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Mike RSS Feed (Redondo Beach, CA United States)

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Gotham Steel 9951 Frying Pan, 9.5", Brownish
Gotham Steel 9951 Frying Pan, 9.5", Brownish
Offered by Emson
Price: $24.95
46 used & new from $24.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Piece of Junk Gimmick Pan That Loses Non-Stick Ability in a Few Weeks Time, April 18, 2016
The pan worked nicely for a few weeks, but then quickly lost its non-stick ability. As Wireless Tim's review stated from February, the pan cooks very hot and things easily burn and you have to really scrub to get it clean when that happens. But that wasn't as much a problem as when I cooked some scrambled eggs last week, with no burning or anything unusual happening. After that the pan would NOT come clean. I swear I used 30 gallons of water trying to get the egg residue out and never could get it to come clean, even with a scrubber sponge. Even using my finger nail to get the residue off was less than successful. I soaked it overnight in dish soap and still the egg residue was stuck like epoxy. Also it developed odd, pronounced scratches on the inside of the pan that I have no idea where they came from as I never used metal utensils with the pan. I think this copper pan thing is a gimmick and these pans don't hold up to their promise even after only a few weeks of off and on use. Don't waste your money. I'm sending it back, egg residue and all, and buying a ceramic pan instead.

No Title Available

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is for 200 not 400., January 22, 2015
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Not 400. You only receive 200. One box of 200 just as the picture indicates. You do not receive 2 boxes.

SPY COVER ® Webcam Cover / Screen Wipe for Laptops and Tablets [Silicon, Reusable, Washable]
SPY COVER ® Webcam Cover / Screen Wipe for Laptops and Tablets [Silicon, Reusable, Washable]

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Made for slick surfaces only., November 17, 2014
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Absolutely horrible, unless your webcam is built into your click screen, it's pretty much useless. I purchased this to cover the webcam on my laptop and because the webcam itself is build into the frame of my laptop (which is matte) it will not stick at all. Would probably work for an iPad or something of that nature, but it does not stick to anything that is not an extremely slick surface.

American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church
American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church
by Alex Beam
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.73
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5 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Be Very Discerning in Reading This Book, August 1, 2014
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I would recommend ensuring you have some foundational knowledge of LDS history before tackling this book. The reason being is there is some sloppy journalism, problematic sourcing as well as sensationalism here that the reader should be alert to. I recommend looking at the end notes particularly on some of the author's more sensational claims, which at times can be rather lacking in information as if the author is covering his tracks on dicey sourcing or information that would never hold up in sound journalistic practice or even in a court of law. I would have given the book 3, possibly 4, stars if not for the author's promiscuous use of questionable sources at times.

That said, the book is interesting and I found myself moving through it quickly because it is a fascinating tale and Beam is effective at pacing the book well by not bogging it down with unnecessary detail. Though I do quibble with Mr. Beam's conclusions at times, it cannot be denied that he relates history well and makes it very readable and engrossing. He does know how to tell a good story without burdening it with an excess of academics. But the reader does need to be careful of some questionable journalism in the book. Though Beam gets some of the detail wrong, the over arching story is one he handles well and adds some additional light to.

One of the book's main weaknesses is the author simply doesn't understand LDS doctrine. And where he claims to he can be a little dismissive and snarky about it which is his right. But that lack of understanding forms an undergirding for some rather baseless or flawed conclusions at times. For instance the author delights in highlighting instances where he thinks LDS doctrine contradicts itself, not understanding that the LDS Church is one that believes in on-going revelation and guidance from God in the leading of the faith. In the "line upon line, precept upon precept" nature of God's teaching and leading a church, that means at times God will enact or teach things previous peoples and dispensations were not ready for. That is the nature of revelation--introducing new practices or even previously unrevealed doctrine to the Lord's people. Throughout the book that lack of understanding of LDS doctrine is evident. That deficiency can make it very difficult to get a history of the LDS Church right as this book proves in many instances.

We see an example of this lack of comprehension of LDS beliefs when Beam cites what he feels is a contradiction in the Book of Mormon teaching against polygamy, even though Joseph and other early LDS Church leaders lived such marital arrangements. Yet the scripture Beam cites clearly states that unless it's commanded by God it's forbidden. That strongly implies there are times God may allow it, hench no contradiction. (For the record, notwithstanding HBO mini-series and Learning Channel docu-dramas that foster misunderstanding, the LDS faith does not practice polygamy nor has it been allowed since 1890. It is offshoot branches that call themselves LDS that do this, and that the media often conflates with the mainstream LDS religion.)

