Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Book review: What I Did For Love

What I Did For Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Rating: 3.5 of 5 warm chocolate chip cookies

Synopsis (via SEP’s web site):

It’s not easy being famous when your life is falling apart… Georgie York has been dumped by her movie star husband, her own film career is tanking, and her public image as a spunky romantic heroine is taking a serious beating.

What should a down-on-her-luck actress do? NOT go to Vegas…NOT run into her detestable former co-star—dreamboat-from-hell Bramwell Shepard…and NOT get caught up in a ridiculous incident that leads to a calamitous elopement. Before she knows it, Georgie has a fake marriage, fake husband, and maybe (or not) a fake sex life.

It’s a paparazzi free-for-all, and Georgie’s non-supporting cast doesn’t help. There’s Bram’s punk-nightmare housekeeper; Georgie’s pushy parent; a suck-up agent; an icy studio head; and her ex-husband’s new wife, an international do-gooder who just might win the stupid Nobel Peace Prize!

As for Georgie’s leading man… Bram, with his angel blue eyes and twisted black heart, has never cared about anyone but himself. Still, he’s giving the performance of his life as man in love—thanks to the half a million dollars she’s paying him. It was official. She’d married the devil. Or had she?

Two enemies find themselves working without a script in a town where the spotlight shines bright…and where the strongest emotions can wear startling disguises.


This is a good book. I love SEP because she always manages to surprise me. I pick up one of her books thinking that I’m not going to like it because the premise on the back just doesn’t snag me, and then she always hooks me until the end.

Best example: Ain’t She Sweet. If you haven’t read this book, go. Now. Buy book, apply butt to chair and read. It’s awesome. I picked it up at the airport during a delay and started in the middle, which is what I do when I’m sure I’m not going to like the book but have nothing else to read. I read about 10 pages then started over at the beginning and read the book the whole flight home. Still her best book, IMHO.

In What I Did For Love, she started off the same. Great characters that I cared about: check. Great side characters that I cared about: check. Good plot: check. Lance the Loser and Jade = awesome: check. So, I’m reading along and get to the end of the book. **SPOILER ALERT***

There it goes sideways for me. See, in the beginning, Georgie and Bram hate each other. Loathe with a fiery passion. They’ve hated each other for years. They meet up by accident and then again by Bram’s intention. And you know what he does? He picks on her. Calls her idiot ex Lance the Loser. He’s pursuing Georgie for most of the book, partially for his own agenda, but what does he do the entire time?

He pokes at her. He banters with her. He protects and defends her. He goes after her for sex. This, you understand, he does from the very beginning. You know what all that adds up to? A guy seriously in love. Not falling in love, not getting to know a person all over again, no; this is a guy who’s got serious feelings for a girl AT THE BEGINNING of the book.

He’s the boy on the playground yanking the ponytail of the girl he likes so she’ll notice him.

First chapter intro, you know what popped into my head? This guy is so in love with her. Seriously, that’s the thought that ran through my head, verbatim.

Then I settled down for a good read. But at the end, what do you think? He says that he fell in love over the past few months, that it has nothing to do with the past. She says the same thing. They both believe it. That’s the story.

What crap. Seriously, two people hate each other for years, YEARS, spend every second bickering from the start, have crazy hot sex after, like, six days of getting back together, and the past had nothing to do with it?

The other problem I had was the ending itself - way too sweet. This from the Queen of MUST HAVE HEA or I WILL STOP READING. And still, the book ended in a way that I thought was contrary to the characters as SEP had set them up. These are not sweet and nice and wholesome people.

These are scrappers. They do not become grateful for life’s joy just because they (finally) figure out they’re perfect for each other. Happy, yes. Relaxed, yes. Content, yes. Syrupy sweet and deliriously grateful, no.

So, my recommendation: if you like the premise, buy in mass market paperback when it comes out or, if you must read now, pick up at the library. It’s not worth the hardback price. That said, I know that there are the rabid SEP fans out there that would buy her napkins, so feel free to disregard my advice.

Monday, March 30, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Weddings Can Be Murder by Christie Craig

I finally decided to take a break from my attempts to get into Dead Silence by Randy Wayne White and went for something much lighter, a romantic mystery by Christie Craig – Weddings Can Be Murder.  I haven’t read any of her work before, but this looked interesting so, what the heck.  This is a Lovespell  Contemporary Romance, but honestly, it really is a romantic mystery.

