First off, I am not a bomb thrower or even an occupier. Generally, I get more annoyed by people who go around using words like "entitlement" and even worse "privilege" in every sentence than the people actually display these obnoxious traits. But I found this book pretty much unbearable in the extent to which it indulges incredibly rich, and yes *privileged* people in their petty little emotional dramas at the same time that it essentially ignores the many thousands of others negatively impacted by their actions. Alan Mulallay is clearly a skilled manager, but most of his actual method appears to have involved applying the skills of kindergarten teachers everywhere. The book is full of his happy talk about coming together and being a team. If that's really what the missing element was, fine. (Actually, a lot of what saved Ford was timing: Mulallay happened to come along with a turnaround plan, and borrow large sums for it, just in time, before the big credit freeze in 2008, in fact right when Wall Street was looking for somewhere new to put all the money they had been stashing in subprime loans. GM and Chrysler were similarly trying to turn things around, and may have even been in a slightly better situation overall, but they did not anticipate the freezing of credit markets the way Ford did. It was not, as Hoffman was quick to point out, in his defensive man-crush for Mulallay way, luck. Ford analysts really were on the ball in foreseeing a credit squeeze, even if no one predicted how bad it would be. But this would make for a more boring book, and much shorter book. Of course, at 15 hours, this book could have stood to be a lot shorter!)
The proof is in the pudding, and Mulallay succeeded, and if it was necessary to pay him and his staff however many hundreds of millions of dollars to do that, then I guess that's what has to be done. But we don't have to put up with the whining. At every stage in the book, Mulallay comes off as a sensitive little schoolboy who can't take the slightest bit of criticism. Partly this is the author's fault: he seems to find drama, for example, in Mulallay's self-soothing in the car ride over to a meeting with the Ford family to discuss the possibility of them retaining an outside advisor to independently assess his management of their company. I assume Hoffman thinks this makes Mulallay seem human and relatable. Actually it makes him seem pathetic and thin-skinned. Most normal human beings have to deal with oversight from people with actual power over them without throwing a tantrum, and I don't think it's a testament to Mulallay's superhuman abilities that he manages this same feat just barely. The author comes off as extremely biased in favor of Mulallay personally, which wouldn't be such a bad thing if he didn't also make him seem like such a chump. And Mulallay is probably the best of the bunch. The other Ford executives are, for the most part, even more self-indulgent, and they don't even have the excuse of having rescued the company. They were the ones who wrecked it.
Several times in the book, Hoffman mentions critics of the lavish treatment of Ford's executives, but always from the perspective of here's another irritation that Mulallay et. al. had to put up with as they tried to handle the important work. The point that millions could have been saved simply by cutting executive compensation is never seriously considered. When the board unilaterally awards Mulallay an extra $1 million not in his already lavish contract for no other reason than they like the guy, Hoffman explains that this makes things tricky for Mulallay because it happens to be the same week he's announcing layoffs and salary freezes for lower level employees. I can think of an easy way Mulallay could have made this particular headache go away... When Mulallay has trouble with dissident members of the Ford family, it's explained that one of his major antagonists is Bill Ford's sister, who is irritated because, by family tradition, she was denied a spot on the board for being a woman. It seems to me that one solution would be to offer her a spot on the board. Maybe this would be a bad idea for other reasons, but the point is that the story is being told only in the context of the irritation it causes boy prince Mulallay, not as a legitimate grievance that deserves addressing.
One note on the narrator: Larkin is not a bad reader, but I think he makes a bad pairing with Hoffman's writing. There's so much internal monologue in the book ("'how can I get them to really understand that I'm for real and come together as a team,' Mulallay wondered"--this is not an exact quote, but there's a lot of stuff like that), and it comes off as particularly hokey in Larkin's reading.
