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Walrus Rex "rexferal" (Grand Junction, CO United States)

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Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust
Masters of Death: The SS-Einsatzgruppen and the Invention of the Holocaust
by Richard Rhodes
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from CDN$ 7.31

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Error impeaches author's credibility, June 29 2004
I bought this book on an occasion when my choices were to wait or to wait while reading and no other available book exceeded that rather low standard of appealing to me more than this one. I was therefore surprised to discover that this is a quite good book. There is enough gore to satiate the most fiendish of ghouls while providing analysis sufficient to challenge the intellect. But I come not to praise this book, but to criticize it.
In a prior review, Mythbuster notes the error of stating that it was the US that declared war on Germany rather than the reality that Germany declared war on the US. When I read Mythbuster's review, I believed he was excessively nitpicking regarding a collateral issue but I was wrong. The author argues that it was the US's decision to declare war on Germany that fulfilled in Hitler's mind the precondition of the Holocaust that the Jews plunge the world into another world war and thus decided Hitler to exterminate not only the Eastern Jews but also the Jews of Western Europe. Although the author does not so argue, this error allows the argument that it was the United States rather than the Nazis who caused the Holocaust. While such an argument may be clearly facetious to the objective reader, the Holocaust deniers are well known to misquote or quote out of context Holocaust experts in their quest to absolve the Nazis of guilt. The author has thus added an arrow to the quiver of the pseudo-historians.
Further this error on such a basic point causes one to question the veracity of details provided elsewhere in the book. Part of the strength of this book is the insight into the details of the lives and crimes of perpetrators and victims, but can we believe them? For example, Himmler is presented as being so traumatized by Hitler's order to exterminate the Eastern Jews in the spring of 1941 that he was forced to his bed by stomach cramps but can we rely on both the author's statements of fact and then his interpretation of those facts?
As prior reviewer Barron Laycock notes, this book assumes rather than argues the functionalist rather than the intentionalist view of the Holocaust. That view will certainly anger some. (See Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners for a good argument of the intentionalist school.) The purpose of this book, however, is not to argue either the functionalist view or the intentionalist view, nor even to provide a history of the Holocaust. A major theme, if not the major theme, is the socialization of violence. Some of the theory is so obvious that one wonders why it must be stated but other aspects of the theory seem more grounded in speculation than in evidence, still more so once one gets to the error I have discussed in some detail above and which impeaches the credibility of the author enormously.
Overall, this is a very interesting book and but for that one error, I would have given it five stars.

Peace Kills: America's Fun New Imperialism
Peace Kills: America's Fun New Imperialism
by P. J. O'Rourke
Edition: Hardcover
41 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Another fine mess, May 26 2004
You probably either love or hate P.J. O'Rourke. From the ranting Marxist maniac of thirty years ago to the libertarian leaning Republican of today, he has been consistently funny. This book covers 9/11 through the early stages of the war in Iraq.
O'Rourke is something of a gonzo journalist in the Hunter S. Thompson tradition in that the story is his adventures in getting the story. The fault is not as grievous with O'Rourke, however, in that he is both far less pretentious and far funnier. (He mentions the personal effect of 9/11 on him of driving his prior book off the medium well sellers list, for example.) We travel with O'Rourke as he watches the well intentioned fail to bring order out of chaos while delivering free food to the semi-starving, while he dickers up the cost of buying what he thinks is alcoholic beer in dry Iraq, and while he visits Holy Land, or is it the holely land?
There are certain insights here although the book is played primarily for laughs. It is difficult to dislike the people O'Rourke meets in his travels eventhough they dislike ech other to the point of killing. There is no strong political message in this book and O'Rourke does not burden us with any proposed solutions. Rather, he describes the scenes and the people in such a way as to recall to mind Oliver Hardy saying to Stan Laurel, "This is another fine mess you've gotten me into."
I might mention that this is not a book for the ages. Although there will be no problem for the reasonably well informed now, in ten years you won't be able to get the jokes without reference to footnotes.
Less bitter than Ann Coulter, far funnier than Al Franken, this is a book with an eye for the absurd that has chosen to laugh rather than to cry.

Heaven's Gate
Heaven's Gate
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 170.95
4 used & new from CDN$ 165.93

5.0 out of 5 stars Great music, lousy movie, April 13 2004
This review is from: Heaven's Gate (Audio CD)
This is a lousy movie but the music is great. The plot of the movie involves Eastern European immigrants in Wyoming. This music perfectly blends with that idea. Straight forward American folk music blends into Eastern European folk music. This is the essence of minimalism, although not in a Philip Glass sort of way. These simply themes are are repeated varied only by tone color and orchestration. This is a minor masterpiece of the less is more school.

