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The Emerging Democratic Majority
The Emerging Democratic Majority
by John B. Judis
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.26
88 used & new from $0.01

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 2004's Most Politically Useful Book..., March 7, 2004
The title of the book sets out its thesis pretty clearly, but what it doesn't show is the methodology the authors use in making their claim. After a roughly 30-year cycle of Republican majority (including the Republican Congress of 6 of Clinton's 8 years), Judis and Teixeira predict that we are on the cusp of a perhaps thirty year cycle of Democratic supremacy in Congress and in the White House.
To make this claim, they look at voting trends and data of the last 70 years (though they focus on the last four elections). Their argument is that with the growth of postindustrial "ideopolises" across the country (cities and suburbs that are more dependent on the creation of ideas and services than goods) and the end of the backlash against '60s liberalism, its only a matter of time (barring additional incidents like September 11th) before the Democrats reascend to their heights of the '30s to '60s.
It's a compelling argument, and their use of statistics and solid voting data helps a lot. If it's not required reading in both the Bush and Kerry camps it should be. It suffers a little for having been written before the 2002 midterms, but the new afterword written in 2003 for the paperback edition helps recitfy that. It could also use a little ethnography to go with its statistics and political science, too.
In spite of that, this book should be a must for pundits in this election cycle. Anyone with an interest in how Americans vote (if not always why they vote they way they do) should read it, too. It's vastly more useful than all the exposes, testimonials and pseudohistorical analyses that the average bookstore's "Politics" section is littered with...


Men With Brooms
Men With Brooms
DVD ~ Paul Gross
Offered by Sparks DVD Sales
Price: $6.81
41 used & new from $1.29

30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The World's Second-Most Boring Sport.., March 7, 2004
This review is from: Men With Brooms (DVD)
"Lagaan" proved a couple of years ago that you could make a good movie about a truly boring sport: cricket. You can even make a movie that makes it almost comprehensible. Now, "Men With Brooms" shows that you can make a good and funny movie about another boring sport: curling.
While no one will be nominating "Men With Brooms" for any awards, it's a surprisingly watchable, funny movie that follows the good, old-fashioned 'reunite the underdogs' sports movie formula with a bit of "Red Green"esque Canadian men making gentle fun of themselves. Sadly, I think it never saw an American release, but its worth adding to anyone's collection of funny sports movies.
Even the performances in this movie break above the usual sports/romantic comedy level. Paul Gross (who I have sadly never seen in "Due South") plays a convincingly cynical sports star come home to small-town Ontario. Leslie Nielsen breaks typecast for a crotchety, but still-funny former curling star, and Bob Bainborough (Dalton Humphrey on "Red Green") steals his scenes as a curling announcer reminiscent of a less-grating Bob Uecker in "Major League".
I recommend this movie for sports nuts, romantic comedy fans, and people with a soft spot for Canadian humor. I found it to be a pleasant surprise, and I'll bet you will too...


Deny Thy Father: Lost Era 2355-2357 (Star Trek Lost Era)
Deny Thy Father: Lost Era 2355-2357 (Star Trek Lost Era)
by Jeff Mariotte
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
36 used & new from $0.01

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The History, But Not The Characters..., December 2, 2003
Pocket Books' Lost Era series, encompassing the time between the beginning sequence in "Star Trek Generations" and the first Next Generation episode, "Encounter at Farpoint", is one of their better recent ideas. Using the various bits of backstory accrued throughout 21 seasons of Next Gen, DS9 and Voyager, the contributing authors have shown various bits of this timeline through the eyes of important characters of the period. On the whole, it has done so very successfully, too. Most have been highly readable and very interesting. It's a shame "Deny Thy Father" is neither.
On The Next Generation, Will Riker's past became a very interesting time for him. Where originally he had a Kirk-like golden-boy past about him, over time he was shown to have overcome any number of moral issues to bring him to where he was then. Among these issues were his drive to succeed and his alienation from his father. Taking the span from the end of his second year at Starfleet Academy to his early weeks of his first posting on the U.S.S. Pegasus, Jeff Mariotte dives into some of these issues of Will Riker's - and his father's.
However, while he has his history down cold, he misses much of what made both characters (Will and his father) so dynamic. Will comes off as shrill and immature while his father is equal parts coward and cold-hearted jerk. Admittedly, these are all traits the characters strive to overcome, but in playing up these character flaws he loses the voice of the characters.
Also problematic is Starfleet Academy, where much of the action takes place. Starfleet Academy has been problematic for writers throughout Star Trek's history, but few mangle it so badly as Mariotte. While it is unlikely that Starfleet Academy would be much like modern West Point, also would it not be much like a modern high school - which is what it feels like. The characters are caricatures, exemplifying the very traits Starfellt would not want, and the situations the characters are put in to are laughable.
It's a shame this book is not better, especially given the high standard set by the rest of the series. Will Riker's past is a fascinating area begging for a good telling. Unfortunately, this book does not provide that. If you're working your way through the whole Lost Era series, go ahead and pick this one up, too, but I don't recommend it as stand-alone entertainment.


