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  • Archive for the 'Book Notes' Category

    Memorial Day in Luna City

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 29th May 2016 (All posts by )

    (A brief account of Memorial Day in Luna city, from the Second Chronicle of Luna City, which we brought out at the beginning of May, in response to a chorus of pleading from readers who want to know how the cliffhanger at the end of the first Chronicle was resolved.)

    Luna City is well-equipped with military veterans, as are many small towns in fly-over country – especially the old South. The draft is only somewhat responsible for this. After all, it was ended formally more than four decades past. But the habit and tradition of volunteering for military service continues down to this very day, with the result that veterans of various services and eras are thick on the ground in Luna City – while a good few continue as reservists. There are not very many pensioned retirees, though; Clovis Walcott is one of those few, having made a solid Army career in the Corps of Engineers, and then in the same capacity as a Reservist. He is the exception; Lunaites mostly have served a single hitch or two, or for the duration of a wartime mobilization. They come home, pick up those threads of the life they put aside, or weave together the tapestry of a new one. What they did when they were in the military most usually lies lightly on them, sometimes only as skin-deep as a tattoo … and sometimes as deep as a scar.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Current Events, Diversions, Holidays | No Comments »

    Book Review: Little Man, What Now?, by Hans Fallada (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 17th May 2016 (All posts by )

    (I posted this review four years ago…given the continued economic difficulties faced by many Americans, and the political implications thereof, this seems like an appropriate time for a rerun)

    I’ve often seen this 1932 book footnoted in histories touching on Weimar Germany; not having previously read it I had been under the vague impression that it was some sort of political screed. Actually it is a novel, and a good one. The political implications are indeed significant, but they’re mostly implicit rather than explicit.

    Johannes and Emma, known to one another as Sonny and Lammchen, are a young couple who marry when Lammchen unexpectedly becomes pregnant. Their world is not the world of Weimar’s avant-garde artists and writers, or of its risque-to-outright-degenerate cabaret scene. It is far from the world of a young middle-class intellectual like Sebastian Haffner, whose invaluable memoir I reviewed here. Theirs is the world of people at the absolute bottom of anything that could be considered as even lower-middle-class, struggling to hold on by their fingernails.

    When we first meet our protagonists, Sonny is working as a bookkeeper–he was previously a reasonably-successful salesman of men’s clothing, working for the kindly Jewish merchant Mr. Bergmann, but a pointless quarrel with Bergmann’s wife, coupled with a job offer from the local grain merchant (Kleinholz) led to a career change. Sonny soon finds that as a condition of continued employment he is expected to marry Kleinholz’s ugly and unpleasant daughter, never an appealing proposition and one which his marriage to Lammchen clearly makes impossible. Lammchen is from a working-class family: her father is a strong union man and Social Democrat who sees himself as superior to lower-tier white-collar men like Sonny.

    When Sonny and Lammchen set up housekeeping, their economic situation continually borders on desperate. Purchasing a stew pot, or indulging in the extravagance of a few bites of salmon for dinner, represents a major financial decision. An impulsive decision on Sonny’s part to please Lammchen by acquiring the dressing table she admires will have long-lasting consequences for their budget.

    The great inflation of Weimar has come and gone; the psychological damage lingers. Sonny and Lammchen’s landlady cannot comprehend what happened to her savings:

    Young people, before the war, we had a comfortable fifty thousand marks. And now that money’s all gone. How can it all be gone?…I sit here reckoning it up. I’ve written it all down. I sit here, reckoning. Here it says: a pound of butter, three thousand marks…can a pound of butter cost three thousand marks?…I now know that my money’s been stolen. Someone who rented here stole it…he falsified my housekeeping book so I wouldn’t notice. He turned three into three thousand without me realizing…how can fifty thousand have all gone?

    Inflation is no longer the problem, unemployment is. There are millions of unemployed, and those who do hold jobs are desperately afraid of losing them and will do anything to keep them.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Society, Economics & Finance, Germany, History | 3 Comments »

    Book Review: The Myth of the Robber Barons

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 15th May 2016 (All posts by )

    The Myth of the Robber Barons, by Burton Folsom

    —-

    MythOfRobberBaronsCover‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ ~George Orwell, 1984

    Controlling our view of the past – even our view of the present – is an obsession with the Progressive Left. Our understanding of history deeply influences our thinking and philosophy. Among other things, it shapes our view of both the morality and social-economic effects of free market capitalism versus socialism.

    To that end, a group of enormously successful people from the 19th century were demonized by turn of the century Progressives and have continued to be demonized as The Robber Barons by Leftist historians in primary school and college texts ever since. More subtly, through dark Orwellian references in Leftist entertainment programs and media, they have been thoroughly maligned in the popular imagination as well. Yet few people know who these people actually were and what, for better or worse, they actually did in their lives and how their works affected our lives even today. In his book, Robert Folsom sets out to take fresh look at people we would today call entrepreneurs.