First of all, let me just say that despite some reviewer comments, Craig did not have the same feel as Evanovich.  Yes, it has humor to it, but not the kind of ‘screwball’ edge that Evanovich always has, even early on in the series.  Plus, this isn’t part of series, but a standalone that seems to follow Craig’s formula of ‘innocent female bystander caught up in a crime’ and ‘hunky detective’.  As formulas go, not new, but not bad and the success can be measured by how involved you get with the characters.

Someone is killing the clients of wedding planner Tabitha Jones.  She contacts Carl Hades, ex-cop turned PI, for help when the police just blow off her reports of missing brides.  Sunday afternoon finds him off to see Tabitha when he’d rather not.  Katie Ray is an art gallery owner who is a client of Tabitha’s, not so much by choice, but because Tabitha is a good customer and a bad woman to cross.  Unfortunately, Katie spent the morning throwing up and dealing with trying to convince herself and her best friend Leslie Grayson that she really did want to marry Joe Lyon.  She wasn’t getting married so she wouldn’t feel so alone after the accident that took both parents and her brother Mike – Les’s fiancée.  It wasn’t nerves causing the problem.  Really!  Right up to where she accidentally flushed her $8,000 diamond engagement ring.  Les may have moved away after the accident, but she’s been best friends with Katie since they were kids and she’s convinced the marriage is a big mistake.  Engagement rings don’t get ‘accidentally’ flushed.  Meanwhile, Joe is getting fitted for his tux when he realizes he has doubts of his own.

Sitting in Tabitha’s office, Katie begins thinking the woman is bi-polar, because this dictator could not possibly be the same person who comes in her gallery.  The damn hang up calls are driving her nuts.  Then Tabitha goes to see someone out in the back – and Katie hears her screaming at someone and hears bits and pieces.  Then there’s two shots.   And Tabitha is bleeding all over her very white suit.  Then it’s Katie’s turn to scream as someone chases her through the house.

Carl had just parked when he hears the screams, pulls his and goes into cop mode, even though he gave all that up.  He chases – someone through the house and ends up in – something.  In the dark.  With a crazy woman who is trying to head butt him.  And then the door is closed – and locked.  For the next 14 hours Carl and Katie get to know each other – and a little about Tabitha.  Maybe too much when they find the sex toys.  And when they finally find the lights, learning the guy she’s locked in the refrigerator with is a ringer for Antonio Banderas doesn’t help Katie at all.  The Latin hunk has been the star of all her fantasies forever.  Damn.

The fast paced book zips along cutting between Carl and Katie and Les and Joe and Carl’s dad, Buck, a retired cop, who has a gut feeling all is not well.  His gut is never wrong.  He tracks his son to Tabitha’s new location and gets there just in time to stop the killer from killing both Carl and Katie in a fire.  Carl’s brother Ben, another Antonio Banderas look-alike, is lead detective on the case and interviews Katie while the distraught Les and Joe wait.  (The shower scene between Joe and Les is pretty funny.)  But what’s really bothering them is how attracted they are to each other.  When Katie is finally free to go, she tells Joe what happened to her ring – and that maybe the wedding isn’t such a good idea.  Joe is kind of relieved and says he has doubts as well.  Les feels responsible for giving Katie ‘cold feet’ – even more so because she’s so attracted to Joe herself.

Tabitha’s death makes her calls about her missing brides are a lot more importance than they had before.  Then the first body is found, hidden in the woods off the highway.  Just as Carl is warning Ben there will likely be more, a second is found in the same area and Ben is off and running again.  Our killer is very upset at having ‘his brides’ found.  Now he needs more brides.

The story never slows down.  Katie threatened by the killer is drawn closer to the Hades family.  Les gets back into living around her own family after her time living up north.  There’s no high emotional drama, but the kind of realistic sadness, healing wounds and emotional adjustments that are so much a part of real life with a dose of humor.  Charming and amusing, but not the kind of laugh out loud fun of some authors, nor the breakneck pace, heart pounding suspense or compelling romance of others.  Still, it is a solid entry in the romantic mystery line.

