One Hundred Philosophers : The Life and Work of the World's Greatest Thinkers

Author: Peter J. King
Genre: Educational
Reviewed by Kevin Tipple

11210401This strong basic reference type text opens with a brief introduction that explains how the author sees the realm of Philosophy, the main divisions in Philosophy, and what he is attempting to cover in this book, which spans ancient times to the 20th century. Of course, there are limitations as to what could be covered and the author makes his case as to why certain persons made the cut and others did not.

What follows are the various sections detailing periods in time starting with the Ancient World 700 B. C. E. - 400 B.C.E. A timeline complete with illustrations and pictures as well as dates is given for the relevant points in history within and without the realm of Philosophy. Then, in page summary format, each Philosopher is listed, with a date of life, main interests, influences, those influenced, and an explanation of what is known about the Philosopher, the thinking of the Philosopher and the role of the Philosopher at that time.

This same formula continues throughout the nearly 200-page book. The 100th Philosopher, Peter Singer, is covered at the end of the twentieth century section followed by a comprehensive and detailed two-page section suggesting other reading. This section leads into a glossary of terms used in the book, which is followed by an index.

This book obviously can't cover everyone to great depth and doesn't try to do so. Instead, it serves more as an instruction to a wide range of thought and would be especially helpful not only to the laymen but for students considering study in the world of Philosophy. Not only does it give some understanding of each Philosopher covered, it provides avenues of exploration and learning for those interested and deserves a place in the home library.

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November 28, 2004 in Nonfiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

How to Prepare for the TExES

Author: Frances Van Tassell and Betty Crocker
Genre: Non-fiction
Reviewed by Kevin Tipple

11220402Every school year seems to bring more and more mandated tests for students in Texas schools. Teachers too are being tested, not just in the classroom, like never before. In previous years, such required certifications were under the umbrella of the ExCET tests. Now, the name has been changed to TExES and this book serves as study guide to those new teacher certification tests.

Written by professors in the Department of Education at The University of North Texas (Denton, Texas), this book contains lots of helpful information. Part 1 consists of an introduction to the requirements, who is required to take the test, and suggested guidelines for using this comprehensive 444-page book. Sections that most students would normally skip but serve to help those who take the time to read them.

Section 2 is a twenty-page guide to preparing for taking the test. Information that is aimed primarily towards this test but would be helpful for any student regarding tests.

Section 3 covers current teacher standards and competencies using detailed explanations of both. As a parent of two active boys, this section was also very interesting as it explained some of the actions teachers have taken with my children.

Section 4, which covers chapters 13-18, provides diagnostic and sample tests for every grade level in public school.

This is followed by several appendices that cover websites, printed material and appropriate rules and standards. A glossary and index completes the text.

Detailed and comprehensive, this book is a must for those of us, regardless of the reason, interested in teacher standards in Texas.

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November 28, 2004 in Nonfiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dojo Wisdom For Writers

Author: Jennifer Lawler

Reviewed by Claire Krulikowski

10110402Let's lift a glass to all of us writers, for writers are a dedicated, inquisitive lot deservedly infused by a belief in our own talent, filled with desires for publishing success, beset by seeming impossible odds of reaching the zenith of our deserved recognition and monetary success. Too, writers stumble daily through a swamp of ponderous questions such as "how to?", "why me?" - or, better yet - "why not me?" Most never reach the fulfillment of their dream's potential, others give up the chase entirely.

Jennifer Lawler (the author of 20 books, and a Tae Kwon Do black belt) has been there/done that and risen above the wonderings and overcome circumstance. It was, she says, when she began applying the principles she'd learned in the dojo (martial arts training hall) to her writing career that she'd actually kick-started her writing success. Now she shares this experienced wisdom with other writers.

Each of the 100 lessons starts out with an explanation of a martial arts principle. Lawler than expands that application to writing, often including a true story to illustrate her point. Each lesson ends with a suggested exercise for the reader. So, what are some wisdom lessons? Here's five sample headings along with my brief synopsis:

* Lesson #3 - Respect your Centerline (Translation: keep your writing and your self esteem protected)

* Lesson #14 - Know Your Target (Translation: know what you're trying to do and what you're trying to accomplish).

* Lesson # 32 - Push Beyond Your Limits (Translation: get out of your comfort zone; create work that's deeper than you tend to create)

* Lesson #60: Draw Out the Guard (Translation: use your skills and techniques to create openings where none existed)

* Lesson #99 - Adventure Feeds the Spirit (Translation: get out from behind your monitor)

100 lessons may sound ponderous to you, but Lawler keeps them short and writes in her characteristically breezy, humorous style that's filled with personal anecdotes to illustrate her points. She wisely includes tales gleaned from the experiences of 11 other writers in addition to herself, and thus broadens the ground to which readers can relate. Nonetheless, it's very possible Lawler might have made an equally indelible impression by writing a book of, say, 25 or 50 Dojo Lessons for Writers as several of these 100 could easily have fit within the explanation of some of the others rather than standing on their own.

