Monday, September 1, 2014

Another Belated Review: Bio of Robert Oppenheimer (Knopf, 2005)

AMERICAN PROMETHEUS (2005,) by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin.

This monumental and greatly detailed text about a titan of nuclear science
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in the day, and as to one whose life was as varied and colorful as that of a scientist could be, whose life again had been a blessing and a curse but that nonetheless fit the bill of anyone who modeled and romanticized popular science; depicts the human side of a once deified public figure who was at once an unassuming scientist and at the same time an extraordinary and political and organizational charmer.  J. R. Oppenheimer was a gifted son of a gifted businessman with strong ties to the old countries of Europe, especially pre – world war Germany.  Though JRO was born in New York and raised in its Upper West Side, his father had emigrated from the Frankfurt area of FRG and his mother’s family was from Maryland.  JRO was raised in New York and shone in the scientific area and in mathematics as a young person.  His parents were able to cultivate his genius by sending him to study at various technical centers including those in U.K. and in Germany on and off again until late in the 1930’s.

Throughout most of JRO’s adult life there were two major themes that included nuclear science and communism.  He and his generation of scientists are responsible for the birth of the nuclear arms race as many of us know it today.  His trials about communism also fulfill our image and how many remember the 1950’s U.S. anti – liberal movement.  The nuclear bombing of Japan, and his judicial trial during 1953 – 54 brought public attention, sometimes greatly negative in nature, into the personal realm for him, things that would disrupt the life of any responsible and bright character as he was, attributes and foibles at the same time.  Science at the time of Oppenheimer was a practical and political jungle full of mythical beasts, imaginary and real, benign and greatly threatening.  It is strange the public figure of the day most responsible for popularizing nuclear science and the related dilemmas of the arms race was subject to, and this in the U.S., the ominous forces of society gossip and social pressures among his friends and colleagues that led to the end of his career as a scientist, essentially when he lost his security clearance in the 1950’s. 

Perhaps more to blame here than his 1954 bureaucratic trials was the overall deterioration of U.S. / soviet politics at the time:  this agonized and humiliated many, and provoked the castigation and ruin of a number of public figures vulnerable to such things.  For many as well, the attack on liberalism at the time comprised an attack on America’s values, and this presumed assault exposed the bureaucracy at the time as more and more paternalistic and condemning of the character and personalities of some.  For many of those examined and even subject to trial proceedings, their brilliance, stoicism, and personal self – assurance and integrity led frequently to bewildering and defeating, magically destructive antagonisms, first from officialdom and then from everybody.  This is / was perhaps due, and this on most pages of this definitive and again detailed text, to JRO’s personal life informing his scientific studies, achievements, and overall scientific work before his audiences, and those who watched and monitored the Oppenheimers closely.  An outstanding book.

Periodic Interest: Modern Day Hiroshima? ... and the 'Shinto - priest...

Periodic Interest: Modern Day Hiroshima? ... and the 'Shinto - priest...: Original March 2011 story in the international news. ... of someone who lived through Hiroshima. Media Photo.

Periodic Interest: Perhaps The Most Important Thing to Remember about...

Periodic Interest: Perhaps The Most Important Thing to Remember about...: ...  is Hiroshima was the first. Hiroshima - August 6, 2010 - morning.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

book review -- to do (for everybody.)

Another in The Facets of Jobs And Friends -- CREATIVITY, by Edwin Catmull (Random House, 2014.)

Many books are published about technology every day, general and technical, on new and legacy
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technologies alike.  The story of Pixar Animation above all, regardless of its affiliation to show business and other well - known and well - connected people, needs be considered as that of a classically super - successful growth company that Steven Jobs, Ed Catmull, and others husbanded through all the possible permutations of organizational life according to their own edicts, and with the dynamism that in the day, along with company goals, held businesses together despite the many competitive and economic forces, including non - market overtones and influences sometimes, that would have such businesses fly apart from their own internal energies as generated by the inventive, innovative, and continuously creative tone that pervades the company culture and its story amid other, more ephemeral start - up adventures.  From the way Mr. Catmull introduces his company, it is difficult to determine from a reading of the text whether or not the original business was the purview of Mr. George Lucas (Hollywood and Napa,) or Steven Jobs (Silicon Valley).  People like me know from the way the story of this wonderful company is begun in the text, that LucasFilm for various and original reasons in the old days needed a fresh production company, and Steven Jobs was in control if not in personal possession along with his associates of the required software and hardware "stuff" to accede to the great demands of Lucas animated production ideas and projects.  The overall special character of Pixar over time has changed in scope as the market power of the business has changed, at people like Catmull and his buddies are in some respects just supposed to be cartoon guys, though this view only burnishes in a simplified way the technical and even greater imaginative character of these people along the trajectory of their business from a narrowly functional animation company to a megastudio and blockbuster standard for media through Hollywood at this point.

