law wife and loses her and his child, because he is white. Love is creative and also destructive in Gilead, as in life.

Ames and Jack talk  about predestination in one chapter. Jack is afraid that he may be cursed, depraved, and predestined to a life of suffering here and hereafter. He is someone who has made a number of bad choices in life and caused a lot of harm to himself and others. At one point Ames says that he is unable to forgive Jack for what he has done. He does acknowledge that God may forgive him. Ames answer to Jack's question about predestination amounts to "I don't know." Eventually the reader is let in on the secret, which runs through several chapters, of what terrible thing Jack has done. It turns out to be rather mundane, as Ames says all sin is, if horribly consequential.

A number of clergymen called in to the Diane Rhem show during the discussion about Gilead. All of them said that it was an accurate description of the life of a minister. (I don't think they were talking about Ames' rather wacky grandfather.) Their response to the book was the main impetus for my downloading and reading it. It is not a fast paced, action packed thriller but I couldn't put it down.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Kindle Has Arrived at My House

My family gave me a Kindle for Fathers' Day.  All the nice things you have heard about e-ink and how readable it is are absolutely true. A Kindle is still not a book, though. There is no nice paper smell and you don't get the feel of the pages in your hand. It also comes without the cover art, if that is important to you.

My Kindle is one of the wi-fi only ones, which is fine, I don't need to download books while driving down the interstate. It's probably illegal in several states anyway. The Kindle has a primitive web browser and I have gotten to Gmail with it but have not succeeded in opening any email as of yet. It is really an awkward device to use for web browsing anyway, with it's tiny screen, black and white display and hard to use little qwerty keyboard. There is no mouse or track pad, just a "five way" navigation button.

The Kindle Store is always at your fingertips, with a lot of books, some magazines and a list of blogs, written for kindle users only and for which you have to pay a subscription. Why would I want to pay to read a blog? There are also some apps for the Kindle, mostly games, but I've seen a calendar program, a couple of calculators and a few note taking programs. Maybe someone who is really good  at text messaging would find those apps useful. I'm all thumbs when I try to write something on it.

I am not sure if every new book I might want will be available on my Kindle any time soon, either. Many old ones are. If a book is in the public domain I am sure I can get it for free. Books more than a year or so old are much cheaper than the current list, as well. All the other e-readers use a format which is available through library websites. You can't borrow an e-book from the library for your kindle, though. I'm told this will change some time this fall. I can hardly wait!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Unfamiliar Fishes

Sarah Vowell

The latest book, from the author of The Wordy Shipmates and occasional contributor to NPR's This American Life, follows the descendants of those pilgrims she described in that other book from New England to Hawaii.

It's a bit of a shock to go from Litchfield County Connecticut to Honolulu in the early 19th century. I lived in Connecticut in the mid 20th century and it was nothing close to Hawaii under King Kamehameha the Great. Never once in my New England experience did we ever have songs or dances in praise of king George's genitalia, for just one example.

Sarah Vowell shows he librul NPR bias when she implies that those Hawaiians, back in 1898 didn't want to be Americans. Everyone in every third world hell hole wants to come here and be an American. It has always been that way. We have to build expensive twenty foot fences and put surveillance cameras all over the place and have a whole I.C.E. department to try to keep the world's poor, tired, huddled masses out of here, and those poi eating Hawaiians didn't want it? This just shows why Congress should defund National Public Radio.

Sure, Hawaii was an independent kingdom with it's own heathen customs and a king or twelve, for about a thousand years before those New England Christians came to set them straight, but you know they would have kept running around half naked if nobody taught them better. They owe us a huge debt of gratitude for teaching them about modesty, Christianity and fast food.

I would not recommend Unfamiliar Fishes to anyone who wants to maintain purity of mind and a patriotic American spirit. You Democrats, Unitarians and other un-American crypto-commies might find it interesting.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Long Trail

My Life in the West
Ian Tyson
Ian Tyson of the sixties folk duo Ian and Sylvia, the seventies country rock band Great Speckled Bird and the authentic singing cowboy of the eighties wrote this memoir with the ghostwriterly help of fellow Canadian, Jeremy Klaszus. The book is an interesting blend of brutal honesty and self deceiving disingenuousness. Honest because Tyson admits that he wanted Sylvia out of his television show and musical career, so that he could be a solo act and disingenuous because he claims to believe that they just drifted apart due to lack of common interests.