Yet, read them sparingly, savor each, rather than rushing through. You'll realize that Dojo Wisdom for Writers is actually offering lessons that can benefit your personal life in addition to kick-starting your writing career.

For additional information about Jennifer Lawler, you can check her website at: www.jenniferlawler.com .

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October 28, 2004 in Nonfiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Journey of a Male Model

Author: Jason Aaron Baca
Genre: Nonfiction
Reviewed by Kevin R. Tipple

The author examines and explains how the beauty of the human body can be captured through different types of cameras by photographers of different proficiency levels. Detailed information includes sections on composition, posing, photographers, and focusing the mind for each shoot. This book is for the model who is in the beginning, intermediate and advanced stages (or levels) striving to make a career out of modeling. (Introduction, Page 1)

In this recent release from Xlibris, male model Jason Aaron Baca recounts his first days as a model all the way to his current status when the book was published. Through pictures and small sections of accompanying text, he touches on his experiences with various photographers and various locations. Some of the anecdotes are amusing while others reflect his early painful naiveté about the business.

Through the ages we learn his reactions and experiences as well as the personal preferences of some photographers in terms of posing their subjects. Some wanted to take different than the norm type of shots where, for example, one wanted to photograph him falling off a couch while holding a wine cooler. Others wanted a more traditional shot. Then there are the explanations of where the author tells of having a hard time because he was sleepy, hungry, or whatever. In so doing, he recounts his journey to his ultimate goal of appearing in Playgirl Magazine.

While interesting, the work never comes re motely close to reaching any of the goals noted in the introduction. We never learn the promised detailed information cited in the introduction.  Instead, this work comes across as more of a pictorial scrapbook look at the past bundled with a promotional marketing tool for the present. While that is perfectly acceptable, the book does very little to help other models and instead serves more as a recorded history of one male model's experiences. Inherently, that does have value on some level but falls very short of the expectations set by the introduction.

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August 8, 2004 in Nonfiction | Permalink | Comments (1)

Kennywood (Images of America)

Author: David P. Hahner, Jr.
Genre: Nonfiction
Reviewed by Elizabeth Ross

563In his book from Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series, David P. Hahner, Jr. decidedly nails his objective of giving Pittsburghers (and Pittsburgers) a collection of fond memories to share. Kennywood is a fitting tribute to the long-beloved and world-renowned amusement park that has remained in the hearts of Pittsburghers and amusement park enthusiasts alike for generations.

The photographs show the constantly changing façade of the park, and illustrate that even with the facelifts, the changing attractions, and the changing outside world, Kennywood amusement park has stood the test of time. Hahner's family attachments to the park are seen in the multiple photographs attributed to their collections, and this long-standing family relationship, beyond his own involvement in the American Coaster Enthusiasts club, makes this author an ideal nostalgic historian for the park. This is particularly fitting because Kennywood has been a family business in the Pittsburgh area from its beginnings.

Hahner clearly states that his intention is to merely remind his readers of good times had within the park, and that goal is definitely achieved. Admittedly, many of the older photographs in the book are of times before many alive today can remember, but that history is presented in small easily digested bits that can be re- told to younger generations. This thumbnail history places a visit to Kennywood in a completely new perspective, especially as one passes the buildings that have stood from nearly the beginning, like The Old Mill, or as one walks on the pavement in Lost Kennywood gazing at the Pittsburg Plunge, realizing that there had once been a 350 feet by 180 feet pool on that very spot.

Kennywood should be read cover to cover, to get a full understanding of Hahner's presentation. That is not a drawback, as it is definitely a page-turner, in the sense that the pictures and captions tend to draw the reader forward. The small tidbits of information offered in each chapter are like favorite candies, and taking one in is not enough; there is a desire to know more after each chapter closes. For the Kennywood park enthusiast, Pittsburgher, traditional amusement park enthusiast, or child at heart, this is definitely a must-have book.

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June 13, 2004 in Nonfiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Garlic Kisses

Author: Chester Aaron
Genre: Non-Fiction
Reviewed by Ruth Mark

543It doesn’t take long to realize that this writer a.) knows a lot of people and b.) that he’s passionate, not just about the garlic he farms but also about life. Chester Aaron is what might be called a ‘jack of all trades’, a man who has served in WWII, taught literature, been an x-ray technician and for the past twenty or so years he’s grown specialist garlics and written a number of books (including novels for young people). He’s no shrinking violet either and plugs his previous books and poster throughout this offering:

“I have two books published about garlic and a poster and they’re selling all over the world.” (page 7)
This book is a selection of twelve stories (eleven about different people and one about his cat Sadie), the main ‘character’ of each story having touched his life in some way. They are not all ‘struggles’ despite the book’s subtitle. The tone of the stories ranges from nostalgic (reflecting on what could have been), to hilarious and all permutations in between. Each chapter is introduced with some facts about various garlics, each garlic perfectly chosen to ‘flavor’ the story which follows.