My Big Fat Greek Life - The Entire Series
My Big Fat Greek Life - The Entire Series
DVD ~ Jayne Eastwood
Price: $5.70
52 used & new from $0.49

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh, The Humanity..., November 19, 2003
After the success of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", the success of "My Big Fat Greek Life" seemed almost assured. More than 22 million people tuned in on the first night. However, it barely managed to finish out its first season of 7 episodes before cancellation and spawned numerous "What happened?" articles throught the world of entertainment reporting come May.
So, in spite of this, the Columbia-Tri Star have pushed ahead with a DVD release of those seven episodes, possibly hoping to capitalize on the shreds of success still clinging to the name. Maybe they're hoping that people who never heard of the TV series will pick up the DVD?
Well, I for one have to admit that morbid curiosity got the better of me, and I got the DVD yesterday to see if I'd missed anything after watching only the first two episodes in first-run. Unfortunately, the answer is 'no'. The lines are still as un-funny in the later episodes, the characters continue to mug for the camera just as much, and Steven Eckholdt continues to be an exceedingly mis-matched choice for Nia Varadalos's renamed character Nia. To add insult to injury, there are no extras on the DVD worth mentioning, just a few trailers for other TV shows.
As with the release of "Iron Chef USA" on DVD, I really can't recommend this DVD to anyone that doesn't have a desire to own bad, failed programming. I wish I could, since I like the characters, the actors, the concept, and even the idea of a TV show based on "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". The execution, though, killed it all...


One-Car Caravan: On the Road with the 2004 Democrats Before America Tunes In
One-Car Caravan: On the Road with the 2004 Democrats Before America Tunes In
by Walter Shapiro
Edition: Hardcover
73 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Process of Candidacy..., November 9, 2003
I didn't finish Walter Shapiro's "One-Car Caravan" feeling that my vote in the 2004 Democratic Primary would go to a different candidate, but I did finish it feeling I had a better grasp of who each of the 'major' candidates were as people - and maybe feeling a little more comfortable in the thought of what would happen if any of the candidates that make me nervous get the nod.
Shapiro's book covers the five 'major' candidates of the 2004 Democratic Primary Election: Dean, Edwards, Gephardt, Lieberman and Kerry. To a lesser extent it also tackles Bob Graham (who entered the race late and has since dropped out) and Al Sharpton, who gets his own chapter in Shapiro's examination of "vanity candidates" - candidates like Sharpton, Moseley-Braun and Kucinich who enter the race with apparently little hope for winning. Absent from the book is Wesley Clark, who did not enter the race until the book was nearly published.
Shapiro's book is based less on policy positions and public facades (although each get their due in the book) than on the candidates as people, and on the whole, each comes off well. Shapiro's biases in the book are reasonably up-front: he identifies himself as a Democrat and he states his personal position as being closest to Howard Dean, and for the purposes of this book it works well. Clearly stating his own stance allows him to deal relatively even-handedly with each of the candidates in turn, although its hard to shake the feeling that maybe he's a little harder on Howard Dean as a result initial Dean-leanings.
On the whole, it's not a deep, life-changing read, nor will it necessarily cause you to rethink your views on the 2004 Democratic candidates, but it is definitely worth reading. Shapiro is careful in the time he gives each candidate, and at the end of the book you come away feeling like you know the candidates more intimately than you could ever from watching ad spots and debates. It's a worthy goal for any political book, and Shapiro writes it well enough to keep you engaged through all 215 rather-quick pages. If the 2004 Democratic hopefuls or the American political process interest you at all, I recommend giving it a shot.