     

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Book Notes, Business, Capitalism, Education, Entrepreneurship, History, Video | 1 Comment »

    A Friday Book Diversion

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 13th May 2016 (All posts by )

    Second_Chronicle_of_LC.inddThe Chronicles of Luna City proved to be so popular and my daughter and I had so many ideas for further plot developments, that it was only a small chore to produce a sequel, involving the search for a trove of gold coins and ingots supposedly hidden somewhere on Mills Farm by the reprobate bootlegger Old Charley Mills a hundred years ago, and a movie being shot on location around Luna City, which might very well be not all that it seemed when the project was pitched to the residents of Luna City. The Second Chronicle of Luna City is now up on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in Kindle and Nook ebook versions, and will be available by next week in print. (It’s also available direct from us, through the Luna City website.

    Below the fold – a sample chapter for your Friday diversion.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Diversions | 4 Comments »

    What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (April 2016)

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th May 2016 (All posts by )

    Below is a list of the books, ebooks, music and videos that Chicago Boyz readers viewed and/or ordered in April 2016 via Amazon links on this blog. (A cumulative list of Chicago Boyz readers’ Amazon purchases is here.)

    Your book and non-book Amazon purchases help to support this blog via the Amazon Associates program. Chicago Boyz earns a percentage on all of your Amazon purchases as long as you get to the Amazon site by clicking on Amazon links on this blog (including the Amazon banner in the blog header, the link over the Amazon banner, and even Amazon links on Chicago Boyz for products other than the ones that you want to buy).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes | 5 Comments »

    Tolstoy on Human Nature, and Certain Interpreters Thereof

    Posted by David Foster on 1st May 2016 (All posts by )

    Prince Andrei (in War and Peace), who is falling in love with Natasha, is talking with her sister Vera:

    “Yes, that is true, Prince.  In our days,” continued Vera–mentioning “our days” as people of limited intelligence are fond of doing, imagining that they have discovered and appraised the peculiarities of  “our days” and that human characteristics change with the times–“in our days a girl has so much freedom that the pleasure of being courted often stifles real feeling in her.”  (emphasis added)

    Bingo, Leo Tolstoy!  I have often observed people writing or speaking about “these days” but equally or more often about “this country” or “this society” as if they had conducted a vast comparative study.  Frequently you will hear people talking about some unfortunate characteristic that is pretty much universal across space and time and attributing it the “modern American society” or simply “our society.”  Few of these, I’m pretty sure, have either spent a lot of time in  other societies or made a serious study thereof, nor have many of them conducted extensive historical research about other eras.

    I’ll give the floor to Gilbert and Sullivan, whose Lord High Executioner was looking forward to doing away with:

    The idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone
    All centuries but this, and every country but his own

    Posted in Book Notes, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior | 9 Comments »

    Sam Damon or Courtney Massengale?

    Posted by David Foster on 27th April 2016 (All posts by )

    The novel Once An Eagle (also made into a TV miniseries) tells the story of two American army officers, across a time span ranging from the First World War to the interwar years to World War II and beyond.  Sam Damon is a farm boy who has worked his way up in rank: he is committed to accomplishing his assigned missions and looking out for the survival and well-being of the men under his command.  Courtney Massengale is a West Point graduate with something of an upper-class background: he seeks out higher rank through political maneuvering, prefers Staff to Line assignments, and has little concern for subordinates.  The book is widely-read and highly-regarded in U.S. military circles.

    In the story’s climactic scene, Sam is commanding a division destined to participate in an attack on a Japanese-held island.  He is not thrilled to find that his division has been placed under the command of Courtney–now a three-star general and corps commander despite having spent his entire career in staff roles.  He is even less thrilled when he hears Courtney’s plan for the invasion–“PALLADIUM”–which is in Sam’s judgment far too complex to succeed in actual combat conditions.

    The Japanese launch their counterattack while Sam’s division is in a highly vulnerable state, in the midst of the turning maneuver required by the Palladium plan.  And the reserve unit which could have saved the situation has been redeployed by Courtney so that he can have the honor of being the first American general to capture a Japanese-held city intact.  While Sam is leading a desperate fight for the survival of his division, Courtney is riding in triumph through the town of Reina Blanca.

    Sam Damon and Courtney Massengale are endpoints on a spectrum, of course; few real people are as good as Sam or as bad as Courtney.  But still, it seems to be useful to ask the following question:

    What is the mix of Damon vs Massengale in each of our current presidential candidates and among other members of our national leadership?

    Posted in Book Notes, History, Human Behavior, Management, War and Peace | 33 Comments »

    What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (March 2016)

    Posted by Jonathan on 6th April 2016 (All posts by )

    Below is a list of the books, ebooks, music and videos that Chicago Boyz readers viewed and/or ordered in March 2016 via Amazon links on this blog. (A cumulative list of Chicago Boyz readers’ Amazon purchases is here.)

