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    Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human
    by HaroldBloom
    Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 September, 1999)
    list price: $18.00 -- our price: $12.24
    (price subject to change: see help)
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    Editorial Review

    "Personality, in our sense, is a Shakespearean invention, and is notonly Shakespeare's greatest originality but also the authentic cause of his perpetual pervasiveness."So Harold Bloom opines in his outrageously ambitious Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. This is a titanic claim. But then this is a titanic book, wrought by a latter-day critical colossus--and before Bloom is done with us, he has made us wonder whether his vision of Shakespeare's influence on the whole of our lives might not be simply the sober truth. Shakespeare is a feast of arguments and insights, written with engaging frankness and affecting immediacy. Bloom ranges through the Bard's plays in the probable order of their composition, relating play to play and character to character, maintaining all the while a shrewd grasp of Shakespeare's own burgeoning sensibility.

    It is a long and fascinating itinerary, and one littered with thousands of sharp insights. Listen to Bloom on Romeo and Juliet: "The Nurse and Mercutio, both of them audience favorites, are nevertheless bad news, in different but complementary ways." On The Merchant of Venice: "To reduce him to contemporary theatrical terms, Shylock would be an Arthur Miller protagonist displaced into a Cole Porter musical, Willy Loman wandering about in Kiss Me Kate."On As You Like It: "Rosalind is unique in Shakespeare, perhaps indeed in Western drama, because it is so difficult to achieve a perspective upon her that she herself does not anticipate and share." Bloom even offers some belated vocational counseling to Falstaff, identifying him as an Elizabethan Mr. Chips: "Falstaff is more than skeptical, but he is too much of a teacher (his true vocation, more than highwayman) to follow skepticism out to its nihilistic borders, as Hamlet does."

    In the end, it doesn't matter very much whether we agree with all or any of these ideas. What does matter is that Bloom's capacious book sends us hurrying back to some of the central texts of our civilization. "The ultimate use of Shakespeare," the author asserts, "is to let him teach you to think too well, to whatever truth you can sustain without perishing." Bloom himself has made excellent use of his hero's instruction, and now he teaches us all to do the same. --Daniel Hintzsche ... Read more

    Reviews (90)

    4-0 out of 5 stars Good stuff, when he's not inventing theologies
    The idea that Shakespeare created every mannerism I possess is presumptuous in the extreme, but then again, you don't become one of the most prominent literary critics of our time without being presumptuous.

    In fact, all literary criticism revolves around the burning sun of presumption, and Bloom knows how to borrow that fire better than almost anyone.

    Do not be fooled, this is Bloom's attempt to permanently enthrone Shakespeare above all in the pantheon of history, even above his beloved Freud.Even if he suggests Freud's analysis can lead to us Shakespeare better than anyone, he is still lifting up Shakespeare above all.The man's arms must be getting tired from constantly trying to ascend already ascended figures.

    He spends a lot of time on Hamlet.A lot of time.And while this may be justified by the fact that Hamlet was the best thing Shakespeare ever wrote, there are other plays that deserve just as much space.He also ignores (basically) the sonnets, which accounts for 50% of Shakespeare genius.

    However, in terms of Shakespeare criticism, you will be hard pressed to find someone who has spent more time pouring over the material, thinking about it, publishing about it, and generally living it day to day.Bloom's grasp of Shakespeare has reached a level so far above others that he's no longer considered the best there is.I remember a few years above, Stephen Greenblatt was supposedly the cutting-edge in Shakespeare.No one wanted to talk to me about Bloom in the English department, they were too busy divorcing and remarrying each other.

    The problem here is that there is hardly any usefulness outside of pure inventive thought.Using this in your thesis on Shakespeare, in today's literary zeitgeist, is going to be met with a resounding groan.Bloom is too good, and he even seems to recognize this by establishing something called the "School of Resentment," which includes anyone who buys into modern literary theory.This excludes Bloom, of course, so you see the equation.The trouble is, who is being resented; Shakespeare for being so good, or Bloom for being so quick as to see how good Shakespeare really is?

    5-0 out of 5 stars This book covers a lot of territory
    This gigantic book summarizing a lifetime of teaching Shakespeare would not seem so familiar to me if the shocks of recognition were not always so close to the truths that I value most highly.My knowledge of Shakespeare is not much, but the information this book contains about plays that loomed large in Walter Kaufmann's books FROM SHAKESPEARE TO EXISTENTIALISM and TRAGEDY AND PHILOSOPHY largely supports a bracing view of the worst things that Shakespeare could find to say about people.A few years ago, at a performance of the play "Cymbeline," I seemed to be much more disturbed than other members of the audience, seeing it in an intimate setting that put people on folding chairs close enough to feel that we were all taking part in what was going on.Harold Bloom adds to that feeling of intimacy by declaring:

    "Iago, like Hamlet and Macbeth, is beyond us, but we are Iachimo.Our bravado, malice, fearfulness, confusion are all in Iachimo, who is not much worse than we are, and whom Shakespeare intends to spare."(p. 637).

    I have a DVD collection (3 discs), LIVE DEAD, THE GRATEFUL DEAD IN CONCERT, which has an interview with the band, probably the special Dead Facts fan quiz on the GRATEFUL DEAD:TICKET TO NEW YEAR'S recorded at the Oakland Coliseum on December 31, 1987, in which some fan wants to know what they think the words of the song, "Iko Iko" mean:"Jockamo fee na - ne'."It sounds like Iachimo to me, and the attitude that the band adopts to come up with a reasonable explanation which will not produce any more questions is worthy of a truly comic society.The song has been around since 1964, and one verse is like a Shakespeare play:

    "Look at my king all dressed in red.
    Iko.Iko, unday.
    I betcha five dollars he'll kill you dead.
    Jockamo fee na - ne'."

    Incidentally, there is a version of "Iko-Iko" on the Warren Zevon CD "Wanted Dead or Alive," which also has his song "She Quit Me" which was used in the movie "Midnight Cowboy," which is pretty good if you want to see Dustin Hoffman playing a character called Ratso.

    Bloom dates "Cymbeline" to 1609-10, with Shakespeare returning to Stratford in 1610 for semi-retirement (p. xiv), which allowed him to turn on his work with what Bloom regards as "unmistakable overtones of his personal distaste for the London of 1609-10."(p. 615).The larger question is "the question of Shakespeare himself.What was he trying to do for himself as a maker of plays by the heap of self-parodies that constitute `Cymbeline'?"(p. 621).Obviously, "Shakespeare is his own worst enemy in `Cymbeline':he is weary of making plays."(p. 621).Bloom still finds some good poetry:

    "Golden lads and girls all must,
    As chimney-sweepers, come to dust."(p. 629).

    The six lines of [V.iv. 146-51] are so good that they show up on page 634 and 635 as "Compulsive self-parody" which leads to "It is another of those uncanny recognitions in which Shakespeare is already beyond Nietzsche."(p. 636).

    It is easy for me to look up plays that other people might think are awful.Bloom thinks that "Troilus and Cressida" was never staged at the Globe because it "might seem too lively a satire upon the fallen Earl of Essex, who may be the model for the play's outrageous Achilles,"(p. 327).Thersites denies having any honour:"no, no:I am a rascal, a scurvy railing knave:a very filthy rogue."(p. 329).Margarelon told him, "The devil take thee, coward."(p. 329).Bloom is sympathetic."If we can trust anyone in the play, then it must be Thersites, deranged as doubtless he is."(p. 332).

