Books [I read] in 2015

Books in 2015




1. Booknotes on Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the search for identity, Andrew Solomon, Scribner, New York, 2012.

2. Booknotes on Life, Keith Richards with James Fox, Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2010.

3. Booknotes on Behind the Gates of Gomorrah: A year with the criminally insane, Stephen B. Seager, MD, Gallery Books, New York, 2014.

4. Booknotes on Biocentrism, how life and consciousness are the keys to understanding the true nature of the universe, Robert Lanza, MD with Bob Berman, Benbella Books, Inc., Dallas, TX, 2009

5. Booknotes on Good Hunting: An American spymaster's story, Jack Devine with Vernon Loeb, Sarah Crichton Books, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2014.

6. Booknotes on Acid Test: LSD, ecstasy, and the power to heal, Tom Shroder, Blue Rider Press, a member of Penguin Group, New York, 2014.

7. Booknotes on The Best American Poetry 2003, guest editor Yusef Komunyakaa, Series Editor David Lehman, Scribner Poetry, New York, 2003.

8. Booknotes on Life, Animated, a story of sidekicks, heroes, and autism, Ron Suskind, Kingswell, New York, 2014.

9. Booknotes on Dearest Creature, Amy Gerstler, Penguin Books, New York, 2009.

10. Booknotes on Lost Classics, books loved and lost, overlooked, under-read, unavailable, stole, extinct, or otherwise out of commission, edited by Michael Ondaatje, et. al., Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, 2001.

11. Booknotes on Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's life in science, Lawrence M. Krauss, W.W. Norton, New York, 2011.

12. Booknotes on Revolution, Russell Brand, Ballantine Books, New York, 2014.

13. Booknotes on Boundaries, Maya Lin, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000.

14. Booknotes on The Perfect Kill: 21 laws for assassins, Robert B. Baer, Blue Rider Press, a member of Penguin Group, New York, 2014.

15. Booknotes on The Best American Poetry 2010, guest editor Amy Gerstler, Series Editor, David Lehman, Scribner Poetry, New York, 2010.

16. Booknotes on Without You, There Is No Us: My time with the sons of North Korea's elite, A Memoir, Suki Kim, Crown Publishers, New York, 2014.

17. Booknotes on Even This I get to Experience, Norman Lear, The Penguin Press, New York, 2014.

18. Booknotes on The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books, Azar Nafisi, Viking, New York, 2014.

19. Booknotes on Savage Harvest: A tale of cannibals, colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's tragic quest for primitive art, William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2014.

20. Booknotes on The Best American Poetry 2001, Guest Editor Robert Hass, Series Editor David Lehman, Scribner Poetry, New York, 2001.

21. Booknotes on America's Bitter Pill: Money, politics, backroom deals, and the fight to fix our broken healthcare system, Steven Brill, Random House, New York, 2015.

22. Booknotes on The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World ... via its most dangerous buses, boats, trains, and planes, Carl Hoffman, Broadway Books, New York, 2010.

23. Booknotes on The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the battle over a forbidden book, Peter Finn and Petra Couvee, Pantheon Books, New York, 2014.

24. Booknotes on Another Day of Life, Ryszard Kapuscinski, translated from the Polish by William R. Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand, Vintage Books, New York, 2001.

25. Booknotes on Travels with Herodotus, Ryszard Kapuscinski, translated from the Polish by Klara Glowczewska, Alfred A. Knoph New York, 2007.

26. Booknotes on Red Notice: A true story of high finance, murder, and one man's fight for justice, Bill Browder, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015.

27. Booknotes on Sapiens: A brief history of humankind, Yuval Noah Harari, HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2015.

28. Booknotes on Fidelity: Poems, Grace Paley, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2008.

29. Booknotes on The Hundred-Year Marathon: China's secret strategy to replace America as the global superpower, Michael Pillsbury, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2015.

30. Booknotes on Isn't It Romantic: 100 love poems by younger American poets, edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer & Aimee Kelley with an introduction by Charles Sumic, Verse Press, Amherst, Massachusetts, 2004.

31. Booknotes on Poets on Place: Interviews & tales from the road, W.T. Pfefferle, with a Foreword by David St John, Utah State University Press, Logan, Utah, 2005.

32. Booknotes on The Upstairs Wife: An intimate history of Pakistan, Rafia Zakaria, Beacon Press, Boston, 2015.

33. Booknotes on Stonewalled: My fight for truth against the forces of obstruction, intimidation, and harassment in Obama's Washington, Sharyl Attkisson, HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2014.

34. Booknotes on The Americans, Robert Frank, Introduction by Jack Kerouac, originally published by Robert Delpire, Paris, 1958, and by Grove Press, New York, 1959.

35. Booknotes on Good poems, selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor, Viking, New York, 2002.

36. Booknotes on This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the climate, Naomi Klein, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2014.

37. Booknotes on Deep Down Dark: The Untold stories of 33 men buried in a Chilean Mine, and the miracle that set them free, Hector Tobar, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2014.

38. Booknotes on Fields of Blood: Religion and the history of violence, Karen Armstrong, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2014.

39. Booknotes on The Beast: Riding the rails and dodging narcos on the migrant trail, Oscar Martinez, with an Introduction by Francisco Goldman, Verso, New York, 2013.

40. Booknotes on War of the Whales: A true story, Joshua Horwitz, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2014.

41. Booknotes The Gorgeous Nothings, Marta Werner & Jen Bervin, with a Preface by Susan Howe, Christine Burgin/ New Directions, in association with Granary Books, New York, 2013.

42. Booknotes on The Looming Tower, al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11, by Lawrence Wright, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2006.

43. Booknotes on Isis: Inside the army of terror, Michael Weiss & Hassan Hassan, Regan Arts, New York, 2015.

44, Booknotes on America in Retreat: The new isolationism and the coming global disorder, Bret Stephens, Sentinel, a member of Penguin Group, New York, 2014.

45. Booknotes on Thieves of State: Why corruption threatens Global security, Sarah Chayes, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2015.

46. Booknotes on Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Reflections by women writers, edited by Susan Morrison, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2008.

47. Booknotes on Slave Species of god: The story of humankind from the cradle of humankind, by Michael Tellinger, Zulu Planet Publishers, South Africa, 2005.

48. Booknotes on Pornified: How pornography is transforming our lives, our relationships, and our families, Pamela Paul, Times Books, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2005.

49. Booknotes on By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review, Edited and with an Introduction by Pamela Paul, Foreward by Scott Turow, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2014.

50. Booknotes on Unarmed Truth: My fight to blow the whistle and expose Fast and Furious, John Dodson, Threshold Editions, New York, 2013.

51. Booknotes on Cleopatra's Nose: 39 varieties of desire, Judith Thurman, Farrar, Straus and  Giroux, New York, 2007.

52. Booknotes on The Upright Thinkers: The human journey from living in trees to Understanding the Cosmos, Leonard Mlodinow, Pantheon Books, New York, 2015.

53. Booknotes on God's Bankers: A history of money and power at the Vatican, Gerald Posner, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015.

54. Booknotes on One of Us: The story of Anders Breivik and the massacre in Norway, Asne Seierstad, translated from the Norwegian by Sarah Death, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2013.

55. Booknotes on What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The loves and love poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Daniel Mark Epstein, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2001.

56. Booknotes on Secrets of the Flesh, A Life of Colette, Judith Thurman, Ballantine Books, New York, 1999.

57. Booknotes on The Sexual Life of Catherine M., Catherine Millet, translated from the French by Adriana Hunter, Grove Press, New York, 2003.

58. Booknotes on Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, Chris Hedges, Nation Books, New York, 2015.

59. Booknotes on A Curious Mind: The secret to a bigger life, Brian Grazer & Charles Fishman, Simon &n Schuster, New York, 2015.

60. Booknotes on Dont Trust Don't Fear Don't Beg: The extraordinary story of the Arctic 30, Ben Stewart, The New Press, New York, 2015.

61. Booknotes on Gobekli Tepe, Genesis of the Gods: The Temple of the watchers and the discovery of Eden, Andrew Collins, Bear & Company, Rochester, Vermont, 2014.

62. Booknotes on Modern Romance, Aniz Ansari with Eric Linenberg, Penguin Press, New York, 2015.

63. Booknotes on Guantanamo Diary, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, edited by Larry Siems, Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2015.

64. Booknotes on Sick in the Head: Conversations about life and comedy, Judd Apatow, Random House, New York, 2015.

65. Booknotes on Open Veins of Latin America: Five centuries of the pillage of a continent, Eduardo Galeano, Translated by Cedric Belfrage, Foreword by Isabel Allende, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1973, 1997.

66. Booknotes on America: Imagine a World without her, Dinesh D'Souza, Regnery Publishing, Washington, DC, 2014.

67. Booknotes on Dude, Where's My Country? Michael Moore, Warner Books, An AOL Time Warner Company, New York, 2003.

68. Booknotes on So, Anyway … , John Cleese, Crown Archetype, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York, 2014.

69. Booknotes on I Blame Dennis Hopper: And other stories from a life lived in and out of the movies, Illeana Douglas, Flatiron Books, New York, 2015.

70. Booknotes on Heretic: Why Islam needs a reformation now, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2015.

71. Booknotes on Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Spiegel & Grau, Random House, New York, 2015.

72. Booknotes on The Monopolists: Obsession, fury, and the scandal behind the world’s favorite board game, Mary Pilon, Bloomsbury, New York, 2015.

73. Booknotes on American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work, Susan Cheever, Simon & Schuster, 2006.

74. Booknotes on A Murder at Armageddon: A Judas Thomas Mystery, A.K.A. Chisti, ARC Books, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK and Columbus, Ohio, 2015.





1. Booknotes on Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the search for identity, Andrew Solomon, Scribner, New York, 2012.


This is a monster (962 pages) book, written by a gay man, who relates his gayness to all the other deviations you can think of in society. It happens to be the first book checked out in 2015, and one that I have not finished reading on 12/28/2015!


p. 1. Having anticipated the onward march of our selfish genes, many of us are unprepared for children who present unfamiliar needs....


Children whose defining quality annihilates that fantasy of immortality are a particular insult; we must love them for themselves, and not for the best of ourselves in them, and that is a great deal harder to do.


p. 2. From the beginning, we tempt them [our children] into imitation of us and long for what may be life's most profound compliment, their choosing to live according to our own system of values...


Attributes and values are passed down from parent to child across the generations not only through strands of DNA, but also through shared cultural norms....


Often, however, someone has an inherent or acquired trait that is foreign to his or her parents and must therefore acquire identity from a peer group. This is a horizontal identity.


p. 3-4. When I started writing about the deaf, the cochlear implant, which can provide some facsimile of hearing, was a recent innovation....


I saw a familiar pattern. I had been startled to note my common ground with the Deaf, and now I was identifying with a dwarf; I wondered who else was out there waiting to join our gladsome throng. I thought that if gayness, an identity, could grow out of homosexuality, an illness, and Deafness, an identity, could grow out of deafness, an illness, and if dwarfism as an identity could emerge from an apparent disability, then there must be many other categories in this awkward interstitial territory.


p. 6. ...parents tend to view aberrance as illness until habituation and love enable them to cope with their odd new reality--often by introducing the language of identity. Intimacy with difference fosters its accommodation....


Despite this crisis in empathy, compassion thrives at home, and most of the parents I have profiled love across the divide.


p. 18. ...I cannot think about Blanchard's and New's research without feeling like the last quagga [an extinct South African zebra that had a yellowish-brown coat with darker stripes, exterminated in 1883].


p. 21. There is no contradiction between loving someone and feeling burdened by that person; indeed, love tends to magnify the burden.


p. 23. Taking care of a helpless disabled infant is similar to caring for a helpless undisabled infant, but continuing to tend to a dependent adult requires a special valor.


p. 24. Taking care of disabled children causes your biological age to outpace your chronological age, which is associated with premature rheumatic conditions, heart failure, reduced immune function, and earlier death through cell senescence.


p. 32. A study that sought to determine whether money correlated with happiness revealed that poverty is connected to despair, but that once one gets out of poverty, wealth has little effect on happiness.


p. 33. All kinds of attributes make one less able. Illiteracy and poverty are disabilities, and so are stupidity, obesity, and boringness. Extreme age and extreme youth are both disabilities. Faith is a disability insofar as it constrains you from self-interest; atheism is a disability inasmuch as it shields you from hope. One might see power as a disability, too, for the isolation in which it imprisons those who wield it....


AA was the first to suggest managing a disease by claiming it as an identity and drawing on the support of peers with a similar condition--that according meaning to a problem was crucial to resolving it. In a way, this near-paradox can be reduced to the last clause of Reinold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer, which is a tenet of the recovery movement: "Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other."


p. 50. When capitalized, Deaf refers to a culture, as distinct from deaf, which is a pathological term; this distinction echoes that between gay and homosexual. An increasing number of deaf people maintain they would not choose to be hearing. To them, cure--deafness as pathology--is anathema; accommodation--deafness as disability--is more palatable, and celebration--Deafness as culture--trumps all.


p. 51. Once the deaf became high-functioning, they were asked to use their voices. Alexander Graham Bell led the nineteenth-century oralist movement, which culminated with the first international meeting of educators of the deaf, the Congress of Milan, in 1880 and an edict to ban the use of manualism--a disparaging word for Sign--so that children might learn to speak instead.


p. 53. Deaf children acquire Sign exactly as hearing children acquire a first spoken language; most can learn aural language in its written form as a second language. For many, however, speech is a mystical gymnastics of the tongue and throat, while lipreading is a guessing game. Some deaf children acquire these skills graduallly, but making speech and lipreading the prerequisite to communication may consign deaf children to permanent confusion. If they bypass the key age for language acquisition without fully acquiring any language, they cannot develop full cognitive skills and will suffer permanently from a preventable form of mental retardation.


p. 69. MJ Bienvenu laid the groundwork for the bilingual and bicultural approach, commonly referred to as Bi-Bi, used at both the elementary and secondary model schools on the Gallaudet campus. In a Bi-Bi curriculum, students are taught in Sign, then learn English as a second language.


p. 75. She [Megan] invented a primitive home sign language to use with Jacob, and she offered one of the visitors some pancakes, making a circle with her two forefingers and thumbs. The guest said, "We need to get you some lessons. You just offered me some pussy."


p. 108. There are many kinds of hearing hoss, but most come from the loss of the auditory hair cells in the cochlea. These cells, which receive sound in a form in which it can be conveyed along nerve pathways to the brain, are produced in the first three months of the fetal period and are incapable of regenerating--or so conventional wisdom long assumed.


p. 163. The question is whether dwarfs who accommodate the world facilitate the continuance of social injustice, whether there is a moral imperative for them to refuse such procedures [limb lengthing, hormone treatments] to keep the pressure on for the world to accommodate other dwarfs.


p. 180. In 1958, a French geneticist, Jerome Lejeune, presented to the International Congress of Genetics his evidence that the condition [Down syndrome] was the result of a triplication of the twenty-first chromosome, of which there should be only two copies; the scientific name for Down syndrome is trisomy 21.


p. 189. The Princeton ethicist Peter Singer has espoused the right of women to choose abortion through the end of pregnancy and to commit infanticide on newborns if they so choose.


p. 222. The primary symptoms, which may occur or not in any constellation in any individual with autism, are lack of or delay in speech; poor nonverbal communication; repetitive movement, including flapping arms and other self-stimulating behaviors; minimal eye contact; diminished interest in friendships; lack of spontaneous or imaginative play; compromised empathy, insight, and sociability; diminished capacity for emotional reciprocity; rigidity; highly focused interests; a fascination with objects such as spinning wheels and sparkling things.


p. 232. [There but for the grace of God go I, or, actually, there with the grace of God I went, sort of.] When the pretty woman at the counter at McDonald's asked what he'd like today, he said, “I'd like to touch your crotch, please.” He was completely befuddled when the police were called; he had answered her question and said “please.” [autism chapter]


p. 249-50. It seems likely that autism is a blanket term. Autistic behavior may prove to be a symptom of a variety of causes, much as epilepsy can be caused by a genetic defect in brain structure, a head injury, an infection, a tumor, or a stroke; or as dementia may be the result of Alzheimer's, cerebrovascular degeneration, Huntington's, or Parkinson's....


Autism may be genetic, determined by spontaneous new mutations or through inheritance; it is strongly correlated with paternal age, possibly because of germ line de novo mutatons that occur spontaneously in the sperm of older fathers.


p. 264. Mark Blaxill is a polished Princeton graduate, founder of a business consulting firm, and one of the most sophisticated proponents of the vaccine causation of autism.


p. 265. American law provides guarantees of education that are not matched by guarantees of medical care. Education is a government responsibility; medical care is a personal responsibility, controlled in large measure by insurance companies.


p. 276. Ari Ne'eman, who has Asperger syndrome and became a prominent self-advocate while still in college, uses the colloquial Aspie to describe himself.


p. 295. The more likely reality is that schizophrenia, like Alzeimer's, is an illness not of accrual but of replacement and deletion; rather than obscuring the previously known person, this disease to some degree eliminates that person.


p. 302. She knows that Harry feels guilty about the effect he's had on her life, so she tries to minimize it. I asked her how much of her time and emotional energy Harry occupied, and her eyes filled with tears. She shrugged, and forced a smile, “All of it. All of it,” she said, almost guiltily. “I can't help it.” [schizophrenia chapter]


p. 317. What you do with your brain changes it, and if you can get someone with schizophrenia into a rational mode for some time, the positive effects are substantive. The theory is that much as someone who loses speech in a stroke can relearn talking through speech therapy, someone with psychosis may be able to train his way partially out of it.


p. 339. Only about 10 to 15 percent of them sustain full-time employment, but the structures of work can prove enormously beneficial; one leading researcher has noted, “No treatment I have seen is as effective as a job.”


p. 342. While accommodating people with physical disabilities must be undertaken out of moral conviction, adequately treating people with severe psychiatric illness is a win-win situation; if moral conviction fails, economic self-interest should prevail.


2. Booknotes on Life, Keith Richards with James Fox, Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2010.


This book was recommended to me by the retiring book critic for the Washington Post. Richards is two years younger than me, 71 as of this writing. His collaborator is 69.

What most impressed me was his dedication to music. Here's some excerpts along with observations and commentary:


MJ. Early on, you're reminded this is an Englishman and you got to know the lingo where on p. 38 there's the first mention of "wanking." Masturbation, OK? British vulgar slang.


MJ. Next page talking about mouse shit, one reads, "There's no pong involved, it's not squidgy or anything like that." Pong means a strong, unpleasant smell. Thanks Wikipedia.


p. 40. And when later on we were living skint [(of a person) having little or no money available] MJ. and then later in the same sentence a strange word for washing clothes, demonstrate; to wit, skint and nasty, in the peeling refuse bin of Edith Grove, before the Stones took off, we always had clean clothes because Doris [his mom] would demonstrate them, iron them and send them back with her admirer, Bill, the taxi driver.


p. 88. MJ. Still marking strange usages. Here "panel beater":


Cyril Davies was a hell of a harp player, one of the best harp players you've ever heard. Cyril was a panel beater from Wembley, and his manners and his way of coming on were exactly what you'd expect of a panel beater from Wembley, with a huge thirst for bourbon.


MJ. Surprise, it doesn't mean harp player; A panel beater is a term used in some Commonwealth countries to describe a person who repairs vehicle bodies back to their factory state after having been damaged (e.g., after being involved in a collision). In the USA and Canada, the same job is done by an auto body mechanic.


p. 91. [Ian Stewart] playing an upright piano and he's got his back to me because he's looking out of the window where he's got his bike chained to a meter, making sure it's not nicked [british informal: stolen or arrested]


p. 107. One of the first lessons I learned with guitar playing was that none of those guys were actually playing straight chords.


p. 106. A new Bo Diddley record goes under the surgical knife. Have you got that wah-wah? What were the drums playing, how hard were they playing ... what were the maracas doing? You had to take it all apart and put it back together again, from your point of view. We need a reverb. Now were really in the shit. We need an amplifier. Bo Diddley was high tech. Jimmy Reed was easier. He was straightforward. But to dissect how he played, Jesus. It took me years to find out how he actuallly played the 5 chord, in the key of E--the B chord, the last of the three chords before you go home, the resolver in a twelve bar blues--the dominant chord, as it's called.


p. 134. There was an unforgettable dressing room scene during that tour ... Tom Jnes and his band the Squires were still living five years behind. They all walk into Little Richard's dressing room, and they've still got the leopard-skin coats with the black velvet collars, and the drapes--a procession of teddy boys all bowing and scraping. And Tom Jones actually kneels in front of Little Richard as if he's the pope. And of course Richard rises right to the occasion: "My boys!" They don't realize that Richard is a screaming fag. So they don't know how to take this. "Well, baybee, you're a Georgia peach." This total culture clash, but they were so in awe of Richard that they would take anything he would say. And he's giving me a nod and a wink. "I love my fans! I love my fans! Ohh, baby!"


MJ. How Dean Martin razzed the Stones, and Keith's gracious acknowledgement of same:


Earlier we'd had the experience of Dean Martin introducing us at the taping of the Hollywood Palace TV show. In America then, if you had long hair, you were a faggot as well as a freak. They would shout across the street, "Hey, fairies!" Dean Martin introduced as something like "these long-haired wonders from England, the Rolling Stones.... They're backstage picking the fleas off each other." A lot of sarcasm and eyeball rolling. Then he said, "Don't leave me alone with this," gesturing with horror in our direction. This was Dino, the rebel Rat Packer who cocked his finger at the entertainment world by pretending to be drunk all the time. We were, in fact, quite stunned. English comperes and showbiz types may have been hostile, but they didn't treat you like some dumb circus act. Before w'd gone on, he'd had the bouffanted King Sisters and performing elephants, standing on their hind legs. I love old Dino. He was a pretty funny bloke, even though he wasn't ready for the changing of the guard.


p. 165. [He] flobs on me? MJ. My guess is "spits." True, it's "informal British."


Suddenly while I'm playing, this little redheaded fucker flobs on me. So I move aside, and he follows me and flobs on me again and hits me in the face.


MJ. End of story: Keith kicks his head "with the grace of Beckham" and a riot breaks out.


p. 208. There's a knock at the door, I look through the window and there's this whole lot of dwarves outside, but they're all wearing the same clothes! They were policemen, but I didn't know it.


p. 214. I have never put the make on a girl in my life. I just don't know how to do it. My instincts are always to leave it to the woman.


MJ. I can relate to that.


p. 215. MJ. Keith is just hooking up with Anita Pallenberg. They check in as Count and Countess Zigenpuss, and I make a note: Didn't they take your passport, like they always do in foreign countries? I guess they signed that way, as well as surrendering their passports. Stickler I am for realism in these tales.


p. 222. I fell in with some other reprobates, like the writer Terry Southern ... and the picaresque, scarcely believable figure of the period "Prince" Stanilas Klossowski de Rola, known as Stash, son of the painter Balthus. Stash was an Anita connetion from Paris who had been sent by Brian Jones to try and get Anita back. Instead he fell in with the poacher--me. Stash had the bullshit credentials of the period--the patter of mysticism, the lofty talk of alchemy and the secret arts, all basically empoyed in the service of leg-over. How gullible were the ladies. He was a roue and a playboy, liked to look upon himself as Casanova.


p. 237. What you're looking for is power and force, without volume--an inner power. A way to bring together what everybody in that room is doing and make one sound. So it's not two guitars, piano, bass and drums, it's one thing, it's not five. You're there to create one thing.


MJ. Sounds like language I'd use to say what I tried to do leading a Sufi dance.


p. 244. The five-string took me back to the tribesmen of West Africa. They had a very similar instrument, sort of a five-string, kind of like a banjo, but they would use the same drone, a thing to set up other voices and drums over the top. Always underneath it was this underlying one note that went through it.


MJ. Sufis use open tuning on their guitars.


p. 244. Five strings cleared out the clutter. It gave me the licks and laid on textures. You can almost play the melody through the chords, because of the notes you can throw in. And suddenly instead of it being two guitars playing, it sounds like a goddamn orchestra.


p. 287. It was Chrissie Gibbs who linked Mick up with Rupert Loewenstein when it was clear that we had to try and sever ourselves from the wiles of Allen Klein. Rupert was a merchant banker, very pukka [appropriate to high or respectable society], trustworthy,...


p. 288. Klein was a lawyer manque ...He ended up owning the copyright and the master tapes of all our work ...In the end we conceded two songs, "Angie" and "Wild Horses." He got the publishing of years of our songs and we got a cut of the royalties.


He still owns the publishing to "Satisfaction" too, or his heirs do; he died in 2009. But I don't give a shit. He was an education.


p. 302. I discovered that the five-string becomes very interesting when you add a capo. This limits your room to maneuver drastically, especially if you've placed the capo up on the fifth or the seventh fret. But also it gives a certain ring, a certain resonance that can't be obtained any other way.


p. 316. It's not only to the high quality of the drugs I had that I attribute my survival. I was very meticulous about how much I took. I'd never put more in to get a little higher. That's where most people fuck up on drugs.


p. 316. I was a taskmaster. Especially in those days, I was a maniac for not letting up. If I've got the idea and if it's right, it has to be put down now. I might lose it in five minutes. Sometimes I found it was better if I turned up and appeared pissed off ...It was a trick I only pulled if I thought it necessary. Also, it gave me forty minutes in the john to shoot up while they considered what I'd said.


p. 325. MJ. Robert Frank is mentioned. There's a blurb from Cocksucker Blues. I checked out Frank's The Americans after finding him here. We worked together on Sunseed.


p. 334. MJ. On this page, both Pasternak [at the time I was reading The Zhivago Affair], ("'s a fascinating story of survival, very Pasternak") and Candide ("The plot, of unremitting punishment and desperation, is something like Candide").

MJ. I'm surprised by the literary references. At the end of the book Keith says he likes to read.


p. 346. To the Jamaicans, the ones that I know, I'm black but I've turned white to be their spy, "our man up north" sort of thing. I take it as a compliment. I'm as white as a lily with a black heart exulting in its secret.


p. 389. Anita had rage whether there was dope or not, but if there was no dope, she'd go crazy. Marlon [his son by her if I recall correctly] and I used to live in fear of her sometimes, of what she would do to herself, let alone to us.


p. 425. MJ. There's a repeat here from earlier about not being inclined to seduce women:


I could never put the make on. I could just never find the right line, or one that hadn't been used before. I just never had that thing with women.


p. 491. The grind is never the stage performance. I can play the same song again and again, year after year. When "Jumpin' Jack Flash" comes up again it's never a repetition, always a variation.


p. 536. My retreat away from Jamaica became Parrot Cay, a place in the Turks and Caicos Islands, north of the Dominican Republic. It's got nothing on Jamaica, but Jamaica had become unpopular with my family because of a number of scares and incidents.


p. 537. MJ. On meeting Paul McCartney on the beach: He just turned up, said he'd found out where I lived from my neighbor Bruce Willis.


3. Booknotes on Behind the Gates of Gomorrah: A year with the criminally insane, Stephen B. Seager, MD, Gallery Books, New York, 2014


Once again, it was seeing Dr. Seager's presentation on Book TV that caused me to check out his book. Let's see what interested me in the text:


p. 67. (the humor)  I glanced at Cohen, who flicked his eyebrows. For a split second we both wondered how giving baseball bats to psychopaths had ever sounded like a good idea.


p. 112 (vocabulary) I chose a big salver of peas. Definition: a tray, typically one made of silver and used in formal circumstances.


p. 120 (what's going on). The state hospitals emptied and their seriously mentally ill patients were sent back to receive care in the communities. Local communities, however, hadn't been consulted and they showed no interest whatever in a massive influx of psychotic individuals. Congress never adequately funded the Community Mental Health Centers, so most weren't built. The newly released state-hospital patients, with nowhere to live and no place to receive treatment, took up residence on city streets and became the homeless mentally ill.


p. 223-225. The syndrome of psychosis is defined by four symptoms. First is hearing voices. Second is delusional thinking: a delusion is a "belief impervious to reason." Third is a disorder of thought form, when a person's grammar gets scrambled or when made-up words, called "neologism," are inserted, like calling a table a "sipgel".... Last is a grab-bag symptom called "bizarre behavior": trying to swim down the street, wearing tinfoil hats, dressing in five overcoats during the summer....


