So far the main plot isn't quite as compelling as his other book. It involves Marconi and Hawley Crippen. Crippen sounds as if he's the character, Philip Carey, out of Of Human Bondage. No matter how his beautiful younger wife mistreats him or cheats on him, Dr. Crippen is there to pay her bills. I suspect at one point he's had enough and then, well, we'll see.
There's very interesting background on the age, particularly as it intersects Marconi's story of trying to invent and then make money off his invention. Don't spoil the fun by giving spoilers. I'm sure Timothy wants to tell us all how it worked out and how these two stories intersect. And I, of course, will not read his posts because I doubt he can help himself.
But somehow these two stories must intersect and it will be interesting to see how all that plays out. I know very little about Marconi so any information in this book is all new to me.
I don’t recommend the book because this is a clear case of a guy trying to stretch out what could easily be said in three pages into book length. I skimmed it. I wish I had the time to read the entire book and highlight the good stuff. Because I did see some good stuff. But it’s all so stretched-out, repeated, and watered-down that I just couldn’t do it.
If I could condense his message it would be this: Those who create these “social media” systems not only don’t care about you. but you are little better than a farm animal to them — the relationship being akin to cattle and vampire bats. Second, it is inherent to the nature of social media that negativity, bravado, and just plain BS is rewarded. And that tends to drive any kind of reasonableness underground or out.
Nothing in the book (that I read) was new to me. It’s likely not new to you either. He also gets into the highly addictive aspect of “social media.” Again, not news to you or me. I would love to see this condensed into a feature-length article. But as a book, it’s a run-on sentence that repeats itself too much. The entire books seems like the author's desperate attempt to coin the word, BUMMER, an acronym which is a stretch to begin with.
However, Yours Truly was truly gratified to read his point #2 (which an Amazon reviewer was kind enough to post from the book):
1. You are losing your free will. 2. Quitting social media is the most finely targeted way to resist the insanity of our times. 3. Social media is making you into a [jerk]. 4. Social media is undermining truth. 5. Social media is making what you say meaningless. 6. Social media is destroying your capacity for empathy. 7. Social media is making you unhappy. 8. Social media doesn’t want you to have economic dignity. 9. Social media is making politics impossible. 10. Social media hates your soul.
Point #2: Aka The Daily Drama. If anyone wants to know why I ditched StubbornThings it is because I had to get away from the insanity.
His other points are often weak. “Truth” to this guy means that Trump was, of course, colluding with the Russians. Not sure what “economic dignity” is. Again, another sign that this guy is a just a liberal flake, perhaps less flakey than most, but a flake all the same.
The Left is making politics impossible, not “social media.” Again, a myopic point of view from someone on the Left. Still, he does make some good points here and there. With a little more deprogramming, he may even begin to become wise.
Post by timothylane on Jun 24, 2019 10:44:19 GMT -8
I would say that social media contributes greatly to making politics impossible in much the same way it makes certain types of crime (flash mobs) easier. But you're right that the basic problem is leftism; social media merely make its worst antics a lot easier.
I'm not that familiar with the career of Guglielmo Marconi, though I will note that he always considered himself an Italian patriot and did what he could for Mussolini during World War II. He may even have actually favored Fascism for all I know. Perhaps Larson will have something on that. It took me a bit of time to figure out the link between Marconi and Crippen, a famous name in British history, since they never met that I'm aware of. In deference to your wishes I won't go into more detail except to note that you're right in your prediction, which is why Crippen played a major role in making Bernard Spilsbury famous.
Post by Brad Nelson on Jun 24, 2019 11:16:10 GMT -8
I would say that social media contributes greatly to making politics impossible in much the same way it makes certain types of crime (flash mobs) easier.
Here’s my stunning revelation, Timothy: “The right” is not much better than the Left in terms of “social media.” They may be worse because all of the “social media” sites are run by Leftists. We know they regularly restrict conservative (or anyone who disagrees with them) posts.
What do conservatives do? They double-down and continue to be useful idiots for the Left by ranting about things on “social media” which the left owns, controls, and profits from.