Pixar produced a number of giftedly animated "Toy Story" and other productions of equally, and quite hard - hitting impact for movie audiences and young people above all.  Some of the themes as presented in the Pixar films, such as those in the relation between Cowboy and Buzz Lightyear in "Toy Story" or even the depiction of Hopper in "A Bug's Life", and there are many more such examples, that evoke the virtues and vagaries of human character along with various background.  This is perhaps an important part of Pixar's films as intoned by Mr. Catmull and Mr. Jobs that approaches things like finances and even software functionality as a set aside given the aims of film projects themselves to have themselves a highly memorable character along with educating and entertaining, and other imperative items, at the same time.  One opens this text, simply and directly presented as it is, to find first a story of a typical media start - up, and then one presided by both individually cultivated genius and the same of worldly industrial strength, that has become a proverbial "Star of India" in its animated productions in Los Angeles, past, present and possibly and probably future given the way Hollywood has captured and openly employs Pixar's company and employee culture.  This read is greatly captivating and hopeful from beginning to end, and depicts a business in which the overall goals and hard work of those in charge have made themselves and everyone around them more than just elite and extremely successful.  The text is also not lost on business and management processes as so enumerated for the reader or for anyone looking into this and related stories.  It is possible that Steven Jobs, Mr. Catmull and so forth, had believed the powers ruling business leadership and innovation, etc., originally had a kind of cookbook, and this outside the Socratic and other imperatives that run through this narrative.  It is also possible these people, and just by their nature, captured at least some of that cookbook in their methods and practices.  As much is on every in this outstanding and compelling story of this media company that has captured the physics of human imagination in many ways.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nothing Will Grow There. WW I Anniversary - The Somme and Verdun.

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天浴 (1998). -- Without Sympathy.

Xiu Xiu – “The Sent – down Girl” (1998) -- More "Hong Kong" Cinema?

In Mandarin / English subtitles:  Every once in a while one sees a film like this that jars a few memories, of which those on the Cultural Revolution as seen by PRC leadership maybe thirty five years later and with a ten – year past remembrance of “Tian An.”  The Cultural Revolution in PRC and other Mao times showed the leadership goals and style of The Great Helmsman who given what his internal policies were, what with his re – education programs and the like in the mainland countryside, had probably had it with people long before he assumed any political leadership whatsoever in his country.  One of the greatest
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influences of the reign of Chairman Mao had to do with sending any number of young people into the far mainland provinces from Bei jing and other, major PRC towns, even from provincial capitols; again to the far reaches of the countryside to carry out the edicts of revolutionary communist orthodoxy, ideological and practical communist reformation and re - education, proper work, auto – criticism and the like.  It is entirely possible the Chinese form of communism at this point in time, as personified in PRC party leadership at the time (Zhu Rong – ji, Li Peng, … ), and with the sort of typically despotic and thereby exemplary internal, sometimes violent, purges in the upper levels of its administration and intelligentsia, held that most forms of constructive utility as seen in ordinary economic terms, especially concerning individual people, were completely against the political goals of their revolutionary politics and Chinese communism; and further and bitterly against the perpetual revolution as producing what were supposed to be better communists and better people overall.

