March 14, 2007
bomb cloud New Book: VietVet Memoir Gun-Totin Chaplain
I started reading an interesting book, Leap, but at first didn't think I'd like it because it is about aging Baby Boomers and what will they do with the rest of their lives. My experience thus far in articles I've read about that elusive class of boomers is that they are pretty selfish and narcissistic.

I had actually read an article about the author; Sara Davidson. She's a good writer and obviously has an "in" with publishers, etc. even though she "poor mouths" lots about her profession.

Davidson has crafted LEAP in a way which is very interesting. However, understanding the book business makes me realize much of what she has said rings true even if there is a whining aspect to it.

Amazingly, Davidson's level of experience is enormous but she has fought the same struggles according to her (which I doubt) that most writers do: hooking editors, publishers or whoever might be interested in a project. Obviously, there's much we don't know but she's not reticent in detailing her trials and tribulations.

Davidson has written four other books. The only one I've purchase is Loose Change. Davidson, wrote Loose Change in 1997 and made quite the splash;but, since then, nothing has worked out as she might have wanted. She has had two marriages, and other issues; however, she is the living example of what baby boomers face and how they deal with it.

LEAP reminds me a little of Gail Sheehy's Passages which also about aging baby boomers. Davidson interviewed boomers and gleaned their views of what life holds for them as they age. I did smile a bit as some of her subjects hit a provocative note. She interviewed such notables as Hanoi Jane(Jane Fonda), Carly Simon, Tom Hayden(Fonda's former husband,political activist, CA assemblyman and senator). These were all enlightening interviews but the best stuff came from the non-celebrity type interviews, but I didn't read any interviews with "poor" folks.

The theme of LEAP ,at least as I see it, is "change". Change, I believe, is the secret in everything. All of us can change but unfortunately, most of us don't.

The good news about most of her interviewees is that many of them have indeed changed course as they've needed too. For instance, Carly Simon, one of my favorite artists, had breast cancer, etc.; her career was waning but then did a CD of Sixties hits that had great success.

I recommend LEAP because it does make one think. As books go, my personal taste run differently. I'm now reading Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book,Infidel. To compare, these two books might be apples and oranges but can hardly help it. Leap is trite American upper class angst. LEAP is "so what"; however I did think the sexual issues discussed are relevant. Infidel is in your face and about street wise survival and so relevant. (March 13 2007)
final exam
FINAL EXAM by Dr. Pauline Chen is a good and sobering read. The thesis is that doctors are so geared to life that they don't know how to help their patients face death.

Chen says that doctors fail patients miserably at the end of life. I think I love this woman. In my next life, perhaps! Let's just say Dr. Chen and I agree on the issue of prolonging life and terminal illness.
(see article: Nobody Wants To Talk About Death)

Chen is a liver transplant surgeon and is on the cusp of providing life to those almost dead waiting on a transplant.

She doesn't give the docs any slack especially when it comes to how they treat the terminally ill, the turf battles among specialties, and the ritualized hazing(ridicule, harassment) of residents. I think I know what she means because I watch Scrubs, ER, and Grey's Anatomy.

I do like this book and I think everyone should read it. KT(Jan 31, 2007)
   About The Book, Fiasco
book jacket fiasco
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq
Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (Hardcover) by Thomas E. Ricks

Just when you think that everyone in the world has written a book about Iraq, another one shows up. When I think of all of them, I smile. Enough already!

However, one book, I am tempted to read is Fiasco which basically is about how the military leadership failed to anticipate the insurgency and continued to fight it with conventional methods which only made matters worse.

I heard the author of Fiasco, Thomas Ricks, interviewed on NPR by Terry Gross(my favorite interviewer). Ricks was entertaining and interesting. He reminds me of my brother, who can tell a great story.

Ricks told about this interesting encounter which almost tells the whole tragic episodic story of Iraq. Someone was trying to talk to Paul Bremer in the beginning about a possible insurgency and the guy made the mistake of mentioning Vietnam and Bremer goes berserk and says, "I don't want to talk about Vietnam. This is not Vietnam. This is Iraq." Thanks a lot!

Of course, Bremer wrote his own book, excusing himself for his own foibles including disbanding the Iraqi Army which is now thought, by most everyone who thinks, to have been a colossal mistake.

Ricks told story after story on NPR with several of them almost making me sick. According to Ricks, the ever persistant and prevailing insurgency is mainly because of our own bungling. Of course, Ricks is not telling any of us who have been paying attention anything we don't already know.

Where Ricks and I are definitely on the same sheet of music is the feeling, that, especially in the beginning, the powers that be took a very winnable and quick exiting strategy stage right and screwed the war up unmercifully.

Ricks, the Washington Post Pentagon correspondent has done his homework, and afterall, writes for a publication, which I think, is fairly friendly to the Iraqi decision makers. For those that cannot be convinced on how we have f....d-up the Iraq war, maybe they might pay a little attention to this guy, but maybe not.

Ricks says that after Vietnam, we were determined to totally ignore the lessons we had learned. I know that to be true. I happened to be at the Army's Command and General College when Vietnam fell. It was a sad day as suddenly we Vietnam veterans grasped the fact anew that our efforts had been in vain and our friends had died in vain.

In fact, the more I think about it, what makes me go along with Ricks is that during my year at Command and General College, we never talked about Vietnam. It was as though it didn't exist. In other words, we threw away any lessons we learned. And, the military was definitely complicit in this. I can remember a speech given by the Commander, a two star general whom I had served with in Vietnam. He more or less spanked us and intimated that he didn't want to hear about Vietnam anymore and get over it.

I have only listened to an interview and read a couple of reviews, but I'm determined to read this book. Ricks indicts the military "higher ups" for being so "go along" with the idea that the insurgency didn't exist and things were great. I can still remember watching the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on TV and thinking, "it is like the Secretary of Defense makes his spiel and then turns to the Chairman, 'OK, reinforce what I've said.'' - the result is a Joint Chief with no opinion of his own and perhaps looking like a puppet.

I may be a little harsh and not sure what I would want these guys to say, but what they did say surely didn't help and we're still losing soldiers.

Ricks tells this one story of when Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz are in Iraq during the first year of the war. On this particular red carpet visit, they assured the press of this "amazing progress that has been made." And, they are doing it, "looking over white tablecloths with candelabras with a buffet of lamb, rice and veggies, swaddled in the tight security of the Green Zone." Ricks says that almost for a moment, it was easy to believe them. Well, a couple or so years later, it ain't so easy to believe. KT (August 25, 2006)

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