Starting, briefly, with his childhood in Victoria British Columbia, the son of an Englishman who came to Canada to be a cowboy and became a life insurance salesman, Tyson wrote this book to establish his credentials, successfully, in my humble opinion as a genuine cowboy with the rights and privileges thereof, including the right to write and sing cowboy songs.  I think that at some time his authenticity has been questioned. He did make his show business start singing French Canadian folk songs and English ballads. Those critic, the ones that I imagine, were not aware of Tysons summer job at the age of fifteen running a pack string of horses into the mountains for a wilderness tour outfit or his youthful foray at horse breaking. Before he became half of Ian and Sylvia Ian Tyson was following in the footsteps of fellow Canadian, the western artist and author Will James.

Tyson admired Will James as a youth and followed his example in becoming a cowboy. In The Long Trail, Tyson is a bit disparaging of Jame's cowboy cred. I find that odd. They guy spent time in a Nevada jail for cattle rustling. How much more credible can you get? Did he have to be hanged? Being a Will James fan myself, I think that James has at least as much credibility ad Ian Tyson. Both came from Canadian non-ranching backgrounds to work with horses and cattle and quickly moved to other, more creative careers. Both retained their love of the cowboy life and used it in their art.

Tyson talks, in the book about the process of writing and recording his cowboy songs.  I recommend putting a copy of one of Tyson's cowboy albums, perhaps Cowboyography or And Stood There Amazed in the CD player while reading this book. It will get you in the mood.

This post is in the 71st
Book Review Blog Carnival
Published at Colloquium.

Monday, May 30, 2011


A Marcus Didius Falco Novel
Lindsey Davis

It has been several years since I last read one of Lindsey Davis' excellent crime novels set in ancient Rome. I ran across Nemesis on the new book display at the local library the other day. Marcus Didius Falco is the detective character, or "informer" as Davis calls him. That job description makes him seem kind of sinister, but the sinister part is actually played by Anacrates, the Emperors chief spy.

 Davis has an amazing depth of knowledge about the daily lives of ancient Romans which she uses to flesh out her stories. She uses the food, the customs and mores, the architecture, even the water and sewer systems to draw the reader in to the lives of her characters.

Nemesis is the twentieth book in the Marcus Didius Falco series. It may seem like a large investment of time, but I recommend reading them in order from book one, The Silver Pigs. It isn't necessary in order to follow the plot, but the development of Falco's character, his life story and the family that he gathers around him through the series are well worth the effort. Like Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, Falco and his clan will grow on you.

 I have missed a couple of books in the series: Saturnalia (2007) and Alexandria (2009) as well as Falco the Official Companion (2010). I expect you will be seeing reviews of them here soon. Can a movie be far behind?

This post is in the 70th
Book Review Blog Carnival
Published at Man of La Book.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The James Boys

A Novel Account of Four Desperate Brothers
Richard Liebamann-Smith

Suppose that the outlaws of song and story Frank and Jesse James, were the  younger brothers of psychologist and philosopher William James and novelist Henry James. They were roughly contemporaneous and had the same last name, after all. In the spirit of the zombie and werewolf genre of classic nineteenth century literature spoofs, Richard Liebmann-Smith has tinkered with history just enough to make Henry James a part of the disastrous Northfield Minnesota bank robbery attempt and bring Frank and Jesse to Boston, pretending to be visiting scholars from land grant colleges in the Midwest.

Not being to sure what William James was  about, going in, or whether he was actually the brother of Henry at all, (he was) it was no stretch of the imagination for me to believe that their two younger brothers, Wilkie and Rob, real or not (they were) had switched sides in the Civil War and become Confederate irregulars and then outlaws in Missouri (they didn't).

Liebmann-Smith has written a fast paced adventure story with plenty of sex and violence to satisfy jaded twenty first century readers. William Pinkerton, of the National Detective Agency plays the part of the bumbling comedic cop and Elena Hite, the made from whole cloth daughter of a  railroad baron,  serves as the love interest.

The James Boys has woven fact and fiction in a seamless manner. Henry's gastrointestinal disorders, William 's bouts with depression, Jesse's love of publicity, Frank's casual violence and Billy Pinkerton's inability to nab the notorious James Boys. Though Frank and Jesse were really not related to William and Henry they should have been.

This post is in the 69th
Book Review Blog Carnival
Published at Proud Book Nerd.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Jim Lehrer

Jim Lehrer does a lot more than look sincere on PBS's The News Hour five nights a week. He is an expert on old intercity bus lines and even owns and occasionally drives his own bus. Lehrer is also a novelist with twenty titles to his credit (several of them having to do with buses) a playwright and  a screen writer. He also has written a couple of memoirs.