To Make Men Free: A Novel Of The Battle Of Antietam
To Make Men Free: A Novel Of The Battle Of Antietam
by Richard Croker
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 0.58

5.0 out of 5 stars The hand of God, April 4 2004
This is a novel in the style of The Killer Angels. It is about one of the most fascinating battles in American history, the Battle of Antietam. The title comes from a verse to The Battle Hymn of the Republic: "As [Christ] died to make men holy, let us die to make men free." The emphasis on death and freedom is entirely appropriate in that it was the Union's marginal victory at Antietam that allowed Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation thus taking the first actual step toward freeing the slaves. But this was at a cost. September 17, 1862 remains the bloodiest day in American history. More Americans died at Antietam than on D Day, or at Pearl Harbor, or on September 11. (Some early casualty estimates of September 11 suggested that Antietam's toll had finally been exceeded but more accurate later figures prove that Antietam still holds the record.) And the population at that time was a small fraction of today's population.
Most Civil War battles, at least most single day Civil War battles, have a single location, a peach orchard or a sunken road, where the fighting was most intense and the bodies dropped liked dominos. Antietam has three: Miller's cornfield in the north, the sunken road forever after known as Bloody Lane in the middle, and the Rohrbach Bridge, forever after known as the Burnside Bridge to the south. The battle also features some of the most fascinating characters in American history; Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Ambrose Burnside, Joe Hooker, and George McClellan.
McClellan, the Union commander, is particularly fascinating. This thirty-four year old had the supreme self confidence that only his belief that he was preordained by God to save the Union could convey. He also possessed massive amounts of paranoia that caused him to treat better men than himself with contempt, most notably Abraham Lincoln whom he routinely referred to as a baboon. McClellan had three reasons that he should have overwhelmingly crushed Lee and ended the war: He had massive numerical superiority approaching three to one, a stroke of luck placed a copy of Lee's plans into his hands at just the moment he could best use them, and Lee's troops were spread out such that McClellan could defeat them in detail. But McClellan squandered all of these advantages and barely avoided defeat. Despite the reality, McClellan believed that it was he who was massively out numbered. Despite knowledge of Lee's plans, he failed to move quickly enough to truly capitalize on this unique opportunity. When the actual shooting started, McClellan committed his troops piecemeal rather than launching coordinated attacks and thus was himself nearly defeated in detail. (Simulations of this battle from my cardboard counter days through Sid Meier's Antietam all require that only certain Union troops be available or activated at any given time. Otherwise, the Confederate player would not stand a chance. McClellan himself, of course, was not so restricted and could have launched coordinated attacks using overwhelming force simultaneously.) McClellan subsequently ran as a peace Democrat for president against Lincoln in 1864 in one of the most bitterly contested elections in American history.
If, as should have been the case, McClellan crushed Lee at Antietam, the war would have ended on terms that almost certainly would have included the continuation of slavery. If, by some miracle that almost became an actuality, Lee had crashed McClellan, England, France and other European countries would have recognized the Confederacy, the Republicans would have been voted out of Congress in November of 1862, and the Confederacy would have won its independence including the continuation of slavery. Only the actual result, a glorified draw tilting at least strategically to the Union, allowed Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and end slavery. One wonders if it was not the hand of God that so subtly and delicately balanced the events that slavery might end. But if so, was it also the hand of God that wreaked the harvest of death in Miller's cornfield, that drenched the Blood Lane, and that forced the crossing of the Burnside Bridge?
This novel, apparently the first book of the author, is not as good as The Killer Angels and reveals some rookie errors. Nevertheless, this is required reading for Civil War aficionados.

Complete Guitar Music
Complete Guitar Music
Price: CDN$ 9.75
22 used & new from CDN$ 5.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great music, March 17 2004
This review is from: Complete Guitar Music (Audio CD)
The compositions are better than the guitarist but the guitarist is competent if not brilliant. The liner notes repeatedly refer to the "malice" in Villa-Lobos music. If there is malice I can't hear it, perhaps the notes are the result of an imperfect translation. This is simply beautiful contemporary music. I prefer Yerpes interpretation of some of these pieces but Kraft has a better tone. Buy this! You can't go wrong.

