Daily Speculations

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Reading and Listening Recommendations

Tim Melvin

Of late on the list we have discussed eBay practices, the usual mix of reports and ratios and even a smattering of bbq (although with some of the froo-froo things you guys do on a grill I surprised the voo-doo prof has pulled up on his Ducati and confiscated your charcoal .. remember...dip it, paint it, burn it, eat it) but very little of two subjects that were an integral part of the original charter and mandate of the list…books and music. Last year when I put out a call for book talk we got a great response and all added to our reading list to our mutual benefit so I thought I d try it again...with a twist. We all read non fiction and finance all the time. History, biology, markets, economics…we have it coming out of our ears. So lets try something different, again hopefully to the enjoyment and benefit of all. I suggest we all take the time to list the 3 authors we read STRICTLY FOR FUN. I'm talking lazy day in a hammock or rainy Sunday at home and the cable is out, Relaxation and escape type stuff...guilty pleasure reading. In addition, to bring music back into the fold lets each list two recordings we consider classic, must own recordings...any genre. I suggest we omit Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead and Don Quixote. We all already know those are the best fiction reads for specs. Naturally I'll go first.

The undisputed all time favorite read is the John D MacDonald Travis McGee series. Taking early retirement aboard the busted flush ( a houseboat won in a poker game at the Bahia Mar Marina) next to his economist friend Meyer, McGee finances his life of leisure by recovering valuable items lost for a percentage. Soaked in Plymouth gin, bikini clad women with the morally casual attitude I do so adore, Travis goes through life his own way picking up a few bruises and a deep water tan along the way. Amazingly for what could well be considered trashy mystery novels by some there are life lessons contained herein. Travis McGee is the embodiment of independence and using ones brains and skills to earn his own way, asking nothing of on one ..and check out these gems.

You can be at ease only with those people to whom you can say any damn fool thing that comes into your head, knowing they will respond in kind, and knowing that any misunderstandings will be thrashed out right now, rather than buried deep and given a chance to fester

I do not function too well on emotional motivations. I am wary of them. And I am wary of a lot of other things, such as plastic credit cards, payroll deductions, insurance programs, retirement benefits, savings accounts, Green Stamps, time clocks, newspapers, mortgages, sermons, miracle fabrics, deodorants, check lists, time payments, political parties, lending libraries, television, actresses, junior chambers of commerce, pageants, progress, and manifest destiny.

Education is something which should be apart from the necessities of earning a living, not a tool therefore. It needs contemplation, fallow periods, the measured and guided study of the history of man's reiteration of the most agonizing question of all: Why? Today the good ones, the ones who want to ask why, find no one around with any interest in answering the question, so they drop out, because theirs is the type of mind which becomes monstrously bored at the trade-school concept.

There are 21 Mcgee books in all. Lots of open water, cold gin, beautiful willing women adventure and even a few meals for a lifetime.

Second. In keeping with my generous nature I'll leave the Robert Parker books for Crossman to select so I'll go with the Randy Wayne white doc ford series... Doc Ford is a quiet man, wishing only to be left alone collecting samples for his Sanibel marine biology company, selling to labs and schools, conducting experiments with tarpon and sharks, living in the Dinkins bay marina with the eccentric collection of fishing guides and live aboards such as Tomlinson the new age guru and perpetually stoned genius who is docs unlikely sidekick…a peaceful existence until someone Doc cares about is threatened... then he reverts to the Marion Ford trained by the government as a covert operator and assassin. Full of roustabouts, boat bums, high adventure with some science and romance thrown in they are probably the modern day equivalent of the Mcgee series... with a bonus factor... white is a damn good writer and uses his skills to weave brilliant stories that are a pleasure to read.

My last selection is the guiltiest of literary vices. All of The WEB Griffin books. Griffin is not a writer. He is a storyteller and a masterful one. He writes primarily war stories and he is a master. Clancy may know the technology but Griffin knows the stories. I've read every thing he's ever written(33 books so far) and always buy the new ones on release day. To date my favorite series are the corps, a serial novel over 10 books so far of WWII, not the Korean conflict. The characters are the manliest of men capable of killing the enemy, advising the president and winning the dame without spilling a drop of famous grouse over ice( and yes his writing is where I discovered this now household staple... maybe not a lesson for a lifetime but damned good scotch). The Badge of honor series set in the Philadelphia is probably the series I d choose second but all the books are good stories. Griffin keep his histories and timelines accurate and weaves such luminaries as Roosevelt. McArthur and Wild Bill Donovan easily into the plot. The men are brave and determined, the women are beautiful and saucy, the stories, while not great writing, are great reading.

