25 Women to Read Before You Die

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Dan Starr has commented on (6) products.

The Reason Driven Life: What Am I Here on Earth For? by Robert M. Price
The Reason Driven Life: What Am I Here on Earth For?

Dan Starr, March 24, 2010

This book is an eloquent critique that exposes the many logical (and theological) holes in Rick Warren's best-selling "The Purpose Driven Life." Alas, it's also an eloquent (if unintentional) demonstration that evangelical fundamentalists are among the most annoying people in the world--regardless of whether they're Christian (like Warren) or atheist (like Price). While Price gives Warren's Christianity-lite a well-deserved dismembering, he spends way too much time stridently pushing his own beliefs (which, though he dislikes the term "atheist," pretty much match the textbook definition of the word). I suppose this is just the inevitable result of any attempt to debate the existence/nonexistence of God through reason--since the notion of "God" is in scientific terms an untestable hypothesis, the "debate" inevitably degenerates into the equivalent of a schoolyard argument, with one child screaming "is SO!" while the other counters "is NOT!" Well, Rick Warren gave us the "is SO!" argument in his book; now Price gives us the "is NOT!" It's amazing how similar they ultimately sound.
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Grand Theft Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America by Robert S Mcelvaine
Grand Theft Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America

Dan Starr, August 19, 2008

An important book, though also a seriously flawed one. As sara1968 observes, the author's penchant for puns and sarcastic comments often get in the way of his message. But the message is an important one: that the "religious right" has often abandoned the teachings of Jesus in favor of a doctrine that emphasizes certain ritual sins (particularly homosexuality) while giving a free pass to sins that have real victims (particularly economic sins). McElvaine takes way too long to make his point, his evidence is often hard to find due to his sarcastic writing style, he is not much of a Biblical scholar (he tends to misinterpret the Hebrew Bible and the writings of Paul), and his last couple chapters take off on a feminist tangent that has little to do with the rest of the book (but may summarize an earlier book). Still, McElvaine gets the right idea--that the behavior of the religious right needs to be examined from the viewpoint of the Bible--and therefore this book is a step in the right direction.
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Endless Blue by Wen Spencer
Endless Blue

Dan Starr, August 19, 2008

"Endless Blue" does what the best SF does: picks up a contemporary issue (in this book, race), and drops it into a different world where we can see it in a new way. Wen Spencer postulates a future in which the human race has genetically engineered "Reds" and "Blues," who are stronger, faster, more adaptable and perhaps even smarter than regular humans--and therefore are ruthlessly pushed into duty as soldiers and slaves. A space ship full of humans and Reds drops into that time-honored SF plot device, a "Sargasso of space," the place where ships end up when their hyperspace drives malfunction (which Spencer portrays in a vivid and creative manner), where everyone must confront what it means to be "human." This is the kind of thing that could, in lesser hands, become boring and preachy. Instead, Spencer's story is fast-moving and filled with exciting action and interesting characters. A good read, and something to think about afterward.
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Sissy Nation: How America Became a Culture of Wimps and Stoopits by John Strausbaugh
Sissy Nation: How America Became a Culture of Wimps and Stoopits

Dan Starr, June 9, 2008

One of the best screeds I've read in a while. Strausbaugh hooked me when he described the devolution of our space program--going from the glory days when we were "banging the moon" with huge white phallic rockets, to the current day when we're just "taking the shuttle in and out of the garage." From there he builds a convincing case that we are becoming a nation of fat, unambitious, hyper-sensitive, politically-correct, always-victimized, fundamentalist, anti-intellectual Sissies living in a virtual reality he calls "Fundadome." Strausbaugh's taking on a mindset and a culture, not any specific politician or group, so he skewers George W Bush and Al Gore, Christian and Muslim fundamentalists, corporatists and "bullsheviks" with equal glee. He's politically incorrect, a bit over the top at times, and consistently rude and impolite, but I think he's on to something. He doesn't really offer any detailed remedies beyond get off yer butt, turn off the computer and get out into the world (well, he offers one alternative that's properly insane, but I don't want to give it away). Maybe that's all we really need.
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The Dragon's Trail: The Biography of Raphael's Masterpiece by Joanna Pitman
The Dragon's Trail: The Biography of Raphael's Masterpiece

Dan Starr, September 18, 2007

In the epilogue, the author remarks that art museums typically display paintings with little historical information beyond the artist's name and the date painted, as if paintings exist outside history. The book that precedes this epilogue demonstrates that paintings (at least this one!) have histories every bit as fascinating as the art itself. But Joanna Pitman doesn't just trace the dry facts of who owned the painting and when; she ties the history together with a theme: how fine art in general, and this painting in particular, brought a form of legitimacy to its owners, and how some rulers, entrepreneurs and nations were willing to pay dearly to get this legitimacy. A fascinating little bit of history.
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