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S. Schonberger (near Seattle, WA, USA)
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Who's Looking Out for You?
Who's Looking Out for You?
by Bill O'Reilly
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.79
105 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Bill's mad at everything, but says it better on television, Jan. 29 2004
My strongest impression from reading several chapters of _Who's Looking Out for You?_ is that I can remember almost nothing of it except the tone. O'Reilly's tone is outrage. He's mad at "elite scribes" in the media (other than himself), mad at "trust fund babies and corporate weasels", mad at "problem creators", mad at "crack smokers", mad at Bernard Cardinal Law and "perverted priests", mad at single mothers and deadbeat fathers, mad at households without "standards", mad at China where "they kill babies", -- mad at everything it seems. As he writes in his first chapter, he's even mad at his father, who "set a terrible example by inflicting unnecessary pain on his children." He offers endless examples of things to be angry about, but offers no solutions. OK, he does have his "Ten Commandments of Effective Parenting", most of which are reasonable common sense, but no solution to problems outside one's own family.
Another impression I got from the book is that I had seen a lot of the material before, in his newspaper column. He may not have been directly recycling it, but it didn't feel new when I read it. I think his newspaper column is better reading, since it is often more topical. And even with all the recycled material, it's still a very short book. Amazingly, the audio-book version is an abridged edition -- the book is so short that I wouldn't have thought they'd feel a need to make it any shorter for the audio version.
Amusingly, the introduction congratulates the reader on being a "person who wants to live life honestly and make his or her own way" and for being "responsible, generous, and aware that others around them also have lives to live, and unabashedly patriotic." Then he denies being "conservative," apparently in an effort to redefine his right wing opinions as "independent." Further, he denounces "so-called elite scribes" then trumpets a magazine's labeling of him as "the second most powerful person in TV news!" [The exclamation point was his.] Isn't he an "elite scribe" if he's the second most powerful person in TV news and author of books and newspaper columns?
Overall, I was unimpressed. As a writer, he's better in his newspaper columns than in this book -- and not nearly as good a writer as his fellow conservative George F Will (whose columns I enjoy, but whose books I have not read) or his liberal nemesis Al Franken. His talent is as a television entertainer, where his on-screen presence far outshines his writing. In that sense he is a lot like Michael Moore, an observation which would probably annoy both O'Reilly and Moore. If you want O'Reilly at his best, watch him on television. Don't bother with the book unless it's to reward him for his television entertainment talent.
My impressions are based on reading only a few chapters of the book (and to refresh my memory for this review, reading excerpts from his official web site), which I did to compare five current political books. The others were _Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right_ by Al Franken, _Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America_, by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose, _Dude, Where's My Country?_ by Michael Moore, and _Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism_ by Ann Coulter. The best of the bunch were _Lies_ and _Bushwhacked_. Franken was funnier and more entertaining to read, but Ivins and Dubose were more focused and heavier on detailed research. Moore's was mildly amusing, but heavy on name-calling and not nearly as fun as his movies. O'Reilly's seemed like little more than a compilation of his newspaper editorial columns, and was deadly boring -- like Moore, O'Reilly is much more effective on-screen than in print. Coulter's was by far the worst; it was little more than a lot of hateful name-calling, misleading footnotes, without even the sense of humor that made Moore's name-calling amusing.

Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism
Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism
by Ann Coulter
Edition: Hardcover
76 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars unreasoned bitterness -- a disgrace to conservatism, Dec 2 2003
What an amazing volume of bitterness this is. While one might expect extremists on the right or left to hate even moderates on the other side, sometimes even centrists or moderates on their own side, it is rare to find such hate expressed in print. Usually it turns up only in the company of like-minded extremists. What does Ann Coulter hate? "Liberals", she says, but by her definition that includes everything from the moderate right to the far left.
She starts with these words: "Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason." She starts her name-calling in the first sentence of the book -- even in the title, actually. "Whenever the nation is under attack," she claims, "liberals side with the enemy." It is her position that McCarthyism is nothing more than a liberal myth meant to hide US liberals' alleged lack of patriotism and support for enemy nations. Who does she cite first as evidence for her claims? Joe McCarthy, the namesake of one of the most shameful stories in US history since slavery. She denounces free speech as "a one-way ratchet for traitors." She even suggests that Irving Berlin, if he were alive today, might write a song titled "Good-bye Walla Walla, I'm off to Smash Allah", as a follow-up to his "God Bless America." I hope he would have better taste than that.
Later in the book, Coulter denounces Democrats for getting the US into the Vietnam War, praises Republicans for pursuing it as a noble cause, then again denounces liberals in Congress for preventing the US from winning it. So which is it? A war that the foolish Democrats got the US into, or a noble cause? That's part of a blanket statement that Democrats lose wars -- never mind the fact that the Democrats were in power during World War II.
Coulter provides numerous footnotes (or, more properly, endnotes) in her book, but she apparently counts on readers not to check whether the endnotes actually support the main text that refers to them. Often, the endnotes reveal how the main text takes things out of context, misrepresents the source, or has nothing at all to do with it. That is sloppy scholarship, but then this is a work of hateful name-calling, not scholarship.
I was appalled with every bit of the book that I could bring myself to read. Her writing is full of bitterness. It lacks logical consistency, denouncing "liberals" for things that are admirable in conservatives. She may be a well-educated person, but that's not at all evident from the book.
For conservative readers, I recommend George F Will most highly. I have not read his books, but I enjoy his columns, which are well reasoned and gently worded. Even liberal readers who rarely agree with him will appreciate his rational expression of conservative viewpoints. Bill O'Reilly is not nearly as skilled a writer as Will, but he's much better than Coulter, and he is an excellent conservative television entertainer. Don't waste your time on Coulter's ill-reasoned bile. Liberals, read it only for outraged laughs, and be sure not to buy it.
My impressions are based on reading only a few chapters of the book, which I did to compare five current political books. The others were _Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right_ by Al Franken, _Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America_, by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose, _Dude, Where's My Country?_ by Michael Moore, and _Who's Looking Out for You?_ by Bill O'Reilly. The best of the bunch were _Lies_ and _Bushwhacked_. Franken was funnier and more entertaining to read, but Ivins and Dubose were more focused and heavier on detailed research. Moore's was mildly amusing, but heavy on name-calling and not nearly as fun as his movies. O'Reilly's seemed like little more than a compilation of his newspaper editorial columns, and was rather boring -- like Moore, O'Reilly is much more effective on-screen than in print. This one was by far the worst; it was little more than a lot of hateful name-calling and misleading quotations, without even the sense of humor that made Moore's name-calling amusing.

Dude, Where's My Country
Dude, Where's My Country
by Michael Moore
Edition: Hardcover
104 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars not bad, but Moore's more a filmmaker than a writer, Dec 1 2003
This book has the same primary focus as _Bushwhacked_ and the same preference for humor to make points as _Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them_, but doesn't do as well at either goal. Its primary focus (in the portions I read, at least) is denouncing the George W Bush administration and Bush as a businessman, but Moore isn't nearly as strong a researcher as Ivins and Dubose, so it doesn't work nearly as well as a source of factual anti-Bush material. The humor isn't as strong as Franken's either, and Moore tends toward name-calling when his desire for cleverness falls short. (Actually, although Franken's focus is humor, his research is stronger than Moore's too.) It should be an entertaining read for Michael Moore fans and people who don't like Bush, even though it's not as good for facts or laughs.
The main shortcoming of the book, I think, is that Moore is a filmmaker at heart, not a writer. He has a good sense for what works in film, both for presenting a political position and for getting a laugh. But film and print don't work the same way -- moving images often don't translate into moving written words, and visual humor rarely works in print.
There is enough good stuff here to recommend the book, but only after Ivins and Dubose for Bush-focused research and Franken for entertainment (and some research). But Moore is much more a filmmaker than a writer, so the strongest argument for buying the book is to help him pay for his next movie.
My impressions are based on reading only a few chapters of the book, which I did to compare five current political books. The others were _Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right_ by Al Franken, _Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America_, by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose, _Who's Looking Out for You?_ By Bill O'Reilly, and _Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism_ by Ann Coulter. The best of the bunch _Lies_ and _Bushwhacked_. Franken was funnier and more entertaining to read, but Ivins and Dubose were more focused and heavier on detailed research. O'Reilly's seemed like little more than a compilation of his newspaper editorial columns, and was deadly boring -- like Moore, O'Reilly is much more effective on-screen than in print. Coulter's was by far the worst; it was little more than a lot of hateful name-calling, misleading footnotes, without even the sense of humor that made Moore's name-calling amusing.