    Your book and non-book Amazon purchases help to support this blog via the Amazon Associates program. Chicago Boyz earns a percentage on all of your Amazon purchases as long as you get to the Amazon site by clicking on Amazon links on this blog (including the Amazon banner in the blog header, the link under the Amazon banner, and even Amazon links on Chicago Boyz for products other than the ones that you want to buy).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes | Comments Off on What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (March 2016)

    The New Bolsheviks

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 3rd April 2016 (All posts by )

    Progressive Totalitarianism

    In his book The Snapping of the American Mind, David Kupelian asks the following painful question that millions of Americans like myself have pondered for years and will ponder for some time to come as America slowly rips itself apart. Kupelian writes, “How could it be that hundreds of thousands of Americans fought and bled – and many died – on foreign shores to contain an evil and metastasizing ideology variously called communism, Marxism, socialism, collectivism, or statism, and yet now, just a few years later, we would gaze up at the pinnacle of power in our own country and behold leaders in thrall to essentially the same core ideology we fought and died to protect strangers from?”
     
    The answer to this is can be found within the culture itself and more specifically within America’s youth who have seemingly embraced the concept of socialism with little to no understanding of what socialism even is. Yet, like frogs slowly boiling to death in the cesspools that have become our college campuses, our nation’s youth collectively embrace the ideology that will destroy them while demanding that they be “protected” from opinions that run contrary to their beliefs.

    I have this issue with one of my daughters. She’s very sweet and very hard working, but like everyone who has lived she has struggled at times and dealt with situations that seemed completely unfair. She wonders why Bernie’s ideas won’t work. Why shouldn’t lots more thing be free for everyone? Why can’t that work? She received little or no history education in school, and obviously no economics. Of course, there are reasons for that. And what history they do hear is more likely to be Howard Zinn than Steven Ambrose. Without understanding the history of these movements, you cannot understand where all this leads. And they don’t recognize the road on which they are treading.

    Posted in Book Notes, Culture, Education, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Society | 13 Comments »

    Poukisa Mwen Te Ale An Ayiti

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 27th March 2016 (All posts by )

    After 240 years of relative quiescence, at 4:53 PM local time on Tuesday 12 January 2010 the Enriquillo fault system ruptured near 18°27’ N, 72°32’ W in an M 7.0 earthquake, followed by numerous aftershocks, mostly westward of the mainshock hypocenter. Institutional functionality, or the lack thereof, in Haiti prior to the earthquake was such that there was no local seismometer network in place, so nuances of slip in the 2010 earthquake involving several associated faults have had to be inferred from kinematic models.
    The Enriquillo fault itself forms the boundary between the Gonâve Microplate and the Caribbean Plate, but seismic activity along it is driven by collision with, and subduction of, the North American Plate. The entire fault system may have begun a new cycle of large earthquakes similar to those of the 18th century, in which case there will be several more such events with significant effects in Haiti and the Dominican Republic through, very roughly, 2080.
    Around half the entire US population donated money for Haitian earthquake relief in 2010. I may not have been among them, but as initially recounted in this forum in April of 2011, I was drawn into restoration work in a computer lab and fixed-wireless network in Petit-Goâve, and have subsequently assisted in similar efforts in Musac (Mizak), La Vallée-de-Jacmel. Paging through the visa section of my passport, I now find an astonishing number of red ENTRÉE and blue SORTIE stamps from the Ministere de l’Interieur et des Collectivites Territoriales / Direction de l’Immigration. My God, I’ve been down there 16 times. What was I thinking?
    Something like this …

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Ebola, Elections, History, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Latin America, Personal Narrative, Politics, Predictions, Religion, Society, Systems Analysis, USA | 4 Comments »

    Another step for Craig Venter.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th March 2016 (All posts by )

    cell

    I have previously posted about Venter’s work with synthetic organisms.

    While I was digesting this new material, Craig Venter was making the Gene VII book obsolete. He set up a new company to compete with the Human Genome Project The result is well described in The Genome War by James Shreeve who was given access to Venter but less to the government funded project. This year, Venter’s autobiography was published and his plans for the future are described.

    The links are at the original article which is from 2007.

    Now, his group has progressed to a synthetic bacterium.

    Using the first synthetic cell, Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 (created by this same team in 2010), JCVI-syn3.0 was developed through a design, build, and test process using genes from JCVI-syn1.0. The new minimal synthetic cell contains 531,560 base pairs and just 473 genes, making it the smallest genome of any organism that can be grown in laboratory media. Of these genes 149 are of unknown biological function. By comparison the first synthetic cell, M. mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 has 1.08 million base pairs and 901 genes.

    A paper describing this research is being published in the March 25th print version of the journal Science by lead authors Clyde A. Hutchison, III, Ph.D. and Ray-Yuan Chuang, Ph.D., senior author J. Craig Venter, Ph.D., and senior team of Hamilton O. Smith, MD, Daniel G. Gibson, Ph.D., and John I. Glass, Ph.D.

    This is huge news and will take years to develop.

