Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Book Review: In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson

I wish I had discovered Bill Bryson's writing much earlier. I already have another of his books on order (A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail). Bryson's writing is witty and at times hysterical, as he takes us across the mysterious, engrossing and never ending source of gripping, tragic, tragic-comic, and comic stories that are Australia's history, people, land and unimaginable numbers of flaura and fauna. He is self-effacing but is willing to "efface" others when justified, not holding back when his encounters leave something to be desired.

He explores the Australian character via anecdotes of personal experience and history, and gives a comprehensive perspective and understading of this most unusual and mostly ignored continent/country. If you are interested in a voyeuristic experience that goes beyond the standard American's knowledge about Australia of kangaroos, Steve Irwin and the Bee Gees, and want to be laughing and enthralled at the same time, read this book.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Barack Oprah!ma

So what do you folks think of the Oprah phenomenon (and I'm not referring to how television seems to add sixty pounds to Ms. Winfrey, while only ten to the average pundit)?

Is this the beginning of a new trend? Will celebutards, rather than party politicians, choose our candidates in the future? What is the demographic that is attracted to a Winfrey-endorsed candidacy, and how will this affect the future of electoral debates? On a gut level (and gut-levels are the most appropriate when referring to a public persona like Oprah), I am uncomfortable with a television personality having this kind of impact and potentially affecting the outcome of the presidency. In my view, Obama is a marginal candidate, offering much style, especially charisma, over substance. You can only take his schtick so far, and he's not my number one candidate to deal with all the pressing issues faced by this country.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Book Review: The Age of Lincoln

Sometimes well written history is more dramatic and impressing than well written fiction. The Age of Lincoln is a great examlpe of this. The book reads like a historical dramatization at times as Burton weaves personal accounts, letters and other documents from the main actors in the drama and other sources into the narrative of the antebellum, Civil War and postbellum events. It is a sobering account of the reality of war, which was romanticized by the opposing sides as they preapred for the inevitable struggle that would follow secession. Burton also brings to life the deep passions that possesed both sides, including the sincere belief that their side was favored by God. You are left with an understanding of how these 40 to 50 years in American history profundly affected multiple aspects of America's future, some issues which remain unresolved to this day. It's a must read if you want a deeper understading of Lincoln, southern and northern mindsets, the role of African Americans, states rights, immigration, southern and northern economies and the many other components that made up the complex historical landscape of this period of our nation's history.