A polymath rambling about virtually anything

Archive for February, 2013

Gun loophole makes no sense

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 23, 2013

Mark Kelly: Gun loophole makes no sense – CNN.com.

Read this article written by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ husband. It’s pretty good and it’s good common sense.

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A Review of Camus, A Romance

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 21, 2013

Camus, a RomanceCamus, a Romance by Elizabeth Hawes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t finish this book, no matter how much I love Camus, the author. I got to page 193 and gave up. Hawes is in love with Camus, like literally, and her sentimentality and romantic idealization throw the book off base. Even when she’s talking about his faults, it’s as though she wants to slightly scold a boy child. She takes it pretty easy on him. Now, like I said, I love Camus and have read most of what he’s written. I consider The Plague to be the greatest novel ever written. I even love A Happy Death! But this book simply bored me. And it bothered me a little too. Hawes seems like a stalker in this book. It took me out of my comfort zone. She’s a little too engrossed in her subject. But, boy, could she have written a more scintillating book! It was just flat out boring, and in the end, that’s why I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. Pity. I’m giving it three stars instead of two because of the subject matter.

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A Review of The Autobiography of Malcolm X

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 20, 2013

The Autobiography of Malcolm XThe Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I’m sorry I ever picked this book up. And judging by the reviews, apparently I’m the only person in the world who feels this way. I recently finished a biography of MLK Jr and found it very enlightening, and having heard about Malcolm X for years, but not knowing much, I wanted to learn. And I like Alex Haley too. It sounded like a good idea. Well, I’ve made it to page 133 and I can’t take it anymore. I’m quitting. I’m fed up with a narcissistic lying thief who “conks” his hair on every occasion and wears flashy zoot suits that he can’t afford who thinks he’s all that and more, and he’s only a teenager for Pete’s sake! He gets his brother Reginald into doing illegal things with him. He’s a terrible person! I had wanted to read to the part where he becomes a Muslim and turns his life around because I think that would be very interesting, but I can’t read another page of this horseshit! It’s really annoying and I can’t believe Alex Haley wrote this clap trap. I’m disappointed. Malcolm X was really stuck on himself and thought he was outside the rules — bigger than the rules — and he also liked to flaunt his sexual prowess with white women, which I thought was odd. He made a big deal about that. Sex, drugs, and jazz (rock and roll wasn’t around then). I’m shocked that this book is required reading in so many classrooms around the country. I think that’s appalling. And naturally I was appalled at the terrible way he was treated because of his skin color, but my dislike of him as a human being supersedes that. I’m glad to finally be putting this book away. Disappointed….

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A Review of The Survivor

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 20, 2013

The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White HouseThe Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House by John Furby Harris

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I hate this book and I despise the author. I couldn’t believe, when looking through the Goodreads reviews, how many people call this book “balanced.” I think it’s anything but. I think it’s a hatchet job on a great man, Bill Clinton, my favorite president of all time. I admit to being biased, but I’ve read several Clinton books and none were as unflattering as this one. I couldn’t even finish it! I couldn’t even get past the second chapter! Virtually every page is stocked with loaded language designed to make the reader look down on Clinton (and his wife). Examples:

Page X: He talks about Clinton’s “capacity for drama” and his “usual … swirling cloud of last-minute chaos and indecision.”

Page XI: “Hillary Rodham Clinton … hovered over the proceedings with the discerning eye of the corporate lawyer she was.” Harris makes her out to be a Dick Cheney-like character.

Page XII: In discussing Paul Begala’s first meeting with Clinton, Harris writes “In his crush, however, he kept enough detachment to contemplate that the session had been a put-on, and what seemed like a wonderfully guileless performance actually had been a more sophisticated brand of artifice.”

Pages XIV and XV: In describing Clinton’s politics as “defensive” and his knowledge of this a very conscious one, Harris writes “Certainly he understood, with occasional remedial courses required….” Like he’s stupid…. Later, his (Arkansas) opponent “portrayed him, not unfairly, as an arrogant and unseasoned young man who was out of step with his constituents.” Harris goes on to talk some more about Clinton’s alleged “women problem.” It makes me ill.

On page XVI, Clinton is described as “maddeningly noncommittal.”

On page XVII, Harris really goes for it. He plunges right in by writing, “his marriage to Hillary Clinton was said to be in turmoil…. He was a man of vagrant sexual appetites. Every political operative or journalist with even a passing knowledge of Clinton knew it.” What a crock! Even with all of the right wing-founded rumors about Clinton’s alleged infidelities, the only one that ever had any proof associated with in was the Monica scandal. In his book, My Life, Clinton denies any involvement with Flowers or Jones and I believe him. There’s no proof anywhere. This author is stooping to tabloid journalism by bringing it up in the introduction!

On page XVIII, he “bristled over the scrutiny,” while somehow showing “indifference to the rumors.” Contradict yourself much, Harris?

The author then goes on to deride Clinton’s intelligence by writing that Hillary “was his equal or superior in intelligence” and he talks about their marriage as a “partnership” and not one based on love. Does this guy have a bone to pick or what?