Beam alternates between being highly fair toward Joseph Smith, like acknowledging this his murder and the subsequent trial of the perpetrators (the trial being one of the really fascinating--and disheartening--parts of the book) was a gross injustice or acknowledging Joseph's intelligence and leadership strengths. Then at other times he's grossly unfair like repeating innuendo as fact. In one instance he cites a convicted counterfeiter as claiming Joseph engaged in the crime with him. Yet the end note indicates the only source for this claim is the criminal himself. Certainly Joseph was never convicted of any such crime, though yes charges were brought and subsequently dismissed. And one can easily see the guy making the claim to ingratiate himself to prosecutors or a judge, many of whom in the area hated the Mormons, thus hoping for a lighter sentence. Anyway, there is absolutely no evidence Joseph did this but Mr. Beam is content to throw the charge out and let it lie there as if just including it is enough to establish it as fact.

Unfortunately this is a habit of Beam's including especially on the polygamy issue. Mr. Beam tosses out rumors, including those put out by Mormon haters, as if they're credible facts. He also relies heavily at times on such anti-Mormon antagonists as Fawn Brody whose Joseph Smith bashing work has been well debunked by Hugh Nibley. If you report dubious information, at least be a more honest broker of history by pointing out the flaws in these claims. And to be fair a few times Beam does point out charges or claims that are trumped up. None of this is to say Joseph's real weaknesses aren't fair game for examination. One has to acknowledge that Beam does bring up some valid points about Joseph's occasional lapses.

However on the polygamy issue Beam makes much over the gossip about Joseph sleeping around, yet not a single descendent of any of these supposed sexual liassons has ever been found, with modern anti-Mormons doing much DNA searching to try to find one. Surely if Joseph were as sexually promiscuous as claimed in the book there would be offspring from these supposed trysts, and journal records of their existence. I am not going to pretend the polygamy piece is not to an extent troubling. But I do feel certain it's not the sexual orgy Beam makes it out to be either. Most credible records of the history indicate these relationships were treated with more discretion and decency than the book allows and most were not sexual in nature.

Certainly history and Beam's own account contradicts some of what Beam portrays Joseph as being in relation to the polygamy issue. If Joseph were this sexual rogue who went about town preying on peoples' wives and daughters why did so many, Emma included, mourn his death to the point of being inconsolable? The entire town of Nauvoo according to Beam was nearly paralyzed with grief and turned out to honor him and his brother as their bodies returned from Carthage. This doesn't exactly sound like a man most people resented and found disreputable. And Emma's deep grieving of Joseph's murder makes me question whether there was really as much discord between them as Beam's account alleges.

I would also point out the story Beam reports of Brigham Young having locked a young woman in a room until she agreed to be his wife has been pretty thoroughly debunked. Even Beam acknowledges her brothers and sisters felt the story was a lie as well. This is part of the sloppy journalism I referred to.

As I mentioned sourcing is a problem at times with this book, which really should be followed-through on when reading. At one point, a rather troubling claim is made against Joseph by someone the author describes as a "friend" of Joseph's. Following a research rabbit trail from the end notes, I discovered this "friend" was in fact a very activist Mormon hater. Not exactly a credible source. I'm left to wonder if Beam just included some of these dubious tales to add spice to a story that doesn't need embellisment to be intriguing.

At other times Beam simply seems to lack some knowledge of things such as when he reports, according to one Egyptologist in the 60s, that the scraps of the Book of Abraham scroll he examined have nothing like what Joseph claims is in the LDS "Book of Abraham" which was translated from these scrolls and are just funerary pieces. But Beam fails to mention most of the scroll, which was reportedly many dozens of yards long, had mostly been lost in the Great Chicago Fire and that the scraps that remain could very well be from pieces of the scroll Joseph didn't translate, or from other scrolls since there was more than one in Joseph's possession in Nauvoo. The Egyptians are known to including differing texts on the same large scrolls and also to use hieroglyphic representations that have different meanings and purposes at different times. One of the facsimile has figures which some non-Mormon Egyptologists now concur with Joseph Smith's interpretation of. Beam's scroll anecdote is not the least dispositive of Joseph somehow being a phony.

Another example of Beam getting it wrong is claiming the Book of Mormon teaches the original inhabitants of the Garden of Eden were the American Indians. The Book of Mormon teaches nothing even remotely like that.