The second group of potentially psychotic persons suffers from dementia....


The final group is people who are physically ill yet display dramatic mental symptoms. People who behave oddly due to a physical illness are suffering from a "delirium"....


There are two symptoms of delirium psychosis that differentiate it from mental illness psychosis. One is the waxing and waning nature of the psychotic symptoms in a delirium....


Delirium is a medical emergency and is most commonly caused by serious infections, acute drug or alcohol withdrawal, a brain tumor, low blood sugar, low blood oxygen, temporal lobe seizures, and psychoactive drug intoxication.


A second telltale sympton of a delirium is seeing things....


A psychiatrist is often called on to correctly diagnose a psychotic person who may suffer from an acute delirium, a dementia, or a schizophrenic psychosis. To complicate matters further, mentally ill persons may also become delirious. And finally, a mentally ill person may become demented and then delirious.


p. 265. ...this group commits nearly all mass murders.... mass murders are nearly always paranoid.


4. Booknotes on Biocentrism, how life and consciousness are the keys to understanding the true nature of the universe, Robert Lanza, MD with Bob Berman, Benbella Books, Inc., Dallas, TX, 2009




Love & Math, the heart of hidden reality, Edward Frenkel, see previous file for earlier notes.


I am retiring both these books for reasons of non understanding. Meaning: I couldn’t/didn’t finish them.


The only note this time from Love & Math, p. 101


So we created two solutions of this equation, called them square root of 2 and minus the square root of 2, and adjoined them to the rational numbers, creating a new numerical system (which we then called a number field).


or later on the same page: Elements of the number numerical system we obtain by adjoining the square root of minus 1 to the rational numbers are called complex numbers. Each of them may be written as follows: r + s times the square root of minus 1, where r and s are rational numbers. SEE why I give up.


OK, here's my notes from Biocentrism. 1st note on the book mark was: it takes the author too long go say what this book is, p. 15. He writes, p. 15, Although overturning the widespread current mindset, ingrained as deeply as it was, may require the remainder of this book and perusal of strong, current evidence from disparate sources, we can certainly begin with simple logic. Certainly, great earlier thinkers have insisted that logic alone is all that's needed to see the universe in a fresh light, not complex evaluations or experimental data using $50 billion particle colliders. Indeed, a bit of thought will make it obvious that without perception, there can be no reality.


p. 35. Yet we've already seen that nothing can be perceived that is not already interacting with our consciousness, which is why biocentric axiom number one is that nature or the so-called external world must be correlative with consciousness.


p. 37. Yet consciousness, like aspects of quantum theory involving entangled particles, may exist outside of time altogether.


p. 72. The bottom line conclusion, reached after many years, is that it's simply not possible to gain which-way information and the interference pattern caused by energy waves.


5. Booknotes on Good Hunting: An American spymaster's story, Jack Devine with Vernon Loeb, Sarah Crichton Books, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2014.


I saw the author on Book TV, and was impressed with his down home, Boston Irish, good old boy attitude. As usual, with CIA books, the book was vetted, and, as usual, the author put the best face on CIA crimes he was tangentially involved with: Iran-Contra, for example. Admirably, he was against the invasion of Iraq. The last several chapters concern the author's career after leaving government service as founding partner and president of The Arkin Group, an international risk consulting and intelligence firm, in which he partnered with a talented lawyer. He was, no doubt, in the dough then. He fancies himself a policy guy, writing many op eds and outlining principles for intelligence professionals to follow. I skipped that part, starting page 265 to the end. It was advice for other than the likes of me. He's an establishment guy as you shall see when I quote his opinion of Edward Snowden. Here's some pages of interest.


p. 175. There's a puzzling reference here: The Clinton administration had been frustrated for months in its efforts to oust the Haitian military and restore Aristide as the country's democratically elected leader.


MJ. Maybe it was another administration, but my recollection is that the U.S. didn't want Aristide restored to power and forced him into exile.


p. 181. MJ. Here is the author tooting his own horn:

By that point in my career, I had recruited agents, run stations, orchestrated a covert war, directed an interdisciplinary center, and led a division. I'd even run a black bag job in the Mediterranean Basin, a singular moment in command when I reinforced, under intense pressure, that I could indeed pull the trigger.


MJ. Too bad, there's not more detail, like what stations, etc.


p. 198. MJ. The story of Jennifer Harbury's husband, Efrain Bamaca, tortured in the presence of CIA operative Colonel Julio Roberto Alpirez, did not come to light until Robert G. Torricelli, a New Jersey Democrat told President Clinton that the CIA failed to disclose this information.


MJ. Here's how the author excused this:


p. 200. I thought [Frederick] Brugger and his boss, Terry Ward, who had served as chief of the Latin America Division from 1990 to 1992, were innocent of deliberately deceiving Congress. Their failure to inform Congress about the 1991 intelligence report about Colonel Alpirez, I believed, had been inadvertent.


p. 229. The Arkin Group (TAG), got started in May 2000: nothing more complicated than a handshake over lunch.


Stanley Arkin is a kick-ass lawyer. His exploits occur around these pages. And Devine's association with him, no doubt, made Devine a multimillionaire.


p. 289. I conclude with some lines about Snowden:


Whatever Snowden's feelings about the legality or morality of the NSA programs, it is absolutely outside the bounds of our government system to take it upon oneself to publicly expose classified information. Our system is built upon the contracts its employees sign in which they agree to respect the legal bounds by which they are hired, including their duty to protect our nation's secrets. If Snowden felt strongly that he was working on programs with which he disagreed, he had every right, perhaps obligation, to stand up and be heard within his organization, or to resign in protest. But each government employee cannot on his or her own determine whether the information to which he or she is exposed deserves to be made public knowledge or we will face persistent governmental crises.


MJ. I would like Glen Greenwald to parse the above. There's so much wrong in it; totally establishment. The author goes on:


Snowden's disclosures have done a vast disservice to our government's ability to detect terrorist threats abroad and to collect foreign intelligence on critical national security issues. For this he should be punished.


MJ. Amazing, no? The government was breaking the law, so Snowden should be punished for revealing that fact! Truly amazing.


6. Booknotes on Acid Test: LSD, ecstasy, and the power to heal, Tom Shroder, Blue Rider Press, a member of Penguin Group, New York, 2014.


I saw this author on Book TV. The book is comprised of alternating chapters about different individuals. I have to return the book to the library, as I have 18 checked out, before I can discern who they are?


from the Preface, p. xiiii. It [the philosophy of Rick Doblin] was about trying to live authentically, guided by an inner light rather than society's preconceived ideas; consciously working to discover and create his own destiny rather than trudging along the rutted tracks set before him.


p. 3. ...Professor Arthur Stoll isolated an active substance called ergotamine from ergot, a fugus found in tainted rye that had been used as a folk medicine for generations.


MJ bought 10 grams of ergotamine tartrate from a chemical company, enough for a million doses of LSD, gave it to a chemist in Chicago, who didn't produce LSD, but instead a sort of psilocybin.


p. 4. With a few years researchers had determined the chemical structure of the various biologically active compounds in ergot all of which shared a common nucleus. This chemical starting point was called lysergic acid, or, in German, Lysergsaure.


p. 24 [how to survive in the army] Nicholas was smart enough to comprehend immediately what he needed to do to survive: no more and no less than exactly what he was told.


p. 28  [nice saying] As one of the leaders of the movement [the peyote church], Comanche chief Quanah Parker put it, "The white man goes into his church house and talks about Jesus. The Indian goes into his teepee and talks to Jesus."


p. 46. Between Leary's hype, Kesey's beat charm, and Owsley's prowess in the laboratory, psychedelics went viral, creating a drug subculture in which millions of unscreened Americans experimented with drugs of uncertain purity produced by less talented chemists than Owsley.


p. 88. This perilous terrain included experiences that traditional psychology might label psychotic, but Grof and Maslow believed were actually openings that, if recognized and worked with, could and often did lead to beneficial personality change.


p. 97. After some more time passed with no reaction, he decided that whatever he had swallowed must have been too weak, or defective. So he took another dose.


MJ. This was my story in Mexico, when my first LSD experienced turned into a naked, foot-cutting romp in the park, followed by apprehension by the police, 7 days in jail, and deportation from Mexico!


p. 155. In MDMA [ecstasy] he had found a drug that seemed to simply dissolve problems.


p. 176-7. The people who Rick had idolized--Grof, Shulgin, Price, Zell, and another psychedelic luminary, Terence McKenna--were now not just his inspiration but his colleagues.


p. 180. She managed to keep on with her breathing through it all, taking the facilitators at their word that she should use everything that happened during the session as part of her process.


p. 194. Brother David Steindl-Rast told the Los Angeles Times the MDMA [ecstasy] experience was "like climbing all day in the fog and then suddenly, briefly seeing the mountain peak for the first time. There are no shortcuts to the awakened attitude, and it takes daily work and effort. But the drug gives you a vision [emphasis mine], a glimpse of what you are seeking."


p. 207. " could chew the DMT-containing leaves all day and nothing would happen. A stomach enzyme called monoamine oxidase breaks down DMT immediately.


The other main ingredient in ayahuasca is a common jungle vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, which contains precisely the substances that inhibit the stomach enzyme, allowing the DMT, to flow unadulterated in the blood to the brain. Combining the two plants into a bitter concentrated tea is in itself a twelve-hour process....


The shamans claim the spirits of the plants came to them in dreams and told them how to make the ayahuasca brew. A possibly more rational theory is that the antienzyme vine, B. caapi, had its own appeal, as one of the plant's monoamine oxidase inhibitors, harmaline, was also a mild psychedelic. Even jaguars recognize the benefits of chewing B. caapi leaves, whcih they eat like catnip, then roll around playfully on the jugle floor and stare as if fascinated at the tree canopy.


p. 234-35. To Rick, it was obvious that the quarter-century-old war on drugs had wreaked a long list of harms on the country, including unnecessarily swelling prison populations, wasting billions of dollars on ineffective enforcement, providing an inexhaustible source of funding for organized crime and narco-terrorists, and, of course, preventing research into the beneficial uses of marijuana and psychedelics.


p. 247. [Rick Strassman] wrote a book about his research ... called DMT: The Spirit Molecule.


p. 253-54. One of the most influential thinkers in all psychedelia was the writer and psychic explorer Terence McKenna.... Mckenna had written extensively about his experiences with shamanic cultures around the world and his theory that Homo sapiens had ascended from its animal origins in large part thanks to the mind-expanding properties of the psychedelic plants our ancestors ingested.... He succumbed to brain cancer in 2000 at only fifty-three. (In the end, he admitted to [John] Horgan, "all his psychedelic insights had idone nothing to mitigate or ward off the ordinary vicissitudes of life.'")


p. 306. ...our job in the ER is to remove the obstacle that are blocking the inner healing intelligence.... So one of our principles is, if you have a nonordinary state of consciousness under favorable conditions with the right setting, that allows the inner healing intelligence to be expressed more.


p. 308. Before Donna took the pill, Michael told her, "We don't want to direct this nearly as much as we want to follow and support the way it unfolds for you. So we trust that your own inner healing mechanism will bring up whatever needs to come up.


p. 329. The sophisticated psychological assessments Griffiths conducted ... showed that "the data showed that participants experienced inceased self-confidence, a greater sense of inner contentment, a better ability to tolerate frustration, decreased nervousness and an increase in overall well-being.


p. 372. "It's [the drug therapy] about letting things happen, not grasping. You can trust that the same inner healing intelligence that gave you that experience, if you create space for it, it will keep working for you. Stan Grof liked to say it's about changing life from a boxing match to surfing: you still might wipe out in the impact zone, but your're not constantly getting punched in the face," [Michael reassured him].


p. 407. MJ. Here the PTSD patient uses shagal, the mystical practice of the Sufis with the inner sound.


Even the constant ringing in his ears from the blast that killed Seabass--a constant high-pitched hum that lurked in every silence and could get so loud, it would drown out the music in his headphones--he managed to use to his advantage. Whenever he wanted to fall into the now-familiar reassurance of the meditation, he needed no mantra, no droning "om." He just listened for the hum and used it to take him away to that place of peace he had learned to find.


7. Booknotes on The Best American Poetry 2003, guest editor Yusef Komunyakaa, Series Editor David Lehman, Scribner Poetry, New York, 2003.


p. 39. Catherine Bowman's from "1000 Lines", which she says, was "an homage to a marriage, ten years, music, and New York City" contains the lines,


Ten years, our bed: a desk, a couch, a horn,

a bird figurine, mortar and grinder,

a spoon for winnowing grains, a lemon

and palm branch in a bundle depicted,

a modern impression of ancient scales,

a boat without oars, where we heaved and hoed,

made mirth, shook in terror, sighed in relief,

fucked ten different ways, goose-down libation--

vowed to love God and walk in his footsteps--

ah, well ... blade from a sickle, sickle blade--


The poem was 100 stanzas with ten lines each. Above is one of 100.


p. 74-76. In Michael Goldman's poem "Report on Human Beings," on first reading I marked the line:


We were treacherous of course ...


while ignoring the more interesting lines:


(and thus failed to notice

the speech of animals,

the birds' repeated warnings ...


On second reading, I almost avoided mentioning it.


p. 113-4. Kenneth [d. July 2002]  Koch's "Proverb" is a truly weighty poem full of historical references, developing the theme "the dead go fast." Here's a few lines:


Except for a few who grieve, life rapidly readjusts itself

The milliner trims the hat not thinking of the departed

The horse sweats and throws his stubborn rider to the earth

Uncaring if he has killed him or not

The thrown man rises. But now he knows that he is not going,

Not going fast, though he was close to having been gone....


p. 125-130. Stanley Moss's "A History of Color" begins, What is heaven but the history of color,..."


The first stanza in the third section of the poem is:


I think the absence of color is like a life without love.

A master can draw every passion with a pencil, but light,

shadow and dark cannot reveal the lavender Iris

between the opened thighs of a girl still almost a child,

or before life was through with her, the red and purple

pomegranate at the center of her being.


The poet writes about this work, "I was taken by the colors of everyday clouds, which led me to my secret life with color, in erogenous zones, language, religion, the arts--call it the history of color....I have some lingering affection for a mountain of material discarded: the cloth and jewelry in biblical dress; Goethe's book on color, which he thought more important than Faust; the fact that science tells us we don't see color at all, that all colors are nothing more than magnetic waves that we process into color in the brain; and so on."


p. 164-65. Ronald Wallace’s "In a Rut," is a playful poem full of animals, animal sayings, animal puns, and not misogynistic as some have claimed, but his wife agrees it's not. It begins referring, no doubt, to his wife:


She dogs me while

I try to take a catnap.

Of course, I'm playing possum but

I can feel her watching me,

eagle-eyed, like a hawk.... and on and on, fun.


p. 174-76. Susan Wheeler's "In Sky" interests me because of the difficult words she introduces, for example:


The girl carries the blooms, the veronicas, the perovskia. [Perovskia is a genus of flowering plants in the mint family.]

The girl who may be a boy powders the smalt.... [Cobalt glass—known as "smalt" when ground as a pigment—is a deep blue colored glass prepared by including a cobalt compound, typically cobalt oxide or cobalt carbonate, in a glass melt.]


She refuses your volupty at her expense.... [Voluptuousness]


The girl mixes lazule and vivianite.... [Vivianite Group Usually found as deep blue to deep bluish green prismatic to flattened crystals, most crystals rather small to microscopic, larger ones rather rare.]


The girl blued her bluebacks on linnets and blue duns. [a thing that is dun in color, in particular. a horse with a sandy or sandy-gray coat, black mane, tail, and lower legs, and a dark dorsal stripe.]


The poet writes: the poem "was written to accompany paintings by Susanna Coffey... "


MJ. OK, that explains all the color.


8. Booknotes on Life, Animated, a story of sidekicks, heroes, and autism, Ron Suskind, Kingswell, New York, 2014.


p. 53 [after his brother cries after his 9th birthday] "Walter doesn't want to grow up," he says evenly, "like Mowgli or Peter Pan."


This after hardly speaking. Interpretative thinking from an autistic!


p. 59. We role-play selections from nearly every one--scenes of joy or challenge or pathos--through the winter and into spring....


Owen will match you [if you could summon the rhythm of the line, its cadence, the accent, all the better]. He fires back the next line, gleefully. Lights up like a firefly, at the ready.


p. 115. [Temple] Grandin, born in 1947 and diagnosed with autism in the early 1950s, developed in her teen years something she called a "squeeze machine"--a sort of heavily padded coffin with levers to apply pressure. The simultaneous pressure on all parts of her body made her feel settled and organized, as though her disconnected senses were pulled into integration, allowing her to more successfully go about her day.


p. 241-2. The use of his affinity for Disney from his earliest days, and in recent years ever more so, is something of a proof of neuroplasticity. His brain was using Disney to get around the blockages of autism, to find a way. It was using Disney to discover, itself, just as he was using Disney to discover himself.


p. 339-40. There's a reason--a good enough reason--why each autistic person has embraced a particular interest. Find that reason, and you will find the, hiding in there, and maybe get a glimpse of their underlying capacities. Authentic interest will help them feel dignity, and impel them to show you more, complete with maps and navigational tools that may help to guide their development, their growth. Revealed capability, in turn, will lead to a better understanding of what's possible in the lives of many people who are challenged. Affinity to Capability to Possibility.


9. Booknotes on Dearest Creature, Amy Gerstler, Penguin Books, New York, 2009.


A favorite from some Best Poetry collections, Amy, I read a whole book of hers and highlight several.


p. 8-9. Dearest Creature, opens,


If I end up an arid isle of desirelessness,

it will be 1,000% your fault.


p. 39-40. At the Back of a Closet, Two Dresses Converse, is clever.


p. 55-68. Mrs. Monster Pens Her Memoirs. I don't know how autobiographical, but women poets expressing their experiences in love are deeply felt, so poetically as, "I remember being kissed on the lip of the Grand Canyon."


p. 78-79. Dusk. The twilight of a relationship is poignantly expressed in this poem.


10. Booknotes on Lost Classics, books loved and lost, overlooked, under-read, unavailable, stole, extinct, or otherwise out of commission, edited by Michael Ondaatje, et. al., Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, 2001.


p. 44. Sarah Ellis appreciate Beyond the Pawpaw Trees, by Palmer Brown.


p. 72. Diana Hartog appreciates Quest for Sita.


p. 105. Pico Iyer appreciates The Saddest Pleasure, by Moritz Thomsen.


p. 127. We never thought to buy  and sell/This life that blooms and dies as leaf. A poem in Philip Levine's appreciation of Ha!Ha! Among the Trumpets, by Alun Lewis.


p. 141. W.S. Merwin appreciates The Gate of Horn, by G.R. Levy. "Her researches led her to the Megalithic sites of Malta and southern Brittany, then to the Paleolithic sites of southwest France and the Pyrenees, and eventually to studies of Megalithic sites in southern Asia, the Pacific and the Americas."


p. 161. Caryl Phillips appreciates Put Money in Thy Purse, by Michael Mac Liammoir.


p. 166. Cassandra Pybus appreciates The Dead Seagull, by George Barker. "The Dead Seagull was written while Barker and Smart were still harnessed together in their tortuous sexual bargain." (p. 169) By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, by Elizabeth Smart.


11. Booknotes on Quantum Man: Richard Feynman's life in science, Lawrence M. Krauss, W.W. Norton, New York, 2011.


I think I chose this book because the latest books by Lawrence Krauss were not immediately available.


p. 6-7. Feynman's innate talents allowed him to excel in physics. But he had another talent that mattered even more perhaps, and I don't know if it was innate or not. This was intuition....


Einstein had such intuition, and it served him well for over twenty years, from his epochal work on special relativity to his crowning achievement, general relativity....


Feynman's intuition was unique in a different way. Whereas Einstein developed completely new theories about nature, Feynman explored existing ideas from a completely new and usually more fruitful perspective. The only way he could really understand physical ideas was to derive them using his own language. But because his language was usually also self-taught, the end results sometimes differed radically from what "conventional" wisdom produced....


Feynman needed to fully understand every problem he encountered by starting from scratch, solving it in his own way and often in several different ways.


p. 13. MJ. From Feynman's Nobel Prize address: There is always another way to say the same thing that doesn't look at all like the way you said it before.


p. 16. ...the French mathematician-physicist Joseph Louis Lagrange ... determined the points in the solar system where the gravitational attraction from the different planets precisely cancels the gravitational attraction from the sun. They are called Lagrange points. NASA now sends numerous satellites out to these points so that they can remain in stable orbits and study the universe.


p. 23. ...Feynman had now proceeded to the stage in his education where he could begin to think about ... physics that didn't make sense.


MJ. It takes paragraphs to illustrate this, and with that, sometimes I still don't get it. Here's an example from this page:


The problem is that if we were to shrink the size of the electron down to a single point, the self-energy [The energy built up by the work bringing the charge together is commonly called the self-energy of the electron.] associated with the electron would go to infinity, because it takes an infinite amount of energy to bring all the charge together at a single point.


p. 71. New-age hucksters aside, consciousness is not the key. Rather, Feynman argued that we must consider the system plus the observer together as a single quantum system ...


p. 90. MJ. Feynman worked on the A bomb.


Everyone who saw the blast was awed, but differently. Some, like Oppenheimer, recalled poetry, in his case an obscure passage from the Bhagavad Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." Feynman, who had managed to avoid superstition at the moment of his wife's death, and sentimentality immediately afterward, held true to form. He thought about the processes that formed the clouds around the blast wave, and the processes that caused the air to glow as it became ionized in the heat of the explosion, and a hundred seconds later, by the time the sonic boom from the blast finally arrived at the observation deck, he was grinning. The calculations he had worked so hard on had been validated by nature.


p. 98. When Feynman was working through problems on his own, answers were often intuited, and then he could check afterward if he was right by trying many specific examples.


p. 238. Because general relativity implies that matter and energy affect the very nature of space itself, allowing it to curve, expand, and contract, and that this configuration of space then affects the subsequent evolution of matter and energy, which then continues to impact on space, and so on, the theory is both mathematically and physically far more complicated that Newton's theory of gravity had been.


p. 246-7. MJ. Here's an example of the reason I haven't copied many passages. I don't understand them:


If one considers the exchange of a massless particle (just a photon is a massless particle that conveys the electromagnetic force), then if the massless particle in question has quantized spin 2 instead of spin 1 as a photon does, the only self-consistent theory that results will, in the classical limit, essentially be Einstein's general relativity.


p. 261. The real mystery that has been driving theoretical particle physicists is the question of why gravity is forty orders of magnitude weaker than electromagnetism.


p. 268.  ...the real key to advances in biology is determining three-dimensional molecular structures at the atomic scale. Protein structure determines function, and determining how the atomic components of proteins fold up [italics mine] to form a working mechanism is currently one of the hottest topics in molecular biology.


p. 310-11. We now understand that all physical theories are merely effective theories that describe nature on a certain range of scales. There is no such thing yet as absolute scientific truth, if by that we mean a theory that is valid at all scales at all times.


MJ. Meaning: when things get really small, the theory explaining how they are can be different than when things are really large.


12. Booknotes on Revolution, Russell Brand, Ballantine Books, New York, 2014.


Saw Russell on TV with this book and Robert Lanza's Biocentricism, covered in Books in 2014


p. 29. ...Chinese philosophers like Confucius, Lao Tse, Zhuangzi, and a few others were concerned with accessing a state called Wu-Wei, pronounced "ooh-way." This is a state of spontaneous flow.


p. 39. I'm not a total idiot: If taking drugs worked, I'd still be doing it; if promiscuous sex was continually fulfilling, Id've carried on; if fame and money were the answer, I'd hurl this laptop out of the window and get on with making movies. They don't work, in spite of what I was told, and there's a reason for that, as we'll discover.



MJ. This book as the above quote reveals is by a man seeking the truth, so to speak. He's run through a few things and wants more.


p. 42. Kundalini in my view is more boldly transcendent, more euphoric, than other yoga that I've done, so I obviously got totally addicted to it and started doing it all the time.


MJ. Fine so far but he goes on to reveal he's not entirely not a new guy.


The experience wasn't entirely free from ego either as I was quite prolific in my physical engagement [is this a euphemism for fucking a lot of ladies? yes.] with female members of the class and eventually nominated myself as leader and took over the entire shebang, like Hitler in a sari.


p. 46. At a revival meeting, this clever bit of writing: How will this animalistic holy frenzy segue into people shaking hands and stacking chairs?


p. 81. I like the idea of creating autonomous organizations to perform necessary social functions that are not motivated by profit. This along with the principles of equality, nonviolence, and ecological responsibility are necessary pillars of Revolution.


p. 106. Robert Lanza, in his concept-smashing book Biocentrism explains that our perception of all physical external phenomena is in fact an internal reconstruction, elaborating on the results of experiments in quantum physics, that particles behave differently when under observation--itself a universe-shattering piece of information--so that, and forgive my inelegant comprehension of the quantum world, electrons fired out of a tiny little cannon, when unobserved, make a pattern that reveals they have behaved as "a wave," but when observed, the kinky little bastards behave as "particles."


p. 118. ...what was I really seeking when scoring and using heroin? Heroin is an opiate; opiates are painkillers. I was in spiritual pain. I have come to believe that the reason I was using drugs was to treat a spiritual malady.


p. 153. Dick Cheney, a man whose name sounds like a prick encased in armor... In a way all this top-level corruption is just a manifestation of a particular aspect of understandable and ordinary human behavior.


p. 166. Imagine how the evil empire will respond when we start realizing the full extent of our human potential and demand the kind of utopia that Daniel Pinchbeck is still in the middle of describing...


p. 169. My whole life, I have sought comfort in individualism. I escaped the banality of my background with the flamboyance of my haircut, the low expectations of my class with the grandiosity of my parlance, and the fear of being ordinary by becoming a professional weirdo. In a way, my success in show business represents little more than the harvesting of my psychosis. I made my idiosyncrasies and flaws beneficial by exaggerating them.


p. 170. I've always had the problem of being unable to envisage the nature of a situation prior to its commencement. This means I'm in a state of perpetual shock while doing things that I've agreed to.


MJ. There's humor throughout.


p. 172. a ten-kilometer hike, carrying a 75-lb bag... I was concerned that one military maneuver contained both imperial and metric measuring systems. “Make yer mind up,” I thought.


p. 176 [marines] Mostly they were working-class boys who were always destined to end up in a violent gang of some description and had sensibly joined a very well-funded one.


p. 201. “Autonomous, democratic control of the economy driven by equality, fairness, environmental, and ecological responsibility is not idealistic pie-in-the sky utopian daydreaming; it is a system currently in use by some of the most successful companies.” [his mate John Roger]


p. 213.  ...this book, to a point, is about my own disillusionment with the material offerings of fame and fortune, which include money and sexual opportunity.


p. 235. I met Trump once and was surprised mostly by his daftness. He was peculiarly juvenile; I thought at the time that he was like a dimwit with a prodigious skill that happens to be highly valued—in his case, making money. He had no curiosity about consciousness, spirituality, interconnectivity, the micro or the macro, or anything, except in how it might relate to making money. It was odd that someone whose mind rattles around within such limited borders had made such a lot of money.


p. 238. Chomsky's essay explains that for years the United States used the threat of Russian attack as a palliative to hustle through any ideas that impaired the freedom of the domestic population, contravened international law, or increased the power and wealth of their corporate clientele. Chomsky observes [as have I] that if the real motivation behind this conduct was the Soviet threat, then it would have ceased when the Soviet threat did in 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down. It didn't; in fact, their behavior became far more militant, particularly in Latin American and the Middle East.


p. 254. [Buckmaster Fuller] “To make the world work for 100 percent of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone.”


p. 283.  ...representative democracy—people get represented, instead of mad policies that allow spying, new water cannons, arms deals, and the carving up of health services. Generally speaking, when empowered as a community, or common mind, our common spirit, our common sense reaches conclusions that are beneficial for our community. Our common unity.


p. 289. It's early in the process for me, but my infatuation with fame is waning, my need for external approval and the control of other people's opinions is expiring.


