Monday, April 28, 2008

Killing Pablo

I've read a few books by Mark Bowden, and you can definitely tell he's a reporter writing his take on contemporary history. That's not a bad thing. In fact, I like his direct, blunt style. There's not a whole lot of philosophical reflection on the life and death of Pablo Escobar. He's neither demonized nor glorified in this book. Still, it's an interesting account of the combined Colombian and US forces that worked for years to track him down and kill him (there was no intent to take him alive). I'm into the whole covert government thing, so this was an interesting cross section of technology and old fashioned gumshoe detective work leading to his death. Also, the terrorism employed in Colombia then (and I guess to some extent now) would make Al-Qaida blush. People don't talk about this b/c, uh, I don't know why people don't talk about it. However, you can read more about this aspect at your local library.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Rock On

Maria brought this book home, so I hope you'll forgive me if my reading list goes history, rock, history, rock, etc. I brought this book up after reading an interview w/ the author on the AV Club and the next day Maria brought it home from the office (don't worry I'm going to print a big stack of the "lead free" labels I've been working on and give them to her in exchange for her thoughtfulness). After reading this I now appreciate my own job more since having Jimmy Page working for our company isn't as cool as I imagine it would be (and I imagine we'd carpool in his Rolls Royce, eat lunch at Subway, and bitch about how hard it is to find a dry cleaner who doesn't fuck up the embroidery on your dragon suit). I think the quote on the back of the book that says it's "The Office meets Spinal Tap" sums it up pretty well. Plus I just used the only good Jimmy Page line I could come up w/, so I'll leave it at that.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Manifest Destiny's Underworld

It took me a couple of months to get through this book not because it was long or boring, but the font was too small and gave me a headache after reading 10 or so pages. I blame UNC Press for picking Ehrhardt font. This book was only 300 pages, so they could have enlarged the typeset and made it 400 pages. Then I wouldn't have to wear reading glasses on top of my regular glasses to get through this thing.

Anyway, the actual content was really interesting. I remember a movie from the 80's called Walker (just released on DVD this year) about an American who took over Nicaragua in the 1850's thanks to the awesome firepower of a few helicopters. I think the helicopter bit was a commentary on the 1980's US involvement in Nicaragua, but William Walker really did invade Nicaragua in 1855 w/ a private army and become the country's president. I've always been fascinated about how this could have happened just from a tactical standpoint. I mean how can a few hundred guys can take over an entire nation w/o some kind of huge technological advantage (like, say, helicopters in 1855)? It turns out they had plenty of local supporters, and they had to slowly accumulate territory and would never control the entire country. It also turns out there were other people putting together private armies to take control of Canada, Cuba, Mexico, and some other Latin American countries. Part of this was with an eye to expand US territory (more specifically territories that allowed slavery). Mostly these guys like Narciso Lopez and John Quitman wanted power and thought these Latin American nations were too weak to stop their private armies. They were wrong. Not only did locals fight them off, but Britain, France, and Spain helped defend these countries against what they considered a bunch of pirates. Still there was an ever willing group of volunteers and financiers in the US who provided the backbone of these schemes. Essentially, the Civil War ended these kinds of expeditions, and people in the US forgot about it. However, people in Latin America did not. I guess if a bunch of American "soldiers" tried to invade your country, you might pass on your resentment to the next generation. So if you are travelling to any of these places, remember to leave your firearms at home lest you are mistaken for an invading army (I'm assuming your kids would also be armed).

Friday, April 04, 2008

NFL Dream

What do kids (and adults) dream about when it comes to being in the NFL? If you said announcing a late round draft pick then the NFL has a contest for you. If you are like me and would rather get the high/low treatment from Rodney Harrison and Teddy Bruschi as a prize (I'd totally hang on to the ball. Not from the catch, but as a memento of what put me in a wheelchair. Some ballboy would have to actually retrieve the ball), then maybe the National Football League can work out a contest for us too.