Despite these problems, the book is worth a read if you are careful and discerning as you read it and not accepting of everything at face value. The book's importance to me lies mostly in its telling the tale of a grave injustice and a very disturbing trampling of the US constitution and its guarantees of religious liberty and fair trials. This is not the America I know and certainly hope I never will. It is an undertold story of a very ugly pock on American history. True I believe Joseph made a terrible mistake destroying an anti-Mormon printing press, but I believe he felt it an existential threat to his people which is understandable knowing the history of persecution and bloodshed they had been subject to elsewhere by Mormon haters dispensing the same bile and defamation as the Nauvoo Expositor.

Beam does a fine job portraying a people in Western Illinios in the grip of hate and unreason who as a mass defiled the constitution and Joseph's rights, and the rights of the Mormons as a whole none of it justified by the destruction of a printing press or anything else the Mormons had done. Beam's account of the trial is a disturbing case study in miscarriage of justice. Beam readily acknowledges the wrong of it all and the irrational state the people in the Nauvoo region who were whipped up by bigots and demagogues, some who wielded the printing press like a weapon of mass destruction. Beam certainly doesn't think Mormonism is all it's cracked up to be, but he definitely sees no justification in the murder and persecution that went on. This aspect of the book needs to serve as a cautionary tale for our day when religious intolerance is coming back into vogue.

Of course Joseph Smith was imperfect and all too human at times. All Biblical prophets were as well. All the Lord has to work with in leading his church are these imperfect vessels we call human beings. If you're looking for a church that never made mistakes and whose leaders were all free of flaw and folly, you'll be left to search in vain. None of what's here that is true about Joseph's foibles should be unsettling to the believer's faith. Certainly Joseph had many amazing qualities and traits the Lord saw as more than compensating for where he lacked. (Interestingly, a number of revelations Joseph received warned of Joseph's mistakes and occasional poor judgment potentially costing him his calling, something a phony would not have likely included.) Certainly on balance one has to say what he did and what he represents bettered the nation and the world. He was a man beloved by his people, a man who worked tirelessly to improve their lives and helped bring them closer to God. Surely a person like that had to have some divine inspiration behind them.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 4, 2014 8:41 AM PDT

Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas
Blood Feud: The Clintons vs. the Obamas
by Edward Klein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $9.17
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Requires Very Little Suspension of Disbelief and Conforms with Much of What We Do Know about the Obamas and the Clintons, July 28, 2014
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Is this book credible? That seems to be the subject of most of the talk about it. Most everything Klein reports seems to fit well with what we do know about the Obamas and the Clintons, which is certainly a reasonable credibility measure. Nothing Klein reports is so outrageous as to tax believability. If some of it seems out of the ordinary, that's because we're not dealing with ordinary people in the Obamas and the Clintons. We're dealing with pathologically power crazed individuals, narcissists who see themselves as indispensable to the nation who can't merely do their time and return to enjoying their families and their private lives. No, these are people who without their beloved power and being surrounded by sycophants wouldn't know what to do with themselves. So if it at times seems surreal, that's because the book is dealing with people who are really out of a whole other universe from that which most of us inhabit.

The book is a page-turner that will hold your interest with at least one intrguing revelation per chapter, though each chapter is a bit thin on content. I know many, particularly some in the Clinton camp, have trashed this book for the heavy reliance on unnamed sources, yet the use of unnamed sources is a very common and accepted journalistic practice even among the most reputable of journalists. Most Washington inside sources when revealing embarrassing information do so on "background" or even "deep background." They wouldn't keep their jobs otherwise. That kind of sourcing is a staple of Washington reporting. Klein does an adequate job of defending his journalistic method in the epilogue. That said, need anyone be reminded that one of the biggest presidential scandals in American history, Watergate, was broken by an unnamed source? Klein has a stellar journalistic resume that I doubt he'd put at risk by engaging in fraud.

One must also remember when evaluating the book's credibility that most people are inveterate gossips. As any good journalist knows, people are dying to talk. Think about it. How many times have you gotten something juicy out of a friend or family member or heard them say something odd or scandalous and the first thing you wanted to do was to tell someone else about it? Even if you showed decency and refrained from betraying a confidence, it was still likely tempting to want to tell an interesting story to others. So why is it so hard to believe that people around the Clintons and the Obamas wouldn't also want to tell what they know? With leaks being so much a part of the political culture, what is hard to believe is the Clinton camp's protestations that none of their people talked anonymously to Klein nor would they.

I'm not sure why some Clinton people are so thin-skinned about this book anyway, unless they're the same people who gave up the goods to Klein and are now attacking the book to cover their culpability. For the most part the Clintons don't come out of it looking so bad. In fact they often appear sympathetic, victims of Obama's ego maniacal excesses and lack of integrity. And interestingly from my read of the book the Clintons even seem to have the better marriage compared to the Obamas who, from what the book relates, can barely stand one another.

