GOD IS NOT THERE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Go Tell It on the MountainGo Tell It On the Mountain

Written by: James Baldwin

Narrated by: Adam Lazarre-White

JAMES BALDWIN (1924-1987 AMERICAN NOVELIST & SOCIAL CRITIC)
JAMES BALDWIN (1924-1987 AMERICAN NOVELIST, SOCIAL CRITIC)

Go Tell It on the Mountain because God is not there.  Go Tell It on the Mountain because no one listens.  Go Tell It on the Mountain because no one cares.  James Baldwin rages against culture that makes one, what one is not.  Baldwin wins fame from a book that defines the chains of discrimination.  He explains why and how culture is a curse.  Baldwin tells a story that explains why being different denies equal opportunity.

Go Tell It on the Mountain is partly auto biographical.  It tells of the author’s remembrance of his childhood and formative years.  In broad perspective, Go Tell It on the Mountain shows how Americans are born as equals but deprived of potential by culture.  Though published in 1953, the truth of Baldwin’s observations about culture is institutionalized in America.

Baldwin writes a story about three economic opportunities for early 20th century black Americans.  They are announced by Baldwin as robber, pimp, or preacher.  Today, some believe blacks are still not suited for more.

STEREOTYPING
Only when human beings are treated as equal will stereotypes disappear.

Baldwin’s story is about two fathers of the same boy.  One is the natural father; the other is a stepfather.  The birth father is characterized as naturally smart.  He moves from the rural south to the urban north with a woman he does not marry.  The father is arrested for being at a store when two black men rob it.  Because the father is in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is sent to jail for trial.  The father is accused but not convicted.  He is so shaken by the experience; he slits his wrists and dies.  What would this father have become if he had not been arrested and jailed?  The innate skill of a human being may be a combination of genetics and environment but if one’s color says you can only be a robber, a pimp, a preacher, a sports star, or an entertainer; being smart is not enough.  Only when human beings are treated as equal will stereotypes disappear.

BLACK PREACHER
The irony of a stepfather/ preacher’s abuse is that he is biblically as sinful as most human beings.  (In retrospect, knowing that Baldwin is gay, one surmises how abusive a religious stepfather might be.)

The second father of the same boy, a stepfather, also gravitates from the rural south to the north but he is older and knows success as a preacher.  He is not characterized as particularly smart but he believes in God and talks the talk of a good man who will rescue an unwed mother and her child from a life of despair.  However, the stepfather is a martinet.  He severely punishes his wife and children for what he considers sin or disrespect.  The irony of the preacher’s abuse is that he is biblically as sinful as most human beings.  (In retrospect, knowing that Baldwin is gay, one surmises how abusive a religious stepfather might be.)

What makes Baldwin’s book important is its reflection on a part of American culture that denies equal opportunity for all.  A smart man kills himself because he is black and has experienced the hate and inequality of discrimination.  A preacher beats his wife and sons because he believes he has a right, given by God, to assay sin and punish those who violate his limited understanding.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITY
What makes Baldwin’s book important is its reflection on a part of American culture that denies equal opportunity for all.
INSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATION
INSTITUTIONAL DISCRIMINATION

Being smart or being religious is not enough; particularly if you are a minority or a woman because cultures stultify individuality and restrict opportunity.  Individuality and opportunity are hindered by poor education and biases that are eternally engendered (institutionalized) by discrimination.  Blacks have shown they are more than criminals, preachers, sports stars, and entertainers.  And women have shown they are more than child bearers and housewives but America continues to struggle with equal opportunity for all.  Baldwin exemplifies America’s struggle in Go Tell It on the Mountain.

RUSSIAN REALPOLITIK

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Red NoticeRed Notice

Written by: Bill Browder

Narration by:  Adam Grupper

WILLIAM FELIX BROWDER (AKA BILL BROWDER-CEP AND CO-FOUNDER OF HERMITAGE CAPTIAL MANAGEMENT, NOTED CRITIC OF PUTIN)
WILLIAM FELIX BROWDER (AKA BILL BROWDER-CEP AND CO-FOUNDER OF HERMITAGE CAPTIAL MANAGEMENT, NOTED CRITIC OF PUTIN)

If only a few of Bill Browder’s facts and accusations are true, the realpolitik of Vladimir Putin shocks the senses.  “Red Notice” reflects on the diplomacy of Russian power.

In his book, “Red Notice”, Browder tells a story that implies Putin is a thug.   Browder infers that Putin will lie, steal, and murder with the brutality of Joseph Stalin, the cunning of Machiavelli, and the tenacity of Genghis Kahn.  Browder believes Putin uses his position as President to acquire wealth as second only to his desire for power.

Acquiring wealth is something Browder knows quite a lot about.  William Browder is an investment fund manager/partner who ventures into Russia at the beginning of glasnost.  Russian businesses and industries became private rather than state-owned enterprises at the end of the 20th century.

Beginning in 1996, Browder and his investors assemble a capital investment fund worth billions of dollars in 2005.  Browder began the fund with other people’s money.   The fund becomes known as Hermitage Capital Management.  As a result of his analysis, Browder’s investment group buys Russian assets at steeply undervalued prices.  He earns over two hundred million dollars per year for himself in 2006 and 2007.

BROWDER’S STORY OF HERMITAGE CAPITAL: 

In 2005, Browder is deported by the Russian government.  In 2006, Browder is black listed by the Russian government as a “threat to national security”.  In March of 2013, the bank that serves as trustee and manager of Hermitage Capital Management announces it will cease funding operations in Russia.  Browder gleefully points out in “Red Notice” that all of Hermitage Capital Management assets had been surreptitiously withdrawn in 2007.  Browder is presently being sued in absentia by the Russian Government for tax evasion.  Therein lays a tale of suspicious deaths, human greed, and conspiracy.