Now music... first the album I consider the greatest rock and roll album ever recorded. Bob Dylan's Blood on the tracks. Its poetry, poetry written during a time of self introspection and failed romance. The music here is primarily acoustic and the lyrics poetic genius

She lit a burner on the stove and offered me a pipe
"I thought you'd never say hello," she said
"You look like the silent type."
Then she opened up a book of poems
And handed it to me
Written by an Italian poet
From the thirteenth century.
And every one of them words rang true
And glowed like burnin' coal
Pourin' off of every page
Like it was written in my soul from me to you,
Tangled up in blue

My last musical choice... Miles Davis, Kind Of Blue. This record defines jazz as far as I'm concerned and strikes me as a painting with musical instruments. The band with Cannonball Adderly and John Coltrane on sax and Bill Evans on piano is a who’s who of the 1950’s and 60’s American jazz science... tough call between this and birth of the cool but kind of blue gets the final nod.

9/01/2005
Peter Gardiner

to judge the quality of fiction is to ask, 'Has this book affected my behavior in a positive way?' A trader given to counting might document trades taken or not taken as a consequence thereof, or strength shown vs abandoned; emotions resisted or indulged; thinking sharpened rather than anesthetized; patience demonstrated rather than forsaken. Profits made versus squandered. By that measure Atlas Shrugged ranks as the best return on o fictional investment I have ever made. Thank you.

8/30/2005
Michael Ott

Many people have said that there is no good music anymore. It exists, you just have to know where to find it. And you can't find it on the radio. www.launchcast.com is my favorite source for music on the internet. You customize your own station and it's free and legal.

I read an interview with a program director who was talking about some pop song that was getting medium-to-high play, in his words. It was played 70 times a week on his station. That means 10 times a day- so every 2.4 hours, the same song was replayed. That's ridiculous.

A friend and I had a great conversation concerning whether Einstein would be a genius if he lived today. My friend said that Einstein would have been a genius no matter what time period he lived in. I disagreed, saying that any discovery is predicated on the knowledge leading up to it. Einstein took a radical step and formulated a revolutionary new way of looking at the world. If he hadn't done it, perhaps no one would have. His math was severely lacking, but perhaps computers would have helped to overcome this shortcoming. This led to a discussion about how tools lead to new discoveries, and that new tools are potentially more important than new discoveries based on old tools.

Somehow this discussion led to the topic of music. We wondered if there were songs that would be popular no matter what era they were released. No doubt these songs exist, but very few have come out recently. I thought many Stevie Wonder songs (Especially "Superstitious") would be popular in any era, along with many Motown and Elton John hits. We agreed that the Stones have several anytime classics, as well as "Suspicious Minds" by Elvis. As far as current songs, we were unable to come up with many. Some that made the list:

"Clocks", by Coldplay
"Seven Nation Army", by the White Stripes (in the rock genre)
"My Friends", by the Red Hot Chili Peppers
"How Far Is Heaven", Los Lonely Boys
"Take Me Out", by Franz Ferdinand
"Don't Know Why", by Norah Jones
"Jack-Ass" by Beck (I know, a bad title for a GREAT song)
"Take Your Mama Out", by the Scissor Sisters

I'd appreciate any additions to this list.

On books ...

While markets have ever-changing cycles, I've found that many of my favorite authors recycle characters and settings. John Irving, Elmore Leonard, and Louis L'Amour come to mind.

Irving has some combination of an author, a wrestler, a fatherless child and a cross dresser in each novel, and it is usually set in the Northeast, Canada, and Amsterdam. His latest, Until I Find You, has all of these, and I loved it, even if critics didn't.

