Larry Hosken: New: Tag: brutal-truth

Book Report: Set the Night on Fire: L.A. in the Sixties

CW: police violence

It's a survey of 1960s Los Angeles radical politics. This is a long book; Los had so much radical politics back then. As you read the history, you find out why there was so much. Back then, an Angeleno who said "Maybe we could treat [ black | brown | Asian | Latino white | queer | teen-aged | female | et al ] people with dignity" was quickly classified a radical by the local press, police, and political machine. When you ask, how was this group radicalized; the answer is either "We wouldn't consider their goals radical today, but The Man of the 1960s felt differently." or "The Man of the 1960s felt they were radical, convinced some of Los' impressively-violent local law enforcement to [ harass | hospitalize | murder ] them, and the group fought back."

Los Angeles was worse off than most of the world back then, equality-wise, but Angelenos couldn't rely on help from the more-enlightened outside world. The outside world was better, but it wasn't much better. The FBI was still under control of J. Edgar Hoover, and quite ready to [ harass | hospitalize ] these groups, certainly wouldn't help them. During this time Ronald Reagan became governor of California, voted in because he condemned those Berkeley folks who said the USA wasn't winning the war in Vietnam. Going through this book, occasionally you read about some USA federal legal authority standing up against LAPD; but it's rare and surprising. You might hope the USSR would help some of these groups, and it sometimes did. But often the USSR would put conditions on aid: pretend the USSR was a positive example of a nation treating its people well. So a radical group that wanted USSR money to spread influence would sacrifice credibility—and thus lose influence.

This isn't a feel-good history; but it is interesting. You won't read about these marginalized groups coming to power; it's just that eventually a new mayor comes along who doesn't get votes through group-baiting. There's no grand triumph; just a letting-up of violent persecution; the establishment of some Ethnic Studies departments at universities.

But it is interesting.

As I was reading this book, one of the authors, Mike Davis (a.k.a. City of Quartz guy), was diagnosed with terminal cancer. That didn't help to dispel the bummer aura over this history.

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Book Report: Practical Doomsday

Happy Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire anniversary! It's a good day to read Practical Doomsday, a guide to disaster preparedness. It's written by an author who's familiar with prepper culture and familiar with the frequency with which various disasters occur. E.g., you're much much much more likely to be hurt:
☑   falling from a wobbly ladder; than
☒   battling your neighbors for a dwindling food supply.

So if you're going to put effort into practicing household repairs or marksmanship, choose ladder safety. (And be friendly with your neighbors; in an emergency, they're more likely to offer help than to steal your MREs.)

This book covers a lot of territory. Some parts I was familiar with already and I just kinda skimmed. Other parts I paid more attention. I already have a rainy-day fund; I just kinda skimmed the section on safety-minded investing. On the other hand, it hadn't occurred to me that I might want some water purification tablets in my emergency kits and in hindsight of course I would.

Some parts seem OK now but might be obsolete soon. The book sensibly points out that there's not much point stockpiling gold to use as currency if there's an emergency that knocks banks out of commission for a few weeks; if only a few people have some good, it's unlikely to become a trade good: since most folks don't have gold, they'll find something else to trade. The book suggests instead keeping some cash around; even if banks aren't operating, folks will probably still respect cash as a trade good, even though its value is "fiat." Which is all very well and good; but it occurs to me that the youth of today with their Paypals and their Venmos might not have cash around; and thus, like gold coins, it might not be held widely enough to be a trade good. Not that I have a better idea of what to trade. (Maybe saucers? I have more than I'll ever use; I don't know if most young folks find themselves in the same situation.)

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Book Report: Catch and Kill Content Warning: Rape, Abuse, Stalking, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Woody Allen, Donald Trump, etc. This is the autobiography of one reporter working on exposing Harvey Weinstein, serial rapist mo...

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Book Report: The Fighters (Americans in Combat) The USA invades countries every so often. This book tells the stories of some American soldiers in combat. Some things go well. Some things go wrong. If I knew a kid considering joining the military,...

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Book Report: Reporter content warning: war crimes, uspol It's an autobiography by Seymour Hersh, who reported on (among other things) the My Lai massacre, Watergate, and Abu Ghraib. There's an important lesson for soldi...

