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Michael Griswold "Michael Griswold" RSS Feed (Rockford, USA)
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ISIS: The State of Terror
ISIS: The State of Terror
by Jessica Stern
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.40
71 used & new from $7.32

4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Beginning on ISIS, May 10, 2016
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ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger seems likely to be overtaken by events of the ground. This isn’t to detract from the work, but rather to point out a fact of many works on contemporary topics. In this book, one learns about the beginnings of ISIS, how it compares and differs from other terrorist organizations and maybe even a little bit about how Western Governments can fight the propaganda of ISIS.

While on the above topics it does a passable job, it feels at points like it is trying to make a broader point about religious terrorism in general rather than a sole focus on ISIS. One could of course counter that without an understanding of religious terrorism, one cannot understand the ways and means of ISIS. Nonetheless, I think one has to appreciate the effort put in here because it is so difficult to write about a contemporary topic without being yesterday’s news.

A solid first effort at tackling ISIS.


The Nazi Hunters
The Nazi Hunters
by Andrew Nagorski
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.85
54 used & new from $13.16

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When One Reads a Book on Nazi Hunting, May 10, 2016
This review is from: The Nazi Hunters (Hardcover)
***I received an electronic galley of this book from the publisher through netgalley.com in exchange for an unbiased review. The opinions expressed are my own.

When one selects a book like Nazi Hunters, one has this Hollywood image of these teams of mysterious men in tactical gear busting into apartments and dragging out or killing some of the most detestable humans in modern history, black ops style. Anyone looking for that probably should skip this book, minus 20-30 pages because most of the real work done by Nazi Hunters profiled in this book is almost mundane compared to the image that I outlined above.

Much of the work performed even that of the executioners was done without overdrawn flows of emotion or bloodlust for revenge in most cases. Indeed, the “hunters” outlined in the Nazi Hunters used often highly legalistic and technical means rather than the shadowy world of kidnappings and executions that have become the fashion of sensation. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is that Nazi Hunters while unified in the central mission of getting justice against Nazi War Criminals, often differed in their methods and sometimes clashed with each other personality wise.

An eye opening book.


Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson)
Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson)
by Robert A. Caro
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.12
202 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars By Any Means Necessary, May 2, 2016
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I actually started Robert Caro’s LBJ series on Means of Ascent in no small part because I doubted my stomach to read the tome like doorstop that is Master of the Senate and I was not disappointed. You get acquainted with the idea that Lyndon Johnson was not a nice guy very early on with the chapters on Lady Bird Johnson and anecdotes about rigging the ballot box for the young Congress election. However, since he was a politician, such behavior probably shouldn’t be greeted as a surprise.

The standout of this book is the topic of the 1948 United States Senate Election between LBJ and Coke Stephenson which takes up about 50-60% of the book. It is more than a Senate race or even one man’s quest to win the seat at all costs, but rather a dramatic clash between the old politics of Coke Stevenson of going around talking to voters, limited speeches, and small budgets verses the LBJ campaign which was flush with cash, a helicopter, and large scale use of radio, which was the big media of the day to slander the character of Coke Stephenson. The story of this alone is well worth the price and should be familiar to anyone who follows politics today.

After reading Means of Ascent, one wonders if Coke Stephenson was the winner of the 1948 Senate Primary in more ways than one…


The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (Updated Edition)
The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (Updated Edition)
by John J. Mearsheimer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.08
124 used & new from $7.77

4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Power War Can’t Be Denied, May 2, 2016
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The title of this review is the bottom line of The Tragedy of Great Power Politics by John Mearsheimer. The central point is not that hard to grasp that the structure of the international system makes conflict between great powers inevitable. But the way he goes about both setting up and giving evidence for his theory, may bend the reader in so many different directions that great power war or the fear of great power war becomes an absolute certainty.

I hold a Master’s degree in Political Science and believes that while great power war may occur, it is the civil war type of conflicts and/or groups like Isis that deserve the world’s attention. Further, while I believe realism is an important paradigm in International Relations, the various liberal theories of International Relations and the newer third way theories also have a varying degree of explanatory power depending on the topic.

Mearsheimer’s theory only holds the amount of currency the reader gives to the realist view of the world. For me, while it is plausible the world will end up this way, offensive realism is hard to stomach.


St. Elmo's Fire
St. Elmo's Fire
DVD
Price: $9.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Why am I Supposed to Care?, April 27, 2016
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This review is from: St. Elmo's Fire (Amazon Video)
I think John Hughes deserves his reputation for all the awesome films he did during the 1980’s, but St. Elmo’s Fire was a swing and a miss for this movie watcher. This group of friends tackles the post college world where their bond will be challenged in ways that it wasn’t inside the walls of the university. I spent so much of the time thinking that all of these people are jerks, vain, and/or superficial and those are some of the nicer adjectives I can use. While I am aware that this is something of a piece of the times, I just kept waiting for something to redeem these people and never found it. The closest we came is the end when they band together to prevent one of the friends from killing themselves?

