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isala "Isabel and Lars" RSS Feed (London, England)

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The March of Folly
The March of Folly
by Barbara Wertheim Tuchman
Edition: Paperback
39 used & new from $2.98

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An anlysis of how we never learn from history, December 9, 2007
This review is from: The March of Folly (Paperback)
This work should be compulsory for politicians in times of change and turmoil, such as ours. The only problem I have with the book is the choice of Troy as an example. OK, I understand that it can be used as the archetypical model for a government which has left rationality behind and can only continue on its chosen path of self destruction, because otherwise it would have to admit that it is wrong.
Perhaps the book should have included at least one more example, like the Pelopponesian War (Athenian refusal to accept Spartan peace overtures) or the Mexican - American War of 1848 (the Mexican government refuses to arm civilians), to make its point even better. As it stands now the examples are very poignant but hardly support a comprehensive theory. Even so, the examples of the US war of independence and the Vietnam war eerily points towards the invasion of Iraq. The author died in 1989! Interpreting this book would indicate a trend in US foreign policy, inherited from the former British colonial masters.
A good companion volume to this would be Gordon Dixon: On the Psychology of Military Incompetence.

Jack of All Trades - The Complete Series
Jack of All Trades - The Complete Series
DVD ~ Bruce Campbell
Price: $16.47
39 used & new from $10.97

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The power of laughter, October 7, 2007
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
If you want to see Bruce Campbell make cinema history, watch Evil Dead I-II. If you want to see Bruce Campbell create an intelligent, compassionate comedy which both makes the viewer laugh and think, watch Bubba Hotep. If you want to watch Bruce Campbell and just have fun, watch Jack of All Trades! This comedy series had no other intention than to make its viewers laugh and escape from reality for a while.
It is wonderfully inaccurate and ludicrous, the jokes are often old, and the acting terrible, but the series succeeds because everyone understands the art of timing and delivery.
Don't expect anything from this series other than a nice good laugh. You will be happily surprised.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 9, 2008 2:49 PM PST

The Betrothed: I Promessi Sposi (Penguin Classics)
The Betrothed: I Promessi Sposi (Penguin Classics)
by Alessandro Manzoni
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.79
98 used & new from $2.47

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neglected classic, October 2, 2007
What made me read this, outside of Italy, quite obscure book? Well, Umberto Eco writes highly of it in his On Literature (Harcourt, 2004). Apparently, in Italy it seems to be considered as important as the Divine Comedy.
The Betrothed belongs to historical fiction genre. The story takes place during the years 1628-30. Northern Italy is occupied by Spain, and the Thirty-Year War rages in northern Europe. The narrator claims that he is using an old manuscript as the source for his book. Historical events, like the famine of 1628, the siege of Mantua by the Imperial army in 1630, and the plague the invaders brought with them form the framework around the story in the book. Historical and events are woven into the narrative, some key characters like the Nun of Monza, the "Unnamed", and Cardinal Federico Borromeo are examples of historical characters who interacts with the fictional protagonists.
The story centres around the Renzo and Lucia, the betrothed of the title. Local lord, however, wants Lucia for himself, and forces the village priest not to marry them. After the lord's men try to kidnap Lucia, she, Renzo, and her mother flee. During the escape they get separated, and are caught up in the historical events It will take them two years before they find each other and can marry.
The writing style could be seen as a little bit preachy with an omniscient narrator. Often the narrator breaks the narrative to make a historical or moral expose, often several pages long. Even though sometimes preachy, Manzoni fills his book with a gentle humour. I have some problems with the religiosity of the author: the theme of the book seems to be that God tests us in any which way he wants, but, in the end, if we keep faith in Him everything will turn out fine. The author himself seems to take the role of God as he writes, since he subjects his protagonists to the most strenuous hardships, but in the end, he lets them be reunited since he has also let them keep their faith in God. It seems like Manzoni wrote this book during a period when he himself struggled with his faith.
The opening paragraph of the book gives a birds view of Lake Como, and then gradually zooms down onto the village of Lecco, which is close to the unnamed village of Renzo and Lucia. This perhaps does not sound too exiting, but consider that the book was written in 1842, way before it became commonplace to see the world as if from an airplane.

