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The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
by Robert A. Caro
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.81
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a simple biography, May 12, 2008
I have been waiting to read this book for a very long time, and the wait was well worth it. Mr. Caro presents a massive, well-researched piece on one of New York's most influential (and controversial) public officials. I am a sucker for great detail, and so I enjoyed Caro's painstakingly detailed portrait of how a young, idealistic reformer evolved into the ruler of a huge bureaucratic empire. What Caro makes very clear is how Robert Moses became so corrupted by power (and self-importance) that he failed to grasp how his projects were not always in the public interest. Moreover, Caro paints a vivid picture of Moses' cynicism and shrewdness, and how he parlayed those into greater and greater power. For instance, Moses realized that most state legislators were political hacks who never bothered to read the fine print of the laws that they passed. He played on this to insert such fine print into legislation which made him virtual Tsar of development in both New York State and New York City. In addition, Moses was able to convince most New York politicians that he was indispensable to them, and so had them virtually eating out of his hand (i.e., his tactic of threatening to resign, unless he got 100% of what he wanted). At once fascinating and frightening as to how one man could harness such a degree of power!

While Robert Moses' achievements are the main focus of this book, Mr. Caro also devotes a great deal of attention to the political situation that existed in New York during the era of Moses. In doing this, he gives readers a fine education on how New York and its municipalities were governed at that time (and in many ways, are still governed), along with an in-depth look at other contemporary political figures (i.e., Al Smith and Fiorello LaGuardia). I would equate reading this book with taking a college-level course, as you learn and think so much while reading it.

On a critical note, not all of Mr. Caro's conclusions about Robert Moses are universally accepted. For instance, Mr. Caro accuses Moses of single-handedly wrecking the Bronx with the Cross Bronx Expressway. However, many people have argued that this was only one of many factors that destroyed the Bronx, and not all of these things were brought by Moses. Perhaps Mr. Caro should have given space to opposing viewpoints regarding the Moses legacy. Overall, though, I think that it is a great book: required reading for anyone interested in the development of New York during the 20th century.


Jews in Germany: From Roman Times to the Weimar Republic
Jews in Germany: From Roman Times to the Weimar Republic
by Nachum Tim Gidal
Edition: Hardcover
72 used & new from $4.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent!!, April 25, 2008
This book tells a story that is often (and tragically) forgotten about: the history of German Jewry prior to the rise of the Nazis. In telling the story, Mr. Gidal makes great use of art as well as of text. Though he doesn't go into tremendous detail, he definitely covers the main thrusts and events of the German-Jewish experience. I was particularly interested in the status of Jews under Charlemagne and the early Holy Roman Empire, and in the gradual emancipation of German Jews from the 18th century onward. This book looks like a coffee-table book, but is nothing of the sort. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in German and/or Jewish history. It makes a great companion to The Pity of It All, by Amos Elon.


Frederick the Great: The Magnificent Enigma
Frederick the Great: The Magnificent Enigma
by Robert Asprey
Edition: Paperback
Price: $34.79
40 used & new from $14.65

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sparta in the Morning, Athens in the Afternoon..., April 25, 2008
Mr. Asprey presents a very interesting account of Frederick the Great in this biography. I think that he does much to establish Frederick as a pivotal player in Prussia's transition from backwater ("the sandbox of Europe") to a major European state (and later, to the driving force behind German unification). I particularly enjoyed the discussion of Frederick's long-term (and complex) relationship with Voltaire, and how Frederick was very much a product of the Enlightenment. For instance, Frederick sought to hash out a functional govt. administration (excuse the oxymoron) from what had been a largely disjointed, semi-feudal state. Moreover, he extended a relatively high degree of tolerance to Prussia's religious minorities (though, with respect to Jews, it was limited to those who were seen as useful to economic development). Finally, Frederick sought to enhance the cultural life of what had essentially been a military garrison state. To that effect, he introduced a semblance of high culture to Prussia.

Mr. Asprey devotes a lot of attention to Frederick's many wars with his neighbors. These wars were very important to the development of Prussia as a major European state. Also, Frederick often put himself in harm's way in commanding his troops. This was in marked contrast to many of the pampered absolutists who were in power in much of Europe at this time. I think that it illustrates Frederick's sincere belief that he was "First Servant of the Prussian State" as opposed to a divinely elected ruler.


