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catch 22

Highly recommended as an idiosyncratic take on war that comes far too close to reality. This is black humour that every person should have read as part of basic cultural education. Catch 22 is one of the greatest works of literature of the 20th century.

Here is a short cut to tempt you:

"America," he said, "will lose the war. And Italy will win it."
"America is the strongest and most prosperous nation on earth," Nately informed him with lofty fervor and dignity. "And the American fighting man is second to none."
"Exactly," agreed the old man pleasantly, with a hint of taunting amusement. "Italy, on the other hand, is one of the least prosperous nations on earth. And the Italian fighting man is probably second to all. And that's exactly why my country is doing so well in this war while your country is doing so poorly."
"I'm sorry I laughed at you. But Italy was occupied by the Germans and is now being occupied by us. You don't call that doing very well, do you?"
"But of course I do," exclaimed the old man cheerfully. "The Germans are being driven out, and we're still here. In a few years, you will be gone, too, and we will still be here. You see, Italy is really a very poor and weak country, and that's what makes us so strong. Italian soldiers are not dying anymore. But American and German soldiers are. I call that doing extremely well. Yes, I'm quite certain Italy will survive this war and still be in existence long after your own country has been destroyed."
"America is not going to be destroyed!" he shouted passionately.
"Never?" prodded the old man softly.
"Well..." Nately faltered.
"Rome was destroyed, Greece was destroyed, Persia was destroyed, Spain was destroyed. All great countries are destroyed. Why not yours? How much longer do you really think your own country will last? Forever? Keep in mind that the earth itself is destined to be destroyed by the sun in twenty-five million years or so."

"I don't believe anything you tell me," Nately replied... "The only thing I do believe is that America is going to win the war."
"You put so much stock in winning wars. The real trick lies in losing wars, in knowing which wars can be lost. Italy has been losing wars for centuries, and just see how splendidly we've done nonetheless. France wins wars and is in a continual state of crisis. Germany loses and prospers. Look at our recent history. Italy won a war in Ethiopia and promptly stumbled into serious trouble. Victory gave us such insane delusions of grandeur that we helped start a world war we hadn't a chance of winning. But now that we are losing again, everything has taken a turn for the better and we will certainly come out on top again if we succeed in being defeated."
Nately gaped at him in undisguised befuddlement. "Now I really don't understand what you're saying. You talk like a madman."
"But I live like a sane one. I was a fascist when Mussolini was on top, and I am anti-fascist now that he has been deposed. I was fanatically pro-German when the Germans were here to protect us against the Americans, and now that the Americans are here to protect us against the Germans I am fanatically pro-American...When the Germans marched into the city, I danced in the streets like a ballerina and shouted `Heil Hitler!'... When the Germans left the city, I rushed out to welcome the Americans with a bottle of excellent brandy and a basket of flowers. The brandy was for myself, of course, and the flowers were to sprinkle upon our liberators... ".

"There is nothing so absurd about risking your life for your country," [Nately] declared.
"Isn't there?" asked the old man. "What is a country? A country is a piece of land surrounded on all sides by boundaries, usually unnatural. Englishmen are dying for England. Americans are dying for America. Germans are dying for Germany. Russians are dying for Russia. There are now fifty or sixty countries fighting in this war. Sure so many countries can't all be worth dying for."
"Anything worth living for," Nately said, "is worth dying for."
"And anything worth dying for," answered the sacrilegious old man, "is certainly worth living for."

"Why don't you use some sense and try to be more like me? You might live to be a hundred and seven too."
"Because it's better to die on one's feet than live on one's knees. I guess you're heard that saying before."
"Yes I certainly have," mused the treacherous old man, smiling again. "But I'm afraid you have it backward. It is better to live on one's feet than die on one's knees. That is the way the saying goes.
"Are you sure?" Nately asked with sober confusion. "It seems to make more sense my way."
"No, it makes more sense my way..."

But Catch 22 is a real roller-coaster of a read. It took me weeks to get through it rather a long time ago, but the time and effort was well invested.