Nothing here to particularly recommend it.


Searching for Bobby Fischer
Searching for Bobby Fischer
DVD
Price: $14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Movie That Goes Deeper Than Chess, April 27, 2016
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There’s a certain timeless quality in Searching for Bobby Fisher. Forget for a moment that the subject matter is chess-a sport many people don’t have the patience for and the main subject is a child prodigy something few parents will ever raise. Searching for Bobby Fisher is above all else, a father/son story of a father who finds something that he can bond with his son over—the game of chess.

Yet this bonding can also prove to be a burden because it creates conflict such as what it means to be a kid and whether the son is really living out the dreams of a father. There are these tensions between variations on the chess game and whether to devote all energies to becoming the greatest chess player ever or have a normal life. The core family dynamic stretches which is difficult to watch as a reader, but most people should see a certain humanity in the characters that leaves viewers engaged.

When one has those types of dynamics, the subject matter of the film could be badminton and no one would care.


Still Alice
Still Alice
DVD
Price: $12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Alzheimer’s Doesn’t Define You, April 27, 2016
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This review is from: Still Alice (Amazon Video)
I consider watching Still Alice a major accomplishment as I usually get around to watching the years award winning movies about fifteen years after they came out and that might be generous. In Still Alice, Julianne Moore gives a high quality performance as a linguistics professor who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. What makes it particularly jarring was that as a professor, her knowledge and intellect are how she makes a living. Viewers are taken on a long road of her deterioration and the impact that it has on close friends and family members.

The fundamental question ends up being how does one feel about the portrayal of Alzheimer’s disease in the film? Many describe it as an excellent portrayal and can see elements of their own family members, while others claim the film doesn’t go as in depth as they might have wished. I think that as someone who has not experienced Alzheimer’s to date, it was good portrayal for a general audience who may not have expieriance with the disease. One could charitably say that the film makers were not looking to give a paint by numbers portrait of the disease since no person has the exact same expieriance, but you guys watch and make the call.

A very moving picture that had me tearing up.


Pi
Pi
DVD
Price: $12.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Darren Aronovsky Scares Me Part II, April 23, 2016
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This review is from: Pi (Amazon Video)
After taking enough time to recover from Requiem for a Dream, I got to work on watching Life of Pi. This was Aronovsky’s first film. Why I watched them out of order is beyond me. The drug use and quick cuts are still present. This time the central theme seems to be the burdens of a gift such as a super intelligence for numbers that ultimately turns out to be a curse because everyone wants to use it for their own benefit. The gift then proves all-consuming to the genius himself leading to the rather tragic outcome.

I don’t know whether to feel happy or worried, but Life of Pi didn’t affect me quite as badly as Requiem for a Dream did. This probably means that I am getting used to Aronovsky’s work and again I don’t know whether to be happy or concerned about this development. If you as a movie goer like films that make you think beyond what is directly on the screen in front of you, then you’ll love Life of Pi. If you find yourself terrified of the unusual, go watch Monsters Inc. with the kids.


Requiem for a Dream
Requiem for a Dream
DVD
Price: $3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Darren Aronovsky Scares Me, April 23, 2016
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This review is from: Requiem for a Dream (Amazon Video)
It has taken me several months to write this review in no small part because Requiem for a Dream had me so weirded out that I didn’t know what to say about it. I have not felt this weird since I watched American Beauty ten years ago. I think it was so jarring because of the shattering portrayal of drug use which to most people is probably like stepping off a spaceship on the surface of the moon.

But if one can get past the drug use aspect of it, Requiem for a Dream boils down to central question “What would you do for your version of the American Dream”? That’s where the ramped drug use comes in and the secondary question of where the choices we make to pursue that American Dream lead us? These two questions combine together to produce an entrancing portrait of the American Dream gone sour, if one isn’t too wierded out by the drug use to continue past thirty minutes.


Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
DVD
Price: $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Oddness of Chuck Barris, April 23, 2016
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Look I don’t know if Chuck Barris was some sort of television game show producer/CIA operative or if he’s full of it. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind really doesn’t get us any closer to a fact or fiction determination on that score, but it is a pretty cool flick. You get taken into his double life of sorts with this beautiful cinematography with the contrast of lights and darks depending on where he is. It really helps to create this image of a man of two lives who steadily becomes darker and more forbidding even in happy times.

Coupled with an A level cast who seemed to make the story leap off the screen. One may not get any closer to a truth, but Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is a very enjoyable almost two hour thrill ride that won’t leave movie goers bored or disinterested.


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