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Book Review on Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America by Evan Carton

Posted by Scott Holstad on August 13, 2021

Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of AmericaPatriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America by Evan Carton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

John Brown. The John Brown Gun Clubs. He was controversial, hated by many, admired by some, likely a hero to many victims. A political/historical lightning rod. Some would agree he was a humanitarian and race patriot while possibly disagreeing with some of his methods and actions. Others will hate him and his legacy for eternity. I found his upbringing, strong convictions and willingness to do virtually anything and risk everything in order to do what he felt was not only right, but likely ethically and morally necessary. Yet while I agree with his views on the issues he faced and attacked, I remain bothered by one thing. He grew up in a very historically traditional Euro-American puritanical household, much like me in a stringent Calvinist family, much like many Americans historically. For these people, there is nothing but black/white, hot/cold, “right/wrong,” heaven/hell. In other words, no gray areas, no moderation, no compromise, and a total refusal to consider anyone else’s interpretation of their Christian religious beliefs (historically Calvinist or Calvin/Knox-influenced) could possibly be right when THEY are the only ones right. We’re talking many millions of Americans over the past 400 years up to today’s evangelicals/fundies. So while I think racism/slavery and his moral objections were right, the fact remains that Southern “Christians” used the very same holy book, the Christian Bible, to justify slavery and even argue Jesus/God demanded it — and like it or not (and I do not), Jesus (I think) and certainly Paul essentially condoned if not encouraged slavery in the letters, sermons, teachings, etc., attributed to them. So if John Brown was using the Bible as his moral compass for what ultimately started/resulted in the Civil War, he actually technically would likely have been very wrong! Which begs the question, if he (or anyone like him) were that fervent in America (like many other monotheists in other countries and cultures) to take one or more issues from their holy books and make it their lives’ obsession to the point of murders and even war, would anti-racists and progressives still support and praise him? Because then what would be the difference between them and “radical” Islamist jihadists? They’re referred to as extremists, but aren’t they possibly (because I’m not entirely sure) acting the most accurately of that faith in following through on their holy book’s teachings? Despite their methods and actions, which the rest of the world does not condone and for which they are termed terrorists? Wouldn’t US evangelicals, who took extreme views (and too many do) possibly using their holy book (too many of them don’t since virtually ALL of them cherry pick the hell out of anything and EVERYTHING they assert is required or banned by God while they conveniently ignore their god’s words and commands on many things they don’t like or agree with, proving them to be the worst of hypocrites) as justification to become a type of American Taliban? I mean, what’s the damn difference? So my concern with John Brown — and I’m EXTREMELY anti-racist/antifascist and I support the John Brown Gun Clubs — is that if he had chosen to focus on a different issue to the extremes that he did using the Christian bible as his justification, what if for example he had theoretically decided it was NECESSARY to practice a form of genocide on ALL known or suspected gay/lesbians in America, as well as any other issue he felt personally strongly about, strong enough to become a mass murderer while hero to many?

And just to drive that example in harder to make my point while also being 100% accurate in my descriptions of most influential US Christians today, what if he felt so strongly about “The [Jewish] Law” — because Jesus is quoted as stating he came to [earth] to abide by and follow The Law, a fact that is conveniently glossed over by nearly every Christian alive as they tell everyone that while the assertions that homosexuality is an “abominable sin” as seen in the Sodom story — in the Old Testament (“the JEWISH Bible”) — and some are willing to kill over that [as well as abortion], a) neither of which Jesus ever mentioned while instructing his followers to care for the old, sick and poor over 160 times in the Gospels and b) I’ll probably get shot for writing this, but the majority of practicing Jews are pro-choice and they are because they are largely convinced that the Judeo-Christian god is NOT opposed to it and hence is (essentially) pro–choice himself (sorry for the male pronoun). Before you firebomb my house, I know you Christians violently disagree, and for over 50 years one major reason I’ve heard my whole life is that it’s “Murder” (and millions of babies have been murdered because of it) … why? Because naturally life begins at conception, and of course God certainly made it that way, so we need to harass women who may be seeking one and kill doctors who perform them. Right? Uh, no. And you don’t know why because Christians not only don’t read their holy book, the Bible (they read convenient little devotionals with a couple of verses instead), but they sure as hell don’t read the Old Testament because it’s obsolete and doesn’t count cause it’s the “Jewish Bible” and the “angry” god of the OT changed to the Jesus/God of love and peace in the New Testament (which is an entirely different topic, but they’re wrong about that too, per his own words, but since they don’t read their bibles, they don’t know that).

Well, let’s address several things so I can return to John Brown. 1) If the Old Testament no longer counts (and I’ve heard that from hundreds to thousands of conservative Christians around the world — it is not a minority belief), then why fight to the death over OT homosexuality and perceived OT abortion issues? Why not fight to the death about shrimp if you’re going to be consistent? Or facial hair? It’s the epitome of cherry picking and it’s so hypocritical it’s almost beyond comprehension of any reasonably intelligent person. 2) The second point is Christians are wrong about the OT’s current lack of relevance besides anything but a history text. It’s THEIR bible and their god and you know why? Jews do. YOUR god states pretty damn strongly that he is the LORD God and HE DOES NOT CHANGE! Not then, not in the first century (CE), not today. So morons, just because you think Jesus is a better, different version of God, you’re wrong on two counts because your god states unequivocally he does NOT change and Jesus (God) was NOT about peace and love, but he stated he came [to earth] bringing a sword as he intended to destroy the family unit and turn family member against family member while also instructing his disciples to go out and buy swords. That wasn’t for catching fish. 3) Your god does NOT say life begins at conception and using that entity and the holy book you don’t read as justification for that assertion and the evil acts you do is dead wrong. I don’t have time to look the OT passage up (it may be in Isiah, but it’s been months since I read it — on my 18th reading of the entire bible from front to back), but you can look it up yourselves. Many/most traditional/orthodox Jews are pro-choice because there is a passage in “their” OT bible where God is attributed with instructing the chosen people that Life Begins At Birth — NOT conception! Doubt me? Upon birth, God breathes the Breath of Life into a newborn. Not in the womb, not in some magical holding place where spirits wait to get little bodies one day. You don’t like what you just read? Not my problem, not my fault. It’s YOUR god, your religion, your holy book — not mine. Many believe the Bible is the “inherent word of God” (and seeing their theologian apologists twist hard to explain the millions of contradictions to meet that standard is hilarious; one quick example is asking which creation story/myth do you believe and why? What, I’m the fool who thinks there’s more than one? Um, read the first two chapters of Genesis and you’ll find two different creation myths, so WHICH IS IT if the bible is the “inherent word of God?”).

