logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: 20th-century
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-02-04 02:21
CONVERSATIONS WITH JFK
Conversations with Kennedy - Ben Bradlee

As Time pushes us further and further away from the days of John F. Kennedy's presidency, it is hard for those with a living memory of his Presidency (and harder still for those of us who were not alive when JFK was in the White House) to have a full perspective of what John F. Kennedy was in life. That is why this book, "CONVERSATIONS WITH KENNEDY", by Ben Bradlee, a journalist who knew Kennedy on a personal level between 1958 and 1963, is so important. 

In the space of 244 pages, the reader is given access not only to the 1960 presidential campaign (from the Kennedy camp) and some of the White House parties and dinners to which the Bradleys were invited, but also the outings Bradley enjoyed with President Kennedy at Hyannisport and Newport (where Jackie Kennedy's stepfather, Hugh Auchincloss, had a large estate). The book also has 2 sets of photos, which serve to further illustrate the nature of the relationship Bradley, then the Washington bureau chief for Newsweek magazine, had with Kennedy. Generally, it was an easy, relaxed relationship. But sometimes Bradley would be "frozen out" by President Kennedy for short spans of time if Newsweek printed stories that he didn't like. This was no vindictiveness on Kennedy's part, because he liked journalists (having once been one briefly himself in 1945, when he - as a special correspondent for Hearst Newspapers - covered the San Francisco Conference, which led to the establishment of the United Nations) and was known to read from 6 different newspapers daily. President Kennedy was very knowledgeable about the workings of the press, had a wide-ranging intellectual curiosity, and loved to keep abreast of the latest developments among the leading media establishments. 

"CONVERSATIONS WITH KENNEDY" also shows a President who 'had few illusions about human nature but nursed dreams all the same.' There is one excerpt from September 12, 1963, that I found especially revealing, as well as very moving ~

"Dinner was on the dicey side. Jackie's stepfather is not exactly a swinger, and the toasts were pretty much in his image. We were high on the hog again, with much wine, caviar, and champagne, but we all went to bed soon after dinner. Just before we retired Jackie drew me aside, her eyes glistening near tears, to announce that 'you two really are our best friends.' It was a forlorn remark, almost like a lost and lonely child desperately in need of any kind of friend. She repeated the message a couple of times to Tony [Bradlee's wife] during the weekend, citing particularly our letters to them about the baby's death. ... --- it had been a bad summer for our friends, with Patrick's death [Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, the President's and Jackie's son, who died from a lung ailment 2 days after his birth in August 1963] and the sudden, jolting suicide of Phil Graham [publisher and Chairman of the Board for The Washington Post, who was a close friend of the Kennedys and Bradley], whose light finally burned too bright and destroyed him --- but Jackie said it was a description of a instant of love we had seen between a father and a small baby, parting in Naples. They [i.e., the Kennedys] are the most remote and independent people we know most of the time, and so when their emotions do surface it is especially moving."

It is passages like the one cited above that reinforce the enormity of the loss to humanity (even after 54 years) of a brilliant, charismatic and witty U.S. President who inspired people to seek out "the better angels of their nature" and better themselves and the world community at large through public service. Thank you, Ben Bradlee, for this book.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-01-27 11:00
War and Peace in Classical Japan: The Heiké Story by Yoshikawa Eiji
The Heike Story: A Modern Translation of the Classic Tale of Love and War (Tuttle Classics) - Fuki Wooyenaka Uramatsu,Kenkichi Sugimoto,Kenichi Sugimoto,Eiji Yoshikawa

Japanese literature has a lot to offer although little is available in English translation. One of the great writers known also in the western hemisphere is Yoshikawa Eiji.

 

The Heiké Story is an epic story of war and peace with sentimental sidesteps – set in Classical Japan and based on true events as well as characters! Well, not as epic and colourful as the Japanese original must be because the translator took it upon himself to decide which plotlines and details might be interesting for western readers. Despite all, the life story of Heita Kiyomori is an intriguing novel that makes the classical "Tale of the Heike" accessible to modern readers.

 

Please click here to read my long review on my main book blog Edith's Miscellany!

 

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-01-26 00:07
A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists (Adventist Heritage Series)
A Brief History of Seventh-Day Adventists (Adventist heritage series) - George R. Knight

Condensing over 170 years of history of a religious movement and denomination into a readable 156-page book seems daunting and the recipe for a sketchy history.  Yet George R. Knight, one of the foremost historians of the Seventh-day Adventist church, produced a very readable summary of the Sabbatarian Adventism in A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists that is meant for an Adventist audience of both long-time members and those new.