Browder assembles a great deal of evidence that suggests two people are murdered; that murder’ accomplices are paid a great deal of money, and that President Putin either sets the example for thuggish behavior or is complicit in a scheme that defrauds the Russian people.

DUTCH JOURNALISM’S INVESTIGATION OF THE RISE OF PUTIN:

SERGEI MAGNITSKY (1972-2009, RUSSIAN ACCOUNTANT AND AUDITOR VITIMIZED IN RUSSIA--WORKED FOR BILL BROWDER)
SERGEI MAGNITSKY (1972-2009, RUSSIAN ACCOUNTANT AND AUDITOR VITIMIZED IN RUSSIA–WORKED FOR BILL BROWDER)

The two alleged murders are Sergie Magnitsky and Alexander Perepilichnyy.  Magnitsky dies in the custody of the Russian government.  He is identified as an attorney in Browder’s book but research suggests he is not licensed as an attorney in Russia.  Magnitsky discovers a scheme by Russian government employees to recover taxes paid by Browder’s companies in Russia.  The scheme is based on charges that the companies that paid the taxes were illegally pilfered by Browder’s investment company.  The companies were transferred, without Browder’s knowledge or authorization, to shell company Russian owners.  These owners are found to be two officers in the Russian secret police.  The new owners suggest the companies they own have been pilfered and that they should be reimbursed for taxes that were paid to the government because of Browder’s fraudulent transfer of worthless assets.

Magnitsky and two Russian lawyers present evidence to the Russian government about the fraud being perpetrated by the two Russian officers.   The two Russian lawyers decide to flee their country when they believe they are going to be arrested.  Magnitsky believes facts speak for themselves; that he is safe, and the government will recognize and arrest the real criminals.  Magnitsky is arrested, beaten, and dies in prison.  The two officers, Artem Kuznetxov, and Pavel Karpov remain free.

MAJOR KARPOV EXPOSE:

ALEXANDER PEREPILICHNY (OLIGARCH THAT MAY HAVE BEEN MURDERED AT AGE 44 FOR EXPOSING RUSSIAN TAX FRAUD CASE ASSOCIATED WITH BROWDER INVESTIGATION)
ALEXANDER PEREPILICHNY (OLIGARCH THAT MAY HAVE BEEN MURDERED AT AGE 44 FOR EXPOSING RUSSIAN TAX FRAUD CASE ASSOCIATED WITH BROWDER INVESTIGATION)

Alexander Perepilichny was a Russian business man who defected from Russia in 2009.  Perepilichny dies at the front door of his residence in the UK.  Magnitsky was a forensic accountant in Russia.  Living in England in 2012, he contacts Browder to say he has evidence of how the Moscow tax office rebated taxes to the two government officials.  Browder contacts the chief constable of Surrey in England to tell them of Perepilichny’s evidence.  Browder accuses Russian officers of fraud, costing the Russian state $230 million dollars.

Three videos of the alleged fraudsters are created as evidence of the Russian officers’ fraud.  The evidence relies on their life style versus the income they receive from the Russian government.  In Browder’s book, this evidence is overlaid with the prosecution of Russian oligarchs by Putin with the inference that those oligarchs that do not offer money to Putin are at risk of being jailed.

SYNOPSIS OF THE MAGNITSKY CASE:

“Red Notice” is a powerful statement about one man’s view of Vladimir Putin.  As noted at the beginning of this review, “if only a few of Bill Browder’s facts and accusations are true…” Putin’s reputation, if not his power and wealth, are diminished.  At the same time, Browder’s ludicrously large capitalist windfall at the expense of the Russian economy, and two Russian’ deaths, does little for his reputation.

THE NATURE OF CORRUPTION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security

Written by: Sarah Chayes

Narration by:  Sarah Chayes

SARAH CHAYES (AUTHOR, SENIOR ASSOCIATE IN THE DEMOCRACY AND RULE OF LAW PROGRAM AT CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE)

SARAH CHAYES (AUTHOR, SENIOR ASSOCIATE IN THE DEMOCRACY AND RULE OF LAW PROGRAM AT CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE)

Unquestionably, Hamid Karzai and his administration were corrupt during his ten years as President of Afghanistan.  There is ample proof of corruption.  “Thieves of State” is a tiresome revelation by an author one admires for confronting state sanctioned corruption.  However, Sarah Chayes etiology for corruption is askew.

As Sarah Chayes notes, Mubarak’s government in Egypt was comparably corrupt.  Chayes ten years in Afghanistan and her ability to speak Arabic offer tremendous credibility to her observations.  However, her suggestion that corruption threatens global security is tiresome because “Thieves of State” exist in all forms of government, including the United States.

HOSNI MUBARAK (FOURTH PRESIDENT OF EGYPT 1981-2011)

HOSNI MUBARAK (FOURTH PRESIDENT OF EGYPT 1981-2011)

Most, if not all, governments have some level of corruption because their leaders are human.  In Afghanistan, Karzai protects his family’s interest by allowing his brother to sell land at high prices when it is virtually given to him by the government. 

TRUMP'S EMPIRE

President Trump chooses to stay involved in the management of his corporate interests around the world.  His justification is day-to-day management is in the hands of his sons.  How credible is that argument?

HAMID KARZAI (PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN 2004-2014) Karzai protects government functionaries that require bribes for favors because they are loyal to him. 

Trump has tweeted that loyalty, above all, is expected from the people who report to him.  Trump chooses to use government functionaries that are closely tied to industries that the government intends to regulate.  When does loyalty become more important than fair-dealing? 

Greed is a part of human nature.  It is disingenuous to think Vice President Cheney did not have an interest in seeing his former employer become the military supplier in the Iraq war. 

Money, power, and prestige motivate all human beings.  Societies only defense is government regulation but even that is subject to human nature and motivational force.

