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Martian Bachelor (Feminacentric America)

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Gag Rule
Gag Rule
by Lewis Lapham
Edition: Hardcover
32 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Lapham, July 12 2004
This review is from: Gag Rule (Hardcover)
For several years now, ever since discovering Harper's and its monthly essay by editor Lapham, I've looked forward to the magazine's monthly arrival and those always pungent editorials on the state of our times. Consequently, I had high expectations for this book and can say I wasn't let down in the least.
The book, while not huge, is Lapham at his best virtually cover to cover. He's absolutely unrelenting as he ranges across the contemporary cultural and political landscape, drawing amazing connections on just about every page.
The book is divided into four longish chapters, but these are little more than mere formalities, as the tone is seamless from one section to the next. I've read several of the critiques flooding the market in this election year -- "President of Good and Evil" and "Worse Than Watergate" come immediately to mind -- but this book is the best I've hit so far, not only because it's Lapham doing the writing but because his critique is not just of the current Bush administration, but, rather it's a sweeping cultural critique of America today.
While I couldn't recommend the book to the Time magazine or USA Today crowd, I can't imagine others not being challenged and moved by its ideas and its implicit vision of a better America.

Survival City: Adventures among the Ruins of Atomic America
Survival City: Adventures among the Ruins of Atomic America
by Tom Vanderbilt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 10.08
9 used & new from CDN$ 10.08

5.0 out of 5 stars Heady stuff, very smartly written, May 15 2004
I'm usually a rather tough grader, but this is the best book I've read in quite some time. Vanderbilt takes us on a lively and diverse tour of cold war America's remaining architectural artifacts (the interstate highway system, bomb shelters, missile silos, misc. military installations - some still in use, nuclear waste sites, etc.) and weaves an analysis of same into an interesting and often surprising commentary on the historical period and the society which gave rise to these structures. For me, the novel perspective of looking at things from an architectural standpoint worked quite well at making the history and those times come alive.
The style is part documentary, part story-telling, part travelogue, part cultural anthropology, and part essay on topics in architecture (generally) which I previously would not have thought about, or thought I had any reason to think about. The approach was successful enough that I found myself frequently being simply and skillfully led to surprising and profound insights, which were a delight. I came away from the book thinking Vanderbilt was an excellent writer with many new and important ideas on the fascinating subject of nuclear weapons, the cold war, and national security generally -- subjects which can easily be made drole, heavy, boring and/or tedious. For many, the so-called atomic era seems long gone and forgotten (and slightly silly in many aspects), but Vanderbilt makes the issues faced then seem relevant to many similar problems facing us today by placing them in a context of continuity. Highly recommended to a broad audience.

Why Men Don't Have a Clue and Women Always Need More Shoes: The Ultimate Guide to the Opposite Sex
Why Men Don't Have a Clue and Women Always Need More Shoes: The Ultimate Guide to the Opposite Sex
by Barbara Pease
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 12.97
56 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars might be OK for total know-nothings, April 25 2004
The basic attempt with this book was to use sex differences - which are all the rage these days - to make a relationships self-help book. The self-help stuff requires the usual and worn-to-death case studies of couples, followed by nice/neat explanations showing us just how simple all this really is, while the sex differences material requires a more expository approach, discussing the latest in brain research, etc. The net result is that instead of being coherent, the book comes across as being schizo, like it can't decide which kind of book it really wants to be. Or maybe the two different authors wrote different chapters. In other words, some of the book is good, a lot of it is so-so, and the rest not so great. At times it's even ridiculous.
The sex differences stuff is so watered down and simple-minded as to be virtually ludicrous (not to mention useless). Men are one-track minded hunters and women are caring/nurtering gatherers in this black and white universe. Consequently, they're able to give simple and definite answers to nuanced questions and situations which are, of course, a little more complicated than they'd like to think.
In spite of a page in the intro making one think the authors are sympathetic to men, the net portrayal is of belching, farting, dirty-joke telling louts who won't put the toilet seat down, ask for directions, or let go of the TV remote - just like in any sitcom. There's even a section on "retraining your man". The section on lieing starts out by assuring us men and women lie in equal amounts, but then devolves into illustrating all the ways men lie to women. I suppose we could have guessed from the cover being 70% pink that this book was mostly aimed at a female audience and therefore needs to constantly remind them how superior they are to men. And there's some misleading info on how much men need/want women, for example it's stated without qualification that any/all sex for men is good, though I can assure the authors that most men know very well the difference between good and bad sex, and all the shades between.
I found annoying all the plugs and mentions scatterd thru the text of the authors' previous book. Also annoying were sentences that I'd just read repeated in bold type in between paragraphs, like I'd missed them the first time; though sometimes these bold face bits have quotes or not-too-funny jokes. Altogether this wasn't a very good book. Maybe 2 1/2 stars max.