This outstanding 1998 Hollywood – style Chinese film depicts the young life of Xiu – xiu (Lu lu,) from Cheng du, a very large city that has a history as a capitol since medieval times, who is sent to the far provinces in the tide of internal exiles of the Cultural Revolution in the custody of Wen xiu (Lopsang) who husbands her through many trials, but cannot prevent the eventualities the young one faces as an urban city person who is sent to live in the far country and other provincial places, essentially on a cot in a tent.  The character played by Wen xiu is remarkable in that many such people, probably indeed, had at least met the old Bolsheviks, even Chairman Mao himself, and many knew him personally, and believed in Marxism – Leninism and its Chinese variant with all themselves.  Such people were many as Mao in his campaigns was accessible to people, and these politics as appealing to all Chinese were part of what enabled the communists to seize control of the country, presumably over foreign parties and their interests, in 1949.  The story is now familiar and old to many people, and to anyone among the many who've traveled to PRC since it officially opened for tourism in the 1970’s.  The film has the hard – hitting proportions of a Greek tragedy, and though people like me have not any idea how it did at home, it illustrates the self – destruction of the Cultural Revolution and the back – handed, if not mortal ways in which the Chinese administration treated people (while depending greatly upon PLA and other military resources), insiders and especially provincial outsiders more severely, all at the same time as building and re – enforcing party and other political affiliations.  This is part of the paradox of some orthodox Marxist systems and is illuminated best, perhaps in the recalling of “Caligula” – type themes and images that pervade this film, however tepid these are and apparently fundamentally gifted and enlightened the characters appear as depicted.  As the film progresses, the scenes become progressively more poignant as Wen xiu at one point travels ten li to gather fresh water for Xiu’s bath.  There is also a scene at a country medical clinic, if it can be called that, where Xiu is destroyed and Wen reacts in recognition of negligent treatment and so forth by attacking her assailants; these scenes are difficult to watch with respect to cinematic milieu and the atavistic character of those characters in contrast and opposition to Xiu and Wen.  It is surprising the censors under Deng Xiao – ping allowed the publication of this film as it is controversial and undermining in many ways to communism and Marxist ideas, apart from just the message it carries of the huge slap to Chinese society during the years of the Cultural Revolution and even for many years thereafter.  It is possible that due to the Asian financial crisis at the time and what happened with the Yuan and other currencies, the leadership of the PRC was forced to recognize, as to their merits the Paramount Leader and his associates at the time did, the limits and critically damaging and many, many incalculably destructive influences the Cultural Revolution and other very elaborate internal aims of the PRC at the time had on people’s lives everywhere; especially on those Chinese who were around, knew of it and even read up on it at the time while overseas.  Everyone needs view this piece or at least get to know its story or one like it.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

What Goes Around Comes Around -- Economics Text Review.

von Mises
Human Action, by Lüdwig von Mises (Yale, 1949.) – Book Review.
From the sheer weight of the book here, and the fine print, it is evident and obvious this is a magnum opus by a premier, flagship economist of the post war Austrian School in his thesis replying to all others.  While von Mises is entirely credible today, even after his passing some time ago, and this in view of the results of lacunae in other schools, notable among them the theorists, pundits and even practitioners who just talk about what goes on in money centers.  In view of his marked omission in the text of many marquis administrative topics including things like national banking and other items examined first in the book, these are described as the well – known relationship in economic terms between “Peter” and “Paul”.  Such books as von Mises thesis here, as they are construed from the title of the text or the volume of text, issues of language, terminology and the like are sometimes described as someone’s “theory of everything”:  Human Action is by no means the hitchhikers’ guide to the galaxy as many economics texts as well might be said to be, and it stands in wonderful parallels in the States to the great text on the subject by Paul Samuelson that first appeared during the 1960’s and wonderfully termed itself, Economics.  The Samuelson book despite its age as well still explains for everyone the principles of modern economics in plain and simple English, and the concepts themselves are extremely powerful and override much of what we know to be “sociology” and “psychology” and other among the social sciences then and now.  The contrast between the thesis of von Mises of the 1950’s and Samuelson of the 1960’s to today has to do with Samuelson’s Hobbesian and overall technical and quantitative approach to the subject whereas von Mises theoretical computations have to do with commercial and money – motivated intricacies.  Economics for von Mises was the toil of a liberal psychologist in the experimental sciences (in fact, the terms here describe what today would be a kind of quackery but at the time were very seriously done and had great weight, for example, with the planners of the “Great Society” and so forth) in the areas of natural and behavioral research, and in the un – scientific realm of literary psychology (telling people what you knew as much as to not have them upset at what you say and how you say it).  Economy or economics for von Mises was a behavior, as no doubt he believed money is a huge influencer of economics and business behavior or “action”.  A second principle that runs between the lines throughout the book after being openly discussed early in the text is an acknowledgement that inequality and inequalities everywhere call for interpersonal interaction and social and societal cooperation – it is difficult given his belief in the heavy influences of capital and this latter observation as well, to tell if von Mises actually allowed for a socio – economic status quo or if he was constantly striving to find a way for this experimental science to break through the barriers of behavior as defined, economic behavior specifically, to have people find new innovative and inventive ground in many new ways.  It is evident von Mises knew that “a penny saved is a penny earned” and the like, and perhaps at the exclusion of other opportunities in life and in business / finance and economics, and with the emphasis in his book on prices and things like exchange rates and interest, it might be said he was not ‘miserly’ but might have been against spending greatly on things; and his levels of analysis indicate he had a liking for most people, especially the worker and consumer, the family man and homemaker.  To mention the spirit of von Mises as today quite happy with the federalist state of his native Europe – the relative economic stability and avoidance of poverty, the social stability as well, indicate the text was read there in a meaningful way without its being a cookbook for things as some economics text are.  Overall an excellent read.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

