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Profile for C. N. Gallimore > Reviews


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C. N. Gallimore "Reader of Great Books" RSS Feed (Annapolis, MD)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible, September 21, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Evernote (App)
For whatever reason, as soon as I purchased the pay-for version of this product, it stopped allowing me to upload PDF files from my phone. Also, it is annoying that you can only download and/or print one file at a time to your computer. Google docs is free, has faster uploads/downloads, and none of these other annoyances. Just use Google docs and save yourself time, frustration, and money.

A Short History of Byzantium
A Short History of Byzantium
by John Julius Norwich
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.84
160 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Absorbing History, February 20, 2006
Upon completing this work I immediately found myself asking two questions: 1. Why have I never heard more about the Byzantine empire in all of the history classes that I have taken in both high school and college, and 2. Why has there never been a lurid Hollywood epic about the fall of Constantinople? I am not particularly upset that the second question has not been answered, but as to the first, it seems as though modern historians just don't really know what to do with Byzantium.

Norwich is very clear on where he stands in regards to the Byzantine empire, proclaiming in his introduction that had it not been for the eastern empire, the supposedly advanced west would have been overrun by peoples from the middle and far easts more completely than it ever was. The Byzantine empire, and Constaninople particularly, stood as a military bulwark against these outside forces, which made the travesties of the Crusades that much more appalling. Norwich is indeed an advocate of this culture, but he is certainly a critical one. He never flinchs from the many intrigues and forces of corruption that so often overtook the nobler aspects of this culture.

This particular volume moves very quickly, which is understandable considering that it is a condensation of his larger three volume work. But while it sometimes moves through the centuries a bit too quickly for comfort, it does a good job of balancing military, social, economic and of course religious factors that shaped the empire.

Whether you are interested in European, Russian, or Middle Eastern history, one cannot achieve a balanced view of any of these regions without attempting to understand this empire that stood between many worlds. The statement that the people of Byzantium combined the Greek mind, the Roman body, and the Oriental soul is a claim too fascinating to not consider.

An informative and enjoyable read.

Plato: Complete Works
Plato: Complete Works
by Plato
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $48.84
66 used & new from $39.99

29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy This Book!, June 13, 2005
This review is from: Plato: Complete Works (Hardcover)
If I (God forbid) could only own three books I would choose the Bible, Shakespeare, and the complete works of Plato. Plato is one of those authors whose works are so great and influential, that even if you have no idea what he wrote you probably have heard the name.

There are many debates about when philosophy really began and what philospohy should be read, but Plato is so fundamental to the entire history of western philosophy that one can hardly expect to get anywhere if one is not at least familiar with his major works. And if you are afraid because Plato is considered a philosopher, then let me assure you, there never has and never will be a philosopher who is more accessible to the average reader. I say this because all of his works are written in dialogue for, as a discussion between his spokesman, Socrates, and whoever the other boneheads trying to disagree with him are. Because of this format, the dialogues encourage an active engagement by the reader, and for the most part do not descend inot the technical rigors introduced with writers such as Aristotle (though Plato's arguments are still often long and complicated). It is not exactly what one wpuld call pleasure reading, but it's close!

The best way for the amateur to become familiar with Plato is to buy a complete works edition such as the Hackett. This is a big book, but to start out I would recommend reading 1. Meno, 2. Gorgias, 3. Sophist, 4. Symposium, 5. Phaedrus, 6. Apology and 7. Crito. These provide a good overview of Plato's philosophy inclusing thoughts on rhetoric, love, justice, knowledge and truth. You may have noticed that I left out perhaps Plato's most well known work, The Republic. I refuse to reccomend any edition but the Allan Bloom translation that is not in this edition. It is the definitive translation and is the one everyone should read.

As with all works that are translated (especially from the Greek) one will find and plethora of different editions and translations available, and not al are created equall. Aside from learning the Greek the best thing to do is just to pick up a translation and see how it sounds to you. It is true that you will never get all the right translations by buying a complete works volume, but a set like this gives you a good place to start your journey into the pleasures of Plato. Enjoy!, and may you emerge from the cave.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 1, 2008 11:48 PM PST

Leviathan: With selected variants from the Latin edition of 1668 (Hackett Classics)
Leviathan: With selected variants from the Latin edition of 1668 (Hackett Classics)
by Thomas Hobbes
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.15
142 used & new from $3.48

62 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Work of Philosophy in English, June 10, 2005
This is one of the few books in western thought that cannot recieve enough praise. It is all at the same time a compilation of classical and medieval thought, a biting commentary and critique of 17th century Europe (England in particular), an exploration of philosophy as science, and to top it all off the first truly modern work of political philosophy. This is one of those works that anyone who truly wants to call themselves educated must read, whether their focus of studies is philosophy, politics, literature, science or even mathematics.

