Author Topic: What are you currently reading?  (Read 750629 times)

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M forever

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #820 on: January 02, 2008, 09:33:14 AM »

     The War of the World, by Niall Ferguson

     

     He sees the wars of the 20th century as resulting in (or at least as demonstrating) the decline of the West. The book is well written, and the argument is certainly worth considering. Ferguson is a bit contrarian (empires are pretty good, but can't outlast their life cycle, sort of like an aging star burning the last of its fuel). So I'll recommend it.

Hmmm...I had read about this book before and wondered if it might be worth reading. It certainly is a subject which interests me a lot. I had just wondered if this is one of so many, many books which actually *starts out* with some "new and revelatory" insight or interpretation of history and then spends several hundred pages "proving" it, or if that conclusion is really the result of analysis and rethinking as such.
I also wonder what he means by "decline of the West". Decline from what into what? From a state in which the vast majority of people in "the West" lived in poverty in big empires (or little states depending on big empires) which sucked a lot of resources out of overseas colonies (where people lived under even worse conditions than the poor masses in "the West") to the more or less exclusive benefit of a small upper crust, and which were constantly at war with each other into a state in which more people than ever before in "the West" live under very good conditions in more or less democratic states with more civil rights and protection of the individual irrespective of its "class" than ever before in history, and intense economic and cultural relationships between countries which make the renewed outbreak of massive conflicts very unlikely?
Is it a "decline of the West" that Western countries are no longer dominating and exploiting the rest of the world in colonies (well, they still are, in a way, but not as completely as before)?

karlhenning

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #821 on: January 02, 2008, 09:37:16 AM »
Yes, I do wonder what is meant by "decline of the West."

Apart from Sean-of-the-frequent-departures . . . .

Offline jwinter

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #822 on: January 02, 2008, 01:38:03 PM »
I'm about a third of the way through Ferguson's book, actually.  Pretty interesting so far.  When he says decline of the west, he means it's decline in relation to the rest of the world ("the East").  At the turn of the century, the western powers were dominant in the world, brutally ruling colonies in Africa and Asia, marching into China, etc.  By the end of the century there's been a definite power shift, which is one of the underlying themes of the book.  He also means to a certain extent the descent of western "civilization", with poison gas, genocide, et al.
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted.

-- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

M forever

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #823 on: January 02, 2008, 01:54:29 PM »
Genocides happened before the 20th century, too, and even though there had been no poison gas before WWI, people have always been very creative and employed whatever technical means they had to blow each other up, hack each other to pieces, bombard, burn, cook, maim, slash, squash, flatten the enemy in whatever way possible and available. That the 20th century saw war and genocide on an unprecedented scale was just a function of technological progress ahead of humanitarian progress, I think. But overall, the outcome of all that is a world with improved humanitarian thinking in general, even if we all still have a long way to go.
I also think the insight that it's really not so nice to exploit "underdeveloped" countries is really progress, not descent, although like I said, we actually still do that to a certain degree, if on a less massive scale and maybe less violent, too. I think overall, things are very slowly getting better in general though.
Obviously, this is not the right place to discuss this subject in general or this book in particular, but still, thanks for sharing these insights from the book. I also realize that such complex studies and conclusions can no be reduced to a short post either, and I note that everyone here who has commented on the book has apparently found it worth reading, so I think I may actually pick it up.

Offline Brewski

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #824 on: January 02, 2008, 05:18:24 PM »
Alex Ross, The Rest Is Noise -- thank you, Santa-baby.  Entertaining and informative, at least for me. 

I am about 1/3 of the way through, and think it's quite a brilliant book.  Ross's scholarship (whoa, check out the notes in the back) combined with his interest in so many types of music would be enough on its own, but his refracting it all through social and political prisms makes fascinating reading.  And I like that it seems readable by just about anyone; it's not pitched at experts.  I can't wait for the chapter on Britten's Peter Grimes...may have to cheat and skip ahead...

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

Kullervo

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #825 on: January 02, 2008, 05:57:45 PM »
I am about 1/3 of the way through, and think it's quite a brilliant book.  Ross's scholarship (whoa, check out the notes in the back) combined with his interest in so many types of music would be enough on its own, but his refracting it all through social and political prisms makes fascinating reading.  And I like that it seems readable by just about anyone; it's not pitched at experts.  I can't wait for the chapter on Britten's Peter Grimes...may have to cheat and skip ahead...