    The most surprising result of their work—and perhaps the most sobering one for the rest of the field: The team still doesn’t understand what 31 percent of the essential genes do in even the simplest organism, to say nothing of a human genome. It’s a development Venter called “very humbling.”

    “We are probably at the 1 percent level in understanding the human genome,” said Clyde Hutchison III, a distinguished professor at the Venter Institute.

    That lack of knowledge isn’t standing in the way of entrepreneurs. Biology has been “hot and heavy” since the development of a molecular tool that makes gene editing easy, Hutchison explained. Scientists might be able to remove disease-causing genes or even determine a baby’s eye color. This technology, known as CRISPR/Cas-9, has alarmed many inside and outside the research community, who fear it may be used on the human genome before its effects are understood, with unforeseen results.

    If he does another public seminar, I hope my friend Bradley can get me a ticket. I am now reading Lewin’s Genes XI, although he seems to be no longer the editor.

    I hope I can wade through it. Sometimes, as knowledge progresses, it becomes simpler. I hope so.

    “These cells would be a very, very useful chassis for many industrial applications, from medicine to biochemicals, biofuels, nutrition, and agriculture,” said Dan Gibson, a top scientist at both Venter’s research institute and his company, Synthetic Genomics Inc. Ultimately, the group wants to understand the tiny genetic framework well enough to use it as a biological foundation for more complex organisms that could address many of the world’s ills. Once each essential gene’s function is identified, scientists can build an effective computer model of it; from there, they can simulate how best to go about “adding pathways for the production of useful products,” they wrote.

    I will be following this story closely, if I can only understand it.

    Posted in Book Notes, Miscellaneous, Science | 5 Comments »

    Alternate History

    Posted by David Foster on 24th March 2016 (All posts by )

    Having long been intrigued by lighter-than-air craft (see earlier post on this topic), I picked up a copy of  Dr. Eckener’s Dream Machine…Dr Hugo Eckener being the head of the Zeppelin company for many years, and a man who contributed much to the transient success of this transportation mode.  Also, I thought the book would be a pleasant vacation from politics.  However, that was not to be…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Book Notes, Germany, History, Politics | 27 Comments »

    Getting deeper into Koestler

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 18th March 2016 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit — on creativity at the intersection of the fleeting and the eternal ]
    .

    centaur skeleton
    Centaur, displayed in the International Wildlife Museum, Tucson, AZ

    **

    You know Lao Tzu’s “uncarved wood” (pu) — and Spencer Brown’s “Mark” or “first distinction? It is hard to speak of “the one and the many” without language itself favoring the many, the one being “one” and the many “another”. The Greek phrase “Before Abraham was, I am” attributed to Christ may be as close as we get.

    The “uncarved wood” is not some definite -– named and thus defined -– “one” -– it is also “raw silk” (su), the simple -– the natural way or stream, from which things have not yet been separated out by naming.

    There is delight, however, both in one becoming two and thus many, in the making of distinctions and naming of names, and no less in two (or the many) becoming one, in the resolution of paradox, the release of tension, peace after strife. In human terms, there is joy in both solo and collaborative achievement.

    What better, then, than the perfect fit between disparate entities?

    I have written often enough about Arthur Koestler and the place where two disparate spheres of thought link up — the centaur links horse and man in an indissoluble unity — there’s no question here of dismounting after a ride, giving the horse a rub down and some feed, then retiring to the verandah for a whiskey…

    The mythological aha! we get from the centaur displayed in the museum hinges on the fit of horse and human skeletons, the perfection with which disparates are joined.

    **

    Thus far, whenever I’ve discussed Koestler‘s notion of bisociation, I’ve focused on the sense that it liea at the heart of creativity. Koestler himself takes it deeper. Here’s Nicholas Vajifdar, in a review titled Summing Up Arthur Koestler’s Janus: A Summing Up:

    Koestler .. asserts that there are two planes of existence, the trivial and the tragic. The trivial plane is the stage for paying bills, shopping, working. Most of life takes place on the trivial plane. But sometimes we’re swept up into the tragic plane, usually due to some catastrophe, and everything becomes glazed with an awful significance. From the point of view of the tragic plane, the trivial plane is empty and frivolous; from the point of view of the trivial plane, the tragic plane is embarrassing and overwrought. Once we’ve moved from one plane to the other, we forget why we could have felt the way we used to.

    That’s not just any old distinction between two realms, that’s the one Koestler himself prioritizes. And following his basic principle that a creative spark is lit when two disparate “planes of ideas” intersect, we shouldn’t be too surprised to find Vajifdar continuing:

    “The highest form of human creativity,” Koestler writes, “is the endeavor to bridge the gap between the two planes. Both the artist and the scientist are gifted — or cursed — with the faculty of perceiving the trivial events of everyday experience sub specie aeternitatis, in the light of eternity…”

    William Blake made a similar observation in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, writing:

    Eternity is in love with the productions of time.