The Eyre Affair
The Eyre Affair
by Jasper Fforde
Edition: Paperback
126 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars I was disappointed, March 17 2004
This review is from: The Eyre Affair (Paperback)
When I read the description of the book and saw the illustration on the cover, I expected an action oriented version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the wonderful play and movie that takes place inside Shakespeare's Hamlet. Other than a minor character being thrust into a Woodsworth poem where she sits quietly by a lake and a very brief episode in which our heroine is instrumental in causing Rochester to fall, there is no action inside literature until four fifths of the way though the book and that action is no where near so clever as Rosencrantz. Most of the book is a rather lackluster tough cop story that pales in comparison to James Ellroy. It is set in an alternate history some of which is good and some of which is pointless. The good involves a society that takes literature far more seriously than do we. The pointless is an alternate history in which the Crimean War has endured for 140 years without end such that the soldiers who charged with the Light Brigade did so in armor rather than as cavalry. ... The military is evil and lying. Corporations are evil and lying. Religion is a joke. None of this is intelligent or original and may best be described as boring.
These characters are not believable nor particularly likeable. The plot is, well, plodding. The biggest problem, however, is the presentation of the concept itself which is simply not logical. Illogic may be forgiven in a "realistic" story for indeed life is full of illogic. However, illogic in a fantasy story, and this is primarily a fantasy story, is unforgivable because it destroys the reader's ability to willingly suspended disbelief.

Watchers 1 & 2
Watchers 1 & 2
DVD ~ Corey Haim
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 237.21
8 used & new from CDN$ 69.97

1.0 out of 5 stars Forget it, March 13 2004
This review is from: Watchers 1 & 2 (DVD)
I thoroughly rotten movie desecrating a thoroughly wonderful book. What were they thinking?

Watchers
Watchers
by Dean Koontz
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.25
103 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Five star book, March 13 2004
This review is from: Watchers (Mass Market Paperback)
Although I enjoy a good Koontz book from time to time, I was hesitant to read this book based upon what little I knew about it; to wit, a dog and a monster escape from an evil government military laboratory. It sounded too 50s B movie. I was wrong. This is an all out great book filled with great characters, great plot, and great themes. This is a book that will bring a shiver to your spine, a chuckle to your belly, and a tear to your eye. This is a book that will enrich your life. I give few five star ratings, but this book deserves all five of its stars.

Silent Coup: The Removal of a President
Silent Coup: The Removal of a President
by Len Colodny
Edition: Hardcover
55 used & new from CDN$ 3.61

4.0 out of 5 stars The eternal question, Jan. 27 2004
This book asks the eternal question: Are we too paranoid or not paranoid enough? It is a highly entertaining alternative history of Watergate. This book raises some serious questions that simple minded Nixon hatred cannot dispel. Considering that we continue to learn secrets of WWII and that Watergate is thirty years more recent and considering that most of the prinicipals are still living, I find it highly likely that more revelations lie in wait. I recommend reading this with Watergate by Fred Emery which gives a conventional history of the topic. Both books make clear that unanswered questions remain.

Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick
Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Hardcover
15 used & new from CDN$ 4.70

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The future ain't what it used to be, Jan. 12 2004
In many ways Dick is a poor writer. His ability to create images by discriptive language and his ability to create interesting and believable charcteres are adequate at best (and there are those who think that this faint praise is vast exaggeration). At his best, however, Dick approaches genius as he contrives plots that beautifully illuminate a philosophical idea that he is exploring. Thus he explores the distinction between perception and reality in We Can Remember It For You Wholesale and asks what it is to be human in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Such gems are the exception, however, not the rule.
Still, many of these stories leave one dissatisfied. Far from timeless, they arise out of the beatnik fifties for the most part and beatnik philosophy permeates these stories. Several repeated themes or attributes ring hollow in the world of today. For example, smoking tobacco is nearly universal in Dick's future but has been condemned to obscurity and shame today. Similarly, many stories are set in the aftermath of a nuclear showdown between the US and the USSR. Another frequent theme is precognition and one wonders if Dick did not see himself in that light. If so, he misjudged both himself and us. He was not as foresightful as he thought he was and we are better than he thought we were.
It should be mentioned that Hollywood has not been kind to Dick. The directors of such movies as Total Recall (based upon We Can Remember It For You Wholesale) have taken an idea from a beautiful little story, added explosions and bikini babes, and created a blockbuster that bears only the slightest resemblance to its inspiration. It is perhaps fitting that Hollywood should so mangle these stories since a common theme of many is the creation of an illusion that supercedes the reality.
All in all, and given that Dick is surely one of the best science fiction writers of the last century, Dick serves to illustrate that science fiction has yet to find a truly great author. Science fiction needs an author who can do for science fiction what Stephen King and Dean Koontz have done for the horror novel; to elevate it above its niche. Dick was a good idea man. Too bad he wasn't a better writer.

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