Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Funny Amish Ad You Have to See

I am usually not a fan of the Main Stream Media's attempts at explaining or exploiting the Amish. But Slate, the on-line magazine, has a story about a funny ad for PowerAde featuring drag-racing Amish hay wagon drivers that you really should look at. The director of the ad is Aaron Ruell, the nerdy brother in Napoleon Dynamite, one of the strangest and funniest movies I have ever seen. Unfortunately, looked at logically, the ad makes no sense, and a suit by Coca Cola resulted in Pepsi Cola pulling the ad before it got much play. But you can see it at the Slate site and it is certainly worth a chuckle.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Movie Report: Transamerica

I was quite happy that Reese Witherspoon won the Academy award for Best Actress for her performance in Walk The Line, until last weekend when I saw Felicity Huffman's performance in Transamerica. As good as Witherspoon was in her depiction of June Carter, it paled in comparison to Huffman's. The outrage of this year's Oscars is not that Brokeback Mountain failed to win the Best Picture Award, but that Huffman failed to win the Best Actress Award.

Huffman, better known for her depiction of Lynette Scavo in the trashy television series, Desperate Housewives, is amazing playing a man trying to be transformed into a woman. Before seeing the movie, I wondered why they didn't have a man play the role of Bree Osbourne. After seeing it, I am convinced that there is no one, male, female, or transgendered, who could have done it better.

Glamorous as a Desperate Housewife, Huffman is made up to look somewhat masculine (in a feminine sort of way) in Transamerica. She manages to carry herself as a man desperately wanting to be a woman might -- a little awkward; a little overly-feminine; but a disguise so convincing that only an observant six-year-old girl asks the question, "Are you a man?"

"Transgendered" persons, according to Wikkipedia, the on-line encyclopedia, are persons assigned a gender, usually at birth, who feel that this is a false or incomplete description of themselves. They are not homosexuals and they are not transvestites. They are persons who think of themselves as of one sex but have genitalia of the opposite sex.

Bree, who started out life as "Stanley," is a waitress in LA, one week away from vaginoplasty, which will do such a good job of turning her penis into a vagina that even a gynecologist will not be able to detect her history (for more medical information than you will ever want to know, including very graphic photographs, see this University of Michigan website). Her life is turned upside down when she receives a phone call from a juvenile jail in New York City from a 17-year-old homosexual hustler, claiming to be her son. Bree tells him that Stanley has died and is prepared to accept no responsibility for the son she never knew she had until she is forced by her therapist, whose signature she needs in order to have the vaginoplasty, to face up to her past as a male.

Bree meets her son in New York City, posing as a religious worker, and then agrees to drive him cross country to Los Angeles where he dreams of starring in homosexual pornographic movies. The trip across the continental United States in a rattletrap of a car by two people who start out disliking and then come to respect each other has become a cliche in American movies. In this instance, there is a twist to the usual outcome in that when the son figures out that the woman giving him the ride is not a church lady, but a man, and eventually it is revealed that the man is his father, he becomes angry with the deception and disappears for a long time, until the inevitable happy ending.

There are holes in the plot, but this is an interesting movie; one that kept me awake and kept me smiling or laughing at many points, particularly when Bree and her son, wind up at the home of her parents, who are torn between horror at the Bree that Stanley has become and the congenital urge to be doting grandparents.

This movie is not for the faint of heart. There are glimpses of full frontal nudity and depictions of gay sex at least as explicit as in Brokeback Mountain. Nevertheless, this is not a pornographic movie. Like the movie I reported on a few posts ago, Mrs. Henderson Presents, the body parts that are usually covered up in our society are not shown in an erotic manner in Transamerica.

I would probably have given the movie a three star rating had it not been for Huffman's amazing performance, which pulls it up to four stars.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Book Report: Silas Marner by George Eliot

Silas Marner is another one of those classics which I should have read half a century ago, but only got around to recently. I won't condemn, too much, the high school English teachers whose job it was to teach literature to me, because this book is probably wasted on teenagers looking for more visceral thrills than reading about a miser who loses his gold and gains his life.

"George Eliot," as anyone with half an education (including me) should know is the psuedonymn for a 19th-century woman, Mary Ann Evans, (1819 - 1880) who used a male pen name so that her writings would be taken more seriously, a device that was not uncommon in her era.

