Sunday, October 31, 2010

I am More of a Fan of Tricks Than Treats... To Each Their Own, I Suppose

To my growing reader base from the folks here at PORTEmaus...

HAPPY HALLOWEEN... May it be safe and your candy be full of sweet delicious nougat not something nefarious. Also, be vigilant of the trials associated by trick or treat like this kid...

Be Safe and wary of "healthy" treats!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Grab a Blanket, Salt up Some Pork and Pile Into A Jalopy... Grapes of Wrath Update/ Review #1

Due to the length of this novel, I have decided to review the book as I read it. Basically, three updates, roughly every two hundred pages. With all the business talk out of the way... Let's talk about some fine literature.

Since I never took any advanced English classes and went to an altogether lame high school, I have never read the Grapes of Wrath (In second grade, we did watch the movie) and this has come as a shock to many people.

Let me begin by also saying that while it has nearly taken four years to getting around to reading it... The Grapes of Wrath does not disappoint. It is a well-written account of the trials faced by a family during Dust Bowl/ Great Depression.

The novel has everything, a paroled anti-hero in Tom Joad, a tight knit family doing all it can to survive and of course a scathing rebuke of Capitalism. Now, you might be curious what has happened in two hundred pages.

Essentially, Tom Joad (paroled for murder) returns home after four years to find things very different. Family's have been expelled off their lands by the banks because they can't produce anymore. Many families --like the Joads-- have received handbills detailing a better life in California and have decided to try their luck there. After salting some pigs, the Joads are on the road.

The thing that makes this novel relevant is the ills associated with Capitalism and the concept of a corporation. These themes are as pertinent today as they were when Steinbeck put letters to a page. You begin to empathize with the Joads and the poverty stricken rural farmer. Where do you direct your anger when it is abstract entity displacing you? What lengths would you go to keep your family together? I guess that I would place my faith in a handbill as well.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Political Attack Ad is a Fart, Who went to the Dooty to buy some Boogers... (This is a Mad Libs Reference)

You know what I love about the American campaign season? If you guessed the attack advertisements (granted, those are the only the type employed) then you would be correct. They are all stolen from the same page from an used copy of Mad Libs.

You scoff and exclaim "How dare you knave! American politics is complicated fare and it can not be reduced to something as simple as Mad Libs! I would strike you, if not for an assault charge."

You don't believe me... An attack ad is essentially the following:

(Name of Opponent) is a (Derogatory Term), who voted for (Unpopular Legislation) and seeks to erode (Ideological Difference). Is that who want representing us in (Office Sought) and protecting our (Flowery Political Language)?

As absurd as this sounds, this serves as the basis for these ads... I suppose if something has worked for decades of television politics why change it. Yet, this is why the political discourse in America is so puerile. Is it too much to ask for some innovation. Then again, if I am asking for that, I might as well as for the return of intelligence to American politics. Where is Santa when you need him?

If You Cannot Release Your Book Through the Normal Channels... There is a Good Chance That it is Awful.

What happened to the hiring of a literary agent and publicist when an author is attempting to get their works published? Those days are long gone as authors are side stepping the --standard-- process by promoting themselves. Who could think of better way than hurling their tome at the President of the United States?

Seriously, you know you are at the end of your rope when this seems like a logical idea. Of course, who really wants to be published digitally on Amazon and take home upwards of 40% of the profits? Genius' that's who.

Thankfully, this future Hemingway was not charged with anything criminal... When I first read the story, I thought it was some tea partier and his new romance novel about the love between the elite and tax cuts.

In this case, truth is much sadder than fiction. I wish I knew what the novel was about. I want to believe that it was about robots in the future teaching statistics to morlocks and octogenarians at a community college. Its a story of loving and learning, heartwarming stuff.

What makes this story great is how stupid does someone have to be to do this? There probably is a reason why your book has not been published, went unsold and then was either remaindered or destroy. If I was to hazard a guess, you probably do not have the talents or chops to be a writer. Hate to be the one to break it to you... Unless, this was your business plan all along.

