Posts Tagged ‘books’

Given all the other tomes on my bookshelf, I surprised myself by checking out from the library, The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis (2015), the author of Founding Brothers and American Sphinx, about Thomas Jefferson.

The subtitle, Orchestrating The Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, informs how George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, along with others such as Robert Morris and Gouverneur Morris (not related), got the thirteen colonies, who had fought off the British, came to accept another centralized government.

A lot of reviewers noted, and it was my experience as well, that our American history courses in high school presented the narrative of the last quarter of the 18th period woefully incompletely. There was the revolutionary fury of the Declaration of Independence and the war, which was reasonably well laid out. The Articles of Confederation -they failed, but why? – followed. Then the Founders came up with the Constitution – but how? – including the Bill of Rights.

In fighting the American Revolution, the colonists were cohesive in that limited battle against the British. However, the notion that these 13 nation-states would then relinquish their independence to accept the creation of a powerful federal government was no guarantee. Certain visionaries diagnosed that structure created by the Articles of Confederation was doomed to fail. They suggested conventions, purportedly to amend the Articles, but ultimately to throw them out.

As Newsday noted: Ellis’ account of the run-up to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and the subsequent state-by-state ratification process is so pacey it almost reads like a thriller. New Yorker Hamilton, fearful that anarchy was looming, developed a national vision first; Madison was just a bit behind. Jay, serving as foreign affairs secretary, was trying to fashion coherent foreign policy. But all agreed that if their efforts were to succeed, a reluctant Washington, who had retired to Mount Vernon, had to be on board. Washington’s revolutionary credentials were unassailable.

“In 1780, most Americans, having thrown off the fetters of a faraway central power, would have thought the kind of national government envisioned by Washington and Co. as peculiar in the extreme. Some historians have viewed the Constitution as a betrayal of the American Revolution by a cabal of elites who crushed an emerging democracy. Ellis, however, reminds us that democracy was viewed skeptically in the 18th century; he prefers to see the efforts the quartet as ‘a quite brilliant rescue’ of revolutionary principles.”

I totally agree that, for a topic that could be very dry, I found the book surprisingly engaging. Ellis explains how the Founders, even those opposing slavery such as Hamilton, essentially ducked the question for the cause of federalism, hoping the topic would be addressed down the road, which it was, decades later.

I should mention that I got the large-print version of The Quartet because that happened to be the edition near the checkout. I didn’t NEED it, but I’m not complaining about it either.

I came across an article in Newsweek, The Weird Way That Climate Change Could Make Earthquakes Worse.

“There have to be natural risk factors—specifically, unstable fault lines—for an earthquake to occur. However, the evidence is there that humans are creating situations that can agitate, lubricate, and put pressure on these plates. In fact, a book called Waking the Giant by Bill McGuire documents the science behind climate change creating ideal conditions for tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes.”

I had not heard of this 2012 book with the subtitle How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes. It reviewed well on Good Reads and Amazon, though some thought it was too technical. And most believe the ending was too much a recapitulation.

“Here’s how climate change can lead to more earthquakes, according to scientist emeritus at the US Geological Survey and CEO of earthquake app Temblor Ross Stein.”

He explained something called Reservoir-Induced Seismicity or Dam-Induced Seismicity, earthquakes caused by building dams near fault lines. “People are building reservoirs on fault lines all around the world, filling and draining them. The water in the reservoir can lubricate faults, and filling and draining the reservoir creates and lifts pressure. Furthermore, filling a reservoir can force pressure on water at the bottom, which can run into the ground and create cracks and instability.”

And yet, “it’s difficult to objectively prove that reservoirs cause earthquakes.” Wouldn’t those plate tectonics create earthquakes anyway? This is maddeningly like the general conversation about climate change. One cannot attribute hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria to global warming, or the earthquakes in Mexico. But directly, or indirectly, the rising temperatures may be factors.

The interesting thing about the article is that it appeared as a spam comment on this blog, the entire piece without a title. Usually I’m rather quick in purging spam comments, but the length and coherence of the post slowed me down just enough. I may not have seen it otherwise.

I received the David Hepworth book Never a Dull Moment – 1971: The Year That Rock Exploded a couple days before Christmas. I finished the 286-page book before New Years Day.

The premise is that the pop period ended with the Beatles signing essentially their divorce papers from each other on 31 December 1970. Hepworth, who turned 21 in 1971, says that year saw “an unrepeatable surge of musical creativity, technological innovation, naked ambition, and outrageous good fortune that combined to produce music that still crackles today.” The era of rock was born.

Sometimes, he would make references to other cultural events of the time that seemed random, but eventually it would somehow connect. Hepworth used a few Britishisms that I did not initially pick up on, but I figured out most of them in context.

The book is arranged by month. Read the rest of this entry »

apocryphanow_cvrOnce again, I find myself reviewing a follow-up book. Apocrypha Now is a sequel of sorts to God is Disappointed in You, also by Mark Russell, with illustrations by New Yorker cartoonist Shannon Wheeler.

While the earlier book is a retelling of the King James Version of the Bible, Apocrypha Now is the “Cliff Notes” version of the extra-Biblical writings. Part One is the Midrash, a collection of “texts that flesh out the story of the Jews in the Old Testament.”

If you’ve perused Genesis – and I’ve read it a LOT, in attempts to read the Bible straight through – some of the stories will be familiar: creation, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham Read the rest of this entry »

march-book-three-coverBack when Jon Stewart was hosting The Daily Show, he had on Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), the lion of the civil rights movement. He was plugging March, Book Two, which continued the description of the “historic events he participated in as a leader of the civil rights movement,” sharing “his desire to inspire the next generation of activists with his graphic novel trilogy.” I said, “I should get that,” but did not.

Recently, Lewis returned to The Daily Show, now hosted by Trevor Noah, promoting March, Book Three. So when I got a chance to review that book, I took it.

If you saw the movies Read the rest of this entry »

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