Book Review: As Texas Goes…: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda

2014 Book Goal: 52 (mostly non-fiction)
2014 Books Read: 23 (83% non-fiction)

gail collins lameI picked up As Texas Goes…: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda by Gail Collins at the library because I figured it might be an interesting look at the political achievements of my state.  Well, this book is nothing like that.  Sure, Gail Collins gives some backhanded compliments to the Lone Star State in this sarcastic telling of how Texas has become such an important part of the United States culture, economy, politics and more.  In the end though, this is a mean-spirited book that feels more like petty jealousy than journalism. (Collins is most known for being a columnist for the New York Times.)

Every bit of the “history” spelled out in the book is revisionist at best.  Collins ignores anything positive and puts a decidedly mean-spirited spin on almost everything.  She spent a long time making the story of the Alamo out to be a bunch of yokels that got suckered into dying in San Antonio.  She then goes on to suggest that the story was almost entirely fictionalized.

I get that Collins, born in Ohio, didn’t have the benefit of growing up in a state that takes pride in their history.  I get that just like the New York Yankees, there is no neutral ground.  You either love Texas or you blame unfairness for why it has had any success.  Its all a bit weak from someone who purports to be a journalist.

If you want to hear someone whine for 277 pages, give it a read.  The PR team for the book sell it as a “comical” political commentary, but it doesn’t come across as mirthful at all – just angry and sarcastic.

Chris Doelle

Gotta watch that labeling

WILD CAUGHT – sounds good, right?  Look closer

sardines, kipper snacks, wild caught, managed fisheries,

ugh… sounds fishy

What does that even mean? How is it “wild caught” if it comes from “managed fisheries?”  That sounds to me like Orwellian doublespeak.  It is really time for some actual truth in food labeling.

Book Review: Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America

2014 Book Goal: 52 (mostly non-fiction)
2014 Books Read: 22 (82% non-fiction)

I don’t know why I am still surprised at things that smack of man’s nature, but somehow I am. Operation Paperclip: The Secret Intelligence Program that Brought Nazi Scientists to America by Annie Jacobsen had one or two of those moments, but as a lot of more horrific aspects of the war is information I already, it wasn’t the stuff you would expect.

operation-paper-clipThe big surprise to me was just how much of our technology was created by the Nazi scientists.  Our entire space program and information we developed on rocketry came from these scientists.  In addition, aviation science, biological warfare, chemical warfare and even a lot of just plain old medical information came as a result of their work.

More than just a stack of papers borrowed from a bombed out SS building, we actually took scientists.  Over 1000 Nazi scientists were moved to America, given VISA, given jobs and sometimes even awarded for their work.  These are the same scientists that experimented on the prisoners in concentration camps and systematically managed the slaughter of millions.

What could justify us giving these people a pass?  What would justify the American Government creating a secret (and illegal) program? National security.  The US was in an all-out race with the Soviets and as we nabbed scientists to further our defensive and offensive capabilities, they were doing the same.  The division of German knowledge was at the root of the coming Cold War.

This was a fascinating book that I will probably reread just to grasp it all.

Book Review: The Pyschopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry

2014 Book Goal: 52 (mostly non-fiction)
2014 Books Read: 21 (81% non-fiction)

Jon RonsonI’ve read everything I could find on serial killers and the like because they are are so out there. The Pyschopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson seemed like it may delve a little deeper into what actually makes them so different… and it did.

This is a fascinating look at those few (1-5% of the population) people who are wired so dramatically different than us.  They appear to be almost a different species entirely in their lack of apparent empathy or regard for the rest of us.  Through MRI testing, it has been determined that indeed, psychopaths are wired differently. Their amygdala does not fire when they see something shocking or frightening as it does in the normal brain. That is why they do not regret or show remorse when doing things that cause pain or distress to others.  This includes more subtle psychotic actions than murder or injury and leads one to the conclusion that much of the corporate greed and political scandal in society is simply the action of psychopaths.

The book title refers to a simple test (Hare Psychopathy Checklist) perfected over a lifetime by Bob Hare.  Of course, I had to seek out the test online to see where I fit on the psychopath scale.

This test grades the taker on a scale from 0-40 with a score around 30 or more required to be considered psychopathic. http://vistriai.com/psychopathtest/ I scored an 8 although I expect that had I taken the test as a teenager, I would easily have scored 15 or better.

