Books of 2017, #10: One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band, by Alan Paul

I was born in the South, and I have lived most of my life in the South, but I moved around as a kid, and lived other places besides, so I think it’s fair to say that I’m not really “of the South”.

I suspect one of the better arguments bolstering this assertion is that I never listened to the Allman Brothers Band until I was in college. And while they’re still not a band I listen to on a daily or even weekly basis, I own their core albums, and know most of the material pretty well…even if I first knew “Whipping Post” as a Frank Zappa performance.

Anyway, I feel kind of fortunate that all the “oral histories” I’ve read over the years have generally been pretty good—and this is no different; it’s well edited, so that there’s a sense of narrative, rather than things just rambling all over the landscape, it attempts, when possible, to get all sides of the story.

I think what I take away from this on is that the band may never have really recovered from Duane’s death. I mean, yes, they produced Brothers and Sisters, but against the backdrop of the rest of their career, that seems like a heart continuing to beat for a while after brain death.

Without someone to lead them who afforded everyone a chance to also be themselves, they never quite found the true vision of what they wanted again. They let themselves become distracted, and even when they brought in capable new people…it was never quite the same.

All that said, obviously I wasn’t ever in a position to see them with Duane; in fact I never saw them at all. In retrospect, though, I suspect I would have enjoyed seeing one of the shows they put on this century; it seemed like—even though it apparently required throwing one of the original members out of the band—that they found their way back to some of the sympatico that marked their early work.

Books of 2017, #9: The Case Against Sugar, by Gary Taubes

I am well aware that there are plenty of people who think Gary Taubes is bad at what he does—that his writing is too biased (such that it displays the same failings of fitting evidence to theory that he calls out in others), or that he is out-and-out untruthful, whatever.

On the other hand, I’ve now read all of his books regarding diet, and I find his writing to be open and honest about the possibility that he has incomplete or incorrect information, and that his hypothesis does seem to represent far simpler and more believable explanation for—to borrow one of his book titles—”why we get fat”.

In the end, the arguments against his hypotheses remind me of epicycles, the ever more elaborate explanations for observable movement of the stars and planets in a geocentric model. They had to become more and more elaborate and complex because they were working from a flawed premise that was dictated and enforced by the power structures of the day (the Catholic Church in this case), that the solar system is geocentric, not heliocentric.

When I then consider the simple observation that over the course of my lifetime—which roughly corresponds to the rise of the low-fat approach to diet—my peers and my country have become enormously fat, and that I can easily observe in my own body the effects of consuming carbohydrates and especially sugar…well, “Eppur si muove.”

All of that material is in his prior books, too; what distinguishes The Case Against Sugar is that it also goes into greater detail about the actions of the sugar industry—which shared both tactics and even actors with the tobacco industry. This new material is interesting…but at this moment in history, demonstrating the malfeasance of corporations and people in their employ is shooting fish in a barrel. It’s also a little dispiriting.

So if you haven’t read anything of his, I would stick with Why We Get Fat, which is short and to the point—an uplifting book trying to show a path forward. This is more like horror, showing the unfortunate things taking place around us.