Book Review — The Economist’s Hour: The Rise of a Discipline, the Failures of Globalization, and the Road to Nationalism

The Economist’s Hour: The Rise of a Discipline, the Failures of Globalization, and the Road to Nationalism by Binyamin Appelbaum is the study of post World War II economics centered on the United States.  Appelbaum is the lead writer on business and economics for the Editorial Board of The New York Times. He joined the board in March 2019. He was previously a Washington correspondent for the Times, covering the Federal Reserve and other aspects of economic policy.

For most of the history of the United States, economists had little to do with the practical aspects of economic policy.  Hidden away in basements and never in positions of power, in fact, in 1972 George Schultz became the first economist to serve as the Secretary of the Treasury.  The recovery of Europe and Japan (and Asia in general) from World War II ended the US reign as the global producer and with it an economic turndown.  Economic battles began to emerge as Keynesian policy began to show cracks and fail.

Appelbaum examines several areas of the economy or economic issues in this book.  One of the first issues addressed in this book is the draft.  Today the all volunteer military is easily seen as superior to conscription.  Life in the military is hard enough with people who want to be there, let alone people put there against their will.  The question becomes, is it more cost effective? That became the struggle.

The cost of human life is another issue for economists.  There are the insurance aspects of that cost but it also plays a role in regulation.  For example, if a safety feature on a car can save a certain amount of lives and costs a certain amount of dollars where does the cost in saved lives exceed the cost of the feature.   Adding $50 to a cost of a car to save 1000 lives a year is easily worth it.  Adding $1,000 to the cost of a car to save five lives a year would probably not be worth the cost.

The Economist’s Hour gives the reader an easy to understand study of contemporary economics and its history.  It is not a Friedman versus Marx book, but Friedman versus Keynes.  It is a practical application of (capitalist) economics and history. — from interest rates to antitrust.  Appelbaum demonstrates to the reader the reach of economics in our everyday life and recent past.

 

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Poetry Review — The Best American Poetry 2019

The 2019 edition of The Best American Poetry begins with an impassioned introduction by David Lehman on political correctness in today’s society. Major Jackson is the guest editor this year and poses the theme of artistic dignity vs street cred. With both of the introductions, I was expecting the poetry to follow suit. The poetry, however, doesn’t seem to have the punch I was expecting from the introductions. Although very modern in form and seemingly less conservative, although not less controversial, then past editions, this does not seem to be a “best of” collection. Rather than the more themed collections of past years, this year’s edition seems to cover a wide spectrum, like a survey. It could be the “street cred” of this edition that has left me, for the first time, feeling slightly disappointed. Maybe like music readers develop an ear for only certain types of poetry. Perhaps, it is just me getting old and clinging to the more traditional type of poetry rather than embracing the new. A few poems did stand out from the many; most notably Deborah Landau’s “Soft Targets.”

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Book Review — The Watchers of the Black Rite

A short book that manages to grab on to all the 1980s horror movie themes. The story revolves around an area that was formerly a state park and now owned by a mysterious corporation. People have gone missing and there is something that isn’t quite right about the park. A sister tries to patch up a relationship with her younger brother who has recently visited the park with a friend and stumbles into something sinister. Secret dark agencies, an unsuspecting town, violent murder, teenagers experimenting with sex and magic, and a mysterious glue round out this portion of The Watchers of the Black Rite. A well-done bit of horror with more to come.

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Poetry Review — On a Moonlit Night in the Antilles: Poems Inspired by the Caribbean

Schiller presents her love story to the three islands of the former Dutch West Indies in this collection of verse and art. The poetry is unintimidating and very well supported by the watercolor art of  Skaidra Zayas.  Ships and slavery, sugar and starlit skies pepper this collection of history and natural beauty.  The poems range from simple odes to native creatures to the deeper and more complex “Galileo’s Moons.” For the reader unfamiliar with the islands,  Schiller presents a brief history as well as a brief autobiography.  It’s rare to find a themed collection of poetry that flows this smoothly and naturally without the hint of stiffness or forced wording.

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Book Review — Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds: 100 New Ways to See the World


Ian Wright presents many interesting looks at our world and culture in Brilliant Maps for Curious Minds. Maps are able to convey much more meaning in a smaller space than words. Our minds seem to grasp a map of the world and we recognize Canada, China, Japan, Brazil, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, and so on. That line drawing of political borders of the world contains much more information than what readily appears. We see the lines forming the border of France and think Paris, wine, Notre Dame, Camus, Louis XIV, Napolean, and the Eiffel Tower. The simple line maps trigger shortcuts to information in our brains.

When additional information is added to the map, it becomes much more. Listing the countries that have a population smaller than Greater Tokyo would fade from memory quickly, but seeing the countries shaded in on a map leaves a much stronger impression. A simple map explains the difference between England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom more readily than words. Sometimes maps can mislead because a three-dimensional globe cannot be made two-dimensional without losing accuracy. A set of maps here show the real size of continents against their size in commonly used Mercator Projections. Greenland is nowhere near as large as it appears and Africa is much larger. All the landmass of the world can easily fit in the Pacific Ocean.

The maps in this book explore many aspects from average female height in nations to which countries have relations with North Korea and Israel. There is also a map that displays the languages of India and the original plan for its partition. There are maps of trading partners and countries with a GPD greater than California. Wright presents an informative and entertaining look at the political, cultural, economic, and geographical aspects of our planet using only maps and legends.

Available November 1, 2019

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Vacances Permanentes

I am still reading but have gotten to the point where all my mandatory reviews have been completed and I am not taking on any new material.  I will still be posting short reviews and comments on my GoodReads page  and  Twitter

Thank you for your support and visits

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Poetry Review — Opposite: Poems, Philosophy and Coffee

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British poet Helen Mort set out to write something about poetry that many do not see or haven’t seen since the times of the ancient Greeks — the connection between poetry and philosophy. Poetry explains and examines with rhythm, rhyme, emotion, and imagery. Philosophy speaks in complex thoughts and in a language that one needs to learn much like a mathematician or a physicist. In ancient times, philosophy, theatre, and poetry shared a common root in a pantheon of gods. Today, philosophy, using the same theme, can be compared to a seminary lecture and poetry to a cathedral’s ornate stained glass windows. They both tell the same story but in a different manner.

Mort and editor Aaron Meskin exchanged philosophy papers for poetry. Mort would read an article by or from Meskin and then would try and capture its meaning in a poem. It was not always easy, and I imagine, at times unsuccessful. In this edition, Mort writes a poem and has a philosopher interpret and define it in a philosophical manner. Luckily for the reader, the philosophers keep it light enough and readable for the layman to understand. The subjects vary from motherhood to tattoos and everything between. Mort even approaches the subject of rape with the song “Chalet Lines” and how the word was made glassy and elegant and rolled smoothly like a marble. A.W. Eaton of the University of Chicago follows up Mort’s poem with art history and that a large number of paintings portraying sexual violence that are made glossy and elegant in their own way.

For lovers of poetry and philosophy, Opposite is an enjoyable read that shows there is still connectivity between the two disciplines. Mort earned her Ph.D. from Sheffield University and is the author of a novel, two poetry collections, and the editor and contributor to several poetry and literature projects. Meskin is the Professor of Philosophical Aesthetics at the University of Leeds. Biographies of the other contributors are included in the book. Coffee, well, coffee is the lubricant that keeps poets and philosophers talking, thinking, and writing.

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