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review 2017-01-28 19:44
White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties (v. 2) - Dominic Sandbrook

'The stock exchange will be pulled down, the horse plough will give way to the tractor, the country houses will be turned into children's holiday camps, the Eton and Harrow match will be forgotten, but England will still be England, an everlasting animal stretching into the future and the past, and, like all living things, having the power to change out of all recognition and yet remain the same.'


This history ends with the above quote from George Orwell, after 794 pages of fantastically written social and political history. The main premise of Sandbrook's volume is that despite the 1960s being billed as an age of social and cultural revolution, much of British society, its values and behaviours remained consistent with previous decades. He argues that the counter culture of the late 60s was a small milieu of upper-middle class youths that, for the most part, were able to rebel because they had a financial safety net to fall back on and a path back into regular society. The introduction of the birth control pill that, it has been claimed, brought on the sexual revolution and the age of free love is often highly overstated. Sandbrook argues that British sexual practices remained largely conservative and the majority sought monogamy.


Now Sandbrook it would seem, is a conservative and the argument can be made that he went into this work with a preconceived notion of what he wanted to find about the 60s and wrote his book around that. I'm sure there is an element of truth to that, nevertheless I felt that for the most part he was fair with, for example, the Labour party and Harold Wilson's government. He was sympathetic to the economic position the previous Conservative government had left behind and the challenges that Wilson's government then faced. Even though the over riding conclusions were ones that promoted a political narrative, I'm not so sure it's a false one.


I could tell after around a hundred and fifty pages that the author is passionate about modern British history, his writing was engaged, witty and in depth. There are a lot of gems. One of the things I took away that I hadn't known, was that the Labour party managed to get the bill outlawing the death penalty passed against the tide of popular opinion. In 1964 popular support for abolishing hanging sat at just 23 percent, yet the abolition passed through parliament at votes of 343 to 185. The 60s was also the decade that abortion, homosexuality and suicide were decriminalised and in that sense it represented tangible, progressive change in law in the UK. Sandbrook argues that this was a culmination of decades of campaigning rather than a sudden break in traditions coming from youth culture and I suspect here he is correct. 


The political commentary was broken up with chapters on the formation and success of acts like The Beatles. I'll admit, perhaps controversially, that I'm not particularly a fan of The Beatles. Despite this I thoroughly enjoyed Sandbrook's version of their story. He seemed to wish to exonerate McCartney, who in his view, is often billed as the less talented song writer when put up against Lennon. One draw back of the sections on the band is that Sandbrook often portrays the darker sides of Lennon's character and again, this may be in part down to politics and the idea that Lennon is often seen as the hippy in the band and the one who was most in tune with the counter cultural excesses of the late 60s. However this in my opinion doesn't take away from highly informative, interesting chapters.


If you can accept the possible political overtones of the author what lies beneath is a riveting history of Britain in the 60s, an accomplished body of work and one that I highly recommend to anyone with an interest in history.  

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review 2016-10-29 20:57
Secrets, lies and conspiracies.
The Illuminati: The Counter Culture Revolution-From Secret Societies to Wilkileaks and Anonymous - Robert Howells

I obtained an ARC copy of this book through NetGalley and Watkins Publishing and I freely chose to review it.

I haven’t read any works of fiction related to the Illuminati but I came across them in my profession. I’m a psychiatrist and I’ve had several patients suffering from paranoid ideas that involved conspiracy theories and in more than one occasion they believed the Illuminati to be behind them. Although I read about them at the time, when I saw this book I felt curious and thought it would be a good chance to learn more.

The book isn’t exactly what I’d imagined. It does look at the history of the Illuminati movement — talking about its roots in the past and history, its relationship to religious and political movements and to big historical events (like the French Revolution) — and the latter part of the book links it to counter-revolution and counterculture up to the present time (with such phenomena as Anonymous, Wikileaks, digital piracy and hacking). This is not a critical account of the movement, as it is written by somebody with deep insider knowledge who appears to be a big believer and personally invested in the cause. I found the historical part interesting but also interspersed with plenty of detail about the process of indoctrination and their teachings, rather than individual facts. For me, it was more of a history of their ideas and philosophies rather than a detailed account of the movement and its people.

