Review: ‘Criterion Designs’

Criterion collection

A while back, during one of Barnes and Noble’s frequent half-off Criterion Collection sales, a friend on social media snarked, “half off a DVD, or still way more than the cost of a subscription to Hulu, where you can stream every Criterion disc.”

The joke, like much great humor, was equal parts funny and sad. Funny, because it’s true, of course, and reveals something about a society that is slowly but surely giving up on physical media. Sad, because its very truth reveals how much we have lost in the drive to elevate content—digital data, bits, ones and zeroes compressed as much as possible in order to offer cheap and fast downloadability—over every other concern.

I Left My Head in San Francisco

Workers in Paris clean the guillotine after beheading  a serial killer / AP

When the horror cult classic Faces of Death (1978) was first released on video, the cassette cover came with a warning: “This feature contains graphic depictions of autopsies, dismemberment, physical cruelty, human combustion and electrocution. It should not be viewed by children, the elderly or the squeamish.”

Perhaps something similar should have been done with Severed: A History of Heads Lost and Heads Found. Or at the very least smelling salts could’ve been tucked inside, considering such anecdotes as the early exploits of Viennese phrenologist Joseph Rosenbaum who, in 1808, decided he needed the skull of a recently deceased actress, Elizabeth Roose, for his collection.

REVIEW: Angel Rabasa and Cheryl Benard’s ‘EuroJihad’

Militants raising the Islamic State flag at the entrance of an army base in Ninevah Province, Iraq

Few political concerns are as troubling as that of European-based jihadism.

With thousands of European citizens now fighting for Salafi-Jihadist groups around the world, a storm of terror is gathering. Western security services fear that once these terrorists return home—and some already have—they may launch domestic attacks. With European Union passports offering easy travel globally, the threat is increasingly borderless.

The Connected Soul of C.S. Lewis

AP

To most, C.S. Lewis is probably known for his fantastic imagination. The Chronicles of Narnia have been a core part of millions of people’s childhoods, and with good reason: Lewis builds out a whole world and develops a rich array of characters, and the themes he develops are provocative enough for most parents to enjoy the books, too.

Many others know Lewis for his incisive mind and Christian faith, which combined to make one of the best popular Christian works of apologetics ever written, Mere Christianity. Originally delivered as a series of radio addresses to Britain during World War II, the book has come to be one of the most influential Christian books of the last century.
Many others know Lewis for his incisive mind and Christian faith, which combined to make one of the best popular Christian works of apologetics ever written, Mere Christianity. Originally delivered as a series of radio addresses to Britain during World War II, the book has come to be one of the most influential Christian books of the last century.

Israel’s George Washington

Ben Gurion

It’s difficult for an American to identify with Ben-Gurion, a humorless socialist who admired Lenin. To Americans of his time, Ben-Gurion would have sounded less like a candidate for the Jewish State’s first leader than as a poster child for stronger immigration laws. To add insult to injury, he was tactless and socially awkward.

Many books have been written about Ben-Gurion but given his decades-long dominance of the Zionist scene, there’s always room for one more. Anita Shapira is professor emerita at Tel Aviv University, well-known for her biographies of historical figures hailing from Israel’s left, the best of which is probably that of Berl Katznelson, a prominent Zionist leader in his time who is virtually forgotten today. She has now provided an easy to read, compact, well-organized—if superficial—account of the political development of the man she calls “Father of Modern Israel.” The English translation from the original Hebrew is excellent and translator Anthony Berris deserves special mention.

Christmas Reading

Kate Upton holds book / Splash News

It’s Black Friday. Perhaps you are reading this at five in the morning on your smart phone, standing in line for a deal on a Dyson vacuum cleaner or a new TV. (I may be in line with you: I’ve got my eye on a new fridge.) As the holiday shopping season begins, here are some …

Siberia by Train

Snow ripples over sleepers between curving rails on the Trans-Siberian railroad, Oct. 28, 1978

In Midnight in Siberia, National Public Radio host David Greene uses the Siberian Express as a literal and figurative vehicle to explore Russia’s heart. Travelling with his NPR companion and Russian interlocutor, Sergei, this book isn’t simply a travel book. Midnight in Siberia is a strong exploration of Russia’s troubled present, which takes seriously the complexities of the matters it addresses.

From Russia With Love

AP

For ordinary Internet users, email spam is an inconvenience and a mystery. Diving into the spam folder to rescue legitimate correspondence, they are confronted with seedy missives from the Internet’s dark side—cryptic, misspelled messages from old friends urging them to click a link and reconnect, or else “laughably-awful filter-beating projects” seemingly generated by “some huge Dada machine,” to borrow a memorable phrase from the 2013 book Spam by Finn Brunton.