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We've got it all, and now you do, too.

Blogcritics Editors’ Picks: November 8 through November 14

As usual our variety is hard to beat as our intrepid editors read it all and bring you the very best. We've got live music, we've got interviews, we've got books, we've got a head start on the holiday movie season, we've got it all — and now you do, too.

 

MUSIC

From Music Editor Connie Phillips:

Mark Saleski has a way of taking music and wrapping it around his memories, in turn evoking all sorts of recollections and emotions from the reader. His recent review of J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton: The Road to Escondido is no exception.

Someone else with a style all their own is Aaron Fleming. To say he reviewed the concert doesn't quite seem to do his article justice, as this week he took us with him to a show he recently attended in Concert Review: Opeth, London, UK, 9 November 2006, allowing us to experience it all.

Ed Driscoll did more than give us the facts about an important tool of the recording industry; he shared some examples of it doing its best work in his Product Review: The Harmonizer – Messing With The Fabric Of Time And Harmony.

For DJRadiohead Christmas comes too early this year, as the album on the top of his wish list won't hit stores until late January. Read Confessions of a Fanboy 010: Two Albums From Norah Jones – One Real, One Imagined and impatiently wait along with him.

From Asst. Music Editor A.L. Harper:

DJRadiohead
waxes lyrical about two of music's most angelic voices in Confessions of a Fanboy 010: Two Albums From Norah Jones – One Real, One Imagined. This one you must read!

Sleeveless Sundays sums up The Blow in the music review The Blow – "Fists Up!". An interesting and brief read.

BOOKS

From Books Editor Natalie Bennett:

So how's your particle physics? If it is like mine, i.e. almost non-existent, then I recommend you read Nick Schweitzer's review of Not Even Wrong. It will set you straight on the great controversy about String Theory, Super String Theory, or M-Theory. So is it a great idea, or dead end? Well, even Nick can't tell you that, but he can offer you a guide to the debate.

From one set of challenging ideas to another: Ambrose Musiyiwa interviews novelist Emily Maguire, who aims to "challenge people's moral assumptions". Ambrose extracts from her a tight, lively account of her life as a writer.

From Asst. Books Editor Gordon Hauptfleisch:

I didn't think we needed a heavy-handed leftist response to the Left Behind books, but then I didn't think we needed the original Left Behind books either. But how can you resist, as described by Glen Boyd in his inspired review of The Saved – a graphic novel in which survivors-turned-stuporous Stepford shoppers are huddled in a post-apocalyptic Supermall in Kansas waiting for the rapture? Or disregard a story that features, among other delights, namesakes Bowie and Slade — the skate-punk sons of former confetti-king, now military big-wig (!) Rip Taylor?

One of the most striking parts of Mayank Austen Soofi's highly-enjoyable and amusing one-morning-in a-writer's life rumination, Incense and Insensibility (sorry for the title, by the way) was the 3:30 AM wake-up alarm (!) and the 5:30 AM trip to the gym (!!). But all the hardships and inconveniences will all be worth it as Mayank realizes who'll have the last laugh some day with the advent of his writing success and accolades — all of those people who ignore or snub him now will indeed be sorry. "By then," however, "it will be too late for them to be my friends." Hah!

In her compelling review of The Meaning of Night – A Confession, Katie McNeill aptly conveys the shadowy complexity of the lead character and plot, and is highly convincing in her recommendation: "Beautifully written, this is a classic in the making. This novel has it all – a dark character you have to follow to the end." Sounds perfect for my winter-of-discontent reading list.

Meanwhile, since the autumn-of-my-eccentricity is still in full swing, Diane Kristine has me persuaded, in her review of A Spot of Bother, that I might find this book's every-which-way-but-lucid protagonist appealing: "Talking was, in George's opinion, overrated… The secret of contentment, George felt, lay in ignoring many things completely." Say no more.

TV/FILM

From TV Editor Jackie:

Murder by the Book, a new CourtTV series, features popular crime novelists delving into real murder cases. TV with MeeVee sat down with author James Ellroy and asked him five questions about his appearance and case in the show – the 1958 murder of his very own mother.

Ryan Eanes' Beakman Blasts Back Into Action was well-written and informative. I had no idea that the show ever existed and this article makes me want to give it a gander to learn more about it.

From TV Editor TV and Film Guy:

Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's great. Apparently recently it's been less than that. But, in its latest episode, Battlestar Galactica is back in near-top form. David Desjardins takes a look at it, examines its strengths and weaknesses and decides it doesn't have to go frack itself. I highly recommend you spool up your FTL drive and check it out.

I know things. Trust me, I know things. A lot of my knowledge, though, is totally and completely worthless. Or so I thought. Apparently, I can actually make some huge bucks off of it. All I need to do is sit there and find two people to not open their mouths. TV with Meevee explains.

From Film Editor Lisa McKay:

Donnie Marler reminds us of why those animated holiday gems stay with us year after year, and in some cases, generation after generation. Do any of the characters in Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer strike a chord of familiarity in you?

Continuing on in the holiday spirit, Randall A Byrn takes a look at Frank Capra's classic, It's A Wonderful Life, and explains why it's a movie for all seasons.

CULTURE

From Asst. Culture Editor Melita Teale:

In The Story of Chess: The Musical, Ken Lyen shows us that the history of this production is as complex as the Cold War world it's set in. Whether or not you like musical theatre, it's a fascinating read.

Chris Beaumont touchingly eulogizes his grandfather, Edwin Bell, in a way that lets us understand a great man has been lost.

Andrew Morris
challenges his readers to think of Islam as the background to the life of a society instead of as a media boogeyman in his article entitled In Good Faith: Portrayals of Islam in the Media.

