Oberon - Second Thread of 2018
This is a continuation of the topic Oberon's First Thread of 2018.
This topic was continued by Oberon - Third Thread of 2018.
Join LibraryThing to post.
Art by Lina Iris Viktor
Welcome to my second thread for 2018. I thought I would get a new thread started prior to our spring break trip in a couple of weeks. The art up top is by an English/Liberian artist. I actually came across her work while reading a piece alleging that her work had been misappropriated in the music video "All the Stars." That video, connected to the recent Black Panther movie, is itself a fantastic visual piece - check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQbjS0_ZfJ0
As for me, I am practicing law in Minnesota. The soccer season is starting to get back underway. Minnesota United aka The Loons are up and running and we will be going to the home opener this coming weekend. The forcecast is for weather in the low 50's so our snow is starting to melt. The kids soccer seasons are just getting going. My son is playing in an indoor soccer league (that I am coaching) and my daughter is (hopefully) almost ready to get back to soccer after surgery on her ankle six weeks ago.
While my real life book club has been slow to get going this year, my own reading is moving along well. Hopefully with a few more reviews coming soon. Welcome one and all.
2017 Book Year in Review:
2017 was a very good reading year for me. Beyond reading 101 books, I read a lot of really good books. While I have a top five the honorable mention category is far larger than normal.
1. Jungle of Stone by William Carlsen
2. The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane
3. On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder
4. We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates
5. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
In the honorable mention category are: The Lost City of the Monkey God, His Father's Son Edmund Morris's trilogy about Teddy Roosevelt and The Black Earth.
Books Read in 2018:
1. Heretics and Heroes by Thomas Cahill (audiobook)
2. Black Panther & the Crew by Ta-Nehisi Coates
3. Inanna's Tears by Rob Vollmar
4. JLA: A Midsummer's Nightmare by Mark Waid
5. The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger
6. Rubicon by Mark Long
7. 1001 Nights of Snowfall by Bill Willingham
8. Country of My Skull by Antjie Krog
9. The Terror Years by Lawrence Wright (audiobook)
10. The Story of Egypt by Joann Fletcher (audiobook)
11. The Africa House by Christina Lamb
12. Black Panther Book 4 by Ta-Nehisi Coates
13. Quiet Until the Thaw by Alexandra Fuller (audiobook)
14. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
15. The Road to Character by David Brooks (audiobook)
16. The Amazing Screw-On Head by Mike Mignola
17. Mountains of the Mind by Robert Macfarlane
18. The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
19. Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible by Mike Mignola
20. Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder (audiobook)
21. World of Wakanda by Ta-Nehisi Coates
22. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
23. The Fall of the Ottomans by Eugene Rogan (audiobook)
24. Baltimore: The Red Kingdom by Mike Mignola
25. Trumpocracy by David Frum (audiobook)
26. Thanos Rising by Jason Aaron
27. The Storied City by Charlie English
28. The Magic Flute by Amano Mateki
29. Hellboy in Hell by Mike Mignola
30. Explorers of the Nile by Tim Jeal
31. B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, Volume 1 by Mike Mignola
32. Hellboy and B.P.R.D 1954 by Mike Mignola
33. Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts by Christopher De Hamel
34. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (audiobook)
35. The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane
36. Treasure by Clive Cussler
37. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
38. In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides (audiobook)
39. The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed by Mike Mignola
40. Blood River by Tim Butcher
41. By the Numbers by Laurent Rullier
42. Hell and Good Company by Richard Rhodes (audiobook)
43. A Chain Forged in Life by Mike Mignola
44. Mr. Higgins Comes Home by Mike Mignola
45. The Map Thief by Michael Blanding (audiobook)
46. B.P.R.D. The Devil You Know by Mike Mignola
47. Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible Volume 2 by Mike Mignola
48. Eye of Newt by Michael Hague
49. Russian Roulette by Michael Isikoff (audiobook)
50. The Spectral Blaze by Richard Lee Byers
51. Infinity by Jonathan Hickman
52. Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin
53. The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
54. Who is the Black Panther? by Reginald Hudlin
55. Escape from Syria by Samya Kullab
56. Fascism: A Warning by Madeline Albright (audiobook)
57. Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell
58. Tiki of Hawaii by Sophia Schweitzer
59. Scouting on Two Continentsby Frederick Burnham
60. Black Panther, Avengers of the New World by Ta-Nehisi Coates
61. The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee (audiobook)
62. The Vanishing Velazquez by Laura Cumming
63. Captain America, Marvel Knights by John Rieber
64. Fairest: The Return of the Maharaja by Sean Williams
65. The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
66. The Dark Horse Book of Horror by Mike Mignola
67. Iscariot by S.M. Vidaurri
68. Pride of Baghdad by Brian Vaughan
69. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert (audiobook)
70. Theodore Roosevelt: A Literary Life by Thomas Bailey
71. Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
72. Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
73. Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan
74. Usagi Yojimbo, Mysteries by Stan Sakai
75. Kill Shakespeare, Volume 3 by Conor McCreary
76. Kill Shakespeare, Volume 4 by Conor McCreary
77. Kill Shakespeare, Volume 5 by Conor McCreary
78. The Sigh by Marjane Satrapi
79. Lost to the West by Lars Brownworth (audiobook)
80. Justinian's Flea by William Rosen (audiobook)
81. Edgar Allan Poe's Spirits of the Dead by Richard Corben
82. Corto Maltese: The Ethiopian by Hugo Pratt
83. Hellboy and the the B.P.R.D. 1955 by Mike Mignola
84. Corto Maltese: In Siberia by Hugo Pratt
85. The Emperor of All Maladies by Sddhartha Mukerjee (audiobook)
I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts yesterday to see their current show. It is called Power and Beauty in China's Last Dynasty. It was not your standard art show. Rather, they turned the design of the exhibition over to Robert Wilson who is principally a theater designer. He staged the show with a very theatrical sense using the objects of course but also sound and light to impact the viewer.
The show completely did away with the little cards explaining the objects and their significance. Rather, that information was in a handout. As a result, you really engaged with the art. I could see it getting very mixed reviews as it was very different from the standard museum show. For example, the first room featured an all black vase barely lit in a high corner of the room. The room itself was almost totally dark - people were asked to sit or stand in the room before the doors were shut. Once the doors were shut, music played but as the composition swelled and grew, the repeated sound of what I thought was a pencil being dropped kept breaking the tune. Anyway, I have no photos of that room but below are some of the others.
Coming out of the dark room was this brightly lit room with various objects from the imperial court. The audio in the room was of breaking pottery.
This whole room was to represent the common man and contained this diminutive figure alone. The audio was of a child singing.
This was an imperial robe. The room featured several robes and was accompanied by clacking sticks. As a stick would clack a different robe was illuminated.
An imperial throne. The dragon stretched around the whole room. There was music occasionally interrupted by a human scream. I think? the point was to emphasize the majesty and terror of absolute power. Scared the heck out of some kids going through the exhibit.
Buddhist sculptures in an otherwise totally reflective metal room.
Objects from the ladies at court. The walls looked like crumpled aluminum foil.
There were other rooms that didn't photograph as well. Very interesting exhibition.
Truly amazing what can happen to a totally free imagination!
Love the exhibition concept Erik. Some of our museums have been having a go at making exhibitions a fuller visitor experience. My fave over recent years was for designer Alexander McQueen. It was so popular that near the end of the run, they had a couple of days they stayed open 24 hours.
Love the topper too.
>6 PaulCranswick: Hi Paul. Yeah, I really like her art work. Sadly, she is far too popular (and she works with real gold) for me to be able to afford to collect her art.
>7 m.belljackson: & >8 drneutron: Definitely neat to see such a significant departure from the usual art show. Maybe I don't get out enough to other major museums but I don't recall anything comparable at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and I tend to see most of their exhibitions.
>9 BLBera: Beth, I am telling my parents that it is worth the drive. I don't think it is on their radar screen.
>10 Caroline_McElwee: Caroline, was that at the V&A? I think it would be neat to go out to a major show at 2 AM or something. If the crowds were reduced it might justify the lack of sleep.
Yes, at the V&A Erik. It was a fabulous exhibition. The highlight was the cabinet of curiosities. The photos can't replicate how it felt to stand inside it... (2/3 down the page)
His catwalk shows could have been nominees for the Turner prize Erik.
Happy New Thread, Erik.
Love that Lina Iris Viktor art up top, and the other art you've posted - thanks.
Happy new thread, Erik.
Fantastic exhibition and what an intricate topper.
Keegan has his first outdoor game of the season this coming weekend - a tournament in Cincinnati, OH. I'm a little afraid to check out the weather for the weekend, but since its a little more south than we are, it usually is typically a little warmer than here.
>14 Caroline_McElwee: Spectacular. Thanks for sharing.
>15 Ameise1: Thank you Barbara. Thank you for stopping by.
>16 jnwelch: Hi Joe. I really like Viktor's Constellations series.
>17 rretzler: Hi Robin. At least you can play soccer outside! I ran a practice in half a gym last night. We registered for a tournament down in Kansas City in about three weeks. That will be our first outdoor game of the season. Even with temperatures in the 40's right now and a lot of melting there is at least eight inches of snow on flat ground here. It will be well into April before the snow is gone and the fields have dried enough to be usable.
Trumpocracy by David Frum
David Frum worked in the George W Bush administration as a speech writer. Since then he has became a writer for The Atlantic. He has been a prominent Never Trumper in the Republican party. This book is his take on the Trump presidency thus far.
It is a pretty depressing story. America handed the presidency to one of the least qualified individuals in the last 50 years. Reading about just how bad it is and is likely to continue to be is not fun. What is valuable is Frum's synthesis. Trump has been such a continuous series of outrages and controversies, both as a candidate and in office, that it virtually impossible to contextualize the incidents. Even today, days after he fired his Secretary of State over Twitter and possibly because the Secretary condemned Russia's poisoning of a former spy, the news is dwarfing Trump's payment of hush money to a porn star. Either story would be politically fatal in a normal political environment. Had Obama fired Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State because she condemned China's human rights record or if Hillary had called Obama a "fucking moron" in a principals meeting, the American political system pre-Trump would have ground to a halt in scandal, recriminations and investigation. Now, it is just another in an endless string of outrages.
In Trumpocracy, Frum walks through the first year's outrages and puts them in context. In doing so, he highlights how flagrant the transgressions of political norms have become. How nepotism and dubious financial dealings have been all but ignored and so on and so on. As a historical record, the book is important. The hope would be that this sort of account would be part of the necessary reckoning that will have to happen for the American political system, and especially the Republican party, to return to some sort of normalcy. However, with years left in Trump's presidency the book is deeply depressing.
Recommended but don't mix with alcohol - it is too depressing.