Blind Lake
Blind Lake
by Robert Charles Wilson
Edition: Hardcover
81 used & new from $0.01

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ethnographic Science Fiction..., August 19, 2003
This review is from: Blind Lake (Hardcover)
For my money, Robert Charles Wilson has written some of the most thought-out science fiction in the market today. He is exceedingly good at taking a central idea, drawing you in, and then pulling the lens back to a much wider perspective that shows things being completely different than you'd expected - but that somehow manage to be logically consistent and equally as fascinating. Even with that high standard, "Blind Lake" not only lives up to that ideal, but is possibly his best work to date.
The book deals with many themes that are familiar to readers of his other books. Not just wildly different perspectives of a given story or concept, but also the ideas of divorce, gender, loss, being cut off from the outside world, and knowing that something just isn't right, but not knowing how to fix it. These are all mixed together masterfully in a story of a mid-to-late 21st Century research complex of scientists whose complex is suddenly completely quarantined from the outside world for reasons that undoubtedly involve them, but seem to be completely unapparent. While slowly ratcheting up the tension level throughout the story, he creates an amazing page-turning tension that had me up until 3:30 am working my way through it.
Beyond that, though, the story also deals with how we would try to understand aliens on their own terms if we could view them without having contact with them. What types of classifications would we use? What types of stories would we tell ourselves - or not allow ourselves to tell ourselves - about these beings? As an anthropology student, I find these questions every bit as fascinating from an anthropological perspective as from a scientific perspective. In fact, I'd even recommend this book to anthropologists as a study in how to perceive a people you share virtually no common link with.
Beyond all of that, though, this book is a great read. If you've liked Wilson's other books, I can't imagine this one disappointing, and if you haven't, this is as good a place to start as any of his other books. They're all stand-alone anyway. I very much hope to see this book nominated for the Hugo Award in 2004...


Tom Thomson: Trees
Tom Thomson: Trees
by Joan Murray
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from $27.39

4 of 50 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly Readable If Not Terribly Insightful..., August 19, 2003
This review is from: Tom Thomson: Trees (Hardcover)
Having read numerous travelogues of Japan in the past few years, I began to despair that each one felt that it had a need to carve out a specific niche in the realm of travel writing on Japan. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it does lead to increasingly stranger ideas for armchair travel.
As a result, I found it a nice touch that "Japan Diaries" is essentially a transcribed daily journal of two month-and-a-half to two-month trips taken to Japan across a ten-year stretch (1987 and 1997). Without being condescending or offering "the key" to understanding Japan (as far too many Japan travelogues try to do), this book offers a very readable, very day-to-day view of visiting and living in Japan - especially when you come to the country with minimal first-hand experience with Japan itself.
However, if it doesn't offer an arrogant viewpoint it's also not the most insightful book on Japan, either. Not that the author doesn't work hard to give a good background on the various things she talks about - and to be very clear to lay out her own biases in everything she talks about - but she also occasionally fails to understand what's going on around her, such as the background reasons for why foreigners find it so hard to rent an apartment in Japan.
On the whole, though, this is definitely light, interesting reading, perfect for a couple of days on the beach or a long airplane flight. Sherman does as good a job as anyone else I've read of making you feel like you were taking the trip with her. And when it comes down to it, isn't that what travel writing's really all about anyway?
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Maison Ikkoku: Collector's Box set 1 (eps.1-12)
Maison Ikkoku: Collector's Box set 1 (eps.1-12)
DVD ~ Ellen Kennedy
2 used & new from $79.95

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointing Release of a Timeless Anime Series..., June 29, 2003
"Maison Ikkoku" is one of the timeless classics of anime. The TV series aired in the mid 1980s, but it's just as watchable - and wonderful - today as ever. It differs from almost every other anime series in that there's nothing about this show that couldn't take place in the real world: no spaceships, no special powers, no alternate worlds. It's simply the incredibly well-told story of a would-be college student and his love for the kind young widow that runs his apartment. If it sounds dull, rest assured that it's not. While some episodes take on a very soap-opera-ish quality, the storytelling in general is excellent - especially as the series goes on.
In the first twelve episodes that comprise this set, however, we're just getting to know all the characters. The rough edges haven't come off yet, and there's not much time to do more than introduce the two (or three) love triangles that make up the show - as well as the families of Godai and Kyoko (the main characters) and the other inhabitants of the titular boarding house.
Nonetheless, it's still an absolutely wonderful show. It's a shame Viz, the American rights-holders, didn't do more with this, the first DVD release in America. While the audio and video quality seem decent in my admittedly not-terribly large, not-exactly high definition TV, there is only one real extra to speak of: creditless opening and ending sequences on the final disc. It's nice to see VIz price the set reasonably low, but for my money, I still would have liked to have seen some decent extras of some kind. Viz has, in fact, treated "Maison Ikkoku" quite badly in its various incarnations: releasing only two-thirds of the series on VHS (and that much only in subtitled format) at a high price with little fanfare or publicity. With the DVD release, they seem to be in danger of not giving it much more attention - or love. Let's hope this doesn't continue to be the case for the rest of the series, or "Maison Ikkoku" may not make it to the end of it's run in America on VHS or DVD...