 

Knight divides the book into 8 chapters that focus on different eras starting with the pre-Great Disappointment Millerite Roots of Seventh-day Adventists and with the maturity of the Church from 1955 to the present day with its achievements and challenges.  Focusing on high-points, both good and bad, and trends in each “historical” era, Knight gives the reader a barebones yet informative look at history and those who influenced the Church on both large and small ways.  Given the audience Knight is writing for, the book is filled with Adventist nomenclature but Knight ensures that newer members of the Church have an understanding of the terminology that is even helpful for those that have been Adventists all their lives.

 

If one is looking for an in-depth look at doctrinal developments and how the Church was structurally organized, this is not the book.  While both elements are discussed as part of the overall history, Knight makes it clear at the beginning of the book that those looking for emphasis on either need to turn to the other two book of the “Adventist Heritage Series”, A Search for Identity and Organizing for Mission and Growth.  Yet this book is an excellent first read to understand how each of those specific topics tie into the history of the Church in an overall scope.

 

A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists does not pretend to be more than it is.  George R. Knight gives the reader an overview of the history of Sabbatarian Adventism in a very readable and quick format.  However, Knight does not leave those readers wanting more information hanging as at the end of each chapter he provides numerous books that go more in-depth in relation to the topics covered.  This is a highly recommended book for Seventh-day Adventists interested in understanding how the Church came about.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-01-20 11:00
Abused and Shunned by Society: The Diary of a Lost Girl by Margarete Böhme
The Diary of a Lost Girl (Louise Brooks edition) - Thomas Gladysz;Margarete Bohme
Tagebuch einer Verlorenen - Margarete Böhme

This forgotten classic from Germany was a best-selling novel in 1905 and translated into many languages.

 

It was also widely read for nearly three decades – until the story of a fallen girl from a bourgeois family who sees no other way to survive but prostitution was pushed into the abyss of oblivion because it didn’t fit into the ideal and virtuous image of Germans that Nazi propaganda created. Mute films made of it had the same fate although the 1929 film of G. W. Pabst starring Louise Brooks is much appreciated by enthusiasts like the editor of the again available English edition of the book.

 

Please click here to read the full review on my main book blog Edith’s Miscellany!

Source: edith-lagraziana.blogspot.com
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2018-01-17 18:00
Everything you've ever wanted to know about your toaster (and your afternoon cup of tea) but so far never even thought to ask.
Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life - Helen Czerski

My high school physics teacher was a very nice gentleman who clearly loved his subject -- but who equally clearly lived in a very different world from that of us rowdy teenagers, and to whom it never even seemed to occur that his way of thinking might just be a tad too alien and abstract for most of us (or if it did occur to him, he didn't have the slightest clue how to bridge the gap).  It certainly also didn't help that he was teaching in what was to him a foreign language -- and that he had no clue how to police cheating: whatever method he came up with, we were always at least a step or two ahead of him.  (Which, back in the day, was virtually my only saving grace when it came to tests, though in the long run it of course didn't help at all.)  In short, he'd probably have made a stellar physics professor at university -- as a school teacher, however, he was entirely miscast.

 

Now, far be it from me to blame my own deficiencies on the deficiencies of my high school education: Though I've always loved biology (and been fascinated by the scientific / theoretical aspects of medicine), it's unlikely I would ever have chosen science as a career.  However, with the exception of optics, I've always struggled more to get a grip on physical concepts than on biological or chemical ones.  Even maths presented decidedly less of a challenge: I didn't particularly care for it, but it was never a subject apt to seriously endanger my grade point average.  That dubious honour always went to physics alone.  As a result, for the longest time and until I somewhat grudgingly decided to remedy that fact much later in life, my understanding of physics -- other than optics -- was essentially a "reflected" understanding, to the extent that the laws of physics were relevant to other subjects, such as biology and chemistry (e.g., in the composition and behaviour of cells and atoms).

 

Part of this, undoubtedly, was due to the fact that other areas (history, languages, music and literature) were far more of a focus of my early upbringing: Helen Czerski's afterword to Storm in a Teacup, where she recounts how both her family background and growing up in industrial Manchester helped shape and foster her interest in science and technology, spoke to me just because I can relate to precisely the opposite; notwithstanding the fact that both my grandmother and her twin sister studied medicine (they were among the earliest women to enroll in that field in Germany) and several of my aunts -- cousins of my mother -- are doctors as well.

