LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States | Member Since 2007
Conspiracy theories are a jaded genre of fiction. The Director is marginally interesting because of Assange’s WikeLeaks, and Snowden’s NSA’ fiasco.
The Director fails as a conspiracy theory thriller but succeeds in scaring anyone that believes in freedom (which does not infringe on others), and the right to privacy. If 50% of what Ignatius suggests cyber criminals are capable of is true, no economy; no government agency; no private individual is safe.
Ignatius writes a story that suggests no security system exists that is not crack-able by a good hacker that understands computer coding and the gullibility of human beings. Ignatius infers–a good hacker with social engineering skill can crack any security system that is dependent on 1s and 0s. As a conspiracy theory story, The Director is boring and predictable but, as an exposé of cyber-crime, it is frightening.
"The Stranger" evokes depression and denial from realists and optimists. Albert Camus brilliantly captures the character of a nihilist (one who believes there are no meaningful aspects of life). The narrator, Johnathan Davis, uses a monotone voice to tell Camus’s story. This may have been an artistic decision but it detracts from the impact of the book. Camus’s main character, Meursault, lives life as though living is an absurd existence, an existence that demands nothing, gives nothing, and means nothing. Meursault’s view of life is monochromatic and deserves a monotone delivery. However, people around Meursault, in Camus’s story, live life differently. The difference is missed because Davis’s monotone delivery obscures the contrast.
Events make Meursault a murderer. He does not choose to be a murderer just as he does not choose to be a friend or lover. Society chooses to make Meursault a murderer and sentences him to death. Prior to execution, a priest insists Meursault should seek forgiveness from God. Meursault believes there is no God and refuses to ask for forgiveness. Meursault is reinforcing his belief that life has no meaning. Camus tells readers/listeners life is a meaningless number of moment to moment experiences that begin at birth and end at death, signifying nothing.
Camus makes flesh the source of psychopaths, murderers, and sociopaths while suggesting justice can be as easily misguided by realists and optimists as by nihilists. There are strangers in this world. One wonders how many suffer from depression because of Camus’s view of life.
John Williams’ book, "Stoner", is not a page turning delight; partly because of the monotone delivery of Robin Field but principally because of the somber story of a life adrift. "Stoner" seems almost like an autobiography. Though published in 1965 when Williams would have been in his early forties (Williams died at age 71), the story is about the adult life and death of a man who cannot take control of his life; i.e. a man who drifts through life, a life managed by others.
Only one incident in William’s story shows Stoner capable of making a decision. Only in the narrow context of his academic career does Stoner show any inclination to take a stand. Stoner prevails in an argument with the Dean of his department by deciding to teach what he wants to teach rather than what he is assigned to teach. The irony of this one decision by Stoner is that tenure, with few exceptions, protects teachers from being fired. The prescience of Stoner’s student friend, who died in the war, is fully revealed.
Williams’ story is frustrating for reader/listeners who view life differently than Stoner. In one respect the book seems like a mid-life crises apology; in another, it seems a simple story of a cloistered, protected life of a person adrift, who does not care about living, or for that matter, dying. (A lesser point of the story is that Williams shows how academic tenure is both good and bad. It protects both good and bad teachers.)
E. M. Forster sees the trees in the forest of complicated life. Considered by some to be one of the best novels ever written, “A Passage to India” is a spectacular listen and terrific read. The story is beautifully narrated by Sam Dastor but the poetry of Forster’s writing shines best in its reading.
Published in 1924, “A Passage to India” is a primer on colonialism, ethnocentricity, and discrimination. Human nature is immutable and omnipresent, a force of good and evil.
The ugliness of colonialism (cultural domination), ethnocentrism, and discrimination is exemplified in Forster’s tour de force. Thankfully, the characters of Mrs. Moore and Ms. Quested give some sliver of hope for mankind’s redemption, a hope for cultural respect and truth.
Arthur Koestler joined the Communist Party in Germany in 1931. His resignation from the Party in 1938 is likely recounted as a vignette in “Darkness at Noon” about a young communist leader that disagrees with his Russian controller and is expelled from the Party in the 1930s. The substance of the disagreement is the heart of the story.