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right
by Al Franken
Edition: Hardcover
118 used & new from CDN$ 0.27

5.0 out of 5 stars Liberals will laugh. Conservatives will laugh and get mad., Nov. 28 2003
This book is a collection of commentaries on various aspects of the right wing, including the right's allegation of liberal bias, his "friend" (her word) Ann Coulter, the unaccredited Bob Jones University, and other topics. Some chapters are heavily documented, while others are more personal storytelling. Throughout, he keeps up a lively, comic tone.
One chapter, available in Amazon's excerpt, comments on the right's allegation of liberal bias in news media. His contention is that the bias is toward sensationalism and avoidance of offense to news organizations' corporate parents -- in general toward making news profitable -- rather than any bias left or right. He points out that the media was in a feeding frenzy over the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, which fits the idea of ratings-motivated bias better than pro-liberal bias. He also contrasts media reaction to blunders in the first Gore-Bush debate in 2000. Gore's mistake was saying he had visited a disaster site with a FEMA director, when he had actually visited 17 other disaster sites with him but not that one. Bush's blunder was claiming, "By far, the vast majority [of a tax cut] goes to people at the bottom," when the bottom 60 percent got 14.7 percent of the cut. Franken wrote that Gore's slip-up drew widespread media commentary, while Bush's lie or mistake drew almost none; Franken speculated that the media took Bush as too stupid to deserve criticism on statistical details.
He contends that the mainstream media, however strong their ratings bias may be, maintain a left-right balance. By contrast, he notes that the media includes a committed right wing branch, including Fox News, the editorial pages of the _Wall Street Journal_, and most talk radio. His position is that the right wing media goes beyond editorializing, and sometimes plainly lies, then accuses the mainstream media of liberal bias when their lies are exposed.
His Ann Coulter chapter, also excerpted on Amazon, notes that she said she was "friendly with" Franken in an interview, although the entire extent of their acquaintance was being briefly introduced at a party, where he was polite to her. He examines her 780 footnotes, pointing out that they're actually endnotes, and finds that they often demonstrate her main text as misleading or baldly lying. He sticks to the comic tone, while showing that her endnotes are evidence that she's misrepresenting facts, and hiding the lies by putting them in endnotes, which few readers bother to examine.
I also read his chapter about his visit to Bob Jones University, an unaccredited institution famous for its ban on interracial dating (only recently lifted), its strong enforcement of its vision of Christianity, and other ideologies. His visit was designed to test whether stories of its hostility toward other types of Christianity (such as Roman Catholicism), anti-Jewish attitudes, and racism were justified. With a college-age confederate, he visited the campus, pretending interest in the school, and saying that the student's mother admired the school's values. Surprisingly, no one recognized Franken as a television comic and author until near the end of the day. He said they had fun watching school officials squirm when asked about the school's lack of accreditation and absence in a book of quality schools. But their overall impression was that while the people they met seemed committed to a narrow-minded branch of Christianity, they were also constantly polite and often seemed genuinely nice. That surprised them; they had expected a campus full of hate.
While the main focus of the book is debunking the claim of liberal media bias, and poking fun at the right wing branch of the media, he includes stories like the Bob Jones University visit that stray far from media issues, though still related to the right. He maintains a sense of humor throughout the book, and the book should be worth laughs even to people whose ideology he mocks. Liberals should enjoy the book a great deal, and conservatives should get a good laugh out of it too, even if they're infuriated at Franken's laughs at their leaders' expense.
Liberals, buy the book, put some money in Franken's pocket, and get a good laugh. Conservatives, borrow the book, get mad at Franken for making fun of your heroes, and get a good laugh too.
My impressions are based on reading only a few chapters of the book, which I did to compare five current political books. The others were _Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America_, by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose, _Dude, Where's My Country?_ by Michael Moore, _Who's Looking Out for You?_ By Bill O'Reilly, and _Slander: Liberal Lies about the American Right_ by Ann Coulter. This one and _Bushwhacked_ were the best of the bunch. This one funnier and more entertaining to read, but Ivins and Dubose's was more focused and heavier on detailed research. Moore's was mildly amusing, but heavy on name-calling and not nearly as fun as his movies. O'Reilly's seemed like little more than a compilation of his newspaper editorial columns, and was deadly boring -- like Moore, O'Reilly is much more effective on-screen than in print. Coulter's was by far the worst; it was little more than a lot of hateful name-calling, misleading footnotes, without even the sense of humor that made Moore's name-calling amusing.

