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Jeff Bricker (Columbus, Ohio USA)

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A Rip in Heaven: A Memoir of Murder And Its Aftermath
A Rip in Heaven: A Memoir of Murder And Its Aftermath
by Jeanine Cummins
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.33
89 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Tell the tale, then stop...., July 12 2004
The heart of this book is chapters 4 through 11, where we are given a taut, detailed account of the brutal attacks and of the hours of abuse suffered by the surviving victim at the hands of St. Louis homocide detectives.
Chapters 12 through 15 (about 60 pages) cover the investigation, apprehension, and trials of the vermin responsible. Unfortunately, the author goes on to tell us all about parole hearings and execution stays and Ricki Lake and Court TV and thus manages to actually drain away some of the disturbing power of the tale she has so skillfully told.

Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Piano Blues
Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: Piano Blues
Offered by Rarewaves-US
Price: CDN$ 15.21
13 used & new from CDN$ 6.34

4.0 out of 5 stars Blues, etc., Oct. 16 2003
There's some great stuff on this CD: folks who like their piano blues straight-up will treasure tracks 1, 2, 13, 15, & 18; those who like a little vocals with their piano blues will favor tracks 4, 5, 8, 9, 12, 16, 17, & 20.
Tracks 10, 11, & 19 are too jazzy for my taste and the screeching vocals on track 7 literally made my dog get up and leave the room. Track 3 is pleasant enough, but it's really a big band number and thus it sounds a bit out of place on this collection. Tracks 6 & 14 are played so fast that they're more irritating than anything else.

Hans-Georg Gadamer: A Biography
Hans-Georg Gadamer: A Biography
by Jean Grondin
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 23.41

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Truth And Tedium!, May 8 2003
The author of this thick biography, Jean Grondin, has always been one of the most astute and informed commentators on the subject of philosophical hermeneutics.
Prospective readers need not be put off by this volume's bulk (478 pages) since almost 140 pages are devoted to scholarly apparatus which most of us will ignore. That leaves only 338 pages of actual text to read (plus a few pages of pictures to enjoy). In this era of bloated biographies, we can be thankful for Professor Grondin's restraint. The average intelligent reader will probably find herself skimming chapters 2 - 5 (Gadamer's ancestry and youth) and chapters 10 - 12 (academic politics in the mid-twentieth century) thereby shortening this book by an additional 115 pages. That leaves about 200 pages of interesting reading about Gadamer, Heidegger, Nazis, poets, Habermas, Derrida, Plato, phenomenology, human finitude, etc.
Not surprisingly, Professor Grondin does a fine job of sorting out the influences of others in the formation of Gadamer's conception of hermeneutics and in communicating the gist of his major work, TRUTH AND METHOD. Unfortunately, Grondin never gets around to telling us much about his subject's life-long enthusiasm for the arts (Why did Gadamer love Rilke's poetry? What visual artists was Gadamer excited about?).
In short, this is a good biography of an important twentieth century philosopher, but not a great one (for a great one order Ray Monk's WITTGENSTEIN : THE DUTY OF GENIUS).

Margins of Philosophy
Margins of Philosophy
by Jacques Derrida
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 36.14
31 used & new from CDN$ 5.95

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reading Derrida..., Jan. 30 2003
This review is from: Margins of Philosophy (Paperback)
Begin with "Tympan", it's designed to serve as an introduction to the ten essays which follow and, despite a lot of word play, Derrida does mention most of the themes informing this collection (philosophy's attempt to master its domain, Hegel as the philosopher of limits, the threat metaphor poses to philosophical discourse, etc).
Read "Differance" next (it's probably the single most famous thing Derrida has ever written). After declaring the thought of difference to be crucial to our intellectual epoch (he mentions Saussure, Nietzsche, and Freud before taking up Heidegger's notion of ontological difference) Derrida proposes the nonword/nonconcept of "differance" to go them all one better. This is a dazzling essay, but if it leaves you more exhausted than exhilarated, then Derrida just isn't for you.
Essay #2 is a dense and convoluted discussion of the metaphysics of presence in Aristotle and Hegel. Skip this.
Essay #3 is a surprisingly interesting investigation of Hegel's semiology (of all things). Derrida demonstrates that Hegel's disdain for non-phonetic scripts (say, hieroglyphics) is not just a quirk, but is crucial to Hegel's entire philosophical project.
"The Ends Of Man" is a classic example of 1960's French anti-humanism. It's essentially an attempt to rescue Hegel, Husserl, and Heidegger from their existentialist interpreters. Another very famous piece (and rightfully so).
Essay #5 is a sort of Cliffs Notes version of OF GRAMMATOLOGY; it deals with the denigration of writing in the thought of Saussure and Rousseau. Very readable.
Essay #6 is all about Husserl's theory of signs and I found it incomprehensible.
Essay #7 concerns itself with to what extent the grammar and syntax of a particular language influences what can be thought in that language. Recommended, despite the opacity of Derrida's criticisms of Benveniste.
"White Mythology" is the longest and most demanding essay in this collection, so leave it for last. I'm not even going to venture a comment on this one.
Essay #9 meanders quite a while before it gets around to illustrating Valery's low opinion of philosophy, so be patient.
The book wraps up with Derrida's notorious reading/misreading of that wonderful little book, HOW TO DO THINGS WITH WORDS. This modest essay launched a feud between Derrida and the American philosopher John Searle. Much ado about nothing, I say.