The fundamental nature of this work is to construct a reasoned materialistic account of human behavior starting from basic definitions and postulates (very similar to geometry). From these basic principles Hobbes constructs an account of human physchology based on human desires which then culminates in man's need to leave the natural state of the world into the constructed society, which Hobbes calls the leviathan. I cannot even attempt to give a summation of the steps of Hobbes's argument here that would do him justice, but suffice it to say that Hobbes's conclusion is that in order to be happy and safe man must give up his rights to a strong soveriegn. This is a conclusion that may not look modern or attractive at all to most readers, but Hobbes's reasonong is so clear and detailed that it forces the reader to, if not agree with all of his principles, at least take them very seriously. This is one of those books that forces one to reaxamine all of their assumptions about the world. Hobbes is also one of those misunderstood authors who are portrayed as being cold and ruthless, but are simply trying to provide their readers with an accurate and analytic account of humanities problems and hopefully providing solutions.

If all of this hasn't scared you away yet I do have to say that Leviathan is not an easy book to read. Its thought is difficult and its language is archaic, but for those who are willing to accept the work this book can be very interesting and rewarding. Hobbes might be a dense writer, but unlike many philosophical writers, he is a very clear and concise and often surprisingly witty and wry.

There are two editons that I recommend. The first is the Hackett edition. Not only does it take the liberty of changing the veried spellings of Hobbes's 17th century english, but it also includes textual variances from the earlier Latin edition of the work. Some of these variants are significant and should be takin into consideration by the serious student. The other is the Cambridge Student Edition, which is the edition I used because I'm one of those students that enjoy reading the early english texts with their strange spellings. The disadvantage of this edition is that it does not include the latin variations. The introductions and suplementary material in both of these editions are fine, but my personal favorite is the introduction written by Michael Oakeshott which can be fond in a collection of his essays entitled, "Hobbes on Civil Association". Another work which greatly elucidates some of Hobbes's strong almost vehement reactions to anything democratic is Hobbes's "Behemoth" in which he provides his account of the English Civil War. If you are really interested in Hobbes I also highly recommend his work "De Cive". Hobbes is hard, but he is unavoidable for anyone interested in understanding our modern world and our world in general. You may even find that, like myself, you just can't get enough of Hobbes.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 3, 2009 11:40 PM PDT

130 Great Irish Ballads, Book and CD
130 Great Irish Ballads, Book and CD
by Robert Gogan
Edition: Paperback
22 used & new from $1.12

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Buy, But the CD is Terrible, April 23, 2004
I'm writing this review mostly as a response to the fact that the only other person to have commented on this book was so harsh. OK, yes, the CD that accompanies this book is really bad, and really not worth your time, but in my experience CDs that come with books of this sort usually are. The songs in the book, however, are what you're after, and this is a very good collection of as wide range of Irish ballads considering the price. This being said, the book is awkward in its presentation (the songs ar ein no particular order, do not corresponfd with the CD, there are no tempo indications), some of the versions of songs that are provided are questionable (but there are so many this is a minor quabble), but the songs themselves deserve at least three stars and I'll throw in an extra one for the inclusion of short histories on the pieces and pronunciation notes to some of the unfamiliar Irish terms. Overall a great buy for any musician wishing to expand their Irish repetoir.

A Theologico-Political Treatise / A Political Treatise (v. 1)
A Theologico-Political Treatise / A Political Treatise (v. 1)
by Benedict de Spinoza
Edition: Paperback
69 used & new from $0.01