Okay, almost back to the book except I still haven’t made my extreme theoretical point I mentioned long ago to drive that example in harder about Brown’s reliance on the Christian Bible for his moral code to justify his belief and actions regarding slavery. What if he were as devout as is claimed but instead of slavery (or the homosexual example I provided), he felt just as strongly about the Old Testament commandment that children are to obey and honor their parents so that if they somehow fail, all families (Abrahemic monotheists — such as Christians) are instructed to take them out and stone them to death? What, crazy? Don’t believe me? Read the damn Bible, the OT, cause that’s in there! And yes, it’s a crazy example, but that was my intent.

So if John Brown, relying on his Puritanical religious background and belief system did not decide to take on slavery but instead felt just as strongly about the previous example commandment, we wouldn’t have clubs and erect statues in his honor then if he had gone around stoning kids to death for back talking their parents! Thus while I essentially admire and support his conviction and legacy, if not his actions, it’s because I believe them to be morally correct. But I fear that if he had chosen a different controversial issue to engage in the same type of actions and outcomes using his religion to justify everything, I would seriously hate his guts and any legacy he left, because he could have become a Christian Hitler — basically what most current American evangelicals want out of Donald Trump and his fascist, white christian nationalist ilk as they proudly scream publicly that they intend to “exterminate” all minorities, immigrants (despite ALL of them coming from immigrants themselves), people of color, non-“Christians” (as if they know a damn thing about their religion, as I’ve repeatedly proven within a minute of talking to any of them), and most especially Democrats, progressives, liberals, etc., or simply everyone not like them. Do you see my point? He did the right thing, but he justified it with the wrong source, because that same source was used to justify the very reason he basically went to war, as well as millions of other historic atrocities in general, so he could simply have used that same source and “moral code” allegedly arising from it to justify any violent actions to and against anyone for any reason. And that has always bothered me about any such person and a legacy I otherwise admire as I, too, call him a true patriot. Thank goodness he actually acted more as a humanist — dare I say secular humanist? — than a stereotypical monotheistic religionist, because then he might have become a historical monster just as Hitler did as he (and Mussolini) made deals with the Pope to protect the Pope’s constituents provided the Pope supported, or at least remained silent, about what they were freaking doing. Oh, and I think I recall that Hitler grew up Catholic while many of the soldiers in the German Wehrmacht were devout Lutherans. Under the belief they were acting on behalf of Christianity and the Christian god while becoming devils (metaphorically) in the process.

I feel John Brown did the right thing and I admire him, and I admire his absolute commitment and the moral code he had in order to do what I and many others view as “the right thing” in fighting against slavery and freeing slaves. Yet I worry a part of me will always be bothered that his Calvinistic religious beliefs could instead have been twisted, much like many claim Islamic jihadists have, while showing the same level of commitment to other religious commandments as he chose to interpret them… Anyway, this book? It’s one of the better books on Brown that I’ve read. Definitely recommended.

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A Review of “The Emperor’s Assassin”

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 19, 2021

The Emperor's AssassinThe Emperor’s Assassin by Autumn Bardot
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an admittedly subjective and biased comment, but while I know people who like this book and historical fiction in general, I can’t do it. It’s not just I don’t like historical fiction. That is true, but not the problem. The problem is simply that I’ve always been a serious student of history, am a member of two professional history orgs (like AHA), feel it’s essential to study the past for a zillion reasons, most of which should be obvious except to Americans who are generally too lazy, stupid and apathetic to read any history. If I had a dollar for every time I actually heard someone say something like they didn’t know anything about WW I and didn’t care, didn’t know anything about WW II because “it didn’t matter or have any impact on their life or work,” which I once found stunning but now sadly expect and this side from what should be obvious to most (read Philip Dick or P Roth to get an idea of other potential realities we could be living in if tens of millions of people hadn’t sacrificed everything). In fact a few times I’ve gotten so ticked that the old professor in me kicked in so I gave a few bored 4.0 GPA accounting, economics, etc., students an hour lecture off the top of my head going decade by decade outlining basics that have transpired so that, yes, it did and DOES impact you and your job, you apathetic dumbass! The worst though are the few who told me they didn’t even know who was in the damn Vietnam War. I didn’t bother, there’s no hope. All I could say was “Well, they spot you one of the countries just in the name of the war!”

So is there a point? Yes. Historical fiction is not history, it’s not accurate nor is it intended to be. It is nothing but fantasy out of the author’s head who is using elements of some historical events as a backdrop for their story. In a sense then it’s genre fiction like sci fi, horror, fantasy, thriller, etc., all of which have their legitimate place, but the backdrop-purported historical environment may be nice, realistic or cool, but since the author is making a story up and simply surrounding it with the façade of a semblance of historical reality, they could just as easily put unicorns, spaceships, monsters and the like in and with a “legit” historical backdrop, there would likely be little difference between such absurdities and dragons, rumored by many to have once existed. The author is writing a fantasy but if I want to read fiction, I’ll read fiction. If I want history, I don’t want some fairytale – I want serious nonfiction! So yes I know I’m probably in the minority and probably sound grumpy as well, but I think I have a case and I’m sticking to it. Otherwise I recommend it for those who like the genre.