    Finally, Vajifdar tells us why he finds Koestler’s definition of art maybe the best he’s ever read:

    What I value in this definition of creativity is its emphasis on the subjective being of those who experience the work of art or scientific theory, a surer gauge than cataloguing formal properties or whether it's "interesting." Art has always seemed like a kind of sober drunkenness, or drunken sobriety. Most people probably have wondered whether the feelings they felt while drunk were more or less real than their sober feelings. Koestlerian art joins these seemingly irreconcilable feelings together.

    Let’s just go one step further. In Promise and Fulfilment – Palestine 1917-1949, Koestler specifically singles out this intersection as an aspect of the experience of warfare:

    This intense and perverse peace, superimposed on scenes of flesh-tearing and eardrum-splitting violence, is an archetype of war-experience. Grass never smells sweeter than in a dug-out during a bombardment when one’s face is buried in the earth. What soldier has not seen that caterpillar crawling along a crack in the bark of the tree behind which he took cover, and pursuing its climb undisturbed by the spattering of his tommy-gun? This intersecting of the tragic and the trivial planes of existence has always obsessed me in the Spanish Civil War, during the collapse of France, in the London blitz.

    **

    I am grateful to David Foster for his ChicagoBoyz post The Romance of Terrorism and War which triggered this exploration, and that on the glamour of war which will follow it.

    Posted in Advertising, Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Culture, Miscellaneous, Philosophy, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    Food 2 – Assimilation 1

    Posted by Ginny on 17th March 2016 (All posts by )

    The distinction between rich and poor was large in 1900, less large in 1950, larger again now. My husband’s tax accountant friend keeps arguing that taxes made the difference – so we need more of them. Well, maybe, he knows a hell of a lot more about taxes than I do. Of course, that seems counterproductive. Equally obvious is that large percentages of immigrants will add to the bottom rungs of an open market economy and their assimilation over the next generations (if immigration is lessened for a generation or two) is likely to lessen overall disparities.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Anti-Americanism, Book Notes, Immigration | 18 Comments »

    Book Review: The Year of the French (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 17th March 2016 (All posts by )

    The Year of the French, by Thomas Flanagan

    (This being St Patrick’s day, I’m taking advantage of the hook to re-post this review, in the hope of inspiring a few more people to read this incredibly fine historical novel)

    Ralph Peters calls this book “the finest historical novel written in English, at least in the twentieth century,” going on to say “except for ‘The Leopard,’ I know of no historical novel that so richly and convincingly captures the ambience of a bygone world.”

    In August of 1798, the French revolutionary government landed 1000 troops in County Mayo to support indigenous Irish rebels, with the objective of overthrowing British rule in Ireland.  The Year of the French tells the (fictionalized but fact-based) story of these events from the viewpoint of several characters, representing different groups in the complex and strife-ridden Irish social structure of the time.

    Owen MacCarthy is a schoolmaster and poet who writes in the Gaelic tradition.  He is pressed by illiterate locals to write a threatening letter to a landlord who has evicted tenants while switching land from farming to cattle-raising.  With his dark vision of how an attempt at rebellion must end–“In Caslebar.  They will load you in carts with your wrists tied behind you and take you down to Castlebar and try you there and hang you there”–MacCarthy is reluctant to get involved, but he writes the letter.

    Sam Cooper, the recipient of the letter, is a small-scale landlord, and captain of the local militia.  Indigenously Irish, his family converted to Protestantism several generations ago to avoid the crippling social and economic disabilities imposed on Catholics. Cooper’s wife, Kate, herself still Catholic, is a beautiful and utterly ruthless woman…she advises Cooper to respond to the letter by rounding up “a few of the likeliest rogues,”  jailing and flogging them, without any concern for actual guilt or innocence. “My God, what a creature you are for a woman,”  Cooper responds. “It is a man you should have been born.”  “A strange creature that would make me in your bed,” Kate fires back, “It is a woman I am, and fine cause you have to know it…What matters now is who has the land and who will keep it.”

    Ferdy O’Donnell  is a young hillside farmer on Cooper’s land.  Far back in the past, the land was owned by the O’Donnell family…Ferdy had once shown Cooper  “a valueless curiosity, a parchment that recorded the fact in faded ink the colour of old, dried blood.”

    Arthur Vincent Broome is a Protestant clergyman who is not thrilled by the “wild and dismal region” to which he has been assigned, but who performs his duties as best he can. Broome is resolved to eschew religious bigotry, but…”I affirm most sincerely that distinctions which rest upon creed mean little to me, and yet I confess that my compassion for their misery is mingled with an abhorrence of their alien ways…they live and thrive in mud and squalour…their music, for all that antiquarians and fanatics can find to say in its flavor, is wild and savage…they combine a grave and gentle courtesy with a murderous violence that erupts without warning…”‘

    Malcolm Elliott is a Protestant landlord and solicitor, and a member of the Society of United Irishmen.  This was a revolutionary group with Enlightenment ideals, dedicated to bringing Catholics and Protestants together in the cause of overthrowing British rule and establishing an Irish Republic.  His wife, Judith, is an Englishwoman with romantic ideas about Ireland.

