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Friday, July 15, 2005
Woe to the WSJ
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:49 am

On no what will Joel Stein say?

Filed under: Books | Comments (0) |Send TrackBack
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Joel Stein: Moron
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:38 pm

Joel Stein decided to slam Harry Potter and all who read or view him today in the LAT: Hogwarts fans, you’re stupid, stupid, stupid

A culture that simplifies its entertainment down to fairy tales is doomed to simplify the world down to good and evil. And a culture in which adults go see the “Harry Potter” movies still won’t be enough to help the useless Time Warner options I got in the ’90s, so you might as well buy something from the back of the bookstore instead. You won’t have to wait in line for “Ulysses.”

And an “analyst” who makes conclusions about a culture based on the popularity of a specific set of books and movies is, well, a moron. Certainly he isn’t a very good analyst.

Of course, he purports to be a humorist, but he isn’t my kind of humorist (you know, the funny kind).

And it has been my experience that when someone whips out Joyce as an example of their intellectual bona fides, one need no longer take them seriously.

But, of course, I like movies based on comic book characters, so what do I know?

h/t: Ut Humiliter Opinor.

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PoliBlog: Politics is the Master Science » Woe to the WSJ linked with [...] , 2005 Woe to the WSJ By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:49 am On no what will Joel Stein say? Filed under: Books | |Send TrackBack | No Comments &r [...]
Cool Beans
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:42 pm

Some Troy University-specific news: Troy University and Barnes and Noble College Booksellers team up

On Aug. 1, a five-year contract with Barnes & Noble College Booksellers will commence providing University students a centralized bookstore rather than a textbook warehouse, according to Dr. John Schmidt, senior vice chancellor for student services.

The University will construct a 10,400 square-foot bookstore on the Troy Campus that will be equipped by Barnes & Noble to match the company’s superstores, and will make similar improvements to bookstores on the Montgomery, Dothan and Phenix City campuses.


In addition, the Troy Campus bookstore will include a cafe, a reading area, trade books and wide selection of casual reading. University bookstores in Dothan, Montgomery and Phenix City will also get updating and offer an expanded line.

We desperately need a real bookstore and a place to to get a real cup of coffee on campus (aside, of course, from my office).


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Politics In Alabama linked with Good News for Troy University
Thursday, July 7, 2005
Supersize My BS
By Chris Lawrence @ 9:12 pm

Radley Balko, whose The Agitator is a must-read blog for anyone with even a passing interest in libertarian thought, has a new blog taking apart the new book from documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, whose anti-McDonald’s flick Super Size Me brought Michael Moore’s dubious approach to the truth to the Golden Arches. Go and take a look.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005
How Do You Spell “Over-Exposure”?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 12:09 pm


Via Reuters: We’re not alone in universe, says Tom Cruise.

I will grant, such an assertion is not especially radical, but it somehow takes on a different air given the fact that is seems impossible to escape the wit and wisdom of Tom Cruise of late.

Further, one can almost hear the self-congratulatory pseudo-intellectualism when one reads the following:

“Millions of stars, and we’re supposed to be the only living creatures? No, there are many things out there, we just don’t know,” Cruise, 42, said in the interview published in German.

But, of course, my favorite are his pronouncements on psychiatry:

Cruise also dismissed psychiatry as a “pseudo science,” invoking the ire of the American Psychiatric Association that called the remarks “irresponsible.”

Somehow if you adhere to a religion that was created by a scifi writer (a not particularly good one at that-I tried to get through Battlefield: Earth back in High School-but, oh me!-”copious” doesn’t even begin to describe it), then I don’t think you have a lot of credibility when it comes to calling anything a “pseudo-science”.

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Monday, June 20, 2005
Ed Klein and the “Rape Story”
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 1:51 pm

NRO has an interview with Ed Klein in which the whole “I’m going to rape my wife” story about Bill Clinton is discussed. While he tries to explain it away, his attempt to turn the whole thing into having to do with Bill finding out about Hillary’s pregnancy in the newspaper is rather unconvincing.

Even though he attempts to steer the question in the direction of the newspaper revelation, he doesn’t explain how the rape business is anything more than tangentially related.

