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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tale of Two Percent, August 9, 2006
It was the best of milk, it was the worst of milk, it was the age of lactose, it was the age of intolerance, it was the epoch of butter, it was the epoch of margarine, it was the season of Latte, it was the season of Dairyness, it was the spring of Holstein, it was the winter of Danish Jersey...

I'm afraid that I cannot in good conscience receive this milk, in comparison to Tuscan Whole Milk, in the superlative degree only. 4 stars.

Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz
Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz
3 used & new from $75.00

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Hundred Years of Milkitude, August 9, 2006
Search inside! ->

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Tuscano Milkia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover milk. ... First they brought the cow. A heavy gypsy with an untamed beard and sparrow hands, who introduced himself as Milkiades, put on a bold public demonstration of what he himself called the eighth wonder of the learned alchemists of Milkedonia. He went from house to house dragging two udders and everybody was amazed to see butter, cottage cheese, whey, and cow brassierres tumble down from their places and small low stools creak from the desperation of teats and gripping hands trying to emerge...

[Translated from the Mooish by Gregory Lechebassa]

Winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Agriculture.

Highly recommended.

The Da Vinci Code: Special Illustrated Edition
The Da Vinci Code: Special Illustrated Edition
by Dan Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.69
646 used & new from $0.01

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Novel. (n.) An invented prose narrative. See also: Fiction, December 12, 2005
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this novel. Reviews of it seem to range from "this is the finest novel ever written" to heated condemnation. In my opinion, this book deserves neither extreme. I've certainly read better novels, and there's nothing here worthy of the scorn heaped upon it either. It is, quite simply, a thriller with some art history and legend thrown into the mix. Taken as such, I found it an enjoyable read, though probably not a book I will give a second reading.

I do find the controversy surrounding this book fascinating. This is the first novel, in my memory, to give rise to a virtual cottage industry for the purpose of 'debunking' it. Most "historical novels" have fairly dubious claims to historicity, yet few feel compelled to write and talk endlessly about how wrong they were, or conversely, to defend an alternative history. My hope is that this novel might spur people to read more history and to ask more questions, and to do so with the aid of something other than the shrill spinoffs from this novel. Irrespective of the conclusions drawn, such an exercise would be intellectually healthy. Unfortunately, most will consider themselves quite well read on the subject either by reading this book or some polemic spawned by it, a few might actually read both, and almost none will read anything actually scholarly. Then of course we have those who will wait for the movie version rather than read anything. Oh, this is getting depressing...

OK. Summation: The DVC is fun as mind candy. Don't take it so damn seriously. If the topics interest you, go read something a historian has written about them.

A Confederacy of Dunces
A Confederacy of Dunces
by John Kennedy Toole
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $26.95
65 used & new from $2.60

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding comedy, December 9, 2005
A friend loaned me a copy of this book over twenty years ago, telling me that this was a novel I simply must not miss reading. Not quite believing his enthusiastic praise, I opened the book and was introduced to the gargantuan, flatulent, self-important, arrogantly pseudo-intellectual person of Ignatius J. Reilly. By the end of the first paragraph, I was intrigued. By the end of the first scene, in which he nearly causes a riot in front of D.H Holmes, I was hopelessly hooked. In the decades that have passed since that first reading, "Confederacy" has steadily ascended my list of all-time favorite books, becoming more deliciously funny with each reading.

Ignatius is an unforgettable character. Ensconced in his ramshackle room, strewn with Big Chief tablets filled with invective toward the twentieth century and his longing for the good old days of the Dark Ages, he brews his indictment of modernity and of anything and everything he considers lacking in "theology and geometry". Unfortunately for him, his mother's drunken driving brings the threat of legal action when she demolishes part of a building and he is faced with the appalling need to Go To Work. Needless to say, the working world isn't quite prepared for this Don Quixote in a hunting cap.

Along the way, there are a number of equally priceless supporting characters, each a gem in its own right. The hopelessly inept Patrolman Mancuso sniffles his way about the seedier parts of New Orleans, in his outrageous "undercover" costume of the day, sadly hoping to arrest some "suspicious character". Miss Lana Lee, of the quite inappropriately named Night of Joy bar, provides, um, charity work for the orphans, discreetly wrapped in plain brown paper and collected by a local hoodlum. Then there's Jones, who plots his revenge against Lana's tyranny as an employer from within a cloud of blue cigarette smoke. All of these and others are superbly woven together in this grand comic tale, their stories and fates drawn together by Fortuna's wheel, as Ignatius might say.

As others have remarked, Toole's suicide pre-empted what likely would have been a wonderful literary career. An unpublished author at his death, Toole's only other work is a short novel called "The Neon Bible", written while he was in his teens. That book is sufficiently inferior to "Confederacy" that I have never bothered to buy my own copy. However, I am now on my fourth copy of this novel, and expect it to continue to be a book I revisit time and again.

