Comic book fans will be well acquainted with the setup for this book. Imagine a discussion over the latest issue of Batman where the Joker is captured and remanded back into custody at Arkham Asylum because he's legally insane, and therefore incapable of standing trial. Or perhaps there is an argument over gift taxes regarding the diamond that Superman shaped and gave to Lana Lang in Superman III. Exactly who's liable for the mission that turned the Fantastic Four into superpowered heroes and the Hulk into a living engine of destruction? Perhaps we should talk about insurance and the swaths of disaster cut by the average superbattle? And just how far can the Mutant Registration Act or similar such laws extend? For non-fans, it sounds ridiculous, and there are even some fans who will claim as much and still get sucked into such discussion, but for the rest of us (and we all know who we are), this book is a veritable gold mine.
The authors of this book are lawyers and self-described comic book geeks who bring their legal minds to questions that I have heard since the moment I first encountered other fans... and admittedly some of them were asked by me. Geeks love trivia, and in the comics world, the more pedantic the trivia, the better it gets. This book is 100% legal pedantry, wherein many, many, MANY examples of comic book conduct crosses into the real world. Dare I say it, this might be the most awesome way to learn about the U.S. legal system. Stuff like this is what makes geeks seem smart when they unleash their newfound knowledge upon their unsuspecting audiences. After all, knowledge is power, and with great power comes great responsibility (yes, I had to say it) to crush the ego of that one unrelenting know-it-all that every fan knows. Incidentally, if you don't instantly know who that is in your group... it's probably you.
I won't say that this book is all-encompassing, but I think anyone would be hard-pressed to figure out what might have been left out. Go for it, my fellow geeks, and get back to me on this one. I'll also say that there are a couple of points where I'm wondering if the authors actually read the comic they reference because, well, I'm a geek, and I spot these things where the story in question is much beloved. But for the most part, they do a great job, and for those interested in further reading, the actual case reference numbers are there for you to look up.
The narrator for the audio version does a good job as well, but again, I'm a geek, so I'm going to just call this outright. Ra's al Ghul is not pronounced as it is in the Dark Knight movies. For 30 years before Nolan ever got there, the name has a long A sound and the corresponding punctuation in the comics to prove it. Reference Batman: The Animated series to get it right. Also, other pronunciations such as J'Onn J'Onnz and Xavier are called into question. If you can let these slide without nerd rage, then this narrator will work well for you.
One last thing I'll point out, because I can. Nearly everyone I talk to in the past couple of decades seems to think that ultra-realism is better than merely having fun when it comes to superhero stories. After this book, you might be rethinking your stance on that. Pretty much every character you can name would be required to go back to the drawing board or spend life behind bars. Yes, even Superman. Maybe not Wonder Woman or Aquaman, assuming they have diplomatic immunity, but probably international wars would be inevitable. Eh, you get the idea. Get this book, and prepare to have your mind blown.
I spend a lot of time alone, both at work and at home, so my social skills are dismal to say the least. Every now and again, I feel the need to remind myself that such things are exactly that: skills. They can be improved and practiced. It's just a question of getting the basics fresh in your mind. Building a solid foundation is the always the most important part.
And that's the entire nature of this book. Most of it is common sense to those who are have built the skill set, and even for people like me, it makes sense. Anything more than what this book covers is going to come down to personality. Some things you just can't get from a book. For what this audiobook offers, it's worth the listen if you're inclined to to give it a go.
Every so often I pick up a book like this just as a reminder on things I should already be constantly aware of, and to find a little inspiration here and there. That's essentially what this book is for about 20% of it. It's a message that boils down to a variation of the Law of Attraction: if you change your perception, you change your world. It's a good message, but... the other 80% consists of personal anecdotes of the author's personal life, and after a while it gets tedious despite the best intentions. It's ironic to me that had he presented this as a biography instead of a self-help title, it might have been better, but it probably wouldn't sell nearly as well.
Robbins is a decent enough narrator for his own book, but as he's also a public speaker, it could have been better if he'd presented this in such a way as to harness those abilities instead of making it sound like he was just reading his book.
I'm really curious as to how much Dr. Tim Cantopher actually contributed to this book. I'm sure all of it is based on his research and practice, but as he's constantly addressed in the 3rd person through the whole of this book, it comes across as being authored by someone on his staff. It could be presented that way to help with the disconnect that comes from it being narrated by a woman who is clearly not Dr. Cantopher... perhaps?
Speaking of the narrator, Lynsey Frost comes across clear and positive for the most part, but the way this book is presented, there are times when it crosses the line to sarcastic and glib, and I can no longer tell if that's the narrator or the way the material is written that causes that. She comes across as patronizing. Any classic Doctor Who fans? She sounds a bit like the 7th Doctor's companion Ace, both in voice and in tone. Again, I can't tell if it's because she's that way, or if it's Dr. Cantopher's own arrogance that's coming across in the written material. Sometimes it's actually funny, even when it's not supposed to be. Most of the time, you just want to smack her on principle, and she makes it feel like it'd be a public service to do so.
