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Traveler (New England)

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Secret Window (Bilingual)
Secret Window (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Johnny Depp
Price: CDN$ 14.99
41 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, but better than expected, July 19 2004
This review is from: Secret Window (Bilingual) (DVD)
I didn't even want to watch this movie. I wasn't compelled to see it in the theater and I wasn't enthusiastic about it once the DVD showed up in the house.
But then I watched the first fifteen minutes . . . and, well, it got interesting. As others have noted, Depp's acting is, as usual, superb. The man is one of the best actors we have at this time. And the story does pull you in. The characters are well drawn (as is the case with most King novels) and viewers will want to see what happens to them as the story progresses.
However, the story itself and Stephen King's reputation are part of the problem.
"Secret Window" was based on a King novella within the larger work "Four Past Midnight." For some reason, King's novellas and shorter novels (Stand By Me, Shawshank, The Shining, Carrie) have translated the best to film while his longer works (The Stand, Tommyknockers) are utterly horrible. Given this track record, "Secret Window" should have been one of the better King movies. The problem here is that "Four Past Midnight" was never an example of King's better work. Thus, in a sense, the director has to rescue the movie from the perception of King as the "master of horror." When you have the deck stacked against you like that it's hard to come through with the goods. "Secret Window" is basically a love triangle in which one of the characters goes nuts. A plausible story, but it's difficult to present a story as routine as this is in a manner that will satisfy the hype.
"Secret Window" is a good movie. It's just not great. And it's certanly not worthy of all the King hype. Still, it's worth a look. Depp's acting is especially worth watching. And the story, if you're in the mood, is a bit scary at times.
As for the DVD, it's also worth a look. The deleted scenes are nothing special, but the featurette sequences are interesting, more so in fact than most such extras on other DVDs. Far too often we get DVDs which show us scene after boring scene showing us the technical aspects of how a movie was filmed. Here we at least get a brief glance at some of the human interest aspects behind the camera. I would have liked to have seen an interview with the author, but that seems to be a rarity amongst all DVDs. I think that all movies adapted from books should have this extra feature (assuming the author is still alive).

Waking the Dead
Waking the Dead
DVD ~ Billy Crudup
Price: CDN$ 9.99
18 used & new from CDN$ 4.80

4.0 out of 5 stars Superb, but as usual, less than the book it was based upon, July 17 2004
This review is from: Waking the Dead (DVD)
I read "Waking the Dead" a few months before watching the movie. I was thus certainly biased in a certain direction in favor of the book.
Keith Gordon, who also directed the outstanding and under-appreciated films "A Midnight Clear" and "Mother Night", stays pretty much faithful to the original material by Scott Spencer. It's obvious that films are different than books and directors need a certain amount lattitude to change the story as needed. Gordon certainly left a lot of the story on the cutting room floor and that is, for the most part, not a problem.
What is the problem is that Gordon didn't flesh out Sarah's story and, as a result, offers a skewed ending that the book doesn't share.
Sarah and Fielding are not "opposites" as many suggest. They happen to agree politically. They're both "liberals." Where they disagree is on tactics. The problem with the film is that we don't really see enough of Sarah to understand just how different her tactics are compared to Fielding and why, ultimately, she chose to go away. The movie's ending is ambiguious about the fate of Sarah. Did she die or didn't she? The book shares some of this approach, but it strongly leans in the direction of Sarah having faked her death. In the book Fielding meets with a priest who states that Sarah is alive. And when Sarah and Fielding finally meet at the end Sarah explains how she is living underground and continuing her work. We're given, at least in the text, a reason why Sarah chose the path that she did. Gordon, however, mostly gives us Fielding's side of things. In the process he detracts from the central conflict and ends up with a rather wishy-washy ending.
I strongly recommend this film. The DVD has many interesting extras, including many deleted scenes and a commentary by Gordon. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be anything on the DVD from the original author, Scott Spencer. That's too bad because I think he could have added some really interesting insights about the story overall. And of course, read the book which is, as usual, even better than the movie.

Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them
Lapsing Into a Comma: A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them
by Bill Walsh
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.83
40 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Just remember that this is the _author's_ opinion, July 14 2004
"Lapsing Into a Comma" is perhaps the most interesting stylebook one will find in print today. Reader's just have to beware that this is the _author's_ stylebook.
You'll find the usual suspects here with clear explanations about how to handle them. Punctuation, grammar and spelling are all covered, from the use of commas to the proper spelling of some famous individuals. The latter is one example of how different this book is. Knowing the proper spelling of Nicolas Cage's name might be entertaining and useful to those working for a newspaper, but I'm not sure it makes for a better reference book.
Some of the "rules" presented here will invariably be treated arbitrarily by the public. Some rules we follow, others just don't sound correct when we speak them so we move on. And sometimes what we think we know is not true at all.
Three examples:
Walsh makes the grammatically correct point that sports teams (or rock bands) with singular names (e.g. The Who, The Orlando Magic, etc.) must be combined with singular verbs. He argues that this is subject-verb agreement. While that is true, people simply don't think this way. The Magic are a team full of individuals. (See, I just made the "mistake" in the previous sentence! I did it without thought.) People don't think of the Magic as a he. They think of the Magic as a them. Just like the Yankees. Walsh dismisses these concerns, but he's ultimately spitting into the wind. People don't talk or think in this manner, subject-verb agreement or no. Fifty years from now someone writing about grammar will lament the fact that no one follows this rule. Get over it.
While Walsh is annoyed by this example, he also states that the current oral tradition of using plural (they, them) instead of singular pronouns (he, she) might trump the grammatical rule. And he's OK with that. I happen to agree with him, but it only weakens his earlier point. If the oral tradition creates the rule in this case then why doesn't it in another?
Then there's at least one example where Walsh is just clearly wrong and, ironically, injects his own political views while accusing others of doing the same. Under the term gender Walsh claims that it came about as a result of the word "sex" being viewed as specific to the sexual act. He gives the example "race and sex preferences" and then says that _he_ thinks "sexual preferences" when he hears this term. Funny, I never thought of that until I read his words! But that's not the most important point.
Walsh criticizes those who would "politicize" the word gender by making it refer to behavior. His example goes something like this: Johnny likes to wear dresses so he's of the female gender. The problem is that the word gender came from the fields of sociology and psychology long before it was in common use today. The very roots of this word are _specific_ to behavior. There are no politics about it. In 1990 when you said the word gender you were talking about behavior, no genitalia. Walsh, who apparently didn't speak with a sociologiy or psychology professor before writing this, makes it appear as if the original meaning is the new "political" definition while at the same time injecting his own current political view - one that rejects the the need for a term which recognizes varying degrees of gendered behavior among the sexes.
Despite these criticisms, I still recommend this book. It's interesting and educational. Just beware of the fact that this is a stylebook and, by definition, expresses the author's viewpoint.

Catch Me If You Can
Catch Me If You Can
by Frank W. Abagnale
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.43
141 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reads like a well made novel, but the ending has no meaning, July 6 2004
This review is from: Catch Me If You Can (Paperback)
"Catch Me If You Can" is a fun and enjoyable read and is easily as good as many current novels. If you like the movie the book will be even more interesting because it goes into detail about Abagnale's exploits. In fact, in many ways the book is actually more interesting than the movie.
For example, many movie viewers couldn't figure out how Abagnale escaped an airplane via the bathroom toilet. This actually happened and is described in the book. Abagnale also describes in far more detail the extent to which he researched how to look and act like a real airline pilot. It's mind boggling how much effort he was willing to put into it.
Despite how fun it is to read, "Catch Me if You Can" has one huge glaring flaw: the ending.
We know that Abagnale has worked with the banking industry for many years now in helping them improve their security. What we don't really know, at least from him directly, is how he went from being a swindler to being a high paid consultant. On a psychological level this is the meat of the story. OK, he had a ball being a fake pilot, doctor and lawyer. But what did he learn? Anything? This is where the book falls into the definition of fluff. Because we have no meaning, no explanation, all we're left with are outrageous exploits and escapades.
All of this begs the question: Did Abagnale actually learn anything? Or is all of this just a further continuation of the con he started as a kid? I don't know either way. It's too bad because Abagnale likely has a few things to teach us - especially at-risk youth who tend to think they're invincible. Unfortunately, the message Abagnale seems to be giving us is that you CAN get away with it. While that's certainly true (just look at ENRON!), it doesn't help that the author shows so little remorse or an explanation of how he changed.

