The Calling by Barry Blanchard, reviewed by Gregory Crouch


The Calling copy

Here’s my review of The Calling by Barry Blanchard, which appeared as “Wintry Climbs” in the October 11 & 12 issue of The Wall Street Journal.

(I’ve linked you through a Google search in the hopes that it’ll get us around the WSJ’s paywall.)

Barry’s one of the most impressive climbers of modern times. On Twitter, he’s: @Barry_Blanchard; his website is www.barryblanchard.ca; and here he is as one of Patagonia’s climbing ambassadors

Posted in Book & Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

My Acid Test review quoted in Newsweek


Got a bit of a buzz the other day when I saw my Acid Test review for The Washington Post quoted in Douglas Main’s article “Ecstasy and Acid in your medicine cabinet? Doctors Explore Psychedelics” which published in Newsweek on 10/14/2014.

Newsweek copy

Posted in Book & Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

Acid Test by Tom Shroder, reviewed by Gregory Crouch


Acid Test copyHere’s the review of Tom Shroder’s strangely wonderful new book Acid Test: LSD, Ecstasy and the Power to Heal I did for The Washington Post.

Shroder makes a powerful case in support of using psychedelic drugs to treat PTSD.

With 20+ veteran suicides a day and the VA on the hook for more than $1 trillion in PTSD-related expenses, we can’t afford to keep ignoring the healing potential contained in such profoundly psychoactive drugs as LSD and MDMA.

 

Posted in Book & Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

“The Legend of CNAC” exhibit at the SFO Museum


Legend of CNACIn conjunction with the 2014 CNAC reunion, a fantastic “Legend of CNAC” exhibit opened at the SFO Museum this past weekend. It’ll be open for the next six months, until February 6, 2015, and I strongly recommend dropping in to check it out. (It’s in the International Terminal at the San Francisco Airport.) John Hill and his SFO Museum staff did a wonderful job with the displays, which are packed with excellent artifacts from the heydays of the China National Aviation Corporation.

It really is a beautiful exhibit, and I think I can claim China’s Wings as one of its inspirations. If so, it’s one of the best outgrowths of the project.

Members of the CNAC family check out the SFO Museum exhibit

Members of the CNAC family peruse the SFO Museum exhibit

Held simultaneously to help kick off the exhibit’s opening, this year’s CNAC reunion was really special, too. Moon Chin held his annual dinner party in the museum’s main hall (which is modeled on San Francisco airport’s 1930s passenger terminal–very apropos to the CNAC era) and the Historic Flight Foundation flew their beautifully restored DC-3 down from Washington State to join the party.

That airplane is incredibly special to the China National Aviation Corporation because it once served with CNAC — as CNAC 100. Our very own Pete Goutiere ferried the plane from Miami to India in 1944, and most amazing of all, Pete helped fly the plane down the coast from Washington to San Francisco to join in the reunion/museum opening festivities.

Several news outlets ran stories about Pete’s reunion with CNAC 100: Here’s The Herald of Everett; HispanicBusiness.com; and CNN.

Thumbs up, Pete!

Thumbs up, Pete!

(I’ve posted photos and articles about the plane before — here’s a photo gallery of the restoration; here’s a photo of it standing on its nose after a bad landing in 1944; and here’s a photo of it flying in formation with a DC-2.)

Liz Matzelle of HFF has some fantastic photos of the flight down and of Pete with the airplane. I’ll link to them if she posts them online.

Did I mention that we celebrated Pete’s 100th birthday at the reunion? Here’s a photo of his cake at the climactic banquet:

Pete's birthday cake

China’s Wings is due to publish in China in early 2015, and here’s a picture of me signing a copy (of the English version) for Angie Chen, who has translated the book into Chinese.

Signing for Angie Chen

China's Wings

Posted in China's Wings | 2 Comments

My review of Bird Dream, by Matt Higgins, in today’s Wall Street Journal


Bird Dream: Adventures at the Extremes of Human Flight

Bird Dream, by Matt Higgins. Quite a thrilling read…

My review, “Only One Way Down,” is in the July 26 & 27, 2014 issue of The Wall Street Journal.

Bird Dream

Here’s a list of links to other books I’ve reviewed.