Even on Benghazi Klein indicates Hillary wasn't comfortable with the lies and the cover up out of the Obama White House (according to Klein, Bill was apoplectic about it), but went along to be a good soldier--and to hopefully get Obama's political support in the future. Personally I'm not convinced of Klein's good soldier narrative here. I think Hillary was just out to protect her own political viability and to hide any appearance of incompetence in her role by helping sell the snake oil she and the Obama team told on Benghazi.

The one who comes out looking the worst in this book by far is Barack Obama. Conniving, dishonest, peevish, disloyal, untrustworthy, mean-spirited, insular, arrogant, incompetent, I could go on and on. It is clear from this book, and from current events in the world, that Obama just doesn't have a clue how to be a leader, how to run the country or operate US foreign policy or how to handle people. And Obama's apparent philosophy on promises is that they are like eggs--made to be broken. The man will tell any lie and break any promise so long as his ends are served by the means. The president's smallness is a highlight revelation of this book.

Another stand-out revelation as carried over from Klein's other book on Obama, "The Amateur," is the continued prominence of Valerie Jarret in this administration and the extremely outsized amount of power she wields in this White House. She makes decisions she's not remotely qualified to make on the economy, healthcare, foreign policy and even national security with the president then running with her edicts. It is easily arguable she has more power and influence than even Vice President Biden. This should not be--she wasn't elected to a damned thing. Yes, every president is entitled to their confidants and trusted advisors. Almost all have had them. But the relationship between Jarrett and the Obamas is of a whole other kind and more than just a little disturbing.

She is in very fact the puppeteer over Obama that the left claimed Dick Cheney was for George W. Bush, but which subsequent facts and insider accounts show was never the case. But it is clear from this book and many other sources that Jarret plays precisely the Dick Cheney role in this administration the left claimed about the former vice president played over President Bush.

Granted, Klein indicates Jarrett was overruled in her opposition to trying to work out a deal with Bill Clinton to vigorously support Obama's 2012 re-election. But even she came to be convinced of the need for that (one of the few times her starting counsel didn't carry the day) as it became clear in the course of the 2012 campaign that Barack Obama was in real trouble and faced the very real prospect of losing to Mitt Romney. It was only a scare like that which forced Obama's hand in the rarely done move of disregarding Jarrett, who shortly after changed her mind as well. But even then she worked to ensure Obama screwed over the Clintons after 2012 by not giving them a thing they were promised in terms of Obama throwing his support to Hillary for the 2016 Democratic nomination, enraging the former president.

Other stunners include Hillary's life endangering arterial blockage and particularly the very precarious state of Bill's heart health. I can see both conditions presenting themselves as very grave problems in the heat of a 2016 presidential battle. It strikes me as very reckless that either would risk their health and their lives just to get back to the White House, a job that left them hugely battle scarred last time. Why anyone would crave that job as much as they do is beyond me. It is an utterly thankless task in a country and a world that seem more and more ungovernable.

My realization is that we will only know for sure just how factual this book is as the 2016 campaign unfolds. If Hillary throws Obama and his failed record under the bus and campaigns against that record almost as vigorously as she does the Republican candidate, we will be very safe in saying Klein wrote the truth. Already we see Clinton surrogates like Leon Panetta and Madeline Albright publically criticizing Obama's Iraq policy and wider foreign policy, with the latter just within the last few days saying "the world is a mess" on his watch. I don't think this is mere coincidence coming from Clinton allies who have largely remained silent and on the side lines until now. It is part of, and conforms with, the larger behind the scenes drama Klein does a very capable job of revealing in his book. And I think we'll be seeing more of it during the upcoming 2016 presidential race.

Hard Choices
Hard Choices
by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.25
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43 of 63 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Like Hillary, The Book is All Confection and No Conviction, June 23, 2014
This review is from: Hard Choices (Hardcover)
What a break-through moment this could have been for Hillary Clinton if she had written a truly candid memoir of her time in the State Department. Instead, she reverts to form, not wanting to take any risks, not wanting to step on any toes, not wanting to ruffle any feathers by speaking hard truths--or admitting mistakes other than those which are politically popular to own up to. I really see no "hard choices" evident in this book. No, it's just about creating an oversized campaign pamphlet in the hopes of getting votes for 2016 by glossing over her mistakes--especially the naïveté of the vaunted Russian reset--and her lack of any real record of accomplishment.

