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Posts Tagged ‘2019 Book Review’

High Justice” (1974©) — book review
Today’s review is for an “old” science fiction collection of short stories written by Jerry Pournelle.  Most of the stories were originally published in “Analog: Science Fiction And Fact” magazine.  Analog has been around since the 1930’s and has published a whole lot of “pulp” SciFi over the years.
Pournelle (and his partner – in many other works – Larry Niven) is one of the “greats” of SciFi.  I have my standard of SciFi “demi-gods”: Robert Heinlein, Arthur Clark and Isaac Asimov.  Pournelle (and Niven) rate just below this level.  He is definitely amongst the historically significant writers in SciFi from the last century.
Pournelle is considered a “polymath”, that is, a person who is accomplished in more than one scientific / technical field.  After many years in the aerospace field, he changed career and concentrated on writing.  He created a number of SciFi (actually military / paramilitary SciFi) novel series which I’ve enjoyed over the years.  The series I have most enjoyed (of his) was his “John Christian Falkenberg” series.  I purchased this book thinking it might be a prequel to that series.  It isn’t.  Well, it kind of is, but not really.
(The Falkenberg series is a similar vein to the “Hammer’s Slammers” military SciFi series by David Drake which I also like.  But that’s for another post…)
Anyway, this set of stories is not “really” about military SciFi.  It’s more or less a precursor book to what has come to be know as Pournelle’s “CoDominium Future History” series.
Pournelle’s personal politics leans to what is known as “paleoconservative” and this is reflected in this anthology.  Basically, think Ayn Rand “lite”: government’s are welfare traps, society is going to hell in a hand-basket, corporations will save the world (if we get out of the way and let them), and, (of course) unions are bad.
Putting aside the politics, Pournelle has some insightful views of where the world is headed over the “next” 50 to 100 years – basically, where we are now.  Or, where we soon could be.  (Remember, these stories were written back in the 1970’s.)
The stories deal with clean power, corporate greed, political corruption, increasing food production, space based manufacturing (and asteroid mining), and rights and laws in space, in general.
So, are the stories any good?  Yes!  Once I finally got the hang of his theme, I quite enjoyed all of the stories.  Pournelle is considered a “hard” science SciFi writer. This means he goes into some detail about the science behind the technology discussed in each story.  If you lean more to the fantasy (“horror, dragons or magic”) SciFi, you may not care for his writing.  I found the technology being proposed (like using icebergs to get fresh drinking water) interesting.  They are definitely BIG engineering ideas which would take governments or very large corporations to fund.
Final recommendation: Strong to Highly recommended.  Not the “action” SciFi I normally prefer, but I enjoyed it and look forward to looking back at more of his future histories.
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On This Day In:
2018 True Measures
2017 Hoping For Tapes
In It Now
2016 On Viewing This Mudball
2015 It Takes A Village
2014 In God’s Eyes
2013 We Root For Ourselves
2012 Like A Shark
2011 Discernible Virtue
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This book review is for: “Loving Each Other” (1984©), written by Dr. Leo Buscaglia.  (The “Dr.” is for PhD, not Medical Doctor.)  Dr. Buscaglia was half-known as “Dr. Love”, and was pretty much world famous as an author and motivational / relationship speaker back in the 1980’s / 1990’s.  He was also a lecturing professor at the University of Southern California.  He has since passed away (1998), but you can view some of his lectures and interviews on YouTube.
This is a book I’ve been carrying around for decades and just never got around to reading.  Back in the 1980’s, my wife and I used to watch Buscaglia’s lectures on Public Television (KQED) during “pledge week”, and this book (my copy) is marked as being from KQED and “Not For Sale”.   Which is okay, because I’m probably not going to sell it.  It has too many quotes for me to use as future posts on my blog (LoL).
