Thinking about American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas

American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His IdeasAmerican Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas by Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some time ago I mentioned to my wife that I’d been experiencing strange existential crises, and I had just noticed and it was odd to me. She replied that perhaps I was having a ‘mid-life crisis’, and yep, because she’s smart and that sounds about right. She thought for a moment and asked if I had read any Nietzsche lately. I considered this wonderful advice as she is trained and degreed in philosophy and has a wonderful mind for such things and I respect her opinions greatly. It’s not like she would or could say ‘have you read your Bible lately?’, so I thought ‘read Nietzsche’ was a splendid suggestion worth exploration. So I hunted around for a work that appealed to me, and I settled on American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas. It appealed to me because of the American perspective and academic qualities. At first the reading was ponderous; dense and difficult. I had only vague recollection of ‘Nietzscheism’, a Will-Durant knowledge of his life and philosophy. I recalled that I thought we were in some agreement. He was an Existentialist, maybe a Nihilist, antireligious and smart. But reading American Nietzsche with that knowledge and recollection of the man and his philosophy was what was making the reading difficult and ponderous. I took a break for other books.

2015-05-03_11-55-19When I returned, first I elected to read the surprisingly great Nietzsche: A Very Short Introduction by Michael Tanner. It was an excellent read, great overview, nice balance, and not at all surprising given the good reviews. I thought this would be enough preparation but I became so interested to read Friedrich Nietzsche’s words (or at least a good approximation) I chose to read The Antichrist, as translated around 1920 by H.L. Mencken, whom I have always admired as a great American. This book The Antichrist blew me away and I will never forget it, I will revisit it again and again, and I with any luck I will search for other valuable translations of it to read later. I also was inspired to immediately acquire a version of Thus Spoke Zarathustra that I greatly anticipate consuming later.

So here the digression ends and I return to American Nietzsche, better-prepared for what it contained. I re-read the first 20% #Kindle or so that I had managed to get through and picked it up from there. I found myself consumed by its dense material, and I could barely put it down. I found it then to be a quick read (relatively) and marveled at the scholarship, the minutiae, the great attention paid to every detail and myriad angles. It’s fascinating really and as I understand it a new perspective on an essential philosopher. I loved the book, highlighted it galore and I will refer back to it from time-to-time. I feel like when I read Zarathustra it will be like I’m reading the Bible and it may spiritually fill a cold scientific atheist like myself. And all this to relate that at first, I did not understand my wife’s suggestion that I read Nietzsche of all things to address a midlife crisis. But in the end, I found a meaning and substance that surpassed any expectation I had. I learned about myself and the world we live in and it connected dots in my head that make me feel like a better and more evolved human. It’s like my wife told me to listen to Jesus, but said Nietzsche, because of course.df486242cd5256fb0b2dc07b156e9af1

I’d recommend Nietzsche to anyone. This American Nietzsche book is interesting, certainly dense, academic, dwells on small things, repetitive, but it doesn’t create an outsized view as much as illuminates areas of study, ties in interesting and important figures and relates the explosion of Nietzscheism, not because of propaganda or enforcement but because of obviousness and inevitability. It’s an interesting read if you are into that sort of thing but I’d definitely suggest at least a minimal background or it may feel more a slough.

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Spammers Need Editors

I don’t understand why spammers don’t have copy editors for their emails. For that matter I don’t understand why anyone publishing anything wouldn’t have one or more proofreaders review what they publish, but I digress…leaving aside amateur efforts like text-format emails from the ‘United Nations’ that look like they were written by a child using Notepad, even the excellent examples are riddled with errors that give it away. Good spammers go through so much effort to mimic something professional in order to fool targets, but then litter their creation with easy-to-spot errors that invalidate the rest of their work. C’mon pesky e-criminals, raise the bar!



Bad Reviews: Special Monitoring Chips

I love to read reviews of books or other things on Amazon where someone gave it 1 or 2 stars. I figure these people have an axe to grind, and if they complain about shipping or the size of the print or whatever, maybe the book is fine; where if they complain about content, then I’m interested in what they complain about. For example, very helpful is a physicist reviewing a physics book and complaining about the accuracy of the science. This is great for someone like me to see because I’m not a physicist and I would read the book to learn. If the information is not accurate, I will not learn anything and worse, I will learn incorrect information.

So with that I’m reading reviews of Richard Clarke’s book Cyber War from 2010. You may remember Richard Clarke from such events as “9/11”. As far as I know he’s still the only person to apologize for failures leading to 9/11. Anyway his book “Cyber War” discusses a pet issue for Mr. Clarke, “cyber security”. But Amazon reviewer James D. Crabtree wants you to avoid Richard Clarke’s book, because “politics”. His main arguments against you reading the book are political, in that Richard Clarke is political, since he’s worked in government and discusses presidents he has worked for…so, mainly since James gets the impression that Clinton and Obama come off better on these issues than Bush, you should not read Clarke’s book.

But what really caught my eye was this:

“[Richard Clarke] talked about how the government wanted special monitoring chips put in computers so the government could ‘wiretap without a warrant’…which is ‘what Bush did'”

The reviewer then goes on to mock how foolish this sounds or how it makes no sense. But yet here we are, a few years later, and oh look, “special monitoring chips“. But I bet given the political motivations driving this reviewer, he was still flabbergasted at the story about these chips, likely blames Obama and exonerates Bush, thinks this all just came out of Snowden, doesn’t give Richard Clarke credit for mentioning it years before and in broad daylight in the book he doesn’t like, and is generally a civil libertarian nowadays after cheerleading for the Patriot Act and whatever. Sigh. Politics.

So anyway, I like 1 and 2-star reviews.