On page XX!, Harris writes “Traits that would be regarded as emotionally unhealthy by conventional standards — a desperate need for human contact, or a heedlessness about persona risk — were in Clinton’s case political assets of great utility.” Later, on his intelligence again: “Yes, he was smart, but no smarter than many other politicians of his generation.” Seriously? Every book I’ve ever read about Clinton, right or left, has lauded his intelligence! The man is brilliant. Holy crap — who does this Harris guy think he is? What an asshole!

Harris shows Clinton plotting left and right while being naive at the same time. Honestly, I can’t read this book without getting violently angry. I made it to page 12 and that’s the furthest I’m going. I had high hopes for this book because of good reviews, but I’m sorry I wasted good — and a lot of — money on this stupid book. Definitely not recommended for anyone who admires the Clintons.

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Passing 10,000 Page Views

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 19, 2013

Hi there. I just wanted to write a short blog celebrating the fact that I’ve passed 10,000 page views of this blog as of last night. Currently, my blog has been viewed 10,072 times since I started it on June 20, 2011. 10K views may not be a lot for some people, people who blog a lot and have lots of followers, but it’s a lot to me, someone who blogs only occasionally and recently posts mostly book reviews. Thanks to all of you who have come to visit my site and thanks to my 119 WordPress followers. Please continue to visit and I’ll continue to post random blogs. And please feel free to comment. You all rarely comment! What’s up with that? LOL!

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A Review of Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 19, 2013

Flow My Tears, the Policeman SaidFlow My Tears, the Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! What else is there to say after reading this wild prototypical Philip K. Dick novel? Published in 1974, it’s about the future world of 1988 where there are flying cars, floating houses, packs of marijuana for sale, and all sorts of other crazy things he got wrong. Could that have been on purpose? In this world, it’s a typical Dick police state where having your ID means likely freedom. Not having ID means forced labor camps, where they also send university students at war with the police and national guard. Bizarre already, right?

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said opens with the popular Jason Taverner, a TV variety show host and singer with 30 million viewers on NBC. He’s a “six,” a type of enhanced human, although sixes keep their identity as such a secret. One day Jason wakes up in a crappy hotel room and discovers no one knows him and he doesn’t have any ID. A quick search allows him to discover his birth certificate isn’t even on file. He bribes the hotel clerk, who turns out to be a police informer, to take him to a forger who would get him new, faked IDs. She, too, turns out to be a police informer, and she’s certifiable. Kathy is young and believes that her husband is in a camp. She’s working to gain his release. We find out later that she’s delusional.

There are a number of female characters we’re introduced to in this book: Kathy, Heather, Rachel, Alys, and Mary Anne, all with unique characteristics and stories to tell. It’s interesting to see how Dick weaves Jason’s interactions with these women into a somewhat complex plot, one that gets wilder as the book progresses.

Jason is taken in to be questioned by the police, but is released. However, Police General Felix Buckman takes a personal interest in the case, caught up with how a person could be totally off the grid. Jason does not officially exist.

Jason spends two days in this state, trying to figure out what has happened to him and why, typical of Dick to engage the reader in identity questions. Toward the end of the book, Buckman’s twin sister — and his lover — Alys snags Jason and helps him ditch tracing entities the police hid on/in him. She takes him back to her house, where she gives him a questionable drug that totally blows his world, but strangely helps his existence to return. He finds two of his records in her possession. When he leaves her, dead on the floor as a skeleton, others can finally recognize him for the celebrity that he is and his music appears on jukeboxes. He’s back! Was it all a drug induced nightmare? It’s possibly that and much more. I don’t want to spoil the book by revealing the ending, but the ending is typical Dick, to a point. For some reason, though, I found it a bit less satisfying than other Dick endings, and he strangely included an epilogue, which shockingly wraps up everyone’s story rather nicely. That said, I didn’t like it, unlike most Goodreads readers, it seems. I got the feeling Dick rushed the ending and could have extended the book more, but just wanted to wrap things up tidily, and I didn’t like that.

Love is a major theme in this book, and it’s exhibited in several mostly unusual ways here. At one point, a character states that one can only love after experiencing grief. Also, in another rather touching part of the book, Buckman asks

“Why does a man cry? … Not like a woman; not for that. Not for sentiment. A man cries over the loss of something, something alive. A man can cry over a sick animal that he knows won’t make it. The death of a child: a man can cry for that. But not because things are sad…. A man … cries not for the future or the past but for the present.”

While that may be touching, there are some disturbing things about the book. We see pedophilia, bestiality, and incest, as well as standard heterosexual and homosexual sex, and that’s a little off putting. Also, I’m starting to notice a disturbing theme in Dick’s books: he doesn’t seem to hold black people in high regard. In this novel, black people are being sterilized out of existence and Jason seems to be glad of it. Dick also treats blacks oddly in The Crack in Space and there are pissed off, drugged out black people in Counter-Clock World. Evidently, Watts serves as Dick’s place of ultimate black fear and evil. Jason goes to a burned out Watts to get his fake IDs. But what is Dick up to here? I’ve read biographies of him and I don’t recall him identified as a racist in real life, but I’m starting to wonder. He makes sure we’re aware that blacks are to be avoided, and that’s not cool. Still, the book is an easy, quick read with a typical twist of an ending, and I cautiously recommend it. It did, BTW, win a major award and was nominated for several others, so many people hold this book in high esteem. Maybe I didn’t get quite as much out of it as they did, but I still enjoyed it and read it in less than a day.

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