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A. D. Crysell "fragmeister"

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Still on the Road: Songs of Bob Dylan, 1974-2008 v. 2: The Songs of Bob Dylan Vol. 2 1973-2008: The Songs of Bob Dylan Vol. 2 / 1974-2008
Still on the Road: Songs of Bob Dylan, 1974-2008 v. 2: The Songs of Bob Dylan Vol. 2 1973-2008: The Songs of Bob Dylan Vol. 2 / 1974-2008
by Clinton Heylin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.05

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating but flawed, 9 Jun 2011
Clinton Heylin is the Marmite of Dylan authors but he is also one of the most steeped in all things Zimmerman. In some ways this lends a faux academic tone to this book. In other ways it stops Heylin seeing the wood for the trees.

Others have commented on Heylin's assured style - he isn't a natural writer by any means and for one who so often comments on the quality or otherwise of Dylan's lyrics, especially when there was the inevitable revision, he is clunky. This is particularly noticeable when Heylin inserts words into Dylan's lyrics as if it is his job to ensure they are comprehensible. This is not only arrogant but unnecessary. If Helin were quoting a Dylan speech then adding a helpful word or two in parentheses is fine. Try it with, for instance, Shakespeare and it becomes clear that this approach is redundant. Dylan's lyrics can stand for themselves and if Dylan didn't put the extra word in it was for a reason, good or bad.

The second flaw I feel with this book comes towards the end, the last few albums released before publication. This is the plagiarism aspect in Dylan's work. In fact, he has been reworking and reusing quotes and phrases in his lyrics since at least the md-80s. Without necessarily defending the practice, it is something that many poets, songwriters, musicians, artists over the centuries. Having said that, I can think of at least two reasons why Dylan does it. One is to create a game for people like Heylin to play: what obscure poet can I quote this time... The second is to provide a launchpad for new writing. There are many examples of songs that grew from the inspiration of a phrase, heard or read. And Dylan has been part of that venerable tradition since he began writing songs. Heylin, I suspect but cannot prove, has probably never written a song in his life.

The final flaw is the lack of comments about the music. Yes, Dylan is very literary, very verbal and one of the few rock songwriters whose words do work on the page, but his medium is song and, like Clue, the words and the music do belong together. Dylan is not sophisticated musically but he has written some exquisite melodies: Every Grain Of Sand sings to mind. To fail to mention the music is to miss a large part of the story.

Yes, the book is fascinating in parts, infuriating in others and flawed, it is also worth buying. It sent me back to listening to some Dylan songs I hadn't bothered with in a while, mostly to see if I agreed with Heylin. Sometimes I didn't but with this book you are entitled to his opinion.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2011 5:56 PM GMT

A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts: 3
A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts: 3
by Andrew Chaikin
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just about the best of the bunch, by a long chalk, 5 Jan 2009
For the twentieth anniversary of Apollo 11 there was a lovely bunch of excellent Apollo histories. For the 25th anniversary there was little beyond this one. The reason was clear - this book wipes the floor with all the others. It is written in a beautiful style, rushes the reader along with panache and never lets up.

But just being a good read wouldn't be enough for all those space geeks like me who lap this sort of stuff up. It is replete with technical details explained in such a way that you would barely know if there has been a technical factlet just gone by. And the author did such wonderful research that there is enough new anecdote to keep even the jaded Apollo fan going. If you buy only one general Apollo hstory, buy this one.

And definitely buy it in the three volume illustrated version. This has Chaikin's original text with a slew of fantastic photos beautifully reproduced. Expensive, perhaps, so do what I did and get your wife/husband/partner/etc to get it for you as a present. You will love them forever.

Best-seller!: The Life and Death of Eric Pode of Croydon
Best-seller!: The Life and Death of Eric Pode of Croydon
by Andrew Marshall
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pode of Croydon, 26 Sep 2008
If you remember the humourous radio show The Burkiss Way then you're probably over forty. And if you do remember it, you may want this. Herein lies the distorted mad of a brain man, the hideous writings of Marshall Andrew and Renwick David, before they were famous as the authors of On Foot In The Grave and 2.5 Children. Put simply, here are bits and pieces of the Burkiss Way in book form. It is very funny and you should buy it. I bought it with the five pound book token Lloyds Bank gave me for signing up to a student account when I went to University in 1981.

