April 2011

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book, by Martin Evening ★★★★
The book offers a comprehensive summary of all the functions of Lightroom 3, written by a professional photographer. The book is profuse with illustrations, making the book quite easy to follow. Although I have been using Lightroom as my main storage/processing program for photographs for several years now, this book opened up many more possibilities for the way I could use Lightroom. Much of the functionality would apply more to a professional photographer, such of means of group processing large batches of photographs. Even still, Lightroom remains my preferred photograph program, and it was nice to learn how I could make it better serve my photographic needs.

Le Nozze di Figaro

Le Nozze di Figaro, by Wolfgang A. Mozart, conducted by Karajan ★★★★ and Böhm ★★★★★
Both of these performances are awesome, the first with Herbert von Karajan, performed in 1949 with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, Irmgard Seefried, and George London, and the second by Karl Böhm, performed in 1969 with a star-studded cast of Hermann Prey, Gundula Janowitz, Edith Mathis, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and Tatiana Troyanos. The sound of the Karajan recording was definitely inferior to Böhm’s later recording, providing the greatest distraction. Yet, for a post-war production, it has a stunning and awesome quality to it. Böhm maintains technical excellence while producing a piece that overwhelms with charm. Both recordings are fitting for the Mozart lover.

Modern Intellectual History

Modern Intellectual History: From Descartes to Derrida, by Lawrence Cahoone (Teaching Company) ★★★★
I’ve been a bit disappointed recently at the quality of Teaching Company lectures and have backed off on the purchase of some of the latest productions from that company. My feeling was that the lecturers were too biased in their discussions without giving credence to opposing views. In this lecture series, Cahoone maintains a very compelling discussion of the major philosophers from Descartes to those still alive today, holding ones’ interest while giving an in-depth review of the main philosophical contributions of the person under discussion. He ends a touch weak, with a discussion arguing against the death of philosophy. It seems as though philosophy has gone full circle, with philosophy realizing that a crisis created by Derrida and other post-modernists has left no discussion since the claim is that all truth is either un-knowable or un-communicable. Cahoone shows how modern philosophers have tended to return to the classics to resolve this muddle, creating a spiral (not a circle). Thankfully, he doesn’t discuss whether philosophy is spiraling downwards or upwards, as I tend to feel that it’s taking a downward spiral. After all, without an infinite reference frame, there should be no way of knowing whether one is spiraling up or down! This is a lecture series worth listening to, and will probably be heard again by me.

Touching the Void

Touching the Void, starring MacKey and Aaron ★★★★★
I love to watch climbing films, but often they are miserably done in a manner that considers the viewer completely naive to climbing technique and possibilities. I was fairly nervous that this film would repeat the horrid sensationalism of other recently reviewed films, like the Vertical Limit. This movie was everything but that. It is based on the true but unbelievable story of two British climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates who set out to scale an unnamed peak in Patagonia. In the process, they succeed to make the summit, but the descent is greeted by disaster when white-out conditions, and a fall by one of the partners, leave the two completely out of communication and presuming that the fallen climber is dead. The struggle to get off the mountain and the eventual survival of both climbers is well beyond belief. The movie does a beautiful job with superb acting to portray as accurately as possible what is thought to be the events that led to both climbers getting out alive. About the only other story, this incredible is Doug Scott escaping from an unnamed peak in the Himalayas with both femurs fractured, while living out a 2-week storm. This is a movie very much worth watching, even if you aren’t into climbing.

The Time-Crunched Cyclist

The Time-Crunched Cyclist, by Chris Carmichael and Jim Rutberg ★★★
Chris Carmichael is the primary trainer for Lance Armstrong. In this book, he suggests a program for those who are not professional cyclists, and thus find difficulty in riding their bicycle greater than 20 hrs/week. In the book, he proposes a program that can develop endurance training at only six or more hours a week. Much of the emphasis is placed on short extreme efforts in the saddle and allowing enough rest between training periods to permit recovery. Carmichael offered a review of the basics of exercise physiology showing how that incorporates into the development of a training program. He also discusses other sundry aspects of training, such as nutrition, and weight training. The book is an easy read text and written in a practical manner. It does seem moderately oriented toward younger jocks who wish to have a job during the week, and then still compete on weekends.