20 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellently Argued, But Outragiously Sophistical, April 15, 2004
I write thise review after having written a major end of term paper on this treatise, so I may be a little close to the issue and to my own personal observations and biases to offer a good review. That being said, Spinoza's Theological-Political Treatise is a superbly reasonable and logical work essentially devoted to the necessity of freedom of speech and expression in a well ordered state. That's the short version, and if that were all that there was this work would would be neither controversial nor brilliant.
That, however, is only a part of the picture. What makes this treatise so tantalizingly obnoxious is the steps by which Spinoza achieves his aims; and be forwarned, this is a work springing from a very definite aim and not from a spirit of open inquiry. Spinoza knows where he wants to go, and is not above twisting arguments to his own ends. That being said, he performs these feats beautifully. As the title suggests, this work deals with both theolgical and political aspects and their correct placement in society. Spinoza begins with what can be considered some of the earliest modern biblical exegesis, in that he views the Bible not fundamentally as a divinely inspired handbook, but as a work that should be read in a specific historical context, its teachings aimed to deal with specific problems relating to distinct peoples and not to be taken as philosophical explanations. Because of this fact, and a complex train of arumentation which I shall not attempt to recreate here, Spinoza determines that theology and philosophy must be seperated, the former dealing with obediance and the latter with truth. From here he goes on to speak of the relationship of man to society (basically he reiterates Hobbes' argument) and the necessity of the toleration of conflicting ideas and beliefs.
There are many aspects of this work that are right on target, not the least of which are Spinoza's appeals for freedom of speech (perhaps fueled by the problems he himself was facing as a result of his ideas) and his basic model of biblicasl exegesis. The devil, however, is in the details and how he reaches these conclusions. It is obvious from his work that he is contemptuous of the majority of men who lack intelligence and can merely find solace in religion. He begins his work with a number of bold presupositions (not the least of which being his wiew of the Bible as a book obviously bereft of authority concerning clues to the true nature of God) and stacks his argument in such a tight manner, constantly sub-refferencing itself, that the average reader will have a hard time following it without the aid of diagramming it. That being said, his arguemnt is brilliant, if only in his ability to accept one easy premise which he then goes on to show necessarilly leads to a more uncomfortable one.
This is a work that needs to be read with much care. The first time I read it, I found myself enthralled with it, but upon more careful reading I became much less impressed. Is is without a doubt a classic of philosophy (or at least a very good political pamphlet) and is well worth the read, but do yourself a favor and read Spinoza's Ethics as well. Not to spoil anything, but much of what he shows here he directly refutes in his ethics. This seems likely to be intentional, and provides a warning to all those readers who wish to take the idea of this book too seriously. This work was meant to convince people of a politically expediant idea, not to show to show them the truth.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 14, 2007 9:20 AM PDT

Umberto D. (The Criterion Collection)
Umberto D. (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ Carlo Battisti
Offered by newbury_comics
Price: $17.99
24 used & new from $9.65

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humanity vs. The Modern World, February 9, 2004
The master of Italian Neo-Realist cinema, DeSica, creates with Umberto D. one of the finest films of his career (I will not say his finest because I am torn between this movie and his earlier "The Bicycle Thief"). Set in post WWII Italy, this film follows the heartwrentching story of a retired civil servant, Umberto D., and his dog, Flike, as he tries to survive on his modest government pension in a world where traditional human values have fallen before the weight of an amoral modernistic culture.
OK. So far what I have said is basically right off of the movie's box description and no more origional than what others have said. It's just that this movie is very difficult to describe without doing the nature of the film an extreme disservice. This is a movie completely devoted to instilling in the audience a sense of empathy towards a character that they very likely just passed by on the street entering into the theatre without a second thought. By attempting to convey the strong pathos of such an ordinary human being (played incedentally by a nonprofessional actor) the film offers hardly anything in the way of spectacle, just showing the realistic day to day life of forgoten humanity. This all sounds almost silly on paper, and by virtue of the subject matter it is. This is one of those movies that could not be a book. It could not convey its message by means of the printed word, and takes advantage of the medium of picture in a masterful way. One of the true greats of world cinema.
Now just a few words on the Criterion Edition DVD. As many of us have some to expect from Criterion, this DVD is presented in a sharp clear transfer and with a decently clean audio track. It also shipped with a fair amount of extra features which help to elucidate and expand the viewing experience. It has a very nice hour length documentary devoted to DeSica's films and a very interesting interview with the actress who played the maid. On top of this it ships with a few written essays. The one disappointing omission is the lack of a commentary track. Oh well, maybe some day. Overall a good buy, especially considering that this is one of Criterion's less expensive offerings.

DVD ~ Liza Minnelli
Offered by Solo Enterprises
Price: $9.00
102 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, Engrossing, Perplexing, January 30, 2004
This review is from: Cabaret (DVD)
I would like to begin by saying that this is a great movie and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys an engaging story of genuine human emotion and the need for fulfillment against the grain of common society. This is a very good movie. But I must admit that I have mixed feelings about this film. The story following the lives of an American expatriot cabaret singer and an expatriot English tutor in their struggles with love greed and survival in Weimer Republic Germany is honest and entertaining and the political subplot (I should really call it the major underlying theme) of the rise of Nazism and the dehumanization of Germany is thought provoking and sometimes tragic. The scene in which the youth gets up and sings the rousing patriotic song only to have the camera role back and disclose to the audience that he is a Hitler youth is almost frightening in the sharp change of emotions it ellicits from the viewer. The Cabaret song sequences serve to highlight certain themes and link the story together quite nicely. The ending is absolutely brilliant. And yet, with all these wonderful attributes I still can't decide whther or not I like this movie, and I can't explain why. I guess the only way to find out what you will think is to see it for yourself. I will say it's one of those movies that stays with you.

