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Macaca Webb (Virginia)

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The Crystal City: The Tales of Alvin Maker, Volume VI
The Crystal City: The Tales of Alvin Maker, Volume VI
by Orson Scott Card
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 28.95
55 used & new from CDN$ 0.10

3.0 out of 5 stars Losing the zeitgeist, June 17 2004
I thought Card was losing his way with "Heartfire," but it was such a good adventure saga I overlooked its weak points (e.g., an annoying Balzac; little development of overall plot). Not true with "The Crystal City," where all that happens is Alvin Smith getting himself one step closer to creating Nauvoo and to getting himself shot in a Carthage City jail. The characters are worth the effort to read, but the love of Margaret and Alvin, so important in "Prentice Alvin" and "Heartfire," is practically non-existent. So too the Unmaker. It's like Card is dropping pieces of his theme as he goes along. It's frustrating to read. For example: where is Cavil Planter? Where is Mistress Modesty? What happened to Verily and the witch girl?
I will continue to read the books in this series, I know Card's got at least one more, since I'm dying to figure out how he works polygamy and destruction of property into his plot. I just wish he'd finish the same thing he started. If he has to kill Alvin off at the end, I accept that, just so long as he's true to the series doing it.

Lost Boys
Lost Boys
by Orson S Card
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.89
70 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Decent, June 17 2004
This review is from: Lost Boys (Mass Market Paperback)
Normally, anyone writing about Southern eccentricities has to worry about imitating Faulkner, but OSC is the exception.
The book was a worthwhile read for a Cardophile like myself, but to be honest, its punch was not any greater than the short story upon which it's based. Also, like the short story, there are a number of loose ends, the biggest of which is the place the video games the lost boys played in the overall plot.

The book also took a little too long to make its point. I do have to admit that the characters were extremely well-drawn and believable, and I suppose that brevity and well-drawn, believable characters are to a certain extent mutually exclusive.
I enjoyed some of the inside humor, such as "Eight Bits" as the place of employment for "Byte," which is where Card himself actually worked. I'm sure he's also settling the score with some of his former Byte co-workers too (i.e., the real-life equivalents of Dicky and Glass), although a third party like myself will never know for sure. And comparing a testimony meeting to a hysterical experience had me literally laughing. The Mormons are lucky that Card is still on their side, because if he weren't -- watch out!
Overall, read it if you've got some time, but the short story can get the job done in about a sixth the time.

In the Cut (Rated) (Bilingual)
In the Cut (Rated) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Meg Ryan
Offered by importcds__
Price: CDN$ 5.52
25 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, June 2 2004
I can't believe I wasted my money renting this movie, then paying late charges because I kept putting off finishing watching it. Shame on me for being a gullible consumer and for wanting to see Ms. Ryan nekked, which was nice but didn't make up for the rest of the movie.
This movie is a mess. Hand-held camera shots substitute for verité; dreary songs substitute for plot; swear words substitute for grittiness; senseless coincidences (e.g., red lighthouses) substitute for portent; characters act completely against reason; loose ends abound. Stay away, far away, from this movie.

Le Divorce
Le Divorce
DVD ~ Kate Hudson
Offered by marvelio-ca
Price: CDN$ 4.94
38 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Unfocused, May 10 2004
This review is from: Le Divorce (DVD)
The film didn't know whether it wanted to be a soap-opera drama (e.g., "Fatal Attraction"), a broad comedy poking fun at cultural stereotypes (e.g., "A Fish Called Wanda") or a celebration of Paris (e.g., "Amelie"). Instead it was a boring, mishmash, mismatched waste of fine acting and wonderful scenery.

No Title Available

3.0 out of 5 stars Blah, April 1 2004
I love Bill Murray, particularly in one of my all-time favorites "Groundhog Day" (quoted approvingly by Roger Ebert as one of the "most spiritual films of our times"). He does a great job, as does his opposite, Scarlett Johansson. And Sophie Coppola's direction was oustanding. But the movie didn't *do* enough to capture the attention of my MTV-trained mind. Yes, the characters were well-drawn and extremely believable -- but to what end?