    "Timon of Athens" is considered unfinished."Shakespeare appears to have to have abandoned `Timon of Athens,' for reasons still unclear.He never staged it, and parts of it are less finished than others."(p. 588).There are a few examples of "venereal invective" (p. 596) that were ultimately dismissed as unworthy of himself."This hymn to syphilis is unmatched and unmatchable."(p. 597).There are topics which are far more worthy of poetry in this book, and the book makes every effort to present explanations which make the poetry worth understanding.Not every reader in our society will make the effort to find what they want in Shakespeare.This book will make sense to people who would want to know all this, whether it will do them any good or not.

    This is April."Shakespeare was christened on April 26, 1564, at Stratford-on-Avon, and died there on April 23, 1616."(p. xiii).He only lived to the age of 52, more or less.Many of his plays were so popular that Bloom can keep talking about characters throughout the book as if readers who have not encountered them already will know who they are someday.They should, too.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Bloom on Shakespeare
    Bloom's Shakepeare: The Invention of the Human is eloquent, frequently brilliant, provocative, ambitious, playful, educational, entertaining, yet flawed.Several of his major premises are unproven, and since these logical prerequisites are key to his central thesis, his whole edifice is shaky at best.For instance, he presumes, with no evidence, that Shakespeare wrote Ur-Hamlet, and this presumption is fundamental to his later review of the play.Other weaknesses come through as well.He repeats through virtually every play review his deification of Hamlet and Falstaff.He goes too far too often with little or no evidence.Yet to be fair, Bloom's book is clearly a labor of love. Even with its limitations this is an excellent book that is worth reading. ... Read more

    Isbn: 157322751X
    Subjects:  1. Biography & Autobiography    2. Biography/Autobiography    3. Characters and characteristics in literature    4. Drama    5. Literary    6. Personality in literature    7. Plays / Drama    8. Psychological aspects    9. Shakespeare    10. Biography & Autobiography / General   


    Cookwise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Cooking
    by Shirley O. Corriher
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (01 September, 1997)
    list price: $30.00 -- our price: $18.90
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    Editorial Review

    Is it safe to let a biochemist into your kitchen? If it's Shirley Corriher, extend an open invitation. Her long-awaited book, Cookwise, is a unique combination of basic cooking know-how, excellent recipes--from apple pie to beurre blanc--and reference source. She makes the science of cooking entirely comprehensible, then livens it up with stories, such as when her first roast duck blew up because she overstuffed it and the fat from the bird caused it to expand beyond capacity. Food companies pay Corriher fancy fees to troubleshoot their recipes, and Cookwise puts her encyclopedic knowledge ever at your fingertips. If you want to know how to make the flakiest pastry, best-textured breads, delicious fruit desserts from fruit that's not fully ripe, impeccable sauces, and attractively bright cooked vegetables, this book contains the answers. "What this recipe shows" tells you up front what's useful in each of the book's 230-plus recipes. "At-a-glance," "What to do," and "Why" help you learn or troubleshoot in minutes. If eight steps to a perfect Juicy Roast Chicken are daunting, think of the delight of Rich Cappuccino Ice Cream in three steps or the seductive Secret Marquise in five. ... Read more

    Reviews (81)

    5-0 out of 5 stars excellent book
    great book for beginners and advanced cooks. helps you to think for yourself to create recipes tailored to your needs and taste. don't count on a lot of pictures though.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Awesome-For Serious Students of Cooking
    Unfortunately the term "awesome" is overused but here is it appropriate.The book is worth its weight in gold, a treasure trove of critically important cooking information.Read this and you will really know what is going on and why.Some reviewers have complained about the organization, I can't understand why, the book is perfectly well organized, indexed and cross-referenced.Note, this book was written for people who really want to understand why certain recipes produce certain results, it is deeper than the average cookbook, therein lies its virtue.In cooking as in life, knowledge is power.

    4-0 out of 5 stars Great Cake ever best
    This book can't be beat! If you're wondering why your cake is lopsided, you're cookies are too crumbly, or you just don't know what to do with chocolate, this is the book for you! Easy to understand, includes recipies to show you how the ingredients effect each other, and trouble shoots recipies you've found and my want to try. I feel like a better, more prepared, cook now that I've gone through this book. I can guestimate how a recipie will turn out before I even start, and I know what's going on during the preparation and cooking time. I recomend this to anyone who feels cooking is a hobby for them!

    Even though I have baked hundreds of cakes, I made a loaf of rye bread that was light and delicious, and pie crust that was very tender, even after freezing and thawing. Understanding the role of ingredients and necessity of cooking techniques changes how you cook, and the improvement is instantaneous and gratifying. I highly recommend this book and I never knew why I had to cream the butter and sugar before I added the eggs and why it is important to add the dry ingredients after the wet ones are combined,This book is truly a gift to share with others. [...] ... Read more

    Isbn: 0688102298
    Subjects:  1. Cookery    2. Cooking    3. Cooking / Wine    4. Methods - Baking    5. Methods - General    6. Reference   


    Cartoon History of the Universe 2
    Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (18 September, 1994)
    list price: $21.95 -- our price: $14.93
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    Editorial Review

    Continuing right where the first book left off, The Cartoon History of the Universe II once again combines Gonick's superb cartooning with the lessons of history. Find out what Lynn Johnston, creator of For Better of Worse, calls "a gift to those of us who love to laugh and who love to learn." Part II contains volumes 8 to 13, from the Springtime of China to the Fall of Rome (and India, too!). ... Read more

    Reviews (29)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Thorough research and humor - who could ask for more?
    The Cartoon History of the Universe is an excellent series.Volume two covers history from the death of Alexander the Great through the fall of Rome and includes Chinese history up through around 0 AD.

    One thing that I really like about this series is the good research that went into it.Although sources are not given in footnotes or interspersed in the text, there is a bibliography, and Gonick includes enough detail to make it possible to verify the facts he states.So basically it is well written and doesn't use being a comic book as an excuse to be sloppy.I wouldn't feel odd about citing it as a reference on a term paper, and I actually did cite this one.Another nice feature is that humor is usually in the form of little anecdotes that actually happened and not slapstick.History is full of colorful characters (Nero anyone?) and so it can be presented interestingly with a bit of effort and research.Gonick does that here.

    I recommend The Cartoon History of the Universe to everybody.The humor and visuals are nice to apply to a subject which can seem like a dull stream of names and dates at times.It is a good supplement to a history class, because it covers in depth some things that tend to only be included in history classes for the sake of political correctness.For example, Gonick's history of China is in depth and covered with the same research and humor as the European history.In most history books the sections on China are very stiff and PC.To me this book is valuable if only for the section on Chinese history.

