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Reviews Written by
Kurt A. Johnson (Marseilles, IL USA)

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The Tyranny of History: Roots of China's Crisis
The Tyranny of History: Roots of China's Crisis
by W.J.F. Jenner
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lot of food for thought, 8 Dec. 2005
Professor of Chinese and head of the China Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra, Dr. W.J.F. Jenner believes that China is in a crisis which it will find itself impossible to extricate itself from. First of all, China is in the grip of a tyranny of history, in which the Chinese culture can only look back towards traditional solutions to modern and unprecedented challenges. Secondly, Chinese history was written by a bureaucracy that subtly changed that history to conform to a certain worldview, a worldview that espoused a hierarchical and autocratic view of society and human relationships.
Now, I must admit that the summary above distills Dr. Jenner's marvelous analysis down to a simplistic sounding thesis. The book is complex, and in it the author shows off his deep understanding of Chinese culture, and makes a persuasive case.
But, a lot has changed since when this book came out in 1992. China is a leading exporter of goods and is acquiring greater and farther-reaching influence, so how can it be said to be in crisis? I do believe that Dr. Jenner has made his point that to function in the modern world, China must overcome some of the autocratic and authoritarian tendencies in its culture, and that it is ill-equipped to do so.
So, first off let me apologize for this review, which is really quite inadequate when discussing such a deep and fascinating book. This is a great book, one that will give anyone interested in the future of China, and indeed of the whole world, a lot of food for thought. If you wish to understand where China came from, and where it is going, then this is the book to get. I give it my highest recommendations!


The Dittoshead's Guide to Adult Beverages
The Dittoshead's Guide to Adult Beverages
by Britt Gillette
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A great book!, 6 Dec. 2005
I am still laughing! If you know anyone who is a fan of radio raconteur Rush Limbaugh, then this is the gift to buy him or her. Drawing on Rush's massively politically incorrect/leave no Liberal sacred cow un-skewered humor, author Britt Gillette presents 65 adult beverages. But, these are not just any old adult beverages, they are Limbaugh-esque adult beverages with names running from Alec (Baldwin)'s Bon Voyage Black and Tan through the Wife Training Walter (E. Williams).
Yeah, this is a great book! The author does a great job of capturing Rush's style and humor, and produces a really funny book. Any fan of Rush will immediate latch onto this book and get a great thrill out of it. I loved this book, and give it my highest recommendations.
Pull up a comfortable chair, pour yourself a Grape Gorbasm, and read this book!


Grand Strategies in War and Peace
Grand Strategies in War and Peace
by Paul M. Kennedy
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting, 5 Dec. 2005
Historically, discussion of "grand strategy" was discussion of the operation of a war. In this interesting book from 1991, author and historian Paul M. Kennedy tries to broaden the definition of grand strategy to include the husbanding of national resources to support a war effort (even before a war actually begins), the use of economic and diplomatic weapons against an opponent, and the working towards a desired post-war peace.
This book is a collection of some nine essays, each by an eminent authority (including future U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice). The first three essays look at British grand strategy during the War of the Spanish Succession, World War I and World War II. The next four essays look at the grand strategies of the Roman Empire, seventeenth century Imperial Spain, Imperial and Nazi German grand strategies, and French grand strategies in the two World Wars. The eighth essay (the one by Condoleezza Rice) looks at Communist Russia's grand strategies from the beginning of the Soviet Union to the Brezhnev era. The final essay was written by Paul Kennedy himself, and suggests how American grand strategy should look to function in a multipolar world where America has been overtaken by other powers in key measures of national preeminence.
Overall, I found this to be a fascinating book, with Eliot A. Cohen's essay on Churchill and World War II Britain being the very crown of the book. The final essay on the United States has been overtaken by events, with the U.S. still maintaining preeminence in spheres in which Professor Kennedy foresaw eclipse. But, that said, this is a fascinating read. Also, it does make one see how the recent administrations (both Republican and Democratic) have not pursued a grand strategy that has left America fully ready to deal with future wars, supported by broad alliances, or pointed towards a brighter post-war world.
So, let me just say that this is a very interesting book on national grand strategy, one that will give anyone a good deal of food for thought. I highly recommend this book.