Leonard's recent books (not his early westerns) are usually set in Detroit and Miami, with dumb gangsters, shady cops/bail bondsmen, and promiscuous women. His dialogue sets the writing apart. One of his idiosyncrasies is that all dialogue is 'said'. Characters don't 'retort' or 'chortle', the reader gets to decide how the line is spoken. This leaves slightly different interpretations in the minds of different readers, and enriches the experience. Dan Brown's books are the opposite. Every move is foreshadowed, every plot point wrapped up, and every reader gets the same experience. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed reading his books and flew through them, but thought they lacked something. This obviously works well for him (The Da Vinci Code has sold quite a few copies), but the experience is more like 'pop' fiction. Maybe Dan Brown is the Britney Spears of the literary world - quite popular, but trendy and shallow.

Louis L'Amour is another shared favorite of mine and the Chair. There are two types of men. First are the Sackett-type: hard working, sure shooting gentlemen who don't want any trouble but know how to handle themselves when trouble appears. Second are the scoundrels that torment the protagonists, those who have to lie, cheat and steal to acquire their fortunes. All women are virtuous and chaste. The setting for L'Amour's best novels is the Wild West. The early Sackett stories, where the Yance and Kin are fresh off the boat from England, underperformed. Despite having essentially the same characters and settings, I highly recommend any later Sackett novel or Hondo. Once again, the writing reigns supreme.

Another new favorite author of mine is Lee Child. His stories all focus on a loner lead character, but are very well thought out page-churning mysteries. If you figure out the secret of his first book, Killing Floor, before it is revealed, you win the prize.

Mike

8/30/2005
Nick Marino recommends

Barry Greenstein's Ace on the River. Far from a typical Poker book, it is more of an Ed. Spec. for professional Poker players. Much about the philosophy and psychology of being a pro. Not a how-to, and not a memoir. Something more, and better.

8/16/2005
Senatorial Reading Suggestions, from Larry Williams

All in all John D. MacDonald wrote over 100 books...I read every one of them...perhaps the most intriguing is a book based on a series of letters between he and Dan Rowan of Laugh-in fame, dear friends for years, then a split in the relationship with a meager, perhaps futile attempt to rehab it. In a time where men no longer write letters to one another discussing their lives, this is a gem of a read.

Other authors:

Tony Hillerman, but unlike the Travis McGee series, the more he wrote the better they did not become. Stephen J. Cannel wrote very creative stuff, what would you expect from the creator of Baretta, Rockford Files, A-Team and a host of other major TV shows and movies.

Clive adds

Dear Specs Three books (two for both sexes, one male only) whose main subject is about sex that you might want to think about reading are: 1. She Comes First: Ian Kerner Phd. The book is a sort of cunnilingus for dummies. It is really easy to read and worse case scenario, you pick up a new move or two along the way. Pamela might have a comment about it as it was such a success they are writing a women's version. 2. The Sexual Life of Catherine M: Catherine Millet. All I will say about this is don't read it without a partner near by!! 3. The Surrender: Toni Bentley. A woman's love affair with anal sex.

Steve Wisdom adds

To chime in on the recent discussion.. in the Sep '05 issue of Oprah Magazine [my favorite of the ladies' magazines], Jodie Foster remarks on her favorite books, two of which I also enjoyed very much. Her thoughts on these books, which roughly match my own:

JODIE FOSTER'S BOOKSHELF (.. )

CATHEDRAL, by Raymond Carver
Carver is the king of minimalism, and these short stories are some of his leanest. He writes characters who are completely unaware of their own motivations or the significance of their actions. They just live and don't ask why. As an actress and reader, I love the discipline of spare characterizations. You soak up the few details offered and do the work to figure out the characters yourself. (.. )

NAKED, by David Sedaris
In this collection of autobiographical essays, humanity's wicked little details are seen through the eyes of a truly strange man. Sedaris's observations are sometimes weirdly funny and unexpectedly moving -- including his trip of self-discovery to a nudist camp. I read Naked in one sitting and then bought five copies to give to friends. (.. )

Kevin Depew

I don't understand music. I love it, but I don't understand it. I can toss out some things I am listening to, a few things I consider must-haves, but ask me again in 20 minutes and the list will be entirely different. A bit like financial markets maybe? The genres or sectors feed off each other and borrow from their relationships, phrasing, quotes, memories that can go unnoticed to those without the attention span, or the taste, or the inclination toward appreciation.