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Book Report: Factfulness It's a book by the GapMinder folks reminding us that India, China, world-health do-gooders and other folks have changed human society plenty in past few decades. On the one hand, this is happy "news"...

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Book Report: Confessions of a Political Hitman Autobiography of a guy who did political opposition research back when that meant travelling to county seats and looking at old voting records on microfilm or somesuch. He mostly worked for right-win...

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Book Report: From Here to Eternity It's a book about what folks do with bodies after death around the world. I'd read the author's previous book about how things go in the USA. Here she travels to far-off places (and some places in th...

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Book Report: Thunder At Twilight It's a history of famous folks in Vienna during the lead-up to World War I. Cowardly Adolph Hitler dodges the draft and shrieks racist tirades. Future Russian Commie leaders write political arti...

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Book Report: Hell and Good Company It's a history of the Spanish Civil War. I didn't know much about it before I read this book, just about what happened to Orwell. This book is mostly little snippets of biography against a little his...

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Book Report: Black Against Empire It's a history of the Black Panther Party, especially their politics. In the late 1960s, the Panthers found a political sweet spot. They armed themselves and defended themselves against illegal polic...

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Book Report: The Beautiful Struggle It's an autobiography of an African American nerd growing up in/around Baltimore around the time that I was growing up. This book has a lot of unexplained references. I understood some of the nerd re...

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Book Report: Empire of Cotton It's a history of the cotton business. Cotton was one of the first global businesses. Cotton's not so perishable; you can grow it in one place; spin+weave it somewhere else; sell the resulting cloth ...

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Book Report: The People's Platform The internet was going to be this great thing that returned the voice to the people. That gave power to the people. I thought that. Like, maybe I thought that the Declaration of Independence of Cyber...

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USA congress-callers, interesting bills If you're already calling your US senators and/or representatives, maybe nudge them to support: Senate bill 200 H.R. bill 669 These bills say that the President can't do a nuclear first strike on...

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Book Report: Limits to Growth Some folks wrote World3, a world economic simulator to answer questions along the lines of "if humans keep trying to use nonrenewable energy at their current rate, what will be the warning signs that...

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Book Report: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes And Other Lessons from the Crematory What happens to our bodies after we die? This book talks about preparing bodies, funerals, that sort of thing. We've got plenty of taboos around death. E.g., the author figures that leaving your body...

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Book Report: Prisoners of Power I wanted to try a book by the Strugatskys, who I keep hearing good things about. Unfortunately, they were novelists. I bet this book was pretty good for a novel, but I'm mostly into non-fiction these...

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Book Report: In Defense of Flogging What if prisoners could shorten their sentences by choosing to be flogged instead? This sounds cruel…but then you think about how many prisoners would take that deal. Which gets to the book's ...

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Book Report: The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian Conan stories were influential, but I hadn't read any. I'd always been curious: how could a stupid barbarian interest folks so? (Yes, yes, Conan's actually a smart barbarian; but the cliche I'm used ...

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Book Report: The Peripheral Ages ago, probably back when I was a teenager, my dad told me some reasons why "time machine" stories in sci-fi movies/books/etc. don't work so well—that time machine also has to be a teleporte...

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Book Report: 400 Things Cops Know The number in the title makes this sound like an absurdly long listicle but this a really good listicle. Get a glimpse into the thinking of someone who's often lied to, deals with folks which other f...

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Book Report: The Impossible State It's a book about North Korea taught me how far to go when running a kleptocracy. Can you starve your population, as long as you keep your army fed? Yep, you totally can. It doesn't backfire. Is ad...

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If someone asks you for a cigarette, you hand one over. That explains the guy I overheard: If you smoke on the bus, nobody asks you for one. I hope that remains the most antisocial thing I hear t...

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Book Report: Dataclysm The OKCupid blog is pretty amazing. Way back when, it caused a stir talking about trends in USA interracial dating. Plenty of USA folks say they don't care about race. But when the OKCupid folks look...

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"I was really proud of my jar of teeth…" ...

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Book Report: Line Screw Memoir of a poet/executive whose migraines force him out of such intense-thinking pursuits and into prison guarding. He was guarding Canadian prisons back when there was a higher ratio of guards to p...