Super is Lehrer's twentieth novel, published in hardback last year it is now available in a paperback edition, as per the Amazon link at the left. The action all takes place on the Super Chief, the iconic train that ran from Chicago to Los Angeles during the golden age of streamlined railroad trains - and of Hollywood. It is a crime novel, well sort of, in which a Santa Fe Railroad passenger agent, pretending to be a railroad detective, solves the mysterious death of a passenger on the train.

Various movie stars, and at least one impostor, are part of the cast of this novel, most notably Clark Gable. Harry Truman also makes an appearance. The young passenger agent is kept quite busy, keeping the former President comfortable and pitching his idea for a movie set on the Super Chief to the Hollywood contingent. Unfortunately for him, this book is set in the 1950's, as airline travel is beginning to take passengers away from the railroads. His movie idea is seen as passé. Also unfortunately for him, one of his passengers is about to be shot in his compartment.

Despite his gravitas as a newscaster, Jim Lehrer's novels are mostly light entertainment. He does include some themes of social significance. In Super a former Manhattan Project employee confronts Truman about the growing number of cancers affecting those who were exposed to radioactive materials from atomic bomb testing. This is a minor subplot in the book, though.

Super made me a fan of high speed rail. Back in the fifties, many people were pleased to find that they could fly to their destinations, not just due to the reduced travel time, but because they felt badly srved by the monopolistic railroads. Now we feel badly served by the monopolistic airlines - but all we have instead is Amtrack.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Bird Cloud

Annie Proulx

Although she won both a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize in 1994, Annie Peoulx didn't become a hot property until her novel The Shipping News (2001 and her short story Brokeback Mountain (2005) were made into movies. What she did with the money she made from those movie deals was to buy a section (640 acres or one square mile) of land in Wyoming and build herself a house on it. Once the house was well under way she realized that she wouldn't be able to live there in the winter because the county doesn't plow her road when it snows.

Bird Cloud, the name Proulx gave to her new property, has the North Platte river running through and contains the mouth of Jack Creek, named after Ute Jack, a Ute Indian of some small renown. I can't seem to find the place on Google Maps. There is a cover photo of the magnificent high cliff which Proulx's new house overlooks, across the river but still on the property. We're talking some serious real estate here.

Proulx bought the land from The Nature Conservancy. She is critical of that organization for it's failure to keep the neighboring ranches' cattle of of the overgrazed section and implies, in the book, that The Nature Conservancy is a front for cattle business interests. The fact that her six miles of expensive barbed wire fence don't succeed in keeping those cows off the land lead me to suspect that this issue may have had a role in The Nature Conservancy's putting the land up for sale in the first place. I'm thinking that they concluded that it was best to spend their finite resources on something other than a futile effort to build the perfect fence.

The book begins with a bit of history of Annie Proulx's French Canadian and New England Yankee parents and ancestors, going back briefly to the 17th century. She quickly brings the book around to the main subject, which could be read as a textbook on how not to build a house. This is important to me because I am in the beginning stages of a house construction project of my own. It's not my first, though. I gather it was hers.

Except for taking more than two years to build and running over budget by a couple of hundred thousand dollars, and that little thing about the snowplowing, Proulx got just what she asked for in her house. She remains friends with her  general contractor, an important thing, since he often comes and plows her out when it snows heavily before she heads south to New Mexico for the winter. (It seems to happen every year) Not so much the concrete finisher(s).

It is a wonderful place, with elk,  coyotes, bald eagles, golden eagles, pre-Columbian dwelling sites and stone (for tools) quarry and lots of rich history. I would love to visit. If the author would like to extend an invitation . . .

This post is in the 68th
Book Review Blog Carnival
Published at Imagineering.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Object of Beauty

Steve Martin

This is the third novel by the banjo playing stand up comic, remembered for his arrow through the head bit. It's not funny. It is an engrossing character study with enough of a plot to keep you reading.

An Object of Beauty follows the career of Lacey Yeager, a bright, beautiful young art dealer in New York through the late nineties and early oughts from the point of view of an also young art writer, who finds himself involved in a bit of shady dealing at a Sotheby's art auction in which Lacey makes a bit of unearned money. The novel is mostly about the art market during the tech bubble boom times with a lot of sex and a smattering of designer drugs thrown in.

The moral consequences of taking short cuts in business are touched on, lightly. The narrator is relieved  at not being outed for his small part, though Lacey does not entirely face the consequences of her action, either. Just like in real life, there is some ambiguity about things, not a cut and dried lesson to be learned.

