Saturday, June 30, 2012

A review of Habits of Empire: A History of American Expansion by Walter Nugent

Nugent concludes his survey with words:

" This history of national expansion reals that it has not always been clean. America's preeminence, even its very territory, frequently resulted from force, subterfuge, or other reprehensible means, often varnished over by the language of liberty, freedom, and such terminology familiar since Jefferson, rephrased by Lincoln, and repeated in the American-inspired United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Beautiful rhetoric expresses the ideals of the republic. But the unspoken, unadmitted reality was and is that of an empire." pg. 316.

This conclusion is not the result of just one instance in the past but a parade of occurances and policy that started at the beginning of this country's foundation and carried forward in an almost continuous progression of taking what was wanted by any means necessary. This progression can be explained by merely looking at the chapter headings and confirming the facts presented. Those facts are not always pleasant and often reveal a dark underbelly that too few care to recognize.

Chapters are as follows:
Transappalacthia, 1782: First Land, First Good Fortune

Lousiana, 1803 : Second Good Luck

Canada, 1812-1814: Failed Aggression Northward

Florida, 1810-1819: Southward Aggression I

Texas, 1811-1845: Overpopulating and Conquering

Oregon, 1818-1846: Fixing the Canadian Border

California and New Mexico, 1846-1848: Southward Aggression II

Populating the Empire

To Alaska and Across the Pacific

Around The Caribbean

The Global Empire.

Nugents conclusions are not new ones. What Nugent does do is to put these various movements and periods together, and concentrating on the imperial tendancies we can see that his conclusion is the only one that matches with the reality of history. All through the book he brings to life the thinking of the leaders and exceptionalism and the notions that only white Americans can make best use of the territories as they present themselves on the horizon.

An interesting point in light of some current debate is that the filling of the continent could not have been accomplished without easy immigration. Immigration as long as it was the right kind. It was also the notion of excluding the granting of citizenship to conquered peoples hindered some of out more lustful desire of aquisition such as the taking of all of Mexico.

The postscript accurately describes our imperial appetite as a changed form that does not include direct possession. We have many bases around the world and those forces are there to make sure we have access to raw materials and markets.

These are hard lessons to learn but stopping our ears and eyes do not make them go away. Being aware of our past might help change our views and make our place in the world better. By being aware of our past dark side we may someday really stand for those ideas of liberty.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Superman Chronicles Volume 3

Just completed my third volume of The Superman Chronicles. These are color reproductions beginning with volume 1 of every Superman story in order. The third volume consists of Superman stories from Action Comics No. 21 (Feb 1940), Action Comics No. 22 (March 1940), Action Comics No. 23 (April 1940), Superman No. 4 (Spring 1940), Action Comics No. 24 (May 1940), Action Comics No. 25 (June 1940), Superman No. 5 (Summer 1940), and finally a story from New York World's Fair 1940.

Superman is still without flight. He does have the ability to leap large distances quickly, but does have most of this powers. It is in this series of issues that the Daily Star becomes the Daily Planet. Most of the stories up to now centered around villians who were usually modsters and petty criminals it in this time frame that an evil scientist shows up by the name of Luthor.

This is not the Superman that I grew up with in the 1950s and 1960s but I have enjoyed reading these early entries in the Superman universe. These reproductions are certainly cheaper to come by than copies of the original comic books.

There are further volumes available, but for now this is the last of this series that I currently own.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Kitty's Greatest HIts by Carrie Vaughn

Just received in the mail from TOR books what was the 3rd book I won on Goodreads but the first to arrive. Kitty's Greatest Hits: A Collection by Carrie Vaughn. It is in trade paperback so is not a mass-market paperback. I have not read anything by Vaughn. Most of these short stories in the Kitty Norville "universe" which consists of several novels have been previously published elsewhere. This is not a book I would likely buy myself generally but will give it a try because it was given to me. Kitty Norville is a werewolf and radio personality. The back says this is a "world with shape-shifters, vampires, demons, mermaids, and other supernatural creatures coexist with ordinary men and women.".......but then...I do quite enjoy the X-Files. I will review when I complete my reading. I love FREE books.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Review of Redshirts by John Scalzi

In the classic Star Trek series it was fairly typical that the anonymous redshirt on away teams would not return due to some mishap or aggresive alien life form. Redshirts begins the same way. Death by Borgovian Land Worms. The reader begins by being introduced by who could only be considered as Redshirts waiting for their time to come and following the exploits of the Intrepid as they hurtle through space.

One away mission finds Dahl, one of the new low rank redshirts in peril:

"Dahl weaved through the trees, screaming for Q'een and Taylor. Some part of his brain wanted to know if he was running in the right direction; another part wanted to know why he wasn't using his phone to contact Q'eeng. A third part reminded him that he had a pulse gun of his own, which might be effective against whatever was currently eating Cassaway and Mbeke.

A fourth part of his brain was saying, This is the part where you run and scream a lot.

He was listening to the fourth part."

These lines early in the book tickled me and really sets the stage for what is to come. However, why did Dahl not be consumed? He is after all a low ranked officer in a redshirt on an away mission. Therein we are led into another mystery. What really is going on?

We will soon be left pondering if this story line is reality, it merely a television science fiction series where the characters have taken on a life of their own. I will let readers ponder this on their own. Star Trek, eat your heart out.

I came to what I thought was the end of the story but there are 3 Codas at the end. When I started reading the first I was thinking that this was really an unnecessary addition and that the story could have concluded previously. However, as I continued to read this first Coda and the following 2 I realized that my opinion was premature because they really did add to the story.

This was a most enjoyable read and as an original Star Trek original series fan during their first run, this book did indeed turn that world upside down. It was almost as if the transporters malfunctioned and created a bizarro world. I recommend this book to Star Trek fans, fans of television science fiction, whatever....anyone would enjoy this book.

To my surprise I came to learn that John Scalzi was Creative Director on the recent series Stargate Universe, a short lived but I thought an excellent addition to that franchise. I still would like to know what became of the crew. I watched a rerun of S-U and checked the credits more carefully. He is somewhat responsible for the creative direction. Can't wait to read his Fuzzy Nation sitting in my stack.