Marner had been a member of an evangelical religious sect, not unlike the Amish (I don't really have to work the Amish reference into every post, but something has to distinguish this blog from the millions others out there in cyberspace.) When some money disappears from the room of a sick man with whom Marner is sitting up, he is naturally placed under suspicion, a suspicion which becomes a certainty when the congregation draws lots and the lot falls on Marner. The Amish connection came to mind not only from the description of the stark religion practiced by Marner's sect, but also in the use of the lot, which the Amish use to select their ministers.

Marner is, in effect, ex-communicated from the religious community and moves to another locale where he becomes a weaver (this is another point that connects with my background since one line of my ancestors were weavers in France before coming to America) who withdraws from society, except to pick up and deliver his orders. Since he spends no money, he gradually accumulates what becomes a big stash of gold, which he lovingly counts and fondles every night, until one night it mysteriously disappears while he is briefly out of his hut. Although the reader knows what has happened to the gold, I will not spoil it for the few people who might be reading this report who have not yet read the book.

Marner's life is changed when a baby girl crawls into his hut one cold winter night. Her mother is dying nearby, and although the reader knows who the father is, this secret is kept from Marner and the girl until the appropriate time.

I realize that this report makes the book seem overly-romantic and saccarine, and, probably, not very appealing. It is a book that is a product of 19th century romanticism, and the plot wouldn't make it in a 21st century book. But, bearing in mind the limitations of its era, it is well-written. Eliot has a deft humorous touch and manages to poke fun gently in much the same way as Jane Austen does in her books. I liked Silas Marner better than any of the Austen books, however. It has more "meat" than the Austen books, in my opinion. The other reason I prefer Silas Marner to the Austen books is that Austen depicts a leisure class England while Eliot is more realistic in describing the hard lives of ordinary English. (Although I am not an Austen hater, I am just not an Austen lover, I can't resist the Mark Twain joke about Austen. He supposedly said that any library with an Austen book is inferior to any library without an Austen book, including a library without any other book.)

I thought this was an above-average book and gave it four stars.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Killing Christians

This business of our ally, Afghanistan, having a law that anyone who converts from Islam to Christianity shall be put to death is raising interesting questions. Abdul Rahman is an Afghani who apparently converted 16 years ago, but is now on trial for his conversion and may be sentenced to death. It's a little jarring to think that in 2006, there are still people who are killed for no crime other than having the wrong beliefs.

Not that Christians don't have a lot to account for over the centuries. Over the past 2,000 years, millions of non-Christians and professing Christians whose beliefs happened to be out of line with mainstream Christianity, (such as my own Amish ancestors) have been put to death in the name of Christ.

But I thought the world had progressed (yes, gotten more liberal) beyond actually killing someone for committing no crime other than having faith in the wrong religion. Even in China, which had long been considered one of the most anti-religious societies in the world, Christianity is flourishing.

I could see something like this happening in one of the axis of evil countries; North Korea, Iran or Iraq (before its liberation,) but Afghanistan supposedly was liberated and is now ruled by freedom lovers instead of freedom haters. Or so we've been told. The Afghan government, which actually governs very little beyond the city of Kabul is propped up wholly and completely by the United States government. The president of Afghanistan doesn't even trust his fellow Afghanis to be his body guards; that service is provided by Americans. So why can't a phone call be made from the White House to Kabul with the message to put an end to this nonsense?

One reason that phone call couldn't be made is it goes against the "principles" for which we are supposedly in Afghanistan and Iraq in the first place. The wars are supposedly being fought to give their people the right of self-determination. Apparently another thing the Bush White House didn't think of before it jumped into that part of the world is what happens when the countries we "liberate" self determine that they want a fundamentalist religious government? Do we tell them "No, you can only have self determination if you determine by yourself that you will accept our values?" Then it isn't freedom and it isn't self determination. Palestine is another place where this problem has manifested itself. The minute the Palestinians were given a free election they elected the Hamas party to run their country, a party dedicated to violence and terrorism against Israel. Now what?

