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Kevin S. Currie (Richmond, VA)

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Intellectuals
Intellectuals
by Paul M. Johnson
Edition: Paperback
43 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars High-brow gossip column?, April 5 2002
This review is from: Intellectuals (Paperback)
First off, you should know that this is an incomplete review. Why? I only made it to page 107. Why? I was in the mood to read a book discussing intellectuals in a way that was....intellectual. This was not the book I should've picked out.
The first chapter starts out with the social philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Without so much as stating a thesis or goal, Johnson launches an attack. Doesn't even wait untill you're into the book (ideally meaning the 20th page or so). The second intellectual was Percy Shelley...same treatment from Johnson. Next Marx and Ibsen, same formula. So what is Johnson's goal?
First, it will be obvious to anyone familiar with Johnson that he has a definite bias to the right (the counterpart of Howard Zinn) and one has to ponder whether he would feel the same enjoyment- it does come through in his writing- if he were dissin' on de Maistre instead of Marx?
This means that the inferred objective- remember, Johnson states no thesis- of exposing hypocritical intellectual figures is simply a subterfuge. I will admit, sometimes Johnson has good points as when he rightly criticizes Marx for distorting figures that differ from his ideology while at the same time, professing science. Yes, exposing flaws that affects an intellectuals professions to the public (as it is a 'public' role)is the kind of thing the historian/journalist should point out. But more often than not, Johnson is criticizing Rousseau's private tempermant and Shelleys sexual ethics.
Let's be honest. The politician is judged by how she fulfills her 'public' duty, the novelist and philosopher are judged by the work they write for 'public' consumtion. If you really care if the characters in the above professions cheat on their spouses, get drunk or don't believe in god, then and only then should you think about reading this book. Better yet, go to the supermarket and just buy the National Enquirer!

The Will to Believe and Human Immortality
The Will to Believe and Human Immortality
by William James
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.78
32 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Great reading . James is one of a kind., April 2 2002
Philosophers are notorious for not feeling a work worthy of attention unless it is poorly written and arcane. Karl Popper was ignored, so was George Santayana, so was Arthur Schopenhaur. In the world of philosophy, it doesn't so much matter what you say- If it did, Wittgenstein and Hegel wouldv'e been dismissed out of hand- but how poorly you say it. This collection of essays, while garnering more attention than the above authors, might've been taken more seriously if it wasn't so easy and fun to read.
In these essays we find a man who is what the philosopher should be. His ideas describe the way we think and act instead of conceptualize the way we 'should' think or act. The first few essays are on religion, the validity of which James does not confirm nor deny. Simply put, James sees religion as a handy tool for action. God makes the world more manageable. It synthesizes a world that appears random, it explains- however truthfully- a world than seems in need of explanation. James, I believe, is an agnostic in the truest sense. Experience can confirm or deny God and as long as one is open to experiential evidence, the pendulum can concievably swing either way.
The next essays give a basic outline of what would later be pragmatism. Ideas, James conjectures, are tools for action. We not only act because we think, but think exclusively because we act. The essays here are a bit repetitive, but James' prose is so crystal-clear that you'll want to keep reading.
Finally, we come to the last two essays that deal with 'mysticism' and the 'supernatural' phenomena that psychologists, philosophers, and scientists would rather not even consider. Both the believer and sceptic will find use in these essays as they dismiss both the scientists snap-denial of 'psychic' phenomenon and the believer's untested belief. Neither party, it seems to James, wants to examine evidence and come to a responsible conclusion, what ever that conclusion is.
James has been admired, chastised, name-called, idolized and scrutinized for his unbridled agnosticism. Whether you come to admire or discard James' unique thoughts about thoughts, these essays are clearly written, accessable, erudite and witty. If you're not a philosopher, read this. If you are one, read it but don't tell anyone you did so!