Mismatch: The Growing Gulf Between Women and Men
Mismatch: The Growing Gulf Between Women and Men
by Andrew Hacker
Edition: Hardcover
30 used & new from CDN$ 0.07

2.0 out of 5 stars More bushwa from the ivory tower crowd..., April 1 2004
The best thing about this book is probably its title. But the rest is a disappointment - unless you just need a source for all the latest exact figures on the topics covered here. Hatcher treads well-worn ground with familiar statistics on the decline of marriage, the rise of divorce and out-of-wedlock births, etc., etc., and then pontificates on the underlying cause of or reason behind these social ills as if the numbers point in a straight line toward the usually ready and biology-free explanations which he provides.
Mostly these stories will be familiar in tone to those who've heard the PC/academic crowd before and a lot of the blame for what he sees as the growing divide between men and women falls on men - just as you've probably heard ad nauseum on Oprah or Dr Phil, the sitcoms, etc. Hacker is too old-fashioned in his chivalrous attitude toward women to consider that maybe women's choices have something to do with it - i.e., that there's a dynamic going on which involves both sexes. He seems like a typical "progressive" Neanderthal saying women can follow the Barbie Mantra ("Girls can be/do anything!") and men are just supposed to comply with all that women need of them like good little slaves. Where's the flaw in that?
It's a pity that he didn't do some actual research on what others make of these matters because there's a fairly well developed literature out there which bears on the same statistics and reaches drastically differing conclusions and solutions. But Hacker is oblivious. And he doesn't seem to have talked to any real people.
For example, he fails to recognize that marriage these days confers no rights on men, only obligations. (Some sacred institution...) This has enormous implications which hardly anyone seems to grasp. While Hacker cites the fact that the vast majority of divorces are initiated by women - 75% in some studies I've seen - he fails to connect this (as other studies have done) to the simple fact that family law biases the custody of kids toward the women; and while these "settlements" bind the man to his traditional role as breadwinner, it frees the woman from her traditional role vis a vis the man. A man would have to be a fool to enter into such a "contract" (which the state will not only not enforce but will help one party break) and a woman would have to be a fool not to recognize the advantages of divorce. When the chief purpose of marriage seems to be to supply woman with ex-husbands, it's suprising the divorce rate isn't higher than a mere 50%. But you won't find a discussion of things like this in the book.
Sometimes Hacker goes entirely off the rails, as when he discusses inter-racial marriage (90+% of which involve a black man and a white woman) and the high proportion of black males in prison (relative to their representation in the population). He concludes that the latter is being engineered by white males as a male-male sexual competition/jealousy sort of thing over white females. If so, it ain't working very well! I'd love to see what he makes of the fact that men as a whole outnumber *women* in prison by about 10 to 1...
So when the book isn't sadly predictable and blindered it's downright goofy. I think Hacker, like all others I'm familiar with in academia who've attempted these topics, has it just about all wrong. Too many numbers do not make for convincing cases. 1 1/2 stars.

Mr. Right, Right Now!: How A Smart Woman Can Land Her Dream Man In 6 Weeks
Mr. Right, Right Now!: How A Smart Woman Can Land Her Dream Man In 6 Weeks
by E. Jean Carroll
Edition: Hardcover
41 used & new from CDN$ 0.44

1.0 out of 5 stars Be yourself, play the role of Snow White?, Jan. 31 2004
Yea, I know I'm not part of the intended audience for this book, but there aren't books like this for us guys, and so if you want to be found you're stuck plowing through this sad genre looking for clues as to what the other side is doing.
Well, the first thing you'll notice about this book is that it's not clear from the way the author writes whether you're supposed to take her seriously or whether you're just supposed to sit back in amazement and admire her for her sassy, "breezy", hipper-than-thow style, which is so over-worn these days that I couldn't get past the first couple dozen pages. It's almost barf-inducing.
Assuming the author does intend to be taken seriously -- she has a Plan after all, and lot's of the usual do's and don'ts -- what I read made it sound like she's totally schizo. "Just be yourself" messages are mixed shortly thereafter with advice to be just like Snow White. You're supposed to go after the love-at-first-sight-dizzy-in-love heights, but also act like you don't care at all (this allegedly attracts men like crazy). It doesn't make any sense at all, and her general attitude towards men is so negative it makes me wonder what she wants with one anyway.