    5-0 out of 5 stars The bloody history of early China and early Europe
    Even though this is a collection of cartoons and the text in the dialog balloons is generally meant to be frivolous, it is possible to learn a lot of history from the book. Unlike so many history books that concentrate on Western Europe and derivatives, this one deals extensively with India and China. Volume 8 deals with the early history of India and how the great religions that we associate with India arose. From it, you also learn the origins of the great early works of Indian civilization such as Bhagavad Gita.
    The origins of the ancient Chinese civilization are covered in volumes 9 and 10. Most of the points deal with the battles for supremacy and feature court intrigue, deception and a lot of killing. We tend to think of massive deaths in war as being a modern invention, but that is a misconception. Well before the year 0, the army of Chin was ambushed and massacred, over 200,000 men were killed in one day.
    Chapter 11 begins with the last days of Alexander the Great. It correctly points out that while Alexander was married to a Persian, that union was largely political. The great love of Alexander's life was Hephaestion, his male grand vizier. When Hephaestion died, Alexander grieved over the body for two days. The next sections chronicle the origin and rise of Rome as a great power. Once again, it is largely a tale of murder, intrigue and war. As the power of Rome grew, it was no longer possible to maintain the republican form of government. At first the supreme position was called the consulship, where the holder was powerful, but not yet a dictator. All this changed when Julius Caesar marched off to conquer Gaul and then returned to march on Rome. This began several decades of near constant warfare in the Empire, some of which was civil.
    The numbers of people that were killed in these wars are amazing to consider. Some history books estimate that Julius Caesar killed over a million while in Gaul. Descriptions of Western history describe the carnage of World Wars I and II as unprecedented in human history. In fact, the concept of total war with deaths numbered in the hundreds of thousands or millions is an old theme of history. The wars that took place between the Europeans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were comparatively limited in consequence.
    After a few pages, the discerning reader will understand that the text in the captions is generally designed to impart the history while the balloon dialog is reserved for the humor. I enjoyed this book immensely, learning many things about Chinese history. I also learned some additional details about western history. If there is a theme to the history presented here, it is how many people were killed in acts of the powerful fighting for control. We tend to think of the twentieth century as being the bloodiest on record. That is probably not the case. Given the carnage that occurred in China and the Mediterranean even before the birth of Christ, there might be centuries before the A. D. label that were bloodier. That fact is disturbing, whether learned by text or by cartoon.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Religion, politics, sex and humour
    As with Larry Gonick's other guides he manages to pull off the trick of being both amusing and edifying. He also has the artistic flare for painting history in broad yet revealing brush strokes.
    The second instalment of his history of the Universe covers ancient India, China's early years and Rome from its mythical founding to its very real collapse.
    Gonick is not afraid to offend. His depictions of Jesus, Krisna, Buddha and Confucius are all less than entirely flattering. While he is not the sort to be disrespectful through ignorance, Gonick will not fail to pick out the more obvious weaknesses of any institution or historical figure he comes across. He even takes a swipe at one of Afrocentrisms unjustified claims. Although in the end he pays due recognition to the achievements of each of these figures it is possibly best to avoid this book if you are the sort to yell "Blasphemy!".
    Anybody else who has a sense of humour and an interest in history should get their hands on this book immediately. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0385420935
    Subjects:  1. Caricatures and cartoons    2. Cartoons and caricatures    3. Comics & Cartoons    4. History - General History    5. History: American    6. Reference    7. World - General    8. World history    9. Humor / Cartoons   


    Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid
    by Douglas R. Hofstadter
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 January, 1999)
    list price: $22.00 -- our price: $14.96
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    Editorial Review

    Twenty years after it topped the bestseller charts, Douglas R. Hofstadter's Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid is still something of a marvel. Besides being a profound and entertaining meditation on human thought and creativity, this book looks at the surprising points of contact between the music of Bach, the artwork of Escher, and the mathematics of Gödel. It also looks at the prospects for computers and artificial intelligence (AI) for mimicking human thought. For the general reader and the computer techie alike, this book still sets a standard for thinking about the future of computers and their relation to the way we think.

    Hofstadter's great achievement in Gödel, Escher, Bach was making abstruse mathematical topics (like undecidability, recursion, and 'strange loops') accessible and remarkably entertaining. Borrowing a page from Lewis Carroll (who might well have been a fan of this book), each chapter presents dialogue between the Tortoise and Achilles, as well as other characters who dramatize concepts discussed later in more detail. Allusions to Bach's music (centering on his Musical Offering) and Escher's continually paradoxical artwork are plentiful here. This more approachable material lets the author delve into serious number theory (concentrating on the ramifications of Gödel's Theorem of Incompleteness) while stopping along the way to ponder the work of a host of other mathematicians, artists, and thinkers.

    The world has moved on since 1979, of course. The book predicted that computers probably won't ever beat humans in chess, though Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in 1997. And the vinyl record, which serves for some of Hofstadter's best analogies, is now left to collectors. Sections on recursion and the graphs of certain functions from physics look tantalizing, like the fractals of recent chaos theory. And AI has moved on, of course, with mixed results. Yet Gödel, Escher, Bach remains a remarkable achievement. Its intellectual range and ability to let us visualize difficult mathematical concepts help make it one of this century's best for anyone who's interested in computers and their potential for real intelligence. --Richard Dragan

    Topics Covered: J.S. Bach, M.C. Escher, Kurt Gödel: biographical information and work, artificial intelligence (AI) history and theories, strange loops and tangled hierarchies, formal and informal systems, number theory, form in mathematics, figure and ground, consistency, completeness, Euclidean and non-Euclidean geometry, recursive structures, theories of meaning, propositional calculus, typographical number theory, Zen and mathematics, levels of description and computers; theory of mind: neurons, minds and thoughts; undecidability; self-reference and self-representation; Turing test for machine intelligence. ... Read more

    Reviews (203)

    5-0 out of 5 stars The science of self-reference and repetition
    What do Godel, Escher and Bach have in common?They're demonstrations of self-referencing paradoxical behavior in 3 different fields: Music, Visual Art and Mathematics.If you can follow the ideas presented in Hofstadter's career building Pulitzer Prize winning work, consider yourself mentally stretched.

    Godel's incompleteness theorum refers to itself in proving itself.(If it's true, it can't be.If it can't be true, it is)Escher's art is self-referencing - follow the waterfall down until you realize you are back at the top.Follow the stairs up and around a box, and get back to where you started.Same if you go down.Bach's music rises note by note until it's back where it started.

    Attaching the same abstract idea behind each of these ideas is a fantastic synthesis.For some it will seem obvious.Others may consider it nonsense.I consider myself lucky to be in the group that considers themselves stretched.I don't get all of it, but enough to be glad I read it.

    5-0 out of 5 stars One of the great popular science books

    This book richly deserved its Pulitzer prize.  It's one of the great pieces of popularscience writing and it's  remarkable that it has lost solittlein 25 years.  You learn the intricacies of Bach's music, of Godel's Incompleteness  theorem, Escher's drawings and DNA replication.Although his purpose seems to have been very general, with everythingtied together looselyas ideas for his future work in artificalintelligence, one could view this as abook about some parts ofcognitive psychology--  how the templates we inherit inour DNAcreate and interpret sounds  and images and theorems and how theseseemto relate to one another via the concepts of recursiveness,tangled hierarchies,and incompleteness.  It is mostly  thelack of these inference engines thataccounts for the fact thatto this day AI has still not been able to make a machine withthe brains of an ant(ie, go out into an arbitrarily complex world,recognize and deal with friend and foe, eat, reproduce, and stayout of the sunand rain and keep doing it for years).
    Hisfollowup the next year with Daniel Dennet--`The Mind's I` complementsthis book nicely(see my review).

    So one could say that thisis really a psychology text.  It  is about human  behaviorand reasoning-about why we thinkand act the way we do.  But(likeall such discussions until recently) none ofthe explanationsare really explanations.  Nobody at that time had muchunderstandingof  the mental mechanisms involved.  Like most 'explanations` ofbehavior, the comments here are often more interesting forwhat kinds of thingshe tries to use (and omits) than for theactual content.  As with all reasoningand explaining, art, math,music, etc, one now wants to know which of the brainsinferenceengines are activated.  This book and most books and AI  research were largely oblivious to such explanations until quite recently.