It's astonishing that a book as thick as this could be so thin on content. What emerges from this book is another reminder of what a political animal Hillary is. We hear all about her regrets over voting for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 as a senator. (The only mea culpas she'll offer are those like the Iraq vote "mistake" that are pre-requisites for remaining politically viable). Yet I think we all know had the war gone well and remained popular she'd grand stand on how great her wisdom and foresight was in supporting it. That is what she was counting on when she voted for the Senate Use of Force Resolution, that the war would remain popular in a state that suffered the most on 9-11. (No I'm not implying Saddam had a role in 9-11; simply that Hillary may have felt New Yorkers would want the most aggressive approach possible in combating terrorism and rogue regimes in the Middle East). She also tries to have it both ways on the Iraq Surge, though Bob Gates in his book says she admitted to him her opposition to it was purely political.

On Benghazi, politics again trumps truth in Hillary's portrayal of events as she continues to stake out the untenable (and untruthful) position that the You Tube video was relevent to what went on. That's been thoroughly debunked. She's just insulting our intelligence now. Her claim that she made no security decisions for the Benghazi consulate is either a blatant falsehood or an admission of breaking the law. According to Secca laws passed in 1999, the Secretary of State is PERSONALLY responsible for making all security decisions for all US diplomatic posts and this responsibility cannot be delegated. So she either broke the law, was ignorant of the law or as is most likely, and typical of her, is not being honest in admitting culpability.

I will give her credit for a rare moment of candor in an otherwise ocean of bland when she relates having expressed disagreement with Obama's inept handling of the Syria crisis. But the finger of blame has to point at herself in this portion of the book as well as it seems to me in her portrayal of the policy deliberations that she exercised little leadership nor influence and no courage in trying to change the president's mind. That failure empowered jihadis at the expense of the more moderate and secular opposition forces in Syria like the Free Syrian Army and lead to the current jihadi spill over into Iraq we're dealing with now that has nearly left that country in the hands of America-hating ISIS terrorists as well as the vast swaths of Syria they already control.

Instead of being forceful and bold to prevent this current mess we're in, she simply states that she doesn't like losing a debate. Even Obama's ambassador to Syria Robert White resigned as ambassador rather than spend another minute dealing with Obama's dithering and incompetence on Syria.

This book just drifts from one event to the next, from one anecdote to the next, from one piece of spin to the next. There's no connecting narrative or thesis to hold it together or provide it with something to make it thought-provoking or discussion worthy. Like Hillary, it's just confection free of any conviction. It seems almost to be a book designed by focus groups to ensure nothing would be written that would stir controversy or cost her votes in 2016.

The book reads like a Cliff Notes booklet on Obama first term foreign policy--and is about as inartfully written. As is obvious I'm no fan of Mrs. Clinton, but had she actually written it herself I think her considerable charm could have made it more readable--though her instincts to keep it politically palatable would still almost certainly have ruled the day. But with her as writer we may have gotten some badly needed detail and insight. As it is, the book is so surfacey as to create little interest in what's being written about. It does nothing to challenge the reader or make them think.

It's ironic that as you read this you find yourself craving an insider's perspective--it's almost as if these events are being told by someone who wasn't even present, which I guess is an accurate way to look at it since the book is heavily ghost-written. What exactly did Hillary do to earn her $18 million advance here? Let her name be slapped onto the jacket, pose for the cover photo and sign a few books? It's basically a sedative meant to keep you from thinking too hard or too critically about the kind of person Mrs. Clinton is or the kind of president she would be. It just feels like one big gutless, concocted, finger in the wind which is perfectly emblematic of the kind of politician and person Mrs. Clinton has always been.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 2, 2014 10:00 AM PDT

The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea
The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea
by Charles Robert Jenkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: $29.95
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 40 Years of Wasted Life in the Land of the Bizarre, May 4, 2012
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What a bleak world Jenkins paints of life in North Korea. Though he was spared much of the abuse and terror inflicted on many North Koreans who cross the tyrannt pygmies that run the nation, he nonetheless was a prisoner in a country that is one giant penitentiary.

Not as tough a read as Escape from Camp 14 nor Aquariums of Pyongyang in terms of brutality, Jenkins nonetheless paints a compelling portrait of the hopelessness of life in North Korea--and he and his other American deserter friends had it relatively good compared to the average North Korean, certainly being spared the full brunt of the depravation experienced by most North Koreans.

The story of Jenkins' crossing the DMZ is pretty fascinating, though I was never clear how he got across such a heavily fenced and fortified frontier. But cross he did which put him into a truly twisted world for the next 4 decades.