September 11th 2001 sits in the middle of this novel like a stain. It would be pretty strange to have a novel about the beginning of the 21st century, especially one set in New York, that didn't mention that day. In this book nine eleven signals the end of the book times in the art world and the beginning of the failure of Lacey's gallery. If she hadn't bought into a deal to trade in a contemporary Chinese artist, just before the Dow tanked, though, everything would have been fine. The real moral of the story is: timing is everything and nobody knows what time it is.

This post is in the 68th
Book Review Blog Carnival
Published at Izgad.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

With Reckless Abandon

Memoirs of a Boat-Obsessed Life
Capt. Jim Sharp

Bilbo Baggins warned us to beware when setting foot on a road, because you never know when and where you might get swept away. This advice also, obviously applies to setting foot on a boat. Jim Sharp, son of a jazz musician turned payday lender, went in with some friends to buy an old, plywood trailer sailor to launch at the Jersey shore and ended up owning a fleet of windjammers in Camden Maine.

Between 1953 and 2006 Jim Sharp's boat obsession led to his ownership of an impressive list of old, mostly wooden, boats. I count 35 of them, from 14' to 120' in length. Some were schooners, others tugboats. One was a Norwegian coastal freighter, another a Dutch canal boat. He wore out his welcome with two wives in the process of buying, running and selling all these boats. He also managed to make some sort of a living from them.

A friend lent me this book, which he got from the author, now master of a maritime museum up there in the Moon Pie state. I found it the perfect book to stoke my Spring fever.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The World That Made New Orleans

From Spanish Silver to Congo Square
Ned Sublette

I had the opportunity to meet Ned Sublette (pronounce SUB-let, like what you do with your rent controlled New York apartment while you spend a year writing a book in Chestertown) at a concert/reading he gave in nearby Rock Hall, MD. In addition to being the author of two scholarly books of history and musicology and one memoir Ned is a classically trained guitarist and a songwriter, covered by Willie Nelson, among others. He told me a story of being a member of a group of guitar students visiting Spain, being ushered in to meet Segovia and being pawned off on the master's friend Jose Ramirez, which allowed him to get a good deal on the Ramirez guitar which he has been playing since 1969.

The World That Made New Orleans starts with the settlement of the Mississippi delta by France in hopes of competing with Spain for the treasures of the new world. It was a bit of a miscalculation on the part of the French, who went digging for gold in the alluvial mud of Louisiana.It seems that no one involved in the colony had any idea where to reasonably expect to find a gold mine. The book goes on to tell the story of French, then Spanish colonization of the area, the importation of slaves from very specific areas on the west coast of Africa and the development of a creole culture. Trade with Havana and with Saint-Domingue. (the French colony now known as Haiti) Trade with these colonies and the eventual emulation of the sugar cane industry from them shaped the early economy of New Orleans and southern Louisiana.

New Orleans also became the outlet for agricultural products from the fledgling United States territories west of the Allegheny mountains. The Ohio river flowing into the Mississippi was the only viable way for the people settling these areas to get their produce to market. This led inevitably to conflict with the Spanish owners of the port, who were engaging in global geopolitics at the expense of the American settlers.

Fortunately for us the result of this geopolitical maneuvering led to the cession of Louisiana back the France from Spain just at the moment when Thomas Jefferson send his friend James Madison to bargain for trade concessions. Madison ended up buying the whole Mississippi drainage for a few paltry million Spanish dollars, pennies per acre.

One theme in the book is the influence of the mixture of French, Spanish, Congolese, Cuban, Haitian and American influences on the music that eventually sprang up in New Orleans and became known as jazz. It is a complex and largely undocumented cultural stew about which one can only speculate, which Sublette does with abandon.

This post is in the 66th
Book Review Blog Carnival
Published at Book Reviews by Rick Sincere.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

65th Book Review Blog Carnival


Clark Bjorke presents My Father at 100 posted at I'll Never Forget the Day I Read a Book!, saying, "A memoir by Ron Reagan, who disagreed with his father on most things, but still loved him."

book reviews

Mike Bergin presents Review of The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds posted at 10,000 Birds, saying, "A review of an incredibly innovative North American bird guide."

Emm presents Book Review: Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay posted at Emm Media, saying, "Against the backdrop of the Vel' d'Hiv roundups in Paris in 1942, Tatiana de Rosnay weaves a powerful story about the choices we make in the name of love."

KerrieS presents Review: THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE, Alan Bradley posted at MYSTERIES in PARADISE, saying, "if you are looking for cozy crime fiction that is a little bit different, with a sleuth who is certainly different, then this may be just the ticket. Make sure you have time to savour the careful prose though. And listen carefully - you may hear me chortling!"