Rod Blagojevich (Former Governor of Illinois)

Desire for money, power, and prestige has no political party.  It is in the nature of all humankind.  Ironically, President Trump sets Rod Blagojevich free at the end of his presidency.

The irony is multifold. Trump is elected as a Republican, Blagojevich is elected as a Democrat. Trump is alleged to have tried to bribe a foreign head of state. Blagojevich is alleged to have tried to bribe a former President. Both choose use their elective offices to advance their ambition for more money, power, and prestige.

Chayes is absolutely right when writing about how important it is to listen to the general population about their government and its affect on their lives.  Only then can one gain some understanding of a nation’s corruption.  The consequence of human nature’s truths are dire.  Human nature’s truth, when added to an outsider’s cultural misunderstandings, can be catastrophic.

IED

Chayes suggests that an Afghani citizen will refuse to warn Afghani policemen of an IED “…because policemen require bribes to do their job”.  Chayes concludes “…corruption is a threat to global security”. 

This is a reasonable conclusion but what can an outsider do about it?  Correction of corrupt practices can only come from the people who are governed. America can only lead by example; not by force of arms. America fails itself and the countries it forcefully tries to change. Yesterday it was Vietnam, Iran, and Iraq– today it is Afghanistan.

KARL MARX (BORN TRIER, GERMANY 1818-DIED LONDON, ENGLAND 1883)

KARL MARX (BORN TRIER, GERMANY 1818-DIED LONDON, ENGLAND 1883) History shows that cultural outsiders destroy national comity and identity.  Marx was an outsider in the Russian revolution but he formed the basis for communism’s takeover of Russia.

Lenin, Stalin, and to a lesser extent, Trotsky (all indigenous Russians) changed the government based on an outsider’s machinations.  The same can be said of Mao’s China and Castro’s Cuba.  Change comes from an outsider’s interference; while revolution only comes from within.  The only consequential role an outsider like Chayes can play is publicizing indigenous public discontent.  That is the true value of her observations in “Thieves of State”.

Chayes points to a Nigerian oil CEO who makes $1,000,000 per year.  Chayes exposure of kleptocracy in Nigeria is only legally different from that which exists in the United States.  The difference is that kleptocracy in America is legalized by a stable government.  Robert Walker of Andarko Petroleum makes over $15,000,000 per year.  American tax subsidies and American tax policy subsidize the oil industry. THIS TYPE OF CORRUPTION IS LEGAL IN AMERICA.

US-POLITICS-TRUMP-CABINET

The American government protects CEO incomes that reinforce a widening gap between rich and poor.  At least two of President Trump’s cabinet are billionaires and most are multi-millionaires.  Few of the super-rich have much interest in, or concern for, the poor.

Chayes’ book would be more interesting if she had contrasted America’s corruption with Afghanistan’s.  She limits her comparisons to medieval Eastern, African, and European cultures.  Listening to “Thieves of State” is off-putting because America, like all nation-states, have some level of corruption; i.e. legalized corruption is still corruption.

HEARTS AND MINDS

Invading Afghanistan is understandable because of its role in harboring terrorists.  However, it is a waste of American lives to believe an outsider’s intervention will change the hearts and minds of an indigenous population.

If America makes the mistake of invading Iraq or throwing money at the Afghanistan economy, it is only we Americans who are to blame.    It is not only the fault of Afghani or Iraqi corruption.  It is the innate nature of humanity.  Fault lays at the feet of an outside country invading a foreign culture.

Respectfully, Chayes invested her time in understanding Afghanistan which puts her far and away ahead of most Americans but she misses the root cause of corruption which is unregulated human nature.  That is why many countries that have poor government regulation turn to religion. 

If a secular government cannot regulate human nature, Taliban-like martinets fill the vacuum with public executions or Mullah Dictates.  Neither secular nor religious governance is a guarantee of perfect human justice, equality, or equity.  Justice, equality, and equity must come from the desire of indigenous populations.

A CHILLING VIEW

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

 The Death of the Adversary: A Novelthe death of the adversary

Written by: Hans Keilson, Ivo Jarosy

Narration by:  James Clamp

HANS KEILSON (1909-1970)
HANS KEILSON (1909-1970)

“The Death of the Adversary” is a chilling view of the rise of Nazism in Germany.  Hans Keilson never mentions the word Jew or Hitler in his novel about the 1930s but notions of history inform the listener of what Keilson is writing about.  Names are not named because Keilson writes the story while hiding during WWII.  He flees Germany to join the Dutch resistance when denied the opportunity to practice medicine as a Jew.

The main character of Keilson’s novel refuses to believe his father or acquaintances at work and school of the threat of the unnamed adversary in Germany.  This anti-hero pursues his life as though the threat of Nazism would pass without affecting his life.  However, as events unfold, the anti-hero hears the radio voice of “…the Adversary” and begins to understand the underlying murderous intent of a charismatic political actor who will turn German lives upside down.

words matter
The realized terror is that spoken words by one actor can lead to a genocidal mania on the part of a chosen people.

Keilson writes of a speech given by “…the Adversary” to give the reader/listener some insight to the power of words in the hands of a consummate actor.  It is a terrifying realization both to the anti-hero and the reader/listener of Keilson’s book.  The realized terror is that spoken words by one actor can lead to a genocidal mania on the part of a chosen people.

There is relevance in Keilson’s story for events today.  Pundits and politicians use words to victimize and terrify immigrants, and minorities in the same despicable language of yesterday.

Next, Keilson tells a story of a meeting at a friend’s house where several young men congregate to discuss a local incident participated in by one of the young men.  The anti-hero’s friend is a woman who is employed at his place of work.  One of the young men is her brother.  It appears the young men are relatively close friends that choose to allow the anti-hero into their conversation.  One of the youngest tells of his recruitment in an obscure organization.  He volunteers to go on a night mission under the organization’s leader.

