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WarPlanes of the Third Reich - Illustrated
WarPlanes of the Third Reich - Illustrated
by William Green
Edition: Hardcover
8 used & new from $23.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Warplanes of the Third Reich, May 23, 2016
Detailed accounts of the specifications and production histories of every marque of every aircraft designed or produced by Nazi Germany. From legendary airplanes like the Messerschmidt 109 to astonishingly advanced machines like the Messerschmidt 262 to wildly experimental craft, they are all here. Failed aircraft designs are also included, such as the many fruitless attempts by Heinkel and Junkers to produce a strategic long range bomber. Profusely illustrated with photographs and exploded line drawings.

And Yet...: Essays
And Yet...: Essays
by Christopher Hitchens
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.29
90 used & new from $1.18

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not for completists only, January 16, 2016
This review is from: And Yet...: Essays (Hardcover)
For most pundits, the prodigious anthologizing that Christopher Hitchens work has received over the past decade would have stretched their material to the breaking point. By this time, there would be nothing in the vaults but floor sweepings: Irretrievably stale topical takes of long ago issues, dull long form essays from some monthly slickzine, maybe some prudently suppressed juvenalia to add a "retrospective" flavor. And one can be forgiven at first glance for thinking that And Yet is also going to be a cashin' in affair, odds and ends slapped together by his greedy publisher or his hard-up estate. After all, this is the third posthumous anthology of his work in four years, after the massive Arguably and the reportorial observations of his own slow motion death in Mortality, in addition to his memoir, Hitch-22, which came out the year before he died. And this book has no introduction or postscript, and doesn't even list an editor. Once past the title page, the table of contents, and an epigraph taken from Letters To A Young Contrarian, we are straight into the first piece, a defiantly sympathetic portrait of Che Guevara, in the course of reviewing two books about him.

Such fears proved to be mercifully baseless. This collection of pieces, mostly from 2002-2010, are on the same level of quality as the previously anthologized writings from the same period. One is left to marvel anew at Hitchens' seemingly bottomless store of readings that he cites, the cut-glass severity with which he delivers verdicts on people, classes, policies and eras, and the fact that he kept this up at the same level over decades of publication.

Indeed, many of these pieces have had their relevance revive, zombie-like, as they are read against the backdrop of the current scene. "The Case Against Hillary Clinton" written during the '08 election, needs only a little updating to apply in 2016. One might be dismayed that little of this case stuck the first time around, and thus has less chance of doing so now. We can't say we weren't warned. Likewise, his piece about Turkish leader Reccep Erdogan and his 2010 threats against the Armenians only gained alarming sharpness over 2015, as Erdogan continued to shift towards the Islamist camp during the centennial year of the Armenian genocide.

There is some filler, unfortunately. Did we really need not one but two hate pieces on Christmas? His defense of George Orwell from misrepresentations by Orwell's posthumous enemies is likely to be the first that many readers had heard of that brief controversy. And a bit of general political scene snark, published in the off-year elections of 2010 seems to have been included for its all-purpose application in this election cycle. But some of the pieces were obviously included here simply because there wasn't enough room for them in Arguably. Passages on Clive James, A. N. Wilson, and Salman Rushdie are of lasting value. And the long and quite funny set of pieces on his personal health and attempts at getting in shape is of obvious melancholy interest.

So yes, go ahead and buy it, if you were in doubt. The author's name is his brand, and this product is worthy of it.

Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy
Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy
by John Julius Norwich
Edition: Hardcover
122 used & new from $0.01

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rome's eye view of the history of Europe, June 15, 2013
This is a fun, dishy narrative of the popes, from the beginnings to the middle of the reign of Benedict XVI. It is light on theology and heavy on conflict and scandal, and thus is as entertaining as it is informative. It also serves as a history of central Europe, as seen from Italy. German emperors march up and down the peninsula, invaders repeatedly sack the Eternal City, and alliances north and south are woven and unwoven. Only towards the end, when popes, issues and controversies of living memory come onstage do most readers have cause to dispute with the author. Pius XII is insistently re-labeled as a Nazi sympathizer. And John Paul The Great, based on his rejection of abortion, contraception, socialism and other items on The Great Liberal Death Wish, is presented as the doddering old bigot who had something or other to do with the fall of Soviet communism. But there are also some insightful observations, such as the unwisdom of changing the Mass from Latin to the vernacular at the dawn of the jet age. Just as more people were traveling further and more often, they were met with language barriers in the Catholic Masses they attended in other lands.

In the introduction the author urges the curious to proceed to more scholarly books for further enlightenment. Many will do so, but fans of popularized history will be well satisfied with this very fine five-evening read.

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
by Lawrence Wright
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.20
256 used & new from $0.72

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I was in a cult for 34 years. Everyone else could see it. I don't know why I couldn't.", June 11, 2013
This is a book the Church of Scientology is not going to be able to discredit with their usual intimidation tactics. The previous best book of this ambitious scope, John Atack's A Piece Of Blue Sky, resulted in Atack being sued into bankruptcy. TIME magazine's 1991 cover story, which also excoriated the church as a dangerous cult of vicious swindlers, landed the magazine in court for much of the next decade. The same fate may await Lawrence Wright and Knopf. Or a book of this heft by a reporter of this eminence brought out by a publisher of this size may finally bring the sunray disinfectant to bear on Scientology.

