Archives for posts with tag: literature reviews

I just finished this exhaustive biography on the legendary king of country music and when I finally put the book down it was with a sense of awe and wonder. Seriously.

And I hate country music. But I was intrigued about the man. He died New Year’s Day 1953 in the back of a car on the way to a performance. And he was just 29 years old.

The author, Colin Escott, summed up the importance of the man best when he said,”Most singers hope to hang their careers on one or two classics; Hank cut four classics between 1:30 and 3:40 on the afternoon of September 23rd, 1952, including ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’, the song that would become as much his anthem in death as ‘Lovesick Blues’ had been in life. ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ is the song that – for all intents and purposes – defines country music.”

The book was highly readable, well researched, and a wonderful tale of a man who packed more living into 10 years than any other ten people do in a typical lifetime.

Hank Williams: the consummate singer, songwriter, and performer; done in by his painfully ruptured spine, bad heart, and all the booze and drugs he took to fight the pain.

It was the story of a skinny hillbilly with a body that gave him nothing but pain who somehow soldiered on to conquer country music. Mr. Escott didn’t deliberately tell it that way but it was still a story to break your heart.

PS – The book ends speculating as to what the future might have held for Hank Williams had he lived. The conclusion that the author drew was Hank’s hillbilly flavor of country didn’t have a future; it was a sound that wouldn’t carry. The author pointed out that Hank arrived on the big stage at the right time (1948) while there was still the remembrance of the depression, and the ‘right social and market conditions’ to carry his particular kind of music.

Music rapidly changed after Hank’s death in ’53. Rockabilly morphed along with the blues into rock and roll. Country music shed most of its coarse hillbilly roots when it went more mainstream and merged into a more nationally formatted flavor of pop music.

I have my own personal memory from a little later – ’64/’65 – when my grandfather was ‘calling’ a square dance at the Burt Lake Community Center on a hot Saturday afternoon. I remember the teenagers that had gathered – it was a small community, no other place to go – who were holding up Beatles records; of the 45 variety. They wanted to dance too. I especially remember a rather pouty teenage girl behived a bit like Brigitte Bardot who twisted her way into my fantasies.

And Ol’ Hank? The question of ‘what if?’ is really moot. Given his serious medical condition he was fated to die a young man. To everything there is a season, right? And none of us ever manage to find out until perhaps the very last minute that season was ours. And some of us never know. Hank died loaded up on booze and painkillers and probably just slipped from unconsciousness into death.

PPS – I finished a novel a few months back by someone I had never heard of named Steve Earle and his book was called, ‘I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive’. And it wasn’t until I read this biography of Hank Williams did I understand more of the basis for Steve Earle’s novel. One, he took his title from a song written by Hank William’s of the same name and two, the ghost always entreating Earle’s protagonist to ‘take a ride’ was none other than Hank Williams himself.

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I am reading Tyler Cowen’s book ‘Average is Over’ because I was intrigued by a ThoughtCatalog posting entitled ‘6 Imperative Things You Need To Know About The Global Economy’ and especially one of the summations of the short global economy scarcity indices in the form of ‘Quality labor with unique skills’.

I got a copy of the ebook from my sister, who was equally interested, and I am now 31% through it according to my eReader.

I intend to write a series of posts on the subject, this being the first.

I don’t know the page number – it’s an eReader in the form of the 1st gen Kindle – but it’s at the 31% finished point where the author states” If you test your ability to calculate against the computer and continue to do so over years, you’ll get a lot better at calculation and you’ll learn to transcend some of the natural tendency to rely on intuition.” Hmmm.

On the previous page where he sums up analytic people, intelligence and decision making in the workplace he says “Be skeptical of the elegant and intuitive theory.”

Now I have some disagreement there as I happen to love elegant solutions and also believe that when we talk about intuition in a serious way what we are really talking about is leveraging pre-existing information that resides in the subconscious mind.

But he made a point earlier for which I am willing to forgive his rather blithe disregard for elegance when he said that “…we humans¬† – even at the highest levels of intellect and competition – like to oversimplify matters.”

But then he infuriates me where in the next sentence he says, “We boil things down to our ‘intuitions’ too much.”

[Following] Intuitions is not about shooting from the proverbial hip, going off all half-cocked and making irrationally based decisions. The author is taking the meaning of the word intuition and is applying it incorrectly. To say it again, the sub-conscious mind stores all kinds of little details that the conscious mind ignores. This might be a crude example, but someone properly hypnotized is able to remember all kinds of details, some seemingly useless, like colors and makes and models of cars that drove by their front porch on some summer morning years ago. And there are those who upon arriving home sense that something (however subtle) is amiss with their front door and rightly know that their apartment has been violated. Why/how? Because that previous information of what was still exists in the subconscious mind. Highly intuitive people have readier access to their subconscious than people who don’t.

So apart from the sloppy application of the word intuition I am willing to forgive him because the point that he is really trying to make in that paragraph is tied to the fact that “We (humans) like pat answers and we take too much care to avoid intellectual chaos.” Meaning, like he said earlier, we have a tendency to oversimplify things. And I agree with that.

But the reason why I felt an urge to make a comment at the 31% mile-marker is just how much in contrast his opinion on the relative valuelessness of intuition is with that of the great Sufi mystic, Rumi who said “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment; cleverness is mere opinion, bewilderment is intuition.”

So I have to say early on that I disagree with the author about the future in that machine enabled analytics totally displace qualities like elegance and the importance of the mostly misunderstood notion of intuition. Even yes, in the workplace.

PS – Do you want to know why the CIA as an organization is such a failure as an implementer of American foreign policy? It is because all of the people that they hire all fit the exact same mold. No criminal records. Good grades from a good school. Good credit scores. In short, they hire people who play it safe. They don’t hire risk takers. They don’t hire people who use their intuition. Creative thought and elegance is not part of their corporate creed. Instead the institution breeds bureaucrats. Enough said.

PPS – If you want to read a very comprehensive history on the positively world-class bungling CIA, I urge you to pick up a copy of Derek Leebaert’s brilliantly researched¬† ‘The Fifty-Year Wound: How America’s Cold War Victory Has Shaped Our World’.