Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Recommended reading for Easter: The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Good literature is when it goes beyond the printed word to exalt the better parts of our human souls. The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes is great literature.

Read my review at Da Tech Guy Blog.

The New Yorker on Vargas Llosa

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

The Discreet Hero is now translated into English by Edith Grossman, and The New Yorker has an article by Thomas Mallon,
Restless Realism
Mario Vargas Llosa’s imagined lives.

“The Discreet Hero,” an energetic book with a more straightforward narrative method than almost any other Vargas Llosa novel, centers on an extortion plot against the self-made owner of a local transport company, a good man who refuses to pay, and whose son and mistress may be in on the crime. It also brings the return of Don Rigoberto, the irresponsible aesthete through whom Vargas Llosa mentally dodged some of the worst of the Peruvian eighties. Still bemoaning the “barbarism” of the country beneath his window, Rigoberto is now sixty-two and ready to retire from the insurance company. His son, Fonchito, however, is maturing with the same magic-realist slowness as Lituma: he should be easily past thirty but is still no more than fifteen, driving Don Rigoberto and Doña Lucrecia to distraction with tales of an older man who keeps mysteriously appearing to him. The parents finally put their doubts about his story into the hands of a private eye and a shrink; the possibility is even raised that this precocious sexual manipulator may have had a spiritual experience and become an angel.

I haven’t read the translation, but I greatly enjoyed “The Discreet Hero” when it first came out in Spanish. I hope you do, too.

50 Shades of meh

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2015
  • Now that the Superbowl’s done and over with, the latest media blitz involves the upcoming film version of the dreadful 50 Shades of Grey.

    Back in my much younger and stupider days, I had to finish every book I started. Then I wised up and realized life’s too short to waste on crap. All along, I’ve been a compulsive omnivorous reader.

    So when my sister came to visit raving about 50 Shades (which she picked up at the airport, after realizing she hadn’t packed her Kindle), I thought I should take a look.

    Oy vey.

    Opening sentence: “I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror.”

    50(!) pages later, when pervy Mr. Grey hands the idiot girl a binding contract (all puns intended), I had enough of the crappy plot – if you want to call that a plot – and the execrable writing and returned the book to my sister, who by then was working her way through the second volume.

    OF COURSE, 50 Shades is a huge hit and they made a movie out of it. The previews hit theaters six months ago.

    The movie opens on Valentine’s Day. I truly can not understand why anyone would want to watch that on Valentine’s Day, of all times, but then bondage’s not my idea of a good time, let alone romance.

    Last week I was feeding my addiction to British murder mysteries as I watched The Fall, wondering where I had seen the guy before, something that happens often since British actors constantly pop up on murder mysteries: IMDB,
    The Fall,
    Jamie Dornan.

    So he’s Mr. Grey.

    I wonder if he got that part from having played the creep in The Fall.

    To get an whiff of the full 50 Shades aroma you must read Katrina Passick‘s review:

    Now I’ll be totally honest, the biggest issue I have with Fifty Shades of Shit is neither the sex nor the horrible writing. It’s the plot. Thin as it is, it’s still there, its core message being that, given enough time, you can change someone. While I don’t have any problem with this if all you’re trying to do is help them to lose weight or quit smoking, when you’re talking about an emotionally and (dangerously close to) physically abusive relationship, sending that kind of message is ridiculous and irresponsible. Christian is controlling, possessive, condescending, and cruel. He doesn’t allow Ana to behave as she normally would, and Ana just puts up with it, insistent that if she can give him what he wants, when he wants, as often as he wants, she can eventually begin to pull his strings. Will it work? In the books, probably. In real life? No. Almost never. How many misguided women are going to waste their lives on some emotionally retarded prick because they’ve read shit like this and think this kind of fucked-up fairytale will come true for them? I’ve known women with this mentality. “Oh, he’s so dark and dangerous and threatening, but he’s got a sad, lonely side, and if I could just figure out what’s wrong, I could change him!”