Pan's Labyrinth (New Line Two-Disc Platinum Series)
Pan's Labyrinth (New Line Two-Disc Platinum Series)
DVD ~ Sergi López
Offered by Stare Media
Price: $7.99
43 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Rebllion against oppression, September 23, 2007
Mexican director Del Toro has made a film about rebellion against oppression. It is not political or materialistic rebellion, but a rebellion of the spirit. The film does not have any of the Hollywood divisions of "Good" and "Bad", or adhere to any political ideology ("Fascist oppressors vs. Communist freedom fighters"). Del Toro goes deeper than that, and therefore makes the film more general, but also more uncomfortable: he makes a film about the eternal struggle between Realists and Romantics.
Captain Vidal is a very unpleasant fellow, yet, he is a more many faceted character than the traditional villain: he lacks dreams. It is hinted at in the film that the death of his father traumatized him. Vidal now desperately clings to form. His society is a society of law, but without justice, a society of bread, but without caring, a society of either/or, but no neither/both, and, finally, a society of answers, but without questions. It falls down upon the man of science, Dr. Perreiro, to tell him that it is more than strict logic that makes a human. It is this weakness that finally destroys Vidal, he can kill, but he cannot conquer.
In contrast to Captain Vidal stands his step-daughter, Ofelia. She is also traumatized by her own father's death, but she has created an imaginary world filled with fairies, wonders, quests, and dangers, but also with ultimate hope.
It is fairly clear that Ofelia's experiences take place only in her head, but Del Toro leaves enough doubt to show the viewers that he does not want to provide any ready made answers. He might also want to show that even in the spiritual and intellectual blight that was Franco's Spain there existed magic and beauty.

Price: $16.14
40 used & new from $4.61

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laibach at the crossroads, September 6, 2007
This review is from: Macbeth (Audio CD)
This is Laibach when they were still having the industrial music sound, but were mixing it with more melodius harmonies. I say that this might well be their best cd! It is themed on Shakespear's Macbeth, so expect it to be haunting and dark - it chills me to the bones at the same time as it enthralls me with its dramatic melodies.

How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition)
How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend: The Classic Training Manual for Dog Owners (Revised & Updated Edition)
by Monks of New Skete
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.55
197 used & new from $2.77

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your dog is a dog and not a human, August 14, 2007
Most other books about dogtraining have prettier pictures, and simpler advice. However, this book gives really exhaustive advice on how to train your dog in a way the dog understands and accepts. I also think that many other books about dogs anthropomizes the dogs. This one doesn't, it all the times reminds the reader that a dog is a dog (and 100% genetically wolf), and all the training is based on that fact. It is not denigrating to the dogs, rather it focuses on the dogs feelings and point of view, so, rather, it is more respectful of the dog.
There are some caveats with this book though: these guys raise big dogs, so, naturally, their advice works best with big, and more powerful dogs - like labradors. Secondly, this book does not really focus on puppies, so you might want a comeplementary book which deals with the art of raising puppies.

Beyond the Wall of Sleep
Beyond the Wall of Sleep
DVD ~ George Peroulas
Price: $12.95
42 used & new from $1.88

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit disturbing..., August 12, 2007
This review is from: Beyond the Wall of Sleep (DVD)
This film is, I think, definitely watchable. The viewer should just remember the One Rule of fantasy, science fiction, and horror: the suspension of disbelief. Just as with Lovecraft original writings it is necessary to look behind the words, or in this case the images, to find the true horror. I do not agree that this film is boring. In the film the boundaries between sanity and insanity, good and evil, reality and imagination are blurred at the best of times, and they are nonexistent most of the time! Even the difference between the home of the inbreds and the asylum is blurred to nonexistense - it is the same filth, the same loonies walking around unattended, and in the cellars unspeakable cruelties take place. In this the filmmmakers expertly captures what Lovecraft really writes about.
Of course, the framework, the police interview, hints that something is going to go horribly wrong sometime after the film ends, but that again is true to the spirit of Lovecraft. We cannot win, we cannot run, if we are lucky we go insane before the end.

