This was an interesting and amusing read from an author with a keen eye for describing human quirks and a lot of heart when it comes to issues of mentThis was an interesting and amusing read from an author with a keen eye for describing human quirks and a lot of heart when it comes to issues of mental illness. He clearly feels strongly about the injustice of people being misdiagnosed and/or given inappropriate medication. Unfortunately the book is let down by slipping into wooly thinking at times. This is probably as a result of the author attempting to be evenhanded which is a laudable aim, but it just leaves the book feeling a little bit flat at the end. It's hard to know whether he believes the "psychopath" exists or not at the end. I know his job as a journalist is to present the story to me, not necessarily spell out to me what he thinks, but generally with my favourite journos I do know exactly what they think about whatever issue they are writing about once I've read their article/book/whatever. He was also guilty of making a few spectacularly naive statements that jarred me out of engrossment in the book. The one I remember was something along the lines of "it's hard to believe that the CIA would try to depose a democratically elected left-wing government.." Perhaps that line was meant to be a joke. Anyway, it was an enjoyable read despite my gripes, and the author comes across as very likeable, sort of like a disarming Louis Theroux type who puts the interviewee at their ease and gets them to spill the beans, except more genuine (which I remember thinking when I read the Men Who Stare at Goats years ago too). ...more
This book was an eye opener for me. I was expecting it to be about white racists in the metal scene. Even though I would not be the victim of those peThis book was an eye opener for me. I was expecting it to be about white racists in the metal scene. Even though I would not be the victim of those people and would only come into conflict with them if I chose to (calling them on a dodgy tshirt, for example) I still feel like I know plenty about them. They were dealt with of course, but what the book focused on in more detail - something which I know absolutely nothing about - was the massive bafflement, resistance and even outright hostility, black women can face from their families and friends (even risking the disapproval of strangers on the street!) just for liking metal, punk or hardcore. There are complicated reasons for this, and I'm only beginning to read about them, and they differ from country to country. The author is Canadian, which gives her a particular view, and a lot of the women she interviews are from the US, and that is a very different one again. Skin (from the UK) of Skunk Anansie does the introduction, and she reports little shock from family and friends over her choice of music. But while there were complex reasons for the resistance people interviewed for the book experienced from their families, it was very sweet to see different women (sometimes from different countries) sharing remarkably similar stories of their "freaky" teenagerdom. Defiantly liking what you like no matter what others think is good of course, but it's nice sometimes to hear stories similar to your own. I imagine this must be doubly so for women who were extremely unusual even in their deliberately outsiderish scene. A good read. I must say though, she tends to tack on "punk" and "hardcore" when she's making general statements, and she clearly doesn't know much about either scene, particularly hardcore. I must say, I find that quite charming though, since punk at least always seems to be regarded as the obvious intellectual superior of poor old metal, but I for one like metal more! ...more
This is one of the best books about socialism I've read, and it has the added bonus of being littered with late 60s/early 70s slang which begs to be rThis is one of the best books about socialism I've read, and it has the added bonus of being littered with late 60s/early 70s slang which begs to be read (inwardly of course) in a blaxploitation accent. Insults that I now intend incorporate more fully into my everyday speech include principally JIVE, but also the old staples of swine, pigs, dogs, lackeys, and perhaps best of all jackanapes! But to get back to seriousness, you do have read a lot "dry theory" if you're interested in left wing politics, so it's nice for a change to read about someone whose politics correspond so vitally and completely with his real life and the problems he sees around him in the community. And Seale (and the opinions of Huey P Newton, given second hand) are generally spot on about most things as far as I'm concerned. There were one or two off-colour and slightly inscrutable comments about homosexuality which, if I'm understanding the dense language correctly, amounted to him calling it a "symptom" of white imperialism. Of course, this is completely innacurate and wrong headed, but it is not a completely unheard of attitude even today particularly in countries that are ex-colonies. I find it ironic that Boddy Seale, the great follower of Fanon, would be espousing attitudes warped as far as I see it by his experience of being from a "colonised" people. But anyway, that was a tiny gripe. Otherwise, it was politically sound and also a great read from an action story point of view. It's sad to read the enthusiasm and passion when you know what happens in the end, but it's still a great, and if you're a lefty, essential read. ...more