Getting Your Dating Game On
Getting Your Dating Game On
by Jennifer Worick
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Dating for dummies - girls only, Jan. 31 2004
Ok, pink is for girls. We get that from the color of the book. Perhaps the title should make it clear also. The market is flooded with books like this for girls (while there's practically nothing out there for guys) so something in this genre really has to distinguish itself to be noteworthy. This book doesn't even come close. What we get are cartoon pictures of girls who make Barbie look short and obese (and also not up with the latest fashion trends), along with do's and don'ts for those with no common sense and/or who are incapable of thinking for themselves. Are females really this dumb? Maybe if you're a total beginner you don't already basically know this stuff, but unfortunately the author's tone makes it sound like she's presenting new and amazing revelations to the uninformed -- and is really proud to be doing so.
I especially found off-putting her generally sexist, women=cool/men=uncool attitude: i.e., if a guy puts something like "I own my own business" in a personals ad she translates this into "I don't have insurance" (pg 60), but if a gal puts "I'm 32 flavors and then some" (pg 59) it means she's "confident". Right. (There's another one of these on pg 46.) Such anti-male double standards make me wonder what she wants with a guy anyway -- unless it's just to have him pay for her nights out: this gal's basically very old-fashioned and definitely into chivalry. You get the drift, and if you haven't heard all this sort of stuff before in countless magazine articles (like what to wear to different kinds of places) you probably just aren't the dating/datable kind. [Oh, and whatever you do, don't follow the lame advice on pg 32 about getting chummy w/bartenders, or on pg 98-9 about hiding your emotions, or...]

Why Men Marry Some Women and not Others: The Fascinating Research That Can Land You the Husband
Why Men Marry Some Women and not Others: The Fascinating Research That Can Land You the Husband
by John T Molloy
Edition: Hardcover
37 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars Men as relationship-objects, Jan. 12 2004
Yea, I know I'm not part of the intended audience for this book; for some curious reason they don't make books for men on this topic... Anyway, I can't give high marks to any book about men and marriage which doesn't start with the very fundamental fact that marriage confers no rights on men, only obligations. What this implies is that a woman looking for a husband is basically looking for a chump. Curiously, Molloy is close to discovering this crucial bit of information: he relates an anecdote about a woman who call a man an idiot (really) the first time they meet, and of course they then proceed in a short while on to happily-ever-after status. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, I wouldn't want to have anything to do with any woman who would want me to be her husband.
Alone that was enough to drop the book down to 2-3 star level, but the real clincher was the episode of domestic violence (pgs 127-8) related in another anecdote which Molloy describes as "hysterical", as in "outrageously funny". I cannot sanction such glib treatment of such a serious topic and therefore recommend people who think similarly shun this book entirely. This episode occurs in a context where a woman is pressuring a man into marriage, and if you loosely equate such emotional pressure used against a man with the physical pressure a man might use against a woman to get sex, well you get the picture.
Besides those two fatal flaws, Molloy is pulling the ... that by interviewing people coming out of marriage license application bureaus that he is somehow able to elucidate their (especially the woman's) "Secrets". But this is an illusion: since 85-90% of the population marries at some point you might as well do a general survey, with all the attendant problems with self-reporting and self-deception that anthropologists and sociologists are well aware of (and are ignored here). The women with fresh marriage licenses have just gotten lucky, i.e., their turn has come up and it's not like they necessarily know anything other single women don't. (In other words, part of the marketing for this book is based on women's jealousy; perhaps this is why there's a picture of a diamond ring on the cover rather that some generic hubby...) What it boils down to is that a lot of what Molloy comes up with, and announces as if he's just come down from the mountain with The Truth, is largely spurious. The book is entirely self-referential: he doesn't compare or contrast his "findings" with the work of others, as if he were the first to look into this topic. Right. This causes him to get several things exactly backward, such are the "discovery" that men want to marry up, which is actually a result of female strategies and "selection effects".
What's not spurious is generally rather obvious, or just plain wrong IMO. Like other books in this extensive genre, the whole thing is a mix of truth, half-truth, and the downright ridiculous (like going around with a book on your head and rolled up washclothes on each shoulder - to improve your posture.) Molloy does come across as being something really old-fashioned out of the 1950's -- he's always women's champion. Only a very traditional (and fairly naive) woman *might* find something useful here, though how one would separate the valuable material from the [not valuble] I don't know. Due to space limitations I've only touched on a few of the many things wrong w/this book - my critique could easily be several times longer.

