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I came across this book review in The Week (which as I've said before is my favorite magazine).
The Kingdom of Infinite Space: A Fantastical Journey Around Your Head
by Raymond Tallis
There's an awful lot going on in your head, says physician and poet Raymond Tallis. A liter of saliva accumulates in your mouth every day without your notice. Mucus forms in the nasal passages and waxy cerumen in the ears. You yawn and blink involuntarily. You blush when you least want to signal embarrassment. Of course, the head is also the place we do our thinking, the "capital" of our "first-person world." But it's hard to imagine exactly how our electrical impulses come to be experienced as thought. "Earwax is in my head," Tallis muses. "But are my thoughts in my head?"
Tallis' playful new book is on one level "a wonderful treasury of stupefying facts," said Michael Simkins in the London Mail on Sunday. He aims first and foremost to make his readers "astonished tourists of the piece of the world that is closest to them," and he succeeds in illuminating what's extraordinary about such everyday acts as speaking, sneezing, spitting, breathing, sweating, laughing, and smiling. But his larger objective is to examine where the self resides, said Andrew Robinson in New Scientist. Tallis is "exasperated by brain worship"
[ "Phillips explains that these are the fruits of what he calls the "financialization" of the United States: the decline of manufacturing and the rise of finance as the central driver of the nation's GDP. It is not a change Phillips believes happened by chance. Former Nixon White House strategist and political and economic critic Kevin Phillips, whose latest book BAD MONEY: RECKLESS FINANCE, FAILED POLITICS, AND THE GLOBAL CRISIS OF AMERICAN CAPITALISM explores the role that the crumbling financial sector played in the now-fragile American economy."
"In 1969, he published THE EMERGING REPUBLICAN MAJORITY, which forecasted a major shift to the right in electoral politics - a prediction that has been remarkably accurate."
"If you read only one book on the route to this financial meltdown, I recommend this one: BAD MONEY: RECKLESS FINANCE, FAILED POLITICS, AND THE GLOBAL CRISIS OF AMERICAN CAPITALISM. The author, Kevin Phillips, has a history of being way ahead of the curve. As a young man working for Richard Nixon, he wrote THE EMERGING REPUBLICAN MAJORITY, a book that uncannily predicted how the GOP would regain power in Washington. Kevin Phillips saw our current crisis coming a long time ago. And in one book of historical insight after another, laid out the clues he was tracking. As recently as last spring in the AMERICAN PROSPECT magazine, Phillips wrote that what he thought was about to happen would be "unusual and potentially tragic."
In the preface of his book, he has written that these things usually come to fruition in August and September. And sure enough, here we are coping in September with the effects of bad money."
Highly seasoned author on a topic that is very relevant to the current economic events that everyone obviously should have (and many obviously did) see coming for sometime now. Should be a great introduction to a failing system, Kevin Philips who is described as having the potential to see through the crisis and offer hope on the horizon many may have trouble picturing just now.
Joined: Jan 2008 Posts: 6872 Location: Luray, Virginia
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Phillips seems to be an interesting guy. I've heard his name for years but have never read one of his books. Saw him on Bill Moyers the other night. He is one who might be as free as possible of partisan blinders. He can't be classified at this point as either liberal or conservative. Good recommendation.
Joined: Apr 2008 Posts: 2955 Location: Randolph Center, VT
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Kevin Phillips was on the Diane Rehm show today. Here I'll post a link to it.
11:00The Future of American Capitalism
Some say the efforts to address the economic crisis in the U.S. could lead to long-term and fundamental changes in the American model of capitalism. A look at possible changes ahead in our economic system. Guests
Kevin Phillips, political and economic commentator and former Republican White House Strategist, his 13 books include "American Theocracy" and "American Dynasty."
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I was able to catch Kevin Phillips on Bill Moyers and listen to him on Diane Rheams this morning: a very important voice in exposing the corruption, fraud and delusion that has gripped our elected officials and their directing economic masters. I think reading his book right after Bacevich's "Limits of Power" could very well lead to Booktalk members rallying for revolution!