Most highly recommended.

by Michael Crichton
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
477 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Well, it beats watching TV, December 9, 2005
This review is from: Prey (Mass Market Paperback)
Here we have another one of Michael Crichton's outings into the world of technology gone awry. It probably isn't too much of a stretch to say that if you have read one of Crichton's last several novels, you have essentially read them all. As with many of his books, we have here an essentially neutral technology creating havoc when over-reaching corporate and military types fiddle with it, a protagonist trying to warn of the dangers who is of course ignored until the situation is entirely out of hand, the requisite harrowing escapes, etc.

That being said, this book is also like most of his others in that it is a fun, light read, and worth the few bucks and few hours one will invest in it.

by Thomas Harris
Edition: Hardcover
31 used & new from $1.58

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No mere morality play, December 9, 2005
This review is from: Hannibal (Hardcover)
I was somewhat surprised to see the drubbing this novel has received in reviews here on Amazon. After two novels which featured Hannibal Lecter in an ancillary role, Thomas Harris finally decided to make Hannibal the central character and explore his psyche and history thoroughly, and apparently many readers would rather not know what makes the man tick. Perhaps this is the case because in doing so, Harris has made Hannibal more tragic than evil, and people are upset that their villain is no longer a mere caricature.

Actually, it should come as no surprise that Hannibal is more complicated than a mere one-dimensional monster. Harris has simply given this character the same treatment as he did Francis Dolarhyde and Jame Gumb in the first two novels, namely to examine the sources of the psychopathology which lead the characters to commit their crimes. Incidentally, "Silence of the Lambs" gave some insight into the strained psychology of Clarice Starling as well, foreshadowing the development of her character in the present novel. The result was to show both Hannibal and Clarice as being more complex than unremittingly evil on the one hand, or as a valiant heroine on the other. In my opinion, this has the effect of making the characters more realistic, and such psychological realism is the source of the real horror in these novels. Monsters do not arise from nowhere, but are created by a confluence of personality and events. Virtue can be a channeling of and compensation for anger and pain, and that virtue can be subverted to something darker under the right circumstances. In short, everyday people have the potential to be a sinner or a saint, and the dividing line is not so clear as we are comfortable in imagining.

Making a character's actions understandable does not make them defensible, however, and therein is a problem for some readers. By making Hannibal Lecter understandable and plausible, Harris has appeared, to some, to justify Hannibal's behavior. I do not think this is the case. Rather, Harris has raised the disturbing possibility that Hannibal Lecter represents what violence and trauma can produce: a victim who in turn becomes the taker of victims to a superlative degree. This is disturbing to some readers because there is no clear victory of good over evil, but instead there is a certain moral murkiness about it. This supposed weakness of the novel is in fact one of its strengths in that it reflects the moral ambiguity that exists so often in reality. Seldom are things as black and white as we would like them to be but are instead various shades of grey. This book has done an admirable job in presenting that.

The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love
The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love
by John Shelby Spong
Edition: Hardcover
137 used & new from $0.01

32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spong redux; fine book that restates earlier work too much, November 26, 2005
As with Bishop Spong's previous efforts, "The Sins of Scripture" is a thoughtful, well-documented survey of the ways that the Bible has been used to justify some thoroughly immoral attitudes and behavior. Specifically, the authority of the Bible to underwrite selfish abuse of the environment, the repression of women, the condemnation of homosexuals as somehow subhuman, pious anti-Semitism, the violence meted out to children and to people treated as children, and the destructive divisiveness of creeds are exposed for what they are: an appeal to the authority of God to justify evil. Spong builds his case quite convincingly yet I was left a bit unsatisfied by the book as a whole.

Anyone who has studied the history of Western civilization knows of the appalling "sins" of the Christian establishment. The Bible has been used as a weapon countless times in attempts to destroy freedom of conscience and belief, at the cost of human lives and the aggregate human progress in knowledge. For that matter, anyone who keeps reasonably informed of current events, particularly in the United States, has seen how a certain view of the Bible is used to damage people, to repress scientific inquiry, and to subvert the interests of democracy and freedom. This book serves quite well as an examination of how the message of the Bible has been corrupted, both in its writing and its application, to serve provincial bias and to support otherwise untenable positions.

Thus, to refer to the subtitle of this book, the "Bible's Texts of Hate" have been exposed for what they are: the prejudices of people in a particular place and time, elevated through time and tradition to become, amazingly, the inerrant Word of God. In that effort, Bishop Spong has succeeded admirably. However, I must say that, in my opinion, the book is somewhat disappointing in revealing the "God of Love".

Much of the depiction of the "God of Love" in this book is accomplished by describing what God is not. I was already well convinced of those propositions, even before having read earlier books by this author. Clearly, if God is seen as the creator, the designer, the ground of being in which humans exist, or any other such conception, the idea that somehow God is capable of hating and condemning any portion of humanity is absurd. Equally absurd is the notion that God wishes some part of humanity to hate, abuse or oppress any other part. God is, by definition, the *Higher* Power, and doesn't indulge in the base emotions which would be attributed to God by those ideas. Rather, God calls humanity to "come as [they] are in order to become all [they] can be", to use an apt phrasing from the book (p. 274).