     Cognitiveand evolutionary psychology are still not evolvedenough to provide fullexplanations but an interesting start hasbeen made.  Boyer's  `ReligionExplained` is a good place tosee what a modern scientific explanation of  humanbehavior lookslike,and works on art, music and math are sure to appear soon. Pinker's`How the mind  Works` is a  good general survey. They do not explainall of intelligence or thinking but give an idea of how to start. See severalof the recent  texts(ie, 2004 onwards) with evolutionarypsychology in the titleor the web for further info.
    Wenow recognize that the bases for art, music, math, philosophy,psychology, sociology, language and religion are found in theautomatic functioning of  templates or inference engines. This is why we canexpect similarities and puzzles and inconsistenciesor incompleteness and often,dead ends. The brain has no generalintelligence but numerous specializedmodules, each  of whichworks on certain aspects of  some problem and theresults arethen added, resulting in the feelings which lead to behavior. Hofstadter, like  everyone, can only generate or recognize explanationsthat areconsistent with the operations of his own inference engines,which  were evolved to deal with such things as resource accumulation,coalitions in small groups, social exchanges and the evaluationof the intentions of other persons. It is amazing they can producephilosophy and science, and not surprising that figuring outhow  they themselves work together to produce consciousness orchoice or spirituality is way beyond reach.

    Hedoes not try to deal with the endlessly vexing issue of whetherthese correlations are out there in the world or in here in themind. Yes, weuse our templates, but why did we evolve  thoseand was there anotherpossibility?   Some will say this willall become clear when psychology andgenetics  are sufficientlyadvanced, while others say the same of physics andmathematicsor programming. And, did they all evolve from some  prototype enginein a precambrian invertebrate or did they come much later andfrom many sources?

    It occurred to me that some of the mostcomplex products of human reasoning --superstring  theory andthe associated math--are recursive( in somenontrivial  sense)to quantum field theory, subatomic particle behavior and  theentire universe. Physics unites many areas of the most advanced  mathbecauseit needs  self consistent structures, but since we know math is logicallyproven to be  inescapably incomplete and math is a product of the mind, itseems reasonable  that there must be a sense in which the mind is incompletealso. We expectsince they use math that computers must be incomplete. We knowthatTuring's halting theorem for computation(we can not discover inadvancewhen a computer will stop) is logically equivalent toGodel's incompletenesstheorem.  It might follow that physicswill be incomplete as well and there willbe many physical lawsor phenomena that will never be compatible with orderivable fromthe others.  Or perhaps physics can be complete andselfconsistentin one universe but not in others

    Just as he did not go veryfar into the many realms of psychology or  physics, neither did he venture farinto philosophy.  Perhaps the book could havebenefited greatly from anunderstanding of the infinitely subtlerelationships between language, thoughtand reality.  An acquaintance with  Wittgenstein would have helped immensely,especially his'Lectures on  the Foundations of Mathematics: Cambridge, 1939'edited  by Cora Diamond(1990).  It is better to get this onerather than theearlier `Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, Vol. 1` edited by RushRhees( as they are based on different setsof notes if you  are really  into ityou should get both).
    AlthoughI've never seen anyone say so, W can be regarded as a pioneer incognitive psychology.  All of his  research was thought experimentsandintrospection  into the relations between  language, thoughtand reality. Perhaps  nobody ever approached his talent for describing the mind at work. The point is that Hofstadter istrying to  understand how the mind  works as apreliminary tomaking programs that work the same way(or at least get similarresults)so anyone who is interested in this book(or nearly any area ofphilosophy,language, psychology, or  intellectual  discourse) can look intoWwith great profit(but  be forewarned W may seem very  shallow,but if you jumpin you may never stop swimming)!
    Just afterreading  this book I happened  to read  Wittgensteins ``Cultureand  Value``(published the  same  year(1980), but written decadesearlier), and,though it's his least interesting  book, I pickedout a few comments  that maybe regarded  as pertinent to muchof  this book and of course to a large part ofmodern intellectuallife.

     ``There  is no religious denomination  in whichthemisuse of metaphysical  expressions has been responsible for somuch sin asit has in mathematics.``  

     ``People  sayagain  and again that philosophydoesn't really progress, that  we are  still occupied with the samephilosophical problemsas were the Greeks.  But the people who say this don'tunderstandwhy is has to be so.  It is because our language has remained thesame  and keeps seducing us into asking the same  questions.  As long  as therecontinues to be a verb 'to be'  that looks as if it  functions  in the same wasas 'to eat' and 'todrink',  as long as we still  have  the adjectives'identical','true', 'false', 'possible', as long as we continue  totalk of  ariver of time, of an expanse  of space, etc., etc.,people  will keep stumblingover the same  puzzling  difficultiesand  find themselves staring at something which no explanation seems  capable of clearing up.  And what's more, thissatisfiesa longing for the transcendent, because, insofar as people think  they can see `the limits of  human understanding',  they believe of coursethat  they can see beyond  these.``
    Wheneverone gets philosophical itis relevant to take a step back fromtime to time and see just what is reallygoing on.  Hofstadteris not a  philospher and he does not seem to take thatstep.  Incompleteness  seems well defined in math but what about elsewhere?  In what sense is music or  art or biology incomplete?  And exactly what willcount as a tangled  hierarchy, and recursiveness orself referencing in suchdifferent realms(and as W would say,such different language games)?   Its notreally so clear that the  recursiveness in art, music, biology and math are thesame sort of thing at all an, insofar as they are, what exactly thatmeans.What should count as  ``same` here?

    H doesnot address these questions in any depth but one might  find them by far the most interesting theme of the book.  We are tantalized at  theseeming connections but do they mean anything?  Do they go to the core of  ourbeing(how the mind works)? Are they merelythe result of the use of  some of thesame templates by art,math, and music?  Do they relate  to the molecularstructureof  matter or to particle physics and  string theory?  Is ituseful toextend these analogies(or are  they homologies?)almostendlessly further intophilosophy, language,  psychology, biology(e.g.,not only the recursive natureof DNA,  RNA  and proteins, butthe many levels of feedback in the nucleus, cytoplasm,  intercellular,interorgan, intracerebral, exchange  of chemicals andgenes betweennucleus, mitochondria and chloroplasts  as well as with thebacteriaand  viruses that wander in out of  our bodies into other bodiesandother organisms  happily picking up and dropping off genesas they go--tangled,recursive,  hierarchical  and in some sense,incomplete).

    Or, to take it further, one  might  findyet more connections between artand music, math and biology, computer programs, physics and chemistry andbiochemistry and add such  dimensions as color, geometric shapes, measurements,self organizing abilities, chaos, and other temporal, spatial or purelypsychological ways(emotions,  sensations, dreams etc).  There are many books inart, music,  math, biology,  psychology,physics and chemistry that alreadytouch upon these  themes butI think the most progress is being made incognitive psychology.The brain is highly recursive in many ways.   We conversewithourselves  internally and many times externally. The  schizophreniccommonly hears voices,  but they rarely say nice  things.

    Oneis reminded ofthe cut-ups that William Burroughs  and ByronGysin  created.  They cut up booksor even newspapers  andstuck them back together  randomly.  There was usuallysome perverse kind of logic to the result showing  the hidden threads indiscourse.  Burroughs later did the same thing with films,with similar results.

    Of course pursuing hidden relationships between seemingly unconnectedthings  quickly leads to numerology, pyrimidology and madness. One can findcodes or algorithms toconnect or derive anything from anything. Hofstadter doesnotgo  into this here but he mentions it in his next book, The Minds I(1981). I am reminded of string theory which has math so powerful it can probablyexplain any possible  universe and so it is verysuspect as  an explanation ofours. 

    He suggest that incompleteness,tangled hierarchies etc may beresponsible  for the emergenceof higher phenomena which do not exist and cannotbe explainedat lower levels(eg, consciousness and in fact, everything)and seemsto be something of a holist( but in other places he seems  clearly behavioristor reductionist). You might say he is suggesting we look for the  explanationof emergence in the bizarre phenomena of the foundations of math,  rather thanin those in the foundations of physics. Given a universe where life ispossible, is it  notinevitably full of  recursiveness, tangled hierarchies,incompleteness etc. 

