My Historic New Year Resolution

I’m not one for New Year resolutions.

First, I’m happy with my weight, happy with my job, and happy with my financial situation.  Since losing weight, finding a new job and financial improvement (paying off credit card debt, saving more, etc.) are probably the most typical New Year resolutions, I’m not a candidate for those standard resolutions.

Second, if I feel there’s an improvement I need to make in my life then I’ll begin doing it immediately rather than wait for a new year.  Procrastinating until January 1 only increases the likelihood of failure since there is nothing motivationally special about that date as evidenced by all the folks who fail to fulfill their resolutions.  Inertia is the enemy of change and waiting for January 1 only continues the inertia.

So why a historic “first time” resolution this New Year?  It just happens to be a convenient timing coincidence.  I’ve done something I’ve not done in years and I’m determined to carry it through to completion, preferably during 2009.

What have I done?  I’ve ordered a book that’s not a travel guide!  (The order included travel guide books for Puerto Vallarta, Amsterdam and Brussels / Bruges, at least one of which I‘m hoping to visit in the next 12 to 18 months.)

Most folks (and I’m one of them) wouldn’t count college textbooks as “reading” since that’s required reading.  “Optional” reading is what is normally considered “reading” because you can choose what to read.  Using that standard, I’ve not been a much of a “reader” since….oh, say graduating high school in 1970.

At one time,  I did a fairly good amount of “recreational” reading.  As a child, I read every Hardy Boys mystery book in the series I could get my hands on.  I also devoured a number of Time-Life history series collections which my parents subscribed to for me and which were much superior to my high school history textbooks.  With the exception of the Hardy Boys books, most of my reading was non-fiction.

I was a high school junior when I became radicalized in 1968, and I began reading social and political philosophy.  Even in high school, the little fiction I did read was very political – Brave New World, 1984, Animal Farm, and The Confessions of Nat Turner.

I continued that trajectory in college.  About the only courses I took in college were philosophy, history, and political science (no required reruns of math, science and English since my college’s entrance requirements weeded out the low performers).  I continued to read more non-fiction for “leisure” almost exclusively.

I’ve always had a “natural” interest in World War II .  Without it, I’d not been born since my father’s unit was the first one to enter my mother‘s Philippine town after the Japanese evacuated and they met at a liberation celebration.  So it’s not surprising that’s what I’ve been reading for most of the 25 years since graduating college.

But at a very slow, irregular pace.  I’m a “sporadic” reader now.  I’ve not read a single non-travel guide book in about two years.

The last non-travel guide book I did read was “Angels At Dawn” – the account of how, as the war wound down, over 2,000 American, British and other Allied civilians at a Japanese internment camp in the Philippines were rescued from execution by a combined American airdrop with ground support from Filipino guerillas.  Some of my high school classmates’ relatives were in that camp.  (The operation was featured on the History Channel, but another rescue operation in the Philippines around the same time involving Rangers was made into a movie – The Great Raid.)

So my New Year resolution is simple:  read two specific books in 2009. Very achievable!

One of those two books is award-winning (for “Stalingrad”) military historian Anthony Beevor’s “The Fall of Berlin.”  I’ve had this book for over a year, maybe even two years, but haven’t read a single page despite plans to read it on a flight out west.  Although the annual flight to Vegas is such a party flight that reading is not feasible, I slacked off when I had a chance to read it on flights to San Francisco, Arizona and New Mexico over the last two years.

(Don’t even suggest what I suspect some of you are thinking: that my resolution should have been to stop being a slacker! 😉  It’s  a fact that Americans don’t relax enough.  Fortunately, I don’t have that problem since I grew up in a country where no one was ever in a rush to get anything done quickly and where being too quick was considered impolite, both in the business and social spheres.  So I’m making up for all those folks that aren’t relaxing enough. 😉 )

Back to the two books….. First, there’s The Fall of Berlin.”

Since the military maneuvering aspect of Berlin’s capture was not critical because the outcome was never in doubt, Beevor illuminates the suffering of the German civilians as “total war” came to the their capital.  And perhaps the most notorious aspect of that total war was the mass rapes by the Red Army in revenge for the SS atrocities when the Germans occupied Russia.

As word of the rapes spread, many women committed suicide as the Red Army entered their neighborhoods.  The Russians didn’t discriminate – young girls, old women, attractive or not.  Rape every woman that could be found was wartime justice.  Only the Japanese Rape of Nanking was more brutal, yet many Americans have never heard of it although they know what happened in Berlin.

The second book, which I just received (hence the resolution), is “My Far Away Home.”  This book has “personal” appeal.  The author is a 1951 (the year I was born) graduate from my Manila high school and was eight when the Japanese invaded the Philippines.  Her family thought the war would end quickly after a decisive response by MacArthur and the American military.

So her family fled to the jungle rather than surrender to the Japanese and be imprisoned in an internment camp.  Consequently, they spent four years surviving in the jungle.  The book is her account of those years and will be an interesting perspective since it is from a child’s viewpoint.

Do you have a New Year’s resolution that isn‘t one of the standard three?