How Apollo Flew to the Moon (Springer Praxis Books / Space Exploration)
How Apollo Flew to the Moon (Springer Praxis Books / Space Exploration)
by W. David Woods
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Text book for lunar rocket scientists, 23 April 2008
When we go back to the Moon, just about everything we learnt from apollo will have to be relearnt. If that is the case, then this book is the one that should be the starter for ten. It is one of the best technical books on Apollo I have ever read, and I've read quite a few, keeping the cut and paste jobs of some books to a minimum and actually writing for a readership for once. All in all, a very good book, beautifully presented, laced with anecdotes and engineering details but never too heavy. For those that doubt anyone ever went there, this at least tells you how - other books will tell you why and give you all the whens. Recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 5, 2009 8:51 PM GMT

Uriel's Machine: The Ancient Origins of Science
Uriel's Machine: The Ancient Origins of Science
by Robert Lomas
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

16 of 36 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Try thinking for a minute, 5 Feb 2008
This is in the same vein as Daniken, Hancock and the Holy Blood And The Wholly Fictitious crew. For goodness sake, use your brain, read something by better accredited scholars of the period and save your money. It might read like a thriller but it's a pseudo-academic pot boiler. Save your money. I wish I had.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 4, 2013 8:15 PM BST

Unlocking The Mystery of Life [DVD] (Region 0)(All Regions Worldwide) [US Import] [NTSC]
Unlocking The Mystery of Life [DVD] (Region 0)(All Regions Worldwide) [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Artist Not Provided

7 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars If this is the best then that's not a lot, 6 July 2007
First, I got this free from Truth In Science, an organisation with an Orwellian title (you remember: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery and It's Quicker By Tube, oxymorons all). Secondly, it is nicely put together with help from some of the most virulent anti-evolutionists on the planet. But don't be fooled. The pictures are nice. It's just the argument that sucks.

Don't be fooled by thinking that there is a gigantic conspiracy to suppress the truth about a creator or about the intelligent design of living things. There isn't. Watch this with an open mind and you might be convinced by their arguments. Trouble is, if you don't check the facts or think critically about it, you won't see the truth. This programme gives you half the story patched up with a huge dollop of rhetoric. The science is not very good, not particularly scientific and because most of us don't have access to top university libraries, we struggle to check the facts. But we can spot the flaws in the arguments if we think a bit.

Intelligent design is the argument from personal incredulity. If you find the explanations for evolution unsatisfying then you deserve this DVD. If you want something more than that, then there are much better DVDs out there (just about anything with Attenborough, D, involved). Steer clear or tap up Truth In Science to give it to you. And when you've finished with it, use it in an intelligently designed way - hang it over your bean plants to keep the birds off.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 5, 2009 6:33 PM GMT

The Traveling Wilburys Collection [2 CD + DVD]
The Traveling Wilburys Collection [2 CD + DVD]
Price: 12.10

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trembling Wilburys are back, 18 Jun 2007
If you already have the albums from nearly two decades ago, you will know how good this is. If you don't, buy it anyway because music from rich rock stars is never less self-indulgent than this. We might have the ultimate vanity project here, made with the minimum of vanity and so much wit and humour. Should be compulsory on GCSE syllabuses.

And then there is the DVD. The making of documentary is amazing. I don't recall seeing rck stars so relaxed before and then there is the wizened bird like quality of Dylan, swaying out of time, holding the lyrics like they are a crumbling sheet of holy scripture. Don't just buy it: buy one for yourself and then one for each of your friends. They will thank you forever.

Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest
Dark Side of the Moon: The Magnificent Madness of the American Lunar Quest
by Gerard J. De Groot
Edition: Hardcover

20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as it thinks it is, 16 Mar 2007
First, a spoiler. America and the USSR ran a race to see who could put on the most spectacular space events throughout the 1960s. It culminated in a maned landing on the Moon in July 1969.

Secondly, this book isn't really about that. Well, not entirely. It is about a perception of the race to the Moon that comes out of some dusty memos and selective quotations (all quotations are selective) and it adds to a rather sour taste in the mind. The problem is it is pretty unrelenting. The aim of the book is to show what a phenomenal waste of time sending anything much into space is, with the exception of communications and weather satellites presumably. The problem with the book is that the tone has sarcastic light moments and deadpan serious moments but doesn't seem to acknowledge that the Moon landings were a genuine achievement.

I presume the author wrote it on his laptop. He probably researched much of it on-line and almost certainly spent some time watching DVDs of the space program. Well,he hit some of the indirect spin offs - miniaturisation of electronics. Not that you would know that anything came out of the Moon landing program according to DeGroot. He has a downer on it and that's that.