The Word
The Word
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 72.95
5 used & new from CDN$ 67.95

2.0 out of 5 stars A Waste of My Time, March 26 2002
This review is from: The Word (Audio CD)
I was really hoping that this CD would be good. I love gospel/blues and have always been a fan of John Medeski. Man, did this CD dissapoint.
The CD centers around pedal-steel prodigy Robert Randolph. He does have his shining moments. In a few track intros, he can actually sound like a gospel singer. This boy really needs some work on his ear though. His intonation is off at least a few times on every track. In fact the bridge on the first track is played (either by Randolph or guitarist Luther Dickinson) with one string (D string?) maybe a quarter step sharp. Even if you're not a musician, that'll bug the hell out of you.
The songs are completely unstructured. One track in particular (I've not bothered to re-listend to find out which) find the drums fading in and out, not sure when or not to play. Sorry, but when players simply "jam," at least one player needs to take the lead and give tunes some direction. I hoped Medeski would, but I was wrong. The only redeeming track is #9, but it's only two minutes long. So much for nothing. I might keep this one as background music. Then again, maybe not.

Metaphysical Club
Metaphysical Club
by L Menand
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.10
90 used & new from CDN$ 0.30

4.0 out of 5 stars An Undeniable Rarity, March 26 2002
This review is from: Metaphysical Club (Paperback)
What makes this book so rare and, in my opinion, delectable, is it's seamless fusion of biography, history, philosophy and just plain engrossing storytelling. Very few books can do that, let alone do it as beautifully as this one.
Its underlying theme is the intertwining lives of psychologist William James, jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, and philosophers Charles Peirce (pronounced 'pers') and philosopher John Dewey. Together (yet seperately)they created a philosophy called Pragmatism. The title, I warn you, is a bit misleading. The Metaphysical Club refers to a club that met, consisting of these and a few other members. When I say briefly, the clubs existence in this book takes up maybe 40 pages, so to call the book by that title may give the reader is distorted view of its contents.
Much more than philosophy and biography is covered in this book. The author has a tendency to wander off track. For example, Charles Peirce, early in his career, testified in a trial over a will supposedly forged and the author spends a good chapter on the trial alone, rarely mentioning Peirce. Also towards the books beginning, we hear much more about the Civil War itself than Holmes role as a combatant. Put briefly, if you are looking for a book strictly introducing and explaining pragmatism, this is not the best book. Pick up The Pragmatism Reader, edited by Menand. You could also simply read the last three chapters of this one, which contain one of the best outline of pragmatism outside of James and Peirce that I've read.
If, though, you have the time and interest to hear great stories and learn some new things, this is a first rate book. The characters come to life (especially Peirce and Holmes) and if you stick through untill the end, you will find that the book, albeit in a round-about fashion, DOES offer us a good look into pragmatism and its galvanizers. See, one of pragmatisms core 'tenets' is that ideas can't be well understood when seperated form context. We form ideas only as guides for action in the existing world, so ideas without situational reference is like a table without a base. In order to understand how pragmatism got started, then, we must need context. Now the discussions mentioned above about the Civil War and the trial over the will do not seem like asides, but rather as necessary to understanding the whole.
As I said above, this book is an extrememly well written, entertaining and erudite look at America and it's first native philosophy. Higly reccomended. (If you like this get Branden's "My years with Ayn Rand" and Magee's "Confessions of a Philosopher."

Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline
Public Intellectuals: A Study of Decline
by The Honorable Richard A. Posner
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from CDN$ 7.89