One of the first records I ever remember intently listening to was Johnny Cash Live at Folsom Prison. I was maybe 7 or 8. I could not believe Johnny Cash would play at a prison. This raised many questions. Were the prisoners behind bars during the concert? Did he get paid? But the most fascinating part was that between songs, and even during some, you could hear a muffled prison intercom system in the background. I remember turning the volume knob as far as it would go, put my ear up to the speaker and listen as closely as I could to try and make out the mysteries of the prison intercom. The most I could make out were things like "Would prisoner #64138G report to the cafeteria." Shocking stuff to an eight-year-old.

Even more shocking might be the fact I have retained some fascination, (obsession) with background noises in recorded music. Bill Evans' Alice in Wonderland, live at the Village Vanguard, is one that comes to mind. In that recording you can hear a plate drop and people talking really loud and eating and drinking. The recording is close to a jazz piano masterpiece, so who are these people talking so loud in the background? Don't they know they are seeing history? Why can't they hear what they are apparently not seeing? But then, I guess all things in life are like that; speculation, marriage, music, reading, the graphic perception of a moment, but the wrong moment.

Bill Evans is playing Alice in Wonderland in front of me every day, and still I drop plates, talk too loud, clink glasses with someone, and manage to pull the wrong moment from the many choices offered.

Big Al

Books: First the easy stuff from last time that bears repeating: John Le Carre and Charles McCarry for spy novels, George MacDonald Fraser for turning Victorian history inside out, and Bill Bryson for the laughs.

Now a few new ones:

Isak Dinesen - Seven Gothic Tales
Great imagination and great writing.

Alan Furst - The Polish Officer
If Hemingway wrote spy novels. Furst has a number of books. I just picked this one as an example.

Gary Paulsen - Woodsong
Paulsen writes about his sled dogs and the north woods. His stuff is usually classified as "juvenile literature", but that category contains some of the best writing around.

Bram Stoker - Dracula
The original novel is an excellent summer read and much better than most of the movies.

Music: I'll throw in a few easy ones:

Steely Dan - Aja
Becker and Fagan put jazz and R&B and pop together like nobody else.

The Commitments
Great movie and a terrific soundtrack.

Kiss - Alive
Just plain fun. And "Rock And Roll All Nite..." is a classic.

The Allman Brothers Band - At Fillmore East
Just plain classic.

And here are a few more, a little bit further off the beaten path:

Simply Red - Men and Women
How is it the Scots and the Irish do R&B so well?

Lyle Lovett - Step Inside This House
LL introduces you to other Texas songwriters you may not yet know. The title cut is a gem.

Sting - Bring on the Night
A live double-album recorded in France. The entire price and more is refunded to the groove center of your brain when you hear the late Kenny Kirkland's keyboard solo on the opening cut.

Return to Forever - Romantic Warrior
The early 70s fusion quartet of Chick Corea, Lenny White, Al DiMeola and Stanley Clarke crank out some serious stuff. These guys can play.

k d lang - Hymns of the 49th Parallel
Songs by other Canadians. As an album, the mood stays very mellow, but I mix these up with other stuff on various playlists. A terrific version of Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush".

Branford Marsalis - Romances for Saxophone, Great selection of music. Pleasure.

Johnny Winter - Johnny Winter And...
Johnny Winter and Rick Derringer howl. This is not blues so much as blues-rock. Loud and gritty.

Christopher Parkening - In the Spanish Style
There is some debate in the classical guitar community about the styles and recording techniques of different artists. I'm a Parkening fan. He starts off here with "Leyenda" by Albeniz, which is worth the price by itself. I'll be pedantic and say that if you listen to this album and don't like it, you should keep listening to it until you do. You will have improved yourself.

Astor Piazzolla - Tango: Zero Hour
And for the master of Argentinean tango, I'd say: Keep listening to it and expand your musical mind.

Thomas Dolby - The Golden Age of Wireless
This could be classified as 80s synthesizer pop. But whereas most synth-pop was just standard pop songs played with electronics, Dolby has a genuine feel for the musical value of circuitry. And he's simply an excellent composer. The album has that moody, bittersweet, something-lost feel. Hence the title.

Chieftains - 8
This disk is from the 70s, when the Chieftains were becoming known outside the circle of Irish music aficionados, but before they became world famous. Their next album, "9" (who would have guessed?) is also excellent, but for me, "8" is their best, and that's saying a lot. "Sea Image" is one of the most beautiful pieces of music around.