2014 FIFA World Result.

My unofficial attentive viewing of the recent World Cup final featuring Germany and Argentina began in the 30th minute with the offside Argentinian goal (Argentina was offside at several crucial times at the final) at the Rio de Janeiro Maracana stadium venue.  At the 35th minute, Cristoph Kramer (23) was off the pitch (substitution was Andre Schürrle (9)) with an apparent injury that followed some brutal play in which Germany’s Schweinsteiner (29th minute) received a yellow.  This brutal play against the Germans was again followed by a Howedes yellow, and in the 35th minute as well, Messi went for goal with his left.  Then in the 36th minute, Thomas Müller went for the Argentinian goal with his right.  At the 38th minute, it was Messi again on goal with a crucial German clearance out to the pitch’s right midfield from the German goal area.   At the 44th minute, it was again Müller on goal with his left.  In the 45th minute (approximately 45 :  20 and 45 : 40), Germany had corner kicks of which an outstanding header by Howedes (Kroos) that only found the middle of the right – hand post of the Argentinian frame; and the first half then ended even 0 – 0.
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The Argentinians then substituted Sergio Aguero (20) for Ezequiel Lavezzi (22), and within seconds were offside again in front of the German goal on the right.  At the end of the 46th minute, Messi made another left – footed attempt on the German goal, and the Germans replied in the 54th minute with a left – footed attempt again by Thomas Müller on the Argentinian goal.  This was followed by a decisive save / clearance by Neuer at the opposite end and in the 59th minute Germany had a header on goal (Klose), and again in the 61st minute, Özil of Germany made his goal attempt of the match followed by another in the 70th against the Argentines by Howedes.  In the 74th minute, Messi of the Argentines tried again against Neuer with his left; still no good for the Argentines.  In the 76th minute, the Argentines substituted Rodrigo Palacio (18) for Gonzalo Higuian (9).  Neuer made another decisive save in the 77th, followed in the opposite end by a clearance near the Argentine goal, and at the 81st minute, Kroos made another creative goal attempt of the match against the Argentines (right foot).  At the 85th minute, Argentina made their final substitute with Enzo Perez (8) out and Fernando Gago (5) in, and Germany at the 87th minute brought on Götze (19) in exchange for Miroslave Klose (11,) followed by a Götze right – footed attempt on the Argentine goal.  Regulation time ended at the 93rd minute on or about another German attempt on the opposing goal (Müller).  One interpretation indicates Argentina at this point were tired and increasingly shaky.
At the end of the first extra time, Argentina’s Palacio (18) was at the German goal again, and the first extra time ended at the 95th minute.  At the second extra time, and featuring throughout very physical play with a number of clashes marked a crucial serious foul called on Schweinsteiger (by Aguero), play could have gone either way save for the exhaustion of the Argentinians.  This was definitively marked by Thomas Müller’s receiving the ball on the left side within range of the Argentinian goal and making for the end line, beating his defender with a center to Götze who took the ball off his ribs, playing to his left and putting the ball in the air well by the Argentinian keeper :  At about the 112th minute, Germany 1 : Argentina 0.  The logic of the German defense from this time carried to the end of the match, even with a midfield foul on Messi toward the end (121st minute.)  Germany substituted Per Mertesacker (17) for Mesut Özil (8,) Messi’s free kick sailed, and extra time ended at or about the 125th minute with the final tally again at Germany 1 : Argentina 0. 