Posted in Book & Movie Reviews, China's Wings, Enduring Patagonia, Reading, Writing, and Research | Leave a comment

Robert Lucas Crouch, an obituary


 

Sub-Lieutenant Crouch

Sub-Lieutenant Crouch, 1954 or 1955

Robert L. Crouch, April 5, 1935 to June 11, 2014

The middle of five brothers raised in the East End of London, Robert Crouch was of the generation that didn’t fight World War II, but was defined by it. As a six-year old boy in the summer of 1940, he stared up in awe at the dogfights raging over London. Refusing to kowtow to the Nazis, the family rode out the Blitz in a bomb shelter dug into their small garden rather than evacuate. Young Robert spent two years’ worth of nights in that bomb shelter early in the war, then another year in it during the V1 and V2 attacks of 1944-1945. Robert’s lifelong regret was not being old enough to have been one of Churchill’s “Few” scourging the Luftwaffe from the skies of England during the Battle of Britain. His cocksure aggressiveness would have perfectly suited the exigencies of single-engine combat.

Vampire Cockpit

Leaving the cockpit of his Vampire

To complete his national service, Robert Crouch joined the Royal Navy as a Jack Tar in 1954, completed basic training, obtained a commission, transferred into the elite flyers of the Fleet Air Arm, and became the only “grammar school boy” to complete the Fleet Air Arm’s first jet training school – a significant accomplishment in the class-conscious Royal Navy. While in the service, he flew the Provost Trainer, the De Havilland Vampire, the Fairey Firefly and Gannet, and the Hawker Sea Fury and won a trophy for flying skill.

IMG

Planning a mission in the de Havilland Vampire

Synchronized start

Synchronized start, Fairey Gannet

dad in gannet

Taking off in his Fairey Gannet

After the Navy, Robert competed degrees at the London School of Economics, Northwestern, and UCLA. Back in England in 1966, he ran for Parliament, and immigrated to the United States in the aftermath of defeat. He arrived in Santa Barbara in 1967 and spent the rest of his professional career as a Professor in UCSB’s Department of Economics, where he served for forty years. In economics, Crouch made significant contributions to both academic research and public policy. Notably, he designed the model for the environmental impact report, investigated monetary theory, led a team that evaluated the economic benefits of nationwide groundwater monitoring, and proposed ground-breaking insights into economic theories of human behavior. However, he took far more professional pride in having introduced more than 30,000 students to the principles of economics—and that he taught them as it was, not as proponents of various “-isms” thought it ought to be.

An extraordinarily well-read man of many contradictions with a tremendous breadth of knowledge, Robert Crouch could somehow manage to be simultaneously offensive and generous, and he gleefully shared his encyclopedic knowledge of current affairs, politics, and history. Crouch also never missed the opportunity for a drink. He “held court” in many local watering holes through the years and claimed to value excitement over all other things. He loved risk, would wager on any sport, game, or proposition, and he took great delight in pushing the boundaries of acceptable behavior.

As his own mother had said, “My Robert’s not wicked, he’s just naughty.”

And he had a good time doing it.

robert25

In recent years

From 1960 to 1979, Robert was married to the late Janet Crouch, and from 1989 to 1997 to Samantha Carrington. He is survived by his brothers Alan, Colin, and Gordon, six nieces and nephews, his son Gregory, and his grandson, Ryan.

A public memorial service will be held in his honor at the Goleta Elks Lodge (150 North Kellogg Avenue, Santa Barbara, CA 93111), where he was a longtime member, on Friday, July 18, at 12 o’clock, noon. His ashes will be interned at the Fleet Air Arm Cemetery in Yeovilton, England, at a private family ceremony. In lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged to the Smile Train.

Posted in Book & Movie Reviews, China's Wings, Enduring Patagonia | Leave a comment

Denali’s Howl by Andy Hall, reviewed by Gregory Crouch


Denalis Howl cover copyAnd Five Came Back,” my review of Denali’s Howl by Andy Hall for The Wall Street Journal, June 14-15, 2014. (Linked through a Google search; clicking the top link should do it.)

Denali’s Howl is about the worst mountaineering tragedy in Denali history — the Wilcox Expedition of 1967, during which seven people died.

Denalis Howl copy

Here are links to other books I’ve reviewed.

Posted in Book & Movie Reviews, Enduring Patagonia | Leave a comment

Iranians arrested for making video of Pharrell Williams song “Happy”


A bunch of Iranians were arrested and forced to repent for making a “Happy” video.

The best part is one of the women’s infectious laughter while standing on her head during the “making of” section at the end.

Pharrell Williams (@Pharrell) tweeted: “It’s beyond sad these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.”

He’s had 3,500 retweets. So far. Including one from me @GregoryCrouch

 

Posted in Iran | Leave a comment

Operation Paperclip by Annie Jacobsen, reviewed by Gregory Crouch


Operation Paperclip copyAlthough Nazi science failed to produce an atomic bomb during the Second World War—thank God—Hitler’s scientists surged ahead in many other aspects of military technology. They built substantial leads in rocketry and aeronautics, human physiology, and chemical and biological warfare. Fortunately, Nazi wonder weapons appeared too late to affect the war’s outcome. The German surrender set off a mad scramble among the victorious Allies to capture the fruits of Nazi science. The biggest prizes were the scientists themselves, but among the ashes of the Third Reich, it was impossible to draw a clear distinction between scientist and war criminal because so much of Nazi Germany’s scientific and technical “progress” had hinged on the exploitation of slave labor and experiments inflicted on unwilling human subjects.

