Posts Tagged ‘2021 Book Review’

The Circle Of Fifths For Guitarists” (2017©)   —   book review
This review is for the first guitar book (non-song book category) which I have finished reading.  Hopefully, there will be many more in the future…
The book is written by:  Joseph Alexander and is part of a series of learning about music / guitar titled:  “Fundamental Changes“.  There is an associated website at:  www.fundamental-changes.com.  It also has associated Facebook and Instagram blah-blah-blah…
In January of this year (2021), I decided to teach myself to play guitar.  I’ve now purchased multiple guitars (acoustic and electric) and about a dozen books on learning music and learning how to play various genres of guitar.  I am trying to “find” my voice on both hardware and in music.  I am doing this (journey / vision-quest) “mostly” through YouTube, Wikipedia, Google and my local second hand bookstore.  I am averaging about one hour a day of hands-on practice and another couple of hours exploring genres, music theory, musicians / bands / songs, and hardware reviews.  Although I have (probably) over 300 hours of hands-on practice, I still consider myself to be a near complete-beginner guitarist.  I have watched multiple hours worth of videos on “The Circle of Fifths” and given this book is only a little over sixty pages of material, I’ve spent far more time watching videos than I actually spent reading this book.
Having said this, the questions remain:  is THIS a good book about the topic and would I recommend it to others?  The answer to both is:  “YES“.
First (good):  this is not a particularly easy topic to cover / explain.  I may feel this way simply because I’m such a beginner, but I’ve asked a few people who’ve “played” guitar in the past and they (mostly) said:  “Just learn some chords and play songs. Nobody is interested in theory.”  The problem is: I AM!!  Not only am I interested in guitar (as a physical instrument), I am also interested in it as a means of musical expression.  I seek to “Grok” guitar.  This means I have to learn the how’s and why’s of just about everything “guitar”.  Hence, my interest in the topic:  “The Circle of Fifths” (TCoF).
Alexander has written a very easy to read explanation of TCoF and I feel this book significantly increased the depth and breadth of my understanding of this music tool.  Obviously TCoF is a tool for all musicians and not limited to just use by guitarists.  Having said this, the author appropriately makes the effort to explain things from / for a guitarist’s point of view.  He defines words / terms when he first uses them, so ensuring the budding guitarist knows what he is talking about.  Alexander also takes the time to briefly explain some things beyond the scope of the book and cautions readers when a side topic is going to get deep.  Basically, he explains fundamental concepts clearly and then builds on the foundation to round out the reader’s understanding.
As mentioned earlier, there is an associated website with audio files which can be played to increase understanding by ear training and not simply expecting the reader to “understand” a point by reading about it.  This is a book about practical application of theory to music (sound).
Second (bad):  If that’s the good, what’s wrong?  Well, my copy came to me with every third page glued together.  Not consecutive pages, but facing pages and every other set:  two pages open, two pages glued, etc.  The glued spot was pretty uniform at about two inches in from the center / binding.  Most were only spots.  A few were lengths (a quarter inch to two inches) running from binding margin to the center of text.  A couple were the full height of the page as well as being over an inch in width.  Most could be pulled free.  Three of the sets completely shredded the opposite page – which meant you couldn’t read the back of that page either, even though it wasn’t glued.  Fortunately, the worst pages were at the extreme front and end of the book.  When contacted, the response was:  the books are printed and delivered by Amazon;  take it back to them and they’ll arrange to give you another.  If this was a hardbound book or more expensive, I would have done this.  Weighing the cost versus my time, I just decided to live with what I have.  And, after all, the book was still readable.  Although annoying in multiple locations, I could figure out the missing words from surrounding context.
Third (bad):  The book had a handful (less than five) of editing errors where either a word was dropped or an incorrect word was used.  Only one was so bad (impactful) that I had to go back and re-read adjoining text to ensure I knew what the author was saying instead of what it looked like he was saying.  I would add, I personally would NEVER buy this type of book in kindle format without having seen the complete book on whatever hardware version I owned.  There is too much valuable information easily accessible by laying out two pages and seeing them next to each other in a readable size / format.  In fairness, I am a “book” person, not an “ebook” person.  Of course, with kindle I wouldn’t have had the glue issue.
Final recommendation:  strong recommendation.  If you are interested in learning a bit about music theory, how chords and keys are built and how chords work together to create music, this is an excellent beginner’s resource.  Is it going to “vastly” improve MY music skills.  Not in the immediate future.  I’m not that good, yet.  But I’ll get there some day and I believe reading this book will have helped me get there sooner than if I’d not read it.  I will look for this author and series in my local used book stores where I can open and check the pages before I buy the book.
On This Day In:
2020 Doctor’s Orders
Make That Seven Orders…
2019 Innocent
2018 Ripost
2017 Just Asking…
2016 And 4
How Tall Do You Stand?
2015 More Prejudice
2014 Say What?
2013 Daring Errors
2012 Are You Comfortable?
I Just Have To
In Flux
2011 True New
2010 A Job Well Started Is A Job Half Done
I See With My One Good Eye