13. Booknotes on Boundaries, Maya Lin, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2000.


Narcissistic or solipsistic, one of these words describes Maya Lin. She's an artist, so self-consciously artistic. You can't blame her. Her success is legendary. From the time she designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in D.C. as a graduate student, she's achieved a lot. We say about the Orientals, don't we, excuse me, the Asians, that they are high achievers? Maya Lin is one of those. Born in Athens, Ohio, just like another artist or poet I've encountered recently. If that person comes back to me, I'll record them here.


No doubt instrumental in the design of her book, she eschews the traditional title page backed by the copyright information. It may be available on the book jacket, but my library's tape obscures it.


I turned several pages, and almost returned the book without recording them. Here they are:


p. 4:08. My design for a World War III memorial was a tomblike underground structure that I deliberately made to be a very futile and frustrating experience.


p. 4:11. I always wanted the names to be chronological [on the Vietnam memorial], to make it so that those who served and returned from the war could find their place in the memorial.


p. 4:13. Many of the issues we dealt with were connected to the text and my decision to list the names chronologically.


MJ. Ms. Lin's vision always required her to duke it out with various individuals and groups: the competition committee, for example, who wanted their architect to be the architect of record.


14. Booknotes on The Perfect Kill: 21 laws for assassins, Robert B. Baer, Blue Rider Press, a member of Penguin Group, New York, 2014.


I've read all of Baer's books. Currently, he's featured on CNN as a former CIA agent commenting on terrorism stories. This book's title and structure are a flimsy attempt to sensationalize what Baer explains at the end is his idea of the book,  "whatever this odd blend of memoir and political science is."


p. 159. Drones also are easy to maintain: They're powered by high-performance snowmobile engines.


p. 167. Tsutomu [studied under Richard Feynman at Caltech; an expert in the mathematics of link analysis--the same algorithms and data visualization reportedly used to draw up kill lists] earned a measure of fame when he helped track down the notorious hacker Kevin Mitnick. Mitnick had eluded the FBI for years by, among other things, cloning cell phones. But by comparing relevant metadata, Tsutomu was able to pinpoint Mitnick to his North Carolina apartment when the FBI arrested him. Mitnick did five years in jail. The movie Track Down is based on the story.


MJ. I read Mitnick's book.


p. 168. When you think about it, with the charges against drone victims irrefutable (at least from Washington's point of view), with body counts unverifiable, and with the definition of victory and defeat left to Washington politicians and bureaucrats who lie for a living, how could drone assassinations not have gone horribly wrong?


MJ. This is Baer's back handed condemnation of drone strikes.


p. 217 [vocabulary] I go sit down with the other doomed petitioners on the banquette,... It is an upholstered bench along a wall, especially in a restaurant or bar.


p. 264-65. The point here is that I made Langley nervous. Whenever I'd propose something dicey, the only thing I'd hear back was the scampering of cold feet. No one wanted to risk his career for uncertain gain on a dim, distant battlefield, especially with me in the middle of it. It meant that I spent more time than I needed to trying to figure out how to get around Langley's human weather vanes.


p. 272. Hajj Radwan also started to experiment with "belly charges.' He tested them against the Israelis in southern Lebanon, proving that with enough explosives buried under a road, no vehicle, including a heavy tank, is safe. By the way, they're another one of the Secret Service's darkest nightmares.


p. 275. Which brings me back to the Israelis and the Red Prince. [Fortunately in the back of the book, Bob offers an index at which tells me that the "Fatah security chief" is the Red Prince, one of the masterminds behind the Munich Olympic massacre, later assassinated, because as Baer relates on page 106, "the Red Prince was tied up attending to his comforts instead of the mechanics of murder and survival. Coddled and inattentive, he offered himself up to the Israelis on a silver platter."] After the Red Prince's assassination in 1979, the Israelis set about assassinating one senior Palestinian official after the other. Atef was only one among them. They may even have murdered Arifat in 2004. Although a post-mortem wasn't conducted right after his death, Swiss forensic scientists did conduct one in 2012. They found traces of polonium-210 in his clothing and personal items, opening up the possibility he'd been assassinated.


15. Booknotes on The Best American Poetry 2010, guest editor Amy Gerstler, Series Editor, David Lehman, Scribner Poetry, New York, 2010.


I like Amy Gerstler's poetry. I found nothing noteworthy in this collection, in fact, many very mental poems, with 50 lines of mind bending complexity for the reader to contemplate. The one page I folded involved vocabulary:


p. 73. By Barbara Hamby from "Five Lingo Sonnets'"

On your breast let me sup,

quaff the nectar of your sweet quim, trim repository of dear



The noun quim was a Victorian-era word that was used specifically to refer to the fluids produced by the vagina, specifically during orgasm. In modern usage it is primarily heard in British slang and is a derogatory or vulgar term for the vagina itself. The word is rarely used today in English slang but used in Wales as an insult rather than the above meaning. The word may be related to Welsh 'cwm' meaning 'hollow' or 'valley'.

1. Shirley's quim was soaking wet.
2. Go eat some quim you fucking quim.


16. Booknotes on Without You, There Is No Us: My time with the sons of North Korea's elite, A Memoir, Suki Kim, Crown Publishers, New York, 2014.


Suki Kim was on Book TV.


p. 12. From Seoul, Pyongyang looms like a shadow, about 120 miles away, so close but impossible to touch.... I first became aware of the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) by chance. In February 2008, I was assigned by Harper's magazine to follow the New York Philharmonic to Pyongyang, where they were to perform in a concert.


MJ. Unaware of ms Kim's marital status I offered a book exchange. I received a robo reply: Due to the volume of inquiries, we may not get back to you. She frequently mentions a boy friend back in New York who seems distant in more ways than the obvious one.


p. 17. I had recently been through a horrible breakup that came on the heels of nine blighting years.


p. 29. The narrow hallway on the second floor was lined with teachers' offices, ending in an area decorated with three scrolls reading: LEADER LUCK, GENERAL LUCK, CAPTAIN LUCK. In Korea, if you are born from good parents, it is said that you have "parent luck." If you marry well, you have "husband luck." So according to the scrolls, this nation was lucky in three things, Kim Jong-il, the General; his dead father, the Leader; and his young son, the Captain. This was the first mention of the heir apparent, Kim Jong-un, I had come across in all my visits to Pyongyang.


MJ. The boyfriend lingers:


p. 38. Like Katie, I could not shake off the hurt of a bad relationship, and instead sat brooding with that pain for years.


p. 99. Anytime I imagined the gloom of their future I shook it off as quickly as I could so that I could stand being there, in that time, teaching them the English language to the best of my ability....


I do not want to imagine what might happen if they retained my lessons, remembered me, began questioning the system.


p. 122. There were no lights on in any of the houses we passed....


I saw no running dogs or children, no chimney smoke, no flash of color from a TV set, and this greatly disturbed me, as yet what troubled me more was the fact that I did not know and would never know the truth of what I was seeing.


MJ. More boyfriend, after returning to NY after one semester in N. Korea.


p. 157. When I got back to New York, the man in Brooklyn and I went through all the phases of lovers: anticipation, doubts, resistance.... He seemed like a stranger to me that first night, as I must have to him. He had no idea what I had been through, and I did not try to explain.


p. 257. Being in North Korea was profoundly depressing. There was no other way of putting it. The sealed border was not just at the 38th parallel, but everywhere, in each person's heart, blocking the past and choking off the future. As much as I loved those boys, or because of it, I was becoming convinced that the wall between us was impossible to break down, and not only that, it was permanent. This so saddened me that some frozen dawns, when I woke up to the sound of the boys doing their group exercises, I had to fight not to shut my eyes and go back to sleep.


17. Booknotes on Even This I get to Experience, Norman Lear, The Penguin Press, New York, 2014.


Preface xiii. In my ninety-plus years I've lived a multitude of lives. There was that early life with my parents and relatives; a life as a kid with my blood buddies Herbie Lerner and the Schwarz twins; a life in high school zeroing in on the humor in our existence; a life in college cut short by World War II; a life as a crew member in a B-17 bomber flying fifty-two mission over Europe; a life in the world of entertainment, with sublives in television, radio, movies, and music; a life as a political activist; a life in philanthropy; a late-starting life as a spiritual seeker; three lives as a husband, six as a father (with my youngest born forty-eight years after my eldest), and four as a grandfather.


p. 33. The last weeks of my fourteenth summer, I got myself a job in Coney Island shilling for Paramount Pool and Ocean Bathing ...


MJ. Note to self: remember your job at the swimming pool in Bloomington, Illinois.


p. 41. Lear's early experience at the movie theatre reminds me that I saw Hopalong Cassady at the theater in Bloomington. I remember staring at his gun belt with bullets filling all the bullet holsters, on the gun belt that encompassed the rather stout character making his living visiting midwest movie houses and greeting admiring fans, me among them. Gene Autry, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans his wife were other idols of the day.


p. 59. Here's a use of subtext that seems a little strange to me:


...but the subtext in my mind throughout our meeting was ...


MJ. I would write, the thought in my mind …


p. 67. Nigger baseball from Lear's military service.


The game was played by a few white boys in a car with the rear right window open driving through a black neighborhood looking for a man or boy on a bicycle. When they sighted one, the car would come from behind to pass him on the left, and a baseball bat would shoot out of the open window to clip the rider on the back of his head Nigger Baseball.


p.  110. MJ. The good old days, a practice I practiced:


...the the way I would communicate all's well was to place a person-to-person call to Norman Lear. They would say I was out, I'd ask when Norman would be back (so that they would hear my voice), they'd say they weren't sure, I'd thank the operator and say I'd call back, and the message was delivered. No charge for that in those years.


p. 123, inscription: At the moment of commitment the entire/universe conspires to assure your success. Johann Wolfgang Goethe.


p. 131. A side note about the name Melvin. Somehow “Melvin,” with a rising whine in its middle, fell out of Jerry's mouth funnier than any other name he tried.


MJ. I remember “Melvin” being a name we called those nerds or “weirdos” when I was in high school in the 1950s; we got it from Jerry Lewis. And forgot that we did, eventually.


p. 187. MJ. Funny man, comic writer, Lear, tells some side-splitters:


I told my mother that Mr. Sinatra didn't like to be touched, and cautioned her to remember that when she met him. So of course when I introduced her she screamed, “Oh, Frankie, my Frankie!” and threw out her hands to bear-hug him. Good-naturedly he went along with it, but over her should he muttered, “I think I banged this broad thirty-six years ago.”


p. 191. Jack Warner.


He was Hollywood royalty, and was also a loudmouth and a vulgarian.


MJ. At a dinner with Madame Chiang Kai-shek:


He bowed courteously to her and the, looking down the table to the others in her party, smiled his version of winningly and said, “They will have my laundry by four P.M., won't they?”


The dude is 90+. He created tons of shows. He championed liberal causes. He made money. He married a second younger wife.


p. 202. In 1002, six years after we divorced, Frances wrote her book, The Second Seduction, and in it, four lines, a quatrain, make the point like a stiletto:   


My life is like an epic poem

With lines that rhyme with he and she.

He is what I might have been

And she is only me.


I can't imagine a subconscious love-hate relationship expressed more exquisitely.  Frances adored the me she wished to be, but then could not bear that me in to contrast to what she thought of herself. An so the marriage went downhill and the pain uphill in direct proportion to my rising star.


p. 356. I 've asked myself whether “opening up” on these pages demands that I say more about our lovemaking and concluded that it doesn't.


p. 399. Fighting for recognition since its inception in 1986, it wasn't until 1993 that Fox was generally regarded as having achieved “fourth network” status.


18. Booknotes on The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books, Azar Nafisi, Viking, New York, 2014.


First impression: This book is by an English professor, who has managed to get some scholarly essays published as a popular book.


from the Introduction, p. 15. Regardless of their ideological inclinations, autocracies like those wreaking havoc in Iran, China, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia and North Korea are afraid, and justifiably so, of the aftermath of literacy--namely, knowledge, the bite of the forbidden fruit, with the promise of a different kind of power and freedom. This is why the Taliban destroys schools and wishes to murder young teenage girls like Malala ...


p. 21. Dorothy, Alice, Hansel and Gretel all return home, but they will never be the same, because they have learned to look at the world through the alternative eyes of the imagination.


MJ. This line made me think of my graduate school exposition of Melville's Moby Dick: the main character at the beginning and the end is the same, except for his experience that we read about from beginning to the end.


p. 21. We the readers are like Dorothy or Alice: we step into this magical world in order to return and retell the story through our own eyes, thus giving new meaning to the story as well as to our lives.


p. 64. One of the author's conclusions in the Huck chapter:


(3) The whole story is shaped around one central theme, best articulated by Mark Twain in a notebook entry of 1895, in which he describes Huck Finn as "a book of mine where a sound heart & a deformed conscience come into collision & conscience suffers defeat."


p. 102-3. I had even come to believe that America owed its most sacred foundational myth--that of restless individualism--to that orphan boy who'd left home to escape being "sivilized" by his aunt.


p. 142. The mongrel is always marginal, never successful in reality or fiction, and then comes Twain, who transforms failure into success, giving us two protagonists (Huck and Jim) who belong to the lowest ranks of society and showing us that their failure to cope with that society, to follow its rules and become successful in a conventional fashion, is their biggest achievement.


p. 165. This time I saw things I had missed [in Babbitt], the complications and paradoxes of being an American, or of life in a democracy, now that I found myself living in a totalitarian state [Iran].


p. 179.  The Common Core was formulated by a nonprofit organization called Student Achievement Partners, headed by Dr. David Coleman, now president of the College Board.


p. 180. But he [Coleman] has never stood in front of a classroom and does not seem to be much interested in what most good teachers hope to achieve: to kindle curiosity, passion, a desire to learn and know and live a full and meaningful life. Students are more than future employees.


p. 182. As one critic [of Coleman] complained, this is "New Criticism on steroids."


MJ. As my literary criticism mentor Murray Krieger was an exponent of new criticism, may I explain that new criticism looked at the text, so we have Coleman advising "stay within the four corners of the text." I am not sure the author gets Coleman.


p. 187. MJ. As medicine is becoming "evidence based," so is the theory behind Common Core: was our insistence in the standards process that it was not enough to say you wanted to or thought that kids should know these things, that you had to have evidence to support it.


p. 200. Babbitt asks himself one question: Why? Why, despite his success, his loyal family, his status among his community, his prosperity and the promises of the future, does he feel so dissatisfied?


p. 220. T[he] notion of the perpetual presence of the past is perhaps best expressed by the narrator's incantatory state in [William Faulkner's] Light in August: "Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders.


p. 221. [Carson] McCullers's characters are solitary misfits who cannot create a bond. They might speak in a more "civilized" manner than Huck and Jim, but they do not know how to interact, how to connect, how to communicate--they are spiritually inarticulate, having discovered a new kind of urban loneliness that will cast a long shadow over American fiction.


p. 228-29. She [McCullers] would later describe southern realism as a "bold and outwardly callous juxtaposition of the tragic with the humorous, the immense with the trivial, the sacred with the bawdy, the whole soul of a man with a materialistic detail."


p. 229-30. Huck's solitary journey was enriched by Jim's presence. Here [in McCullers's work] there is no Jim, no soul mate and moral compass. What each character is left with is a secret passion and the need to communicate it. This makes them feel both alone and hopeful. It also accounts for their jittery restlessness. McCullers's characters do not ponder the past; they spend their time dreaming of the future, or rather of a future other than the one they have been dealt.


p. 301. ...literature is in essence an investigation of the "other," ...


MJ. This is a lead in to a discussion of The Catcher in the Rye's character Holden Caulfield.


p. 303. MJ. I copy this plot summary because although I read the book back then, I remember absolutely nothing.


In the course of one day, Holden, who a few days before Christmas has been expelled from his posh prep school in Pennsylvania but does not want to go home to New York before the holidays, lest his parents find out, checks into a hotel in another part of the city and moves from place to place searching for some way to appease and nourish the vague dissatisfaction with the state of things, complaining about his conformist school, where he is "surrounded by phonies," his encounter with girls who are dumb and have nothing intelligent to say; his lousy sex life or absence thereof; his older brother, a sellout to Hollywood; the prostitute he meets over the course of his wanderings, with whom is he unable to have sex and who, although he pays her, returns with her pimp and forces more money out of him; and the overall mess that he believes has before his life.


p. 304. MJ. Spoiler alert, the meaning of the title catcher in the rye.


Holden tells us that at one point he hears a kid singing, "If a body catch a body comin' through the rye," which in reality is a poem by the eighteenth-century Scottish poet Robert Burns. But he mistakes its meaning: " 'Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around--nobody big, I mean--except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff-I mean is they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye, and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be.' "


19. Booknotes on Savage Harvest: A tale of cannibals, colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller's tragic quest for primitive art, William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2014.


So Michael Rockefeller did not drown at sea. He was killed and eaten by the natives in New Guinea.


First noticed: a reference to the book which includes a photograph of my Grandmother Johnson:


p. 27. In 1955 the Museum of Modern Art held a photographic exhibit called The Family of Man [it became a book].


p. 32. Their lives were so closely bound to village and jeu [meaning a long house] that they were more single organism than a collection of individuals.


p. 34. They had a rich oral tradition, which they'd learned as boys sitting at the knees of their fathers in the long, smoky jeu.


p. 43-44. I read the real Lawrence--Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Wilfred Thesiger's Arabian Sands, about his punishing treks across the Arabian Empty Quarter with the Bedouin. The great sailing classics, loners all: Joshua Slocum, Francis Chichester, who, passing Cape Horn while circumnavigating the earth alone, heard a noise, stumbled on deck, and saw an airplane buzzing overhead to check on his progress and wish him luck. Instead of a momentary feeling of companionship, he felt only annoyance, his solitude interrupted.


p. 52-5. A thick woman with short hair rushed out. "Oh, oh, oh!" she cried. "ooh," she moaned, clasping Amates by the elbows, the arm, hugging and clutching him, rocking back and forth, sobbing, rubbing her tear-covered face over his arms and cheeks, a dramatic outpouring of emotion that ended as quickly as it began, when she simply turned and walked away. This was my first glimpse into the Asmat way--a place of intense emotional extremes and the very consciousness and sense of self that had been inextricably bound with cannibalism--though it would take me a long time to understand it.


p. 56-57. The warriors drew Xs across their chests and rings around their legs and arms with ochre and black ash, adorned themselves with cuscus fur headbands and cockatoo feathers and put curving shells in their noses that resembled the tusks of the wild boar, giving themselves strength, power. They wanted to look fierce, to strike fear in the hearts of their enemies.


p. 256. My father's family were Orthodox Jews, a people who always saw themselves as separate from mainstream America.


MJ. I used to feel that Sufis were like that. Let's be clear: I felt like that when we had our Sufi Khankah in Hull, Massachusetts. Not only did I feel like that but apparently, I learned years later, the owners of the health food store in Hingham viewed us as a "cult". Learning that blew my mind, as while I felt we were different, I didn't embrace the word cult; however, that's what we were if you consider the definition of cult.


20. Booknotes on The Best American Poetry 2001, Guest Editor Robert Hass, Series Editor David Lehman, Scribner Poetry, New York, 2001.


OK, I skipped the intros by both editors. Just couldn't wait to get into the poems. Hass's was 10 pages, Lehman's 6 pages. Too wordy when I was looking for one page lyrics. What did I find that I liked?


p. 31. Nin Andrews' "Notes for a Sermon on the Mount" includes the line:


9. Many times a pussy has taken on the form of an actual woman and is sometimes mistakenly thought to have a human spirit.


MJ. Wait. This whole poem is about pussies. Concluding:


13. A pussy must come of its own accord. For thus is the way of the pussy, and of the alpha and omega.


MJ. You can find the whole poem on line.


p. 128-31. Galway Kinnell's "The Quick and the Dead" has lines with words I didn't know that I earmarked to look up; for example, I prog him...; Now a beetle moils across him,...; in and out of the snout,/ which slorped too often the airy auras/ of our garden flowers...; and in and out/of the anus, like revenant turds [revenant may be a real word]; a larger beetle, the pronotum behind/ her head brilliant red... ; on either side she plouters ...; like a vole's tail, every smither/ ...; I may hear in the dunch of blood ...; or unguents and aromatic oils, and prinked /up in its holiday best..; down to a gowpen of dead dust, ...


MJ. Fortunately I read the author's note in the back of the book before I started looking up the words. I found: "As for the uncommon words, I like inventing words, using words that are still ahead of us, but just as much I like trying to save some of those that are falling off behind us." p. 257.


p. 178. Grace Paley's "Here" caused me to search for her in the library. It's an old poet's love poem to her old man, ending:


I am suddenly exhausted by my desire/ to kiss his sweet explaining lips.


p. 227. The only man in the collection I liked: Dean Young's "Sources of the Delaware" got me with his line,


his penis is shouting, Put me in, Coach,...


p. 230. Rachel Zucker's "In Your Version of Heaven I Am Younger" begins


In your version of heaven I am blond, thinner,...


MJ. Unlike some what I have encountered and call nonsense poems, this one is trippy and in the first person, motivated by her husband's comment "sometimes I wish you were exactly like you except blond and perky."


21. Booknotes on America's Bitter Pill: Money, politics, backroom deals, and the fight to fix our broken healthcare system, Steven Brill, Random House, New York, 2015.


Note: Still reading this 12/29/2015.


The author has a medical emergency, and uses his own experience to illustrate, focus, magnify the story: health care in the USA. It's a blow by blow historical inside rendering of the run up to The Affordable Care Act, aka Obama Care. Before that Romney Care but that wasn't good enough for those baby killing, flesh eating rightists, who, right now, are the chief obstructionists preventing the US from solving problems.


p. 4. The next morning I was having open-heart surgery to fix something called an aortic aneurysm.


p. 38. Insurance plans offered by large employers, called group plans, do not screen individuals for their health history or even their age. That because the "pool" of people to be insured is large enough that the risks among them average out--which is what insurance is supposed to be about: large groups of people paying premiums in order to share the risk that some of them will need help.


22. Booknotes on The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World ... via its most dangerous buses, boats, trains, and planes, Carl Hoffman, Broadway Books, New York, 2010.


I got this book by virtue of seeing the author on BookTV talking about his latest book, Savage Harvest, the story of how Michael Rockefeller was killed and eaten by cannibals. The book begins with an exaggerated emphasis on danger. If the route has had a lot of bus plunges, take it. If the ferry boats sink frequently, take the most decrepit. You get the idea. I wrote after reading page 66: Hyping the danger of flying is not working to engage me.


About half way through the discomforts of travel began to be emphasized more than the danger. It was hot in the desert, cold in Mongolia. Some love interests along the way were hinted at. At the end, the dissolution of his marriage was also suggested. On page 157 the truth ("Everything in that book is true") of a novel was suggested:


"That book" was Shantaram, the international best-selling novel written by Australian Gregory David Roberts, who escaped from prison in OZ and found his way to Bombay two decades ago, where he's become deeply involved with its criminal gangs and Nasir--who always carried the honorific bhai, "uncle."


By page 175, the author was getting tired of traveling:


Desperate to talk to someone, to touch, to feel love and human warmth--that is the flipside of my wandering.


MJ. Like I always said, It gets lonely traveling alone. ("Don't Search, Celebrate!", an early book of poems)


p. 196. MJ. When a kind man took him to his home, he was a spectacle writing:


The food was served and only Fardus and I ate, the others sitting on the bed watching.


MJ. A passing boat reminded the author of his loneliness and isolation:


We slid past a boat with no lights at all, just a black shadow, its gunwales underwater, the dim outlines of figures standing at the stern. The deeper I pushed, the harder it became to know them, the more ignorant, curious and powerless I was. Each was a world unto its own that I could glimpse but never know.


MJ. It gets worse:


p. 205. And the more I was in the middle of it, the lonelier I felt, the loneliness of the crowd exposing my attitude. I was like a walking ghost, a presence among the throngs, but unnoticed, unseen by them, too.


MJ. This passage is recorded for the name of the town with the erotic sculptures in India that I hope to visit one day:


p. 212. He'd left his village near Khajuraho, a town notorious for its Kama Sutra sculptures ...


23. Booknotes on The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the battle over a forbidden book, Peter Finn and Petra Couvee, Pantheon Books, New York, 2014.


Let us say at the beginning that CIA is in the subtitle because they financed editions of Dr. Zhivago and distributed them inside the USSR which considered the book "anti-Soviet."


p. 10, Chukovsky, Pasternak's neighbor, thought he had a "somnambulistic quality" -- "he listens but does not hear" while away in a world of his own thoughts and calculations.


MJ. I've been accused of this.


p. 25. While at the University of Marburg, where he studied philosophy in the summer of 1912, he was rebuffed by a woman, Ida Vysotskaya, the daughter of a rich Moscow tea merchant, to whom he professed his love. "Just try to live normally," Ida told him. "You've been led astray by your way of life. Anyone who hasn't lunched and is short of sleep discovers lots of wild and incredible ideas in himself." Ida's rejection led to a burst of poetry writing on the day he was supposed to be turning in a paper for his philosophy class.


MJ. I was writing poetry instead of studying chemistry for my pre-med training.


p. 41. Pasternak sensed that Stalin actually wanted to find out if he knew about Mandelstam's poem. "Why do you keep on about Mandelstram?" asked Pasternak. "I have long wanted to meet you for a serious discussion."

"What about?" Stalin asked.

"About life and death."

Stalin hung up.


p. 57. While sounding like a Siberian name, Zhivago was derived from an Orthodox prayer. Pasternak told the Gulag survivor and writer Varlam Shalamov, who was the son of a priest, that as a child while saying the prayer lines "Ty est' voistinu Khristos, Syn Boga zhivago" (You truly are the Christ, the living God), he used to pause after Boga (God) before saying zhivago (the living).


p. 63. Pasternak was typically self-depreciating about his own charms and described the "few women who have had an affair with me" as "magnanimous martyrs so unbearable and uninteresting am I as a man.'"


p. 85. Feltrinelli was born on June 19, 1926, into a cocooned life of nannies and tutors that shifted, depending on the season, between various villas and hotels--Lake Como, Lake Garda, the Baur au Lac in Zurich, and the Excelsior at the Venice Lido.


MJ. exclusive locations.


p. 120. James Jesus Angelton, the CIA's counterintelligence chief, was an editor at The Yale Literary Magazine and cofounded the literary magazine Furioso. He counted Ezra Pound among his closest friends. Cord Meyer Jr., another alumnus of the Yale Literary, had published fiction in The Atlantic Monthly and continued to hanker for the writing life when he was running the agency's propaganda operations.


MJ. Cord Meyer was the husband of the subject of Nina Burleigh's book, A Very Private Woman, who was murdered while walking along a path in D.C., a crime never solved.


p. 186. The pillorying of Pasternak was front-page news around the world. Correspondents in Moscow reported in detail on the media campaign, the expulsion from the Union of Soviet Writers, the acceptance and rejection of the Nobel Prize, and the threat of exile.


p. 189. [John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State] asked if the novel was damaging to the Communist cause. Abbott Washburn, deputy director of the United States Information Agency, said, "It was because it reveals the stifling of an individual under the oppressive communist system and that the very suppression of the book shows that the communist leaders regard it as injurious." Others at the meeting argued that Doctor Zhivago was not particularly anti-Communist but "that the treatment received by the author was the real pay dirt for us."


p. 232. [Pasternak] simply could not bear the stress and the pitched emotion of an Ivinskaya [his mistress] visit. He did not want her to see him in his reduced state, and he did not wish to foist all the drama of a visit on his family. He was too decorous, and his lives with these two women were, for him distinctly separate. It wasn't who Pasternak loved, but how he wanted to die that kept Ivinskaya hovering near the dacha gate and Zinaida [his wife] nursing his dying body.


24. Booknotes on Another Day of Life, Ryszard Kapuscinski, translated from the Polish by William R. Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowska-Brand, Vintage Books, New York, 2001.

(Originally published in Poland in 1976, first published in the US by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1987)


Great writing here.


p. 32. The inexperienced soldier thinks the main thing is to make a big racket. He fires like a man possessed, blindly, because all he cares about is noise, communicating to the enemy how much strength is approaching.


p. 42. In front of the old, established checkpoints there are little cemeteries of those who had the misfortune to greet the sentries with the wrong word.


