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Archive for January, 2020

Welcome to the Space Force LinkedIn Outer Space Warfare Discussion Group

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 31, 2020

I received a very interesting and unique email last week regarding a LinkedIn group of which I’m a member. There are several things that make it fairly unique. For one thing, while this is not necessarily the first time, it still is very rare to receive a message of this nature via email sent specifically to me at one of my email addresses that is not in use or listed in or on my LinkedIn account/profile. Indeed, if any such message were to be sent out to an entire group or even, as in this case, just to “select” members of a group, it would almost always be done via LinkedIn’s messaging system. The fact that this was sent to me at a personal address not listed on my LinkedIn profile indicates it would likely be or in fact is a more pointed, personal and selective message to be sent only to certain “qualifying” entities and thus not to the entire group or even necessarily many in the LinkedIn group’s listed membership figures and members, as the group on LinkedIn doesn’t list a membership size anywhere close to the size mentioned in this email, nor does studying the listing of the members in the group on its LI page give an indication that many would be likely to receive a message of this nature. So, that’s fairly odd.

Another somewhat unique thing about this is during my 14 years on LinkedIn, I have been a member or am currently a member of a hell of a lot of groups — in a very diverse number of fields. Many of these have been at the invitation of members or group owners, while I also actually have not become a member of many groups I have been invited to join for one reason or another, often because I don’t feel it’s either a group I’m particularly interested in or perhaps necessarily qualified for. That being said, I have spent my entire life getting education, reading, studying, researching, discussing, engaging, writing about a TON of different things such that one might be inclined to say it’s simply nuts. Moreover, over the course of my lifetime, I have been or am currently a member of dozens of professional organizations, again with a wide disparity of professional specialties. If interested, I have listed on a Page tabbed at the top of this blog a fairly accurate list of Professional Organizations to which I belong. You can find it here. I don’t want to get too bogged down in this area because it isn’t the focus of this blog post, but you have to possess some measure of qualification to belong to most of them. Usually that entails one, two or more degrees in certain academic fields applicable to that organization as well as often 5-10 or even more years of experience in the field. And while some are fairly generous in defining their accepted qualifications, many of them are actually quite difficult to get into and some are what one might consider even “elite” and hence virtually impossible to get into for the majority of people, while many of them also are very narrowly focused and so the requirements are very narrowly defined, such as an organization for military special forces or electronic warfare experts or Foreign Service professionals (State Department), or physicists, etc. Some will basically take your word for it in listing specific degrees in specific subjects at specific named universities as well as specific job titles in specific companies or divisions of companies or federal agencies, etc. Many are tougher and will require evidence in the form of transcripts, proof of expertise or seniority within the industry they represent, and some require sponsorship from members or even actually multiple senior members. As such, one must go through a vetting process for many of these organizations, some of which are so thorough as to simulate or even be like a variation of a security clearance vetting, taking anywhere from 1-2 days to two weeks to 1-2 months, etc. Like I said, some are extremely selective. And like the LinkedIn groups, I didn’t necessarily request or apply to join and become a member of them all — I was invited. However, I often HAVE applied for membership with many, and to be perfectly candid, I have applied to quite a few where one might assume I wouldn’t meet the criteria at all and would thus be rejected. That makes sense. Common sense. After all, I’ve never officially been a Foreign Service Officer or worked for the State Department nor have I been a certified counselor and I’ve never been a professional scientist or physicist, or Air Force general, etc. Yet at the same time, I’ve never applied to an organization I felt I couldn’t prove I wasn’t practically or pragmatically qualified for. Just because I don’t officially have an Electrical Engineering degree doesn’t mean I didn’t spend four years at UCLA studying the material and pursuing a diploma only to not be able to finish and get the diploma because of unfortunately timed necessary geographical relocation, as well as having spent years working in that field. See? Qualified. Nor have I ever had a job where I had the official title of “Systems Engineer,” yet I’ve served in that function and filled that role one way or another in so many of my jobs at so many companies that I am actually a Senior Member of the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers (IISE)! And therefore to my shock at times, I’ve never been rejected when applying to any professional organization for which I felt I was qualified, despite a lack of a formal degree in the field or specific job title, etc., because my combination of education, work experience, research, publishing, knowledge, expertise in a large number of areas has apparently made up for the “deficiencies” one might presume regarding the more formal requirements. Still, I’ve been shocked plenty of times when admitted to organizations such as American Physical Society (APS Physics), Espionage Research Institute International (ERII) and the American Counseling Association (ACA) among others.