The book traces the development of Dianetics and then Scientology by L. Ron Hubbard, relaying the byzantine inner workings and power struggles of the young organization's leadership. Parallels to the attack dogs from Animal Farm frequently come to mind. Current leader David Miscavige is portrayed as the omnipotent spoiled six-year-old from that Twilight Zone episode, physically and verbally abusing cowering underlings who displease him. The story of how Scientology's celebrity members were enticed and reeled in astounds, demonstrating how adroitly the power of flattery is employed by the Church. There are profiles of chastened former Scientologists whose Hollywood careers have suffered as a result of their departure. And not just their careers--one person's pet dog is killed, as a message from the Church's enforcers. And there are people who have been subjected to abusive, controlling manipulation by Scientology, but who can't summon the independence of mind to shake free.

A great piece of journalism on a bullying institution that's long overdue for being stood up to. (Please don't slash my tires!)

From Virginia to Wyoming in Search of Health
From Virginia to Wyoming in Search of Health
by Arthur J. Peedin
Edition: Hardcover
2 used & new from $24.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Road tripping in the age of Tin Lizzies, May 25, 2013
The author suffered from unspecified health problems, and was advised by his doctor to move out West for the healthier climate. This was of course before the advent of air conditioning, which brought us perpetual springtime. He and a business partner decide to make the trip by car, settling on a Ford Model T. They rattle along winding country lanes, mostly unpaved, some unimproved since colonial times, from state to state. They fund their trip by rolling into towns, renting space in drug store windows, and selling auto supplies and leather goods, which they order along the way from the factories. There are no motels, few restaurants or bridges, so they camp beside their car, scramble to catch ferries, shoot wild game and receive heartwarming hospitality from farmers all along the trip. One scene has them rolling into the Ozarks, where suspicious hillbillies gradually warm up to them, and take them squirrel hunting. The author shoots and misses a couple of times, whereupon a boy brings the rodent down with a rock. Bullets are too expensive in these parts to waste on such small critters, you see...Finally they arrive in Denver, and the author and his wife who joins him there decide to make their home in Sheridan, Wyoming, where he lived to the quite healthy age of 97. A precious souvenir from the beginning of the Age of Automobiles.

by Christopher Hitchens
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.17
150 used & new from $2.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "The Year Of Living Dyingly", February 7, 2013
This review is from: Mortality (Hardcover)
"There's one thing that keeps surprising you about stormy old friends after they die--their silence."
-- Ben Hecht, Letters From Bohemia, 1964

"When I mount the scaffold at last these will be my farewell words to the sheriff: Say what you will against me when I am gone, but don't forget to add, in common justice, that I was never converted to anything."
-- H. L. Mencken, Baltimore _Evening Sun_, June 12, 1922

As someone said at the time of Hitchens' passing, a world without Hitch is going to be able to get away with fractionally more dishonesty than previously. The loss to British and American punditry is severe. Yet trust Hitchens to have something provocative to say about even this tragedy. These passages are adapted from, or first appeared in, various magazine articles. Collected here in book form, suffused with his unmistakable lack of sentimentality or self-pity, they have that much more impact. The effect is rather like an atheistic reverse-image of C. S. Lewis' A Grief Observed.

Of course he wasn't present to round the book off properly. There's no doubt that if it were possibly to expire and then come back and describe it, Hitchens would be the man for it. The books ends with scraps, jottings that either served as starting points for longer thoughts, or would have.

The introduction is gracious and admiring, by someone I was not familiar with. The afterword is by Hitchens' wife, Carol Blue, and it is heartbreaking. (Interestingly, she quotes him asking for Mencken and Chesterton books, whom he has previously derided in print.) The publisher is Twelve, which also published his massive 2011 collection of essays, Arguably. In all, a sad but fitting postscript to a remarkable journalistic career, and life.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 9, 2013 12:30 PM PST

Who I Am: A Memoir
Who I Am: A Memoir
by Pete Townshend
Edition: Hardcover
205 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Pete Goes On, February 7, 2013
This review is from: Who I Am: A Memoir (Hardcover)
"Don't worry, smile and dance
You just can't work life out
Don't let them moods entrance you
Take the wine and shout."

If you're here, then you know. This memoir is just as candid and confessional as Townshend's music has been through the years. Not a rock history--if that's what you want The Who's story has been told in more reportorial detail elsewhere--but an autobiography, intensely, almost fearlessly personal. There's not a lot of musical exposition here--a small surprise, given how he even wrote the Rolling Stone review for Meaty Beaty Big and bouncy. Rather, it's a record of his anxieties, drunks, periods of thoughtlessness, failures of family life, etc. Perhaps he has read George Orwell's quote, that "An autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats." Pete is certainly unsparing in his recounting of his own failings, which makes the reader appreciate his enormous accomplishments all the more. Young readers, having come up in the post-rock era, might not quite grasp what all the fuss is about. They really had to be there, but this marvelous memoir is almost as good.