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2034: A Novel of the Next World War”  (2021©)  —  book review
The book subject to today’s review was written by Elliot Ackerman, James Stavridis Admiral USN (ret.).  Ackerman is a former White House Fellow and decorated Marine veteran.  Stavridis is, of course, best known as a four-star Admiral and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO.  Ackerman is a working journalist / opinion writer and both are authors of multiple books.  That’s pretty much their bonafides for writing a “future – history” about world war / combat.
This novel is set thirteen years in the future.  Putin is still in charge of Russia.  The U.S. has a female President from an Independent party.  And, we don’t really know much about anyone else in charge around the world.  We know China is pushing its claims in the northern Pacific, yet Taiwan remains an independent “nation” state.  India has somehow “resolved” the Pakistan issue in its favor, but we don’t know what that means for either India or Pakistan.  NATO is in disarray without strong U.S. leadership.  And, finally, Iran has had some success against Israel.  What isn’t exactly made clear, except Iran has somehow “freed” the Golan Heights.
Background:  The first third of this book was published as a special “full dedicated issue” recently in Wired magazine, which I subscribe to.  I have read EVERY issue of the magazine since inception back in 1993.  The company I worked for back in 2000 had all of the back issues on a shelf and I would “borrow” them one at a time, read cover to cover and then bring them back.  As far as I know, no one else EVER read any of them, as once I was hired, I kept the current ones on my desk and no one ever asked for them.  Shortly before leaving the company, I got a personal subscription and have continued reading them for the last 20 years.  Anyway, Wired‘s issue left you hanging with the promise of a future novel publication in March 2021.  My review is of the full publication.  This book was one of two I received as a birthday present from my wife.
And,…  This book is about a military conflict between China and the United States.  Supposedly, China is an ascending world power and the U.S. is a descending / failing world power.  China stages a confrontation in order to demonstrate its military superiority – and the world slips into war.
Is the book interesting?  Informative?  Entertaining?  Accurate – technologically, politically or militarily?  Is it worth the time to read it?  To be honest, the magazine promised more than the book delivered.  The answer to all five of those questions is mostly so-so…
It is a fast read at barely over 300 pages.  The problem is there isn’t much there – there.  I don’t know how much (if any) current military capability Ackerman has access to.  It is a given (to me) that Stavridis would have had nearly unlimited access (pre-retirement anyway).  The problem is, of course, the book would have had to be submitted to and cleared through State and DOD before it was published and neither agencies (nor the authors) would have been inclined to offer much useful information in a novel.
With nothing but the most general capabilities described we get a lot of implausible “magic” technology under the guise of “AI” (Artificial Intelligence) which seems to work perfectly and then not at all.  We get very poor strategic decisions / action by the U.S.; we get some oversimplification of other technologies (overseas internet cabling);  side tracks by Russia and Iran, which seem to have been added to make the conflict global rather than China vs. U.S.;  and then we get a couple of miracles at the end by India to conclude the novel / war.  That pretty much covers the “informative and accuracy” portion of this review.
What about interesting and entertaining?  Again, so-so…  There are five main characters: female American Admiral, male American fighter pilot, male American (Indian immigrant) NSC advisor, male Iranian officer (he ends up with various ranks), and the main Chinese (half-American) Admiral.  The story is told from each of their viewpoints.  (Yes, there are also another handful of secondary but important characters, but this is really about the big five.)
The problem I had was the number of characters made for a long, deep story which developed each character to the point where you cared about them without giving away too much plot / ending.  Unfortunately, this book is neither long nor deep, which meant you almost cared, but not quite.  And, again unfortunately, it was almost entirely predictable and therefore, while I finished feeling entertained, I didn’t feel satisfied – emotionally or intellectually.
Then is it worth your time, then?  Yes!  It raises the interesting question if military technology is useful if it is subject to (can be negated by) a less expensive counter-measure.  In this case, the apparent answer is that if the elephant is blinded, it is still an elephant and not easily overwhelmed.
Final recommendation: moderate to strong.  This is not Tom Clancy or Sir John Hackett level political, military or strategy writing, but I did find it entertaining even if not informative or militarily consistent.  I’m grateful to have received it as a present, because I’d have waited for the paperback or a very reduced price before buying it myself.  So I got to read something almost literally hot off the presses…
Final disclaimer:  I purchased this book at normal / sale price and no compensation has been provided to me by anyone for my opinions in this review.
On This Day In:
2020 First Buds
To Fly
2019 What If Nobody Believes Them Either
2018 It’s About Heart Not Skill
2017 Winning So Much I’m Already Tired Of It (Not)
2016 Punishing Red Binge
2015 Bits In The Soup
2014 More Beef, Less Bull
2013 Where Are Your Mountains
2012 Spherical Knowledge Of Hamsters
2011 Taking Stock Over Time

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