The purpose of the overly long preceding paragraph is meant to provide some context for the email message (or part of it) that I recently received from the group owner of one of the aforementioned LinkedIn groups of which I am currently a member. (At last glance, I’m currently a member in 96 LI groups, but have been leaving some because that’s just too many, so I’ve left probably 20+ more over the past year alone.) And so finally, one of the LI groups of which I’m a member is the Military Space Warfare Discussion Group (because, yes, that’s been one of my research and engagement areas for some time). The group, as listed on LI, doesn’t consist of too many members, so when I received the following email, I found it surprising, not only for what I’ve already shared, but because it literally gives a demographic/statistical breakdown of the 13,952 “hand-picked” members “with experience in Space Control and Space Domain Awareness (SDA).” I’ve literally never seen such a thing before, for any of these groups. Sure, you could stroll through the various member listings to see what, if listed, they do and in what capacity and for which entity (rarely listed in many of these groups), but who has the time for that? But as a person who has always loved stats, demographics, stuff like that, I got a real kick out of the data enclosed in the email. After the main body in the email there follows listings of various space warfare documents, files, doctrine, escalation ladders, etc., with links to numerous repositories of such. I won’t include that part of the email since it’s not intended for public viewing, but I’ll now post what seems like one of the more unique group/org emails I’ve ever received…

 

 

– Welcome to the Space Force LinkedIn Outer Space Warfare Discussion Group
1 message
Space Strategies Center <Paul.Szymanski@satellitewar.com> Sat, Jan 18, 2020 at 2:02 PM
Reply-To: Space Strategies Center <Paul.Szymanski@satellitewar.com>

To: scottholstad@gmail.com

 

LinkedIn Space Warfare Discussion Group:

Welcome to the newly re-launched Outer Space Warfare Discussion Group on LinkedIn! You are a member of this Group by your own request, or because you linked up with me due to my extensive space warfare experience over the past 46 years. This Group is for people who have an interest in warfare in the space environment, and I welcome experts and non-experts alike. I am particularly interested in people with military backgrounds, even if not space related, because I believe military principles honed over many years of history are also applicable to future space combat.

With the establishment of the United States Space Force, it is now critical to better understand outer space warfare theory, principles, policy, doctrine, strategies and tactics, along with the political implications of space attacks, and how these attacks may challenge allied relationships. Setting the correct foundational principles can launch the Space Force on the right path to fight and win the next space wars. All topics for discussion are for general doctrine concepts only, which is always considered unclassified and not sensitive since these foundational concepts must be employed in educating all personnel of the new Space Force.

The Space Warfare Discussion Group on LinkedIn is probably the most extensive collection of senior decision-makers in the United States, if not the World, who have an interest in space warfare. The general membership statistics of this Group are given below. In addition, links to documents used in previous Group discussions are listed towards the end of this email.

As a first topic of discussion for the new year I give a link below for a briefing by one of our long-term Group members, Dr. Mir Sadat (LinkedIn profile), who is a director at the White House National Security Council for space policy.

You may view Dr. Sadat’s talk at the below link:

Space Cooperation in an Age of Great Power Competition

 

Thank-you for your time,

Paul Szymanski

President

Space Strategies Center

National@Policy.Space

 

LinkedIn Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/PaulSzymanski

Professional Websites: http://Policy.Space  or  http://Wars.Space

 

Space Warfare Group Membership Statistics: The Space Warfare discussion group on LinkedIn that I developed is probably the most senior discussion group in the country with an interest in space control critical topics. It consists of 13,952 hand-picked members on LinkedIn with experience in Space Control and Space Domain Awareness (SDA), or at least have expressed an interest in these topics, and includes: 367 members from military colleges (including the former Superintendent of the Air Force Academy), 825 from private and Government think tanks, 293 from public universities, 103 from government intelligence agencies (including the NASIC Chief Scientist and the former NRO Chief Scientist), 184 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 283 from NATO, 96 from NORAD-USSTRATCOM, 1,262 General officers, Admirals or equivalents (one to four stars, including former: Secretary of the Army, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army (3), Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, NATO Assistant Secretary General, Commander of US Army in Europe, Commander of U.S. Air Force in Europe, Commander & Deputy Commander of Special Operations Command in Europe, Commander of US Army Forces Africa, Commander of US Army Pacific, Commanders (2) of U.S. Forces in Japan, Commander of US Central Command, Commander of the Air Force Special Operations Command, Commanders of Air Combat Command (2), NATO Commanders (2), Commander of NORAD-USNORTHCOM, Commanding Generals of the 82nd Airborne Division, 10th Mountain Division (2), 1st US Army, US Army South (2), US Army Special Operations Command, Director of the National Security Space Office, Commander of the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), Commander of Navy Installations Command; Commander of Naval Air Systems Command, also current: Commanders of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (3), Commander of AFMC, Director of DISA, Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Marine Corps Commandant and now Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also one former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), 293 from the Secretary of Defense office (including one former Secretary of Defense and 56 current and former Under/Assistant Secretaries of Defense), 2 former Secretaries of the Air Force, 14 Under/Assistant Secretaries of the Air Force, 1 former Secretary of the Army, 13 Under/Assistant Secretaries of the Army, 2 Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, 6 Assistant Secretaries of the Navy, past and current Commanders of the 3rd, 4th, 5th (2 commanders), 6th (2 commanders), Pacific (2 commanders) and Korea Naval fleets, and 7th and 8th Air Forces, 2 Assistant Secretaries of DOE, 2 Assistant Secretaries of the Treasury, 2 Under Secretary of Commerce, 2 from the National Military Command Center, 421 Congressional House & Senate staffers, 1,132 from specific military space agencies, 716 from various other military services, 126 diplomats & ambassadors, 92 from the State Department (including 9 Assistant Secretaries of State), 3,558 from various space-related defense contractors, 205 from the White House and National Security Council staffs, 103 from NASA (including their Chief Scientist), 27 astronauts, and 27 from The Vatican, among others.

