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February 22, 2015

Sunday Morning Book Thread 02-22-2015: Worse Than The 60s [OregonMuse]


70s dizzy decor.jpg
"And You'll Sit In This Room Until You Learn To Behave Yourself"


Good morning to all of you morons and moronettes and all the ships at sea. Welcome to AoSHQ's stately, prestigious, and high-class Sunday Morning Book Thread. The only AoSHQ thread that is so hoity-toity, pants are required. Or kilts. Kilts are OK, too. But not tutus. Unless you're a girl.

Book Quote

Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.

–George Bernard Shaw

By the way, this was C.S. Lewis' view, as well. In his essay 'On Three Ways of Writing For Children' which appears in his Of Other Worlds anthology, he talks about reading a manuscript of a children's story involving a child being given a kind of magical gadget (as opposed to the more traditional magic ring, or sword or some such) festooned with buttons and switches and knobs that did all sorts of fantastic things and when he told the author that he really didn't much care for that sort of thing, her reply was, "I don't either, but it's what the modern child wants." Lewis disagreed with this and went on to explain his own writing method, which was that he wrote his children's stories because the children's story was that genre that seemed to him to be the best for what he wanted to say.


Run For Your Lives, It's the '70s!

If you feel like doing a bit of cringing, you should check out these crappy book covers from the 70s, and by the way, some of them are NSFW-ish. Yeah, people actually used to buy this stuff. They didn't have anything better.

But while we're on the subject of the 70s, I'd like to take a moment and recommend internet snarkmeister James Lileks' hilarious beat-down of that decade's home design fads, Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes from the Horrible '70s and you young kids, who incidentally need to be off my lawn, don't realize how bad it was.

Warning!

This book is not to be used in any way, shape, or form as a design manual. Rather, like the documentary about youth crime "Scared Straight," it is meant as a caution of sorts, a warning against any lingering nostalgia we may have for the 1970s, a breathtakingly ugly period when even the rats parted their hair down the middle.

Yeah, it was bad I remember my mother, a long-time subscriber to Better Homes & Gardens magazine, finally getting fed up with it one day (must have been in 1974 or maybe 75) and cancelling her subscription. The decor ideas had gotten so bizarre and ugly month after month that, as she put it, 'why should I continue to pay money for this garbage?'


Coolidge

Amity Shlaes, author of the excellent history of the Depression era, The Forgotten Man, has also written a biography of President Calvin Coolidge, entitled, appropriately enough, Coolidge. That's good news. Even better news is that you can get the Kindle version for the low, low, Vic-approved price of $2.99 until February 23rd.

Also available for the same sale price at B&N and Google.

Via BookBub.


The End of History

Whither history? I have read that unlike other ancient views of human history that tend to be cyclical in nature, with the same old stuff happening over and over again, the Bible is unique in that its map of human and divine events is definitely linear: the world had a definite beginning and will have a definite end. This is true even though sometimes in the wisdom books such as Ecclesiastes you can see the world-weariness of "there is nothing new under the sun" and other similar observations. This is one of Christianity's gifts to civilization, the idea history as development and upward progress.

Which got picked up by a number of writers and philosophers, notably the German philosopher Hegel.

In 1989, historian Francis Fukuyama published a controversial essay entitled The End of History in which he enlisted Hegelian philosophy to argue that our secular, representative democracy is not only the crowning achievement of western civilization, but also that it's the best form of government than ever can be. In other words, no future system of government that man can devise will ever be any better than what we have now.

That's a bit frightening, isn't it?

Especially nowadays when the elected national officials of both parties seem to be in an unholy alliance whose goal is to destroy the country.

Fukuyama's thesis is obviously not without its critics. And perhaps they might make some good points. But ultimately, the only way to refute Fukuyama is to come up with something better, a more just, fair and benevolent form of government and thus far, nobody ever has.

Fukuyama expanded the original essay into a book, The End of History and the Last Man, published in 1992.

One of the problems that's going to have to be overcome in order for just, competent government to be established is corruption, and while it's always existed, there just seems to be more of it around than there used to be. And of course, outside of the west, it's hard to find a country that isn't run by what amounts to be an organized criminal network. Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security by Sarah Chayes spells out some hard truths in this regard. One Amazon reviewer says this:

While in Afghanistan, Sarah Chayes learned that the corrupt government had been mischaracterized as a simple patronage system. In reality, it operated as a vertically integrated criminal syndicate where financial rewards were not distributed downward from patron to client, but instead moved "up the chain of command…in the form of gifts, kickbacks, levies paid to superiors, and the purchase of positions."

