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The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell
The Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell
by Aldous HUXLEY
Edition: Paperback
12 used & new from $11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Being in one's right mind"..., April 18, 2014
I first read this book when I was a senior in high school, and gave an oral presentation of it before the class. As I had read Huxley's classic work Brave New World the previous year, this book seemed a natural choice, and may have been the first book that was the second book by an author that I had read. I was in "way over my head," sort of realized it, but I did have that school assignment to complete, and so I did. I can remember that the English teacher was somewhat anxious about what I was saying, but when I assured him that of course I would never actually try to do what Huxley did, he seemed relieved, and gave me an "A" for the presentation.

Decided to give it a re-read now, a book that was written in the `50's, so that I might understand what he was trying to say, as well as to see how the book "aged." At one level, it is a paean to the drug mescaline. Huxley took a measured dose, under supervision, and describes what he felt and saw. And it was a lot, including an intensity of colors. Huxley posits that the brain has a "filter" which normally eliminates much of what is available from our perceptions since it has no "survival" value. Mescaline, which derived from the peyote cactus, was, and I'm sure is still used by American Indians in their religious ceremonies. The author points out that other religions have similar mechanisms that might induce a similar state of increased perception... including obtaining "visions"... by fasting and repetitious chanting, for example, both of which make the brain "less efficient" in its filtering function.

It should be no surprise that Huxley referenced the work of that famed "visionary," William Blake. And he could have been a precursor for the rock band "The Doors," and the song "Break on through, to the other side." The author in sections would use the metaphor of a "Door in the Wall" that we could open, and experience another dimension. Later, and who knows what the Aussies and the Kiwis would think of this, his metaphor was the antipodes, where there were platypuses and kangaroos, and all sorts of strange things.

In terms of the impact of mescaline on the body, he notes that there have been no long-term trials, but also notes that the American Indians had been using it for many years, on appropriate occasions, without apparent addiction. He also compares it with many of the other drugs that are used, legal and illegal, and speculates that it is almost certainly among the less harmful, and cites, for example, the rites of self-flagellation that occur in numerous world religions (for which I ALWAYS had a hard time understanding, since there seems to be enough pain in the world already.)

Huxley could riff into some wild polemics, and random associations. With the polemics, often he was "preaching to the converted." In terms of formal education, does the following sound like what Paul Goodman would write 10 years later: "Instead of transforming children into fully developed adults, it turns out students of the natural sciences who are completely unaware of Nature as the primary fact of experience, it inflicts upon the world students of the humanities who know nothing of humanity, their own or anyone else's." Or a slap at the "groves of academia": "...learned foolery of research into what, for scholars, is the all-important problem: who influenced whom to say what when?"

As for those random associations, well, they do often occur when one is not "being in one's right mind," either induced by drugs, or a number of natural means. It also involves those who literally are never in one's right mind, insane, in other words, and Huxley does discuss this issue as well. Sometimes the random associations would "hit on all cylinders," at other times, it seemed like the ramblings of one who is, well, on drugs, and can be tedious to tolerate. Overall though, there is much of value in this book, and will help alter your perceptions, even if you are in that proverbial "right mind." 4-stars.

Corel VideoStudio Pro X7
Corel VideoStudio Pro X7
Price: $65.61
34 used & new from $65.61

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulus to finish some projects long outstanding..., April 16, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've been using Corel products for 15 years or so, and overall, have been quite satisfied. I purchased a couple versions of their... I believe the name was Photo Shop... mainly for personal use, but also for limited professional use. Even back then (like at the beginning of time, software-wise), Corel provided more features than a mere "duffer" could possibly use. And if memory serves me correctly, the price was well over a $100. So... when Vine offered me this software for review, now with the changed tag-line that clearly states it is provided to Vine reviewers for free... I had to say yes. And even at the current stated sale price of $71.00, it is a great bargain.

Markets are "segmented," we hear. And the one that I sit in is a fairly large niche for this product. I have hours and hours of tapes taken, when my children were in their infancy, with a video camera so heavy that I had to place the main unit in a backpack and wear it. And then there are still the thousands of slides, taken on film, of the children and travels, which require digitizing. It is important to note that this Corel product will NOT accomplish those tasks, which require some additional hardware and software, which becomes cheaper by the day. What this product WILL accomplish is to make the conversion effort well worthwhile, since you can edit out the "bad stuff," like when you were focusing on the floor. And the end product will become much more "professional" looking, with easily added captions. And then, for the slides, this provides a spiffier, enhanced slide show than Powerpoint.

