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Stephen Cannon (Yokohama, Japan)
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History of Pop Radio 1920-1951
History of Pop Radio 1920-1951

3.0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Bag, July 3 2003
It was only with the advent of radio that people all over the nation were able to listen to the same versions of the same music by the same artists and as the record companies produced them, and with this the pop song was born.
The aptly titled History of Pop Radio traces popular music from 1920-1951 and does a good job of introducing a diverse mix of both well-known and forgotten melodies.
The sound quality is generally good and this box set includes the 15 CDs, each with around 20 songs and approximately an hour long. It also contains an 80-page booklet in lieu of liner notes, but the information contained in it isn't particularly noteworthy.
The real problem with this collection is the quality of the music. when I listened to these CDs I discovered that I don't really like the hits of yesterday any better than currently popular music. Of course there are a good number of gems by the likes of Arthur Cruddup, Louis Jordan, and Glen Miller, but these songs are greatly outnumbered by syrupy crooners like Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore.
Listening to the 15 CDs was interesting and so I recommend it as a learning experience, but there's only about 2-3 CDs worth of good music here.

Swingin' at the Savoy: The Memoir of a Jazz Dancer
Swingin' at the Savoy: The Memoir of a Jazz Dancer
by Norma Miller
Edition: Hardcover
14 used & new from CDN$ 29.41

4.0 out of 5 stars Fluffy but Fun, June 21 2003
In the 1930s and 1940s, Swing jazz captivated America in a way no musical style ever had before. Swing was largely developed in Harlem and its driving beat made dance an inevitable component of this new music. The new dance created was the lindy hop, a non-classic couples dance largely created on the floor of the Savoy Ballroom.
Swinging at the Savoy traces the life of Harlemite Norma Miller, who came of age just at the perfect time to invest her entire future in a faddish dance despite protests from her disapproving mother.
Of course, Norma beat the odds and made a decent living as a performer, but this is not what the book is about. The real draw of this book is the chance to glean musical and dance history straight from the horses mouth. Indeed, Norma discusses the bands, the clientele, the lifestyle, the celebrities she met, and racial issues, but more often than not the bubbly Norma gets caught up in the warmth of her very dear memories.
Swinging at the Savoy follows Norma through innumerable dance
performances, which were far from dull thanks to infectious Norma's joy and enthusiasm for dance. However, I would have preferred that her performances had been given a bit less weight and more had been included a few more anecdotes on Duke Ellington and Chick Webb, more discussion on issues such as the development of the music and dance, and how interracial dancing was possible in the dark ages of the 1930s.
Of course, the book is subtitled The Memoir of a Jazz Dancer and so I cannot really fault the book for putting the events of Norma's life at the center. Furthermore, the book is prefaced with an excellent essay by jazz expert Ernie Smith that provides a solid historical perspective on the music and dance of Swing.
Swinging at the Savoy is a breeze to read and includes a good number of photographs that help bring the book to life. I recommend this book to anyone interested in African-American culture, jazz, dance, or U.S. history.

From Swing to Bebop
From Swing to Bebop

5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Mix of Jazz at a Reasonable Price, May 15 2003
This review is from: From Swing to Bebop (Audio CD)
The History label has put out several box sets of 40 jazz CDs. I have three and plan to buy more.
Compared to the other two History label box sets I have, The Cradle of Jazz and The Big Band Box, the recordings in From Swing to Bebop are more recent than the other two, and so the sound quality is also markedly improved, although by no means flawless by today's standards.
As in the other two, this box set gives a good overview of the leading musicians of the time with two CDs by each of Charlie Parker, Django Reinhardt, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Ben Webster, and three CDs of music by Fats Navarro. Notably absent is bebop legend Dizzy Gillespie, although Gillespie can be heard on a few of the tracks featuring other musicians.
This collection is heavier on swing than it is with bebop, and purists would probably find fault with some of the selections and ommissions. However, given the price, I think any jazz fan can easily supplement gaps left behind in From Swing to Bebop and still save a bundle of cash as compared to trying to buy the music by all of these artists individually.