    As H is well aware, Zen can be regarded as using  theseaspects of the  world to trick the mind into stopping-- at which point allrelationships become  irrelevant. However hewas  just starting in Zen at thetime so he does not go  veryfar with  it.  For those who want to go into itfurther, probablythe best and most readable recent books on Zen  are thevariousvolumes  by Osho. 

    Its a pity he has not been  able to writeanother  book like this as there is  now a vast amount  ofinformation available about DNA and RNA, the inflationary theory of the  universe, quantumtheory, and the beautiful fusionof string  theory  and advanced math, whichcould greatly extendand  amplifiy  the themes of recursion, tangledness,hierarchies,and  incompleteness.  One could  make a good case that the basicstructure  of the universe has these  properties at its smallestandlargest scales.   Both quantum physics and string theoryhave  complex  sets oflaws  that appear tangled,nested, hierarchical and incomplete--  and so far noone can  unifythem, unless one  accepts string  theory on faith-but nobody cansolve string theory and physics, like mathematics  whichit mirrors (orexpresses?)may remain forever incomplete( Kaku's`Hyperspace` gives a summary upto 1994-see my review).

    Itwas one of the few times he stuck  his neck outwhen he predictedthat  the future of AI would involve  recursive programs butareneural nets and fuzzy  logic recursive?   And do these relateat all to howthe brain works or to anything Wittgenstein hasto say about language andreality?  The diligent might want tolook at B.A.  Worthington's book--`SelfConsciousness and SelfReferencing:an interpretation of  Wittgenstein's Tractatus`.

    Sincethis book appeared, mathematician Gregory Chaitin has mademajorextensions of incompleteness and alsodeveloped the amazing omeganumberdefining the limits of math(his  popular and tech bookseasy to find on the net and  his most recent  on omega-- Meta Math --appeared in 2005). 

    Somereaders will find interesting avaguely similar book ``Labyrinth``  by PeterPesic (2000)  whichuses the  form of the triple fugue to link symbolicmathematicsto the  pursuit  of science.
    He does not mention that Godelshowed that (if  the universe is rotating) time  travel is possible(ie,time isrecursive), nor that all theories of physics,  includingquantum  field theory,remain incomplete.  Also the highestproduct of  the  mind--Superstring Theoryis recursive to quantumfield theory and  the  behavior of particles and theentireuniverse. A good bit  of this was known in 1980 and Hofstadterwas aphysicist so it''s surprising it does not appear here. We know that the mostadvanced  physics and the most advancedmath fuse in superstring theory  andthis seems amazingly holistic. Physics must have the  self  consistentstructures of mathematicsbut as math is inescapably  incomplete  does it followthatphysics is also? And worse, as  math is a product of the mind is not themind forever incomplete  too?  Does this mean therewill always be  physicallaws or phenomena  that are not deriveablefrom(compatible with) the others orcan  physics be completeand self consistent in one universe(however we delimitor describethat) but inconsistent in others?  All these questions seem likelyto go on forever. 

    5-0 out of 5 stars GEB, garbage, pseudo-science??
    "Gödel's theorem concerns a problem in "formal logic" and has nothing to do with human-cogno-something." says a reviewer, and concludes that H's treatment of G's theorem is "complete garbage"?!
    Firstly, I have a problem with people who use insulting labels.
    Secondly, it's even worse when they motivate this not with actual arguments, but by stating their (perceived) scientific status INSTEAD ("I am convinced anyone with a degree of mathematics will agree with me.") Truth be said, you can get a degree in math without even coming close to G's incompleteness theorem. Not only do I not agree with the reviewer, but I happen to think H's presentation is the best out there.
    Thirdly, G's theorem is indeed one of formal logic. But to say that it has "nothing to do with human-cogno-something" is to beg the question against the very book you're reviewing. One of the main points of GEB is to explain how G's theorem could be relevant to cognitive science. The reviewer effectively disregards all the arguments presented in the book, and simply STATES that there is no connection :)
    Finally, about the "alchemy and pseudo-science" part: GEB is not a science book (and is not presented as one). True, the author has a very distinguished scientific career, but GEB is a book written to popularize science, not to present new results to peers. Of course some ideas are far-fetched, poetic, speculative - that's exactly what I would expect from a book with the title of "GEB" :)

    In conclusion, this type of review is pretty useless - I like critical, even negative reviews, but let them have some meat, not only poor style and truncated understanding :) ... Read more

    Isbn: 0465026567
    Subjects:  1. 1685-1750    2. Artificial Intelligence    3. Artificial Intelligence - General    4. Bach, Johann Sebastian,    5. General    6. Logic    7. Metamathematics    8. Philosophy    9. Speculative Philosophy    10. Symmetry   


    Bach: The Goldberg Variations
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Audio CD (25 October, 1990)
    list price: $17.98 -- our price: $14.99
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    Editorial Review

    The clear-cut rhythms, riveting articulation, and contrapuntal acumen ofGlenn Gould's 1955 debut GoldbergVariations characterize this 1981remake to strikingly different results. This later version is more deliberate inpacing, stark in expression, thoughtful with ornamentation, and tightlyorganized (if a mite theatrical) in terms of tempo relationships. Whereas thereare no repeats from 1955, Gould now observes "A" section repeats inthe canons, the Fughetta, and other fugue-like variations. The rapid, cross- handed sequences still dazzle with pinpointed fingerwork, yet the slower temposbetter serve the music's dance-like qualities. Unlike Sony Classical's bettersounding Glenn Gould Edition transfer, the original CBS Masterworks CD still hasno banding cues. --Jed Distler ... Read more

    Reviews (65)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!
    This is outstanding.I just discovered the recording this year, after first hearing it 23 years ago.It was interesting that my best friend at at the time of this release was a classical music fan and performer.Funny my friend's likings did not rub off on me.Oh well, it is never too late to discover your true musical passions.

    My wife and I have very different musical tastes.I can listen to Glenn Gould classical or John Gorka folk music, while she listens to Travis Tritt and the Bee Gees.The miracle is we still love and like each other very much. Go figure.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Emperors New Clothes
    I adore Bach.I was intrigued by the enigma of Glenn Gould.

    Having heard the Goldberg Variations by a number of lesser talents both on piano and harpsichord i thought it was time for me to finally shell out on what I've been frequently assured is the definitive reading of the variations.

    I find I've spent £14 on some decent Bach with some tramp muttering and whining in the background!!

    It's not easy to ignore - in fact its impossible to ignore - and totally destroys the pleasure of listening to the music.I would no accept any musician destroying a piece of music by singing - in an entirely different key - along as being acceptable, regardlss of his reputation.

    What we have here is Shine syndrome.David Helfgott could not play.He was very strange so we sat with indulgent smiles, patronising this poor lost soul, whilst he strangled numerous pieces.Similarly we find a poor Bach recording with a deranged individual ruining the recording by constant muttering and humming lauded as a classic.

    I look forward to ecsatic reviews for other pieces destroyed by extraneous noise.

    A La Boheme with jet engine.

    Some Messien with added car alarm noises.

    Mozart with a crank caller dubbed on.

    If you gave this five stars you're rewarding a reputation and haven't listened to the music at all.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Slouching toward heaven
    A meditation on Bach.Wise, illuminating and haunting.I play thisall the time.When I hear it played over musak, I stop and smile.When I am dying, I hope this is playing overhead.