I found that the program loaded easily on my Windows 7 computer, 64-bit, 2 Gigs of RAM. And it operates smoothly. As one other reviewer said: who reads the manual nowadays? True enough. I found the navigation bars intuitive, and they worked flawlessly. I even made my first (rudimentary) slide presentation. It was encouraging to note from other reviewers that videos can easily be made, and uploaded to YouTube, "seamlessly." As a Vine reviewer, in addition to receiving a free copy, it should be noted that Amazon requests that a review be posted within 30 days of receipt of the product. Thus, neither I, nor any of the other reviewers, can claim extensive experience with the product. However, I'll come back in a year or so, and amend this review with my experience.

For now though, the stimulus has been applied, and I'll be organizing that substantial backlog of memories to a much more useable and permanent format. 5-stars.

In Search of Lost Time, Vol. III: The Guermantes Way (v. 3)
In Search of Lost Time, Vol. III: The Guermantes Way (v. 3)
by Marcel Proust
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.55
93 used & new from $2.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Antithesis of Twitter..., April 14, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
For sure, Marcel Proust could not get it "done" in 140 characters. In fact, his novel (A la recherche le temps perdu), which is now more properly translated as "In Search of Lost Time," (Note: the standard English translation had been "Remembrance of Things Past" for some 60-80 years) is generally considered the longest novel ever written. "The Guermantes Way" is volume 3, and weighs in at more than 800 pages. The morals and manners of "tout le gratin," the upper crust of French society, during "La Belle Epoque," the era of the Third Republic before the First World War, are the general subject of Proust's work, and in particular, this volume. Proust can serve as an alternate definition for prolixity... and the reader can ride along, and sometimes fall off, his convoluted, rococo prose, with the seemingly endless qualifying phrases. But far more times than not, there is much meaning in those phrases, as he takes a given thought, and sharpens and refines it. His is a portrait of a society that appeared not to have to toil for their "daily bread," (isn't that what the peasants and all those "footmen" are for?), before the distractions of TV and Twitter. It is hard to believe such a time, lost or otherwise, ever existed.

The narrator is always unnamed. He is a young man of "bourgeois origins," which can be said with a certain disdain, who seeks admission to "society," and all the "very best people." Rank, there definitely is, and more difficult to ascertain, except, of course, for the "au courant." Rank is not worn on the uniform, a la the military. "Le gratin" have all gone to see a production of Racine's Phedre: Dual Language Edition (Penguin Classics) (French Edition), a suitable place to "see and be seen." The play itself is a symbolic choice since the young narrator is infatuated with an older woman, the Duchess de Guermantes, and a nod of recognition and a smile would "make his day." Later in the story he takes a morning walk with the sole objective of hoping to pass her on the street. Gulp! I can remember doing the same thing in my youth. With all the flaunting of status, privileges, and "rights" from a given territory, it is as though the French Revolution never occurred. Proust has one of the characters confirm that sentiment in expressing that Waterloo was necessary in order to have the Restoration (of the monarchy.)

Proust has an extremely high degree of hypersensitivity to human relations, which is both a strength of the novel, and perhaps a curse for him personally. It takes him almost 200 pages to cover the relations of an afternoon party of Mme. De Villeparisis, who is the aunt of the Duchess de Guermantes. He commences the first volume of this novel Swann's Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1 with the madeleine, a small cake, taken with tea, which involuntarily brings back a flood of memories. On numerous occasions in this novel, I felt the same flood of memories, of matters I had not thought about in decades. For example, when leaving a dinner, the narrator puts on "American" "synthetic impermeables" (note: a euphemism) over his shoes, due to the snow. I can remember owning them in my youth, and how necessary and practical they were, and they have not been thought of since. The incident in which the narrator shreds a "top hat" could serve as a beautiful metaphor for rebellion against pathologically unjust and whimsical authority, relevant even in an age in which the "1%" don't wear top hats.

