Flying Tigers
3rd edition 2016



I've had a great time lately, learning about Eastern Europe from the tongue-twistingly named Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius of the University of Tennessee. The project consists of 24 half-hour lessons, an audio download that cost me less than $50 with various discounts. (The outfit is called The Great Courses. They come on DVD or streaming video, CD or audio download, and everything is discounted on a regular schedule, I think every three months. Whatever, the discounts are worth waiting for.) I drive to the gym, clamp on the earphones, and attend class while working out -- healthy mind in healthy body!

What struck me most was this morning's lecture, dealing with the post-1945 partisan war against Russian occupation. The war faded out in 1953. It involved a hundred thousand "Forest Brothers" at its height, then just a handful, and finally one, August Sabbe of Estonia. He wasn't caught until 1978, when he was 69 years old and had outlived all his supporters, forcing him to turn to petty theft to stay alive. He drowned when the secret police arrested him, whether trying to escape (as the Russians said) or because he preferred death to a prison camp.

I tried -- I really did! -- to get into Winter is Coming, by the former chess champion and now anti-Putin activist Gary Kasparov. The story he tells is an important one, of how a one-time KGB colonel transformed himself into the kleptocratic dictator of Russia. And perhaps you'll like it better than I did! (Amazon's reader views are generally very favorable.) Personally, I preferred the less heated account by Steven Lee Myers, The New Tsar: The Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin, now available in a paperback edition that actually costs less than the e-book. (I find that irritating. We actually own the paperback; we only rent the e-book. One of the reasons that traditional publishers are ceding market share to self-published authors is that the "independents" price more realistically. I typically charge $4.99 for my digital editions, while Knopf and Amazon want $15.99 for the Myers book, six dollars more than the paperback!

And here is a lengthy, intelligent, and persuasive look at Islamic State, which the author prefers to call by its politically correct name of ISIS, as if the first two letters did not mean Islamic State! (Which, I suppose, is why Mr Obama sometimes obscures it even further as Daesh.) I'm not familiar with the publisher or the author, Scott Attran. But I've sent the link to people I respect, and they liked it too. Blue skies! — Dan Ford

A Vision So Noble

The essays (in more or less chronological order)

Other good stuff to read