Books

Ameritopia – by Mark Levin – a Review

Ameritopia by Mark Levin

[rating=5]

Sometimes when you take a bite from a meal you get more wonderful flavors than you expected. As I mentioned I started the year trying to catch up on reading, and with “Ameritopia” I knocked out several pieces I may not have gotten around to. I found it to be an excellent primer on basic political philosophy.

Author Mark Levin spends the first half of the book covering the history of political thought, through an examination of Plato’s “Republic”, Thomas More’s “Utopia”, Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan”, and Karl Marx “Communist Manefesto”. He covers the basic tenets of each of these and contrasts the between them the political and social structure they envision. He focuses on how each approach the rights of the individual based on the political and governmental structure they recommend.

After a treatment of this history, Levin turns to the writings of John Locke and his formidable influence on our Founding Fathers. He illustrates how Locke’s writings were quoted and referenced in the documents that formed the basis for our country and our government. He also examines the writings of Charles de Montesquieu and Alexis de Tocqueville for how they described and magnified the reasons for America’s success. He related those writings again to the basis from John Locke for a structure in the rights of an individual for this country and it’s departure from the suppositions of the earlier writings by Plato et. all.

After a exhausting journey through political and social philosophy Levin starts to cover where we are in our own history and the forces at work as well as the choices we have to make for our country. After slogging through the difficult and sometimes tedious subject matter of abstract philosophy you are rewarded with a climax at the end of the book rivaling any page turner of a novel. He draws no conclusions about what future choices we will make. He only describes the forces at work in shaping our decisions to come.

No doubt the coverage of the early philosophers are presented in such a way as to make the political points Mark Levin sets out to make in “Ameritopia”. However, it’s a wonderful journey through several classic writings I had wanted to make time for and a rewarding read. While it is not a light read and requires some dedication and patience to work your way through the more involved concepts, I highly recommend this book, whether you are an American, or not.

A Time to Betray – Review


[rating=5] “A Time to Betray” chronicles the early life of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard member who became a spy for the United States. Writing under a factious name for obvious reasons, Reza Kahili talks of his childhood in Iran with his family, his studies at the University of California, and his induction into the Revolutionary Guard as well as his activities as a spy for the CIA.

The tale is full of the suspense of a spy novel, heightened by the realization that the basis of his stories is actual true events, He was there at the taking of U.S. Embassy hostages at the end of the Shaw’s reign and the beginning of conflict with the United States. He tells of the war with Iraq and the brutal treatment of innocent people of Iran, torturing and killing people suspected of not supporting the Islamic regime. Several of these incidents involved Reza’s childhood friend and led him to oppose the regime in the clandestine and dangerous manner of becoming a spy.

While the account was thrilling, what I found most interesting was the cultural aspects of the story as well as the politics. His view on world events as an Iranian are fascinating. Even more so, his stories of his childhood in Iran filled the first third of the book and for me were the most rewarding. Politics and religion were the subject of many discussions and disagreements among his grandparents and friends. His grandfather was proud to have descended from the empire of Cyrus the Great. His grandmother taught him that Islam was a religion of peace and respect for your fellow man. The book presented the people of the ancient Persian Empire as a rich and proud culture of many different views.

While he was disappointed in the lack of support from the United States for those resisting the Islamic regime of Iran, he made it clear the mullahs in charge there are the real evil ones. I feel sorry for the people of Iran. I hope someday they are free to return to a life befitting the descendants of the rich culture of the Persians.

All in all “A Time to Betray” was a wonderful read, full of poignant history and offering an inside the conflict viewpoint from a soldier deeply involved in the fight for freedom in the Middle East.

County LIbrary

I just got a note today from the Branch Manager of the local county library. Ms. Barbara Appleby told me my novel, “Downtown and Dirty” would “be a fine addition to our adult fiction collection.” I’ll be meeting with her soon to officially donate a signed copy for the Montgomery County (Texas) Memorial Library System. All I could think of was that scene from the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” where Paul Varjak takes Holly Golightly to the public library and shows her his book is there. WooHoo!!

Downtown and Dirty

My novel became available on Amazon this last week. WooHoo!!!!

