From the movie Wall Street, "He wouldn't know the difference between preferred stock and live stock!".
I was sent this book by a commenter over at Joi Ito's after having a few lively discussions with him. Turns out he is starting Blood and Treasure Publications and, I think, this is their debut publication. Congratulations all around.
First impressions from the teaser (on the website) really gave me no idea what I was going to be reading.
From a renegade team of international corporate surveillance experts comes a behind-the-scenes, riveting tale of one of America's biggest corporations stuggling to best practice to life in a cruelly competitive businessworld.
Well, with such a serious teaser, you can imagine my (somewhat pleasant) surprise when...
Institutionalized is a heavy-hitting, tongue in cheek, parody of American corporate bueracracy. Complete with corporate espionage, a CEO with a very literal Napolean complex, a backstabbing chief of operations, and a whole lot of happy pills (for the characters, not the readers). I'm sure Institutionalized would have anyone who has ever toiled away in quiet desperation beneath the cruelty of memos, e-mails, and company-wide voicemails dying pleasant, laughter-induced deaths.
Thats why I needed to give it only a 6. I, unfortunately (or maybe I mean 'fortunately'), have never worked in a corporate office. Yes, I 'got' all of the jokes, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that anyone who has been in that environment would get them more. Somewhere in the back of my mind, as I was reading it, I knew that these parodies of people - actually exist.
The plot was fairly straightforward. Enter into this corporate nightmare, Lance Kirevam, straight talking man from the streets with no college degree, whom the CEO met in a bar. His first action is to promote the tatooed temp worker, who looks more like a bouncer than a secretary - pardon me "Administrative Assistant". Clashes with corporate polotics ensue throughout PR crisises, sales deals with the U.S. govt's military "Octogon", and attempts to outsource production to China. We read along as the other department heads, collectively Tom, Dick, and Harry try to frame Lance and through their bumbling succeed mainly in framing Intstitutionalized Industries.
As I mentioned, I feel this book is very targeted towards people who are familiar with the corporate *ahem* bullshit-environment. In that regard, its more about the characters than it is about the action.
It is, by and large, an American's stereotypical view of British humor - witty, heavy on the wordplay, making clever use of stock characters, and a little lengthy. This doesn't detract from it, but it does mean Institutionalized is meant for a specific target audience.
All-in-all and decent, enjoyable read, a even better gift for your colleagues still stuck in hell as you quit to pursue your freelance dreams.
The first 10 a book has gotten on this site. I couldn't have higher praise for David Maraniss' They Walked into Sunlight: War and Peace, VietNam and America, October 1967. Maraniss takes one month out of that terribly confusing and often tragic era and simply depicts the various sides in stunning detail. He doesn't attempt to influence the reader; hawk or dove, and leaves you with the distinct impression that the only ones that were truly wrong in the conflict were the hypocrites. One month - 500+ pages - if every month in the VietNam conflict has this much to be said about it (and they probably all do) I can understand why so few writers want to tackle the era head on, instead breaking it into chunks and writing books about the peace movement, or the military history, or the administration. Maraniss plunges right in and the biggest gift of this book is the context. Telling several stories side-by-side is what really helps you understand the time.
Several major events happened in the national arena in October 1967. The Dow Riot happened on the the campus of the University of Wisconsin. Two comapnies of soldiers were severely ambushed in Vietnam losing 57 men and many more wounded. Alaso, there was a march on washingto that attracted a alrge gathering. Maraniss visits all of these an more through interviews with participants and thorough research.
More than any other book I've read about VietNam, this one finally captures spirit of the times; about how the world just stopped making sense for a while; about how one generation had a complete inability to understand the younger generation at the time; about how you could be in the middle of the jungle in a firefight yet still be getting hot meals air dropped to you.
Maraniss tells everyone's side of the story: the soldiers, the commanders, the brass, the protesters, Dow's, President Johnson's, the University of Wisconsin's, the family of the soldiers, the family of the protestor's, vietnamese soldier's, everyone's. Its amazing how you can have sympathy for all of these people except the hipocrits. And how the hipocrits can make you weep with their atrocities.
There were several times throughout that I very nearly threw the book across the room. Things in They Walked into Sunlight will make you rage against the sheer disgusting nature of some people and institutions. A particularly cutting encounter involved Westmoreland giving out medals after the ambush in the evacuation hospital. The higher ups were trying to spin the battle as a success to increase PR at home. While it was unclear if they killed even 20 Viet Cong or NVA they were reporting 103 kills.
Westmoreland pinned a Purple Heart on Barrow's pajamas and said, "Tell me, sargeant. What happened out there?"
"Well sir, we walked into one of the damnedest ambushes you ever seen," Barrow said.
"Oh, no, no, no," Westmoreland replied briskly. "That was no ambush."
"Call it what you want to," Barrow said. The combination of his wounds, the medication, and all that he had been through allowed him to speak more bluntly to a general than he would have normally. "I don't know what happened to th rest of the people, but, by God, I was ambushed."
And another passage where 'President Johnson was very interested in exactly what a hippie looked like.'
These things all went a very long way towards illustrating just how sharp the divide in our country really was.