The problem of giving freedom to people who then use that freedom to make bad choices is a problem that has plagued mankind since God came up with the bright idea of putting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden and then telling Adam and Eve they couldn't eat its fruit. Really, now, I know He would like for us to think He's omniscient, but what in the world did He think was going to happen? You didn't need to be omniscient to figure out that wasn't going to work.

It sounds like creative lawyering is going to find a solution to the problem of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan. For Islamic law, like Anglo-American jurisprudence, has a concept that a crazy person is not responsible for his actions. The prosecutor says Rahman is just not talking like a normal person, he must be crazy, and if so, he will be accquited by reason of insanity according to the latest news.

Who knows, if Adam and Eve had consulted a lawyer we might all still be living in the Garden of Eden instead of having to earn our livings by the sweat of our brows. (I know, I know, some wag is going to say there were no lawyers with whom to consult in the Garden of Eden. The lawyers were all in hell. Well, to you wags, maybe the world would be a saner place now if there had been some lawyers back then to help Adam and Eve figure out the loopholes.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Book Report: Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison

The problem with a liberal arts education is that although you may know a little about many things, you know a lot about very few things. Postmodernism as a philosophical movement became popular after I was in college, so I know even less about it than many other things about which I should have been educated. The French writers, Derrida and Foucault, are often mentioned as postmodernist theorists, and even casual readers of popular periodicals are familiar with their names, if not with their works.

So it was that in a conversation with a university professor several months ago, I picked up that she had taken a post-modernist approach in her work, and asked about the influence of Derrida and Foucault on her ideas. She was unduly impressed that a mere Amish lawyer had ever heard of those two names, but I quickly confessed that my knowledge of the subject had already been exhausted as soon as I said the words, "postmodernism," "Derrida" and "Foucault." That's how I got the assignment to read Michel Foucault's classic work, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison. The book was originally written in 1975 and translated from French into English in 1976.

The book starts out with a graphic description, taken from contemporary accounts in 1757, of a man being publicly tortured with boiling oil and red hot pincers and then being drawn and quartered (for those, like me, who have heard the phrase but not given any thought to what "drawn and quartered" means, it involves tying the victim's four limbs to four horses and then literally pulling the victim apart.) In this particular instance, four horses couldn't get the job done so they used six horses and when that did not suffice, "cut off the wretch's thighs to sever the sinews. . . ."

Foucault then traces the evolution of the purpose of punishment of crime from the "shock and awe" intended by the public spectacle of punishment in the 18th century to the rehabilitation aims of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, to our current systems, which include elements of the entire history of punishment.

Foucault, less successfully, in my opinion, tries to show how all of society is organized as a system of discipline and punishment, from the educational system, to the health care system, to the economic system. Although there are many footnotes, I thought he made sweeping generalizations not supported by the footnotes, and not obvious from the examples he cited in support of his generalizations. That was a criticism also of some of the reviewers (who really knew what they were talking about) that I found on the internet.

I found Foucault's writing style to be very dense, and although the book is only 308 pages long, it took me a long time to get through it. If I didn't have this obsessive compulsive requirement that I finish every book I start, no matter how difficult I find it, I would have given up after the first 100 pages. I will take this as a criticism of my own intellectual ability and experience more than a criticism of Foucault, as people much smarter and better educated than I have pronounced him to be an authority worth reading. Nevertheless, since my rating system is based on how I, not the experts, react to a book, I gave it two stars.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Movie Report: "The Libertine"

My wife was interested in seeing The Libertine because she is a Johnny Depp fan, so we went to see that movie this afternoon. There is apparently something about his dark, smoldering sensuality that makes women turn to putty. The movie starts out with Depp, playing John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, a 17th-century poet, talking directly into the camera, saying, "You are not going to like me." He was right; I did not like either Depp or the character he played.

That's about all I can say about the movie because I slept through most of it. The lighting in the movie is very dark; apparently in an attempt to portray the dark, muddy, England of the 17th century. The professional critics apparently view the darkness of the movie as a result of directorial genius. To me it just made it harder to follow what was going on in the shadows. Combined with English accents that I found hard to understand, at times, and a plot as murky as the lighting and the movie could not keep my interest.