Jimmy Witherspoon - Jazz Me Blues - The Best of Jimmy Witherspoon Not a smooth crooner, you can hear the rougher edges of life in JW's voice.

Nancy Wilson - Ballads, Blues & Big Bands: The Best Of Nancy Wilson She's recorded some more 'contemporary' stuff, but I prefer the classic 60s material. So what the heck - go for the boxed set.

Stan Kenton - At the Las Vegas Tropicana
Kenton recorded a lot. One can debate which recordings are the best or most representative or whatever. I like Tropicana right now for the versions of "Artistry in Rhythm" and "Tuxedo Junction", as well as Kenton's commentary and the feel of Vegas in 1959 - you can smell the cigarettes and taste the martinis.

..and if you ever get an opportunity to see the Japanese percussion group, Kodo , please do not pass it up. Unfortunately, after seeing them live, recordings of their performances are rarely satisfying -- like comparing the photograph of a lover to the lover's actual presence. But that just speaks to the power of Kodo's ceremony, celebration, performance, art and sound.

Steve Wisdom

Next morning after breakfast Mr. Brown hitched the white horse to the cart and drove it up the the kitchen porch, and he opened the red doors.

Inside the cart was everything ever made of tin. On shelves along the walls were nests of bright tin pails, and pans, and basins, cake-pans, pie-pans, bread-pans and dishpans. Overhead dangled cups and dippers, skimmers and strainers, steamers, colanders, and graters. There were tin horns, tin whistles, toy tin dishes and patty-pans, there were all kinds of little animals made of tin and brightly painted.

Mr. Brown had made all these himself, in the winter-time, and every piece was made of good thick tin, well made and solidly soldered. Mother brought the big rag-bags from the attic, and emptied on the porch floor all the rags she had saved during the last year. Mr. Brown examined the good, clean rags of wool and linen, while Mother looked at the shining tinware, and they began to trade.

For a long time they talked and argued. Shining tinware and piles of rags were all over the porch. For every pile of rags that Nick Brown added to the big pile, Mother asked for more tinware than he wanted to trade her. They were both having a good time, joking and laughing and trading. At last Mr. Brown said, "Well, ma'am, I'll trade you the milk-pans and pails, the colander and skimmer, and the three baking-pans, but not the dishpan, and that's my last offer."

"Very well, Mr. Brown," Mother said, unexpectedly. She had got exactly what she wanted. Almanzo knew she did not need the dishpan; she had set it out only to bargain with. Mr. Brown knew that, too, now. He looked surprised, and he looked respectfully at Mother. Mother was a good, shrewd trader. She had bested Mr. Brown. But he was satisfied, too, because he had got plenty of good rags for his tinware.

-- from "Farmer Boy" Ch. 12; Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1933 (#3 in "Little House" series)

T. M. Ryan

Blonde on blonde (dylan) and Bitches brew (davis) are excellent albums. Heard dylan say in an interview not too long ago when talking about 'time out of mind' (also very good) that if he had his way he would pull blood on the tracks off the shelves - "can't understand why people like my pain that is in those songs so much" but we are not bitter about our div8r$es are we?

Hejira - Joni Mitchell; Who's Next - The Who; Exile on main street, The Stones; LA woman by the doors - I recently met a guy at Sta*bu&#s when I was buying coffee in an attempt to ruin mr melvin's short of same, who claimed to have been a co-producer of that album and he told me that the studio where they recorded that album on the strip is now an Italian restaurant - so you can go there and sit and have some linguine in the room that jim morrison sang "been down so very damn long, now it looks like up to me"

As for fun fiction reading I like everything that neal stephenson has written, much of it is near future sci-fi, but the quicksilver series is a trio of historical novels that is of much interest to speculators ala aubrey/maturin and his book cryptonomicon is simply great

Jim Sogi

Music (All time)
Poco Poco
Other side of Round Midnight Dexter Gordon
My Goals Beyond John McLaughlin
Talbot Brothers of Bermuda
Going to the Library Jim Sogi
El Ptah the Daoud Alice Coltrane
Love Supreme John Coltrane
Red clay and Straight Life Freddie Hubbard
Gabby Pahinui

Music (Current)
On and On Jack Johnson
Fight for Your Mind Ben Harper
(Harper's new one with Blind Boys of Alabama seems interesting)

Relaxing pleasure reading:
Modern Applied Statistics, Venables and Ripley
Modeling Binary Data ,Collett
Elements of Forecasting, Diebold
Knots, Pawson
Cake Cutting Algorithms, Robertson
Lore and Legend of all Street, Sharp

Irose-Smith@Tradermonthly.Com

Bad books for guilty pleasures.

