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Reviews Written by
Paul Grant "historian-in-training, author, speaker" RSS Feed (Madison, Wisconsin, USA)

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Junky Star
Junky Star
Price: $9.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Bingham's Steinbeck Moment, October 3, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Junky Star (MP3 Music)
Ryan Bingham's partnership with T. Bone Burnett pays off here, with Burnett's deep sense of American music history combining with Bingham's gravelly voice and his band's tight chops. This album is steeped in sorrow and poverty, a 2010 echo of the Great Depression.

The obvious comparison is Bruce Springsteen's Ghost of Tom Joad, but Bingham does the Boss one better: while Springsteen, writing at the height of American prosperity, was reminding us that poverty existed in the wealthiest country in the world, Bingham is writing at the worst time since The Grapes of Wrath, and reminds us that we've been through this before. And more: that there's more to hard times than suffering: "this depression," he tells us, is an opportunity to recalibrate our values: love instead of stuff; looking out for one's fellow man instead of stealing his farm, etc.

Bingham has his finger on the American pulse like few other musicians.

The French Revolution (Questioning History)
The French Revolution (Questioning History)
by Nicola Barber
Edition: Hardcover
3 used & new from $16.34

4.0 out of 5 stars Good refresher, even for educated adults, August 18, 2008
Books like this are far more useful than wikipedia for refreshing one's memory. I was reading a book on French politics, and came upon references to the Jacobins, of which I no longer had a sharp memory.

Nicola Barber's book is helpful. It's not simplistic if you consider its purpose: to be brief.

Barber doesn't stray from the recieved narratives, and is a little weak on discussing the motives behind the violence.

But I recommend it!

Go for Zucker
Go for Zucker
DVD ~ Hannelore Elsner
Price: $12.71
32 used & new from $3.93

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Zucker is Sweet, July 6, 2008
This review is from: Go for Zucker (DVD)
It's a comedy, first of all. It's not trying to plow new ground. What it's doing is tell lots of little slapstick jokes around the themes of cross-cultural confusion and similar.

And it works. This is a genuinely fun movie. I recommend viewers click around on wikipedia beforehand, dusting off their knowledge of the GDR. This movie touches a lot on religion, but there's an element of "Ostalgie" -- nostalgia for East Germany -- involved here.

& The Family Telephone
& The Family Telephone
Price: $17.38
39 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing, Joyful, Authentic, August 23, 2007
This review is from: & The Family Telephone (Audio CD)
This took me by surprise for its sweetness. What a wonderful album. Great instrumentation and songs you'll be singing for days. They manage to combine folksy style with cutting edge -- but not unnecessarily edgy -- poetry. A real joy.

Gracism: The Art of Inclusion (BridgeLeader Books)
Gracism: The Art of Inclusion (BridgeLeader Books)
by David A. Anderson
Edition: Hardcover
72 used & new from $0.01

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real, practical hope for the burned-out idealist, August 23, 2007
David Anderson has pulled off a feat: he's written something accessible to newcomers and seasoned veterans alike. He can invite people to the table who would rarely otherwise break bread with each other.

Anderson brings a wealth of real experience to this problem, as pastor of a multiethnic church. Drawing on the Apostle Paul's illustration from 1 Corinthians of the church as a single body with different body parts, Anderson discusses how to treat different parts in the most appropriate ways--protecting some, honoring others, treating some with special modesty, etc. The end result is common-sensical and practical while remaining visionary.

As a long-term minority member of my own church, I tend to approach these books with skepticism--perhaps too much. But David Anderson impresses. This is a book for people who might no longer believe multiethnicity is possible this side of heaven: Anderson will remind you of the hope you once had. And for the countless numbers of us who are trapped in the shame loop, where we're told to simultaneously notice and ignore race--and to simultaneously act and restrain from acting on our beliefs about race, David Anderson provides a believable way out.

