1001 Ideas that changed the way we think

Music reviewed by Rob Mason on 9 August 2014

 1001 Ideas That Changed the Way We Think by Robert Arp, is a comprehensive guide to the most interesting and imaginative thoughts from the finest minds in history. Ranging from the ancient wisdom of Confucius and Plato to todays cutting-edge thinkers, it offers a wealth of stimulation and amusement for everyone with a curious mind. One idea explained in the book is that Motion at its simplest is a change in the arrangement of a physical system. The claim that everything in the universe is moving seems to contradict empirical evidence yet it is a claim…Read

The Galapagos Affair

reviewed by Rob Mason on 25 July 2014

I watched this film last night at the Sky City Theatre and can recommend it as a truly remarkable film.  To make it even more authentic the actual filmmakers Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller were there at the theatre, and answered questions from the audience.  An amazing and memorable cinematic experience unlike any other I've ever seen.

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden is a fascinating documentary portrait of a 1930s murder mystery as strange and alluring as the famous archipelago itself. Fleeing conventional society, a Berlin doctor and philosophy enthusiast:…Read

Heidegger - Thinking of Being

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 28 June 2014

Philosophy was born in ancient Greece when someone looked up from plowing the field or tying their sandals to ask not what is this particular thing or that, but what is 'being' in general?  What does it mean to 'be?' In terms of the ontological difference, these early philosophers move from dealing with beings to inquiring into the being of these beings, that is their mode of being or the way they are.  We find the answers to these questions in the great works of metaphysics; these works are for Heidegger attempts to define 'beingness' that…Read

What W. H. Auden Can Do For You

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 22 June 2014

The poet, like every artist presents us only with the particular, the individual, yet what he wants to do is to let us know the whole species.  The poet takes from life that which is quite particular and individual and describes it accurately in its individuality: but in this way he reveals the whole of human existence, since, though he appears to be concerned with the particular, he is actually concerned with that which is everywhere and at all times.


Keep the Aspidistra Flying

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 15 June 2014

Keep the Aspidistra Flying, first published 1936, is a socially critical novel by George Orwell. It is set in 1930s London. The main theme is the protagonist's romantic ambition to give up money and status.  The aspidistra is a common plant used decoratively. Orwell uses the plant to symbolize commoners, the lower class, of society. To keep them flying is to maintain their pride, to raise the value of common man from the soil to the sky.

A film adaptation of Keep the Aspidistra Flying was released in 1997, directed by Robert Bierman, and starring…Read

A Life Worth Living

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 2 June 2014

Though we do not face the same dangers that threatened Europe when Camus wrote "The Myth" of Sisyphus" and "The Stranger," we confront other alarms. Herein lies Camus abiding significance. Reading his work in Robert Zaretsky's book:  A Life Worth Living, we become more thoughtful observers of our own lives. For Camus, rebellion is an eternal human condition, a struggle against injustice that makes life worth living. But rebellion is also bounded by self-imposed constraints--it is a noble if impossible ideal. Such a contradiction suggests that if there is no reason for hope, there is also…Read

Camus Sartre

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 26 May 2014

Until now it has been impossible to read the full story of the relationship between Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Their dramatic rupture at the height of the Cold War, like that conflict itself, demanded those caught in its wake to take sides rather than to appreciate its tragic complexity. Now, using newly available sources, Ronald Aronson offers the first book-length account of the twentieth century's most famous friendship and its end.  


Beyond the Edge

reviewed by Rob Mason on 25 May 2014

In 1953, the ascent of Everest remained the last of Earth’s great challenges.  Standing at over 29,000ft, the world’s highest mountain posed a fearsome challenge and had already claimed thirteen lives in previous expeditions. Faced with treacherous winds, sub-zero temperatures and battling altitude sickness, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay finally achieved the impossible and became the first men to conquer Everest.  It was an event that stunned the world and defined an era.  


The sinking of the Laconia

reviewed by Rob Mason on 13 April 2014

On the 12 September 1942 the Laconia - a cruise ship turned troop ship - was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine U-156 commanded by Werner Hartenstein. Having sunk the ship Hartenstein should have left them to their uncertain fate in the water but instead he made the incredible decision  to save as many lives as he could.





Karl Marx

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 22 March 2014

A Nineteenth Century Life

Jonathan Sperber's biography of Marx dazzales. It comprises 560 pages but is well worth the effort to read.  It changes your whole idea of Marx and also ones idea of the labour movement. Jonathan Sperber the author has this to say: "Marx's revolutionary aspirations were distinctly rooted in his formative years during the first half of the nineteenth century, these aspirations and his intransigence about proceeding towards them, whether openly expressed or hidden for tactical purposes, might be a key to the long term resonance of his ideas.  It…Read