 

Wow! Wild, huh? And here’s something else that’s crazy: I actually have quite a few of the listed individuals as personal connections, in some cases for many years. And by a few, I mean a lot, from the bottom ranks to the very top (not only Joint Staff, but Joint Chiefs), Commander of US Army in Europe, Commander of US Army Pacific, Commander of NORAD, various Assistant Secretaries of Defense, many Assistant Secretaries of States and so on. Life is just surreal sometimes. I really have little more to say except that I think I’ll actually post a list of the LI groups to which I currently belong, in arbitrary order, just to show you how diverse and frankly wacky my professional interests are…

 

The LinkedIn Groups I’m A Member Of And The Number of Members They Have At The Time I Am Admitted To The Group The Present (1/20/2020):

 

  1. EarthLink Alumni – 1,989
  2. CSULB Alumni Association – 10,159
  3. U of Tennessee Alumni Group-Official – 14,629
  4. Queens University of Charlotte – 1,273
  5. University of Tennessee, Knoxville – 23,024
  6. Project Manager Network – 854,417
  7. Society for Technical Communication – 11,738
  8. NetworkTN – 9,613
  9. Information Security Community – 398,124
  10. Technical Writing & Content Management – 13,628
  11. Entrepreneur’s Network – 60,675
  12. Consultants Network – 462,708
  13. IT & Software – 1,479
  14. Information Systems Security Association– 55,539
  15. IT Professionals – 224,675
  16. Cyber Security Forum Initiative (CSFI) – 110,311
  17. USENIX Association – 3,145
  18. Association of Old Crows – 10,920
  19. Telecom & Wireless World – 7,643
  20. Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) & Cyber Security – 61,354
  21. COO Executive Group – 5,621
  22. ISACA – 48,492
  23. AFCEA International – 6,663
  24. ASIS International – 100,050
  25. US Nuclear Energy Foundation (USNEF) – 22
  26. Cyber Intelligence Network – 31,403
  27. Military Intelligence Group: China Region – 2,578
  28. International Relations (IR) & Affairs Group – 100,479
  29. China Studies Group – 4,731
  30. The Intelligence Community – 71,801
  31. Cyber Law & Information Security – 13,229
  32. Quantum Computing – 6,838
  33. Chief Executives | CEO, COO, CFO, CTO & CXO – 81,788
  34. Cool Hand Nuke – 17,700
  35. Foreign Policy Discussion Group – 4,282
  36. Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning, Machine Learning – 280,931
  37. Quantum Mechanics/Physics/Theory/Leap/Computing Information Science! – 2,990
  38. Executive Suite – 342,854
  39. Cloud Computing, Cybersecurity, Saas & Virtualization – 493,061
  40. IACD – Integrated Adaptive Cyber Defense – 1,040
  41. Nuclear Security – 1,922
  42. ACM Members – 14,763
  43. Information Technology, FinTech, Blockchain and Bitcoin Innovation – 343,064
  44. Chronic Pain Management Support – 10,042
  45. Traumatic Brain Injury Support Group – 720
  46. Nuclear Power – the next generation – 46,719
  47. Asia Pacific Analysts, Consultants & Researchers Association – 2,144
  48. IETF – The Internet Engineering Task Force – 8,630
  49. Pittsburgh Penguins Fans – 2,487
  50. Artificial Intelligence – 53,917
  51. Cloud Security Alliance – 97,829
  52. Strategic Planning Society (SPS) – 55,865
  53. Big Data & Analytics – 378,331
  54. HISTORY – Practical History – 14,000
  55. Future Trends – 558,535
  56. Data Science Central – 303,965
  57. Nuclear Energy – 5,715
  58. Machine Learning & Data Science – 103,342
  59. Cloud Storage – 45,648
  60. EW, Countermeasures – 2,206
  61. European Commission – “External relations and foreign affairs” – 882
  62. Defense & Aerospace – 138,691
  63. The Virtualization & Cloud Computing Group – 97,535
  64. Science, Technology & Innovation Policy – 27,423
  65. Irregular Warfare Center of Excellence – 1,429
  66. Robotics and Machine Intelligence – 6,934
  67. Special Operations Research Association (SORA) – 345
  68. Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) – 6,724
  69. Business Intelligence Professionals (BI, Big Data, Analytics) – 244,491
  70. Private Military & Security Contractors – 11,984
  71. Digital & IT Strategy – 15,259
  72. Business Analysis – 13,773
  73. Neural Networks Club – 638
  74. Global SOF Foundation – 3,800
  75. APS Physics – 1,948
  76. The Business Technology Forum – 44,185
  77. INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY – 42,918
  78. CHINA Debate – 1,233
  79. IOSI: Counter-Terrorism & Geopolitical Security – 19,760
  80. NeuroScience Network – 6,528
  81. Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers (IISE) – 78,248
  82. IEEE Systems, Man, & Cybernetics Society (SMCS) – 62
  83. IEEE Robotics & Automation Society (IEEE RAS) – 23,225
  84. Military Space Warfare Discussion Group – 188
  85. Security, Intelligence & Risk Fusion Group – 363
  86. IEEE Computational Intelligence Society CIS – 5,141
  87. Technology & Society: the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) – 4,234
  88. American Association of Political Consultants – 10,610
  89. Creativity: Authors and Books | Artists and Paintings – 142,556
  90. Politics, Diplomacy, Communication & Protocol (Think Tank) – 585
  91. Sports Techie – 4,800
  92. Business Analysis – 13,776
  93. Defence IQ – 13,782
  94. Aerospace & Security & Defence Technology & Business – 45,724
  95. Space Situational Awareness – 730
  96. Military History & Strategy – 10,838