Please note the best accounts in English are from the UK papers, but USA Today had good coverage from the U.S., and there are numerous other sites with minute – by – minute coverage.  The network broadcast I viewed, and needless to mention this was a terrific match, featured a lag in the clock, so you might assume my times are entirely incorrect plus or minus maybe four minutes either way.  Also, as of today, July 18, the great German national team captain Philipp Lahm after ten years with his
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national team is retired from football.   

45th Anniversary of Apollo Eleven.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Good Book of Letters.

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The Letters of Arthur J. Schlesinger, Jr. (First Edition, Random House, 2013.)
Occasionally a book comes along that is in a different format formally than most others and readers, especially those in the area of current events and history will like the recent compilation of Arthur J. Schlesinger’s letters and related commentary that reads like the “Who’s Who” of the liberal party in the U.S. in addition to offering events and editorials, personal and public, in the recent history of that party, and for the reading public at this point.  The authors, themselves named Schlesinger, went searching for things in the New York Public Library and found approximately 35 , 000 letters and materials including notes, essays, other personal papers and the like.  There are apparently thousands of other letters of Schlesinger outside the New York Public library in people’s files and elsewhere which testify to the prolific character of this liberal and presidential adviser and confidant.  The “Who’s Who” of liberal society in the States for some time after WWII did come from the Ivy League, notably Harvard and the related crowd that due to the confluence of events and success factors at the time, politically, administratively and economically, etc., these historical figures, larger than life as they were in their academic achievements and more so in what they accomplished once given the reins of power, call for and are portrayed in a very high – impact prose in the letters as shown and in the corresponding editorials and opinions associated with the letters.  None of Schlesinger’s notes to anyone, and he had many high – powered, very accomplished friends and fellow – advisors and officials and other associates; proved to be more than a few pages.  The text also has a formal picture or two with him at his typewriter that appeared to start out as a Remington manual machine as was often the case in the days for journalists, and then that developed into the apparently more modern one as time passed. 
The entirety of the text shows probably several hundred of his best correspondence to the Kennedys, Dean Acheson, Harry Truman, Averill Harriman, and the list goes on and on of major people in the day.  Mr. Schlesinger died in 2007 and was still writing at the time.  Throughout the text, the prose he set down is thrilling to read and the book a page – turner – the letters themselves have a hopeful mood and attitude, and his coverage of people’s lives in these indicates the early emphasis of U.S. politics as it developed after WWII, again, as increasingly oriented, however silently, to foreign policy; and for instance to the fate of places like Israel, Berlin, T’aiwan, and others.  Naturally, liberal people are more oriented to things like foreign policy and world society, and especially during the 1950’s onward, and even up to today, U.S. influence, political power and even outright controlling of circumstances, and conditions outside the country is the banter of the day in these circles.  Same had been true of the leftist / communist capitals since some time ago, and this brought out the hefty anti – communism even of the most liberal U.S. high officialdom at the time.  As much is evident the perception that communism, and this even more so during the Kennedy polity, and its dangers, realized and materialized for free and democratic countries the kind of backward form of oppression that it was known for in the States while at some times in its detail giving cause for the uninformed to suspend belief.  It is obvious as well from the text that Mr. Schlesinger knew lives of well – educated, humble and very capable people were spent on this, if not set completely adrift for the duration given what happened in the day, especially for example to those who were knowledgeable and action, reform, and anti – communist – oriented, but who were cut to the quick by the communist device of calling the opposition, even the left opposition behind the Iron Curtain incapable and too lightweight.  The telling drinking bouts of the then soviet leadership at the time are evidence of this though the author does not speak of these. 

The text is written in its commentary and editorials on the correspondence therein by two very cogent and inspiring people themselves in the way they chose the notes and presented them with comments and richly referenced as well, might I add.  The journalistic style of the book is intimate in every way as the author knew the subject matter “growing up” as even, and this is my guess, these so – called journalists knew at their adolescent years they would make history, that they were different and more capable and genial and “can – do” than their contemporaries – as a result of this, they were journalists, but might have completely avoided the daily television news and daily papers (this is just a guess, but the nature and detail of the letters in the text lends credence to it).  Directly and indirectly as well, the book is a history of the liberal polity in the States starting in the 1950’s right up to today in great part.  Really a great read.