Ian Rankin's Rebus series is good. Drunk, dower embittered Scottish detective who finds solace down the local pub or in his record collection. It can get a little formulaic but isn't that rather the point?

Alberto Moravia, Boredom or Contempt. Brilliant, haunting, depressing.

Kyril Bonfiglioli's series is amusing. Raymond Chandler meets PG Woodhouse down some unfortunate dark ally. The central character a slightly disreputable art collector and self-acknowledged snob. The assistant is called Jock Strapp and the books have titles like 3Don't Point That Thing at Me.2 It is stupid and pointless with a nonsensical plot but fun.

Presumably everyone already knows this but Graham Green. The Quiet American, Our Man In Havana, The End of The Affair and The Third Man.

And - did someone mention this already - Kinky Freedman's series.

Its not fiction I'm afraid and may have been listed before. But everyone should read it. "We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our children" by Philip Gourevitch about the genocide in 1995 Rwanda.

My music taste is terrible.

Andrew Moe

Fools Die (Mario Puzo)

From MarioPuzo.com:

A novel that only Mario Puzo could have written. A novel powerful, knowing, and bold enough to encompass America's golden triangle of corruption -- New York, Hollywood, Las Vegas. It is a novel that plunges you into the electric excitement of luxurious gambling casinos -- the heady arena for high rollers and big-time hustlers, scheming manipulators and fancy hookers -- a world of greed, lust, violence, and betrayal, where men ruthlessly use their power, where women ravenously use their sex, where the strongest survive, and ...

"Fools Die is my personal favorite. I thought I tried some new things in fiction, and I was very happy when it was a success."

Mario Puzo

Diamond: History of a Cold Blooded Love Affair (Matthew Hart)

From the Publisher:

Matthew Hart's Diamond is as much the story of DeBeers -- the most effective and longest-running cartel in modern business history -- as it is the story of the independent miners whose entire lives can change course through the discovery of a single magnificent stone, and of the geologists and speculators who spend years searching the world for the volcanic kimberlite "pipes" capable of yielding millions of dollars' worth of diamonds over a succession of years.

Extended Publisher Preview:

On a hot morning in May, 1999, three garimpeiros (small-scale miners) found a large pink diamond in the muddy waters of the Abaete River in Brazil, a discovery that captivated the entire diamond trade. Beginning with this dramatic and revealing tale, Matthew Hart embarks on a journey into an obsessive, largely hidden, and utterly fascinating world.

The geology of diamonds explains how hard it is to find them. Diamonds are accidents of nature, carbon crystals compressed deep underground billions of years ago; parts of them, it is even thought, may predate the Earth itself. They are also elusive, carried to the surface only in slender volcanoes known as "pipes," most of which are actually barren. Weaving science and history throughout his story, Hart follows the diamond trail around the globe-from the basement room where Gabi Tolkowsky, the world's greatest cutter, faced the 599-carat Centenary diamond, to the fog-bound smugglers' paradise of Africa's Diamond Coast, to the London sales rooms of De Beers, which manages the longest-running cartel in modern business history. The diamond story is peopled by characters like William Goldberg, the flamboyant Manhattan diamantaire, who are as memorable as the stones they seek.

Though many of the world's most famous stones had already been found, the modern history of diamonds began in 1869 when a native boy in South Africa found a large crystal on a farm, and Hart recreates the dramatic rush that brought Cecil Rhodes, Ernest Oppenheimer, and a diminutive adventurer named Barney Barnato their fortune. The great cartel that arose would not be shaken for more than a century: then, as Hart chronicles, a sensational race for diamonds erupted in the 1990s in Canada's Northwest Territories, and an audacious, young, female geologist, Eira Thomas, against all odds and enormous competition, discovered near the Arctic Circle one of the richest diamond fields in the world. Hart explores the physics of diamonds-the way light and color move through a stone- as he describes the suspense that attends the cutting of a priceless gem. He portrays the lives of the countless diamond cutters in India who have transformed the industry by making valuable the tiny stones that were once considered worthless. And he examines the ingenuity behind DeBeers's marketing, which has "forged a link between something people do not need, diamonds, and something they do need, love."