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When Worlds Collide
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:05 am

Egads-I just received an e-mail press release informing me of the happy news that Mark Fuhrman (yes, that Mark Fuhrman) has just penned a book on the “untold story” of the Terri Schiavo case.

Just when you thought the whole sordid tale couldn’t get any worse, a refugee from the OJ trial gets involved.

Oh, my.

I have been offered the chance to review said book. I can’t decide if I should take it, just to see how bad it truly is, or whether I should run screaming from the room.

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Friday, June 17, 2005
Friday Fun Meme: More Books
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:54 am

I noted the following post at ASV, which was inspired by John Cole at Balloon Juice.

The challenge: “five books I liked enough as a teen/young adult to read again as an adult”

It is easier for me to name five grouping:

1. Tolkein’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

2. Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy

3. Roger Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles

4. Asimov’s Lije Bailey novels (The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun,, The Robots of Dawn)

5. Asimov’s I, Robot

And I will, no doubt, read all of those again. One that I haven’t re-read, but will at some point: Dune (also the HHG “Trilogy”)

I would add a second list: Books as a Child (from Middle School back) that Helped Establish my Love of Reading:

1. Charlotte’s Web(in 4th/5th grade my favorite book-I must’ve read it 6 times)

2. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet

3. The Hobbit

4. Asimov’s I, Robot

5. The Homer Price books.

6. The Encyclopedia Brown books.

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Accidental Verbosity linked with Book Meme
Pros and Cons » It’s Time for Friday Fun linked with [...] Posted by: Steven Taylor @ 9:18 am Filed under: Blogosphere PoliBlog’s Friday Fun Meme is up, shold you wish some diversions this fine Friday. This week: more books. [...]
Wednesday, June 1, 2005
The Evil that Books Do
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:43 am

Human Events online provides us with the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries.

This strikes me as an odd exercise, to say the least, and one which smacks of anti-intellectualism. Books, per se, aren’t harmful-to borrow and slightly alter a phrase: books don’t harm people, people harm people.

The issue here is clearly one of singling out specific ideas and ideologies, more than books per se. Indeed, beyond even the question of what the books themselves might say, but more how they were interpreted and put into practice by persons other than the author (with the exception of Main Kampf). I do agree that ideas can be dangerous, but only, of course, when put into action. The very existence and discussion of ideas, however, is a good thing, as understanding has a greater chance of preventing the deployment of harmful ideas than does the suppression of free exchange.

The idea of proclaiming books “harmful? is to say that exposure to ideas can be a bad and harmful thing in and of itself. I don’t think so. There is plenty to be found in the books in question, many of which I have read either in part or in their entirety, and can honestly say that the consideration and discussion of ideas that are wrong, either in part or in their totality, can be extremely fruitful. Indeed, it is a necessity for someone who seeks understanding of the complex world around us.

Further, even authors/thinkers who were wrong about a lot, can still be right about quite a bit (e.g., Marx). Marx made some legitimate sociological observations about the effects of capitalism and modernization. Further, his analysis of class in a generic sense has some merit. Now, he was clearly wrong about a lot of things, but not about everything. At a minimum his strain of though represents an important response to modernization and industrialization in the nineteenth century.

The book that is the most easy to call harmful, Mein Kampf is hardly worth consideration as an intellectual text, but if we wish to try and understand the horror that was Nazi Germany, then it can tell us something. And I would remind the editors and panel at Human Events: Mein Kampf didn’t kill anybody, and Hitler would have been Hitler had he written the book or not.

I found the inclusion of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (one of my personal favorites) on the “Honorable Mention? list (shouldn’t that be Dishonorable?) was mildly surprising. However, that bespeaks of the hardcore social conservative nature of the panelists, as no doubt they object to the Harm Principle—as Robert Bork did in Slouching Towards Gomorrah.

On a lighter note, Rodney Balko notes:

What’s particularly amusing about the conservative group Human Events list, though, is that not only is each “harmful” book linked to, it’s linked with the Human Events Amazon associates tag, meaning that while these books may be evil, Human Events obviously has no qualms about making a buck or two from disseminating the ideas inside them.


Postscript: It occurs to that since I wholly believe that Mill was right about ideas and the importance of freedom of expression as one of our most fundamental rights that I find this to be an odd exercise.