    John Moore, also a United Irishman, is a member of one of the few Catholic families that have managed to hold on to their land.  He is in love with Ellen Treacy, daughter of another prominent Catholic family: she returns his love, but believes that he is caught in a web of words that can only lead to disaster.  “One of these days you will say a loose word to some fellow and he will get on his horse and ride off to Westport to lay an information with Dennis Browne, and that will be the last seen of you”

    Dennis Browne is High Sheriff of Mayo…smooth, manipulative, and devoted to the interests of the very largest landowners in the county, such as his brother Lord Altamont and the mysterious Lord Glenthorne, the “Big Lord” who owns vast landholdings and an immense house which he has never visited.

    Randall MacDonnell is a Catholic landowner with a decrepit farm and house, devoted primarily to his horses.  His motivations for joining the rebellion are quite different from those of the idealistic United Irishman…”For a hundred years of more, those Protestant bastards have been the cocks of the walk, strutting around on acres that belong by rights to the Irish…there are men still living who remember when a son could grab his father’s land by turning Protestant.”

    Jean Joseph Humbert is the commander of the French forces.  A former dealer in animal skins, he owes his position in life to the revolution.  He is a talented commander, but  the battle he is most concerned about is the battle for status and supremacy between himself and  Napoleon Bonaparte.

    Charles Cornwallis, the general who surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown, is now in charge of defeating the French and the rebels and pacifying the rebellious areas of Ireland.   Seen through the eyes of  a young aide who admires him greatly, Cornwallis is portrayed as a basically kindly man who can be hard when he thinks it necessary, but takes no pleasure in it.  “The color of war had long since bleached from his thoughts, and it remained for him only a duty to be scrupulously performed.”

    This book is largely about the way in which the past lives on in the present, both in the world of physical objects and the world of social relationships.  Two characters who make a brief appearance are Richard Manning, proprietor of a decrepit and debt-laden castle, and his companion Ellen Kirwan:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Ireland | Comments Off on Book Review: The Year of the French (rerun)

    A Dish Best Eaten Cold: A Tale from Luna City

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th March 2016 (All posts by )

     (Because of the enthusiastic response to The Chronicles of Luna City, and because several of those who reviewed it were wondering mightily about the cliffhanger at the end, my daughter and I have decided to push full ahead on the next installation of the story, and release it in May. One of the ongoing threads in the new tale regards a movie production coming to town, to do local shooting – at first with the enthusiastic cooperation of the residents. But then, certain things come to light about the production itself …)

    Three days later, two men sat on the terrace of the Wyler home place, watching the sun slide down in the western sky, and the shadows lengthen across the formal garden below, and the green pastures beyond, where cows drifted idly hither and yon. A comfortably shabby set of rustic bentwood furniture contrasted rather oddly with the pillared splendors of the mansion built by Captain Herbert Wyler, in the first flush of his prosperity in the 1880s cattle markets. But they sat at the exact best place to watch the sun go down on the Wyler Exotic Game Ranch, and on the distant trees and church spires of Luna City, and so it was one of Doc Wyler’s favorite places, even in the heat of a Texas mid-summer. The temporary headquarters for filming extensive location shots was also within view, a prospect in the farthest meadow, and now regarded by both men with extreme distaste.

    “Good of you to drop everything, and hustle all the way from Houston,” Doc Wyler said at last. The pages of the script lay on the table between them.

    “You said it was an emergency in the note,” Clovis Walcott replied, as grim as s stone face on Mount Rushmore. “By god, so it is. I’d like to smash that miss-representing little weasel into a bloody pulp with my bare hands. We got taken, Doc. And taken bad.”

    “That we did, Colonel – that we did. They told us what we wanted to hear, like any good convincing conman does.” Doc Wyler sounded much the calmer of the two, although the half-consumed mint julep at his side may have had something to do with his air of relative equanimity. “The thing is now … what are we gonna do about it?”

    “My lawyer’s going to hear from me – first thing in the morning, if not by voicemail tonight,” Clovis sounded as if he were grinding his teeth. “And my banker, as well. I invested in this travesty – and I was near as dammit about to make it a bigger investment, on account of what those bastards said. I wouldn’t have touched this travesty with a ten-foot-pole, no matter how sweet they talked. As it stands in this script, this movie will be a disaster, all the way around. I wonder if my lawyer can make a case for fraud …”

    “Ah, but there was nothing in writing about the plot itself, was there?” Doc Wyler sipped meditatively at his julep. “All a verbal understanding between honorable men doing business together on a handshake understanding … sharp practice, Colonel. It’ll be the death of this world. A man’s word used to be a bond. I’ve always said ‘trust but verify,’ but when it turns out that you can’t trust ‘em after all…”

    “Thought that was Ronnie Reagan who said that,” Clovis Walcott sounded as if his own barely touched julep had just begun to mellow the edges of his fury.

