Fire Thief Reborn

Fire Thief Reborn, The Edge of the Known – Book Four. ISBN: 9781523998210, an e-book by Seth Mullins.

Brandon Chane had risen to phenomenal heights as a very young rock star who with his band had provided original music and lyrics of sensational appeal in that they offered a degree of understanding and answers to a generation looking for them. Fearing he had reached the end of all he could offer and never liking the notoriety he just ‘walked away’ after his meteoric rise. Now several years later he is besieged with the gnawing desire to again write music and lyrics, but fears he no longer has anything to write about. In the old days the band was something with which he ‘needed to make a statement’ for his own salvation. As a 31-year-old happily married man with a young son he is living most comfortably on the huge amount of money he had made. What sort of statement could he make? But fate steps in. He encounters his old lighting man James who also is a talented guitarist; his much younger sister, for whom he always had felt a responsibility, has a small band with which he would like to help her begin, and at this time he revisits the counselor who had helped him when he was a desperate youth struggling with the problems of a mother who provided nothing and an abusive father. In a distinctly unusual manner, the counselor begins to reminisce about his abusive childhood and his own attendant reactions and continues for several sessions during which Brandon and James interject guitar notes and devise tentative lyrics, all later edited and expanded by the entire band into songs hopefully suitable for a rebirth of the former ragingly popular Edge of the Known Band.

For this reviewer, in all true sincerity, after being greatly impressed by the author’s third book, Humanity’s Way Forward, this one is disappointing. The book begins extremely well with quite cogent and enlightening remarks for anyone who has not experienced the highs of a successful performance in music, the arts or even to a certain extent in situations as widely diverse as sports and academic endeavors; e.g. “No experience to compare to that of a performer and audience meeting at that singular point of keenest need and its fulfillment. There really is no dichotomy anymore, no separation, when you’re having a dialogue with your naked origins, the music meditating between Soul and Source; the music having to do for you, because the bare bones experience of it is too vast and star-hot for any of us to encounter it face-to-face.” Also beautifully expressive prose: “As the music began to vibrate over the grass and to spring across every nerve ending, I was reminded again of the particular pain that accompanies the too-full moment. It’s an ache that you can’t quite reach and massage with your mental fingers; the sense that your poignant love of the world, fragile as it seems, is too big to be contained within your breast. It has to flow over, like flood waters over the tops of sluice gates, so you siphon it through your songs or poems or stories, knowing that this release can only be momentary. And not only that, but the very vehicle that you’ve chosen to express it then turns around and whets the sharp edge of your sensitivity so that you seem to NEED that release again, more than ever before.”

Beyond this early nicely phrased material it provides extensive and interesting psychological and philosophical discussions that in turn greatly aid in defining characters and setting the stage for what is to transpire. Generally is well written but for this reader at an almost glacial pace. Perhaps this disappointment stems from the fact that the author’s preceding book so brilliantly provided a window to a phenomenon so seldom understood. He provided a comprehensible description and/or explanation for, and of, the seemingly mass hysteria that often accompanies performances of today’s performers of so-called underground or alternative music and of the performers themselves – generation(s) that never acquired a firm basis upon which to build a life. For the abused the reaction is most easily understood; those from the middle and upper strata of society perhaps never found the necessity of building a firm base because they have been provided with most of the amenities for teen-age life with seldom a denial. Thus, faced with the uncertainties and turmoil rampant in today’s simple act of living – economic uncertainty, political unrest, angst, loss, conflict – they are lost and looking desperately for ANY answer, not so much because it is true but rather because it saves them from the discomfort of living in uncertainty.

In this book, the author has attacked another facet of living and has assumed an enormous task. In the former the protagonist wrote songs because he was lonely, desperate and scared. In this volume he is attempting to provide feelings and answers to questions that may or may not be as pertinent to the needs of his audience and from a far more mature position. Such a journey is torturous in the extreme to say the least and the author’s resulting presentation may well reflect this level of difficulty.

3* 4* Portrait of dilematous position of a former ‘great’; 3* compared with preceding book regrettably.

Jobs for Robots

Jobs for Robots ISBN: 9780984972890, Prestige Professional Publishing. The expanding robot deployment is examined here in e-book format by Jason Schenker.