 

 

FORMERLY A MEMBER OF (at least 22 more in the past two years):

 

  • Knoxville Farragut HS Alumni
  • Writing Professionals and Authors
  • Network Chattanooga
  • IT & Startups
  • Online Sellers Community for eBay, Amazon,…
  • Senior Executive Exchange
  • The IT Entrepreneur
  • Global Business Leaders
  • Audiophile Enthusiast
  • LinkEds & Writers
  • Technical Writer Forum 
  • Vinyl Record Collecting Network 
  • Career Thought Leaders Consortium 
  • Film & TV Tech Professionals 
  • Positions for Scientists 
  • Cybercrime Today 
  • Technology Leaders Association 
  • Chief Strategy Officer 
  • Startup vs Corporate Innovation 
  • Data Driven Drilling & Production 
  • Advanced Clean Energy Summit 
  • Technology and Society: the IEEE Society on Social Implication of Technology (SSIT) 

 

 

[If, for some reason, you would like to confirm this information, you can find the people I follow, companies I follow and LI groups of which I’m a member at the bottom of my LI profile, like everyone else’s:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottholstad/.]

 

 

 

 

[The top section of my LinkedIn profile…]

 

 

 

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Book Review: Japan Rearmed: The Politics of Military Power

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 30, 2020

Japan Rearmed: The Politics of Military PowerJapan Rearmed: The Politics of Military Power by Sheila A. Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Before I say anything about this book, I need to confess I know the author (to whatever degree), highly respect her expertise on Japan (she’s the Council on Foreign Relations’ Senior Fellow for Japan), so this commentary and rating possibly may not be as reasonably objective as I try to make most of my ratings/reviews. That said, when she came out with this book recently, I was elated and dived in. It’s taken me a long time to work my way through because I have this horrible habit of reading far too many books simultaneously, which just slows everything down. And I’ve been meaning to contact her and give her some kudos for producing a great work here, but I’ve been too tied up to even keep up with people like I typically have over my life.

That said, I can hardly think of a more timely book. Particularly as it relates to the topic at hand. Millions (okay, maybe fewer, but still quite a lot) have been “China watchers” for years now and while it’s sensible, advisable, necessary, etc., to keep eyes trained on Beijing, and particularly as variables within the South China Sea become more clusterf*cked, more hostile, as the PLAN continues its progression into the India Sea, now being joined by Russia and Iran in a potential new axis of maritime adversaries, and as China has already tangled with the Philippines and Vietnam, and as India strives to become another possible regional hegemony, I think many of us in the west (understandably, perhaps) tend to lose track of some other states of import, most notably our longtime allies, at least one of whom is now feeling completely abandoned by the current US Administration and any defense agreements we’ve had since WWII (Australia), which I think is a travesty considering what a great and faithful ally Australia has been to the US over that time period, joining the US with only a couple of other states in fighting alongside us in the various “conflicts” we’ve found ourselves — unlike the vast majority of other, more “prominent” allies. Australia is so panicked that debate as been ongoing there on what to do regarding China, the Indo-Pacific region, and defense of their own country as they lack any form of serious navy, having built their defense doctrine on dependence on the USN. Which no longer looks like a sure thing, so major leaders are actually calling for the country to withdraw from the NPT and illegally go nuclear for survival’s sake! Which is a sad commentary.

Meanwhile, South Korea is facing its own challenges due to not only China, but their northern neighbors, whose leader seems cleverly insane. Plays a tough game. But the focus here is obviously the one that seems to get forgotten in all of these geopolitical games — Japan.