I would rather we take a different approach in sequence after Bacevich's essential criticality of a flawed system...and read a book that challenges us to imagine what sort of economic system to we want...one that doesn't simply say what's wrong (and Bacevich's text is more than just that) but that carefully, methodically and thoughtfully tries to answer: if not this system, then what?
I think Michael Albert's Parecon: Life Beyond Capitalism is precisely that sort of book. Here is the link to the entire book on-line, and you can see for yourself if it delivers the goods http://www.zmag.org/zparecon/pareconlac.htm
I am not an economist, but I think every citizen has an obligation to understand the fundamentals...and, more importantly, to be able to support an economy that reflects their values and principles. I think Albert's Parecon will provide ample opportunity for us to imagine the kind of economy we desire and are willing to support.
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I haven't been a member for very long so I'm sorry if this has already been done or discussed.
I thought maybe In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I haven't read it yet but am planning to at some stage and have heard good things about it.
http://www.amazon.com/Cold-Blood-Truman ... 0679745580 Amazon.com Review "Until one morning in mid-November of 1959, few Americans--in fact, few Kansans--had ever heard of Holcomb. Like the waters of the river, like the motorists on the highway, and like the yellow trains streaking down the Santa Fe tracks, drama, in the shape of exceptional happenings, had never stopped there." If all Truman Capote did was invent a new genre--journalism written with the language and structure of literature--this "nonfiction novel" about the brutal slaying of the Clutter family by two would-be robbers would be remembered as a trail-blazing experiment that has influenced countless writers. But Capote achieved more than that. He wrote a true masterpiece of creative nonfiction. The images of this tale continue to resonate in our minds: 16-year-old Nancy Clutter teaching a friend how to bake a cherry pie, Dick Hickock's black '49 Chevrolet sedan, Perry Smith's Gibson guitar and his dreams of gold in a tropical paradise--the blood on the walls and the final "thud-snap" of the rope-broken necks.
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Please read the below reviews and descriptions and let me know what you think of this book suggestion. When I was a child I spent about a year living in a Mormon foster home. The story of how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormonism) started is fascinating and would inspire some great conversation here on our forums.
From Wikipedia Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (ISBN 1-4000-3280-6) is a book of investigative non-fiction written by best-selling author, Jon Krakauer, and first published in July 2003. It is a juxtaposition of two stories: the formation and evolution of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and a modern-day double murder committed by Ron Lafferty and Dan Lafferty, brothers who subscribed to a fundamentalist version of Mormonism, in the name of God. The Laffertys were former members of a very small splinter group called the School of the Prophets, led by a man named Robert C. Crossfield (also known by his prophet name Onias). They also accepted many beliefs of those that left the original Church when it ceased the practice of polygamy in the 1890s and call themselves fundamentalist Mormons. The book examines the ideologies of both The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the apostate polygamy-practicing groups, such as the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ("FLDS").
Amazon.com Review In 1984, Ron and Dan Lafferty murdered the wife and infant daughter of their younger brother Allen. The crimes were noteworthy not merely for their brutality but for the brothers' claim that they were acting on direct orders from God. In Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer tells the story of the killers and their crime but also explores the shadowy world of Mormon fundamentalism from which the two emerged. The Mormon Church was founded, in part, on the idea that true believers could speak directly with God. But while the mainstream church attempted to be more palatable to the general public by rejecting the controversial tenet of polygamy, fundamentalist splinter groups saw this as apostasy and took to the hills to live what they believed to be a righteous life. When their beliefs are challenged or their patriarchal, cult-like order defied, these still-active groups, according to Krakauer, are capable of fighting back with tremendous violence. While Krakauer's research into the history of the church is admirably extensive, the real power of the book comes from present-day information, notably jailhouse interviews with Dan Lafferty. Far from being the brooding maniac one might expect, Lafferty is chillingly coherent, still insisting that his motive was merely to obey God's command. Krakauer's accounts of the actual murders are graphic and disturbing, but such detail makes the brothers' claim of divine instruction all the more horrifying. In an age where Westerners have trouble comprehending what drives Islamic fundamentalists to kill, Jon Krakauer advises us to look within America's own borders.