Sub-titled: Between Robocalypse and Robotopia, the book consists of an Introductory brief overview; nine chapters; an extensive number of pertinent references listed chapter by chapter; a list of the author’s degrees and certificates; an impressive compilation of his ‘Forecaster Accuracy Rankings’ with respect to economic indicators and associated factors; a note about his Publishing House (Prestige Professional); short synopses of his other books; and Disclaimers, both personal and for the publisher. The chapters provide details on: Why He Wrote the Book – to emphasize the need for education and for entitlement reform; The Past of Work: What’s in a Name – how they derived from one’s vocations; The Present of Work – current economic and labor market conditions; Robocalypse – advent causing possible loss of work opportunities; Robotopia – the reverse; Unreformed Entitlements – probable results; and three final self-explanatory chapters: Problems of Universal Basic Income; The Future of Education; Robot-Proof Your Career.

Discussion: The author obviously is immensely qualified to expound upon this most timely subject and has set forth some very cogent ideas. He also has accomplished this feat remarkably well in that he has presented the material in a scholarly and well-referenced manner, yet in a way the average reader will find to be most readable and easily understood. The only troublesome feature of the presentation for this reviewer is the considerable amount of repetition that judicious editing would have been able to eradicate.

One feature of the discussion that may disenchant some readers is the use of today’s term of ‘entitlement’ when speaking about Social Security. He begins with the seldom mentioned, and probably little known, bit about Social Security that it is virtually a direct ‘steal’ from Otto von Bismarck’s system established in Prussia and the expanding Germany in the 1800’s. It is granted that even von Bismarck admitted his program was a manner of combatting the rising tide of socialism. However, as admittedly one of the earliest enrollees in the program, this reviewer is aware of much of the program’s history and, as it was explained by Roosevelt, this was not a government ‘entitlement’ as in allowance, dispensation or ‘handout’. Rather it was something the recipient earned by his/her salary contribution plus that of the employer that would be placed in a trust which, with the number of contributors and the interest accrued, would continue to provide sufficient monies for the retirees. This was an extremely sensitive matter in 1935 when the population that had been a self-reliant group with a strong work ethic and pride in ‘being able to take care of themselves’ were still struggling with the devastation wreaked by the stock market collapse of ’29. There still are many who believe this and probably this could well have sufficed if the original program had continued. HOWEVER, in 1954 disability coverage was added, then Medicare in 1965, a few additional ‘coverages’ in the ‘90’s and finally in the past several years innumerable and diverse individuals additionally seem to have acquired a ‘piece of the action’. So, I heartily concur with the author that with the decrease in workforce, longer living retirees, the huge number of recipients and other factors, there is a pressing need for addressing the matter of an increase in the financial supply to ‘entitlements’ or whatever name that should be assigned. I also believe that the author has missed a golden opportunity to be number 1 in another predictive area. He has valiantly presented a solid base for Robotopia and I believe he seriously believes that education, along with large changes in the government programs, can keep us from Robocalypse. Regrettably, and although my degrees and credits are nowhere near his most impressive numbers, I believe my list is credible enough to allow me to humbly disagree. Perhaps because my activities have been in science rather than economics, it has caused me to become quite pragmatic. Furthermore, one of my degrees is in Clinical Psychology where professional interaction with individuals has caused me to differ from his belief that individuals will willingly seek constant new educational opportunities. Today’s generations do not seem, generally speaking, to embrace the strong work ethic of earlier generations. Thus regrettably, I fear most, or at least a large portion of today’s population of average intelligence will take the easier road. Granted, boredom may set in, but they will find another electronic game to play. With respect to the government making the necessary moves to counteract the advent of robots, again my pragmatism makes me wonder if it will be possible for human beings, such as compose our congress, to make such adjustments. (And PLEASE do NOT infer any political meanings in the following – it simply is a statement of fact.) When the admittedly greatly divided country can elect a president (unquestionably greatly flawed and totally disliked by many, but still the person elected) presents an agenda full of change and the majority leader of the senate, a member of the same party, states that the president is a newcomer and doesn’t understand how political matters work, there is a BIG problem. The president is proposing a change. BUT it is ONLY a change that will accomplish a reform that that ‘political’ leader and all of the rest of his party has been clamoring for over an eight year period. It would seem that the people’s elected representatives main function is to have as their mantra an old adage that will insure their reelection regardless of accomplishment. The adage, of course: “When all is said and done, much has been said, but little done” or perhaps more bluntly: “Talk it to death (to let your constituents know you are working) but don’t bother accomplishing anything”. A jaded view of the situation, no doubt, but it ‘is what it is’.

3* Actually 3 ½* Fascinating, rightfully respected author’s view with suggested caveats.