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Book Report: Everything is Bullshit The Priceonomics blog wrote a book with a rude name. It's pretty interesting; a lot of it was stuff that I'd already read. (I wasn't subscribed to the blog, but other folks kept forwarding links&hell...

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Book Report: Newjack How better to research prison life than to become a Corrections Officer for a year? Well, there are probably more pleasant ways, but this book's author worked a year in Sing Sing prison. This is a hi...

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Book Report: Flashfire There's this character named Parker; mostly in books, but recently in a movie named "Parker." I liked some of the books, so I saw the movie. Then I was curious to know which book it was based on. It'...

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Book Report: In the Belly of the Beast A long-time prisoner sent famous writer Norman Mailer some letters about prison life. This books collects excerpts from those letters. They talk vaguely about injustice. There are anecdotes that make...

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Book Report: Chinese Playground I picked up this book around the time that arms dealer Leland Yee was suspended from the California state senate. That case had some San Francisco Chinatown gangster connections. If you look around f...

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Book Report: Worm Do I call it a "Book" report if it doesn't exist in book-ish form? Oh sure why not. Worm is a novel-length story posted online. It's about superheroes. What if there were thousands of superheroes in ...

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Book Report: City of Fortune It's a history of Venice back in the days when Venice was a big deal. If you think that Realpolitik is hardass nowadays, go read your history and weep for the soul of humanity. Venice came to power ...

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Book Report: Republic, Lost When Solyndra was falling apart, Republicans were screaming: these green companies were just boondoggles, false fronts to scoop up government money. It's easy to dismiss their complaints as a bunch o...

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Comic Report: Apocalypse Nerd Since Valve is in the news with lots of news about virtual reality, you might think if I was going to review a Peter Bagge comic, it would be Reset. But only if you didn't know how far behind my book...

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Book Report: Homicide This week, teams are playing in the Ravenchase Great America Race, solving puzzles day after day, driving from city to city. And thus I've been outed: Team Bloody Boneless Smoking and Burning spotted...

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Comic Report: Cuba: My Revolution What was it like living in Cuba as it changed from a kleptocracy to a paranoiac batsh*t-insanocracy? It was bad. The protagonist of this comic got shot at, imprisoned, tortured, watched her family in...

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Book Report: Surface Detail (Yes, I'm publishing another blog post today. Sorry about the flurry. I'm testing stuff. This blog post should look pretty ordinary, but there's a rel="author" tag hiding in the source code.) It's a...

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Comic Report: Parker, the Hunted; Parker: The Outfit These Parker comics are retro noir crime fiction. The retro's all over the art. It looks like graphics from ads from the early 60s. The violence and the menace of violence is all over the place. ...

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Book Report: Flashman It's the story of empire. It's the story of a conquering force in Afghanistan realizing that they weren't as conquering as they thought. It's the story of the Massacre of Elphinstone's army told from...

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Book Report: Three Cups of Tea Yeah, it's that book that everybody else already read, the one about the do-gooder who builds schools in Pakistan (and, later, Afghanistan). This book started out hard to read—the writer think...

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Book Report: The Making of the Atomic Bomb I've read plenty of books about the development of the atomic bomb, but concentrating mostly on Los Alamos. It's a tale kind of like Camelot for nuclear physicists—for a time, the world's best...

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Puzzle Hunts^W^W LARPs are Everywhere, Even the Transbay Terminal Girts noticed something Nonchalant-Game-ish to do this evening in San Francisco. There was a nicely-done stroll. (It was fun! I'm glad I went! I still don't want to do Nonchalant-ish things that don...

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Book Report: Down at the Docks Back in 1999, I traveled in New England. I told intrepid traveler Tom Manshreck that I was going to visit New Bedford. He said ""Yeah, man--New Bedford used to be a good place to go to--to get shot...

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Comic Report: Persepolis An autobio comic about growing up in Iran. First under the corrupt Shah. Then under the Fundies. Getting away to Europe without parents, without much of a support system... You get the idea that ...

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Book Report: Oil! This is the book that the movie "There Will Be Blood" was based on. But that's not how I heard of this book. I saw Word for Word perform the first chapter. This group acts out short stories and st...

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Book Report: The Great Gamble It's a book about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, telling it from the Soviet point of view, based on interviews with Soviet soldiers. It's like a horror movie where you want to yell at the chara...