The Queen
The Queen
DVD ~ Helen Mirren
189 used & new from $0.01

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The old ideas are not always wrong, even if they appear so, August 12, 2007
This review is from: The Queen (DVD)
This film is elegant, clever, interesting, profound, and, above all, incredibly funny! It is not a comedy really, but a very witty take on a crisis.
The film concentrates on the role of the queen during a tragic event. Some of the people surrounding her, like Prince Charles and Tony Blair catch on immediately that this crisis calls for action from the royals. However, the film makes it clear that the queen's reaction is colourde by her past: she experienced the crisis during her uncle's abdication - which lead to her own father's early death - and the horrors of the second world first hand. She could not understand the effect of the death of one royal on a public cushioned by a long time of relative peace and prosperity. However, she shows her strength by stepping down and acknowledging the grief of her people.
Prince Philip is mercilessly parodied as living in his own private reality which only momentarily toches our own reality! However, the film also delivers some kicks to both Cherie Blair and Alasdair Campbell as they are portrayed as extremely arrogant and self-righteous, and in a way are as separated from the common man as Prince Philip.
The also hints at one more reason why the queen hesitated to assume leadership of the grieving masses: she also experienced the 1930s, and had a terrible fear of what could happen in times of mass-hysteria. She did not wan any part of that! She sees the role of the monarch as being a pillar of stability in a chaotic world.
The film offers no clear judgement of the actions of the queen, but it gives an explanation for her actions, and a possible understanding.
The film can also be seen as a comment on Tony Blair, as he himself got caugh in a swirl of hysteria and involved himself in the very questionable invasion of Iraq.

Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: The Complete Keyboard Works
Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: The Complete Keyboard Works
6 used & new from $63.99

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful and important collection, August 12, 2007
Sweelinck was older than Bach. His music is less intricate and eerie otherworldy than the music of Bach, but it makes up for that with its freshness and joyfullness! This definite collection is fantastic with many spirited perfomances. This music has a beauty and value in itself which far outweighs its academic interest as a precursor to Bach.
The CDs are accompanied by a real book describing the music, the composer and his place in time and space, and the organs used for this recording.

Bubba Ho-Tep (Limited Collector's Edition)
Bubba Ho-Tep (Limited Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Bruce Campbell
Price: $29.97
57 used & new from $2.55

5.0 out of 5 stars All glory is fleeting, June 2, 2007
Bruce Campbell in a sensitive and serious movie? I think we had better believe it! I just think that Campbell wants to show that the real horror is not some supernatural mummy, it is the very real horror of growing old and infirm. He just chooses to show it in the Bruce Campbell way!
Maybe one reason that I find Campbell's performance so touching is that the subject is so very personal to Campbell himself: he knows how fickle fame and glory really are, since he himself is a culthero for some, and totally unknown to most.
A weak mummy preys on the old and forgotten in a retirement home. An old an infirm Elvis Presley joins up with an even older and infirmer JFK to end its reign of terror. But it seems like the relatives and staff welcome its killings, since it gets rid of old coots, and frees up beds, and frees relatives of their responsibility.
The film is very funny, I think, and the story is good. Bruce Campbell really gives a quite deep and sensitive portrait of an aging Elvis, or Elvis impersonator, trying to restore his lost dignity.
However, maybe the final joke is at the audiences expense; I just can't get rid of the feeling that the film is really about two deluded old men hallucinating it all, escaping into a fantasy world before finally dying.

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