The book is sub-titled: “The Challenge of Human Relationships” and that’s pretty much what the book is all about.  It seems as part of his academic work researching “successful” relationships, Dr. Buscaglia sent out a survey to 1,000 folks and received back an over 60% response rate.  Dr. Leo analyzed the responses and this book is his summary of what the respondents opinions were of why relationships succeed (and fail).  The book has ten chapters: an intro / definition of a “loving relationship”, three ending chapters – kind of a two-headed summary of the book, a chapter quoting some of the advise from the survey / questionnaire, and it has six chapters dealing with (what the Dr. believes) are the key components of  a successful, long-term relationship.  The components are: Communication, Honesty, Forgiveness, Joy, Letting go of jealousy, and Intimacy.  The chapter with the advise quotes is really just filler to get the book up to the 200 page minimum for this type of relationship / self-help book.  (IMHO)
So, is the book interesting and any good?  Yes and yes.  The Doctor is a terrific public speaker and the book completely mimics his style.  There are absolutely no “airs” about him or his family / up-bringing and this makes for a true family history story-telling.  At just 208 pages (including notes and bibliography / further reading), the book will be a fast read for most.  The book took me a couple of weeks to get through, because I was using it as a prompt to my imagination of future conversations I could have with my wife.  I started the book while she was away visiting her family in Liverpool this month.  Even a slow reader (like myself) could get through this book in three days of a couple of hours each day.  The author’s conversational style of writing makes for a pleasant break in an otherwise hectic / “normal” day.  I found myself intentionally pacing myself so I could enjoy the book longer.  Reading it was like catching up with an old friend you haven’t seen in awhile and wanting to stay just a few minutes longer.
Final recommendation:  Very Highly Recommended!  I have actually gone online to try to find a copy of the survey Dr. Buscaglia sent out, but have not located it.  I am tempted to re-create a portion of the survey to post on this blog to see what results I might get.  Given I have so few followers, it might be possible for me to offer up the results “raw” and / or if I did happen to get sufficient responses, I might analyze them and compare / contrast the results with those from the book.  It just sounds like it might be an interesting project for the future…
There is a saying in the martial arts that when a student is ready a master will appear.  I guess the time was ripe for me to finally read this book.  Again, if you can’t afford to buy Dr. Buscaglia’s books, several of his lectures are available online (on YouTube).  I highly recommend those, too!
You will, of course, see multiple quotes from this book appearing in the future.
Love, Hugs and Smiles to all…
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On This Day In:
2018 No Pride There
London To The Hague
2017 At Least Twenty To Go
2016 A Sweet Smelling Blog Post
Pre-Reacher
2015 Getting The Story Right
2014 Like Shells On The Shore
2013 More And Why
2012 How To Gain Effective Fire
2011 Patriot Act

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David And Goliath”  (2013©)  —  book review
Today’s book review is for non-fiction “popularized science” / sociology genre book” “David And Goliath“, written by Malcolm Gladwell.  Now, in the interest of full disclosure, Gladwell, Steven Levy and James Gleick are my favorite three “modern” “pop”-science writers, so I have a natural inclination to review this book favorably.  (Of course, my “All-time” favorite for this genre is Isaac Asimov, who could explain almost anything to the common reader – and with over 500 books to his name, he certainly tried.)
Anyway, as stated, I was (am) predisposed to a favorable review.  And, I’m giving it that…
It’s not a “great” book and it didn’t make me feel like I just hit myself on the side of the head (“Wow!!).  But, with Gladwell, you pretty much know what you’re getting when you hand over your dosh.  One, two or three observations about human behavior, a bit of socio- / psychological support (a few facts to support the point and not much to contradict the point) to bolster the observations, and then a bit of storytelling to make Gladwell’s conclusion seem more palatable.  Generally, if you “want” to agree with Gladwell’s observations you won’t look too closely at the support, because, heck, you already agree.  Right?  And if you are not predisposed to agree, Gladwell offers almost twenty pages of “Notes” for further research.  But, if you’re going to all that trouble, you probably have some subject matter expertise and don’t need to read a “popularized science” book on this topic.   Do you?
Per his normal format, Gladwell breaks the book into three main sections:
1) The advantages of disadvantages (and the disadvantages of advantages);
2) The theory of desirable difficulty; and,
3) The limits of power.
Amplifying the observations:
1)  Underdogs win more that we (the average reader) would expect – in some specific categories as much as 30%.  Why?  Because we see our disadvantages as their disadvantages, when they (the underdogs) don’t.  And, if they don’t see themselves as underdogs, they have no incentive to quit before they even try to succeed.
2)  Sometimes disadvantages turn out to be advantages and vice versa.  Great schools and small class sizes don’t necessarily produce the best employees or academics.  Gladwell introduces the idea of a inverted U shaped graph to explain this phenomena.
3)  People with challenges (dyslexia, early family tragedy, ADHD) can still become very successful.  Sometimes / somehow the “challenges” early in life prepare them better than their peers for challenges later in life, so they are “ready” when the real life test happens.  And,
4)  You can never “really” know how people will react when they are placed under pressure.  You generally, expect them to fold (because we believe we would, too), but sometimes they exceed your expectations.