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On Aristotle’s “Politics”

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 30, 2020

PoliticsPolitics by Aristotle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Doesn’t live up to his reputation. But then, some feel he himself didn’t live up to his reputation. Or more realistically, that there were others possibly more deserving of his reputation and legacy. I believe many scholars have determined Democritus (with his mentor Leucippus) were actually more influential, accurate, knowledgeable and diverse, among other things. Noted virtually universally as the “father of modern science,” through Leucippus’s influence, he is often thought to be the first physicist, as he is typically credited for his formulation of an (detailed) atomic theory for the universe. In fact, his atomic hypothesis was developed to such a degree, and unlike anything else at the time, bore a resemblance to modern science and one could essentially argue that what we know, or learned, about atomics in the twentieth century was directly influenced by Democritus’ atomic theory, which in many ways remains the basis for current atomic physics. Moreover, he dabbled and proved influential in a number of other areas, ranging from geometry specifically and math in general to geography and anthropology to the importance and essence of epistemology to scientific aesthetics to politics and natural philosophy (of course), where he seemed especially concerned with the subject of ethics, to military tactics as well as cosmology, poetry, biology and many, many more subjects — really the first true Renaissance man. Really kind of puts some better known philosophers to shame (not that some weren’t also geniuses — it’s just that many people can’t find many in history, and virtually none before Democritus to explore and master such a wide variety of subjects. Indeed, his “void” thesis lived on to influence Newton and continued to hold that influence basically until Einstein).

However, regarding this book by Aristotle, while this was a subject he was well versed in and despite this book being a bit dated, it was still fairly well done for the times, had some good ideas, thoughts, points, etc. Unfortunately, there’s always been some controversy surrounding it due to some textual irregularities and discrepancies in some of the eight “books” making up this book, or rather what remains of them. (Some of the major topics among these different books include ideas about community, citizenship, regimes, education, constitutions and political theory, among others.) However, this to the point that some have argued the book represents seemingly two different versions, or perhaps stages, in Aristotle’s thoughts, beliefs, positions, etc., and the two opposing sides seem so varied, almost oppositional, that IF Aristotle even wrote the entire thing himself, it’s likely he would have done so over a long period of time, so that a significant period of time elapsed between the first and later sections, thus explaining its inconsistencies and, one might say, possibly two different belief systems. Thus, I’m only giving it two stars because even though it might otherwise merit three at least, the problems noted make it difficult to have confidence regarding sufficient authenticity, consistency and more, and frankly results in a poor book in its known form and hence one of his lesser works. As a result, not recommended.

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Some More Book Reviews

Posted by Scott Holstad on February 8, 2020

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 of 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 can 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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MashMash by Richard Hooker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always loved this book! I think it was a unique and special book for its time, a lightweight counter to the heavy stuff going on around it, such as Catch 22, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, A Clockwork Orange and the like, all of which are great, but are a reflection of their times, as well as what was going on socially, culturally and politically in the US, particularly with Vietnam — and Hooker using Korea as an obvious substitute in his commentary on such things couched in humor. The beauty of this novel is, it DOES allude to and address some really serious issues and things, similarly to the other books mentioned, but again, differently so that one didn’t feel so threatened, to use an odd description of possible/probable reader response to others of that time. Brilliant, IMO. And of course, the TV show that came out of the movie that came out of this book was one of the best loved TV shows of all time, including by me as a major fan, so the book set off a chain of awesome (cinematic) events that impacted millions of people, largely in a good way. So while most people probably wouldn’t consider this novel as more than a cheap comedy, I tend to see much more value in it and I’ll stand behind that as long as I’m alive. Definitely recommended!

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The Late Great Planet EarthThe Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Utter trash! I still can’t believe how this POS swept over America during the 1970s, resulting in millions, I’m sure, for Lindsey, that asshole, as well as a horrible POS wildly fantastic, mythological horror show of a movie that was traumatic as shit to kids like me and others I knew whose fundie parents forced them to go see it. In retrospect, it was a total joke, a hoax, and Lindsey was and remains an utter fraud. Personally, I think those of us who are “fundie survivors” from the 1970s — and there are a LOT of us: read Seth Andrews — should file class action lawsuits against Hal and his publisher, as well as those assholes responsible for that shitty movie, A Thief In The Night, which traumatized me and tons of people and kids like me, not only at that time, but to this day, resulting in decades of therapy which has never been effective, scarring me for life. Another target of a wished for class action lawsuit would be the publisher of those damn Chick tracts, which also scared the shit out of me and most of the other people I knew. All those awesome cartoons and drawings of demons, the flames of Hell, drugged out ’70s hippies destined for Hell, etc. All of these and much more contributed to fucking ruining my life and tens of thousands like me, of driving us away from fundie/evangelicals forever, of feeling nothing but disgust and disdain, if not outright hatred for the hypocritical, lying fire and brimstone manipulators trying to use prehistoric rubbish to scare everyone possible into doing their damn will (and filling their pockets at the same time). I’ll never forgive them and I’ll never forgive Lindsey for this wretched joke of a piece of total shit book that did so much permanent damage to untold legions of people. If you wonder why people are leaving the churches in the US in droves these days and why over 20% of the American population are called the “Nones,” as in no church, no mythological supernatural tooth fairy in the sky, etc., you can thank Lindsey, those responsible for the other atrocities mentioned here, and the assholes who carry on their tradition, like Tim Lehay , who field a softer brand, but still put through the same apocalyptic message (while raking in millions on the side). If it were possible, I wouldn’t give this book a “0” – I would give it a “-1,000” or onward to infinity. If you value reason, logic, sanity, human decency, facts, etc., and if you frown upon or even despise those theistic religionists (particularly conservative Christians in the western world) who use terms like “love,” “morals,” “peace,” “family values,” etc., when they’re too lazy and stupid to read their own holy book and discover the atrocities committed by the god of the old testament while claiming their Jesus was a holy man of peace and love, while he stated he came with a sword to split up families and turn parents against children, etc., bragged that he spoke in parables so his idiot disciples literally wouldn’t be able to understand anything he said, and left no writings or proof of his existence, and none from any witnesses were ever written down so much could be said about the gospels, etc., aside from the millions of literal lies, discrepancies, untruths, fraud, etc., in their holy book and especially the new testament, then by all means, avoid this idiocy. I couldn’t recommend it any less than I am doing now. Truly one of the most despicable books in history by one of the most despicable humans in history… If there were an actual hell their mythology describes, he and his ilk would be destined for it.