Mediterranean Diet Cookbook: A Delicious Alternative for Lifelong Health
Mediterranean Diet Cookbook: A Delicious Alternative for Lifelong Health
by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from CDN$ 6.19

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent cookbook, but definitely not for everyone, July 5 2004
"The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook" has received many glowing reviews, all of them likely very much warranted. While I understand its worth as a cookbook, I have to object to how this book is marketed as being able to change one's lifestyle.
Recently diagnosed with heart disease in my mid-thirties, I have been looking for information that will both improve my health and work within the limits of my lifestyle. This book, at least for me, will not and cannot work. But I recognize it will for others.
First of all, as the author indicates, this type of cooking requires time and preparation. This is, after all, a part of Meterranean culture. I understand that. But it is not part of American culture. More importantly, it's not even feasible for many people trying to scrape by financially. The idea of working in the kitchen for hours each day is simply not possible for many Americans - regardless of their own desires. This is why I suspect that the audience for this type of book is restricted almost exclusively to families and individuals who are wealthy (or at least not in financial debt) or who are in a traditional relationship in which one spouse stays home during the day.
Another thing that I found annoying was the author's attitude that one's sweet tooth should be easily satisfied with a basic cookie or a piece of fruit. Having been raised a vegetarian throughout most of my childhood I can attest to the fact that eating natural foods all the time does _not_ guarantee that your desires for cake, ice cream or brownies will simply disappear. For some people, perhaps even a majority, it is a question of just giving up what they desire. If there's one thing I've grown to detest after my own diagnosis is that I will be easily satisified with my new diet and lifestyle. Like many individuals with heart disease, I must accept my plight. However, I don't have to put up with anyone telling me that I will be satisfied with something that I already know from my own experience to be a poor substitute. In other words, don't manipulate me, just state the truth outright: you may like desserts, but you're going to have to give them up.
If you have the time and interest to cook this book is an excellent choice. If your lifestyle simply cannot adapt then I would recommend looking elsewhere. In my personal experience I found "SuperFoods Rx : Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life" by Steven G. Pratt to be the most helpful thus far.

The Gangs Of New York: An Informal History Of the Underworld
The Gangs Of New York: An Informal History Of the Underworld
by Herbert Asbury
Edition: Paperback
70 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining perhaps, but fails as a history book, June 28 2004
After seeing the movie I was intrigued to find this book, the supposed "true story" behind the movie. Getting the "truth" here, however, is very unlikely.
The draft riot was of specific interest to me as someone who's researched and written about protest (violent and non-violent), political events, the military, etc. Unfortunately, it's quite obvious that Asbury wasn't interested in doing a history or sociology textbook when he put this together more 70 years ago. For example, the police are referred to as "heroic" and "valiant" while the rioters are depicted as monsters and animals. None of this helps explain why these events occurred. Instead, Asbury takes sides - which severely limits the book's worth if you're wanting to learn more about this forgotten piece of US history. It's certainly not a serious study of what caused the riot and the various brutalities committed by _all sides_. It's hard to believe that this book is the source material for the movie.
If you're seriously wanting to learn about the gangs, riots and turmoil in NYC during this era - the true story by behind the movie - then you'll want to look elsewhere. If you're interested in seeing some of the propaganda that was created regarding these events, some of the yellow journalism and tabloid style writing that existed in the 1920s and 30s when this text was written, then you might get something out of this book. On that merit alone - as flawed journalism - perhaps this book is worth a read.

