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Traveler (New England)

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Never: Past Tense
Never: Past Tense
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 17.75
4 used & new from CDN$ 17.75

3.0 out of 5 stars Great song, so-so remixes, March 18 2004
This review is from: Never: Past Tense (Audio CD)
"Never" reminds me of the dance/pop/R&B sound and feel of Everything But the Girl's song "Missing" which was a great track fast or slow. And this showed in the remixes.
Unfortunately, this CD does not follow the same path as "Missing." The remixes are either uninteresting slight variations or are laden with techno sounds that contribute very little to enhancing either the bittersweet melancholy tone or improving the danceability of the original. The flaw seems to be that the remixers failed to recognize that the major selling point of this song is Tina Arena's voice. Instead of focusing on that, or perhaps complementing it, they drown it with boring background beats. Too bad.
I bought this CD thinking I wasn't that interested in the other Roc Project songs. Now I wish I had paid a little more for the full album or maybe the import version which comes with a video.
My recommendation: Pass on this one and go for the full album unless you've heard all these remix tracks and know you'll like the CD.

Casualties of War (Bilingual)
Casualties of War (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Michael J. Fox
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 5.53
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A true story told with flaws, March 18 2004
Casualties of War, despites some of its flaws, is quite faithful to the original text which was a true story. Not many people realize that "Sven Eriksson" is a real person who actually experienced much of what Michael J. Fox's character went through in the movie.
But does it work as a movie? For the most part, yes. The two glaring problems with Casualties is the ending and some of the soundtrack music which DePalma uses to excess.
The ending, as it's explained within the DVD extras, is purposely presented as uplifting. We see Eriksson on a San Francisco BART train awaking from his bad dream/memories. He sees a girl who could be the one who was murdered and raped in Vietnam. He calls out the Vietnamese girl's name. The woman responds that he must have had a bad dream, but it's all over now. And then we get the "uplifting" music that rises to a crescendo.
Upon viewing the movie for a second time this ending is particularly bad. DePalma argues in the DVD extras that this positive ending was meant as a way to give the audience some relief. However, it's so hammy that it belittles the true story that precedes it. It's all a dream, it's all over, everything is now OK. But everything is not OK and everything is not over.
Which brings me to the one thing that this DVD should have offered - more information about the true story behind the movie. Why not go to Vietnam and show where the incidents actually took place? "Eriksson" is actually a pseudonym of the real man who has apparently been in hiding due to death threats from the men he helped put in prison. How about some more information about where these men are today? Perhaps nothing more can be offered about Eriksson, but at least we could have been shown in the DVD what happened to the men who committed the crimes.
I give the DVD five stars because this story is important. Americans so quickly forget these kinds of true stories. We quickly sweep them under the rug and say it doesn't matter. Casualties helps brings us back to reality, albeitly in a rather flawed manner.

The Count Of Monte Cristo (Bilingual)
The Count Of Monte Cristo (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Jim Caviezel
Price: CDN$ 9.83
46 used & new from CDN$ 2.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Quality Extra Features: The way DVDs should be made, March 18 2004
Many reviewers have commented on the movie so I'd like to focus exclusively on the features of the DVD.
So many times you you get a DVD and the "extras" consist of the trailer and the choice of sub-titles. Other times you luck out and get what appears to be cool behind-the-scenes documentaries. What you get, in fact, are hammy interviews with the cast and crew as they go about their business of making the movie. And most of the explanations of the more technical aspects are as about as in-depth as you'd get on Entertainment Tonight.
There are exceptions, of course, such as the first Matrix which offered details about how they created the special effects in the movie. But it seems these kinds of extras are the exception and not the rule.
The Count of Monte Cristo is a pleasant surprise because it truly offers interesting background information that a fan of the movie would want to watch.
A discussion with the screenwriter as to how and why he adapted the script from the original Dumas book was very interesting. And the short bio on Dumas was a nice surpise. And unlike other DVDs, this one offers not only deleted scenes, but also commentary about why those scenes were deleted. Perhaps the only mundane portion of the extras was the "layer-by-layer" audio design segment which took a specific scene of the movie and split the sound into dialogue, sound effects, and music. But even then, this would be of interest to people who want to learn more about how movies are made.
This is a DVD for people who want to know more about the movie and its subject. I only wish other DVDs were as good as this one.