Wedding Can Be Murder weaves around Carl and Katie with a strong secondary story with Les and Joe combined with a fairly solid, well drawn characters and quite decent mystery.   The clever tricky ending was very well done.  Craig does a pretty neat job of balancing equal parts of romance and mystery without going over the top.  It’s not a true cozy, but it’s gentle charm has an amateur detective vibe.  Perhaps its biggest asset is its likable, believable cast, with just enough quirks to be real and fun, without becoming a farce, as far too many have these days.  Its biggest drawback is lacks depth and in the end, isn’t that memorable.  I will buy more from this author.

My Grade: C+ to B- (3.5*)

Who would enjoy this book:  Fans of Joan Hess, Jill Churchill, Carolyn Hart and Diane Mott Davidson.  My rating would be PG-13.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Review: The Shadow Queen

This is the one that came to mind while I was at work, so this is what I’m reviewing first.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Synopsis: Cassidy is a Rose-jeweled Queen without a court. Theran is a Green-jeweled Warlord Prince without a Queen. Gray is a Purple-Dusk Warlord Prince who has been damaged to the point of near collapse.

These three players make up The Shadow Queen as they are thrown together by Jaenelle Angelline, Witch and Kaeleer’s Queen (though she resists the title).

Disappointed by Cassidy’s lowly jewel and unattractive appearance, Theran is an ass. I could give you all the background as to why he is an ass, but that’s why you should read the book. For now, for my review, he’s just an ass. He puts up with Cassidy because Witch chose her and to refuse is to piss off Witch’s husband, Daemon (Scary! Sexy!), her brother, Lucivar (Scary! Sweet! Sexy!), and her father, Saetan.

Gray sees something in Cassidy that heals parts of him that everyone thought broken, and Gray begins to wake. Cassidy is given duties that she’s been trained for all her life, and begins to grow in confidence.

Theran remains an ass until the last page. Some redemption is found, but not enough to take away the ass title.

Add in some byplay between Daemon, Daddy Saetan and Lucivar, and the book rocked.

Opinion: Let’s start this off right - I am a huge fan of the Black Jewels books. I picked them up about a year ago when another blog I read recommended them, and stayed up all night reading them. They were that compelling.

That being said, there are strong Black Jewels books and there are weaker ones. The Shadow Queen is definitely stronger. It develops the relationships between Jaenelle, Daemon, Saetan and Luciver as well as brings out new characters and plot lines in Cassidy, Theran and Gray. I’ve heard through the online grapevine that there will be another book next year called Shalador’s Lady and it will continue the storyline of The Shadow Queen, and I can’t wait.

It also answers a question of mine, which is what happens now? The bad Blood have been taken care of, but what about what’s left? What’s Terreille going to be like now? How are the Blood left going to cope?

The Shadow Queen begins to answer those questions in a compelling and sweet look at the relationships that the males in the book have with the females. It really all comes down to that.

That all said, I could have used a bit more action - there was no real antagonist, other than the internal struggles of the main characters. I would have liked a bit more plot to hold up all the internal rumblings of the characters.

Also, I am quite the Lady Vae fan. Foolish sheep. *smile*

Monday, March 23, 2009


I never thought I was going to get addicted to the Twilight series but I did.  I flew through the first book, loved it, then sped through the 2nd and 3rd books.  I picked up the 4th one, Breaking Dawn, a few days ago and I have come to the conclusion that with this one in particular, I need to be cautious about when I choose to open this book.  There is no telling when I will put it down!   This one is my favorite in the saga for a bunch of reasons I am not going to post out of respect for those of you who haven’t gotten there yet (I hate it when people ruin books for me).  I know Stephenie Meyer has received some criticism, but I have to give her total thumbs-up for managing to keep her writing so suspenseful.  I’m dreading finishing this book because I know it says “The End” on the last page and I don’t want the story to draw to a close.  Every time I pick up where I left off, I get to leave my world and jump into Edward and Bella’s which always seems to be so exciting.  These books have become a great escape for me.. not that there’s so much I need to escape from, but I feel like I get to take a mini-vacation when I read and I think that’s pretty cool.

Off to watch the deleted scenes from the movie.  =)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Daniel Plainway

Reid, Van. Daniel Plainway, or, the Holiday Haunting of the Moosepath League. New York: Viking, 2000.

 One of the reasons why I love reading books that take place in Maine is because I can identify with most of the locations. Another reason is that sometimes I get to reconnect to a place I haven’t thought about (or heard about) in years. Such is the case with Veazie, Maine.

