What I’ve been reading

1. Susan Napier, Miyazakiworld: A Life in Art.  A thorough and serious treatment of Miyazaki’s career, focusing on his creative works rather than biography per se.

2. Helen DeWitt, Some Trick.  Conceptual and informationally dense short stories for highly intelligent people.  Here is a good James Wood review.

3. Matthew Polly, Bruce Lee: A Life.  A quite good, serious, and well-researched biography of the master, especially good in setting up the context of the martial arts in Lee’s time.  I hadn’t known that James Coburn took 106 private lessons with Bruce, nor that Steve McQueen was another notable pupil.  Nor had I known how much Bruce studied the fights of Muhammad Ali for some of his film sequences.

4. James Crabtree, The Billionaire Raj: A Journey Through India’s New Gilded Age.  Delivers on exactly what it promises, a strong look at India’s wealthy class.

5. Thomas Weber, Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi.  Perhaps you, like me, are totally sick of Hitler books.  But how exactly did his ideas morph into…what they became?  This book is detailed, well-documented, psychologically insightful, at times even brilliant.

Comments

Given my father grew up in Nazi Germany, I'm surprised I've never read a Hitler book. I guess I was born sick of them.

If you didn't know these three obvious facts about Bruce, you didn't know much about Bruce Lee. So it's good that you are reading a book about him now.

Excellent comment.

Did you receive an advanced copy of Miyazakiworld? It seems it won't be released until late August...

I read Mrs. Napier commentary on Ghost in the Shell in another book. She started every chapter with lots of lines telling the topic was interesting, and later failed to deliver the interesting bit. Much better discussions on BBS boards or blogs.

From the Amazon summary about Hitler: "The tragedy for Germany and the world was that Hitler found himself in Munich; had he not been in Bavaria in the wake of the war and the revolution, his transformation into a National Socialist may never have occurred." Was it fate or just circumstances? One can think of many historical figures whose rise to prominence was the result of an unlikely combination of circumstances. Hitler, for sure, but what about Jesus? If not for the destruction of the Temple and the defeat of the Jews in the First Jewish-Roman War in the year 70 CE, would Jesus, an observant Jew, have become a martyr for . . . . Gentiles and the inspiration for a world religion? What about our current president? If he hadn't sought funding for his businesses from Russians because conventional lenders had turned off the spigot and hadn't sought income by becoming a reality television star because his businesses had foundered, both of which occurred during the great recession, would he have become a demagogue, the inspiration for white nationalists, and president? Closer to home, what about Tyler Cowen? If Cowen had not chosen GMU over any number of elite colleges that were available to him for his undergraduate education, GMU had not split from UVA and become the ideological champion for which it is known, and Cowen had not been inspired to create MR, would Cowen have become a celebrity economist? Finally, what about Facebook? If Peter Thiel had not been heavily influenced by Rene Girard, would Thiel have recognized the potential of a start-up whose business is based on mimetic desire and provided the funding needed to develop that business, would Facebook have remained a campus community billboard rather than the global behemoth it has become? "If you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Hitler, for sure, but what about Jesus?

So you're saying that if Jesus had not been able to get regular work and had decided to be an Artist instead, we might have had a demagogic tyrannical ruler over the Middle East with an interest in really cool uniforms and invading Poland? Well, it is a thought.

Closer to home, what about Tyler Cowen?

That is an excellent question. Perhaps if Cowen had not got a job at GMU, he would have got a job as a large and moving Torg! Or perhaps a giant Slor! Then many Shuvs and Zuuls would know what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you!

+1 Thread Winner

“Was it fate or just circumstances?”

What is fate, pray tell?

'If Cowen had not chosen GMU over any number of elite colleges that were available to him for his undergraduate education'

Sadly, past experience has shown that providing a link leads to only a select few reading it, but to say that Prof. Cowen chose GMU completely on his own is not supported by the evidence which can be easily found on the Internet. For example, you can search for 'Center for the Study of Market Processes' together with 'History and Timeline' and you should find an official account to start with. From there, search using a name that is apparently not allowed to be mentioned here (you can figure out your own reason for why with a bit of reading).

According to Cowen (in an interview), he chose GMU because it didn't have dorms (and all the distractions of the typical college life). He said it, I accept it. Why he chose GMU isn't that important. What's important is that it lead him to where he is today - at GMU. I think of Cowen as a contrarian, so it makes perfect sense that he would choose GMU since its namesake refused to sign the constitution at Philadelphia, one of only three delegates present who refused to sign.

Do you have a link for that dorm info?

And there are other reasons why Prof. Cowen chose GMU - you may want to read what those suggested search terms lead to, then use the name prominently featured there to search for some of the more interesting connections.

“Conceptual and informationally dense short stories for highly intelligent people. “

That’s hilarious.

To be fair, you have to have a very high IQ to understand these short stories. The humour is extremely subtle, and without a solid grasp of literary theory most of the jokes will go over a typical viewer's head. There's also...

In Straussian-speak, he's saying Rich Berger shouldn't read it.

3. Barely related, but I've had it in my aging mind the last few days that someone in old TV or a movie used to say "karate CHOP!" out loud for comedic effect. Agent 86? Or am I just losing it ..

What?! None of the books are "self-recommending TM." I can take a Straussian hint. ::wink wink nod nod::

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