I drew a line in the sand at StubbornThings in regards to political articles and said, “Only articles that chronicle what you, or someone you know, is doing to confront the Left in the real world will be published.” Almost overnight you could hear the crickets chirping.
People aren’t in it to oppose the Left. It’s just more vanity publishing. Venting. Bitching with no point at all.
I’ll provide you with another revelation: The Left has a clearer moral sphere than the right does.
Note I didn’t say “better” or “more moral.” But it is much better defined. But “the right” consists (with only a few notable exceptions) of adopting the tenets of the Left from a few days ago and then shouting today with virtue-signaling gusto, “This far, and no farther.” What are “the right” actually for? Pro-life. (Okay, good). The second amendment (ditto). Hating the Clintons (ditto ditto). And then I have to think.
There is no active conservative program of any merit or power because there is no active conservative philosophy except “This far, and not farther.” And because that is not a program for reform, the “further” goes farther, the ratchet clicks another notch, and we rinse and repeat inside this same absurd Kabuki theater.
Post by Brad Nelson on Jun 24, 2019 11:31:43 GMT -8
I also read a bit of Steven Levy’s Hackers this weekend.
Boy, he goes into a lot of detail which is part of the problem with the book. Every new chapter and section goes like this: A new character is introduced. We get his background, particularly in regards to how he first came to enjoy messing around with computers. Gab gab gab. Blah blah blah. He’s known for his ability to drink lots of Coca-Cola and stay up for 30 hours straight writing code. Unkempt. No girlfriends. Doesn’t like IBM. Rinse and repeat.
The early parts of the book do a good job giving you an insight into what was going on in regards to computers very early on. And you can see the exuberance it engendered in a core group of students at MIT, Harvard, etc. And you learn a little bit about the technical aspects of these early mainframes as well as the culture of “hackers.” This was all very interesting.
Most of all, you learn the Hacker Credo. When you hear the word, “hacker,” you think about the guy who steals credit card numbers. But it wasn’t always that way. There was, as Levy describes, a utopian ethos that believed all knowledge was good, all knowledge and information should be free for all to access, and computers would, of course, lead to a better world because it could be a world constructed logically and with a rational plan.
At one point a group of these hackers (which you could call “enthusiastic programmers who sometimes were harmlessly mischievous”) met with DEC (or some big company) in regards to writing their operating system for them for hire. But the idea of a business paying this group to produce an operating system that would have no security measures installed was surprisingly (he says ironically) not attractive to the suits.
I’ve read a couple books on hacking and they were very interesting. This one by Levy really needed to have more of a point, a structure, rather than just endless mini biographies. One book about hacking I did read and can partially recommend is Kingpin.
Post by Brad Nelson on Jun 26, 2019 7:35:09 GMT -8
“Thunderstruck” is becoming a bit tedious. It’s split between the story of Marconi and his new wireless invention and the Dr. Crippen/Belle story. That they must intersect at one point seems obvious. But had Larson (at least from what I’ve read so far) stuck to the Marconi story, this would have been more interesting. It’s a strange mix of trashy novel (although biographical) and biography.
If you must read one Larson book, by all means read “Devil in the White City.” I found his “Dead Wake” to be so tedious, I couldn’t make it past 75 pages or so. “Thunderstruck” is a better but hanging on the edge of “Why the hell am I wasting my time reading this?” But eventually enough historical details come through (via both stories) that it’s just enough to keep going. Not a ringing endorsement, for sure, but it’s not meant to be. You’ll not likely see a full review of this book because I doubt it can be recommended.
I’m 36% into this and I can’t imagine how padded this story must be to have another 64% of it remaining.
Post by Brad Nelson on Jun 26, 2019 8:29:52 GMT -8
A henpecked husband who apparently is going to murder his wife does not make for a good story. Nor does (as written) the story of Marconi. What makes the book worthwhile are the bits and pieces of the age.