The Lovely Bones
The Lovely Bones
by Alice Sebold
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.52
289 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars A great novel clouded by the author's personal experience, March 3 2004
This review is from: The Lovely Bones (Hardcover)
Sebold knows how to get a reader's attention with the second sentence of her novel being: "I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." So many authors fail to grab you even in the first two chapters let alone the first two sentences.
Many reviewers have indicated that they found this novel to be sad or unsatisfying because of how Susie's murder is handled. I found neither to be the case. By making the dead girl the omniscient narrator we're soothed by the fact that she lives on and cares for her family even though they are unable to see her.
Despite the magical qualities of heaven, Sebold is able to keep the book realistic by how she handles the murder. Sometimes things aren't as neat and tidy as we'd like. And sometimes we just have to get over it and move on. What happens to Susie's murderer and how the family deals with their lack of knowledge was one of the things that kept it from being a boilerplate genre fluff piece. In the real world you don't get absolute justice and absolute resolution.
While I enjoyed "Bones" immensely, especially on Sebold's combination of fantasy and emotional realism, I had a problem with her perspective on crime in general.
In her memior "Lucky" she writes of being raped in a way similar to how Susie is attacked. It doesn't seem to be a great leap to suggest that she borrowed from her own life to write this novel. This is certainly not a bad thing. However, it seems that her experience has clouded her perspective.
Throughout the novel Ruth is able to see where girls and women have been raped and killed. At no time is she aware of crimes against males. Only women. I didn't count, but it seemed that references to crimes against women - and only women - was contained in at least half a dozen passages, perhaps even more.
If this were a novel without fantasy this might be excused because Sebold could simply present us with a character, for example, who works at a women's shelter and meets victims on a daily basis. But the fanastic abilities of the characters in this book, Susie and Ruth specifically, open up the whole world. It makes no sense to have person with the ability see people's deaths after they've occurred to filter out images according to the victim's sex. But that's exactly what Sebold does do.
Sebold's blind spot, conceivably created by her own horrific experience, doesn't break the novel. But for me it certainly tainted its positive message. As a pro-feminist male I found it annoying, as if the author had an ax to grind, to read passages that seemed like they were written by a young and naive Women's Studies major who can't distinguish between her facts. It's obvious that females constitute the vast majority of rape victims. (It's hard to know the exact figures when males, typically raped as children, hide their experiences.) However, male on male violence is by far more prevalent than male on female. So there needs to be balance. All Sebold had to do was have Ruth's character able to see all crime victims.
Because of this blind spot, I can't give the book five stars.

Waking the Dead
Waking the Dead
by Scott Spencer
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting & unrealistic combination of romance & politics, Feb. 16 2004
This review is from: Waking the Dead (Hardcover)
I so badly wanted to give this novel five stars. As someone who's heavily into political issues (worked on a Congressional campaign, ten year+ issue activist, etc.) and a sucker for a good romance I was hoping that this book would be both realistic and passionate. Frankly, while the story certainly is interesting, it's really not that realistic.
The author apparently felt like he needed to create a dichotomy to have conflict between his two characters. So Sarah is the ultra radical and Fielding is the more pragmatic politician type. The problem is, neither character is given realistic scenarios to play out these roles.
What ultimately happens to Sarah is, historically, more in line with what happened to radicals in the sixties who set off bombs - not someone who is the target of a bomb. Sarah might have been rescuing Chilean exiles and breaking US law, but that hardly puts her at the top of the FBI's most wanted list. Certainly not in comparison to folks like the Weather Underground which existed at the time.
I also wasn't comfortable with the author's presentation of what drove Sarah to do what she did. There's a lot of religious talk that just either made me uncomfortable or just didn't ring true. Having spent quite a bit of time with passionate activists, many of whom do break the law, I just didn't believe that someone would go around saying that any poor downtrodden person could be Jesus. I suspect that the author did this because maybe he just wasn't sure as to what would drive someone to behave like Sarah.
Then there's Fielding the politician. Since the book is set in the 70s maybe the author should be given some latitude. Maybe things were different then. But I doubt it. In this day and age of money and politics his vision of running for office seems naive at best. Today it takes no less than a million dollars to win a House seat. Sometimes it takes a lot more. With that money comes obligations to special interests.
Much is made at the end of the book when Fielding reads letters from some of his constituents who need help. It almost appears as if the author is trying to compare Fielding with Sarah, as if he is just as much a hero, if not more so, as Sarah.
Having lobbied over 50 members of the House and Senate in DC I found this underlying motivation to be naive. Constituent letters are read by staff members and those staff members do the vast majority of the work in doing the helping. A member of Congress wouldn't have time for these letters. The letters a Congressperson would deal with would be those that would further his or her political ambitions. In other words, those that would make good press and PR.
In a realistic story Sarah would have continued her work. And yes, she possibly would have been killed. But this would have likely only happened after she was better known publicly for her actions - and a far greater threat to those she was protesting. Maybe then the novel would have focused more on the possible harm Sarah's actions might cause to Fielding's career.
In a more realistic story Fielding, if he is as honorable as the author wants us to believe, would have lost his election. Why? Because in order for Fielding to stay true to his idealism he would have had to stand up to the special interests who would demand his support. That's the political reality we live in. You don't get into Congress by being a good boy. You do it by bending yourself to the powers that be.
Then there's the background story behind Sarah's death. The US did indeed participate and support the military coup that destroyed the Allende government in Chile. This was an atrocious act and, unfortunately, not the only one committed by the US government in the region. In "Operation Condor," for example, six South American nations had organized assassination programs to kill political dissidents. The US government knew about these killings and there's even some evidence to suggest that we supported them.
I mention these points because there's a central truth behind Sarah's actions. What the US did was morally reprehensible. So while Sarah's actions are extreme, one has to ask, when confronted by the facts, why is Sarah is so "radical" for her beliefs? Why aren't those who ignore these things seen as lazy Americans who have utterly failed in their civic responsibility in questioning the actions of their government? Ah, but then there would be no book. Who wants to read something like that?
For those interested in finding out more about this background story I recommend the movie "Missing" with Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemmon or the book "Missing: The Execution of Charles Horman" by Thomas Hauser. Both are far more realistic in their depiction of the US government's actions toward Chile in the 1970s.