As a reader, you’ll learn a lot about the growing and harvesting of garlic – details are peppered throughout the prose. You’ll also learn about the many fascinating varieties including: Transylvanian, Red Toch, Bengal Purple, Creole Red and many more, and how they came to be in Chester’s possession. You’ll never look at garlic in quite the same way again! However, you don’t need to be a garlic lover (if you are you’ll enjoy the recipes at the end, not least for their unorthodox format) to enjoy this bundle of stories.

As you read through the stories you’ll be surprised to discover that the author is nearing (or is currently) 80 years old. His zest for life would put many of my 20-year-old students to shame! The years aren’t chronologically presented however and the stories switch from when he’s 76 in one chapter to 79 in the next (chapters 10 & 11) This can sometimes be disorienting. However, once you become accustomed to this author’s brand of story-telling (including his dry wit) the lack of chronology of the years ceases to matter.

And his sense of humor is wonderful! My favorite story in the book is the one about Saddle Bags, the Hell’s Angel:

“Saddle Bags grabbed me and heaved me up and into his chest. I thought he was wrapped with barbed wire, but it was only his beard hanging free.” (page 122)

I also enjoyed Chapter 5 about Sadie his cat and the story about Teenie Biaggo and how she overcame her fear of bats.

Chester is not a fan of food writers (an understatement) and goes his own way when describing his beloved garlics. His name-dropping of American food writers means nothing to me, a European, but I got his ‘drift’! His words ring with genuineness, but unfortunately he has a tendency to repeat himself (scapes/planting dates/about his books and poster).

One of the many gifts this author has is his ability to capture the ‘voice’ of various cultures – Italian, German, Slavic (but not in my opinion Irish) etc., and I’m not talking about dialect. He also sets the scene well:

“It is a glorious evening. The sun is red above the western redwoods. The breeze coming in from the ocean carries a scent of brine.” (page 66)

and:

“I look down across the field at the spread of boxes, at the garlic growing tall and green, at the hardnecks just beginning to send up their scapes, and I line up all the joys that have shared my life here in this home, in this field.” (page 170)

Overall, a way to describe this book in one sentence would be: “He started slow but won me over by the middle.” He admits to liking cats, dogs and Irish females. I hope this Irish female has done his book justice. It is a gem. Now where is my cooking pan? I’ve garlic to fry!

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May 7, 2004 in Nonfiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Such Men Are Dangerous

Author: Frances Hill
Genre: Non-Fiction
Reviewed by Elizabeth K. Burton

544British author Frances Hill is best known for her work on the Salem Witch trials. In 2003, she writes in her introduction, she began to see striking parallels in the personalities of the men who instigated that infamous persecution and high-level members of the Bush Administration in their response to terrorism.

“In both incidents,” she writes, “leaders of government faced what seemed to them deadly dangers from enemies bent on the total destruction of the most industrious, most moral—in every sense simply the best—society and people on Earth. They say no way of responding but with violence. They say no outcome but total victory or defeat. Both believed God was on their side against evil. In both cases, panic, simple-mindedness, and religious and nationalistic fervor predominated over calm, nuanced thinking and reason.”

This book, which provides a comparison between Bushites like Karl Rove and Donald Rumsfeld—and the President himself—to those she feels are psychological and political counterparts from three centuries earlier. Both factions, she says share the common denominator of fanaticism that arises from both their backgrounds and their characters.

Let it be said that in her desire to make the parallels Ms. Hill’s analysis occasionally becomes strained. This often leads not to a careful examination of the facts but a rather heated polemic that clearly reflects her personal views of the war in Iraq. For example, in seeking to compare Colin Powell to Judge Samuel Sewall, she stoops to attacking him for belittling his wife in his autobiography but offers on additional proof that this indicates he’s some kind of male chauvinist.

There is also the problem that there is no 17th century counterpart to Condoleeza Rice, with the result that except for mentioning her in relation to the men Ms. Hill essentially ignores her part in the current situation. Given George W. Bush’s reliance on her and her position in the administration, that seems something of an oversight.

Based on Ms. Hill’s observations, there are parallels to be seen between the two situations, but it’s likely the same could be said for many other periods in history. It isn’t so much that she fails to make her case with this book as that her case was rather weak to begin with. In a way, one might say her work simply reinforces Santayana’s statement that those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it.

Witch hunts tend to have a lot in common. That the current administration embarked on one after September 11, 2001, is apparent to anyone willing to take the time to look at it closely. By the same token, fanatics of whatever stripe invariably behave in certain ways, whether they be Puritans, born-again Pentecostals or Islamic fundamentalists. And Ms. Hill’s book does offer food for thought, even if the meal does fall a bit short of a banquet.

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May 7, 2004 in Nonfiction | Permalink | Comments (0)