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Recent reviews

All reviews - TV Shows (1) - DVDs (2) - Books (6)


Posted : 14 years, 12 months ago on 6 July 2007 12:42 (A review of Six Feet Under)

Much better production values than most TV shows of its time, I never really though the show was that great. Sure, there were great episodes. But my major complaints are with the writing. There are obvious attempts to sensationalize numerous story lines, and certain characters behave totally out of character at times to advance these sensationalist storylines. One example is Nate from season three onward. On the other hand the Brenda character actually starts to become more believable in later seasons. So I do have mixed feelings about the show. It certainly wasn't perfect.

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Posted : 15 years ago on 26 June 2007 01:49 (A review of A Power Governments Cannot Suppress)

Rarely can I find a book that touches on contemporary issues that I can agree with more than about 80% of the time. Indeed, agreeing with even half of what people have to say in similar books is often a challenge for me. But with this offering from Zinn, I find that I can't argue with him about any of the points he makes. This is one of the most accessible and rewarding books around on contemporary society and politics. If there were justice in the world, this would be a bestseller. But after reading this book, you'll see that we have a long way to go before justice applies fairly and equally to all people.

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Posted : 15 years ago on 26 June 2007 01:39 (A review of Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media)

"Manufacturing Consent" is essential reading for anyone interested in media studies or in what constitutes objectivity in journalism. That said, I wish these guys would issue a revised edition because the book could use some updates and improvements. For instance, I have always felt that Chomsky is brilliant in his assessment of political and media issues, but is only mediocre as a writer. Herman perhaps helps in that area here, but not enough. So for a book that lays out a five-filter "propaganda model" for media analysis, I was kind of expecting later chapters dealing with the authors' proofs that the model works to provide a systematic analysis applying the model to each example. Not so. In fact, the filters of the model are rarely explicitly mentioned, and then often with only allusions that analysis by the reader would likely produce some particular conclusion. While I think the conclusions Chomsky and Herman draw are substantially correct, they often seem to be providing more of a corrective historical text than a proof of the validity of their model. By the same token, they also often don't provide enough examples of the new stories they analyze, forcing the reader to either spend a lot of time tracking down the primary sources cited or else take the authors assertions on blind faith (something that the authors seem to rally against in journalism throughout this book). The authors also repeat themselves a lot, and put off some of their most convincing support for their model until the end. Furthermore, this book was written at a time when the USSR still existed and the cold war was still a reality, and comparisons to that situation offered in the book seem a bit out of place years later. In retrospect, this is perhaps my greatest complaint. The propaganda model is a bit too narrow. Now that the cold war is over, one of the five filters of the model, anti-communism, seems irrelevant, or at least of lesser importance. There seem to be some readily available corollaries, anti-terrorism for example, but nonetheless, the model seems too narrowly drawn with regard to the "anti-communism" filter. The authors provide some language for perhaps a broader definition of that filter, be it nationalism, anti-ideologies, fear of the "other", or something of that sort. But in the end, their model is somewhat limited to U.S. media in the 1980s and prior.

But this book raises some fascinating issues, even if, in my estimation, the authors discount sheer laziness or incompetence on the part of journalists. So often the failure of journalists to seek relevant facts is not the result of sinister motives, conscious or not, but just laziness on the part of individual reporters or cheapness on the part of publishers. I think that explains some of the continued preponderance of pseudo-news since "Manufacturing Consent" was written (like with tabloid celebrity gossip taking the place of researched journalism while still being called "news").

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Good points, not well executed

Posted : 15 years, 1 month ago on 17 May 2007 02:38 (A review of Profit Over People: Neoliberalism & Global Order)

Chomsky makes a lot of very good points here, and his analysis of contemporary political trends seems pretty accurate. However, there are a number of drawbacks to this particular book. A lot of the criticisms are the same ones that can be leveled at many other Chomsky works. For one, this book comes across as extremely disorganized and rambling. This wasn't written from scratch as a book per se, but was culled from transcripts of speeches, essays, book introductions/forewords, and yes a few original pieces. He also makes too many reference to things being "discussed elsewhere", as in "buy my other books!" The writing is also a bit mediocre, overly glib and full of sarcasm that doesn't translate into print well. Another thing lacking is support/citations. Some of the chapters here have none, and the ones that do have endnotes are still skimpy. So when Chomsky asserts things like "In 1971 , 90 percent of international financial transactions were related to the real economy--trade or long term investment--and 10 percent were speculative. By 1990 the percentages were reversed . . ." (from chapter 1: Neoliberalism and Global Order). But where do these figures come from? And what exactly makes investment speculative? Not being "long term", whatever that means? Apparently, we are just supposed to "trust" him. I guess that's just not enough for me, even if I still tend to agree with most of the ultimate conclusions.

Robert McChesney's intro is invaluable. It's the most clearly and concisely written piece in the book.

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Poor music

Posted : 15 years, 3 months ago on 20 March 2007 09:50 (A review of Northern Exposure - The Complete First Season)

This DVD release loses quite a bit in my estimation due to the replacement of original music with horrid filler for the DVD release. The original show gets five stars from me, but this DVD edition fairs worse.

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A Clockwork Orange review

Posted : 15 years, 6 months ago on 14 December 2006 05:25 (A review of A Clockwork Orange)

I remember that the first time I read this book, I had a copy that omitted the 21st chapter. Someone then alerted me to that fact and I found a more complete copy. Definitely find a copy of the complete book, not the senselessly abridged version!

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Be Warned

Posted : 16 years, 1 month ago on 20 May 2006 08:39 (A review of Pathfinder Skye & the North West Highlands: Walks (Pathfinder Guide))

Although the book has a nice layout, I would say "be warned" about the contents. That is, my wife and I used the book to take some suggested walks. We found the decriptions extrmely misleading and not at all accurate regarding terrain and difficulty. Plus, the map legends do not always correspond to the symbols actually used on the maps.

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Meet John Doe/A Farewell to Arms review

Posted : 16 years, 2 months ago on 26 April 2006 11:39 (A review of Meet John Doe/A Farewell to Arms)

"Meet Joe Doe" is a Capra classic. The DVD transfer here leaves a lot to be desired though. "A Farewell to Arms" is a pretty dull film.

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Sun Ra 171

Posted : 16 years, 2 months ago on 24 April 2006 11:44 (A review of A New Model of the Universe (Dover Occult))

This book was on the reading list for the course "Sun Ra 171" at UC-Berkeley, taught by Sun Ra.

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