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Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Not remotely impressed. For two primary reasons, among others. One, this just seems like a lot of fluffy filler. I have no idea how Godin made this into a full length book because I just got the feeling a decent, well thought out and written magazine article would have sufficed and even been more successful, perhaps. More importantly, I disagree with the title, premise and some possible conclusions that may be drawn from the book’s thesis.

OBVIOUSLY there are typically “linchpins” in most companies and certainly most successful companies. That should be so transparently understood that I fail to see the necessity in even writing a book about it at all. However, I learned early in my business career, initially from advisors and mentors, later from employers and bosses, and sadly, from personal experience as well as witnessing such with various colleagues in many companies and businesses — the thing that was drilled into my head from the beginning both verbally and through observation and experience — is that NO ONE is EVER indispensable! To think someone is, is utterly foolish, totally naive, completely wrong, and places too much value on “linchpins,” whom while no matter how valuable, can ALWAYS be replaced — I’ve seen it dozens of times at companies throughout the country from the lowest on the rungs to the very highest, at Founder, President and CEO, etc.

So, I have well over 30 years of business experience and I’ve seen this play out too many times to count. I’ve seen teachers with experience, great success and tenure get sacked. I’ve seen founders of startups that quickly grew into multimillion dollar public companies get dumped by the board. No One is Indispensable! I literally have only seen one person at one company who very likely may have been and was treated as such and who basically calls the shots as VP Engineering — after her former boss, the VP of Engineering with multiple degrees from Georgia Tech — was let go to move her up. Bizarre world… Book? Not recommended.

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Strange Attraction: The Best Of Ten Years Of ZyzzyvaStrange Attraction: The Best Of Ten Years Of Zyzzyva by Howard Junker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to confess that during my decades of writing several hours a day, 362 days a year, and submitting work to hundreds, thousands of zines, journals, magazines, publications around the world and during my decades of prolific success, while I had a very good acceptance percentage and was fortunate enough to be published in many high quality literary journals as well as newspapers, commercial magazines and more, there were really very few “major” ones I actually liked to read. I know that sounds nuts, but I was never a big fan of the New Yorker or the Paris Review, nor the Southern Humanities Review, Ploughshares, etc. Too damn mainstream, too much a party of the only “acceptable” literary canon, as defined by those who thought and think they are the official arbiters of such. Most of whom are idiots with no talent.

However, there were some journals, as well as many zines, magazines and the like, that I DID look forward to, often because they weren’t so freaking obsessed with calm ponds, chirping robins, lovely deer in the forest, calm lake waters and all that bullshit. At a minimum, they’d publish a diverse selection of material and writers, typically mixing the totally unknown with the most famous around. And on more topics of interest, relatable to me and others who weren’t Black Mountain fans, and Zyzzyva was one of them. Some others included Exquisite Corpse, New York Quarterly, Long Shot, Wormwood Review, Chiron Review, Caffeine, ONTHEBUS, Rattle, Poetry, Asheville Poetry Review, Main Street Rag and several others. The interesting thing about Zyzzyva was it centered largely on West Coast writers, and that intrigued me even before I became a West Coast writer!

Zyzzyva was a large, beautiful perfect bound book-sized journal and Junker, as editor, picked some great stuff, a nice fairly diverse selection of works, with a great mix of writers, and it was one of the few I read through cover to cover. I must admit though that one of my great publishing disappointments was I could never get Howard to accept ANY of my stuff, and I submitted annually for years! And I couldn’t figure out why because he published a ton of writers I was often published with in other magazines. It didn’t make any sense. But every editor is different and frankly it’s often subjective. Sometimes you like a person’s work and never another’s, no matter how qualified or whatever. I was an editor and publisher myself for some years, so I know what I’m talking about. There were two sides to this. On one hand, if various literary journals rejected me a couple of times, I usually crossed them off my list and moved on, but there were – for reasons I still don’t know – some others out there that I continued to submit to every damn year for YEARS, both hoping and convinced they’d eventually accept some of my work, only to be rejected annually by 98% of them. It was disheartening. It’s been a long time and I forget virtually all of them, but I do recall one was Arizona State’s Haydens Ferry Review, the annual issue of ONTHEBUS – and Jack Grapes, the editor, was a freaking friend of mine! – the Sierra Nevada Review (seriously???) and a few others. One that finally accepted my work after over a decade of submissions was Emory University’s Lullwater Review. Funny, that… And so Zyzzyva was one of these journals.

