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Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA
Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA
by Peter Robinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $20.99
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars True enough, May 9, 2000
I read this book just as I started B-school and it scared me well and good. Like Robinson I was a "poet", meaning I was a liberal arts major among financial and engineering types. I can certainly empathize with Robinson's struggles to grasp the more quantitative disciplines of business, since I went through my own miserable times. But I think the review right before me makes a good point, that getting IN to business school is the hard part, especially for an elite program like Stanford. The school certainly doesn't want students to flunk out or struggle too much, since all that does is hurt the school's precious statistics. While business school ain't a picnic, it isn't the trial of tears that Robinson makes it out to be.
But the book is entertaining enough, and even though Robinson was a speechwriter for President Reagan and writers for Republican presidents tend to be an especially odious sort, he seems a decent guy. One problem that Robinson identified and I heartily agree with is the lack of, well, overall intelligence and awareness in business school students. I'll readily admit that I can't crunch numbers as well as many of my former classmates, but I was amazed at how ignorant many of the folks in school were. They had no idea who Larry Ellison was. Discussions about government policy rarely went above a 10th-grade level. My ethics class was a revelation. I don't think anyone else in my class ever studied philosophy and it seemed like they looked at ethics as an obstacle to be hurdled rather than as a code to define proper behavior. Depressing stuff.
But Robinson made it through B-school, and so did I (in my case, barely. Going part-time and working full-time while planning a wedding was a pain the rear. Can't imagine folks who go to school when they have little kids. Insane). The only problem with this book now is how dated it is. Robinson went to B-school in the heart of Silicon Valley, yet the words "e-commerce" and "" are nowhere to be found in the book. Robinson and his fellow students interviewed with the usual investment banks, which today almost seems quaint. What, no one dropped out to found a company that had a multibillion dollar IPO six months later?
All in all a good read, but if you're thinking about getting your MBA I don't think this is a totally accurate picture of what you're going to endure. Still, it's well worth a read.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 14, 2012 10:21 AM PDT

Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company
Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company
by Andrew S. Grove
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.52
210 used & new from $0.01

10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No rest for the weary, May 8, 2000
In today's business world there just isn't time to sit back and casually look over the scene. Competitors can attack with little or no warning, the product that defines your company can become obsolete overnight. What Grove describes so well in this book is the mindset that companies must develop in order to thrive in this ultracompetitive enviroment. Managers must obsessively examine possible threats from both outside competition and internal complacency, either of which can doom a company.
A company that is content to sit back and rest on its laurels is one that risks destruction. The best companies, like Intel and Microsoft and Gillette, work like crazy to develop great products and then work even harder to develop the products that make their last one obsolete. They always keep looking over their shoulder and worrying about who might be lying in wait for them, and this attitude keeps them hungry and vigilent, and very difficult to compete with.
Probably the one piece of wisdom that people glean from this book is Grove's description of "strategic inflection points", times when the industry a company works within undergoes a fundamental change. This is an important concept, but it's difficult to use it as a managerial guide because, as Grove states in his book, you usually don't know you're IN a strategic inflection point until it's been going on for quite awhile. Companies that quickly understand the meaning of a strategic inflection point and have the energy and intelligence to act quickly and correctly can make huge strides against competitors who pause too long. And that is where the paranoia of the book's title comes into play. A company that is constantly questioning itself and its market is far more likely to identify strategic inflection points and is far more able to deal with them. And that is what managers who read this book should definetly take to heart-- that complacency is a killer. If you snooze, you lose.

Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic
Let it Blurt: The Life and Times of Lester Bangs, America's Greatest Rock Critic
by Jim Derogatis
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.45
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A true rock and roll star, May 1, 2000
And that's truly what Bangs was, a rock and roll star. He used his criticism to try to change the world just as Lou Reed and other singers used music. That Bangs could be called a collegue and an equal to the biggest rock acts of his time shows just how much rock critcism (and pretty much all writing about celebrities) has changed over the last 20 years. Back when Bangs was writing he could (and did) take on singers head on, baiting them, insulting them, picking fights when he felt the urge. It's hard to believe that today Bangs would get near any big-time act, out of the record label's fear that he would rip their precious "artists" limb from limb.
But Bangs was far more than a hatchet man. He loved music with a passion that radiates out from his prose. He was one of the great stylists of his day, cranking out pieces that explode with all the energy and anger of the best rock and roll. He loved great music and hated lazy and pretentious performers who put out crap and expected the world to bow down. Lester was never the sort to bow down.
Derogatis does an excellent job of describing how the boy from El Cajon metamorphosized into the force of nature that blew through Detroit and New York. He also shows the terrible toll that drugs and alcohol took on him, which certainly hastened the end of his life. He died at 33 and he was an old, old 33.
You shouldn't read this book without also reading "Psychotic Reactions and Carburator Dung", which is a collection of Bangs' work that I read in college. I certainly hope there will be a revival of interest in Bangs and more of his work will be published again. You just gotta read this guy's work, it'll blow your doors off. And Derogatis does a fine job of revealing the man behind the roar. END

