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Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy
Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy
by Ian W. Toll
Edition: Hardcover
55 used & new from $4.37

214 of 217 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richly Detailed Look at early American Naval History, October 9, 2006
Few eras of American history are more misunderstood than the naval history of early America after the Revolutionary War. Former financial analyst and political aide Ian Toll sheds new light on this era in his richly detailed and comprehensive first book, Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy. The saga of the original six frigates, the Constitution, Constellation, Congress, President, United States, and the Chesapeake, is one of naval necessity, partisan politics, and the ungainly steps of a young country attempting to defend and assert itself in a dangerous world.

A common misconception in American history is that the original six frigates were begun during the Revolution. As Toll describes in excellent detail, it was in fact under the presidencies of George Washington and John Adams that the decision to form a standing navy was made. With America's merchant fleet under predation from North African pirates, French privateers, and British warships, ships to protect and fly the flag were necessary. An already contentious and partisan Congress argued endlessly over the formation of a American navy to deal with the problem, and finally the Naval Act of 1794 approved funding for the construction of six ships: four 44-gun and two 36-gun frigates. Designed by Joshua Humphreys, the ships were to be the strongest and most effective frigates afloat, a tough job in a world where the Royal Navy dominated. The frigates would play key roles in the quasi-war with France, the Barbary wars, and the War of 1812, and Toll chronicles the personalities, the politics, and the world situation that shaped both the ships and the campaigns in which they took part.

What these ships are best known for, and what is most familiar with the laymen are the battles. Toll describes every major ship-to-ship engagement fought by the original six with a vividness rarely seen in naval histories, rich enough to hear the thunder of the guns and smell the cordite from the gunpowder. The major actions described are: Constellation v. L'Insurgente, Constellation v. La Vengeance, United States v. Macedonian, Constitution v. Guerriere, Constitution v. Java, Shannon v. Chesapeake, and President v. Endymion. Also well addressed are the actions against the Barbary states, including a well-written chapter on the loss of the subscription frigate Philadelphia, and the daring exploits of Stephen Decatur to destroy the captured frigate. The major naval figures of the era like Truxton, Bainbridge, Hull, Decatur, Rodgers, and Barron are all examined by Toll with an observer's eye that fleshes out the caricatures as most histories portray them into real life men.

The end of the War of 1812 saw the launch of the first American ships-of-the-line, but it was the frigate navy that paved the way. Toll's book is an important addition that clears the mythology away from the early US Navy and incorporates all the naval, economic, political, and social elements that contributed to its founding and formation. Toll occasionally strays out of his lane, and the postscript loses a bit of focus delving into the post Civil War navy, but as a whole, this is an excellent book that will satisfy naval buffs and students of history alike. Toll's elegant and rich writing and exhaustive research marks him as an author to watch, and I eagerly await his next work. The original six frigates played a large part in the prestige of early America. Their successes, and their failures, demonstrated that the young United States was a blossoming world power worthy of respect and regard. Highly Recommended.

A.G. Corwin
St.Louis, MO
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 11, 2008 8:19 PM PDT

Price: $18.04
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189 of 200 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maturation of an Artist: Mayer's Continuum shows considerable growth., September 12, 2006
This review is from: Continuum (Audio CD)
How many musicians have you ever heard coming out of the suburbs of Fairfield, Connecticut? If you are a John Mayer fan, you know at least one. Pigeonholed as a sensitive pop artist with the debut album, Room For Squares, Mayer shifted tack to a bluesier sound with his second studio release Heavier Things. Joining up with impresarios Steve Jordan and Pino Pallidino, Mayer broke out in full on blues mode with the live album Try! Though some dismissed him, Pallidino and Jordan don't play music with hacks, and anyone who heard the track "Good Love is on the Way" knows the boy can play. With his new studio album, the excellent Continuum, Mayer continues to demonstrate his impressive guitar chops, a more mature songwriting style, and a richer, deeper sound.

The socially conscious first single "Waiting for the World to Change" reminds that "it's hard to beat the system when you're standing at a distance." "I Don't Trust Myself" features a gorgeous guitar sound and some nice fretboard work while the outstanding track "Belief" showcases some strongly emotional lyrics: "we're never going to win the world..we're never gonna stop the war...Belief is what we are fighting for." The likely second single "Gravity" is a soft, slow blues jam on which Mayer plays some fantastic lead guitar. At his recent St Louis concert, all four of these songs blew the crowd away, generating more applause than "Daughters" or "No Such Thing." "The Heart of Life" has a clean, crisp, and spare production with layered harmonies and a subdued guitar making for an elegant track.