Scather presents Scathing Weekly: BOOK REVIEW: The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert posted at Scathing Weekly, saying, "Scathing Weekly celebrates a love of good books, with weekly scathes at those books that are in fact (contrary to popular belief) shitbox... *Footnotes Included!"

Zohar presents Book Review: Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer posted at Man of la Book.

Jim Murdoch presents Mavis’s Shoe by Sue Reid Sexton posted at The Truth About Lies, saying, "A strong novel about the trauma of the Clydebank Blitz during the Second World War told through the eyes of a nine-year-old girl, Lenny Gillespie. Lenny survives the bombing, but in the chaos of that night she cannot find her mum and her wee sister, Mavis. Told in an urgent, true-grit voice, the story describes the devastation of the blitz as seen through Lenny's eyes"

Eric Gargiulo presents A Review of Stephanie Dray’s Book “Lily of the Nile” posted at CamelCluchBlog.Com, saying, "When we think of Queen Cleopatra VII, we usually think of Liz Taylor in her stunning performance as the famous Queen, or of a sexed-up, indulgent woman who died by a bite from an asp. However, we do ourselves a disservice to pigeon-hole the Queen into a box."

Zohar presents Book Review: Hero by Michael Korda posted at Man of la Book.

JHSEsq presents Book Review: Born Under a Lucky Moon posted at Colloquium, saying, "Born Under a Lucky Moon is the debut novel from a talented and very promising new author, Dana Precious. Based upon her own childhood spent in North Muskegon, Wisconsin, the story revolves around the wacky Thompson family, particularly daughter Jeannie. She wants to marry her handsome boyfriend, Aiden, but is afraid that introducing him to her family will scare him off. After all, that's why she and her first husband, her hometown sweetheart Walker, broke up . . . isn't it? Born Under a Lucky Moon is a hilarious, sweet, poignant story about loving home and the folks there no matter what because, after all, they are always going to love you right back."

KerrieS presents Review: WHERE MEMORIES LIE, Deborah Crombie posted at MYSTERIES in PARADISE, saying, "lived up to my expectations of a good read. I confused myself just a little by having read a later title last year. If you are starting out, then do read some of the earlier titles in order."

Zohar presents Book Review: The Trinty Six by Charles Cumming posted at Man of la Book.

Zohar presents Book Review and Giveaway: so much for that by Lionel Shriver posted at Man of la Book.

BWL presents Bank On Yourself Review posted at Christian Personal Finance, saying, "This is a review of Pamela Yallen's "Bank on Yourself"- a controversial strategy of using insurance in a non-traditional way."


Mikaela Cowles presents Osmosis Lies ? Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts posted at Baguette Taste - Wonder Bread Budget, saying, "I love books and I love food and sometimes I love them together. Here is one such time."

JHSEsq presents Book Review: Katie Up and Down the Hall posted at Colloquium, saying, "The cover photo is a bit deceiving because it could lead readers to believe that Katie Up and Down the Hall is just a story about a dog. It is so much more! It is the story of how the runt of the litter -- a bow-legged, blonde little cocker spaniel who was never destined to be a show dog -- won the hearts of a disparate group of New York City neighbors, herding them together and, ultimately, making them into a family. Dog lovers will relate. Readers who have never owned a dog may well find themselves at the local shelter looking to expand their family after reading Glenn Plaskin's sweet, soulful memoir about the family of which he unexpectedly but grateful became a member."

Arminius Michael presents Read Books Online Free: April 2010 posted at Read Books Online Free, saying, "Fiction novels library, featuring the latest in digital flip book technology, providing you a unique online reading experience."

children's books

Amy Broadmoore presents 9 Books About Children From Around the World posted at Delightful Children's Books, saying, "At Delightful Children's Books, I am posting booklists and reviews of the best picture books I can find about each continent. To begin this series of posts, I shared this booklist of ten picture books about children from around the world.

Read Around the World Booklists:
Children Around the World
South America
The Arctic

non fiction

Will Edwards presents Science of Getting Rich: The Certain Way posted at Personal Development, saying, "There is no question that there are some important insights in the book and I would certainly encourage you to read it if you have not already, but perhaps, for me, the opening chapter, about the causes of wealth, was something I particularly needed to understand. What is it that causes wealth? It is a very good question because it is true that if you can replicate those causes, then – by the law of cause and effect – you can also replicate the effects; that is, of course, the ‘science’ part of the title."

Wakela Runen presents Review–An Apple A Day posted at Wakela's World, saying, "It is a wonderful book describing the origins and meaning of many different proverbs."


Jeanne presents The Seduction of Water posted at Necromancy Never Pays, saying, "a novel about storytelling"

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