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Memory Almost Full
Memory Almost Full
Price: $11.88
276 used & new from $0.01

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Worst Album since "Flowers in the Dirt", November 14, 2007
This review is from: Memory Almost Full (Audio CD)
As one who considers several Beatles albums and McCartney's "Band on the Run" some of the best albums of all time, I have to admit that I always have high expectations when Paul McCartney releases new music. Unfortunately, in my opinion, McCartney's "Memory Almost Full" is trite and uninspired and is his worst album since "Flowers in the Dirt" almost 20 years ago. What happened? I never expected "Band on the Run" or even "Tug of War", but I didn't expect total garbage. There's no clear direction with this music; each song wants to pull in a different direction. "Chaos and Creation in the Backward" wasn't an artistic masterpiece, but at least in went in one direction and stayed there, leading to a nice, organic whole, all the songs fitting together well. Lyrically, he could have done much better, trying really hard to be poetic, but it just doesn't work. Lyrically, he's no John Lennon, but these words sounds like a second-grade music class: "everybody's gonna dance around tonight" anyone? The song works, and overall, it is a decent tune, but it sounds too catchy and it's obvious this is the major radio hit to get people to buy the album. Most of the lyrics represent that carefree, happy-go-lucky McCartney that we all love, but this time it is somewhat over the top. Again, he is trying too hard to be poetic, resulting in lyrics that, frankly, don't make any sense. For example, in "House of Wax" he moans "To set alight the incomplete
Remainders of the future." What the hell does "remainders of the future" mean? Perhaps I am analyzing this too much, but it's this kind of stuff that makes McCartney sound like something he is not. "See Your Sunshine" has that typical McCartney flavor, as does "Ever Present Past", but both songs sound hurried. In my opinion, "You Tell Me" is the best song on the album, but sounds like it should be on "Flaming Pie". "Mr. Bellamy" is catchy, but that's all is has going for it, whereas "Gratitude" is barely palatable. "Vintage Clothes" is an uninteresting diatribe. "That Was Me" is another song that has going for it except a catchy beat; "Feet in the Clouds" and "House of Wax" are his futile attempts to sound poetic and inspiring; however, with "End of the End" he does manage to show his true self by rendering his funeral as a carefree event. Overall, this album is definitely for completists and/or die-hard McCartney fans but not for those looking for different and interesting music.


Creation: A Novel
Creation: A Novel
by Gore Vidal
Edition: Hardcover
30 used & new from $1.47

14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars "Magnum Opus"?, July 27, 2007
This review is from: Creation: A Novel (Hardcover)
While reading "Creation" by Gore Vidal, I kept imagining that the main character, Cyrus Spitama, was a representation of Vidal himself. There are several parallels that lead me to this conclusion. First, Cyrus is from an important family, and so is Vidal. Second, Cyrus is closely connected to political events around him; so is Vidal. In any case, in my opinion, I feel Cyrus Spitama is Vidal. I enjoyed this novel, probably because ancient history and philisophy are two of my main interests, and a novel, well-written and interesting on top of it, combining these two interests would surely rank high on my charts, and it does. The protagonist in the story, this Cyrus Spitama, the grandson of the religious leader Zoroaster, gets involved with different political assignments throughout the ancient world, including Greece, Persia, India, and ancient China. While on these assignments, Cyrus gets in touch in various ways with the land's resident philisophers, be it Buddha or Confucius and so forth. Cyrus is on a quest to find the meaning of "Creation", or the meaning of it all. It's unclear whether or not he finds such meaning, but by the end of the novel I feel that Vidal wants to strike a balance between endless philisophical searching and involvement in the world around us; for example, politics. This idea has it's voice in the character of Confucius, who, in the novel, is portrayed both as a philisopher and a political tinkerer. I believe that Vidal has more sympathy for the ideas and behavior of Confucius than, for example, the Buddha, who is seen in the book as a lazy bum who doesn't want to do anything productive with his time. Some of the events of ancient Greek history are seen from a "behind the scenes" viewpoint, and this is important because Vidal is known for criticizing "official" views of history. Admirers of Vidal's work will find the standard wit and cynicism laced throughout the text. Overall, this is an interesting novel and well worth the time to read it.