MJ. He wrote the above after a dramatic bit about approaching a check point. In the dramatic build up to some time spent with a woman who dies, we get


p. 50. We always create the beauty of women, and that day we created Carlotta's beauty.


p. 51. ...we don't yet know that she will never again be anybody's.


p. 53. A tired, unwashed soldier with a dirt-smeared face jumps out of the car. He says that immediately after our departure there was an attack on Balombo and they have given up the town; in the same sentence, he says that Carlotta died in the attack.


MJ. This above follows a multi-page narration of his time with Carlotta, poignant.


p. 100. There being a war on, your interlocutor states that blood will flow. This is a lesson drawn from history, and history teaches that crucial events cannot occur without bloodshed. Then comes the moment of silence in which you wonder whether it's going to be your blood.


25. Booknotes on Travels with Herodotus, Ryszard Kapuscinski, translated from the Polish by Klara Glowczewska, Alfred A. Knoph New York, 2007.


This is my second round of infatuation (this year) with Kapuscinski. I’ve read others before. My appreciation of his writing, perhaps, appears below.


p. 8. ... while Stalin was alive, one could not write that a store was empty--all of them had to be excellently stocked, bursting with wares.


p. 27. I had noticed already that a different person is assigned here [India] to every type of activity and chore, and that this person vigilantly guards his role and his place--this society's equilibrium seems to depend upon it.


p. 57. The Chinese constructed it [the Great Wall], with interruptions, over the course of two thousand years. They commenced when the Buddha and Herodotus were alive and were still building it when Leonardo da Vinci, Titian, and Johann Sebastian Bach were at their labors in Europe.


p. 92. MJ. Having been to Susa, located in Iran, the following has meaning:


From the Persian capital of Susa to the shores of the Amu Darya the road is long--or, more accurately, there is no road. One must cross mountain passes, traverse the burning desert of Kara-Kum, and then wander the endless steppes.


p. 93. quoting Herodotus: Now the Great King goes on his military expeditions well equipped with food and livestock from home, and he also brings water from the River Chodspes (on whose banks the city of Susa is situation), because water from no other river except the Chodspes is allowed to pass the king's lips.


MJ. While roaming in the bed of the River Chodspes at Susa, I saw a fox. It was the second fox I saw in Iran; the other was on the crest of the hill behind Persepolis.


p. 101. MJ. Having visited the Siwa oasis in Egypt helped with the following:


[Herodotus] writes that people from Cyrene, who had visited the oracle of Ammon, told him of a conversation they'd had with the king of the Ammonians, Etearchus (the Ammonians lived in the oasis of Siwa, in the Libyan desert).


MJ. I was especially interested in the site of the oracle of Ammon, because the enclosure there is one of two in the world, I believe, actually occupied by Alexender, the Great.


p. 151-52. MJ. The passage is too long to copy. The location is Persepolis, the city constructed by the great king Darius, beginning in 330 BC. In the beginning of the passage is the king's point of view when he sights visitors from afar, appearing as "motes and kernels of grain" such will always remain the king's view of his liege men, K writes. Next is the point of view of the visitors, which concludes:


But if they succeed in leaving here in one piece, what a distinguished rank they will acquire among their people! He is the one who visited the king, others will say. And later--he is the son of the one who visited the king, the grandson, the great-grandson, etc. One secures in this way one's family's standing for generations to come.


p. 165. MJ. K is now in the Congo:


They were drawing nearer and I was dripping with sweat, my legs leaden and getting heavier by the second. The key to the entire situation was that they knew as well as I did that in whatever sentence they might impose there was no appeal. No higher authority, no tribunal. If they wanted to beat me, they would beat me; if they wanted to kill me, they would kill me. I have only ever felt true loneliness in circumstances such as these--when I have stood alone face-to-face with absolute violent power. The world grows empty, silent, depopulated, and finally recedes.


p. 184. Another long beautiful passage begins:


My travels with Negusi [Ethiopia now]--and we drove thousands of kilometers together under difficult and hazardous conditions... concludes


Chinese culture perfected the art of the frozen face, of the inscrutable mask and the vacant gaze: only behind such a screen could someone truly hide.


Negusi knew only two expressions in English "problem" and "no problem."


p. 204. There is a war going on, after all, one in which Persia is to conquer Greece--meaning, Asia is to seize Europe, despotism is to destroy democracy, and slavery is to prevail against freedom. MJ. This is K describing a scene in Herodotus.


p. 224. Why are we indifferent when someone stares at us on a French street? Why does it not bother us then, or cause us discomfort, whereas here in the Casbah [in Algiers] it does? The eyes are similar, after all, likewise the act of observing, and yet we react to the two situations in such dissimilar ways.


p. 226. In the small space of this beautiful but congested city intersected two great conflicts of the contemporary world. The first was the one between Christianity and Islam (expressed here in the clash between colonizing France and colonized Algeria). The second, which acquired a sharpness of focus immediately after the independence and departure of the French, was a conflict at the very heart of Islam, between its open, dialectical--I would even venture to say "Mediterranean)--current and its other, inward-looking one, born of a sense of uncertainty and confusion vis-a-vis the contemporary world, guided by fundamentalists who take advantage of modern technology and organizational principles yet at the same time deem the defense of the faith and custom against modernity as the condition of their own existence, their sole identity.


MJ. I copy this because it relates to the current split of Islamic currents manifesting in the world circa 2015.


p. 258. But how could Herodotus, a Greek, know what the faraway Persians or Phoenicians are saying, or the inhabitants of Egypt or Libya? It was because he traveled to where they were, asked, observed, and collected his information from what he himself saw and what others told him.


26. Booknotes on Red Notice: A true story of high finance, murder, and one man's fight for justice, Bill Browder, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015.


Bill Browder was on a news shows, CNN. The opening of the book confused me and this sentence on page 2 didn't help.


p. 2. But I was not escaping from Moscow, I was returning to it. I was returning to work. And, therefore, I wanted to catch up on the weekend's news.


On page 8, he's been detained for a while at the airport.


I tried to convince myself that I'd be leaving tomorrow. This was just a problem with my visa. One way or another, I'd be leaving Russia.


p. 87. Instead of 150 million Russians sharing the spoils of mass privatization, Russia wound up with twenty-two oligarchs owning 39 percent of the economy and everyone else living in poverty.


p. 106. Going after information in Russia was like hurtling down the rabbit hole. Ask a question, get a riddle. Track a lead, hit a wall. Nothing was self-evident or clear.


On page 214, there is a lesson how graft and corruption is practiced in Russia.



the police raid our offices, seize a ton of documents, and then use a convicted killer to fraudulently reregister our companies.


p. 214. "...two other companies that belonged to you, have been re-registered to a company called Pluton, located in Kazan." Kazan is the provincial capital of Tatarstan, a semi-autonomous republic located in central Russia.


"Who owns Pluton?" I asked.


"...Victor Markolov ... convicted for manslaughter in 2001."


"Those documents were then used to forge a bunch of backdated contracts that claim your stolen company owes seventy-one million dollars to an empty shell company that you never did any business with....


"Those document were then used to forge a bunch of backdated contracts that claim your stolen company owes seventy-one million dollars to an empty shell company that you never did any business with....


"Those forged contracts were taken to court, and a lawyer who you didn't hire showed up to defend your companies. As soon as the case started, he pleaded guilty to seventy-one million dollars in liabilities."


Bill Browder's attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, was the “murder” in the subtitle. The Russians tortured and killed him in prison. Browder's superhuman efforts to punish the Russians with sanctions levied by the U.S. Congress were successful. Putin was pissed and may still try to kill Browder.


27. Booknotes on Sapiens: A brief history of humankind, Yuval Noah Harari, HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2015.


Note: This book is still being read 12/29/15.


p. 4. Presumably, everyone reading this book is a Homo sapiens--the species sapiens (wise) or the genus Homo (man).


p. 24. As far as we know, only Sapiens can talk about entire kinds of entities that they have never seen, touched or smelled....


The ability to speak about fictions is the most unique feature of Sapiens language....


You could never convince a monkey to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.


p. 49. repetition. This is the second mention of this:


The average ancient forager could turn a flint stone into a spear point within minutes. When we try to imitate this feat, we usually fail miserably. Most of us lack expert knowledge of the flaking properties of flint and basalt and the fine motor skills needed to work them precisely.


p. 80-1. Studies of ancient skeletons indicate that the transition to agriculture brought about a plethora of ailments, such as slipped discs, arthritis and hernias.


p. 102. The handful of millennia separating the Agricultural Revolution from the appearance of cities, kingdoms and empires was not enough time to allow an instinct for mass cooperation to evolve.


p. 103. Around 8500 BC the largest settlements in the world were villages such as Jericho, which contained a few hundred individuals. By 7000 BC the town of Catalhoyuk in Anatolia numbered between 5,000 and 10,000 individuals....


Around 2250 BC Sargon the Great forged the first empire, the Akkadians. It boarsted over a million subjects and a standing army of 5,400 soldiers. Between 1000 BC and 500BC, the first mega-empires appeared in the Middle East: the Late Assyrian Empire, the Babylonian Empire, and the Persian Empire. They ruled over many millions of subjects and commanded tens of thousands of soldiers.

   In 221 BC the Qin dynasty united China, and shortly afterwards Rome united the Mediterranean basin. Taxes levied on 40 million Qin subject paid for a standing army of hundred of thousands of soldiers and a complex bureaucracy that employed more than 100,000 officials. The Roman Empire at its zenith collected taxes from up to 100 million subjects. This revenue financed a standing army of 250,000-500,000 soldiers, a road network still in use 1,500 years later, and theatres and amphitheatres that host spectacles to this day.


28. Booknotes on Fidelity: Poems, Grace Paley, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2008.


I came across a poem by Grace Paley in one of the Best poems of Year XYZA, I forget which. So I looked her up. She's old, writes about death. I think it was a sentimental poem about her old man I originally liked. Here's one from p. 68:


All the old women came out in the sun

and I was one


all the old gentlemen came out too

and I saw you


what a relief I said to my friend

there is no end


that's true for some but don't be so vain

he may not be the same


perhaps he's only become quite shy

one of us may die

without saying goodbye


my friend said face it that's how it goes one by one

till there's no one left on this bench in the sun


29. Booknotes on The Hundred-Year Marathon: China's secret strategy to replace America as the global superpower, Michael Pillsbury, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2015.


p. 3. Cai, it turned out, has quite a large following inside China. He was and remains arguably the most popular artist in the country, with the notable exception of Ai Weiwei. Many of Cai's fans were nationalists, and applauded him for blowing up Western symbols before a western audience. [p. 2. Secretary Clinton's aide waves the gold medal for the press corp to see, as Cai smiled modestly. He had just been given the State Department's Medal of Arts, the first of its kind, which was presented to the artist by Clinton herself, along with $250,000, courtesy of the American taxpayer.] China's nationalists called themselves ying pai, meaning "hawks" or "eagles." Many of these ying pai are generals and admirals and government hard-liners. Few Americans have ever met them. They are the Chinese officials and authors I know the best because since 1973 the U.S. government has instructed me to work with them. Some of my colleagues wrongly dismiss the ying pai as nuts. To me, they represent the real voice of China.


p. 4. Americans have been wrong about China again and again, sometimes with profound consequences. In 1950, the Chinese leadership believed that it had given a clear warning to the United States that its troops should not come too close to the Chinese border during the Korean War, or China would be forced to respond in kind. No one in Washington got that message, and in November of that year Chinese troops surged across the Yalu River into North Korean, engaging U.S. troops in numerous battles before the war was halted by an armistice in 1953, after more than thirty thousand American soldiers had died. The United States also misunderstood China's relationship with the Soviet Union, the reasons for its overtures to the Nixon administration in the 1970s, its intentions regarding student protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989, its decision to treat an accidental U.S. bombing of a Chinese embassy in 1999 as an act that Chinese leaders equated with the atrocities of Hitler, and more.


p. 5. One of the first things a student of the Chinese language learns is its essential ambiguity. There is no alphabet, and Chinese words aren't formed by letters. Rather, words are formed by combining smaller words. The word for size combines the character for large with the character for small. The word for length combines the words for short and long. Chinese use dictionaries to organize thousands of characters, which must be filed under approximately two hundred so-called radicals or families, all sorted according to relatedness. Under each category of relatedness, the dozens of characters are again sorted in order of the total number of strokes required to write a character, from a minimum of one to a maximum of seventeen strokes.


Adding to this complexity are the tones and pitches that delineate words. The effect of tones is to give a single word four possible meanings. A classic example is ma. In the first tone, ma means mother. The second tone is a rising tone, so ma then means numb. The third tone for ma means horse, and the fourth tone for ma, which falls sharply, means to scold. The Chinese must talk loudly to make the tonal differences audible. Another ambiguity is how few sounds the Chinese language uses for syllables. The English language uses ten thousand different syllables, but Chinese has only four hundred. Thus, many words sound the same. Puns and misunderstandings abound.


The language's very complexity is like a secret code. A foreigner has to make important decisions about how to translate Chinese concepts, which can inherently lead to misunderstandings.


p. 31. The hawks write books about a key era of history out of which China was forged, known as the Spring Autumn and Warring States periods--five centuries of largely political struggles. The final two-and-a-half-centuries of largely political struggles. The final two-and-a-half-century stretch began around 475 BC and ended with the unification of seven feuding states under the Qin dynasty. (The word China comes from Qin.) Both periods were plagued by power politics, intrigue, deception, and open warfare among China's warlords. It was a brutal, Darwinian world of competition, where warlords formed coalitions to oust one another, all with the goal of becoming the ba, roughly equivalent to the English word hegemon. Five ba rose and fell in the Spring Autumn period, then two coalitions competed in the Warring States. The hawks draw lessons for the Marathon from both.


p. 39. ...they [the hawks] see a multipolar world as merely a strategic waypoint en route to a new global hierarchy to which China is alone at the top. The Chinese term for this new order is da tong, often mistranslated by Western scholars as "commonwealth" or "an era of harmony." However da tong is better translated as "an era of unipolar dominance." Since 2005, Chinese leaders have spoken at the United Nations and other public forums of their supposed vision of this kind of harmonious world.


p. 74. Our cooperation against the Vietnamese occupation of Cambodia--including the arming of fifty thousand anti-Vietnam guerrillas--was discussed in interviews by four of the CIA officers who revealed the details of this program in the book The Cambodian Wars. There was a much larger secret that other CIA officers revealed in George Crile's book Charlie Wilson's War, the story of American's purchase of $2 billion in weapons from China for the anti-Soviet Afghan rebels. Kissinger's memoirs reveal that there was covert cooperation in Angola as well.


p. 99. One central thesis of this book depends on growing evidence that the hawks have successfully persuaded the Chinese leadership to view America as a dangerous hegemon that it must replace. This view gained authority in 1989, and as a result Beijing started systematically to demonize the U.S. government to the Chinese people. What the official Party-sanctioned media say internally contrasts starkly with how China presents itself to the American people. The hawks' cry is straightforward. They assume that the U.S. hegemon seeks to overthrow China's government, as it supposedly tried to do in the 1980s. The Chinese hawks advocate this "patriotic education" and anti-American teaching because the United States still inspires fascination among their opponents, the Chinese moderates.


p. 116. The first sense that this [that China is a backward nation] might not be wholly accurate came that very year, when Westerners became familiar with a book published in Mandarin and released throughout China called Unrestricted Warfare.... Instead of direct military action, the authors proposed nonmilitary ways to defeat a stronger nation such as the United States through lawfare (that is, using international laws, bodies, and courts to restrict America's freedom of movement and policy choices), economic warfare, biological and chemical warfare, cyberattacks, and even terrorism. The work raised eyebrows further because it was written by two colonels serving in the People's Liberation Army--Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui.


p. 117-18. Indeed, the official translation service of the U.S. government refused to translate the book until my office in the Pentagon sent a formal request....


Imagine what might happen to U.S.-Chinese relations if U.S. policymakers, or the general public, actually had an unfettered view of the anti-Americanism rife within senior levels of the Chinese government....


Between 490 and 470 BC, the story goes, the heads of two warring states were like America and China--Fuchai was the old hegemon, and Goujian was the rising challenger who aspires to become ruler of the world. Fuchai takes Goujian prisoner. The hegemon's "hawkish" adviser, Wu Zixu, urges him to kill Goujian. Always suspicious of possible threats and eager to preempt them. Wu Zixu warns that Goujian will eventually escape and potentially topple the old hegemon. Other advisers, working secretly with the captured Goujian, systematically defame and undermine Wu Zixu to the point that Fuchai decides that it is Wu Zixu who deserves to die. Eventually, after a long series of manipulations, Fuchai sends his now-disgraced adviser a sword to commit suicide. The popular movie of his story includes this scene because Wu uttered a famous proverb when he demanded that his eyeballs be plucked out after his death and hung on the city gate of the hegemon's capital so that he could "see" the rising challenger's troops enter the city in conquest. The now furious hegemon denied his adviser this last request.


p. 138. The authors [I first came across the term "Assassin's Mace" in 1995 when reading an article titled "The Military Revolution in Naval Warfare", written by three of China's preeminent military strategists.] listed a host of tactics that would be essential against a superpower like the United States, such as assaulting radar and radio stations with smart weapons; jamming enemy communication facilities via electronic warfare; attacking communication centers, facilities, and command ships; destroying electronic systems with electro-magnetic pulse weapons; wiping out computer software with computer viruses; and developing directed-energy weapons.


p. 154.  ...China's "operational theory," as the Pentagon has reported, calls for "destroying the enemy command system; crippling the enemy information systems; destroying the enemy's most advanced weapons systems; crippling the enemy support (logistics) systems; and denying the enemy the synergies that accrue from its technological superiority."


MJ. I don't know if I highlighted the detail mentioned in the book: That China destroyed one of their satellites in space, showing this capability and showering a vast orbit space with debris, as shown in the movie Gravity, except in Gravity, it was the Russians portrayed, thus showing another example of self-censorship by the Americans to avoid offending the Chinese, which would, in fact, have prevented the release of the movie in China.


p. 159. Media and political commentators hailed the movement of China toward a capitalist, free market economy--although China was doing anything but. By 2014, roughly half of China's economy would still be in the government's hands, decades after the myth that capitalism had arrived.


p. 160. If China's internal estimate about surpassing America by 2020 had been made as a loud, boastful announcement, it might have alarmed the hegemon and provoked an attempt at containment. So instead, the approach was to tell foreigners how many obstacles China faced and to downplay its prospects.


p. 164-65. When China joined the WTO in 2001, it agreed to accept the organization's provisions that member governments not influence, directly or indirectly, the commercial decisions of their state-owned enterprises. However, China has not kept this commitment....


Among the key messages China sent then ["from 1995 to 2000 to persuade Congress to grant China permanent normal trade relations and pave its way into the WTO"] were that the SEOs [State Owned Enterprises] would be phased out, free market policies would be forthcoming, China's currency would not be manipulated, China would not accumulate large trade surpluses, and America's innovations and intellectual property would, of course, be respected. WTO membership requires all this.


p. 167. During that period [1983], the World Bank released a few vague reports to the public about the need for China to move toward a free-market economy. In private, the World Bank's economists recommended something different: they explained how China could overtake the United States. Apparently the bank did not suggest concealing the whole idea, and instead pretending that China was going capitalist. Rather, that [secrecy] was a Chinese decision based on the Warring States-era principle of inducing complacency in the old hegemon.


p. 171. Today the state-owned and -controlled portion of the Chinese economy is huge. Available data suggest that SOEs and entities directly controlled by SOEs account for more than 40 percent of China's nonagricultural GDP. If the contributions of indirectly controlled entities, urban collectives, and public town and village enterprises (TVEs) are considered, the share of China's GDP that is publicly owned and controlled is roughly 50 percent, or more, of the entire economy. This is an inconvenient truth if you want to convince the old hegemon that you are going capitalist and that your middle class will soon demand democracy.


p. 174. As China expands even farther into international markets, there's one thing China's competitors can count on: China won't play by the rules.


p. 175. In 2002, ABC News estimated that foreign firms' losses due to counterfeiting in China stood at $20 billion annually....


In a recent speech to the National Association of Manufacturers, Thomas Boam, a former minister counselor at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, asserted that 10 to 30 percent of China's GDP is founded on pirated and counterfeited products....


A recent U.S. government report from the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive describes China as "the world's most active and persistent perpetrator of economic espionage...."


To evade detection, they use rapidly evolving tools such as malicious software, cybertool sharing, hacker proxies, routing of cyber operations through third or fourth countries, and more.


p. 181. According to Freedom House, "This unconditional assistance [by China]--devoid of human rights riders and financial safeguards ... is tilting the scales toward less accountable and more corrupt governance across a wide swath of the developing world.


p. 182. China has applied the Zimbabwe model [" supplying arms and later by sending Internet surveillance hardware and other technology crucial to his [Mugabe's] efforts to control the Zimbabwean people"] in Asia, Africa, and South America. It has supported dictatorships in Syria, Uzbekistan, Angola, the Central African Republic, Cambodia, Sudan, Myanmar, Venezuela, and Iran.


p. 193. ...what a China-led world will look like. Rather than slowing the proliferation of WMD, an increasingly powerful China will accelerate it. Rather than isolating rogue states, China will empower them. And rather than cooperating with the United States and its allies, China will undermine and weaken them at every opportunity, especially when it comes to its own national security.


p. 199. On the heels of the Chinese antisatellite test [2007] came a marked shift in tone toward America ... In December 2009, President Obama traveled to Copenhagen ... This summit was marked by a significant change in the public tone of Chinese officials. They demonstrated uncharacteristic rudeness, interrupting Western diplomats on several occasions ...  Premier Wen Jiabao had already snubbed the other heads of government by refusing to attend most of the negotiations. China surprised observers by making a side agreement with other developing nations that blocked the hoped-for commitments from being included in the climate change draft agreement, which effectively torpedoed the goals of the conference.


MJ. I don't think that Amy Goodman who covered the conference mentioned this.


p. 212.  ...nine elements of the Hundred-Year Marathon, as outlined in chapter 2:


1. Induce complacency to avoid alerting your opponent.

2. Manipulate your opponent's advisers.

3. Be patient--for decades, or longer--to achieve victory.

4. Steal your opponent's ideas and technology for strategic purposes.

5. Military might is not the critical factor for winning a long-term competition.

6. Recognize that the hegemon will take extreme, even reckless action to retain its dominant position.

7. Never lose sight of shi [deceiving others into doing your bidding for you, and waiting for the point of maximum opportunity to strike].

8. Establish and employ metrics for measuring your status relative to other potential challengers.

9. Always be vigilant to avoid being encircled or deceived by others.


p. 219. Whether you play wei qi ["In the ancient Chinese board game of wei qi, it is imperative to avoid being encircled by your opponent--something that can be accomplished only by simultaneously deceiving your opponent and avoiding being deceived by him."] or not, you know that encirclement by a group of adversaries is dangerous. China's natural fear is that its neighbors will form such an alliance. ["There is a reason why China has been expanding its South China Sea claims, bullying Philippine fishing boats, cutting the cables of Vietnamese seismic survey ships, and recently establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea. China wants to guarantee access to a wealth of natural resources in the region and is hoping to intimidate its neighbors so they are too scared of China to unite and oppose its ambitions."]


p. 232. Lessons from the Warring States era fit nicely with the lessons that China's hawks have learned from the rise of the United States. In addition to the many books about America's rise I described in chapter 8, the Communist Party School in Beijing uses at least three books to illustrate how the rising challenger successfully and peacefully persuaded the old hegemon to yield: Ann Orde's The Eclipse of Great Britain, Aaron Friedberg's The Weary Titan, and Lanxin Xiang's Recasting the Imperial Far East.


30. Booknotes on Isn't It Romantic: 100 love poems by younger American poets, edited by Brett Fletcher Lauer & Aimee Kelley with an introduction by Charles Sumic, Verse Press, Amherst, Massachusetts, 2004.


I don't remember why I checked this book out. But it clearly contained poems by men and women, and since I've enjoyed poems by women more than men, I went through the book reading only women. I folded those pages, then read the men. I folded 3 women and 2 men whose poems I liked. I shall now gives their names and a few lines from each. First the women:


p. 72. Noelle Kocot, "Bicycle Poem".


And so I said nothing and rode you in and out of the rooms

Where we had stretched the boundaries of the soul

Like an endless sheet

And I felt you waking up between my legs.


p. 108. Heather Ramsdell, "Moveable Figures."


...not exactly putting your finger there, in flesh, first wet then dry, first yes

     amid rubble, first involuntary thirst


had shifted, this is not your fault--will I see you again?


p. 116. Catie Rosemurgy, "Love, with Trees and Lightning." It begins:


I've been thinking about what love is for.

Not the dramatic part where he gathers

until he is as purposeful inside her

as an electric storm. Not when he breaks

into a thanks so bright it leaves her split

like a tree.


p. 106. D.A. Powell, "[First Fugue]". I almost passed this on by, because it is not laid out on the page from top to bottom, but rather with the left margin at the bottom of the page.


and I'm still real hot then you kiss me there. [italics, by the poet]


I feel real when you touch me.


p. 104. G.E. Patterson. "The Saint's First Wife Said." The whole short poem:


I woke to your face not looking at me

but at the bird that settled on your wrist,

lured by food. Its trust, for once, was rewarded.

You offered the bird everything you had.


I remember. That is how it began

with us: You held out your hand; I took it.


31. Booknotes on Poets on Place: Interviews & tales from the road, W.T. Pfefferle, with a Foreword by David St John, Utah State University Press, Logan, Utah, 2005.


I got this book, because the poet and Sufi Richard Tillinghast appreciated my Facebook posting about exhibiting frames showing Murshid was in over 80 libraries at the Tucson Festival of Books.


The compiler Pfefferle drove around and interviewed the poets. Amazingly, not all that were interviewed had poems in the book! (Couldn't get permission?)

Usually in a poetry anthology, I earmark the ones I like. Amazingly, again, I didn't like any poems in this book. I did like Paisley Rekdal's photo; she has a Chinese/Norwegian background.


32. Booknotes on The Upstairs Wife: An intimate history of Pakistan, Rafia Zakaria, Beacon Press, Boston, 2015.


p. 6-7. Between meals floated the uncertainty that had colonized our house. The smells in the kitchen, the arrangement of bedrooms, the allotment of affections had all been shaken up by the return of a woman who had been honorably given away in marriage to another family. There was no precedent for it, and so my grandfather, newly retired, did the only thing he knew to do, which was to enlist the advice of others--as many others as he could think of. As the days passed, elders from the tiny transplanted community of Bombay Kokanis, who had migrated to Karachi in the decades after Partition, filtered in and out of our house. The men were led through the black gate, past the tall palms that lined the drive, and through the carved front door. Inside they were seated in the formal living room, with its tall windows opening to the garden beyond. Here, resting on cushions verdant with blooming roses and peonies embroidered by Aunt Amina in the days before her marriage, they debated what was right and what must be done, who had erred and who was wronged, and who must submit and on what terms. It was a thorny question: What to do about a woman who had left her husband and returned to her father?


p. 14. Re: 2nd wedding with 2nd wife.


Would there be a henna ceremony, with women singing in circles, playing the dhol and tambourine, laughing and teasing the new bride?