The recruitment is for a team of hooligans to desecrate the graves of a cemetery which one presumes is a particular ethnic graveyard.  The purpose is to defile the memory of a particular graveyard and the common beliefs which it represents.  Some of the participants are ambivalent about the mission but go along with the leader’s direction.  Head stones are overturned and graves are shat on.

GRAVEYARD DESECRATION
The anti-hero of Kielson’s story volunteers to go on a night mission under the organization’s leader.  The recruitment is for a team of hooligans to desecrate the graves of a cemetery which one presumes is a particular ethnic graveyard.

BATTERED SUIT CASE
Keilson recounts the love and guilt of his anti-hero by explaining how his father prepares a suitcase for himself, his wife, and his son.

Keilson recounts the love and guilt of his anti-hero by explaining how his father prepares a suitcase for himself, his wife, and his son.  The suitcase for the parents is preparation for the knock on the door in the middle of the night.  The parents do not plan to leave their country in spite of the danger which the father knows.  The suitcase for the son is for him to escape the country.  The son seems resigned to let life happen.  He is an anti-hero that is prepared to let events control his life; even though the consequence may be the loss of his parents.

The final chapters offer the anti-hero the opportunity to kill “…the Adversary”.  He chooses not to and history shows his decision to be both right and wrong.  It is right in light of the ultimate death of “…the Adversary” because of actions of others to stop his reign of terror.  It seems wrong because of the death of many (particularly the anti-hero’s parents), and his failure to confront “…the Adversary” before it was too late.

One is compelled to wonder about oneself in listening to Keilson’s story.  Who will choose to confront the adversary?  Who will “go along to get along”?

REDEPLOYMENT

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

RedeploymentRedeployment

Written by: Phil Klay

Narration by:  Craig Klein

PHIL KLAY (AMERICAN WRITER, MARINE VETERAN WHO SERVED IN ANBAR IRAQ 1.2007-2.2008)
PHIL KLAY (AMERICAN WRITER, MARINE VETERAN WHO SERVED IN ANBAR IRAQ 1.2007-2.2008)

“Redeployment” is a work of fiction.  It is written by Phil Klay, a Marine officer who served in Iraq in 2007/2008.  (Klay is the winner of the 2014 National Book Award for fiction for stories written in this book.)  “Redeployment” is about military’ enlistment, deployment, redeployment, and combat.

recruiter
There is an unpaid price for a military recruit who goes into combat.  The price is unseen and unknown until after it is experienced.  Those who first join have no idea what is in store for them when placed in a circumstance of killing or being killed.

Joining the military, particularly when one is in their teens or early twenties, is often an escape.

Enlistment is often a way to escape (or transition) from parental control, poverty, or life’s rudderlessness.  For a few, military enlistment is an adventure, a career, an opportunity to get in shape, a chance to see the world.  For others, joining may be a family tradition, a romantic notion of defending one’s country, a desire to impress parents, guardians, or friends.

One of Klay’s characters joins because of financial help offered by the service to pay for an education; another character joins because of family tradition, another because it impresses his father.  Klay’s stories offer insight by explaining most reasons are too simple, or clearly misunderstood by new recruits.   

VIETNAM WAR
Klay’s stories show that training for combat is not being in combat.  Military training creates a sense of team entitlement; i.e. of being tougher, more unified, more capable and important than civilians.  Training is meant to break-down individualism.  Military training masks the humanity of anyone that is not part of the team. 

Orders are orders.  Hierarchy of command is inviolable.  If a commander orders flattening of a town, soldiers are expected to act without thinking and remember without conscience.  Soldiers are able to act by dehumanizing those outside of their team.  In Vietnam humans become gooks.  In Iraq humans become towel heads.  These are tricks of propaganda that allow short-term actions but often fail to leave soldiers’ consciences. Command says we do not shoot children but children are killed.  Long range artillery and drones mask the consequence of killing.

Klay tells the story of a soldier who wants to know how many of an enemy are killed in a bombardment.  The soldier asks if there was an investigation.  The commander says no and sees no reason.  The soldier visits a behind-the-lines command post that cares for the dead.  He asks if a team will be sent to the site that has been bombarded.  The NCO asks if Americans were killed.  The soldier says no.  The NCO answers the question–“No, there is no investigation because we only concern ourselves with our own”.

BASEBALL IN THE VIETNAM WAR
Klay tells the story of the American financier that donates baseball equipment for Marines to teach Iraqi children how to play baseball.  The request goes up and down military channels despite the ludicrous misapprehension of what is really happening in Iraq. 

 A Marine officer is ordered to comply with the request to mollify the uniformed or ignorant financier’s request.

Another story is written about a civilian contractor hired to build a water power station in an Iraqi community.  The Marine assigned to oversee the utility installation is told by a local Iraqi that the pumping station being built will create too much pressure and blow-up the plumbing in town.  The Marine explains the problem to the civilian contractor but it does not stop the project.  It is an assignment that is being paid by the American government whether it works or not.  All the contractor is concerned about is completing the job and being paid.  Klay offers more stories; i.e. equally appalling–examples of wasted dollars and efforts to rebuild Iraq.

Klay writes of the misunderstandings that compound America’s mistakes in Iraq.  There is the story of the Egyptian American recruit that speaks Egyptian Arabic but does not know Iraqi Arabic and must learn the difference on his own because the military believes there is no difference.

The character Klay creates to oversee the water plant construction and the Iraqi baseball assignment is also responsible for producing Iraqi jobs.  This Marine’s civilian subcontractors are often ill-equipped to do what needs to be done.  One of the opportunities is farming but the civilian subcontractor assigned to help knows nothing about farming.

