Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Meander

Let's Do the Time Warp Again . . .

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Fight

Probably not many boxing fans in this forum, but Norman Mailer wrote a great book on The Fight. And, there is also a great documentary, When We Were Kings, on the Ali-Foreman fight that is well worth watching even if you are not a boxing fan, as it captures the three-ring circus that formed around the fight. Ali is one of the few fighters to truly transcend the sport, and Taschen lavished quite a monograph on him, simply entitled G.O.A.T. for those who want to plunk down 3000 euros.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Meander with the Obama Family's Official Portrait

Whenever I get down about the country, I think how far we have come after the past eight years.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Real W.M.D.’s

Any new entry in the crowded field of books on the 1962 Cuban missile crisis must pass an immediate test: Is it just another recapitulation, or does it increase our net understanding of this seminal cold war event? By focusing on the activities of the American, Soviet and Cuban militaries during those tense October days, Michael Dobbs’s “One Minute to Midnight” passes this test with flying colors. The result is a book with sobering new information about the world’s only superpower nuclear confrontation — as well as contemporary relevance.

From the NYT. In an era where we seem to stumble over our own shadows, the Cuban Missile Crisis still generates a lot of attention, as we really did stand on the brink of nuclear war. Kennedy's defining moment.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Senator sees Obama making Nixon mistake

I guess all is fair in war and politics, but I think this is stretching it a little far,

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top U.S. Senate Republican invoked the memory of the scandal-marred Nixon administration on Wednesday to urge U.S. President Barack Obama: "Don't start an enemies list."

Senator Lamar Alexander told Reuters he sees the Obama White House adopting an attitude similar to that of the Richard Nixon White House four decades ago, that "everybody is against us and we are going to get them."

Comparing Obama's stance in regard to Fox News and the insurance industry to Nixon's "enemies list" is hyperbolic to say the least, but good ol' Lamar has that nice soft Tennessee accent, which makes him sound as if he might actually be non-partisan on the issue, when we all know which side of the his bread is buttered by inurance companies.

For the Survival of Democracy

In this ambitious work, Alonzo L. Hamby provides a comparative history focused on Franklin D. Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler as charismatic leaders in a time of global crisis. Hamby's account will discomfort celebratory liberals and critical New Leftists, while showing conservatives why scholars perennially rank FDR among the top three U.S. presidents. Summarizing the First New Deal as "a humanitarian success, a political triumph, and an economic failure" (p. 147), Hamby revises how we look at FDR, the New Deal, and Democratic liberalism.

Answering the call for comparative history by John Garraty in "The New Deal, National Socialism, and the Great Depression" (American Historical Review 78 [October 1973]: 907–944) and The Great Depression (1986), Hamby asks why FDR's New Deal failed to bring economic recovery, while British Conservatives Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain and Nazi fuhrer Hitler achieved significant recovery by 1935. Historians remember FDR as a great liberal reformer, while we overlook or disdain the records of his conservative and fascist counterparts. Hamby places FDR and New Deal reform in international perspective, finding some striking similarities between FDR and Hitler, surprising comparisons of New Deal liberalism and British Tory socialism, and significant differences among the political cultures of the world's three leading national economies in the interwar years.

I picked up this book a couple of years back which deals with Roosevelt and the World Crisis of the 1930s.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Age of Roosevelt: The Crisis of the Old Order

A quarter of a century, however, is time enough to dispel some of the myths that have accumulated around the crisis of the early Thirties and the emergence of the New Deal. There is, for example, the myth that world conditions rather than domestic errors and extravagances were entirely responsible for the depression. There is the myth that the depression was already over, as a consequence of the ministrations of the Hoover Administration, and that it was the loss of confidence resulting from the election of Roosevelt that gave it new life. There is the myth that the roots of what was good in the New Deal were in the Hoover Administration - that Hoover had actually inaugurated the era of government responsibility for the health of the economy and the society. There is the contrasting myth (for myths do not require inner consistency) that the New Deal was alien in origins and in philosophy; that - as Mr. Hoover put it - its philosophy was "the same philosophy of government which has poisoned all Europe: the fumes of the witches' cauldron which boiled in Russia."