Claim Your Inner Grown Up
Claim Your Inner Grown Up
by Ashley Prend
Edition: Paperback
29 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Single minded in its definition, Dec 4 2003
I picked this book up because I was intrigued by the title. Unfortunately, it only took me seconds to see that the author had a very specific ideology that was ignoring other psychological and historical viewpoints. For example, the author points out that "adults are on time" and that being late is an "act of passive aggressiveness." While this can be true many times, it is certainly not true all the time. Anyone who knows the Jungian based Myers-Briggs personality test will know that "perceivers" are notoriously late because they get easily distracted while "judgers" are frequently early for every appointment. But in the author's world, only the "J" personality type is "mature." Another statement the author makes, on the very same page, is that being adult means "raising your own children." Sounds fair on its face. However, it ignores historical and economic facts. The nuclear family of two parents and children is a 20th century creation. In the past, societies had extended families that were heavily involved in the rearing of the children while parents worked. This is still true in many societies even today. So how does this become a definition of maturity across the board? I don't get it. Obviously, people shouldn't just have children willy-nilly and ignore their needs. But the author's perspective is pretty much B&W. Their is no gray. (IMO, this is in itself a statement of immaturity.) The whole thing just smacks of a certain political mindset. My advice: Take the Myers-Briggs test, find out what you are, figure out what parts of your personality need some work. This is a far better solution than having this author spoon feed you her personal views.

Orchard: A Novel
Orchard: A Novel
by Larry Watson
Edition: Hardcover
20 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag . . . but Watson is improving as an author, Sept. 11 2003
This review is from: Orchard: A Novel (Hardcover)
I'm a both a fan and a critic of Larry Waton's work. I've read all of his books except for one and, while I enjoyed his work, I had major issues with the author's depiction of female characters who seemed to be either spineless wimps or aggressive nags. This was especially true in "Laura," less so in his other novels.
I have to agree with other reviewers that this effort is a bit flat and detached. But with that said, Watson seems to be progressing as an author. His female characters are now become more rounded, more human. Although, sadly, it also felt to me that he stepped away from his typically superb ability to handle male characters.
While it seems that many folks like it's shifting from past to present, I found it meandering. And, while the improved female characters are welcome, there just wasn't enough here for me. This isn't to say that there aren't huge moments of human insight here. There are definitely moments in this novel where almost any reader will have to stop and pause as Watson drives home a point with profound subtlety.
Given Watson's growth here I look forward to his _next_ book with great anticipation. But as for "Orchard," I can't say I enjoyed it that much.