Topics in the salon drawing rooms involved, first and foremost, the "Dreyfus Affair." The French Army officer had been accused, and convicted of spying (for Germany). He was Jewish, and he was innocent, and virtually the entire "gratin" was against him. The "good guys" in the novel, such as Saint-Loup, were in favor of a re-hearing, which was so "radical" since it brought into question the judgment and authority of the Army. This "Affair" rent French society for more than a decade. Proust includes the Russo-Japanese War as well as the Schlieffen Plan (the German plan for invading France, based on the double envelopment Hannibal executed on the Roman army at Cannae in the Second Punic War). But Proust is (deliberately?) fussy on his dates, and I thought he made a mish-mash (or, as the French say, a meli-melo of the current events,) in particular flip-flopping between 1898 and 1906. I'd welcome comments on this issue.

Though there is a more recent translation that Moncrieff's, I found his fluid, and current with slang. So much so that some of the phrases don't pass the Amazon censor test.

The Modern Library edition has a wonderful cover with a simple strand of pearls. In the book they play a role in the relationship between Saint-Loup and Rachel, his mistress. But like the madeleine, I saw a more symbolic role for the pearls: a woman who wears them asserts a certain elegance that says: "The cave man approach won't work with me; take a bit more time, at least an hour..." Or, as Proust himself would say, with greater verbal profusions: " unknown flowers whose petals remain closed until the day when the predestined stranger come to open them with a touch and to liberate for long hours the aroma of their peculiar dreams for the delectation of an amazed and spellbound being."

Dumb blind luck can be a wonderful thing. 25 years ago I rented a gite (a French farmhouse), totally unaware that it was only 12 km from Illiers-Combray, the now hyphenated town of Proust's childhood home. For numerous years I returned to the same gite. It was there where I first commenced volume one, and I have walked "Swann's Way" to the Pre Catelan at least ten times. It is located in the French departement of Eure et Loir, one of the lovely areas of "La France Profonde." In 25 years, I've managed to get only half way. I need to pick up the pace a bit if I am to complete his monumental work. And I will, as the page turns again for another phase of life. 5-stars.

The Ten Thousand Day War : Vietnam 1945-1975
The Ten Thousand Day War : Vietnam 1945-1975
by Michael Maclear
Edition: Hardcover
76 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Canadian view of the French and American Wars in Vietnam..., April 11, 2014
Michael Maclear is a Canadian journalist and filmmaker. Although his country was not involved in the war, other than serving as a place of refuge for those Americans who did not want to participate, he, and his Japanese wife developed their own obsession with it, which spanned a couple of decades, and including numerous stays in Vietnam. He waited the proverbial "decent interval" after the war, certainly for a journalist, to relate what happened. The book was published in 1981. The title, though a convenient round number, understates the period of the war(s) covered by more than a couple of years; it was from the defeat of the Japanese occupying forces (and their French Vichy collaborators) in 1945, until North Vietnamese tanks rolled through the Presidential Palace in Saigon in 1975.

As Maclear indicates in the introduction, the book is primarily about the American War. In 350 pages, only the first 50 are devoted to the French involvement, until the fall of Dien Bien Phu. The author conducted numerous interviews with the participants, from the high-level policy makers to the "grunts" who fought the war on the ground. Though I have read numerous books on the war, and did my own year, "on the ground," I found much new and unique material in this excellent account. Maclear sets the tone of his book early on in the introduction: "The interviews with the senior policy-makers reveal an ignorance of, or a withholding of facts that were always available. Motives and objectives are no clearer now than at the time: indeed, they are often shown as non-existent. And so the rationale for the sacrifice thins."

The work commences with Major Archimedes Patti of the OSS - Office of Strategic Services - the forerunner to the CIA, who was in Vietnam in 1945, encouraging resistance to the Japanese occupation. The principal entity that is fighting on the side of the Americans is led by, yes, Ho Chi Minh. Among the material that I found new, was Patti citing President Roosevelt, as saying in 1943: "that Americans would not be dying in the Pacific tonight if it hadn't been for the short-sighted greed of the French and the British and the Dutch. Shall we allow them to do it all, all over again?" Yes, there was the very real option of establishing short-term protectorates after WW II, as a prelude to independence. Instead, we allowed the defeated colonial powers to assume control of their colonies, necessitating "wars of liberation" by the inhabitants, including the longest one, Vietnam.

