Monday, May 25, 2009

Books I'm Reading 15) Always Looking Up by Michael J Fox

It's hot tonight. Stifling hot, so I figured I'd take the opportunity of sitting in my bedroom/sauna to finish off this book. A while back I read Lucky Man and I have to admit a certain level of interest just based on that, but I read it because I'm constantly amazed by how someone who has faced living with Parkinson's for nearly two decades now can still be so optimistic.

I'm not an optimistic person and to read the little stories that Fox tells, well to be honest, they kinda make me want to smack him. The last thing an angry person wants to see is a happy person and despite my lack of degrading neurological illnesses, I'm still kind of an angry person.

But I did like this book. At times it's disjointed. It jumps between different periods in the life of someone who's been in the public eye for, well for quite a long time. I mean hell, my kid may not know the reference to the "Barack to the Future" t-shirt, but I do. The temporal confusion aside, the stories are heartwarming and the lessons numerous. If only I can make myself remember them tomorrow given that it's 3:30 and I'm still a little drunk.

But it's also the story of being able to triumph over adversity not by doing something gargantuan. I mean he is, the foundation he has is doing astounding amounts of work to find a cure for Parkinson's but this book is more a reflection. An appreciation of so many things that we do in our lives and take for granted. It's an appreciation for memories and experiences that bring meaning to life. And in that it's a great book and a great inspiration to take stock of my own life.

One thing I do have to remember though. It's been stuck in my head since I came across it in this book, there's a section where Fox talks about making the decision to leave Spin City. He was at a beach and saw this turtle. For whatever reason, that idea of a "turtle moment" sticks with me. Perhaps in part because it reminds me that sometimes the random does have to have a pull in our lives. That sometimes it pays to be fate's bitch.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Books I’m Reading 14) Striking Back by Aaron Klein

I’m a fan of the CBS show The Unit, which incidentally appears to be on the chopping block for next season which kinda bums me out since it found a good cast and a nice niche in TV drama, but I digress. This book is something of an interesting mix between historical recount with good research and a dramatization of Israeli assassination missions stemming from their response to the terrorist attack against the Israeli Olympic team at the 1972 Olympics. I say it’s well researched and I’m pretty sure it is but honestly didn’t really go through many of the notes. Still it sounds good. I bring up the TV show here because the commonalities of the fictional team in that show and the real Israeli team known as “The Unit” are less commonly realized.

The first half of this book is mostly devoted to historical recount of the 1972 Munich Olympics terrorism event and an analysis that pretty much slams the Germans. In something of an irony, the German anti-terror groups since then have developed a solid reputation since the fallout of this sad event.

And I have to admit I’m feeling like kind of a wuss while reading some of this getting choked up during the recount. I’m pretty sure that some of the dramatic liberty is taken with the actual recount, rather than a simple bland historical recount, but it serves to better tell the story.

A little more than half of the book is devoted to a recount of different Israeli missions that came as a result of the 1972 attacks. It’s told less from a historical perspective and more from a dramatic angle. Repetitious at times (for example there’s multiple mentions of the fact that Mossad SOP is to have the getaway car exactly two 90 degree turns away from the site of an assassination, and honestly do I care if it’s two or three? Not really) it still tells a compelling narrative, especially to those who aren’t very familiar with it.

Overall it’s a good book but one that is missing in some key areas. There’s a little discussion of the political debate regarding Israel’s terrorist assassination policies but not much on the moral side. Klein does a quick brush over talking about the three justifications for such action (deterrence, prevention and revenge) but no real discussion of the moral nor the practical consequences of such action. While I have great respect for the skills of Israeli commandos, I think a greater discussion of state sponsored vs non-state terrorism is warranted. There’s a significant difference in how one can react to state vs non-state actors that deserves to be flushed out. How does one react to a group which has no bases? You can’t launch an airstrike against a group which has no physical buildings to destroy. How does one attempt to minimize the inevitable collateral damage and what is an acceptable level of collateral damage? How does one objectively distinguish between the justifiable (personal opinion here) deterrence and prevention rationales and the pointless (again personal opinion) actions of revenge?

Overall it’s a good read and one worth the time if you’d like a good dose of military history but told as a drama. And anyway it’s always nice to think about a future Israeli PM (Ehud Barak) as a cross-dresser.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Playing for Change: A Change Gonna Come

Seal did a cover of this song and if boinking Heidi Klum isn't a good enough reason to learn this song, I don't know what is....I swear every single time I see or hear a reference to seals or Seal there are two things I think about: Heidi Klum and Canadians clubbing baby Seals, both of which are just great thoughts

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Books I'm Reading 13) Round Ireland With a Fridge by Tony Hawks

A man walks into a bar with a fridge...and that's not the start of a joke. It's a story that brings as much amusement as it does confusion.

I should start by noting for those like me who are more familiar with Tony Hawk that the author of this amazing story is a Brit performer, comic and musician, not a skateboarding market unto himself. And this small fact should make it clear that I love the absurd. And considering it's the first day of my vacation this a was a great way to start.

The back story is this: on his only previous trip to Ireland Mr. Hawks saw someone hitchhiking with a fridge and so make a 100 pound bet with a friend that he could similarly circumnavigate Ireland with an unplugged household appliance.

From cattle auctions to surfing (not a typo) to drinking with the fridge in tow, Mr. Hawks writes what is probably one of the best travel books I've ever read. I'm not sure if it's the notion of finding out about the people of Ireland though following through on a drunken bet or the fact that it worked but this is a highly amusing and whimsical read. Besides free beer and being able to dodge parking tickets seems like a nice thing to me.

Makes me think something of Will and the time wasted trying to make the perfect black and tan and makes me want to try my own lunatic wandering around Ireland.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Books I'm Reading 12) Minority Report by Phillip K Dick

This one I don't have an Amazon link for. I'm sure it's available, but probably only in some kind of collected works volume.

I was sitting last night drinking and Pat had brought up this thing that MIT is developing called the "sixth sense" which is an incredible piece of wearable technology. has a nice little demo video. It's impressive.

Anyway so Pat has seen the demo and mentioned how the little built in projector and gesture based interface was like something out of Minority Report and it got me thinking about the book so when I got home I had to pull out my copy and read it. Took a little while to finish.

I have to be honest, I've never been able to actually watch the whole move but I love the book. PKD has a great way of imagining the future without really giving away all the details so his ideas inspire others to fill in the details on their own and thus build the future that he imagined. And if that's not a big enough mind-fuck, consider the topic of Minority Report is that of precognition being used to stop crime. And in the book, the three precognitives have three different "reports" each of which is impacted by knowledge of the others.

The idea being that knowledge of the future will invariablly change the future. Now jump back to the idea of science fiction giving ideas to scientists and those scientists then being able to create the future from what was once an imagined fiction of the future. Kinda trippy huh? Or maybe I'm just still drunk.