    Two restraining orders later, the lucky ones may figure out guys like that will never change – the others get a nice funeral, if any. My initial reaction from the book was, “Grey gets carried away, the girl’s dead, he dumps her on Puget Sound from his helicopter, end of story.”

    As you can see from the links above, I’m not above making a buck, so if you still want to join the buyers of the 100 million copies, knock yourself out and please buy through my links.

    Blogging on more serious matters shall continue shortly.

    Oh! And I almost forgot -
    Since I didn’t read the book I didn’t know that E.L. James crapped all over Tallis by using his masterpiece Spem In Alium (THE masterpiece of choral music) as Grey’s background music of choice for inflicting pain on sick idiots.

    **ck James and the beaten-up horse she rode in on.

  • Last-minute shopping: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

    Wednesday, December 24th, 2014

    It’s Christmas eve, you hate, hate, going to the mall, and you have readers on your list who don’t like fiction. I strongly recommend you buy them The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels on Kindle edition, which they can also read on line and in their tablets and cell phone apps.

    Epstein created the Center for Industrial Progress (emphasis added),

    Center for Industrial Progress (CIP) is a for-profit think-tank seeking to bring about a new industrial revolution. We believe that human beings have the untapped potential to radically improve our lives by using technology to improve the planet across a multitude of industries: mining, manufacturing, agriculture, chemistry, and energy. Every individual has the potential for a longer, happier, healthier, safer, more comfortable, more meaningful, more opportunity-filled life.

    The keys to a new industrial revolution are a new industrial philosophy, a new industrial policy, and a new approach to communication.

    The emphasis on using technology for an anti-pollution but pro-development approach to improve our lives is key to The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.

    Read my review at Da Tech Guy Blog.

    Eichmann’s true nature: 2 reviews of “Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer”

    Thursday, October 16th, 2014

    Bettina Stangneth shows that Adolf Eichmann acted out of genocidal anti-Semitism, and challenges Hannah Arendt’s claim that he was “terribly and terrifyingly normal.”

    Gerald Steinacher at the WSJ: Adolf Eichmann’s Extraordinary Evil
    Hannah Arendt saw Adolf Eichmann as an unthinking bureaucrat. She never read the transcripts of his conversations after the war.

    Ms. Stangneth, drawing on documents and research that Arendt never had access to, reaches a different conclusion: He was a master manipulator. “Whether he was in the Third Reich, Argentina, or Israel, Eichmann gave detailed and well-informed accounts of the murder of millions. He simply adjusted the account of his own role, and his attitude toward the murders, to his changing circumstances,” she writes.

    Argentina was instrumental in his escape, and of others:

    Ms. Stangneth, drawing on research by the Argentinian author Uki Goñi and others, also reminds us how openly the networks of former Nazis operated and how far they reached. Like thousands of other Nazis and collaborators, Eichmann escaped to Argentina with the help of Italian Catholic priests and Argentinian officials while carrying Red Cross travel papers. Ms. Stangneth emphasizes the lack of interest Allied authorities showed in bringing former Nazis to justice after the war. This is consistent with my own research, which shows that the Nazis’ escape networks were well-known by many governments and institutions, including the U.S. State Department, as early as 1947. But with the increasing tensions between the West and the Soviet Union, denazification efforts became less and less important. After the Korean War broke out in 1950, attention almost completely shifted to the new enemy: communism. It now appears that the German intelligence service was aware of Eichmann’s whereabouts as early as 1952 but showed little effort to apprehend him. Only Israel was willing to take justice into its own hands.

    Richard Wolin at the Jewish Review of Books (emphasis added): Arendt, Banality, and Benhabib: A Final Rejoinder

    Nor have I ever claimed that Eichmann was “demonic,” “perverted,” or diabolical. This is a willful misattribution and, more importantly, an attempt to avoid dealing with what Eichmann in fact was: a believer in genocidal anti-Semitism.