The solid track "Vultures" is slinky and moves to a smooth beat with its falsetto harmonies sounding surprisingly good. "Stop this Train" sounds like it came directly off Heavier Things. Mayer sings of broken hearts in the beautiful "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room," which chronicles the end of a relationship , "this is the deep and dying breath, this love we've been working on." Mayer attempts to cover Jimi Hendrix on "Bold as Love", and while the guitar work is amazingly strong his vocals aren't quite as well suited to Hendrix. An elegant ballad sure to make the ladies swoon is "Dreaming With a Broken Heart." A powerful guitar solo highlights "In Repair", and closing track "I'm Gonna Find Another You" has shades of the early Mayer song "Comfortable", but with the addition of horns and electric guitar.

The 12-track record, produced mostly by Mayer with support from Jordan and Pallidino, is an extremely strong, mature collection of songs that showcases Mayer's growth as an artist. His backing band is extremely tight, and the sonic values on ther record are exceptional. Most importantly, Mayer has grown as a songwriter, incorporating new depth and substance to his songs. Those who didn't give him a chance before would be well suited to check him out now. His live shows are incredible and the man has some serious guitar chops. Fans of his earlier pop sound may be a bit disappointed, but will likely adapt quickly based on the response of the young crowds at his concerts. Comparisons to legends like Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton are premature, but if Mayer continues on the path he's on, he will have a great career worth following closely. Highly recommended.

A.G. Corwin
St.Louis, MO
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 4, 2013 11:06 PM PDT

Veronica Mars: Season 1
Veronica Mars: Season 1
DVD ~ Kristen Bell
Offered by seamistenchantedtreasures
Price: $15.99
21 used & new from $1.38

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, witty writing and dramatic surprises make this a first season to remember, November 17, 2005
This review is from: Veronica Mars: Season 1 (DVD)
Veronica Mars is one of the rare breed of shows that comes along every few years. It has a premise that is original, writing that breaks the mold with its intelligence and humor, believable acting with interesting characters, and most of all, dramatic story arcs that actually surprise the viewer. Combined you have a series that makes for great viewing and keeps you hooked until the dramatic season finale. That's what I call good TV.

In the space of a few months, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) endures more tragedy than any teen should have to face. Her best friend, Lilly, is savagely murdered, she is dumped by her rich boyfriend Duncan, and her status in the popular clique vanishes along with her virginity after she is drugged at a school party. Her dad, played by the great Enrico Colantoni, is forced out of his job as Sheriff for pursuing Lilly's father for the murderer, and her mother leaves her and her Dad without a word. Most people would draw into a shell and let tragedy dominate. But Veronica Mars is not most people. Tragedy redefines her, and gives her purpose.

Acting as Neptune High's private detective by day, and aiding her now private investigator father by night, Veronica is determined to find the truth behind her rape, Lilly's murder, and why her Mom left. This search for truth will bring her into contact with her ex-boyfriend Duncan(Lilly's brother), his possibly unstable friend Logan Echolls, movie star father Aaron Echolls, gang leader Eli "Weevil" Navarro, new kid and only Veronica friend Wallace, computer expert Cindy "Mac" Mackenzie, and assorted rich parents and spoiled kids who populate the town as the 22 episode story builds to a climax. Pieces of the puzzle are found every episode, and things happen that you won't guess, and all is not as it seems. Unlikely romance blossoms, and strange friendships abound.

The show itself is fantastic. The cast, writing, and setting are all great. There are some weak spots though, most notably under-developed dramatic arcs with Veronica's mother and Kaine Software head of Security, Clarence Weidman. There stories just fade out at the end. Also Backup changes from the pilot to the actual episodes. You'll see what I mean. The box set, is packaged nicely, but aside from some deleted scenes, there are no great extras to speak of. Come into Veronica's world. It's worth the trip.
NOTE: Some older players may have trouble reading the disc, it would take several tries before it would play properly.

by Stephen W. Sears
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.68
179 used & new from $0.23

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive history of the Gettysburg campaign..., October 12, 2005
This review is from: Gettysburg (Paperback)
Almost before the echoes of musketry and cannon fire had faded, stories of the Battle of Gettysburg were being published. 142 years after the battle, stories are still being told because of the impact and nature this battle had on American history. This battle was a defining moment for America, both Northern and Southern. This battle now has a defining history, thanks to Stephen Sears, Civil War historian and author of books on the Antietam and Chancellorsville campaigns.