Conversely, there were some high quality writers, editors, magazines, journals and zines that liked me personally, liked what and how I wrote, liked my work and in some cases, loved to publish me constantly. As in the opposite of the example I just gave in the previous paragraph. Some of the writers and editors who seemed to like me included the great Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gerald Locklin (author of over 125 books, as well as editor), Michael Bugeja at Writer’s Digest, who liked to quote me as an SME in the annual Poet’s Market they published, the incredible Charles Bukowski, the longtime editor of the esteemed Poetry Magazine, Joseph Parisi (who amusingly secretly confided in me that he loved my work but worried that some might be “too much” for the traditional Poetry Magazine reader, which I thought was funny and it made me happy to see people like myself and the most openly anti-establishment poet around – Bukowski – start to appear in Poetry and other high quality literary journals, in some cases with the editors gritting their teeth, I’m sure), Black Flag’s Henry Rollins, who was publisher of his own press, and many others. And as stated, there were some journals and magazines that seemed to like to publish my work regularly to constantly in virtually every issue. Some of these included Chiron Review, Caffeine (where I regularly appeared alongside Bukowski), Hawaii Review, Pearl, Long Shot, Finland’s Sivullinen (and many other Finnish magazines, where they often shockingly put me on their covers alongside Bukowski – I mean photos and everything!), Belgium’s De Nar, Poetry Ireland Review (with Seamus Heaney, and they paid very well!), the infamous longtime punk magazine, Flipside, whose poetry editor loved my stuff, the famous horro magazine, Wicked Mystic (they paid well), L.A.’s big Saturday Afternoon Journal, music magazine Industrialnation, and a number of others.

The point? The point is that while I was very successful, pretty well known around the world in those kinds of literary circles, appeared regularly in publications featuring Ginsberg, Bukowski, Amiri Baraka, Ted Berrigan, William Burroughs, and other heavyweights, I felt I *should* have been good enough to have my work appear in most publications I submitted to — because I did so strategically, avoiding those I knew wouldn’t like my style or my stuff — and so Zyzzyva remained a constant disappointment for me as a writer because I could not understand at all why Junker wouldn’t publish me when he published so many others in my various circles. But I never let that disappointment ruin my appreciation for and love of that journal, and while I’ve not seen it in a long time, I’ll always remember it fondly and with great respect. If you missed out on it, I recommend looking up old issues, or perhaps … of course, getting this book because Howard picked an assortment of quality writers and material to appear in these pages, so I strongly recommend it.

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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!

 

 

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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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My Years In Books: 2019

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 24, 2019

Every year, I participate in the Goodreads Annual Reading Challenge. At the beginning of each year, you set a goal for how many books you’ll read that year. Goodreads keeps track of your running total and then lets you know how you’ve done and what percentage of your goal you met. You can also see other participants in the Reading Challenge. Each year, they provide an end of year webpage showing your stats, how you did, etc. For some reason, they recently decided to make them only able to share to a few social network sites where I no longer have accounts. I remain annoyed by this, so I’m doing the next best thing for the second straight year. (And you can see my blog entry for 2018’s results here:  My Year In Books: 2018.) I’ve taken several screenshots showing information like what they describe as your “Year in Books,” parts of the webpage showing how many books, pages, etc, you read that year, the average length of the book, etc., my 2019 Reading Challenge results, my Reading Challenge results since 2013 and something I’ve never done before — an intro to the webpage of My Year in Books because as you’ll see, my numbers are tremendously skewed up this year and are thus somewhat deceptive, so I felt obligated to explain. For what it’s worth, I set my 2019 reading goal at 90 books. Goodreads is reporting I read 443 books, or 492% of my original goal. Like I said, I wrote an explanation because while I exceed my goal every year, it’s never by that much and there are a couple of reasons why this year’s numbers aren’t completely accurate. So I’m going to post these screenshots for you to see. If you want to see the actual books I read this year, you can go to my Goodreads profile here. (I believe you have to be a logged in member to view it, however…)

And now, the promised screenshots. Comments are welcome…

 

2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge

My Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge Results

 

 

 

My Goodreads All-time Annual Reading Challenge Results

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My Year In Books: 2019”

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My Year In Books: 2019” — Introduction

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“My Year In Books: 2019” — End Of Webpage

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge

 

 

 

 

 

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My Year In Books: 2018

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 29, 2018

Every year, I participate in the Goodreads annual Reading Challenge. At the beginning of each year, you set a goal for how many books you’ll read that year. Goodreads keeps track of your running total and then lets you know how you’ve done and what percentage of your goal you met. You can also see other participants in the Reading Challenge. Every year until now, they’ve provided an end of year webpage, showing your stats, how you did, etc. For some reason, this year they did not. I am very irritated by this, so I’m doing the next best thing. I’ve taken a few screenshots of 1) what they show as your “Year in Books,” a similar webpage showing how many books, pages, etc, you read that year, the average length of the book, etc., 2) my 2018 Reading Challenge results, and 3) my Reading Challenge results for the last five years. I’m going to post these screenshots for you to see. If you want to see the actual books I read this year, you can go to my Goodreads profile and see the section on the left middle part of the page. You can find my Goodreads page here.

And now, a few screenshots of my year in books and my reading challenge(s)!

 

Goodreads-2018-Reading-Challenge-Results

Goodreads-Alltime-Results-Reading-Challenge

 

My-Year-In-Books-Goodreads-2018

 

That’s it! If you participated in the Reading Challenge, let me know how you did. Also, what is your 2019 goal? Cheers, everyone!

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Book Review: The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America’s Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest

Posted by Scott Holstad on December 17, 2018

The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America's Civil Religion Betrayed the National InterestThe Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America’s Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest by Walter A. McDougall

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn’t like this book. And my criticisms are probably unfair, because the author most likely accomplished what he set out to do. I think I merely misinterpreted or misunderstand the primary thrust of where the thesis was going. I had been hoping for a general history of America’s “civil religion” over the years through the present, but especially focusing on the Reagan years through the present, and I guess I expected some analysis which would frankly be somewhat critical of the present situation.

