At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Saturday, April 10, 2004


Campbell, James W. P. Brick: A World History. Thames & Hudson, $70.

Library Journal: “This tome should generate new respect for the lowly unit of fired clay…brilliant…The text is clear, concise, and authoritative despite a few typographical errors…The hundreds of color photographs are stunning in their clarity and composition…Highly recommended for public and specialized collections.” Choice: “There has long been a need for this oversize book…a treasure trove of photographs, all in luscious color and detailed documentation…Especially valuable are the gorgeous color details…To an effort like this, one can only say: Bravo! Encore! Essential. All levels.” Publishers Weekly: “photos are stunning, miraculously capturing the outlines of each brick…clear and intense historiography…A lack of detail on Chinese use of brick is a drawback, but the Islamic world is well-covered.” Booklist: “meritorious for its spectacular color photographs and the panoramic scope of its text.”

Friday, April 09, 2004


I don't know if the Blogger Formerly Known as Dr. Chameleon is still reading, but if there are any other Stereolab fans out there I strongly recommend they pick up the latest disc from the Groop, Margarine Eclipse. It's a lot perkier than the sedate, minimalist Cobra and Phases; although the trademark 'labisms are evident--dreamy harmonies, sing-song vocals, blips, drips, squirts, and squiggles aplenty--rhythmically Stereolab has learned how to groove again. And to keep things even more interesting, songwriter Tim Gane puts sudden stylistic shifts into many of the tunes.


Green tea component kills leukemia cells.


Brown, Robert E. Jonathan Edwards and the Bible. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002. xxi + 320 pp. Notes, bibliography, index. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN 0-253-34093-4.

H-Net: “This book stands to become a standard by which to judge others who write about Edwards, or about eighteenth-century interpretation…The reader will delight in Brown’s succinct deliverty…Libraries, historical centers, and scholars cannot overlook such a work on Jonathan Edwards.” Church History: “original and provocative…recipient of the Brewer Prize from the American Society of Church History…One of the book’s surprises is its extensive treatment of philosophical and specifically epistemological issues. Jonathan Edwards and the Bible is less about biblical exegesis than the assumptions that precede and underlie exegesis…Brown argues persuasively for an ‘integral relationship between developments in epistemology and the critical study of sacred history.’…Yet a major accomplishment of Jonathan Edwards and the Bible is to overthrow the ‘critical/precritical’ taxonomy for classifying biblical interpreters…a fluid, complex, nuanced, and intriguing book that exceeds expectations.” Catholic Historical Review: “This is first-rate intellectual history, demonstrating not only how America’s foremost theologian engaged fully with radical Bible critics but also the sophisticated manner in which some early modern theologians used new critical methods when interpreting the Bible.” Choice: “it is exceptionally valuable for its thorough exploration of the cohesive character of biblical narrative and the history of redemption as an organizing motif of Edwards's thought. Recommended for upper-division undergraduates through faculty.” Theological Studies: “B.’s analysis is thorough and provides an exemplary exercise in intellectual history on a topic that has received little scholarly attention…B. pushes his point of interpretation too far, however…B. spends little time on Edwards’s engagements with precritical exegesis, and these are the more interesting aspects of Edwards’s through from the perspective of historical and constructive theology. Those unfamiliar with the history of biblical interpretation and the philosophical issues faced in colonial America will find B.’s prose dense and difficult to negotiate. But those who know this terrain well will find B.’s insights significant.” Journal of American History: “a splendid work, full of insight and erudition, that helps us see Jonathan Edwards in a new light.” Journal of Religion: “an important book…both pioneering and revisionist…Brown has made good use of earlier scholarship, even though at times he is very critical of it…This volume has many virtues that make it an instructive addition to an expanding historiography…But Brown’s proposed formulation that ‘Edwards’s approach is probably best described as “modestly critical”’ lacks precision and usefulness and begs the question. At times this volume also strikes an uncritical celebratory note…”

Thursday, April 08, 2004


Starbucks to team up with Jim Beam to create coffee-flavored liqueur. I don't know--I'll try it, but I think I'd rather just pour a little Maker's Mark into my coffee.