How to describe this book? I think I’m a little thrown off because Daniel Plainway is part of a series (of which I didn’t read the first or even second book). It’s like coming into a discussion when it’s two-thirds over. Daniel Plainway is a Maine country lawyer who is trying to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a neighboring family. When a portrait of his neighbor’s daughter is rediscovered, Daniel begins a journey that changes his life. Along the way he meets the members of the Moosepath League and that’s when the fun really begins.

Reid writes with hilarity. One of my favorite scenes is when there is an attempted robbery of the Moosepath League members. The robber, young and inexperienced, fumbles with the gun, slips on the ice and snow, and somehow hands his gun over to a member of the Moosepath League, knocking himself and the others down. The League members do not realize they are being robbed and try to give the man back his gun and offer him money for his troubles - for they think they are responsible for knocking the young man over. “He considered Thump’s card through a blur of tears, realizing that he had just tried to rob three men, and in return they might have saved his life” (p 51).

Another great scene is when the members of the Moosepath League are trying to deliver a letter. There is great confusion as to exactly who the letter should go to. In the end, after they think they has successfully did their duty, they do not know how to leave, “There mission completed (however unpleasantly) the members of the club wondered, in collective silence, if they should be moving on to other things, primarily any other things that would take them some distance from the present scene” (p 92).

Favorite singular lines: “Gerald Pinkney and Daniel Plainway had known each other since their days at Colby, and Daniel had always thought of Gerald as a slightly antagonized bee” (p 16). I just love the imagery of this “slightly antagonized bee.”

“Those quickest to kindness are also quickest to forget when they are kind” (p 94).

BookLust Twist: In Book Lustin the chapter, “Van Reid and the Moosepath League: Too Good To Miss” (p 199).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

Heather Reisman, CEO of Canada’s largest bookstore chain (Chapters/Indigo/Coles) chose The Cellist of Sarajevo as one of her Picks. A Heather’s Pick is a guaranteed read: if you read it and don’t like it, bring it back to the store for a refund. The thing is, though, Heather has pretty good taste. This book, by Canadian author Steven Galloway,  is immensely readable and despite its depiction of the desolation and horrors of war, the book is ultimately hopeful.

Interestingly the premise of the book is simple, so simple in fact that in less skilled hands it might have been a bit of a dog’s breakfast.  The cellist of the title  (as a character) features only nominally in the novel. The book is actually concerned with the fortunes of three people: Arrow, a young female sniper; Kenan, a father who goes out to get water for his wife and children and an elderly neighbour and Dragan, an older man on his way to the bakery where he works. The novel alternates between characters, allowing the reader to spend time with and get to know each of them.

Truthfully, despite the fact that I am certainly old enough, I know very little about the conflict in Sarajevo. I guess I tend to bury my head in the sand when any sort of conflict takes place. I want the world to be a shiny, happy place where people get along. If, like me, you’re sketchy on the details you can read about the conflict here.

I guess my desire for a conflict-free world is why I found this book so moving. Spend a few hours with Kenan as he braves the streets, making a treacherous journey to the brewery to collect fresh water for his family. He’s a father who only want to keep his children safe, feed and clothe them. As a mother, I can relate to that. But I live in Canada. When I want water I turn on the tap. I don’t risk death to visit a market where, if I’m lucky, I might score a bag of over-priced rice. I am not elated when the elecrticity comes on, allowing me the ability to charge my radio so that I can listen to the news. Galloway’s book allows us a glimpse into these hardships which happened not fifty years ago…but in the last decade! What kind of world do we live in that we allow this to happen? (That’s a rhetorical question, of course, impossible to answer.)

Each of Galloway’s characters is fully realized- complicated, angry, depressed, determined, and hopeful. Although he plays a minor part in the drama, the cellist of the title is actually the thread that binds these characters who are, otherwise, unknown to each other. The cellist plays Adagio in G Minor every afternoon at 4pm for 22 days to mark the deaths of 22 people who  were killed while waiting in line to buy bread. It is his music that lifts the spirits of the three main characters and the others who come to hear him play.

Perhaps Galloway is saying that our appreciation of  music, art of any sort, is what makes us human. While war certainly brings out the worst in people, it also allows us the opportunity to appreciate what we often take for granted. For 22 days, the cellist was able to remind the people struggling to get by in a city they no longer recognized as their own that they were alive.