It’s great to see this major Asian/East Asian state that has been basically boxed into a corner it’s trying to get out of become the focus of some good new research and analysis produced and published just at the right time. Because for those caught up in the SCS BS going on daily, all too many people seem to neglect the games being placed in the ECS (East China Sea). Between China and Japan. Or more accurately, between the PLAAF/PLAN over the Senkaku Islands, or the Diaoyu Islands as the PRC insists on referring to them as, and the JCG and JASDF. And it couldn’t be any more stupid than this, but it is, and yes, it’s merely symbolic, but the fact that one state feels so aggressive about a group of small uninhabited islands that Japan legally owns, per international law and recognition, that it’s willing to take “testing” the much smaller and spreader thinned out JCG and JASDF by sending hundreds or even thousands of Chinese fishing boats into the contested waters or a larger number of aircraft buzzing the islands constantly, itching for an “opportunity” to do who knows what at the very plausible risk of a regional war that could spread once you bring contesting hegemonies into the equation … well, that’s either a sign of supreme confidence (maybe Pillsbury was right, but was too generous in his predictions of when the CCP would show its hand?), supreme stupidity if it actually is willing to risk a potential world war by hedging its bets the US won’t want to enter such a war merely because of decades-old defense commitments and treaties between the US and Japan (which is actually NOT a bad gamble on their part circa early 2020 as I write this), or typical CCP craftiness in pushing all as far as possible to get as much as possible by whatever means necessary — short of all out war. Which is my take on it at the present, but I’m willing to adjust that analysis as events transpire.

One may be a follower of issues, variables, geopolitical tensions, etc., throughout the greater Asian and East Asian regions, and they may be aware to some degree of what potential threat a burgeoning regional hegemony may present, but they may not possess the context Sheila provides in this book, such as how Japan has historically had its political and hence military hands tied when it came to defense spending, military building, etc., due largely to the constitution the US drew up for the country upon its surrender in 1945, and due to a combination of war guilt, the struggle to rebuild a country and economy, and to yes, abide by the constitution they now were governed by which has limited their ability and indeed desire to “go military.” And with China incessantly goading them eternally for the atrocities committed during the last century, the most famous of which was Nanking, those historically cautioning against appearing antagonistic in building up a (smallish) military for defense are now being countered by those who, like our other traditional allies in that area (such as Australia and South Korea), are getting sick and tired of Xi throwing his weight around yet fear if conflict comes, they’ll be on their own — hence the topic of the book titled “Japan Rearmed.” Frankly, there’s much more than simply what I’ve described or alluded to (and I’ve possibly even gone off track, inadvertently — a bad habit), but if I went into more, I’d be writing a book myself (another major element is merely the concept of an offensive militarized Japan with all of the possible regional implications that might entail…)! This is really one of the best books on the topic I’ve seen come along in a very long time. And again, so relevant and timely. I couldn’t urge people around the globe, let alone in the west and US, to read this more strongly than I am now, because I think it’s essential that we understanding the changing dynamics of a newly multi-polar world that’s been shifting to the east for over two decades. There are more variables than one cares to think about, but think about them one must (or should).

I feel like I didn’t do the book or the author sufficient justice in what I’ve written, but my health has sadly deteriorated to the point where I rarely write long, meaningful or in-depth book reviews like I did for many years, and I just don’t have the time and energy I once did. So my hope is the author will forgive any shortcomings in this review and will appreciate the overall spirit of support and enthusiasm I have for this book because I think it’s the best one I’ve seen published in the last several years amongst the Asian “experts” out there, no others being specifically named or mentioned at this time. Personally, there may be one or two experts out there who have very high profiles, and everyone seems to dote on every word they produce, but for my money Sheila Smith can think, research, analyze and write her way around all of them, and if this book isn’t proof, I’m not sure what would be. Most strongly recommended for those who are into international relations, Asia, East Asia, China, Japan, geopolitics, the growth of regional hegemonies, the global shift to the east, the dynamics being played out daily, etc. Literally one of the best of hundreds of books I’ve read over the past couple of years. Get a copy.

View all my reviews

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Finally! A Few (Brief) New Book Reviews