MJ. I imagined them teasing her by saying ... sexy stuff.


p. 17. From the recesses of the same cabinet, she then removed sixteen silver cups, each with its rim pulled out into a point. They were oil lamps, precious cargo that had been wrapped in the family's best clothes, packed in one of the trunks that had brought their Indian lives to Pakistan two decades earlier. They were used in a Sufi ritual carried out for generations by my grandfather and his family, followers of a saint who had lived and preached long ago in Baghdad. [Abdul Qadiri Jilani?]


p. 34. In the winter of 1958, my great grandfather Zainullah Saifuddin, passed away peacefully in his sleep. With his death, a way of life that had seemed etched in stone revealed its fragility.


p. 49. MJ. Sometimes, I think, I find her writing lyrical:


The mood had been festive then; the women humming songs they always sung as they packed, old rhymes that reached far into the recesses of their history, paeans to a fondness for leaving.


p. 55. Placing her dangling glasses on her nose, she had surveyed the sea of white-scarfed girls with the solemnity of one whose belief in the inevitability of ruin had been vindicated by disaster.


p. 106. The inhabitants of the suburban neighborhood in which we lived had built their mansions with the utmost care. Every detail, from the shade of marble floor to the type of flowers in their gardens to the hues of their bedroom curtains had been agonized over and considered at length. Each detail was important. The mansions were, after all, the realizations of dreams, and the transformation of what was wished for into what existed would determine the contentment of years to come.


p. 114-15. At Camp Yawar, in the craggy, steep hills filled with caves, they learned everything a guerilla needed to know: basic wiring to hook up explosives, the transformation of glass bottles into grenades, and the common chemical components of fertilizers and bombs.


p. 197. [about Karachi] There were so many layers of humanity and places to hide that anyone who didn't want to be found could breathe and burgeon with a peace unimaginable in other places.


p. 198. But the trails they [the jihadis] had followed all led to Karachi, to a cobweb of safe houses that had to be emptied out if the men were to be caught and their plans aborted.


p. 218. Not only was their no [city] plan, Mustafa Kamal and his similarly eager cohorts told the newspapermen and the television channels, there was not even an accurate map. The city had grown and expanded chaotically, with a road built here and a bridge built there, hundreds pouring in from one village and thousands pouring in from another, some sticking together in one portion of a slum and others setting up a shantytown. There were places police didn't go, buildings built by sly developers who paid off local thugs who extorted money from shopkeepers and protected the whole operation. The city was wild, and to tame it a map and a plan were required.


p. 240. MJ. This whole book, the sections of which jump wildly from one time period to another, is based around a man who takes a second wife, and the suffering of the first wife who is the aunt of the author. Here at the end of the book, finally, we hear from the man. He says, when the second wife is dead, to the first wife:


"You know, Amina, twenty years ago when I married her, I learned for the first time what it was to be happy, to be with someone I truly understood and who truly understood me." He looked directly at her now, over the empty plates of curry and the almost full bowl of pudding. "I could have left you then, as so many men do. We did not have children and your father could have given you a home." He stared at Amina, her face flushed as if freshly slapped, and he kept on, his eyes glassy and his lips wet. "I did not leave you because I did not want you to be disgraced, to live like an abandoned woman, and so I ... we put up with you, put up with you when we did not have to, when we did not need an interloper, someone watching and hearing and listening and blaming. Now she is gone and I am left here with you ... Leave me be. We will never move to the first floor [where tenants lived], or to the second floor [where he lived with his love]. They are sacred for me, for they are what I shared with her, and even if she is gone I will not let you take what was hers."


p. 246. MJ. And now, totally at the end of the book, the impact all this has had on the author:


I could never forget her [her aunt Amina]. The shadow of her marriage, her exclusion, her accommodation of a life she had never expected had cast its imprint on my own life. The memory of her misery weighed on me; the questions about her choices plagued me. How real had they been? How helpless had she been? These familiar thoughts twisted about my mind as my own marriage was arranged, as I became a bride and left Karachi for America. They were with me when I left the marriage that had been chosen for me, when I decided to rebel, when I returned to Pakistan and then returned to America, again and yet again. My story was built on hers.


p. 248. MJ. And now a story that doesn't mention "Sufi" but which shows how the Sufis are in the bulls eye of the Taliban.


The rich and powerful or visible are not the only targets.... At the top [of a hillock on the edge of a poor Karachi slum] was the shrine of Ayub Shah Bukhari, a poor man's saint, where tired men went to supplicate. They believed the saint was an intermediary with a better connection to the Almighty, and so they begged him for better jobs, easier lives.... Six of them were there,... The Taliban assassins killed all of them....


The Taliban did [sic, do] not believe in anyone interceding for the Almighty. Anyone who tries to pray at one of the hundreds of shrines dotted all across the country is, in their view, a heretic.

33. Booknotes on Stonewalled: My fight for truth against the forces of obstruction, intimidation, and harassment in Obama's Washington, Sharyl Attkisson, HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2014.


When I first saw Sharyl Attkisson being interviewed on BookTV, I mistook her for a Fox News type, especially given the anti-Obama bent to her title. It only took listening to her for awhile to discover that she was anything but my first impression. She is in the minority of investigative journalists who go for the truth and special interests who would snuff the writer, the truth be damned.


p. 60-61. As the money trail leading from big corporations to government and nonprofits has become subject to more exposure, they increasingly use more surreptitious methods such as astroturf. As in fake grass roots....


Hallmarks [of astroturf] include the use of inflammatory language such as "crank," paranoid," "quack," "nutty," "lies," truther," "conspiracy theorists," shoddy," "witch hunt," and "pseudo" in targeting the political-industrial complex's enemies.


p. 64. This phenomenon [the scrubbed pages of Wikipedia in matters corporate relating to pharmaceutical information] is surely one factor contributing to shameful study results that compared several Wikipedia articles about medical conditions to peer-reviewed research papers, and found that Wikipedia contradicted medical research 90 percent of the time.


You may never fully trust what you read on Wikipedia again. Nor should you.


Note to Self: by page 84, this book is a one joke book, meaning the network bosses cowtow to the administration. As for my misunderstanding of the subtitle: my fight for truth against the forces of obstruction, intimidation and harassment in Obama's Washington, I understand that what Sharyl writes about is an offshoot of Obama's lack of transparency, the vilification of whistleblowers, who point out government law breaking. The so-called liberal press bent over backwards to NOT report on government malfeasance.


p. 89. But barely into his second term, the Obama administration finds itself making history instead for its secrecy and assaults on the press.


p. 113. Yes, of the traced guns [this is the Fast & Furious inquiry] almost 90 percent come from the United States.


p. 114. Re: the gun walking program. The twisted logic for the indefensible strategy goes something like this: To protect the public, we need to prevent guns from flowing across the border. To prevent guns from flowing south, we need to stop gun traffickers. To stop gun traffickers, we need to prove that their guns are used in Mexican cartel crimes. To get proof, we need to let crooks freely traffic weapons so that they're used by the cartels to injure and kill. We then trace the weapons back to the U.S. source, arrest the traffickers and cartel kingpins, and stop the guns.


p. 123. Isn't the administration's story line, if true, a bona fide scandal of its own? That rogue ATF agents were able to spend millions of tax dollars on a secret, controversial, dangerous cross-border operation undetected, under their bosses' noses, without approval--and nobody had noticed?


p. 130. Her agency's spin has morphed from calling the whistleblowers liars, to acknowledging the gunwalking happened but saying it was the work of renegades in Phoenix, to admitting that ATF headquarters knew of it but that nobody at the Justice Department did, to conceding that people at Justice were involved but insisting the attorney general was kept in the dark. She [Schmaler, Justice Dept. flack] bobs, she weaves, she shifts--and afterward pretends it's all consistent.


p. 138. I can't think of another story that compelled the Justice Department to admit it gave Congress bad information and retract it; involved the brutal murders of two federal agents and countless Mexican; forced the head of a federal agency, Kenneth Melson, to resign; led to the forced resignation of a U.S. attorney, Dennis Burke; resulted in a public apology from the Justice Department's criminal chief, Bruer; caused the reassignment of a half dozen other federal officials, including ATJ's Chait, Newell, Voth, and GIllet, and Burke's assistant U.S. attorney Hurley; prompted an historic vote to hold the U.S. attorney general in contempt; and culminated with the president invoking executive privilege. For the first and only time of his presidency.  [emphasis mine]


p. 145. [The administration] included a long letter of objection replete with mistakes that largely argued points not address and claims never made in the report.


MJ. Media Matters.


The liberal blog printed the administration's error-riddled spin point by point repeating nearly the exact language and format that the administration had used in its letter to CBS.


p. 174. It's another day. I'm somewhere out of state living my private life when another source affiliated with Special Forces [Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Wood.]  approaches me. "We should've gone in to help," he tells me. "We could have. We were ready. Someone at the highest level stopped us."


p. 217. About a month before CBS announced Morell's hiring, he's also been hired at that PR firm dominated by Hillary Clinton loyalists: Beacon Global Strategies. I also got a tip that Morell was the target of new congressional allegations that he hid or gave false information about Benghazi. To protect CBS's reputation and interests, I felt it was urgent that we disclose Morell's financial and political ties when he made his on-air appearances.


p. 257. To try to condense or expect anybody to quickly digest the research I spent many hours performing, and to ask them to immediately comprehend the jargon, background, documents, and expert sources isn't realistic. That's why I'm an investigative reporter: I put in the time and understanding to present the facts to others who don't have the time or ability to do the same on a given topic.


p. 261. [the absurdity of her bosses making her wait to report a story] I disagree with the premise of waiting: when you discover new facets of a story, you don't keep them secret. You don't wait to report them after the fact. Yes, we knew this disaster was coming all along but didn't think you needed to know until it was too late.


p. 307. [re: the government invading her computers] Why would some in my own company now attempt to discredit the computer issue and their own forensic expert? Weren't they as alarmed as I was to learn that unauthorized parties were in the CBS system?


p. 313. ... the people who are happy to trust their personal communications to the government are conferring trust upon whoever and whatever the government may become in the future. What's more, they fully trust each and every person who may gain access to the information. These people don't foresee a time when there may be facets of the government that aren't benevolent. They don't envision the possibility of dishonest players in the mix. To them, the motivations of the government and all those who are in it will always and forevermore be good; their government would never break the law, violate ethics, or exploit private information for inappropriate use.


p. 326. In this particular interview, [Richard] Clark is responding to questions about the fatal single-car crash of reporter Michael Hastings as he was said to be researching a story related to the scandal that forced the resignation of CIA director Petraeus in 2012.


MJ. from Clark earlier: "It's relatively easy to hack your way into the control system of a car and to do such things as cause acceleration when the driver doesn't want acceleration, to throw on the brakes when the drier doesn't want the brakes on ... you can do some really highly destructive things now through hacking a car, and its not that hard."


MJ. The implication is the government could have killed Hastings by hacking his car! Never heard this before.


p. 347. The liberal opinion blog Media Matters revived its trademark propaganda campaign to smear me and my reporting.


If they can just get a bit of their propaganda to cross over and be discussed in a forum that resembles what Americans consider the real news media, then they've earned their money.


But it's astroturf all the way. (See page 60 above)


p. 352. But successfully deploying that story line [I was a fair reporter when I examined the Bush-era controversies. But when I started digging into Obama administration problems, I was suddenly a fanatic bent on destroying the president and all good things liberal.] was part of a primary strategy: fight indisputable, damaging facts by controversializing the reporter and politicizing the subject matter. Harassment. Intimidation. Obstruction.


p. 355. There was a sudden and insurmountable change when the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley era began in May 2011.


p. 356. All I know is, the story would never air on Pelley's broadcast. The report that he had so effusively complimented was permanently sidelines.


MJ. Ditto the above, over and over in Sharyl's book. How frustrating!


34. Booknotes on The Americans, Robert Frank, Introduction by Jack Kerouac, originally published by Robert Delpire, Paris, 1958, and by Grove Press, New York, 1959.


I was Robert Frank's camera assistant on Sunseed. I wrote about it in my book Murshid. For some reason his name came up and I googled him, curious if he was still alive.

He is, some 90 years old, living on Bleeker Street in New York City. The book jacket describes how Frank got Kerouac to write the introduction:


I met Jack Kerouac on a hot summer night--a party in New York City. We sat down on the sidewalk. I showed Jack the photographs for The Americans. He said, "Sure I can write something about these pictures.


What stopped me in the Introduction were the words I didn't know: bedawze, omious, opiful, all on page 8. It was until I got to the page and he spelled “pictures: as “pitchers” that I suspected maybe I shouldn’t bother to look up the words I didn't know!


Anybody doesnt like these pitchers dont like potry, see? Anybody dont like potry go home see Television shots of big hatted cowboys being tolerated by kind horses.


Kerouac concludes his intro: To Robert Frank I now give this message: You got eyes.

And I say: That little ole lonely elevator girl looking up sighing in an elevator full of blurred demons, what's her name & address? [she's on page 97, MJ]


35. Booknotes on Good poems, selected and introduced by Garrison Keillor, Viking, New York, 2002.


p. xxi. What makes a poem memorable is its narrative line. A story is easier to remember than a puzzle.


p. xxii.  ...most poems aren't memorable, in fact, they make no impression at all. Sorry, but it's true ... they're like condoms on the beach, evidence that somebody was here once and had an experience but not of great interest to the passerby.


p. 42. From Late Hours, by Lisel Mueller:


What luxury, to be so happy

that we can grieve

over imaginary lives.


p. 84. From Worked Late on a Tuesday Night, by Deborah Garrison:


I haven't had dinner, I'm not half

of what I meant to be.

Among other things, the mother

of three. Too tired, tonight,

to seduce the father.                                                                                     


p. 97. 10 of 12 lines of Sonnet, by C.B. Trail:


This is for the afternoon we lay in the leaves

After it had been winter for half a year,

And I kissed you and unbuttoned your jeans

And touched you and made you smile, my dear.

And of all the good things that love means,

One of them is to touch you there

And make you smile, among the leaves,

And feel your wetness and your sweet short hair,

And kiss your breasts and put my tongue

Into the delirium between your soft pale thighs,

Because the winter has been; much too long

And soon will come again, when this love dies.


p. 111. From Venetian Air, by Thomas Moore:


Ah! did we take for Heaven above but half such pains as we

Take day and night for woman's love, what angels we should be!


p. 429. From Here, by Grace Paley:


that's my old man across the yard

he's talking to the meter reader

he's telling him the world's sad story'

how electricity is oil or uranium

and so forth   I tell my grandson

run over to your grandpa   ask him

to sit beside me for a minute ...I

am suddenly exhausted by my desire

to kiss his sweet explaining lips.


36. Booknotes on This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the climate, Naomi Klein, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2014.


There's a long line for this book at the library. I got it after a long wait. I am returning it, because I can't renew it because of the long line, having only read the Introduction & Conclusion. The Introduction was enough to light a fire under me for action. A few passages:


p. 4. We know that if we continue on our current path of allowing emissions to rise year after year, climate change will change everything about our world. Major cities will very likely drown, ancient cultures will be swallowed by the seas, and there is a very high chance that our children will spend a great deal of their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms and extreme droughts. And we don't have to do anything to bring about this future. All we have to do is nothing. Just continue to do what we are doing now...


p. 7. The resources required to rapidly move away from fossil fuels and prepare for the coming heavy weather could pull huge swaths of humanity out of poverty, providing services now sorely lacking, from clean water to electricity. This is a vision of the future that goes beyond just surviving or enduring climate change, beyond "mitigating" and "adapting" to it in the grim language of the United Nations. It is a vision in which we collectively use the crisis to leap somewhere that seems, frankly, better than where we are right now.


p. 26. Maybe within a few years, some of the ideas highlighted in these pages that sound impossibly radical today--like a basic income for all, or a rewriting of trade law, or real recognition of the rights of Indigenous people to protect huge parts of the world from polluting extraction--will start to seem reasonable, even essential.


p. 451. The movements explored in these pages--Blockadia's fast multiplying local outposts, the fossil fuel divestment/reinvestment movement, the local laws barring high risk extraction, the bold court challenges by Indigenous groups and others--are early manifestations of this resistance.


p. 456. Though heading an oil company that actively sabotages climate science, lobbies aggressively against emission controls while laying claim to enough interred carbon to drown populous nations like Bangladesh and boil sub-Saharan Africa is indeed a heinous moral crime.


p. 458. There is, however, another way of looking at this track record: ["the inability of many great social movements to fully realize those parts of their visions that carried the highest price tags"]  these economic demands--for basic public services that work, for decent housing, for land redistribution--represent nothing less than the unfinished business of the most powerful liberation movements of the past two centuries, from civil rights to feminism to Indigenous sovereignty. The massive global investments required to respond to the climate threat--to adapt humanely and equitably to the heavy weather we have already locked in, and to avert the truly catastrophic warming we can still avoid--is a chance to change all that; and to get it right this time. It could deliver the equitable redistribution of agricultural lands that was supposed to follow independence from colonial rule and dictatorship; it could bring the jobs and homes that Martin Luther King dreamed of; it could bring jobs and clean water to Native communities; it could at last turn on the lights and running water in every South African township. Such is the promise of a Marshall Plan for the Earth.


p. 460. Because what is overwhelming about the climate challenge is that it requires breaking so many rules at once--rules written into national laws and trade agreements, as well as powerful unwritten rules that tell us that no government can increase taxes and stay in power, or say no to major investments no matter how damaging, or plan to gradually contract those parts of our economies that endanger us all.


p. 461. So how do you change a worldview, an unquestioned ideology? Part of it involves choosing the right early policy battles--game changing ones that don't merely aim to change laws but change patterns of thought. That means that a fight for a minimal carbon tax might do a lot less good than, for instance, forming a grand coalition to demand a guaranteed minimum income. That's not only because a minimum income, as discussed, makes it possible for workers to say no to dirty energy jobs but also because the very process of arguing for a universal social safety net opens up a space for a full throated debate about values--about what we owe to one another based on our shared humanity, and what it is that we collectively value more than economic growth and corporate profits.


37. Booknotes on Deep Down Dark: The Untold stories of 33 men buried in a Chilean Mine, and the miracle that set them free, Hector Tobar, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2014.


They all got out alive. You knew the outcome before you started reading the book, yet the details of the ordeal are riveting. With the author's intention to mention each of the 33 men's names at least once--except for a few major characters' actions, the shift boss's relinquishment of leadership, Mario Sepulveda's assertion of leadership--it's kind of a blur for the reader to picture these graying, malnourished men with too much clarity. It's an extended book length narrative of a magazine story. I noted a few things:


p. 9. Today geologists say that Chile sits on the "Ring of Fire," that vast seam in the Earth where continent-size chunks of the planet's crust meet. The Nazca Plate pushes underneath the South American Plate. Like a child squeezing into his bed and raising the covers into a lump, the Nazea lifted up South America to create the 20,000-foot peaks of the Andes, a process geologists call orogenesis [emphasis mine].


p. 166. MJ. This many pages into the 306 page book, the people at the top learn:


The thirty-three men are alive--it has not yet been confirmed, but that's what many at Camp Esperanza [the gathering of the miners’ wives, girl friends and families above] believe already--and they will return from the shift they started seventeen days ago.


38. Booknotes on Fields of Blood: Religion and the history of violence, Karen Armstrong, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2014.


Like Naomi Klein's book This Changes Everything, the Introduction and Conclusion are enough. This massive book, 512 pages, contains a history I don't want to wade through. A taste is enough; for example,


p. 5. In the premodern world, religion permeated all aspects of life. We shall see that a host of activities now considered mundane were experienced as deeply sacred: forest clearing, hunting, football matches, dice games, astronomy, farming, state building, tugs-of-war, town planning, commerce, imbibing strong drink, and, most particularly, warfare.


p. 13-14. MJ. This passage is written without the use of the word "poverty." Curious.


Agriculture had also introduced another type of aggression: an institutional or structural violence in which a society compels people to live in such wretchedness and subjection that they are unable to better their lot. This systemic oppression has been described as possibly "the most subtle form of violence," and, according to the World Council of Churches, it is present whenever "resources and powers are unequally distributed, concentrated in the hands of the few, who do not use them to achieve the possible self-realization of all members, but use parts of them for self-satisfaction or for purposes of dominance, oppression, and control of other societies or of the underprivileged in the same society. Agrarian civilization made this systemic violence a reality for the first time in human history.


MJ. Because extra food allowed mischief; whereas, hunter gathers didn't have time or food for war.


p. 17. ...the nature of secularism, which, despite its manifold benefits, has not always offered a wholly irenic [aiming or aimed at peace] alternative to a religious state ideology.


p. 396. This new aggression toward religious minorities in the nation-state is largely the result of political tensions arising from Western imperialism (associated with Christianity) and the Palestinian problem.


MJ. Note how "imperialism" [emphasis above mine] is taken for granted; whereas, earlier in my life, it was a negative term applied to others in an earlier time period. For example, the British empire, an imperialistic project.


p. 400. If we want a viable world, we have to take responsibility for the pain of others and learn to listen to marratives that challenge our sense of ourselves. All this requires the "surrender," selflessness, and compassion that have been just as important in the history of religion as crusades and jihads.


39. Booknotes on The Beast: Riding the rails and dodging narcos on the migrant trail, Oscar Martinez, with an Introduction by Francisco Goldman, Verso, New York, 2013.


In his Introduction, Goldman writes: "The Beast is, along with Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers, the most impressive nonfiction book I've read in years." p. ix.


MJ. I read Boo's book. I would never have thought to compare the two. Boo reveals life in India, however, just as Martinez reveals life in Mexico. Neither is a pretty picture.


With Martinez, I was confused at first when the author jumps into the middle of a narrative without preparing the reader for a book of vignettes, originally published on a website "Latin America's first online digital newspaper." (p. vii)


After 25 pages, the author in a section of self-reflection finally clarified my confusion when he wrote:


p. 25. The question, I realize, is really a thousand questions. Who wants to hear the story of three more boys condemned to death? Why follow three bumpkin brothers who are running from becoming bodies on the street? What kind of story, in Latin America, is another body on the street? Why even try to help? What's there to say about people spit out of their own country?


MJ. There is no answer as the boys we've followed for 25 pages drift off to oblivion, as far as we know.


p. 35. A migrant putting himself in policy custody is about the same as a soldier asking for a sip of water at enemy headquarters.


p. 54. That afternoon while waiting for the train [the title of the book The Beast refers to that train] we spoke with Jaime, an unassuming thirty-seven-year-old Honduran peasant.


MJ. In four pages, we learn how he earned in the U.S., built his life at home, had it destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, endeavored to return to the U.S. and lost his leg when fatigued he fell off the train.


p. 58. We saved ourselves thanks to the ingenuity of a Salvadoran who told our photographer to turn on all his lights, including his portable reflector and shine it toward the assailants. He did so. And the small circle of light stopped. It stayed put for a few minutes and then, when the train slowed, we saw the assailants hop off and lose themselves among the trees.


MJ. This is the first time it was revealed that the author hopped trains with a photographer along. Once revealed, the photographer is featured again on:


p. 62. Most train crews around these parts hate journalists. Eduardo Soteras hides his camera in his jacket but carefully peeks the lens out so that he can capture the extortion that, no doubt, those in the cars up ahead will face as well.


MJ. It's not always the same photographer.


p. 111. Toni Arnau, the photographer I'm traveling with, after stubborn insistence, is permitted to take a few photos ["of a grimy shell of a house" where "fifty-two undocumented Central American migrants were released after being kidnapped and kept crammed in the house for days"] by peeking in through the front door.


p. 148. The proximity of LA is why, despite the difficulties and danger, some migrants still insist on crossing in Tijuana. Of the nine border sectors designated by the Border Peetrol, the San Diego sector is the smallest, a mere sixty miles. Yet it has the third highest number of agents, around 2,500, and from October 2007 to February 2008 the Border Patrol apprehended 54,709 undocumented migrants on their hike north from Tijuana. Only the Tucson sector of Arizona, which has the highest number of agents, were more migrants caught.


40. Booknotes on War of the Whales: A true story, Joshua Horwitz, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2014.


The book was somewhat of a slog. It took 4 renewals, 16 weeks to finish it. God bless those working to protect the whales and dolphins.


p. 26. To follow their prey into the twilight zone, and even deeper into the lightless midnight zone below 2,500 feet, beaked whales had to learn to hunt in total darkness—which required echo-locating with sound.


MJ. That's the basis for all the beaching incidents: high decibal sound from Naval exercises for their sonar blind the whales.


p. 31. A beaked whale's head tells the entire tale of its remarkable evolution. Its cranium is almost twice as thick as a dolphin's, the better to withstand extreme water pressure at depth. Its dense, beaked rostrum is both a powerful weapon against mate-competing males and a potent defense against sharks. The beaked whale's sound-emitting powers originate in its nasal cavities, which transmit both communication sounds and sonar clicks. Its concave forehead cradles an acoustic lens, or melon, that focuses sound into different beam forms. Its long jawbone conducts return echoes and incoming communications from other whales to the three small ear bones common to all mammals, which are nested well back in its head. Elaborately convoluted, with an enormous auditory cortex, the beaked whale's brain is a masterpiece of signal processing. It can conduct multiple conversations simultaneously, as well as translate biosonar echoes into exquisitely detailed, three-dimensional maps.


p. 71. To date, Fisheries had resisted classifying any whale deaths connected to naval exercises as unusual.


p. 73. When a whale stranded in Puerto Rico, the Navy handed over the carcass to a local veterinarian. Darlene Ketten flew down from Woods Hole to examine the head, but the vet denied her access until the specimen had decayed for a week, and then he refused to let her take the head back to the States for CT scanning.


MJ. Naval obstruction.


p. 111. ...Americans had relied on their Navy to track every Soviet submarine armed with nuclear missiles, day and night, for 30 years.


p. 127-8. Ketten [Diane] carefully finished resecting the acoustic fat lobe and presented it for all to admire.


p. 165. ...A deaf whale is a dead whale.


MJ. And naval sonar deafens them.


p. 218. Balcomb's bleak results were not welcomed by Fisheries … If Fisheries accepted Balcomb's assessment that the local orca population had been severely depleted, it would be obligated under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to implement a recovery and protection plan. No further capture permits could be issued until the species had recovered to sustainable levels. Fisheries declined to renew Balcomb's contract....


When he [Michael Bigg] concluded that ongoing orca collections from British Columbian waters were unsustainable and recommended strict limits on wild captures, Canadian Fisheries shut down his survey and reassigned Bigg to other projects. Universities and aquariums on both sides of the border attacked Bigg's and Balcomb's methodology and results.


p. 257. [Balcomb] In addition to hearing witness to the Bahamas stranding, he was 25 years into his orca survey in Puget Sound, and getting closer every year to winning them threatened-species status and the protections that came with that recognition.


p. 259-60. MJ. His break up story sounds like when I lost my wife.


He'd never been the kind of guy to tell people he loved them. Even Diane, whom he'd loved more than anyone in his life. Now he let it all pour out. He apologized for not being a better partner, for making decisions without consulting her. He promised to let her steer the boat if only she'd come back to him.


p. 280. MJ. This whale point of view is great:


Five miles away, another whale fled from the sound storm in the canyon. As he entered the shallows, he was disoriented by the warmth of the water and the unfamiliar sight of sand beneath him. His head ached, and his eyes stung from the bright sun. When he felt his belly lodge against the sandy bottom, he tried to break free. But his fluking only drove his belly deeper into the sand.

   He could hear waves lapping on the beach nearby, but it wasn't a sound he recognized or understood. He couldn't see anything but the glare reflecting off the white sand, couldn't feel anything but the sun baking his back and the blood running hot in his veins.

   A shape moved through the water nearby. It loomed above him, blocking the sun, and then lowered itself into the water beside him. The whale felt something gentle touch his head, just behind the blowhole.

   What in the world are you doing here/” Balcomb murmured, as much to himself as to the whale.


p. 355. (the book ends) And then they heard it: the unmistakable whoosh of air being forced through a half dozen blowholes. Soft yet powerful, like the rumor of a whale.


41. Booknotes The Gorgeous Nothings, Marta Werner & Jen Bervin, with a Preface by Susan Howe, Christine Burgin/ New Directions, in association with Granary Books, New York, 2013.


I got this book from the library after it was mentioned in a mailing from the Poetry Center at the University of Arizona. It’s about Emily Dickinson.


This almost coffee table book measuring 10" x 12" would be a great book except for two things: First, reproductions of envelops with the poet's jottings are reproduced full size. The problem with that is that the "translations" of the jottings are reproduced in miniature! A magnifying glass is necessary to read them, and more than enough space on the page is available for the translation to be equal in size to the reproduction of the envelop, but it goes to waste. Why? I can't imagine.


The second problem is that most of the jottings, when read with difficulty are not worth reading. I found two that were interesting:


p. 28.


All men for honor

hardest work

but are not known

to earn.

Paid after they have

ceased to work

in infamy or urn.


p. 62.


In this short life

that merely lasts an hour

How much, how little,

is within our power.


MJ. Around page 66, I gave up trying to read the mostly nonsensical scribblings and returned the book to the library.


42. Booknotes on The Looming Tower, al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11, by Lawrence Wright, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2006.