My reaction to all of this?  Yes, it may all be true, but how do you build a society around the observation / hypothesis?  With no controls, you have observations, but you cannot test hypothesis.  And, if you could create similar situations, is it ethical to do so?  …For a hundred people, just so five or ten or thirty percent can overcome them?  What does society say to the others who don’t overcome and become super-achievers?  We’re sorry we ruined your life, but we wanted to see if you were “destined” to be elite.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  The book presents some interesting ideas and promotes thought by the reader.  (It certainly made me think!)  It successfully brings academic observations to the masses by means of popular writing.  However, in the end, I was left feeling neither individuals nor the government have the ability (or wisdom) to use power effectively in attempting to control the actions of others.  But for me, making me think is enough to prompt me to recommend the book.
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On This Day In:
2018 Still More Prejudice
A Well Trod Path Of Hopes, Expectations And Surprise
2017 …And With It Civilization
2016 Just Like My Mother
2015 All Omissions Are Mine
2014 Precise Order
2013 Uh, No. Not Really…
Deep Regions
2012 A Pre-Valentine’s Day Message
2011 Easy Like Sunday Morning
May I Have A Little More, Please…
2010 Valleys and Peaks

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Goodbye, Mr. Chips”  (1934©)  —  book review
Like a dog with a fresh bone, sometimes I find it hard to let go…
Over this last weekend, I indulged my OCD and read the short novel “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1934©), written by James Hilton.  Amazon says the paperback is seventy pages, but there are eighteen chapters and most seem less than a full page long.  I read the novella in under two hours.  The book is in public domain, so you can download it and read it for free.
The book has a number of adaptations, including movies made in 1939 (a drama) and 1969 (a musical – review here), a TV series from 1984 (BBC) and a TV movie from 2002 (ITV).  More on these later…  (OCD remember).
The author, James Hilton was the son of a school headmaster and he attended a public boarding school.  Note: a “public” school in England is a “private” school in the U.S. Hilton is said to have based the work on both his father and a master (“teacher / instructor”) at his own school (although it is believed to be mostly based on the teacher at the school he attended).
The main character of the novel and movies, Mr. Chipping, spends the majority of his life (50-plus years) teaching Latin (and Greek) at a single school (Brookfield School) and the book is a reminiscence of his time there.  There are two notable occurrences: one is the meeting of a best-friend Herr (Max) Staefel, the school’s German language teacher and the second is a chance meeting with a young lady who ultimately becomes his wife.  The “shock” of the wedding is not just the marriage of a “confirmed” bachelor, but that the bride is considerably younger than the groom (on the order of 23 years) AND she is as attractive as he is staid.  The book is unclear how long they are wed (roughly one year to eighteen months) as she passes away in childbirth (on 1 April – “April Fool’s Day”).  Chipping stays long enough at the school that he instructs four generations of one family and, on his deathbed, only his housemaid is aware that he was ever married (over thirty years before the death scene).  This results in the famous lines that it was a shame he never had any sons of his own who might have attended the school.  Chipping’s dying response is that indeed he did, thousands of them – and all boys.
Final recommendation: very highly recommended!  I would recommend reading this very short book before viewing any of the four adaptations, but I have seen all of them (three of them in the last week) and you won’t be put off by reversing my call.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (1984)  —  TV series review
This version of the novella was on the BBC in six half-hour episodes (roughly three hours run time) and starred Roy Marsden as Chipping and Jill Meager as his wife.  I am fairly certain this is the first version I saw of the adaptations as I have a distinct memory of the cricket scene which appears in the this version.  I believe I saw this version on PBS, and probably first viewed it with my new (British) wife in 1985, the summer after we married.  The series is available on YouTube, which is where I watched it this weekend.
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended.  As stated above, this was my first exposure to the “Chips” story, so it has a special place in my heart / memory.  I will add this version is closer to the actual time frame depicted in the book and the first (1939) movie version.  It also is much closer to being an anti-war movie than the book or other adaptations.  Finally, in this version, Katherine (Bridges) Chipping is an unemployed governess living with her aunt in London, as opposed to the stage singer / dancer portrayed in the 1969 musical adaptation.
Goodbye, Mr. Chips” (2002)  —  TV movie review
Staring Martin Clunes (of Doc Martin fame) as Mr. Chipping and Victoria Hamilton as Katherine (Bridges) Chipping.  This version appeared on ITV and Masterpiece Theater as a two hour “TV movie”.  I watched it on YouTube where it runs as six episodes of approximately 15 min.  This version is not only an anti-war movie, it is also anti-bullying.  It goes out of its way to critique the hazing of new students and bullying of the younger and smaller students by the bigger, older and / or wealthier students.