Posted by Scott Holstad on January 27, 2020

Those of you who have been with me for a long time may remember I used to constantly write book reviews, for years, and in some cases, some very thorough, comprehensive in depth ones that took a long time to write. Unfortunately, my health really plummeted a few years ago and has gotten progressively worse ever since. I’ve been blogging regularly since 2003, often on a daily basis, but typically several times a week over the whole time, and while I’ve written on many different topics, my book reviews have typically drawn the most viewers. So when I went a year without posting anything while trying to stay alive, once I returned in 2018 for sporadic visits back here — sadly — I discovered that I still had a good number of followers, and hadn’t lost virtually any — technically. What I did lose, though, was virtually my entire reader base. And even though it’s been two years, I’ve never recovered any reader base at all, which has left me conflicted because my health has gotten very worse with the prognosis not too great and I’ve closed nearly all of my social media accounts and have very limited time, strength, energy, etc., to interact with people, let alone write much of anything, let alone READ much of anything — at least not like I used to. Nonetheless, I’ve been enjoying trying to get some more reading in and I’ve been writing largely brief reviews for many of these books, most just junk, but some fairly decent. But I am starting to feel like why write or post anything on this blog at all if literally no one sees or reads it ever besides myself. I’ve known others in similar situations over the years and the usual stock response is to do it for yourself as a form of diary, if nothing else. And that’s how I’ve been treating it. But if my expected life span is not that long, why the hell would I want to waste my time writing or posting stuff here if no one literally sees or reads any of it??? It’s a waste of valuable time and energy that could be better spent in other ways. Thus, while I’m starting to seriously consider permanently stopping blogging after 17 years and deleting this, my last, blog, I’m still hoping to work on a couple of blog posts I’ve had planned for the past couple of weeks, but just haven’t been able to do so while I ponder things. So I thought Why not post a few little reviews from some recent ones I’ve put on Goodreads? Which might be a way to jump start me and inspire me to move on to the bigger projects I’ve had in mind. So, forgive the lack of quality my book reviews formerly had. I’ve been woefully out of practice for a long time. But for the one person who stumbles across this blog post and decides to glance at it, I hope you’ll see something remotely interesting at least. Thanks, and cheers!

 

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Doc: A MemoirDoc: A Memoir by Dwight Gooden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well, the book’s okay, but not actually what I was hoping for. I remember when this kid came up. What a hell of a rookie year he had (and his second year was basically as good if not more so). You want strike outs? Serious freaking heat! He went from a name to a recognized world sensation in a month! It wasn’t long after that, with Daryl Strawberry supplying the lumber and former Expo catcher, Gary Carter, smacking a few out while providing clubhouse leadership, that they beat the Red Sox to win their first World Series in 25 universes…? Seemed that way.

I’m not a Mets fan, but this kid — they were starting to call him “Doc” — was a once in a life-timer. And then he seemed to just start to fade away. Eventually disappear. 15 minutes.

I guess I wanted to really hear about his coming up to the majors and his incredible rookie year, and on to the Series, instead of opening the book to him passed out in a drug den doped up and too screwed up to make it to the stadium for the big game. It’s not that that’s not important or what Gooden clearly wanted to do with his book. And it’s his prerogative to do that, sure. But it’s my prerogative too, as a consumer, to not care too much because that scene has been written about a thousand times in a thousand sports and entertainer’s books, while few of them ever approached the level of success he had in his first two years. It’s not that his focus isn’t valid — it is. It’s just, been there, done that a million damn times with players not even worth 10% of him, and I just wanted to read about a rookie season for the ages. I’m actually kind of sick of all of these screwed up athletes ruining their careers and lives and then NOT writing about what made them interesting when they were able to play, but instead writing almost exclusively on how down the gutter they all fell and what it took for them to make it back. And again, I don’t want to invalidate that. I’ve got my own stories too. But when reading a memoir of an athlete of this stature, I really just don’t want another “Insert pages of last athlete’s memoir, replace author/athlete names with current one, change book jacket, sell.” They’re redundant after awhile, so you almost start to not care anymore because you become so desensitized to it. Which is sad. I only wanted to read something fun for once, something decent, exciting, celebrating an amazing accomplishment instead of just another book on an athlete destroying their careers and lives. Hell, I predicted this exact outcome, but as I write this, former Steeler All Pros Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell just finished their first season after “escaping” evil cheap little Pittsburgh and neither of them really understood that they WEREN’T the damn straw the stirred the drink — they were an overall part of the drink, every part of the drink is replaceable, and frankly, Brown’s bitching about Ben really ticked me off because without Ben throwing him the ball — and Ben had PLENTY of other high drafted, very talented people to throw to, many of whom went on to become 1,000 and/or Pro Bowl receivers, often with another team rather than staying with the Steelers for their entire career — like respectable Hines Ward did, Stallworth, etc. The point is, Brown owes practically all of his stats to the 6th best QB in NFL history and possible the best offensive line for any one decade in NFL history, with three annual All Pros, two other decade-long starters, 2-3 going to the Hall of Fame one day? They thought they could spit in Pittsburgh’s face for whatever greedy, elitist reasons and continue to duplicate their numbers nearly ANYWHERE else? They obviously don’t have good agents or advisers because I would have bet my house that neither would do crap and that they just nuked their careers and their once probably HOF destinies due to total idiocy. See, we see a few Doc’s every year. And it’s not that they’re story, especially if redemptive, isn’t good, valid or interesting. I just wanted a good view into that incredible year for once rather than the downside of fame and riches. A different take. On something that I actually care about because I’ve seen and been around enough misery throughout my life around this planet to think there’s too much special about the redemptive stories — a ton of people could write the same thing — but they are the only ones who can write about what it was that made them household names. Whatever, I guess it’s just me. It’s an okay book but I’m kind of over these types of celebrity autobiographies, so while I want to give this book two stars for ticking me off, that’s subjective and probably not fair to the author, so I’ll give it three, but know what you’re getting before you get it so you don’t make the same mistake I did…