    Thoughtlessness comes in a variety of guises. One of them is academic hero-worship: reverence for an intellectual icon in the face of a burgeoning mass of evidence indicating that she may have grievously erred. Perhaps Kant said it best in his famous essay “What is Enlightenment?” when he observed that, “Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another . . . Dogmas and formulas . . . are the ball and chain of his permanent immaturity.”

    Available at Amazon in Kindle and hardcover editions.

    Could capitalism save the Arabs?

    Sunday, October 12th, 2014

    I am very skeptical, but Peruvian economist explains his thesis in The Capitalist Cure for Terrorism
    Military might alone won’t defeat Islamic State and its ilk. The U.S. needs to promote economic empowerment

    De Soto has a lot of experience in developing economies, but not in societies where the will of the individual is subjugated to a cult of violence. I hope he is right.

    Taxes, and a book

    Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

    Don’t miss these:

    First, taxes:
    My latest article, I’m a tax exile, and proud of it, is up at Da Tech Guy Blog.

    Then, the book:
    In tonight’s podcast at 8PM Eastern, Silvio Canto and I will talk to Alina García-Lapuerta, author of La Belle Créole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris, a biography of Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo, a fascinating character.

    En español: Últimas noticias del idiota iberoamericano

    Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

    Argentina: Carlos Alberto Montaner & Alvaro Vargas Llosa: “Argentina ha instalado un sistema económico perverso” – Infobae

    Carlos Alberto Montaner y Álvaro Vargas Llosa, autores del libro “Últimas noticias del nuevo idiota Iberoamericano”, analizaron en InfobaeTV el rumbo del Gobierno y advirtieron que “camina hacia una catástrofe“. Las trampas del populismo y la “responsabilidad” de la oposición.

    En la Argentina se instaló un sistema populista, de gran concentración de poder político; de erosión sistemática de los contrapesos y del control del poder; un sistema económico muy perverso, que consiste básicamente en extorsionar al campo para subvencionar a la ciudad, a través de eso crear un voto cautivo para permitirle al sistema una continuidad”, sentenció el peruano.

    Luego advirtió por las dificultades crecientes que enfrentará la economía por la desaceleración que sufrirá como consecuencia de los cambios en las condiciones internacionales. “Hoy tiene un gasto público descomunal y una tendencia a gastarse todas sus reservas, que está provocando una situación de mucha urgencia, muy dramática”. Incluso consideró que una devaluación como la de enero puede no ser suficiente para hacer frente a la brecha entre el dólar oficial y el libre: “A los pocos meses el mercado te demuestra que tus políticas están cayendo en las mismas consecuencias”.

    Montaner no fue menos optimista. “Argentina está en un ciclo muy negativo, camina hacia la catástrofe“.

    El cubano reconoció que, pese a ese agotamiento que denuncian, el Gobierno goza de un considerable apoyo. “Si la oposición no consigue juntarse, va a ser muy difícil el remplazo y el sostenimiento del remplazo”.

    Y explicó que “en el grupo clientelista, los clientes van a mantenerse unidos porque tienen un interés particular, que no es el del Estado, pero la oposición tiene una responsabilidad de sacar al país de esta terrible situación”.


    Back to English, in other Argentina news:

    Argentina in Contempt of Court in Bonds Case, U.S. Judge Rules
    Nation Has Tried to Circumvent Rulings on Repaying Creditors Holding Defaulted Bonds, Court Says

    The contempt decision comes after the country has made several attempts to get around Judge Griesa’s series of rulings that say the country can’t pay its restructured bondholders until it pays the approximate $1.6 billion it owes to its holdout creditors.

    Argentina recently passed legislation to switch the jurisdiction of its bonds governed by U.S. law to Argentina, which Judge Griesa repeatedly has said is illegal and can’t be carried out. The country also is trying to remove Bank of New York Mellon Corp. BK -0.85% as the trustee bank that processes payments and replace it with a local Argentine bank, another move that triggered the contempt citation.

    “[Argentina] has been and is now taking steps in an attempt to evade critical parts of” U.S. court order, Judge Griesa said on Monday at the federal courthouse in Manhattan. “There’s a very concrete proposal that would clearly violate the injunction.”

