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Susan E. Wood "Susan" (Rochester, MI USA)
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Angels & Demons
Angels & Demons
by Dan Brown
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.99
404 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars An alternate universe, June 20 2004
To give Brown the credit he deserves, a lot of tourists in Rome will have fun checking out the locations and monuments he describes in the course of this book. But I hope they don't try to follow the directions they supposedly encode, or they'll end up wandering in confused circles somewhere out in the suburbs of Rome. Since Brown seems to know the city fairly well, let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it's poetic license, but he rotates several works of sculpture 180 degrees, puts the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria on the wrong piazza, gives the piazza the wrong shape and puts the wrong fountain in it. So by the time he asks us to believe that a man can survive a two mile fall from a helicopter without a parachute, it's not that much farther of a stretch. By the time he gets to his colossal blooper about the Church's policy on artificial insemination, he's made so many ludicrous plot twists that you'll hardly care anymore.
Brown does know how to create a suspenseful yarn, and to make you keep turning the page, even when you hate yourself for falling for such obvious gimmicks, like the cliff-hanger chapter ending, followed by change of scene in the next chapter. Sometimes, the manipulations are more than just tacky, however, as when the heroine (white, need you ask) is in danger of being ravished by a swarthy Arab villain, who has the nerve to want to rape and kill her before the hero gets HIS rightful chance to take her to bed.

Classical Wedding Traditions
Classical Wedding Traditions
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 37.44
8 used & new from CDN$ 29.67

3.0 out of 5 stars Helpful for getting ideas, March 12 2004
This is a very helpful compilation of traditional wedding music, if you're trying to decide what to use. But personally, I don't think I'll use this CD itself for the ceremony. (I'm having an outdoor service, so recorded music is the way to go; an organist or pianist isn't a practical option). All the pieces are taken at a very slow, sedate tempo. That might be good for a large ceremony with a lot of bridesmaids who need time to get down the aisle. However, for Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary (aka the Prince of Denmark March) I prefer the more upbeat performance on the Canadian Brass's album "High, Bright, Light and Clear," and for the recessional, I'm going to use the allegro from Handel's Water Music, in the Tafelmusik recording.

Songs of the Polka King, Vol. 1
Songs of the Polka King, Vol. 1
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 74.95
6 used & new from CDN$ 29.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Zivili brace, zivili sestra, March 10 2004
On St. Patrick's Day everyone wants to be Irish, and listening to this album may make you wish you were Polish. Even if you don't know how to polka, it's almost impossible to stay still when you hear these joyous, infectiously bouncy dance tunes. Frankie Yankovic and a lot of guest stars, including Drew Carey and Weird Al Yankovic (his son, I presume?) sing these old favorites with great gusto.
I bought this album because my fiance was talking nostalgically about the ethnic music programs he used to hear on the radio in his childhood, back when local radio really was local, and not homogenized Clearchannel pop. This music brings back a lot of great memories.

The Da Vinci Code: A Novel
The Da Vinci Code: A Novel
by Dan Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.69
420 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable malarkey, Nov. 21 2003
As a Holy Grail adventure, this book is every bit as entertaining as "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," though maybe not quite as good as "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." As scholarship, though --- weeeeeell, put it this way: Da Vinci is not Leonardo's name. It's the description of where he came from. Calling him "Da Vinci" is rather like those scenes in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" in which the time-traveling heroes address Billy the Kid as "Mr. The Kid."
Still, if you can accept the existence of an alternative universe in which serious art historians refer to "Da Vinci" and Harvard pays people good money to teach new-age "Symbology" and French scholars leave elaborate paper-chase clues in doggerell English verse, then this is an enjoyable if totally improbable thriller. (A sedentary, bookish man can go without sleep for 48 hours and still outwit the most sophisticated law-enforcement agencies in Europe?????) But I do hope that people who read this book won't believe that Mary Magdalene was "the Holy Grail," generally regarded as a crackpot theory, or that the tomb of Mary Magdalene can be found where the book claims it can, which will be a major headache for the poor custodians who supervise that actual location. I won't give away any more of the plot, except to say that if you know Roger Ebert's "law of character economy" you will be able to figure out who the mysterious master-mind is well before the end.
But if you want to read a REALLY scholarly (albeit deadly dull) novel on themes like the Holy Grail, the Goddess, and the Knights Templar, read "Foucault's Pendulum" by Umberto Eco.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Bilingual)
Journey to the Center of the Earth (Bilingual)
DVD ~ James Mason
Price: CDN$ 6.99
33 used & new from CDN$ 3.33

