Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Two More Books

I recently finished Mount Pleasant by Don Gilmor. Somebody was giving it away in a cardboard box outside their house. I live on Mount Pleasant Avenue, so I figured "what the hell." It's a decent look at a middle-aged man's midlife crisis. It's a nice portrayal of the vicissitudes of the Rosedale set. And "Occupy Toronto" makes a presence.

I could identify with everything about the guy except his background and the fact that he had a nice house to sell to get himself somehow out of his debt crisis.

I'm also trying to read Imperial Reckoning: the untold story of Britain's gulag in Kenya by Caroline Elkins. So far I've read a tight summary of the events leading up to the "Mau-Mau" rebellion and a couple of chapters documenting British barbarism and hypocrisy. It's a tough slog.

My only observation right now is to think of those right-wing imbeciles who condemned Obama for returning a bust of Winston Churchill to the British government. (It had decorated the office of his predecessor.) Besides being a completely routine thing, Obama's actions would make sense given what Churchill's government had enabled in Kenya.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Two Books I'm Reading

A friend hepped me to The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson. It's about the building of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893; and Larson shows how it was a snap-shot of the times. For instance; the world's first Ferris Wheel was designed for it as US-American engineers' response to the Eiffel Tower that wowed the world at the Paris World's Fair of 1889. Also, while I've read fairly extensively about the Pullman Strike of 1894, I'd never thought about how the drawing of thousands of workers and craftsmen to build the Fair in 1892-93 contributed to the pressures that made the strike such a watershed moment.

And, of course, the book deals with the psychopath H. W. Mudgett/H. H. Holmes; "America's first serial killer" who used the anonymity of Chicago and the millions of visitors to the fair to build a "murder castle" and cruelly murder perhaps 200 people. Larson's handling of this monster is quite affecting.

The way the Fair's organizers and patrons dealt with international global diversity at this time (when all the world's people's were genuinely connected for pretty much the first time) is highly revealing. Fascinating.

The other book I'm reading is Hideous Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti by Stan Goff. I found it interesting because my reading about WWII has given me a base to understand the detailed descriptions of military training and procedures that Goff provides. But Haiti is also one of the countries I follow the most. Goff is talking about 1995, when President Bertrand Aristide was being allowed to return to his country with only 1 year left in his term of office, since the pro-Washington military coup ousted him years earlier. Simple reason and morality would have compelled a sane person to say that Aristide's term should continue from where it was interrupted, but US President Clinton was a devious, cynical prick.

Goff is open about the institutional racism of the US Special Forces and it's interesting reading about that after the praise and elevation to hero of the psychotic Chris Kyle ("American Sniper").

The book takes a while to get where it's going, but in the end, you really understand how the US military serves to enforce US foreign policy on the front-lines.