As we were leaving, I commented that I have no idea what the movie is about because I was sleeping or fighting sleep so much of the time, and my wife responded that she was awake the whole time but she had a hard time following it, too. In general, I think the movie is about a libertine who gets his comeuppance by contracting syphilis and dying at the end. Although there were some seduction scenes, none were noteworthy, especially not in comparison to John Malkovich's seduction scenes in a similar movie, Dangerous Liaisons.

Malkovich appears as King Charles II in The Libertine, a role that wastes his enormous talent, in my opinion. Although Malkovich doesn't smolder anymore, if he ever did, I think that a much better movie would have resulted if he had been in the title role as the libertine.

I gave this movie one star out of five, although an argument could be made that it deserves at least a two for not being a teen-age movie, but standards must be upheld.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Maybe I'll Go Live In The Netherlands

On second thought, I think I'll go live in The Netherlands, instead of Korea. I heard yesterday that before immigrants to The Netherlands are granted residency visas, they have to watch a video of Dutch life, which includes images of nude women and gay couples kissing and then take a test on what they saw. (There is a special exception for countries where the film itself is illegal.) The Dutch are trying to maintain their liberal society against an onslaught of religious fundamentalists, primarily Islamic, who enter the country and then are offended with what they find there.

I'm thinking we could try a microcosm of the Dutch model here in the United States. Before you could move into one of the "blue" states; New York, California, Illinois, etc., you would have to watch a film extolling liberal values. Besides nudes and gays, you would see rich people paying their taxes, everybody getting universal health insurance cards, Tom DeLay being locked up in a jail cell, etc. Then you would have to take a test on what you saw and if you flunked, you would have to go live in some red state like Mississippi. I'm sure the red states would enact their own entrance examinations. Their films would probably depict huge displays of the Ten Commandments, an execution of Michael Moore, people hanging garlands on Rush Limbaugh, Hilary Clinton being stoned by school children chanting the pledge of allegiance.

Everybody could go live with their own kind. Why didn't someone think of this before?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Maybe I'll Go Live In South Korea

South Korea is looking more and more attractive to me. Yesterday their Prime Minister resigned (second story down) because he had gone golfing when he was supposed to oversee the nation's response to a national railway strike. What? A country that isn't content with its head of government being on vacation more than 40 percent of the time? A head of government that actually takes responsibility when he screws up? They're way ahead of the United States in math and science. They have national health insurance. They have a prosperous expanding economy. They have kimchee. If they just weren't so close to North Korea.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Crash Bash

As faithful readers know, I thought Crash deserved the Oscar for Best Picture. Although I thought Brokeback Mountain was a better-than-average movie, I did not think it a great movie. My views have led to some arguments with friends, a flavor of which is in some of the comments to my posts on Brokeback and on the Oscars, but most of which have been by private emails. Although I don't always agree with Roger Ebert about movies, he is the reviewer whose tastes coincide most closely with mine. So, I was delighted to find this article by Ebert about the continuing controversy. I can only say, I agree completely with what he wrote and wish I had the talent to write as cogently. But then that's why he's a famous movie reviewer and I'm just a crockhead.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Movie Report: Mrs. Henderson Presents

If you want to see a lot of nekkid wimmin, Mrs. Henderson Presents is the movie for you, however, if you like a little eroticism with your flesh, you'll do better to see if your video store has Last Tango in Paris.

Mrs. Henderson
is based on the real life story of an upper class widow, bored out of her mind by endless rounds of teas and charity meetings, who decides on a whim to buy a run-down theater, the Windmill, in pre-World War II London. She teams with a producer, Vivian (this is a male name) Van Damme, to put on a round-the-clock vaudeville revue. This novel concept works at first, but other theaters soon copy the idea, and The Windmill is in danger of going broke when Mrs. Henderson comes up with the idea of an all-nude revue.

The problem with showing some "good British nipples" as Van Damme puts it, is that Great Britain still censored what was presented in the theater in those days and the Lord Chamberlain was not about to go along with allowing nudity in the theater. He did not reckon, however, with the redoubtable Mrs. Henderson who argued that The National Gallery contained many paintings of nudes. When the Lord Chamberlain responded that those nudes did not move, Mrs. Henderson was quick to spot the loophole, and promised that the Windmill nudes would not move either. So, a compromise was struck in which Mrs. Henderson's revues could have tableaux with nude women who held perfectly motionless poses, a compromise that packed the house with voyeuristic males and saved the Windmill. By the time the war came, and London was being bombed every night in the German Blitzkrieg, keeping the Windmill open for the enjoyment of soldiers was the patriotic thing to do.