Why 2 stars and not 1? It's not a terrible story, and it's not terribly written. If for some reason, you're really interested in the story of Ford motor company, then this is clearly the book to get. But if you're just curious for an insider look at how a major corporation operates at the heights of power, well it's still not a bad book (though again it could be shorter), but just be careful your eyes don't roll out of their sockets.
Not a lot to say: There's a magic to informal live theater and improv/comedy. I can imagine this having been a great experience in person, but I'm not sure. On audio though, I found it fell flat. If you're smarting from a firing, you might find more here than I did. Some fun details, but I can't really recommend it.
Warren is not an amazing writer, and I don't like the framing of the book. But there's enough good stuff in here to justify a listen.
You might expect this to be a pretty hokey book: hypnosis, lucid dreaming, brain waves, biofeedback. A lot of it has a weird new-agey reputation. But that's exactly the point: there's perfectly good science behind all of this, even if many of the practitioners don't know it. To take one example: Warren goes to one of the world's foremost hypnotists, a man in his 80s (I think, it's been a little while since I finished the book) who used to be a university psychology researcher. He demos hypnosis very effectively and explains the simple relationship between easily measured brain waves and subjective consciousnesses.
Again, this is not a perfect book--too much of it is Warren self-indulgently reporting his experiences doing things like lucid dreaming seminars in Hawaii--but I don't know of a better one right now for explaining brain states. If you like Radiolab type stuff, give this book a try.
This is one of those books that someone had to write, and I'm glad to know it's out there. Sommers carefully documents all of the craziness in the feminist movement in the 1990s, and there sure was a lot of it! Claims that sexual assaults increase massively Superbowl weekend (they don't) or that the leading cause of miscarriage is domestic abuse (not even close) were bandied about wildly without regard for truth. What's more fun is the portrayal of academic conferences and the crazy one-upswomanship: when some of the attendees gathered in a drum circle, others declared that this was an appropriation of their cultural traditions and demanded they stop, which they did reluctantly. It's a delightful image of what happens when claims of marginalization become badges of honor.
Yes, the book is very dated. This of course makes you wonder whether things have gotten better. I have no idea.
Ultimately, this is one of those books that needed to be written but that isn't worth reading. Feel comfortable knowing that someone has done the work of collating all the craziness. And yes, Sommers has some affiliation with conservative hacks. That's unfortunate, but to my reading, this doesn't really affect the book.
There's a lot of 5-star reviews here that do a pretty good job of conveying the good parts of the book. I enjoyed it and I recommend it.
That being said, I can't call it a must-read. The story is entertaining but not really laugh-out-loud funny, and not must-know history. If you're looking for a fun, true story, go ahead.
...but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.
I'm not sure exactly what to tell you about this play. It's weird. If you like weird stuff, odds are decent you'll like it. It's a story with strong characters, including spiritual murderers and conflicted secular lawyers. I didn't find everything credible--in particular, why does the lawyer throw away her career for this particular client? It's supposed to be because he's so unusually compelling, but it doesn't feel natural to me and instead it seems like the detail that's meant to convince us.
If you're just coming across LA Theatreworks, I strongly recommend starting with the two Pulitzer play collections. If you've listened to a few and are looking for something /experimental/, this is a good choice.
Good biographies are hard to write and often make poor audiobooks. Frequently biographers feel the need to be exhaustive, and the audiobooks drone on. Perhaps because this is part of "The Great Generals Series," whatever that is, this book manages to tackle its subject well without becoming boring. I enjoyed the book and would give it somewhere between 3 and 4 stars.
Pershing was an important figure who led a more interesting life than you might suppose. Before commanding WWI troops, he fought in Cuba, executed an impressive counterinsurgency campaign in the Phillipines, and led US troops against Poncho Villa in Mexico. He was a ladies man and had two great love affairs both with much younger women (though Lacey does a fairly poor job of bringing out Pershing's human side, which probably would have pleased Pershing). The first of these, his first wife, died tragically in a fire along with all but one of their children. Perhaps all this is why three biographies of Pershing have apparently been published in the last decade. I don't know if the other two do any better, but Lacey fails to really convince that Pershing is a figure worthy of study.