It's been a while since I read this (I just remembered to add it when I saw Collapse on my list) so I won't remember much to put in a review. One of tIt's been a while since I read this (I just remembered to add it when I saw Collapse on my list) so I won't remember much to put in a review. One of the reviewers on the cover probably put it best when they said (and I paraphrase) that "Diamond may enter the very rare realm of science writers who change the way we think about history/the world forever". This is not extravagant praise. If you don't know, this book is, to put it in unloaded terms, about why things unfolded so differently on the different continents of the world. To put it in another way (which shows the sometimes controversial path he treaded here) why did certain parts of the world have "civilization" 2/3000 years ago when some people such as the native Australian people were using bronze age technology when Australia was "discovered" by Europeans. Yes, all these inverted commas are necessary! Anyway, I don't think I ever held racist views about any of this. However, if asked why before I read GG&S, my answer probably would have been a somewhat limp "well, what's so good about civilization anyway?". As it turns out there are very specific reasons for the relative progress (and I use the term as the best available if not accurate. Diamond does not say that civilazation is preferable to hunter gathering, or vice versa and in fact is clear that neither are) of the different continents based on the ease with which ideas, crops (and germs!) could develop and spread (Eurasia being relatively easily traversable in ancient times, compared to Africa and the Americas with their deserts), the domesticatable animals and plants available, and other things not related to anything to do with the ability or lack thereof of the humans who happpned to live there. It's one of the greatest and most fascinating books I've ever read and if I should ever meet anyone so unpleasant as to defend colonialism as "progress" I now know exactly how to tell them where to go! Thanks, Jared! ...more
This book was fun, but it was more useful as history than humour, which was what I was looking for so why am I complaining... Where was I? Oh yes! NowThis book was fun, but it was more useful as history than humour, which was what I was looking for so why am I complaining... Where was I? Oh yes! Now I know the various royal dynasties of my adopted country, as well as what a whig and a tory is (well, of course I knew what the latter was, mores the pity), and that Wat Tyler and Jethro Tull are not merely bands. This is a very good book for what I was looking for - an introduction to English history for those not in the know. It's not actually for foreigners such as myself, but for Brits who couldn't be arsed paying attention in history class in school, which he points out a few times, which I thought was sweet. He also appeals to younger readers to remind their history teachers of various rude but historically factual incidents that did happen down through the ages, with gave me a certain immature thrill. I hope some smartarses took him up it. I also had a giggle when he mentioned Our Island Nation (briefly reviewed elsewhere by me!) in not complimentary terms. I gave it the four stars instead of the five since most of the humour in it is of a predictable, small smile but not laugh out loud kind, but there were a few exceptions. There was a bit about the various holy embroideried slogans warriors used to wear on thier tunics that had me literally crying laughing on the tube, which was embarrassing but undeniably fun. I like this guy, he's sound. I might read more of his stuff. ...more
I loved this, and my five star review has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that an illustration of mine is in it.
As a not-very-up-on-world-footI loved this, and my five star review has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that an illustration of mine is in it.
As a not-very-up-on-world-football-affairs football fan, it was very handy for me to find out who are the policitically sound football teams in diverse countries around the world. Now I'll know who to shout for in some of the obscure matches they show in the cafés around here.
But it's small, community based and run teams that this book is mainly about rather than the big clubs, and that's where the true sources of inspiration are to be found. It's true that occasionally the book slides a bit far into PC anarchism (that sounds weird, I mean politically correct anarchism, rather than anarchists going around and attempting to enforce PCness in an anarchic fashion, which would be fun)for my liking - I mean, when some of the contributors talk about taking competitiveness out of the game, as if that should be the aim of all progressive football fans, I rolled my eyes a little. But the author does bring together a wide variety of progressive (for want of a better word) political opinions on the matter and doesn't even stick rigidly to anarchists - socialists, communists and even an avowed anarchist anti-communist got a shout, and I enjoyed that. The summing up by the author at the end was flawless in showing how football could be owned by the fans, taken back or built from scratch and become a genuine source for building and empowering communities. The corporatisation of football is a grim spectacle to watch for people who love the game, but this book shows that we don't have be pessimistic and accepting of what's happening. Stirring stuff indeed! ...more