 

But I also would wish my high school teacher had taken a similar approach as Czerski in Storm in a Teacup, because the first of several things she achieves (and the importance of which my teacher missed entirely) is to make her readers understand why physics matters to each of us and what it has to do with our daily lives, above and beyond the puny truisms that we've all heard of.  ("Yeah, I know that there's such a thing as gravity, but what does it really mean and why does it matter to me except for -- literally -- keeping my feet on the ground and making things fall down if they're not securely resting on something else?")  That doesn't mean, of course, that from suddenly gaining a basic understanding how your toaster works -- or why popcorn pops, why buttered toast almost always lands on the floor with the buttered side down, why ketchup initially stays in the bottle (and how to get it out of there without spilling half the contents all over your plate, the table, and your clothes), or from devining the secrets behind the innumerable mysteries associated with a cup of tea (with or without milk in it) -- it's only a small step towards a full understanding of astrophysics, nuclear physics, or even just "ordinary" university level physics.  But as Czerski doesn't tire to point out, the laws of physics apply to our daily life in the same way as they apply to the universe at large; and I'm pretty sure if my teacher way back when had understood how to get us to make a connection with our everyday world, and understand how physics matters to each of us in a million different ways every single day of our lives, many of us would have found it fascinating -- instead of writing it off as unbearably dull, unattainably abstract, and / or totally irrelevant to our lives and even our potential career paths.  As Czerski puts it:

"There is sometimes a bit of snobbery about the science found in kitchens and gardens and city streets.  It's seen as something to occupy children with, a trivial distraction which is important for the young, but of no real use to adults.  An adult might buy a book about how the universe works, and that's seen as being a proper adult topic.  But that attitude misses something very important: the same physics applies everywhere.  At toaster can teach you about some of the most fundamental laws of physics, and the benefit of a toaster is that you've probably got one, and you can see it working for yourself.  Physics is awesome precisely because the same patterns are universal: they exist both in the ktichen and in the furthest reaches of the universe.  The advantage of looking at the toaster first is that even if you never get to worry about the temperature of the universe, you still know why your toast is hot.  But once you're familiar with the pattern, you will recognize it in many other places, and some of those other places will be the most impressive achievements of human society.  Learning the science of the everyday is a direct route to the background knowledge about the world that every citizen needs in order to participate fully in society."

The laws controlling the spin of the Hubble Telescope's gyroscopes are the same that make a raw egg spin.  The laws that make popcorn explode and that help create focaccia bread are the same laws that control the Santa Ana winds in California, move a steam engine, propel rockets, and which any sea-bound mammal, such as a whale, needs to cope with when hunting hundreds of metres below the surface of the ocean.  Bubble baths form according the the same laws that are at play in the formation of a layer of cream on top of milk (and that are now used to get rid of that layer of cream in the process of homogenization), that make sponges and towels absorbent, that are used by every tree, from those in your back garden (if you have one) to the giant redwood in order to pull water up to its very top, and which modern medicine uses in order to be able to perform tests on the basis of a single drop of blood where a whole vial used to be necessary before.  The flow (or not) of ketchup out of a bottle and the sloshing of tea in a mug is dictated by the same laws that are at play in a lock gate and at the Hoover Dam ... etc., etc.

 

Czerski assumes virtually no understanding of the laws of physics (or anything related, such as mathematics) on the part of her readers going into each individual topic, and while that occasionally results in some talking down to the reader ("One nanometre really is tiny -- there are a million of them in one millimetre" ... thank you, Ma'am, I knew that much at least already!), most of the time she meets her readers at eye level -- and I really have to hand it to her; I'd never have thought there could be so much suspense associated with the details of heating popcorn, baking focaccia bread, or making a cup of tea.  And I just love her sense of humour:

"In 1964, Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias detected waves from the sky at microwave wavelengths that shouldn't have been there.  They spent a long time trying to work out which bit of the sky on their telescope was messing up the mesurement, sure that something was generating extra microwave light.  They also cleared out some nesting pigeons from the telescope, along with their droppings (euphemistically described as 'white dielectric material' in the paper they wrote).  The unwanted background light persisted.  It eventually turned out to be the signature of the Big Bang, some of the most ancient light in the universe.  There is something special about an experiment that has to be very careful to distinguish between the after-effects of pigeon poo and the after-effects of the formation of the universe."

There possibly won't be much in here that is news to a trained physicist, or an enthusiast of the subject matter, but I'll gladly take Elentarri's word that even a scientifically trained reader may find this book enjoyable.  For many of the rest of us (even those who were able benefit from a somewhat more enlightened physics instruction in school than me), this is in many respects eye-opening in the best of all ways, in addition to being an engaging and well-written read.

 

 

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?