Dame Judith Dench plays Mrs. Henderson and I presume does a fine job, although I doubt it is much of a stretch for a member of the British peerage to play an upper class rich woman. Dench gives Mrs. Henderson the right amount of starch and earthiness to make her an appealing character. Christopher Guest is surprisingly good as a befuddled Lord Chamberlain who is no match for the cleverness of Mrs. Henderson.

Some of the dialogue is hilarious, particularly when the Lord Chamberlain is concerned with the problem of the "pudendum," and is assured by Mrs. Henderson, once she figures out what problem he is talking about, that the lighting will be subtle, and, in any event, a barber will be employed. The movie makes several half-hearted attempts at introducing some romantic conflicts, but they are not a big part of the story, which is really just about a remarkable woman and her novel way to combat her boredom.

I enjoyed the movie, although it is no great work of art, and, hopefully, I won't have to argue with my critics about whether it deserved an Academy Award for Best Picture. It was nominated, but lost out to Memoirs of a Geisha for Best Costumes. I gave it 3 out of 5 stars, which makes it an average movie under my rating system. That score may be a little unfair to the movie, but I have already given too many 4s and 5s this year. Standards must be upheld.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Note on the Oscars

I was glad to see Crash win the Oscar for Best Picture. I gave it 5 plus stars, one of the few movies I have ever rated above the top of my zero to five scale. With the exception of Roger Ebert, who thought Crash would and should win, apparently the critical consensus was that Brokeback Mountain was the best picture of the year. Many of the newspapers talked about the "upset" win of Crash. I won't rehash the arguments I made in an earlier report on Brokeback. Time will tell whether it is an "issue" movie that will fade when the issue fades, or a timeless story. But I take issue with the critics (many of whom, Ebert excepted, apparently just read each other's reviews and then repackage the conventional wisdom as their own insights) who say that Crash was just a liberal guilt trip about race relations. The appeal of Crash, to me, was in showing in a way that no movie that I have ever seen, the good and the bad in all of us. None of the characters in Crash were completely sympathetic, nor were any without redeeming qualities. I think Crash is a great work of art that will be shown long after Brokeback Mountain has been forgotten.

I like Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Our cable package does not include The Comedy Channel, but I look at clips occasionally on the internet. I thought he was out of his element as host of the Oscars. His schtick is political news, and there was apparently an attempt to make sure that he was not too overtly political as host of the Oscars. Other than a line about the audience finally getting to vote for a winner, an oblique reference to the commonly-held belief that most Hollywood artists are Democrats, there were no political jokes. It was like putting Don Rickles up there and telling him he can't insult anyone; it just didn't work.

I was not impressed with the length of time devoted to snippets of old films. The show was too long by half, and the film segments added nothing of interest. I thought the best presentation and the best laughs were by Lily Tomlin and Merl Streep, although I could have been prejudiced because they are two of my favorite actresses.

I don't think I ever before have watched the Oscars from beginning to end. I did Sunday night because we hosted an Oscar-watching party with a few friends. The party was a bust with everyone heading out by 9:30. I think next year we'll skip both the party and watching the Oscars. I could have read 100 pages in a good book during the time I wasted watching the Oscars and found out the results the next morning anyway. (Not to say that my friends weren't good company, I just think we would have had a more enjoyable evening without our faces glued to the television screen.)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Book Report: White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Zadie Smith was just 24, when her first novel, White Teeth was published. The book is a great book (for a 24-year old.) If I didn't know the age of the author, I would probably be inclined to say it is a good book.

The book is set in London, and is most often described as being "multicultural." It is about the conflicts felt by many first-generation immigrants who struggle to fit into the mores and customs of their new land and hold on to the values and traditions of the old country. In that respect, it spoke to me, as most of my life, I have felt similar conflicts between understanding my Amish ancestors and relatives and my modern American children and family. In one generation, my family went from eighth-grade educations to advanced degrees from Ivy League and other elite universities.