The title of Operation Paperclip, veteran journalist Annie Jacobsen’s latest exposé (she also wrote Area 51), refers to the secret US government program under which 1,600 German experts—many of them committed Nazis closely associated with Third Reich atrocities—were brought to the United States, provided with generous employment contracts, and given a clear path to citizenship. The US military and intelligence communities sponsored Operation Paperclip in the name of “national security,” and its principal justification was to stop the Russians from harnessing the Nazi scientists to their own ends. The project gained “long-run momentum” after the Soviet Union’s Berlin blockade tipped the uneasy postwar peace into the dangerous Cold War rivalry that would dominate world affairs for the next forty years.

To air Operation Paperclip’s secrets, Jacobsen plain, direct, thoroughly researched, and compelling story spotlights 21 Nazi scientists who worked for the United States in the postwar period. Probably due to her complex cast of characters, Jacobsen doesn’t hold to a strict chronological narration, a choice that makes for smoother storytelling but does limit Operation Paperclip’s effectiveness as a lens through which to witness postwar and Cold War developments. And although it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish the individual members of her rotating cast, it’s always obvious that they’re a particularly repugnant group. All were ardent, long-time Nazis. Many had won the Golden Party Badge honoring the Nazi elite. Eight of the 21 had at some point worked side-by-side with either Adolf Hitler, Herman Göring, or Heinrich Himmler. Six were tried as war criminals at Nuremberg. Some served as SS officers. A half dozen were Nazi doctors involved with perverse experimental research that killed the majority of their test subjects.

One American war crimes investigator described Third Reich medical research as something “out of a dark German fairy tale,” and wrote his wife that it seemed “as if the Nazis had taken special pains in making practically every nightmare come true.” As Ms. Jacobsen elaborates, Luftwaffe doctors had used “murder in the name of medicine” to research the effects of high altitude, cold, thirst, and salt water on human physiology. Jacobsen relates the war crimes trial testimony of a medical experiment survivor who identified the Nazi doctor (and Operation Paperclip participant) who had extracted part of his liver—without anesthetic. Every one of the Operation Paperclip doctors Jacobsen describes were at least circumstantially linked to such horrors. One of them, Dr. Hubertus Strughold, had served as the Luftwaffe’s chief of aeromedical research. He worked for the U.S. Air Force and NASA through the 1950s and ‘60s and is today remembered as the father of US space medicine.

The most famous Operation Paperclip participant, rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, one of the prime movers of the V2 project and of American rocketry from Redstone to Apollo, joined the Nazi party in 1937, had his SS membership sponsored by Heinrich Himmler himself, and personally procured Buchenwald concentration camp inmates with “good technical educations” for his underground V2 assembly plant—a factory in which about half of its 60,000 slave laborers were worked to death. Regardless, von Braun lived out his life as a wealthy and famous man, one of the heroes of the Space Race. Another V2 scientist brought to the United States by Operation Paperclip finished up as a vice president of Bell Aircraft.

Some Cold War advantage certainly accrued to the United States through the services of such men. The long run of history will judge whether those contributions merited the nauseating moral compromise their employment entailed. Ms. Jacobsen certainly left this reader with the impression that a good number of those ex-Nazis who ended up living comfortable lives in the United States should have been tried as war criminals.

Indeed, throughout Operation Paperclip, it’s appalling to witness the United States so carelessly squandering what, in the long run, are probably the two most decisive weapons in its arsenal against fascists, communists, terrorists, and other totalitarians—the moral high ground and the rule of law.

Annie Jacobsen’s website; follow her @AnnieJacobsen on Twitter; like her on Facebook

Posted in Book & Movie Reviews | Leave a comment

Two FB pages about Iranian women and their headscarves


All the rage this week on Facebook is the page “Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women,” which celebrates the quiet acts of rebellion of Iranian women removing their headscarves in public. Stealthy Freedoms has garnered 274,000 “likes.”

Predictably, as explained in this Bloomberg article “Iranian Conservatives Hit Back at Facebook Campaign on Headscarves,” Iranian conservatives counterposted with their own Facebook page, Real Freedom of Iranian Women, which celebrates the virtues of hijab and the chador. It has received 5,000 “likes.” So far.

Other Iran-related posts are in my “Iran” category

 

Posted in Iran | Leave a comment