Chronicle Article gives advice for Ph.D.'s wanting to get into the library biz. Most humorous statement: "the opening statement of your cover letter should convey that you are genuinely interested in library work -- not as an alternative to teaching, driven by desperation, but as your ruling passion." I like my job, of course, but I was upfront in my interview, if not in my cover letter, that I got into librarianship after failing to find a tenure-track teaching job. And anyway, according to library scientist William Katz, the best librarians are those who find other things more interesting than librarianship.


New plays by Mamet and Woody Allen to be performed off-broadway this fall.


Holifield, E. Brooks. Theology in America: Christian Thought From the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War. Yale, $35.

Library Journal: “Holifield is a master of his material and brings to it a rare depth of unbiased understanding…Highly recommended for all but the smallest collections" Atlantic Monthly: “magisterial…authoritative…commandingly elucidates the theological conversation…this will remain for at least a generation the definitive chronicle of an essential aspect of American religious and intellectual history.” Christian Century: “delineates with precision and remarkable insight the development of Christian theology in America from the time of settlement until the Civil War...will become a standard reference work for students in seminaries and religious studies programs, as well as for religious professionals…Some readers may flinch before the erudition displayed in this volume…The many years of research invested by Holifield in this project have paid huge dividends.” Publishers Weekly: “majestic…a first-rate, richly evocative and unrivaled history…graceful prose and measured historical analysis…marvelous study…The sketches of Edwards and Horace Bushnell are alone worth the price of the book. This masterfully narrated, splendid book will become the definitive study of the development of American theology.” Choice: “the best survey of antebellum American theology in print. While making an outstanding contribution to historical studies in theology, Holifield has enriched the broader study of American intellectual history…a richly detailed account based on exhaustive research…a magisterial intellectual history that succeeds admirably…A very important work for all academic libraries, this is an essential addition for theological libraries.”

Wednesday, April 07, 2004


Campbell, Randolph B. Gone to Texas: A History of the Lone Star State. Oxford, $35.

Choice: “a solid and substantive survey history…very balanced and comprehensive narrative structure provides even coverage to the entire sweep of Texas history…Masterfully written and meticulously researched and resting on a comprehensive consideration of the previous historical literature, this volume sets new standards for survey histories of Texas and should be required reading for persons interested in the history of the Lone Star State. Future works will be judged against it for years to come. Essential. All levels and libraries.” Publishers Weekly: “Superb…Campbell writes with authority and clarity…His coverage of such matters…are models of their kind, and surely no one has written so well while so briefly about how Texas became Southern…there may not be enough about Texas society…to satisfy some readers. What’s best about the book and what will make it attractive beyond Texas borders is Campbell’s healthy skepticism about claims that Texas is unique among the states. He’s also critical where criticism is clearly warranted…Campbell shows an unusual ability to judge people in 21st-century terms without losing sight of the long-ago context of their acts. A dividend for readers is the book’s unusually good maps and diagrams.” Library Journal: “broad-brushed survey…superb, engrossing…Highly recommended for academic and public libraries and any college-level Texas history course.” Kirkus: “A well-written survey, rather less entertaining than T.R. Fehrenbach's now-standard Lone Star, but meatier, too.”


It looks like drinking coffee reduces the incidence of diabetes.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

I'm back from self-imposed exile. It's comforting to know that things haven't changed much in my absence--enetation is still next to worthless, for instance. Unfortunately, I haven't stored up a lot of exciting things to say over the past six weeks. I have, of course, seen a lot of movies--a couple on the big screen, the others on DVD. You should avoid:

  1. Les Triplettes de Belleville--Satirical cartoon about a French cyclist kidnapped during the Tour de France and shipped to a caricatured North America city for nefarious purposes. I was sorely disappointed in this one. A few mildly amusing ideas stretched too thin--when a 78 minute movie feels too long, there's a definite lack of creativity.
  2. Grave of the Fireflies--Japanese siblings struggle to survive in the aftermath of WWII. As above, another foreign animated film with not much going on, though this one is intended to be poignant rather than funny.