Siete Ratones Ciegos
Siete Ratones Ciegos
by Ed Young
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.83

5.0 out of 5 stars Seven various colored blind mice try to examine an elephant, 2 Dec. 2005
This review is from: Siete Ratones Ciegos (Paperback)
This book retells the ancient Indian tale of seven blind men who try to decide what an elephant is like based on examining one part of it. In this book, it is seven blind mice that examine the elephant; six of them draw incorrect conclusions based on one feel, whereas the seventh mouse takes it's time, and learns the truth about the elephant. I was particularly pleased with the moral of this story.
The mice are each of a different color and examine the elephant on a different day, which helps expose children to the concepts of color and days of the week. The artwork is humorous which helps with children too young to read, and the text is simple enough for young readers. For reference purposes, my own 1st grader had no problem reading this book.


Of Arms and Men: A History of War, Weapons, and Aggression
Of Arms and Men: A History of War, Weapons, and Aggression
by Robert L. O'Connell
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and enlightening, though somewhat out-of-date, 1 Dec. 2005
This book was published in 1989, during the final phases of the Cold War. In it, author Robert L. O'Connell looks at the history of Western man's relationship to weapons. As the author goes through the military history of the West, from ancient Sumer to the invention of the nuclear weapon, he shows that warfare has swung like a pendulum between two poles. At one end is the Homeric view of war, wherein it is cloaked in rules and traditions which moderate and "humanize" it. At the other end is the interspecific hunt view of war, wherein rules are jettisoned and brutality reaches extremes.
In the author's view, beginning with the American Civil War and becoming obvious with World War I, the advance of military technology has made weaponry so lethal that the idea of a moderate war has become an oxymoron. Also, with the advent of nuclear weapons, war has entered a final stage where it only can be a ruthless genocide of noncombatants. "We live on the edge of destruction."
But, reading this book some sixteen years after its initial publication, I can't help but find that the author's terminal diagnosis for war was premature. Nuclear weapons have receded into the background as weapons of war, while new forms of warfare have arisen in the form of transnational terrorism employing weapons designed to cause mass casualties. Plus, at least for national players on the world stage, moderation, in the form of rules of engagement, weapons use and prisoner treatment is now demanded by worldwide public opinion.
So, am I saying that this is a worthless, out-of-date book? In fact, I am not! Up until the final chapter, this is a fascinating and quite enlightening book. Plus, I must say that I found it to be quite a stimulating read. So, if you want to read a book that is a fascinatingly different look at military history, then this book is for you. I highly recommend it!


The Wreck of the William Brown: A True Tale of Overcrowded Lifeboats and Murder at Sea
The Wreck of the William Brown: A True Tale of Overcrowded Lifeboats and Murder at Sea
by Tom Koch
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and compelling, but too much editorializing, 30 Nov. 2005
On a cold April night, a ship full of passengers crossing the Atlantic from England to America struck an iceberg and sank. It was almost exactly 71 years before the sinking of the Titanic, and at almost the exact same spot. But, there were great differences in what happened in the sinking of these two ships.
After the sailing ship William Brown began to go down, the crew rushed to the two small boats the ship carried (lifeboats weren't even invented yet), and tried to leave with as few of the passengers as possible. The captain, aboard the smaller gig sailed off leaving the bulk of the crew and all but one of the passengers behind in a damaged longboat. And when the people aboard the overfilled longboat began to fear for their own survival, the crew began to lighten the load - by throwing passengers overboard to their deaths! A cause célèbre at the time, one crewman was brought to trial for the events of that horrifying cruise, one man was offered up as a scapegoat.
I must admit that I have never heard of the sinking of the William Brown before I read this book. The author does an excellent job of collecting what information is known about what happened, and presenting it in an informative and compelling manner. My one complaint about this book is that the author does spend too much time in editorializing - on the 19th century immigration movement and racism, and even on the state of modern healthcare!
But, if you ignore the digressions and editorializations, you will be rewarded with a fascinating and compelling story of a little known disaster. I loved this book, and highly recommend it!