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Book Report: Killing Neighbors I used to work for a lady named Lee Ann Fujii. She was pretty cool, so when I heard that she wrote a book, I figured I'd read it to see what she's been up to. She's now a foreign policy wonk special...

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Book Report: Designing Web Usability This book is about web usability. It's kinda old, from the year 2000. Reading it with this historical hindsight was somewhat discouraging. Apparently, webmasters have made the same mistakes for sev...

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Book Report: Spin State I liked Spin State, a science fiction novel by Chris Moriarty. It's science fiction but with a story in which the characters make mistakes. That's a good thing. I actually found myself thinking li...

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Book Report: DEC is Dead, Long Live DEC This is a book about DEC, Digital Equipment Corporation, a start up that grew big. The author argues that some of the things that made it a great start-up, a great place to work... these things also...

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Book Report: Deliver the Vote Deliver the Vote is a history of crooked elections in the U.S. of A. It doesn't try to describe all crooked elections. Just some good stories, just enough to fill up a few hundred pages. George Wa...

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Book Report: A Far Country Scouting game locations for a puzzle hunt, e.g. BANG 19, is time-consuming but fun. It's a good excuse to go out on a tour of not-in-front-of-your-computer. Plus, since you're trying to find places...

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Book Report: The Next Catastrophe I'm going to Jury Duty today. Oh, gee. What if I get picked for a trial that goes on for three years? What if I'm sequestered? Does that mean no internet? What a catastrophe that would be. Oh h...

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Book Report: China: Fragile Superpower This book is about China. This book makes me want to hide my eyes and say "I hope you're wrong." It paints a discouraging picture. The Chinese government fears overthrow by popular uprising. The g...

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Book Report: Invisible Man Yesterday, I went to a game party at work. I won a couple of games, which was more than my share. You might think that means I'm a brilliant strategist, until you find out what games I won (and how...

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Book Report: The Wonga Coup Some people worry that laryngitis might interfere with their opera singing. Me, I spent the day at home trying to recover from laryngitis, listening to operetta. And I'm glad that I don't rely on m...

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Book Report: The Boys I'm not at Comic-con this weekend. I just read comics, but I don't especially want to meet their creators. I especially don't especially want to meet the creators of "The Boys." "The Boys" is perha...

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Book Report: How I Came into my Inheritance (and other true stories) 'Lene is out of the hospital. Meanwhile, Alexandra says that her mother is sick; Team Mystic Fish might be on shaky ground this weekend. I have no health problems myself; in theory I have no cause ...

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Book Report: Goodbye Darkness This memoir of the Pacific in WWII is pretty disturbing. I suspect that William Manchester was pulling punches, but his story still has plenty of punch. People got blown up. People fought at close...

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Book Report: Malcolm X Here I sit in a dark train somewhere in the vicinity of Menlo Park. The train is dark and stopped. An alarm bell rings constantly. We have stopped because we hit a car. At first, this was a sad s...

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Book Report: Heat Bill Buford's previous book Among the Thugs was wonderfully brutal and scary, so I figured I'd like this book about restaurant kitchens and butchery. It's fascinating. He talks about how chefs lear...

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Book Report: The Railway Man The good news is that Gene Wolfe has a new book coming out with "Pirate" in the title: Pirate Freedom. The bad news is that book isn't scheduled to emerge until November, months after the pirate-the...

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Book Report: Shadow Cities This book, by Robert Neuwirth, changed the way I think about the world. It's about slums, squatter cities, shanty towns, favelas. It's about people who build on land they don't own. It's about peo...

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Book Report: The Making of the Atomic Bomb I've read several books about the Manhattan Project. They all had a focus. New documents that had come to light. Focusing on one of the minor players. Family life. Now I realize why all of those...

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Book Report: Re/Search Pranks 2 I had an interesting phone conversation a few weeks ago. I responded to some spam email offering to optimize my web site so that it would rank higher on web site searches. There are legitimate ways...

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Book Report: Maximum City I hear wild cheering outside. Does that mean that the USA scored a goal in the World Cup match just now? Maybe I should care, but I don't. Which reminds me of Maximum City. I only made it partway...

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Book Report: People's History of the United States Reading Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States is hard work. He writes about some parts of USA history which I didn't know about. Some of these pieces of history were pretty disturbing...

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