Though Stalin is never named in the book, Stalin is the “one” that encapsulates a vision of Communism that demands subservience by the individual to the collective.
When a young German’ Communist refuses to distribute Stalinist Party’ literature that ignores Nazi attacks on local Communist’ cells, he is expelled from the Party. The central character of “Darkness at Noon”, a young Nicholas Rubashov enforces Stalinist’ Communist belief by expelling the young German’ Communist because the errant youngster viewed Russian Communism as a personal rather than collective savior. One presumes that young German’ communist was Arthur Koestler.
Rubashov is characterized by Koestler as one of the original participants in the 1917 revolution; as Rubashov ages, his blind acceptance of Stalin’s Communist belief in the collective waivers. Rubashov is imprisoned and ordered to admit guilt and sign a confession. The interrogators, Ivanov and Gletkin, are responsible for getting a signed confession from Rubashov. (The ruse of the signed confession in Stalinist Russia is recounted in a number of books of that era. One of the more recent is “Sashenka” by Simon Montefiore. Also “Gulag” by Anne Applebaum.)
“Darkness at Noon” exposes the vacuity of belief in the collective and the logical consequence of living life with that belief; i.e. to Rubashov, the logical consequence was confession and execution. Human beings are self-interested; the collective is a myth manufactured by power.
Who cares about physics?
If the world is orderly and predictable, physics is the key to that orderliness and predictability; the key to our future.
Greene excites a listener’s appreciation of string theory and its potential for becoming the basis for a unified field theory (a fundamental theory that explains everything about everything). The goal of physicist’s, since Einstein’s scientific break through (the theory of general relativity), has been to find a unified field theory. The consequence of E=MCsquared reminds us of the importance of understanding physics.
The truth of string theory either obviates or combines the reality of space, time, and dimension. The future of string theory rests on experimental observance and measurement. Advances in string theory demand predictability and comprehensibility.
Unraveling nature’s mysteries may or may not be accomplished with this exploration but string theory has the potential of being the greatest discovery.
The last is not first in Charles Dickens book, "Our Mutual Friend". This is Dickens' last; not his best novel, but better than most books by authors that call themselves writers. His skill as a writer is well-proven. Dickens’ skill is clearly evident in "Our Mutual Friend" but caricature begins to cloy by the end of the story.
One can see the commercial serialization and fluid evolution of Dickens’ characters with each chapter. Characters are transformed from imagination to reality but, in the end, become depreciated by caricature. Dickens’ underlying theme is a “send-up” of English society in the mid-19th century. It resonates with caricatures of the rich and poor, ethnic and professional, and working class of all societies. However, Our Mutual Friend’s caricatures are so stereotypical, neither comedy nor tragedy move the reader/listener in the way of earlier Dickens’ books.
Dickens makes his points about society with heavy-handed caricatures. Each of Dickens’ chapters entertains but the overall story is riddled with characters that are too perfectly evil or too perfectly good. "Our Mutual Friend" is still a joy to listen to; in spite of its journey away from suspended belief and its anticlimactic reveal of the killers of the wrong John Harmon.
“The Patriarch” is a revealing fact-filled account by David Nasaw of the father of the 35th President of the United States. Nasaw plays no favorites in reporting historical facts and political movements of early and mid-20th century America. Nasaw’s research invades Kennedy’s privacy to document public and private correspondence with history makers of his time. Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. praises, and abrades the greatest men, and some of the most beautiful women, of the mid-20th century. Joseph P. Kennedy lives an unequal life in a land of equal opportunity.
Joseph Kennedy grows to believe there is a Jewish cabal maneuvering to takeover the media to influence government because he reasons that all consequences have precisely definable causes. When his son, Jack Kennedy campaigned for President, Joseph Kennedy felt the Catholic Church organized to defeat his son without thought that there were many reasons individual Catholics would not vote for his son. When a precise cause cannot be identified, the human mind tends to manufacture conspiratorial causes. Joseph Kennedy uses a narrow focus of attention that makes sense in the business world but misses nuances of cause and effect in a political world.