Worlds of Shadow
Worlds of Shadow
by Lawrence Watt-Evans
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £29.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally enthralling, 29 Nov. 2005
This review is from: Worlds of Shadow (Hardcover)
What does an Evil Overlord/Necromancer/Dark Lord do when he has conquered his world? He begins searching for new worlds to conquer. Shadow has swallowed his entire world, and found an alternate reality, where a space-going Galactic Empire holds sway. The Galactic Empire is looking for allies and finds another reality, our Earth. And so, Pellinore Brown and some others from Earth, Captain Joshua Cahn and the crew of the ISS Ruthless of the Galactic Empire, and Raven of Stormcrack Keep and some other resisters of Shadow begin their trek across three realities. But, their journey will take them where they never expected to go.
This great book contains all three of Lawrence Watt-Evans' Three Worlds book in one neat package. I am a big fan of Mr. Watt-Evans, and I must say that I deeply enjoyed this series. Now, I must admit that parts of these stories are rather dark, containing images of rape and brutality that will shock younger and more sensitive readers.
But, if you can get past that, you will be rewarded with a fascinating story, one that presents life and conflict with all of the darkness and loss that it really does hold. That is to say, it's not a cute adventure story for young readers; it is a wonderfully deep and complex story that will leave you feeling wrung out, but glad you read it.
I loved the author's three, mutually exclusive worlds, finding each one fascinating, and I enjoyed the way that he wove them together. I really liked the characters and their interactions. Yes, I found this series totally enthralling, and I highly recommend it to everyone!


Graphic Classics Volume 10: Horror Classics (Graphic Classics (Eureka))
Graphic Classics Volume 10: Horror Classics (Graphic Classics (Eureka))
by John Pierard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.50

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great stories and wonderful illustration work, 23 Nov. 2005
This fun little graphic novel is a collection of some twelve short stories and poems that were all written by the greats of modern horror literature - H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Saki (pen name of Hector Hugh Munro), Jack London, and others. Just as heterogeneous as the authors are the illustrators. Each of the stories was illustrated by a different artist, who drew the story as he or she saw fit, each different from the others and each excellent.
Overall, I thought that this was an excellent book, with great stories and wonderful illustration work. I think that my favorites were Lovecraft's The Thing on the Doorstep, W.W. Jacobs' Monkey's Paw, and Clark Ashton Smith's The Beast of Averoigne, with Bret Harte's Selina Sedilia being too funny to miss. Yep, this is a great book, one that my fourteen-year-old daughter and I both enjoyed and both highly recommend!


Treasure Island (1950) [VHS]
Treasure Island (1950) [VHS]
VHS
Offered by rdowns33
Price: £8.70

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and captivating, 22 Nov. 2005
When Captain Billy Bones (played by Finlay Currie) give young Jim Hawkins (Bobby Driscoll) a pirate's treasure map, he sets him off on the trail of adventure. When Long John Silver (Robert Newton) gets wind of what's going down, he positions himself to be ship's cook, and fills the boat with his pirate friends. Befriending Jim, Silver plots to get the gold for himself. But someone will prove quite capable of foiling Silver's plans - young Jim Himself! [Color, released in 1950, with a running time of 1:36.]
This is a great movie, one that is surprisingly good in spite of its age. Indeed, for me this will always be the very touchstone of Treasure Island movies. Robert Newton does an excellent job of portraying Long John Silver, and to this day, whenever I imagine a pirate talking, I hear his voice and accent. Now, don't take this movie too lightly. Even though it was created by Disney Studios, it has a lot of gunplay, blood, men hit with swords, and just the sort of violence you would associate with pirates.
But, don't get me wrong, this is not a modern blood-and-gore movie; it's an interesting and captivating movie that you will want to watch with your whole family. My family loves this movie just as much as I do, and highly recommends it to your family!


The Tri-State Tornado: The Story of America's Greatest Tornado Disaster
The Tri-State Tornado: The Story of America's Greatest Tornado Disaster
by Peter Felknor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and highly informative, 22 Nov. 2005
At around 1:00 p.m., March 18, 1925, a tornado touched down in Reynolds Country, Missouri. But, this was no ordinary tornado. This was an F5 multivortex tornado that proceeded east-northeast across 219 miles, 13 counties and three states (Missouri, Illinois and Indiana). By the time the tornado dissipated, it had destroyed a number of small towns, erased a number of farms, and killed some 689 people. This was one of the worst tornadoes in U.S. history, and this book tells its story.
This is quite a fascinating book. The author does an excellent job of telling the story of the Tri-State Tornado with factual reporting, but yet brining alive the horror of what happened. The book is an interesting mixture of Mr. Felknor's narration and accounts from some fourteen survivors of the tornado.
Overall, I found this to be a fascinating and highly informative book about a little known subject. If you are interested in tornadoes, then you simply must get this book about the granddaddy of them all! I highly recommend this book.


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