The author wrote a piece in the New Yorker magazine about Ali Soufan. Their books are complimentary in a way. I read both at the same time, being almost through this one when The Black Banners [by Soufan]  became available. This won the Pulitzer but was not in demand at the library since it is so old.


p. 5. He [Fadl] said that al-Qaeda had been responsible for a 1992 bombing in Yemen and for training the insurgents who shot down the American helicopters in Somalia that same year.


p. 8. America, however, stood apart from the colonialist adventures that had characterized Europe's relations with the Arab world.... It was tempting to imagine America as the anticolonial paragon: a subjugated nation that had broken free and triumphantly outstripped its former masters.


p. 29. Qutb came to a characteristically radical conclusion: His jailers had denied God by serving Nasser and his secular state. Therefore, they were not Muslims. In Qutb’s mind, he had excommunicated them from the Islamic community. The name for this in Arabic is takfir. Although that is not the language he used, the principle of excommunication, which had been used to justify so much bloodshed within Islam throughout its history, had been born again in that prison hospital room.


p. 42. Afterward, he went over to Zawahiri. “Ayman, this is wrong,” Schleifer [an American newsman, Abdallah Schleifer] complained. Zawahiri started to explain, but Schleifer cut him off. “I'm not going to argue with you. I'm a Sufi and you're a Salafist. But you are making fitna”--a term for stirring up trouble that is proscribed in the Quran--”and if you want to do that, you should do it in your own mosque.”

   Zawahiri meekly responded, “You're right, Abdallah.”


p. 63. Most Saudis reject the name Wahhabi; they either call themselves muwahhidun—unitarians--since the essence of their belief is the oneness of God, or Salafists, which refers to their predecessors (salaf), the venerated companions of the Prophet. The founder of the movement, Mohammed ibn Abdul Wahhab, was an eighteenth-century revivalist who believed that Muslims had drifted away from the true religion as it has been expressed during the Golden Age of the Prophet and his immediate successors.


p. 69. Like a sentry on the mountain rim stands the ancient summer resort of Taif. It is different from any other place in Arabia. The breeze from the Red Sea collides with the mountain barrier, creating a cooling updraft, which bathes the high plateau in fog and sudden violent rains.


p. 100. His [Abdul Rasul Afghan warlord] devout Wahhabi beliefs were out of step with the Sufi traditions that predominated in Afghanistan before the war, but they were very much attuned to the interests of the Saudi Arabian government and its religious establishment.


p. 124. There is a well-known saying of the Prophet that the blood of Muslims cannot be shed except in three instances: as punishment for murder, or for marital infidelity, or for turning away from Islam. The pious Anwar Sadat was the first modern victim of the reverse logic of takfir [the mirror image of Islam, reversing its fundamental principles but maintaining the semblance of orthodoxy].


p. 183. Zaki [Dr. Ali Zaki, a gynecologist in San Jose] told Zawahiri that he was leaving out the other two streams of Islam: the mystical, which was born in the writings of al-Harith al-Huhasibi, the founder of Sufism; and the rationalist school, which was reflected in the thought of the great sheik of al-Azhar, Mohammed Abdu.


p. 297. O'Neill thought the target would be some essential piece of the infrastructure: the drinking water, the electrical grid, perhaps the transportation system.


p. 315. The FBI had all the authority it needed to investigate these men and learn what they were up to, but because the CIA failed to divulge the presence of two active members of al-Qaeda, the hijackers were free to develop their plot until it was too late to stop them.


p. 325. O’Neill kept Ali Soufan at his side most of the time. Once, when he was talking to an obstructionist colonel in Yemen intelligence, O’Neill exclaimed in frustration, “Christ, this is like pulling teeth!” When the colonel’s personal translator repeated the remark in Arabic, the officer stood up, visibly angry. “What’d I say?” O’Neill asked Soufan. Soufan told him that the translator had told the colonel, “If you don’t answer my questions, I’m going to pull out your teeth.”



p. 330. If the CIA had responded to Soufan by supplying him with the intelligence he requested, the FBI would have learned of the Malaysia meeting and of the connection to Mihdhar and Hazmi.


p. 342 DAMMING EVIDENCE THAT REMAINS UNPUNISHED. By withholding the picture of Khallad standing beside the future hijackers, however, the CIA blocked the bureau’s investigation into the Cole attack and allowed the 9/11 plot to proceed.


p. 344 FUCKING CIA. In Madagascar, I-49 agents built an antenna aimed at intercepting the phone calls of Khaled Sheikh Mohammed. Millions of dollars and thousands of hours of labor were consumed in replicating information that the U.S. government already had but refused to share.


p. 350 THIS EXPLAINS THE TITLE. Then he [bin Laden] quoted a passage from the fourth sura of the Quran, which he repeated three times in the speech—an obvious signal to the hijackers who were on their way:


Wherever you are, death will find you,

Even in the looming tower.


p. 351. If the agents in Minneapolis had been allowed to thoroughly investigate Moussaoui, they would have made the connection to Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who was sending him money. Moussaoui carried a letter of employment from Infocus Tech, which was signed by Yazid Sufaat. That name meant nothing to the FBI, since the CIA kept secret the information about the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, which took place in Sufaat’s condo. The bureau failed to put together the warning from its own office in Minneapolis with that of Kenneth Williams in Phoenix. Typically, it withheld the information from Dick Clarke and the White House, so no one had a complete picture.


p. 355. Zawahiri's forged letter had gotten the two phony journalists into Massoud's office. The cameraman's battery pack was filled with explosives. The bomb tore the assassins apart, killed a translator, and drove two pieces of metal into Massoud's heart.


43. Booknotes on Isis: Inside the army of terror, Michael Weiss & Hassan Hassan, Regan Arts, New York, 2015.


Going in, I know George Bush's invasion of Iraq created ISIS. I want Bush & Company to be held for war crimes, and, I dare say, hanged. How many do you have to kill and displace to be guilty of the supreme war crime of invading another country? The vision of Bush on the gallows, where he placed Saddam Hussein, is unspeakable yet, I dare say, justified. Enough said.


p. xv. [ISIS] is also [besides being a terrorist organization] a mafia adept at exploiting decades-old transnational gray markets for oil and arms trafficking. It is a conventional military that mobilizes and deploys foot soldiers with a professional acumen that has impressed members of the US military. It is a sophisticated intelligence-gathering apparatus that infiltrates rival organizations and silently recruits within their ranks before taking them over, routing them in combat, or seizing their land. It is a slick propaganda machine effective at disseminating its message and calling in new recruits via social media.


p. 22. Saddam had licensed a pray market in Iraq designed to evade UN sanctions--in effect, a state-tolerated organized crime network, headed by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, his vice president. A member of the Sufi Naqshbandi Order, which claimed direct descent from the first Islamic caliph, Abu Bakr, al-Douri, had been born in al-Dawr, near Saddam's own hometown of Tikrit, in the northern Salah ad-Din province of Iraq.


p. 36. In the medieval period, Ibn Taymiyyah used the foregoing criteria of tawhid [or monotheism: to worship God, to worship only God, and to have the right creed] to excommunicate the Shia and Sufis after he established that their practices and beliefs--including the veneration of imams--compromised their worship of God alone.


MJ. I have written before about Sufi practices being anathema to fundamentalists, shall we say Salafis.


p. 39. Derek Harvey is quoted often as an authoritative source, but there's no bibliography, and I didn't note his first appearance.


p. 43. MJ. There's mention of a memo saying tribes would cooperate unless they perceived failure. It was mentioned as evidence the US didn't get Iraq that much.


p. 45. A third of the Desert Protectors' members quit after being told that it constituted a national defense force and not just a local Qa'im gendarmerie and so was duly slated for redeployment elsewhere in Iraq.


MJ. There's no feeling of attachment to the nation of Iraq; hence, the above.


p. 47. For Derek Harvey, understanding the way Iraq's tribes functioned was the key to all mythologies in understanding Iraq itself.


p. 52. Al-Muhandis was selected to oversee trafficking one of the deadliest weapons ever used in the Iraq War: a roadside bomb known as the explosively formed penetrator, or EFP for short. When detonated, the heat from the EFP melts the copper housing of the explosive, turning it into a molten projectile that can cut through steel and battle armor including tank walls.


MJ. Apparently there's several guys named al-Baghdadi. The following confused me because the current eponymous leader is still alive, as far as I know.


p. 62. ISI's appointed leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, al-Masri added, was a native Iraqi, whom the Mujahideen Shura Council had voted on to be its leader, yet who never appeared in videos or audio files, presumably for security reasons. Some doubted he even existed at all, until his corpse confirmed that he did.


p. 145. Habash, as mentioned earlier, had [I don't know who he is] been in charge of the deradicalization program at Sednaya in 2008 after proposing himself for the role to Syria's National Security Bureau. “Salafism could have been controlled or reformed,” he told us. “The regime drove Salafists and Sufis to violence. Ideology was part of the reason, but let me tell you: if Gandhi spent three months in Syria, he would be a jihadi extremist.”  [bold mine]


p. 158. Kurds are predominately secular or Sufi from the Shaznawi order, named after the family that inaugurated it. [I didn't not know Kurds were Sufis. Again, bold mine.]


p. 162. As it happens, the closer ISIS came to realizing its territorial ambitions, the less religion played a part in driving people to join the organization.


p. 177. Many of the practices that ISIS has revived are intended as tocsins [an alarm bell or signal] of Islamic prophecy, including the blowing up of shrines and the tossing of homosexuals from rooftops.


p. 224. The reason why people support the Islamic State is its honesty and practices compared to the corruption of most of the FSA groups.


MJ. This reminds me of Thieves of State by Sarah Chayes. See book #45.


p. 225. Governance has been a winning strategy for ISIS.


MJ. In short, they are like Hezbollah in Lebanon; they provide services for the people. How to reach the “hearts and minds” of people, a lesson we never have learned, because basically, we don't care about “the people” either at home or abroad.



44, Booknotes on America in Retreat: The new isolationism and the coming global disorder, Bret Stephens, Sentinel, a member of Penguin Group, New York, 2014.


Name a book you couldn't finish, asks the editor of By the Book, Pamela Paul. This one, I shout. It was the end for me on


p. 62 [when the author writes] In short, it wasn't the war itself that was the mistake; it was the confusion of its aims. It wasn't the "hyping" of intelligence, or the abuses of Abu Ghraib, or other American crimes and misdemeanors, real or alleged, that nearly shipwrecked the enterprise; it was the excess of good intentions, the intoxication of ideals. And it wasn't the overreliance on force that led to near fiasco; it was the timid application of force in the face of an enemy that knew only the logic of force.


MJ. I am constantly amazed at immoral commentators like Bret Stephens, who not only condone the Iraq War, widely understood as the greatest foreign policy snafu in our history, but complain that we didn't kill enough! This book goes back to the library, not completely read.


45. Booknotes on Thieves of State: Why corruption threatens Global security, Sarah Chayes, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2015.


Until I got into this book, I didn't register the author's meaning from the title. Come with me while I discover passages that enlighten me.


p. 32. No wonder the mirror writers [MJ, the author by quoting various works called "mirrors to Kings" and juxtaposing their descriptions with contemporary vices vide the following] so insisted on the pains that a good prince should take to connect with the people. We should have been deploying the equivalent of witness protection measures just to ensure open and safe channels.

   But a structural rigidity, not just in Afghanistan but in foreign affairs more generally, impedes that approach.


p. 41. Wherefore one who does this is guilty," the strident fourteenth-century William of Pagula would have concluded. "For ...  one who permits anything to take place that he is able to impede, even though he has not done it himself, has virtually done that as if he allows it." In contemporary American jurisprudence, the principle is called "conscious disregard" or "willful blindness." And it is considered a sign of criminal intent.


p. 59-60. [Afghanistan] What the top of the system provided in return was, first, unfettered permission to extract resources for personal gain, and second, protection from repercussions.


p. 66. I talked the audience through the slides, explaining how money [in Afghanistan] was defying gravity to travel upward within the corrupt system, and pointing out the strength of the protection guarantee subordinate officials received in return for that money.


 "You just described my country," said one officer.... He was from Nigeria. Nigeria, I mused ... didn't they have an insurgency too? Boko Haram? Others joined us: from neighboring African countries, from Colombia, from Central Asia, from the Balkans. The correlation was uncanny. Almost every officer who told me my diagram hit home came from a place that was also confronting an extremist insurgency.


p. 75. Militant political religion as the only alternative to corruption; that was just the nexus I had seen in the Taliban's appeal in Afghanistan, and in the frequent presence of extremist insurgencies in other acutely corrupt countries.


MJ. The important point she makes is: People rebel against their corrupt government by joining insurgencies like the Taliban.


p. 79. MJ. Talking about why the Egyptian military got into business.


"In such emergency situations, we did not want to be requisitioning food from the mouths of the population." The initiative started with commissary, which led to a large parallel economy, including farms and wholesale imports, for such necessities as flour, dried legumes, cooking oil, and natural gas.


p. 81. Its core function defense, hardly bears mentioning. The Egyptian military has not seen action since the first Gulf war.... Its ongoing affection for outmoded tanks--and an associated emphasis on conventional warfare--reveals a resistance to adapting its security posture to rapidly evolving threats that matches its imperviousness to industrial innovation.


p. 85. The high unemployment that many Western analysts blamed for the 2011 overthrow of the Mubarak regime was not seen by Egyptians as a structural, macroeconomic phenomenon resulting inexorably from rising population or incompetent economic policies. It was seen as the direct product of corrupt practices perpetrated by an upstart clique of crony capitalists who had captured key levers of the Egyptian state and were using them to advance their private agenda.


p. 88. Perhaps the primary objective of the Egyptian state shifted in the late 1990s from governing to the extraction of resources for personal gain, and the softening of the state resulted from that change in focus. The subsequent decade witnessed the transformation of the Egyptian government into a criminal organization--or more accurately, two organizations, controlling different levers of state power: the military (for which the people retained a degree of affection) and the clique of crony capitalists that had coalesced around Gamal Mubarak, and was rapidly expanding its reach.


p. 110. Gulnora Karimova was not alone at the summit of Uzbekistan's kleptocracy. As in other countries, rival networks seemed to respect an uneasy division of spoils. Gold, one of the country's main exports, belongs to President Karimov, according to numerous Uzbeks. Gulnora had telecoms. For its part, the powerful National Security Service (SNB) controlled exports and cross-border trafficking.


p. 111. Compensation for seized property is widely agreed to be derisory. [derisory: ridiculously small or inadequate]


p. 117. Entrenched kleptocracies may find it simpler to face off against violent extremists, who terrify their populations and the international community alike, and who can be killed as enemies, than to coonfront political or economic movements calling for deep-seated government reform.


MJ. Moving on to Nigeria, having done Afghanistan, Egypt and Uzbekistan.


p. 118. I sit with the owner, Ali Harisu Kadira an-Nasiri, who is also the leader of one of the area's Sufi orders, as he describes his group's situal veneration at the graves of holy men. [MJ. Being a Sufi, I always note when Sufism is mentioned in books I read.]


p. 132. Boko Haram does not aim the bulk of its attacks against Christians. Rather (apart from the policy), its primary targets hae been members of the Muslim elite: state governors, traditional emirs, or men in the mold of an-Nasiri, the Sufi leader in Kakno, whom the group sees as co-opted and insufficiently Muslim.


p. 136. If corruption in Afghanistan was the work not of individual bad apples, for example, but of structured networks, then they had to be studied as such. "Malign Actor Networks," they called them at first .... MAN...


p. 138. We did not expect the MAN to take the assault we prescribed lying down. We predicted backlash [MJ. O yah, the author had partnered with the military and for a time was working for the Pentagon.] ranging from withholding intelligence about Taliban to retaliation in kind against ISAF officials, including visa hassles or legal proceedings, or deft use of local and international media. Doubless, Karzai would throw some of his famous tantrums.


p. 140.   ...led by an old friend from Anti-Corruption Task Force days: sleepless, theatrically grumpy, meticulous Kirk Meyer of the DEA .... had told us corruption was only the third priority of his Threat Finance Cell ... below terrorist funding and drug money.


p. 146-7. What is it, I found myself wondering, that keeps a country as powerful as the United States from employing the vast and varied nonmilitary leverage at its disposal? Why is it so easily cowed by the tantrums of weaker and often dependent allies? Why won't it ever posture effectively itself? Bluff? Deny visas? Slow down deliveries of spare parts? Choose not to build a bridge or a hospital? Why is nuance so irretrievably beyond American officials grasp, leaving them a binary choice between all and nothing--between writing officials a blank check and breaking off relations?


p. 151-2. Mullen was simultaneously pushing the intelligence community to think through the interaction between corruption and violent insurgency more broadly--to see what evidence existed to support the equasion that he was finding increasingly convincing: that outrage at a government's corrupt practices often provided fuel for insurgencies.[emphasis mine]


p. 154-5. ...a secret CIA agenda--which involved enabling the very summit of Afghanistan's kleptocracy--was in direct conflict withh the anticorruption agenda. And with no one explicitly arbitrating this contradiction, the CIA's agenda won out.


p. 167. ... John Locke ...criticized monarchy.... The very objective of government, Locke wrote, is "setting up a known authority to which everyone of that society may appeal upon any injury received."


p. 168. In this way did Locke and other political theorists of his day continue the work of replacing God, in ordering human affairs, with a mechanism devised by human reason...


Americans avidly read Locke as well as later writers who expanded his ideas--notably the brilliant French philosopher Montesquieu, whose compendium The Spirit of the Laws shaped much of the colonists' exploration into how a rational government should be structured. The birth of the United States was deeply influenced by the previous two centuries; events in northern Europe.


p. 170. And in this fashion, over the course of about two centuries--with rich input from the great European revolution in thinking called the Enlightenment--a constitutional form of government was slowly hammered out.


p. 180. [Skip now to 2012.] Al-Qaeda-linked rebels, garbed in Afghan-cut clothes and black turbans, fall upon the legendary Malian desert city of Timbuktu and--as they deal out savage shari'a law penalties--set about trashing dozens of historic shrines dedicated to Sufi saints.


p. 181. The other remarkable manner in which today's violent jihadis parallel the early Protestants [she earlier makes the point that Martin Luther's challenge to the church is based on "indulgences" and other church fund raising practices] is that they articulate their struggle, at least in part, as a reaction to the kleptocratic practices of local rulers--in the modern case, inspired and enabled by the United States.


p. 189. Intelligence professionals should be pulled off other tasks and assigned to study the structure and operations of kleptocratic networks as functioning systems. A framework for analysis should include such information as: the levers of power captured by the network, its favored revenue streams, its structure and manning, the degree of vertical integration, the internal and external enablers that reinforce it and facilitate its operations ...


p. 210-11. MJ. On why there were no prosecutions by the government of the banks:


Federal prosecutors, [Judge Jed] Rakoff suggests, may have been focused on different priorities. But the main explanation he offers for the lack of prosecution is "the government's own involvement in the underlying circumstances that led to the financial crisis. With their government helping create conditions favoring criminality, the people of the United States had no effective means of appeal."


46. Booknotes on Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary: Reflections by women writers, edited by Susan Morrison, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2008.


I think the reason I checked this book out was because I sought more writing by Elizabeth Kolbert, the author of The Sixth Extinction. Or maybe it was to find something else by Judith Thurman, the author of Cleopatra's Nose and Secrets of the Flesh: A life of Colette. Along the way in the book, Robin Givhan's "The Road to Cleavagegate" inspired me to write a second letter to Sharyl Attkisson complimenting that she revealed cleavage in a BookTV segment with her interviewing another author. (She didn’t answer this one either.) Here's some passages:


p. 25, from Susan Orlean's "Political Animals, Is Hillary a cat person or a dog person?"


Politicians who favor cats and don't throw in a dog to offset the assumptions one makes about cat lovers (namely that they, like their damn cats, are sneaky, aloof, self-licking, and not to be trusted around sleeping babies) have never done well in national politics.


p. 55, from Lionel Shriver's "Monarchy in the Making: Why electing a former first lady is an anti-feminist story."


...the invasion of Iraq may well prove the most egregious foreign policy mistake in the history of the country. Ergo, if Hillary Clinton is nominated as the Democratic Party's candidate for 2008, and the Republican who opposes her seems comparatively less trustworthy as a steward of my country's interests, I will have no choice but to bite the bullet and vote for her. But it will hurt my teeth.


p. 61, from Rebecca Mead's "All Hail Betty Book: Remember when the idea of a female chief executive was a gender-bending gag?"


The movie's [Kisses for my President] most unflagging recurring joke is that becoming the leader of the free world leaves a woman no time, energy, and, especially, inclination for lovemaking.


p. 77, from Judith Thurman's "Fate is a Feminist Issue: Has Hillary paid her dues from her own account?"


One can't help but feel that in marrying Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham was, with more calculation than perhaps is admirable, saving herself for her wedding night with the American people.


p. 179, from Dahlia Lithwick's "Can you Forgive Her? Why Hillary reminds us of the neighborhood scold."


And for those of us (all of us?) skidding through our days with the babysitter on speed dial and a Cheerio in our hair terrified of being found out for the professional frauds that we are, we see nothing of that struggle in Clinton.


MJ. Very modest of her to out herself as a "professional fraud."


p. 217, from Susanna Moore's "Cold Snap:; The Sorceress Problem: On women being their own enemies."


On a recent trip across the country, I made it a point to ask the women that I met their opinion of Hillary Clinton....Many said that they could not bear the sound of Clinton's voice. (This is, oddly enough, a complaint frequently made by male corrections officers in regard to female prisoners.)


47. Booknotes on Slave Species of god: The story of humankind from the cradle of humankind, by Michael Tellinger, Zulu Planet Publishers, South Africa, 2005.


The author of this book came to me because a Sufi forwarded his seminar advertisement. He seemed to be rehashing Zacharia Sitchen's teachings, so I shared this:


I made a deep study of Zecharia Sitchin, the author's work on whom Michael Tellinger's 2005 book Slave Species of god is based. Moreover, I communicated with Sitchen. I sent him my photos of Baalbek in Lebanon, when he was leading delegations to the Middle East. We were pen pals.

   The first of Sitchen's books (I have eight) is The 12th Planet named Nibiru. According to Sitchen and Tellinger, Nibiru makes a pass by earth every 3,600 years. Using Sitchen's data regarding these repetitive orbits lasting 3,600 years, the last pass would have been 300 B.C. When I wrote Sitchin inquiring why none of the ancient writers noted this periodic visit to the earth, our correspondence ceased.
   I do believe, however, that the great stones at Baalbec existed before the flood, dated by Sitchen at 11,000 B.C. My intuition is that the reason one large stone, too large for our largest crane to lift today, remains in the quarry, is that the deluge came. The date again, 11,000 B.C.


Just read chapter 16 the author advises "if you read nothing else," (Note to Readers) so I did.


The visit by Nibiru I discounted above. The Anunnaki, who inhabited Nibiru, would have needed a space ship and Mars would have had to be inhabitable. A sort of immortality was needed. They lived thousands of years; yet, some Biblical characters lived thousands of years. These visitors from outer space mined gold in South Africa, spread to the Indus Valley, took off from the platform in Baalbec, nuked Sodam and Gomorrah, landed at the Nazca Plain in Peru to pursue gold mining operations there. Reference is constantly to the clay tablets, but where is the bibliography listing the quoted tablets?


I copy some selections to flesh out the outline above:


p. 407. It Zecharia Sitchin who truly pushed the newly deciphered Sumerian cueiform text to the greatest heights in his nine books dealing mainly with the content of the Sumerian tablets and the eroded truth behind them. He has become one of the leading translators of the Sumerian language and he has presented evidence so vivid and compelling, that it is truly hard to contest. [MJ, but I contested it. See above.]


p. 408. We were created as a "primitive worker" by astronauts from aother planbet and in their image, some 450,000 years ago, to perform a necessary task on their new planet.... Part of the terrible truth that we have to come to terms with, is that humans are really an "accidental by-product" of an aancient colonisation of Earth by the Anunnaki from Nibiru. Humans came into existence for one reason only, to be the slave labourers in gold mines and nothing more.


p. 409. The tablets refer to the elliptical orbit of Nibiru as being "1 Shar", which equals 3,600 earth years...


p. 410. That would place the flood 432,000 years after their arrival. Scholars generally agree that the Great Flood occurred around 11,000 BC, which would place the arrival of the Anunnaki on Earth some 443,000 years ago.... first humans, Adam and Eve some 200,000 years ago.


p. 437. But here we discover the terrible truth that will hopefully jerk us out of the confused state in which we find ourselves as a species! That our maker was not GOD, but rather an advanced being with advanced knowledge pretty similar to our knowledge today. [What he means is that these beings created and manipulated the genetic code to make mankind.]


p. 454. The immigrants from Mars were secluded in and around the space port in the cedar mountains [Lebanon; hence Balbaak] ... They had children who became known as "Children of the Rocket Ships" ... these were the original Aryans who later settled all over Europe and invaded the Indus Valley, laying the foundation for the Indo-European language base.... They would also be the original pharaohs of Egypt under Marduk's rule.... From these descriptions it sounds to me undoubtedly like the early Andean settlement and civilisations of South America in Peru and Bolivia near Lake Titicaca.


p. 455. In this bit of information lies the possible substantiation that the Indus script and the Balkan-Danube script may be a language which the Anunnaki used, or a related script which the early humans like Ziusudra and Adapa used long before the flood wiped out most of the world. The rest were carried away and buried under mountains of sand and silt. But when the Sumerian tablets refer to the "Prior times" do they mean times before the flood? When there was a different kind of order on Earth? [MJ. How always intriguing: life BEFORE the flood.]


p. 458 And so the flood arrived as expected. It came in the 120th Shar, 432,000 years after arrival, about 11,000 BC which is exactly when modern scholars claim the flood destroyed the world. It is also important to note that at that stage Ziusudra was already 10 Shars old, which made him 36,000 Earth years. It is now absolutely clear that the flood was not caused by GOD in a moment of anger with humanity, but that it was actually as a result of a cosmic event when the giant planet of the Anunnaki came closer to Earth than it normally did, in its 3,600 year orbit. It was indeed a natural "calamity" which was abused by the Anunnaki to destroy their troublesome creation; their slave species called man.


p. 479. There is plenty of evidence of that [that Egypt was inhabited by thousand of years by humans and gods before the pharaohs made their appearance] in the Narmer Plate, which was found and dated to around 4,468 BC and depicts the unification of Egypt by the Scorpion King Narmer. There are also the Egyptian sky charts which point out celestial constellations of some 14,000 BC. [MJ. I'm not sure if I noted the author's explanation for the Sphinx. I can't remember what it was.]


p. 481. We read about twin cities ...Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.... According to the Sumerian tablets they were built 860 years after the start of the Earth year count. This could mean either 2,940 BC or 6,540 BC depending on where we take the beginning of Earth time. Either 7,400 BC or 3,800 BC.




48. Booknotes on Pornified: How pornography is transforming our lives, our relationships, and our families, Pamela Paul, Times Books, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2005.

The author was on BookTV when they did a segment on The New York Times Book Review. Pamela Paul is the editor of that publication. I invited her to trade books. She didn't respond. I found several of her books in the library; this one and By the Book.

I almost returned the book after a few pages, tiring of vignettes of pornography aficionados, but I went ahead to find out what women thought about pornography and agreed with those who considered their men's appetite for porn to be something of a betrayal. A passage early on about someone's visit to a strip club found resonance in this person:

p. 19. “I once went to one for a bachelor party and I left after ten minutes,” he says. “It seemed kind of pathetic from both ends of the spectrum—for both the men and the women. There's this whole charade where the guys are trying to pretend to themselves that the women are really interested in them and that they're not just paid to act that way, and the women are trying to pretend that the men don't disgust them. There's something incredibly lonely and sad about it.”


49. Booknotes on By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life from The New York Times Book Review, Edited and with an Introduction by Pamela Paul, Foreward by Scott Turow, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2014.