I wish I had better words to adequately describe this book. It ought to be required reading by high school students to better understand what happend to the country in the 60's, to better understand what the draft meant, to better understand what extend public image matters to our politicians (even over our soldiers dignity and lives), to better understand what this nation should stand for and doesn't anymore.
Declare is a intense cold war spy novel. Complete with spies that are top-secret amongst the standard spies, sexy foreign spies, renegade double-agent spies, and my favorite: spies playing high stakes poker games.
It is also speculative historical fiction. What does that mean? In this context it means that almost all of the characters actually existed and that Tim Powers did a hell of a job researching this to within an inch of its life to make sure that the timeline was plausible with real world events. I didn't realize this while I was reading it. It made the postscript a complete mindblower.
While it doesn't jump along with the action of a James Bond Thriller, it does keep the interest by scrambling the lines of reality. The first part is complete real world, "indoctrinate the new spy" prose. But part 2 finds us atop Mount Ararat confronting djinn and in The Empty Quater meeting ancient Sumerian kings. This constant jumping back and forth does leave the reader wondering where things are going. All in all I would say this is a good read for people who aren't sure they like the fantastical elements of fantasy and sci-fi but are curious about the field. Also, a good read for spy novel lovers and historical fiction fans.
A must read for anyone who fails to understand why someone would want to be a soldier. This book powerfully depicts what it is to be a marine. Thomas Ricks follows Platoon 3086 through Paris Island training, where cooperation and self discipline are the two main attributes impressed upon new recruits.
I found this a fascinating read because it begins to describe the very real divide between a Marine and the rest of society. I've always been interested in this particular branch of the military that seems to have a certain inherit camaraderie about it. Making of the Corps explains the idea behind pushing command down. Making it so that each small group of marines can function as a unit when isolated from command. At the same time that the Corps drives the chain of command into your head, they also teach a soldier enough self reliance to function on their own.
I also was very impressed about the way the book did not seek to put the Marine Corps on a pedestal. It goes deeply into the dark history of the Marines. Including the Ribbon Creek Incident in which 6 recruits drowned during a forced night march with a drunken drill instructor.
I all I would say this is a well rounded piece of journalism for anyone wanting to understand the Marine culture better.
I was all set to write a review about a different book today and then Josh posted this which led me to Doc Searls site, whom I'm a regular to and I got to thinking about Larry Lessig's writings (cited at Doc's). Here's the crux. Copyright law has been extended and extended to the point where anything written today claimed or not is protected for life + 50-75 years or 95 years depending upon you situation.
This is a technical law book that illustrates nicely how "content" is getting confused with "property". Intellectual property does need to be protected in the form of copyrights and patents. But currently in America when a patent runs out (approx. 14 years) other companies and people can start competing with the original company in production of the same product. I've already stated how copyright protection has been lengthened over the years. It is no longer meant just to protect a single author. Lessig emphasizes this point nicely with a lot of examples of everyday people, who 'got busted' and subsequently financially ruined, for sharing songs with friends or creating networks for original filesharing, that were turned into copyrighted filesharing.
The argument made in this book is bigger than that though. It is about the ability to create and share your own work, without corporate approval. The ability to do what you want with certain properties that you have bought or been given. Do you own your Cd's. Can the FCC control this blog as a media? Lots of questions come form the idea of Intellectual property.
If you are interested at all in the phenomenons of P2P or generally concerned about the governments involvement with the future of the net. This is a good book for you.
If you want nightmares about the coming apocalypse; I highly recommend this book. Let me set the stage... Its 1918, We are at the tale end of WWI, but of course, no one knows that. Suddenly, starting in military base camps, young men and women are getting sick and dying in a matter of days, sometimes hours. It spreads city to city some daily death tolls as high as 10,000 people in one city alone. The press isn't reporting (wartime propaganda didn't want anything demoralizing in the news), claiming that there is no illness, this is just the flu. No need to worry at all. Absolutely terrifying, and very chilling.
Barry has exhaustively researched this. It took him seven years to compile the story of this book. He traces the 1918 influenza virus around the world, but mostly concentrates here in America. Everything is tied to stories of the beginnings of medical science, the Rockefellar Institute, the Johns Hopkins and such. But it all comes back to influenza.
Estimates say that as many as 100 million people died in that pandemic. Absolutely inconceivable! Other little tidbits that were scary was that the virus did its most lethal work in healthy people. In a nutshell, the immune system was pulling heavy artillery out against the respiratory system where the virus was. The better your immune system, the better it destroyed your lungs. Some people died before feeling any symptoms.
Barry gets a little heavy on reciting statistics, and at times the ties to certain doctors are tenuous at best. He places a lot of stress on the story of Paul Lewis, who, while involved with the pandemic, didn't really do a lot after discarding his first (and correct) idea that it was a virus that caused flu, not a bacteria. Lewis was a brilliant scientist, who eventually died of yellow fever after contracting it through his lab experiments (it is unclear whether this was a suicide or not), but that is another story, not the story of the "deadliest plague in history". But I understand why Barry needed to put a human face on this monster.
Barry finally brings it all together with how this all affects us today.... with avian flu looming in Asia. All said, this is a great informative book, but reads like a medical journal at times. Hence the 7.