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America the Virtuous: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire
America the Virtuous: The Crisis of Democracy and the Quest for Empire
by Claes G. Ryn
Edition: Hardcover
25 used & new from $10.93

21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best short book on the geneology of neoconservatism, February 15, 2005
it's hard to gain a sense of scope, in a short book, of the depth of the malicious current which now afflicts american politics in the fascist redux of neoconservatism. ryn does admirably, tracing the mindset of radical/revolutionary polarized idealism such as we see today in neoconservatism to the rousseauian jacobins.

ryn concentrates revealingly on the revolution within the form that has taken place in america, including the onset of political euphemism and the perversion of abstract words like "freedom", "capitalism" and "democracy" such that they mean now nearly the opposite of what they once meant. using the same words with wildly different meaning is the mechanism by which the united states pretends to adhere to the old lockean/puritan values of its founders while betraying them on every front. it is a central point in understanding the political development of america in the 20th and 21st centuries as it moves to totalitarianism.

it's extremely difficult for any short book to cover western militant idealism as it has evolved from plato through the renaissance and counter-enlightenment to modern decadence and fascism, and ryn to her credit tries to concentrate her field of view in a very complex topic. that necessarily means oversights, of course, and many aspects of idealism's intellectual development are left untreated -- most notably, the heavy influence of trotsky, himself something of a new jacobin and the advocate of perpetual revolution.

but the book remains a compelling foundation for her thesis and potentially represents brutally enlightening reading for many americans who think fascism "ended" in 1945 and could never happen here. the unfortunate truth appears to be that is has been happening here for decades, and is moving to an endgame.

Checkpoint: A Novel
Checkpoint: A Novel
by Nicholson Baker
Edition: Hardcover
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a possible signpost, August 25, 2004
This review is from: Checkpoint: A Novel (Hardcover)
i've read baker before ("mezzanine") and this is an entirely different approach. gone are the minute observances and analyses of passing moments and events, implying significance in detail. in its place, barely mitigated rage -- in the form of a dialogue between two erstwhile friends, representing temptation and discipline -- directed at the dubya administration. but that, of itself, represents a different kind of observation.

many people will concentrate on the fact that the novel is framed as a persuasive argument (a dialogue, almost in theater form) for and against killing a sitting president, and that's for some a violation of "holy" edict. but that's really a sideshow within the book, imo, which is more of a discourse on the popular perception of futility and despair in the state of american government affairs, and is vivified by resultant (and altogether common) anger. it also pays to note that the novel could have just as well been written from the republican point of view about killing clinton.

the dialogue moves quickly if obsessively and rambling, and the book is a short and easy read. the conversational language is typical of the informal stream-of-consciousness literature of our times, which robs the language of any poetry but is widely accessible even among the barely literate. symbolism is somewhat heavyhanded -- some of it made necessarily ridiculous by the need to skirt american law regarding our demotic royalty.

works like this from intellectual authors -- especially one that has built a reputation on close observation -- appear only in times of great political stress, imo. the very existence of the book is perhaps its most interesting feature, serving as a sort of standardized-testing oval in an examination of our society that we can now shade in with our No. 2 pencil. as an observation of our world, it is a warning for the perceptive -- the understanding and compromise and patience of days gone by is fraying, even if it is still usually reached, and the end of civil peace may be approaching.

Class: A Guide Through the American Status System
Class: A Guide Through the American Status System
by Martim De Avillez
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.00
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars enjoyment depends largely on your viewpoint, August 6, 2004
one must understand the common thread that runs through most of the negative reviews here to really get a hold on why reading this wonderful little study may or may not be a pleasant experience for you. said plainly:

if you are -- as the vast majority of twenty-first-century westerners now are -- a plebiscitarian, weaned on the idea that we are all equal and equally deserving, that we all deserve an even say in our society, that institutions are best that respond to what the people want as demonstrated in polls... you will probably find this book humorously observed but offensive, perhaps profoundly so -- although i can't say for sure because i am not one of you.

if, on the other hand, you are one of the seemingly very few who think (perhaps as a result of reading too much history or not listening well enough to the television) that the people consist largely of an unruly, semisentient mob prone to electing the most affable idiot, or that we may have lost something important by taking out of context the populist ideas of rousseau and marx and implementing them in the extremes that we have across our society... this book will appear to you the incisive, witty, not entirely serious and immensely enjoyable social criticism that is was intended to be.

