Review: Merchants of Doubt

This review will deal with both the book and the documentary based on it. The book was written by two historians of science Naomi Oreskes of Harvard University and Erik M. Conway and was published in 2010, while the documentary was directed by Robert Kenner and released in 2014 and has just been released on DVD. I can strongly recommend both. The book is very clearly written and makes a compelling case for the authors’ thesis. Although the documentary is based on the book, its emphasis is different (dealing mostly with the climate change debate) and provides new information that is not in the book. Here’s the trailer.
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Review: Waiting for Godot

This is a famous 1953 play by Samuel Beckett that is in the absurdist tradition. It features two older men who have been together for a long time and have clearly seen better days, as can be discerned by their current shabby clothing coupled with their highly sophisticated use of language and their recollections of good times in the past in various parts of Europe. A man named Godot has told the two of them to wait for him by a tree on a desolate road. The two dutifully wait, clearly expecting their fortunes to improve once he arrives.
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English village life as seen through a TV crime series

I must admit to a fondness for the world that was created by the Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers books, that of murder mysteries set amidst English village life where the crimes are of the ‘by the bishop with the candlestick in the library’ variety rather than the fast-paced guns, car chases, and fist fights that are the norm in more modern crime dramas. I recently came across a long-running British TV series called Midsomer Murders that depicts just such a world, though the murders in this series are not solved by private investigators but by the police in the form of Chief Inspector Barnaby and his assistant Sergeant Troy, the latter playing the obligatory role of the sidekick who acts as a sounding board for the detective and jumps to the obvious but wrong conclusions and thus causes the sleuth’s deductive powers to shine even more brightly.
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Steve Buscemi

Steve Buscemi is a fine actor, often cast in quirky roles, whom I first saw in Fargo. He often makes cameo appearances in films and has such a distinctive face that when he does, you never think “Where I have I seen that actor before?” (as so often happen with other actors) but immediately say “Hey, there’s Steve Buscemi!” This is actually a good thing for me because often my mind gets distracted by trying to place who an actor is and where I have seen them before and I miss some of the film that I am watching.
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Book review: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

For many people of my generation, the Vietnam war was a turning point that radicalized us. For the first in our lives, we saw a cruel war waged by a massive military power that used chemical and biological weapons on a massive scale against a much weaker nation and a defenseless population and whose effects will be felt for generations to come. But we also saw how that military could be defeated by a determined population that was fighting to repel foreign invaders and their local puppets. We saw first hand how the US government and its allies lied shamelessly in the effort to advance its imperialist ambitions, cloaking its real goals behind the rhetoric of democracy. That undoubtedly colored our view of geopolitics and is maybe why we saw so clearly the lies that led to the Iraq war and can also see the same dynamic trying to be resurrected against Iran.
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