CAD: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor
CAD: Confessions of a Toxic Bachelor
by Rick Marin
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from CDN$ 0.44

2.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't get half way through it..., May 20 2003
I really despise books which bear little relation to their title, and this is a pretty prime example. The cover wording was evidently made up by someone who'd fondled one too many copies of Cosmo. It's entirely misleading regarding what's inside.
First, the author is no cad. (I know because I am one and he's never at the meetings...) In fact, Marin is from a pretty decent Toronto family/neighborhood, got a first job at Harper's after journalism grad school, and did other respectable and semi-adult things (like try to make money) after. Not typical cad territory, I'm betting. What seems to qualify him as a cad is that he occasionally dates women, maybe sleeps with them, and then doesn't marry them. Also, that he keeps some sort of diary (i.e., secret un-PC notes). Whoo-wee, call out the Terminator!
Second, Marin is no bachelor -- if you take a bachelor to be a never-married male above a certain age. He's divorced. And the whole first part of the book has insufferable and totally uninteresting details about his wife, how they met and fell in love, their typical break-up, ladeedadeeda... And even if you give him some leeway because they didn't have any kids in their approx. four years together, he's not even (or much over) thirty; ya gotta be over 35 (40's better) to really qualify as a bachelor. (Quick, someone contact ABC!) I think the cover writer just thought "toxic bachelor" sounded hip and disparaging of males in the way now deemed to be socially acceptable in some unenlightened circles populated by bigots -- much like "testosterone poisoning" was a few years ago. Ok, so she probably took one too many Feminist Studies classes in college learned to hate men. Insightful the term is not. Marin actually comes across as a pretty nice and decent guy with more or less typical dating woes. Which makes for really boring reading.
Third, the only part of what you see on the cover that might vaguely be accurate is the "confessions" part, since the material *is* autobiographical. But it's not like these pages were beaten out of him under a bare bulb after hours of duress and torture. At times he almost sounds like he's boasting a little. (Cads always do that.) I guess the idea is to make women think they're being given the inside scoop on the psyche of the elusive single male, which they're not -- at least not to any great degree IMO. The term "confessions" suggests the material should at least be unusual and maybe even interesting, but this is not.
The plethora of virtually meaningless detail (one of the common hazards of keeping a diary), the lack of much if anything new in the way of perspective, and the author's tendency to try too hard at sounding pithy and clever -- all this made it difficult to get more than about 120 pages into this thing before seeing the writing on the wall and giving up. And I really don't care how it turned out or even why he was writing it all down a decade later.

Why There Are No Good Men Left: The Romantic Plight of the New Single Woman
Why There Are No Good Men Left: The Romantic Plight of the New Single Woman
by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead
Edition: Hardcover
13 used & new from CDN$ 0.44

