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Liberalism
Liberalism
Price: £0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars A snapshot of an epochal moment in the history of Liberal thought, 12 Nov 2014
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This review is from: Liberalism (Kindle Edition)
This book records a major shift in Liberal thinking that happened at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, from classical liberalism, which was very keen on the free market, to something new that was heavily influenced by socialist ideas. The shift was rather ill-timed, because the overtly socialist Labour Party was rising to prominence at the same moment, and would soon render the Liberal Party's "socialism lite", as we might call it, irrelevant in the British political arena.


Boondocks Season 1
Boondocks Season 1
Dvd

1 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Racist, poisonous and completely unfunny., 20 July 2014
On top of all that, the animation is terrible. It has a vaguely anime look, but it appears to have been done on a tiny budget, because there's hardly any motion. It's so static, it feels like watching a slide show.


Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition
Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition
Price: £9.06

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fruitloop, 28 May 2014
This is quite possibly the most fruitloop book I have ever read. The author must have spent his entire life in a hippy colony, safely insulated from any exposure to real economics, or he could not otherwise be unaware of how utterly bonkers his proposals are. As it is, the author does have some inkling, as he uses the word "naïve" a lot. He starts off by attributing to money a mystical, almost demonic power, that makes it responsible for all the evils of the civilized world, going back to the very dawn of civilization in Ancient Sumeria. According to him, money was responsible for the bare subsistence of wages in that age, not the relatively low productivity of the primitive, labour-intensive farming methods of the time. It doesn't seem to occur to him that in those days, the world was relatively sparsely populated, and anyone not happy with the wages in Sumeria, if they thought they could do better on their own, was free to wander off and find an unexploited bit of wilderness, and live independently by farming, fishing or hunting. The fact that they instead chose to work for low wages instead is a clue to how harsh and unforgiving the wilderness really was by comparison.

This, "money is the root of all evil" thing, which is the fundamental premise of the book, must come, I suppose (indirectly and without attribution) from Jesus, because it certainly doesn't come from any rational observation of what money is, which is nothing more than a convenience that facilitates exchange. Every fallacy of mercantile economics prior to Adam Smith is rehearsed in the arguments presented.

Besides the theme of money being evil, the other big them is the Rousseauian "noble savage" idea that tribal people are wise and good, and us civilized folk are misguided, blinkered and enslaved by civilization. Rousseau was bonkers, as well as being entirely wrong. Subsequent research has found that Hobbes, against whom Rousseau was writing, was right about the "state of nature": i.e., that life in the state of nature tended to be nasty, brutish and short, with "perpetual war of all against all" being the overriding pattern. Resources were scarce and there was no contraception, so the population was kept low by a very high rate of homicide and endless tribal war. Battles were small in scale and intermittent, but frequent enough to ensure that most men would meet a violent end. All sorts of crimes were dealt with by death, and human sacrifice was common. When killing and violent accidents were insufficient to the job, the population would be culled every now and then by famine.

After his fallacy-ridden analysis, Eisenstein goes on to recommend that we all go back to living like medieval peasants, spread out in the countryside, scrabbling at the ground, growing so-called "organic" produce. This falls at the first hurdle, because the possibility of convincing more than a tiny fraction of the world's population to do this is nil. There's a reason why everyone in the Third World wants to move to the city: the peasant farmer lifestyle is a miserable one compared to that of the proletarian. There's also the problem that organic farm yields are lower than conventional (a fact which Eisenstein dismisses with the wave of a hand), so a large part of the present world population would probably have to starve for his plan to be implemented.

I'm not surprised. The person who recommended this book struck me as a fruit loop, and it turns out that the book is of the same species. The word "sacred" in the title was a clue, I suppose. I normally avoid woo, religion and hippy nonsense in my reading.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 4, 2014 12:44 PM BST


Freedom Feminism: Its Surprising History and Why It Matters Today (Values and Capitalism)
Freedom Feminism: Its Surprising History and Why It Matters Today (Values and Capitalism)
Price: £0.39

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You CAN support women's rights without having to support the lunacies and lies of radical feminism, 16 May 2014
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A survey in the US recently found that only 23% of women in America self-identify as feminists. A similar survey in the UK found that only 14% in this country do. Many of the rest think feminism is old-fashioned, not relevant, not a positive label, or too aggressive towards men. Others say they can be strong without labelling themselves. Why have so many women rejected the feminist brand? It's not because women don't believe that women should have equal rights with men and freedom of choice as to how to live. Nearly all women do. Rather, it's because since the 1970s, feminism has been increasingly taken over by by a cultish faction of extremists who espouse all sorts of odd doctrines, many of which seem obnoxious and insulting to many women, and others which just seem like blind hatred of men, or personal neuroses thinly disguised in intellectual garb. The large number of women who like to look sexy, or enjoy stereotypically feminine pleasures, or love their fathers, husbands, brothers or sons, or prefer to put family ahead of career, find that radical feminists appear to believe there's something wrong with them, that they are traitors to the cause, or perhaps victims of brainwashing ("conditioned by the patriarchy", to use the cult jargon). Radical feminism shades into outright lunacy at the fringes. Also, it is closely aligned to the hard left of politics, and leaves women who are middle-the-road, never mind right wing, out in the cold.