Maclear follows a now very familiar parabola (at least for me) from the Marines landing on the beaches at Da Nang, in 1965, through the troop built-up to 500,000 plus, and hitting so many of the "touchstones" of the war along the way, from "search and destroy" missions, the Tet offensive, the battle for Hue and Khe Sanh, My Lai, the bombing and invasion of Cambodia to the final denouement commencing with the collapse of ARVN forces in the Central Highlands in 1975. Two of the interviewees that Maclear heavily draws upon are Tim O'Brien of The Things They Carried fame, as well as several other books, and Jim Webb, of Fields of Fire, and several others, fame. Webb is served as US Senator from Virginia.

Time and time again, Maclear demonstrates a true understanding of the actual events in the country, and the attitude of the participants, particularly the "grunts." He relates their "Fort Apache" attitude when they were on patrol, and all civilians were seen as "hostiles." He knew of the "Coke girls," 9 and 10 year old Vietnamese girls who would follow around, and sell cold Cokes to the GI's. He relates a couple anecdotes that underscored how the American Army was disintegrating under the strain of the impossible position it was placed in. For example, he quotes Senator Eugene McCarthy: "I'm inclined to believe that the war would have ended just about when it did, even if there had been no protest, if I had not campaigned, because they didn't end it on policy finally: they just ended it because they were losing it, and - you know- the soldiers wouldn't fight." And related to what was called the battle of "Hamburger Hill": "With general morale near zero, and with at least 500,000, or nine-tenths of the US force as rear-echelon and preferring it that way, the US military command order what Congressmen called `an absolutely senseless' offensive in the A Shau valley...The public fury in the United states was such that Defense Secretary Melvin Laird had to rebuke openly the military command...(there was) a $10,000 bounty of Lieutenant-Colonel Weldon Honeycutt, the officer who ordered and led the attack....the bounty for the life of the Lieutenant -Colonel was not unique except for the amount. There were bounties ranging from $50 to $1000 offered for the killing of unpopular officers." Our "troubled Army in Vietnam" as Newsweek' cover once proclaimed.

The only point that I (strongly!) disagree with was Maclear's estimate that over two-thirds of the troops who had been in Vietnam were designated as requiring psychological care. Hum! But overall, Maclear got it all so right. 5-stars, plus.

L"Iran Rural: Photos Double Page 33
L"Iran Rural: Photos Double Page 33
by Nasrollah Kasraian
Edition: Paperback
3 used & new from $12.26

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If I had only known..., April 9, 2014
...when I travelled through Iran, for 11 days, in 1971, how difficult it would be to see the country again, particularly via independent travel, I would have lingered longer. Nasrollah Kasraian started his photographic career five years prior to my arrival. He has published numerous photographic works, through the present century. "Double Page," which published monthly photographic essays, from Paris, in the early `80's, presents this early sample of his work, in 1984. Regrettably Amazon is not displaying the cover (and no longer facilitates uploads from users). This cover alone is worth the price of the book: the haunting eyes of an Iranian Bedouin woman, who is a weaver, along with her small child. This work is the 33rd one in the Double Page series.

The "style" of the series was to present 8-10 pages of narrative before the photographs. In this volume, the editors selected excerpts from Iranian writers and poets who lived between 1000 and 1400, AD. They are Ferdousi, Omar Khayyam, Saadi, and Hafiz. Only Omar Khayyam is widely known in the western world, for among other reasons, his celebration of wine: "It is the wine which makes us lose our arrogance... If Satan had drunk just a little wine, he would have, before Adam, lost all his insolence." Or: "You do not drink the wine, let the others drink and do not cease to deceive and play the saint. You are so proud never to touch the wine but you do one sins far worse, and without glory."