Drawing from a wealth of sources, Sears weaves the narrative of the Army of Northern Virginia and its march towards destiny with the Army of the Potamac in fluid style. This style, combined with a historian's analysis and a gift for detail, allows Sears to bring to life every march, every hardship, every command decision, and every minie ball that fired. Gettysburg tells all the stories that are so often glossed over: the desperate fight by the Iron Brigade on McPherson's Ridge, the brutal struggle on the Union right on 3 July at Culp's Hill and Cemetary Ridge, the artillery battle of Hunt and Alexander, and the tactical and strategical mistakes made by commanders on all sides. Sears is not afraid to criticize command decisions, and explains why these decisions were wrong based on the information at hand at the time, rather than in hindsight as most historians tend to.

Sears is one of the finest Civil War historians for a reason. He writes books that tell true stories with rich and vivid detail and does the research needed to offer perspective on the world the battle took place in. Combine this book with an actual walk of the battlefield for a remarkable, enlightening experience that will help you understand what took place in the quiet Pennsylvania town so long ago.

Wonderfalls - The Complete Series
Wonderfalls - The Complete Series
DVD ~ Caroline Dhavernas
Offered by American_Standard
Price: $15.51
61 used & new from $8.78

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Damn you Fox for taking away one of the funniest, most subversive comedies of the decade, October 6, 2005
NOTE- This is five stars but the system is acting funny- Like others, I never got the chance to experience the wonder that is Wonderfalls when it was on in 2004. Only four episodes aired. Nine others were in the can, never to see the light of day. Then the fans spoke up enough to get Fox to release this amazing series on DVD, and the fans rejoiced. Fox has a long history of cancelling or burying shows that are smart, intelligent, well written, subversive, shocking, or just downright incredibly good. Their shows mostly appeal to the dumb section of society. That is why Wonderfalls didn't make it. It was too damn smart for its own good.

I won't rehash the stories, although someone described it somewhere as being like the show Touched by an Angel, but on Acid. It is comedy that bears repeated viewings. Comedy that challenges the intellect, hits the smart part of the funny bone, and was just all around clever. Plotlines were hysterical, though the occasional weak plot was evidenced in its early run. The language used was sarcastic, funny, and shocking, perhaps what I loved most about it.
The cast is probably the best comedy ensemble I have ever seen, led by Caroline Davhernas (someone please bring her back to TV) as Jaye Tyler and Tyron Leitso as Eric (these two had some serious chemistry), including Katie Finneran as the lesbian sister, Diana Scarwid the patrician mother,Lee Pace as the athiest divinity student, Tracie Thoms as the best friend, and Bill Sadler(Death from Bill and Ted) as the eager and honest Dad.

Some funny dialogue:
Eric: I'd like to return these.
Jaye: Are they broken? 'Cause we sell a lot of crap here.

Felicity - Sophomore Year Collection (The Complete Second Season)
Felicity - Sophomore Year Collection (The Complete Second Season)
DVD ~ Keri Russell
83 used & new from $0.24

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A season of personal development for the Felicity cast...., September 3, 2005
Sophomore year in college is usually a transition year. It was the year I decided that I didn't want to teach and wanted to major in history, then dropped out and joined the Army instead. Looking back, and seeing the Sophomore season for the first time, I am impressed with how much love and relationships impacted the lives of the cast in this season, and how this season seems to set up the Junior season brilliantly.

In the Sophomore year, the three main characters all loved and lost, and more importantly, grew as a result. Felicity got what she always wanted in Ben(briefly) and lost it, reconciled her friendship with Noel and Julie, and actually developed a love life outside of Ben and Noel(with the dreary David and Greg) while dealing with the breakup of her parents. Noel fell for Felicity's advisee, Ruby, who ended up pregnant, forcing Noel to make some tough choices even as Felicity appealed once again to his heart. Ben probably grew the most this season. Dumped by Felicity because he couldn't commit, Ben has an affair with a married woman, and realizes that he loves Felicity, and needs to find a way to win her back. Sean and Megan were wonderful, and made the most of their increased screen time, but Elena and Julie slowly became props. They were given little to work with in this season, as the writers realized that Season 1 lost its focus on the core trio.