Midnight's Children
Midnight's Children
by Salman Rushdie
Edition: Paperback
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Over-baked, but fantastic, July 26, 2007
This review is from: Midnight's Children (Paperback)
"Midnight's Children" by Salman Rushdie is called a 'Great Book of the 20th Century" and "a modern classic," and rightly so. This novel is one of the most interesting and memorable of the 20th century, and one of the best novels by a living writer, at least that I have read. Rushdie weaves a semi-historical, semi-mythical portrayal of the newly formed nation-state of India. Throughout the book, I kept thinking that the protagonist was actually Rushdie himself; or, perhaps the protagonist represents Rushdie's generation, since he was born in Bombay in 1947. The plot is interesting indeed, which I won't get into because I don't want to spoil it for anyone. Let's just say that the protagonist relates the life of himself and his immediate ancestors in such a way to make Rushdie the "Indian mythmaker." The writing is often too much in some places, and I feel that Rushdie over did it in a few places. I do like how Rushdie would refer to his own metaphors throughtout the book to keep the reader focused, because the reader can indeed get lost in the plot if one is not careful. This novel is often put next to "One Hundred Years of Solitude" because of its style. I might agree to that to some extent, primarily because each of these two novels have a different purpose. They are both written in the style of magical realism, but again, each novel has it's own purpose. If Rushdie had kept his writing focused on India in his subsequent novels, I believe that he would be to India what J.M. Coetzee is to South Africa. However, Rushdie's scope is much broader than one country or even one culture. Anyway, that's another topic. Overall, if you have never read Rushdie, this is a great place to start.


Descartes: The Life and times of a Genius
Descartes: The Life and times of a Genius
by A. C. Grayling
Edition: Hardcover
49 used & new from $0.77

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Biographical Reading, May 16, 2007
I found Grayling's "Descartes" to be an interesting read from a pure biographical perspective. Although I have an interest in philosophy, Grayling writes in a way that reasonably intelligent laypersons can understand. Unfortunately, though, Grayling treads very little new ground, relying on past biographers of Descartes to do the legwork for him. The only new ground the author treads is relaying the proposition that Descartes was a spy. I actually find this plausible for two reasons: one, it explains Descartes' travelling; two, Descartes doesn't talk about his travelling much in his writings. These two factors give Grayling's hypothesis some weight. Grayling doesn't take too much time expositing Descartes' philosophy, but in an appendex he does give a brief introduction to it. Like I mentioned, the author does rely on other biographers for information, but that fact doesn't take away from the quality of the book. One fact that Grayling kept mentioning was that Descartes seemed to want to portray his ideals as acceptable to the church, and also to have his beliefs fit into the framework of "orthodox" theology of the time. I wondered why Grayling kept hitting on this point so many times, and then I came to the following conclusion: Grayling wants to excuse Descartes. One would imagine that if Descartes applied his method to the idea of the existence of God, one would conclude that it would be necessary to doubt, or even reject, the existence of God. Descartes never stated that God didn't exist, nor did he (as far as I know) even doubt it. By not stating that he doubted it, Descartes attempted to stay on good terms with the church. Descartes' later politiking shows me that he was concerned with ensuring his own safety, both physically and financially, which is fine. Grayling doesn't go this far in the book, but I think it is a necessary and unavoidable conclusion; I'm just surprised Graying didn't call Descartes out on it. To conclude this review, Grayling's bibliography is strong, giving the reader lots of roads to travel if one wants to explore the subject further, which I plan to do.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 19, 2013 8:07 PM PDT


Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
by Daniel C. Dennett
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.59
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Preaching to the Choir, April 14, 2007
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it is a viable solution to why religions evolved from a cultural standpoint. Dennett integrates sociology, psychology, and a little philosophy to try to explain how religions survived as a cultural phenomenon. Religion, like any aspect of culture, is a meme, and it is from this foundation that Dennett builds his theory. Basically, he says that religions evolved from folk religions into organized religion because it somehow helped its adherents form more cohesive social organizations; that is one aspect of his theory. On the other hand, I am afraid that Dennett is preaching to the choir on this one. People who have staked their whole lives on religious belief and who are also tradition oriented are probably not going to pick this book up and take it seriously. Religion is hard to break out of if one feels that his/her life is at stake. Dennett's goals are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If Dennett's theory that religion evolved to help its adherents survive in the world by forming cohesive social groups, then what would be the incentive to stop practicing religion? He doesn't answer this, and perhaps another book would be in order to address this question. Perhaps it lies in the fact that atheism is not widely accepted in American culture; hence, since there are very few atheists, it is going to take time for atheism to spread among the population. The book has an excellent bibliography for further research. However, one drawback as far as the research is concerned is that I had hoped Dennett would have provided some more historical background into how religions actually changed, especially the actual transistion from folk religions to organized religion, since that idea is a pillar of his theory. I know that historical information is not the purpose of the book, but at least he could have told the reader where to go for more information. Overall though, it is an excellent starting point if one wants a theory on why religion has survived from a cultural perspective.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 27, 2007 9:12 AM PDT


The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show: A Novel (Plus)
The Traveling Death and Resurrection Show: A Novel (Plus)
by Ariel Gore
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.55
104 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Satire, July 27, 2006
This novel by Ariel Gore is an interesting satire of Catholic religion and of American society. The author is able to sprinkle metaphors, religious or otherwise, with the greatest of ease. She writes with clarity, even when she changes tenses, which is appropriate for how the narrative flows. As another reviewer noted, she might go far; she is indeed a fresh voice in the genre of American literature. Although the novel is short, it is philisophical and insightful without being pompous. I look forward to new work by her in the future. One drawback, however, is her characterization. Frankly, the only interesting character, in my opinion, is the protagonist, who is the only character that has a purpose in life. Maybe the other characters haven't yet seen the light, and that is the point. Perhaps this is also because of the novel's length, but maybe it's because the other characters have little to recommend themselves besides acting like the vagabond malcontents that they are.