Against All Gods

Against All Gods: What’s Right and Wrong about the New Atheism, by Phillip Johnson and John Reynolds ★★★
Phillip Johnson is most noted for the book Darwin on Trial and the start of the Intelligent Design movement. He quit writing for a few years owing to several strokes and now has produced a book jointly with Reynolds regarding new movements in the community of atheism. In particular, Johnson makes note of the new militant atheism, not trying to live peaceably with people of faith, but rather, viciously opposing Christians and those of all religious creeds or beliefs. Johnson writes in a conversational style for the first five chapters of the book. After Johnson, Reynolds offers reflections on how atheism has not given classical writing a fair shake, and how atheism misses the bigger point in the realm of education and aesthetics. I didn’t find his statements to contribute much to Johnson’s comments. This is not a book that proves valuable new insights. It does offer a glimpse into Johnson’s thinking as to the new challenges of the Christian community against its detractors.

Bike Snob

Bike Snob: Systematically and Mercilessly Realigning the World of Cycling, by Bike Snob NYC (aka Eben Weiss) ★★★
Eben apparently writes a regular column for Bicycling magazine. I’ve never seen his column, though I also don’t subscribe to Bicycling magazine anymore. Eben offers many humorous anecdotes, mostly from his own life, that covers the world of somebody who rides a bicycle simply for the joy of it. He is able to insult just about anybody who rides a bicycle, including himself. At the same time, tidbits of advice are offered, such as to lock your bicycle well, and to not fall into the fad of riding a bicycle without brakes. This was a short and enjoyable read that most bicycle riders would enjoy.

A Biblical History of Israel

A Biblical History of Israel, by Provan, Long, and Longman ★★★★

This book ended up being considerably different than I expected from the cover, yet was a delightful and very informative read. I had expected a simple biblical narrative rehash of what I already knew from reading the OT 15-20+ times through. This book did not take that approach. The first five chapters were a defense of doing history, especially biblical history. Current modern liberal theologians tend to identify the Old Testament as entirely unreliable in accounting for a true history of events in Palestine, for reasons that include 1) history in the Old Testament mixes theology and history and thus is unreliable 2) events of the Old Testament don’t precisely match archeological findings, and thus the OT text is in error, and 3) redaction criticism suggests a late writing of biblical history, which must thus be inaccurate. The authors shrewdly work through each of these objections, showing that the OT can be truly used as a legitimate source for ancient historical studies. The second part of the book then works through the narrative structure of the history of Israel, in particular identifying when liberal scholars note a discrepancy and show how variant reads of the OT text or extreme extrapolations possible lead to errors on the part of the liberal scholars rather than the text of the OT. A simple example suffices. A recent archeological work failing to show proper period pottery in random digs around Jerusalem was interpreted to suggest that Jerusalem was not occupied during the suggested reign of King David. This is as ludicrous as me digging in my backyard, failing to find Indian artifacts, and thus concluding that Indians did not occupy the Pacific Northwest-arguments of negation rarely ever prove anything. My disappointment with the book (and this is a serious one) is that none of the authors suggest that the OT might be divinely inspired, in spite of the occasional but insignificant corruptions of the original text. The authors may have been writing for a theologically liberal audience that they wished to not confuse, but it still would have been better to admit your bias, unless the authors truly do not hold to the notion that the Bible is the Word of God. Is it really academic to demand a “scientific” approach to the OT when attesting to its veracity? I don’t think so. The author’s occasional comment on the mistake of reading the history from the OT in a “literal” fashion as a mistake, yet fails to distinguish how their lack of literalism differs from the liberal school theologians. For example, they go so far as to suggest that [some of the prophecies and wisdom books may be products of a later period (i.e., inter-testamental period), but this is a matter of speculation]. In the end, in their attempt to find acceptance among liberal theologians, the authors are willing to sacrifice a high view of Scripture, which is precisely the first event that led to liberal theology in the first place. Oddly, it makes no sense to placate these higher theologians, since theirs is a willing decision to reject the claims of Scripture even when shown to be substantially more likely than not to be true. Unfortunately, these liberal theologians sit on the faculty of many seminaries and departments of theology, hiding their absence of faith in the God of Scripture through a smokescreen of “academic rigueur”.

Cherubini Masses & Vocal Works

Cherubini Masses, Overtures, Motets, Conducted (mostly by) Riccardo Muti ★★★★★
Cherubini is an under-heard and under-appreciated composer from the era of Beethoven. Writing in an Italian style, these masses and other choral works are a delight to hear. Cherubini is quite accessible to both classical neophytes as well as the long-standing classical listener. Muti does a masterful job of conducting these performances, which have a very crisp and clean recording presence. This set is a true bargain from Amazon.com, and worthwhile in any classical collection.