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Further Reading

DEPTARTMENT: Blips

On the radar in books and film


BOOKS


Guyland
By Michael Kimmel
Kimmel’s is a disturbing book about the perpetual adolescence of twentysomething white males. These young adults are obsessed with sexual conquests, video games, and sports, believing that it is these endeavors that make them true men. Kimmel begs to differ, of course, arguing that their failure to grow up has negative repercussions that could last a lifetime.


Desire and Deceit
By R. Albert Mohler
“All matters of faith and morality are now considered by a majority of Americans to be issues of mere private preference,” writes Mohler. The 50 percent of all children in our country who will experience living with a single parent are consequently at risk of abuse, neglect, emotional problems, drug and alcohol abuse, and promiscuity. This book calls for a reversal of such trends.


The Great Books
By Anthony O’Hear
Forget the postmodern argument that the great canon of world literature is oppressive and racist. O’Hear demonstrates convincingly that works such as The Odyssey, Paradise Lost, The Canterbury Tales, and Metamorphoses contain universal themes that transcend demographic divisions and point to truths that all of us should value and heed.


The Truth
By Stephen Hawley Martin
It’s amazing that Martin’s book—basically a kooky New-Age self-help manual, and with a cover to match—has received as much press as it has. After all, its contention that we should locate the gods within ourselves instead of appealing to some sort of transcendent entity is hardly unexplored territory—it’s a mere rehash of previous entries in this absurd genre.


How to Be an Intellectually Fulfilled Atheist (or Not)
By William A. Dembski and Jonathan Wells
This slender book—gleaned from the final chapter of The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems—is the perfect gift for your Darwinist acquaintance. Economical and pointed, it plainly explains what is wrong with current evolutionary theory, while making a very strong case for intelligent design.


Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome
By John C. Sanford
Cornell University Professor of Genetics John Sanford naturally takes a highbrow approach to his discussion of mutations and how they invariably cause degeneration of the genome, reducing the fitness of whatever species they happen to target. Not only do his insights explain animal extinction, but they also prove, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that evolution does not have a creative capacity.


The Stuff of Thought
By Steven Pinker
Literature majors will have heard this before: Words have no logical correspondence to the things they represent. Plato’s assurances to the contrary notwithstanding, Pinker believes that language imprisons us when we assume that it is innate and not arbitrary. This is a hackneyed thesis—made famous by Nietzsche and Derrida—and is in reality a call for moral relativism.


The Case for Make-Believe
By Susan Linn
Linn, a psychologist and a ventriloquist (huh?), contends that imaginative play helps kids develop critical--thinking and social skills. The problem is that electronic media discourage such creativity, thereby hindering children’s development. Fortunately for parents, Linn provides helpful advice on how to incorporate creative play into a media-saturated home.


Defending Life
By Francis Beckwith
Perhaps a more crucial read than ever before, Beckwith’s book tackles the popular, legal, and philosophical arguments against the pro-life position and then dismantles them one by one. Once through it, you will never again have difficulty convincing others that not all educated people support abortion or that there are more reasons than blind religious faith to reject abortion rights.


FILM


Encounters at the End of the World
Werner Herzog turns environmentalism on its ear again (remember Grizzly Man?) in this gorgeous exploration of Antarctica. After documenting the cruelties of nature that take place beneath the ice, he focuses on the visiting environmentalists who expend tremendous effort preserving endangered species instead of assisting the impoverished local human population.


Obscene
Directors Neil Ortenberg and Daniel O’Connor celebrate the achievements of Barney Rosset, the founder of Grove Press, who is famous for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tropic of Cancer, and Naked Lunch, among other scandalous books. The biography at the film’s center is engaging, but the attendant complaints about censorship are tiresome and tediously vacuous.


Zizek!
Never heard of Slavoj Zizek? No one else has, either. Turns out he is the world’s foremost Lacanian Marxist, which is forgivable, considering his graciously inactivist approach to philosophy (Chomsky should take notes). Astra Taylor’s film does a decent job of generating interest in this bizarre character, but why we should actually care about him is never explained.


At the Death House Door
Capital punishment is a complicated issue that deserves a nuanced take. Unfortunately, directors Steve James and Peter Gilbert do nothing of the kind. Despite much critical fanfare, their film is heavy-handed on the anti-death-penalty side, ascribing all state executions to political power plays or mere bloodlust. There’s nothing worse than filmmakers who have an axe to grind.


King Corn
This is an eye-opening film about modern American agriculture and its impact on American food. Picture this: Cows are fed genetically modified corn that makes them sick (a corn-heavy diet is toxic to cattle). The cows are pumped full of antibiotics, slaughtered, and then sold to us as meat. We ultimately ingest the corn and the antibiotics. And that’s just one of the problems.


Fall From Grace
How do you discredit those who object to the homosexual lifestyle? It’s actually quite easy, if K. Ryan Jones’s documentary is any indication. The film takes potshots at the large, immobile target that is Fred Phelps—a hateful, self-described Baptist preacher who would kill gays if it were legal—and then goes to great pains to associate him with all who believe that homosexuality is a sin.


Bloodline
In the tradition of The DaVinci Code, and no less grounded in fiction, comes British director Bruce Burgess’s investigation into the heretical legend that Jesus survived crucifixion, married Mary Magdalene, and fathered children who married French royalty. Among the film’s many dubious discoveries is the mummified body of Mary Magdalene.


Bigger, Stronger, Faster
Chris Bell has crafted a fantastic documentary about performance-enhancing drugs. Its excellence can be attributed, at least in part, to the fact that Bell himself is the subject. Using home videos and other archival footage, his documentary tells the story of how he and his three brothers all fell into steroid use to improve their athletic abilities.


Very Young Girls
There may be no sadder story than this tale of New York City tween and teenage girls who have been lured into prostitution. Fortunately, director David Schisgall does not dwell on the tragedy itself, concentrating instead on the amazing Rachel Lloyd, a former prostitute who founded Girl Education and Mentoring Services to rescue young women from exploitation.

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