Filed under: Political Philosophy/ Theory, Books | Comments (4) |Send TrackBack | Show Comments here

Outside The Beltway linked with Beltway Traffic Jam
Arguing with signposts… » Commercial break: linked with [...] cial break: Wednesday, June 1st, 2005 @ 11:14 pm in [ Blogging ] Books don’t harm people, people harm people. Heh. | Trackbacks ( [...]
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
And There Was Much Rejoicing
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:05 am

At least for fans of the George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice”.

Why? Go and see.

h/t: Andrew Cory at Dean’s World.

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Saturday, May 7, 2005
Speaking of Books
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 3:52 pm

All this book-blogging reminds me that I never noted the following: Democratic Development & Political Terrorism: The Global Perspective for which I contributed a chapter on Colombia.

On a personal/triva note: I was pleased to note that one of my professors from my undergrad days, Rein Taagepera, also contributed to the book. It was pretty cool to be in a book with one of my former profs.

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The Fifty Book Challenge
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 2:48 pm

Back in January (my word, is it really May?), I noted (via Signifying Nothing) I noted Jessica Crispin’s 50 Book Challenge (i.e., to read and review 50 books this year). Well, this sounded like a good idea, and while I have read a number of books, I have yet to review them (although my pace to make fifty may be in jeopardy after a fast start).

Since today is my first lazy Saturday in some time, I thought I’d get the stack off of my desk and do some reviewing.

Going in roughly chronicle order (at least of the stack that I had on my desk to review) we have the light and frivolous, the historical and the academic:

My review system:

5 cups of coffee: an excellent read and worth adding to your library—towards the top of the genre in question. Worth buying new.
4 cups: A few steps below the top of the genre, but in the top 10%. Worth buying used.
3 cups: worth reading, but not necessarily keeping in your library. Maybe a used book purchase, but perhaps a library is the better way to go.
2 cups: A finished because I started it. Plunk no money down for this one.
1 cup: It wasn’t even worth finishing.

#1 Peter David’s Stone and Anvil.

(I technically started this one a few days before the New Year, but figure since I finished it in 2005—and read the bulk of it post-12/31/04 that it was fair game for the 50 Book Challenge).

This is the latest in Peter David’s Star Trek: New Frontier series-the 17th if one includes the edited volume No Limits.

First off: this series of books, which features the crew of the starship Excalibur (and, in later books the Trident as well) demonstrates that it is possible to create a crew of Trek characters (almost all the main characters are David-creations) set in the TNG universe and with the standard ship-centric POV and yet be fresh and entertaining. Indeed, New Frontier captures that spirit of TOS better than any of the TNG-era shows.

Certainly Peter David would be on my short list of show-runner if Paramount wanted to get someone new to run the next Trek. David is one of those authors who breath remarkable life into other’s characters (for example: his comic work on Spider-Man and especially the Hulk. His B5 trilogy is also an excellent example).

As with most of the New Frontier novels, this one switches between the current story (which focuses on a murder mystery involving the Mugato Ensign Janos—don’t ask, you have the read the book) and a story of Calhoun’s Academy days and his initial romance with Shelby.

As with all these novels, it is a quick and entertaining read.

As Trek novels go, I’d give it a 4 our of 5 cups (all of my ratings are relative to genre).

#2 Peter David’s Once Burdened (Captain’s Table #5)

Another New Frontier novel—this one part of the “Captain’s Table? series which focuses on the mystical-magical bar that only Captains can enter—a place where they can unburden themselves. As a side note, I have read two of the six and have found them to be so-so. Even within the context of Trek, the idea of this bar that transcends time, space and place (in the first one, the bar is on Mars, in this book it is both on Xenex and the Excalibur’s holodeck) the concept is a bit silly.

Still, the opportunity to explore the various backgrounds of specific Captains in the Trek universe is pretty good.

In this case, the story tells the story of Mackenzie Calhoun’s stint as First Officer of the USS Grissom and the reason he left Starfleet before returning at the beginning of the New Frontier series.

This is a must read for any fan of the New Frontier series and a good read to boot.

5 out of 5 cups

#3 and #4 William Shatner: Dark Victory and Preserver

Can you tell I started the year with a trip to the used book store and the need for some light reading?