From Publishers Weekly Using as a focal point the chilling story of offshoot Mormon fundamentalist brothers Dan and Ron Lafferty, who in 1984 brutally butchered their sister-in-law and 15-month-old niece in the name of a divine revelation, Krakauer explores what he sees as the nature of radical Mormon sects with Svengali-like leaders. Using mostly secondary historical texts and some contemporary primary sources, Krakauer compellingly details the history of the Mormon church from its early 19th-century creation by Joseph Smith (whom Krakauer describes as a convicted con man) to its violent journey from upstate New York to the Midwest and finally Utah, where, after the 1890 renunciation of the church's holy doctrine sanctioning multiple marriages, it transformed itself into one of the world's fastest-growing religions. Through interviews with family members and an unremorseful Dan Lafferty (who is currently serving a life sentence), Krakauer chronologically tracks what led to the double murder, from the brothers' theological misgivings about the Mormon church to starting their own fundamentalist sect that relies on their direct communications with God to guide their actions. According to Dan's chilling step-by-step account, when their new religion led to Ron's divorce and both men's excommunication from the Mormon church, the brothers followed divine revelations and sought to kill, starting with their sister-in-law, those who stood in the way of their new beliefs. Relying on his strong journalistic and storytelling skills, Krakauer peppers the book with an array of disturbing firsthand accounts and news stories (such as the recent kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart) of physical and sexual brutality, which he sees as an outgrowth of some fundamentalists' belief in polygamy and the notion that every male speaks to God and can do God's bidding. While Krakauer demonstrates that most nonfundamentalist Mormons are community oriented, industrious and law-abiding, he poses some striking questions about the closed-minded, closed-door policies of the religion-and many religions in general.
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This is a title given by Robert Tulip in the After Tamerlane forum:
Culture and Imperialism, by Edward Said. Here is a review from the New York Times.
Who Paid the Bills at Mansfield Park? By MICHAEL GORRA CULTURE AND IMPERIALISM By Edward W. Said.
The title of Edward W. Said's grandly conceived and long-awaited new book, "Culture and Imperialism," deliberately echoes the titles of two great works of criticism -- Matthew Arnold's "Culture and Anarchy" (1869) and Raymond Williams's "Culture and Society" (1958). Arnold saw culture ("the best which has been thought and said") as a safeguard against anarchy; the "and" in his title really means "or." That sense of opposing terms shapes Williams's work as well, a study of the way 19th-century social critics, Arnold included, came to view culture as a critique of "the bourgeois ideal of society."
The "and" in Mr. Said's own title seems more accurately chosen, since he argues that the terms it links are best seen not in opposition but in conjunction. Yet even so, I can imagine replacing it, not with "or," but with "of" or "as"; culture as imperialism, imperialism as a culture. For Mr. Said uses the word "culture" in both its Arnoldian meaning, to denote the realm of art and learning, and in the more inclusive sense employed by anthropologists. The two definitions fall into one. Or, rather, what the book shows is the involvement of culture in the first sense of the word -- the novels, poems, operas of high art -- with imperialism, itself a central fact of Western culture in the second sense.
"We assume," Mr. Said writes, "that the better part of history in colonial territories was a function of the imperial intervention." Yet in doing so, Mr. Said believes, we also assume "that colonial undertakings were marginal and perhaps even eccentric to the central activities of the great metropolitan cultures." And that assumption, he argues, is inextricable from our desire to excuse the cultural monuments through which we know the past for their participation in empire. (In consequence, a writer like Rudyard Kipling, who is inescapably linked with imperialism, has been pushed to the margins of the canon.) Charles Dickens provides an example for Mr. Said's argument, one that paradoxically enables him to demonstrate imperialism's centrality by detailing its peripheral status in the world of Dickens's novels.