POLITICS

From Asst. Politics Editor Mark Schannon:

An Open Letter to Newly Elected Democrats by Taloran is a thoughtful, non-partisan, elegant reminder of why politicians are really elected.

Drew McKissick's
Election Dissection is a good early analysis of a very complex election.

From Asst. Politics Editor John Bambenek:

Defiling the Constitution of Massachusetts by Harry Forbes demonstrates an interesting paradox — that gay marriage advocates wrap themselves in the Constitution until it no longer suits them.

SPORTS

From Sports Editor Matthew T. Sussman:

I didn't need to read Victor Lana's article past the headline to know this would be among the picked. Although that would have been a better editing job by me, in retrospect. But an in-depth look would have shown that Victor did some original reporting — going out in that world and asking people — regarding the Mets' new ballpark name, CitiField.

Here's an overlooked yet necessary read for the avid golfer: Wade Pearse exposes the big lie in golf, which has to do with all that fancy-schmancy equipment. "Lie," in this case, is a double pun, if you haven't figured that one out.

GAMING

Gaming Editor Ken Edwards says, "A solid seven days with great writing, but no picks this week."

SCI/TECH

From Technology Editor Daniel Woolstencroft:

In DSG: The Future Of The Gearbox, Ashleigh Charlesworth tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the DSG gearbox and more besides!

Merlinfmct87 introduces Blogcritics to the joys of Last.fm while taking a look at the service's newly introduced features.

COMMENT OF THE WEEK

From Comments Editor Christopher Rose:

As American political passions subside somewhat after the elections, it comes as a slight surprise that one of the most thoughtful, if lengthy, comments putting things into a larger historical perspective comes from an Australian.

Posted by S.T.M to Defiling the Constitution of Massachusetts on 2006.11.14, 07:37:01 AM

Hi Ruvy. Yes mate, actually I have thought about it at great length, but not for jingoistic reasons of empire and what have you. You see, as much as I fart about with this stuff, I'm also sensible enough to realise the beneficial impact that a strong America has had on both my countries. But it's very interesting that scenario, isn't it? This is long, but I hope you can spare a few minutes as it's fascinating stuff if you like history.

I believe firstly that had the British been at the height of their power, as they were between say the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the start of WWI, the outcome might have been somewhat different for the US.

In reality, at the time of the War of Independence, the British were less interested in Empire than they were about trade and the opening up of trade routes and so the loss of the American colonies, although regarded in the US – obviously – as a defining moment in world history, wasn't quite such a dramatic thing on the other side of the Atlantic at the time (although I'd imagine mad old Georgie wouldn't have been too impressed, his all-conquering armies soundly defeated and sent packing by a rag-tag band of traitorous rogues who had got into bed with the duplicitous French).

From the literature I've read on the British side, the real issue for them, apart from loss of face, was the potential loss of trade. Which of course didn't really happen as New England remained dependent on trade with Britain in the period leading up to the outbreak of the war of 1812. Interestingly, they still regarded the Americans as their own kith and kin – naughty ones, but family anyway.

I know there are many myths propagated in the US regarding the war of 1812, but it was in fact a dreadful defeat for the United States and in truth, the only conclusion after serious study is that it was ultimately only the magnanimity of the British in victory that prevented the wholesale defeat of the fledgling nation (it was America that asked for peace, and the British who granted them most peace concessions requested at Ghent). Serious historians believe America lost the war but won the peace.

It is this period that intrigues me most in relation to this question, rather than the War of Independence. The outbreak of the war of 1812 was almost a complete reversal of the good reasons America went to war against the British 30 years earlier, so it was unpopular in America, particularly as casualties and the string of defeats mounted up.

Andrew Jackson was egged on by the War Hawks in Congress, and the pretext for the fighting was the maritime issues – mainly the blockading of trade and the press-ganging of US sailors (many of whom were deserters from the Royal Navy or British subjects). While it was arrogant, and designed to fill up Royal Navy battle crews during the fighting with France, it was a niggle in reality and Jackson is often quoted as having said that had he known the British had ended their blockades prior to the outbreak of fighting, he'd never have gone to war. The British never wanted to go to war with the US.

It was a war of aggression designed to remove British influence once and for all from North America, seize Canada – the first attempts to do so were the outbreak of hostilities – and stamp America on the world stage (which it did).

As I say, and as most historians agree, it almost resulted in total defeat for the US and the secession of New England to the Crown at the behest of its own citizenry.

So it is against that background that it should be judged: that the British, having considerable naval and land forces suddenly freed up from the Peninsular War against France, ended up at the table with America, leaving the 19th century's superpower and the 20th century's superpower sitting down discussing peace and friendship – and it DID forge the beginnings of an enduring relationship, with a few hiccups along the way – is indeed one of the miracles of modern history.

The only good thing about the War of Independence from the British perspective at the time was that the Crown sent James Cook to the South Pacific to look for new territories and trade routes, leading to the birth of Australia and New Zealand as we know them today.

(Not sure how good the Poms think that is when they're mostly getting flogged at cricket and rugby by these two countries, but that's another issue).

So Ruve, in my view it was both conflicts and the defeat of Napoleon at Trafalgar and Waterloo (leading also to a genuinely free France) that actually set the parameters defining the modern world and the many subsequent outcomes of history.

It's unlikely that any other results would have brought about such an alliance of free spirits (imagine the 20th century without Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt) or given rise to the strong, brave, generous, fair and magnanimous America we all look to (most of the time), or the dogged Britain that had enough balls to stand up to Adolf Hitler on its own after fighting a war that literally took the flower of its youth just 20 years earlier. Would there have been an Israel? Doubt it.

Let's hope too we can all remember and learn from the lessons of history. It's fascinating stuff, and it lives right now.

About Lisa McKay

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