More than just a simple test however, this book examines the immense changes to the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness throughout the years.  The takeaway from this book is that there is a little bit of psychopath in all of us, but in the upper ranges, it can get dangerous.  It can also lead to great success in the business world.  Indeed, several of the people that Ronson tested were business and political leaders.  He surmises that the difference between a world famous eccentric and a psychopathic killer could be as simple as the environment in which they were raised.

Whether they are killing people, manipulating the ones that love them or crushing companies and destroying the life savings of those who get in their way – psychopaths are dangerous.

Book Review: Marvel Comics: The Untold Story

2014 Book Goal: 52 (mostly non-fiction)
2014 Books Read: 20 (80% non-fiction)

Hulk was one of my all-time favorites!

Hulk was one of my all-time favorites!

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story by Sean Howe is one part fan-boy historical record and one part in-depth expose on what happens when idealistic creators face the reality of bottom-line business.  As you know, Marvel Comics has come out as the 800lb gorilla in the comic book world and an even larger force in the movie industry. 

Throughout the growing pains, backstabbing and creative explosions both good and bad, Stan Lee came through smiling all the way to the bank… at least, until he was no longer needed in the company.  This book tells of the backroom deals, the hurt feelings, lawsuits and hardball business moves that led sometimes haphazardly to Marvel’s journey from underdog start-up to the Big Brother of the comic book industry.

I listened to the unabridged audiobook and at 18 hours… it was a huge investment.  It seemed to go fast because I grew up with Marvel comics and really enjoyed the transitions between boardroom maneuvers and tales of developing storylines on the heroes of my day.  The amazing thing is how successful the company was despite some real bonehead moves with editorial content and business investments.

The single smartest thing they did was to license their properties and that allowed them to afford some serious mistakes in other areas (like investing in the trading card industry to the tune of $150 million just as it was on its last leg.)

I really enjoyed the book, or as Stan Lee might say, “Excelsior!”

Cap rules the big screen once again!

MV5BMzA2NDkwODAwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODk5MTgzMTE@._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_Captain America: The Winter Soldier is really good!  It has to be up there as one of the best Marvel movies thus far… and that’s saying a lot.  I think as Hollywood has come to realize just how this baby-boomers-reliving-their-childhood thing goes, the scripts are getting better – the budgets are getting better – the acting is getting better… you name it.

I think the thing I like best about this film were the action sequences.  The trend has been to cut the action shots so frenetic and loud that it is hard to follow whose arm hit whose ribs.  This one had all the speed and bone-crunching audio, but you could follow it and it made sense.  In addition, the car chase scene with Nick Fury () and the Falcon () flight sequences were high adrenaline, but they made sense.

This was a downright fun film and nailed the Captain America role once again.  I was finally convinced of ‘s Black Widow role… it seemed a bit staged and forced in the previous incarnations.

I wanted to rate it higher than Captain America: The First Avenger but I had already given that one 9 stars.  Only a few movies have ever been given a ten rating by me, so I have to say this is a strong 9.5

RATING 9 out of 10 social media, new media titan, chris doelle, fresh media works, http://www.freshmediaworks.comsocial media, new media titan, chris doelle, fresh media works, http://www.freshmediaworks.comsocial media, new media titan, chris doelle, fresh media works, http://www.freshmediaworks.comsocial media, new media titan, chris doelle, fresh media works, http://www.freshmediaworks.comsocial media, new media titan, chris doelle, fresh media works, http://www.freshmediaworks.comsocial media, new media titan, chris doelle, fresh media works, http://www.freshmediaworks.comsocial media, new media titan, chris doelle, fresh media works, http://www.freshmediaworks.comsocial media, new media titan, chris doelle, fresh media works, http://www.freshmediaworks.comsocial media, new media titan, chris doelle, fresh media works, http://www.freshmediaworks.com

Chris Doelle

More praise for libraries

library, A while back, I wrote an article extolling the benefit of your local library.  There is another reason to love your local library – back issues of magazines!

Ours puts back issues outside in the rear free for anyone who wants to come by and grab them.  This is especially useful since magazines often re-use content over and over.  That means, there are rarely time-sensitive articles (unless you are Newsweek or Time) so it really doesn’t matter when you read them.

I stop by from time to time and drop off magazines I have read and at the same time, pick up some that look interesting.  Sure, it is a total crap shoot – you never know what you’re going to get, but that’s half the fun.

It is always a really big score when I grab something like Texas Highways or Texas Parks & Wildlife… great articles.  The best part?  They don’t cost a penny!

Chris Doelle