Hat tip to Suzanne for talking up the book.
>20 Kassilem: Hi Melissa. Thanks for stopping by. I spent last night persuading my parents to check out the exhibit.
Belated happy new thread, Erik!
I love the pictures of the Imperial China exhibition. Not sure if I could take the sounds, as I am easely triggered by unexpected loud noises...
Thanks for sharing the photos of the exhibition Erik - we have some of the Terracotta warriors visiting Liverpool at the moment, such a popular exhibit I have yet to find a slot that works to visit it.
Must try harder.
What a fantastic exhibit! Thanks for posting the pictures. >19 Oberon: Not sure I have the strength to spend more time thinking about Trump and how it all went/is wrong. Sigh.
Hi Erik, and happy new thread.
>5 Oberon: Hmm. The photos are gorgeous. I'm not sure I'd like to have light and sound influencing what I thought about the objects. Interesting concept, though.
>19 Oberon: Recommended but don't mix with alcohol - it is too depressing. I don't even think I can mix it with life.
Oooooooo Aaaaaaaah! Thanks for the field trip to The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Erik. What a visual experience.
Oh and Happy New Thread!
Loons Win! 2-1 victory over the Chicago Fire for the home opener. It was a beautiful 50 degree day, warm in the sunshine compared to last year's opener played in a raging blizzard. Even better, the Loons looked good on the field. My preseason pessimism may very well be proven wrong.
I will be back later today to respond on my sadly neglected thread and to provide a review of a fantastic theater experience from Sunday night too. But still - LOOOOOONS!
Nice family outing Erik. And your daughters foot on the mend I presume.
>22 FAMeulstee: Hi Anita. I will confess the sounds could be loud and disconcerting. Especially the screams in the throne room. I get the artist's idea but it was jarring.
>23 rosalita: Hey Julia. I wasn't sure of Trumpocracy for the same reason. And the book did make me mad and appalled all over again. I am trying hard to not let me sense of outrage become either all consuming or put me back in a cocoon. I went quite awhile post-election where I really couldn't consume much of any news and it wasn't healthy for me.
>24 charl08: Charlotte, the terracotta warriors were in Minneapolis a few years ago and I saw them. I thought they were amazing. Hope there are no incidents like the idiot in Philadelphia who thought it would be cool to break off a thumb for a souvenir.
>25 Berly: Thanks Kim! I think a lot of us are suffering from too much daily Trump.
>26 karenmarie: Hi Karen. I certainly understand the concern - I will say that for me the lighting absolutely enhanced the experience, the soundtrack a bit less so. Still glad to have seen it - weird screams or not.
>27 Carmenere: My pleasure Linda and thanks for stopping by!
>29 Caroline_McElwee: We had a fantastic time Caroline. And yes, she seems to be almost wholly mended. She was cleared to return to practice last Tuesday and attended practices Friday and Sunday. She is a bit sore where the incision was and her muscles are rebelling being forced back into shape but I think she will be 100% before her first game of the season.
I saw Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro over the weekend. I was a little surprised that this was the Best Picture winner but I enjoyed the movie. I am a big fan of del Toro and thought Pan's Labyrinth was brilliant. However, artistic merit aside, I am very, very excited for his Pacific Rim sequel which opens this week. I grew up on a steady diet of Godzilla movies so I am very excited about this next installment and have plans to see it in IMAX format.
I went to see the play Familiar at the Guthrie last night. I got free tickets which are always the best kind.
The play is by Danai Gurira and she is far more well known, especially right now, as an actress than as a playwright. She plays Michonne on The Walking Dead and General Okoye in Black Panther. Based upon Familiar, it is my hope that she will become equally famous as a playwright.
Gurira was born in Iowa and educated at Macalester College in St. Paul. The play itself is set in the suburbs of Minneapolis which she clearly knows well. Gurira's parents were from Zimbabwe before transplanting to the Midwest and that cultural dislocation is the heart of the play.
The play itself is set the day of a wedding rehearsal dinner. The parents are emigres from Zimbabwe who have made successful lives in the US. One has a PHD while the other is a lawyer. The oldest daughter, a successful lawyer herself, is marrying a "white boy from Minnetonka." Also in the mix are a younger sister who recently returned from a trip to Zimbabwe and is asking hard questions about why her parents neglected to teach her much about her "homeland" and two aunts. It is the relationship of the three older sisters (mom and the two aunts) that drive the conflict. One of the aunts immigrated to the US and, while a professional, is less successful than the mom. The third aunt is a surprise visitor who has come from Zimbabwe at the daughter's request to ensure that Zimbabwean marriage customs are observed.
Things rapidly devolve as the older sisters fall to fighting about how much and in what way should customs be honored and why. It is this fight, which is really a dialogue about assimilation and immigration, that is really timely. Despite dealing with heavy topics, the play itself is hilarious. The production I saw was well acted and succeeded in being both thought provoking and highly entertaining. Highly recommended.
>32 Oberon: the play sounds good Erik. I hope it surfaces in the UK sometime.
>33 Caroline_McElwee: It was really good. I think it premiered at Yale and then had a run in New York which is where the Guthrie's artistic director saw it. Not sure where it will go next but Gurira's fame certainly won't hurt.
>32 Oberon: The play sounds excellent, Erik. I didn't know she was born in Iowa.
As noted elsewhere, I am trying Litsy (an app acquired by LT). I am not sure if it will be a regular thing or not but the little I have played with it is fun. My username there, as here, is Oberon.
Soccer/daughter update: after a clearance last week from her surgeon my daughter returned to soccer practice last weekend. Last night, she played her first game in months (an indoor boarded soccer league game). She lacked the endurance and strength that she usually displays but the drive and skills are all still intact. Her team won 5-2 against an arch-rival and she picked up one of the goals. So - barring any major setbacks - I think she just needs to work herself back into shape and it will be as if the injury/surgery never happened which was the goal all along.
>40 Oberon: Yay! Best possible outcome is now in sight.
Yep, we're connected on Litsy.
Great start to your new thread, Erik! I love the thread topper, and your descripions of the art exhibition and the play are very appealing. Thanks for reviewing Trumpocracy; I remain in white hot anger over trump, his supporters, the NRA and the gun lobby, so I'll pass on reading it.
I'm glad to hear that your daughter's surgery went well and that she is back on the pitch.
>41 Caroline_McElwee: She is thrilled. When her doctor told her she could play again she broke into a huge smile. Doctor said it was the first time he had seen her smile since meeting her.
>42 richardderus: Thanks Richard. Hopefully my reading picks up while vacation.
>43 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl. Definitely don't read Trumpocracy now - the white hot anger will tip up to incandescent. A good book for when he is well and truly behind us all.
Loons update: the Loons lost 3-0 to the New York Red Bulls. Lots of people were out for international duty and New York is a good team but it showed that the Loons have some improving to do.
I missed most of the game as I went to see Pacific Rim: Uprising (monsters v. robots!) but the little I saw didn't make me sad that I hadn't watched the whole game.
How was Pacific Rim? I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the first one....
>46 katiekrug: I considered it as dumb fun. The plot was ok though there were some glaring holes. To me the franchise is all about cool looking robots and monsters fighting and this one delivered. I particularly appreciated that a number of the fights were done during daylight. The first one had fights at night and in the rain so it made the fights a bit more difficult to follow. Not an issue here. I enjoyed it. My 10 year old son REALLY enjoyed it.
Thanks for the warning about Trumpocracy, Erik. I'll wait until after he is kicked out of office to read it, which will hopefully be later this year after his numerous affairs become public knowledge, or after Ivanka beats him to a pulp.
Big MLS match this weekend! Who ya got?
ETA: I and other Pitt alumni are dancing for joy after yesterday's announcement that Duke associate head coach and master recruiter Jeff Capel has agreed to become the men's BB head coach for the Panthers. I predict that they will be back in the NCAA tournament by 2021, after they were the only Power 6 team to fail to win a game in their conference this past season. Hail to Pitt!
>48 kidzdoc: I am very interested in this match! Atlanta, of course, destroyed us in the Snow-opener but we managed to return the favor when we traveled to your palace of soccer. In truth, I think Atlanta has the edge - they really should be able to contend for the MLS title this year and Minnesota will count just making the playoffs as a moral victory.
A Duke basketball catch is a big get. The luster is quickly wearing off the younger Pitino here. The Gophers had a rough season and couldn’t even make the NIT. Hope Pitt has better luck.
Spring break 2018 - Grand Cayman
We did a Wednesday to Wednesday trip since the kids spring break did not align with my wife's (who teaches in a different school district). We connected in and out of Miami. The travel wasn't terrible but our arrival and departure days were mainly beach and shopping excursions with the reduced time.
This is from last Thursday, our first full day. We went to a sea turtle rescue center. In addition to the juvenile sea turtles that you could hold and feed there were larger turtles in a huge saltwater pond that you could snorkel with. I took video of several of the turtle but LT won't support video here.
Friday was a snorkeling excursion where we got to feed stingrays (the stingrays are wild but became highly accustomed to fisherman feeding them and now tourists). Following the stingrays we went to Starfish Point which featured lots of live starfish on the very white sand.
Saturday we spent a bunch of time at the beach and exploring. We did a catamaran dinner cruise in the evening and watched the sunset.
Easter involved more beach and the much anticipated appearance of the Easter Bunny who carefully packed treats for the kids to find.
On Monday, I went diving while the kids and my wife snorkeled over top. I dove the USS Kittiwake, a ship deliberately sunk to create an artificial coral reef. I got lots of good video of the ship and fish inhabiting the ship as well as footage from an adjacent coral reef. I will have to make an effort to get a couple of still shots since I can't post the video. The dive was a major highlight for me.
For our last full day the kids got to go parasailing - one of the items on their lists of activities.
Other photos from our trip.
Feeding a scarlet ibis at a bird sanctuary.
A green iguana next to the pool. My youngest son was a huge fan of all of the resident lizards.
Tarpon just off shore from a local restaurant where they feed the fish nightly and let kids throw food to the hungry fish. The restaurant was excellent and had tables right next to the water that made me a lot more interested in said fish.
A small crab on the beach. Wonderfully camouflaged.
A close up of one of the starfish from Starfish Point.
In other news, the Loons lost to Atlanta United and it has snowed a ridiculous amount while we were away with north of seven inches coming down this week and more snow forecasted for the weekend. Spring sports are all in chaos (we are no longer driving to Kansas this weekend for a tournament due to weather) and the lake is still covered in ice and now snow. This time last year the lake was ice free and I was looking at putting the dock in. We will be at least 3 to 4 weeks behind this year.
Also, not much reading was accomplished while in the tropics.
The water is beautiful. I'm sure you'll enjoy your memories of the vacation.