Other unanswered questions by the book are why the North Koreans spent so much in the way of resources on him, especially in his final years in North Korea, when according to Jenkins they really made very little use of him other than as an English teacher and as an actor in the occassional propaganda film. One example of this is he and his family apparently being given enough food to exist on while much of the rest of North Korea was starving under mass famine in the 90s.

It doesn't seem to me Jenkins could have been all that valuable to them, especially since he had no intel. or secrets to reveal. Perhaps he did more for them than he's willing to reveal, or realizing he may one day go back to the West the Koreans thought he might return singing the praises of life in North Korea if they spoiled him a bit. As with so much else with this bizarre regime, I doubt few outside the Kim dynasty inner circle really knows the reasons for their enigmatic behaviors.

One can at least be glad that some good came of this awful experience in that he met and fell in love with his Japanese wife while in Korea, a hapless young woman who had been kidnapped from Japan years prior as a young girl by North Korea agents. The book does a good job of bringing focus to these largely ignored atrocities of North Koreans snatching people from countries throughout the world to force them to become spies or to train North Korean agents in foreign languages. I'm not sure whether this is an on-going practice by the North Koreans, but I'd say the most valuable contribution of Jenkins's book is building awareness of these crimes by the North Korean tyrannts.

The book is a tad souless and I think heavily ghost written being as Mr. Jenkins is not a well-educated man. As a result it's a little lifeless. But then maybe that represents well the existence Jenkins endured in North Korea for 40 years. I never really felt a connection with Jenkins like I did with Shin in Escape from Camp 14 or those North Koreans portrayed in Nothing to Envy. You certainly sympathize with him for the occassional abuse he endured and the bleak, controlled existence he lived in North Korea.

I was prepared to judge Jenkins rather harshly when this story first popped up in the news about 8 years ago, but as you read his story you realize he was just a simple guy who as a young man made a terrible error in judgment, fearing the possibility of being sent to Vietnam and in the ensuing anxiety brought on by that perhaps broke down mentally and acted impulsively. It's clear he never intended to stay in North Korea for long hoping to be turned over to the Russians and sent back to the US where he'd face a less harsh court martial. I'm grateful the US Army ultimately let him off lightly when he eventually made it to Japan, realizing he had suffered enough. I think that reflects well on the country and the kind of people we are.

I am happy for Mr. Jenkins that he's raised a solid family and honors his marriage to a woman who seems to be a quality individual. I'm also happy for him that he has an idyllic life in Japan after 40 years of depravation in North Korea.

This is a good read for anyone interested in life in North Korea, though not as engrossing as other books I've read about North Koreans enduring the horror show known as life in North Korea. It's also a bit short on nail biter moments of tension like you get in other books by North Koreans who escaped their country's oppression. But you'll get a good feel for how surreal life is in this truly freakish nation.

Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
by Blaine Harden
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.34
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Human Beings Treated Like Animals by a Sadistic Regime, April 10, 2012
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Imagine a government so deranged it locks up entire families in brutal slave labor camps, some larger than the greater Los Angeles area in terms of land area, and for 3 generations of family members who had nothing to do with the original POLITICAL offense--all at the say of the regime's tyrant leader. Something out of Orwell? No, the reality of life in North Korea and its infamous and brutal Camp 14, which sadly is only one of many dozens of such political concentration camps throughout North Korea.

Shin is the only person born into one of North Korea's slave labor camps to escape and to live to tell the horrifying tale to the free world. The stultifying brutality Shin describes in the camps becomes almost too much to read, but Blaine Harden, the author, very deftly tells just enough to avoid making the book too burdensome to read, yet giving just enough so we understand the sheer terror being doled out by the parasitic Kim dynasty.

From a school girl beaten to death by a "teacher" merely for having a few kernels of corn, to Shin being permanently maimed by having been held over a fire by sadist guards, to men and women, and the babies, being beaten to death for merely choosing to have children (breeding could only happen by special permission and in arranged relationships,) humans are treated in ways in Camp 14 that we would never tolerate animals being treated in the US.

Harden does a good job of moving swiftly through material that's difficult to read and draws a fast paced tale that will keep you in its grip. It is unbelievable to think Shin never knew a better world existed beyond the depravation, slavery, sadism, betrayal and murder of the camp into which he was born. To him, this was normal life. It is heartbreaking to hear Shin never knew the concept of love, never even used the word or had it expressed to him, until he was past childhood and was cared for by a kind man in the dungeon prison he was consigned to (an actual prison within a prison if you can believe that) after his mother attempted to escape. And he was damned to this savage world all because an uncle he never knew chose to live in South Korea back in the 50s. Surreal.