Another story is of an Iraqi who starts a women’s clinic to help women in Iraq who need medical assistance.  However, because her clinic is not creating enough jobs, there is little financial assistance to expand the service.  Klay implies Iraq is a “Bizarro World” where no one seems to communicate understandably, and most act without accomplishment.

BIZZARO WORLD OF WAR
THE BIZARRE WORLD OF WAR

Klay implies the experience of becoming a Marine saturates the being of some soldiers.  Their experience in combat and the comradeship of belonging compel re-enlistment and/or redeployment.  Being a civilian becomes too unstructured.  In some cases, Klay suggests civilian life is threatening to a soldier with experience of combat.  Some redeployed soldiers become command officers that live in a world of only “us and them” with all of “them” as expendable sub-human beings.

America’s pending departure from Iraq is a betrayal of “you broke it, you fix it”.  America tried and failed.  In that failure, the realization is–“the fix” can only be made by Iraqi leaders.  Iraq’s dilemma is America’s forgotten lesson of Vietnam.

(Baghdad Bombing kills 32 and wounds over 100 on January 21, 2021.)Baghdad Bombin kills 32 and wounds over 100 1.12.21

In a final story, Klay writes of a Marine veteran horribly disfigured by an IED.  A Marine that joined and served in the same place and at the same time as the disfigured veteran is a close friend.  The uninjured friend stays in touch with his fellow ex-Marine.  They recall old times.  They are close friends but the IED has so profoundly changed their relationship that the friendship has devolved into a friendship of un-equals.  Intimate civilian relationships, taken for granted by both before disfigurement, are now probabilistically experienced by only one of the friends.  Klay’s stories show that combat is a psychological; often physical life changing experience.

ICONIC IMAGE OF THE WAR IN VIETNAM
ICONIC IMAGE OF THE WAR IN VIETNAM

Klay is a veteran.  He seems to be saying it is important to understand what it means to become a soldier before signing up.  “Redeployment” is neither right or wrong but it can be right and wrong.  The best civilians and soldiers can do is “try to do right”.

A MISOGYNIST SEA

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

A Room of One’s Own

Written by: Virginia Woolf

Narration by:  Juliet Stevenson

VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882-1941, BRITISH AUTHOR, A WOMAN AHEAD OF HER TIME)

Virginia Woolf is a woman outside of time.   As Woolf implies in the early twentieth century, women are drowning in a misogynist sea.  Woolf is born when female inequality breaches the existential threat with a first wave; i.e. Women’s Suffrage in 1920.  The preeminent feminist, Betty Friedan, is just born (actually, 1921).  (Friedan later writes “The Feminine Mystique”–published in 1963.)

“A Room of One’s Own” is a contemplation on why women are underrepresented as great poets or fiction writers.  With the exception of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Woolf suggests there are no 19th century women renowned for fiction.  Apocryphally, the unlikely story of Lincoln saying “So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that made this Great War” is an apt coda for the insignificance of the public’s view of women writers.

EMILY DICKINSON (1830-1886, AMERICAN POET, PRODUCED 1,800 POEMS IN 40 HANDBOUND VOLUMES)

(As one listens to her complaint, one thinks about Emily Dickinson.  However, Dickenson did have a room of her own.)

Woolf wittily skewers male paragons of the pen and their misogynist comments about women.  She sets the table for an explanation of why there is no female Shakespeare’, erudite Johnson’, or Longfellow word smiths. 

Woolf’s point is that women had no money because they were dependent on men or family inheritance.  Often, young ladies are discouraged from college by their families who feel marriage and bearing of children are their primary duties.  Without educational support and few opportunities for gainful employment, women only had money if they inherited it or married a wealthy husband.  Without money, there is little opportunity for independence; without money, there is little chance of having “A Room of One’s Own”.

MeToo

There are many examples to support Woolf’s observation about money and the luxury of contemplation, having a room of your own.  Michel de Montaigne’s essays are spectacular observations of life and living but the key to his success is in wealth that allows him time for observation and contemplation of life.  He had a room of his own.  In Woolf’s lifetime there were few women who had such luxury.  Have things changed?  Maybe, but #MeToo suggests women’s independence and wealth still involves misogyny.

In the last section of her lecture Woolf notes women write fiction with a mixture of public disdain and admiration.  Disdain from implied colorlessness in writing but admiration for a twist in a story that suggests a first-time female author has potential.

MISOGYNY

Misogyny still roils the sea but more women writers have a room of their own.  The second wave is forty years in the future but Friedan steadies the helm-bearing toward equality.  At $.79 cents to the dollar in the 21st century, there is still a long way to go.

The frightening prospect of a Taliban government in Afghanistan is more threatening than wage differences in the U.S. The only concession they have recently made is to ban forced marriage of women. This is not to diminish America’s misogynist history but to show how backward and unfair the world can be to women.

However, for realization of potential, Woolf suggests the author needs to have a room of her own to have time to think and reflect.  To prove Woolf’s bona fides, she ends “A Room of Her Own” with short stories.  They are beautifully written and worthy of the theme of which she writes. 

As Aristotle once said, contemplation is the highest form of activity for the soul.  Woolf implies great literature; great fiction, and poetry come from authors who have time and a room of their own.

WIRED TO CREATE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative MindWired to Create

Written by: Scott Barry Kaufman, Carolyn Gregorie

Narration by:  Nick Podehl

CAROLYN GREGORIE (SCIENCE WRITER FOR THE HUFFINGTON POST)
CAROLYN GREGORIE (SCIENCE WRITER FOR THE HUFFINGTON POST)

SCOTT BARRY KAUFMAN (AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST, AUTHOR, SCIENCE WRITER)
SCOTT BARRY KAUFMAN (AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST, AUTHOR, SCIENCE WRITER)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book “Wired to Create” is an internet sensation.  It began as an article in the Huffington Post; written by Carolyn Gregorie.  Based on the article, she co-writes a book with psychologist Scott Kaufman.  The book is promoted as a loss leader (no charge) to attract customers to Google e-books and other internet savvy vendors.  The book’s popularity is in the argument that intelligence is only one characteristic of a creative mind.  With IQ as only one characteristic of creativity, the field of human subjects who fit the definition of creative is broadened.