2.0 out of 5 stars Why there are no good researchers?, May 3 2003
There's so much the matter with this book I've only got room here to touch on a few of the main things.
First, I'm not sure whether it's good news or bad that the main part of the title has little to do with what the book's actually about. That is to say, the book isn't about men and how bad they are. Rather it's all about women (as per the sub-title). In fact, BDW's chief source of information on men, apart from her female informants, is a Gallup poll and her twenty-something son. Aside from appearing as relationship objects, men don't show up until pg 143 -- and then they're given only a couple of paragraphs to say anything. This lack of balance in perspective is symptomatic. With the title being what it is, any man reading this book is bound to feel both ignored and presumptively blamed for all those poor baby's unsatisfactory love lives.
Well, the Great American Man Shortage has been around for over twenty years, from the time when the first boomer women started getting into their low thirties, and it's been a staple of pop-feminism and female media ever since. Genevieve Wood's "No Good Men" is only one title in what would be a small library one could easily assemble on the topic. Somewhat bewilderingly, then, BDW ignores all this previous work, and even states more than once that the subject hasn't received enough attention! This is just plain bad scholarship in a field that doesn't have very high standards to begin with.
Then we get to pg 10, where the real demographic data are presented: Among those aged 30-34, there are four never-married men (30%) for every three never-married women (20%). So there's not even a man shortage, but instead there's a woman shortage! You could drop the lowest quarter of the men out of the picture (on whatever basis) and there still would be a man for every woman. (The lone exception is the media capitol of NYC, where the ratios are reversed...) But BDW blows right by this seemingly crucial datapoint. I suppose it would wreck the book's thesis and call for some other book to be written -- a book which is unthinkable and unpublishable in today's world. BDW's penchant for avoiding the obvious truth runs like a thread through the entire book and it was extremely annoying.
The figures she presents later in the book show that 85-90% of women marry at some point. The 10-15% who don't don't exactly constitute a huge social crisis based on what were given. Some of these are bound to be opposed on principle to marriage, while many of the rest cohabitate. And while BDW wants to go on and on about the evils of cohabitation, she doesn't seem to grasp the fundamental point that under today's laws marriage is little more than notorized cohabitation. If all of Christine's friends are "vanishing into marriage" (pg 23), this doesn't exactly point to a vast man shortage -- except for poor Christine.
Then there were all the little mis-statements. I think I wrote "no" or "wrong" in the margin about twenty times. For example, BDW states more girls than boys are born. This is exactly backwards -- 105 boys are born for every 100 girls (and even more boys are conceived). This seems like a basic fact of the situation which someone presenting themselves as an authority should get correct. That no editor caught this obvious mistake (or numerous others) points to a certain shoddiness.
BDW makes another error in claiming the dating/mating system has changed dramatically in the last generation or so, in favor of male interests in particular. This is preposterous. All the average man has heard the last fifteen or twenty years from women in general is how much less they're going to do for men, and how much more they're expecting from men. She compounds the error in logic by contending that since the system isn't working for women it must be working great for men. This simply doesn't follow; it makes more sense that it either works for both or neither.
And BDW misunderstands the role of financial and professional success for the two sexes. The male strives for these things in order to be attractive to a member of the opposite sex, who he is then willing to devote these resources to along with their children. One might say he uses his success to create love. A woman, on the other hand, does this only very rarely. Instead she uses her success to allow her to be independent of men and love. Therefore her mate value doesn't depend in the least on how many high-priced degrees and promotions she has. BDW somehow thinks it should and that it's unfair that it doesn't. When the UberFems decide to support males with few marketable skills (and their children), it will. As a further insult to the reader, BDW conflates the rare high-achievers with all women who go to college, again making things sound worse than they are.
To sum up, this is not by any stretch a worthwhile contribution to the literature on the subject.

Speeddating(Sm): The Smarter, Faster Way To Lasting Love
Speeddating(Sm): The Smarter, Faster Way To Lasting Love
by Yaacov Deyo
Edition: Hardcover
22 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Dating For Dweebs?, March 13 2003
If you think "Speed Dating" is going to be about those relatively new round-robin events you may have been hearing about lately where people get 6 or 10 mini-dates of something like 7 or 10 minutes duration each in one evening, that would be logical and yet you'd be wrong. Even though the authors claim to be the inventors of those now-popular events, and to have a decade's worth of experience putting such events on, this book isn't about that. It only gets eight superficial pages in the appendix, six of `em about the rules for such events. This is too bad because it would have been interesting to get the low-down on these things from some seasoned experts.
Instead, the book is about a general, goal-directed dating philosophy based heavily on the Jewish Talmud (book of wisdom) which is designed to help you find - you guessed it - your "soul mate". Yes, it's another one of those kinds of books. It turns people/men into relationship objects and dating into work, helping one develop the equivalent of a "Man Plan". (Yes, the book tries to be gender neutral but it's clearly aimed at a female audience.) The goal, of course, is that holy grail of modern womanhood, marriage and happily-ever-after-land.
One wonders when dating became so rule-laden. Even though the book is not very long, not to mention that it's broken down into inane bite-sized pieces, it doesn't seem probable that anyone trying to keep all this well-worn and old-fashioned advice in their head (if they don't already know the schtick) would be a very good date. It's especially annoying that the author's opinions are expressed as absolutes with continual cheery guarantees of eventual success if you just be yourself and do what they tell you to.
Among the sillier ideas presented is the one about developing a "dating team" of qualified adults to help you prepare for the big day and disassemble the happenings afterword. There are even questions to ask on dates, as one zooms in on whether he is The One.
I also thought their "key aspects of the personality" chart, which appeared a couple of times, was mostly bogus based on what I've studied about psychology. Doesn't the average consumer, in this world of nearly limitless choices, believe strongly that their possessions (the outermost and therefore least significant circle in their diagram) reflect their core values (the innermost circle in the diagram)? But the authors don't bother themselves with such considerations. Again, they simply state their half-baked notions as The Way It Is.
Books like this are one of the reasons *why* "today's dating scene can be brutal" (the book's very first sentence). But, hey, even a crummy strategy is better than none at all. It worked for them -- though I got the impression they developed all these ideas *after* getting married -- so it could work for you too. Dream on IMO.

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