    Nice work! ... Read more

    Asin: B0000025PM
    Subjects:  1. Classical    2. Orchestral & Symphonic   


    Chasing the Sun: Dictionary Makers & the Dicionaries They Made
    by Jonathon Green
    Hardcover (01 September, 2000)
    list price: $30.00
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    Isbn: 0788194739
    Sales Rank: 2089265
    Subjects:  1. Reference   

    My Dinner with Andre
    Director: Louis Malle
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    VHS Tape (25 August, 1998)
    list price: $29.98 -- our price: $29.98
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    Editorial Review

    The sheer audacity of My Dinner with Andre drew throngs of curious filmgoers who made the film the most talked-about art-house hit of 1981. After all, who'd ever heard of a movie consisting of nearly two hours of nonstop dinner conversation? Ah ... but this isn't just any conversation--it's the kind of mesmerizing, soul-searching, life-affirming exploration that we feel privileged to listen to, and with unobtrusive style, director Louis Malle invites us to eavesdrop to our hearts' and minds' content. The film was written by two New Yorkers at the dinner table, noted playwright-actor Wallace Shawn and well-known stage director Andre Gregory, who essentially play themselves. They taped their conversations for several weeks and Shawn gradually shaped them into a scripted conversation, but you'd never know it by watching the movie. The talk flows and flows until you're captivated by Gregory's stories of world travel and spiritual quests in Poland, India, Tibet, the Sahara desert... the tales of a soul-searcher who'd dropped out of the theater world to rediscover his zest for living. Shawn plays the skeptic, the voice of reason, his feet on the ground but his own mind willing to soar. The cumulative effect of this conversation is almost hypnotic, and certainly plays into our eternal appetite for storytelling. Both primal and sophisticated, witty and profound, My Dinner With Andre is a film that can be savored over time, offering new revelations with each viewing as the listener-viewer develops his or her own appreciation of life's great mysteries. --Jeff Shannon ... Read more


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    Reviews (67)

    5-0 out of 5 stars A feast for the mind
    A great film forces our gaze into the mirror.We reflect on life and, on occasion, change.This is not the sole domain of a philosophical art movie. How about Star Wars, Kinsey or The Shawshank Redemption? Didn't they force us to ask the big questions?

    My Dinner With Andre is a treat for the mind.Two friends discuss life in a posh eatery. As one reviewer pointed out, it's not presumptuous at all.Their values . . . their questioning of life's meaning is funny, entertaining and provocative.I liked how the tic-ridden waiter separates one discourse from the next.Wally's voice over sets just the right tone at story's start and end.

    Wally might not agree with Andre's intellectual machinations, but he is surely provoked to wax nostalgically on his life . . . as we reflect on our own life choices.I especially liked Andre's moving last few lines about a boy and his father . . . and Wally's final rumination about his father.

    Who thought a movie could fly by so fast without a whisper of action?The action is between the words.

    5-0 out of 5 stars a unique gem
    Do you ever get tired of endless conversations about how you hate your work, how you dislike and despise your co-workers and how much better you could do the job that your boss is doing?Are you fed up with conversations about the same ole things: shopping, computer news, weather, sports, the business world, gossip, society gossip?Do you feel, after seeing another mindless car chase/explosion/blow em up shoot out/gross out movie, or another regurgitated romantic comedy with its nauseatingly predictable storyline, dialogue and ending that you've had enough and you seriously need a change of pace, a window on a different view.If you are ready for a quiet but at turns funny, profound, silly, and very lively two hours, then get My Dinner with Andre; the best two hour conversation in the history of man.It's about a collision between two ideas about the nature of life; what keeps us going, what gives life meaning.

    Think of it this way, you're having dinner with someone and having the most boring conversation ever, and next to you are two people talking about all kinds of interesting things about what seems like everything under the sun.And you desperately want to be at that table.Well, this movie is that table.

    Some have accused this film of being pretentious.Give me a break.This is about the most unpretentious film you can get. But what this film is is flat out stimulating and brilliant.

    2-0 out of 5 stars Too Clever by Half
    This is a film of serious ambition and sincere intent that takes leaps of faith and bold chances. It assumes that its audience is intelligent, patient, open-minded and capable of sustained concentration. This is the very opposite of the assumptions made in any Hollywood blockbuster and predisposes intelligent people to fancying it.

    But it also takes a silly and self-indulgent delight in its own contrivances. For example, it uses the classical unities of time, place and action to relate a conversation with content that spans years, continents and disparate events. It also uses the ancient form of a Socratic dialogue to promote a post-modern existentialist thesis. The principals in this film are playing with us: using classical devices to present ideas that reject classicism. I suppose it is legitimate to find pleasure in such contrivances, but I just found them irksome. Maybe it's just me, but I don't like obvious cleverness. Make it subtle, present it with finesse, and I can admire it; shove it in my face and such enjoyment as I might otherwise feel is destroyed by the spectacle of filmmakers too obviously in love with their own cunning.

    This film has a number of levels. At its highest level it is about Socrates's seven edicts to maximizing self-potential: Know thyself, Grow with friends, Ask great questions, Strengthen your soul, Verify everything, Speak frankly, and Free your mind. This is the point and purpose of the film: Shaun and Andre are engaged in a dialogue to better themselves and we are invited to journey with them. We are not supposed to focus on Andre's ruminations as much as on the process, and the idea behind this film is that the inner quest is a worthy endeavour in its own right.

    But it is not possible to ignore the content, and the film's good intentions are undermined by its failings. I don't want to be uncharitable, but Andre's ruminations are both feckless and facile. Consider: here is a man talking about asking large questions, life affirmation, and self-discovery while comfortably nestled in the very bourgeois trappings that he is presumably rebelling against. The conversation takes place in what looks like a four star restaurant. Is this another device? Is Shaun and Andre and Louis Malle winking at us? I doubt it. Just another case of "self-discovery on the Beaujolais Express", I'm afraid.

    Actually, I find it hard to criticize this film. It at least tries for philosophical import that would drive most Hollywood films to drink. But it commits the unpardonable sin of telling instead of showing. It affects a dialogue between an urbane traveller and a solid groundling, but the urbanity is both shallow and pretentious, and the groundling mostly just a marker. If we had seen Andre's experiences, watched them through our eyes, gone along on his journey, then we could at least draw our own conclusions and derive a sense of attestation to the life changes he is expounding. But hearing an obviously well-to-do baby boomer fantasize about turning into some kind of noble savage is just a tad ripe. I suspect that Andre is hardly about to give up his four star dinners, fine wines and cashmere cardigans. This is not self-awareness, but narcissism. It's like those undergraduate philosophy round-tables where everyone earnestly tries to project an air of detached profundity. The emphasis is on posture, not content.

    The late Andy Kaufman produced a parody of this film called "My Breakfast with Blassie". While the parody itself was second-rate, the need for parody was spot on. As a general rule, bombast and pretence should be punctured whenever we encounter them--even when they are as earnest and well intentioned as those on offer in "My Dinner with Andre". ... Read more

    Asin: 1572523301
    Subjects:  1. Feature Film-drama   


    The Pinball Effect : How Renaissance Water Gardens Made Carburetor Possible - and Other Journeys
    by James Burke
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 August, 1997)
    list price: $15.00 -- our price: $10.20
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    Editorial Review

    Follow the bouncing ball, James Burke-style: spice trading in the Middle Ages leads to the European tea-drinking craze, which helps instigate the development of the science of natural history, which in turns inspires the creation of the coal miner's safety lamp, which is somehow related to the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. From there we go to North Carolina cotton industry, Thomas Edison's very first electric power station, air conditioning, glass manufacturing, and laser beams. The end result? The smart bombs used during the Gulf War. Burke, who wrote Connections (the book and the television show), revels--or better, wallows--in the accidental nature of the march of discovery. Despite a penchant for playing it loose and free with scientific and historical accuracy, Burke has compiled a fascinating look at the great matrix of change and transformation that humans have created for themselves. ... Read more

    Reviews (24)

    3-0 out of 5 stars Very inventive style but TMI
    This is an ingenious ways of writing a book but it borders more on a way of storing information.It is not the type of book that you read from cover to cover although you could that if you wanted to.It is essentially cross-referenced with itself. What is does is talk about a particular advancement or invention, providing page numbers in the margins for other advancements or inventions that that one enabled. You can bounce all through the book this way - hence the name of the book. It is very interesting but there is a certain amount of information overload. I kept wondering 'How does he know all of this stuff?'.