Prohibition: Thirteen Years That Changed America
Prohibition: Thirteen Years That Changed America
by Edward Behr
Edition: Paperback
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars I Wanted More Social Context, April 22 2003
Mr. Behr's book gets off to a good start, with the first 70 or so pages describing historical attitudes towards liquor in the 19th century in the U.S. and how attitudes toward alcohol grew less and less permissive over the years.
However, the remaining 175 pages or so is like a biography of George Remus and the major players behind illicit alcohol manufacture and transport. While this was interesting up to a point, there was far more about the lives of these people than I cared to read, and I found myself skipping many pages.
Also, I was disappointed that Mr. Behr skirted the involvement of the mafia during the prohibition era, with only a brief mention of such household prohibition-era gangsters as Al Capone and "Lucky" Luciano.
I wished Mr. Behr would have taken a more humanistic perspective and taken us inside speakeasies, examined the social impacts of prohibition such as the growth in the popularity of jazz during prohibition, and explored the attitudes of the numerous otherwise law-abiding citizens who had no problems with drinking liquor illegally.
Overall, I enjoyed the book, but I wish that the author would have structured it differently.

Cradle of Jazz
Cradle of Jazz

5.0 out of 5 stars Cheap Introduction to Early Jazz, April 2 2003
This review is from: Cradle of Jazz (Audio CD)
This box set has a good mix of well known and influential jazz music from the 20s, 30s, and 40s, and with 40 CDs each about an hour long, it took me quite a long time just to listen to all of them enough times to start to recognize the songs.
However, after having listened to all of the CDs about a dozen times over the last few years, I feel that I have cultivated a broad knowledge of jazz standards. Now, when I go to a jazz club or even just listen to the radio, I can frequently name songs that my friends mistakenly assume are originals.
The drawback of this collection is that many of the recordings, and the ones from the 20s, in particular, are inevitably of poor quality. In fact, it often sounds like the drummer was banging on a pie tin or the vocalist sang underwater. Nevertheless, more than two-thirds of the recordings are of acceptable sound quality, and I urge any one looking to expand his knowledge of early jazz for a pittance to buy this collection.
I am giving this collection 5 stars despite the sometimes poor sound quality because it is such a bargain and provides a good, if not entirely comprehensive education in early jazz.

The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South
The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South
by John W. Blassingame
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 57.83
31 used & new from CDN$ 4.66

4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Treatment of an Unwieldy Topic, Jan. 30 2003
Blassingame wrote this book in the face of the insurmountable problem that a community can only be fully understood through tapping the thoughts and feelings of its members. Since slaves thoughts and feelings were so seldom recorded, the book tends to be based mostly on observations by whites. Nevertheless, even in observations of how slaves behaved, there is much that is not well understood. As a result, Blassingame devotes a lengthy section of the book trying to determine the degree of basis in fact of the stereotypical image of slave as demure and subservient. Ultimately Blassingame uses the example of Nazi-operated concentrated camps in World War II to reason through analogy to try to arrive at some kind of definitive conclusion.
This portion is not the bulk of the text, but there are several other points of discussion in the book that seem equally inconclusive in this same way. Nevertheless, there are also some very enlightening discussions such as the structure of marriage and the family, religion, slave rebellions, and miscegenation.
I found Blassingame's writing style very easy to read, and the material compelling. Despite my belly-aching on the inconclusiveness of many of the points in the Slave Community, I felt that this was a shortcoming imposed by the subject of the book, and not Blassingame's fault per se, and I still think it deserves four stars.

Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South
Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South
by Kenneth M. Stampp
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.16
34 used & new from CDN$ 7.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Answers Important Questions on American Slavery, Jan. 30 2003
One of the main reasons I picked up The Peculiar Institution was to learn why a nation that was founded on the basis of a popular government would then turn around and aggressively import African slaves. The book tells of the creation of the institution of slavery in the New World as something that evolved, rather than something that European settlers consciously constructed.
It also does a good job of discussing the demographics and economics of slavery. Only a small number of white people in the south owned slaves, and those that did usually owned just one. Yet, because ownership of the vast majority of slaves was concentrated in the hands of a few, most slaves lived on huge plantations. Because slave labor was so cheap, business managers would frequently choose to buy or lease out slaves for work. This forced free labor to compete with the slaves for jobs and wages declined.
These portions of the book are utterly fascinating, and I couldn't put the book down. However, there was a bit more than I really cared to know about the average diet of slaves, and it seemed to belabor the rather obvious fact that free whites were usually able to commit violent crimes against black slaves with impunity. In these sections the book dragged a bit, and I felt that the author would have done the reader a favor by cutting a few of the 400+ pages.