Let me attempt to make the argument: Thomas Ricks' recent wonderful book "The Generals" makes the case that the modern US military was largely the creation of one man, George Marshall, and that because the majority of young men of the WWII era served in the army, Marshall's personal style and strong character had untold impact in shaping the American century. In Ricks' telling, that's where the story begins, though he certainly mentions Marshall's close relationship (along with many of the other prominent WWII generals) to Pershing. After listening to this book, it's clear to me just how much Marshall absorbed from Pershing's leadership style. Pershing on the other hand, in Lacey's telling, didn't really have a mentor, just a hero: Ulysses Grant. Pershing taught himself the arts of leadership and logistics, and set the mold for the American commanders that followed. There feels to me a political dimension to all this. It's hard not to perceive a strand of creativity and liberalism in the thinking of Pershing and Marshall. Pershing, for example, repeatedly provided Phillipine insurgents with a route of escape as long as they symbolically surrendered the fight. In doing so, Lacey tells us he had much greater success than most of the army in other areas of the Phillipines. Marshall is remembered today as much for his contribution to rebuilding after WWII as for winning it. And Marshall's protege, Eisenhower, also showed his tendencies towards liberalism, especially as compared with more rigid military thinkers like MacArthur. All of this is very much in the great man school of history, but you cross that bridge the minute you start to read or write a biography.
All that being said, this is not the most exciting history book out there, and the lessons Lacey attempts to draw and comparisons to recent US experience in Iraq and elsewhere feel a little forced.
This is one of those books that you instantly recognize as a classic whether you knew it had that status or not, and then resent the world for not previously introducing you to it. The book is an exploration of the human dimension of war told through the experience of three reasonably well-documented battles: Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme. But it's not some namby-pamby celebration of the common soldier or anything obnoxious like that. Rather it's an erudite analysis of the cold reality: just how close were the soldiers together and in how many lines deep, and what happened when a cavalry charge actually crashed into the lines? How did the soldiers get to the front lines and how did they spend the night before, and so were they tired, cold, hungry, damp? The overarching strategic narrative of each battle is presented briefly, but for the most part each chapter focuses on the narrow tactical dimension: what happened, for example, at Waterloo when cavalry met cavalry, infantry met infantry, infantry met cavalry, or when artillery sprayed infantry or infantry or cavalry overran artillery. Some of the broader context is also discussed: how did the role of leadership evolve, how important was religion, and were the soldiers drunk?
Keegan is forthright about the limitations of his book. He focuses on three Western European battles fought by English troops. Near the end of his work, published in 1976, he discusses how tanks changed the role of individual battles--many of which were truly sieges he concludes--in WWII, and speculates about the future face of battle, clearly having WWIII against the Soviets foremost in mind. He doesn't anticipate, although it seems unreasonable to expect him to have, the increasing significance of counterinsurgency warfare. Perhaps the age of the true battle really is past and this book is of mere historical significance. Let's hope so. But if so, that makes the experience of reading about this lost world and imagining oneself in it all the more remarkable.
I highly recommend this book, but I will note that it's a little hard to follow on audio. It might work better on a long car-ride, but if you'd really interested, I think I'd suggest getting the print version.
I liked this piece, but I didn't love it. It's an imagining of what actually went on in 1947 when Hollywood executives met at the Waldorf Astoria to discuss their response to the refusal of ten Hollywood writers and directors to testify before HUAC. It's a fun piece mostly because of its portrayal of famous and colorful characters, like Metro, Golwyn and Mayer.
While the Waldorf Statement is mainly remembered today as Hollywood failing to stand up for the principle of free speech, this play makes a lot of two issues we rarely think of. The first was an ongoing anti-trust campaign against Hollywood, which eventually led to the end of "the studio system," which I wikipediaed as a result of this play and I invite you to do the same. Chasing imaginary communists, which ironically meant these powerful men colluding at the Waldorf, was seen as a way to get Congress to look the other way on their exclusionary business practices.
