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Miles D. Moore (Alexandria, VA USA)
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Eyewitness Travel Guides Rome
Eyewitness Travel Guides Rome
by Dorling Kindersley
Edition: Paperback
38 used & new from CDN$ 0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars I swear by the DK Eyewitness Guides!, May 18 2003
For years I've sworn by the DK Eyewitness Guide to Florence and Tuscany, and now I'm reading with great pleasure the DK Guide to Rome, which I will visit this year for the first time. Thanks to DK, I already feel as if I've stood at the top of the Spanish Steps, or in the Sistine Chapel staring up at Michelangelo's ceiling. The text is wide-ranging, succinct and informative; the gorgeous pictures whet your travel appetite; and the enclosed maps, phrase book, hotel and restaurant recommendations, etc. are abundantly helpful. When I go to Rome, the DK guide will be the only guidebook I carry.

The Straight Story
The Straight Story
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 9.37
19 used & new from CDN$ 9.36

5.0 out of 5 stars The kinder, gentler David Lynch movie., March 30 2003
This review is from: The Straight Story (DVD)
"The Straight Story" has the gorgeously colored, semi-surreal look of a typical David Lynch movie, but here the surrealism is lyrical and benign. There are no armies of insects fighting to the death underneath the amber wheatfields, no severed ears in the pristine woods. The overweight next-door neighbor, sunning herself while eating pastel-colored Hostess snowballs, may look weird, but she's perfectly nice. As the title implies, this is the "straight" and deceptively simple story based on the true tale of Alvin Straight, an elderly Iowa man who, hearing that his long-estranged brother has had a stroke, wants to go to Wisconsin and mend fences with him. Too incapacitated himself to drive a car, he hitches a trailer to his riding lawn mower and spends five weeks driving the 300 miles along country roads to his brother's house. That's all there is to it, but it's incredibly moving, thanks to Freddie Francis' gorgeous photography of the Midwest countryside and Lynch's poetic direction. Above all, what makes this movie worth seeing is the exquisite, deeply moving performance of Richard Farnsworth as Alvin Straight. Silent for long stretches of the film, Farnsworth tells the story of Straight's life mainly through his eyes, showing a world of stubborn decency and bitter regret. When Farnsworth does speak--such as his monologue in a bar about his World War II experiences as a sniper--you will never forget it. There is only one recent screen performance that is at all like Farnsworth's--Adrien Brody's in "The Pianist." There is also Sissy Spacek's performance as Straight's mentally challenged daughter Rose; although Spacek's performance seems overly mannered at first, she keeps revealing telling details about Rose until, at the end, her performance is as haunting as Farnsworth's own. "The Straight Story" may have the look and slightly off-kilter feel of a David Lynch movie, but at heart it resembles another recent Disney-released movie, "The Rookie," which also is deeply concerned with the love of family and the need for second chances in life. Both movies are beautifully realized, but "The Straight Story" is an authentic American masterpiece.

Clair De Lune: Debussy Piano Works [Masters]
Clair De Lune: Debussy Piano Works [Masters]
Price: CDN$ 17.13
36 used & new from CDN$ 3.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Performances of delicacy, finesse and beauty., March 23 2003
This CD contains a goodly portion of favorite Debussy compositions: the Suite Bergamasque (including, of course, Clair de Lune), Children's Corner, Estampes and La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin. Those listeners used to the "Impressionistic" approach of Walter Gieseking may not at first like the crisper, harder-edged performances of Alexis Weissenberg, but Weissenberg's delicacy, finesse and strong musical intelligence should win over even the most persnickety connoisseurs. It's a lovely CD, perfect lazy-day listening, and at a very reasonable price.