That IBIS!!! Cool photos, Erik, thank you for sharing them with us who are stuck here in between mild winter and cold spring for-seemingly-ever.
Your vacation looks lovely. It's just too bad you had to come back to more snow. This "spring" has left a lot to be desired around here.
>55 Caroline_McElwee: Thank Caroline. Finally recovering from being gone.
>56 katiekrug: We had a good time. Recommended destination.
>57 thornton37814: Lori, the water gets me every time. The white sand in the shallows really makes is gorgeous.
>58 richardderus: I thought the Ibis was cool too. They were at the turtle sanctuary so they were kind of second class citizens but the little aviary was pretty neat and it was fun to feed them. Some of the other birds tried to get in on the action and landed on the kids in an effort to get food.
>59 rosalita: Our spring is certainly MIA this year. Our forecast for this weekend looks terrible with winter storm warnings being issued as plowable snow expected. I think we are about 30 degrees below normal.
Way behind in my reviews.
The Storied City by Charlie English
This is a book about Timbuktu. The story is told, in alternating chapters, about the European discovery of Timbuktu and the efforts that were taken to secure the city's manuscript collection when Timbuktu was overrun by a branch of Al Qaeda.
By way of background, Timbuktu has had a reputation for wealth and mysteriousness for centuries. The city was a major trading post for trans-Saharan trade that brought items out of the African interior to the Mediterranean and also supplied salt out of the Sahara. The city was a major city under the Mali Empire and the later Songhai Empire, both Islamic empires. Under the Mali Empire, Timbuktu was a center of trade and an important educational center. During this time, a large number of Islamic manuscripts were created and collected in Timbuktu. Timbuktu's prominence continued under the Songhai empire, another West African Islamic empire. However, when the Songhai empire collapsed in the late 16th century, Timbuktu went into decline and basically never recovered.
Thus, by the time of the major European exploration of Africa in the early 19th century, Timbuktu had been in decline for close to three centuries. Nevertheless, tales of a wealthy city lying beyond the Sahara persisted and served as a powerful draw for early European explorers.
The attempt to find Timbuktu and return with information about the city to Europe resulted in a pretty significant mortality rate for the explorers. Nevertheless, the city was reached, identified and pretty promptly colonized by the French. By the mid-19th century there was not a whole lot of interest in Timbuktu anymore. While a few people had learned about the troves of manuscripts, the prevailing racism that discounted the idea of empires and an actual history in Africa prevailed. Thus, the manuscripts were largely neglected into the 1970s when UNESCO made efforts to preserve the manuscripts. Even then, funding was limited.
In 2012, Timbuktu was overrun by AQIM, an offshoot of Al Qaeda. AQIM started setting up the sort of strict fundamentalist regime familiar to other Al Qaeda and ISIS groups. As part of that regime, a puritanical version of Islam was enforced. As a result, a number of shrines and tombs in Timbuktu was destroyed by AQIM. There was also destruction of some of the manuscripts. However, the majority of the manuscripts were smuggled out of Timbuktu to southern Mali.
The Storied City does a good job of telling the story of the European efforts to locate the city and providing a history of the city itself. Much of the book, however, focuses on the operation to smuggle the manuscripts out of Timbuktu. That story is far more complex. While it is clear that AQIM represented a threat to the manuscripts and that real risks were taken by the people of Timbuktu to protect the manuscripts, English makes it clear that the removal of the manuscripts is not quite the noble, feel good story widely reported in the press. First, it is not at all clear how many manuscripts existed pre-AQIM or how many were saved vs destroyed. Further, a number of people with competing interests were raising money to smuggle the manuscripts out. This resulted in competing tales of danger, unsupported claims of destruction, and finger pointing.
While I would have preferred a cleaner story of an excellent operation pulled off with transparency and noble intentions, it is clear from English's book that this didn't happen. However, the story of a daring rescue serves a useful double purpose of elevating the status of the manuscripts (which have genuine historic, cultural, and artistic value) such that money to preserve them in starting to flow.
English makes the point that the story of Timbuktu, whether its history as a mysterious place of fabulous wealth, or a treasure trove of gravely threatened documents, has kernels of truth but that the reality of Timbuktu generally varies from the stories the West tells itself. Nevertheless, an interesting book.
Well the news keeps getting worse and worse. The National Weather Service is now forecasting 7 to 15! inches of snow this weekend. We are hardy folk but a foot of snow in the middle of April is way past bearable.
This predicted big snowfall would have been welcome in Wisconsin in December -
not now! when the little tulips have just shot up!
>63 m.belljackson: Ha! I think I am over snow all together but yes, this is a December forecast - not April.
>62 Oberon: That is just unacceptable, Erik. We are not supposed to get that much, just 1 to 3 inches, but that is more than enough for April 15. I am not a fan of Mother Nature so far in 2018.
>65 rosalita: Yeah 1 to 3 is still not cool. Our early forecasts were for 1 to 3 inches and the weathermen have been upgrading (and apologizing for it) every day since. Beyond ridiculous.
>67 Oberon: Oh, yuck! Seeing that makes me feel bad for complaining about her comparatively modest snowfall this past weekend, and the upcoming 1-3 inches forecast for Wednesday. I think 2018 needs a do-over.
>67 Oberon: Yikes! I hope that spring eventually comes to Minnesota before summer does.
The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane
This is a booklovers book. It is a gorgeously illustrated, physically large volume of poems (called spells by the author). The genesis of the book and the title stem from a decision to remove a number of nature themed words from Oxford's children's dictionary in favor of newer, mostly electronics based vocabulary words. The idea that words like willow, newt, raven and dandelion fading away from our language and the education of children should trouble people and this book sets out to show and tell what is being lost.
I think this book would suffer as an ebook - it needs to be held and read. It is a throwback in many ways. Personally, I loved it. I think my favorite of the poems was the heron although several other poems were delightful.
Explorers of the Nile by Tim Jeal
Explorers of the Nile is a history of European exploration of Africa in an effort to ascertain the source of the Nile river. The book provides exhaustive details about the individuals involved and the extent of their explorations.
Of particular interest to me was the discussion of the competing claims of Speke and Burton. While it seems impossibly esoteric to us today, there was a raging debate about whether Lake Tanganyika or Lake Victoria Nyanza was the true source of the Nile and thus which of the two men deserved credit for finding the source (Burton having claimed Lake Tanganyika and Speke Lake Victoria). There were debates in England about which was the true source that both men attended. Speke then died in what appeared to be a hunting accident which led some to suggest that he had committed suicide rather than debate Burton.
Tim Jeal is clearly on the side of Speke in this debate and is thoroughly convinced that Burton was a reprehensible individual. I learned this as I read Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton by Edward Rice (a book I enjoyed a lot) and was discussing it with my father who had very uncharitable views of Burton from having read Explorers of the Nile. I have no capacity to accurately judge which of the accounts of Burton is more accurate but I did find it interesting that the debate is still very much raging well after both men are long dead (and fairly forgotten).
Aside from Speke and Burton, the book also covers Livingston and Stanley (including Stanley's later work for King Leopold of Belgium) as well as James Grant and Samuel Baker. All of the accounts are interesting and fairly harrowing. To me, one of the more interesting aspects of the explorations was how hostile the native people were and how this was a direct effect of Islamic slaving raids on the East coast of Africa. The accounts describe people largely laid waste by slave traders. Most people, when thinking of African slavery, think of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and West Africa but it is clear that virtually the whole of the continent was decimated by slaving on both sides of the continent.
Explorers of the Nile is a well written and captivating account of the explorations that led to solving one of the great geographical questions of the age. At the same time, Jeal shows how these explorations paved the way for subsequent colonial depredations by European powers.
Erik--I have been largely MIA on LT. Slowly getting caught up. : )
My brother was just complaining about MN's latest spring snowfall. He posted a video on FB of someone snowboarding down his residential street behind a truck with chains on. LOL. Loved your review of the Guthrie play. I do miss that theatre. And your Spring Break looks like it was an awesome time!! Lost Words sounds lovely, but it also makes me sad that we are losing our connection to nature.
>73 Caroline_McElwee: It is gorgeous. I wish it was a bit longer. It made me want to take my children on a nature walk.
>74 Berly: Hi Kim! That sounds pretty accurate about the snow. We have had temperatures well above freezing (55 yesterday) and there is still not much bare ground. We got so much snow that it is just taking time to melt away. Outdoor soccer is all still on hold and no one will be getting on grass fields for weeks at this point.
Definitely check out The Lost Words. Amazon has it but otherwise it is not as available in the US as it appears to be in the UK.
My teenage daughter brought her cellphone to Grand Cayman as teens will do. Despite a lecture on paying attention to only using Wifi connections, something went seriously wrong. As a consequence, my text happy child sent over 200 text messages in the space of three days and incurred international data charges to the tune of $114. Even worse, this is only about half the damage as we were in Grand Cayman until April 4th so I am expecting the total damage to be over $200.
We have been discussing ways for her to pay back her charges but we are running into problems. For example, she volunteered to forego her growing Starbucks habit to help repay. Sadly, that will mean she gets no coffee until the middle of May 2019 before she is back to even.
Not pleased with her or myself.
Ah, yeah, I've had a few friends make a similar mistake, not realising how text messages work and that they never send via wifi. When travelling it can be safest to just turn off data entirely, or even just remove the SIM, so it's only possible for the phone to work as a wifi device, and not a phone at all. It's an expensive way to learn the lesson though.
Yesterday was the first time since the massive blizzard that it looked like the snow had melted back to the pre-storm amounts. A positive forecast over the next week means there is a real chance that ice out for the lake is coming soon (more than a month behind last year).
The Loons Won! Sadly, I missed it attending a charitable function so my son got to go in my place. Loons have been on a losing streak as of late and have had a number of players go down with injury so this was a needed win.
In other news, today will be ice out day on the lake. Yesterday the ice was reduced to a large floating patch slowly getting pushed around by the wind but today will be navigable to the boat launch. Hoping to get the boat back in the water this week. I put the dock in yesterday.
>76 Oberon: Oops. Been there. Dishes until she graduates?
This weather is so bizarre. We have some piles of snow left, and it's supposed to be 80 today... Good news as to the lake ice, Erik.
To me, it's always got to be a good day when you can say, "the Loons won."
Sorry about your daughter's non-wi-fi texting extravaganza. I feel lucky that texting wasn't prevalent when we took our kids on trips.
You could always take her phone away for a while. Except I suspect that's a recipe for patricide. :-)
Combining my love of soccer and theater, I went to see a production of "The Wolves." The play, written by Sarah DeLappe, was a nominee for the 2017 Pulitizer for Drama. It has been staged a couple of times in New York and got highly favorable reviews https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/wolves-theater-1059813 but this was the first staging in Minnesota and it sold out pretty quickly.