Roma Eterna
Roma Eterna
by Robert Silverberg
Edition: Hardcover
66 used & new from $0.01

23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What It Would Have Taken For Rome To Not Fall..., June 26, 2003
This review is from: Roma Eterna (Hardcover)
Robert Silverberg's "Roma Eterna" is actually a collection of short stories he wrote between 1989 and 2003 detailing a Roman Empire that never fell. While each story is a stand-alone tale within the alternate history of the world, taken together, they read much like another recent alternate history that details a radically different history of Euroe and Asia: Kim Stanley Robinson's "Years of Rice and Salt".
It becomes apparent very early in the book that Silverberg envisions not merely one but a chain of events as being necessary for Rome to not fall: a failed Jewish Exodus, Christianity never arising, a strong Emperor heading off the Third Century crisis, a definitive destruction of the Northern barbarians and Persia and an assassination of Mohammed before he could spread the word of Allah. In the context of world history we as we know it, the chain is a pretty fragile one, but it does make for an interesting exercise in history - much like the entire book. Some of his ideas have a very real ring of possibility to them: a Rome squandering the military might of a generation on an unsuccessful attempt at invading the Americas, Eastern and Western Empires that eventually fall on each other in a series of Civil Wars, a Rome grown fat and decadent on trade throughout the world that breeds emperors even more insane and bizarre than those known historically. However, for each of these interesting and realistic twists, he allows himself more than a few historical parallels: the World Wars, Leonardo da Vinci, the French Revolution - and his modern Rome (of 1970) bears a great deal of resemblance to a modern Europe under a traditional Roman hegemony.
In all, though, I really liked this book, although I suspect it's not for everyone. In fact, I would direct scholars or fans of Roman and Byzantine history towards it before I would the average sci-fi/fantasy/alternate history fan. He knows his Roman history well, and he's not afraid to make obscure use of it. Sometimes this makes for neat touches (like having the Eastern Empire fall to the West in 1453, the year the Eastern Empire in actuality fell to the Ottomans), and sometimes it just makes for a lot of names and dates. The book is basically one great conceit to the 'what if' bundled inside an extensive history. If that's your sort of thing (and it certainly is mine), you'll love it. Otherwise, you may find youself rapidly bored or confused.


The Best of Primetime Glick
The Best of Primetime Glick
DVD ~ Martin Short
12 used & new from $7.49

80 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Surprisingly Good Release of a Surprisingly Good Show..., June 7, 2003
This review is from: The Best of Primetime Glick (DVD)
"Primetime Glick" has got to be one of the stranger spin-off ideas in television history: a character rescued from the short-lived "Martin Short Show" gets a late-night-style interview show on Comedy Central and makes it big. In it, Martin Short plays the title character, an overweight, hyperactive, half-fawning, half-obtuse interviewer that sits down with one or two of Hollywood's biggest comedic talents every week for interviews that are played as real - as long as the interviewees can keep from laughing.
In this collection, we get five episodes from the first season (2001) of "Primetime Glick" which actually amounts to half the season. Why they couldn't just give us the first five episodes of the season instead is beyond me - maybe they're using the release to gauge consumer interest. Anyway, along with four really funny episodes featuring Bill Maher, Steve Martin, Dennis Miller, Jerry Seinfeld, Janeane Garofalo, basketball star John Salley, Conan O'Brien, Eugene Levy - and a surprisingly bad episode featuring Kathy Lee Gifford and Darrell Hammond doing his "SNL" Dick Cheney - the disc also includes added material from the Seinfeld, Martin, Gifford, O'Brien and Garofalo interviews (in some cases longer and funnier than the stuff that was put in the episode) and a few other goodies from Comedy Central - a "Glick" segment featuring Julia-Louis Dreyfus, a "South Park" segment and a "Crank Yankers" segment.
In all, this show has been a pleasant surprise treat for me, and I was pleased at how good the DVD was given the rather low price. I hope that Comedy Central will get around to releasing full seasons at some point, but until they do, this is a surprisingly good "Best of" collection.


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