The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and the Struggle to Save New York
The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and the Struggle to Save New York
by Vincent J. Cannato
Edition: Paperback
5 used & new from $11.03

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The face of New York's decline, April 25, 2008
Mr. Cannato's biography of John Lindsay provides an interesting and informative account of Lindsay's mayoralty. At the same time, he provides a great narrative of the major events that were gripping New York City at that time, and how they factored in Lindsay's governance of the city.

In a major way, Mr. Cannato portrays Lindsay as a tragic figure, a man who sincerely wanted to clean up the city, but proved himself to not be up to the job. Three examples from the book illustrate this nicely. For instance, he came into office on a warpath against what he called the city's "power-brokers" (unions, police, etc.), but ended up being strung up by these groups (who, in the case of the unions, ate him alive at the bargaining table). Moreover, Lindsay thoroughly alienated the city's middle class voters through a number of poorly thought out actions/policies (i.e., the Ocean Hill-Brownsville experiment, the 1969 blizzard response, and the proposed Forest Hills housing project, to name a few). As a result, Lindsay was increasingly dependent on the support of the far-left and of disaffected minorities, forcing him to radicalize his message. Finally, Lindsay burned all of his bridges with the Republican Party, became a Democrat, and then immediatetly sought that party's Presidential nomination. This proved to be a complete disaster, as the Democrats owed him absolutely nothing.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in urban history and/or 1960s-70s American politics. It makes a great contrast to American Pharoah, which is a biography of long-time Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.
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Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 - Greatest Hits
Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 - Greatest Hits
Price: $4.99
97 used & new from $0.37

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice easy listening, with a Brazilian flavor!, December 9, 2007
I have enjoyed Brasil '66 since hearing Fool on the Hill on satellite radio. The group, working with jazz legend Herb Albert, covers a number of easy listening hits, though spicing them up with a Brazilian flair. Check out Fool on the Hill, With A Little Help From My Friends, and Scarborough Fair to see what I mean. Also check out Mais Que Nada, a nice song in Portuguese (you don't need to understand Portuguese to like the song - I only understand a few words). In short, this is a very nice sounding album for people who like soft, easy listening.


Xanadu
Xanadu
Price: $4.99
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous soundtrack to a forgotten movie, December 9, 2007
This review is from: Xanadu (Audio CD)
I really enjoy listening to this soundtrack. Perhaps it is because it consists of 2 of my favorite musical acts: Olivia Newton-John and ELO. Even though the movie itself is not highly regarded, (though I didn't think it was that bad) it does have some great music. My favorite tracks are #2 (a memorable duet featuring Olivia Newton-John and Cliff Richard), #3 (which alternates between a jazzy 1940s singer and a hard-rock band), and #9 (a great ELO number, representative of the group's fusion of classical and rock). For a movie that didn't get rave reviews, Xanadu contributed a handful of hit songs on the radio back in 1980. Needless to say, I will NOT see Xanadu on Broadway, as I think that any other version of the music will pale in comparison with this soundtrack.


The Life of Andrew Jackson (Signature Series)
The Life of Andrew Jackson (Signature Series)
by Robert Vincent Remini
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $30.16
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, balanced biography, December 9, 2007
Over the years, President Andrew Jackson's standing among historians has gone up and down. In this biography, Robert Remini presents a well-balanced account of this controversial President. For instance, Professor Remini explains President Jackson's Indian policy through the prism of a 19th century nation-builder, while, at the same time, not letting Jackson off the hook for his often heavy-handed treatment of the Indians. Moreover, Professor Remini presents Jackson as someone who cared deeply for the nation, and would not tolerate what he saw as abuse of the public good. As examples of this, Professor Remini provides 2 important events: the Tariff/Nullification Crisis of 1832 and the Bank War. In both incidents, President Jackson acted in what he perceived to be the nation's best interest (and here, Professor Remini is rather sympathetic toward Jackson) calling the offending party to task in some form. While I am not a huge fan of President Jackson's politics in general, reading this book did lead me to have a higher opinion of Jackson's abilities to govern the nation.