And Now a Few Words From Me: Advertising's Leading Critic Lays Down the Law, Once and For All
And Now a Few Words From Me: Advertising's Leading Critic Lays Down the Law, Once and For All
by Bob Garfield
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.76
19 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Wit, wisdom and uncommon common sense., March 13 2003
"Do not be so blindly determined to `think outside the box' that you are constructing your own coffins." This quote, which comes on page 127 of Bob Garfield's new book, "And Now a Few Words from Me," could be the epigraph for the entire book, or indeed for just about every ad review Garfield has written for "Advertising Age" over the last 18 years. An amused and often appalled observer of the wretched excesses of TV advertising, Garfield in his new book eviscerates a number of failed campaigns with the skill of a master surgeon reviewing a botched heart transplant. The operation's not a success, Garfield points out, if the patient dies. (And sometimes the patient DOES die: an abstruse commercial for a Virginia bank, he notes, led to the failure of both the bank and the ad agency.) As Garfield sees it, the problem with much of TV advertising is simple: too many ad copywriters get caught up in the "creativity" of what they do and forget their purpose is to sell products, period. Sometimes the problem is merely a bad choice of celebrity spokesperson--say, hulking millionaire Charles Barkley pitching econobox Hyundais, or red-meat-eschewing Cybill Shepherd as national spokesperson for beef. Just as often, however, ad writers simply whiz past their target audience (the "Dick" campaign for Miller Lite) or offend viewers to the very core of their being (Ford and GM using the 9/11 tragedy as a pretext for great deals on Explorers and Grand Ams). Garfield, as always, is witty, elegant yet blunt about these failures: "Don't roll your eyes and dismiss the negatives," he tells his readers, "because if you do, in due course, that's exactly what your target audience will do with you." He also insists that ad writers--despite their frequent statements to the contrary--are subject to the same rules of morality, decency and civility the rest of us are. He is particularly scathing about Calvin Klein: "(H)e is not an advertiser. He is an arsonist...(T)o portray children as sex toys parading before adults is the line that cannot be crossed." But Garfield notes that many advertisers lose sight of a basic fact: if you offend your audience, you are lost forever. The creative director of one agency once wrote Garfield to the effect that if he found TV advertising so offensive, he shouldn't watch. Garfield's reply: "Don't watch? Don't watch what? If advertising were programming, a viewer could make decisions about what to watch. But--I'll say this one last time--advertising isn't, so a viewer can't, so what's left to watch, if you choose not to be assaulted by advertising, is nothing. Which destroys the whole medium, you imbecile." "And Now a Few Words from Me" is a fast (200 pages), trenchant, often laugh-out-loud funny look at TV advertising that deserves a readership far beyond ad agencies. Anybody who watches TV will find it a great read.

Place at the Table: The Gay Individual in American Society
Place at the Table: The Gay Individual in American Society
by Bruce Bawer
Edition: Paperback
45 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A passionate, well-reasoned and moving book., Feb. 16 2003
Paul Monette's "Becoming a Man" is generally considered to be the classic account of growing up gay in America. I myself, however, found much more to identify with in Bruce Bawer's "A Place at the Table," a half-memoir, half-polemic that I think speaks for at least as many gay men as "Becoming a Man." Bawer, who is both openly gay and a conservative Christian, causes his coevals on both sides to swallow hard as he blasts the in-your-face outrageousness of gay radicals and the smug homophobia of right-wing fundamentalist pundits. Some have accused Bawer of sounding a little smug himself; nevertheless, it is impossible not to be moved at his insistence at being taken at face value, as a man both proudly, devoutly Christian and proudly, openly gay. Bawer is a distinguished poet and literary critic, and perhaps the best part of the book is his analysis of gay-themed novels and how they reflect on both gay and straight society. First published a decade ago, "A Place at the Table" remains a clarion call for sanity and understanding.

Sings For Only The Lonely
Sings For Only The Lonely
Price: CDN$ 11.91
27 used & new from CDN$ 6.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Buddy, Frank's a kind of poet., Feb. 2 2003
A lonely piano, a lonely voice in the night...Frank Sinatra's recording of "One for My Baby" is arguably the greatest recording by any American popular singer, and the entire album of "Only the Lonely" is a landmark testament of American popular song. This exquisitely dark, profoundly moving CD contains one masterpiece after another--"Willow Weep for Me," "Blues in the Night," "Spring is Here," "Angel Eyes," and of course "One for My Baby." Sinatra's grave, blue-velvet voice plumbs depths of romantic despair that no other singer--with the possible exception of Billie Holiday--ever approached. Nelson Riddle's supple orchestrations caress and enhance Sinatra's singing; among soloists--vocal or instrumental--and arrangers, only Miles Davis and Gil Evans had as remarkable a collaboration as Sinatra and Riddle. The only cut that slips a little below the rest is "Where or When," which feels overproduced. (No wonder it wasn't released with the original album.) This isn't a fun-time album, but one to play at midnight with a glass of whiskey in your hand and a lifetime full of regrets in your head. It's marvelous.

