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Stuart Berman RSS Feed (Grand Rapids, MI United States)

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Grizzly Man
Grizzly Man
DVD ~ Timothy Treadwell
Price: $8.14
85 used & new from $1.14

37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Grizzly Story, February 25, 2006
This review is from: Grizzly Man (DVD)
After reading some remarkable reviews of Grizzly Man and catching much of it on Discovery Channel, I was very interested in seeing the DVD. The film first appears to be a documentary about the misguided naturalist Timothy Treadwell who befriended grizzly bears in Alaska and was eaten alive in 2003 by one. As a local native points out, what Treadwell did was irresponsible in that he crossed the line that had been drawn 7,000 years ago between humans and grizzlies - that is to avoid one another and maintain a respect for the danger one another poses. Treadwell also claimed that he was protecting the bears but his death resulted in the doom of the bear that killed him. When Herzog samples the tape of Treadwell's last moments (along with his girlfriend's), Herzog advises one of Treadwell's surviving ex-girlfriends to destroy the tape and never view the coroner's photographic evidence - just the coroner's descriptions are enough to chill one to the bone.

The director, Werner Herzog demonstrates again what a master filmmaker he truly is. Herzog also created the film that Treadwell never made by editing hundreds of hours of footage into a film that tells the story Treadwell would have himself made. But Herzog does not allow the audience to be seduced into the sentimentalism that caused Treadwell's death - Herzog indeed interrupts Treadwell's narration and explicitly disagrees with the notion that animals and humans can live in a harmonious relationship and indeed shows the fact that the worlds of humans and bears are separate and there is little room for the intersection of the two.

The extended on the DVD is even more remarkable as Herzog demonstrates his depth of understanding as the soundtrack is scored. One of the engineers asks whether he wants the music as background music and Herzog declares that he never has background music in his films. Herzog coaxes out a sound quality that Treadwell would certainly have been proud of - a haunting and poignant score. Yet again, Herzog won't allow us to be lulled into fantasy - when Treadwell is seen wading into a river with a large grizzly Herzog tells his cellist that he wants a strange sound - it is really a perverse sound that shows the perversity of a man reaching out to pet a grizzly bear. And in other scenes, such as one where two grizzlies are fighting - or one where a cub dismembered by an adult bear the music takes on an atonal quality. Indeed we see a pianist applying sheet metal screws and paperclips to his piano strings to produce a sound that reveals that nature is not 'harmonious'.

By the end of the film Treadwell can be seen as both a passionate man and one who is deeply troubled and a victim of his own imagination. Herzog allows us to feel sympathy and pathos for this tragic figure - a man who knew the fate that awaited him but couldn't resist.

Paper Clips
Paper Clips
DVD ~ David Smith
Price: $9.99
41 used & new from $0.92

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get more than you bargained for, December 17, 2005
This review is from: Paper Clips (DVD)
There is a terrific DVD which poignantly describes how a rural Tennessee Middle School engages in a project to instill a sense of diversity by teaching kids about the Holocaust. They never expected to affect so much of the life of the town, gain such a deep appreciation of the lives affected and the international involvement they earned. The lesson learned was the need to fight indifference and intolerance. A beautiful scene was the admission by a couple of Washington Post reporters that they had to get past their own deeply seated prejudices against rural southerners and discovering the love that filled their souls.

Enjoy this wonderful story.

The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America
The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America
by Russell Shorto
Edition: Hardcover
90 used & new from $4.50

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shedding light on a hole in history, April 21, 2005
Growing up in New York I always wondered why the origin of New York history was so superficial. This book finally reveals the story of the incredible contributions of the Dutch to the foundations of our country and culture. In fact Gehring's research is providing the Dutch with important historical material.

The book is engaging, entertaining and fascinating yet highly educational. A typical American view of history relates that the English defeated the Spanish Armada and then the English ruled the world. But here we get the supremacy of the Dutch, the Peace of Westphalia, Dutch entry into the slave trade, bitter emnity between the English and Dutch, Grotius and 'natural law'. We also get the sounds and sights of early settlers and the rich relationship with the various native tribes.

On a recent trip to Manhattan, as a result of reading this book, I was able to notice the New Amsterdam of the mid 1600's seeping through the cracks of the modern Gotham City.

The high levels of tolerance and diversity that came with the Dutch colony (largely due to a lack of government) are investigated and how this caused the area to flourish as the key port of the New World and ultimately lending its values to the new nation. The English to their credit knew enough not to tamper with a society and system that was flourishing. Culturally we also received 'cole slaw', 'cookies' and Santa Claus from the Dutch traditions.

Read this marvelous piece of history to add depth to your understanding of our early history adding depth to the pilgrim and Puritans. Notice the key importance of the Dutch 'Burghers' role which gave each resident a minority stakeholder position in the town unlike the typical 'citizen' role which rarely extended to 20% of the residents of other areas.