    Judge Griesa has jurisdiction in this case because Argentina in the 1990s borrowed money from foreign investors under the agreement that any disputes would be litigated in U.S. courts. Argentina defaulted in 2001, and has for years battled hedge funds that refused to accept debt exchanges in 2005 and 2010.

    The hedge funds that sued Argentina in the U.S. agreed to support a request by Citigroup (C), which sought to pay $5 million interest, tied to Argentine bonds, due to today.

    Ecuador: If Correa ain’t happy . . .

    Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

    . . . he hires Putin’s PR people.

    Two items from Ecuador,


    I’ve been hesitating to review Paul M. Barrett’s new book, Law of the Jungle: The $19 Billion Legal Battle Over Oil in the Rain Forest and the Lawyer Who’d Stop at Nothing to Win about fraudster Steven Donziger.

    While the book is interesting, I find statements like “While not a materialistic person driven by financial rewards, Donziger sometimes groused about the cost of his career choices” (page 134) exasperating. Paul Barrett may believe that Donziger was not “driven by financial rewards” while setting up a Gibraltar corporation to hold proceeds of the judgment, but readers of Law of the Jungle should read Judge Kaplan’s 497-page decision, which quotes Donziger’s personal notebook on April 4, 2007:

    . . . I sit back and dream. I cannot believe what we have accomplished. Important people interested in us. A new paradigm of not only a case, but how to do a case. Chevron wanting to settle. Billions of dollars on the table. A movie, a possible book.I cannot keep up with it all.

    That said, Barrett is now under attack by the Republic of Ecuador’s U.S. public relations advisers, New York-based Ketchum. His article, What It’s Like to Be Attacked by Putin’s American Flack explains the latest,

    Ketchum’s memo about my book connects the dots regarding why Ecuador cares so passionately about the case. Among the “difficult questions” Law of the Jungle raises, according to Ketchum:

    Barrett’s book does raise many questions, among them,

    • “Ecuador took the biggest part of the income obtained from petroleum extracted from the Amazon, approximately $23.5 billion against $1.6 billion for Texaco-Chevron.” The precise figures are subject to dispute, but according to government records, the split was roughly 90-10 in favor of Ecuador. This contradicts a central theme of the plaintiffs’ (and Correa’s) narrative: that Texaco derived all the benefit from industrializing the rain forest and left the host country with only the nasty side effects. The Ketchum memo warns the embassy that my reporting raises additional questions: How did Ecuador spend its majority proceeds from oil exploitation? Why wasn’t this money spent on environmental controls? Why was the money not used to help those harmed by the drilling?

    Make sure to read Barrett’s full article. You can find all of his very interesting Business Week/Bloomberg articles here.

    Ecuador engages in “widespread repression of the media”; now they try to export the repression to our shores via a public relations firm.

    The second item:

    As you may recall, president Rafael Correa has come up with a fake currency to cover up a fiscal deficit, including debt service, of some $9.2 billion.

    Correa claims there’s no plan to replace the dollar. Steve Hanke, who 14 years ago was the chief intellectual architect of the nation’s switch to the dollar, is skeptical,
    Ecuador’s Dollarization Architect Doubts Correa’s Pledge

    “What Correa’s trying to do is kind of loosen the straitjacket that dollarization has him in,” Hanke said. “If you go off, the fiscal deficit gets bigger, the level of debt gets bigger, inflation goes up and economic growth goes down. All the economic indicators just go south.”

    Correa is expected to run for a fourth presidential term in 2017, having changed the law on presidential term limits.

    Ketchum may be looking forward to it.

    For Ecuador’s PR Firm, Celebrity Backing Carries Hefty Price Tag
    MCSquared paid more than $500,000 for Mia Farrow, Danny Glover junkets

    Linked to by Bad Blue. Thanks!

    Podcasting live

    Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

    with Gloria M Strassburger, author, in Silvio Canto’s show.

    Gloria’s book is Palm Trees in the Snow, a beautiful memoir.

    The podcasts are also archived for your listening convenience.