Politics have an important role in life because they deal with means; not just ends. Life is not only a business decision; i.e. ends are more than profit and financial security. Proof of the need for a broad vision of life is offered in David Nasaw’s history of Joseph P. Kennedy’s life; i.e. a life filled with good and bad behavior, joy and tragedy; in unequal measure. Joseph P. Kennedy outlived four of his nine children–Joseph Jr. (killed in WWII),Kathleen (died in a plane crash),John F. (assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald), and Robert Kennedy (assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan).
Mark Steyn runs the billiard table from William Buckley to, sadly, Glenn Beck, Michele Bachmann, and Rush Limbaugh in “America Alone”. His commentary ranges from erudite insight to conservative rant.
Listening to Brian Emerson’s narration of Steyn’s book makes one smile and cringe. In one section Steyn intelligently reflects on the demographics of world population and then, in the next page, whips out a Glenn Beck-like’ riff on the name “Muhammad” that sounds like Michele Bachmann’s guilt-by-association comment about ex-Senator Wiener’s wife’s meeting with a Muslim Brotherhood representative; i.e. Steyn incriminates the entire Muslim religion by inferring that it is a fascist conspiracy to take over the world.
Steyn is obviously well read and informed but one feels like he plays the publicity game of talking heads like Rush Limbaugh that have the objective of being darlings of an ideological minority that can make them rich. Steyn wastes his intelligence; pandering to an ideological constituency rather than serving the general public by searching for the truth.
There is a truth and it lies in freedom and equal opportunity. Demographics are not destiny; i.e. demographics are a part of the human condition that can be managed by recognizing human nature’s fundamentals and conscientiously creating nations that are governed by rule-of-law.
Organized religion is a puzzle wrapped in a conundrum. The puzzle lies in a common religious belief that says there is only one God; the conundrum is that the three largest one-God’ religions refuse to peacefully accept their differences and either kill or banish those who do not follow their beliefs. Which among the three have witnesses to the truth?
Frank E. Peters is a 1961 PhD graduate in Islamic Studies from Princeton with a BA and Masters degree in Greek and Latin from St. Louis University. Peters chronologically recounts the history of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. All three religions have text to provide a foundation for their beliefs. Jews rely on the “Torah”, which is a part of the “Old Testament”; Christians rely on the “Old Testament” as modified and expanded by the “New Testament”; Islam relies on the “Quran” which is codified by a Caliph twenty years after the death of Muhammad.
Peters does not take sides in his lectures on the three major monotheistic religions. However, his presentation reinforces one’s belief that organized religion is a harbinger of death and destruction. All three religions have or have had armies to enforce their religious beliefs. Jews formed an army when Israel became a State; Christians fought the crusades by using nobleman that accepted the faith. The Pope’s peace of 2012 is more a function of social constraint than religious tolerance; Turkish Islamist’s conducted a Jihad that killed thousands of Armenians (some say 1.5 million) in the early 20th century and Iran threatens destruction of Israel today. All three organized religions have blood on their hands.
Even though one may fervently believe in God as the Prime Mover of the universe, organized religion is a 21st century obstacle to the Truth; i.e. a believer that seeks to be a “witness to the truth” can only stand and wait.
Intuition suggests incredulity as first reaction to Nassim Taleb’s book, “Fooled by Randomness”; the second instinctive reaction is author arrogance. Incredulity comes from Taleb’s argument that everything that happens in life is random or, at best, probabilistic. Perception of arrogance comes from Taleb’s smug presentation–a "believe me or don’t" because it works for me attitude. However, by the end of Taleb’s book, a reader begins to believe there is more insight than arrogance in his opinion.
Taleb argues that understanding probability is important but no guarantee of results in life or markets. Taleb particularly decries distortion by market and political pundits that correlate current events with future outcomes. News reports that say the market fell or rose because of an event in Africa or Russia are meaningless and unprovable correlations. Taleb believes in the value of quantification but in the limited sense of probability; not precise correlation. Further, Taleb argues that a wise investor places prudent bets on Black Swans that offer small losses and big wins in an unforeseeable, probabilistic future. One might add caveat-emptor, unless he/she is Nassim Taleb.
As Jonathan Haidt explains in “The Righteous Mind”–the elephant of desire will do what it wants, even with a skilled human rider. Life is random because reason is always influenced by desire.
Report Inappropriate Content