White Teeth is primarily the story of two families, the Joneses and the Iqbals. Archie Jones is a middle-aged white man who in the opening scene tries to commit suicide, but fails because he is in a no parking zone and the Muslim shop keeper in whose space he has parked, spots the car with the Hoover hose running from the exhaust pipe before he gets the deed done. This brush with death gets Archie un-depressed, and when he meets a beautiful young Jamaican woman later that day, he winds up marrying her, and they have a daughter, Irie, the heroine of the novel. The Iqbals are Muslims from Bangladesh, who live in the same London neighborhood. Samad served with Archie in a tank unit that got marooned in a small village in Greece near the end of the Second World War.

Archie and Samad like to relive past glories from their Army days, glories which exist mostly in their minds. Samad idealizes the religious and family structure of the Bangladesh he left behind. Alarmed at the ways his twin sons are becoming English, Samad forces one of them to go back to Bangladesh to be raised by relatives in the traditional ways, a move that winds up backfiring when that son returns to London, more English than the English.

Smith has a comedic touch which often had me chuckling outloud. Her satire, at times, however, took away from the believability of the situations she was describing. This is another book in which the ending is the weakest part of the book. Smith admits in this interview that she just kind of threw up her hands at the end because she had difficulty writing the ending. It shows.

Zadie Smith was born to a black Jamaican mother and a white English father, considerably older than her mother. She grew up and lives in the Willesden Green area of Northwest London. The heroine of the book, Irie, likewise is the daughter of a black Jamaican mother and a white English father, considerably older than her mother, and likewise lives in the Willesden Green area of Northwest London. Nevertheless, Smith claims the book is not autobiographical.

While only Smith knows how much of the book is about herself and her situation, there are passages in the book which read so true that if they come only from Smith's imagination, then she is truly a remarkable writer. I particularly liked the following passage (pointed out in our book discussion by another member of our reading group) in which Irie is fed up with the historical baggage the Joneses and Iqbals are loading on their children and she describes her longing for her family to just be like an ordinary English family:

"What a peaceful existence. What a joy their lives must be. They open a door and all they've got behind it is a bathroom or a living room. Just neutral spaces. And not this endless maze of present rooms and past rooms and the things said in them years ago and everybody's old historical shit all over the place. They're not constantly making the same old mistakes. They're not always hearing the same old shit. They don't do public performance of angst on public transport. Really, these people exist. I'm telling you. The biggest trauma of their lives are things like recarpeting, Bill-paying, Gate-fixing. They don't mind what their kids do in life as long as they're reasonably, you know, healthy. Happy. And every single fucking day is not this huge battle between who they are and who they should be, what they were and what they will be. Go on, ask them. And they'll tell you. No mosque. Maybe a little church. Hardly any sin. Plenty of forgiveness. No attics. No shit in attics. No skeletons in cupboards. No great-grandfathers. I will put twenty quid down now that Samad is the only person in here who knows the inside bloody leg measurement of his great-grandfather. And you know why they don't know? Because it doesn't fucking matter. As far as they're concerned, it's the past. This is what it's like in other families. They're not self-indulgent. They don't run around, relishing, relishing the fact that they are utterly dysfunctional. They don't spend their time trying to find ways to make their lives more complex. They just get on with it. Lucky bastards. Lucky motherfuckers."

Someday, hopefully before too long, I want to try to put in my own words the similar feeling I had as a young boy to just be ordinary; to escape the tentacles of 450 years of Amish history; of knowing that it did no good to make the argument that "everyone else is doing it," because what the rest of society did was worse than irrelevant. The highest virtue; the thing that would get you to heaven was not doing what the "world" did.

Smith's novel was acclaimed in England, even before it came out. She got a huge advance based on just two chapters and Salman Rushdie provided a blurb for the cover. It was eagerly awaited and won just about every prize the English give out for literature. It has now been five years since the book's publication and I believe Smith has written just one other book, which has not received equivalent recognition. I recall reading somewhere that she does not want to be pigeonholed as a "multicultural" writer. Although a little jealous at her early success, I hope she can build on it to have a great career. She certainly has the talent. I gave the book four out of five stars.