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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
Zero Dark Thirty: The Shooting Script - Mark Boal I've rarely felt so conflicted after watching a movie. I was expecting a clear statement about how the director felt, and there wasn't one. I read in some online review that it's upset left- and right-wing people in the US about equally much.

If your politics are left-oriented, you'll be distressed to see that information acquired using torture is claimed to have been of key significance in the process of tracking down Osama bin Laden. You'll be appalled that the torturers don't come across as subhuman or evil. They're presented as likable people doing a horrible job which they believe is necessary. You'll be particularly creeped out to find that the movie is often manipulating you into feeling that you're rooting for them. You won't like the triumphalist ending, where you're graphically shown the successful conclusion of the long hunt for the world's most wanted criminal.

If your politics are right-oriented, you'll be uncomfortable to see that captured terrorists are presented as brave men hopelessly trying to stand up to people who systematically degrade and humiliate them using cruel, extra-legal methods. You'll be shocked to discover that you feel sympathy for them when they're shown afterwards, broken and changed by the torture and docilely cooperating with enemies they hate and despise. You'll disapprove of the suggestion that bin Laden, by the time he finally was caught, was no longer important. You won't like the bathetic ending, where a dozen US Special Forces operatives, armed to the teeth, storm into a house and gun down bin Laden and three other people in cold blood, to a soundtrack dominated by the screams of terrified children.

No, I just don't know what to think. Nice work, Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow.