Sunday, May 26, 2019

No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs by Johnny Rotten

Here is the Sex Pistol's performing God Save the Queen.  I would suggest watching the video, because to me, what they do should be classified Performance Art.

Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No DogsRotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs by John Lydon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I saw John Lydon on the Conan O'Brian show and was impressed with his thoughtful intelligence. He was also promoting this book, so I bought it.

It is difficult to say whether I gained any insight to the Punk movement of the late seventies. After reading this book I conclude that everyone involved was a bunch of illiterate reprobates who were anti-everything, including each other. The Sex Pistols glorified in their disgusting shenanigans on stage, got lots of trash thrown at them while they were performing and, unsurprisingly imploded without hope of recovery only a couple of years after they began.

Most people who are remotely interested in this genre are familiar with Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungeon and their fast track to perdition, but this book only speaks of them peripherally. I did find it ironic that they all hated Nancy so much because of her aggressive, abrasive and immoral character. Uh, isn't that the embodiment of the Punk movement?

But they also hated her for getting Sid hooked on heroin. I personally think his mother, a heroin addict, and Sid's supplier, had something to do with that, although no doubt, Nancy accelerated Sid's race toward destruction, but the reality is, no one takes you where you don't want to go.

The book is narrated by many people, not just Mr. Lydon, and I will give him credit that he does not censor anyone's commentary, even if it does not put him in a good light.

Finally, I have to say I got tired of reading it, because regardless of what middle schoolers and emotionally immature adults think, dropping the F-bomb every other sentence and describing how you trashed people's houses or how many women you were with, is actually a banal read. I started racing through the last quarter just to finish it.

I have already bought Lydon's second book, Anger is an Energy. He was older when he wrote it. Let's hope he's grown up a little as well.

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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Officers and Gentlemen by Evelyn Waugh

Here is a great favorite of mine, Glenn Gould, playing Beethoven's Tempest Sonata.  If you want to skip his talking about Beethoven, start at 5 minutes 33 seconds.

Years from now, when I'm gone and my library becomes world famous, my books will become priceless collectors items.  I can imagine the conversations:

"Are you sure this is an authentic Wilfong?"

"Oh yes!  Look at the trademark bird nibbles on the dust jacket."

Officers and GentlemenOfficers and Gentlemen by Evelyn Waugh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the second in a trilogy about the adventures of Guy Crouchback who, although older than the average soldier, wants to fight for his country.

As the blurb says, he has been ousted from his previous company due to some mishap, of which cause was due to his incompetence, and here he is on a Scottish island, in training with another cast of characters who could pass as Keystone Cops or the police force in Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. It all seems rather funny, until they go to the island of Crete and put their training to practice. Then the butchery of real war pay its toll. Much of this is due to the idiocy of the leadership, making obtuse decisions.

I'm sure that is an accurate description of Waugh's view of war.

The story line, seemed sketchy to me and tended to bounce from character to character. I felt like I was watching a Soap Opera where the scenes and isolated plots of each character, while interesting and funny, had no connecting thread to each other.

The dialogue and the writing was sharp and witty, but overall, I preferred the first book, Men at Arms.

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Sunday, May 12, 2019

Saint Thomas Aquinas "The Dumb Ox" by G.K. Chesterton; The Westminster Confession of Faith: a Study Guide by Rowland S. Ward

Here is J. S. Bach: Trio Sonata no. 5 in C Major BWV 529 (Allegro).

Today I am combining a couple of my shorter reviews.  I have a lot of reviews on Goodreads that I need to transfer over to my blog.  I guess I will be busy doing that this week.

Saint Thomas AquinasSaint Thomas Aquinas by G.K. Chesterton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Chesterton is always a roller coaster ride to read. I read somewhere that he dictated all of his writing to a secretary with no revising. While this does prove what an amazing genius Chesterton is, it also helps to understand why you feel as though you are racing around inside his head, plucking one idea out of another.

His turns of phrases are fantastical and are so well stated, sometimes hard to understand, but mostly proverbs that leave you thinking, "Yes! That is very true and I never thought about it that way."

While this is a life of Saint Thomas, an actual chronology of the saint's life is quite minimal. What the bulk of substance is about is a critical analysis of St. Thomas' theology compared and contrasted with St. Augustine's and also later Martin Luther's. Mostly, though, it is like all of Chesterton's literary essays, which are a comparative and contrast to the Spirit of the Age, which dares to call itself rational and enlightened.

Chesterton is a Catholic, through and through, and while I don't hold that against him, I must confess I am more in Augustine and Luther's camp than Aquinas'. I would not mind reading another biography or at least a book about Aquinas' doctrines to get a better idea of how well supported his theses are.

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The Westminster Confession Of Faith, A Study Guide: A Verbal Modernisation Of The Text As Adopted By The Church Of Scotland In 1647 With Analysis And CommentaryThe Westminster Confession Of Faith, A Study Guide: A Verbal Modernisation Of The Text As Adopted By The Church Of Scotland In 1647 With Analysis And Commentary by Rowland S. Ward
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For those of us who love to read exactly what particular denominations believe about Systematic Theology, this is a good resource.

This confession details what Orthodox and conservative Presbyterians believe about God, the Bible, and the church. It is includes a thorough statement about every aspect of Christianity. Who is God, what is the Trinity? What is the Bible, is it inerrant etc..what is the church body, what is a Christian and so on.

This edition is also a study guide with expanded explanations of each statement by Rowland S. Ward. I can't say I agree with everything he says, but anyone who would like a deeper knowledge of the Christian faith from a Reformed perspective would find this an excellent resource.

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And, finally, I am trying to improve my language skills by reading the entire Bible in French. There was a cheap download for my Kindle.  I'm up to Numbers.

Until next time:  Adieu!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Roshomon and Other Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

This is one of my all time favorite Renaissance songs:  

Germanic Lombardy song, L'Amor Dona Ch'lo Te Porto

There seems to be two camps concerning Kindles.  Those that use them and those that wouldn't touch them with a ten foot pole.  I must admit when they first came out I was appalled.  The thought of reading one of my glorious books on an electronic device was unthinkable.

Of course I'm conservative about everything.  I only wear clothes as they're going out of style; they're much cheaper that way, for one thing.  They're no longer popular for another.  I hate belonging to a herd.  Maybe I'm arrogant.

But we were speaking of Kindles.  I had always brought my Kindle on overseas trips because it's so much lighter than carrying a suitcase load of books.  There are also a lot of free downloads, which is nice.

Lately I've discovering a couple of other perks about my Kindle.  One, gratification is immediate.  I click on the buy link and voila!  The book is in my house.  Secondly,  I don't have to worry about what condition it will be in we it arrives.  I have had a few bad experiences with that.  Some seller's idea of "good" or "like new" condition do not match my own.

Finally, they are considerably cheaper.  I could have bought the complete British Pack of Mystery writers for about a hundred dollars.  Instead I got the complete set for $15.00 or .99 cents each.

Which is why I bought the following book for my Kindle.  It was only $1.99.  I got it immediately and wrote a review before it would have ever been delivered to my door.

I have 437 books on my Kindle.  I could travel around the world comfortably.  Just need to remember the outlet adapter.

Rashomon and Other Stories (Tuttle Classics)Rashomon and Other Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Collection of short stories by the pre-war Japanese author, Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Akutagawa wrote around 150 short stories before he committed suicide in 1927.

The stories are creepy and eerie, but very well done. Perhaps they are even more beautiful in the original Japanese. Nevertheless, there is something dismal and Sartresque about them. Another descriptive word would be thought-provoking as each tale grapples with evil and the hopelessness of man.

Though the author is from the 20th century, the tales show an medieval, traditional Japan. Maybe Akutagawa saw that this way of life was on the verge of disappearing.

These perhaps were meant to be moral tales, hoping to provoke the readers into recognizing their own guilt and lack of compassion for their fellow man, much like the Indian writer and poet, Rabindranath Tagore.

The first one is probably the most interesting to me. In A Grove, is about a murder with no third person narrator, but several first person narrators. The entire story is through dialogue. Each gives their testimony as to what happened. As each new person gives their version of events, new information is added and enlightens the reader to the actual character of the previous witness. Finally, even the victim gives his testimony through a medium.


Another dark yet provoking tale is Rashomon. A recently fired servant visits a place where unclaimed corpses are dumped. While there he discovers a old woman stealing the hair from the corpses to sell.

He is angry that someone would stoop to desecrating the dead, but the woman insists she must do so to survive. She then claims the dead woman whose hair she is stealing stole fish when she was alive, but she, too, did it only to survive. So is it evil when one is only doing what one is forced to do?

The servant answers her, that if that is the case, he is justified in stealing from her. So he violently takes her clothes from her body and runs off, leaving the old woman naked among the dead.

I think it is a point well taken. When one begins to justify evil, where is the line drawn? It's just a matter of might making right.

The last story, The Dragon, is the most suspenseful. A priest, tired of being mocked and bullied by his community decides to play a practical joke. He sets up a sign next to a lake near his temple that at a certain date, a black dragon that resides at the bottom of the lake will rise to the heavens.

As more and more people read the sign, word gets around and increasing hordes of people from all over Japan start arriving to see the spectacle. The priest begins to feel uneasy. He meant it as a joke so he could laugh at his fellow villagers. Now what will happen when everyone is disappointed?

The ending is not predictable and rather beautiful.

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