The second issue was antisemitism. This was only a couple of years after the end of World War II, and there was a perception of Jews and communists (and Jewish communists) having manipulated the country into fighting their enemy, the Nazis. Also, these powerful men had vivid and fresh images of a seemingly advanced country turning against Jews in horrific fashion. It's a good point that I hadn't fully appreciated in the broader story of the Red Scares, but I think it's a little overdone in this piece, hence my healine.
I'll mention that there are a lot of characters, all male, with deep, slightly accented voices tending towards hysterics. Usually LA Theatreworks does a very good job of picking voice actors you won't confuse, but they have their work cut out for them with this piece, and they only partly succeed.
I barely took a history class in college, so I'm not all that clear on what the conventions are, but this series of college-style lectures really felt like a litany of events to me. I vaguely remembered many of the names of events from high school history class, but I didn't remember how they fit together. Then I listened to these lectures on a car trip, and for maybe a week I did remember how they fit together, sort of. And now as I'm writing this review, I don't again.
To be sure, Smele makes a strong effort to get beyond this. Every third lecture or so he stops and does a synthesis/analysis lecture, summarizing the main forces behind the success or failure of whatever just happened. And each time he does, it basically makes sense, but then you get to the end, and one of the greatest nations on Earth has just been toppled by a bunch of ideological loonies, and it's hard to remember just why all the steps followed. One of the important factors, it seems, was that the Bolsheviks ended up occupying the cities once the civil war really got going, and from there they could muster large armies of the underclasses who basically fought for whoever controlled their territory. So was the failure of the Whites a failure to grasp this basic strategic point? That's certainly part of it, but I can't tell you how big a part.
I guess I'm being unfair to Smele. This is a really important subject, and I don't know of a better work on it, certainly not on audio. But I still didn't care for it.
It turns out a lot of what most of us know about Columbine is wrong. Some headliners: the "trench coat mafia" was not involved, and bullying plays only a minor role in the story. Also I was totally unaware that the main thrust of the attack was actually a propane bomb intended to knock out a support pillar in the cafeteria during lunch. Investigators believe that had the timing device worked, the bomb would in fact have toppled the support and the death toll would likely have been in the hundreds. There's an awful lot of interesting stuff in this book.
Unfortunately, Cullen has decided to make this the definitive account of the Columbine massacre and so there's a lot of uninteresting stuff too. I appreciate Cullen's desire to tell the story of the victims on the moral premise that they deserve their stories told more than the killers deserve theirs. There's a logic to that, but ultimately I just don't care whether the third student who was shot wanted to be a lawyer or a pilot. Sorry. I don't make my listening decisions based on that sort of moral calculus.
And that encyclopedic focus coupled with Cullen's other odd choice, to tell the story out of chronological order, makes this a difficult listen. One chapter tells the very important story of why a warrant that was sworn out against Dylan was never actually executed, and then the next goes on at great length about how different churches in town held competing services in the wake of the attack. If you do get the book, I recommend using the audible app to skip the less interesting chapters.
In case you don't decide to listen, and overall I recommend against it, the takeaway is this: Dylan Klebold was a sadistic psychopath and the main force behind planning the attacks; Eric Harris was a depressed young man, like many depressed young men, who fell under Dylan's sway. Just why this particular pair ended up perpetrating what would have been, except for Dylan's ineptitude with fuses, the second (to 9/11) largest peacetime mass killing in American history is not entirely clear. But there were plenty of warning signs, and one family in particular (the Browns) deserve more notice as the unsung would-be heros of the story. They repeatedly contacted Dylan's family, the school, and the police to warn of the dangers of the budding psychopath, but their warnings were not taken seriously.
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