3.0 out of 5 stars Starts with a bang; Ends with a flicker., March 17 2002
If I would've been asked to review this book at page 200, I wouldn't have thought twice about giving it 5 stars. Problem is, at page 360, I'm debating whether it is worth my time to read the last 40 pages. Likely, I will not.
The book itself starts off great. The thesis is well presented- that public intellectuals, through over-specialization, snap-decisions and decreased accountability have become not only more irreverant, but also irrelevant.
The firt half of the book is analysis of the 'market' of public intellectualism as a whole; its problems and virtues. Reader be warned, you'll be taken through some exacting economic analysis on this one and as this half of the book deals mostly with abstracts, it can get difficult. Posner is a great explainer though and if you like this subject, you'll find you can't quit reading! Posner's main point so far is that public intellectualism is an economic market, but is closer to that of entertainment than information. In the same way no one seems to hold day time talk show psycic Sylvia Browne accountable for her zany predictions, neither do (or should?) most of us hold Noam Chomsky or Robert Bork for their just as off-the-wall gems. To its further detriment, unlike most markets,public intellectualism is deficient in quality controls. I felt Posner's point in all of this was not ho-hum pessimism, but to point out problems so as to hint at solutions.
The second half of the book is a concrete examination of the different areas of the market; literary criticism, law, public commentary, social satire. I've two problems with this half (a bit over half) of the book. First, If you were paying attention to the first half, unless you're that concerned with examples, everything's been said. Second, Posner talks only about a few examples in each chapter. For instance, instead of talking about the 'public philosophy' market as a whole, he uses the space to talk about Martha Nussbaum and Richard Rorty, never quite getting to anyone else. In his chapter on social satire, the discussion is EXCLUSIVELY on Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World. While his examples are ammusing, most of us are familiar with the careers of those on which he speaks (if not, why would we be interested in the subject?) so they become a bit repetitive.
Still, due to it's bucking-the-convention theme, diversity of topics, and Posner's obvious flair with the pen, the second half is entertaining, just not so informative. You can still get your moneys worth out of this one though. If you find the second half not to taste, you can compensate by reading the first half twice! I'm sure it's just as engrossing the second tiime 'round.

The Implosion of American Federalism
The Implosion of American Federalism
by Robert F. Nagel
Edition: Hardcover
11 used & new from CDN$ 4.09

3.0 out of 5 stars Great thesis, good argument, muddled ending., March 13 2002
In this book, Mr. Nagel explores an underappreciated theme; the increasing centralization of government authority ion the U.S. He attributes this to a few things; America's demand for the 'quick-fix' of the law, myths that our government was created by 'the people of America' instead of 'The people of the United States of America,' even the supreme courts fear of 'rocking the boat,' skirting around issues like abortion for fear of disturbing 'national unity.'
Mr. Nagel backs his thesis up beautifully in this crystal-clear written book, using everything from the supreme court stepping into state business, calling a state-wide attempt to ammend Colorado's constitution 'unreasonable' to the virtual consensus amongst constitutional law intellectuals to argue vehemently for 'nationalism.'
As I said this book is crystal clear and as easy to read as a book like this can be. My only complaint is that the last few chapters are muddled and rushed. His point (so far as I understand it) is to draw attention to the phenomenon of celebrity as assuaging our need for centralization by increasing our isolation from our actual neighbors, thus making us more dependent on a far-off government. This theory is not bad in itself; The problem is that it just doesn't fit with the legal arguments made in the first six chapters of the book. The last two chapters beat the hell out of the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal as an example of this and what he calls the 'Yale theory,' which is basically legalese used only to disguise lies. While this is certainly what Clinton did (and Clinton is the hallmark of political celebrity) again, this doesn't fit with the rest of the book. All in all though, the great writing, contreversial, thought-extrapolating theory and well argued case make this a pretty good book!

Late Str Qrts/Qnts
Late Str Qrts/Qnts
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 46.95
3 used & new from CDN$ 15.65

4.0 out of 5 stars Schubert + Emerson = Listener Satisfaction, Feb. 22 2002
This review is from: Late Str Qrts/Qnts (Audio CD)
First, these quartets are some of the best written to date so if you've not heard them, you should. Second, This is a great set to start with.
From the subtle first movement of Rosemunde, to the confused fury of Death and the Maiden, Emerson's interpretations are immense and multi-dimensional, constantly engaging the listener to jump further into the music. Not bad for a thirty some-odd dollar CD set.
The shining moment is the Quartettsatz. Already (in my opinion) THE BEST nine minutes of chamber music ever, Emerson adds to its appeal taking a bold flirty approach with it; Like a good crime novel, building an undeniable forward motion. It's so sad when after two minutes, the second movement cuts off. If the reader has no idea what I'm talking about, take my word. It will effect you.
The reason for the subtracted star is that, although Emersons in-your-face approach works well for the fast, bold movements, they can not fully shake it in the slower movements, where it sounds clumsey and innapropriate. The second movement in Rosamunde and D 703 could've done with more delicate treatment. For experienced Schubert listeners, Emerson adds a refreshing twist to these quartets. For the beginner, this is an exciting starting point.