At first I found it difficult to get past the “Doc Martin” typecast I have for Clunes.  I didn’t care for his aging (special effects / makeup work) as it looked like glued on rubber pieces.  It was more than halfway through, before I could finally see the role and not the actor in the role.  I have a feeling that was as much me as Clunes, though.  Also, the YouTube version I was watching lacked the start of the movie, so I was left wondering if any other parts had been cut out / off.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  If this (YouTube version) is the only version you can find, it is good enough for you grasp and enjoy the movie.  Clunes ends up convincing as Chips and Hamilton is equal to the role of Katherine.  She is not nearly as “young beauty” as Meager or as winning as Clark (in the 1969 musical), but, in her own way, I felt she owned the role – particularly in her telling of the tale of the “sun vs wind wager”.
So, all in all, my reading and three viewings of “Goodbye, Mr. Chips” have been very enjoyable.  Each offered a slightly different aspect of what is considered a “classic” English tale and have hi-lighted (to me) what a true gem the story remains – even eighty years on (and counting).  I look forward to watching the 1939 version as soon as I can find it and to re-watching the others when they eventually become generally available (instead of broken up on YouTube).
* The post title is my weak attempt at a Latin translation of: “Goodbye Again, Three Times“.
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On This Day In:
2018 Tweets From The Disrupter-In-Chief
2017 Do We Still Listen To Her Silent Lips?
Not Now, Not Ever
2016 Why Do You Write/Blog?
2015 Can Your Repeat The Question, Please?
2014 On Faith
2013 My Name Is Charles Stein
2012 Faiths And Sorcery
Made And Kept Free
2011 Multi-Source Learning

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Amateur (2018©)  —  book review
Over Christmas, my daughter gave me a couple of books as prezzies.  One of them was “Amateur“, written by Thomas Page McBee.  The premise of the book is that the author has gone from being a woman to a man and is seeking to become the first transgender person to box in Madison Square Garden in New Your City.  He is fighting in a charity event against a non-professional fighter (like himself), who is presumably non-trans – at least there is no mention of the male opponent being transgender as well.  Anyway, the book is autobiographical and describes the training and preparation leading up to the match.  The book also relates background information about the authors parents and siblings.  It also has a small amount about the stages of being / becoming transgender.
I asked my daughter why she got me this particular book and if she had read it.  She replied she had not read it and she just wanted to expose me to different perspectives.  The other book she gave me was the Michelle Obama bio, which I have not read yet.
Anyway, I found the book difficult to “get into” because I didn’t (and don’t) care for the author’s writing style.  I found the ideas being expressed unclear and the sentences “stilted”.  Several times I had to re-read a sentence or a paragraph because I wasn’t sure I understood what the author was saying or how it added to or followed on with whatever else was being said.  Eventually, I got the hang of the writing and had fewer problems reading along.
Although the book is “about” boxing and preparing for a fight, it is also about aggression and “being male” – or at least what the author believes is being male in modern society.  I found much of this to be “interesting” even if I don’t necessarily agree with everything the author was trying to relate.  That is, much of it makes sense / rings true, but I’m not sure it (the points being made) are uniquely “male” or modern.  I also don’t know if they are unique to western / American society.  “Interesting” because I am not transgender, did not grow up as a “tom-boy”, and have not spent a great deal of time thinking about being a “straight” “male” as opposed to being “gay” or “trans”.  To this extent, my daughter was successful in getting me to think outside the box.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  It is difficult for me to know who the target audience for this book is, so it is equally hard to recommend it to anyone stumbling on this post / review.  I don’t know that LGBQ folks would want to read about someone who is “trans” or about boxing and preparing for a fight.  I (personally) did find the writing about the training and preparation for the fight to be pretty interesting, enjoyable and well described.  In one way, the book made me chuckle.  Although I personally participated in a boxing tournament as a teen, I went into it completely unprepared, untrained and unfit.  LOL – and the results showed.  I guess, my question is would another trans person (female to male) find this book interesting.  I am not sure they would, except maybe to know there are others (like themselves) out there and they are adjusting to being their “new” selves.  And, maybe that’s enough…
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On This Day In:
2018 Feeling Both
2017 Just Start
2016 Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall
2015 Restraint At The Inn
2014 To Not Discovering
2013 I Have Less To Say
2012 Not The Best Prediction I’ve Ever Read

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