Before I read this story, I immediately thought back to another story involving an object being thrown at a world leader. At least a shoe making its way at the noodle of the most powerful man in world had meaning...

This savant (book not shoe thrower) wanted to make a name for himself before fading back into obscurity. Ironically, no one knew his name before the incident and no cares to know it afterwords.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Oh, Gosh... I Sure Hope I can Remember the gist of "The Washington Rules..." PORTEmaus BookClub Entry #3.

The main premise of Andrew Bacevich's books, "The Washington Rules" is the concept of foreign policy conspiracy. No, this is not the name for a political quartet blasting hard rock jams out of their garage... Except, it will be when I get finished filling out the copyright forms. For the record, I now have an intellectual copyright on that term. Oh, you all just received a lesson in intellectual property!

All digression aside, Bacevich's book seeks to act as an introduction to this particular development of sustained hijacking of American foreign policy. Bacevich outlines his own exposure to these concepts through recounting his time in Germany while in the military. He quickly realized how futile the Cold War when he saw the state of the Soviet military.

For Bacevich, the Cold War was a futile effort of mutually assured destruction that allowed for a new variant of foreign policy to emerge. The days of political isolationism were swept aside for the concept of the United States as international sheriff. Basically, the beliefs of individuals such as Curtis LeMay (Renowned sourpuss and architect of the Japanese fire bombings) and Allan Welsh Dulles (Two time runner-up in the James Joyce lookalike contest) were provided access to the higher echelon's of American political power. (Thus, allowing them to take shape)

The result was a twin dependence on overt aeronautical power in the former of long distance bombers and covert operations abroad. Even in the face of failures such as the Bay of Pigs and ultimately the Cold War, the United States would not remove its gauntlets and adopt a foreign policy of peace. Bacevich asserts this is because policy simply is passed from one president to the next. This is an easy opinion to grasp considering Bush's war in Iraq and Afghanistan has inextricably linked to Obama's success and ability to remain president.

Certainly, LeMay and Dulles were the forefathers of these strategies but we can link the "Washington Rules" to the military industrial complex. Simply, the perpetuation of permanent war in our society is a direct result of it being so lucrative. The United States outspends the rest of the globe annually on defense. Our politicians have even begun to fear minute increases in other nations spending as "closing the gap." The sad result of this fiscal irresponsibility according to Bacevich is insolvency... Of the United States... Whoa, this just became heavy.

From my perspective, much of Bacevich's insights were common knowledge. However, I think "The Washington Rules" is a great primer for those new to American foreign policy. His fears for this nation are well-founded and he presents them in a concerned tone. What the reader takes away from this book is that the only way to change this reliance on hegemonic dominance of domestic and foreign policy is voting in people who won't be corrupted by this way of thinking... Across the board. Sounds easy enough, eh?

Monday, October 4, 2010

It Spawned A Classic Film and A Song by "The Boss..." What Other Book Can Claim That? PORTEmaus Book Club Entry #4

Place those hands over your heart and cock those heads blissfully in the air as the trumpets blare! This marks the return of an institution as venerable and ever-lasting as the American flag, apple pie or Cookie Monster. The PORTEmaus Book Club returns with a new entry after a month on vacation... Oh what a vacation it was! Wait until you see the slides. Let's just say a few literary works were a wee tipsy...

Due to the size of this month's selection (a mammoth 619 pages!?!?!?! and no it is not the Bible... I know you all are disappointed), we are going to extend the selection into next month as well.

I have kept you on edge long enough... What book other than Bible would be this long? Answer: John Steinbeck's classic, The Grapes Of Wrath.

So, you better get the coffee brewing... You have a lot to read and a short time to get it completed.

Post script: For those wondering when the Washington Rules review will be posted... It should be up momentarily.