A little less than half the book is devoted to Shin's post escape life which I found just as intriguing as his camp experience. You really feel for Shin as he deals with survivor's guilt, especially the shame of having betrayed his mother and brother when they planned to escape.

In this way the book poses an interesting moral and ethical conundrum---when it is a camp rule that any overheard escape plan must be reported to the guards at risk of death for remaining silent, do you keep quiet and risk being killed too along with the would-be escapees who have little or no chance of carrying off an escape? Or do you betray them to save yourself and the rest of your family? That's a hard one to answer. I don't know what I would do in such a situation. With only 2 equally horrorifying paths to take in such an awful dillema, one must not condemn Shin's choice. It was triggered by a survival response beat into him by psychotic camp personnel who engaged in a coordinated effort to turn humans into little better than insects, insects who live or die at their whim.

And like other books I've read on North Koreans who made it to South, it is saddening to read of the difficult transition many experience in fitting into South Korea's unforgiving and gentrified culture, though credit must be given the South Korean government for doing much to bring such refugees to the South and spending generously to help them assimilate. Shin certainly benefitted from this munificence.

Despite this, it was disheartening to learn in the book of South Korean's apathy towards the suffering of their northern brethren, being too caught up in materialism and the drive to succeed over one's neighbor. I was frankly shocked by this. Even worse was their unwillingness to see the South Korean government take tough measures against its evil and murderous neighbor, even after dozens of provocations which have killed 100s of South Koreans over the decades. A society that values its freedom, and that of others, so lightly will not remain free for long--especially when it is motivated by selfishness and greed.

"Escape from Camp 14" takes its place along side "The Aquariums of Pyongyang" in effectiveness in laying bare this monstrous regime. My conclusion after reading so much about the demons that run North Korea is that US policy must be one of regime change there. Not by force, but by a complete Western embargo of the regime including food aid. Yes, many will die when famine takes hold again. A tough choice. But I believe the short term pain such a policy would lead to will save many more lives in the long run. When the Satanic regime can no longer even feed its military, as happened in the 1990s famine, it will quickly collapse. This book makes the case for why this must happen and soon to prevent more of the kind of Kim family barbarism we learn of in this book.

This is why the recent deal announced by the Obama administration for North Korea to suspend its nuclear program is a major sham. We've been down this road 2 other times and been played as fools both times by a reptilian regime which has no compunction about torturing its own people, therefore why would they have any conscience about cheating on a deal made with Americans they despise? When the regime's pantries are again full, they will do what they did the last two times---go right back to their nuclear ambitions. Why else would they be preparing to test a ballistic missile if they're sincere about ending their nuclear programs? Once again, naiveté has gotten the better of Mr. Obama's judgment on national security issues.

This is a book you won't soon forget. Shin is a haunted soul who cries out to an oblivous world to end the modern day Holocaust occurring in North Korea. At one point, Shin makes a statement to an audience in Seattle that the Kim regime is worse than Hitler. He may have a point. North Korea clearly has not killed more than Hitler's regime did, but I would chalk that up only to a lack of opportunity outside its own borders and years of the West effectively containing the brutish regime. But containment is no longer enough as 1 to 2 million of North Korea's long suffering people die from the regime's blood thirsty and incompetent policies. Awareness brought on by a book like Shin's, and the courage it took for him to allow it to be told, will help hasten the day this vile regime is consigned to the trash heap of history.

American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History
American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History
by Jim DeFelice
Edition: Hardcover
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Personal War Story, February 1, 2012
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On the surface, some may see Kyle's book as a great war story--it is that. But a deeper read of the book shows this to be a highly personalized account of the evolution of a man over the back-drop of war.

Overlayed onto the story of Mr. Kyle's war time experiences is the story of Chris's evolution as a man, as a soldier, but most of all as a father and husband. Woven in throughout the book is story of his courtship and marriage to Taya, and to their starting a family. The book shows the not so pleasant realities of the difficulty imposed on our military families by fathers and husbands answering the call of duty. I admire Kyle's candor about his putting country (and the SEALs) ahead of his family. Some authors would not be so willing to display their personal pocks like this.

I was afraid the story of his marital relationship and its difficulties would take away from the narrative, but far from doing so it enriched it especially with the commentary written by his wife which added dimension to the personal drama of Kyle's 4 deployments. One has to appreciate a man whose patriotism and sense of duty called him away from home and family so many times. Some might condemn his priorities. But without such men, who would fight our battles?