    “Yeah, he did – but he stole that line from me,” Doc Wyler replied. “As I was saying – if it turns out to be that you can’t verify, and don’t trust … and that you have been, in fact, lied to in the most infamous fashion – what do you do then?” Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Diversions | 3 Comments »

    What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (February 2016)

    Posted by Jonathan on 8th March 2016 (All posts by )

    Below is a list of the books, ebooks, music and videos that Chicago Boyz readers viewed and/or ordered in February 2016 via Amazon links on this blog. (A cumulative list of Chicago Boyz readers’ Amazon purchases is here.)

    Your book and non-book Amazon purchases help to support this blog via the Amazon Associates program. Chicago Boyz earns a percentage on all of your Amazon purchases as long as you get to the Amazon site by clicking on Amazon links on this blog (including the Amazon banner in the blog header, the link under the Amazon banner, and even Amazon links on Chicago Boyz for products other than the ones that you want to buy).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes | 5 Comments »

    Rough-Hewn Land: California to the Rocky Mountains

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 6th March 2016 (All posts by )

    RoughHewnLandKeith Meldahl, a geologist and professor of geology, has written one of the most interesting books on the history of the American West I’ve ever encountered. It’s a history of how it got the way it is, physically. He covers the creation of California – it’s only recently been pasted onto North America – how the Sierra Nevada formed and what it actually is, why Nevada looks like it does, how the Colorado Plateau got there, how the Rocky Mountains were formed, and some very interesting and odd details as well. Along the way, he provides a few vignettes of the early explorers and settlers and their often brutal encounters with these features.

    Probably the two most important players in all this are something you’ve never heard of, the Farallon Plate, and the North America continent itself. Long story short, 240 million years ago  the world’s landmasses had merged together into single massive conglomeration called Pangea (All Land). Prior to that time, North America had moved West to East, the East coast was the active margin and the West coast, which then ended in a line from Wyoming across Utah and through Nevada, trailed along. The eventual impact with Africa raised the Appalachians to Himalaya scale and merged us to it like India to Asia. By 150 million years ago, Pangea was breaking apart and a newly born mid-ocean ridge opened the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. As the ridge continued to build new seafloor, it spread apart. Everything east of that ridge began being pushed to the east, and everything west of it, including North America, began being pushed to the west. It was then that things began changing for the western states. You can page through that 100 million years at Arcadia Street for a glimpse at the plant and animal life you would have seen, had you been there.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Environment, History, North America, Science, USA | 8 Comments »

    On This Texas Independence Day

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 2nd March 2016 (All posts by )

    What I’m feeling for the GOP is a kind of disinterested sympathy, punctuated with schadenfreude, the disinterest arising from never having been a Republican, the sympathy from the GOP identification of a plurality of my close friends – uniformly horrified by what is happening – and the schadenfreude from the abrupt collapse of three-plus decades of pharisaical social conservatism. Turns out that eventually enough of the electorate whose resentment you’ve been stoking figures out that it’s a waste of time and fastens on to something else, something that matches their actual resentments a lot more closely. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Blogging, Book Notes, Civil Society, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Elections, History, Human Behavior, National Security, Politics, Predictions, Society, Trump, USA | 13 Comments »

    Toward Financial Independence

    Posted by Nathaniel T. Lauterbach on 28th February 2016 (All posts by )

    I commented in this post about the consumerist fog that in which I was living as a middle-rank American military officer, and my desire to “fix” or improve my situation by taking command of my finances.

    How did we do it?

    It was simple, but not easy.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Miscellaneous, Personal Finance, Personal Narrative, Taxes | 14 Comments »

    A Short Story – VJ+71

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 12th February 2016 (All posts by )

     

    (I meant to have a historical piece about an early and most mysterious resident of San Francisco ready for posting today, but … good intentions and all that, plus we were struck by sudden inspiration for the next Luna City Chronicle … which has been selling nicely and has some nice reviews on Amazon. Yes, there will be at least several more Luna City volumes – especially since the first book ends on a cliff-hanger, we haven’t gotten around to more than a handful of Luna City citizens, and I am convinced more than ever now, that light and amusing trifles are necessary diversions in bleak times.) 

    Early on an August Sunday morning, Miss Leticia McAllister combed out her long grey hair, rolling and neatly pinning it into an old-fashioned hair-net, and surveyed her appearance in the dressing table mirror. The hat, gloves and scarf that she would wear against the chill – for the sanctuary of the First Methodist Church of Luna City was enthusiastically air-conditioned against the blistering heat of a Texas late summer – all lay in order on the dressing table, next to Miss Letty’s Sunday handbag, which held a fresh handkerchief, her house keys, and the envelope with her weekly offering. Hat, bag, scarf and all carefully matched, and coordinated beautifully with the colors of Miss Letty’s flowered and full-skirted summer dress.