Now before you jump on me to tell me that that is exactly what happened in this book, let me admit that I gave up and stopped reading before I got too far in. So if the author did what I expected, it’s my own fault for giving up. However, I literally have hundreds of books here waiting to be read, and I’m in the middle of reading over 100 at the present, so I really don’t have the time or patience for authors who micromanage their topics to death, particularly when a layman’s book is being somewhat treated as an academic book. Because this was detailed freaking history starting in the 1600s, going excruciatingly slow, unbelievably boring, and to be honest, while it’s fine for historical authors to be objective and not have an agenda, on the whole, the very title of this book implied a definite agenda, one with which I’d probably agree. Yet, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell what the author felt, believed, perceived, was advocating — nothing!!! — as he proceeded to regale the reader with amazingly boring trivial shit! And trust me, I don’t claim to be the smartest person around, but I’m not entirely dumb either. For instance, I’m presently reading books in fields such as public policy, nuclear engineering, religion (especially the primary theistic ones), atheism, philosophy, history, business, blockchain technology, network engineering, espionage, biographies, science, fiction, poetry, cryptography, culture, international relations, think tanks, hardware, software development, health, machine learning, AI, electronic warfare, limited nuclear warfare, radar signal processing, management consulting, quantum mechanics & quantum computing, among other topics. Trust me — I can handle details, I can handle boredom, I can handle a lot of “difficult” material. Sometimes I want to quit reading a couple of these other book — one nuclear engineering book is killing me, and one book on microwave RF design is boring — but I rarely have any questions as to the thesis of the books, the authors’ stances or where they stand on issues, what their agendas are, etc. And while I obviously know sometimes you have to work hard to reach certain points, this damn book simply seemed pointless to me. Mere American religious and political history. Ho hum. Pretty much know those fields already. By heart. I thought this would be a little more cutting edge, and again, perhaps it is, but dammit, give me a reason to reach the point in your book where you venture into uncharted territory! Otherwise, I’ve got better, more educational, more stimulating, more challenging books to read — piles of them. So for those of you who read this book in its entirety and came away impressed, please enlighten me as to why I am mistaken in my response to the book. In any event, I can’t possibly recommend this book. I’m sure there are alternatives that do a much better job. I’m extremely disappointed. Two stars.

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Some Short Book Reviews

Posted by Scott Holstad on November 25, 2018

I have a ton of books to review, ideally as many as possible before the end of the year. And my health has been extremely bad, so it’s hard for me to find the time, energy or inspiration to write any. However, today I got a few knocked out, leaving me with just over 150 more (!), so I thought I’d post them all here in one blog post, as they’re all fairly short. Cheers!

 

Forged: Writing in the Name of GodForged: Writing in the Name of God by Bart D. Ehrman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this a fascinating book and really loved it. Much of it was new to me when I started, but for some reason, I set it aside for awhile while I read other books. And some of these other books went on to assert some of the same things I found Ehrman referring to when I later picked up the book to finish. That doesn’t diminish the research or quality of the material, but it does mean some of it isn’t as “original” as I had previously thought, which is the reason I’ve knocked it down from five stars to four. Still, if you want to learn the “real” story of many of the books of the Bible, particularly the New Testament, when they were actually written, who did and did not actually author so many of the books, this is an excellent source. Definitely recommended.

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God Needs To Go: Why Christian Beliefs FailGod Needs To Go: Why Christian Beliefs Fail by J.D. Brucker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This short book is decent, not bad, and makes good and legitimate points. The author’s sections include 1. The Absence of Eternity, 2. The Birth of Ignorance, 3. The Flawed Logic in Modern Miracles, 4. The Error in Faith-Based Morality, 5. The Myth of Intelligent Design, 6. The Imaginary End, and 7. My Fall from “Grace.”

While I enjoyed reading it, however, I couldn’t help but think that these are largely issues that have already been addressed, mostly in more detail, depth, and intellectual mastery, by other authors out there, so aside from my feeling good about seeing another (reader-friendly) atheistic book on the market, I don’t feel like it truly contributes too much, certainly little new. Thus, while again I enjoyed it, I can’t help but view it as an average book, and am thus giving it three stars. If you have not yet read Barker, Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, and some of the others, this may be a good intro, but I would quickly move on to the meatier resources out there. Cautiously recommended.

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The Templars: The Secret History RevealedThe Templars: The Secret History Revealed by Barbara Frale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s hard for me to decide what I think about this book. For virtually my entire life, I’ve heard and read rumors, stories, and myths about the mysterious Knights Templar, and most people know about the Holy Grail and have heard stories that the organization continues to secretly exist to the present day. When I got this book, I wasn’t exactly looking for or expecting to find these stories were justified. However, while I admittedly did enjoy learning about how the Templars were founded, and for what reasons, and the qualities one had to have and the sacrifices one had to make in order to become one, this book then quickly turned into basically a dry textbook of history, places, several events, politics, culminating in a very disappointing (for me) end to what had been an admirable organization, complete with confessions tortured out of the Templars who had been arrested due to political BS between the King of France and the Pope. It was further disappointing to learn that at least some of the confessions were true, as in the Templars’ secret initiation rites, which I cannot believe were original, had degraded into something undeserving of the name and purpose of the organization, and personal requirements and standards had been lowered to recruit new members, thus making for a lack of morals in some that would have probably gotten an original Templar killed by his fellows. It was also disappointing to learn of such a once-splendid organization’s demise, and as the primary author was granted access to the “secret” Vatican files, it’s highly likely that the reports of its termination as an organization are and were indeed true, thus destroying my youthful fantasies of a super-secret organization existing over the centuries to the present, exercising power in all sorts of areas. Like I originally stated, I knew that was essentially a myth, but it was still disappointing to read the historical truth.