Taking The Long Way
Taking The Long Way
Offered by megahitrecords
Price: $7.77
255 used & new from $0.01

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Old Protest Music (but not quite Woodie Guthrie), March 23, 2007
This review is from: Taking The Long Way (Audio CD)
This is a wonderful album. To call it a revival of the old art of American protest music wouldn't be fair to all those who've been doing it under the radar all these years, but the Dixie Chicks have thrown themselves into a rich world. Very enjoyable.

The song "Lubbock or Leave It" is perhaps the best.

My only complaint: sections of the album lean in the direction of navel-gazing. The DC have been very courageous so far, but I'd love for them to focus on the objects of their anger, rather than on their own feelings about the fact that they're angry.

Creature Tech
Creature Tech
by Doug TenNapel
Edition: Paperback
62 used & new from $1.79

5.0 out of 5 stars The most fun of TenNapel's books, February 26, 2007
This review is from: Creature Tech (Paperback)
A fault of much sci-fi/fantasy writing is an over-reliance on creative settings, at the expense of great stories. TenNapel manages to go nuts with monsters, rednecks, and mad scientists, but he keeps his eyes on the ball. The result: a thoroughly entertaining tale, a great love story, which will stick with you long after you've finished.

And wow, is this one bizarre story!

Matters of Substance: Drugs--and Why Everyone's a User
Matters of Substance: Drugs--and Why Everyone's a User
by Griffith Edwards
Edition: Paperback
34 used & new from $1.00

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's very helpful to view drugs in ecological terms. Great book., February 23, 2007
Matters of Substance is the most insightful book I've ever read on drugs. Edwards never inflames, and never understates. He looks far and wide at many cultures and countries, and never lets popular myths or received attitudes dictate his opinions.

On cannabis, for instance, he stands resolutely against the libertarian stream and points out hypocrisy on the left between nicotine and cannabis attitudes. With cocaine, on the other hand, he lays much of the blame for the epidemic of the 1980s on the medical community, who over-prescribed the drug in powder form in the 50s, creating an environment ready for a designer drug.

Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America
Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America
by Peniel E. Joseph
Edition: Hardcover
24 used & new from $7.75

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humane, full-spectrum storytelling, February 23, 2007
This book is about more than politics. It's about people, people who are indeed political creatures, but are red-blooded people, with loves, and creativity, and petty rivalries, and regional differences.

Peniel Joseph has really served the public here. I hope this book is picked up by people (like myself) born after this narrative's conclusion. By moving beyond the waters of Malcolm X and Eldridge Cleaver, and looking into the arts, and cultural developments like Kwanzaa, and religion, he was actually able to bring focus to the narrative.

It was very refreshing to see Martin Luther King as more than a teddy-bear on the one hand, and more than a broken record on the other. He was in the first instance a minister--meaning a person of faith who worked with people, in all their humanity. King changed his mind about realities, and grew, and related to people with a flexibility not shared by, say, philosophers.

Joseph leaves us with the stories of men and women, not always heroes, and not too unlike ourselves in their daily lives.

My only regret is the book's ending in 1974. It would have been nice to understand black power's interface with early hip hop, and such.

The World Is Flat [Updated and Expanded]: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century
The World Is Flat [Updated and Expanded]: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century
by Thomas L. Friedman
Edition: Hardcover
1128 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oblivious to Nationalism, February 19, 2007
Friedman reduces all non-economic social interests (religion, class, ethnicity and nation) to mere window-dressing in the mansion of motivations, and not because he doesn't recognize their power, but because he can't fit them into his scheme.

China and India on the other hand, see the world much more historically and nationalistically. These ancient and modern nations are willing to suffer a little poverty for a century, if they can be restored to greatness.

While Friedman only sees a sort of private mosaic, the sum total of every individual going about his or her own business in a self-interested fashion, Chinese students in the US are likely to talk about building a great nation--and finally erasing China's century-long humiliation. Motivation from humiliation is much, much stronger than motivation from materialism, but this book can't account for it because the author is oblivious to 21st century nationalism.

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