    I never had beauty or elegance, Miss Letty told her reflection, with clinical satisfaction – but I could manage chic by paying attention, and I had the brains enough to be charming. Alice was the one for elegance! Oh, my – did she turn heads! Hard to believe it has been seventy-one years to the day. Every man in Schilo’s Delicatessen on Commerce on VJ-Day – they all turned to look at her, as she came in the door. You could have heard a pin drop; I think most of them thought that a movie star had come to San Antonio, but she was really only the chief secretary to an insurance company manager, for all that she was only twenty-four. And he kept trying half-heartedly to seduce her, the wretched little Lothario. She wrote complaining about that to me, all the time that I was in England, and then in France. Alice had a hatpin, though – and she could use it, too. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Diversions | 6 Comments »

    What Chicago Boyz Readers Are Reading (January 2016)

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th February 2016 (All posts by )

    Below is a list of the books, ebooks, music and videos that Chicago Boyz readers viewed and/or ordered in January 2016 via Amazon links on this blog. (A cumulative list of Chicago Boyz readers’ Amazon purchases is here.)

    Your book and non-book Amazon purchases help to support this blog via the Amazon Associates program. Chicago Boyz earns a percentage on all of your Amazon purchases as long as you get to the Amazon site by clicking on Amazon links on this blog (including the Amazon banner in the blog header, the link under the Amazon banner, and even Amazon links on Chicago Boyz for products other than the ones that you want to buy).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes | 5 Comments »

    The Collapse of Obama’s Syria Policy

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th February 2016 (All posts by )

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    The US foreign policy conducted by the Obama administration has been a disaster all along. He abandoned Iraq and the rise of ISIS has followed. I have read “Black Flags“, which describes how the al Qeada organization of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has morphed into ISIS after Obama pulled US forces out of Iraq. Now, as Richard Fernandez explains in another masterful analysis, Assad is about to rout the last of the non-ISIS opposition.

    Reuters reports that Bashal al-Assad’s forces have made major advances behind a major Russian air offensive and are now poised to destroy the non-ISIS rebels opposing the Syrian government is rocking the foreign policy establishment. “After three days of intense fighting and aerial bombardment, regime forces, believed to include Iran-backed Shia militias, broke through to the formerly besieged regime enclaves of Nobul and Zahra.”

    The Russians have been surprising US military leaders in ways that are very unpleasant.

    The performance of the miniature, “rust bucket” Russian air force has formed an invidious baseline to what the USAF has achieved. The Independent reported:

    Their army’s equipment and strategy was “outmoded”; their air force’s bombs and missiles were “more dumb than smart”; their navy was “more rust than ready”. For decades, this was Western military leaders’ view, steeped in condescension, of their Russian counterparts. What they have seen in Syria and Ukraine has come as a shock.

    Russian military jets have, at times, been carrying out more sorties in a day in Syria than the US-led coalition has done in a month.

    We are not serious and the US military has to wonder what will happen if Putin decides to take the Baltic republics.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, International Affairs, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Middle East, Military Affairs, Obama | 40 Comments »

    Spring Newsletter – Luna City

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd February 2016 (All posts by )

    This is just for fun … and I fully believe that we need relatively meaningless fun, humor, diversion … all of that silly, fluffy, lighthearted stuff. In the depths of the Depression of the 1930s, the most popular movies were musicals. Silly, fluffy, light-hearted musicals.

    But if your inclination is for unrelieved Grim and Determined, I put this below the fold, so that the Seriousness can proceed, undisturbed by a single comic hiccup.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Blogging, Book Notes, Humor | 9 Comments »

    Why the Big Short didn’t work but the next one likely will!

    Posted by Kevin Villani on 28th January 2016 (All posts by )

    In promoting the Hollywood version of The Big Short by Michael Lewis, Paul Krugman (NYT, December 18) misrepresents the central point of this excellent book, previously made by Peter Wallison, who Krugman attacks for his Republican dissent to the 2010 Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) majority Report.

    The Hollywood version reflects the Report’s fundamental conclusion that the root cause of the financial crisis was Wall Street greed: hardly newsworthy, disputable or dispositive. The Big Short is about the equally greedy speculators who were shorting the housing market: had they succeeded early on – as they do in less distorted markets – they would have prevented the bubble from inflating to systemic proportions.

    Contrary to the “indifference” theorem (i.e., between debt and equity finance) of Nobel Laureates Franco Modigliani and Merton Miller, both household borrowers and mortgage lenders chose to finance almost entirely with debt, a strategy best described as “going for broke.” The first distortion – tax deductibility of debt – makes leverage desirable until discouraged by rising debt costs. The second distortion – federally backed mortgage funding as Depression era deposit insurance became virtually universal and the Fannie Mae “secondary market” facility morphed into a national housing bank – prevented these costs from rising. This highly leveraged strategy was guaranteed to fail systemically if bad loans entered the system.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Economics & Finance, History, Markets and Trading, Politics | 9 Comments »