(Next Sunday: I’ll continue with the “reading” topic by discussing the books that most influenced my thinking.)

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15 responses to “My Historic New Year Resolution

  1. I hope that you keep your resolution. Both books seem interesting and I look forward to you sharing with us about each. The second book has me curious. If you give it a thumbs up, I’ll buy it and read it for myself. And you have now graduated from eehard’s poker anonymous program for not metioning poker in a blog.

  2. Nick,

    I’ll be happy to pass the book on to you (and Fakename too) when I’m done. I think the author wrote it more for catharsis than the income. It’s her only book.

    Don’t graduate me too soon from the P* word!
    It’s only been what…one blog?

    Happy New Year!

  3. I hope that it worked for her. I can’t imagine the idea of going camping, let alone, living in a jungle for that amount of time. Maybe, my cartharsis will be to write one sentence on my fondness for the editors at the Democrat.

  4. Can’t tell you my resolution yet but it is drastic and life changing. (For the better)

    I read all the Hardy Boys as well, and shhhhhhhh Nancy Drew too. I moved next into Zane Grey, Edgar Rice Burroughs, James Fennimore Cooper and Mark Twain. Then I branched out into mysteries and political fiction. And James Bond paperbacks behind the sheet music in band practice.

    The difference between our reading habits is that before and after children I read like I breath. (During the 20 some odd years of child rearing every time I picked up a book or the phone a child appeared that needed my attention for one thing or another.) So I practically ceased to read at all.

    One son looked at my entertainment center recently which has a small library of books surrounding the home theater and asked if I read all those? The implication was that I have too much free time I think. lol

    In college I fell in love with the lost generation and devoured them all. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, Steinbeck and the Holy Grail of fiction writers William Faulkner. I went off the deep end with Faulkner read everything he wrote and wore out Dozier’s literary criticism section on him. I think (as he said ) Faulkner was the greatest American author, but The Great Gatsby in the greatest American novel.

    I also became a Styron fan and loved The Rebellion of Nat Turner. I read that while taking a course on Post WWII fiction and wrote a paper on it because I thought it was a timely topic. (1970) I found a critical review titled “10 black writers respond” and wrote the paper on their criticism of Styron. It was fun and I got an A-.

    Currently I read some of the best sellers and some historical fiction. …and a few biographies. At the moment I am reading DiMaggio, The Given Day and Team of Rivals.

    The Given Day might interest you as it centers on Anarchists and the governments law enforcement efforts to curtail them in post WWI America. It is written by Dennis Lehane who my daughter and I both admire (Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone.)

    Jeff Shaara has published 2 of 3 WWII novels you might enjoy and is currently writing the third. His father Mike won the Pulitzer for Killer Angles which came out in movie form as Gettysburg. I studied with Mike and hung around with him a little, loved him like a father. He’s gone now.

    http://www.jeffshaara.com/.

    My Far Away Home Sounds interesting when I catch my breath I will check it out.

    I guess I read as you play poker.

  5. > Can’t tell you my resolution yet…

    “yet” is the key word there I presume! The blogging world awaits to hear of your resolution… and the sooner the better!

    Wow…you are a prolific reader!

    I like to blame my poor reading on the Internet, but that’s just the “current” excuse. I had some other excuse before that…

    I think one explanation is that in my older age, I’ve become more “visual”; I’d rather see it than read it.

    My plan for the two books is to use lunch to get in an hour a day during the week. Hopefully, I can fit in an hour on Sunday too, when we’re rarely out. I can go out in the front yard and sit on my swing since I can’t concentrate when the TV is on. If Susie’s in the yard, I can stay inside.

    If I can read about even 150 pages a week, I can finish off the Berlin book in about 3 weeks and the other book in about about 9 days.

    Now when I retire and have lots of time on my hands… I may start hanging out at the public library I oppose….lol!

    Happy New year!

  6. I just love Sundays! The NY Times Xword to look forward to, and now, your blog. My father, who was on a Navy ship on the way to Japan when they dropped the atomic bombs, had a lifelong fascination with the history of WWII. He read the entire series by Winston Churchill, which to this day impresses the hell out of me. When I used to go into one of my antinuclear rants, he would remind me that if not for the bombs, I wouldn’t be here. Everyone on board his ship and the other ships headed there fully expected to die on the shores of Japan.
    I just hate reading non-fiction for the most part. I considered college a big long interruption in my ability to read fiction. Reading non-fiction is too much like school for my taste. The only non-fiction book I read in 2008 was “In the Heart of the Sea”, the true account of the sinking of the whaleship Essex…by a whale. It was mesmerizing. Before that, I believe it was 2007, I read a book called “Survival of the Sickest”, which discusses theories of evolutionary medicine. Basically how genetic diseases were perpetuated because they conveyed survival advantages against diseases that were even worse. Also fascinating.
    I’ll make an exception for “My Far Away Home”, it truly does sound intrigueing. And also, I do intend to read “Peace, Not Apartheid”. That will break a record–two non-fiction works in one year.
    I also don’t do New Year’s resolutions for the same reason you don’t. What’s the point?