The play is following a group of female high school soccer players over the course of an indoor soccer season. The majority of the play is the dialogue of the girls as they warm up for games while discussing their lives, school, friendship and soccer. The dialogue, some of which starts mid-conversation, allows the audience to gradually understand the girls and their own motivations, issues, etc. and their relationship to the other team members. There are several developments throughout the season that have significant impacts on the girls.
Being a soccer dork who is deeply embedded in this world (admittedly as a parent) it was interesting for me to hear some of the references to things like ODP. It is clear that the playwright lived the club soccer world. That said, you hardly need to be a soccer fan to appreciate The Wolves. It is engaging play about young women on the brink of adulthood who are negotiating their place in a competitive environment that is virtually free of male influence. Highly recommended.
Last game of the season for us in England (outside the EPL) as my team, Leeds United, limp towards another close season of high expectations and ultimate frustrations. Our ownership and management is hopeless.
Have a great Sunday.
>90 Oberon: Sound like you had a good visit to the theater, Erik.
One question, what is ODP?
>91 PaulCranswick: Paul, sorry to hear about the continued frustration of Leeds United. It looks like they finished well out of the fight for promotion this year.
>92 FAMeulstee: Terribly sorry - that is one of the terms that gets thrown around in the play to establish the soccer bonafides. ODP stands for Olympic Development Program. It is a program that runs separate from the existing clubs and is supposed to be a way for talented players to be identified and developed even without being a member of an elite (and expensive) soccer club.
In the context of the play, some of the girls are trying to figure out who a new girl has played with when she shows obvious talent and yet claims not to have played club soccer before. Thus, the reference to ODP in that she as elite caliber player that hasn't been seen playing with other club teams. In the play, the girl in question grew up overseas playing soccer and only recently returned to the states to start playing soccer.
Loons won! 1-0 over Vancouver and with a 10 man squad no less! I was not in attendance as all three of my children were engaged in their own soccer activities this weekend and it utterly consumed all of our spare time. On the plus side, all three did well and the weekend was capped by my daughter's new team when the tournament championship.
In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides
I am counting this as my April history read since my reading of Battle Cry of Freedom got off to a late start and is not progressing very quickly. In the Kingdom of Ice is the story of the USS Jeannette and its expedition to reach the North Pole.
The USS Jeannette is an odd public/private partnership between the US Navy and the newspaper publisher Gordon Bennett. Together a ship is purchased, reengineered to survive the crushing pressure of pack ice, and placed under the command of Captain De Long and sent north to test a theory that the North Pole lies within an open sea at the top of the world. News flash - there is not an open polar sea. Given this unfortunate reality, the trip of the USS Jeanette does not go as planned.
Wikipedia will happily spoil the ending the story if you are so inclined to look. In an effort to avoid such spoilers, I will simply say that the voyage of the Jeannette turns into a truly epic tale of arctic survival. Very entertaining book if arctic exploration is of interest. Recommended.
Blood River by Tim Butcher
Blood River was my May map book for the non-fiction challenge. A significant number of the review on LT are pretty negative about the book. I disagree and found Blood River to be one of the better books I have read this year.
The book is an account by the author of an attempt to retrace the route of Henry Morton Stanley following the Congo river. Having recently read Explorers of the Nile, Stanley's story was pretty fresh in my recollection but for purposes of the review a thumbnail sketch of Stanley seems to be in order. Stanley started as a journalist and is most remembered for successfully leading an expedition to locate David Livingstone, an early explorer of the African great lakes and Nile river, near Lake Tanganyika. For most people, the line of "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" is the some total of Stanley's place in the history books. However, after his meeting with Livingstone, Stanley engaged in his own explorations of Africa that were every bit as impressive as Livingstone's and the other Victorian explorers searching for the Nile.
Stanley initially set out to follow a river identified as the Lualaba. Tracing the river was one of Livingstone's goals that he failed to accomplish. The belief at the time was that the Lualaba was a major tributary of the Nile as it was a northern flowing river of considerable volume when first discovered hence it was supposed to be the true start of the Nile. Stanley's expedition proved otherwise as the Lualaba turns west and is in actuality, a major source of the Congo.
Butcher sets out to retrace Stanley's initial trip along the Congo. What makes the book so interesting is the state of modern Congo (called today the Democratic Republic of Congo). Congo is a failed state. Butcher traces the history of Congo and how it got to the state it was in when Butcher set out on his expedition. It is an ugly story of decay, corruption and civil war. Congo was consumed by the same conflict that resulted in the Rwandan genocide. That conflict spilled across Congo's borders and collapsed an already rickety state. The ensuing conflicts (sometimes known as the First and Second Congo War) has resulted in a massive death tolls. One of the great ironies of the conflicts is that no one can agree on how many people have died with estimates ranging from 5.4 million people to about a million. If the conflict is so opaque that you can have a causality rate that varies by 4 million people it is fair to say that there are a lot of unknowns.
Butcher's travel took place shortly after the conclusion the Second Congo War in a period of prolonged instability and low level conflict where there were serious questions about the stability of the accords that ended the Second Congo War.
What Butcher finds on his trip is that the infrastructure of Congo is all but gone. Where once there were highways, railways, bridges and steamships, almost nothing is left. Some has been destroyed by conflict but much has simply been wiped away by the relentless jungle. As a result, Congo has been reduced to a collection towns and cities that are cut off from each other and the broader world. The little bit of civilization present is in the form of the UN or a few aid groups that are supplied largely by air as all other infrastructure is gone. Butcher contrasts this present reality with the state of Congo in the late 50s when it was still a Belgium colony. At that time, there were roads, cars, police and so on and travelers could crisscross the country if they so chose.
The other element of the book that stood out was the level of personal risk that Butcher undertook in making the trip. Here, I had trouble relating to Butcher. The level of risk he took by going into essentially lawless areas was extraordinary. I would characterize it as fool hardy. The fact that he largely succeeded on his trek along the river seems more the result of fortune than anything else and he clearly put himself at significant risk for the project.
There is not much to be cheerful about in a book about Congo but it is a gripping story and a warning that the veneer of civilization can peel away very rapidly. Highly recommended.
The New York Times put out a list of the top 25 plays in the last 25 years. I have gotten to see a couple of them but certainly a lot more to see https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/31/theater/best-25-plays.html
>96 Oberon: Great review of Blood River, Erik. It seems like an important but depressing work; I'll keep my eye out for it.
>97 Oberon: Nice list. The only play I've seen is An Octoroon, which appeared at the Orange Tree Theatre in London last year. I saw it just after the horrific Grenfell Tower fire, and I remember seeing the female lead holding a plastic bucket in the lobby after the performance to collect donations for the victims and survivors.
If there was a list of best English plays of the last 10 years I would bet that I saw a sizable minority of them.
>98 Caroline_McElwee: I really struggle reading plays, I am not sure why. I really disliked Shakespeare before seeing it performed but seeing live theater is completely different for me.
>99 kidzdoc: Thanks Darryl, Butcher has a book about West Africa that is on my wish list now too. I would like to see an English list similar to this. I certainly would not have seen many of them but is nice to have such a list as targets. On the NY Times list I have seen The Wolves and Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play. I feel like I might have seen Yellow Face too but can't say for certain.
In other news - Loons lost. The kids soccer seasons are progressing nicely however after a bit of a concussion scare for my 10 year old.
Trigger warning: I watched The Final Year, an HBO documentary about the last year of Obama's presidency - especially his foreign policy team. Super disheartening to recall what we had and what we replaced it with.
Oooh, the Krakatoa and the Federalist Papers books look intriguing! And I am the same re reading plays vs watching them on stage.
Nice! Krakatoa was my introduction to Winchester, and my fave of his so far.
>104 rosalita: Hi Julia. I have read The Federalist Papers before and found them tedious but that was pre-Hamilton hype so I thought I might try again.
>105 drneutron: Hi Jim. I have read some of Winchester's other books and liked them plus I have a think for volcanoes so I am looking forward to that one.
Well done, Erik. I'm pretty sure that I own Krakatoa, but I haven't read it yet.
>107 kidzdoc: We are discussing a summer trip to see the Kilauea eruption so it would make good reading for that.
The Loons lost. In a horribly embarrassing, heart breaking manner to a really bad team. Starting to get really hard to be a true believer.
At least Spain won its World Cup group and plays Russia in the next round.
>111 Oberon: Wow! Now that's a catch. : )
Come on now...go Loons!! You CAN do it!
My husband has recorded every WC game and we are so far behind watching. LOL. I think we currently have 20 to watch.
>118 Oberon: Great photos, Erik! I eagerly await your description of the trip, and additional photos.
Hopefully your daughter didn't run up another hideous phone bill.
>119 kidzdoc: Luckily for us Hawaii isn't a foreign country so she could text to her heart's content without blowing up my phone bill.
Wow, amazing pictures. I am nowhere near brave enough to contemplate being near lava like that! (Or the ? Ray?)
We got back over the weekend from an 8 day spontaneous excursion to Hawaii. It isn't normally something that I would do on a spur of the moment but the stars aligned for a trip.
The big reason for the trip is that seeing an erupting volcano has been on my bucket list for some time. Apparently it isn't on a lot of other people's list because bookings to Hawaii are way down. As a result, we were able to get airfare at a third of the cost that we would have paid had we gone for spring break.
Day 1 was largely travel but we got in mid-afternoon Hawaii time so we decided to start things off with a luau.
I will readily admit that it is a cheesy, touristy sort of thing to do but also a must do. It was entertaining. The food and mai tais were good.
Day 2 we went to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau which is a National Historic Park. The short version is that this was a city of refuge established under the old religious traditions of Hawaii which proscribed death sentences for a large variety of crimes - many of which were ritual related.
I did not know too much about native Hawaiian culture prior to this trip but set about remedying it with visits to the sites and Sarah Vowell's excellent history Unfamiliar Fishes. Hawaii was settled by Polynesian settlers at some point about 1000 years ago (think Moana) and developed in isolation until James Cook showed up in 1778. Thus, what was basically a stone age culture ran head long into an Enlightenment Age world. The Hawaiians quickly took interest in modern European weapons, including firearms and cannon, and used the new weapons to unite the Hawaiian islands which had previously consisted of multiple chiefdoms. King Kamehameha is credited with uniting the islands. His successor, Kaemhameha II, ended much of the original Hawaiian religion including elaborate rules on who could eat what food and with whom in 1819. Conveniently, the Hawaiian religious systems was torn down only to have Christian missionaries show up about three months later.
Anyway, next to Pu'uhonua O Honaunau is one of the better snorkeling spots on the big island. We saw lots of fish and a Hawaiian sea turtle.
Day 3 we drove to two more ancient Hawaiian sites and stopped to explore a massive lava tube left over from an earlier eruption.