There are minor quibbles about accuracy which are irrelevant really, both to his thesis and his willingness to be open. He says he set out to write a good ol' American boys story but the research changed his mind. I suspect the fact that the market is pretty much sewn up tight, with memoirs from astronauts and flight controllers, tomes on technical matters relating to Apollo and wider histories of spaceflight, whereas a sceptical view of the program is lacking in the popular literature. So here it is, a one sided polemic that, if you have read any of the other books out there on Apollo, you'd already know.

The best thing about the Apollo program is what was said on the plaque on the leg of Eagle, the Apollo 11 lunar module: we came in peace for all mankind. The space race was war minus the shooting. It was a contest to see who could reach the highest up the urinal wall. That meant not dropping bombs on other countries. It meant jobs at home and probably the most effective economic sanctions against the USSR anyone could have thought of. It meant the Cold War didn't actually get hot. DeGroot will disagree but it is self evident.

I'd recommend The Race by james Schefter ahead of this book. It is funnier, better written and more honest an account of the space race than DeGroot has written. Oh, and it's cheaper.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 28, 2011 6:08 PM BST

Darwin's Black Box
Darwin's Black Box
by Michael J. Behe
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

34 of 80 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent twaddle, 24 Aug 2006
This review is from: Darwin's Black Box (Paperback)
Where to begin? I had a great laugh with this book because it is not such a watertight argument as some people think. Spend the time to read it critically and then think again. The case is made for intelligent design through the concept of irreducible complexity. Unfortunately, it does not make the case so well as it thinks - rather immodestly in my view. Behe is just plain mistaken.

Why? Well, firstly just because something is irredicibly complex does not mean it had to have had an intelligent designer. Secondly, the intelligent designer seems to have grown up playing with Lego. Just about all the bits that go to make up some of the supposedly designed bits, such as the eukaryote cillium and the blood clotting process, seem to have been just lying around in the cell and found a new, improved use.

Thirdly, this is, as Richard Dawkins says, an argument from personal incredulity. If I cannot see how it could have been done, then it must be magic. Evolution isn't a conjuring trick. It is a natural process.

Behe's writing is also not so sharp as he might think. Large sections are argued through analogies, something he complains that the Darwinists are doing. And plenty of the analogies are plainly wrong or not analogous at all. The purely descriptive bits about the biochemistry are the best bits but you might as well save up and buy a good introductory text on biochemistry or cell biology.

In the end this is a tawdry book, written with fingers crossed. The teleological stuff has been better done elsewhere, as has the theological material. Behe is neither a philosopher nor, based on what he presents here, much more than a stamp collecting scientist. He is not a theorist as far as I can see.

In summary: don't buy this book. Don't bother going anywhere near it. And read it with your mind open enough to see the holes in the argument but not so open that your brain falls out. Behe does have a religious agenda. He admitted that in court.

The Hedgehog, the Fox and the Magister's Pox: Mending and Minding the Misconceived Gap Between Science and the Humanities
The Hedgehog, the Fox and the Magister's Pox: Mending and Minding the Misconceived Gap Between Science and the Humanities
by Stephen Jay Gould
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, 11 July 2003
I have been reading Stephen Jay Gould since Ever Since Darwin. I enjoyed his rather intellectual games. I was sad that he succumbed to his cancer after so many years of fight. I am even sadder that he should have left behind this book as a sort of epitath.
It's difficult to put my finger on what I don't like about this book. It isn't easy to read: the prose is verbose, showy and often disjointed. Much of it is lifted from earlier essays he wrote on the subject, the reunion of the sciences with the humanities. Actually, the book is turgid and uninteresting and for something that Gould was so interested in, it lacks passion.
I also think Gould got his subject wrong. I think he did because he carried with him all sorts of cultural biases which he would wear proudly, rather than subsuming. In many ways this is a political book, stating a case for the cultural determination of science, an extension of Gould's fight with E O Wilson and his sociobiology. I think Gould was wrong in this fight and was not honest with himself about it.
The other problem is that the book is not finished. Or at least it feels like it has ragged edges and there are some embarrassing - to me at least - bits where Gould seems to be chatting to the reader. They don't work and they would probably have been edited out. But of course he died before he could polish the book. A strong editor might have confronted these problems before.
So ends a rather spectacular career in science and literature with a whimper. Not a good book, actually a pretty bad book. Not one I'd recommend.

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