The Tempting of America
The Tempting of America
by Robert H. Bork
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 22.04
28 used & new from CDN$ 3.02

5.0 out of 5 stars An Earth-Shattering Work of Common sense!!, Feb. 20 2002
It's hard to imagine a neutral opinion about Robert Bork. Mostly, he is exalted or dismissed because of supposed political views he holds. Liberals dispise his 'anti-abortion' record and conservatives cheer his 'pro-religion' stance. For the record, he is a conservative libertarian (if there really is such a thing) but those who are looking for political argument will find none here.
In fact, he admirably restrains with a capital 'R' from political discussion in this book. Instead, he outlays his judicial philosophy of 'original intent'; quite simply, the judge as an extention of a law as seen by its original legislators. Unfortunately, this leads to some results that make modern day liberals cringe. Abortion, private discrimination and the like are nowhere in the constitution thus becoming state and personal issues under amendment X (how many people really pay attention to that amendment anyhow?). Despite these results, Bork insists on judicial neutrality aware that the legislature is the ONLY branch that should have their eye on results. The judiciary simply takes the WRITTEN law and upholds it.
The only thing I have a problem with is that sometimes Bork takes a strict textual approach and sometimes not, For example, his view of the 'equal protection' clause as a procedural, not a substantive issue relies strictly on the text of the fourteenth amendment. It would stand to reason that his first amendment view should also rely on text but 'Congress shall make no law..' apparently wasn't what the founders really meant after all.
For those not schooled in the current debate over various methods of constitutional interpretation, I would read Jack Rakove's "Interpreting the Constitution" and maybe Antonin Scalia's "Matter of interpretation" first as more views are given than in this book. Again, I stress, if you are looking for Bork's assertion of political views, THIS IS NOT THE BOOK!! Read his other one.

Salsa Dura (Latin)
Salsa Dura (Latin)
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 8.89
29 used & new from CDN$ 8.88

5.0 out of 5 stars Hot selection of HARD salsa jams!!, Feb. 19 2002
This review is from: Salsa Dura (Latin) (Audio CD)
These jams are furious, scorching hot and danceable to the core. Starting with a sleak mid-paced guaganco, Jimmy and the band never let up. Even the ballads (one guajira, one bolero)find an undeniable groove.
The recording is done without many effects. The vocals, piano and percussion especially are free of reverb and other slick studio effects that tend to steal salsa's fire. We are left with pure flame on this recording.
The high points are the above guaganco, the the straight-up son (track 4), and check out the scorching jams on track 6 & 7. If you're not careful, you'll lose the clave!! Don't think twice; Buy this one!

State and Main (Widescreen/Full Screen)
State and Main (Widescreen/Full Screen)
DVD ~ Philip Seymour Hoffman
Offered by roundmedia
Price: CDN$ 9.70
12 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Great cast, great script, great film!!, Jan. 23 2002
"Hello, Marty. We've got a new town. Mm-Hm. We're in- Where are we again- Waterford, Vermont. What do you mean where is it? That's where it is."
Such begins an incredibly engaging adventure of a film crew's efforts to begin shoot on the problem-plagued film 'The Old Mill'. This is, to my knowledge, Mamet's first comedy for the screen but you'd never guess.
Those who are long-time Mamet fans will recognize many of the faces from other films as well as Mamet's trademark snappy dialogue. I believe the writer of the score is the same as in 'The Spanish Prisoner' also. Put all this together and you've got a real treat.
On top of all that though, Mamet shows us great characters from the first-time film writer trying in vain to complete a script about purity, to the big time movie star who has a thing for 14 year old girls, to the overpressured director who wants a compromise at 'half-a-twenty-eight-year-old girl.' We all knew Hollywood was fun!!

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