Day 4 was largely a pool/wander around town day. Our big activity was a night time manta ray swim. I have lots of good video of the rays from my GoPro but can't post it here so the best I can do is a screen grab. It was a really neat experience. Everyone snorkeled while holding on to a modified surf board. The surf board had a light pointed downward which drew plankton to it when turned on. The plankton drew the manta rays. There were at least five enormous rays with 10+ ft wing spans that would appear out of the darkness and then swoop around just beneath us to feed on the plankton. The rays were close enough that they would occasionally brush against you. The rays were the top experience for both the boys beating out even the volcano.
Day 5 was supposed to be our helicopter tour to see the ongoing eruption of Kilauea. Since the most recent eruption started, access to the volcano is pretty restricted with helicopters and boat tours to see lava entering the sea being the major options. We were staying on the Kona side of the island (west) and the volcano is on the south east corner close to the city of Hilo. Our flight was supposed to be out of Hilo. The drive from Kona to Hilo is about two hours and takes you through the center of the island at a fair bit of altitude. We bummed around Hilo for most of the day with the highlights being a small zoo billed as the only zoo located in a rainforest in the US (it did rain and it was chock full of rainforest creatures) and an excellent lunch in the town of Pahoa which is about as close to the eruption as the general public can get. While eating we realized that a US Senator was there having spent the day observing the destruction from the volcano. We returned to Hilo for our helicopter ride and made it through the safety briefing only to be told that the flight was cancelled due to weather. To make matters worse, they couldn't rebook us for a week (when we would no longer be in Hawaii) and while neighboring helicopter tours were still taking tours out. It was pretty upsetting since the volcano was the purpose of the trip and the tour was the only thing we had made the effort of booking in advance.
On the drive back to Kona we stopped at the visitor center for the Mauna Kea observatories which are the most powerful Earth based observatories. Unfortunately we could only make it to the visitor center as our sad rental car lacked the power to climb the 13,000 feet necessary. Still the visitor center at 9,200 feet up was interesting (and 40 degrees colder than the town at sea level).
Day 6 was spent by the pool and in town, licking our wounds and trying to come up with a plan B. As part of our rest and recuperation, I went to WalMart and bought a modest fishing rod to try fishing off the pier outside the hotel. That turned out to be a good decision as I caught a puffer fish and this trigger fish and we got to watch outrigger canoe racing and a pod of dolphins in the harbor.
Day 6 (July 4th) We went to watch a sea turtle release festival at a nearby resort. Adolescent sea turtles are released into the wild with hula dancing and much ceremony. We went from there to another historic site followed by a beach where we rented boogie boards for the afternoon. We finished the day off with fireworks on the beach in front of the hotel.
Day 7 We managed to accomplish our cancelled helicopter tour. We had to rebook through a different company going out of a different (much further away location) which radically increased the price but it ended up being worth it.
We got to see fissure 8 - the main source of the current eruption and to follow the flow of lava down to the sea where new land is being actively created.
As a bonus, for all the extra flying we had to do from the further away location we got to see the observatories and some spectacular valleys on the northeast coast.
**Not sure if it is just my computer or not but a bunch of photos aren't displaying properly right now. Not sure if that is an LT issue or Flickr (which I use for the photos) but I will recheck this evening. Might have to post smaller sized photos but this has worked for me before. Will also try and review Unfamiliar Fishes and Fascism: A Warning.***
****Further note - the photos seem to work as links even if they are not displaying properly on the LT page****
All the pictures are showing up for me, Erik — what an amazing vacation! Thanks for sharing with us.
>121 charl08: Charlotte, if there were willing to give me one of the silvery suits you see on National Geographic when they are out sampling lava by hand, I would have taken it. Interestingly, (to me anyway) our helicopter pilot would not cross over the flowing lava. Apparently he hit a thermal updraft doing that once and got tossed a 1000 feet up. Given that he was an ex-army pilot with 20+ years experience I trusted his judgment on the point.
>122 Oberon: Julia, they seem to be working again. Not sure what the glitch was. Thanks for stopping by.
Thanks for the photos and notes on your Hawaii vacation. I am also a fan of Sarah Vowell. Unfamiliar Fishes made me want to visit Hawaii.
All the photos are showing up, Erik - looks like a great spontaneous trip. I'm glad you were able to get to the volcano after the canceled flight. >126 Oberon: is remarkable.
Sounds like a great trip Erik. I always wanted to visit there after watching 'Hawaii 5 O' as a kid! We are talking original version, I understand there is a recent version now! Did you hear the music as you were driving around....?
>131 BLBera: Unfamiliar Fishes was my second Vowell book and I enjoyed both a lot. She has several more for me to try.
>132 jnwelch: Thanks Joe. Glad to see that they are showing up now.
>133 drneutron: Thanks Jim.
>134 Caroline_McElwee: I am afraid that the radio was firmly tuned to bland pop songs to appease my kids. Lots of Hawaii 5.0 shirts available for sale though.
Our trip corresponded to my son's 11th birthday and our 17th anniversary. I have done the traditional anniversary presents without fail but after year 15 they skip to every five years so I have been a bit at a loss.
Nevertheless, I did persuade her to visit yet a further archaeological site - in this case petroglyphs.
Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine Albright
This is another book in a series of depressing but necessary works that I have worked my way through since the election. Albright, best known as Secretary of State under Clinton, is no slough as an academic and this book demonstrates both the depth of her understanding and her abilities as a writer.
The book is both a history of fascism and a look at the present day global geopolitical stage. Albright starts with the origins of fascism which are Italian. While the Nazi regime was fascist and is better known, fascism as an ideology is mainly a creation of Mussolini. The name fascism derives from fasces, a symbol of authority of Rome. A major part of Mussolini's appeal was his call to return the Italian people to the former glory of the Roman Empire thus the reference to fasces. This idea of a charismatic leader returning a fallen people to former glories is a major component of most fascist regimes. Sadly, acknowledging this facet of fascist ideology inevitably leads the reader to consider the modern political parallels. Albright does not start out with direct comparison between Trump and Mussolini (or Hitler) but as she walks through the history of the rise of other fascist regimes the parallels are both terrifying and inescapable.
After going through the Italian, German and Communist iterations of fascism, Albright looks to our present global leadership and analyzes the actions of Hugo Chavez and his successor in Venezuela, Erdogan in Turkey, Putin in Russia, Orban in Hungary and ends with Trump. While the book was excellent throughout, Albright's take on many of the present day fascist regimes was especially interesting as she has met with many of these individuals personally as part of her time as Secretary of State (and in other high government positions).
Ultimately, the reader is left with a solid understanding of the traits that make up a fascist regime as well as the subtle differences that makes each unique to the individual leaders. I found this knowledge deeply troubling as there are clear parallels between Trump and historical fascists and other modern fascists but not knowing doesn't make the issue go away. As the title states, Albright's book is a warning to all of us.
Erik--What a great trip!!! And I am so glad you managed to rebook the helicopter. That's a trip you will all remember for sure. Happy belated birthday and anniversary. : )
>130 Oberon: Yup, just no from me, that helicopter pilot story - argh! Thanks for sharing the pictures though - remarkable views.
>137 Oberon: Great comments, Erik. I've heard her talk about it, and you're right, very depressing.
What does Madeline Albright recommend that we do NOW?
Glad you enjoyed your trip to Hawaii! I've never been there, but it looks like so much fun!
>138 Berly: Thanks Kim.
>139 charl08: While I know I won't convince you Charlotte, the helicopter ride was so gentle that it ended up lulling my youngest to sleep for the last 1/2 hour of the flight. Great way to see lava.
>140 Caroline_McElwee: The t-shirt is from last year's summer excursion when we went to see Hamilton. A fair number of people have stopped me and commented on it. I hope you like the Albright book.
>141 BLBera: All our politics seems to be depressing these days. It is hard to remember how promising things felt when Obama was president.
>142 m.belljackson: Frankly she doesn't offer much in the way of immediate recommendations. Albright does make it clear that she doesn't think the US will become a true fascist state even with Trump at the helm because of the other institutions and the limits on the presidency. I think her big issue is recognizing the parallels with other fascists states and being vigilant in protecting the remaining checks on power. Try On Tyranny for a useful guide on what to do now.
>143 The_Hibernator: Thanks Rachel. The volcano continues to do a nice job of keeping fares down so it is a good thing to keep an eye on.
Loons won! I ended up going to Saturday's game because my daughter got to be a ball girl. The Loons went up 3-0 before allowing Salt Lake to get two back. More dramatic than it should have been but a win is a win for my poor Loons.
>147 m.belljackson: I think On Tyranny predated your current problem. I do wish someone would find the courage to lawfully evict the tenant in the biggest chair.
ETA: and the other annoying thing, at the bottom of the biggest list of awful and annoying things, is that the current encumber will have the right to be known as Mr President for the rest of his life.
Thanks for sharing your vacation with us, Erik! I'm glad that you were able to see the volcano from the air. I suppose you've heard about the tour boat that was struck by molten lava a few days ago.
Great review of Fascism: A Warning. I'll buy and read it soon.
>147 m.belljackson: Yeah I hear you. My thoughts keep straying to armed insurrection. I am profoundly disillusioned by our present politics and continually amazed that somewhere between 50 to 40% of the population keeps saying things are going great while the building is on fire.
>148 Caroline_McElwee: You think he is still called President if flung out of office? Interesting question IMO.
>149 kidzdoc: Fascism: A Warning is a good book - lots to learn. I did see the report on the tour boat. We seriously considered doing the boat especially after our first helicopter tour got cancelled. However, to see the early morning lava you had to be at the dock by 3 AM and apparently a fair amount of people got sea sick on the ride. It was a topic of serious consideration though and had it just been my wife and I we probably would have done the boat tour. 3 AM with a 13, 11 and 5 year old seemed a bit much.
Loons Won! And by won I mean decisively crushed LAFC 5-1. They are now on a three game winning streak and just outside the playoff line. If they hold true to form they will briefly qualify for the playoffs and then fall tantalizingly short. Nevertheless, it will be enough to renew the hearts of fans like me.
Still slightly passive resistance, but if ALL Democrats, from the uber rich to the working poor,
UNITED to refuse to pay any income tax for 2018...?
Similarly, if the same group had a precise list of all products and services from corporations owned by rich Republicans
and organized a total boycott, then...?
For those of us who physically can no longer join a March, something more is needed beside waiting until November 6th
and trusting (!) that the polls aren't rigged.
Even "The Daily Ray of Hope" was mildly depressed yesterday with Gide's quote: "The color of truth is grey."
Scouting on Two Continents by Frederick Russell Burnham
This was my June book for the non-fiction challenge. I admit that it was July before I finished it but I have waited longer to review it because I haven't been able to sort through my thoughts on it.