On the intellectual side, radical feminism is increasingly under attack from opponents within academia, such as Professor Alice Fiamengo and Dr. Christina Hoff Sommers, who accuse it of intellectual bankruptcy, irrationality, and outright dishonesty (e.g., persistent use of false statistics to "prove" discrimination against women where evidence of such discrimination does not exist).

This book outlines the history of feminism from the late 18th century to the present day, mentioning, of course, Mary Wollstonecraft, but also a few figures who have been quietly forgotten by radical feminists (apparently because they weren't left wing or radical enough), such as Hannah More, older contemporary of Wollstonecraft who campaigned for female education and "practical piety", Frances Willard, prominent American suffragist who was also a temperance campaigner, and Phyllis Shafly, who supported women's rights generally, but organized the successful campaign against the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s because, in her view, it went too far.

The book argues that feminism only succeeds in practical achievements, when it is inclusive, and doesn't carve itself off into a niche by ignoring or rejecting the sentiments of the less radical majority. It's snappy and efficient, and makes its argument very well.


The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Kindle Active TOC)
The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Kindle Active TOC)
Price: £0.77

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adam Smith's other great masterpiece, 1 Feb 2014
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This books is a masterpiece, not only of philosophical ethics, but also of social psychology. It recasts ethics by examining the psychology of why people think some actions good and other actions bad. It's examination of these psychological factors is both incisive and pretty exhaustive.

At times, it contains pre-echoes of the ideas of modern evolutionary psychologists, as in the following passage: "Thus self-preservation, and the propagation of the species, are the great ends which Nature seems to have proposed in the formation of all animals. Mankind are endowed with a desire of those ends, and an aversion to the contrary; with a love of life, and a dread of dissolution; with a desire of the continuance and perpetuity of the species, and with an aversion to the thoughts of its intire extinction. But though we are in this manner endowed with a very strong desire of those ends, it has not been intrusted to the slow and uncertain determinations of our reason, to find out the proper means of bringing them about. Nature has directed us to the greater part of these by original and immediate instincts." These instincts are brought to bear in explaining, among other things, why parents are more likely to be excessive than deficient in love for their children, and why we are horrified by the deficiency, but tolerant of the excess. That's classic Evo Psych, a hundred years before Darwin.

Apart from a very wide ranging survey of ethical topics, there is also an essay on aesthetics, which again is very much in tune with modern psychology, a discussion of economic behaviour (not surprising, given that Adam Smith pretty much invented modern economics), a discussion of cultural differences in ethics, an examination of some topics in politics, and an interesting reassessment of then-existing theories of ethics in the light of Adam Smith's psychological theory.

Not only does the book give an excellent overview of ethical topics and a very well thought out and interesting theory, it's also an enjoyable read, and full of interesting thoughts on psychology. I'm inclined to think that a social psychologists could make a whole career by going through this book chapter by chapter and basing research projects around the ideas contained therein. It could also be used as a moral guide. It deserves to be very widely read.


The Technician
The Technician
by Neal Asher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing in it for me, 7 May 2012
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This review is from: The Technician (Paperback)
This novel seemed to have no point other than to present one sequence after another of horrible violence and death, on the largest possible stage. In this, it was competent, but there were no very interesting ideas, characters, jokes or turns of language. There were a couple of brief meditations on the nature of religious and ideological bigotry, but the insights being offered were, I thought, neither remarkable nor unarguable. The science fiction element struck me as being whatever random techno-magic might happen to be convenient for the overriding purpose of supplying bigger bangs and squelchier gore.

I was unable to muster any love for the product, but nor did I actively hate it. Hence three stars.