The Cousins' Wars: Religion, Politics, Civil Warfare, And The Triumph Of Anglo-America
The Cousins' Wars: Religion, Politics, Civil Warfare, And The Triumph Of Anglo-America
by Kevin P. Phillips
Edition: Paperback
Price: $21.63
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive and long-winded, but useful, November 8, 2007
Cousins' Wars looks at American History from an often-overlooked angle, which is as an extension of British civilization. From this point of departure, Kevin Phillips traces the migration of British political divisions across the Atlantic, and into the foundations of American history. His thesis, that the American Revolution and the U.S. Civil War were, in essence, later installments of the English Civil War, is both interesting and persuasive. I also liked his in-depth analysis of British public opinion toward the American Revolution and Civil War, and how it closely mirrored the alignments of the English Civil War. Finally, I think that Mr. Phillips goes to great lengths to show how seriously divided the United States was between gaining independence and the Civil War. This last fact has often been kicked to the side in favor of a simple North vs. South division that neglects many significant exceptions.

On a critical note, I think that Mr. Phillips often repeats the same themes and facts over and over, leading to some quick page-turning at certain points. Moreover, he takes on a lot of tangential subjects that he should include in a separate book. This book could have had fewer pages without giving up its quality.


Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 4
Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 4
DVD ~ Larry David
Price: $14.99
31 used & new from $2.22

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best season of the series!, October 20, 2007
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This DVD covers Curb Your Enthusiasm's best season. Two words as for why this is: The Producers. Most of the season's episodes center on Larry David's effort (or lack thereof) to master the role of Max Bialystock, one the two principal characters in The Producers. His constants struggles with the rehearsals and his fellow cast and crew members are truly hilarious. As usual, Larry manages to somehow insult everyone in his path, and seems to lose little sleep over it. In my opinion, the season's two signature episodes are The Survivor and Opening Night. Buy this DVD, and you will never stop laughing!


Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830
Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830
by John Huxtable Elliott
Edition: Paperback
Price: $32.00
74 used & new from $5.91

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative!!, October 19, 2007
In Empires of the Atlantic World, Professor Elliot compares and contrasts Spanish colonial America with British colonial America. I am not aware of any other books that take this is their subject, and I think that it is worthy of attention. Elliot presents 2 very different experiences in terms of government, economy, and culture. For instance, the Spanish conquistadors came upon a very highly centralized political structure, which they were able to penetrate (and co-opt for their own rule) with relative ease. This enabled them to retain the tributary labor system of the Aztecs and Incas, which they labeled the encomienda system. The British in North America did not have the same experience, as the Indians there tended to be far more decentralized. This forced the British to pursue a far different strategy in their efforts at conquest. Also, the scarcity of gold and silver in North America forced the British to diversify the colonial economy, leading to a more developed economic scene.

Additionally, I found Elliot's side-by-side discussion (between the British and the Spanish) of various other colonial themes to be well-developed. In particular, he goes into considerable detail in contrasting Spain's Catholic-only policy in the Americas with the religious diversity that existed in the British colonies. At the same time, he also explores the very different attitudes that the British and the Spanish had toward the Indians, and how those differing attitudes shaped political and social orders in the 2 regions (look at the large "Mestizo" population that exists in many parts of Latin America today, in contrast to the relatively small population within the United States). For instance, the Spanish sought to bring the Indians into the Catholic Church (witness the significant presence of the Catholic Church in the colonies), and even (theoretically) included a measure of legal protection for Indians within the encomienda system. On the other hand, the British did not make christianizing the Indians a high priority, nor did they concern themselves wth any legal protections for the Indians (a notable exception to this was William Penn).

Elliot gives a great deal of space to discussing how the political and religious regimes that existed in Great Britain and Spain were transferred to these nation's respective American colonies. For example, the British colonists were nurtured, to some degree, by the growing "liberal" ideas that were coming out of Great Britain at the start of the 1700s, while Spanish colonists had no such ideas to turn to (at least none in Spanish). Moreover, British control over its colonies was relatively decentralized (many of the colonies were private or corporate, and all enjoyed a measure of self-government), though Spanish colonies were under the tight grip of the Spanish monarchy. Finally, Elliot demonstrates how both Great Britain and Spain began to "reform" their administrative policies vis-a-vis the colonies, and how those reforms triggered colonial resentment (though the 2 nations had different results in quashing this resentment).


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