PICASSO'S BULL'S HEAD
PICASSO’S BULL’S HEAD

Scientists, inventors, artists, sales people, mechanics, technicians, sports stars, and other unnamed categories of people are “Wired to Create”.  This is no revelation.  It is not unusual to find friends or acquaintances that are able to think in three dimensions, rotate objects in their mind, come up with solutions to complex problems, or create art out of ordinary things.  Some of these creative people are great explainers; others are introverted and non-communicative.  Some recall events in perfect detail; others only remember broad outlines.  Some create art out of nothing; others say nothing about art but build cathedrals.

ST. SERNIN, TOLOUSE, FRANCE
ST. SERNIN, CATHEDRAL IN TOLOUSE, FRANCE

Kaufman and Gregorie identify some characteristics of creative minds.  There is the ability to hold opposing concepts in mind while rendering something never thought of before; i.e. like a work of art that shows planes of a human face from every angle in two dimensions.  There is a disruptive quality in a person with a creative mind.  That disruption is often seen in school students who cannot sit still, are always talking, and are constantly interrupting class activities.  It is the creative teacher who handles the disruption to gain participation of all students, including the disrupter.

STEVE WOZNIAK
STEVE WOZNIAK

STEVE JOBS (1955-2011)
STEVE JOBS (1955-2011)

Kaufman and Gregorie mention famous creative geniuses like Einstein, Edison, Wozniak, and Jobs who exhibit creativity in varied but similar ways.  Einstein may rise above the others because of a creative universality but each exhibit a passion and intensity for what they think and do.  Edison and Jobs are super salesmen; Wozniak is a tinkerer; Einstein is a conceptualizer. To varying degrees each practices the others’ skills.

“Wired to Create” notes that creativity is not restricted to either introverts or extroverts.  Creativity encompasses all sociological categories.  Creativity comes from persistence and resilience; driven by passion.

MIND DECONSTRUCTION AND RECONSTRUCTION OF EVENTS
(Competing theories of learning suggest human brain interaction with environment is too complex to measure; i.e. the way the brain reacts when stimulated by the environment is, at best, an evolving mystery.)

THOMAS EDISION (1847-1931, AMERICAN INVENTOR, BUSINESSMAN CONSIDERED BY SOME TO BE AMERICA'S GREATEST INVENTOR)
THOMAS EDISION (1847-1931, AMERICAN INVENTOR)

The authors note the many failures of creative people; e.g. people like Edison and J. K. Rowling.  The authors note that only a handful of Edison’s thousands of patented inventions were successful.

J. K. ROWLING (MOST FAMOUS FOR THE HARRY POTTER SERIES)
J. K. ROWLING (MOST FAMOUS FOR THE HARRY POTTER SERIES)

Rowling had many publishers turn Harry Potter down until one publisher accepted her work. The tortured personality theory of creativity is addressed by the authors but it is only one of many factors that make people think what they think and do what they do.  As noted with Einstein, Edison, Wozniak, Jobs and Rowling not all creative people are aberrantly affected by hyper activity, repeated failure, or intense focus.   Kaufman and Gregorie imply some creative people may have tortured personalities but correlation is not causation.

PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903, PAINTER, SCULPTUR)
PAUL GAUGUIN (1848-1903, PAINTER, SCULPTOR)

Gauguin is financially unsuccessful as an artist in his lifetime because of the public’s rejection of his work.  Gauguin’s paintings are sold for millions today.  Kaufman and Gregorie imply creativity is no guarantee of money, success, or happiness. Gauguin’s lack of success may have led to use of drugs but it seems as likely that penury and failed acceptance, rather than misunderstood creativity, is the proximate cause of death.  Taking drugs is a malady of the uncreative as well as the creative.

Vincent van Gogh, a contemporary of Gauguin, commits himself to an asylum in which he paints one of his most revered works of art, “The Starry Night”.  However, like Gauguin, van Gogh is never financially successful.  Gauguin and van Gogh succumb to the stresses of life; not because they are creative but because they are poor and unable to cope with their perceived failure.

VINCENT VAN GOGH (ONE OF MANY RENOWNED SELF PORTRAITS BECAUSE VAN GOGH COULD NOT AFFORD MODELS.)
VINCENT VAN GOGH (ONE OF MANY RENOWNED SELF PORTRAITS BECAUSE VAN GOGH COULD NOT AFFORD MODELS.)

Kaufman and Gregorie broaden the definition of creativity.  However, there seems little revelation in their suggestion that creativity comes from intense interest, average or higher IQs, hard work, and persistence in the face of rejection.  Talk of left brain, right brain activity, and frontal lobe brain waves are unconvincing physiological origins of creativity.  Play theory seems passé.  Competing theories of learning suggest human brain interaction with environment is too complex to measure; i.e. the way the brain reacts when stimulated by the environment is, at best, an evolving mystery.  Mysteries of the creative mind remain undiscovered.

 

UNDERRATED MASTERPIECE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

Breakfast of Champions

Written by: Kurt Vonnegut

Narration by:  John Malkovich

KURT VONNEGUT (1922-2007)

KURT VONNEGUT (1922-2007)

The author, Kurt Vonnegut, offers a fascinating glimpse of a mind teetering on, and then falling over the edge of reality into insanity.  One might classify “Breakfast of Champions” as a surreal satire but that diminishes its insight to insanity.

JOHN MALKOVICH (ACTOR, DIRECTOR WHO HAS APPEARED IN OVER 70 MOTION PICTURES)

“Breakfast of Champions” is an imaginative and underrated masterpiece.  The underestimation is realized by the listener in John Malkovich’s excellent narration. 