Historical Atlas Of British Columbia And The Pacific Northwest
Historical Atlas Of British Columbia And The Pacific Northwest
by D Hayes
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 19.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful and lots of fun, Oct. 24 2003
I have quite a few other historical atlases, and this one is one of my favorites. One attraction is that it's focused on the northwest US, where I live. Even without the local interest I still think I'd like the book though.
Unlike a typical historical atlas, this book collects historical maps, rather than using modern maps to illustrate historical events. In the accompanying text, it tells stories about the explorers who created the maps.
The book flap text is a good summary of the contents, not just empty marketing.

Requiem for a Dream/Pi [Import]
Requiem for a Dream/Pi [Import]
DVD ~ Ellen Burstyn
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 11.64
14 used & new from CDN$ 10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars One masterpiece, one flawed sign of future brilliance, Dec 27 2002
Requiem for a Dream is a directing masterpiece, and all four lead actors give impressive performances. Often directors make their movies confusing with too-frequent cuts, or distract from the emotional impact. But in this case the rapid cuts strengthen the emotional power of the movie, showing the parallel course of the four lead characters' stories, without creating any confusion.
Pi had elements of greatness, particularly in the directing. The paranoia, madness, and mathematical mumbo-jumbo in the story might not appeal to all viewers. (And some people just don't care for black and white.) But the real point isn't the story, it's the emotional effect of the directing. One thing that makes it an important movie is that it shows director Aronofsky's skill almost full-grown. The dirt-cheap credit card budget limited the director to a small story, but didn't keep him from showing directorial greatness. No wonder he got a real budget for his next film.

Cool World
Cool World
VHS
3 used & new from CDN$ 15.95

1.0 out of 5 stars Roger Rabbit, plus sex, minus any entertainment value., July 24 2000
This review is from: Cool World (VHS Tape)
How do movies this bad get made? Cool World isn't the worst movie I've ever seen, but it's certainly on my ten worst list. (It might not be if I could remember the titles of the copyright-expired, black and white horror movies I watched as a kid, but it's still incredibly bad.) It's even more surprising that such a bad movie could be made because animation requires a great deal of scripting, compared to live action that can be filmed while the script is being re-written or even without a script. It's not even "so bad it's good", it's just plain bad.
The best thing about the movie is the basic idea: What if real people could have sex with cartoon characters? That's not even all that great an idea, but the movie is all downhill from there.
The plot is a muddle. The main characters are a live-action man and a cartoon woman. He finds her attractive, but knows something bad (who knows what?) will happen if a person has sex with a cartoon. What? If they explained, I don't remember. Why? I'm sure that was never even hinted at. Of course they go ahead and have sex anyway (in a way that's OK for the movie's mild age rating). Then bad stuff happens, and various characters try to resolve the damage.
That story is pretty dumb, but it might have made at least enough sense to be an entertaining movie if we had been given some ideas of the rules of the world where it intersects with the cartoon world. In Roger Rabbit, we knew that nothing can truly hurt a cartoon character except "the dip", a solvent that was rather nasty to real people too. In Cool World, there's no sense that any laws of cartoon physics apply from one scene to the next. Nothing in the entire movie really makes sense.
The animation quality wasn't entirely bad, but it wasn't anything special either. Saturday morning cartoons look cheap, but that's because they're low budget. Cool World showed signs of a big budget gone to waste. I could see the money in the animation, but the animation was good craftsmanship with no creative vision. It was like trying to find a plot in an animator's portfolio video.
The live action acting wasn't good either. I can't tell if they were just acting poorly, were directed poorly, or just had such a hopeless script that no acting could save it. Whatever the reason, the live action was just as bad.
Bakshi made at least one good movie, Wizards, so we know he can do it. Why doesn't he?
Shame on me for wasting my money (and time I could have spent watching a good movie) to see this during its theatrical run. Even renting it on tape is too much to pay. Don't even think of wasting your money to *buy* it. It just encourages the movie industry to make more terrible movies.