Acer Aspire 5742 15.6 inch Laptop ( Intel Core i3-370M processor 2.4GHz, 3GB RAM, 320GB HDD, DVD, Webcam, Wireless, Windows 7 Home Premium) - Black
Acer Aspire 5742 15.6 inch Laptop ( Intel Core i3-370M processor 2.4GHz, 3GB RAM, 320GB HDD, DVD, Webcam, Wireless, Windows 7 Home Premium) - Black

5.0 out of 5 stars Very nice laptop, 24 Feb 2011
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Looks good, feels well built, operates quietly, good specs for the money, completely trouble-free so far. Very happy with it. When I bought it, I think it had far and away the best specs for the price among laptops on Amazon, so it was satisfying to see that specs hadn't been purchased at the sacrifice of good quality. However, prices have shifted around, and today this laptop is the same price as a Toshiba Satellite C660 with slightly higher specs, and Toshiba have always made good laptops, so if I were buying today, I'd probably be tempted to go for the Toshiba.


Creative Zen V 4GB MP3 Player with Colour Screen - Black/Blue
Creative Zen V 4GB MP3 Player with Colour Screen - Black/Blue

4.0 out of 5 stars Several years of good service, 25 Nov 2010
I've had one of these for several years, now, and it's provided pretty decent service in that time. MP3 playback quality is good, and so is the FM reception, and the audio recording quality is decent, too. A battery charge still lasts most of a day, but it's not as long as what is available from newer players. I noticed several reviews complaining that their Zen froze on them. Mine has frozen twice, and on both occasions I fixed it promptly by pressing the hidden reset button. (This requires a needle, or something similar.) Other than that, the only annoyance is that you have to plug it into a computer to charge it. When I tried charging it from the mains using a USB adapter, nothing happened. I count that as a minor inconvenience.

The Creative Zen comes with a fancy software package, but can be used without it. Drag-and-drop from the desktop works perfectly fine, though I don't think you can create playlists without the software.

I'm surprised this product is still in stock and being advertised at full price in 2010, though, since it has been long since replaced by higher capacity devices at lower prices with longer battery life.

This review is for the benefit of anyone contemplating buying a 2nd-hand or discounted example of this product. I wouldn't recommend that anyone pay full whack for it, since it is quite obsolete.


Vexille [DVD]
Vexille [DVD]
Dvd ~ Fumihiko Sori
Price: £5.75

4.0 out of 5 stars There's a clue in the title, 29 Oct 2010
This review is from: Vexille [DVD] (DVD)
In 2067, the bicentennial year of the Meiji Restoration, Japan suddenly closes its borders to the world, preventing not only people from entering or leaving, but also information. Ten years later, a US agency called SWORD discovers that Japan has developed androids that are a threat to global security. It decides to send in a team of spies to investigate. Thus is set the scene for an anime action adventure after the model of Appleseed, Ghost in the Shell, etc. All the standard ingredients are there - shiny, towering, utopian cities, rocket-powered machine-gun-toting robots, sinister, powerful corporations, and, of course, a pulchritudinous heroine. In fact, it's so full of standard ingredients that one could reasonably complain that it was little more than a cento. The worms so obviously borrowed from Dune particularly annoyed me.

Still, the chase and battle scenes are entertaining enough, and the digitally rotoscoped, cel-shaded animation is impressive, taking the techniques demonstrated in Appleseed several steps further, to create a convincingly mood-soaked atmosphere. The faces seem a bit static sometimes, though.

What I find intriguing about this film is the way it seems to operate as a meditation on the Japanese nation and its relation to the world outside. There are many hints to this. For instance, the sinister corporation is called Daiwa, which means "great peace", but can also mean "great Japan", depending on how you read it, and there's the title, Vexille, which is also the name of the protagonist, and can only be derived from the Latin "vexillum", which means "flag". If you're so inclined, you can have almost as much fun decoding all this stuff as watching the action. I did. Sad, eh? Oh, well. Without that stuff, I might have given this film just three stars because of all the clichés and borrowings, but with it, it gets four.


EXTE [DVD]
EXTE [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chiaki Kuriyama

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever and unusual horror-comedy, with some dark touches, 29 Oct 2010
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This review is from: EXTE [DVD] (DVD)
If you're like me, you might expect from by the DVD cover that Exte will be a fairly straightforward imitation of Grudge, all creepy and serious. But that's not what it's like at all. Clues come early, such as the sign showing that the hair salon where Yuko (Chiaki Kuriyama) works is named after Gilles de Rais. Satire, surely.

The elements of satire and parody become more overt as the film progresses, becoming laugh-out-loud funny by the final sequence, helped along by a demonic performance from Ren Osugi as the perverted mortuary attendant, Yamazaki. The hair-induced death scenes are admirably inventive, but what makes this film special is the way it combines this horror fun with a half-hidden deeper layer, disguised as mere background, which speaks vividly of the real-life horrors of organ theft and child abuse, and uses hair extensions as a token of a thoughtlessly exploitative relationship between consumers in rich countries and the people in poor countries who supply their wants.

Pretty subversive for a genre movie, and I rather like that.


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