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. devotes a substantial part of the first book of his projected four volume "Age of Roosevelt" to dispelling these myths. This involves an inquiry into the origins of the New Deal practices and principles, an investigation of conditions - chiefly economic - in the Twenties and a thorough re-evaluation of the Hoover Administration.

One of the valuable features of this book is the emphasis the contributions of political theory by intellectuals, philosophers and scholars. It does not purport to be a history of ideas, but it is very much a history that addresses itself to ideas.

I found Henry Steele Commager's 1957 review at NYTimes. Interesting to see what historians thought of the book at the time of its publication.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Wolverton Bible

My mind has been a bit scattered as of late, wrapped up in architectural projects, while engaging in silly political debates in the Melba forum. I was looking for some comic relief and came across Crumb's Book of Genesis and The Wolverton Bible while perusing amazon. It seems to me that religion does need to look at itself more humorously, getting off its high horse once in a while.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Woman of the Hour

WASHINGTON - Nobody knew for sure what Senator Olympia J. Snowe would do yesterday when the Finance Committee gathered to vote on its health care bill - not even Snowe.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rediscovering Columbus

I was trying to remember when Columbus Day (a.k.a Día de la Raza) was. According to wiki today is the day he made landfall on the Julian Calendar. It would be the 21st on the modern Gregorian Calendar. It is a holiday celebrated throughout the Americas, but I imagine with alot of mixed feelings in Latin American countries, especially among the indigenous population. Interesting to see that Chavez changed the name to Día de la Resistencia Indígena in Venezuela, commemorating Indigenous Resistance. I don't know how much native blood Chavez has in him but I guess it fits better with the socialist image he projects.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Passion for Nature

Worster frames his narrative in a surprising way, as an exemplary tale about the rise of liberal democracy. For authority he cites Alexis de Tocqueville’s "Democracy in America”: “In a seldom-noticed chapter of the book, Tocqueville noted that the liberal democratic revolution seemed to encourage a strong feeling for nature. Its philosophical tendency, he wrote, is to tear down the traditional doctrines of Christianity and put in their place a new religion of nature, or what he called ‘pantheism.’"

I liked Worster's book on John Wesley Powell and he certainly seems like the writer to update our biographical understanding of John Muir, although the reviewer, John Wilson, said the book could be a bit dry at times.

The Little Red Box of Protest Songs

I'm looking forward to this wonderful collection of protest songs I ordered from amazon. Years ago I had found a little red book of protest songs at Left Bank Books in Seattle, which I gave to a friend who was a union organizer at the time.

Art for Hard Times

I was tempted by this book, but after reading the review by Jonathon Yardley,

In the course of his overview, Dickstein discusses movies, plays, music and photographs, but his principal emphasis is on books, not surprising since literature has been the focus of his scholarly career. His most extensive discussion is of the work of John Steinbeck.

I wonder why Dickstein gave so much attention to Steinbeck and seems to have misread Faulkner, according to Yardley. I would think the author would use the opportunity to mine the era for lesser known artists, musicians, artists, etc. that don't get that much attention otherwise. It seems he may have completely overlooked folk music. Anyway, curious if any one else has opinions on the book.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel peace prize awarded to Barack Obama

The US president, Barack Obama, was today awarded the 2009 Nobel peace prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples" in a decision which stunned international affairs experts.

To gasps from those assembled, the Nobel committee chairman, Thorbjoern Jagland, said "only rarely has a person such as Obama captured the world's attention and given his people hope for a better future".

"His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population," the citation said.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Park and Recreation Structures

This is a wonderful book I bought a few years ago that covers a number of National Park Service structures, filled with WPA drawings and photographs. You can actually peruse the book through the link to Google books above.