With God’s help I’ve been able to check that one off of my to-do list. If you’ve been following along around here I believe when God created us in his image, as the ultimate creator he made us to be creative. Producing things, especially beautiful things, pleases God. At least that’s my way of thinking. Deep down when you create something you feel a sense of accomplishment that comes from God.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

I’m so excited about this. Now that it’s finally in print I’ve been able to start another one. Of course I suffered through some growing pains with the first one, but writing a novel is an exciting ride and I’m eager to push down on the accelerator to capture another tale.

If you like to purchase a copy off of Amazon.com, here is the link. If you’d like a signed copy just send me an email.   Check out www.DowntownAndDirty.com and help me spread the word. Now excuse we while I get back to celebrating!

 

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Occasionally I pick up a book that has been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time waiting for me to get around to reading it.

Most of the time I enjoy the book and finish it with a sense of accomplishment more than anything else. The book will simply no longer need to be read.

Then there are the times when I finish the book and wonder why it took me so long to read it. There are books that give you something you expect to carry with you through life. There are books that make a difference. Such was the case with me when I read “The 7 Habit of Highly Effective People”. By Stephen R. Covey.

The title sat there on my bookshelf and beaconed me for years. I knew it was a number one best seller. I knew I might get something out of it. But I looked at it with the attitude I “should” read it. I almost saw it as a chore. But once I started I was hooked immediately by it’s optimistic prescriptions for dealing with life on a daily basis.

Where I expected procedural habits such as “make a to-do list at night” or “return phone calls promptly” I was rewarded instead with wisdom. The seven habits outline simple values based attitudes that come together to make an unarguable outline for effective behavior. I really enjoyed this book.

I can’t answer the obvious question here. I’m not going to simply list the seven habits, for in the abstract they would seem somehow cheapened. To appreciate the 7 habits you need to understand the principles behind them. So pick up a copy of this book. Or borrow mine. It’s an international best seller and that many people can’t be all wrong. This book could really make a difference in your life. Just don’t let it set on the bookshelf for years as I did.

The Artist’s Way

Are you an artist? I think we all are. You may not draw or paint. You may write poetry or have musical talents. You may have a talent you’ve not yet discovered for building birdhouses. You have talents, of that I’m sure.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is book outlining a 12 week course in teaching ourselves to let the creativity in all of us blossom and flourish. Originally designed to help writers overcome writer’s block, the book has been used by musicians, painters, dancers and other artists the world over to tap into their own creative process.

When I was young I was taught we were created in God’s image. At such a young age the word “image” had only visual implications. I assumed we looked like God. God had two arms and two legs and a head.

Julia Cameron puts forward in her book The Artist’s Way that our creator, the Ultimate Creator, created us in his image as creative beings. According to her theories the creator works through us in our creativity. In fact, all we have to do is open ourselves up to channel this creative energy and get ourselves out of the way. She provides the tools to do this.

Does it work? It seems to have worked for hundred of thousands of artists and would-be artists. The book has sold well over a million, mostly by word of mouth. I read the book and studied the course beginning in the first month of 2003. Within a few months I had fulfilled a lifelong dream – I had written my first novel.

Ben Franklin and French Women

From “The Writer’s Almanac” 26Oct07:

It was on this day in 1776 that Benjamin Franklin left for a diplomatic mission to France, to gain support for the American Revolution.

Benjamin Franklin was a ladies man. It has been reported he had over a dozen illegitimate children. When he got to France he immediately went after the wives of the dignitaries, and given his track record, we must assume with some success. The French respected that. The French loved Franklin and assumed all Americans were like him. Since they were looking for an excuse to get into another dust-up with the British, having been 40 years or so since the regular as clockwork war between the two, Franklin’s stature in their eyes convinced them to help us out with our revolutionary war.

It proved decisive, but barely. Our own U.S. Continental Congress heard what a jolly time Franklin was having over in France enjoying the women and the food, and called him back home. They sent Thomas Jefferson over there to replace him. Jefferson was a bit of a stuffed shirt, and conflicted morally. He didn’t chase French women. The French quickly lost their admiration for Americans and sent word to their generals over here to come back home. Lucky for us the French Generals whipped a few British on their way out, just enough for us to declare victory.

While true and accurate, the above history lesson is an advertisement for the poem by Robert Bly what will greet you if you click on the above link. Here is is again.

The God Who Loves You

A really good poem is a little troubling at first read, and then grows in stature with each successive reading. This poem does that for me. Every once in a while I entertain some bothersome thoughts about free will. This poem blows right by the issue to make a wonderful and simple point at the end.

The God Who Loves You, by Carl Dennis