Critics have traditionally considered the empire irrelevant to Dickens, for the simple reason that he set his books in England. Yet Mr. Said points out that his characters enact a steady commerce between the metropolis and its colonial margins, and that the empire's role on the outer borders of the novels' geography belies the degree to which it underwrites -- in both a financial and a literary sense -- Victorian society as a whole. It is the place in which fortunes are made and to which social misfits, like Mr. Micawber, are consigned. Yet everything connected with the colonies happens offstage, Mr. Said continues, as if the culture's participation in imperialism is not only to be excused, but excised.
One of the best chapters in "Culture and Imperialism" describes Jane Austen's assumption, in "Mansfield Park," of "the importance of an empire to the situation at home." But when her character Sir Thomas Bertram has to visit the Caribbean sugar plantation that supports his country house, Mr. Said says, Austen falls into "esthetic silence." We never get to see him walk across that other, slave-run estate.
That Mr. Said's accounts of Dickens and Austen -- or of figures like Verdi, Camus, Gide and Yeats -- no longer sound so startling is attributable in large measure to his own earlier work. He has argued elsewhere that what is most interesting about art is its "worldliness," the way it both reflects and helps constitute the political realities of its society; this emphasis calls into question any belief in an autonomous or "pure" realm of art and learning.
Mr. Said, now University Professor at Columbia, has long had a particular worldliness of his own, a double fame -- in the news media as a spokesman for Palestinian causes and a fierce critic of American policy in the Persian Gulf, and in the academy as the author of "Orientalism" (1978). There he described the ways the "Orientalist discourse" -- through which European scholarship came to define the Middle East as Europe's stereotypically exotic Other -- both legitimized and served French and British colonialism.
For Mr. Said the inescapability of that discourse kept -- and keeps -- the West from engaging with the actuality of the lands it sought to dominate, and his pioneering attempt to chart what one might call the textual manifestations of colonialism has had an enormous impact. He was among the first critics to show how one might mount the kind of sophisticated analysis of the close relations between literature and politics, knowledge and power, that now prevails in literary studies. No one examining the relations between the metropolitan West and the decolonizing world can ignore his work. If very little of what "Culture and Imperialism" has to say seems absolutely fresh, that is because other critics, working within the lines that "Orientalism" suggested, have already begun to explore the issues this new book raises (some examples: Gauri Viswanathan's "Masks of Conquest," Christopher L. Miller's "Blank Darkness" and Kwame Anthony Appiah's "In My Father's House").
But the model of "Orientalism" did have problems. In mapping the ways in which Orientalist discourse works, it fell, inadvertently but perhaps inevitably, into the very type of binary thinking it sought to attack, suggesting that there is indeed some "real" Orient whose radical difference remains unrepresentable in or by the Occidental mind. Appropriately, some of Mr. Said's most interesting chapters in "Culture and Imperialism" stand as an implicit response to the limitations of his previous work. For after describing the culture of imperialism, he turns, in the book's second half, to the "culture of resistance," to the anticolonial vision of writers like the Trinidadian C. L. R. James. Those chapters amount to an attack on "nativism," the systematic turning away from the West and its products that is often a response to colonial oppression.
The cultural "authenticity" that nativism demands -- the call for Afrocentric education is a good example -- is at best reactive; a phase through which most liberation movements must go, but one that Mr. Said echoes Frantz Fanon in seeing as a pitfall on the way to a more far-reaching liberation. For "to accept nativism is to accept the consequences of imperialism, the racial, religious and political divisions" that colonialism imposes on its subject peoples. Nativism, he says, believes that we each have one absolute and essential identity, as blacks or whites or Serbs or Croats. Its other name is nationalism, and in the name of the people it can as easily build an empire as oppose one.
Mr. Said's account of the dialectical relation between imperialism and resistance is the most persuasive one I know. And I admire as well the equipoise of his call for a similarly "contrapuntal" approach to the canon of Western literature; asking, for example, that we play off a full awareness of the history that shapes the world of "Mansfield Park" against our "enjoyment or appreciation" of Austen's "irony and taste," while losing sight of neither. Yet even for readers like myself, whose sympathies are already engaged by his project, reading "Culture and Imperialism" can at times seem frustrating.