White As Snow
White As Snow
by Tanith Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.40
35 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story, but Lee won't let her characters speak, June 22 2004
This review is from: White As Snow (Paperback)
I so badly wanted to give "White As Snow" five stars. At first it reminded me somewhat of Gregory Maguire's better novels. Of course, Lee tends to write far darker fiction than Maguire. But both have put their personal spin on fairy tales to create, in many cases, a more interesting story.
While "White As Snow" is definitely interesting, it is full of unbelievable characters who tend to fit into only four types: Passive females (Arpazia and Coira), cruel and inhumane males (Draco, Hadz and others), window dressing (old crones, maids, dwarves, etc.) and two unbelievably saintly males who don't exist in the real world (Klymeno and Hephaestion).
Both Queen Arpazia and Coira (Snow White) are victims which seems to cause their passivity. On a pyschological level I see what Lee was doing. Their behavior is not that uncommon amongst survivors of abuse. It does not, however, make interesting fiction to read about two women who are so utterly passive or void of personal motive except for, perhaps, jealousy (Arpazia).
The strongest characters in the book, the evil men, are easily the most rounded. Lee got that part right.
The window dressing characters, for the most part, belong in any story. It's just that here there are so many â€" far too many in fact. Arpazia is helped by the woods people - why? What is their motivation? Because the plot demands it? Coira's nurse maids and servants are flat as a pancake. One maid, Ulvit, goes out her way to help Coira as she matures and grows. We never find out why. In the end Coira distrusts Ulvit, the one who helped her the most, and she is discarded on the heap of multiple other "unimportant" characters.
The two positive male characters in the book - Arpazia's Klymeno and Coira's Hephaestion - are characters straight out of a romance novel. When Klymeno first meets Arpazia he sexually pleases her over and over and never receives pleasure in return. When she seeks him out a second time he literally asks permission to pleasure himself. He is so utterly "perfect" that he never protests when she aborts his child. Hephaestion, although more filled out and therefore less saintly, suffers the same result. Even though he _wants_ to be a father he tells Coira, before stating his desires, that she is obviously free to abort her child if that is her wish. It seems obvious that Lee is pro-choice. I don't have a problem with that. What angered me was that Lee seemed so intent on insisting that abortion was so completely a woman's choice that any thoughts or feelings from a man are utterly unimportant. Doesn't a man have a right to say, "I would like to be a father to this child . . . but the choice is ultimately yours?" Lee wouldn't let these two men even this small amount of personal desire.
The issue of abortion is certainly not the focus of the story. However, it is a symptom of Lee's weakness in this novel overall. Far too often characters and developments within the story are there because the plot demands it or it appears to be Lee's own personal personal view. The characters themselves seemed to have been squelched by Lee, as if she possibly didn't want to hear what they had to say.

City of God (Sous-titres français) [Import]
City of God (Sous-titres français) [Import]
DVD ~ Alexandre Rodrigues
Price: CDN$ 15.94
14 used & new from CDN$ 3.92

5.0 out of 5 stars Work of Art. Realistic. Needs to be seen., June 9 2004
I don't normally gush about movies such as this. I'm also not a fan of ultra-violence. "City of Dreams," however, deserves the accolades and the attention.
If you know someone who's lived in Brazil ask them about this movie or about the life of the impovershed in Sao Paulo or Rio. The added information will make the impact - the realism - of this film that much greater.
The camera angles and editing are manic at times. It matches the mood of the film. Guns, violence, panic, passion, life and death. The story is not told in a straight line. Think Memento crossed with The English Patient with the storyline of Goodfellas and The Gangs of New York. For good measure add in a heavy dose of reality. The film depicts, at least in part, a true story and is (more importantly) quite factual in its overall depiction of the reality of gang and drug violence in Brazil.
On the DVD there's an added bonus of a documentary that looks at the entire hopelessness of the situation. Brutal gangsters, corrupt cops, violence, and a society that uses the whole sordid mess to control a huge impoverished populaton with no options. A senior member of the police with decades of experiences admits to all of this - states quite bluntly that the state must use this form of represssion in order to prevent chaos. He also points his finger at US and Swiss gun makers who send their weapons to Brazil to be used by the gangs. He points out that the US can send troops to Colombia to shut down the source of the drug trade in the US - why can't he come to the US and shut down Colt which sends AR-15s to Brazil? It's a legitimate point, one that will likely make some uncomfortable. While Brazilians are mostly to blame for their plight, it doesn't help that multinational corporations profit and manipulate the situation. They are part of the problem.
This is a movie that must be seen. It will alter your view of the world.