There are no heroes in “Breakfast of Champions”.  There are three main characters.  There is the teller of the tale, Kilgore Trout, and Dwayne Hoover.

Vonnegut clearly satirizes the maladies of the American twentieth century but he concretely reveals how wealth, poverty, and escapism grind people down and compel abhorrent, often violent, and insane acts.  He exposes the American dream’s illusion of happiness. 

In Vonnegut’s story, our Creator is a tinkerer who creates machines that are known as human beings.  These human beings are set in motion, endowed with consciousness, and no longer controlled by the Creator.  They are machines that follow the laws of physics and are self-sustaining, reincarnating machines that live forever without recollection of past lives.

CREATOR.png

The teller of the tale is not revealed until the last chapters of the book.  It is the Creator of humankind. 

Kilgore Trout is a science fiction writer who is invited by an admirer of his books to receive an award, in a coal mining town, for his pornographic science fiction stories.  The award is for the greatest writer of all time.  Trout is at first reluctant to take the trip to the coal mining town but succumbs to their acclaim for his fame and begins hitchhiking across the country to receive the award.

COAL MINERS

Dwayne Hoover is one of the richest men in the coal mining town from which Trout is receiving the award.  Hoover is an auto dealer.  He is the best employer in town, with the best employment package; including employee health plans.

However, the largest employer in town is a coal producer.  The coal company is an environmental polluter, low wage provider, and the biggest cause of citizen illness in town.

Trout and Hoover may or may not know each other but the Creator knows what is going to happen when Trout finally arrives.  In Trout’s hitchhiking progress he meets fellow machines (people who are coping with life).  Their stories are of middle class lives that remind reader/listeners of the passions, weaknesses, and desires of all human beings.  At the same time, the Creator explains what it is like for people that live in coal mining towns.  There is Hoover’s “girl Friday”, the homosexual piano player, and an artist who is recently awarded $5,000 for a painting.  Each machine (person) plays a role in a developing crisis that approaches at the speed of Trout’s hitchhiking progress.

BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN

A reader/listener feels bad things are going to happen as the story progresses.  Hoover is taking what the Creator calls “bad chemicals”. 

At one point Hoover cannot speak except to repeat one word of a sentence said to him by another.  Hoover crosses the street and feels, with each step, he is sinking into the earth.  Hoover returns to his office, calls his girl Friday, and says he needs her to come with him to a local motel room to relieve a persistent erection.  Both Hoover and his girl Friday have lost their spouses; i.e. Hoover’s wife by suicide; girl Friday’s by war.  They have been lovers for some time.

BAR PIANO PLAYER

Hoover continues taking bad chemicals.  The Creator arrives at a bar in town.  Trout arrives at the same bar.  The piano player is playing.  It is somewhat unclear but Hoover shoots the piano player in the back of the head, and bludgeons his girl Friday. 

Trout tries to stop the beating of the girl, and the tip of Trout’s finger is bitten off by Hoover.  Hoover is arrested.  The piano player is dead.  Girl Friday is concussed, and Trout has his hand wrapped in a bloody handkerchief.  Hoover is taken to jail; girl Friday, the dead piano player, and Trout are on their way to the hospital.

FREEWILL

Vonnegut seems to be explaining that money is not happiness.  Human beings have free will to be good, bad, morally upright, or insanely brutal. 

Having a job that barely offers the basic necessities of life only reinforces machine-like living.  Destruction of the environment diminishes those who work for dirty industries and those ancillary businesses that suck off polluter’s productivity.  Drugs are a way of escaping reality but they have consequences. Some machines (people) fall off the edge of sanity, become violent, and sometimes murder innocent bystanders.

STEPHEN CRAIG PADDOCK (PERPETRATOR OF THE LAS VEGAS, NEVADA MASSACRE.)

STEPHEN CRAIG PADDOCK (PERPETRATOR OF THE LAS VEGAS, NEVADA MASSACRE.)

“Breakfast of Champions” is not only a story of the 1970s.  It is the story of yesterday’s school shootings, postal syndrome killings, the Paddock atrocity in Las Vegas, and Donald Trump’s delusional attempt to void America’s 2020 Presidential election.  Vonnegut suggests a human being, whether there is a Creator or not, has free will.  Vonnegut implies humans are choosing to be machines.

THE VITAL QUESTION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex LifeTHE VITAL QUESTION

Written by: Nick Lane

Narration by:  Kevin Pariseau

NICK LANE (AUTHOR, BRITISH BIOCHEMIST)
NICK LANE (AUTHOR, BRITISH BIOCHEMIST)

Nick Lane, a biochemist, offers a science driven explanation for the origin of life.  A non-scientist listening to Lane’s book may be overwhelmed by technical jargon without some additional research.  The additional effort offers a better understanding of Lane’s explanation for a chemical theory of life’s origin.  Though Lane’s story is laced with biochemical terms, he occasionally uses words that are understood by all; i.e. he argues the beginning of life comes from rock, water, and carbon dioxide that interact with each other when energy is introduced.

Planet earth is estimated to be four billion plus years old.  At earth’s earliest, rock, and water were present.  With an earthen core of molten rock, carbon dioxide is created from the interaction between rock and water.  Modern evidence of that interaction is observable in

THERMAL VENTS:  

Those early elements lead to microscopic unicellular prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea) which have no nucleus (a center with a membrane), and only one chromosome (a genetic characteristic).  Prokaryotes have DNA and an outer membrane with some of the elements of a bigger cell called eukaryotes.