For instance, there’s an interesting section that talks about the passing of Queen Victoria and what this meant to the times. Henry James is quoted as writing:
”I mourn the safe and motherly old middle-class queen, who held the nation warm under the fold of her big, hideous Scotch-plaid shawl and whose duration had been so extraordinarily convenient and beneficent. I felt her death much more than I should have expected; she was a sustaining symbol—the wild waters are upon us now.”
The Queen’s death was in January 1901. The wild waters would indeed come, and very soon. Her (from the impressions in this book) generally frivolous philandering son, Edward, would take the crown. James called him “Edward the Caresser” and feared his impending accession was ‘the worst omen for the dignity of things.”
Larson gives further details on Edward:
In marked contrast to the old queen, the king-to-be was affable, indulgent, even funny. As Victoria lay dying, someone asked, not intending an answer, “I wonder if she will be happy in heaven?” To which Edward replied, “I don’t know. She will have to walk behind the angels—and she won’t like that.”
This makes me want to read a good biography of Victoria.
Post by timothylane on Jun 26, 2019 8:58:09 GMT -8
This book is probably more to my taste than yours, although just because the subjects are interesting doesn't mean the book will be. The Crippen case was an interesting one (there's a reason it made the reputation of Dr. Spilsbury), but that doesn't mean the story of the Crippen marriage is. I'm sure The Comedy of Terrors did that story much better. It might also be interesting if Marconi's later career helping Mussolini is in the book.
Post by Brad Nelson on Jun 26, 2019 10:25:53 GMT -8
This book is probably more to my taste than yours, although just because the subjects are interesting doesn't mean the book will be.
The murder fast approaching, and Marconi’s problems (and successes) coming in waves, the book is picking up some steam.
But early in this book, there is just way too much minutia regarding Dr. Crippen and his wife. Way too much. But now that things are turning nasty, it’s getting more interesting. It looks to be a case of poisoning. And I can’t say Mrs. Crippen didn’t have it coming.
But, oh, what a pathetic group of people. But I sense they are not at all uncommon. At one point, Dr. Crippen’s mistress confides to her landlady that she is in love with a married man. The landlady basically says, “Why is a pretty young woman such as yourself wasting time with a married man? Quit torturing yourself and end this nonsense.”
She does at least confront Crippen but receives yet another promise that he will soon leave his wife (or vice versa). That placates here. You read this book, and there is (or should be) zero sympathy for any of the parties. They all deserve what is coming to them, although perhaps one could argue that Belle did not exactly merit murder.
Sounds like you talking about humanity in general?
But I sense they are not at all uncommon.
Now I know you are.
I am presently reading Durant's volume on Rome titled "Caesar and Christ" and I assure you, the ancients were as bad as humanity is today. There are just more of us with sophisticated technology which helps us spread immorality and misery quicker and more thoroughly than before.
Last Edit: Jun 26, 2019 11:18:54 GMT -8 by kungfuzu
Post by timothylane on Jun 26, 2019 11:26:42 GMT -8
The Addamses in The Addams Family sometimes served guests henbane tea, the active ingredient of which is hyoscine. But it's what happened to Belle Elmore after her poisoning that made medical history. I trust Larson will give good coverage of it. (There was a whole chapter on Crippen in The Scalpel of Scotland Yard, a biography of Sir Bernard Spilsbury, arguably the most notable forensic pathologist so far.)
Crippen would indeed get what he deserved, but I think Ethel Le Neve got off without punishment even though she no doubt had a good inkling what had happened.
Post by Brad Nelson on Jun 26, 2019 13:19:02 GMT -8
Now I know you are.
There isn’t a man alive who hasn’t resembled Philip Carey from Of Human Bondage from time to time. The magic words being “time to time.”
Any man who hasn’t done something momentarily silly in regards to a woman is lying. The cards are stacked in favor of going off half-cocked. This is why such things as the bonds of marriage are so important. It clarifies things and sets boundaries for a civil society.
Longer-term attempts at an end-run around such rules puts one in the category of premeditation, not momentarily losing one’s head. The usual excuses are a sense of entitlement or the belief that the rules don’t apply to you because rules weren’t meant for the special and exalted feelings you have.