    3-0 out of 5 stars Oops! check your science Mr Burke
    It seems the author has taken a truckload of creative license in writing this book- or doesn't have a clue about the basics.One of the more amusing errors- from p34: "... In 1952 Francis Crick and James Watson were able to confirm the three-dimensional structure of a molecule of protein.They saw that it took the form of a double helix... Their X-ray diffraction pattern confirmed the existence of the DNA molecule"
    Perhaps someone should mention to the author that Crick and Watson actually confirmed the 3D structure of DNA, not protein ! If Burke could make such a big, big mistake about such publicly known science, imagine the errors that could lurke beneath some of the more obscure discoveries he describes !

    3-0 out of 5 stars Interesting
    This is a very intriguing and interesting book, but is rather dull and boring at points.I recommend buying it if you really like the author or books of this genre, I bought it on a whim and didn't like it.I think if you like similar books, you will love this one. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0316116106
    Subjects:  1. Biography/Autobiography    2. General    3. History    4. History - General History    5. Inventions    6. Science    7. World - General    8. Science / History   


    How the Mind Works
    by Steven Pinker
    Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 January, 1999)
    list price: $17.95 -- our price: $12.21
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    Editorial Review

    Why do fools fall in love? Why does a man's annual salary, on average, increase $600 with eachinch of his height? When a crack dealer guns down a rival, how is he just like Alexander Hamilton, whoseface is on the ten-dollar bill? How do optical illusions function as windows on the human soul? Cheerful,cheeky, occasionally outrageous MIT psychologist Steven Pinker answers all of the above and more in hismarvelously fun, awesomely informative survey of modern brain science. Pinker argues that Darwin pluscanny computer programs are the key to understanding ourselves--but he also throws in apt references toStar Trek, Star Wars, The Far Side, history, literature, W. C. Fields, Mozart,Marilyn Monroe, surrealism, experimental psychology, and Moulay Ismail the Bloodthirsty and his 888children. If How the Mind Works were a rock show, tickets would be scalped for $100. This bookdeserved its spot as Number One on bestseller lists. It belongs on a short shelf alongside such classics asDarwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and theMeanings of Life, by Daniel C. Dennett, and The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are:The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, by Robert Wright. Pinker's startling ideas pop outas dramatically as those hidden pictures in a Magic Eye 3D stereogram poster, which healso explains in brilliantly lucid prose. ... Read more

    Reviews (145)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Excellent, motivating
    An excellent walk through cognitive science and evolutionary psychology. It gives a new perspective on many questions of the culture and of our way of thinking- for a non expert in the area (as I am), but I can imagine that it is for an expert even more interesting. Good to read, consequent. I very much recommend it to read. The book moved me to look after some of the references. The breadth of the view of the author is impressing.

    4-0 out of 5 stars An excellent book, although some sections ramble a bit.
    Steven Pinker's book makes an attempt to describe "how the mind works."But does he succeed?Pinker does not discuss the mind at length in this book and offers few revoluationary theories on how the mind actually works.Instead, the title serves as a useful way of obtaining the reader's attention, which makes sense.In reality, this book is about evolutionary psychology, why people think the way they do, and the advantages that have accrued to our ancestors for believing and thinking the way they did then -- and the way we continue to this day.

    One of the best areas of Pinker's book is his discussion of evolutionary psychology.In that section, Pinker answers a lot of important time-old questions, such as why do we have friends?What is the purpose of war?Why does every culture have religion and marriage?Why do men seem to value virginity in the women they are marrying? Why are parents very protective of their children?Why are brothers and sisters rivals?

    4-0 out of 5 stars A good shot at a moving target...
    How does a bicycle work? Perhaps that's too complicated since it needs a rider to be in a state of working. Then, how does a windmill work? Yes it needs wind, but let's take the wind for granted here. Also, let's lay aside the knowledge there are different types of windmills all designed by different people. Let's assume we know one when we see one. So how does it work? We are immediately confronted by style and method and purpose. There are many ways to describe the workings of a windmill. Is any one enough? Are all descriptions necessary for truth? And what do we mean by "work" anyway?

    If thinking about a relatively simple mechanical device raises so many questions, how many more are raised by thinking about the thinking thing itself - the mind? Why does thinking about how the mind works make predicting the lottery each week seem plausible? Why is "mind" so hard to pin down?

    Kudos to Steven Pinker for taking this on in such a pleasurable, readable, thought provoking way. As he says in the preface, this account is a bird's eye view of how the mind works, a survey, It is both for the specialist and the thoughtful layperson.

    As a survey the book is broad but the access to it is specific, Mr. Pinker says, "...the mind is a system of organs of computation designed by natural selectionto solve the problems faced by our evolutionary ancestors..." He then elaborates adroitly for the next 565 pages. This book is engaging and thought provoking. I recommend it to you. Since you read this far in a review, I am sure the book itself will be of interest to you.

    I wrote much marginalia in my copy of this book, often taking a different position and questioning assumptions. My one outstanding argument with Mr. Pinker comes from a statement he makes near the end of the book, "Psychologists and neuroscientists don't study their own minds; they study someone else's." In the margin I wrote, "Too bad, they should." By this I meant that eastern traditions of contemplation, reflection, and meditation provide tools for studying the mind. These tools would be a welcome addition to western science.
    ... Read more

    Isbn: 0393318486
    Subjects:  1. Cognitive Psychology    2. Cognitive neuroscience    3. General    4. Natural selection    5. Neuropsychology    6. Psychology    7. Science    8. Science/Mathematics   


    Tristram Shandy (Everyman's Library (Cloth))
    Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (15 October, 1991)
    list price: $24.00 -- our price: $16.32
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    Reviews (29)

    5-0 out of 5 stars An 18th century modern novel
    This work is OLD but reads like the most innovative avant-garde novel of today. The book is about Tristram Shandy and his birth, his uncle and his war wound and his father with his love of names and noses. Seriously! This is the original story-with-no-story and the beauty of the book is in the way that it's written. In reality, Sterne talks about anything and everything. He makes digressions lasting 20 odd pages, rambles to the reader, apologises for rambling, then discusses how he plans to get the story finally under way.

    The book is out of order chronologically. One of the funniest things about the book is that it's meant to be an autobiography of the fictional Tristram. Half the book is spent telling the story of the day of his birth. Then, the author moves to another scene, mainly revolving around Tristram's uncle Toby and the novel finishes several years before Tristram's birth.

    Sterne's writing is chaotic resembling a stream of consciousness. Sentences run onto the other, there's heaps of dashes and asterisks being used for various purposes. Sterne adds scribbles to signify the mood of the character. When one character dies, to symbolise his end, Sterne has a black page to describe it. When introducing a beautiful female character, Sterne says he can't be bothered describing her so he leaves a blank page for the reader to draw his/her own rendition.

    The book - though technically not a satire - in the process of going nowhere and saying nothing makes fun of many religious, political and societal topics. Sterne was a minister but from the book it can be gleaned that he was a particularly irreverent one.

    The work is divided into 9 books, published serially. This is a work where you can just pick up a chapter and read it. Some are several pages. Others are two lines. It takes a while to get used to Sterne's writing "style" so read slowly. This goes for the whole novel as there's so much hidden underneath the surface.

    This edition is great in having footnotes on the same page and reviews of Tristram as well as critical essays and Sterne's own letters about the work - many of which are very good.

