Thursday, February 23, 2017

George Orwell's 1984 - Review and News

George Orwell

'"Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past"

War is peace
Freedom is slavery
Ignorance is strength
Big Brother is watching you...etc.

Every so often the Orwell classic 1984 will chart high on best a seller's list. The current enthusiasm reflects an angst towards the newly elected. Originally published in 1949, it just happened to connect with readers whose fears at that time was the spreading of communism. Today it's a curiosity piece where others try to find similarities that they can relate with.

One of the keys to its success was the focus of the individual and the ultimate defeat of the individual by means of torture. In Winston's instance, his worst fear is of rats, and of course maybe you or we as individuals don't even know what we fear the most, but the fact that big brother does know frightens us even more. It's these things that help the reader really connect and stay with the story as it progresses.

The story is well known by now, it's told through the experiences of the main character Winston Smith and his story illustrates a totalitarian regime that crushes the individual into a meek subject that touts the party line, always obeys, no longer wants or desires anything, and loves his big brother.

It's often assigned reading for some class or another and it makes for good conversation. The simple plain fact is that although I have read this piece, I never really cared for it. I always thought it was just a lucky strike, meaning that it happened at the right time, but I never thought it to be very good or even well written. Then again, I have never been a fan of utopian or dystopian fiction, regardless of time or place.

In the years that have passed, I can recall from time to time others seeing some similarity from the book in their present lives, these things I shrug off as inevitabilities and or coincidence, because the real facts that should be pointed out is what Orwell failed to foresee.

The same technology that he envisioned being used to exert total control over all we know is also being used the other way around. Also, keep in mind that the ability to control all information has been completely destroyed by the internet. No one government can control the complete flow of information as depicted in 1984.

The technology that Orwell thought would enslave us has actually been used against the government in exposing corruption, and that it is easily available to anyone.

In truth, modern technology may be the death knell of privacy for us all, but it's also the end of secrecy whether we like it or not. The proliferation of cell phones has made citizen surveillance nearly universal, empowering citizens against abuses of police and other forms of authority, instead of the other way around.

Because of the technology available today, it has become more difficult for police to stop, question, arrest, beat, or shoot someone without cell phone footage ending up on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube within minutes and going viral and enraging the masses to riot.

The Police really hate being recorded, and very often they attempt to prevent people from recording them in public places. Luckily for us, at least for the time being, the courts have ruled that citizens have the right to record the police and their actions!

So, Orwell got that one completely wrong.

The truth is we all live in a surveillance society, and the questions that arise from that are how we interpret what we see.

In the internet age, censorship of images, language and thought have never been harder for governments to control.

More importantly, what Orwell failed to predict was that religious belief, whether we like it or not would prove to be such a strong force in the future.

Forget about all of the supernatural implications, but every religion's unique character as a social and historical institution make it impossible to eliminate completely. It's an opiate of sorts for the masses that feeds the superstitious, and humans and superstition have been inseparable for all our existence.

The overall of this bleak and dreary tale is that it's an individual character study of paranoia, forbidden love, betrayal, and torture till submission. The story lacks depth, and fails to acknowledge and examine aspects of the human condition that cannot be simply overlooked or eliminated.

Movie Theaters Plot Nationwide Trump Protest With 1984 Screenings
Organizers of the protest released a statement, saying: “Orwell’s portrait of a government that manufactures their own facts, demands total obedience, and demonizes foreign enemies, has never been timelier.”

The protest screening will be held on April 4th which is the day Smith begins his diary in Orwell’s book.

A full list of participating theaters can be found with the link below.

Check the site for updates as you wish and contact info is also listed for any other inquiries.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

In Farleigh Field - by Rhys Bowen Reviewed February 7th 2017

In Farleigh Field
by Rhys Bowen
Reviewed February 7th 2017

This story takes us back to early WWII. It is a period piece of WWII fiction that develops from the ancestral home of Lord Westerham in Farleigh Place, now being used as the headquarters for one of the British armed forces special groups.

You never know who you can really trust...seems like a theme that everyone can relate to, and one that defies the ages, regardless of the time. In this WWII story we have neighbors hiding secrets from other neighbors, friends hiding secrets from other friends, and even family members hiding secrets from other family members.

Three of Lord Westerham's daughters, are prominent characters in this story, Pamela, Margot, and Phoebe. Pamela works with code-breakers trying to decipher German codes, Margot works with the French Resistance, and little Phoebe is the one who discovers the soldier whose parachute failed, while landing near Farleigh Place.

