September 11, 2008

Summer Reading


Actually, summer listening. I went all-out into the audiobook world this summer.

Conquistador: Simultaneously tragic and magnificent. Key moment: (all spellings here will be phonetic, there's no online access to check) The alliance of the Totonac chief Tlacosh Kalcuatal. Mexica, the Aztecs were composed of three tribes who together subjugated their neighbors and exacted tribute, a significant part of which were the fodder of human sacrifice. Young men, women, wives... (And by the way: the identity of aboriginal native Americans was anything but singular.) Carnage abounds in this incredible story amidst the significant fact that Cortes was steeped in legal theory and practice and he projected it to the extent that he had a functional Notary in his senior staff.

I see a movie in two parts. Javier Bardem as Cortes? There's a fair bit of rakish jumping in and out of beds in the story, too. Add to this that Cortes was quite articulate and persuasive.

But who would play Malinche?

Churchill: Here's a favorite from his "River War":

All great movements, every vigorous impulse that a community may feel, become perverted and distorted as time passes, and the atmosphere of the earth seems fatal to the noble aspirations of its peoples. A wide humanitarian sympathy in a nation easily degenerates into hysteria. A military spirit tends towards brutality. Liberty leads to licence, restraint to tyranny. The pride of race is distended to blustering arrogance. The fear of God produces bigotry and superstition. There appears no exception to the mournful rule, and the best efforts of men, however glorious their early results, have dismal endings, like plants which shoot and bud and put forth beautiful flowers, and then grow rank and coarse and are withered by the winter. It is only when we reflect that the decay gives birth to fresh life, and that new enthusiasms spring up to take the places of those that die, as the acorn is nourished by the dead leaves of the oak, the hope strengthens that the rise and fall of men and their movements are only the changing foliage of the ever-growing tree of life, while underneath a greater evolution goes on continually.

Lincoln: In his private correspondence, you can better see what a sweet human being he was.

Federalist Papers, Thomas Paine: Here's Paine in Common Sense:

All of those who expose the doctrine of reconciliation: interested men who are not to be trusted, weak men who cannot see, prejudiced men who will not see and a certain set of moderate men who think better of the European world than it deserves and this last class my ill judged deliberation will be the cause of more calamities to this continent than the other three. It's the good fortune of many to live distant from the scene of sorrow. The evil is not sufficiently brought to their doors to feel the precariousness which all American property is possessed. But let our imaginations transport us for a few moments to Boston, that seat of wretchedness will teach us wisdom and instruct us forever to renounce a power in whom we can have no trust... of passive tempers look somewhat lightly over the offenses of Britain and still hoping for the best call out: "Come, we shall be friends again for all this." But examine the passions and feelings of mankind, bring the doctrine of reconciliation to the touchstone of nature and then tell me whether you can hereafter you can love, honor and serve the power who has carried fire and sword to your land. If you can't do all these, then you are only deceiving yourselves. And by your delay, bringing ruin to all posterity

Legacy of Ashes: I prefer Tim Weiner to Howard Zinn in a treatment of the parade of culpability that stains our otherwise distinguished history. I now see after all these years what animated my uncles when they protested Yanqui Imperialism on Manila's university campuses back in the day. We had sown the seeds of the next conflict when we fought the Cold War. What was significant was what was missing (in both Weiner and Zinn): the account of the counter-struggle of our adversaries and an abiding conviction that war is a world of shit where no one comes out clean. Our intellectual class tend to overlook the nature of the martial arts: the dynamic of action/counter-action that precludes idealized planning; the impact of existential consequences; the creation and destruction of pattern and habit; feints and bluffs and the impossibility of achieving true invulnerability.

Compared to perfection, we all fail.

John Adams: Awesomeness. Never had I had such a vivid account of their life and times during the invention of the Constitution. A nice fillet from it I will have of it for you all soon. From my notes:

jefferson- great despite his weaknesses
Adams- greater still despite his virtues

A lingering question: Was Jefferson sanguine about the reign of terror in the French Revolution?

Civilization and it's Enemies: Very, very, very interesting. A chunk or two of this to be blogged soon enough.

Posted by Dennis at September 11, 2008 4:05 AM

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