--Bruce

I also liked how he pointed out similarities between pieces/composers that are seemingly completely different.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2008, 06:07:55 PM by Corey »

Greta

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #826 on: January 02, 2008, 06:01:22 PM »
I am about 1/3 of the way through, and think it's quite a brilliant book.  Ross's scholarship (whoa, check out the notes in the back) combined with his interest in so many types of music would be enough on its own, but his refracting it all through social and political prisms makes fascinating reading.  And I like that it seems readable by just about anyone; it's not pitched at experts.  I can't wait for the chapter on Britten's Peter Grimes...may have to cheat and skip ahead...

--Bruce

That's about how far into it I am. ;) It's a fascinating book, and already gives me a lot to think about with the links he suggests between various composers! I love the vivid scenes he sets up concerning events that brought together the great masters, makes you wish you could've been there.

I must admit, I did skip ahead, to naturally the Sibelius chapter, which is really a nice view on how unique he was among the rest of the 20th century, focusing especially on Sibelius' place in musical life in his later years and how that affected him. And a great end to that bit!

I also hopped over to some of the Stravinsky/Schoenberg stuff - I honestly had no idea Schoenberg was ever so seriously interested in scoring for film, that was very interesting to read about!

You can tell Ross is very well-versed in literature, he makes a lot of thought-provoking references, that remind me of books I really must read sometime - Mann's Doctor Faustus being one of them. ;)

BTW - GoogleBooks has put up a hour-long discussion Alex Ross did of his book in October, you can watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOSZ4BqQ4Og

When I'm a bit further along, I look forward to seeing it - he came to speak in Houston at a DaCamera concert but alas, I had college committments and could not go!
« Last Edit: January 02, 2008, 06:07:27 PM by Greta »

Offline Solitary Wanderer

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #827 on: January 02, 2008, 06:06:25 PM »
That's about how far into it I am. ;) It's a fascinating book, and already gives me a lot to think about with the links he suggests between various composers! I love the vivid scenes he sets up concerning events that brought together the great masters, makes you wish you could've been there.

I must admit, I did skip ahead, to naturally the Sibelius chapter, which is really a nice view on how unique he was among the rest of the 20th century, focusing especially on Sibelius' place in musical life in his later years and how that affected him. And a great end to that bit!

I also hopped over to some of the Stravinsky/Schoenberg stuff - I honestly had no idea Schoenberg was ever so seriously interested in scoring for film, that was very interesting to read about!

You can tell Ross is very well-versed in literature, he makes a lot of thought-provoking references, that remind me of books I really must read sometime - Mann's Doctor Faustus being one of them. ;)

This sounds like a book that will interest me too  :)
'I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.' ~ Emily Bronte

Offline Brewski

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #828 on: January 02, 2008, 06:10:01 PM »
I also liked how he pointed out similarities between pieces/composers that are seemingly completely different.

Yes!  That takes unusual insight, and he seems to have a ton of it. 

Edit: just saw Greta and Chris's posts...yes, he has really done his homework, and yes, what is slightly astonishing to me is how "non-jargon-y" it is.  At a New Year's Day party yesterday I got into an interesting discussion with a rock drummer who is still skeptical of Schoenberg but had actually heard about this book.  I told him to go get a copy immediately! 

--Bruce
« Last Edit: January 02, 2008, 06:13:46 PM by bhodges »
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

springrite

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #829 on: January 02, 2008, 06:39:34 PM »
I have ordered The Rest is Noise as well and can't wait to read it!

Offline Operahaven

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #830 on: January 02, 2008, 06:57:53 PM »
God Is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens.

So far it is my favorite of the anti-religion screeds published in the last year and a half or so.... and definitely the most accessible.
I worship Debussy's gentle revolution  -  Prelude To The Afternoon of A Faun  -  for its mostly carefree mood and its rich variety of exquisite sounds.

Offline jwinter

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #831 on: January 02, 2008, 06:59:12 PM »
...I note that everyone here who has commented on the book has apparently found it worth reading, so I think I may actually pick it up.