Golden Age of Leather V2
Golden Age of Leather V2
VHS
2 used & new from CDN$ 111.97

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Nuke the Werewolves, June 13 2002
I haven't seen Girls on the Road, so I will restrict my comments to Werewolves on Wheels.
Made on an entirely inadequate budget, a bunch of bikers stumble around and cuss on film, antagonize a group of devil worshippers and then are turned into werewolves at the end.
Keep in mind you don't get to see the werewolves until the last few minutes of this picture and that scene is at night so the scene is too dark to understand that the bikers have been turned into werewolves were it not for the title.
I assume most people would rent this hoping to see werewolves ride around on motorcycles for most of the movie and the filmmakers don't deliver the groceries.
The bulk of the movie is nearly plotless and the actors don't seem to have scripted dialogue. Given the cost of 16mm film, I am at a loss to explain why a producer would allow the director, cast and crew to put so little effort into this project and although I admit they were savvy enough to put a little violence and a little bare breast in the movie, it doesn't really compensate for the other 89 minutes of boredom.
Looking at the reviews of other z-grade movies, I can see that some people are interested in movies that are inexcusably bad, and I must admit, that having been made in the 1970's, Werewolves on Wheels has a certain appeal to it that the filmmakers didn't consciously make an exploitation movie like we saw in the 1980's with movies such as Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, where films were made that seemed to be aiming for cult status.
So in short, if you like bad movies, go ahead and give this one a shot, but I, for one, was not entertained.

G.I. Samurai
G.I. Samurai
VHS

3.0 out of 5 stars Solid B-movie entertainment, June 11 2002
This review is from: G.I. Samurai (VHS Tape)
This movie is about a small group of Japanese GIs who enter a time warp and are transported back about 300-400 years during Japan's warring states period and do battle with the samurai.
You would expect that the GIs would slaughter the samurai, who lack modern firearms and explosives, but because the GIs are so vastly outnumbered, they have a heck of a fight on their hands.
This movie wastes little time with plot or characterization and most of the movie focuses on overlong, underproduced battle scenes that get somewhat tiresome after awhile.
However, I felt that the long action scenes indicated a sincere effort on the part of the filmmakers to make a film that is at least entertaining, if not particularly thoughtful.
I would recommend watching this one on a lazy Saturday morning over a bowl of Capn Crunch, but don't kill your Friday or Saturday night with this one, it's just not that good.

World Hunger: Twelve Myths
World Hunger: Twelve Myths
by Frances Moore Lappe
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.68
48 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Warning Against Market Fundamentalism, April 2 2002
This book does an excellent job of showing how despite the economic growth that has been spurred worldwide thanks to deregulation, liberalization of trade and finance, and improvements in information technology, adherence to market fundamentalism has contributed to creating stark disparities in the distribution of wealth between developed and developing nations, as well as within those nations themselves.
Nevertheless, globalization, for whatever faults it possesses, has made the people of the nations of the world feel more connected than ever (In fact, I'm writing this from Japan, where I have lived for seven years). this book sensibly points out that In order to come up with a food policy that will minimize hunger worldwide, naturally poverty must also be reined in. It seems to me that in order to significantly reduce poverty, all nations must make a fundamental shift in their foreign policy away from acting for the benefit of national interests and toward the benefits of the human race as a whole. I cannot say whether mankind is ready for such a change at this juncture.
However, The book concludes that the freedom to eke out a living (the problem of the poor) supersedes the right to accumulate unlimited wealth (the hoarding of wealth by a small number of people). While this is most certainly true, it also seemed to oversimplify the problem of disparity of income based on the very facts presented in the book. While the book did denounce communist regimes at one point in the book, I felt that the conclusion of the book unneccessarily demonized wealthy individuals and major companies and called the proletariat of the world to unite.
For this weakness in its conclusion, I can only give this work four stars, but still I do strongly recommend giving a careful read to this text for the invaluable information it provides on this terrible problem.

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