Monday, January 27, 2014

Finished (E-Reader) - "The Wolf of Wall Street" - Jordan Belfort

"The Wolf of Wall Street" captured my interest from the movie trailers.  The book is a good read, though a little long, particularly if you have a fascination for the seedy side of rich folk's lives.

This book certainly points out problems with the financial system.  Belfort basically admits to many crimes in his book, and it is unlikely that ANY of his "earnings" are actually legal.  Not sure what jail sentence he ended up with (a couple of years), but it seems to me that any real justice would be to remove all his ill-gotten gains (e.g. his entire property and funds) along with the jail time.  Otherwise, isn't it just a matter of trading a few years in a minimum security prison for millions of dollars and a fantastic hedonistic lifestyle?  Wouldn't many people take that deal?

I haven't seen the movie, but it apparently leaves the "average viewer" with the perception that the Wolf didn't get his just rewards - the book certainly leaves me with the same feelings.

Update: saw the movie, same impression as the book - very shallow people who get rich doing immoral and illegal things - penalties have to fit the crimes.  If all your wealth was ill-gotten, guess what?  - it all should go back.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Finished (E-Reader) - "Killing Jesus: A History" - O'Reilly and Dugard

As with "Killing Lincoln" and "Killing Kennedy", O'Reilly takes a famous story and tells it as a novel.  "Killing Jesus" does a good job of weaving the historical Roman Empire history and politics in with the biblical account of the New Testament.

Not a particularly religious sort, I found the storytelling as a novel a great way to introduce or reinforce a very familiar story.  The book seems to be relatively straightforward, with no obvious attempt to push a narrative other than that told in historcial records and the New Testament.  I am not versed enough in biblical scholarship to appreciate which specific version of the story is being presented, nor is there any attempt in the "Killing Jesus" book to idenify or reconcile any areas where there might be historical or religiously based differences or disputes.

I doubt "Killing Jesus" will appeal to die-hards on any religious extreme, but serves to cover the topic adequately for those interested in the story, either as an introduction to the story, or a faith-based novel covering well trod ground.

Finished (E-Reader) - "A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert Ripley" - Neal Thompson

I found Thompson's biography of Ripley (of "Believe It Or Not" fame) to be a compelling, can't put down book.

Ripley came from modest roots, almost finished high school, with few friends.  His skill was cartooning, which did make him modestly popular in later school drawing teachers and other amusing cartoons for fellow students.

A series of lucky contacts launched Ripley into doing sports illustrations for newspapers, which led to  "odd sports" comics, and eventually to "Believe It or Not".

Through cartooning and his life as a newspaper illustrator,  Ripley managed to do overseas voyages, paid for through the newspapers by writing and illustrating columns while on the road.

Ripley became very famous doing this, and eventually moved his cartooning into radio shows, in-person appearances and even into television.  A sideline was the "odditorium", part freak show, part display of souvenirs Ripley collected during his voyages.

The timeline of Ripley's life spans WWI, prohibition (which he avoided by travelling, drinking and writing about it), the depression and WWII.  This also spanned the heyday of cartooning (newspaper panel-type cartoons), the popularization of comic books (famously Superman started in 1938), radio shows and the new tech of television.  Ripley played a part in all of this, becoming one of the richest people in the U.S., some of which at a time when many had nothing at all.

His travels were interesting because Ripley seemed to be a tireless and brave traveller, with the sterotypic "ugly American" habit of refusing to speak any language other than English, choosing to speak louder if the recepient was not an English speaker.

Ripley was an odd man in his personal life, a world class handball player, playboy who made his home into a museum, which some found odd.  He enjoyed the limelight, which is remarkable in the 21st century "looks-only" media, as he wasn't classically beautiful, and had bad teeth for most of his life.  His life with women was interesting, as he had no problem attracting women, and had several serious relationships, but never had "the love of his life", a woman friend who died relatively young.

Ripley died in his 50's as his dad had of a heart attack, a few days after having some type of attack live on TV.  Oddly, his last show was a Memorial Day brtoadcast, and the last thing broadcast on Ripley's watch was the funeral song "Taps".