The Arrival/The Arrival 2 (Widescreen)
The Arrival/The Arrival 2 (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Patrick Muldoon
8 used & new from CDN$ 3.70

5.0 out of 5 stars The best space alien invasion movie ever, and a lousy sequel, July 24 2000
I haven't seen every space alien invasion movie ever made, but I still think I can safely call The Arrival the best ever made in that genre. Too bad it was mostly lost in the marketing assault of Independence Day, a spectacularly awful movie in the same genre. Not only is The Arrival the best space alien invasion movie ever, it's one of the better science fiction movies.
The Arrival, unlike most space alien invasion movies, gives the invaders motivations, cleverness in place of firepower, secrecy instead of grand overconfidence, exploitation of human weakness, and an overall sense that beings capable of star travel aren't stupid. The hero is clever too, and dedicated to his work, and finds a credible way to continue his research after things go bad at the office. He usually makes common-sense decisions rather than idiotic blunders or ridiculously lucky choices. It's good when characters in a movie do what we'd do, instead of something that doesn't make sense but forces the plot in the direction the movie-makers wanted.
Unfortunately, The Second Arrival was an undistinguished sequel. It wasn't truly awful except in comparison to the original, but it certainly wasn't good. Its first problem was that the original didn't leave a good place for a sequel to go, even though its ending left some things unresolved. Another problem is that no one involved in the original was interested in the sequel. Some of the visual design was borrowed from it, but little or none of the mood or intelligence. It's just a not-very-exciting chase movie borrowing a title and a few themes from the original. It's as if a piece of cheesy fan fiction had been adapted into a movie.
To rate the DVD, which has The Arrival on one side and The Second Arrival on the other, it's best to think of the latter as just a DVD extra. Even the lamest DVD extras shouldn't reduce the rating for a good movie. I rate The Arrival at five stars. The Second Arrival deserves only one star, but since it was free with a movie I would have bought anyway, I can give it two. This DVD doesn't do anything bad to The Arrival, so I give it the same five stars as the movie.

Skin Game, the
Skin Game, the
DVD ~ Edmund Gwenn
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 14.98
11 used & new from CDN$ 1.59

3.0 out of 5 stars great suspense build-up, abrupt ending, June 23 2000
This review is from: Skin Game, the (DVD)
Hitchcock may be the master of suspense, but this movie doesn't show that mastery fully-developed. The movie starts out strong, and builds to a great climax, but then wraps up abruptly. The movie shows much of Hitchcock's skill at building suspense, but doesn't deliver an ending to match the rising tension. It's too bad, because the build-up is very strong. Pay attention to the epilogue scene for great use of irony.
About the title: A "skin game" means a swindle, trick, or scam.
The movie starts with Hornblower (Edmund Gwenn) buying property from the proud, proper English landowner Hillcrest (C.V. France), assuring him that the tenant farmers would be allowed to stay. Soon Hornblower evicts them to build factories, because he is a man of progress and industry. Hillcrest is outraged, and sets out to stop Hornblower's efforts to buy up land for more factories.
Hillcrest attempts to slow down Hornblower's land purchases by rigging an auction on some property that's up for sale. But Hornblower figures out the scheme, and outsmarts Hillcrest with his own tricks. Hillcrest escalates the feud by hiring a man to dig up dirt on Hornblower and his family.
For a longer version of this review, with spoilers (and a spoiler warning), see IMDB.

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