Sun Also Rises
Sun Also Rises
by Ernest Hemingway
Edition: Paperback
80 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Don't read the Amazon.com reviews before you read the book, March 26 2004
This review is from: Sun Also Rises (Paperback)
...Because if you do, you won't be able to stop laughing. I made the serious, serious mistake of reading Boston's November 29, 1998 review before I read the book, and so when I finally did read it I noted every time "drink," "wine," "bottle," "bar," "cafe," "coffee," "breakfast," "lunch," "dinner" and their variations appeared, and son of a gun if they really weren't on almost every page. Every time I came across one of the words I'd start laughing, making it very difficult to concentrate on the book, which is mainly an extended low-level whine about how screwed up everyone was after the Great War.
Seriously, Hemingway shows some flashes of brilliance, but ironically for me they didn't occur with style or even theme, but rather with extremely vivid, stripped down descriptions of the Spanish countryside and such activities as fishing and bullfighting. If you want to read the book for that, you're not going to be disappointed. But if you're expecting action and character development, por el amor de Dios, look elsewhere

A Color of His Own
A Color of His Own
by Leo Lionni
Edition: Board book
Price: CDN$ 9.49
82 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, both by me and my daughter, March 16 2004
This review is from: A Color of His Own (Board book)
Very simple story of the search for self-identity and how it relates to friendship. Interesting water-color artwork and a clear, effective storyline make this a quick, five-minute read for an adult to his or her child.

The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse
The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse
by Gregg Easterbrook
Edition: Hardcover
40 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag, Feb. 20 2004
Easterbrook is all over the map in this book. On the one hand, his book is a welcome antidote for the Paul Erlich-esque hand-wringing, doom-and-gloomism constantly being showered on us. It also provides some of the best sketched-out refutation to existential angst that I've seen in print.
Examples of its better points include:
* "Many figures in philosophy, religion, politics, and other fields have recommended that others pay no heed to material concerns, while being obsessed with the same things themselves" (p 145). Excellent point, and for a very engaging expansion of that point, read Paul Johnson's "Intellectuals."

* "On its face, existential despair appears self-canceling: If life really is pointless, why bother to get upset about that? Wouldn't getting upset be pointless?" (p 253).

* Positive psychology provides more help for people than earlier, negative methods.

* By and large, things are getting better, not worse.

But the book's failures are also many and glaring:

* at its core, the book is contradictory. Easterbrook appropriately harps on the fact in the first 150 pages that astounding progress has been made in an absolute sense. For example, a car made today emits only 2% of the pollutants of a car made in 1970. But particularly at the end of the book, Easterbrook throws this all away and begins berating us for problems that exist in a relative sense, something he spends the first part of the book shredding. He then begins rolling out typical old-time liberalism: mandated universal health insurance (pp 255-7); elimination of SUVs (pp 92,93); increase in the minimum wage to a "living wage" whatever that is (pp 260-3); Bush-favors-the-rich bashing (p 247); CEO bashing (p 266-77); subsidized housing for drug addicts (p 259); more foreign aid (309). And when he says that in the U.S. "millions of people not only have more than they need, but have, in many ways, more than is good for them" (p 258), then you should, as Robert J. Ringer would say, "Hold on to your chips," 'cuz he's coming after them.

* "Until the day when everyone is released from basic want, a sword will hang over Western abundance" (p 68). This from the guy that complains about "amplified anxiety" (p 111). Who will wield this sword anyway? And exactly who is going to "release" the whole world from basic want, and how are they going to get the money to do it?

* "A reason Western economies keep performing better may be that capitalism has been supplanted by market economies" (p 67). In response to that non sequitur, I would only ask, What kind of economy existed during capitalism then?

* SUVs are unsafe because an SUV is "more likely to harm the passengers in a car it collides with" (p 93). To *that* non sequitur, I'll only ask: What vehicle do *you* want to be in when you get into an accident?

* "But the mid-1990s rise of road rage coincided with the onset of SUV mania" (p 94). Ahem! Having lived in L.A. in the late 1980s, I can definitively refute that asinine comment.

* In the 1990s culture wars, "the right claimed the left was...opposed to reading of the classics" (p 103). Yeah -- that's absolutely correct. For instance, anyone remember the $20 million Bass Grant controversy with Yale? Hmm?

* "Each of the three Die hard movies...depicted dozens of police officers being gunned down" (p 115). Now this is a supposed fact that we can easily verify for accuracy. Let's see: counting the two special agent Johnsons, the helicopter pilot and two cops in the armored vehicle ("What do we have here...it seems the police have themselves an RV"), that comes to a grand total of five police officers killed. Add in the two rent-a-cops in the beginning of the movie just to be generous, and you're talking seven. Not exactly "dozens" is it? How can Easterbrook expect to have us take him seriously on the big facts when he can't get the small ones right?

* "...luck is simply part of life, but [we] should acknowledge this means that those who experience good luck acquire significant obligations to those who do not" (p 154). That sounds too much like a Dick Gephardt "lucky in life's lottery" line, which is a set-up for a soak-the-rich line. Easterbrook casually tosses this out without a discussion of premises (how exactly does one "acquire" an obligation to another person whom you have never met and who lives thousands of miles away?) as well as its practice (who is to distinguish luck from unequal effort?).