But it is not for the poetry, but rather the pictures that you would buy this book. And they are stunning. Kasraian presents a judicious mixture of people, structures and landscapes. It is obvious that he obtains the trust of the subject, and presents them in an empathetic manner. Iran is a vast country, and the diversity of its landscapes equals or exceeds America's. One moving picture is the Bedouin at the foot of Mont Savaian, in the Azerbaijan province of Iran. There are also peasants planting rice, as they might in Vietnam. Twenty or so fisherman haul in an enormous fishing net from the Caspian Sea. Other pictures taken in Gilan province, which also borders the Caspian, seem as though they were taken in Japan, with cedar shake roofs in a heavily wooded area. Others reveal the countryside in heavy snow, and yet others are taken in the heat and humidity along the Persian (Arabian) Gulf. The true outlier in the whole series is taken in a "bidonville" (the slums) south of Teheran. There are hovels, and floating above them are 50 or so balloons filled with helium, as a recall seeing in the French classic Le Ballon Rouge (French Edition). And who knows, perhaps the children have the same aspirations, though they would not be fleeing from well-waxed floors. Overall, excellent composition and presentation. 5-stars.

The Kite Runner
The Kite Runner
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $10.17

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A well-timed morality tale, in stark black and white..., April 7, 2014
This review is from: The Kite Runner (Kindle Edition)
Khaled Hosseini published this, his first novel, in 2003, when much of the world was still scrambling to learn more about Afghanistan, a fabled and ancient land. The country had been in a state of war since the Soviet invasion of 1979. The fierce resistance of "the Afghans," who had taken on Alexander the Great, and centuries later, the British, and their empire, proved to be too great for the Russians, and after 10 years they left what has been dubbed as "their Vietnam." The Afghan resistance received a "little help from their friends," the Saudis and the Americans, who backed the religious fundamentalists. The "blowback," to use the CIA parlance for some unfortunate unintended consequences, led the Americans to this land so few could identify of a map, in search of that personification of "blowback," Osama bin Laden. They eventually got their man, but have lingered on.

As with many novels, much is drawn from the author's own life story. The protagonist, Amir, left his native land in his youth, moved to California, and became an American. But his native land, and its problems, and a particular incident haunted him, and so he decided to go back, to resolve at least one issue that related to that incident. Since 2001, many Americans have learned that Islam is not "monolithic"; that there are divisions, for example, between the Sunnis and the Shias. So too with the "Afghans," a nominal concept for a country composed of tribes and ethnic groups that are sharply divisive. And so in this novel we learn of the differences between the dominant Pashtuns, and the more Asiatic looking Hazaras, and sure enough, the former are Sunnis, and the later Shias. In fact, the latter are barely treated as being human by the former.

Overall though, the novel is structured far too much as an Afghan cowboy tale with "white hats" and "black hats," designed to develop or reinforce a reader's prejudices. Sure, there are some bon mots that would even play to my own prejudices: "I see you've confused what you're learning in school with actual education." And, concerning the religious fundamentalists: "you'll never learn anything of value from those bearded idiots." "They do nothing but thumb their prayer beads and recite a book written in a tongue they don't even understand." But like a lot of people, when one needs to drag Hitler into the story to make the point about how "evil" the other side is, I believe it completely discredits the story and /or argument. (Remember the Wall Street banker who described proposals to actually increase the taxes they pay as akin to Hitler's invasion of Poland?) So too with Hosseini's tale. He has Assef, who was a motive force behind a despicable incident involving a Hazaras boy say: "About Hitler. Now, there was a leader. A great leader. A man with vision. I'll tell Daoud Khan to remember that if they had let Hitler finish what he had started, the world be a better place now." Hum. I take it that Assef is wearing a "black hat."

Hosseini, as noted above, having left his native land in his youth, describes himself as a tourist when in real life he returned at age 38. His unfamiliarity with his native land comes across in the novel, in a number of descriptive errors. For example, on p. 227, he describes Rahim Khan praying, by "bowing eastward" (it should be westward). On p.243, he describes driving down the cratered road from Jalalabad to Kabul, it would have been "up," since Kabal is at 1800 m. and Jalalabad at 500m. in elevation. And from his description, he seems to have placed the Khyber Pass between the two cities, and it is not (it is between Jalalabad and Peshawar, in Pakistan.)

James Michener wrote a highly improbable tale about Afghanistan set just after World War II, entitled Caravans: A Novel of Afghanistan. Even though his tale was a "soap-opera," I did find some of his insights into the country and its people incisive, and certainly prescient. Far less so for Hosseini's tale. I gave Michener 3-stars in my review, and can do no more for this work.