Diamonds also have their dark side. "Malfeasance rustles in the background of the diamond world like a snake in dry grass," writes Hart as he documents the relentless and ingenious thievery that pervades the business, and the even more damaging revelations of "war diamonds" financing brutal conflicts in Africa. Who will rule diamonds now, and what form the once-secretive business will take, are the issues of the day.

By revealing the layers and inner workings of the diamond industry, and the inherent excitement and human drama that sustain it, Matthew Hart has captured the essence of an exotic substance and its world as surely as a diamond captures light: bending it, reflecting it, and returning it in a blaze of color.

J.T.

Violent Femmes self titled first album, Stones attempt at Beatles Sgt Peppers w/ Satanic Majesties Request, Beethoven's Sonata no. 21 in C, Op. 53, Bob Marley Legend, Van Morrison's No Guru, No Method, No Teacher, Debussy's Claire De Lune, Foggy Mountain Jamboree by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Willie Nelson's Redheaded Stranger, and Beach Boys Pet Sounds, Doors Weird Scenes Inside the Gold Mines, and of course anything from Jimmy Buffet and Alan Jackson.

Best new CD that gets played over and over and over again is Old Crow Medicine Show

Books, I will just share my favorite. Cormac McCarthy. Modern Day Wild West/ Southern Writer. Suttree is my favorite one. A man livin' in Tennesse on the Rivah. He was from an affluent family, quit his wife, now runs trot lines peddlin' catfish for drinkin' money down by the rivah. He was shacked up in jail with a boy who got caught humpin' a watermelon. Enough Said. Start with the The Border Triologies: Pretty Horses, the Crossing, and Cities of the Plain. The Crossing is my pick, Pretty Horses won National Book Award , for what its worth. He's got a new one that just came out that I haven't read yet, oooh so much to read. Don't know Cormac but I bet he'd be a darn good Speculator!

The Brother Cadfael trilogy or chronicles whichever. Excellent example of scientific method used throughout mysteries. Ellis Peters God rest her soul was a writer that inspired me to read more and more, and I learned a many valuable lessons from those books. Dead Man's Ransom is the one I liked reading the most. You have to start from the beginning though to keep some themes goin' throughout.

If you want a good down home education read all of the Foxfire books! I want to thank my folks for gettin' me to read these! Its like textbooks from a Redneck Montessori School? Just ask Ari, I talked him into buyin' one! You don't have to go in order with those books.

Allen Gillespie

Caleb Carr's The Alienist

Historical fiction set in 1890s New York with Roosevelt as the main detective. Entertaining murder mystery.

And one that I put on my to read list

The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy - granted non-fiction but covers the history of the man who created the infamous wine scoring system of the Wine Spectator.

Mrs Sgi's favourite book

West with the Night, Beryl Markham

Even Hemmingway spoke favorably of Beryl's writing.

(from Amazon) One of the most beautifully crafted books I have ever read, with some of the most poetic prose passages I could imagine, such as the following, resonating with a stately and timeless quality so absent in our modern life:

There are all kinds of silences and each of them means a different thing. There is the silence that comes with morning in a forest, and this is different from the silence of a sleeping city. There is silence after a rainstorm, and before a rainstorm, and these are not the same. There is the silence of emptiness, the silence of fear, the silence of doubt. There is a certain silence that can emanate from a lifeless object as from a chair lately used, or from a piano with old dust upon its keys, or from anything that has answered to the need of a man, for pleasure or for work. This kind of silence can speak. Its voice may be melancholy, but it is not always so; for the chair may have been left by a laughing child or the last notes of the piano may have been raucous and gay. Whatever the mood or the circumstance, the essence of its quality may linger in the silence that follows. It is a soundless echo.

Born in England in 1902, Markham was taken by her father to East Africa in 1906. She spent her childhood playing with native Maruni children and apprenticing with her father as a trainer and breeder of racehorses. In the 1930s, she became an African bush pilot, and in September 1936, became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic from east to west.