The Complete World of Human Evolution
The Complete World of Human Evolution
by Chris Stringer
Edition: Hardcover
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50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to this subject, July 19, 2006
I recommend that one read an introductory text on biological evolution before going into this book, but even without that backgroud "The Complete World of Human Evolution" is a great way to learn about apparent human evolution. The authors incorporate a lot of charts, graphs, and pictures to illuminate the field of paleoanthropology for the educated reader who has no formal background in the field. I liked how the authors introduced the academic study of paleoanthropology to the reader, as well as briefly discussing a handful of important archaeological sites. They discuss primate anatomy and evolution and how this relates to human evolution. In the middle portion they discuss each genus and/or species and how they fit into the entire picture. The final portions discuss the role genetics plays in our understanding of human evolution and migrations. The tone is mildly academic but if one knows how to read there shouldn't be a problem. Again, I particularly enjoyed this book because of the pictures and drawings of fossils, archaeological sites, etc., but they are by no means a crutch for the authors. They elucidate modern ideas about the subject, and they readily admit it when there isn't a consensus about a particular point. Admittedly, the authors believe what they know and one can tell that in their tone. There is also a nice bibliography but I found it to be a little dated. I would have liked to have seen more up-to-date resources about how the nonspecialist reader can find out about new finds and discoveries. Overall, if one is interested in this subject, one can start here.


What Evolution Is (Science Masters Series)
What Evolution Is (Science Masters Series)
by Ernst Mayr
Edition: Hardcover
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great introduction to evolution, July 17, 2006
"What Evolution Is" by Ernst Mayr is a great introduction to evolutionary biology for the educated layperson. It begins by flatly denying Creationism and gives readers a bibliography in order for him or her to do more research on that front. The book then discusses Darwin and some other evolutionary theories that preceded him. Mayr then goes on to explain topics such as genetics, speciation, natural selection, and finally, human evolution. The book does get technical in parts but this is a technical book; this is science. One weakness is that Mayr occaisonally talks about a concept or a term and then defines it in the next chapter, as if expecting the reader to know what it is (although the glossary is good and there is always the dictionary.) I think another reviewer mentioned this as well. Overall, though, I would definitely recommend this book to the educated layperson who wants to learn more about evolutionary biology. I would look elsewhere, though, if one is looking for information about human evolution, for this is not the author's purview, but he does outline the subject for the sake of continuity; the reader should look elsewhere for information about paleoanthropology. The author does rely a lot on his own research, but that's to be expected because the author was on the forefront of the "Darwinian synthesis" in the 1940s. He has a lot to win or lose on the whole thing. There is an excellent bibliography in the back, as well, and I look forward to researching more on the subject and also reading more of Dr. Mayr's work in the future.


District and Circle: Poems
District and Circle: Poems
by Seamus Heaney
Edition: Hardcover
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Evening with Heaney, July 10, 2006
Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney's latest collection "District and Circle" takes us into a multitude of worlds. The finest poems seem to be in the front and in the back. In these poems he chants lyrically about Irish farming practices to miniature homages to other poets, such as Rilke and Neruda. In the first poem, the reader can actually hear the grunt of the laborer as he struggles with his tools and we are given the sensation in real time. From a boyhood in the Second World War to what seems an odd morning in the life a mature poet, we feel the impressionist candor of Heaney's writing. I found this collection enjoyable, but there are a few forgettable poems, and a few that seem irrelevant, but it may be that I missed the nuances. Overall, it is worth reading, but do not make it your only foray into Heaney's poetry for, admittedly, it had been mine.


The Death of Vishnu: A Novel
The Death of Vishnu: A Novel
by Manil Suri
Edition: Paperback
239 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting debut, July 6, 2006
In Manil Suri's debut novel, one enters a surrealist world on the brink of magical realism. The reader can't tell what is "real" and what isn't, but the result is the same. The reader is taken on a journey into an alien, yet familiar, culture; it is alien in the sense that one is unsure how to proceed, but familiar because these are people and characters just like any other. They all have their foibles. In this novel, though, it would seem that the characters have more foibles than strengths, and it is amusing to watch their lives unfold.

I appreciated learning about Indian culture from the point of view of an expatriate. I can understand why the characters acted the way they did, although in the end it would seem that they should have taken their actions all the way to their logical conclusion. The plot is interesting, if confusing a little. I had to reread the first few chapters just to get everyone's name straight, but that could have been my fault. Overall, this book belongs in the canon of modern American literature, if there is such a canon.

This was my first foray into, what I would call, Indian-American literature, and I look forward to reading more by this author (if he ever writes any), and reading more South Asian and Indian-American literature.


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