It Had To Be You... The Great American Songbook
It Had To Be You... The Great American Songbook
Price: CDN$ 8.00
44 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars Some guys have all the luck..., Feb. 1 2003
I understand why people are buying Rod Stewart's CD, "It Had to Be You"--it is, after all, Rod Stewart. What I don't understand is why people actually think this CD is good, or how they can stand to listen to it more than once. I've only heard a few cuts myself, but you don't have to eat the whole hamburger to know that it's burned. Stewart is one of the great, classic rock belters; in any song that allows him to sing fortissimo all the way through--"Maggie May," for example, or the song referenced in the title of this review--he's sensational. But these particular songs call for substantially more nuance, shading and emotional variety than Stewart can provide. All you need to do is listen to the great singers of the past (Sinatra, Holiday, Fitzgerald, Crosby, Clooney) or even some of the modern singers who have devoted serious attention to these songs (Linda Ronstadt, Toni Tennille, Michael Feinstein) to realize just how hopelessly, appallingly inadequate Stewart is in this repertoire. But because he's Rod Stewart, of course, he's being proclaimed a master of it. Who's up next singing the Great American Songbook--Ozzy Osbourne???

Lion in Winter [Import]
Lion in Winter [Import]
VHS
4 used & new from CDN$ 12.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Royals devouring each other at Christmas. Yummy!, Dec 14 2002
This review is from: Lion in Winter [Import] (VHS Tape)
"The Lion in Winter" represents the most literate form of guilty pleasure--the spectacle of the rich and powerful tearing each other apart, but with dialogue so rich, sparkling and epigrammatic that you can take pride in your elevated tastes. In this case, the misbehaving aristocrats are King Henry II, his estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their sons (including the future Richard the Lion-Hearted and the future King John, he whose misrule inspired both the Magna Charta and the legend of Robin Hood). These despicable family members envelop each other during Christmas 1183 with an ever-spiraling thicket of plots and conspiracies, most of which are intended to culminate with a dagger in somebody's back. You sometimes need a scorecard to decipher just who is plotting against whom at any given moment--alliances are fleeting among the Plantagenets--but the dialogue, delivered by a superb cast, is the real point of "The Lion in Winter." Nobody in the world ever really talked like this, but isn't it wonderful that characters in plays and movies do? The performances--headed by Peter O'Toole as Henry and Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor, and with Anthony Hopkins making his movie debut as Richard--are as riveting as any ever set before a camera.

13 Hillbilly Giants
13 Hillbilly Giants
Offered by nagiry
Price: CDN$ 7.24
11 used & new from CDN$ 6.70

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful tribute to the founders of country music., Dec 14 2002
This review is from: 13 Hillbilly Giants (Audio CD)
With "13 Hillbilly Giants," Robbie Fulks performs an invaluable service--not only to a largely forgotten group of country singers and songwriters, but also to 21st-century audiences who've been brainwashed into believing that the soft-rock drivel currently oozing out of Nashville is real country music. Fulks' performances of songs such as "Cocktails," "Burn on Love Fire," "I Want to Be Mama'd" and "Family Man" are so authentic you can almost imagine yourself at home, listening to the Grand Ole Opry on the old Philco console circa 1955. A small confession: the composition by the most famous country star represented here--Dolly Parton's "Jeannie's Afraid of the Dark"--is the sort of morbid weeper that had me believing for years that I hated country music. But Fulks more than makes up for its inclusion by his closing song, Hylo Brown's "Bury the Bottle With Me." This one goes completely off the Morbid Meter, but the tune is so lovely, and the words so starkly, simply tragic, that it is unforgettable.

Back to the Future: The Complete Trilogy (Widescreen, 3 Discs)
Back to the Future: The Complete Trilogy (Widescreen, 3 Discs)
DVD ~ Michael J. Fox
Offered by OMydeals
Price: CDN$ 74.07
26 used & new from CDN$ 18.78

4.0 out of 5 stars Five stars for the original, three each for the sequels., Dec 14 2002
"Back to the Future" ranks among the funniest, most joyous and most perfectly calibrated farces ever put on screen. Robert Zemeckis does a masterful job of combining Spielberg-era special-effects magic with a script that conjures up ever giddier heights of hilarity. Just when you think it can't get any funnier or cleverer, Zemeckis ups the ante. Helping him do so are the brilliant cast, led by Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd. Fox's performance can only be described as a cross between the young Mickey Rooney and the young Bob Hope, and I can think of no higher praise. As for Lloyd, only Gene Wilder in the modern cinematic era can match Lloyd's sublime comic derangement. It's too bad, then, that the sequels fall so short of the standard set by the original. Back to the Future II--depicting the chaos done to posterity when Biff steals the time-traveling DeLorean for a joy ride--matches the original in cleverness and perfection of structure, but it's so mean-spirited that it's hard to watch. Considering the constant pummeling Marty McFly takes in this installment, only people who hate Michael J. Fox could really enjoy it! Back to the Future III, which sends Marty and Doc Brown back to the Wild West, recaptures the original's sweetness, but unlike the first two has plot holes you can drive a stagecoach through. I might watch the sequels occasionally, but only to remind myself how much better the original is.

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