And if one is no longer suited to one’s partner, there are legal ways to address this. Screwing with another man’s wife, or another man’s husband, is the realm of dirt bags. Now, dirt bags never think of themselves that way. They see themselves entitled in one way or another. But the label still applies whether people recognize themselves or not.
There isn’t a man alive who hasn’t resembled Philip Carey from Of Human Bondage from time to time.
I like the way William Durant describes men's sexual urge. In regard to how women have the upper hand in such things he attributes this to "man's more urgent need" or something like that. I will say it again, I find it amazing that so many females are so willing to part with their greatest power so easily.
Post by Brad Nelson on Jun 27, 2019 10:34:19 GMT -8
In "Thunderstruck" the plot is definitely thickening and the chances for giving this book its own review increase. But the caveat will always be that the author spends far too much time in the personal life of the Crippens. I get the sense that because he went to a lot of work to research this, he felt he had to use what he had instead of being a bit judicious and selective.
Post by Brad Nelson on Jun 28, 2019 8:05:25 GMT -8
The current book I’m reading is A Pale Horse by Charles Todd. Having just finished reading some of the real-life adventures of Chief Inspector Dew in Thunderstruck, I was in the mood for more Scotland Yard sleuthing.
An internet search brought several possibilities, but this one is the only book (turns out: a series of books) I found on Libby. They had several in the Inspector Rutledge series which apparently consists of 21 novels plus some prequels — so if it’s good, there is plenty more to read.
Libby had seven or eight in the series. I chose A Pale Horse because it’s set around the Uffington White Horse which is an interest of mine. The July 2017 Smithsonian has a charming article on its upkeep. Here’s a gallery of some of Britain’s other notable chalk figures.
This book is set in about 1920 after The Great War. Inspector Ian Rutledge survived it but incurred grave psychological damage which he mostly can keep hidden. The backstory on him from the earlier novels is:
Haunted by memories of battle, unable to find a safe haven after his discharge from a psychiatric hospital and the abrupt departure of his fiancée, shell-shocked veteran Rutledge has returned to his prewar life as a Scotland Yard inspector. This time out, the War Office wants him to locate a mysterious person of interest, connected with (and perhaps the same as) an unidentified corpse found at a Yorkshire abbey.
Rutledge also occasionally talks to his internal friend, Hamish. The author mentions another soldier who was known to have peaceful bouts of stupefaction or paralysis. The man would just suddenly go blank, usually for just a few hours but sometimes for a day or two. And then he would return to himself as if nothing happened.
I’m going to assume that author Charles Todd minutely researched various cases of shell-shock resulting from WWI. The case of Inspector Rutledge and his silent friend may have been common enough — or perhaps it’s representative of the kind of psychic disturbances that did occur, even if somewhat rare.
It’s not clear whether Hamish is more of a literary affectation or a way to bring some immediacy and grit to the reality of the horrors of The Great War. I’m hoping the latter but it’s too early to tell.
The book is at least a serious venture. This is not frivolous writing, nor is it particularly erudite. But it is passively readable at the moment. Rutledge is sent to the Uffington area (toward the south of this map: see a birds-eye view of the Horse) as the start of his investigation into a mysterious death.
Fourteen percent into this, it’s a little early to pass judgment. But it does pass the “vapid” threshold.
Post by timothylane on Jun 28, 2019 9:40:05 GMT -8
I know I've read about at least one of these chalk figures (the Cerne Abbas giant), and maybe others. I even vaguely recall reading a mystery set in the vicinity of one (again, I think the Cerne Abbas giant). It was probably by Michael Jecks, or maybe Elizabeth George. (In Jecks's case, the figure probably didn't exist at the time, though the Uffington horse does go back millennia.)
Post by Brad Nelson on Jun 28, 2019 9:54:31 GMT -8
The Cerne Abbas Giant is a bit of a naughty boy. I'll let others do a DuckDuckGo search to figure that out. But this is a family site.
I had wondered if you (or anyone else) had read one of the Inspector Rutledge novels. Doesn't sound like it to far. I'll keep plowing through it and let you all know how it goes. If it's good enough, I'll do a review proper.
