Tag Archives: books

Rabbit Holes of History: Norsemen, Dark Ages, Great War, War in Pacific etc.

*** Study Notes from Rabbit Holes including Norsemen, Dark Ages, Great War, and War in Pacific etc ***

Over the past while, whilst dealing with this illness, I’ve gone down deep into “rabbit holes” about various segments of history.

Went deep into Norse history from early viking expeditions to Orkneys and Hebredies in search of (literally) greener pastures, to invasions of Northumbria, East Anglia, Mercia, Francia and expeditions to Russia including trading with Middle East – Also their steel forging skills – All through to the Norman invasion with William the Conquero. Then Viking voyages to North Atlantic away from Europe and to North America. Also learned about new satellite archaeology techniques used for finding settlement sites in eastern Canada. There will be remarkable discoveries in the next decade which will rewrite books.

Then went deep into “dark” ages to the founding of what is now modern western Europe – roughly from post-Roman to Charlemange. I was specifically interested in how a culture grows up around the ruins of a much greater culture. Like you’re a dirt farmer in what is now England and you look around at lovely aqueduct and empty baths while you try to figure out how to get clean water. Makes me wonder if we’re living in a “dark ages” or we’re the Romans.

Then deep into the “Great war” and the unrest and revolutions which happened in the aftermath which broke down monarchies and gave rise to nationstates… But also produced situations which led to what we now call World War II through rise of fascism, totalitarianism, communism and showed the falls of capitalism through the depression. Each of these flavors contributed in away to the events that transpired. (Also Hitler’s home movies and i’ve already absorbed everything about art theft during this era).

Then deep into the relationship between Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Winston Churchhill and Josef Stalin and how they had to jockey amongst themselves to convince the others of the importance of their different priorities… Also deep into the north African campaigns through the desert – especially the desert expeditionary unit (mostly New Zealanders) who lived for months at a time in uncharted areas in difficult conditions to gather intelligence. They did receive a rum ration though.

And also I am continually unpacking my knowledge of the war in the Pacific… Most recently started with “Fall of Japan” a massive tome which chronicles – in great nuanced detail – the events in Japan from the day after Nagasaki bombing to the signing on Missouri (Aug. 6-30 1945).

As you might expect, lots of efforts to raid the palace, people convinced the emperor was a body double or coerced, dozens of ritual suicide by high-ranking officials, people going into hiding, renegade bands of soldiers holding tough, and back channel diplomacy actions trying to smooth things over for an inevitable fate. Including all the secret communication machinations used to finally get messages back-and-forth between the right people to effectuate the surrender and peace and landing etc.

Then watched film called Emperor – this began as MacArthur and his crew were landing at Atsugi after the signing and follows the story of a General Bonner Fellows who was tasked with determining whether Emperor Hirohito would be held to trial or not. Of course he had to wrangle between Tojo (who just had tried to kill himself but was “saved” in time to be tried and executed, and Kanabe (?), the previous prime minister, and all the militarists and hard core zealots who insisted on vague answers and didn’t understand that really they didn’t *really* want to try Hito but they needed an legitimate excuse not to do so.

Also Tommy Lee Jones as MacArthur wasn’t too bad actually, and they dramatized the famous meeting between the Emperor and The Supreme Commander with only one dedicated translator between them. And they re-created the famous photograph.

Then, I’m onto a book called “Supreme Commander: MacArthur’s Triumph in Japan” which doubles back over the previous bit and starts with the planning of the signature ceremony on the USS Missouri and into his landing at Atsugi and motorcade (with thousands of Japanese soldiers turning their backs in respect) and starting to issue his edicts to manage the situation and deal with a starving population.

Still working on this one.

A few notes include (from a civilian peacenik perspective):

The rivalry between Army and Navy is far more vast than I realized. We civilians think of the Armed Forces as fairly unified and not completely discrete, or/and even rival, units. Of course this is most evident in the rivalry between MacArthur and Nimitz but also amongst the rank and file – especially jr officers seeking to climb the ladder.

The Tokyo firebombings must’ve been even more miserable way to go then the Atomic bombs further south. Both suck. Also glad Eleanor Roosevelt pushed so hard to spare Kyoto from the bombs.

The Russians joining the war against Japan the day after Nagasaki and still expecting a seat at the negotiation table so to speak. Funny Russians.

The Chinese Reds filling the power vacuum left by Chinese army instantly after the bombs – even while the news was still travelling to POW camps around Asia. The commandants of the camps did not know quite what to think when Allied forces started parachuting in to demand release.

The two-men chosen by Japan to sign the surrender document: the diplomat with the wooden leg who had to get from the US Destroyer to a launch via a bosun’s chair, and then try to maintain dignity wall climbing up a ladder on the side of the Missouri while wearing a cutaway coat and a top hat.

MacArthur’s choice of guests to be on board at the signing was very specific and included the Canadian doctor (who signed on Canada’s behalf) who had done the surgery on the affirmation Japanese diplomat’s leg.

He also made sure to invite a bunch of generals who got their ass kicked in the war including the poor bastard who was left on the Philippines (Wainwright whom MacArthur greeted with a “Hey Skinny!”) when MacArther split to Australia, plus the British general who had to surrender Singapore when they were caught unaware.

As per above: Didn’t realize MacArthur had fcked up and ignored orders after Pearl Harbor. Stationed in the Philippines, he didntorder a full alert and, as a result, the Philippines was destroyed quickly by the Japanese who were well ready for the invasion.

MacArthur’s move of exiting the plane with no weapons was a powerful move. Oh also, MacArthur had Admiral Perry’s US flag expedited from the Smithsonian to have on display on the Missouri. Nice nuanced touch which was noted by the Japanese who, after the ceremony, discussed amongst themselves they would have treated their vanquished enemy so kindly and respectfully. They concurred that they would not have and that convinced them to cooperate with the victorious allies.

I’m interested to continue on with this work and to see how MacArthurs “Republican” views were instrumental in outline things like brewing and hemp production in Japan.

From Truth Dig comes Chris Hedges Favorite Books

From Truth Dig comes Chris Hedges Favorite Books

This booklist includes Ulysses, Heart of Darkness, Moby Dick and other classics.
Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

The Oxford Shakespeare

By William Shakespeare

The Oxford Shakespeare is the ultimate anthology of the Bard’s work: the most authoritative edition of the plays and poems ever published.

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

Heart of Darkness

By Joseph Conrad

Heart of Darkness, a novella written by Joseph Conrad, tells the story of Charles Marlow, an Englishman who took a foreign assignment from a Belgian trading company as a ferry-boat captain in Africa.

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

Kolyma Tales

By Varlam Shalamov; John Glad (Translator)

It is estimated that some 3 million people died in the Soviet forced-labor camps of Kolyma, in the northeastern area of Siberia. Shalamov himself spent 17 years there, and in these stories he vividly captures the lives of ordinary people caught up in terrible circumstances, their hopes and plans extending no further than a few hours.

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

Moby-Dick

By Herman Melville

No American masterpiece casts quite as awesome a shadow as Melville’s monumental Moby Dick.  Mad Captain Ahab’s quest for the White Whale is a timeless epic—a stirring tragedy of vengeance and obsession, a searing parable about humanity lost in a universe of moral ambiguity.  It is the greatest sea story ever told.  Far ahead of its own time, Moby Dick was largely misunderstood and unappreciated by Melville’s contemporaries.  Today, however, it is indisputably a classic.  As D.H. Lawrence wrote, Moby Dick “commands a stillness in the soul, an awe . . . [It is] one of the strangest and most wonderful books in the world.”

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

The Brothers Karamazov

By Fyodor M. Dostoevsky; Constance Garnett (Translator)

The Brothers Karamazov is the final novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, and is generally considered the culmination of his life’s work. Dostoevsky spent nearly two years writing The Brothers Karamazov, which was published as a serial in The Russian Messenger and completed in November 1880. Dostoevsky intended it to be the first part in an epic story titled The Life of a Great Sinner, but he died less than four months after its publication. The book portrays a patricide in which each of the murdered man’s sons share a varying degree of complicity. On a deeper level, it is a spiritual drama of moral struggles concerning faith, doubt, reason, free will and modern Russia.

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

Life and Fate

By Vasily Grossman; Robert Chandler (Introduction by)
A book judged so dangerous in the Soviet Union that not only the manuscript but the ribbons on which it had been typed were confiscated by the state, Life and Fate is an epic tale of World War II and a profound reckoning with the dark forces that dominated the twentieth century. Interweaving a transfixing account of the battle of Stalingrad with the story of a single middle-class family, the Shaposhnikovs, scattered by fortune from Germany to Siberia, Vasily Grossman fashions an immense, intricately detailed tapestry depicting a time of almost unimaginable horror and even stranger hope. Life and Fate juxtaposes bedrooms and snipers’ nests, scientific laboratories and the Gulag, taking us deep into the hearts and minds of characters ranging from a boy on his way to the gas chambers to Hitler and Stalin themselves.

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

The Balkan Trilogy

By Olivia Manning; Rachel Cusk (Introduction by)
The Balkan Trilogy is the story of a marriage and of a war, a vast, teeming, and complex masterpiece in which Olivia Manning brings the uncertainty and adventure of civilian existence under political and military siege to vibrant life. Manning’s focus is not the battlefield but the café and kitchen, the bedroom and street, the fabric of the everyday world that has been irrevocably changed by war, yet remains unchanged.

At the heart of the trilogy are newlyweds Guy and Harriet Pringle, who arrive in Bucharest—the so-called Paris of the East—in the fall of 1939, just weeks after the German invasion of Poland. Guy, an Englishman teaching at the university, is as wantonly gregarious as his wife is introverted, and Harriet is shocked to discover that she must share her adored husband with a wide circle of friends and acquaintances. Other surprises follow: Romania joins the Axis, and before long German soldiers overrun the capital. The Pringles flee south to Greece, part of a group of refugees made up of White Russians, journalists, con artists, and dignitaries. In Athens, however, the couple will face a new…

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

The Collected Essays, Journalism And Letters Of George Orwell

By George Orwell
A record of a great writer’s nonfiction work and an evolving picture of the last years of his life, during the time when he published Animal Farm and 1984. “A magnificent tribute to the probity, consistency and insight of Orwell’s topical writings….A remarkable self-portrait” (Alfred Kazin, Book World). Edited by Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus; Index.

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

Open Society and Its Enemies

By Karl Popper
Popper was born in 1902 to a Viennese family of Jewish origin. He taught in Austria until 1937, when he emigrated to New Zealand in anticipation of the Nazi annexation of Austria the following year, and he settled in England in 1949. Before the annexation, Popper had written mainly about the philosophy of science, but from 1938 until the end of the Second World War he focused his energies on political philosophy, seeking to diagnose the intellectual origins of German and Soviet totalitarianism. The “Open Society and Its Enemies” was the result.

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

The Origins of Totalitarianism

By Hannah Arendt
The Origins of Totalitarianism begins with the rise of anti-Semitism in central and western Europe in the 1800s and continues with an examination of European colonial imperialism from 1884 to the outbreak of World War I. Arendt explores the institutions and operations of totalitarian movements, focusing on the two genuine forms of totalitarian government in our time—Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia—which she adroitly recognizes were two sides of the same coin, rather than opposing philosophies of Right and Left. From this vantage point, she discusses the evolution of classes into masses, the role of propaganda in dealing with the nontotalitarian world, the use of terror, and the nature of isolation and loneliness as preconditions for total domination.

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

Moral Man and Immoral Society

By Reinhold Niebuhr
Moral Man and Immoral Society is Reinhold Niebuhr’s important early study in ethics and politics. Forthright and realistic, it discusses the inevitability of social conflict, the brutal behavior of human collectives of every sort, the inability of rationalists and social scientists to even imagine the realities of collective power, and, ultimately, how individual morality can overcome social immorality.

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

The Nature and Destiny of Man

By Reinhold Niebuhr; Robin W. Lovin (Introduction by)

“The Nature and Destiny of Man” issues a vigorous challenge to Western civilization to understand its roots in the faith of the Bible, particularly the Hebraic tradition. The growth, corruption, and purification of the important Western emphases on individuality are insightfully chronicled here. This book is arguably Reinhold Niebuhr’s most important work. It offers a sustained articulation of Niebuhr’s theological ethics and is considered a landmark in twentieth-century thought.