Taming Your Gremlin (Revised Edition): A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way
Taming Your Gremlin (Revised Edition): A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way
by Rick Carson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 14.43
32 used & new from CDN$ 8.60

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Will work for some, not for others, June 9 2004
I heard Rick Carson on NPR some time ago and was impressed with that he had to say. I had never heard of his book until then and I immediately wrote down the title so that I could buy it at a later date.
Now that I've read the book I'm trying to figure out why what I heard him say is so different than what I'm reading.
My problem with this book started right at the beginning with his "trademarked" Gremlin-Training Method (all caps, just as he does in the book). This seemed contrived to me, absolutely false. It was like reading a book talk about the author's patented passive solar windows as their own trademarked "Sun Energy Capture Device." In other words, like an infomercial. This intial reaction was confirmed as I continued to read. The tactics and topics Carson raises are extremely simplistic. Practical perhaps, but hardly worthy of a "trademark."
The other problem I had with the book is that Carson uses his metaphor to excess. This is a danger he should have been aware of. A Gremlin is a workable metaphor for most people as long as you make it abstract. That is, that voice in your head which puts you down. As soon as you start describing its supposed physical nature (the minister, the coach, the monster, etc.) the metaphor starts losing its audience. Not everyone wants or needs to describe that nasty voice in such terms.
I wished Carson had backed off the metaphor somewhat, backed off from from the hard sell on his "trademarked" method, and just gave an in-depth analysis of people's internal negative voices, where they come from, how to control them, etc. I don't want to read something that makes me feel like I'm buying a used car or the next TV control clapper.
This book, based on many previous glowing reviews, works for many people. No doubt that is true. Criticizing this book is rather subjective - if it works for you, it works, if it doesn't, it doesn't. You can't debate it. My recommendation is to really look at the text before buying and THEN decide if you want to purchase. You might find that you like it, or you might not.

Chambers Compact Thesaurus
Chambers Compact Thesaurus
by Chambers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 15.16
5 used & new from CDN$ 12.55

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best, but somehow overlooked by American readers, June 4 2004
Thesauruses (or thesauri - either is correct) come in basically two flavors: Dictionary form (like this one), or by theme (like Roget's International).
If you prefer Roget's then you'll no doubt stay away from the Chambers Compact. I personally dislike the theme versions. They just feel like I'm being forced to think like the editors.
In the world of dictionary form thesauri the Chambers stands out above the rest.
It is far and away the easiest on the eyes. Using black text offset with light blue the book allows you to focus on different aspects of the text. The light blue text indicates the form of speech such as verb, adjective, etc. There's also good white space so that the black text stands out. The entries themselves are interspersed with valuable nuggets of information. Look up the word "government" and you not only get a list of synonyms, but also a list of the various forms of government such as monarchy, plutocracy, democracy, etc. On the same page you'll see entries for the words "gourmet" and "gourmand" along with a separate boxed entry explaining how each is different. These are all very nice touches. The Chambers Compact is also thorough with over 350,000 synonyms.
Combine all of this with a reasonable price and one has to wonder why it's not more popular. Is it because it offers both British and American words? Perhaps. But anyone who uses a thesaurus frequently enough will want one that's easy on the eyes. I've seen nothing that compares with the Chambers version - not even Oxford. And certainly not from Webster's.
I've found that it's difficult to view a copy of the Chamber's Compact before you purchase. If you want to get a small taste of the what the text looks like visit the Chambers main web site.

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