As mentioned, the book shows Mr. Kyle's evolution away from a priority list of God, country and family and turning it into the more correct sequence of God, family country. At the end of 4 long, eventful deployments, Mr. Kyle clearly came to realize what's most important in life and that a man should only be asked to sacrifice so much for his nation--and that his family needed him more than the war did. You have to give Chris credit for this awakening. Not that what he did in taking 4 deployments was wrong--far from it--I believe he was doing what God intended for his life. But he did the right thing leaving the military when he did. Clearly it was time.

The events he was involved in during the Iraq War are of course the main focus of the book and for me the most engrossing. Chris is a great story teller and the battles he fought are well drawn and really pull you in. The Fallujah chapters were particularly interesting. I felt like I was there in the thick of the battle with Chris and his team. The story of the 2400 yard kill he made near the end of his final deployment was truly amazing. Mr. Kyle's wicked sense of humor also shines through the narrative as well. This is anything but a dry read.

Not as big a page turner as his buddy Marcus Lutrell's book "Lone Survivor," "American Sniper" nonetheless deserves its own honored place in the realms of recent war literature. While "Lone Survivor's" chapters on Seal training I felt were stronger, Kyle's book nonethless does a nice job describing this grueling process. This book is certainly more personal than Lutrell's book, and I think I came away with a better sense of who Chris Kyle is than I did from Lutrell and his book.

My only quibbles with the book are I wish he had used less profanity. I know that's how soldiers talk and I don't want to rob the book of Chris's personality (which comes out abundantly in the volume). I just thought it was a bit excessive.

I would have been interested too in having more dates to the events described to give us a better idea of the time line of Chris's tale. I think the book could have used a little more disciplined editing too, eliminating some of the one and two sentence paragraphs and the sections describing the guns Chris used which didn't really interest me not being much of a gun guy. But I'm sure this will be of great interest to gun enthusiasts. I just thought that aspect could have been blended into the war stories. Despite that, the book is well-paced and never bogs down at any point other than perhaps the gun section, but even then just barely. But these are minor critiques.

To the left wing scolds reviewing the book on here who want to dismiss Chris as a "warmonger," stop playing so predictably to type with your tiresome self-righteousness. I have my doubts you even read the book. Chris isn't some blood thirsty fiend. He was a man who had a job to do and did it well and took justifiable pride in it--even if you don't understand that or agree with the Iraq War. He truly felt what he was doing made the world a better, safer place. Instead of simpering over people who'd gladly kill you and your family merely for being an American try thinking of the lives he saved, both American and Iraqi, by taking out the terrorist beasts who wanted to use Iraq to impose their nihilistic, oppressive and monsterous perversion of Islam on Iraq and the region. Who are those of you who never served and were never in Iraq to question Chris's motives?

Overall a book that will draw you in and hold you. Well told, unafraid, candid, honest, unvarnished. Admirable traits for a war biography in such PC times as ours that discourage the idea of there being any glory to be had in war. Mr. Kyle does a competent job putting the lid on that sentiment. Thank you Mr. Kyle for all you did for me and for all you did for all of us.

Michael Palin - New Europe
Michael Palin - New Europe
DVD ~ Various
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Slightly Disappointing, January 26, 2012
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This review is from: Michael Palin - New Europe (DVD)
I loved Round the World, Full Circle and Pole to Pole. This series lacked the energy, humor and spark of those aforenamed shows. Palin is still emminently likeable and has a great eye for the off-beat and off the beaten track. But at the same time his age is showing and he just doesn't have the quick wit and ready sense of humor he once had in the earlier series. Not that I blame him. Travel is tiring, especially marathon traveling of the type he does.

Regardless, "New Europe" was engaging and held my interest throughout. I questioned a little bit the choice to go to Turkey which was never an East Bloc nation--and also the least interesting part of his journey. And the series felt a little rushed at the end in eastern Germany. That said, I was very glad Palin included the former East Germany in his journey. Also interesting was his visit to a Stasi museum and Cauceascu's obscene palace in Bucharest.

One other criticism is that Palin in looking for the off beat went for the purient just a tad, including a cross dressing performer and a burlesque show. Not attacking people for their lifestyle choices, it's just not what I'm looking for in this type of programming. Nor is it what I would consider indicative of the culture like so many other unusual people or places Palin often found in this series and his earlier ones. But it's a niggling complaint.

Overall worth the price, though I have to say I'm not sure it would lend itself to multiple viewings like his earlier DVDs did.

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