The Confessions
The Confessions
by St. Augustine
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.34
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For All Who Seek, January 27, 2004
This review is from: The Confessions (Paperback)
Let me begin by saying that this book should be read by anyone seeking to live a better life, whether you are Christian or not, St. Augustine's representation of himself and his personal struggles are so human that they are easily accesible to people's of all faiths. That being said, don't expect to come to this book and not be challenged. This book is also the best introduction to St. Augustine and his theology so if you wish to read any of his other works, start with this one.
In my opinion, this book is really two books in one, and should be treated as such. The first book is composed of the first nine chapters and forms the autobiographical portion of the Confessioons, and the tenth through thirteenth chapters make up a concise overview of St. Augustine's basic theological views.
The first part is by far the easier to read, and depend on you are searching for by reading this book, this may be all you really need to read. St. Augustine sets out candidly for his readers the story of his life; the faith of his mother that initially so disgusted him and eventually aided in his conversion, his lusts and youthful errors, and his final dramatic conversion in the garden. Some claim that many of St. Augustine's gruelling criticisms of himself are exagerations ment as examples to his parishioners (he was the Bishop of Hippo) but irregardless the cincerity and spiritual earnestness of St. Augustine's writing shines through every page. It is amazing to think that someone who lived over 1500 years ago is so much the same as men today.
The second part is the most intellectual of the two and this is the one that contains most of the theology of the work, and while I will say that this section may not be for everyone (but after reading his autobiography I hope you will feel compelled to read this) this section should NOT be read without first reading the more spiritual autobiography. St. Augustine here provides an outline for such celebrated principles as the everlasting now, and such difficult questions as was God compelled to create the world. While he does not mention much of one of his other very famous an important theological principles here (i.e. predestination) this is still the best introduction his entire cannon of theology that is available.
I'd like to say a few words on the Vintage Spiritual Classic s edition. This is a handsome well-priced paperback volume that offers a good easily readable modern english translation. I shopped around when looking for an edition of this book, and while there are some editions that offer more notes, this is the only edition that offers refferences to the scriptual passages St. Augustine is referring to. It also contains an invaluable concise introduction and timeline to St. Augustine's life and the environment in which he lived.
If you liked this, and you have good reading stamina, chack out his other major work "City of God".
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 1, 2013 8:30 AM PST

The Last Picture Show: The Definitive Director's Cut (Special Edition)
The Last Picture Show: The Definitive Director's Cut (Special Edition)
DVD ~ Eileen Brennan
Price: $10.23
77 used & new from $3.94

61 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Movie, An Awful Reality, January 25, 2004
For me there are two kinds of depressing movies, there are the kind that make you want to go out and kill yourself, and then there are the kind that just kind of numb you into beleiving that in your life you will never find meaning or fulfillment. This film falls squarely in the latter category. This film, along with Pekinpah's "The Wild Bunch" and Leone's "Once upon a time in the West" make up the core cannon of the death of the west movies yet they view it from very different angles. This film focus's on the death of the innocence of small town middle America as those few rugged individuals who had the courage to seek some sort of answer and fulfilment to their lives who were once thought to populate the west are dying off and leaving behind a dissalusioned populace without compassion, decency, and being slaves to their passions and not masters of their fates.
Set in a small town in Texas and loosely following the odyssey of one young man (Sonny) and his interaction with his fellow man (and most importantly woman) over the course of one year in 1951. Sonny isn't anything real special, just a mediocre high school football co-captain with a girlfriend he doesn't really like and who is about to graduate and likely work for the local oil drillers. Some notable traits do immediately become apparent in Sonny however, namely his apparent compassion and comoradery for an outcast mentally retarded boy, and the shine which a strong likeable old cowboy type (Sam) has taken to him. Sonny is at that terrifying stage in life where a person just begins to realize what an awful place the world really is and how awful most people in it really are. We see his flounderings through his reach towards maturity by means of his affair with his coach's wife, his indiscretions with his best friends ex, and his contemplation on the words of the old timer Sam.
There are other characters given almost as much screentime as Sam leading to multiple subplots, this movie follows the "Winesberg Ohio" model of painting smalltown life thorugh the rich tapestry of the individuals that compose it.
Thematically this movie is all about the loss of innocence, of the west certainly, but also of man in general. One of the most painful aspects of growing up is realizing that hardly anyone is truly what they seem. The movie seems to look most favorably on the outlooks of those who least try to conceal what they are and simply deal with themselves and their fellowman honestly, and this is certainly not a bad view to take; to view yourself and the world around you as it really is without a lense. And yet, the movie shows the barreness of such a view, ultimately leaving itself relatively unresolved. The movie behaves exactly as it should, and as a result is a joy to watch. Still, you do leave feeling as though you've just run a marathon through a murky swamp believing nothing and no one to be innocent. This might be true, but even if no one is innocent (which seems likely) hopefully we won't fall into mere mediocrity and keep striving for some kind of innocence.
A must see for any lovers of existentialist philosophy and lovers of beautifully depressing cinema.

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