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, Simon & Schuster, reprint 1996, $10.88 [amazon.com]
# ISBN-10: 0684833395
# ISBN-13: 978-0684833392

 

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
Vintage, reprint 1994
£5.99 [amazon.co.uk]
ISBN-10: 0099477319
ISBN-13: 978-0099477310

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review2004.php#catch22_310105


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ecological collapse

This review has been moved and is now included in the briefing document,
ecologically collapsing and retrenching civilisations
written sources

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review2004.php#ecological_collapse_310105

a pychobabble defensive manual Four GoldenYak (tm) award

House of cards is useful background on the basic science of psychotherapy. As this science is in its infancy and is plagued by a surfeit of charlatans and otherwise mediocre writers, House of cards necessarily expends a great deal of the time examining the false and sloppy logic that pervades the academic establishment and is widespread amongst would be‘professional’ practioners.

House of cards is the sort of defensive manual that anyone wishing to study this field should have on their shelves. It is sometimes repetitious and the precision is sloppy in places. The repetition will do you no harm, and looking for weak logic will be good practice for you.

You will gain an idea of what this book is like by watching how I am using it in ‘traumatic’ ‘syndromes’ or ‘curing’ P.E.S.Ts and in memory, paranoia and paradigm.

But before you go away with the idea that psychotherapy is all bunk,

“Psychotherapy works overall in reducing psychologically painful and often debilitating symptoms. The reasons it works are unclear, because entirely different approaches may work equally well for the same problem or set of problems. Recovery is a base rate phenomenon. That is, in predicting the likelihood that a particular individual will recover, we can do little better than by predicting from the overall rate of recovery; we have no insight into why exactly some people get better while others don’t. We do, however, know something about psychotherapist characteristics that make it work. Therapists in verbally oriented therapies, we know, should be “empathetic”, while those using primarily behavioral techniques should have some knowledge of behavioral principles.” [p.38]

House of cards also remains pretty alert throughout to the widespread failure to distinguish properly statistical statements from individual statements. For much more detail on this problem, see Intelligence: misuse and abuse of statistics.

Dawes, Robyn M., House of cards, 1996
Free Press (Simon & Schuster), 0684830914 (pbk)

$17.95 [amazon.com] / 11.24 [amazon.co.uk]

image credit: amazon.co.uk

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review2004.php#house_of_cards

if the machines stop running—life with the amish
a book review

“Goodbye lights, running water, refrigerator, washer, dryer, microwave, and central heat.”

Amish: belonging to a strict US Mennonite sect.
Mennonite: member of a Protestant sect originating in Friesland in the 16th c.
Better off: flipping the switch on tecnology by Eric Brende
Brende, Better off: flipping the switch on technology

August 2004, HarperCollins, 0060570040, hbk

£16.97 [amazon.co.uk]
$12.22
[amazon.com]

Adobe reader download, file size: 1956K

August 2004, publisher: PerfectBound, B0002TKGB2

£12.76 [amazon.co.uk]
$13.97
[amazon.com]

Brende - Better off: flipping the switch on technology

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review2004.php#amish

i shouldn't laugh, i really shouldn't – glow in the dark 'remedies'

A review of book on quack radio-active ‘therapy’.

“ For example, the Bailey Radium Laboratories of East Orange, New Jersey, offered $1,000 to anyone who could prove that its "Certified Radioactive Water," sold under the brand name Radithor, did not contain the large amount of radium and thorium it claimed to. Alas, Radithor was the real thing: No one ever claimed the prize. But Radithor did claim at least one life, that of the well-known industrialist, playboy and three-bottle-a-day Radithor user Eben Byers. Byers's gruesome death in 1932 inspired the Wall Street Journal headline "The Radium Water Worked Fine until His Jaw Came Off." ”

Living with Radiation, the First Hundred Years by Paul Frame and William Kolb, self-published in the USA.

the web address for this article is
http://www.abelard.org/news/review2004.php#radon


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