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K. Chlouverakis "C.Chlouverakis" (Athens, Greece)

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Zombie Capitalism
Zombie Capitalism
by Chris Harman
Edition: Paperback

5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A marxist intrpretation of the financial crisis, 9 Mar 2011
This review is from: Zombie Capitalism (Paperback)
The recent financial crisis has elicited a cataclysmic plethora of books but few that try to explain it from a Marxist standpoint. This book does just that.
Most mainstream authors have described in great and often quaint detail the kaleidoscopic crowd of villains (bankers, rating companies, hedge funds, private investors) and victims (poor people seeking a roof over their head), the interplay of greed, ignorance and stupidity, as well as the extreme and complex financialisation of modern capitalism that were involved in the disaster.
For the author of this book the mess is merely symptomatic of the diminishing profits of the surplus capital which its owners try to remedy by investing in risky and often fabricated markets as, for instance, by lending to poor people. The author does not explicitly state what the cause of these diminishing returns is, but one gets the impression that he blames the low wages which fail to generate sufficient demand for the surplus capital.
Thus, financialization in its present high and ever increasing complexity has risen out of a situation of ever decreasing rates of profit and accumulation and, since this is bound to continue, more and more burst bubbles and crises should be expected to occur in the future.
This is of course a zero-sum game and is beautifully and movingly illustrated by Michael Lewis in his best-selling book "The Big Short" when Ben, one of the winners in this "game" tries to explain it to his in-laws back in England: " How do you explain to an innocent citizen...the importance of a credit default swap on a double-A tranch of a subprime-backed collateralized debt obligation? He tried, but his English in-laws just looked at him strangely. They understood that someone else had just lost a great deal of money "... and his house. And, as the author of zombie capitalism states, "Finance is a parasite, on the back of a parasite, not a problem that can be dealt with in isolation from capitalism as a whole."
This sweeping condemnation of capitalism follows and concludes a long history of the evolution of modern capitalism with its repeated bursts and busts and in the course of this long and sometime tedious and clichéd narrative all the big names of the founders of modern economics parade, headed of course by the author of Das Kapital.
The last chapter of the book bears the ambitious title "The Runaway System and the Future of Humanity" where the environmental, ecological and social limits of the maniacal pursuit of profit are presented.
Unfortunately, the book ends with a sub-chapter where the author deals with the mundane and almost nave job of attempting to work out the size of the new worldwide proletariat who will overcome (as the title suggests) the evils of the galloping capitalism.
Apparently the incurable propensity of human species to convert all imagined and unimagined utopias (or eu-topias) into dystopias, having found him myopically bent over the texts of the great master, has passed him unnoticed.

All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age
All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age
Price: 6.99

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The meaning of Life after the death of God, 25 Feb 2011
The somewhat "mysterious" title of this interesting book is derived from a little story cited in the epilogue. The "reading" that the subtitle refers to, starts with the ancient Greeks (Homer and the Tragedians) and, through the Romans, it scans the relevant sources of the Middle Ages: Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Dante to reach Luther, Descartes, the Enlightenment (Kant) and eventually the modern secular age. A special chapter-almost fifty pages- is devoted to Melville's (what the authors call) "Evil Art". This elevation of Melville to the pantheon of Western culture might at first sight appear capricious and illogical but in fact proves to be the core of the book and the most eloquent argument against the evils of monotheism. The reader who is unacquainted with the immense literature on the rich symbolism of Melville's masterpiece might find this chapter so breathtaking that he might well forget or ignore whatever shortcomings or omissions exist in the other chapters and especially the last, titled " Lives Worth Living in a Secular Age".
Here one would expect to find at least a citation of the Socratic "anexetastos bios"(the unexamined life- which , as Socrates proclaimed in his "Apologia"- is not worth living); the ethical life with the performance of noble acts; the contemplation of the beauty and mystery of the cosmos and some works of art (especially music) or even the meditation and various practices of oriental cultures as a substitute of the medieval "beatific vision". The authors instead seek this substitute in the elation brought about by the glimpsing of perfection of great athletes or teams of popular sports and other epiphanies of mass events. Presumably they find this more consistent with our modern mass, democratic culture.
However, one might be permitted to conclude that, since most of the people who experience such epiphanies are rather religious than secular (witness the modern American scene with its mass culture, adoration of athleticism and simultaneous religiosity), the advice of the authors and message of this rich and well written book-if it is not disappointing or wrong- is at least superfluous.

The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century
by Alex Ross
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.19

5.0 out of 5 stars A very rich and informative book, 28 Aug 2010
Being a music (and history) lover but not a professional musician (or historian) I enjoyed this book tremendously.
I feel obliged to confess however my inability to locate "the rest which is noise" as the title of the book promises. Or does the author allege that anything that is not included in the book is noise?
I also found it somewhat biased and uneven . For instance there is a lot about the American modern music (and Benjamin Britten, with a strong emphasis on the composer's homosexuality) and hardly any for the post-Shostakovich Russian and Baltic countries-music.
Despite these (and other minor) such shortcomings, unavoidable in a book of such scope and ambition, I found the book enthralling. Especially the interface period between tonality and atonality, the historical setting (Vienna and Paris), the tension in the composers' creative mind, the interaction between music and poetry is breathtaking. Not to mention a wealth of biographical details which enhance the appreciation of each composer's music.
Almost as good is the description of the sluggish reemergence of (a different kind) of tonality bringing the whole evolution from tonality to atonality to a new synthesis, whoever tenuous, fluid and variable that synthesis may be.

Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion
Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion
by David Lewis-Williams
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 18.95

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a great book with a dispassionate denial of the supernatural, 9 July 2010
This is an interesting and thought-provoking book, constituting an important addition to the multitude of books been published on the subject of Religion.
Written by an eminent South African scholar and expert on the culture of Bushmen, it is a multifaceted book dealing with Paleontology (from patterns engraved 75000 years ago by Blombos in South Africa to the astonishing finds of the Volp Caves in the Ariege Department of France, but also with the culture of the primitives (San, Kalahari) and their trance dances which often bring them to hallucinatory states.
The author, tracing the origin of Religion to such altered stages of consciousness, not only provides a thorough account and classification of these states (the origin of which he attributes to the right temporal lobe) but links them to important religious thinkers and mystics from the apostle Paul, via St.Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas to Hildegard Von Bingen.
The historical narrative is extended to the other side (of evolution) with rich biographical details of Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace (poor Wallace had he had not made the error of sending his manuscript to Darwin but directly to a scientific journal he might be claimed today as the discoverer of Evolution and we could be talking today of Wallacism instead of Darwinism).
The two sides, Religion (and thus Creationalism) and Evolution are contrasted and discussed and the author, being an atheist, does not mince his words to exhibit the irrationality of religion. The arguments however are not passionate or hostile. On the contrary they are presented in a sober and even relaxing style becoming thus more persuasive. The author is not a polemicist of the kind that Dawkins, Hitchens or Bennet are.
In my view, however, the author can be criticized by presenting his own-personal-view on the origin of religion and dismissing out of hand alternative theories based on social and psychological factors. For instance, he alleges that primitive man was unimpressed and thus unafraid of his own death and thus rejects a whole tradition of thought which connects religion with the fear and denial of death. The hallucinatory stages might explain the religiosity of Moses and St Paul but for the common man it is more likely (at least today) that the explanation lies in the fear of death and the hope that religion gives for life after death. This is supported not only by the not infrequent death-bed conversion into religion of previously irreligious people but also by ample evidence of prehistoric (as ancient as those of Blombos) elaborate funeral rituals indicating the psychological importance that death had in the mind of the primitive man.
Besides, Prof. Lewis-Williams errs when "dismisses" Psychology in favor of Neurology for the simple reason that Psychology is based on Neurology and the latter to Neuroendocrinology, Neurochemistry and finally all the way down to Quantum Physics.
However all these are rather understandable errors and omissions in an otherwise highly scholarly and yet readable, great book covering such a wide area.

Philosophers and God: At the Frontiers of Faith and Reason
Philosophers and God: At the Frontiers of Faith and Reason
by John Cornwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.16

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Between faith and science, 9 Feb 2010
This book consists of a compilation of essays written by philosophers whose ideas cover the whole spectrum of religion (or lack of it) from atheism and secularism to conventional religion.
This immediately creates a disadvantage for the book, precluding the development of discourse and a narrative flow and making it somewhat disorganized and disjointed. On top of this the `heavy' writing-style of many of the essays makes the reading even more onerous.
Being an atheist myself, I found some illuminating points on some important matters like the connection between atheism and spirituality, the discussion of "mystery" of the world and "being" and its connection to religiosity and what is defined as apophatic ( and not apophantic as it is cited in the text) theology.
Those who would expect to find scientific arguments from cosmology (the fine-tuning argument vis-à-vis the Bayesian theorem),biology (evolution) or psychology (denial of death and the afterlife) are likely to be disappointed as will be those atheists who will want to get hold of a well-built argument and justification (scientific, sociological, philosophical or evolutionary) on why and how one should live the good life without faith (The famous Dostoefskian dictum " If there is no God everything is permitted").
May be I was looking for another kind of book.

Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth
Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth
by Apostolos Doxiadis
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.89

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A "philosophical" novel in the form of "comics", 19 Jan 2010
This book is described as an innovative graphic novel based on the life of Bertrand Russel. In fact it uses Russel's life (though incomplete and often inaccurate as the authors admit) to expose the dramatic journey of mathematical logic and meta-mathematics during the twentieth century.
I must confess that I was disappointed when I received the book and saw that it was in a format of "comics" to which I am entirely unaccustomed and find it inappropriate and depthless to tackle such a serious project. It took me quite sometime and more than fifty plus pages through it to begin to enjoy it and even get excited by it.
One reason I suppose the authors used this format is that there are numerous books already on this subject starting with the "classic" by Douglas Hofstadter " Godel, Escher, Bach".
As the narrative progresses, the affinity of "set theory" to metaphyscs (Erret Bishop called it "God's Mathematics") becomes more and more obvious) and its consequent effect on its students-many of whom became either mad, depressed or committed suicide- is one of the most successful aspects of the book. As the authors state: "Put a man on the brink of the abyss and-in the unlike event that he doesn't fall into it- he will become either a mystic or a madman". I found inadequate the description of Wittgenstein's change between the "Tractacus" and the "Philosopical Investigations" but the overall narrative flowed naturally to the final message which is that the human journey for truth will always be incomplete and fated to remain forever uncharted.
The pictures are generally good, some pieces of the text are very clever (although some are superfluous and/or flat) but at the end of its reading the book was very satisfying and enjoyable.

2046 [2004] [DVD] [2005]
2046 [2004] [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Tony Leung Chiu Wai
Offered by FilmloverUK
Price: 10.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A film not to be missed, 8 Mar 2008
This review is from: 2046 [2004] [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
I had seen this movie twice and although I was fascinated by its imagery, atmosphere and visual effects I was somewhat perplexed and slightly confused by the plot.
I went back to the movie "in the mood for love", then I carefully read the plot of 2046 in the "Wikipedia" and played (actually "studied") the video on my computer viewing and reviewing the difficult parts until the whole movie made sense.
The reward was immense. It is a difficult, fragmented, somewhat chaotic film but it is a work of art, a real masterpiece. In fact I can claim it as the most beautiful film of the last ten or so years.

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