So, I saw Pamela Paul when BookTV did a tour of the office of The New York Times Book Review. I proposed a book swap. She did not answer. I got her book on pornography, reviewed, presented elsewhere in this collection. #48 actually.


p.  75 (from the Emma Thompson chapter). In Michael Houellebecq's The Elementary Particles, there's a passage on cruelty which includes a granny, a little boy, and a pair of secateurs [a pair of pruning clippers, held in one hand]. I hurled the book across the room and would have hurled Michael too, had he been in reach.


p. 100 (P.J. O'Rourke chapter). Kearney's March, by Winston Groom. The author of Forest Gump has become a wonderful military historian and tells us how, as a result of the Mexican War, we acquired not just Texas but New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and—every silver lining has its cloud—California.


p. 126. (Jared Diamond chapter) Sabine Kuegler, Child of the Jungle. This unique book is the autobiography of the daughter of a German missionary linguist couple, who moved when she was a child to live with a Fayu clan in a remote area of swamp forest in Indonesia New Guinea.


p. 136 (Dave Barry chapter). “funniest writers … South Park.” I agree!


p. 158 (Isabel Alende chapter). There is so much to read, and time is so short! I am seventy, but I have not yet reached the age when rereading gives more pleasure than the surprise of a new story or a new writer....


I like literary fiction. A good novel or short story is like making love between clean ironed sheets: total pleasure.


p. 171 (Hilary Mantel chapter). Her phrase: “a frown of concentration;” MJ, guilty as charged. Smile, dude.


p. 182 (Khaled Hosseini chapter). His books about Afghanistan:

West of Kabul, East of New York, by Tamim Ansary

Opium Nation, by Fariba Nawa

The Punishment of Virtue, by Sarah Chayes

The Sewing Circles of Herat, by Christina Lamb

The Patience Stone, by Atiq Rahimi

The Places in Between, by Rory Stewart

An Unexpected Light, by Jason Elliot.


p. 238 (Malcolm Gladwell chapter). The most influential thinker, in my life, has been the psychologist Richard Nisbett. He basically gave me my view of the world. Years ago, he wrote a book called The Person and the Situation with Lee Ross. If you read that book, you'll see the template for the genre of books that The Tipping Point and Blink and Outliers belong to.


p. 254-7 (Amy Tan chapter). She's the best so far!


I've often fantasized I would get a lot of writing done if I were put in prison for a minor crime....


Jing Ping Mei (The Plum in the Golden Vase). The author is anonymous. I would describe it as a book of manners for the debauched. Its readers in the late Ming period likely hid it under their bedcovers, because it was banned as pornographic. It has a fairly modern, naturalistic style--”Show, don't tell”--and there are a lot of sex scenes shown.


I also admire Yan Geling's stories. Beneath beauty and idealism is cruelty and ill intent....


(My favorite book as a child) … a book on a high self called Psychopathia Sexualis....


These days, any book that astonishes me can either inspire me or make me feel I should give up writing. Coetzee's Disgrace made me feel the latter.


(on going for a walk with Emily Dickenson) I imagine that anything she spotted—feathers, tea leaves, a hole in a fence—would lead her to utter something profound about human emotions in a lifetime of expectation. What hey?


p. 269 (Neil deGrasse Tyson chapter). I ask, After evolution was discovered, how did religion and society respond? After cities were electrified, how did daily life change? After the airplane could fly from one country to another, how did commerce or warfare change? After we walked on the Moon, how differently did we view Earth? My larger understanding of people, places, and things derives primarily from stories surrounding questions such as those.


p. 293 (Rachel Kushner chapter). But Obama is not poorly read; that is not his problem. He's extremely well read. He's still got a drone program. He lets bankers run our economy. Allows Guantanamo to remain open. It would be foolish to pretend I could recommend some enlightening text and he'd scratch his chin and then go for a policy makeover.


50. Booknotes on Unarmed Truth: My fight to blow the whistle and expose Fast and Furious, John Dodson, Threshold Editions, New York, 2013.

Reading Sharyl Attkisson's Stonewalled, one chapter of which details her reporting on Fast and Furious, I learned John Dodson was the whistleblower on that case, which was interesting, because rather than allow Congress to have documents, President Obama gave an executive order prohibiting that, as well if I'm remembering correctly kept the Justice Department's head from testifying.

The author of the book is onto wrongdoing before page 84 when I quit the book. I am not willing to plow through I don't know what. Enough already. We've got to get a book out of this, but it doesn't deserve a book. OK, I've got a few passages: Before the whistle blower got to ATF, his cop style was the same as my Grievance Officer style:

p. 14 Success back then wasn't judged on how many arrests we made, how many tickets we wrote, or who got the big case; we were successful when no one got hurt, no businesses got robbed, and no drunks were driving down the highway. When crime was down and people felt safe and were safe—that's when we knew we had done our jobs.

p. 63. In our pursuit of gun traffickers, we facilitated and allowed gun trafficking.

MJ. Note the page. The book has 280 pages. He knows here it's wrong.

p. 67. [fun facts] The Tohono O'odham Indian reservation lies about fifteen miles from Tucson and covers the remaining fifty miles to the Mexican border It's a vast reservation in the middle of the desert, about the size of the state of Connecticut; it has its own communities and its own tribal government, which oversees the roughly twenty-eight thousand tribe members who live there.


51. Booknotes on Cleopatra's Nose: 39 varieties of desire, Judith Thurman, Farrar, Straus and  Giroux, New York, 2007.


I got on a Judith Thurman kick. It led to ordering her Secrets of the Flesh: A Life of Colette, and other volumes of erotic literature. She also contributed to Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary. She's a rather plain looking Jewish woman who writes for The New Yorker. I skipped at least half of this book, as she had a number of essays about fashion. Because of her I got What Lips my Lips Have Kissed, a biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay (p. 23), which I think led to my ordering an Ebook version of The Story of O. Another biography of Millay is Savage Beauty "a five-hundred-page distillation that was nearly thirty years in the making," by Nancy Milford.

Another title found in this book is The Sexual Life of Catherine M (page 39), by Catherine Millet.

Using her knowledge of working 9 years on her life of Colette, Thurman wrote

p. 40. Colette probably would have slept with Henric [Jacques Henric, husband of Millet] to teach him a lesson while dismissing Millet as one of those women whom she calls "a Madam How-many-times." She also might have chastised her familiarity with the same smart slap that she gave to her friend Radclyffe Hall, who had asked for a critique of The Well of Loneliness: "Obscenity is such a narrow domain. One immediately begins to suffocate there, and to feel bored."

p. 112. MJ. Thurman praises Flaubert's The Sentimental Education. "This greatest bildungsroman, one of the first modern novels, tells the mock-epic, tragicomic story of Frederic Moreau, a provincial dilettante who fritters away an inheritance on the wrong women, friends, pleasures, investments, and causes, and whose ambitions are thwarted as methodically as his illusions are demolished."

p. 122. [MJ. This isn't the first time Thurman outs a man for homosexual tendencies]. Still in the Flaubert essay:

In 1858, he spent six weeks touring the ruins of Carthage and enjoying the taverns of Tunis (and perhaps its male brothels--his letters refer to them in passing).


52. Booknotes on The Upright Thinkers: The human journey from living in trees to Understanding the Cosmos, Leonard Mlodinow, Pantheon Books, New York, 2015.


In another book I'm reading By the Book, the compiler asks different author's questions, like What book didn't you finish?


This year I've returned Dodson's book about Fast and Furious, and now Mlodinow. I like his book The Grand Design (with Stephen Hawking) and War of the Worldviews (with Deepak Chopra), but this one, a history of science is not what I signed on for. It's similar to another I'm reading now, God's Bankers: A history of money and power at the Vatican. I skipped the first 60 pages detailing Vatican history, tuning back in around the time of World War II Italy. Pamela Paul's Pornified is another that went back from surfeit of porn testimonies. Paul also compiled By the Book.


What I found at the beginning of Mlodino's latest was mention of some ancient site in Turkey, one of which I've been to:


p. 27. Gobekli Tepe is located on the summit of a hill in what is now the Urga Province in southeastern Turkey. [I've been to the town of Urfa.] It is a magnificent structure, built 11,500 years ago--7,000 years before the Great Pyramid--through the herculean efforts not of Neolithic settlers but of hunter-gathers who hadn't yet abandoned the nomadic lifestyle. The most astounding thing about it, though, is the use for which it was constructed. Predating the Hebrew Bible by about 10,000 years, Gobekli Tepe seems to have been a religious sanctuary. [This site is located 12 miles from Sanliurfa which I visited.]


p. 30. [2,000 years later than Bogekli Tepe] The most impressive of the new mammoth Neolithic villages was Catalhoyuk, built around 7500 B.C. on the plains of central Turkey, just a few hundred miles west of Gobekli Tepe.


MJ. Marianne and I did visit Catalhoyuk in central Turkey.


p. 294. [MJ. The author's purpose expresses exactly why I skipped this book.]


If I achieved my goal, the preceding pages have imparted an appreciation of the roots of human thought about the physical world, the kinds of questions those who study it concern themselves with, the nature of theories and research, and the ways in which culture and belief systems affect human inquiry.


[I didn't want to read a history of scientific inquiry. What interests everybody today is where he ended.]


p. 297. Physicists postulate the existence of dark matter because the matter we can see in the heavens seems to be pulled on by gravity of unknown origin. Dark energy is equally mysterious. The popularity of the idea stems from a 1998 discovery that the universe is expanding at an ever accelerating rate. That a phenomena could be explained by Einstein's theory of gravity--general relativity--which allows for the possibility that the universe is infused throughout with an exotic form of energy that exerts an "antigravity" effect. But the origin and nature of that "dark energy" has yet to be discovered.


53. Booknotes on God's Bankers: A history of money and power at the Vatican, Gerald Posner, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2015.


This book begins with a very cinematic story about a body found hanging from a bridge in London. So I began the book, which quickly devolved into ancient church history. I skipped the first 60 pages, and tuned in again before World War II. The details grew tiresome, and, remembering the story of the hanged man, consulted the index, and began to follow the story. Running out of pages concerning Roberto Calvi, the hanged man, I discovered among the photo section, Mr. Calvi and a blurb which reads as follows:


Photo page 33. Roberto Calvi was an ambitious banker who replace Sindona as the leading Italian financier working with the Vatican Bank. When his overextended empire collapsed, it almost took the Vatican Bank with it. In 1982, while on the run from Italian police, Calvi turned up dead, hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London. Ruled at first a suicide, it took the Calvi family twenty-five years to convince authorities that he was murdered. In 2010, five men were tried and acquitted in Italy. Salvi's murder remains unsolved.


p. xii. I had thought the story was about a volatile mixture: institutional anti-Semitism and a fear of communism exacerbated by church leaders who failed to act forcefully when confronted with one of history's greatest horrors in the Holocaust. What I discovered instead was that what happened within the church during World War II was part of a much more complex saga. The truth could be found only by following the trail of money.


p. 324. [A high bank official Rosone was shot.] It would be another couple of months before investigators tracked a $150,000 payment from Calvi to the hit man. (!)


p. 510. According to Massimo Faggioli, an Italian theology professor who has long studied the Vatican, [Pope] Francis acted decisively because he is the first Pope in the last thirty-five years to understand how important it is to achieve substantive reform. "Pope John Paul II did touch the bank because it served his purpose of funding Solidarity from the Vatican. Pope Benedict did not touch it because he had no interest in controlling it. Pope Francis is different because he know the damage that has been done to the credibility of the church by this very small bank and its history of scandals.


54. Booknotes on One of Us: The story of Anders Breivik and the massacre in Norway, Asne Seierstad, translated from the Norwegian by Sarah Death, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2013.


Beginning with a Prologue with a glimpse into the massacre, the long book starts with the parents and birth of the killer, then moves on to more history not only of the killer, but presumably of some of his victims, of which there were 69 on the island and 8 in a bombing before the island massacre.


MJ. Mention is made of a man I've heard and turned off on Book TV, Robert Spencer.


p. 155. The New York Times best-selling author Robert Spencer, who founded the Jihad Watch site, was one of his [Breivik's] favorites. So was Pamela Geller, who ran the blog Atlas Shrugs. [And also, I believe, sponsors cartoon of the Prophet assemblies to taunt the faithful.]


p. 167. He often quoted Robert Spencer, the man behind Jihad Watch. Spencer had dissected the Qur'an into its component parts, taking them out of context to show how violent and full of hate it was.


p. 331. MJ. During the massacre, Breivik rang up the police and said:


Good afternoon, my name is Commander Anders Behring Breivik of the Norwegian Anti-communist Resistance Movement.


MJ. This was one of many faux pas by the Norwegian authorities that could have prevented more deaths. I didn't not try to detail them as the author presented them. They range from staging the police 3 km away at a golf course, rather than at the dock, near at hand. Helicopter pilots being on leave. Not following the lead given immediately after the bombing of the suspect's license number. Hence, no road blocks set up to capture him before he reached the island, etc.


p. 339. MJ Anders' second call detailed that he was commander of: “Knights Templar Europe, the organization is called, but we are organized in … the anti-communist resistance movement against the Islamisation of Europe and Norway.”


This book is great journalism revealing one pathetic man's path into extremism. And Norway's courteous treatment of a monster. Who will serve 21 years + 5 +5 ad infinitum, or until he dies. I'm reminded of Shamcher's recommendation that Hitler, if captured, be sentenced to eat apples in an apple orchard the rest of his life.


55. Booknotes on What Lips My Lips Have Kissed: The loves and love poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Daniel Mark Epstein, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2001.


It was from reading another book that I got turned on to this one. Like many books recently, I skipped parts. I'm annoyed when books insist on detailing history when I'm mainly interested in just one aspect. Here, I skipped Part I, and went right to Part 2 “The Whirlpool of Eros”, since I was most interested in her love life.


I was always impressed with her photo, which had “eyes of love.” Or “loving eyes.” It seems she was rather promiscuous. And when she married, she had an open marriage. Perhaps it was Judith Thurman's biography of Colette, another literary woman sexually ahead of her time. Let's see what passages I dog-eared.


p. 74, By March of 1913, the epistolary seduction of Arthus Ficke was in full swing, with both parties apologizing for their too frequent “indiscretions.” MJ. She and Ficke remained friends to the end, although not frequent lovers.


p. 80. In any case, Hooley [Hooley looked like an undertaker on holiday, page 79; If she had been searching for someone whose remoteness might resemble her father's, she could not have done better [than Hooley]] had an enormous influence upon Millllay's polymorphous lovelife during her Vassar years.


p. 122. In the 1920s Edna St. Vincent Millay became a figurehead of the bohemian life of Greenwich Village, an image she has maintained in the popular imagination.


p. 123. Millay was frantically busy day and night composing poetry, writing and acting in plays, writing love letters, and plotting trysts with lovers from Hartford to New York to Washington, D.C.--so many concurrent liaisons with so many lovers that it makes a biographer cross-eyed to look at her calendar. (How she avoided venereal disease and pregnancy is a question for medical historians. Likely she practiced reliable techniques for satisfying lovers besides coitus, minimizing the risk to herself. She was known to be pregnant only once.)


p. 236. By turns his [her husband, Eugen Boissevain's] letters to her were lyrical, poignant, and ribald—as when he wrote: “Couldn't you take a small handkerchief and put it in your Kitty before you take a bath, and mail it to me? I'm longing for your perfume.”


MJ. Millay [b. Feb 22,1892] uses my mom's word for the period, “the curse,” for her period.


p. 252. MJ. She got into horse breeding and horse racing. Her partner was a man named Brann.


Brann did not know exactly, but she was grieving over George Dillon, and the demise of her erotic power and beauty, and she was increasingly dependent upon opiates to calm her nerves and lift her spirit.


MJ. This Dillon won the Pulitzer for poetry in 1931 and never published another volume. He was her young lover that most annoyed her husband, even though he tolerated the affair and welcomed the man into their lives.


Millay died October 18, 1950. Her husband predeceased her, August 29, 1949 at 69 years old.


56. Booknotes on Secrets of the Flesh, A Life of Colette, Judith Thurman, Ballantine Books, New York, 1999.


This book had to come from Interlibrary Loan. I've had it two weeks, am on page 162, I can't renew it, so I'm making notes on what I've read so far. I think Colette was a free spirit, sexually, sort of, under the influence of her mother, until she married an older man, one of several husbands. I was attracted to early references like this one,


p. xvii. In an essay by Dominique Aury who has also written one of the most troubling and truthful books about a woman's secrets of the flesh—Story of O—I found a passage which suggests a way to understand the paradoxes of Colette's writing about her formative years....


  1. She was one of the first writers to describe the pathology of an anorexic and the poignance of a faked orgasm. In her sixties, Collete opened a beauty salon, sold her signature products in provincial department stores, and did makeovers in a lab coat. (Natalie Barney noted that her clients came out looking twice as old as they went in.) ha ha


p. 17. Having members of her [Colette's mom’s] family marry strangers was a martyrdom she [mom]  always found hard to endure.


p. 40. It was an age of misogyny--”a whole society,” in Zola's words, “hurling itself at the cunt” with a fervor in which lust, rivalry, and aggression mixed with a fear of impotence.


p. 93. Dominique Aury wrote Story of O to dazzle Jean Paulhan, and Mary Shelley created Frankenstein on a dare. The same dare—erotic and literary—would have appealed to Collete, who was aroused, motivated, focused, and indeed inspired, by rivalry all her life.


p. 120. But there are others—spunky girls, self-supporting women of accomplishment—who willingly and inexplicably obliterate themselves for the sake of a second-rate Svengali. The most famous fictional example of such a woman is Reage's O, who, of course,, is not locked up for a mere four hours a day to write best-sellers. She is sequestered by her lover in a Sadean chateau, submitting her orifices to any use her anonymous masters wish to make of them, and they dole out the exigence without any of the indulgence. But they, too, impose “a skillfully managed progression”' of “precise tortures,” asking her at each level, “O, do you consent?” And they remind her that her “being whipped is less for our pleasure than for your enlightenment.”


p. 136. Colette goes on—with a poignancy that doesn't exclude a trace of disdain—to describe the maternal solicitude and the childish dependence that she observed in the lesbian couples she had known: mannish upper-class women whose only experience of parental care and affection had come from their servants, and their younger, mostly working-class protégés. When one compares her statements about Sodom and Gomorrah, she seems to be admiring the aggressive, even sadistic component of male homosexuality while disparaging the consolatory, maternal aspects of lesbianism. Men, in other words, pursue their desire for other men with a phallic sense of purpose and a commitment to transgression, whereas women become lesbians out of frailty or by default—they sink back into the kind of regressive union of mother and child that she had gone to such lengths to escape or deny. When her own daughter admitted that she was a lesbian, Colette would disapprove.


57. Booknotes on The Sexual Life of Catherine M., Catherine Millet, translated from the French by Adriana Hunter, Grove Press, New York, 2003.


I think it was the biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay, which awakened my interest in erotic books by and or about women. As the library only had an e-version of The Story of O, so I bought it on Amazon.


p. 45. Claude told me to read The Story of O, and there were three ways I which I identified with the heroine: I was always ready; my cunt certainly wasn't barred with a chain, but I was sodomized as often as I was taken from the front; and finally, I would have loved her reclusive life in a house isolated from the rest of the world. Instead, I was already very active in my professional life. But the convivial atmosphere of the art world, the facility with which—despite my fears—I formed connections with people, and the fact that these connections could so easily take a physical turn led me to believe that the space in which this sort of activity was carried out was a well-regulated, close world.


p. 224, last page of the Afterward Why and How. On another page I suggest this fantasy: fucking in a station concourse without causing offense to any passersby. Surely the circulation of this book and of conversation around it mean we can envision, within the realm of possibility, a realization of this easing of human relations, an easing facilitated by an acceptance and tolerance of sexual desire, and which some passages in my book represent in a clearly utopic, fantastical way. And surely we should take pleasure and rejoice in this vision.


58. Booknotes on Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt, Chris Hedges, Nation Books, New York, 2015.


Hedges is telling it like it is. He's a prophet in the wilderness. His truth is so raw; he is overlooked by the mainstream. They know him. He used to be a New York Times, Pulitzer Prize winner. Now, he's danger.


Introduction, p. 17. In three previous books, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, Death of the Liberal Class, and Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, I examined a cultural, political, and economic system in terminal decline. I chronicled the rise of totalitarian corporate power, or what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin in Democracy Incorporated calls “inverted totalitarianism.”


p. 22. Increasingly freakish weather patterns ensure that storms like Sandy—which resulted in some $42 billion in property and infrastructure damage, as well as 147 direct deaths—will become routine.


p. 25. As we descend into a world where we can depend less and less on those who hold power, movements like Occupy will become vital.


p. 26. The consequences of worsening climate change, along with stagnant and declining economies, will trip mass migration, widespread famine, the spread of deadly infectious diseases, and levels of human mortality that will dwarf those of the Black Death, which between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries ravaged Asia and Europe.


p. 68. Our inability, as citizens, to influence power in a system of corporate or inverted totalitarianism, along with the loss of our civil liberties, weakens the traditional political vocabulary of a capitalist democracy. The descent of nearly half the country into poverty or near-poverty diminishes the effectiveness of the rhetoric about limitless growth and ceaseless material progress. It undermines the myth of American prosperity. The truths are dimly apparent. But we have yet to sever ourselves from the old way of speaking and formulate a new language to explain old language like a weapon and employ the institutions of power and organs of state security to perpetuate itself.


MJ. Here's a characterization of Van Jones I didn't know,

p. 94. The physical eradication of the Occupy encampments, the attempt to marginalize the protesters from the wider society, the use of figures such as Anthony Kapel “Van” Jones to co-opt the language of the Occupy movement and funnel energy into a dysfunctional electoral process—all these strategies fit the classic outline of a counterrevolutionary agenda.


p. 115. MJ: trying to figure out what side Marcus Garvey is on?


This is the nadir. William Trotter and Du Bois along with Ida B. Wells-Barnett, were going at Booker T tooth and nail. Look at the fights between [Marcus] Garvey and Dubois, or Garvey and A. Philip Randolph [the guy who organized Pullman conductors.]


p. 116. “Garvey used to say that as long as black people were in America the masses of black people, the poor and the working class, would never be treated with respect, decency, or fairness,” [Cornell] West noted.


p. 129. Judge Loretta Preska, who would later oversee the case of the hacker Jeremy Hammond, denied Hashmi bail.


. 132. Constitutionally protected statements, beliefs, and associations are now a crime. Dissidents, even those who break no laws, can be stripped of their rights and imprisoned without due process. It is the legal equivalent of preemptive war. The state can detain and prosecute people not for what they have done, or even for what they are planning to do, but for holding religious or political beliefs that the state deems seditious.


p. 181. Do these news organizations [The New York Times, The Guardian, El Pais, Le Monde, and Der Spiegel] believe that if the state shuts down organizations such as WikiLeaks and imprisons Manning and Assange, traditional news outlets will be left alone?


p. 183. Manning's sentence once again confirmed the inversion of our moral and legal order, the capitulation of the press, and the misuse of the law to prevent any oversight or investigation of official abuses of power, including war crimes.


p. 192. There is no hope, this sentencing [of Jeremy Hammond] showed, for redress from the judicial system, elected officials, or the executive branch.


p. 211. Reinhold Niebuhr wrote that those who defy the forces of injustice and repression are possessed by “a sublime madness” in the soul “which disregards immediate appearances and emphasizes profound and ultimate unities.”


p. 213. Socrates' judges could not grasp the inner compulsion—the sublime madness—that drove Socrates to risk his life for the truth. They failed to grasp the central Socratic paradox: that it is better to suffer wrong than to do wrong.


59. Booknotes on A Curious Mind: The secret to a bigger life, Brian Grazer & Charles Fishman, Simon &n Schuster, New York, 2015.


By page 59, I wrote: I'm almost ready to stop reading. I'm tired of being pounded by his use of the word “curiosity.” Enuf already!


When I check my library account and realize I have only 4 more days before having to return it to the waiting list at the library, I developed a reading strategy: I'd leaf forward until I came to a famous name. Then, I'd read.


In between famous people's “curiosity conversations”, it was just blah blah blah curiosity. I quickly finished the book, only to find at the end 14 pages of folks he'd interviewed, showing his curiosity. Gosh, there's 21 names on one page times 14 = 294 names. But, then, he's produced a lot of good movies.


60. Booknotes on Dont Trust Don't Fear Don't Beg: The extraordinary story of the Arctic 30, Ben Stewart, The New Press, New York, 2015.


How jaded I am becoming! Like the blurb givers on the back of the book cover, I wholeheartedly respect and admire the dedication and courage of the 30, but the book is not a page turner. They did an action, the Russians captured them, they went to prison, they were pardoned, mostly likely because the Sochi Olympics were on the horizon.


What caught my eye, as an English speaker was a strange usage of “sat” instead of “sitting.” Consider:


p. 220. It swings open, he pushed inside, and before him, sat behind a broad desk, tapping at a computer keyboard, his red face betraying extreme dissatisfaction, is prison governor Popov.


It comes again:


p. 333. Dima is sat in the hotel lobby with the head of the media team, writing a statement for the press.


Is this correct? English usage? What?


Another unfamiliar usage: sawn for sawed. Actually the sentence includes the typo?  “be” for “been,” as well.


p. 226. They're listening for a solid resonating ring—evidence that the metal has not be sawn through.


61. Booknotes on Gobekli Tepe, Genesis of the Gods: The Temple of the watchers and the discovery of Eden, Andrew Collins, Bear & Company, Rochester, Vermont, 2014.


Of note here is that Graham Hancock wrote the Introduction. A demand for this book requires that it be returned, me reading only 80 pages. Today 12/30/2015 I am waiting in line to get the book for the 3rd time.


p. 3-5. Hancock suggests the Sphinx “is not the product of the Fourth Dynasty, when pharaohs such as Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure built the surrounding pyramid complexes, but dates to a much earlier epoch of humankind. It might even be possible that this timeless monument was originally created to gaze at its celestial counterpart, the constellation of Leo, when that noble asterism last housed the equinoctial sun between the eleventh millennium BC and the ninth millennium BC/....

   So the same inspiration behind the construction of the Great Sphinx might also have been present at Gobekli Tepe, leading us to ask whether there is a real connection between these two distant places....

   More than ever before, science is piecing together exactly what occurred during this global catastrophe, which is now firmly dated to ca. 10,900-10,800 BC.


MJ. Again, no mention of Sitchen's flood, occurring circa 11,000 BC.



p. 12. As I climbed Harran's giant occupational mound, which rises above the ruined city, and stared out toward the mesmeric Astronomical Tower.


MJ. When I climbed, perhaps, this place in Harran, where I visited, I observed on the roof top of a nearby home someone sleeping.


Harran was already extremely much as eight thousand years ago, having arrived here from another occupational mound, …


Known as Tell Idris, the very name of this prehistoric mound reveals its association not just with the earliest events of the Bible but also with the angelic beings said to have guarded the Garden of Eden. For Idris is the Arabic name for the antediluvian partriarch Enoch, the great-grandfather of Noah. He is accredited with the authorship of one of the strangest and most mystifying religious texts ever written.

   Called the book of Enoch, it recounts how Enoch, while resting in his bed one night, is approached by two strange beings of angelic appearance. Named Watchers (Hebrew 'irin),they ask him to accompany them on a tour of the Seven Heavens, one of which includes the Garden of Righteousness, where the four rivers of Paradise take their rise, while another leads to the abode of the angels.

   When in the Watchers' heavenly settlement, Enoch is shown a prison in which a whole group of these angelic beings are incarcerated. On asking what crime they have committed, the patriarch is informed that two hundred of their number disobeyed the laws of heaven by descending among mortal kind and taking wives for themselves. As a consequence, these women gave birth to giant offspring called Nephilim (a Hebrew word meaning “those who fell” or the “fallen ones”).

   ...the Rebel Watchers … are said to have taught their mortal wives the arts and sciences of heaven. For this heinous crime, they were rounded up and incarcerated.


MJ. Having just completed Big Tales, I find a resemblance between this tale related in The Book of Enoch and the story The Court of Indra, where the theme of a heavenly being attracted to an earthly being is featured.


p. 34. …. the earliest phases of building activity uncovered at Gobekli Tepe belonged to the epoch known as Pre-Pottery Neolithic A, which began around 9500 BC.


p. 35. With the cessation of the mini ice age, or big chill, ca. 9600 BC, the temperatures rose, bringing about a blooming of the new flora and fauna (in geological terms this point in history marks the transition from the Pleistocene age to the Holocene, which we are still in today).