Sophomore year also saw the format of the show change begin to change over the length of the season. Gradually fading out were Felicity's letters to Sally as a structural format, Julie's status as one of the main characters, and Felicity's classroom adventures(we see Felicity in class 3 times this season). The most popular characters from season 1, Sean, Megan, Javier, and Richard had increased screen time and it filled a void where Elena and Julie once were. Felicity and Ben's therapist was a nice touch, as she voiced to both of them the things that we wish we could say. And of course, we have to mention the hair, which I for one absolutely loved. People do dramatic things when they are heartbroken, and Felicity chopping her hair was true to life.

I loved this season and how it was ultimately resolved. Noel's growth from bitter, angry guy to the guy we all thought he could be was touching, and Felicity came into her own as an adult. Though there were some weak moments and subplots, and some not so good episodes, the main focus was to get Felicity, Ben, and Noel moving towards something bigger in Season 3, and this was accomplished. It also served to incorporate complimentary story lines that flourish in Season 3. Recognizable faces as guest stars appear. High note of this season was Amy Smart's portrayal of Ruby. Wonderful, sweet actress who brought depth to this role.

Felicity - Freshman Year Collection (The Complete First Season)
Felicity - Freshman Year Collection (The Complete First Season)
DVD ~ Keri Russell
94 used & new from $0.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Felicity was one of the great college dramas..., August 31, 2005
5 Years after my college experience ended I was going down memory lane and thinking of the things we used to do in the dorms when I was an RA. One of the things we did was have Felicity night on the 52 inch big screen TV. It's amusing now that we were so into a show that seemed at the time to be so unlike our experience. Looking back now, and watching the first season of Felicity again, is like seeing my days in college in a new light, one in which the situations we faced as freshmen and sophmores was not all that different from Felicity and crew.

JJ Abrams is a brilliant writer. He finds the ability to actually speak to the audience on a level that is both intellectual and emotional. His characters, always played by wonderful actors, bring to life the joy, pain, and heartbreak that his shows have. Felicity was a show in which it sometimes pained us to see their actions, or how we groaned at a predictable plot change, or screamed at Noel or Ben to kiss her!!, but at the same time be totally riveted to the screen. Today, there is the still active debate over who Felicity really should have been with, Noel or Ben. It's been 7 years since the show debuted, and if you ask anyone under 30, they will know exactly what you are talking about.

Felicity's first year is, in my opinion, the most engaging and emotional of the series because of the utter chaos in which Felicity finds herself. Who among us hasn't done something insane because we were in love? Who among us hasn't been scared of life in a new city, or faced the pain of heartbreak or rejection? This was the season where Felicity became a woman, and learned that love does not come easy, and that someone always gets hurt when a decision has to be made.

Keri Russell(Felicity), Scott Foley(noel), Tangi Miller(Elena), Scott Speedman(Ben), Amy Jo Johnson(Julie), Greg Grunberg(Sean), Ian Gomez(Javier), and Amanda Foreman(Megan) are the leads in this season. Cameos by Jennifer Garner, Dash Mihok, Chris Sarandon, Devon Gummersal. All made this show wonderful. This DVD set, though lacking considerably on the extras, is a must have for any fan of the show. And for those that have merely heard of Felicity, and want to know why Ben and Noel both captured her heart, its time to find out and decide for yourself.

A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945
A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1941-1945
by Paul S. Dull
Edition: Hardcover
57 used & new from $4.90

43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid research book on the Imperial Japanese Navy in WWII, August 23, 2005
Paul Dull's Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy from 1941-1945 is one of those books that is a hidden gem. Few know about it, and it sheds considerable light on topics covered only in musty archives in Washington and Tokyo.

The naval war in the Pacific has been covered by every major historian ad nauseum. Dull, drawing on his knowledge of Japanese and Japanese culture, has drawn his information primarily from the official records of the IJN. This book is a treasure trove of information about Japanese fleet movements, little known battles, and methods of ship to ship combat that both sides used that are glossed over or completely neglected in large histories. Dull is not afraid to criticize Japanese commanders, and assesses Yamamoto, long considered to the be Japan's finest naval officer, to be hesitant, battleship centric, and slow to seek out battle.

This is a phenomenal stand alone work, and serves as a must read for anyone reading about Nimitz or Halsey or the US Navy in WWII. Great appendix with information regarding the names, classes, and fates of all major Japanese surface combatants during the war. Though I am sure there is something we all wish he had addressed(for me the construction and design history of their battlefleet), Dull does exactly what he set out to do. Tell a focused story with new information that has not seen the light of day. For a book published in 1978, it is remarkably fresh and relevant, and was an extremely enjoyable read.

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