You might like:

  1. The Shape of Things--I need to add Neil Labute to my list of conservative indie filmmakers, and Rachel Weisz to my list of pretty starlets, to keep track of. It's hard to believe a Mormon wrote this story about an art student who manipulates her boyfriend for her own ulterior purposes; it's not exactly the heartwarming sort of story one would expect from the typically optimistic Latter-Day Saints. Best line: "What 'Take Back the Night' rally did you find her at?"
  2. Starsky and Hutch--Lightweight diversion with enough snickering at the '70s to keep gen-Xers like myself smiling in recognition.
  3. Read My Lips--Interesting thriller about a plain-jane, wallflower secretary (who, in accord with hallowed cinematic tradition, is played by a not at all unattractive actress) whose drab life is transformed when her company hires an ex-con as her administrative assistant. Suspense, dry humor, and the usual understated French style.
  4. Party Girl--Quirky fluff about a flighty NYC socialite who, when funds are low, is forced to work at the least likely of places: the public library. Parker Posey is charmingly free-spirited. I don't know if the screenwriters had a librarian consultant, or just spent a lot of time in a library, but how many other movies mention Gale's Encyclopedia of Associations?
  5. Nowhere in Africa--or, Out of Africa redux. Well-to-do Jewish couple flees Nazi Germany for Kenya with their young daughter in tow. Similarites to the Meryl Streep movie are numerous and obvious; this one isn't quite as good but I still enjoyed it as a combination of historical drama and romanticized idyll. I wonder how much a little farm in Kenya would cost nowadays.
  6. Swimming Pool--Clever psychological drama about a lonely, aging mystery novelist from England (Charlotte Rampling) who, struggling with writer's block, accepts the use of her publisher's French villa for a change of scenery. Unexpectedly the publisher's beautiful French daughter (Ludivine Sagnier) appears, turning Rampling's haven into a messy den of sloth and promiscuity. The expected hostilities arise until the novelist decides to play detective and investigate the daughter's obscure past. The trick ending struck me as a little gratuitous, though intriguing.

Now I want to see In the Company of Men (by Neil LaBute), The Mummy (because Rachel Weisz plays a librarian in it), and Dazed and Confused (because Parker Posey is in it, because it's by Richard Linklater, and because it's a '70s nostalgia piece).


Backhouse, Roger E. The Ordinary Business of Life: A History of Economics from the Ancient World to the Twenty-First Century. Princeton Univ. Press.

Policy: “a commendable introduction to the historical context of modern economics…Perhaps the main value of the book is to dispel the widely held notion that economics is some late-20th century theoretical scourge divorced from practical relevance…Brevity leaves Backhouse with little room for his own interpretative interventions. Some of those that do find their way into the book are wide of the mark…” Region: “diversions are prevalent throughout the book and prove valuable; Backhouse has apparently left few stones unturned in his attempt to tell a story about the development of economic ideas…You don’t have to be an economist or social scientist of another stripe to benefit from this instructive, well-reasoned and tightly written synthesis of economic thought." Library Journal: "clear analysis...a well-integrated, thoughtful, accessible text that makes a major contribution to the history and philosophy of economics...recommended for all academic and public libraries." Kirkus Reviews: "This compact study gives an accomplished and remarkably comprehensive overview of an often arcane field of inquiry. The Economist: "Largely successful..." Choice: "A readable and enjoyable volume accessible to a broad audience, and of considerable value and interest to professional economists. Booklist: “A scholarly book that will have appeal to well-read library patrons within the general population.”

Monday, April 05, 2004


Bob Dylan's first advertising appearance. If you're gonna sell out, this is not a bad way to do it...


The Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre & Performance.

Library Journal: “This new work on theater and performance will set the standard for decades and become the reference of choice in these areas. The international authors and editors brnig a true breadth to the effort. Essential for both public and academic libraries.” Choice: “Kennedy builds this excellent reference around 4,300 alphabetized, signed, and richly cross-reference entries…Highly recommended. All academic collections.” Reference and User Services Quarterly:“A most welcome addition to the area of theater reference…successfully caters to specialist and layperson alike with entries that are direct and accessible without forfeiting a scholarly and studied approach…What you will not find in this encyclopedia are discussions of literary matters about drama or particular works; the editors feel that they are sufficiently covered in other resources…The set does have some problems, although they are principally with layout and are more annoyances rather than major concerns…Bibliographies are not consistently included…the encyclopedia is one that will be an exceptional resource for a great variety of users. The clarity and the coverage in this set guarantee its usefulness for any academic and public library.” Booklist: “The six-volume World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre [which we have] has even more detailed international coverage of current theater practice in other countries but lacks comparable ease of access…The Oxford Encyclopedia is a solid set, recommended for academic and large libraries with strong theater collections.”