Archive for September, 2010


September 22, 2010

Long-time followers of this blog (all two of you) will already know that I like the programs the Pritzker Military Library has from time to time.  Located in Chicago, Illinois, the Library hosts authors of military-related books for talks about their works.  The most recent program I caught featured Matt Gallagher, author of Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War, one of the truest memoirs of the Iraq War I have read. (Side note: go check out Matt’s latest post on his new blog, Kerplunk, about an academic conference he recently attended – good stuff!)  I caught the podcast for that one, but on other previous occasions I have endured the often-painfully early wake-up calls required to watch the streaming video live as the event happens.  This time around, to watch author Karl Marlantes talk about his brilliant novel of the Vietnam War Matterhorn, I won’t have to get up early at all – thanks PML!

I read Matterhorn after seeing the high praise heaped upon it from various sources, including James Fallows of The Atlantic.  While I had little doubt that the book would be interesting to me – it’s about Marines and war, a couple of topics near and dear to my heart – I wasn’t as certain that the book would be able to live up to the hype.  Well, it did, and then some.  It’s been a while since I have read a book that I literally didn’t want to put down (especially when considering that some of my academic pursuits of late have included political economy and philosophy), but that’s how Marlantes’ novel was.  Marlantes himself was a Marine who served in Vietnam and started writing the novel soon after his service there ended.  More than 30 years later, the product is worth your attention.  Read the book, and if you haven’t yet, still tune in (or get the podcast) to see him talk about the book on Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 6PM Central (US) time (7AM on Friday morning here in Taiwan – no problem tuning in for me!).  Read on for all the details.

Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pritzker Military Library

610 N. Fairbanks Court, 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60611
Make a reservation

Member reception: 5:00pm
Presentation and Live Webcast: 6:00pm

Books are available for purchase at author events courtesy of The Book Stall at Chestnut Court. Library members receive a 10% discount.
As a young man, returned from a tour of duty in Vietnam, he began writing an epic novel about the war he experienced and the way that combat changes people. More than thirty years later, his work is done.

Matterhorn draws from Karl Marlantes’ experience as an officer with the Marine Corps in Vietnam. The year is 1969, and 2nd Lt. Waino Mellas has been assigned to lead a rifle platoon of forty Marines as their company builds a fire support base in the mountains near the border of Laos. His platoon is full of young men who have been at war for years; Mellas, fresh out of college, is overwhelmed by his responsibilities as a leader and the dense jungle landscape that surrounds them.

As casualties mount, Mellas and his platoon fight through a series of conflicting missions – they are ordered to abandon their newly built base, the ordered to take it back from the North Vietnamese Army, and then ordered to abandon it again. While their commanding officers fight the war from a distance, little aware of how their decisions affect men on the ground, Mellas and his platoon endure sweltering heat, monsoon rains, and a growing sense of futility; they struggle to understand and trust each other, and they forge powerful bonds that will overcome fear, doubt, and loss.

Karl Marlantes was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze Star, two Navy Commendation Medals for valor, two Purple Hearts, and ten air medals for his service in Vietnam. Matterhorn is his first novel. A graduate of Yale and a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, he lives in rural Washington.

The new semester

September 16, 2010
Seal of Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, Republic of China.

Image via Wikipedia

This week marked the start of the fall semester in Taiwan.  Back at the books!  The 2 1/2 month summer vacation was nice, don’t get me wrong, but it’s also impossible to complete a task unless one first starts it.  Thus, starting back at school is good!

I’m really excited about the classes I have this semester.  I am in a new department at my university.  Last year I studied in the Institute of Political Science, but over the summer I transferred to the Institute of China and Asia-Pacific Studies.  The course selections I had to choose from were far better this semester as compared to last.  I picked five courses:

  1. 20th Century American Foreign Policy
  2. American Foreign Policy (comprehensive, not scope-limited to a particular century)
  3. Studies in China’s Foreign Policy
  4. National Security and Crisis Management
  5. China and Southeast Asia

Two of the five are taught in Chinese, while three are in English.  Two (not the same two) are doctorate-level courses which I am now eligible to take, as a second year master’s student.  Nice!

Now that the first week of classes is done, I am performing the enjoyable task of ordering the books for the courses.  A year ago, I spent a considerable amount of time going to virtually every book store I could find in Kaohsiung to try to source the books I needed for my classes.  Unlike in America, the university bookstore here has a very low probability of having the required books.  I found exactly *one* text I needed at the university bookstore over the past 2 semesters, and a whopping one more at a local bookstore.  In the end, and despite the sometimes breathtakingly steep shipping costs, the only plausible way to get the majority of the books was online.  This semester, I am not even wasting my time looking at brick-and-mortar bookstores here in Taiwan; I know from past experience that the best way to go is just to bite the bullet and buy online.

Of course, the fastest and often cheapest way to obtain the books I need is in the e-book format.  I have a Kindle reading device and last semester was able to get a few of the books I needed on it.  This virtually instantaneously gives me access to the book I want and I don’t have to pay all the ridiculous shipping costs – win-win!  Unfortunately, even though Amazon is continuously adding more Kindle e-books to its selection, the majority of the books I need are not available to me on the Kindle. (For a review of my Kindle experiences written about a year ago, see here.  I’m a fan.)

I like books and reading, so it is fun to shop around at various sites to see where I can get the best deal.  It is even more fun when the big boxes of books arrive in the mail – like Christmas!  Looking forward to lots of good readings this semester…

Guam buildup decision to be released Sept. 20 – Air Force News, news from Iraq – Air Force Times

September 11, 2010

Been a while since we’ve checked in on the Guam buildup  – here’s the latest.

Guam buildup decision to be released Sept. 20 – Air Force News, news from Iraq – Air Force Times.

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