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Archive for March, 2007

Sunday, March 25th, 2007


Having spent a great deal of time considering creativity and insight, I’m generally convinced that we benefit cognitively and on an emotive-psychological level from novelty, even if that novelty is to a small degree. Sort of like garnering measurable aerobic benefits from modest daily walking, every little bit helps. You don’t have to go from a microbiology lab one day to spelunking the next in order to give your brain some stimulus.

Therefore, I decided to shift my usual reading attention from matters of Western history and military affairs to read in succession, the biographies of three seminal 20th century dictators, all of whom ruled Asian nations but impacted the history of the world. It is a good shifting of gears for me, as the last heavy fare of reading Asian history and politics was back in the early nineties.

First up, is Chiang Kai-Shek: China’s Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost by Jonathan Fenby, who gives a critical reappraisal. While we are all accustomed to the standard scholarly historical criticism of Chiang Kai-Shek and the Kuomintang which is heavily influenced by the politics of academic Marxism, Fenby, a British journalist who is a longtime writer and editor for The Economist magazine and The Observer, (so far as I have read) gives a hard-eyed, pragmatic, thoroughly detailed, flavor that Alan Schom gave to his masterful deconstruction of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Number two will be the critically acclaimed The Unknown Story of Mao by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, which like the Fenby book is an act of idol-smashing. All the moreso since Mao ZeDong, unlike his rival Chiang, retains an aging cadre of Leftist admirers both at home and in the West.

I intend to finish with the highly regarded Ho Chi Minh: A Life by former diplomat and Penn State historian William J. Duiker.Duiker himself, served in the American embassy in Saigon during the Vietnam war, which adds a poignant edge to his historical research.

Anyone out there who has read any or all of these books, feel free to chime in.

Sunday, March 25th, 2007


At HNN, arch-Cliopatriarch Ralph Luker has collected a formidible honor roll of conservative historians who are bloggers (and perhaps some conservative bloggers who like history) to which he has added yours truly. Never knew so many were out there. Much appreciated Dr. Luker!

Special thanks to blogfriend Nonpartisan of ProgressiveHistorians for the nod. It’s a pleasure when a spirit of comity exists across the partisan divide. All too rare these days, unfortunately.

Saturday, March 24th, 2007


Relaying information from my friends in the tech world:

Both Critt Jarvis and Dave Davison are very high on Robert Scoble’s new “networked book” Naked Conversations. As I am out of my element here, I’ll refer you to their substantial investments in things Scoble:

Lunching with Scoble ” – Davison.

Skinny Dippin’ in Naked Conversations” – Jarvis.

As blogger will not let me put Critt’s summative Scoble grazr in a post for whatever reason, I may put it in the margin tonight to temporarily replace the old one where the feeds were axed the other day.

Also have to check out this Twitter thing and add it to LinkedIn, which I am already using as a contact and social networking tool.


WIKINOMICS-another “Networked” book example

Friday, March 23rd, 2007


James McCormick at Chicago Boyz has a tour de force post up “Sherman — Stoic Warriors“; an essay-review of Stoic Warriors: The Ancient Philosophy behind the Military Mind by Dr. Nancy Sherman of Georgetown University. An excerpt:

“For many months, I’ve been grabbing “Stoic Warriors” filled with resolve to finish it and write up a summary. Ethics professor Nancy Sherman reviews the principles of Greco-Roman Stoicism and discusses whether this ancient philosophical tradition can offer something to the modern American military. I’ve had a long-standing interest in military matters and Roman culture. I’ve read a recent academic attempt to resurrect Stoicism as a serious modern philosophy. So I ordered Stoic Warriors with great anticipation, moments after seeing its publication announcement on Amazon. This should be a compelling read, I thought. Yet within minutes of first picking up “Stoic Warriors,” my mind would wander and I inevitably found something more urgent to do. Such as write reviews of forty other books. The cycle of try-and-fail repeated many times, despite the book’s solid writing and apt anecdotes.

It’s not the topic nor the subject matter of the book that has delayed this review. And it’s not the writing style nor any lack of author sincerity. It was instead the underlying set of cultural values that the author brings to the area of military affairs. Since Vietnam, it seems, soldiers are subject to standards above and beyond that of civil society. At least one portion of Americans wants its military victories without guilt and without mess. It wants perfection.

Trauma, error, and mismanagement that is ignored or mocked in prisons, ERs, animal shelters, slaughterhouses, slums, X-Games competitions, football fields, and obstetrics wards is now treated very differently when it involves the military. So does capital “S” stoicism have something to offer American soldiers placed under this unique and hypocritical spotlight by postmodern American culture?

No. I think it’s fair to say that the author, in the final assessment, believes nothing can console soldiers … except ceasing to be soldiers. Soldiering turned into some sort of physically-fit bureaucracy that does nothing useful militarily has a much better prospect of fulfilling its moral mandate.

My opinion, thoroughly amateur, is that ignoring (or underplaying) the mental and physical suffering of warriors (and their enemies) is an essential talent for any successful nation. That the Western world appears to be the first culture unilaterally abandoning that talent is rather amazing. So I see problems ahead.

How she reached her conclusion and how I reached mine, is the subject of a very long blog post”

Indeed, I am still in mid-read. Pour yourself something strong and dive in.

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007


Collounsbury is on to something important.

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