  7. Aww Fakename, my blog is just light diversion….

    Where in the Pacific was your father? Maybe our fathers caroused somewhere together…

    As for fiction / non-fiction, I guess I’m too stuck in reality for my own good…lol!

  8. Wait! You’re opposed to public libraries? Dang! I can’t wait to hear the anarchist rationale for that one!

  9. Fakename….on a good day, I may accept some “essential” government services like police and fire. But libraries? Not essential!

    And don’t give me that “education” argument. I’ve no doubt that an analysis of what materials are checked out will reveal that the primary users of libraries are middle-class folks checking out DVDs, travel guides, etc. and not there reading Plato and other great educational works. (Although these days I understand the library is a big hangout for the homeless.)

    We have schools and colleges all over the place and as taxpayers we should be able to avail ourselves of those libraries. For educational purposes of course, since I doubt those libraries carry travel guides, DVDs, etc.

    Under my benevolent anarchist dictatorship 😉
    the library will be given to the Friends of the Library to run. They will use volunteer staff.
    Folks will donate books. Folks will become members and PAY for its use, thereby covering utilities, etc. This is classic “voluntary” association, rather than using forced taxes.

    As a private organization, they will choose what materials to carry, thereby avoiding the “banish Book X” controversies that libraries are often embroiled in.

    That is the anarchist utopia!

    But until then, if I’m paying for it, I may as well use it….

  10. I love your blog, and I make it a point to read ‘banned books’. My mom went to high school with a girl who was born in an internment. I remember my mother telling me her stories and after all these years, I never forgot Judy Ishikura, even though I never met her. And I agree with you about new year’s resolutions. Maybe it’s time for a revolution, a new way of thinking, a new way of bringing help and hope to ourselves and each other. Keep me posted, because under your ‘benevolent dictatorship, I’ll sure as hell volunteer in your library! Happy 2009 to you. Resolve to be happy, only this, and the rest will take care of itself.

  11. “I think one explanation is that in my older age, I’ve become more “visual”; I’d rather see it than read it.”

    Anarchist, my experience teaches that reading is passed on from parent to child as is its abstinence. Were/are your parent’s avid readers?

  12. Hey FloridaCat… any new banned books you an recommend?

    I’ve got all sorts of books I’m ready to donate to my volunteer library. Not banned…just old!

    > Resolve to be happy

    That’s my philosophy!

  13. PTFan1…

    > reading is passed on from parent to child as is its abstinence.

    Neither of my parents were readers. Father did like to do crossword puzzles…

    Also, neither smoked or drank. And I never smoked and only drink very lightly and usually it’s just some wine at home. Don’t really like the taste of either beer or hard liquor.

    But I do like hard cider, which I “accidentally” experienced in a London pub in 1988, thinking it was non-alcoholic because I asked the barkeep what they had that was not “beer.”
    I downed two pints quickly, realized what it was about 30 minutes later at the theatre and then we went back for some more after the show! This was good English draft cider, not that stuff in a bottle.

  14. Anarchist as history teaches before the printing press, most readers were from special classes, priests, royalty and “teachers”. So knowledge was controlled by the priviledged. The printing press allowed the common man access to learning from more assessable books. The public library allowed for all a chance to read much much more. Just like the internet does today. I favor libraries as an integral component to a civilized society.

    How would it be if DOT said “we can’t afford to maintain the roads anymore so you will have to take mass transit to your work in Tallahassee.. Of course you can form a voluntary maintenance crew but you will have to be up to our code of safety before we rescind the mass transit requirement. And btw law enforcement is also under the microscope; perhaps you should look at the vigilante model of the old west. Thing is no one from the Philippines can be on it:) only red necks from the panhandle.

    Ps the guy from Time kinda sorta got the CRA thing a little mixed up according to my experience…I watched it from the get go and know it sat precedent for lousy lending standards. But I would still take my first vigilante foray to round up Greenspan.

  15. PTFan1…like so many things, there usually was once a good rationale for something but after the rationale disappeared, the practice often continued.

    There was undoubtedly a time when a public library indeed served a useful “educational” function: when books were expensive, most folks could not afford them, and they were in limited supply. That time is long past. Libraries today serve an entirely different function, for the most part, than their historical counterparts. That is why I oppose them.

    As for roads, they are (or should be) paid from gas taxes, a user fee. (Although of course those bicyclists get a free ride.) The library should be similarly funded by only those that use the library.

    When do you think we can learn about your New Year Resolution? It may THE news of 2009!

    I am still perplexed by your laying blame on Greenspan. As a conservative you should have been applauding him when he and the GOP went into deregulation mode. To rephrase a saying…what deregulation gives (the boom of the last 8-10 years), deregulation takes away.

    Your TDO post has inspired me. The whole issue of government regulation, at *all* levels, may be ripe for me to address! It is a pernicious sham which ultimately deprives consumers of real protection. Kinda like how “customer service” reps often fail to deliver real customer service.

    Oh..have you heard about the latest bailout:
    http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2009/01/07/porn-industry-seeks-federal-bailout/

    I think *that* may have to be a post for me too..lol!

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