Spong, unfortunately, does too little to describe the "God of Love" affirmatively. It is primarily in the final two sections of the book that this is attempted, and not particularly coherently. As with the book "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism", he has succeeded in exposing the nonsense but stating little of the sense found in the Bible. In chapter 20 of the present book, he asks whether there is any role for Jesus in the new view of reality he has explained, which sees humanity not as "fallen" from some state of grace in the misty past, but rather as an incomplete creation which is growing toward a perhaps impossible perfection. His answer is an endnote which states that he will address the question more completely in his next book, tentatively titled "Jesus for the Nonreligious". I find myself wishing that he had written that book now, since "Sins of Scripture" covers much of the same ground his earlier books had already examined. This book does lay out his thesis somewhat more completely, but it leaves me questioning, as I was when I first opened the book, what can be salvaged from the Bible to further a healthy, humane spiritual growth. Perhaps that is the point; after all, affirmative statements of belief have the disturbing propensity to become creeds, which by their very nature are exclusionary and divisive.

To summarize, this is overall a fine work. Those already familiar with Spong's writings will find it a bit repetitive of previous books; those who are not will find it challenging and illuminating. Being of the former description myself, I wavered a bit over rating the book '5 stars'. After reading other reviews here, many of which gave very low ratings based apparently on either the publisher's blurb rather than actually reading the book and/or the reviewer's own contempt toward anyone who questions dogma, I felt compelled to give an additional star over my initial four simply to help push the average toward a realistic rating.

Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally
Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally
by Marcus J. Borg
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.08
164 used & new from $1.91

170 of 174 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent resource for the recovering fundamentalist, November 22, 2005
I am one of the people to whom Borg is referring when he states that a literal reading of the Bible has made it "incredible and irrelevant". I was brought up in a fundamentalist Christian environment, attending church in a denomination that purports to "speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent", and indoctrinated similarly in a church operated school which censored its curriculum to exclude any view that contradicted its view of reality as seen through a literal reading of the Bible. As Borg stated, I experienced a growing inability to accept this view during early adolescence, which is for most people the time when critical (that is, discerning) thinking is developed. As I studied the knowledge accumulated by science and history, I came to reject the religious views of my childhood as contradictory to settled fact. Having no model of an alternate view available to me, I became atheist.

The peculiar situation I found myself in, however, was that I continued to have a fascination with and curiousity about the Bible. Surely, somehow, there was a way to glean some greater truth from the Bible without having to buy into fantastic and utterly unbelievable claims made by that book. With that purpose in mind, I bought this book along with several others in a similar vein.

This book has been very helpful toward reconciling my non-rational feeling that there is in fact a God or Higher Power and my rational rejection of the bibliolatry practiced by many churches especially here in the deep South. Viewing the Bible as a story of how pre-modern peoples experienced God rather than as a purportedly factual account of supernatural intervention in human affairs goes a long way toward reclaiming the Bible as a spiritual resource. This view can explain why the Bible appears to support such evils as genocide (for example, the extermination of the Amalekites), the subordination of women, and slavery. When such dicta are seen as the co-opting of God to support a cultural bias, rather than being the will of God, deeper messages of spirituality found elsewhere in the Bible can be salvaged. Borg's work encourages the reader to drop an 'all or nothing' approach to the Bible; the inescapable conclusion that portions of the Bible are false does not have to lead to a rejection of the entire scripture.

The introductory nature of this book, and therefore its occasional superficiality, cost it one star in my review. However, it remains an excellent resource for those struggling to rescue some relevance for the Bible and for those who are working to shed the negative religious experiences of their own past.

Highly recommended.
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Angels & Demons
Angels & Demons
by Dan Brown
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
1974 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable read, November 17, 2005
"Angels and Demons" is an enjoyable novel of the type that leads one to expect a movie in the near future. Fast-paced action, inaccurate but plausible science, a mystery to solve, and interesting characters remind me of Michael Crichton's novels. Yes, the plot is unlikely. Yes, the characters, especially a handsome historian/symbologist and a ravishing Italian scientist, seem a little 'Harlequin romance'-like. So? It's a fun book.

It's always a little amusing to read reviews of a book like this that complain it isn't Great Literature. Unless I'm just way off the beam here, I believe Dan Brown was trying to write something *entertaining* here, rather than trying to be the next Hemingway. In that attempt, he was certainly successful.

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
by Alcoholics Anonymous
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.00
549 used & new from $0.01

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best for *continued* study of the Steps, September 6, 2004
This book, called the 12 & 12 around here, is the best available source for studying the Steps in more detail. Of course, the Big Book ("Alcoholics Anonymous") is the place to start and it contains the program of action required to attain and maintain sobriety. What I have found to be an effective way to work the Steps is to use the 12&12 as a reference as I go along, with the Big Book as my primary text, and discussing all of this with a sponsor (an alcoholic who has made some progress working the Steps who shares his/her experience, strength, and hope with a newcomer on an ongoing basis). Some have found it possible to get sober using just the book(s) and/or meetings, but my observation is that most of these people end up working the Steps in a confused way, or worse, don't really work them at all. Sobriety is about a new way of life free of alcohol, and this life is meant to be happy, joyous and free, not merely "dry" and miserable. The best way to achieve this is to get a sponsor and make use of that sponsor, which will likely involve reading these books and considerable other action as well. See you at a meeting!
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