Against Deconstruction
Against Deconstruction
by John Martin Ellis
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 43.95
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4.0 out of 5 stars A European Abroad...., Oct. 23 2002
This review is from: Against Deconstruction (Paperback)
Back in the 1970's and the 1980's the early writings of the French philosopher Jacques Derrida exerted considerable influence on literary studies at some of America's better universities. Professor John M. Ellis does not think this was a good thing and, in this little book, he tells us why.
Almost everything of interest in this text is contained in the lengthy chapter entitled "Deconstruction and the Nature of Language". It's here that Ellis states and defends three theses:
1) Derrida's claims that "there is no linguistic sign before writing" and "the concept of writing exceeds and comprehends that of language" are pretty much untenable no matter how charitably they are construed; 2) the speech/writing opposition deconstruction makes so much of has nothing to do with the main thrust of Derrida's thought, which is his advocacy of an anti-essentialist view of language (which is tenable, but neither original nor radical); 3) Derrida's description of language as "a system of signifiers" and his claim that "signifieds" can be in the position of "signifiers" betrays either a gross misunderstanding of Ferdinand de Saussure's theory of linguistics or a willful, and unsubstantiated, mutation of the same.
In his remaining 100 pages Professor Ellis abandons close reading and careful discussion of Derrida's texts in favor of a more general examination of the rhetorical strategies often employed in deconstructionist literary criticism as practiced by Derrida's disciples (for example, Ellis shows that a sexy categorical slogan such as "all interpretation is misinterpretation" is either obviously false or, at best, trivially true). While interesting, a little bit of this goes a long way--I found myself skimming the last couple of chapters.

Writing and Difference
Writing and Difference
by Jacques Derrida
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 32.64
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reading Derrida...., Sept. 1 2002
This review is from: Writing and Difference (Paperback)
Begin with essay #10. It's short, it's famous (it launched deconstruction in America), and it's fairly lucid. Then turn to essay #1 for another stunning discussion of the limits of structuralism.
Essay #5 is devoted to structuralism's rival, phenomenology. Just as essay #10 suggested that structuralism can't conceive of a structure with a fluid center, and essay #1 suggested that structuralism tends to impoverish literary texts because it can't account for certain textual energies, this essay insists that Husserl's phenomenology cannot do justice to origins, cannot think genesis. Unhappily, this is a dense and difficult piece of writing.
Next take up essay #9. Derrida is interested here with Hegel's attempt to repress the free play of signification via conceiving philosophy as a totality. Derrida also discusses Bataille's attempt to think the unthought of the Hegelian system, to ascertain what, if anything, can elude such philosophical closure. This is a great essay, but familiarity with Hegel's Master/Slave dialectic is a prerequisite.
If you have read Foucault's MADNESS AND CIVILIZATION, you'll want to read essay #2. Here Derrida attempts to call into question that book's major thesis by arguing that Foucault misreads Descartes. This essay is nicely structured but, for this reviewer at least, not terribly convincing. I also feel that essay #7, on Freud, is not a success. It is so difficult, so tedious, that most readers will cease to care about Derrida's point long before he gets around to making it.
Happily, there are two essays (#6 and #8) dealing with the writings of that fascinating artist/lunatic Antonin Artaud. They are both pretty dazzling, but I suggest taking on #8 first. There are also two rather short, amusing pieces on the Jewish thinker Edmond Jabes (essays #3 and #11). He appears to be something of a kindred spirit to Derrida.
Finish up with essay #4, the longest and most ambitious in this collection. Echoing themes from essay #9, here Derrida takes on the early writings of Emmanuel Levinas and his claim to have stepped outside of metaphysics. It's a demanding, but fascinating piece of writing.