Inside Job
Inside Job
DVD ~ Matt Damon
Offered by amazingwildcat
Price: $6.55
64 used & new from $0.16

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Punishing but partial account of 2007-08 financial meltdown, July 21, 2012
This review is from: Inside Job (DVD)
No one account has yet emerged that does justice to the entire financial disaster of four years ago. This doco hits hard indeed at collusion between the financial sector and the federal government. But one must look elsewhere for accounts of how Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with their nod/wink attitude to the risk they were exposing the taxpayers to, help ignite the crisis as well. Ditto for how the feds "encouraged" lenders, in the name of fairness, to make loans to people who could never pay them back and had no business taking them out.

That said, Wall Street must shoulder the majority of the blame. The quants--smart young math whizzes hired by financial firms to oversee complex investing formulas--don't figure in this film. But they were particularly destructive. All intellect and no empathy for the casualties of their maneuverings, they only saw that they could hit their quarterly numbers and score their bonuses if they ran everyone else's financial affairs off the road. And so off the road we went.

Cinematically, the film is rather repetitive. Practically every transitional shot is an overhead view of Manhattan--we peer down an extraordinary number of ceiling vents. The interviews are edited into highly shaped tropes: I-told-them-so vindications from critics; self-damning gaffes from squirming ex-officials. But the shots of the abandoned, foreclosed homes in stillborn neighborhoods are emblematic of the current times.

Surprisingly, the film is rough on President Obama, depicting him as having been stared down by the money men. Since this film is an expose', there's not much discussion on what the filmmakers think should be done with the financial sector, other than unspecified regulation.

So, if you believe that Wall Street and the Treasury Department are connected with a revolving door, this film is for you. If you believe in the infallibility of free markets, take a good look around, and then see this film. The free market has been a boon for most of us, most of our lives. But none of the works of Man are infallible.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 20, 2014 9:46 AM PST

Johnson's Life of London: The People Who Made the City that Made the World
Johnson's Life of London: The People Who Made the City that Made the World
by Boris Johnson
Edition: Hardcover
69 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Welcome to London!, July 21, 2012
A fun, breezy celebration of London, in advance of the Olympics being held there. Light, nuggetty, and not to be taken over-seriously. If it's an in-depth survey you want, get Peter Ackroyd's London: The Biography, which opines on everything and everyone about the city, right down to the sound of boots clacking on Victorian cobblestones. This is a series of personality sketches, chosen at Mayor Johnson's own fancy. There are some striking generalizations in the book, such as:

"Perhaps because they lived more obviously in the shadow of death, the Victorian seem more gluttonous for life than we are today. They got up earlier, they walked greater distances, they cooked more complicated meals. They wrote bigger novels, they scribbled longer and more confessional diaries, they grew bushier beards and moustaches than any previous generation. They were more scandalised and more hypocritical and therefore (arguably) more excited about sex, and they had more children. They did more watercolours and they played more pianos and generally busied themselves more in the lives of others--especially the less fortunate--than the middle classes of modern Britain."

A fun three-evening read, and a good-natured Welcome banner to the world for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Margin Call
Margin Call
DVD ~ Kevin Spacey
Offered by Expedited Warehouse
Price: $6.00
63 used & new from $0.98

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting niche drama, fine acting on offer, June 20, 2012
This review is from: Margin Call (DVD)
Think "Glengarry Glen Ross" scaled up and toned down. Kevin Spacey is in both films, of course. Paul Bettany, as the hotshot yet dissatisfied trading manager, looks like a young, twitchy Ed Harris. Simon Baker, though not nearly as loud, is more than reminiscent of Alec Baldwin's character Blake. Could just be my imagination though, as could this: Stanley Tucci, playing the sacked quant who first spots the financial blowup coming, closely resembles Nassim Nicholas Taleb, of Black Swan fame, who also predicted the 2008 crash. Director and screenwriter J. C. Chandor was very clever to put these allusions into the film, if indeed he did.

The superb ensemble acting is the main draw here. Jeremy Irons fully redeems the cliched Slimey Limey villain role he's given. Kevin Spacey is great as the seen-it-all veteran who discovers that he has not in fact ever seen anything like the looming catastrophe he must now manage. Penn Badgley and Zachary Quinto do a fine job as the newbies who suddenly find themselves in deep water, Quinto to be promoted and Badgley to be canned. I've seen Demi Moore in so many bombs, that it's very good to see her excel in a movie of substance here. There is much peering into monitors, much side-eyeing around conference tables, many expressions of dawning incredulity--so much so that one YouTube remix has a scene with the dialog removed, only the reaction shots remaining. Think what you will about the actual events depicted here, lovers of fine acting won't go wrong with this.

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