* "When free-market conservatives begin to suppose that something beyond the free market is necessary for human happiness, a threshold has come into view" (p 250). First off, is there such a thing as a free-market liberal? I can't think of one. Second off, I know a straw man when I see one. Conservatives, by definition, are the group that understands the importance of religion and culture, and not just free trade.

* When the U.S. based troops in Saudi Arabia, we were "asserting suzerainty over much of Islam's oil wealth"; American agents picked the current Saudi ruling family "with oil interests in mind" (p 297). Uh HUH. I guess that's why oil is so cheap right now, right? And invasion of one Moslem country by another had nothing to do with it. As for who got picked and why, I encourage Easterbrook to brush up on his post WW I history with a little Bernard Lewis.

* Mohammedan terrorists are compared to Timothy McVeigh: "the Christian ethos spawned its share of hideous killers, among them the terrorist Timothy McVeigh" (p 299). Unlike Easterbrook, apparently, I was alive and awake after 9/11, and the silence of the imams in America was deafening. Does Easterbrook think we don't know the difference between a nutjob like McVeigh and a current of religious thinking with tens of millions of adherents? Besides, when exactly did McVeigh say that Jesus told him kill all those people? Superficial, glib and sophomoric comparisons just make you look like a hack, an apologist or an idiot.

Overall, I have to give the book three stars because it gores so many of the left's sacred cows. You just don't find that in mainstream books, and it has to be recognized. But this achievement is marred by careless and inconsistent writing, and even occasionally by knee-jerk liberal cliches.

Y tu Mamá También [Unrated] (Widescreen Subtitled) [Import]
Y tu Mamá También [Unrated] (Widescreen Subtitled) [Import]
DVD ~ Maribel Verdú
Offered by polski_film
Price: CDN$ 17.90
16 used & new from CDN$ 1.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable, Dec 1 2003
My college English teacher was fond of saying that the American novel begins with Huckleberry Finn. *We* invented the rivertrip (then roadtrip) transformational genre. On that level, this movie succeeds brilliantly. Every road trip book or movie should be about transformation, whether it be "On the Road" or "Apocalypse Now" or my personal favorite, "Midnight Run." YTMT is faithful to the genre and had interesting, mostly believable characters to deal with. A couple of small points of dissent, however. I find the extremely long takes to be disturbing (think Hitchcock's "Rope"), and by the middle of the long takes I was struggling to see any minor flubs. The long takes actually took away from my suspension of disbelief, rather than enhanced it. Second, the omniscient voice-over I found to be unnecessary and manipulative. To me, it seemed principally to exist to provide snide, sotto voce political commentary. Unfortunately, in films it seems to be easier to tell us rather than show us.

First Meetings: In Ender's Universe
First Meetings: In Ender's Universe
by Orson Scott Card
Edition: Hardcover
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.10

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but needs tightening up, Sept. 22 2003
As a general principle, I agree with and applaud OSC's embellishment of the Enderverse. The characters he creates in the book "Ender's Game" (the novella of the same name has a great idea, but not terrific character development; it is, after, a novella and not a book) are worthy of examination. In "First Meetings" Card takes the concept to the next level, by creating mini-prequels of "The Polish Boy" for Ender's father, "Teacher's Pest" for Ender's mother and "Investment Counselor" for Ender's first encounter with Jane. The other novella is a reprint from Card's submission to Analog lo these many years ago, that started it all
Please take my criticisms in the spirit of an enthusiastic fan of OSC in general and the Enderverse in particular.
First, I thought that the book was too short. Card certainly has the capability (and, if you believe his autobiography, the compulsion) of writing more intricate, complicated and just plain longer materials. The first two novellas could have easily been a full-length novel.
Second, when you backfill like Card has with additional writings, you've got to make sure everything fits. I got the feeling in "Ender's Shadow" that Card was shoehorning Bean's actions in to fit in with "Ender's Game," but I couldn't pin down any specific contradiction between the two books. That's not the case with "Investment Counselor" and "Speaker For the Dead." I remember the first time I read "Speaker" that it seemed odd that Valentine would not know about Jane, since Valentine and Ender had for years shared an intimate relationship. How could Ender, and why would Ender, keep his relationship with Jane a secret? In chapter 18 of "Speaker," the following conversation via ansible takes places between Ender and Valentine:
Valentine: "There's apparently some kind of resistance movement that's helping us -- someone named Jane has jimmied the computers to cover our tracks."
"I know Jane."
"So you do have an organization there!"
Yet, Card has Valentine grumbling in "Investment Counselor" "I can't promise I won't get jealous though. Am I about to lose my brother to a piece of software?" to which Ender replies "Jane is nothing but a software program."

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