America: What Went Wrong?
America: What Went Wrong?
by Donald L. Barlett
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.60
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25 of 109 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars anti-capitalist drivel, November 20, 2001
If you're convinced that we'd have been better off as a socialist state with wealth redistribution run thought government instead of the private sector, this is for you.
If you like to pretend that your lot in life is a result of the victimization of the masses at the hands of the wealthy, be my guest.
If, however, have any knowledge of how market forces shape the world, forget this laughable bit of tripe from two Pulitzer Prize winners who must be waiting eagerly for the collapse of Western civilization -- right next to the guy with the "Repent Now, Ye Sinners" sign. It's essentially radical leftist propaganda of the funniest order.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 16, 2013 11:17 PM PDT

I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings
I Might Be Wrong: Live Recordings
Price: $10.69
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars typical brilliance, November 14, 2001
Nothing that Radiohead seem to do is misconceived, but it's impossible for every single record to be as life-changing as "OK Computer" or "Kid A". And this isn't -- it's a pieced-together live set of eight songs. But it is also a fine general representation of the earth-shaking show I saw in Chicago in 2001 (though the actual recordings were taken from European shows).
It has moments, surely. "Like Spinning Plates" sheds some of the electronic inaccessibility of its studio version to display a beautiful framework; "True Loves Waits" is simple and wonderful and never again to be the very rare and desirable oddity known only to the devoted; the swelling cacophony of "Everything In Its Right Place" is, to my mind, one of the great rock concert moments of this year.
Truly, the reinvention of the "Kid A/Amnesiac" songs that was required to play them outside a studio is enthralling to listen to. While perhaps not essential to the casual fan, the devotee will we well rewarded.

74 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars the brass ring, November 1, 2001
This review is from: Gold (Audio CD)
Ryan Adams probably isn't going to start writing bad songs anytime soon, but it's hard not to see this collection as something of a stab at commercial viability. No shame in that, really -- the guy should do whatever he wants. But it does take some of the edge off the raw, underproduced character that had previously defined his work. And some folks will have trouble with that.
That said, Adams is still one of the best of the -- let me use the cliche here that he doesn't always fit -- "alt-country" artists out there. The only problem with "Gold" might only be that it's not "Heartbreaker" or "Pneumonia". While it might suffer from those lofty comparisons, it's still pretty darn good. And it's another step in the evolution of a wonderful young songwriter that has been (and I suspect will continue to be) very rewarding to watch.

Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition)
DVD ~ Orson Welles
46 used & new from $9.97

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars how many reviews of this film are there now?, September 5, 2001
I think this is 235 or something. That alone should be enough to tell you something about the power that this movie still commands to generate controversy, to offend, to hypnotize, and to shock. And if you don't enjoy films that can do that 60 years after they were made, you should probably be browsing the music section.
There are a lot of folks who will tell you this film "sucks" pretty much because of where it finished in some poll of snobs. They don't like snobs. So they trash the film. That's missing the point.
Some others try to outsnob the snobs, by making hyperarcane references to camera angles, cuts and lost films of the 1910s and 1920s. They miss the point too.
But, if you can get past all the social and personal problems of the many unedited reviewers here, and simply plug in this film with a bowl of popcorn and a beer on a Thursday night -- and somehow manage to watch withut prejudice -- you almost can't help but be entertained. "Citizen Kane" is still maybe the most watchable movie I've ever seen. Dark, mysterious, glorious and wistful. You don't need a PhD to see what kind of man Kane could be and the kind of man he becomes. However, if you DO happen to have a PhD, there's more intellectual meat the the bone of this film than many smart folks can digest in a lifetime.
Bottom line: "Citizen Kane" is going to be as close as any film will ever come to being all things to all people. Which is still a long way from actually being that -- thus the controversy -- but getting even this close is an exhilirating trip.

Low to the Ground
Low to the Ground
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars compulsive listening, August 16, 2001
This review is from: Low to the Ground (Audio CD)
I wandered into the Empty Bottle one night last year to see The Chamber Strings, Stereo Total and The Waxwings. I went in for a beer, actually -- it wasn't until later that I realized that these bands were all on the Bobsled label (which comes highly recommended). Not ever having heard them before, they absolutely blew me off the floor with their opening set. Power pop with more than a little 60s influence, harmonic, electric and flowing. I developed permagrin about four songs in (and three beers) and it didn't leave for weeks. I was subsequently married to their CD for all of the autumn. The Waxwings led me a lot deeper into Brit trad rock, which shares many of the same characteristics.
If you're a fan of Travis, Paul Weller, Cast, or of Brian Wilson-era rock, this is for you. Excellent songs, smartly done, perfectly produced.

The Hot Rock
The Hot Rock
Price: $14.61
34 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars the seminal s-k album, August 15, 2001
This review is from: The Hot Rock (Audio CD)
'Nuff said. The best release by one of the great underappreciated bands in the US today. The upgrade in production value over their previous releases only serves to further reveal the intricacy and raw power of their work.

Price: $11.15
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars right now, they can do no wrong, August 15, 2001
This review is from: Amnesiac (Audio CD)
It's difficult for me to objectively criticize the best major band on the planet, especially when they might be the only decent major band on the planet. (Check the Top 40, then puke.) When was the last time a band or artist with massive commercial draw released work that is simultaneously so blatantly experimental (for a rock band) and so damn good? As Thom Yorke himself has said, "I don't know if there's any value in being a rock band anymore." Radiohead, with the "Kid A/Amnesiac" sessions, has certainly transcended that limiting label.
This isn't just genre-hopping. It's the melding of avant, electronica and guitar rock into a new kind of music -- and the journey is extremely rewarding. They aren't the only ones out there on the frontier doing this, but they have exerted a major gravitational influence on everyone else who is. Why? Take a listen.

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