There are many sub-plots and twists and turns, but the questions that arise from the discovery of the fallen soldier sets off in motion the story we have. Much of the early part of the book is in developing the characters.

Enter Ben Cresswell, who grew up in the area, and as such, he became the ideal candidate to be sent in as a covert operative to investigate the Farleigh Place accident. Ben is also a family friend of the Westerham family and has always loved Pamela.

As our story progresses, Ben's pursuit of spies and traitors proves to be difficult, especially when it seems as if one of Lord Westerham’s daughters might be involved. Ben seems to find more questions than answers, and it's the latter part of the book where everything takes off. Now, can Ben expose the secrets and unmask the traitors before it’s too late to save Britain from the Germans?

If your cup of tea is WWII Historical Fiction then this one's for you.


*There really was a group of aristocrats that existed. Their goal was to try to make peace with Germany. They were known as the Link. In this work of fiction the author calls them the Ring.

*This MI5 spy-mystery draws inspiration from Robert Harris’s Enigma, the story about breaking German naval code, and Stephen Poliakoff’s Glorious 39 which was about the group of British aristocrats that wanted to make peace with Hitler.

Monday, February 6, 2017

My Free Taxes - Free Tax Prep & E-File

My Free Taxes – United Way
February 6th 2017

Tax time is here again, and everyone by now has received their W2's and are either planning to prepare their own tax return forms or looking for assistance.

There are so many options these days ranging from the major Tax Prep Chains such as H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, and Liberty Tax Service. That's only a few, then there are all of those independent tax preparer's that are in fact just too many and too insignificant to even mention.

What a surprising number of people do not realize is that if you earned under $64,000 you can get your taxes prepared professionally, and reliably regardless of how simple or complicated your situation may be, you can get your taxes prepared for FREE! It doesn't matter how many forms you have or need to file, or how many different W2's you may have. If you earned under $64,000 then you should not pay to get a refund.

The United Way is sponsoring Tax Prep Clinics everywhere, and all you have to do is visit their website at and locate the nearest tax clinic available. Make your appointment whenever you like, and the friendly volunteers will help you electronically file.
If you're thinking I don't know where the United Way is or that it's too far away, you need not worry. You do not have to go to a United Way office at all, just follow the provide web link , and from there it will direct you to the nearest clinic, which may be in your local library. No matter what, you won't have to go far.

Sometimes FREE is good, and this is one of those instances where it's better than good!

Here's hoping you save big.

Please share this good news with everyone you know.

*The service is provided every year and there are no limits. You can have your taxes done for free every year.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Girl On The Train Review

Our girl on the train, main character Rachel, commutes to London and back each day. She wanders aimlessly living on her alimony as she lost her job over a year ago. There's really nothing likeable about her and yet she is the main character from which our story evolves from.

It's unfortunate that the author didn't explore Rachel's voyeuristic yearnings further down the tracks, because as it turns out the story involves her ex-husband, his new wife and their nanny and the story really stays in her old neighborhood.

Our Rachel is an overweight self loathing alcoholic that frequently blacks out. Her memory is completely unreliable.

On her daily travels Rachel observes a couple that she imagines to be blissfully happy day after day. She even gives them imaginary happy names. The story takes off after one day in particular when she sees the woman in the embrace of another man. She is so upset she literally loses control of herself and seeks to disembark the train. She wants to confront this woman...wondering why are you doing this?

All is not what it seems, and she soon finds herself embroiled in a missing person/ murder mystery investigation.

The story unfolds largely in three narratives, with Rachel as our primary protagonist. This bleak tale, told with intersecting timelines from the viewpoint of three different women Rachel, Anne and Megan show us that all the women are unreliable narrators, each with something to hide.

In fact, the characters in this novel, are all selfish, self-serving and unsympathetic, and lacking most of all the depth that might make them more memorable.

The book has been a best seller for some time and is very good and readable. You can probably read it in a day or two. It is good in the sense that if and when you start reading it, you won't really want to put it down. I thought there were some very good lines in the book, but I thought some of the scenic character transitions were rather awkward. I still give a thumbs up and will be looking forward to Paula Hawkins new book out in May.

You can expect this to remain a top seller for some time to come.

P.S. Ignore the movie's all wrong and absolutely dreadful.