At any rate, these two novels are co-authored with the Reeves-Stephens and are set in what is know as the “Shatnerverse?—an alternate Trek universe in which the Borg brought Captain Kirk back to life after the events in Generations. This stuff is just plain fun reading, because it is practically fan fiction: the TOS crew (at least some of them—Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty) alongside the TNG folks—throw in a Mirror Universe angle (which the second trilogy is about—of which there are the last two.) and you have quite a romp. Just having Kirk v. Tiberius is worth the price of admission.

Further, Preserver includes plot point linked to, oddly enough, the Preservers and to the First Federation (the Fesarius, Blalock and all that).

Not the best Trek novels I have ever read, and certainly no high literature, but entertaining and fun. And like some of this season’s episodes of Enterprise, quite mindful of the rich backstory available in the Trek universe.

I will say that one of the central features of these novels: the Kirk-Teilani romance never really did it for me and there are times that Kirk isn’t as Kirklike as I would like (although I will grant that some of those plot elements do logically follow from issues explored in Generations. I also find Starfleet’s attitude vis-à-vis Kirk to be a bit odd, to say the least.

I give them both 3.5 out of 5 cups.

#5 Theda Skocpol: Social Revolutions in the Modern World.

This a collection of papers, mostly written by Skocpol, on the topic of social revolutions. While technically a follow-up to her classic States and Social Revolutions it actually serves as both a prequel and a sequel.

It is worth while for those interested in the study of revolutions, but was less useful that I had hoped (I used it for a seminar this Spring). It doesn’t add as much to the discussion as I had hoped it would, and plan on using a few chapters out of it next time, but instead probably having students read States and Social Revolutions in its entirety instead.

3.5 out of 5 cups. It is useful to have in one’s library, but not as vital as many other books on the subject.

#6 Joseph Ellis: His Excellency

While hardly an exhaustive work on Washington’s life, it is a very readable, well written overview of Washington’s career. I highly recommend the book to any interesting in the period.

4.5 out of 5 cups.

#7 David Hackett Fischer: Washington’s Crossing

Part of a series of book on key events in American history, this one focuses on the early days of the Revolutionary War from the disastrous battles (for the Americans) in New York, to Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware and the subsequent battles that changed the very nature of the conflict, and would eventually led to victory for the rebels.

It is an interesting book, although it is a bit ponderous. Its desire to try to give the reader a feel for various players actually has the effect of marginalizing Washington (I partially felt that way, I’m sure, because I got the book to specifically read about Washington). The book really isn’t about Washington, per se.

As a narrative, the book often is lacking. Further, while the book has a central argument, it doesn’t go a very good job of building the argument as it goes—instead it takes a book-end approach, i.e., discussing the theme at the beginning and end.

As a reference work, however, it is worth having in your library as it has numerous maps of battles and copious appendix filled with information on the armies and battles under examination.

3.5 out of 5 cups.

(more to come)

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Monday, April 18, 2005
Blogging to Books
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 8:30 pm

Via USAT: Publishers put bloggers between the covers

Conventional wisdom would seem to suggest that bloggers - people who post personal stories and fiction on their Internet Web logs - would turn up their noses at the brick-and-mortar world of book publishing.

Hmm, I don’t know which bloggers she’s thinking about, but since many of us consider ourselves writers of one kind or another, I can’t imagine many of us would turn down a book deal. Heck, many of us are pretty near obsessive writers in the first place!

So much for conventional wisdom. From Washington tell-alls to people on the front lines of Iraq, bloggers are jumping on the publishing bandwagon in a trend that industry insiders say benefits both writers and publishers.

So much for her premise, more like it. Heck, let’s do a quick survey: how many of you bloggin’ types out there want to write a book and get, like, paid and stuff?

That’s what I thought…

Of course, the first two examples are Washingtonienne and Wonkette-not exactly highbrow stuff.

Mostly it appears that the books are either sex or war-which is pretty much what non-bloggers write books about.

So, no big story here kids. Move along: there’s nothing more to see.

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Monday, March 14, 2005
Movement Towards a Feast?
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 7:28 pm

Perhaps so: George R. R. Martin reports on progress on his latest book.

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Saturday, January 1, 2005
The 2004 TAM Awards
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 10:46 am

Sean Hackbarth presents:

The 2004 TAM Weblog Awards.

The 2004 TAM Book Awards.


The 2004 TAM Music Awards.

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