It’s a beautiful novel.

Read more about the book and author.

Read a review

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Book review: Effective Java

This review covers Effective Java 2nd ed., by Joshua Bloch.  Stoughton, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley (an imprint of Pearson Education, Inc.), 2008.


From the Foreword:

If you have ever studied a second language yourself outside the classroom, you know that there are three things you must master: how the language is structured (grammar), how to name things you want to talk about (vocabulary), and the customary and effective ways to say everyday things (usage)… This book addresses your third need: customary and effective usage.

And as Bloch says in the Introduction:

This book consists of seventy-eight items, each of which conveys one rule.  The rules capture practices generally held to be beneficial by the best and most experienced programmers.

The items are organized into ten categories:

  • Creating and Destroying Objects
  • Methods Common to All Objects
  • Classes and Interfaces
  • Generics
  • Enums and Annotations
  • Methods
  • General Programming
  • Exceptions
  • Concurrency
  • Serialization

The format of the book is based on Scott Meyers’ Effective C++.

The book is designed as a next-level book for those who already have some experience with the Java programming language rather than as an introduction to the language.

The Good

The book:

  1. Helps the Java non-expert toward usability, robustness, and flexibility.  There are a lot of things to know about Java to use it well.
  2. Gives reasons for his statements. In cases where you may decide to deviate from Bloch’s advice, this gives you the opportunity to examine his reasoning and understand the implications of your decision, so you’re not flying blind.
  3. Makes recommendations concrete by giving examples. For example, in Item 20, the exhortation to prefer class hierarchies to tagged classes is illustrated with a tagged class and its alternative representation as a class hierarchy.  There are helpful code examples like this sprinkled throughout the book.
  4. Includes a succinct summary of the advice at the end of many Items.
  5. Provides expert help in doing common but tricky tasks. For instance, the naive developer may not know the contract that they’re responsible to uphold when overriding the equals() method (Item 8), or may not realize the maintainability implications of marking an object Serializable (Item 74).  Much time and distress can be saved by reading about common pitfalls ahead of time.
  6. Points out how to avoid many surprises. For example, several important details that should be dealt with when making a class Clonable (and the consequences of ignoring them - Item 11); and details about the relationship between arrays and generics (Item 25).
  7. Provides help in doing some advanced tasks well. For example, the chapter on concurrency points out the benefits and details of using the Executor Framework in java.util.concurrent rather than the Thread class (Item 68); the Serialization chapter presents the Serialization Proxy pattern (Item 78);  and Item 17 discusses issues that should be addressed when designing a class for inheritance.
  8. Includes some just plain old great ideas. The book includes several ideas that made me think, “Huh!  Why aren’t we doing this?”  An example is his advice to put methods on your checked exception that help your callers extract the information they want out of it without having to resort to parsing the description string (p. 245) and to give your custom exception types constructors that receive that information (p. 254).
  9. Is honest about Java design mistakes. Bloch believes in the Java platform, but he is not shy about pointing out its warts.  For example, p.86: Stack should not extend Vector and Properties should not extend HashTable.  I appreciate that honesty.
  10. Helps you design for robustness. Don’t leave room for error where you can prevent it — Bloch gives many techniques for making correct use happen naturally.
  11. Is scientifically up-to-date: Doesn’t call Pluto a planet (p.149) : )
The Bad
  1. Often doesn’t take testability into account. This is my number one gripe with the book.  Examples:
    • Item 13, “Minimize the accessibility of classes and members”, doesn’t address how its advice interacts with making a class unit testable.  In practice, there tends to be some tension between minimized accessibility and full testability.
    • Item 17, “Design and document for inheritance or else prohibit it”, similarly recommends marking classes final when they’re not designed for inheritance.  If you follow this advice naively, though, you could be setting up your code to be untestable (see the section in Michael Feathers’ Working Effectively with Legacy Code chapter 10, titled “The Case of the ‘Helpful’ Language Feature”).  Bloch does mention in passing an alternative that “provides the flexibility to use subclasses internally” (p.91), so if you have your testability goggles on that could point you in a helpful direction.
    • Item 60, “Favor the use of standard exceptions” - but it can be quite helpful to extend the standard exceptions so that test code can be certain that when an exception occurs, it was thrown by the place the test is testing.
  2. Sometimes bogs down in the details. Examples are Item 11 on cloning and Item 30 on enums, both of these being several pages longer than their sibling Items.  There were maybe five such extra long Items.
  3. Lacks numbered subheadings under Items. The book makes do with bold text, but it would be more navigable if there were numbered subsections.  This is especially the case for the longer Items.
  4. Could benefit from flowchart diagrams. Several times near the end of a chapter there is a series of questions leading to a decision tree.  For example, on p. 180:

    If you answered no to the first question, ask yourself one more: Do I want to limit the use of this marker to elements of a particular interface, forever? If so, it makes sense to define the marker as a subinterface of that interface.  If you answered no to both questions, you should probably use a marker annotation.