The Onion's Finest News Reporting, Volume 1 (Vol.1)
The Onion's Finest News Reporting, Volume 1 (Vol.1)
by Robert Siegel
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.22
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still sick, twisted stuff, May 1, 2000
The Onion delivers a new book and not a moment too soon. I hadn't had a good, long, debilitating laugh in a few weeks and this collection of the Onion's finest work cured me in seconds.
This collection features the Onion's typical incisive and warped stories (my favorite being the one on Russia's hottest game show, "Who Wants to Eat a Meal?") and also pieces by some of their finest columnists, including the Love Man himself, Smoove B.
So I heartily recommend the book, unless you don't like tearing rib cartilage from laughing too hard.

Out of Sight [VHS]
Out of Sight [VHS]
Offered by WonderBook
Price: $0.50
114 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-rent, March 2, 2000
This review is from: Out of Sight [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This movie showed up on quite a few "Best Picture" listed when it was released but I didn't really notice it much when it was out. Turns out the acclaim was well-deserved. This is a really good movie, a great date movie, something both the guys and gals can both enjoy. It's a crime story and a love story and it crackles with the usual Elmore Leonard energy.
I don't watch ER so all I've seen of George Clooney was that Batman fiasco, and I didn't know much about Jennifer Lopez besides that overplayed album, but both are excellent, playing people on opposite sides of the law who find themselves drawn irrestistably toward each other. Clooney plays Jack Foley, a bank robber who busts out of prison and abducts Karen Sisco, a U.S. Marshall who is at the jail to pick up a convict for transport. Even though it's hard to imagine Lopez playing a cop (especially with all her legal problems and the whole Grammy dress thing), she plays the part with complete self-assurance. And even though she can't stop stop thinking about Foley, she's determined to catch the guy who got the upper hand on her.
As for Clooney, he shows Foley as a man taken completely by surprise by his attraction to a woman who is his sworn enemy. He can't stay away from her, but he had no intention of going back to jail, either. The rest of the movie is how the pursuer and the pursued change places over and over, and how both characters go about their business with a great supporting cast, all the while circling each other, getting closer and closer.
A great movie, a fun movie, and I actually liked the movie ending more than the book ending. You'll have to see the movie to find out what happens. Definitely a must-rent.

Home Alone [VHS]
Home Alone [VHS]
Offered by mediadiscount
Price: $4.79
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5 of 112 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An all-time stinker, really horrible, but..., March 2, 2000
This review is from: Home Alone [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I had a better time watching "Home Alone" in the theater way back when than just about any movie since. Not that I LIKED the movies, heavens no. No, see, I went to see this movie wih a lady friend and I thought it was totally awful. Culkin was insufferable, Pesci and Stern so annoying that I wanted to call and fire their agents, and John Hughes so...John Hughesian. Of course the movie made like $200 million and spawned two sequels I wouldn't watch unless you duct-taped me to a chair.
No, what made it so fun was going to see it a SECOND time. I told 2 friends how incredibly awful this movie was and, insulting my fine-tuned sense of humor, said they wanted to see it right away 'cause if I didn't like it, it was probably hilarious. So I dared them and they double dared me and off we went to the SuperSaver theaters (I wasn't giving Hughes any more of my cash than I had to).
It only took 5 minutes for my buddies to realize that this movie was really a horror show. Once that happened we were all able to enjoy ourselves. All through the movie we made loud and pointed comments to the screen, making up dialogue and begging Pesci to smack Culkin over the head with something heavy and be done with him. The best part was, no one in the theater found us annoying or told us to shut the (deleted) up. Instead, everyone (well, 15 folks or so) laughed with us and joined in the fun. And that's why, I think, that the movie was such a huge hit-- people hated it so much, it was so nauseating, that people went to see it again just to insult everyone and everything about it. It's just a theory, but I think there's some evidence.
But life is short and one extra viewing of "Home Alone" was enough for me. I've never seen it since and never will again unless someone does the duct-tape thing to me. But for two blissful hours I had a grand time hating this godawful movie. Definitely worth my two bucks.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 12, 2013 4:42 AM PST