Having said all this, this book is built on a foundation I've not heard addressed very often, the idea that the strong-willed and determined simply keep going until stress breaks their limbic system, causing the chemical imbalance that deals with clinical depression. This book specifically deals with this form of depression, though it states that people suffering from other forms can benefit somewhat from what's listed. Regardless, the diagnosis is that the illness is physical, not mental, and based on his descriptions and explanations, his reasoning is spot-on as near as I can tell from personal experience. That's the good news, and because it makes sense, I give it the extra star up to two from the one it would otherwise deserve.
It's the treatment options that I question, and I'll try to detail some of the points here. Dr. Cantopher is part of Britain's NHS, and according to the sarcastic narrator, he's not afraid to fly in the face of what they recommend when it comes to making them look bad. He points out that psychotherapies are expensive and not really productive, and his first recommendation is that you'd treat it with drugs like you would a cold or flu, rebuking all major arguments that he's heard over the years. It really makes me wonder how many kickbacks he gets from those pharmaceutical companies. And then supposing you're convinced to take those drugs, this book makes it sound like the recovery phase is far, far worse than the original illness. The bottom line of it is "do as much of nothing as is humanly possible" while using your common sense to tell you when you've had enough.
If it truly came down to common sense, people wouldn't be in this mess in the first place as common sense tells people suffering in this manner that they can't stop. You power a hundred amps through a 25 amp fuse, it will blow, regardless of the common sense of not powering that many amps through it in the first place. This analogy is used frequently enough to call into question the concepts of common sense and depression as being coexistent qualities.
But wait! He addresses this very cycle of people taking the drugs, getting the recovery, and then going back to the normal cycle that started this in the first place because modern life simply won't stop, thus resulting in relapse. His solution? Take your personal happiness into your own hands! *head/desk* And you should do this by operating just below peak capacity and avoiding extremes by sticking to the middle path. Really?! I'm so glad this book has come to my rescue! I'd never have come to this conclusion on my own!
It only gets worse from there. Having a panic attack? Don't panic. You won't die, even if you feel like you're about to. This book actually says it just like that. Don't panic during a panic attack. Your recovery from depression may actually hinge on doing pointless things as badly as you can. Meanwhile, you're supposed to realize that the productive things that led you to depression in the first place are, in fact, pointless. Please, somebody explain to me how this is not a psychological hamster wheel waiting to happen?
Dr. Cantopher is not a psychotherapist, so of course he covers psychotherapy in the "rare" case that the drugs won't work. He also gives you tips and skills to help you sleep and combat stress that "won't work once you're diagnosed with depression," but can help before you get there. These include meditation and relaxation exercises, which have cumulative effects over time, giving up caffeinated drinks, doing physical exercise, and other such things that he outright says will only make depression worse. More examples include avoiding the following: late night TV, horror movies, thriller novels, and any work you brought home with you. Again, all of these suggestions only help if you follow his advice before you get depressed or after you recover.
I don't know about you, but I certainly feel empowered to make meaningful choices now. *groan*
And so we come to the end of Ian Fleming’s original run of James Bond. This is a short story collection, published post-mortem at the height of the spy craze that was caused as a direct result of the successful 007 film franchise. Sean Connery had been in four Bond films to that point, with a fifth on the way, and by this point it was assumed (rightfully so) that regardless of any legal issues from Thunderball, 007 was going to live on for quite some time. Cashing in with the last of Fleming’s remaining stories would have been an easy call to make, especially since Fleming himself had planned to do so anyway before his untimely death.
As with For Your Eyes Only, this collection is largely more about Bond's character than big missions against supervillains. There are four stories here: Octopussy, The Property of a Lady, The Living Daylights, and 007 in New York. Each are very different in their tone, but all of them express sides of Bond's character and Fleming's interests in ways that Fleming has given us before, so the result is a comfortable and familiar end to the original canon.
Tom Hiddleston is a magnificent narrator on the first three of these stories, with his only flaw being that perhaps he's far too charismatic for Fleming's version of Bond. Even so, it's clear he has a great deal of fun with the character voices and performance opportunities. In keeping with my running commentary on how to pronounce "007," Hiddleston proves he's a proper fanboy and gives us a true "double-oh seven" instead of the awkward "oh-oh seven."
The fourth and final story is narrated by Lucy Fleming. While her range isn't nearly as broad as Hiddleston's, it doesn't need to be as the last story is mostly a fluff piece. Since this these stories are her heritage, and since she's producer of this 007 Reloaded series, it's only right to have her for the final tale.
All in all, this collection of short stories is a fun and satisfying end to Fleming's writings. It seems strange to come to the end at long last, but all good things...
Essentially, this is a lecture series recorded live in front of a group, covering the basic ideas of Buddhism. At my current level, I can only imagine what the well-versed would get out of this. I've only recently really started expanding my understanding of Buddhism as part of my continuing education on the religions of the world, and I found this easy to grasp but still difficult to fully appreciate. I think that's more the nature of the teachings, however, that understanding will unfold in time with practice and repeat exposure. I found the expansion of the ideas presented to be of immense value. To my mind, this might be as easy as it gets, if one can truly say such a thing of this system.