    It takes effort to process this prose, and I would find it helpful if such conditional logic were presented in the form of some kind of flowchart-like diagram.

  5. Directing attitude. This is the flip side of “helps you design for robustness” — not uncommonly, in the quest to close the gaps where a class could be used improperly with poor results, Bloch’s advice is to prevent, guarantee, or force.  (An example of this type of advice is Item 58, where the recommendation is to use checked exceptions to force clients to deal with an exception.   I’m not sure this is A Good Thing.)

I’ve used the word “details” a lot in my descriptions.  Bloch gives you the details you need to use Java effectively.

By reading this book I became aware that there’s more to understand about Java than I realized.  There were several things I didn’t know I didn’t know — the caveats of serialization and cloning, for instance — and some things I knew I didn’t know (concurrency comes to mind)

My biggest concern is the lack of attention given to testability.  The reader who cares about testability is on their own to work through which advice can be taken at face value and which must be modified by testability concerns.

I highly recommend this book.  Its imperfections are surmountable, and every professional Java developer should understand the issues it addresses.  Even in the cases where you  may not follow Bloch’s rules,  you will gain valuable understanding of the trade-offs you’re making; and you’ll avoid many costly mistakes.

Choosing Democracy

Duane Campbell, one of the editors of this blog, has published the 4th. edition of his book, Choosing Democracy; a practical Guide to Multicultural Education. ( Allyn and Bacon, 2010. )

This book provides a left- pro labor view of the U.S. economy and the needs of public schools. It is written for teachers. It includes a history of the development of the Irish American working class, and a detailed description of class.

Here is what Cornel West says about the book,

“This magisterial treatment of our contemporary crisis in American society, culture, and education takes us step-by-step through the treacherous terrains that impede our efforts to examine critically and expand effectively democracy in our time. His powerful text is the most comprehensive analysis we have of sharpening the practical strategies for multicultural education in America.

Like the exquisite poetry of Walt Whitman and the exhilarating music of Louis Armstrong, Duane Campbell’s empowering pedagogy is shot through with profound democratic sentiments. In our frightening moment of class polarization and racial balkanization, his themes of social reconstruction, cultural innovation, and political transformation—themes that link any talk about diversity to the expansion of democracy—are refreshing and uplifting. They also present the principal means by which we can link order to justice, civility to mutual respect, and merit to fairness.

His radical democratic analysis and vision is a voice of sanity at a time of irrationality—a voice that understands rage yet transforms bitterness into bonding. This bonding is neither naive nor utopian; rather it is rooted in a candid encounter with the sources of our rage and an unleashing of the best in us for serious democratic engagement that goes far beyond our hostilities.

The best of American life has always been embodied and enacted by courageous figures who chose democracy—from Thomas Paine, Harriet Tubman, César Chávez, Ronald Takaki, to Dolores Huerta. Duane Campbell makes it clear what it means to choose democracy in our classrooms, workplaces, homes, and civic life. In short, like James Baldwin, he frightfully reminds us that we either choose democracy now or ultimately witness the fire this time!

Cornel West. Princeton University.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Predictably Irrational - Dan Ariely

When we make decisions we think we’re in control, making rational choices. But are we? Entertaining and surprising, Ariely unmasks the subtle but powerful tricks that our minds play on us.

The description could not have fit the book better. The book is about how we make irrational choices - imagining our choices to be perfectly rational. Dan Ariely, professor of behavioral economics at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, builds on his years of research, keen observation and intellect to come out with an absolutely stunning analysis of the human mind and literally dives inside our cerebral cortex to explore how decisions are made. That thin line between impulse and thought, feeling and logic, emotion and rationale is demarcated with a precision which only deep thought can bring about.