PROKARYOTES AND EUKARYOTES:  

Lane argues that over some period of time the constant motion of prokaryotes leads to a merge between one prokaryote and another to create a eukaryote; i.e. a new cellular formation with a nucleus (an internal element with its own membrane) and some added elemental features.  One of the preeminent features of a eukaryote is its ability to become molecularly more complex; i.e. to become multicellular with multi-chromosome capability.

CHEMISTRY AS THE ORIGIN OF LIFE:

Lane argues, along with other biochemists, that the role of energy in the chemical creation of life is misunderstood until more recent times.  

Lane reminds listeners of the physics law that says “energy cannot be created and cannot be destroyed”.  With the growth of eukaryotes, energy became an integral part of cellular function.  Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP) became the power plant of the cell.   

With a built-in energy source, a race began to create life with permeable cellular membranes that allowed molecular interior change and exterior growth.  Interior changes included mitochondrial DNA.   

Exterior changes included molecular bonding and sustained energy for evolution.

Lane also explains why sex is important for evolutionary survival.  However, he doubts life can be extended beyond the age of 120 without taking the risks of genetic manipulation.  Lane’s “…Vital Question” remains a question at the end of his story.  If life is just chemistry, where did the first prokaryotes come from?  If they came from the big bang, what was there before the big bang?

MOLECULAR BONDING AND ENERGY:

CELL MEMBRANE& ATP (ADENOSINE TRI-PHOSPHATE) TRANSPORT:

ATP, THE POWER PLANT OF THE CELL: BACTERIA AND ARCHAEA (PROKARYOTES)- AND PROTISTS (EUKARYOTES):

THE CAPITALIST VEIL

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.blog

THE SOULS OF BLACK FOLK

The Souls of Black Folk

Written by: W. E. B. Du Bois

Narration by:  Mirron Willis

W. E. B. DU BOIS (1868-1963, AUTHOR, SOCIOLOGIST, HISTORIAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST, CO-FOUNDER OF NAACP)

W. E. B. DU BOIS (1868-1963, AUTHOR, SOCIOLOGIST, HISTORIAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST, CO-FOUNDER OF NAACP)

Eventually, doctors will find a coronavirus vaccine, but black people will continue to wait, despite the futility of hope, for a cure for racism.

Editorial comment in the NYT Sunday edition 5/21/2020 by Roxane Gay.

“The Souls of Black Folk” describes a veil of discrimination that covers the face of white America.  Published in 1903, it reflects on the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, America’s reconstruction failures after the civil war, and a veil that fell like an iron curtain between black and white America.  It is a veil that distorts the truth of human equality.

Slave Family In Cotton Field near Savannah

W. E. B. Du Bois is a great American who finally abandoned his country late in life because he could no longer tolerate the capitalist consequence of social, political, and economic discrimination. He describes discrimination in “The Souls of Black Folk” as a veil, a fine gauzy material that hides the details of black Americans who have the same potential as white overlords. The details are political, social, and economic discrimination imposed by a majority on a minority.  Du Bois identifies that minority as people of color; i.e. specifically black Americans.

THOMAS JEFFERSON AND SLAVERY

THOMAS JEFFERSON AND SLAVERY (Slave owner that believed blacks are inherently less equal than whites.)

Du Bois is the first black American to receive a PhD from Harvard University.  First he received a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University, a storied black college; went to Harvard to receive a second bachelor’s degree, and on to a PhD.  Du Bois studied black history and wrote “The Souls of Black Folk” to explain what it is like to be black in America.  He began with the end of the civil war and carries it through 1903 when the book is published.

PRISON

Du Bois studied black history and wrote “The Souls of Black Folk” to explain what it is like to be black in America.

Du Bois explains how black Americans are treated, how they feel about it, and how they react to it.  In the clarity of his writing, Du Bois presumes readers will understand humans, of any color, are the same.  Du Bois notes that black Americans are offered freedom without a way of making a living, without education, without any respect by fellow Americans.  Though they were no longer slaves by law they remain slaves to potential employers who see them as less equal, and less capable.  Du Bois notes blacks are denied the tools of education, opportunity for work at a living wage, and the right to participate in the politics of leadership.

SHUCK & JIVE

Without money, power, or prestige blacks are left with deception as their only defense against oppression.  “Shucking and jiving” became a pejorative description of black behavior without white’s understanding its necessity.

Without money, power, or prestige blacks are left with deception as their only defense against oppression. 

COMMUNISM IN THE USA

Du Bois misunderstood the difference between Russian and Chinese revolutions and American capitalism.  The future proved promises of communism were false.  This does not change the truth of Du Bois’s realization that a white majority denies minorities with false promises of capitalist equality of opportunity.

It is little wonder that Du Bois wandered to the idealism of communism with its false promise of equality for all.  White America gave Negroes little alternative.  However, Du Bois misreads history.  The revolution of 1917 may have started with a minority of people called Bolsheviks but they were a part of a white majority.  They promised a future of plenty to an uneducated population who were members of a majority. 

Du Bois clearly shows how black American education, employment, and political participation are subverted at every turn in American history.  Du Bois chastises Booker T. Washington for being an apologist for white suppression. Du Bois sees that, though education is improving for black Americans, they are still denied equal opportunity for employment, and are failing to capitalize on the potential of political power.  Nearing 90 years of age, Du Bois gives up on America.  Ironically, this is in the 1960’s when the Black Panther’s movement is forming.

GREED

The inherent nature of man “to be greedy” makes fools of us all.

Du Bois is a great American because he understood how American capitalism undermines core political beliefs like equality of opportunity and the equality of all human beings.  Du Bois understood the importance of education, equal economic opportunity, and political power.

Du Bois misunderstood that the drive for money, power, and prestige distorts pursuit of the “good” in all forms of government.  Communism, socialism, and capitalism require a Hobson’s choice; i.e. “a choice of taking what is available or nothing at all”.  Even for minorities, it seems capitalism offers the best hope because it attempts to regulate the worst parts of human nature.