Its great scope means that it must settle for being suggestive rather than exhaustive about any one issue, any one text. And despite the overall strength of its polemical frame, its separate chapters remain too heavily marked by their origins as lectures. The lecturer wants to send his audience away thinking, so he throws out a great many ideas. But on the page they too often read as digressions, as a repetition of the ideas Mr. Said has developed in other lectures -- other chapters -- or simply as a string of names, as if that in itself constituted an argument: thus, "To speak today of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Salman Rushdie, Carlos Fuentes, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and many others like them is to speak of a fairly novel emergent culture unthinkable without the earlier work of partisans like C. L. R. James, George Antonius, Edward Wilmot Blyden, W. E. B. Du Bois, Jose Marti."
Yet that telegraphic style does not finally mar either the usefulness of "Culture and Imperialism" or its importance. If it is not a conceptual breakthrough on the same order as "Orientalism," it nevertheless stands as an urgently written and urgently needed synthesis of the work in a field that, more than any other critic, Edward W. Said has himself defined.
Michael Gorra, who teaches English at Smith College, is the author of "The English Novel at Mid-Century." He is at work on a study of imperialism and the novel.
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Thanks Ophelia, great review. Culture and Imperialism also addresses Camus and Conrad, with strong focus on themes discussed in the Booktalk threads on Heart of Darkness and Exile and The Kingdom.
Time is our most valuable possession: we are obsessed with schedules and multitasking to save time, say the authors of this insightful study of the importance of time in our lives. Yet people spend time less wisely than money. Zimbardo (The Lucifer Effect), professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford, and Boyd, research director for Yahoo!, draw on their two decades of research to explain why people devalue time. They blend scientific results into a straightforward narrative exploring various past-, present- and future-oriented ways of perceiving time and argue against becoming imprisoned or obsessed by any one of these. Zimbardo and Boyd have cogent insight into all of time's elements and show how they can be used for success, better health and greater fulfillment. For instance, understanding the role of time in investment can lead to wiser financial decisions, and a relationship will not work if one partner is focused on today's pleasure while the other wants to plan for the future. This is a compelling and practical primer (filled with quizzes and tests) on making every moment count.
llustrating decades of research with compelling and often bizarre examples of glitches and miscues, Daniel L. Schacter's The Seven Sins of Memory dusts off an old topic and finds material of both practical and theoretical interest. Chairman of Harvard's Department of Psychology, Schacter knows his stuff and how to present it memorably. Organizing the book by examining each of seven "sins," such as absent-mindedness and suggestibility, Schacter slowly builds his case that these sometimes enraging bugs are actually side effects of system features we wouldn't want to do without. For example, when we focus our attention on one aspect of our surroundings, we inevitably draw attention away from others:
Consider this scenario: if you were watching a circle of people passing a basketball and someone dressed in a gorilla costume walked through the circle, beat his chest, and exited, of course you would notice him immediately--wouldn't you? [Researchers] filmed such a scene and showed it to people who were asked to track the movement of the ball by counting the number of passes made by one of the teams. Approximately half of the participants failed to notice the gorilla.
Scientists concerned about interesting a general audience would do well to use more gorilla suits. Schacter elegantly weaves this curiosity into his text along with clinical stories and frontline research. Recent advances in brain imaging have boosted his field considerably, and the formerly remote psychological territory has yielded plenty of exciting discoveries. Though some of the practical material seems like reheated common sense (Haunted by a traumatic memory? Talk about it.), it's backed up by solid scientific work. Write a note, tie string around the finger, or hire an assistant for reminders, but by all means remember to pick up a copy of The Seven Sins of Memory.
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Under The Banner Of Heaven
This is an interesting, if terrifying book. It's a bleak portrayal of at least one aspect of one of the fastest growing religions in the world. It would make for a great discussion, although some readers might find it offensive.
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