Sunday, July 17, 2016

Recommended Reads and Movies of the Year

UCLA Law Library
Top of the Tower
(Desk I used to Sit at)
I don't think I've read so much in one trip. I also finished watching the Sixth Season of the Game of Thrones. I'll have a short discussion on my film list too. [Note: I updated the list on July18, 2016 to include Guns, Germs, and Steel, which I forgot about originally.]

Part about my holidays, that I love, is that I finally get to read what I've been needing to read, but putting off because of work. I also love watching my Game of Thrones and other movies all at once.

Here's my recommended reading list for this year; (these books are not necessarily only published this year):

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Tobin. Even if you're not a lawyer - Jeffrey Tobin writes in simple English, regarding the personalities and scandals and people who were in charge during the Rehnquist Court. I told a friend about the scandals within the institution, and my friend wrote back: "You just love scandals, don't you?"

Tobin starts with the Clarence Thomas' Anita Hill Scandal and climaxes with how the republican controlled Court stole the election for George Bush and the bitter and ugly aftermath of the whole affair. To be sure, this point drives home one clear point: the Supreme Court is run by people.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant. Grant synthesizes all types of research to conclude that businesses generally fall into two categories: those who copy other business models and those who are creating original business products and services. He finds patterns on what makes people creative and successful. This book reminded me that the activist has to constantly repeat his or her message as to why change is important.

Ponzi's Scheme by Mitchell Zuchoff. Zuchoff chronicles the first Italian-American mastermind, who defrauded the masses on an enterprise level. What I think I like about this book the most was the way that Zuchoff lays out the story in a dualism plot. Ponzi was a university drop out, who believed he was entitled to be great, even if it was at the expense of stealing from others. Richard Grozier, the owner of the son of the Boston Post, who would later become Ponzi's arch-nemesis, nearly dropped out of Harvard. Although he had great expectations thrusted upon him, Grozier kept failing to live up to them; that is, until, he was in charge of running the Boston Post. In the end, it becomes a battle between these two. Grozier, however redeems himself, fiercely gambling the paper's future to take down Ponzi. This book certainly hasn't received the attention it deserves.

No One Would Listen by Harry Markopolis. Read about how a Greek math nerd, Harry Markopolis, discovers that Bernie Madoff was running a Ponzi Scheme and how nobody would believe him. Markopolis formed a group of financial analysts and journalists to take down Madoff, but no matter how hard he tried, Markopolis couldn't bring down the financial giant, nor could the Security Exchange Commission. Markopolis stresses how incompetent (if not complicit) the SEC was in investigating Bernie Madoff. The book really tells you, if you have money, you really can get away with murder - until those you owe find out you can't pay them back.

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. Ever wonder why white European controls (and East Asians to a lesser degree) dominate the world? This book argues that the control of the world, by Westerners happened, not because of the Europeans were genetically superior, but because their environments forced them to farm, which in turn led to advances in technology, namely guns, germs, and steel.

I took a class with Mortimer Chambers, and a lot of what Diamond discusses was covered by Chambers, but I must say that Diamond does so in a clearer and more comprehensive way, distilling Western (and some Eastern) human history to about 440 pages. Now, that's an amazing feat.

I disagree with his premise that the cold didn't help advance society. In general, peoples from colder societies tended to dominate the world, although not all of them. The cold forces people to think about the future, and it forces people to prepare for winter because the winter is coming.

But all in all, this book is on point, and gave me some brilliant insights. Like, how difficult it was for man to invent an alphabet? I just never thought about that.

Onto films (HBO is included in this category.)

Game of Thrones Season 6. I don't get how this series just seems to get better and better. I like Season 1, but I'm loving Season 6. You can really tell that the budget and qualify of the show has taken television series and reached new peaks.

I was just telling someone over lunch today that the last two episodes of Season 6 are masterpieces, to live passed their time. You really get the sense that the season has created a new type of energy amongst the cast, in which the actors really know who they are in their roles and that the set is working together to tell a story, unheard of by the world.

The episodes were so good, I had to read the director's notes on them. I was impressed, for instance, that one war scene that lasts about 10 minutes, took over 20 days to film. I was also amazed to read that after working so hard, such as 20 straight days of filming for 10 minutes, the staff cheered and hurrahed when the scene was complete. Imagine being on a cast that is so excited in what it's making. (You can tell, Season 1 didn't have that type of confidence in their actors - even though the same actors now have it.)

This series has certainly taken television series to new heights; we'll see if the directors and producers could continue with the quality of work with future series.

To Kill a Mockingbird. I watched the American timeless classic, and it was great then; it was great when I watched in high school; and it's even greater now. To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story of Atticus Finch - the Southern White lawyer, who defends an innocent black man, accused of raping a poor, white southerner - who really is secretly in love with that black man.

The trial exposes the entire small town's ugliness and secrets and unspoken norms. In judging the defendant, the entire town really has to judge itself, and in the end, both are declared guilty, but of different sins.

The story is told through Atticus' daughter Scout, who remembers events as a child, and not an adult. It's to be watched, if not for the plot, for the superb acting, especially by Gregory Peck, who plays Atticus. 

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