The Diabetes Book: What Everyone Should Know
The Diabetes Book: What Everyone Should Know
by Chet Galaska
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.99
3 used & new from $8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential guide for understanding diabetes..., April 4, 2014
Fortunately I do not have diabetes, nor does anyone in my family or my close friends have the disease. Nonetheless, the disease does seem to be approaching epidemic proportions in the United States, and I felt I should know more about it. Recently I read Andrea Caesar's (A Twist of Lyme: Battling a Disease that "doesn't exist.") I gained some valuable understanding of another disease I am most fortunate not to have: Lyme Disease. Caesar is not a medical professional, but was able to provide both the personal medical and social perspective of someone who had had the disease for a long period, approximately 30 years. It turns out that Chet Galaska has been a diabetic for roughly the same period of time - 30 years - and so, likewise, he also has obtained the experience to write an "authoritative" book on the disease.

Before reading Galaska's book, I generally understood that diabetes was a disease involving the body's inability to properly regulate the sugar levels in the blood; that an individual with the disease had to monitor those sugar levels and had to inject insulin if they were outside normal ranges. I also knew of cases in which a person did not properly manage their diabetes, resulting in the necessity to amputate feet and /or legs. All that is true, but now Galaska has greatly broadened my knowledge of the particulars. There are actually two types of diabetes, labeled prosaically, one and two. Type one is the result of the pancreas not manufacturing insulin. Type two is an auto-immune disorder that stops the cells from absorbing the insulin that the pancreas manufacturers. 90-95% of diabetics are type two. The initials "BGL", for blood glucose level, more properly define the concept of "sugar levels."

Based on Galaska's description, I thought the cover most appropriate. Having diabetes is, sort of, like walking on a tightrope, constantly. There are several variables that impact one's BGL's, and they include diet, exercise, time of day, and the response of one's liver which also tries to compensate by regulating BGL by releasing glucose. An individual can go over or under the proper level, and it is always wise to carry something like a candy bar in case the BGL's go to low. Galaska does present a balanced picture of that tightrope walk: yes, there are a number of variables you must always keep in mind, but it IS manageable, and many people live perfectly normal lives, successfully managing this additional complication.

The author provides particular anecdotes concerning individuals who have had the disease. Bob Krause lived to be 90, being diagnosed in the first year insulin became generally available, 1926. Before that, diabetics died, as did Krause's older brother. Ron Santos, the baseball player, lived in fear that he would be fired if it became known that he was a diabetic. He overcame a serious BSL imbalance one day, and hit a grand slam home run. And Will Cross climbed Mt. Everest, taking his insulin with him. The author devotes a chapter to "titanium magnolias", his term for diabetic pregnant women, yet another level of complexity in regulating the disease.

Galaska categorizes the reaction of non-diabetics to those with the disease into three broad categories: diabetics are poor souls; diabetics need to "get over it; and diabetics is no big deal. I wondered how much I fit into one or more of these categories. If I did, hopefully it will be far less so in the future, all because of a bit better understanding of the disease. I was pleased to see that this book has garnered almost all 5-star reviews. I'm pleased to join the crowd: 5-stars.

[ Note: This review was first posted for this book, with the title Living on a Tightrope: Coping with Diabetes, and is being re-posted due to the title change.]

SterlingPro 8 Cup (1 liter, 34 oz) French Coffee Press-#1 With 2 BONUS Screen FREE(over $25 value)-Durable Coffee & Espresso Maker with Stainless Steel Plunger & Heat Resistant Glass--- Best shinning Chrome--Great Christmas & Birthday Gifts for Coffee Lover-Limited Quantity!!
SterlingPro 8 Cup (1 liter, 34 oz) French Coffee Press-#1 With 2 BONUS Screen FREE(over $25 value)-Durable Coffee & Espresso Maker with Stainless Steel Plunger & Heat Resistant Glass--- Best shinning Chrome--Great Christmas & Birthday Gifts for Coffee Lover-Limited Quantity!!
Offered by SterlingPro
Price: $65.00
2 used & new from $29.85

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At the campsite..., April 2, 2014
Normally I only review books, and have been doing so for years. I decided to expand the items that I reviewed, at least on a limited scale, and have posted a few reviews on computer / electronic gear and accessories. Then I was offered this Sterling Pro French Coffee Press for review (and it seems like the good folks at Sterling Pro realize that Amazon reviews might be an excellent way to promote their product, since there are now 300 reviews), and decided to expand the items reviewed to equipment used on a camping trip.