He is the voice of a Scottish officer that Rutledge had shot via a firing squad because the man refused to send his men over the top into instant death.
If you see that little yellow "shhh" symbol to the far right on the icon bar, you can insert spoilers easily enough.
So far the book is holding together. It's not great but it's good enough. The author gets marks for a story that is at least original. He has a habit of using incomplete sentences for effect (at least that's why I think he's doing it). Trust me. Never use this technique unless using an interjection or otherwise have a darn good reason.
Post by Brad Nelson on Jul 2, 2019 21:02:10 GMT -8
I finished Charles Todd’s A Pale Horse. I can’t recommend it. The plot is boring although the basic quality of the writing is adequate. Certainly this is a serious attempt to do something good. It’s not frivolous.
The convention of Hamish as his sort of schizophrenic friend/scold that no one else can see doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose. Had you crash landed on a desert island and this book was amongst your cargo, it would be a pleasant enough read, all things considered. But I can’t imagine there aren’t dozens of books I would want to read before reading this one.
The problem stems primarily from a plot that eventually doesn’t range very far. And much time is spent analyzing and over-analyzing people until your eyes glaze over. You just want the author to get on with it and make something happen.
His characterizations tend to either be a bit over the top or simply don’t ring true. He did have success with at least one character, an old lady who was scared out of her wits after a couple murders. But that was one scene and then the book moved onto more boredom.
I have to believe this is not one of his better books and that there are others of far more interest. I might try another and see how it goes.
I took another shot at another Charles Todd detective novel featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge. This one, A Long Shadow, was actually rated better on Amazon than “The Pale Horse.”
But, good golly, starting this one made me realize one of the worst elements of Todd’s writing. It was these interminable self-reflections that were standing in for interesting detective work.
The gist of the story so far is that the inspector stumbles across a spent cartridge casing on his way home from a swank party. He was called away (to his relief) from this party by police business. The host of the party at the time was holding a séance.
The inspector just miraculously happens to step on a cartridge case going down the steps of the house. Later, after dealing with the police emergency he was called out on, he takes a trip to some remote cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. He’s way out in a field away from anything. He returns to his car and finds two more shell casings on the passenger seat. They weren’t there when he got out of the car and there was no way anyone could have snuck up on the car. Even so, how would they know he would be here when even he didn’t know he was taking this little side trip?
Anyway, the way this all reads, this is a mystery I don’t care about. But let me type in a couple paragraphs that, for me, are the doom of this guy’s writing style:
The question was, Rutledge thought uneasily, what would have happened if he hadn’t left the Browning house early that last night of the old year? Would the casing have been retrieved until another opportunity presented itself? Or left to be swept up along with the leaves and debris in the gutter, a malicious impulse that hadn’t been successful? What had he set in motion by finding it? Worse still, what did his harrying have to to with his years in the trenches?
He remembered Mrs. Channing, the only guest he hadn't met before that night. Could she have guessed that he wouldn’t stay for the séance if he could find a polite reason for walking out on Maryanne’s party? Then how had she managed to step outside and leave that casing where he would find it? While he was drinking his port with the other men?
And on and on. It’s as if an old STer, Leah, had written this…in conjunction with another regular who obsessed over the word, “nor.” The last novel I read, “The Pale Horse,” was absolutely brimming with this kind of stuff. And it could make it painful to read. Instead of writing something interesting — including some good detective work — we get this endless self-reflection that is so dense, I think few would bother to follow the author’s line of reasoning even if it made sense.
And this is just two paragraphs of it. There were three more paragraphs preceding this that I could have typed in. Anyway, I’ve tortured myself enough with this author. The sad thing is that he means well. But he needs a bit more creativity inserted into his plots and writing.
I’ve started another book in its place: The Yard by Alex Grecian. I’ll let you know how it goes.
timothylane: I think it's clear KFZ had a happy birthday, or at least a happy meal (but not a Happy Meal). I hope so, anyway. No doubt it helps that he isn't stuck in a nursing home for the rest of his life.