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Being ThereBeing There by Jerzy Kosiński
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Postmodern brilliance. Stunning in what is says in what it doesn’t say. I actually prefer Kosinki’s The Painted Bird, which is a little more brutal, but I honestly think Being There is the author’s best truly “postmodern” work, translated well to the screen, and perfectly holds a mirror up to society. Will they even glance at it? I did. Kicked my ass. Couldn’t be more recommended, but for those you don’t like minimalist postmodern, you may find yourself bored, possibly not picking up on some subtleties, or simply unimpressed. Or you may actually walk away feeling more and more impressed the more you think about it. (In fact, I was so impressed with it that I wrote a short paper on it from a Reader Response position and it was published in a peer-reviewed, MLA-indexed journal: The Arkansas Review. It’s titled “The Dialectics of Getting There: Kosinski’s Being There and the Existential Anti-Hero.” It’s actually online somewhere, but I don’t know what the policy here for giving our URLs is, so if you’re interested at all, you cane either do a search or go to my blog listed on my profile (hankrules2011), with hyperlink, and find it listed among a few publications. Feel free to leave comments re your own observations, if you’ve read it. It’s definitely not a universally admired or appreciated text. Which makes it all the more delicious for me. 😉

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The Bomb: A New HistoryThe Bomb: A New History by Stephen M. Younger
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A lot of people seem to like this book, and it’s not that it’s not good — it is. It provides a solid history of how it came to be and what has happened since with some good technical details thrown in. And for those not already familiar with such information, it’s a good primer. However, in terms of the author’s present worldview, recent worldview, future worldview, again, while I don’t necessarily disagree, it simply seems a bit dated and it’s hard to believe this was published merely a decade or so ago, because this feels most definitely like an immediate post-Cold War book to me, and one wonders where the author has been the past 20 years… It’s like he hasn’t kept up with the changes he didn’t anticipate, or couldn’t have in 1990, but which were already taking place before he even published this book. Which again begs the question — are his assessments of present geopolitical conditions, military strategies, hegemonies, etc., accurate not only at the time of publication but today? I think most would argue, NO, they weren’t and aren’t. I feel fairly confident I could, most certainly. Which then begs the question of if he was and is so off base in his understanding of the present dynamics and his predictions of future dynamics and geopolitical likelihoods, how do we know how much to trust from this book, and further, is this book of any current relevant value? As a historical primer, it’s fairly well done. As a “New History,” it fails miserably. There are many better books out there and thus this is most definitely NOT remotely recommended.

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DeliveranceDeliverance by James Dickey
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