The Inner Tour
The Inner Tour
DVD ~ West Bank Palestinians
3 used & new from $99.95

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Give up simple opinions about the Palestinian conflict, March 11, 2005
This review is from: The Inner Tour (DVD)
I was impressed by the perspectives and handling of the material. The film shows various Palestinian thoughts about Israel as a group tours various Israeli sites. The viewpoints are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause even though the film was produced by Israelis. It is remarkable in that it is rare to see this kind of film which does not revert to the typical rhetoric between sides.

The film reveals both flaws in the Palestinian positions as well as the reality and deep convictions of their positions. (An example is the irony of Palestinians wandering throughout Israel and Jewish settlements and sites - whereas it is hard to imagine the reverse - unless you recall the rhetoric and images of people's heads being sawn off.)

The most poignant moment for me was when the wife of a convicted Palestinian killer wonders what the mother of the Jewish victim would feel about her. This film is not for someone looking to justify a simple view of the conflict. You have to be willing to see the 'sides' as real people with depth, feelings and pain.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 7, 2012 2:23 PM PST

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations
The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations
by James Surowiecki
Edition: Hardcover
205 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant work that deserves thought, January 19, 2005
The book is about the ability and strength of 'democratizing solutions', in many ways a positive evolutionary step in capitalism. In a free world you are missing precious opportunity by not valuing diverse perspectives when it comes to decision making. Surowiecki shows how we can benefit from the lack of shared information and opposing views to get better quality solutions. He also points out the danger in consensus and compromise when confronted with certain problems. It is a shame that various leaders haven't embraced this thinking - the results would be impressive.

This book brings the research into a readable and enjoyable form. We get both the concepts and real world examples to understand the principles.

The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century
The Pentagon's New Map: War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century
by Thomas P. M. Barnett
Edition: Hardcover
215 used & new from $0.01

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hope to solve the rifts around us, January 1, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This book offers hope, a hope to solve the rift within our nation, the rift between us and the other civilized nations of the world and the rift between civilized nations and the rest of the world. Read other PNM reviews on Amazon - quite a few liberals and conservatives seem to agree with Barnett which is quite a feat and offers important common ground in all of the three arenas mentioned above.

My first praise for the book is that it defies the partisanship that most of us have grown weary of - we want a solution that addresses the real problems and works and not one that gives our 'side' a 'point'. He is unafraid to praise and criticize the administration and its critics as his analysis sees fit. People are now aware of the dangers in this world and want results regardless of who provides them because the stakes are so high.

Along similar lines, Barnett's book is well reasoned and clear but not a dry academic work. He takes us through the background and history we need to put the situation in context. As others on Amazon have stated, through his force of reasoning you end up reevaluating some of your positions that you may have held dear, such as immigration policy, foreign policy, military policy, and outsourcing.

Another area of high praise I have is in his richly human presentation throughout the book. His perspective is not from some detached analyst in an 'ivory tower' but from a person with real feelings and experiences who isn't afraid to share them with you. He offers a profound interconnection between his personal life and his work that reveals the depth of his thinking, for example he shares his experience with battling his young daughter's cancer and how it taught him to never give up the battle for a positive outcome. How often do you read a book about globalization that is inspiring at this level?

I also relished the moments when he waxes philosophical as he reveals the differences between horizontal and vertical thinking. He uses this in describing his own experiences growing up, how his son is learning this and how nations often behave this way. There is a place and role for each of us no matter how we think the trick is to apply the appropriate type of thinking to the roles we choose. (You want a physician who knows his subject deeply but an architect should know his broadly.) As a horizontal thinker he qualifies as a Renaissance Man.

After reading The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas Friedman, I was inspired to believe that globalization was a positive trend, however globalization seemed like little more than noise (such as Seattle anti-WTO & the waves of outsourcing pain) in the events unfolding around us. Now in perspective, globalization takes center stage in all of our lives. Thomas Friedman is about a general concept of globalization whereas Barnett describes the historical context, the practical impact and the hope it offers all.

After seeing Barnett on C-SPAN and reading his blogs I thought his book would simply offer greater insight into his thinking on globalization, however it has become much more than that it has become a textbook that I have filled with notes and questions. His book also offers a glimpse into the future synergy between written copy and online technology. On his website he offers the 'extended DVD' version of his book. You get the 'deleted scenes', the slides, updates and so much more.

Some critics view his work as overly optimistic, and it is typical to hear criticisms without positive solutions but he offers a solution that gives the world hope. Do you prefer to sit paralyzed with fear or move forward with the best answer you have?

I know the book is a success when I find myself continually asking, "What do we need to do to now?" or "How do I apply this in my life?", and then attempt to put issues into the context of the maps Tom has provided.

And my criticisms? They pale in comparison - buy the book and prepare for a complete education.

Big Fish
Big Fish
DVD ~ Danny DeVito
Offered by amazingwildcat
Price: $8.32
265 used & new from $0.01

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eclectic but touching, December 31, 2004
This review is from: Big Fish (DVD)
This is a charming film that offers laughs and tears. The characters are easy to sympathize with and offer some outrageous situations which should be expected in a film about tall tales. But this story is gentle and really about a son learning to love his father and appreciate him.