This is a well-researched, and professionally written history of a fascinating organization that was quite powerful for several hundred years and which still interests numerous people til this day. The writing gets fairly dry at times, even boring, but there’s enough good details and history in it to make it worth reading. I’d give this book a solid four stars and state that it’s recommended.

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Sid Gillman: Father of the Passing GameSid Gillman: Father of the Passing Game by Josh Katzowitz

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve always heard about Sid Gillman my whole life, and about how he “invented” football’s passing game. Yet when the great coaches are mentioned, he’s rarely, if ever, included. I’ve always wanted to know why, and I’ve always wanted to know some real details about him. Thus my excitement when I found this book some time back. I held on to it, like it was a treasure, waiting for the “right” moment to break it open and revel in its contents. So I finally did break it open, after waiting a very long time. And didn’t finish it. Because I didn’t enjoy it. I found it, and Gillman himself, tremendously disappointing. It was frankly a disillusioning read.

Gillman does indeed deserve credit for “inventing” the passing game, and he revolutionized the game of football forever. He quite possibly was an offensive genius. He was a lifelong workaholic. He tutored assistants who went on to amazing careers, like Don Shula and Chuck Noll. You could see elements of his game in the way they coached and won. So why isn’t Gillman typically included in discussions of the great coaches? Maybe it was because he never won a Super Bowl, which is a legitimate point, although he did a good deal of his coaching before Super Bowls existed. Maybe it’s also because he was a giant asshole of a person, unlikeable to almost anyone who ever met him. I hated him from about the 10th page on. And in terms of this book, I felt it was boring, redundant, didn’t exactly go to great lengths to argue for his greatness, although it made some efforts, and it kind of felt like the book went out of its way to ensure I’ll never include Gillman in a discussion of the greatest coaches, and nor will anyone else. I don’t know if that was the author’s intention – I tend to doubt it – but that’s what happened with me. I feel the book could have been a lot better, and possibly if a more experienced, more talented writer had been writing such a book, perhaps the outcome could have been different. However, the best I can do is give it two stars and state that I definitely do not recommend this book at all.

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Well, that’s all for now. I had hoped to do more today, but I feel terrible and I’m glad I got to do any at all. However, some of the ones I have lined up are on Japan at the end of WW II, religion, theism, the NSA, changing American military power and foreign policy, nuclear weapons, Biblical archaeology and how much of the Bible it supports as well as shows to be false, atheism, hockey, the history of Rome, the current and future status of the US and China, spies, American classism, the spread of theistic religions, Sparta, nuclear politics, think tanks, and much more. I hope to get to as many of these as I can. Please bear with me and be patient, and thanks for reading what I put down here. I truly appreciate it. Cheers!

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Visit Some Of My Updated Social Media Sites

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 30, 2018

Hi! I haven’t been blogging as much as I want to, nor have I been as active on some sites like I’d prefer to be, but lately I have been more active on some of my social media and other sites, and I thought I’d let you know about them.

Years ago, I got caught up in the Pinterest craze, created some boards, and pinned quite a few things to my boards. I developed a good number of followers, especially for a couple of my boards, such as my Amazing Men’s Watches board.

Well, for whatever reason, I got tired of it and haven’t been back in a long time. Like four years. 4 years! I was last active on the site in 2014. For some reason, a couple of months ago, it occurred to me to go visit my site, and I suddenly became interested again and started pinning new things to my boards. In fact, I’ve gotten so into it, I’ve created a number of new boards, and I’ve pinned quite a few things to them. And I’ve slowly been getting a few new followers here and there, so that’s been nice. I now have 18 boards with over 2,500 pins! While my watch board remains my most popular, with 368 pins and 524 followers, I’m particularly fond of some of my new boards and have been busy pinning pics, etc, to those especially. Among them are boards entitled Art I Like (262 pins as of today), Favorite TV Shows (58 pins as of today), and Boutique Computers (245 pins as of today). My Sports board has 8 sections with 459 pins. Some other, original, popular boards include Music, Musicians & Bands, Cute Animals, Books Worth Reading, and Places To Visit. So, please come check out my Pinterest boards, and feel free to follow me. Also, if you have a Pinterest site, let me know where I can find it and I’ll check yours out!

Another site I’ve been very active on for the past year and a half is Discogs, the audiophile’s online music site. I’ve bought and sold a number of really great items there, and among the great things about that site is, not only do they have just about every album ever made in their database, with most having copies for sales by people all over the world, but you can get great deals and find out the media and sleeve gradings, join discussion groups, and put your collection on your site for people to see. And one of the cool things about that last bit is Discogs will list the value for your collection, and in Minimum, Median, and Maximum value. I actually just got rid of triple digits of albums, so my collection is actually one of the smaller ones I’ve seen on the site, but I’m still proud of it because I have some good, rare, and valuable items, which is totally cool. Some of my more rare items include a Russian version of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, a Greek Public Enemy album, a Portuguese Depeche Mode album, a rare red vinyl Czech Iron Maiden album, a Chinese Linkin Park CD (which technically does not exist — I had to work hard to find it and get it out of China for a customer, who then didn’t want to pay the bucks for it…), German and Australian editions of Gary Numan’s debut Tubeway Army album, an old French Devo EP, and many more. I currently have 823 albums listed, with a Median value of $6,920.90 and a Maximum value of $11,883.21. You also are rated on your purchases and any sales you make, and it’s strongly recommended to try to maintain a high rating. In fact, they’ll kick you off the site if your rating drops too low. Fortunately, my ratings as both buyer and seller are 100%, so that’s awesome. I’ve worked hard to satisfy everyone I deal with there. The only thing that bugs me is everyone is supposed to provide “feedback” (ratings) for every buyer and seller, but I’ve sold quite a few items on the site and only about a third of my buyers ever bothered giving me feedback, even though most sent me private messages expressing satisfaction. But it looks like I haven’t sold much there, which isn’t the case. I used to have a large listing of items for sale, triple digits, but selling became too time and labor-intensive, and my health has become so bad over the past five months, that I basically shut that down and now I have just five items listed for sale. Still, I’d love it if any of you went to my Discogs site and looked at my profile, as well as my collection. Let me know if you do, and let me know if you have a profile and collection there, so I can go check those out. You can find my Discogs profile here, and my collection here.