I definitely think you'd enjoy it.  Please don't judge it from my brief note -- I was just trying to explain what the title meant -- his argument is much more complex than that, and backed with enough statistics to choke a horse.  Very readable, though.  :)
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted.

-- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Offline jwinter

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #832 on: January 02, 2008, 07:05:06 PM »
God Is Not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens.

So far it is my favorite of the anti-religion screeds published in the last year and a half or so.... and definitely the most accessible.

It's certainly an accessible read.  While I agree with some of his basic premises, he goes a bit too far it seems to me.  He's too much of a pessimist IMO -- while organized religion has certainly been at the core of a great many evils over the centuries, there have been massive benefits that he glosses over, or assumes (without much justification) would have appeared without the necessity of faith.   Still, he makes some compelling arguments, and some of his personal stories are good fodder for thought.  I'd certainly recommend it if anyone has an interest in the subject.
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted.

-- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Offline carlos

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #833 on: January 03, 2008, 02:45:56 AM »
Dusty Sklar's " The Nazis and the Occult", Dorset Press,NY,1977.
A fascinatig book, very well written, on a subject very few had
investigated. It explains many awful nazi's deeds and the sick mentality of those monsters.
Piantale a la leche hermano, que eso arruina el corazón! (from a tango's letter)

M forever

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #834 on: January 03, 2008, 02:52:25 AM »
No, it doesn't. Interest in the occult may be a symptom of some confused and potentially dangerous people. But it is only a symptom, not the cause. And then there are a lot of perfectly harmless people who have some interest in that subject, too, for various reasons.
The reasons behind all that are much, much, much more complex. But to even begin to gain an understanding of that subject, a lot of study is needed. I can see how a trivial sensationalist book makes it appear easier and more attractive though.

Offline carlos

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #835 on: January 03, 2008, 05:23:53 AM »
Did you read the book?.  ???
Piantale a la leche hermano, que eso arruina el corazón! (from a tango's letter)

M forever

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #836 on: January 03, 2008, 09:52:52 AM »
No, but I am pretty well informed about the subject in general and also the elements of the occult and mysticism in NS ideology in particular. That's not a matter of reading one book more or less, or any "revelatory" insights gained from just looking at that from one angle. Because like I already said,
The reasons behind all that are much, much, much more complex. But to even begin to gain an understanding of that subject, a lot of study is needed. I can see how a trivial sensationalist book makes it appear easier and more attractive though.
And there are countless such books, but none of them - and no single "serious" book either - can satisfyingly and exhaustingly explain the reasons behind these events.

karlhenning

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #837 on: January 03, 2008, 10:03:58 AM »
Sounds like a novelization of Raiders of the Lost Ark

Offline carlos

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #838 on: January 03, 2008, 10:42:32 AM »
So, you didn't read the book but you do condemn it as trivial
and sensationalist. It is enough to show me that I have to
avoid any of your post in the future.
Piantale a la leche hermano, que eso arruina el corazón! (from a tango's letter)

M forever

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Re: What are you currently reading?
« Reply #839 on: January 03, 2008, 11:07:32 AM »
With your very limited reading comprehension, you won't be able to understand most of them anyway. You didn't even understand the extremely simple and short posts I wrote above. I didn't "condemn" anything there. I just pointed out that what the Nazis did and why isn't that easily explained. There are many, and very complex, factors which played into that. Sorry, but I can't make it any shorter and easier. I can see now why you lean towards such apparently simplicist and populist literature.

Sounds like a novelization of Raiders of the Lost Ark

 ;D ;D ;D

Very true. Carlos - watching that movie is all you need to do to find out what the "3rd Reich" was all about. Basically, occult stuff, evil grinning people in black leather coats, evil (but not grinning) people in brown uniforms. That's about it. And corrupt French people. It also has an U-Boot, that's always good.
Oh, and it also teaches you not to open boxes when you don't really know what's inside!

What I never understood though is why Indiana Jones poures out some sand from the little sack he replaces the idol with at the beginning. I mean, the sack is smaller than the idol to begin with, it is pretty obvious that it is much lighter than the (presumably) gold idol. Duh!