MJ. I struggle to find any mention of the 11000 BC flood?


p. 52. Is it possible that the H glyph [found on some of the pillars] conveys the connection between two perfectly mirrored worlds, states, or existences linked by a conceived bridge or tunnel, represented by the cossbar between the two “columns”?


p. 71.  ...the bird shown on the pole at Lascaux [in southern France] is Cygnus marking the celestial pole, with the pole itself representing the vertical axis, or sky pole, which turn the heavens and holds up the sky.


p. 73-4. ...representations and murals showing women, goddesses perhaps, giving birth to bull calves at Catal Hoyuk, the Neolithic city on the Konya Plain in southern central Turkey, which dates to ca. 7500-5700 BC.


MJ. I've been there.


   It is a fact, however, that in the early Neolithic, stalagmites and stalactites were removed from cave interiors and carried back to Catal Hoyuk, where they were placed in cult shrines alongside statuettes, bucrania, vulture beaks, and painted frescoes of extraordinary beauty and sophistication.


p. 78. ...the central pillars in Enclosures B, C, D and E (the Felsentempel, or rock temple, located to the west of the main group) all seemed to be aligned just west of north, and , equally, just east of south, in the following manner:

B 337 degrees

C 345 degrees

D 353 degrees

E 350 degrees


MJ. For what it's worth, when I measured the orientation of the so called ??ball court in Crete,

They were offset west of north!!!!!!!!!also.


p. 98. Each bird is thus acting as a psychopomp, an ancient Greek word meaning “soul carrier,” used to describe a supernatural being or creature whose role was to assist a newly deceased soul reach the next world.


p. 104. Absolute confirmation of this pictorial journey into the after life comes from the fact that in 9500 BC, when Scorpius came into view on the western horizon shortly after sunset, the Milky Way's Great Rift would have stretched upward into the night sky to highlight Cygnus as it crossed the meridian on its upper transit at an elevation of approximately 70 degrees. It is almost certainly this relationship between the two constellations that is depicted on Gobekli Tepe's Vulture Stone, especially as the pillar's clown-footed vulture and scorpio are in similar positions to their celestial counterparts (see figure 9.5).


62. Booknotes on Modern Romance, Aniz Ansari with Eric Linenberg, Penguin Press, New York, 2015.


This is another book, which I wait to check out again at the end of 2015, in order to finish it. The title page shows a physical heart. The book's concern with “soul mates” is attractive to me. Chapter 1, Searching for your soul mate.


p. 96. One reason [people stink at online dating] is that people don't always know what they're looking for in a soul mate …


p. 110. Tinder is the site to go on to swipe yes or no to photos of available dates in your area.


p. 126. We are no longer the generation of the “good enough” marriage. We are now looking for our soul mates. And even after we find our soul mates, if we start feeling unhappy, we get divorced.


63. Booknotes on Guantanamo Diary, Mohamedou Ould Slahi, edited by Larry Siems, Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2015.


Alternate title: How America tortures.

I'm unclear what he was confessing to finally, after repeatedly stating he didn't do anything. His eventual “cooperation” brought better treatment, a pillow, books, a TV, movies.


p. 314. It was several weeks before I realized that I'm in jail and not going home anytime soon. As harsh as it was, this step was necessary to make me realize my situation and work objectively to avoid the worst, instead of wasting my time with my mind playing games on me. Many people don't pass this step; they lose their minds. I saw many detainees who ended up going crazy.

   Phase two is when you realize for real that you're in jail and you possess nothing but all the time in the world to think about your life—although in GTMO detainees also have to worry about daily interrogations. You realize you have control over nothing. You don't decide when you eat, when you sleep, when you take a shower, when you wake up, when you see the doctor, when you see the interrogator. You have no privacy; you cannot even squeeze a drop of urine without being watched. In the beginning it is a horrible thing to lose all those privileges in the blink of an eye, but believe me, people get used to it. I personally did.

   Phase three is discovering your new home and family.

   Your family comprises the guards and your interrogators. True, you didn't choose this family, or did you grow up with it, but it's a family all the same, whether you like it or not with all the advantages and disadvantages. I personally love my family and wouldn't trade it for the world, but I have developed a family in jail that I also care about. Every time a good member of my present family leaves it feels as if a piece of my heart is being chopped off. But I am so happy if a bad member had to leave.


p. 353. I deal with everybody according to what he shows me, and not what he could be hiding. With this motto I approach everybody including my interrogators.


p. 369. And if Americans are willing to stand for what they believe in, I also expect public opinion to compel the U.S. Government to open a torture and war crimes investigation.


p. 370. On September 29, 2001, I got a call on my cellphone and was asked to turn myself in, and I immediately did, sure I would be cleared. Instead, Americans interrogated me in my home country, and then the U.S. reached a joint agreement with the Mauritanian government to send me to Jordan to squeeze the last bits of information out of me. I was incarcerated and interrogated under horrible conditions in Jordan for eight months, and then the Americans flew me to Bagram Air Base for two weeks of interrogation ad finally on to the Guantanamo Navy Base BLACKED OUT, where I still am today.


64. Booknotes on Sick in the Head: Conversations about life and comedy, Judd Apatow, Random House, New York, 2015.


I can't say I'm a fan of Apatow's movies. That said, I enjoyed these interviews, some more than others; some I didn't read at all, for example, Eddie Vedder, Harry Anderson, Jeff Garlin, Marc Maron, Michael Che, Miranda July, Spike Jonze. I didn't really know them, so wasn't interested. I will identify the interview I take quotes from. I found if I marked quotes, the individual was deeper than some others.


Garry Shandling, p. 109. He [GS] talked a lot about how the key was to try to get to the emotional core or the truth of each character, which I had never heard before. He taught me that comedy is about truth and revealing yourself …


Harold Ramis. p. 118.  … you assemble everyone you like, and if you're lucky you pick a beautiful place to make a movie or a real interesting place, and then you're with them for months with nothing else to do but focus on the work. It's like an excuse: “Can't drive the kids to school. Can't help you with your homework. I'm working.” I know a director, Marty Brest—even when he was shooting in L.A., he'd move out of his house. He'd just say to his wife, “I'm not going to be any use to you anyway while I'm making this movie.”


p. 119. Doug Kenney is mentioned. He was a founder of National Lampoon, I know from the film at TCFF about Lampoon. I should add he was some kind of troubled genius.


p. 123. Ramis on John Belushi. If you're high all the time, that becomes your sober state.


p. 124. Ramis on Chevy Chase. Growth is hard. I've said this to Chevy. I see him. We bump into each other every couple of years. A few years ago, twenty years after Vacation, and after he's already done Vegas Vacation, he said, “We've got to do something together.” I said, “Well, what are you thinking? And he says, “'Swiss Family Griswold.'” My first thought is, Do I need to do another Vacation movie” Does he need to do another Vacation movie? So I said, “Maybe it would be better to do something you're actually interested in, like an issue in your life.” When you're almost sixty years old there's got to be something more going on.


p. 125. MJ. Ramis, and I can relate to this, in my case, the Fernald School in Massachusetts: As my first job out of college, I worked in a mental institution for seven months. I learned how to deflect insanity, or how to deal with it, and how to speak to schizophrenics, catatonics, paranoids, and suicidal people. It sounds funny, but it really expanded my tolerance for the extremes of human behavior, which turns out to be great training for working with actors.


p. 167. James L. Brooks mentions Andy Kaufman.


p. 396. Roseanne Barr.


Judd. So when you were working, you were so split off—you focused on the work so intensely that you couldn't be present in the other parts of your life?


Roseanne: Correct.


Someone mentioned that Fellini should have stayed with one of the stars of I Vitelloni, Alberto Sorda, so I rented the 8.1 rated movie. It was great!


65. Booknotes on Open Veins of Latin America: Five centuries of the pillage of a continent, Eduardo Galeano, Translated by Cedric Belfrage, Foreword by Isabel Allende, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1973, 1997.


Let me say, this book was a slog. Two pages at a time, I went through depressing details. Finally about page 280, I said basta and returned the book to the library, Isabel Allende, who wrote the Foreword, be damned.


p. 110-11. [Nicaragua]Springfield rifles were stolen from the enemy, and there were plenty of machetes; the flag flew from any handy stick, and the peasants moved through mountain thickets wearing strips of hide called huaraches instead of boots.


MJ. When I bought some in Mexico, huaraches had tire treads for soles.


p. 127. [Latin America] Landlords increase their profits by adopting more modern ways to exploit their properties; as more hands become idle, the gap separating rich and poor only widens.


p. 134. Petroleum continues to be our world's chief fuel, and the United States imports one-seventh of the petroleum it consumes.


p. 141. [Chile] Not one penny had left England to finance this masterpiece of looting.


p. 143. Chile functioned as an appendage of the British economy: the biggest supplier of fertilizer to the European market had no right to its own life. And then a German chemist, sitting in his laboratory, defeated the generals who had won the day on the battlefield. Perfection of the Haber process, which produces nitrates by fixing nitrogen from the air, decisively displaced Chilean nitrate and sent Chile's economy into a tailspin.


p. 179. Nothing roused such British anger as protectionism, and they sometimes gave vent to it in violent language, as during the Opium War against China.


66. Booknotes on America: Imagine a World without her, Dinesh D'Souza, Regnery Publishing, Washington, DC, 2014.


I saw D'Souza being interviewed for 20 minutes on BookTV, and the first question was whether he thought his punishment for committing a felony of illegally contributing to someone's political campaign was just. He answered; I forget how, as I am writing this addition 12/30/15 during the process of assembling Books of 2015..


I heard him talk about interviewing progressives like William Ayers and Ward Churchill. I never liked D'Souza, but I heard enough to take a second look, including checking out this book and his movie 2016. The movie was terrible. Earlier, I could tell he admired Michael Moore's outreach.


This book I am abandoning early on. The author makes distinctions that I don't see or can't grasp as real distinctions. I got to page 28. Here's some passages up until then.


p. 2. Most people, according to Camus, ignore this tragic reality. They deflect the meaninglessness of their lives by engaging in various trivial pursuits. But for morally serious people, Camus says, this deflection is not an option. He proposes that humans must take the absurdity of their lives seriously, and in doing so, they must consider whether to live in tragic absurdity or voluntarily end their lives. Suicide, for Camus, was an ethical choice. (from the chapter “Suicide of a Nation”)


p. 4. They are bringing down America because they [never know who “they” is] genuinely believe that America deserves to be brought down.


p. 6. America is losing its position in the world. The Obama administration is downsizing our nuclear arsenal when other nations are building and modernizing theirs.


MJ. Outrageous! Our “position” in the world depends on the number of nukes we have!


p. 11. I call these men Obama's founding fathers, and they include the former Communist Frank Marshall Davis, the domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, the Palestinian scholar Edward Said, the self-described Brazilian revolutionary Roberto Mangabeira Unger, and the incendiary preacher Jeremiah Wright.


MJ. All guys I like.


While Obama's primary mentor was his dad, he learned chapter and verse of the anti-colonial ideology in America, in Hawaii, and at Columbia University and Harvard Law School, and in Chicago.


MJ. no proof, just innuendo.


p. 14. The core of progressivism, of Obama's philosophy, is a moral critique of capitalism.


MJ. Obama as a progressive? No way!  Coming up, the false distinctions:


p. 22. One side, for example, cherishes economic liberty while the other champions liberty in the sexual and social domain. Nor is it a clash between patriots and anti-patriots. Both sides love America, but they love a different type of America. One side loves the America of Columbus and the Fourth of July, of innovation and work and the “animal spirit” of capitalism, of the Boy Scouts and parochial school, of traditional families and flag-saluting veterans. The other side loves the America of tolerance and social entitlements, of income and wealth redistribution, of affirmative action and abortion, of feminism and gay marriage.


67. Booknotes on Dude, Where's My Country? Michael Moore, Warner Books, An AOL Time Warner Company, New York, 2003.


I check this out. I was looking in the library for the Michael Moore book with an essay, “My love affair with Hillary Clinton,” that he mentioned in Traverse City. I ended up buying 3 of his books to find that essay. It was in Downsize This, Chapter 20, “My Forbidden Love Affair with Hillary.”


p. 37. The only problem with the story [as told by Bush] is that you didn't see the first plane hit the tower—no one saw it live on TV, as the tape wasn't aired until the next day.


p. 114. Bush failed to do his job and it may have cost 3,000 people their lives. That alone should be enough to haul him before an impeachment tribunal.


p. 170. Eighty-three percent of Americans say they are in agreement with the goals of the environmental movement.


68. Booknotes on So, Anyway … , John Cleese, Crown Archetype, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York, 2014.


So, the first 200 pages of this book are … boring. Not until he gets into show business does it become interesting. And I’m still tearing through this as I write 12/30/15; I’m where he and Graham rent a place on Ibiza to write a movie script for David Frost, and JC has to watch the England-Germany World Cup final at a bar full of Germans.


p. 47. This was the Edwardian gentleman's approach to life: courtesy, grace, restraint, the careful avoidance of embarrassing others, non-intrusiveness, considerateness, kindness, modesty—nay, more than modesty, self-effacement; the very things that would disqualify one forever from employment by the Daily Mail.


p. 130. Steal an idea that you know is good and try to reproduce it in a setting that you know and understand. [advice to any young writer]


p. 143. MJ I relate to this from my movie days: But what I liked most was being part of a team, and working with a common aim in a cooperative spirit.


p. 151. MJ. One of a few jokes: In the Victorian era, the sight of a well-turned ankle would arouse men, and some upholders of Christian virtue covered the legs of furniture, lest the sight of a naked lower half of a dining table led to Bacchanalian festivity.


p. 201. MJ. Chosen because “stagehands” are mentioned: Now this scene took place downstage of the front curtain (while stagehands behind it were arranging the set for the next scene), so there wasn't much room, …


p. 234. MJ. A really funny paragraph about getting his stuck-in-their-routine parents to go out to a movie.


One morning, in a desperate attempt to enliven the hours till television-time, I suggested that we might go and see a film that afternoon. It was fascinating to observe the alarm, verging on panic that this caused … They had had a perfectly good, workable schedule for the day: not to do much until, at seven o'clock, we started to watch television, and then bed at ten. Now their plans lay in ruins.


69. Booknotes on I Blame Dennis Hopper: And other stories from a life lived in and out of the movies, Illeana Douglas, Flatiron Books, New York, 2015.


Mike Nichols’ advice to the author, read the following:


p. 2. Vladimir Nabokov: Speak, Memory. Augusten Burroughs: Running With Scissors and Dry.


MJ. Grandfather Melvyn Douglas [MJ, Mel went to the Hollywood numerologist, I would bet, and changed the “i” to a “y”.] said what Mansur says:


p. 86. “Films result from the collective efforts of many human beings.” MJ. See the John Cleese book review.


p. 129. I'll be at an airport with guards going through my bags, making sure I'm not a threat, and suddenly one of the TSA folks will look at me very earnestly and say, Can I ask you something? And I think it's going to be about my illegally stashed weapon, or the pot brownie someone planted on me, and instead he or she will say, “Hey! What's it like to get your face bitten off by Robert DeNiro?” I'm sorry, is that a security question? I'm pretty sure it's not.


p. 139. MJ interesting phrase: “wrap gift.” I gave them to Bob as a wrap gift.


p. 226. The stunning and statuesque Sharon Stone says as she's signing my book, “Don't you look like a little starlet.”


MJ. I remember seeing SS in the production office for The Quick and the Dead and thinking, “She’s more beautiful in real life than on screen!


p. 227. MJ. The Marlon Brando section is really funny.


“I’m a little embarrassed by my weight,” he said. “Do you mind if we order lunch up here? Away from prying eyes? Would that be all right?”


p. 231. We order lunch—Marty and I from the regular menu, Marlon Brando from the Henry VIII portion size: three orders of shrimp cocktail, two plates of pasta, a couple of steaks, three bottles of wine, some salad. I am not kidding.


MJ. After Brando sends her a bushel of roses, she has this conversation with Scorcese's assistant about having sex with Brando, which they both intuited was his purpose in inviting her for lunch:


p. 234. She then launched into the many reasons why this could not happen [lunch] under any circumstances. I will spare you some of the reasons—especially those having to do with imagined sexual positions with a man of his girth and how that could either smother or suffocate me. But mainly it was that I had a boyfriend, that his name was Marty, and that if he ever found I was even thinking of going, he would cook my goose and personally serve it to Mr. Brando!


70. Booknotes on Heretic: Why Islam needs a reformation now, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2015.


Still reading this at the break of year; now, 12/30/15.


So, Hirsi Ali awakened me to the reality of female genital mutilation. I spoke about it at the Jamiat and was blasted by Wali Ali. I stayed away for two years, or was it four years? I’ve proposed a book exchange with her, directed to her Foundation, but no answer yet. Here she takes on Islam from personal experience, and I think hers is the smartest voice on this matter so far.


p. 12. We need to hold Islam accountable for the acts of its most violent adherents and demand that it reform or disavow the key beliefs that are used to justify those acts.


p. 17. Of course, I recognize that these Muslims are not likely to heed a call for doctrinal reformation from someone who they regard as an apostate and infidel. But they may reconsider if I can persuade them to think of me not as an apostate, but as a heretic: one of a growing number of people born into Islam who have sought to think critically about the faith we were raised in.


p. 55. Why is it so hard to question anything about Islam? The obvious answer is that there is now an internationally organized “honor brigade” that exists to prevent such questioning. The deeper historical answer may lie in the fear of many Muslim clerics that allowing critical thought might lead many to leave Islam.


p. 77-78. Indeed, while even Orthodox Jewish rabbis argue that it is impossible to defile the Torah, Muslims believe the opposite—so much so that the charge or disrespecting Muhammad or the Qur’an is enough to incite violent protests, riots, and, frequently, death.

MJ. I suggest substituting the word “murder” for “death.”

p. 94. As the violence committed in the name of Islam is so often justified by the Qur’an, Muslims must be challenged to engage in critical reflections about their most sacred test. This process necessarily begins by acknowledging both its human composition and its numerous internal inconsistencies.


p. 97. Other evidence indirectly supports this theory of later authorship. Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, has argued that a story about Muhammad—in which a Jewish tribe surrendered to the Islamic army in the city of Medina and the Prophet personally beheaded between six hundred and eight hundred prisoners of war—may in fact be a creation of later Muslim rulers, two hundred years after the incident was said to have occurred (627 CE) (This story is not in the Qur’an, but it shows how easily the life of the Prophet could be embroidered long after the fact.)


p. 119. [the 9/11 cowards] In fact they were neither cowards nor heroes—they were religious zealots acting under the deluded belief that they would not suffer at all as the planes collided with the towers, but would go directly to paradise. You cannot call someone a coward who does not fear death but rather longs for it as an express ticket to heaven. Indeed, you cannot define them at all using the usual Western terminology.


p. 120. Ismail Radwan, an Islamic University professor and spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, explains what the reward will be for those who embrace death. “…He sees his place in Paradise. He is shielded from the Great Shock and marries 72 Dark-Eyed [Virgins].


MJ. 72 virgins; I thought Islam limited the number to 4 wives. Or is this “paradise” a whore house with 72 offerings?


p. 124. [culture clash] In apartment complexes, the Dutch were generally meticulous about keeping common spaces free of any litter. The immigrants, however, would thrown down wrappers, empty Coca-Cola cans, and cigarette butts, or spit out the remnants of their chewed qat. The Dutch residents would grow incensed at this, just as they would grow incensed by the groups of children who would run about, wild and unsupervised, at all hours. It was easy for one family to have many children. (If a man can marry up to four wives and have multiple children with each of them, the numbers grow quickly.) The Dutch would shake their heads, and in reply the veiled mothers would simply shrug their shoulders and say that it was “God’s will.” Trash on the ground became “God’s will,” children racing around in the dark became “God’s will.” Allah has willed it to be this way; it is there because Allah has willed it. And if Allah has willed it, Allah will provide. It is an unbreakable ring of circular logic.


p. 127. Until Islam stops fixating on the afterlife, until it is liberated from the seductive story of life after death, until it actively chooses life on earth and stops valuing death, Muslims themselves cannot get on with the business of living in this world.


p. 131-2. Here’s a sampling of acceptable punishments under sharia:

   Beheadings are sanctioned in (sic verse) chapter 47, verse 4, of the Qur’an, among others, which states, “when ye meet the Unbelievers (in fight), smite at their necks”

   Crucifixions are sanctioned in 5:33: “The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land.”

   Amputations are prescribed in 5:38: “As to the thief, Male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime: and Allah is Exalted in power.”

   Stonings are also permitted, according to the hadith Sunan Abu Dawud, book 38, no. 4413: “Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to Ma’iz ibn Malik: Perhaps you kissed, or squeezed, or looked. He said: No. He then said: Did you have intercourse with her” He said: Yes. On the (reply) he (the Prophet) gave order that he should be stoned to death.”

   The Qur’an specifically urges Muslims not to be moved by compassion in cases of adultery and fornication, and decrees a public lashing. Book 24, verse 2, instructs: “The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment.”

   Nor are beheadings, crucifixions, amputations, stonings, and lashings considered to be antiquated punishments. Some or all of them remain fully operational in countries such as Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Sudan, where they are either sanctioned by the state or frequently imposed by the local faithful with tacit official approval.


71. Booknotes on Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Spiegel & Grau, Random House, New York, 2015.


The dude’s moving to Paris!

Following in the footsteps of another black writer, or several.  Reading at years end: 12/31/15, notes incomplete.


p. 5. Specifically, the host wished to know why I felt that white America’s progress, or rather the progress of those Americans who believe that they are white, was built on looting and violence.


p. 8. As for now, it must be said that the process of washing the disparate tribes white, the elevation of the belief in being white, was not achieved through wine tastings and ice cream socials, but rather through the pillaging of life, liberty, labor, and land; through the flaying of backs; the chaining of limbs; the strangling of dissidents; the destruction of families; the rape of mothers; the sale of children; and various other acts meant, first and foremost, to deny you [his son, the object of the book’s narrative] and me the right to secure and govern our own bodies.


p. 29. When I was in trouble at school (which was quite often) she [grandmother] would make me write about it. The writing had to answer a series of questions: Why did I feel the need to talk at the same time as my teacher? Why did I not believe that my teacher was entitled to respect? How would I want someone to behave while I was talking? What would I do the next time I felt the urge to talk to my friends during a lesson?


MJ. That grandmother was divinely guided with that punishment.


72. Booknotes on The Monopolists: Obsession, fury, and the scandal behind the world’s favorite board game, Mary Pilon, Bloomsbury, New York, 2015.


I just checked this book out 12/30/2015, and I haven’t read far enough to fold any page corners marking a good passage, but I have offered a book swap, Murshid for The Monopolists, and the author responded:


Hello Mansur, 


Thank you for the note and congrats on the book. Clearly you understand the amount of work it takes. 


I'm afraid I'm teed up with travel and reporting assignments for the next several weeks, so anything mailed to me runs the risk of being lost, but I will let you know if that changes. 


Best of luck! 



73. Booknotes on American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work, Susan Cheever, Simon & Schuster, 2006.


Susan Cheever was on BookTV talking at Politics and Prose bookstore in D.C. about her latest book Drinking in America. There was a line to check this book out at the library, so I chose an earlier one, attracted by “Bloomsbury” in the title, because as I knew the “Bloomsbury Group” in England was comprised of a special group of writers.


p. 6. They lived and worked with a standard of living almost unimaginable to those of us who have grown up in the twentieth century. By all measures, standards of living stayed more or less the same for hundreds of years until the early 1900s, when they roared forward toward the comforts and opportunities we now take for granted. A world without electricity or effective medicine or dentistry, a world in which infant mortality was normal and most people did not live into middle age, a world without birth control, vaccinations, or central heating, air conditioning, and telephones, was a place where time took on a different quality than it has now. These people were closer to nature than we can ever be, of necessity—and they depended on friends and neighbors because they had to.


74. Booknotes on A Murder at Armageddon: A Judas Thomas Mystery, A.K.A. Chisti, ARC Books, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK and Columbus, Ohio, 2015.


First intro 1) I don't read fiction, but when my touchstone in the SRI, Sufi Ruhaniat International, Saadi Shakur, Neil Douglas Klotz, sent me a copy, I read it. Spoiler: I didn't see it coming that the protagonist's brother would be the murderer. I dogeared pages with a) spiritual practices b) possible errors or c) other.


Second Intro, inspired by an email from the author, forgetting I wrote the above which continues below (see p. 15).


You may have noticed from the list, dear reader of Books in 2015, that they are all non-fiction, save one erotic novel I had to put down. I don’t read fiction unless a friend writes it.

   So I read it, and proofed it, searched for and found many examples at many places where the author used a spiritual practice to characterize one of his characters. A descriptive detail not usually apparent in secular literature. Me likey.

   I folded those pages, as well as those pages which foreshadowed the identity of the murderer. Spoiler alert—not until the end is the murderer unveiled, and I searched in vain for earlier clues as to his identity? Suspense? It didn’t start until near the end.

   Rather, most of the book’s charm is the way the author conveys archeological knowledge of the holy land—its feel, its geography. One is constantly returning to the maps, and measuring the distances from his own personal visit to the holy land.



p. 15. I think this sentence needs repair: I know a man in Taanach, a small village near here, who is discreet and might know something about Shemuel.


p. 40, MJ. The code didn't amount to anything. ...A-L-H-W-A-L-Sh, alhwalsh... like I thought it would.


p. 41. Shemuel convinced me that I could do some good at the temple, but frankly, it seems hopeless. MJ. I thought “seemed hopeless” better.


p. 64. “So, yes, learning the words they respect or fear is how we have adapted and learned to survive. But the language is only part of it. It doesn't work without training the voice and breath a bit, which we do for our ritual chants....”


“As Shemual once told me, the partial truth told in a boring, hypnotic manner is the easiest way to defeat a mind habituated to obeying commands in an empire.”


p. 85. “But this was the way Shemuel taught me. Things don't always make sense when you're following tracks into the unseen. What's true in the inner worlds are true in the outer ones as well sometimes. The prophet, he said, tries to bring the two worlds together.”


MJ. “is true” is better, no?


p. 109. Others take the Shabbat more symbolically. Shemuel taught me to remember the spaciousness, the turning within, of the Holy One on the seventh day.”


p. 117. Yehuda stood and continued to look at the whole group, breathing in his heart as Shemuel had taught him to do when he was worried about the reaction of others to what he was saying.


p. 118. “Well, we I heard that their headman was murdered today” said Yehuda.

MJ. Delete “we” or “I”.


p. 120. “We listen to the voice of Holy Wisdom coming through a woman's voice among us. Shemuel confirmed that this is an important ancient tradition for us to continue.”


p. 142-3. ”Sometimes I remember a few simple things that he taught us—to slow down our breathing, to imagine light in our hearts, to feel joy in our skin.”


p. 148. While they had been on the road, he had only done his meditations in the heart, as they were walking.


p. 152. First he opened a door in his heart to Shemuel himself by breathing in through the top

of his head.


p. 169. MJ. Chapter 19 starts: Mikhael was dead, then goes on: they can't find him; his donkey is missing. The omniscient narrator preempts the narrative!


p. 190. Shemuel taught me how to deal with these attacks, how to find my own center during them. He said that visions were the same whether in dream or in waking. I had to learn how to test them, to take control of them and to make sure they were from the Holy One, rather than from somewhere else.


p. 196. Proofreading: punishment, 9 lines from the bottom of the page has two “n”s.


p. 247. MJ. Plotpoint noted: “Ioannis … could go back to Yerushalaim and report it all to my old Roman master.” It's the second mention that Ioannis was  a spy, and at this point, we don't know which way, for sure, he'll go.


p. 265. Proofreading: over, 6 lines from the bottom.


p. 282. “I had to kill him.” says Benyamin. MJ. Really? And Mikhael too, “He made me kill him.”


p. 290. MJ. Who killed Benyamin?

From Benyamin's side, Yehuda saw a slow trickle of blood, another red crescent produced with a fine, sharp blade.


p. 298. MJ. The author setting the table for a sequel, as I predicted:


I have enough [money] to travel east to Parthia and beyond. I've heard that some of the old Israelites left this area after the Assyrians and Babylonians conquered us and headed all the way to the Indus River Valley, where they settled among a sympathetic race. I might just travel there....