Even with the aforementioned 300 reviews, perhaps there is something new I can add. I still use a tent when camping, but the days of carrying 65 pound rucksacks are over, so there is the car nearby, and thus it is no problem bringing along a coffee press. My previous one broke however, and I still remembered the reason: the piece that connected the shaft to the circular disk that contained the filter was made of plastic. And it broke. The Sterling Pro one is made of steel, and thus I anticipate it will be much more durable. Overall, the Press has a well-made sturdy feel.

But does it make a good cup of coffee? Yes! I like my coffee strong, and have my coffee beans finely ground. That can create a problem when using a coffee press, since coffee grounds may remain in the coffee, having either gone through, or around the filter. Sterling Pro provides four finely-meshed filters, and the filter disk fits snugly in the glass cylinder, so that proved to be no problem.

So, I was able to produce an excellent cup of coffee at home, and now await the warmer weather so that the other essential ingredient to the coffee drinking experience can be added: the pristine beauty of the Gila Wilderness. 5-stars.

How to Enjoy Contemporary Art: Some Explanations to Help You
How to Enjoy Contemporary Art: Some Explanations to Help You
by Joe Nagle
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.76
14 used & new from $9.11

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art School for the non-artist..., March 31, 2014
Joe Nagle is an Irish artist. He has had academic training in the field. One of the interesting comments he makes in this excellent guide for anyone seeking a better understanding of the art world is that technique is not particularly taught in art school today (perhaps because of the vast variety of medium). Rather, it is the concept and theory of art that is emphasized. I recently finished John Russell's 12 volume series on Modern Art which was sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, and published in 1974. (At present, I have reviewed half the volumes at Amazon, for example: The Dominion of the Dream (The Meanings of Modern Art series, Vol. 7)). For each of Russell's 12 volumes, I have given it a 4-star rating. One of the deficiencies I saw was a certain "elitist" attitude and interpretation of the art, which excluded other possibilities. When I was given the opportunity to review Nagle's work, I saw the opportunity to update my scant and episodic knowledge of the art world, by a book that would also cover the last 40 years. What I also received a wonderful bonus: a much more matter-of-fact, practical guide to the art world, which was devoid of advocacy for any particular school or artist, or the "rightness" of a particular interpretation. I also found Nagle's guide "meaty," in the sense that virtually every page contained new information, conveyed with clarity.

Nagle is never heavy handed, but he does critique the "consumers" of the art world as being "passive," and faults television in particular for this attitude. He quotes Martha Rosler who divides the consumers of art into three categories: the onlookers, who are the vast majority; the wealthy patrons, who are the "owners"; and those who actively cultivate an appreciation of art as evidence of elevated sensibilities, in short, the snobs. The author proposes a fourth category: those who are interested in art for their "...own enjoyment, personal development and enlightenment." He postulates an "art consumer" who is actively engaged in the experience of art through enhanced knowledge. And if you see yourself in that category, this book is an essential read.

The author does provide a concise history of art, starting with the cave paintings at Lascaux, France, some 30,000 years ago, through Newgrange, in his native Ireland, which was constructed a full millennium before Stonehenge in Britain (and 500 years before the pyramids), where the light on winter solstice illuminates the passage for 17 minutes. For thousands of years, virtually all art was representational, following into the following four categories: Narrative (mainly Biblical), Landscape, Portraiture, Still-Life. It was the invention of photography, as the author says, in the 1820's, which proved to be the death-knell of representational art, and commenced a series of art "isms," starting with Impressionism, and on through Cubism, Dadism, etc. Nagle includes numerous works of art in his book to illustrate the various periods, from Constable's "Dedham Lock and Mill" through Peter Dong's "Pond Life."

