Friday, February 21, 2020

2/21/20: Book Review: Blowout by Rachel Maddow

Big Oil and Gas versus democracy - winner take all

With her trademark humor, Maddow guides us on a journey from Oklahoma to Moscow to the White House, revealing the greed, corruption, and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas along the way, and drawing conclusions about how and why the Russian government hacked the 2016 US election. She deftly shows how Russia's rich reserves of crude have, paradoxically, stunted its growth, forcing Putin to maintain his power by spreading Russia's decay into its rivals, its neighbors, the West's most important alliances, and the United States. The oil and gas industry has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers. But being outraged at it is, according to Maddow, "like being indignant when a lion takes down and eats a gazelle. You can't really blame the lion. It's in her nature."
Blowout is a call to contain the lion: to stop subsidizing the wealthiest businesses on Earth, to fight for transparency, and to check the influence of the world's most destructive industry and its enablers. The stakes have never been higher. As Maddow writes, "Democracy either wins this one or disappears."

A fascinating book, one that every American should read cover to cover.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

2/18/20: First Swim of the Year

Yesterday I swam laps in the pool for the first time this year. The air temperature climbed to over 80 degrees and the water temperature topped 75, which made for a bracing swim but a truly lovely experience. I only did ten or fifteen laps before I became uncomfortably cold, but it felt wonderful to be exercising muscles that have been mostly dormant since the beginning of November. 

I’m hoping to do more laps today, and I’m looking forward to the time when the pool temperature tops 80 degrees so I can stay in much longer, long enough to do my aqua-exercises which take 1 to 1 ½ hours. I do love being active, as much as I love this time in my life when I have the time and resources to enjoy simple things like swimming, tennis, and writing. 

I have no pictures of me in the pool, but one of my favorite pictures of Herman is this one.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

2/16/20: Book Review – Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar with her boardinghouse roommate stretching three dollars as far as it will go when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker with royal blue eyes and a tempered smile, happened to sit at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its consequences propel Katey on a yearlong journey from a Wall Street secretarial pool toward the upper echelons of New York society and the executive suites of Conde Nast—rarefied environs where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. 

Wooed in turn by a shy, principled multi-millionaire and an irrepressible Upper East Side ne’er-do-well, befriended by a single-minded widow who is ahead of her time, and challenged by an imperious mentor, Katey experiences firsthand the poise secured by wealth and station and the failed aspirations that reside just below the surface. Even as she waits for circumstances to bring Tinker back into her life, she begins to realize how our most promising choices inevitably lay the groundwork for our deepest regrets. 

This is the second Amor Towles book I’ve read (the first being A Gentleman In Moscow) and I have loved them both. Rules of Civility, Towles’s first published novel, has a wonderful voice that carries the reader along a time in history between world wars when the country was getting back on its feet and hopes and prospects were flying high. Interesting characters, interesting times, wonderful juxtaposition between rich and middleclass. This is a great beach read, not too heavy, not at all violent, but delightfully clever, and ultimately satisfying.  

Sunday, February 9, 2020

2/09/20: Jackson Pollock

Many, many years ago when I first saw some of Jackson Pollock’s canvases, I didn’t know what to think. It didn’t really seem like art, yet it had an energy that I found compelling. Now that I’ve seen more of his work, and matured in view of art, I think Pollock’s work is some of the most interesting and beautiful art I’ve seen. Pure genius.