The Spinoza of Market Street by Isaac Bashevis Singer

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 8 December 2013

The setting is ultra- orthodox Jewish society and is about the lives of people in a small Polish town. Market Street is filled with peddlers, prostitutes, merchants and thieves and is placed side by side: juxtaposed against the more orderly world of Spinoza’s logic and reason.  The story is rich and full of twists and turns: inter-woven with philosophical points from Spinoza’s ‘Ethics.’  It provides a means of understanding by using the activities of everyday existence, accurately portrayed, to illustrate certain philosophical meaning…Read

A book forged in hell

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 2 October 2013

Steven Nadler's: A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza's scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age is about Baruch Spinoza's book which appeared in 1670, Theological Political Treatise: a turning point in the history of biblical criticism, which argued for greater freedom of thought and expression.  Steven Nadler provides an up-to-date version of it's claims and their background in religious and philosophical terms.  In essence the message that comes through is that scripture as we have it is not literally the word of God and therefore what has…Read

How I ended this Summer

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 11 August 2013

Tense and gripping, steeped in atmosphere and beauty,  The story is centred round two men working at a meteorological research outpost in the Russian Arctic, their personalities are so different that they begin to quarrel. Sergei and Pavel the two main characters symbolically represent different sides of Putin's Russia, one shaped by older traditional ways, the other struggling to discover a new set of values.  The dialogue is fairly sparce but this works towards building the tension between them. Pavel Danilov (Grigory Dobrygin), aged around 20, with a silver ring in his left ear and…Read

A hero of our Time

reviewed by Rob Mason on 13 July 2013

A classic tale by Mikhail Lermontov of a young officer, Grigory Pechorin and his travels in the Caucasus.  The book holds up a mirror not only to the period in which the book was written but also our own time.  As Anna Winter comments: "Lermontov's novel resonates today in the way it foreshadows contemporary concerns. Russia's problems in central Asia were as intractable then as now. The fatalism displayed by the "superfluous man" heralded the nihilism of modern revolutionary terror. Especially stark is the depiction of the cold machinations that occur in the…Read

Denial of Death

reviewed by Rob Mason on 23 June 2013

I read a book recently: ‘Denial of death’ which is a work of psychology and philosophy by Ernest Becker. Becker’s main thesis in this book is our fear of death. Being the only animal that is conscious of his inevitable mortality, his life’s project is to deny or repress this fear, and hence his need for some kind of a heroism. Every idea or project, good or evil, is intended to make him transcend death and become immortal, to prove his thesis, Becker resorts to psychoanalysis. The primary repression is not sexuality, as…Read

Nietzsche’s Denial of Schopenhaurean Pessimism

reviewed by Georges Palante on 2 May 2012

A review of Georg Simmel's Book: Schopenhauer and Nietzsche

M. G Simmel’s book develops within an intellectual framework wider than that in which historical-critical studies of this kind usually move. For the author it’s not a question of studying Schopenhauer’s and Nietzsche’s work in detail, but of drawing up a balance sheet of modern culture by taking as typical examples of this culture the two great philosophical figures who sum up its essential oppositions. In other words, M. Simmel’s goal is to study Schopenhauer…Read


reviewed by Ryan Mooney on 7 March 2012

Romain Duris is a celebrated actor in his native France and a recognized face in world cinema. He’s young, charismatic, and versatile — attributes that make him an ideal candidate for crossover success — so why is he largely unknown to American moviegoers? Unfortunately, Duris is working against a Hollywood system that insists on recycling its male stars. Although two of his past films — L’Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment) and The Beat That My Heart Skipped — were critically praised and had success in their limited American releases, he hasn’t really had…Read

13 Conversations about One Thing

reviewed by Mark Sells on 7 March 2012

Ask yourself if you're really happy and you might be surprised at what you find. Ask several people at various points in their lives and you will get the premise behind 13 Conversations, a film that depicts the lives of five different individuals and their quest to find and comprehend the meaning of happiness.

We first get a glimpse of Walker's life, a physics professor whose life has been disrupted by an assault. But his wife, Patricia, seems more concerned than he is. At the dinner table, the two can barely exchange a word. The whole…Read

The Human Condition

reviewed by Rob Mason on 5 November 2011

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) was a political philosopher.  Her major work, ‘The Human Condition’ (1958) is about the ‘active life’; the ‘active’ life is described in her book under three forms of activity; 1) Labour, which corresponds to the biological life of man as an animal; 2) Work, which corresponds to the artificial world of objects that human beings build upon earth;  3) Action, which corresponds to our plurality as distinct individuals. Plurality is the condition of human action because we are all the same, that is, human, in such a way that nobody is ever…Read

Bruce: Pessimism: Philosophy - Ethic - Spirit

reviewed by Michael Bruce on 1 July 2011

With a title and theme like Pessimism, not everyone is going to jump at this book. This is unfortunate, since they will be missing a very unique and engaging narrative that discerns a conceptual history of the ominous worldview entitled pessimism. Professor Dienstag clearly delineates pessimism as a specific stance in relation to time. Opposed to optimism and its confidant progress, pessimism is the position that things may not improve as time passes. It is not that humanity is doomed or even in decline; pessimism holds that progress is an illusion and the human condition is getting worse or…Read

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