I was recommended the book by a colleague (basically my super-boss!) to serve as some sort of a guideline towards helping me make a training proposal for one of our PSU clients. I finished the book in record time (300 pages in less than 24 hours!). One of the benefits of focused, result-oriented reading as opposed to my usual casual, distraction-laden reading habbits!

Coming back to the book - it has some wonderful examples and experiments that have been conducted on students over the years and Areily also shares his own anecdotes and observations he has made along the way. This book is as useful to a marketing manager who wants to gain an insight into customer preferences as it is to a human resource manager who wants to train his people on team-building. Basically, it touches the very sensitive chord of understanding people and that is central to every sphere of human activity.

The book is englightening, clever, smart and funny. Especially chapter 5 (The Influence of Arousal: Why Hot Is Much Hotter Than We Realize).

Related Links:

  • Dan Ariely’s Home page
  • Dan Ariely’s Personal Blog

  • Predictably Irrational - Official Website

Paul Outerbridge Jr: Photographs

Photographs are copyright of the estate of Paul Outerbridge Jr

This last month, I have seen a small flurry of activity regarding the photographic body of work by Paul Outerbridge Jr. ( 1986 - 1958) who was a eccentric contemporary and competitor of Edward Steichen, a friend of Marcel Ducamp, Man Ray and others while living in Paris, and known for both his Platinum and Carbo-Color Prints. The latter better know for both the phonographic virtoso technique and the fetish nudity subject matter.

Thus I decided to provide a quick review of my 1980 first edition of Paul Outerbridge Jr: Photographs, published in hardcover with dustcover by Rizzoli, New York. I take full credit for a couple of the not so great copies of photographs from the book, below. Thus if Outerbridge was alive, as the perfectionist that he apparently was, he would have skinned me, so I will have to make do with him just rolling in his grave.

This is a retrospective monograph of Outerbridge’s body of work, edited by Graham Howe and G. Ray Hawkins, and was the first published book about Outerbridge. Now, how ever, there have been a number of books produced about Outerbridge’s photographs and life.

Outerbridges photographic career can be broken into two distinct periods, which the book provides a portfolio from his platinum prints, 1921 - 1933 and then after learning the Carbo-Color process, a portfolio of prints from 1935 - 1939.

During Outerbridge’s Platinum period, he was very much a competitor during Steichen’s commercial photography days. Apparently the aesthetic side of their photographic competition was narrowed down between photographs of cups and saucers versus eggs, the whole ability to make the best possible photograph of a entirely white on white subject. There were other aspects of this rivalry, which to the credit of Howe and Hawkins, makes for interesting reading.

Outerbridge was captivated by the cubist movement and he felt that photography was even a better medium to create cubist work, which most of his contemporaries in Paris agreed. When Outerbridge moved to Paris, it appears that he and Man Ray became close friends. The book’s authors trace some of  Outerbridges later erotic work back to Man Ray’s own private photographic studies of himself with Kiki, his model and muse, that apparently was shared by Ray with Outerbridge.

Outerbridge was an earlier innovator of the limited edition print, as he usually only printed one of each of his Platinum prints, like wise later when he began printing the Carbo-Color prints. Both are very labor intensive printing processes, with the  Carbo-Color print taking upwards of nine hours for each one.

Since the Carbo-Color printing process utilized actual ink, the prints are said to be absolutely amazing in their three dimension appearance. (Thus if you are in the Los Angeles area, there will be an exhibition of Outerbridge’s photographs at the Getty Museum, on exhibition March 31 - August 9th, 2009).  Regretfully, that amazing color or feeling is not apparent from the printing of this book.

Overall, within the 160 pages of the book, it provides a broad but not inclusive, survey of Outerbridge’sbody of photographic work, with a strong concentration and emphasis on his earlier Platinum work. 

For the color photographs, although the nudity was at the time very controversial and eventually led to the declining interest in Outerbridges prints in the 1930’s - 1950’s, they are pretty tame by today’s Internet standards. Outerbridge apprently did understand the current issues of the time with his nude studies, which he created as ”neo-classical” studies, which were his public work.  Because of the subject matter, Museums did not purchase these or allowed them to exhibited.

He also had an ”interest in sexuality, eroticism, fetishism and decadence”.  The latter were privately held for himself and a small group of friends, with only a very few of these in the book.


By Douglas Stockdale