    Tristram is funny, ridiculous, clever and very very eccentric. An absolute MUST!

    2-0 out of 5 stars You wouldn't want to share a carriage with this fellow
    I started this book because I love the quote about writing being but a different word for conversation.Yes, there are moments of great wit.However, they are lost within a mass of verbiage so dense that it makes your mortgage agreement look like a Little Golden Book.It's not the sublime non-linearity of Joyce's writing or Ornette Coleman's playing.It's the amplification of the self to an unbearable degree.Certainly a unique achievement, I guess.But so is Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music."

    5-0 out of 5 stars Note About the Oxford World Classics Edition
    I just wanted to note that pages 29 and 30 of this edition are supposed to be black, not blank.Whether this was a simple mistake by the publisher or just a way to save money-two black pages must take alot of ink-doing so alters the possible interpretation of Sterne's work.Given the fact that Sterne closely watched the original publishers to prevent deviations from his intent, I expect that Sterne would be appalled that the black pages were not included.

    Otherwise, I have no negative comments about the work.While many complain that the narrator jumps around to much and it is difficult to understand, that is part of the fun of reading the book.The narrator essentially makes the reader a character in the book-ground breaking methods which are way before his time.Excellent ... Read more

    Isbn: 0679405607
    Sales Rank: 394951
    Subjects:  1. 18th Century English Novel And Short Story    2. Authorship    3. Fetus    4. Fiction    5. Infants    6. Literary    7. Literature - Classics / Criticism    8. Literature: Classics    9. Stream of consciousness fictio    10. Fiction / Literary   


    The Knitting Goddess
    by Deborah Bergman
    Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
    Hardcover (11 October, 2000)
    list price: $19.95
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    Reviews (17)

    4-0 out of 5 stars Overall, a Delightful Book
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book as much for the stories as for the patterns.I enjoy reading books that celebrate the work that women have done for centuries and, though the author adapts some of the story details, I think this book celebrates women's work.I also enjoyed her general description of different types of fiber and some practical advice on adding metallic yarn and other trendier yarns to a project to make it a bit flashier.The only drawback to the book is that most of the women in the stories were spinners and weavers, not knitters.This does not in any way take away from a very fun book.

    4-0 out of 5 stars gorgeous patterns
    I enjoyed this book.It really got me thinking about what it means to be a knitter, on a personal and historical level.This might be too new-agey for some, but I'm not really a fan of new age stuff and this one didn't bother me.In general, I'd say that if the title sounds off-putting, you probably won't like it.

    Each chapter of the book is centered around a theme, with a story, a lessonlet (handy but NOT comprehensive, so if you're brand new, you should get another reference) and project to illustrate the author's point.If you're looking for a pattern book, this isn't it.The real meat of this book is the themes, not the projects themselves.In my opinion, it's worth it; you should make that call yourself.

    I really liked the patterns.They're illustrated in the book, but I highly recommend looking at the photos in the author's web site.They look ok in the book, but they're GORGEOUS in the pictures.The techniques, in general, are easy to intermediate level.

    Things I didn't like:
    - the author takes a LOT of liberties with the myths involved.(They're often entertaining liberties and they make her point well.Just be aware.)
    - a lot of the yarns she calls for are pricey.However, her patterns are free-form enough that you can substitute, and she describes the yarns pretty well, so it's not impossible to find something else.

    All in all, I'd say that if you're just looking for patterns, or if you're uncomfortable with new age stuff, borrow this from the library first, or read the excerpts.

    1-0 out of 5 stars Not if you want a serious pattern book
    As a serious knitter, I was quickly disappointed with this book.All of the printing is done in purple ink, which I found very irritating while reading.Far too much of the book was taken up by strange interpretations of classic stories involving women, mixed with large doses of unnecessary autobiography and new-age philosophy.Some might find the stories interesting or inspiring; I found myself flipping past them in annoyance to find the patterns... which were poorly illustrated with sketches in purple.I truly love knitting and am always happy when someone else shares that love, but this book was neither helpful nor useful to me. ... Read more

    Isbn: 078686611X
    Sales Rank: 510206
    Subjects:  1. Crafts & Hobbies    2. Crafts / Hobbies    3. Folklore    4. Folklore & Mythology - Mythology    5. Goddesses    6. Hobbies/Crafts    7. Knitting    8. Needlework - Knitting    9. Patterns    10. Philosophy    11. Crafts & Hobbies / Knitting    12. Craft    13. Inspiration   

    All the Trouble in the World: The Lighter Side of Overpopulation, Famine, Ecological Disaster, Ethnic Hatred, Plague, and Poverty
    by P.J. O'Rourke
    Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
    Paperback (01 September, 1995)
    list price: $14.00 -- our price: $11.20
    (price subject to change: see help)
    US | Canada | United Kingdom | Germany | France
    Reviews (35)

    5-0 out of 5 stars Laugh and Learn
    P.J. O'Rourke is the thinking man's John Stewart.Where Stewart is merely snarky and cutesy, O'Rourke has some actual working knowledge of the world, of history, and of human nature.In this book, he adroitly and hilariously skewers all of the "Henny Penny" sky-is-falling enviro-nazis who's holier-than-thou worship of nature is about to snuff out the human race.If you wonder why ideas like the Kyoto Protocol are so insane and ill-advised, read this book.If you've ever wondered about terrorist groups such as E.L.F., read this book.If you've ever had an unexplainable urge to snicker and hoot with derision whenever some earnest WASPy wannabe rasta mon tie-dyed tree-hugger begins to blather on about alar, read this book.In the midst of all of his cynicism and sarcasm, P.J. actually sheds a lot of light on some of the motivations, emotionalism, and deceptions of the far leftist enviro-whacko movement...how it is based in inaccuracy and ideological lunacy.He presents solid, well-researched facts in a way that is not dry, but delightfully pointed.This book is the archenemy of Al Gore's sci-fi thriller, EARTH IN THE BALANCE, and it blows the ex-Veep's book all to hell, and will leave the reader in tears of laughter.Check it out!

    2-0 out of 5 stars Funny...but not convincing.
    Before I go on:Yes, I'm a liberal--I had to read this book in a English Comp II class taught by a libertarian professor.

    O'Rourke's analysis, while scathingly funny, falls short of the mark due to sheer lack of evidence. His essay skewering environmentalism, for instance, provides NO scientific evidence for his claims (which was also a criticism levied by my professor).The pollution essay provides merely circumstancial evidence, and O'Rourke even admits he gave up trying to write about plague in Hatiti, and goes to talk about his visit to the black market and a voodoo shrine (which, I will admit, is terribly interesting).

    Look, I think O'Rourke is hysterical. His one-liners are great, and yeah, he makes a few points. But the guy doesn't offer solid evidence, and the way he treats EVERY SINGLE liberal as a communist sympathizer is annoying.

    Of course, if you do lean to the libertarian/fringe Republican side of the political spectrum then this review won't matter.For the rest of us, I give you fair warning.

    It is fair to note that the book was last published in 1994, so it is rather out of date, if you are interested in purchasing it.

    5-0 out of 5 stars Skewer the liberals and roast their ideas.
    P.J. O'Rourke gets it right.First time and everytime.Iappreciate the logical perspective he puts on his selected issues.From population to pollution, he shows the liberal slant in reporting is not reality.Funny how the population of Bangladesh is frightening, but not in Fremont, California, though both places have the same density.O'Rourke has a fun writing style and a propensity to use words that makes many readers cringe as they reach for their dictionaries.The man is truely a master of his craft. ... Read more

    Isbn: 0871136112
    Sales Rank: 120581
    Subjects:  1. Form - Essays    2. Humor   


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