Tony Soprano uptwinkled this.

It seems to me that a good way to fight corruption in our own country is to greatly reduce the size and scope of the federal government. With fewer teats on the federal pig, there will be less milk to fight over and less reason for unethical behavior. I remember once watching some TV debate or panel discussion and everyone was weeping and wailing over the "influence of money in government" (John McCain was a panelists) and they were proposing this or that new regulation to remedy the situation (on top of the regulations that are already in place). I remember thinking, you know, if you fools would simply stop regulating the production of widgets, then the widget industry and Big Widget wouldn't have any reason to hire widget lobbyists to bribe and coerce congress to make sure the widget legislation is advantageous to whatever widget companies were paying for the lobbyists.

But of course, this did not occur to anyone on the panel.

Thanks to longtime moron commenter 'boulder terlit hobo' for tipping me to the Chayes book in last week's thread.


New Book From A Dead Guy

Ripped from the sidebar: Apparently, a hitherto unknown, unpublished Sherlock Holmes story was found recently in some guy's attic. Well, it was published, but not published-published:

The wooden bridge in the Scottish town of Selkirk was destroyed by the great flood of 1902 and locals organised a three-day event to raise funds for a new one in 1904. As part of the event, organisers sold a collection of short stories by locals called The Book o' the Brig. The famed author, who loved visiting Selkirk and the surrounding area, contributed a tale before opening the final day. Mr Elliot...was given the 48-page pamphlet more than 50 years ago by a friend, but forgot about it until recently when he looked in the attic.

It is believed the story - about Holmes deducing Watson is going on a trip to Selkirk - is the first unseen Holmes story by Doyle since the last was published over 80 years ago.

The lost story can be read here.

And speaking of Arthur Conan Doyle, here are 19 things you maybe didn't know about him. The one about believing in the existence of faeries, that one I had heard about, where he was fooled by those hoax photographs. What I didn't know was that he spent a million pounds of his own money to promote the fraudulent claims. Ouch. That's what I call a true believer.


New Book From Yet Another Dead Guy

The widow of Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel discovered some manuscripts and illustrations during a remodel of her California home, Random House announced ths Wednesday. The new book "What Pet Should I Get" will be published in July. Some background:

"We believe that he wrote and illustrated What Pet Should I Get? somewhere between 1958 and 1962—as the brother and sister in the book are the same as those in his bestselling Beginner Book One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish which was published in 1960," says Goldsmith.

But wait. There's more:

At least two more books will be published from the materials discovered, though titles and publication dates have yet to be announced.

Oh, the books that they'll sell.


The Height of Fashion

You ever see a bunch of emos walking down the street, decked out in their ridiculous black attire and wonder to yourself, 'why are they wearing that?' I mean, other than the fact that they collectively have the intelligence of a bowling pin? The larger question is, why do people wear weird crap? Why'd They Wear That?: Fashion as the Mirror of History by Sarah Albee might have the answer, which covers the history of fashion, from ancient times to the present. And not only what people wore, but what people did (and do) to their bodies, such as squeezing a child's head between two boards to elongate it (Mayans), and footbinding (Chinese), not to mention corsets, which, the author says, exert as much as 88 pounds of force on the internal organs. Ouch. How do corseted women even breathe?

And there's a whole section devoted to armor and battle dress.

I haven't read this book, I just stumbled upon it while searching for something else and it looked like it might be interesting.


Help Out A Moron Author

Moron commenter AllenG is attempting to crowdsource his writing of a fantasy novel, which if I am reading his description correctly, will be called "Fire & Frost". It takes place on a world that is not your usual mountains-and-forests fantasy fare:

Fire & Frost is set in a fantasy world of my own invention. You will find nary an elf, dwarf, orc, or ogre in it. Instead, you will find a world quite unlike our real one. Mediatus is a planar world with definite edges- not a globe like our own. Those edges each lead to lands called Borders, and beyond the Borders to one of four elemental realms. Within those realms live creatures each attuned to their element.

Go here to contribute to this effort. Hopefully, Allen will be joining the swelling ranks of moron authors very soon.

___________

So that's all for this week. As always, book thread tips, suggestions, bribes, rumors, threats, and insults may be sent to OregonMuse, Proprietor, AoSHQ Book Thread, at the book thread e-mail address: aoshqbookthread, followed by the 'at' sign, and then 'G' mail, and then dot cee oh emm.

What have you all been reading this week? Hopefully something good, because, as you all know, life is too short to be reading lousy books.

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