The modern part I found fascinating. Comparing many of the counter-cultural movements (beats, hippies, punk…) to the Illuminati, be it in their anti-institutionalised or anti-authority stances, or in their secret and anti-establishment nature (like hackers and Wikileaks) the author builds a strong argument for the continuity of the Illuminati’s philosophies in many of these groups and he makes a call for everybody to join in with their ideals of exposing corruption and removing the power from those who use it for personal benefit and don’t morally deserve it. Some of the arguments are very personal and down to the author’s interpretation, and as mentioned before, this is not a book that tries to expose both sides of the argument. I enjoyed the modern part and some of the comments and parallelisms it draws, although people who are strong believers in institutionalised religions might find it offensive, and some of its ideas can be too personal for others (his view of hackers and piracy might not be shared by many).

If readers are looking for an enthusiastic and eager discussion on the subject from somebody sympathetic to its tenets who expresses his opinion without hesitation, you will find it interesting, but it is not the book to read if one seeks a neutral or rigorously critical evaluation of the subject.

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text 2016-06-01 15:13
May Reading Roundup
How the Light Gets In - Louise Penny
Because We Are Called to Counter Culture: In a World of Poverty, Same-Sex Marriage, Racism, Sex Slavery, Immigration, Persecution, Abortion, Orphans, and Pornography (Counter Culture Booklets) - David Platt
Still Alice - Lisa Genova
Azincourt - Bernard Cornwell
Confessions of a Prayer Slacker - Diane Moody
Divine Collision: An African Boy, an American Lawyer, and Their Remarkable Battle for Freedom - Foreword by Bob Goff,Jim Gash
Band of Brothers: The Game's Afoot - Richard Foreman
Allegiant - Veronica Roth
Dickon - Marjorie Bowen
A Time to Grieve (Journeying though Grief, Book One) - Kenneth C. Haugk

My reading was all over the place this month in terms of genre and did not include anything I would categorize as amazing, but I did get a lot read. In addition to these 10, I finished Kenneth Haugk's 'Experiencing Grief' which did not impact me quite as much as the first book . . . . or maybe that's just where I am. Who knows.


Audio Books:

How the Light Gets In

Still Alice

Divine Collision




The Game's Afoot

Dickon (DNF)

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review 2011-07-21 11:59
A rather irritating book about how drugs are bad
The Assassins - Elia Kazan The Assassins - Elia Kazan

I really did not think much of this book when I read it, and I guess I read it expecting it to be about hit men. It wasn't. It is interesting that the subtitle on Facebook refers to it as 'a shocking novel of today'. I do not think it is, but I write this now having just watched Easy Rider and I guess this book gives a more conservative view of the counter culture and I do not think Kazan is all that supportive of it.

Cesario Flores is member of the US Airforce, and a very conservative individual, and when his daughter, Juana, sleeps with one of the local counter cultural teenagers, he takes the law into his own hands and kills him. Most of the book is about his trial and the reaction of the leader of the teenagers, one Michael Winter, to the murder. Cesario is acquitted of the murder, despite the fact that he did it intentionally and in cold blood. He then goes on with his life.

The opposite happens to Michael Winter. While he is a member of the counter culture, Kazan portrays him as a loser whose life descends into a spiral of destruction, which results in him leaving the country. He is not portrayed in a pretty light and ends up wondering South America, lost and alone. He is unable to really fit in anywhere.

Kazan is probably right in portraying the drug culture as ultimately destructive. The truth is that nothing good really ever comes from such a culture, and to be blunt, alcohol is no better. While the difference between alcohol and drugs is that one can have a drink and be still in full control of their faculties, this is not the case with drugs, and many people who get caught up in the drug culture end up wasting their lives. It might seem fun for a while, but the after effects are not. As Michael says in the book when he drops acid 'I feel that I can be myself under this'. Well, you're not yourself, you are affected by drugs, and you will probably end up doing something you will regret.

However murder is still murder, and we simply cannot go and take the law into our own hands. If we did then society will simply collapse. We may not like the counter-culture, and yes it may hurt when our children drift over into it, but instead of meeting it with violence, we must accept that this is going to happen, and when they come running back to us, knowing that they have done wrong, then we must be there to take them back, much like the parable of the prodigal son. As Jesus says, we have all sinned and turned away from God, but God is standing there, waiting for us to return to him, and the offer is only open for a short time. We need to strike while the iron is hot.

Source: www.goodreads.com/review/show/187533140
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