kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Name:
Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

End of Summer Reading

I spent much of the time this Summer reading, and sweating. The product of my toils, with occasional comments.


Crais, Robert

I heard good things about "The Monkey's Raincoat," which I liked quite a lot. I then decided to read the collected works. Sometimes a bit formulaic, and I'd take Thomas Perry over him any day, but he writes well, has interesting stories and observations, and two good characters. Interestingly, a relatively minor character--Elvis Cole's partner, Joe Pike--turned out to be more intriguing that Cole, and got two of his own novels.

The Monkey's Raincoat
Stalking the Angel
Lullaby Town
Free Fall
Voodoo River
Sunset Express
Indigo Slam
L.A. Requiem
The Last Detective
The Forgotten Man
The Watchman
Demolition Angel
Hostage
The Two-Minute Rule

Iacocca, Lee Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

I have a friend Mike. He gives me lots of interesting books to read, even though I tell him I've got other stuff to deal with. He doesn't care. I end up reading them. Lee has some good ideas, and a lot of slogans. No one will pay attention to his complaints, although in some cases it might be a good idea.

Finkelstein, Norman Beyond Chutzpah

I've read Finkelstein's work before, both on how the Holocaust was treated in the U.S., and his evisceration of Joan Peter's "From Time Immemorial." Finkelstein, as you may know, was involved in a nasty--and to my mind, foolish and short-sighted--tenure battle, in part because Alan Dershowitz got involved. If you had been humiliated in the same way as Dershowitz, you probably would have gotten involved, too. In this case, a close reader and trained historian takes on a lawyer, his rhetoric, and his ideology. On its merits, the historian wins. On the other hand, one is wealthy and tenured at Harvard Law; the other, as of this writing, is looking for a job. It gets ironic when you consider the case in the context of justice.

Dershowitz, Alan Blasphemy: How the Religious Right is Hijacking the Declaration of Independence

To be fair, and because Mike imposed this on me, I thought I should read it. I agree with most of what it says, although I agreed with it earlier when I read Kramnick and Moore's "The Godless Constitution." Very little original stuff here, although some of the arguments are well-stated, and the very topic is an important one. When I read or hear Dershowitz, I always wonder what exactly he did to become the youngest tenured faculty member at Harvard Law? Because I haven't seen much evidence, lately, of what it would have been.

Greenwald, Glen A Tragic Legacy

Greenwald may be better known for his short "What Would A Patriot Do?," but this was a very nice discussion of the influence on Mani on George W. Bush, and uses Bush's Manichean world-view to discuss mistakes in the past (Iraq) and the potential for mistakes in the future (Iran). A bit scary at times, but some very nice writing, and a good reminder of what the Iranians were saying in 2003 about negotiating a whole raft of issues, including nuclear energy/weapons, Israel, etc.. The Bush administration doesn't seem to think Israel and Palestine is an issue worth much discussion or energy. It is wrong, and Greenwald is good at showing why.

Pennock, Robert Tower of Babel
Dennett, Daniel Breaking the Spell
Mills, David Atheist Universe

I'm planning to teach a seminar on atheism next time I offer a seminar, so I try to keep up on what is becoming a voluminous literature, with a great deal of overlap and repetition. Pennock's book is thorough, and takes seriously the arguments of both creationism and intelligent design. He particularly focuses on Phillip Johnson, and is a good reminder that virtually no biologists (yeah, I know about Michael Behe) employs supernaturalism. Dennett's is more of a philosopher's, than a philosopher of science's, book; both Pennock and Dennett cover much of the same ground in certain ways, but Dennett's angle is to argue that religion could be regarded as an evolutionary strategy. One whose time has come and gone. Mills' book is more superficial--although that isn't really a knock, it's just relative to Pennock and Dennett--and covers a wide range of general issues relating to atheism. A few interesting stories, and some helpful analogies.

McCullough, David 1776

I'm teaching the history of American political theory in China in October, so I thought I'd better get started. This kind of book is often derided as "popular" history--which it is--but I learned a good bit about the role New York played in the American Revolution, Washington, Paine, Howe, various other British folks, the degree of support the British has among the colonists, and lots of other things. A good way to get started. Next up: De Tocqueville's Democracy in America.

Pomfret, John Chinese Lessons

A very interesting discussion from a first-person perspective on the changes that have taken place--particularly among intellectuals and those who grew up during the Cultural Revolution--in the Middle Kingdom. A few views--specifically about the reasons China went into/invaded Viet Nam--that I might quarrel with, but the strength of the book is its account of various people, from Bluffer Ye to Little Guan. As they say, it's tough to be Chinese. I do wish Pomfret hadn't made it sound so darn easy to learn Chinese.

I think I might have forgotten a couple of things I recently read; if so, I may add them.

10 Comments:

Blogger Bazarov said...

I recently read, "The Great Bridge" by David McCullough. I have his book on John Adams and my buddy is reading his book on the Panama Canal construction. He writes well, although it took me a while to find his rhthym. I've found listening to the author speak helps a lot. I had a hard time reading Sagan until I heard him speak and now I can't help but hear his voice whenever I read his work. The same goes for Dawkins.
My reading has slowed a bit lately due to other interests taking more than their usual amount of time from my schedule. I'm still chugging along with the five volume set on Dostoevsky by Frank. I'm on volume three now and this will most likely be my favorite as this is the one that covers "Notes from Underground": my favorite piece by Dostoevsky. Joseph Frank must have one of the best vocabularies of anyone I've read as I can't seem to make it through one page without having to pick up the dictionary. Not only can he write eleganlty in English, but he knows Russian and French as well. It's sorta off putting when authors use phrases from foreign languages and assumes the reader will know what they mean.
I recieved a dvd with a ton of the Teaching Company lectures on it from a friend. I'm currently listening to a lecture set (30 in total I think) on the history of English. The guy reads passages in Old and Middle English too! It has turned out to be much more interesting than I thought it would have. The other lecture sets include: Philosophy of Science, Existentialism and the Meaning of Life, Philosophy of Mind (by John Searle no less),US History, and one on Einstein and his influence. If you're interested I could make you a copy. Something tells me the plane ride to China won't be short and they might be nice to listen to on your way there. Let me know if you'd like a copy.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As you head to China, you may want to read "Founding Brothers," by Joseph Ellis (no relation to Doc or Dale). An interesting look into the personalities and compromises that formed our democracy. Its a quick read and can easily be read in parts. Each chapter is a separate vignette giving great insight to the issues and personalities of the time. The book humanizes our fore fathers.

For other fun reading along the lines of Elvis Cole, peruse the Sean Drummond series by Brian Haig (yes, he is related to the Alexander Haig).

2:39 PM  
Anonymous Frodo said...

Snow Crash - Neal Stephanson.
Good reading for techheads very techno-trendy and I know you are totally into that. You gotta step back from the metaverse every so often for some RR.

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello!!????

We're all waiting for your next blog entry!

Can't get enough of Mosser...

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