Books

Safehold - Book 9 - At the Sign of Triumph by David Weber

And it is done. In the 9th book David Weber finish the original cycle. The Church is defeated and Safehold is looking forward to a new era….. Maybe? The books pace felt a bit faster than the previous one, but after nine books it is nice to see the circle coming to an end.

In a few decades Safehold has gone from the early renaissance to essentially early-20th century technology and I am curious to see where this story develops. The big baddy from space is still out there, and a thousand years mean little in the context of the age of the universe.

Satisfying ending to this arc though.

Rating: 4.5/5

Extinction Cycle: Dark Age - Book 2 - Extinction Inferno by Nicholas Sansbury Smith

Ah, military Sci-Fi with Zombies, well, something that behaves like Zombies. I guess I could say “more of the same” and that’s true. Sansbury Smith still knows how to write the action in an exciting way.

Rating: 4.5/5

Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough and Michael Braungart

This book dates back to 2002 but I think it’s still highly relevant. The question is how do we deal with all the stuff we produce? The general term is “cradle to grave” but the book makes the argument that we should really think “cradle to cradle” instead.

The really nice thing about the book is not that it just says: “We should do this” but is actually providing examples on how this can / should look.

Rating: 5/5

Milk Run by Nathan Lowell

This was / is a re-read. I read the book already last year, but I like Lowells stories. They are “adventures in space” but not military sci-fi. It is instead more about how would a trading society in space function.

This second series is an expansion and tells the adventures from the POV of two women who recently graduated from the academy but then find themselves fleeing from the authorities as one of them seems to have killed a Government official.

It is an interesting hook and has Lowell exploring more of the “dark side” of the society.

Rating: 5/5

The Culture of Narcissism by

This book actually came out in 1978 but so many of the things described in there are clearly applicable in 2019 and knowing the age of the book it somehow feels a bit prophetic.

In the age of Trump, BREXIT and all the other lunacy in the West right now, this really is a must read.

Rating: 5/5

Fentanyl, Inc. byBen Westhoff

Everybody talks about the opioid epidemic (see also “American Overdose”), but how did we actually get there?

Fentanyl Inc. is a fascinating look into the drug business, both legal and illegal and how the current crisis was created. I found myself enjoying this probably way more than I should have.

Rating: 4.5/5

Augmented by James D. Prescott

Eh. I had high hopes for this. The hook sounds interesting:

Breathable air on Earth is running out and no one knows why.
A mysterious discovery nearly thirty million years old may hold the answer.
To find it, a glaciologist and the inventor of a cutting-edge brain implant will need to work together.
But can they unlock its shocking secrets in time to save humankind?

So yeah, techno thriller territory. I don’t mind cheese with it, but the problem really is more in the writing of the characters. They often come off either as caricatures or two-dimensional.

Basically, a boring / even worse written Dan Brown.

Rating: 2/5

American Overdose - The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts by Chris McGreal

This is the companion to “Fentanyl, Inc.” further up. Whereas the first book deals with the drug itself, this deals with the consequences. How the pharmaceutical industry created addicts to bolster their bottom line and how all the lip service they pay to make the drugs safer or control access to it never happened.

I remember back in 2012 watching a documentary about West Virginia and the crisis there. Way before it started hitting Canada and the US as a whole. This is a devastating book talking about a devastating crisis.

Rating: 4.5/5

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

HashTag MeToo and how it came to pass. “Catch and Kill” is a newspaper term where newspapers buy up scoop only to then kill it. It is often politically motivated. Farrow was the guy behind starting the ball rolling about Weinstein which lead to the MeToo movement. This book isn’t so much about Weinstein as it is about Farrows struggle trying to get the story published in the first place.

Farrow meanders a bit in the book and it is clearly intended to build him a bit of a memorial, but none-the-less it is an interesting look inside the journalism industry.

Rating: 4/5

Hivemind - The New Science of Tribalism in our divided world by Sarah Rose Cavanagh, PhD.

This is a good companion to “The culture of Narcissism” and is making a strong argument against the idea of the individual being the most important aspect of society. Instead the book makes a convincing argument that we are all social creatures and that belonging to a group is what makes us humans and leads to a better life.

The book is not necessarily a happy read, but it is hard to argue against the premise when you look at society, especially if you combine this book with “The culture of Narcissism”.

Rating: 4.5/5

Audience of One: Television, Donald Trump, and the Fracturing of America by James Poniewozik

The Trump that keeps on giving. It seems almost every month there is at least one book with Trump as the focus. “Audience of One” does have Trump as a “hook” but it reaches all the way back to the ’70s and the way media has been transforming itself and society.

That Trump is used as the prime example of this shouldn’t surprise. His biggest achievement prior to becoming President was after all his TV show.

It’s an entertaining read and def. did fill in some gaps for me around American media.

Rating: 4/5

Fascinating Footnotes from History by Giles Milton

A bit of a different history book. Milton collects little personal stories during large events in history. It gives a glimpse into the daily life of people during these events that most history books often gloss over.

Having said this, not all of these vignettes are new, some of them I had already heard about. Still though, it’s an interesting “deep dive” into history.

Rating: 4/5

Movies

I am Mother (2019)

A very positive surprise this year I have to say. The question about moral, AI and humanity in an interesting, well shot package.

It seems in the age of CGI everything, makes these small dramas much more powerful.

Rating: 5/5

Hypernormalization (2016)

Adam Curtis film from 2016. I was reminded of it a few times over the last few weeks and decided to rewatch it.

It is still dense and interesting.

Rating: 4/5

We Blew It (2017)

A road movie of sorts. Probably one of the first ones to “deal with the shock” of Trump getting elected as President. It is, in a lot of way, just holding a camera up to people and floats through America and the narrative in a lot of ways.

It’s an interesting vignette, though I am not sure it really brings a whole lot to the discussion, but it is an interesting time capsule.

Rating: 3.5/5

Stuber (2019)

Well that was pointless.

It’s an attempt to revive the “buddy cop comedy” and…. It’s just not really funny? Maybe I just don’t get all the “cultural references” but I think the bigger problem is that in a lot of ways the movie tries not to be offensive so it just comes off as dull.

Rating: 2.5/5

TV Shows

Rotten (Season 1 & 2)

Rotten takes a look at modern food production and how often we do not know understand / know where the food comes from. Often the episodes are critical but they do raise some interesting questions on how we feed ourselves.

Not all was new to me, a lot of the things shown I already knew, but if you have never really thought about where your food comes from, this is a good series.

Rating: 4/5

Online Reads

Wurst among equals

A look at Germany and the EU. It is actually from back in July but still a good read. Despite no BREXIT today.

The Economist

Online Video

Philosophy Tube “Queer”