Nagle calls art produced since 1980 "contemporary art." I found his coverage most informative. For example, he covers South Africa artist William Kentridge, and includes the sardonically entitled "Johannesburg, 2nd Greatest City after Paris." I found Anish Kapoor, "Tall Tree and the Eye" deeply moving. Nagle mentions how the art "consumers" were in a festive and informal mood when viewing his works. There is an entire chapter on feminism and the art world, and I was impressed with Judy Chicago's ground breaking work, "The Dinner Party," which is a tribute to women in history. There is also a chapter on installation and land art, which also includes relevant examples. His concise and accurate descriptions of the work of Edward Hopper, done during the 1930's, as well as Cindy Sherman, an exhibit of which I saw in NYC in the 1980's, strongly resonated. He didn't include the work of Victor Vasarely, the leader of the short-lived op art movement, which has also resonated on a personal basis.

The author concludes with an excellent chapter entitled "Elitism, Snobbery and Cultural Capital" which should make us "philistines" more comfortable when we poke our noses into the temples of "high art." Overall, Joe Nagle has written a lucid, straightforward, essential guide which will be re-read, and referenced. 6-stars.

Copland on Music
Copland on Music
by Aaron Copland
Edition: Paperback
Price: $17.06
65 used & new from $0.10

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `Tis a gift to be simple..., March 28, 2014
This review is from: Copland on Music (Paperback)
...and during much of his young life, he had to be. He survived on two $2,500 Guggenheim fellowships in the `20's. I discovered his work during my "coming of age" in the `60's. Fittingly, for someone who grew up in the hills and dales of Western Pennsylvania, there was his most quintessential American work, "Appalachian Spring," subtitled "A Ballet for Martha" (Graham), the dancer. In this work, he expanded the melody of the old Shaker song, "'Tis a gift to be simple," to glorious symphonic scale. I wasn't the only one enthralled: it was coopted by one of the major network news shows during the `60's and `70's. Many of his other works resonated with American themes: "Billy the Kid," "Rodeo," "The Tender Land." Another of my favorites is "Fanfare for the Common Man," with the haunting French horn intro, which is perfect for awaking people at desert encampments. I heard him lecture before conducting symphonic pieces in Atlanta, and he wryly explained that "Fanfare" was given its title since he felt it most likely to resonate with the Boards that rationed paper during the Second World War. His wide-ranging knowledge of the musical world, along with the glint in his eye that reflected the naming of "Fanfare" very much comes through in this book.

I purchased this book, and read it just a few years after its publication in 1963. [Note: the current narrative at Amazon indicates it was originally published in 1923 (!), which is clearly in error, though the book details do list the publisher and publishing date correctly]. He explains in the introduction that the collection is largely essays that were originally published in a variety of publications, and have simply been collected in book format (with the content unchanged, even the ones written 20 to 30 years earlier), for convenience sake. The first three essays address how music affects our lives, for example, "Music as an Aspect of the Human Spirit." Next there are five essays on various personalities in the music world: the conductor: Serge Koussevitzky; the composer: Igor Stravinsky; the critic: Paul Rosenfeld; the pianist: William Kapell; and the teacher: Nadia Boulanger. In terms of the latter, his experience was a personal one. He traveled to Paris in 1917, and asked permission to be a pupil, which was granted.

This is followed by four sketches of the "masters": Mozart, Berlioz, Liszt and Fauré. Concerning the first, Copland says: "Paul Valery once wrote; `The definition of beauty is easy; it is that which makes us despair.' On reading that phrase I immediately thought of Mozart. Admittedly despair is an unusual word to couple with the Viennese master's music. And yet, isn't it true that any incommensurable thing sets up within us a kind of despair? There is no way to `seize' the Mozart music." Another section of essays that I found informative involved some of the great European Festivals and Premieres of the interwar years: Zurich, 1926; Baden-Baden, 1927; Paris, 1928; London, 1931; and Berlin, 1932. He explains how each of the events defined and promoted changes in the thinking in the musical world.

There are also sections of essays on the younger (North) American composers; the composers of South America, pre-Second World War; and then post-war, there are 10 essays on an assortment of composers. He finishes this collection with four essays on the overall nature of music, of which my favorite is: "`Are My Ears on Wrong?'; A Polemic."

My ears are STILL on wrong, meaning I know I don't have a good musically ear. But as the old saw has it, I still know what I like, and the works of Aaron Copland will always be high on the list. For others who love his works, this remains an important book, highly recommended: 5-stars.

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