Having grown up in Texas, one of the biggest offenders against the idea of the masses thinking for itself as individuals, I can look almost anywhere in my surroundings and directly apply Zakaria's arguments. There is so much practical wisdom here that most will never see or take advantage of that it hurts. Zakaria's thoughts here are well-organized, well-defended, and transparent on every level, and yet, implementing it to its fullest goes beyond the level of the individual. Those in power have very little incentive to change the status quo because that's how they got to power in the first place. Even so, Zakaria makes an excellent case for the practicality and value of liberal arts and the power of a people who can hink for themselves. My personal suggestion would be the one path unthinkable to most: for an individual to continue such studies on their own. There are resources aplenty in the age of information. Play the game, get the degree you think you need, but never stop learning. If someone says a body of knowledge isn't necessary in modern society, there are many good reasons that knowledge should be pursued with enthusiasm.
If you know Colbert's brand of humor, you already know what to expect. Let that be your guide, because this is the self-proclaimed constitution for the Colbert Nation. I've got this in hardcover and on audio, for two very different reasons. The hardcover has a lot of side margin snarkiness and footnotes that you won't find in the audio, as well as stickers, signs, and other visual bits of awesome that you have to see to believe. The audio is narrated by the man himself, so it's all about presentation, which is jazzed up with music and sound effects here and there just because.
And if you don't know Colbert's brand of humor... what rock have you been living under? The Colbert Report has now ended, but the legacy lives on!
Published post-mortem, The Man With the Golden Gun is, for me, the weakest of the original 007 books. For those familiar with the movie, put it out of your mind. In this case, the golden gun is just a gold-plated revolver instead of one of the most iconic gadgets ever conceived for film, and the man wielding it is nowhere near as cool as Christopher Lee. The more Fleming's characters describe Scaramanga, the more laughable he becomes, ultimately coming across as a cheap thug.
The setup for this novel is interesting. A year after the events of You Only Live Twice, Bond has been missing in action, presumed dead. Now he turns up at MI-6, brainwashed by the KGB into assassinating M. The assassination fails, however, and M believes the best way to get Bond past his brainwashing and to strike back at those who did it is to send the assassin back at them. Bond's assignment is to kill Scaramanga, the freelance assassin who has given many state agencies a problem since the war.
Bond returns to Fleming's classic stomping grounds of Jamaica, infiltrates Scaramanga's group, and spends much of the novel thinking "it'd be easy to put a bullet in him right here." For as much short as this novel is, and as detailed as it's not by comparison of the other entries in the series, this one suffers from way too much padding. This is likely due to the novel being finished by someone else after Fleming's death. Even so, it's still a good read for the diehard Bond fan. It's just not the greatest. It ultimately comes down to how big of a fan you think you are.
To offset the story, Kenneth Branagh puts forth his thespian talents to carry this tale about as far as it can go, and he does a remarkable job, all things considered. Some voices are stereotyped, but nothing's over the top. In keeping with the running report on pronunciation, I'm pleased to say Branagh gives us a proper "double-oh seven" instead of saying "oh-oh seven."
When a legendary Zen master corresponds to a legendary master swordsman, the result cannot be anything other than special. To have these writings today, translated with care to other languages... this is truly a great treasure.
I've commented on other reviews that I study western swordfighting and incorporated martial arts, which I believe is more versatile due primarily to the nature of the weapon, but is considerably more limited mentally. The object is "I hit you, you hit the floor." The very things that make the martial arts an "art" is lost without the mental and spiritual applications that the eastern counterparts have refined to perfection. It's the difference between being a cheap thug and being a true warrior in every sense of the term. Honor and victory are in the warrior, not the weapon.
In my quest to cross-pollinate these disciplines and reap a greater reward, I discovered this audiobook. I could tell you how mind-blowing it was. I could tell you how these words opened myself to a new level of understanding and appreciation. I could even tell you how further elaboration on these concepts might water them down due to how perfectly presented they are.
But I won't. Instead, I will say that if your interests lie here, you will find exactly what you hope to find and so much more. I know I did. And I now I will listen again, because I know that such wisdom does not unfold itself in a single presentation.
I'm working under the assumption that if you went through part 1 of this, you already know what to expect, but just in case... this is a military history, not a biographical or political history. That means it's deals with logistical info and battle data such as troops, routes, supplies, equipment, and other such things. Political background is limited, so for those looking for an overview, this is not the place to begin. But for the advanced scholar of this era, this is more suited for war gaming simulations and such.
Where volume 1 of this deals with Edward III's campaigns and has English bias due to a lack of French information from the period, this volume has considerably more to work with on both sides of the fight. There era between Edward III and Henry V is largely glossed over, mostly due to lags between skirmishes, but from the road to Agincourt to the end of the war, it's all here in magnificent detail.
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