Divine Secrets Of The Ya Ya Si
Divine Secrets Of The Ya Ya Si
12 used & new from CDN$ 1.18

4.0 out of 5 stars Buyer Beware!, July 21 2002
There is nothing on this CD as strange, or as moving, or as powerful as some of the tunes which turned up on T Bone Burnett's O BROTHER soundtrack. In fact, it reminded this listener, instead, of the soundtrack for MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING (this is not a criticism, merely an observation). Still, there's some good stuff on this CD as well as some stuff that just falls flat. In this reviewer's humble opinion, track #5 is worth the price of the disc.

The Cambridge Companion to Gadamer
The Cambridge Companion to Gadamer
by Robert J. Dostal
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 54.62
24 used & new from CDN$ 42.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Broaden Your Horizons!, May 21 2002
Professor Dostal has assembled a useful collection of essays for this volume. The best contributions are by Jean Grondin (shrewd and astute, as always) and Fred Lawrence and someone named Gunter Figal.
Unfortunately, Richard J. Bernstein's piece on Gadamer/Habermas/Derrida is a bit thin, while J.M. Baker Jr.'s essay on lyric poetry seems endless.
Professor Dostal's essay on Gadamer and Heidegger (always a thorny subject) is especially good.

Zodiac Unmasked
Zodiac Unmasked
by Robert Graysmith
Edition: Hardcover
14 used & new from CDN$ 4.87

3.0 out of 5 stars A grim tale, poorly told...., April 24 2002
This review is from: Zodiac Unmasked (Hardcover)
Between December of 1968 and August of 1969 three couples, while parked in secluded areas outside of San Francisco, were attacked. The assailant, using either a knife or a gun, succeeded in killing all three of the young women and one of the young men. Two months after the third attack, the same assailant shot and killed a cab driver in the city of San Francisco. These brutal, pointless murders would undoubtedly have long been forgotten had the killer not launched a campaign of self-promotion via letters to the police and the newspapers.
Although there's nothing about these crimes to suggest that the killer was very bright, the letters were a stroke of genius: police were flooded with misleading tips, the killer could threaten more violence as well as take credit for crimes he probably had nothing to do with (the 1966 murder of a college coed, the shooting of a police officer, the disappearance of a young woman in Lake Tahoe in 1970, etc), and, of course, the inevitable copycat letters and crimes that followed served to further confuse the authorities.
In July of 1971 a tip lead police to a loser named Arthur Leigh Allen. Fat and balding, Allen lived with his mother in Vallejo. Although a college graduate, Allen worked mostly menial jobs. He would eventually serve time for child molestation. A promising suspect at first, Allen went on to pass a lie detector test, searches of his property revealed nothing, and his finger and palm prints didn't match any of the almost three dozen prints secured from the various crime scenes. The police, understandably, looked elsewhere for their killer. (When one of the young men who had survived the attacks was finally shown a photo of Allen TWENTY YEARS LATER, he positively identified him as his attacker.)
In this book, author Robert Graysmith brings his three decade obsession with these crimes to a close. This is a terrible book: disjointed, crammed with irrelevancies, and just plain hard to follow. (Apparently afraid of cutting into sales of his previous book on this subject, Graysmith doesn't even start this one with a brief synopsis of the crimes for the uninitiated.)

Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs
Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs
by Caroline Knapp
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.81
74 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Lucille, fetch an editor!, April 15 2002
Ms. Knapp used to be one of those bright, perceptive, hideously self-absorbed women whose only topic of conversation was herself. Then she got a dog, so now she has two topics. Well, sometimes that's all it takes, and PACK OF TWO is a charming book. An able editor could have trimmed a hundred pages and PACK OF TWO would be a minor masterpiece in the annals of canine appreciation. As it stands, Ms. Knapp looks a gift dog in the mouth for an inordinate length of time which, this reader at least, found rather tiresome. Still, there's a lot of love and celebration in these pages, so buy the book or, better yet, get a pup of your own.

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