I enjoyed the book, which is an autobiography of Frederick Russell Burnham. Burnham was born in Minnesota (yay!) and was caught up in the Dakota War of 1862 (also called the Sioux Uprising - see my review of The Picture Story of the Sioux Uprising) wherein he was nearly killed as a child. Burnham's father died while he was young and Burnham went to work as a rider for Western Union in what was then Arizona territory. At 14 he became a scout with the US Army and participated in the hunt for Geronimo. He spent years learning to track, scout, prospect and hunt from old scouts and Apache. Burnham also got involved smuggling and a feud known as the Pleasant Valley War that is somewhat reminiscent of the Hatfield and McCoy feud. In short, Burnham lived a cowboy sort of life in his teenage years complete with gunfights and hostile natives and cattle rustling.
At 23 he got married and shortly after that he decided that the West was won and that he needed a new challenge. Thus he relocated his family to Southern Africa and set out to answer Cecil Rhodes' call for settlers in what is today Zimbabwe. Almost immediately upon arriving, Burnham was swept up in what becomes known as the First Matabele War. The war was between English and Dutch settlers and the Matabele people who are kin to the more famous Zulu. Burnham adapted his training and expertise to become a scout. As such he was dispatched on a highly dangerous attempt to capture the Matabele king. The group was cut off and slaughtered with Burnham and two others being sole survivors. The event, known as the Shangani Patrol became something like an Alamo story in Rhodesian history.
A few years after the First Matabele War, the Second Matabele War erupted under the leadership of Mlimo, a spiritual leader for the Matabele. Badly outnumbered, the settlers were besieged without much hope for relief. Burnham was again dispatched on a high risk plan to assassinate Mlimo and end the war. Despite incredible risks, Burnham found and killed the leader resulting in the collapse of the Matabele war effort.
Apparently because he was easily bored, Burnham decided to leave Africa to chase gold as part of the Klondike Gold Rush. Again, Burnham used his incredible knowledge and skills to make good on his prospecting claim and survive the barren conditions of the Klondike. Burnham was not a prospector for long before the Second Boer War between the English and Dutch (or Boer) settlers broke out. Burnham received a personal appointment as chief of scouts from the commanding British general. Burnham fought throughout the war including being captured and escaping. He was badly hurt and had to return to England for treatment toward the end of the war. For his war efforts, Burnham was awarded the Distinguished Service Order, second highest award in the British Army. He was also personally granted the right to retain his British military rank despite his American citizenship.
Following this work, Burnham became very active in the Boy Scouts of America. Burnham had met and befriended Baden-Powell while in Africa and Baden-Powell credited Burnham with teaching him much about scouting that ultimately formed the first Boy Scout handbooks.
Scouting on Two Continents ends at this point in Burnham's career. He went on to further adventures that are detailed on his Wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Russell_Burnham. The book states that he was saving these stories for a further volume of memoirs but as far as I can tell such a book was never written.
Scouting on Two Continents is a relatively obscure book. When I picked up a copy (after reading an article making reference to the book) I had to buy a first edition off of Ebay. I think a new printing might be available now. Burnham's story is so incredible that it deserves to be much more widely known. He lived a life that seems to rival Indiana Jones at time. Certainly any one of the major periods of Burnham's life could have been a full length book or major feature film.
On to the big caveat (and I suspect the reason the book is out of print). Burnham makes a number of overtly racist comments throughout the book and clearly imbibed the white colonial narrative of bringing civilization to the natives. At a time where there is a discussion of removing mention of Cecil Rhodes from Oxford, Burnham's praise for the man is highly discordant. A part of me wants to attribute Burnham's racism to losing friends in war (as well as his daughter who died of malnourishment during the Second Matabele War). My paternal grandfather maintained a hatred for the Japanese due his combat experiences in WWII. However, Burnham manifests far more sympathy toward Native Americans than he ever does to the Africans. Further, despite acknowledging valuable assistance from allied Africans in the multiple conflicts, Burnham seems to view those individuals as exceptions to his overall low opinion to the bravery, intelligence and decency of the native Africans.
Maybe Burnham is a victim of his times, maybe he was scarred by war - either way I have hard time justifying his racism. However, I do not believe that his extraordinary life and significant accomplishments should be consigned to the dustbin of history for this failing. For that reason, Scouting on Two Continents is worth reading.
>152 m.belljackson: I wish we had that kind of unity. If that many democrats had voted for Hillary as opposed to Jill Stein or Bernie we wouldn't be in this mess.
I am optimistic that the Trump backlash will deliver both houses of congress this fall. If that happens, I think there will be so many investigations and hearings that it will effectively box Trump in. Plus, I would feel more patient for Mueller to deliver an impeachable offense.
>154 Caroline_McElwee: Boo. The only title he deserves is traitor.
Way to go, Loons! As long as they aren't facing Atlanta United FC you can count on my support.
The only title he deserves is traitor.
On happier subjects than politics, we won a bid at a charity auction for a live concert from a blues musician. Shortly there after he went off to a national contest and won the International Blues Challenge. This past Saturday we set up the backyard, invited over friends and neighbors and had a private concert. It was a fantastic time.
>156 kidzdoc: Sadly I don't think we have much chance against the juggernaut that is Atlanta United. Though it was lovely to give them their first home loss in their palace of soccer.
>157 Oberon: what a great prize Erik. Link to some of his music maybe? Pretty please.
>159 Caroline_McElwee: Not sure if this will work but here is a Facebook video my sister-in-law posted https://www.facebook.com/jsteichen/videos/10112253646226670/
Let me know if that doesn't work.
Oh, I thought he looked vaguely familiar! He's from down here in my neck of the woods in Iowa. I've heard him play several times at various events and bars around town. He's quite good, though I'm far from a blues aficionado. What a neat experience to have him play a house concert for you, Erik.
Edited to add: Here's a link to a nice story about him from our local alternative paper. It also has some clips of him playing. https://littlevillagemag.com/kevin-b-f-burt-international-blues-challenge-iowa-blues-history/
>163 rosalita: Thanks a lot for posting the article. Kevin is indeed from Iowa and very proud of that fact. He is good friends with my brother-in-law and performed at his wedding. I have seen him at least one other time when he was playing in Minnesota. Nice guy and very talented.
Thanks, that gives a flavour of your prize Erik. Nice voice.
What a lovely thing to win in a charity auction! Looks like a great time.
Okay, so we continue to pay income taxes and to buy from these (deleted) primates who have sold us to Russia...
well, then, here's a mildly more radical idea that also won't catch on:
A WEEK TO CELEBRATE IMMIGRANTS
Day 1: We ALL wear headscarfs or chadors.
Day 2: We ALL wear yellow stars.
Day 3: We ALL greet and converse with others with as much Espanol as we can manage.
Wow, that's about the best auction win I've ever heard of, Erik. You guys must have had a blast.
>166 Caroline_McElwee: Glad you got the sense of it. At the house it was pretty intimate and had a different vibe. Lots of kid da were present so he did a version of ring around the roses for them to dance to.
>167 charl08: It was great. Definitely talking about doing it again.
>168 m.belljackson: I would love to see the level of coordination necessary to make that work. Given how many fail to even vote I think I am just crossing my fingers for the midterms.
>169 jnwelch: Hey Joe. Definitely beat out some of the other stuff we have won. Great excuse for a party.
The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
The Gene: An Intimate History is a book that sets out to explain modern genetics by tracing the history of the field. Throughout the book, Mukherjee uses his own family's battles with mental illness to illustrate the questions, promise, and perils of genetic technologies.
In many ways, much of the book is a history lesson. Starting with debates on early theories about how children share traits of their parents while not being direct copies of the parents, Mukerjee starts the lesson as far back as Aristotle. Obviously, human knowledge of genetics spent a lot of time with little advancement and real progress did not start until Darwin and Mendel began rigorously teasing out micro and macro traits of genetic variation and inheritance.
While this might seem like a slow start, like most aspects of science, it is hard to grasp the current status of human knowledge without a grasp on how we got to that present understanding. The Gene: An Intimate History provides that understanding in a thorough and engaging manner. In truth, I could see the book being used in a genetics 101 class in a medical school given how well it covers the history and science. With that, it is worth noting that there is a lot of science to digest and it may take some readers a bit of study to grasp some of the less intuitive concepts. Having been pre-med for most of my undergraduate career and having taken university level electives in genetics, I was able to follow most of the concepts but I think that someone who had less introduction to a science curriculum could struggle with the book.
One of the real strengths of Mukherjee's historical approach to the topic is how it conveys the accelerating breath of our knowledge about genetics and how our technical expertise is outstripping our political and philosophical capabilities to make informed decisions. Mukherjee also does an excellent job of delineating the perils of the technology by providing a solid history of things like the eugenics movement and traces how readily the science can be twisted to nefarious ends. In doing so, he touches on one of the great failings of my profession, Buck v. Bell, and the U.S. Supreme Court's (through one of its most renowned justices!) endorsement of eugenics with the famous line of "Three generations of imbeciles are enough." The point being that a poor understanding of genetics led to the belief that a social policy like eugenics could "fix" issues like retardation when it was later learned that the assumptions that drove the policy of sterilization were all flawed.
Finally, The Gene: An Intimate History makes clear that the science is now changing and advancing at such a rate that a book like The Gene: An Intimate History is outdated within a year or two of its publication. Mukherjee makes the point, which I agree with, that the general public (and out political representatives) does not adequately understand the present state of science much less have the capacity to keep abreast of the science as it gallops forward at an ever increasing pace.
Mukherjee has done a real service to the public by distilling and explaining such an important field of human understanding. I found the book utterly fascinating and informative - no small feat in a book of popular science. Given the importance of the subject matter the book deserves to be widely read.
I enjoyed The Gene as much as you did, Erik. Fascinating. As someone without the science background, I could've used less of the discussion of missteps before success, particularly in the second half of the book, but that's a minor quibble.
>172 Berly: Definitely get to the book. It was really good. On the Loons front, the Loons just traded away one of their better strikers and didn't add anyone basically sending the signal that they do not expect to make the playoffs this year. Lots of gloom in Loon Land.
>173 jnwelch: I thought some of the missteps were interesting - like the long discussion of the gene therapy trial that killed the kid because his body had an immune response to the virus they used to introduce the new DNA. I had not heard that story before and it was interesting to me how the repercussions of his death led to gene therapy basically getting put on hold for a decade. Glad to see we are in alignment on the excellence of the book.
>174 rosalita: I have The Emperor of All Maladies on my bookshelf (I think after Darryl reviewed it) but I haven't gotten to it. Seems like I need to prioritize that read.
The Vanishing Velazquez by Laura Cumming
The Vanishing Velazquez was my art book for the non-fiction challenge.