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism

By Sheldon S. Wolin
Democracy is struggling in America—by now this statement is almost clich. But what if the country is no longer a democracy at all? In “Democracy Incorporated,” Sheldon Wolin considers the unthinkable: has America unwittingly morphed into a new and strange kind of political hybrid, one where economic and state powers are conjoined and virtually unbridled? Can the nation check its descent into what the author terms “inverted totalitarianism”?
Wolin portrays a country where citizens are politically uninterested and submissive—and where elites are eager to keep them that way. At best the nation has become a “managed democracy” where the public is shepherded, not sovereign. At worst it is a place where corporate power no longer answers to state controls. Wolin makes clear that today’s America is in no way morally or politically comparable to totalitarian states like Nazi Germany, yet he warns that unchecked economic power risks verging on total power and has its own unnerving pathologies. Wolin examines the myths and mythmaking that justify today’s politics, the quest for an…

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

The Destruction of the European Jews

By Raul Hilberg
A three-volume study of the Holocaust. First published in 1961, Raul Hilberg’s comprehensive account of how Germany annihilated the Jewish community of Europe spurred discussion, galvanized further research, and shaped the entire field of Holocaust studies. This revised and expanded edition of Hilberg’s classic work extends the scope of his study and includes 80,000 words of new material, particularly from archives in Eastern Europe, added over a lifetime of research. It is the definitive work of a scholar who has devoted more than 50 years to exploring and analyzing the realities of the Holocaust. Spanning the 12-year period of anti-Jewish actions from 1933 to 1945, Hilberg’s study encompasses Germany and all the territories under German rule or influence. Its principal focus is on the large number of perpetrators – civil servants, military personnel, Nazi party functionaries, SS men, and representatives of private enterprises – in the machinery of death.

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

Samuel Johnson: A Biography

By W. Jackson Bate
Bate’s magisterial biography provides a picture of Johnson as a genius and as a human being, a man whose brilliance was born out of the torment of his mind.

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

The Fire Next Time

By James Baldwin

At once a powerful evocation of his childhood in Harlem and a disturbing examination of the consequences of racial injustice, The Fire Next Time, which galvanized the nation in the early days of the Civil Rights movement, stands as one of the essential works of our literature.

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

In Search of Lost Time

By Marcel Proust

For this authoritative English-language edition, D. J. Enright has revised the late Terence Kilmartin’s acclaimed reworking of C. K. Scott Moncrieff’s translation to take into account the new definitive French editions of À la recherche du temps perdu (the final volume of these new editions was published by the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade in 1989).

Chris Hedges’ Favorite Books

Ulysses

By James Joyce

Loosely based on the Odyssey, this landmark of modern literature follows ordinary Dubliners through an entire day in 1904. Captivating experimental techniques range from interior monologues to exuberant wordplay and earthy humor.

Arts and Crafts: Liberated Literature Project Overview

A briefing about a project called “Liberated Literature” to spread books from my personal library to readers around the world for their personal enjoyment & fulfillment.

All the books are proper literature and will include a library-like card instructing the bearer to Read it, Sign it, Share it. #davestory

Arts and Crafts: Writing Plans on my Mind in the Backyard

While healing and meditating in my backyard, I share some ideas for writing projects i am eager to finish up when i heal my brain back to creativity. Projects include short stories about trips to Palau, Belize, Yap, Escalante Canyon, and an incident in New Mexico.

Dave and Cory Ashworth Discuss “A Good Book Drive”

Dave O chats with Vancouver radio personality and charming dude to discuss a campaign to encourage book donations to encourage reading by youth.

How to write a novel in 100 days or less

How to write a novel in 100 days or less

Fave books list from “Read all Over” in Vancouver is Awesome

Book shelf

Background: They say, “Read All Over (as in read all over town or the literary pun joke, what’s black and white and re(a)d all over… ) is about celebrating the booknerd in all of us, highlighting book lovers in Vancouver and is published in Vancouver is Awesome.” Indeed, my contributions were included in the series and archived here for convenience.

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Read All Over celebrates the bookworm in all of us, showcasing readers in Vancouver and the books they love most.

Poet, podcaster, pundit and chronic documentarian from his earliest days, Dave Thorvald Olson spends his time writing, painting and listening to vinyl albums on the back porch while gazing at Lynn Valley’s mountains and trees. He’s traveled to 25+ countries working very odd jobs including mushroom farmer, grape picker, college librarian, submarine tour guide, beach club host and now, dot-com community wrangler. He enjoys hot springs, counter-culture, collecting ephemera and swilling microbrews. You many have caught his stories at SXSW, Northern Voice, TEDx, or Pecha Kucha.  Literature fans will enjoy his spoken word podcast series calledPostcards from Gravelly Beach.