God, I can’t tell you how much I hate this book, nor how much disdain I have for Dickey. He represents, for me, everything that is wrong with both southern literary fiction and general “acceptable” and virtually ordained “literary fiction,” per the academic establishment officially set up to define what is “acceptable” and what is not “acceptable.” Gotta love these people claiming the title of judge and decider of such things so they can dictate not only to virtually all English professors what they can and can’t teach but to all students what is accepted and what is not. As well as to discriminate between those worthy of NEA grants, inclusion into the Academy of American Poets (yes, I was a member for years), etc. I recall asking a professor as an undergrad why we always had to study Dickey, Faulkner, Wharton, etc., but never Kerouac, Ginsberg, Rexroth, Bukowski, etc. The scorn was palpable as I received a lecture on true and acceptable literary work and its craft and value versus populist drivel writers. I recall thinking that very narrow minded, but as I continued in my academic studies, research, publishing, later teaching and even later deciding I hated the academic bullshit and got out of there, I’ve come to conclude the majority of these academic sheeple don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, are just trumpeting the party line, seem to think themselves worthy critics yet aren’t good enough to write and publish anything as good as, not only the authors they teach, but the extremely popular and successful writers they diss. Those who can’t write teach, yes? There’s a reason that saying came into being decades ago. And obviously it’s not that some English and writing professors don’t write or publish, but I’ve rarely met any who A) were successful at publishing more than a couple of small quickly forgotten useless pieces of academic, literary mainstream pathetic crap or B) who were successful at publishing more than a few books, and generally were well written, well crafted, but in the vein of much literary fiction/poetry, just flat out boring as crap. I recall when I was publishing prolifically one journal standing out especially as a stereotypical university journal that I hated so much, as did many of my friends and colleagues. The Southern Humanities Review, I believe, would often have issues that were full of little but poems with titles like “sunset at deer lake” or “robin at rest” or “sunrise at ‘x” mountain,” etc. It’s like, have none of you academic writers ever ventured outside your ivory towers or gone anywhere besides rural America? Do you love Walden that much? Because that’s not been my life nor the life of many I know and maybe that’s why I was always initially drawn to Sandberg’s Chicago poems and the grittiness of ACTUAL reality for so many people, followed by both reality and actual creativity and talent in Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind (the biggest selling book of poetry in US history), or Ginsberg’s infamous “Howl” and especially nearly any of Bukowski’s books. The fact that he was one of America’s most prolific poets, most successful and popular poets, and a continual best selling author in many other countries around the world, and that countless books have been written about him, movies made from his books and about him as well, etc., is irrelevant to those in charge of teaching, instructing and molding the minds and skills of students when in fact, virtually none of these people have the talent, skills, success and credits to even compete at all with Buk seems lost on them. Which should show you enough about their intelligence, knowledge and critical abilities. Crap, I really don’t know or care how good or not Deliverance is. It’s just always represented and been a symbol of all I view as wrong with the canon. It’s not that I think the topics they write about or some of the writers aren’t good or legit. I just take issue with these assholes simply casually dismissing non-rural, gritty populist fiction and poetry as illegitimate merely because so many of these deal with topics, issues, people, cities they dislike or don’t want to dirty their pristine hands with because I guess they’re too damn delicate to enter actual REAL life that so many millions in this country face every day, as opposed to their fairy tales spun and regurgitated as the only life experiences that contain validity. I’ve often wondered how these people would survive and what they would then write if they were placed in John Fante’s life, Bukowski’s life, Antler’s, my own for that matter… I would wager many of them simply couldn’t make it. Yeah, if you buy into the brainwashing, this book may be for you, and if you legitimately enjoy southern fiction or “legitimate” literary fiction, this book may be for you and more power to you. However, I’d implore any and all of you to not close your mind to others not in the “official” canon because if you haven’t stepped outside of the imposed boundaries, you might find yourself surprised by the creativity and talent out there. And you might not want to go back…

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Collected PoemsCollected Poems by Philip Larkin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I never really enjoyed or appreciated poetry — especially that of the “masters” they continually shoved down your throat year after year throughout your educational experience. I mean, is there any official academic ban of a little damn diversity in poets and poetry being taught??? I recall asking a couple of professors why we never read or studied certain prominent poets and got the reply that they weren’t worthy of it, weren’t good enough to take seriously, etc. So while I have far too much education and too many degrees, the fact is as always, tradition academics devoid of open minds and creativity continually decide the appropriate “canon,” simply by recycling the same shit every year. I grew to hate Dylan Thomas with a passion, felt like puking when reading Plath, took years for me to appreciate Yeats, etc. If they didn’t cram it down your throat every year, I don’t think I would have been a poetry-hating English major! Thankfully, one professor quietly pointed me to Larkin as a poet who might appeal to me, and he was right! While not every poem resonated with me, I found relief in Larkin and simply quality poetry that was generally overlooked or ignored in academia. Naturally, I read everything of his that I could. LOL! It wasn’t too long, though, before I stumbled across the two poets who would both shape my own life and my own writing: Ferlinghetti and Bukowski, both of whom I had the pleasure of later meeting and getting to know and I will always treasure the various autographed books and other things they each gave me, but I’ve often wondered if I would have even found them, let alone come to appreciate them so much, if it weren’t for Larkin in the first place. I continue to remain grateful to him and his poetry for helping me to turn away from my hatred of poetry by realizing that there were many legitimate alternatives from the same old dusty boring “masters” forever taught in the schools and who gives a damn what some Ivory Tower academic says about what is or is not acceptable quality — it’s purely subjective, and the fact is, both Ferlinghetti and Bukowski have been far more popular and successful than any other American poets, with the sole possible exception of Ginsberg. If you haven’t read Larkin, do so and I think you may find yourself surprised at what you read, ideally in a positive way. Obviously recommended.

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Last Exit to BrooklynLast Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is without doubt one of my favorite novels of the so-called Accepted literary canon. I also think it’s Selby’s best work. Loved it a bunch, but I’ve always gone that way, whether it was Sandburg and his grim Chicago streets or John Fante in downtown LA or Bukowski on skid row and most of William Burroughs’ early work, like Junky and Queer. Of course, there’s the so-called “shock” factor. I guess academics (and I was one for many years) are a bunch of wussies then, because if they think this one is rough, there’s much rougher out there and just for shock value alone, I invite anyone to read de Sade’s Juliette. I read it in college and it blew my mind. The cool thing about that one is besides the sickness and perversion, de Sade goes into a great deal of philosophical thought/dialogue that should make many of the Enlightenment crowd pretty impressed. So twice the bang for your buck! Seriously, if anyone thinks this is too shocking (and they do), they’ve been sticking too closely with Jane Austen (whom I like), and ought to get their intellectual feet wet beyond the kiddie pool. Strongly recommended!

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