I’ve also been fairly active on Goodreads — but not active enough. The site reports 1,467 books on my bookshelf there, with 1,061 read, 207 to be read, and 199 that I’m allegedly currently reading! Now, I’ve always read numerous books simultaneously — I have a system — and I have indeed let it get out of hand, but I’m certainly not in the middle of 199 books at the moment. A number of those books are ones I’ve finished, but haven’t had or made the time to review yet, and hence list them as Read. I’ve got several stacks of print and Kindle books to review. That being said, I probably AM in the middle of over 100 – 120 books right now, with me actively reading about 40-50 on a semi-daily basis. I read a few chapters of one book, switch to another and do the same, and continue on. And I get into phases, so that for several months, I was mostly reading religious, philosophical, and scientific books, other months nearly only sci fi books, other months mostly biographies, but lately it’s been a hodge podge of stuff — a combination of technology, biography, sci fi, business, history, nonfiction, and technical/scientific books that are mostly military in nature (electronic warfare, nuclear, etc.). As you know, I sometimes post some of my book reviews I write here on this blog, but I don’t do that for every book or every review — just some of them. So if you’re interested in my reviews, go check out my Read section (my most recent completed books are Philip Matyszak’s “Sparta: Rise of a Warrior Nation,” John Hernandez’s “How To Become A NFL Sports Agent,” and Joseph Siracusa’s “Nuclear Weapons: A Very Short Introduction.”), and if you’re interested in what I’m currently reading, go here (the newest books I’ve started reading are “The Holy Bible” –  ESV version, “The Quran,” “802.11ac,” and “Basic Security Testing With Kali Linux.”), and if you’d like to see what I’ve got lined up, go here (They’re ordered from oldest, chronologically, to most recently added to the list. My most recently added are Thomas Asbridge’s “The Greatest Knight,” Andrea De Martino’s “Introduction to Modern EW Systems,” Will Storr’s “Selfie,” Gordon Colbach’s “Wireless Networking,” Michael Steer’s “Microwave and RF Design,” Mark Richards’ “Fundamentals of Radar Signal Processing.”) and also, feel free to check out my Author’s profile page, and feel free to send me a friend request. Also, if you have a Goodreads’ site, let me know so I can check it out!

I’ve also been active on other sites, only two of which I’ll briefly mention. As some of you may know, over two years ago, Gretchen and I founded a small technology startup, which has gone through changes, difficulties, evolutions, and is currently on hiatus due to my extremely poor health. The name of the company is WireMe Designs, LLC. The original business model is described on the website, but it’s evolved this year to focus more on consulting, and we thus had a new website created early this summer to reflect that. It’d be awesome if you checked it out, and let me know what you think. Greatly appreciated. You can find it at https://wiremedesigns.com. Secondly, if you look back over my blog here, you’ll note I wrote a couple of posts in May about my LinkedIn site and profile, and my experience to date on building my network in both quantity and quality. Well, it’s gone REALLY big since then, and I intend to try to find the time to write a post about it here with updated information. When I last wrote about it, I had expanded my network from a little over 400 people in January to over 3,300 in mid-May, listing 171 “notable” connections, including the CEO of Symantec, the president of Dell, the CTO of the ATF, several major UN connections, the CISO of Nissan, CISO of US Department of Education, CIO of USDA, CFO of Sprint, CISO of IBM, and CISO of The White House.

Well, as I said, my network has seriously EXPLODED since then, and as of this morning, I now have over 11,600 connections and it’s a VERY high-quality network, with 44% of my connections being senior executives, many of them C-level executives. I now have the highest connections at nearly every company in most major civilian industries, nearly a thousand US and international military connections, many of them generals, at the Pentagon, and even on the Joint Chiefs. I also have over 1,600 federal and international government connections at the highest levels, including most agency leaders, intelligence agency executives, the Senate, House, dozens of people at The White House, a dozen directors and above on the National Security Council, connections in so many countries that I have no idea, hundreds of connections at the European Parliament and European Commission, Interpol, NATO, nuclear connections in over 45 countries, numerous ambassadors — foreign and domestic — and about 75 connections at the UN, including several on the UN Security Council, and executives in the Secretary General’s office. It’s truly stunning. It just keeps growing, and as a result, I’ve been offered some mind blowing opportunities in a number of areas. And, as as for recent “notable” connections, I now have over 1,400 listed, among them recently the CLO of Sony, COO of Universal Music Group Nashville, CIO KraftHeinz, CIO of AIG, CIO of Nike, CPO of Shell, CFO of NBC Sports, CPO of the US Navy, CTO of HP, CTO of WebMD, CSO of Fidelity Investments, CTO/CIO of AAA, and the CDO of GE. Simply amazing. So, feel free to check my LinkedIn profile out, send me a connection request with a personal message to let me know who you are and how you found me, and a link to your profile if you have one.

I could keep writing more, but I’m not well and this has taken too long and tired me out, so I need to stop. I hope some of you will check these sites out, as well as others, which you can find on a page located at the top of my blog called Find Me Here… It’s got links to Instagram and Twitter accounts, as well as others. You can catch up on me in many ways, even though I haven’t been blogging here very often. Thanks to those of you who have stuck with me here, and for the comments. I appreciate all of you very much, and feel free to remind me to visit your blogs, because I’m bad about that and I admit it. Something I need to work on. I hope everyone is having a good weekend and cheers!

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