Election [VHS]
Election [VHS]
Offered by Sadie's Bookstore
Price: $1.34
91 used & new from $0.01

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny, but disappointing, February 26, 2000
This review is from: Election [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This movie recieved glowing reviews when it came out but it wasn't as funny or interesting as I thought it would be. It's a good movie, don't get me wrong, but it lacks focus, it staggers back and forth between characters so abruptly that at times I grew impatient.
Broderick is of course excellent as the inept teacher Jim McAllister (can this really be the same person who played Ferris Bueller?). He's such a likeable actor that its hard to root against him, even when his character is behaving like, well, a moron 11th-grader.
Witherspoon's Tracy Flick is truly frightening, more a force of nature than a human being. Pretty without being attractive, smart with no real insight, she is ambition personified, and since probably everyone went to school with someone like Tracy (hopefully in reduced strength) its not hard to see why a teacher might want to cut her down to size. There is a current of sexual tension that runs between Tracy and McAllister that really isn't followed up on, which I thought would have greatly improved the movie.
And when Witherspoon and Broderick aren't on screen, which is too often, the movie loses steam. Not that the rest of the cast stinks or that their characters don't deliver some laughs, but they interrupt the central conflict of the story.
The ending of the movie is all wrong, a series of voice-overs by Broderick and the other characters about what happened to him after the election the movie centers around. It was OK, but it certainly wasn't funny, and it wasn't satisfying. And that I guess was my overall impression of the film-- OK, but not really satisfying.

Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss
Double Down: Reflections on Gambling and Loss
by Frederick Barthelme
Edition: Hardcover
77 used & new from $0.01

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a how-to book, February 26, 2000
When some athlete demands that his contract be renegotiated and you hear the phrase, "It's not about the money," that's when you know that it most certainly IS about the money. But for the Barthelmes the trouble they find really isn't abou the money. Even though they lost $250,000 gambling in Mississippi casinos, that isn't the loss that moved them. The money they lost wasn't theirs, really, it was inherited from their recently-deceased parents, and much of the book is a memoir of the life they had with their parents, and of how their lives lost direction after their parents passed away.
But I enjoyed the parts revealing their gambling lives best. The brothers were able to live quite normal lives, teaching and writing as well as they ever had while at the same time spending hours at the boats playing games they knew deep down they had no chance to win. Their description of their casino experience is fascinating, often morbidly so. They write of hands that fell their way and slots that yielded big jackpots, but it's difficult to feel any pleasure in it, because you know that the winnings will be returned to the casino in short order.
What this book ISN'T is a book on how not to gamble. The authors realize early on that the casinos exist to take your money. They read scores of books on how to beat the odds and how to count cards and find them all pointless. They like the risk-- counting cards is too much like work, it takes all the fun out of playing. And they understand that over time there is no way you can expect to beat a casino in fair play, no way, no matter how sharp or lucky you are. The merciless laws or probabilty will grind you up. But the most telling line in the whole book sums up the whole problem with gambling addicts, that, "...losing never felt like the worst part. Quitting did."
At the end of the book the brothers were arrested on ridiculous felony gambling charges, and while the dust jacket states that the charges were later dropped, the book itself ends with the charges still standing, so you don't know what happened to them afterwards or why the charges were dropped, which was disappointing.
But the book does show the dark side of big-time gambling (or gaming, gambling's new cute-and-cuddly name) and it provides some sort of counterargument to those who think that gambling can cure a region's economic woes. The games pump some money in, but whose money, and at what social cost is it earned?