No Title Available
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 319.86
2 used & new from CDN$ 319.86

5.0 out of 5 stars If you play Scrabble at all, you WANT the deluxe edition, June 13 2003
Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars :5.0 out of 5 stars 
The deluxe edition of Scrabble completely surpasses the general version. If you play Scrabble with any frequency, you will enjoy this edition so much more than the cheaper version.
As everyone knows, the grids keep the tiles in place and the board rests atop a "lazy Susan" which allows you to spin the board around as each player gets to his or her turn.
I've played with several variations of the deluxe edition, dating back a few decades. In the older versions the board was raised only an inch or so which meant that if someone's rack of letters was nearby it would likely get clipped by the board. This was an annoying drawback to the board. The most recent edition, however, has been improved. The board is now raised a little higher so that it is above the height of each player's rack. Also improved was the base itself which allows for storage of all the letters and the racks.
Also improved is the top surface of the board. Every older deluxe version I've played on had an annoying clear plastic which reflected bright light. This new version has a more subdued texture which is far more pleasing to the eye and has very little if any glare. I'm not sure if I'm using a different version or not, but I have to disagree with those who say this new surface is vulnerable to spilled liquids. The edition I'm using (which is only one year old) is a kind of plastic that will withstand just about anything spilled on it.
The only drawback I've seen is that the board, while better designed, just feels a little more "cheap" than previous editions, possibly because of its reduced weight. Other than that, I highly recommend the deluxe edition.

Classic Pit
Classic Pit
Offered by grabthesale
Price: CDN$ 47.80

5.0 out of 5 stars A classic that endures, June 13 2003
Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars :3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Classic Pit (Office Product)
My family has had a Pit game in the house for literally decades. I think one deck was even owned by my grandparents back in the 50s.
Pit is a high intensity game that's fun to play with a minimum of five people. For some reason the fun factor in the game gets reduced if you play with fewer people. It's also cross generational. The last game I played had a young child and a senior citizen. But truthfully, a child younger than, say, 11 or 12, can have a hard time following the flow of the game.
I can't give high marks for the education value of Pit. But that's not really what this game is about. If you want something that's a little silly, gets people to open up, that's just fun, Pit is a good choice. But if you want to "learn" something (like Scrabble), choose something else.

When You Ride Alone You Ride with Bin Laden: What the Government Should Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism
When You Ride Alone You Ride with Bin Laden: What the Government Should Be Telling Us to Help Fight the War on Terrorism
by Bill Maher
Edition: Hardcover
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Maher is both an idiot & a genius. Buy the book anyway., Nov. 3 2002
I both love and hate this book at the same time. I imagine Maher brings out this response from many people. I do agree with many of Maher's libertarian views, despite being "liberal." But still, he's got some ideas that he can't back up with facts.
One of my major beefs is that Maher seems to believe that we are at war with Islam -- all of Islam. Such views are not helpful. They only make matters worse by putting everyone in the same category. If we judged Christians as being all like Jerry Falwell no one who believed in Christ would look good either.
Maher's support of profiling Arabs also doesn't make sense. There are tons of scenerios in which an old lady, a child, or a love struck 20 something could accidentally bring a bomb on board a plane. It's not about knowledge or intent, it's about manipulation. I want the old ladies frisked, including my mother! Why? Because some people are too trusting and just might make a mistake.
There are other views expressed or, unfortunately, outright ignored. In one poster he highlights the stoning of Muslim women while at the same time ignoring the rape and brutualities towards women here in the US. In another essay he demands more funding for the Pentagon, the agency that gets more than 50 percent of the discretionary budget and was judged by the GAO as being the most mismanaged federal agency in the entire US government. Please! In another poster & essay he supports the reporting of suspicious activities to the government. On its face, that might make sense. But then remember how many idiots there are out there and how many people have an axe to grind with someone else.
The good posters and essays, on the other hand, hit dead center. The "why they hate" us posters are great as is Maher's support for better pay and respect for firefighters, soldiers and police officers. The pages focusing on our over consumption of oil are perhaps the best, most notably the one on the front cover.
Despite these criticisms, Maher brings a lot of ideas to the table. God knows we need more of that right now when so many people are so quick to throw the "un-American" label at those who dissent. Which brings me to one of the better posters & essays in the book: Speaking out IS an act of patriotism. I'll grant that to Maher, even if I disagree with half of what he says.

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