This film has a PG-13 rating but perhaps deserves a 'G' (even though that is often considered an audience killer). The two reasons my wife and I saw for the PG-13 rating are:

1) A couple shots of nudity (although not erotic more like looking at art)

2) A scene where a vehicle is 'rocking' - mildly suggestive at worst.

I wouldn't hesitate to let my young children watch this movie if I thought they would find it interesting.

Despite all that I said above - this is not what I would call a 'chick flick', guys should enjoy this film equally.

Charlie & a Half
Charlie & a Half
DVD ~ Yehuda Barkan

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plenty of emotional honesty and slapstick, December 11, 2004
This review is from: Charlie & a Half (DVD)
This Israeli film is in Hebrew with English subtitles. It is a typical 'ethnic comedy' of life among Israelis of Iraqi descent. If you understand the term 'chakh chakh' then you'll understand. Much of the Hebrew is slang and represents a common street humor from a few decades ago.

The story involves Charlie who is a scam artist and his young protege. Charlie falls in love with a rich girl but gets found out. He finally gets serious about something in his life and finds himself wanting to be honest. She has to figure out what is more important in her life.

If you appreciate 'Mizrahi' humor or would like the chance to experience it this is a good choice.

The Chicken Coop Lool/Shablool
The Chicken Coop Lool/Shablool
DVD ~ Arik Einstein
9 used & new from $14.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could become a cult film, December 10, 2004
This is an Israeli film from the early 70's in Hebrew with English subtitles. It is part music video and part story - certainly not of the quality of American films.

If you are looking for something very 'off the wall' you may well enjoy this movie. Althoug quite different, if you enjoyed the Beatles "Magical Mystery Tour" you would probably enjoy this. (I once ran that film in a movie theater and mixed up the reels, and no one seemed to notice, in Shablool the same could happen with the same effect.)

People that want to find what Israel was like in the 1960's and early 70's (as a young crowd) will enjoy this. I enjoyed it because I found the source of several popular expressions that made no sense when I was there in the 80's. They still don't make a lot of sense, but they now have a context and I can see how people 'glommed' onto them, as an example, go to 'Kibinimatres'. Don't get it? You still won't after watching this film.

Fans of Arik Einstein or Shalom Hanoch will appreciate seeing these guys in their early days. Uri Zohar also has a scene. There is also a sccene that features a Jewish divorce (a 'get') ceremony that is done pretty well.

Can America Survive? The Rage of the Left, the Truth, and What to Do About It
Can America Survive? The Rage of the Left, the Truth, and What to Do About It
by Ben Stein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.95
99 used & new from $0.01

29 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for anyone unfamiliar with the Left, November 7, 2004
What a gem! You will be inspired by this book.

From the title you might think this was going to be another rant against the Left with the usual diatribe. Had I not seen Ben Stein's discussion on C-SPAN I would never have thought of buying this book. But he presented himself so well in front of a fairly hostile university crowd that I was compelled to read the book.

The book is as impressive as his discussion. He demonstrates a thorough knowledge of history which he effectively uses to debunk the rhetoric of the Left. But even more important you feel a renewed sense of pride in the America we thought was lost in the years of media glorification of all sensational.

What strikes you when you read the book is the sense of patriotism and fair mindedness that the authors bring. Stein's heritage and current mindset make him a prime candidate to be in the ranks of the Democrats - namely his compassion, concern for the weak, and his love of justice - and all of this comes out loud and clear. The authors simply lay out why such a position is more suited to today's conservative mindset.

Throughout the book we also are presented with quotes from a variety of the Left's notables which should appall any but the most fervent partisan. Most of the quotes are scandalous when you take your 'rhetoric filters' off, such as Sharpton's 1994 quote, "White folks was in caves while we was building empires... We taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it." - Sharpton makes white neo-Nazi revisionists sound intelligent. Simply put this book proves that our nation is under attack by the Left and is a more serious threat than the terrorists.

Even if you are not convinced that you should reconsider your affiliations, you will be forced to reconsider your acceptance of many assertions such as the degree of poverty that exists in our country. The coverage of the spectrum of topics is clear and readable. Stein's wry wit is in evidence and completely enjoyable, such as a reference to his performance in 'Ferris Buehler's Day Off'.

My wife also read the book and is in awe of the level of arrogance that leaders like Al Gore exhibit and that as many citizens of our nation could buy into his positions. She also finds as do I that Stein offers a more reasoned and practical approach to the important political issues that surround us today.

The promise of the book is not just to expose the lies we have been fed, but also to offer a solution and an answer to the question of 'Can America Survive?'. The answer is a resounding yes primarily through education. We are given great reasons to embrace reasoned patriotism, reject the self hatred espoused by the Left, and a sound bibliography of books and other resources to draw from to help in that renewal.

After reading this book I have a renewed respect for imparting to my children our pride in this great country and I also have answers to the ugly messages that are being sent by those who loathe us. My hope is that the book's message will so resonate with the American public that the Democratic Party will rebuild itself to become a worthy opponent to the Republican Party, since our successful political system is built upon the balance of two strong parties that seek the good and welfare of the people.

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