Jul 25, 2019 21:25:52 GMT -8
Brad Nelson: Yes, Happy Birthday, Mr. Kung. I had forgotten yours was so close to mine. What day was it?
Jul 26, 2019 9:03:45 GMT -8
kungfuzu: Thanks to all for your birthday wishes. Yes, I did have a very happy meal. Not only did I have that wonderful steak and Brunello, but my wife also served up a lobster bisque. I generally eat well, but it is very rare for me to have such a fabulous repast.
Jul 26, 2019 9:41:08 GMT -8
kungfuzu: My birth date, July 25th, is of course a very important day in history. For example, one of the world-changing things to have taken place on this date was.........(crickets chirping) oh yeah, Bleriot was the first to fly across the English Channel
Jul 26, 2019 9:43:58 GMT -8
timothylane: Well, that's more than I can think of for December 12, my birth date. Some people are luckier, and even have some appopriate event -- such as Barack Obama being born on the anniversary of the Borden murders in Fall River, MA.
Jul 26, 2019 10:28:32 GMT -8
timothylane: Lobster bisque --- I've probably had that somewhere. But I'll go for New England clam chowder first. It's my favorite soup. I'll also take shrimp over lobster (or crab), though I like them all (and plenty of mollusks as well).
Jul 26, 2019 10:30:06 GMT -8
lynda: Just in case I'm offline on December 12th, Happy Birthday Timothy! I hope you get shrimp, and clam chowder.
Jul 26, 2019 11:17:29 GMT -8
timothylane: Thank you. I've never had clam chowder here (not even that tomato-based Manhattan version, which I had once), but they have on rare occasion had some sort of shrimp (I think theoretically shrimp scampi). You take what you can get.
Jul 26, 2019 11:58:05 GMT -8
kungfuzu: Tonight at 8:00pm ET, METv is broadcasting "Forbidden Planet" during it's Saturday night "Svengoolee" segment.
Jul 27, 2019 10:17:44 GMT -8
timothylane: They also have the Star Trek episode "Errand of Mercy" (war with the Klingons over Organia) at 10 p.m. And some interesting Three Stooges pie fights at 6 p.m., including the "Sword of Damocles" sequence.
Jul 27, 2019 10:45:10 GMT -8
Brad Nelson: I've got the Blu-ray version of Forbidden Planet. It might be time to ogle Anne Francis again. I have monsters in my ID. What can I say?
Jul 27, 2019 20:19:35 GMT -8
davegs: I've been in IT for over 40 years - and have been cobbling together systems for family and friends for years. It's not quite 'steam-punk' - but can seem rather close sometimes. Now its about weeding out what's been accumulated over the years.
Jul 30, 2019 6:08:39 GMT -8
Brad Nelson: I love the idea of a steam-punk Rube-Goldbergesque computer made of just stuff sitting around. That's something you can do with a PC that you really can't do with a Mac.
Jul 30, 2019 7:51:49 GMT -8
Brad Nelson: There used to be a PC repair place down the hall from me. I got a good view of how this guy could take parts and make a PC. He made me a couple from spare parts...parts that weren't up to spec but technically still worked.
Aug 1, 2019 9:07:57 GMT -8
kungfuzu: To continue my ongoing history lesson on the low regard in which actors have been held throughout history, I just read that actors could not become citizens in the Byzantine Empire. Apparently, the word actor was used as a synonym for prostitute.
Aug 1, 2019 10:41:31 GMT -8
kungfuzu: MeTV is showing John Wayne in "Chisum" at the moment. They just had "Rio Lobo." I don't know if this is a John Wayne binge, but if it is, I'll be happy.
Nov 13, 2019 14:49:32 GMT -8
kungfuzu: Sorry, it is not MeTV, but the Movies Channel which is showing "Chisum."
Nov 13, 2019 15:05:21 GMT -8
timothylane: I was wondering. MeTV doesn't show movies, though it does show plenty of western TV shows (except on Sundays). I've seen Chisum, about the Lincoln County War. I don't know if I have the Movies Channel, or if so where it is.
Nov 16, 2019 16:45:52 GMT -8