Stalin: The First In-depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Russia's Secret Archives
Stalin: The First In-depth Biography Based on Explosive New Documents from Russia's Secret Archives
by Edvard Radzinskii
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.40
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41 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A portrait of a monster, February 24, 2000
The common view of Stalin is that he was a paranoid psychopath who murdered tens of millions due to his own insecurites. Radzinsky's view is different-- he believes that every move Stalin made during his long, bloody career was carefully calculated, that he always stayed a few steps ahead of his foes. He makes the quite convincing case that Stalin instilled terror as the primary characteristic of the Soviet regime because Stalin recognized early on that terror alone could keep the people and the Party obedient.
The Stalin Radzinsky presents is a far more sinister and frightening figure than a mere psychotic. It describes a man of extraordinary evil, not just a psychological case study. Even if you don't buy all the theories that the author presents, Radzinsky's writing is so energetic and dramatic that you can't help but be fascinated, horribly fascinated by this man who probably murdered more people than anyone in history.
While many people prefer to think of Stalin as insane, Radzinsky presents compelling evidence to support his view. This was, after all, a man who seized power from some very ambitious men who were enormously skilled at treachery. He took power and then over the course of 30 years ruthlessly and methodically crushed anyone who even vaguely threatened his position. He killed his enemies, his friends, his family-- no one was safe.
And he didn't just destroy these people-- he made them destroy themselves. Radzinsky's descriptions of the great show trials are the most interesting part of the book, because archives show that Stalin not only orchestrated the trials but also even wrote much of the dialogue the condemned men happily parroted from the dock. That these once-powerful men (like Zinoviev, Kamenev, and Bukharin) collapsed so completely and yet naively believed that Stalin would spare them if they confessed completely shows how rotten at its core the Soviet system was.
Only during the war was Stalin's rule threatened, first by Hitler (though the author argues that Stalin was actually planning a sneak attack on Germany) and later by Zhukov and the rest of the general staff, who enjoyed a measure of freedom as they beat back the Nazis. Stalin relaxed the terror to inspire a patriotic fury in his people as they fought the invaders, but once the danger passed he clamped down as hard as ever. Cold, ruthless acts like these lend weight to Radzinsky's idea of Stalin as the master puppeteer.
Stalin died in 1953 and the controversial part of this book focuses on what may have happened had Stalin lived. It did appear that Stalin was preparing another purge, yet another bloodletting that would send millions to the camps and the grave. This initial culprits were seven Jewish doctors, and Razinsky raises the possibility that Stalin was preparing a Holocaust of his own. By now Stalin had the hydrogen bomb, and Radzinsky theorizes that perhaps Stalin was thinking about using the Bomb, thinking about starting World War III. This theory stretches the available information to the breaking point but the author does make his case strongly enough to get the hairs on the back of you neck standing up. Would a man who murdered millions of his own people shrink before killing millions of Americans, British, Chinese, etc? Stalin himself once said, "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic."
Brilliantly written, painstakingly researched, Radzinsky's book is well worth reading even if you don't accept every new theory he puts forth. Stalin was doubtless a monster, and this book superbly details his crimes

Carlito's Way / After Hours
Carlito's Way / After Hours
by Edwin Torres
Edition: Audio Cassette
4 used & new from $2.91

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great crime memoir, February 22, 2000
If you like crime stories don't miss this one. This is one of my all-time favorites and it never really got the attention it deserves. The story of Carlito Brigante shows us the world of crime from a different angle than the classic Mafia tales. Carlito is Puerto Rican and comes up in the New York of the fifties and sixties. He's a hard-core criminal, hard-nose, and he makes no bones about it. He starts of with breaking-and-entering, moves up to racketeering, and after a long impatient wait breaking into the big-time--heroin trafficking.
Yet Carlito never comes across as a merely evil person. Living in America, where the streets are paved with gold except in the barrio where he spent his entire life, Carlito says that no way was he going to spend his whole life washing dishes when there was big bread out there for guys with the guts (he would use a different word) to go get it.
Torres, to his credit, never romanticizes Carlito to the point that he comes across as a good guy, either. Carlito follows his way because its the one HE chose, and if that means dancing with a fine lady at the Palladium one night and then going into Lewisburg Penitentary for a 3-year stretch the next, that's how it goes. Those are the risks and rewards of the life he leads. He meets characters like smooth guy Earl Bassey, crazy guy Nacho Reyes, wise guy Rocco Fabrieze, and bad guy Pete Amadeo. All in all, "Carlito's Way" is a wild ride, both the ups and downs.
I really recommend that you get the audio version of this book and listen to Torres read his book. The movie "Carlito's Way" actually focuses on the second book Torres wrote, titled "After Hours." It's good, but the first novel is told in the 1st person, in Carlito's voice, and Torres is fantastic as he speaks in Carlito's voice. Well worth a listen.

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