Photo courtesy of Dave Thorvald Olson

How do you like your books served up best – audio books, graphic novels, used paperbacks, library loaner, e-reader…

I especially like tracking down hardback vintage editions of my favourites and set them on the top shelf of my case alongside dog-eared paperback versions. Example: a rare Catcher in the Rye with photo of Salinger; an unedited version of Kerouac’s On the Road scroll; andDr. Zhivago in Russian (just for fun). While I usually travel with paperbacks, I hauled a massive edition of War and Peace to Belize just to enjoy it more on the porch. I also buy lots of library cast-offs. Never tried an audio book, or an e-book for that matter.

The one book you always recommend is…

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke – elegant soliloquies, devoid of pretension, about pulling the best out of oneself – particularly when writing.

What books have changed your life?

Walden/Civil Disobedience – Thoreau showed me that words are the source of public and private revolutions rather than violence.

The Catcher in the Rye – Salinger’s renegade first-person, colloquial narrative is nuanced & powerful and still underestimated in ability to transform.

Dharma Bums – Kerouac’s chops & sincerity shine through in this earnest story which coaxed millions to put their boots on!

The Backcountry – Following Gary Snyder’s steps in a Kyoto train station shaped my journey and trueself while heading into the Japanese hills.

Desert Solitaire – Crusty Ed Abbey’s seasonal treatise is both elegant and bombastic plus ecologically important for the past & future.

War and Peace – Satisfyingly critical life lessons tangled within Tolstoy’s epic cast of thousands in a revolutionary soap opera of class & honesty.

Bonus: Siddaharta by Herman Hesse; Rommel Drives Deep into Egypt by Richard Brautigan; Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce; Post Office by Charles Bukowski; Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis; and, Walking Up and Down in the Worldby Smoke Blanchard.

Where is your favorite place to crack open a good book in Vancouver?

On a Crab Park bench – glancing up at tugs and freighters – continued on the Seabus as needed.

What book makes you feel like a kid again?

The Adventures of Tintin. I have a complete collection of the stories (including the previously banned “Soviets” and “Congo” escapades) about this renegade Belgian reporter and his eclectic band of co-conspirators.

The story about the creator Hergé is equally compelling as he started the series for a Catholic newspaper and carried on during Nazi occupation.

Your life story is published tomorrow. What’s the title?

Trips to Elsewhere: A Shoebox of Anecdotes and Incidents


Photo courtesy of Dave Thorvald Olson

I want to be this guy every day… Fck Stats, Make Art at @SxSW09

I want to be this guy every day in state of happiness and purpose ~ Dave Olson “Fuck Stats Make Art” – SXSW 2009 by @KK http://ow.ly/hnYG

Dave Olson "Fuck Stats Make Art" - SXSW 2009

Oh Brother – this printer is mighty

brother in a mighty boxAlong with some other local blogger/indie media/creative types, I am testing one of Brother’s new laser printers. I am someone who loves making stuff since ditto machines to working at K!nko’s for three months so i could scam the colour copier after hours. 65lb, 4 colour, duplex laser printerThusly i am stoked to be testing a 65lb., full duplex(!), full colour(!), laser printer.

Among other projects, I’ll be making some photo wall collages (mounted on black museum board) me and the sweetie have been meaning to make for years.

Then (excitedly) make some bound and fully realized versions of my Letters from Russia (.pdf) war & love epistletory discourse book (which, incidentally, i’ll be discussing on Santa Cruz public radio soon) which included some drawings, painting and such which never made it to the digital version.

Campsite

If i get really productive, I’ll finally create a printed, illustrated version of the Uncle Weed’s Red rock Adventure (.pdf) – eco-minded edu-tainment for all ages.

Uncle weed illustration

Yes there is a book with pictures written in 1988 or so which is Uncle Weed’s adventure in the desert explaining tips and tricks for development sabotage with outstanding illustrations by the talented Mr. B.G. Kiggins of NYC.

Next step is to gather a killer stash of quality paper to ensure the finest results. Thanks to DB eh.