The book tells the story of an English bookseller who buys a painting at an estate sale only to determine that the painting is a portrait of King Charles I painted by Diego Velazquez. The book traces Snare's life and the impact that the painting has on it as well as the legal and scholarly fights over whether the painting truly is by Velazquez.
Cumming uses the book to not only trace Snare's life but the life of Velazquez. Despite being a royal court painter, there is much that is not known about what is probably Spain's greatest artist. It is clear from the writing that Cumming believes Velazquez to be one of the truly great painters, an assessment I am inclined to agree with.
For all the books strengths, the ending was a little flat for me.
Superb review of The Gene, Eric. Your comments about it are spot on; although we spent very little time discussing genetics during our first two years of medical school when I went to Pitt we would have been better served by reading this book, or at least excerpts from it. I also thought that it would be a bit tough for readers who didn't take at least an Introductory Biology course as an undergraduate student, but Mukherjee did a very nice job of explaining the concepts of basic genetics and molecular biology for the general reader. As you said, I would recommend this book to everyone, as we are moving into an era where gene therapy is a reality, and we all need to be cognizant of the technology's potential benefits and pitfalls, and the real possibility that it could be used to the detriment of some.
I was particularly taken with the story of the poor boy who suffered a horrible death at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center after a failed attempt to use gene therapy to cure his illness, as I was very familiar with the story, which was covered extensively by The Philadelphia Inquirer and in the medical literature, but I didn't know as much of the story as Mukherjee described in this book. That tragedy was a near fatal blow for gene therapy, and although his death was immoral and unacceptable it did lead to reforms and checks on human experimentation and therapeutic interventions that will better ensure patient safety going forward.
I would highly recommend The Emperor of All Maladies to you and everyone else.
Very nice review of The Vanishing Velázquez. I haven't seen much of his work and am far less familiar with him than Spanish modern artists such as Dalí, Picasso and Miró, but I want to learn more about him. I assume that the Museo del Prado in Madrid has a sizable collection of his paintings.
I'm sorry to hear that the Loons have gone belly up. Are they doing better than they were last season? Will they begin play in the new stadium later this year, or in the next season?
ETA: The Kindle version of The Vanishing Velázquez costs $1.99, so I just purchased it. Thanks for mentioning it!
>178 kidzdoc: The Prado is THE place to see Velazquez. I know you have switched your interests to Portugal these days but you really must spend a day at the Prado. It is truly the greatest of art museums to me and Velazquez is a big factor.
The Loons are about the same as last year. Not the worst in the league - just close enough to the playoff line to give the diehards hope but likely to fall short.
The Loons will move into their new stadium at the start of next season.
Eric--Sorry the Loons traded your guy. I feel similar sorrow: "Fanendo Adi no longer plays for the Portland Timbers. The Timbers announced on their website this morning that Adi has been traded to USL and 2019 Major League Soccer expansion side FC Cincinnati. In exchange, the Timbers will receive $450,000 in General Allocation Money and $400,000 in Targeted Allocation Money next season, up to $100,000 in additional TAM depending on Adi’s 2019 performance, and a percentage of any international transfer before the end of the 2020 summer transfer window."
He was the second all-tie leading scorer and I really liked him. Heavy sigh.
Where is the new Loon stadium location?
>180 Berly: Those numbers are pretty similar to what the Loons got for Ramirez. It is tough when good players get traded away for money - it feels like there is nothing to show for it. Maybe a good player will come in with that money but right now we have nothing.
The new stadium is on I94 between Minneapolis and StPaul. Off of Snelling Avenue in the Midway area of St Paul. Kind of odd locale as far as I am concerned but it is a lot closer than where they played when in the NASL.
>171 Oberon: Ah, that book is sitting on my shelf just waiting to be read. I'm hoping to get to it this year. Great review.
Loons update: The Loons tied! 2-2 versus LA Galaxy. Frankly, with the team as bad as it is one the road (last time they got points on the road was in March) this wasn't a bad outcome.
Sadly, the Loons have something like four more away games on the road in a row against tough teams and to have any real chance at the playoffs they are going to have to win some of them. So - decent start but they will have to do even better with the hole they are in. Probably not worth holding my breath.
The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
I have turned into a full convert on these books. This is the second book in what is advertised as a trilogy, the first being The Bear and the Nightingale. Principally the story of a Russian girl/woman named Vasya. Vasya lives in a time where magic and magical creatures still exists but they are on the decline as Russia becomes increasingly Christian. Vasya is one of a relative few that can see and draw on the old magic.
The actions picks up almost immediately after the events in The Bear and Nightingale and deals with other members of Vasya's family. In the first book we see Vasya's brother and sister leave for Moscow, the sister to be married and the brother to become a monk. Vasya has to flee home following the events in the first book and soon meets up with her brother and sister who left before her.
Much of the plot involves Moscow's status as a vassal state of the Mongols and the touchy diplomatic relations between the two powers which is greatly complicated by a group of Mongol bandits that are raiding and destroying outlying villages. Vasya is quickly drawn into this dispute when she aids one of the villages.
To provide much more detail runs the risk of spoiling the story. What I love about the books is the way that Russian folktales/fairy tales are interwoven with Russian history to create a fantastical world. When the primary villain was unmasked I knew enough Russian folklore to recognize him but not enough to see the plot heading his direction.
The characters are fun and the story is infectious. I eagerly await the next book in the series.
>186 Berly: It is bit tough to picture but the photos are impressive. Really looms over the freeway. Here is a link to some recent photos (didn't want to screw up copyright by posting the photo itself) https://twitter.com/danielmickphoto/status/1029756803918295040?s=12
Also, yes - check out the books!
Loved all your Hawaii pics and tales. Seeing an active volcano had never occurred to me, but it sounds so spectacular, I'd love to do it now, too. I was living in an area that received 4 or 5 inches of ash when Mt Saint Helens blew - that was not fun at all. But seeing the lava and the land forming ... hmmmm
Several book bullets here. I thought I'd skip The Gene, but I've just reserved the audio of it. Although a good part of my career was spent manipulating bacterial genomes, I'm less up to date on other aspects such as gene therapy in humans. I've reserved the audiobook from the library.
The Bear and the Nightingale also sounds like a fun series. Sigh.
>188 streamsong: Janet, I think it was photos of the Arenal volcano in Costa Rica that made me think that I really needed to see an active volcano at least once. I could see how lots and lots of ash would get old really quick but the rock collector in me wants some. I would have liked to gather some from Kilauea. I got some from St. Helens as a kid for a present I think.
With your background I could see The Gene: An Intimate History feeling more like work than pleasure reading but it was really interesting to me. For what it is worth, I did the audiobook version and liked it.
I am hardly alone in singing the praises for The Bear and the Nightingale here. Definitely give it a try.
The Loons lost 2-0 to Dallas over the weekend after a long rain delay. Was hardly worth the effort I put in to staying awake to watch it. I also went to a Minnesota Vikings preseason game with my sister. They also lost ignominiously. Such is the life of a Minnesota sports fan.
On the plus side, the arts and culture are strong here. We took an outing to the Walker's sculpture garden complete with the iconic spoon with a cherry that seems to be featured on every Minnesota promotion ever.
I wonder if that was the blue cockerel that stood on the plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, for a while Erik.
>191 Caroline_McElwee: Caroline - I didn't realize that the chicken had been up on the fourth plinth. I went looking (on Wikipedia - source of all information) - apparently the Walker's chicken is a second version of the Trafalgar one with the first now being at the National Gallery in DC. Identical chicken, same artist though.
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
Kolbert's book traces human knowledge about extinction events and then looks carefully at our own time to find parallels. The book is both fascinating and also terrifying.
Science has identified, through the paleontological record, five major extinction events. The most famous of these is, of course, the event at the end of the Cretaceous period and includes the extinction of the dinosaur. Kolbert leads the reader through the history of how science came to understand paleontology and how we concluded A) that extinction events happened and B) what caused the events. If Kolbert had stopped there she would have written an interesting book on scientific history but the book's broad appeal would have been greatly diminished. Luckily for the reader, Kolbert is telling a very different story.
Kolbert uses her explanation of the science of extinction to lead the reader on a global trip to document our present age and how we are in the middle of a sixth extinction. She also walks through all the ways in which we are the cause of that sixth extinction. It is a grim story. Mankind seems uniquely equipped to destroy the other inhabitants of our planet. Sometimes that destruction is deliberate (the hunting of megafauna), sometimes it is criminally negligent (the destruction of habitat for our own use resulting in the loss of the species formerly inhabiting it) and sometimes it is accidental (the transfer of disease from one part of the globe to another where the native animals have no protection). However, it adds up to a horrific tale of decimation. At the same time, Kolbert provides insight into our efforts to save some of the creatures that we have participated in driving to the brink of extinction.
The Sixth Extinction is excellent work of popular science and deserves the accolades heaped upon it it. Highly recommended.
>193 Oberon: - I agree, Eric - an excellent book. And an equally good review!
Eric--Love the stadium photo link! Very cool looking. Sorry the teams have been less than stellar in action.
Ah, the cherry!! LOL. Photos are ubiquitous, but I do like it. Haven't seen the blue bird though. Love the Walker. : )
And, yes, the Sixth Extinction was great and very scary. Nice review!
Another lack luster Loons loss of 2-0. I didn't even watch the game as we had company. I don't think I missed out on much. The soccer writers here are starting to clamor for the coach's head and I am not sure they are wrong to do so.
Anyway, the rest of the weekend was very nice. We had a bonfire on Saturday night with a gorgeous full moon over the lake. The kids will be returning to school next week as the youngest goes off to kindergarten.
Great review of The Sixth Extinction, Erik.
I'm sorry that the Loons continue to play poorly. Does it seem to you that they are worse this season than last year?
I think the Loons are at about the same spot they were last year. The big difference is that last year the Loons were horrible right off the bat (losing 6-1, 5-0) and slowly climbed to at least being a little competitive. This year, we started ok but then lost Molino and Finlay to ACL tears, but after Darwin Quintero came in as our first DP still seemed like we had an outside chance. Now, Quintero has been hurt the last two games, the front office traded fan favorite Ramirez and the wheels are just falling off. I think we are 0-4 in the last four games. So the general sense is that we are heading backward rather than forward and that is making it worse.
That's not good. Hopefully the Loons can turn it around and end the season on a positive note.
My Phillies, after leading the National League East for most of the season, have now taken a serious nosedive and probably won't make the playoffs, barring a strong run over the next 30 games. Even though I've lived in Atlanta for over 20 years I'm no fan of the Braves, so their resurgence gives me no pleasure.
>200 kidzdoc: Sorry to hear about your Phillies. The Twins are not going to make the playoffs - our hyped prospects who were supposed to be all stars are looking like busts right now.
>198 kidzdoc: Ironically, one of the Loons website posted an analysis of the playoff chances today. https://www.epluribusloonum.com/2018/8/29/17796264/minnesota-united-mls-western-conference-playoff-chances-by-the-numbers-2018-loons Basically, the conclusion is that the Loons need to win all (8) of their remaining games to qualify for the playoffs which is, obviously, unlikely. Embedded in the article is the fact that the Loons total points last year is only 5 better from where we are now so if the Loons win 3 of their final 8 games it will count as "improvement." However, the addition of LAFC to the Western Conference means that the bar for qualifying went up this year versus last year.
I am sure if the Loons get 5+ more points the front office will spin it as improvement but it sure doesn't feel like it.
Yikes. So the chances of the Loons winning eight matches in a row is slightly less than Minnesota's football team running the table and beating Alabama in the national championship game, right?
Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan
Several others have written excellent reviews of the book (which prompted me to read it - hat tip to Mark) so I won't write an overly long review. I too was unaware of Edward Curtis and his epic book project. I have now added a reprint of his photos https://www.amazon.com/dp/3836550563/?coliid=IRYKK6W164KYH&colid=K4CW44IRSZSW&psc=0&ref_=lv_ov_lig_dp_it to my wish list.
One of many interesting aspects of the book that struck me was that Curtis's initial interactions with Native Americans and with photographs stem from his upbringing in Minnesota. Like many people, the Sioux Uprising also known as the Dakota War of 1862 had a major impact on Curtis. The mass hanging of 38 Lakota in Mankato, Minnesota and a photograph of the dead men is described as the first image of native people that Curtis remembers seeing.
It is some small consolation that those events led to one of the great efforts to chronicle and preserve the lives of native peoples. An excellent book.
>203 kidzdoc: Ha! Yeah the Gophers aren't going to amount to much this year. Apparently we have two freshman competing for the quarterback job. I would be pleased if we could simply win back the axe from super annoying Wisconsin but that seems unlikely too.
>205 Oberon: Rutgers, who will probably challenge Minnesota for last place in the Big 10, will start a true freshman quarterback in its opening game tomorrow, for the first time since 2001. However, he's a highly recruited player who had offers from major programs and decommitted from Miami, reportedly to stay in New Jersey. Hopefully this lamb won't be slaughtered by what may be a porous offensive line.
As has been true for decades the key to success for Rutgers' sports teams is to keep the home grown talent. There's plenty of it, though not as much as in PA, GA and FL, and given that they are in a division with Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State it will be a very long time, if ever, before the Scarlet Knights are ready to compete for a championship in football.
Congratulations on hitting the 75 books mark! I'm still hopeful of getting there by year's end.
Congratulations on reaching 75, Erik. The book on Curtis sounds fascinating. I will have to check it out.
>206 FAMeulstee:, >207 drneutron:, >208 kidzdoc:, >209 BLBera: Thanks! I am well ahead of my general pace where I usually hit 75 in December. However, I am not going to take too much credit for it considering a high proportion of my total right now are graphic novels. While I am a fan of graphic novels and consider them generally worth the reading time, I am still working on getting to 75 "real" books as well.
>208 kidzdoc: I didn't realize that Rutger's was going with a true freshman too. I watched the Gopher's first game last night and they looked good however it was not a conference game where I expect they will have far more trouble.
>210 Oberon: Yep. I wasn't surprised, as Rutgers' quarterback play last year was particularly awful. Fortunately the Scarlet Knights will play a beatable team at home tomorrow in Texas State. They travel to Columbus to play sacrifical lamb for the Buckeyes the following Saturday, but six conceivably winnable games follow, as they'll play Buffalo, Kansas, Indiana, Illinois, Maryland and Northwestern. Unfortunately the season ends with a murderers' row lineup of Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State. If absolutely everything goes right they could finish 7-5, but a 6-6, 5-7 or even 4-8 record is far more likely. If they lose to Texas State then they will be a season long fixture in ESPN's Bottom 10.
Pitt, on the other hand, will likely be a better team in 2018, but they have a very tough nonconference slate with games against three highly ranked teams, Penn State, Central Florida and Notre Dame, after a cupcake matchup against Albany tomorrow. The Panthers' ACC schedule isn't as bad as it could be, and a seven or eight win season seems well within reach.
Adding my congratulations on hitting 75 reads Erik.
I have >204 Oberon: in the pile after Mark's rave review. Glad you liked it too.
Long holiday weekend before the start of school and the onset of fall. Didn't get much reading done but I am ok with that for at least one weekend.
Took the boys to the local REI outlet where you can do a free climbing wall if you are a member and then out for Egyptian food. The girls went to see Taylor Swift.
We got on the lake several times.
I managed to catch what was probably the largest northern pike I have ever landed (on our lake no less).
We went to a Gopher soccer game who came up just shy of #1 in the nation Stanford, falling 2-1 in overtime. We followed that up with a trip to the Minnesota State Fair.
This morning the kids went back to school including the first day of kindergarten for our youngest.
What a great weekend!! Fun, fun, fun. Hope the school year is off to a great start. Oh, and congrats on 75. : )
>213 Oberon: From the looks of it the freshman QB for Minnesota will have a couple of more games to get settled in before they face a true test, assuming that Fresno State is still mediocre. Rutgers's freshman QB will be thrown to the lions on Saturday, as he'll have to deal with a very tough Ohio State team in Columbus.
>214 Oberon: That pike is impressive! How did it taste, or did you preserve it?
Justinian's Flea by William Rosen
I have been on a Byzantine kick recently having finished both Justinian's Flea and Lost to the West within the last two months. Both were good and left me with a desire to read more about the empire. Most striking to me was how much the Byzantine Empire was really just a continuation of the Roman Empire and how the Roman Empire really survived a 1000 years longer than is commonly believed.
Anyway, unlike some of the other reviewers on LT, I thought Justinian's Flea was superb. The book is broken up into sections addressing various components of Justinian's reign. One deals with the construction of the Hagia Sophia, another deals with the Justinian Code, another addresses the military conquests under Justinian's reign. Finally, the book deals with the bubonic plague that devastated the Byzantine Empire and likely cut short many of the many triumphs of Justinian.
The book provides enough information to demonstrate why Justinian's time as emperor was significant and also provides a thorough explanation of why his rule was so remarkable and thus also tragic when the plague brings an abrupt halt to so many successes. I thought it was a first rate history.
Justinian's Flea is on my list, but just hasn't made it to the top yet. Nice review.
>219 drneutron: Thanks. I really enjoyed the writing and the way he laid out the history.
Hi Erik! I seldom browse through many LT threads any more, but I was thinking of you yesterday as I was watching DC United play Minnesota. I'm sorry about your team's loss, but, as I said to kidzdoc when DC United beat Atlanta, DC needs those points! We spent the first half of the season in the cellar.
I am also very excited that I'll be going to a DC United game this Sunday (barring rain from the hurricane). I haven't been to a real soccer game since the 1980s when I used to go to see the Washington Diplomats play (before your time, of course!).
I wish your team good luck and success (except for when they play DC United!). :D
>221 SqueakyChu: Returning to point out how hapless my beloved Loons are? DC United really has turned the corner. I thought the Wayne Rooney addition was really dumb at the time and now I have been proven completely wrong. The assist he made against Orlando was literally unbelievable.
I hope you get to go to your game on Sunday. There is no joy in Loonland.
>222 Oberon: You know, I only started watching DC United after Rooney joined the team. I ran out of other games to watch, and I missed those soccer games. It's really fun to have a local team to follow. It helps that they're doing well now. I was skeptical of Rooney at first, but I see how he has made the team more cohesive. I see how he is not taking the strike for himself, but how he as captain is guiding the others and providing chances for the others to excel. He is really a team player. I never knew of him before because I never followed Manchester United. I know he's considered the old man of DC United, but I enjoy watching him and hope he feels at home here in DC.
What I found really interesting was the recent game in which DC United played against NYC FC where several of our strong players were gone because they were playing with international teams (USA, Hungary, Jamaica). I actually saw the deficit in midfield and offense. It took me until this year to finally figure out what an offside was. I think I'm a better fan now because I can finally see some strategy. I yell at the TV and tell the players what to do! Plus some of those guys that play are really cute! I like watching them. :D
I'll root for the Loons if I see a televised match in which they don't play DC...even if the play Atlanta United...but don't tell Darryl! :D
>223 SqueakyChu: I totally agree. He seems to be carrying the team in every way that a leader should. I hope you have some playoff soccer to watch this fall, I am almost certainly not. Good luck with DC United (but I hope you don't run into Atlanta United again soon as they are a real powerhouse).
Thanks for the good wishes!
ETA: I just got back from the soccer game. It was so much fun to be there in person and see all my favorite players. I got to jump up and down and scream “Goal!” three times during the game (although it ended in a 3:3 tie). I was just so excited to be there. They have one section that are all rowdy guests with drums, flares, and flags that keep the stadium rockin’. I also loved that others cheered for my team along with me because at home I cheer while my husband usually sits quietly, watches, and from time to time calls out, Take the shot!”
Loons update - even when the Loons don't lose it feels like we lost. The Loons tied Real Salt Lake 1-1 on Saturday. Ordinarily, I would be pleased with that outcome. However, the Loons scored a second goal after tying the game that looked to be a game winner. Instead, the goal was reviewed via VAR (the video replay rules for soccer) and disallowed. However, I do not understand why nor have I seen a credible explanation of why. Thus, we seem to have lost out on 2 more points for reasons I can't understand.
Also, the Vikings need a new kicker. Truly painful to not come away with a win against Green Bay.
>26 karenmarie: Yeah. We felt cheated in the same way. I saw fouls that weren't called. Our tie game should have been a winning game. It didn't feel like a tie. It felt like a loss as we were after the three points to make our way into the playoffs. Now it will be tougher with only one point. We knocked the Red Bulls out of first place, though. We scored the first goal. The Red Bulls scored an equalizer. That happened three times! I feel sure we could have won had we time to play further. Anyway, my team looked good on the pitch.
Then there was the Red Bull handball that everyone saw except for the referee. He looked it up on instant replay and didn't see it there either. All the players and all the fans saw it, though. Everyone in the stands was slapping their arm! :D
Then there was one of our players who was injured and down on the midfield when the ref did not stop the play...hence there followed a Red Bull goal.
Then there was this immense push from a Red Bull that sent my favorite player (Arriola) flying up through the air as he was chasing a ball. Of course, that was not seen by the ref either.
Oh, well. I will be very happy to see Atlanta United beat the Red Bulls in any game from now on! :D
I'll have to pay closer attention to the Western conference. I've been focusing on the Eastern conference for now, just getting to know the teams and their players.
This topic was continued by Oberon - Third Thread of 2018.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.