4.0 out of 5 stars I had very good taste at the age of 8!, Sept. 5 2003
Seeing this movie at a kiddie matinee one rainy Saturday afternoon was a formative experience. My brother and I played "Journey to the Center of the Earth" for weeks afterward on the hill behind our house. And most of it has worn extremely well, although being the jaded, post-Spielberg adult that I now am, I can't help noticing the difference between the authentic Carlsbad Cavern locations in some sets and the styrofoam rocks on Hollywood sound stages in others. But who cares? In my childhood, I already knew that the geological premise here was mistaken but happily suspended disbelief, and I'm glad to do it again for an enthralling, well-acted adventure story, especially one featuring interesting characters like an eccentric professor, a gallant young man who can sing, a beautiful, spunky woman, a loyal strong-man and a duck with a terrific sense of direction.
Oh by the way, for you younger viewers, did you think Indiana Jones was the first action hero to flee a huge, rolling boulder in a narrow chasm? Find out where Lucas and Spielberg got that, along with a lot of other set-pieces, when you watch this great old flick.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (Bilingual)
The Day the Earth Stood Still (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Michael Rennie
Price: CDN$ 6.99
39 used & new from CDN$ 4.28

5.0 out of 5 stars 8/14/03: Klaatu strikes again!, Aug. 29 2003
I wonder whether there was a run on this movie after the great blackout of 2003? You could pretty much guess the ages of most Baby Boomers by whether we were going around muttering "Klaatu barada nikto" between August 14 and 16. It's humbling to be reminded, over fifty years after this movie was made, how helpless we are when deprived of our sources of artificial energy, and how vulnerable. And that's just one of many reasons why this movie is still timely.
Despite the fact that the Cold War and the nuclear arms race between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. are long over, this is a movie that has worn extremely well. For one thing, the black and white photography is beautiful, and the shots elegantly composed, and all that comes across extremely well on DVD. For another, the human story (or perhaps I should say, human-E.T. story) is quite emotionally engaging; the alien ambassador Klaatu is a thoroughly sympathetic character who engages your emotions almost immediately, and his friendship with the young son of the Patricia Neal character is charming. (Come to think of it, that relationship might have inspired the core story of Spielberg's E.T.) The special effects are fairly simple, but they work well enough to make the story believable; it's refreshing to see a science fiction movie that doesn't depend largely on CGI, explosions and chase scenes for its existence. And the use of the theremin in the score is brilliant. So many elements of science fiction movies that later became cliches were still quite original when this movie was made, and they became cliches later mainly because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Anyway, great flick. If you're too young to remember it, don't miss it on DVD.

Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right
by Al Franken
Edition: Hardcover
102 used & new from CDN$ 0.28

4.0 out of 5 stars Balm to the liberal soul, Aug. 29 2003
Is Al Franken fair to conservatives? No way. Is he balanced? About as balanced as Fox news. Is he funny? Yes! Do his targets richly deserve his combination of angry satire and factual refutation of some of their more outragous spin? Absolutely! After being spammed on e-mail with columns by Ann "anyone who disagrees with the John Birch society is a traitor" Coulter and some of the more ludicrous conservative "urban legends," after trying repeatedly to explain to people that Al Gore did NOT claim to invent the Internet or to have discovered Love Canal, or that he was telling the truth when he said that he was one of the models for the character of Oliver in "Love Story," only to have them flatly refuse to believe it even when they see the correct quotes in context, I was ready to read a book like this. The sad part is that the people who need to see him dissect those dishonest "arguments" and character assassinations won't have the attention span to make their way through even a single chapter of this book. But for those of us who have had to listen to conservatives openly gloating that 9/11 was a "cataclysm" for liberalism, and that no patriotic American could possibly disagree with a president who looks good in a flight suit, it's a great morale booster.

Best in Show (Widescreen)
Best in Show (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Parker Posey
Price: CDN$ 6.60
41 used & new from CDN$ 1.46

4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and all too true, Aug. 2 2003
This review is from: Best in Show (Widescreen) (DVD)
If you've read Vickie Hearne's book "Adam's Task," about training and communicating with animals, you'll know that the types of dog-owners in this movie are all too real, especially the neurotic yuppies who make their poor Weimarauner crazy and almost start World War III over a lost squeaky-toy. The idiotic dog-show announcer is a sort of stand-in for the rest of us, since he asks all the stupid questions about dogs that we might think of, but would have too much sense to actually say out loud. Like all good satires, "Best in Show" makes you think as well as laugh, but do enjoy the laughs.

Mara, Daughter of the Nile
Mara, Daughter of the Nile
by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.08
61 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars New generation of readers, meet Mara!, April 11 2003
When I was in junior high school, I read this book and loved it. In fact, I read it over and over, and recently sent a copy to my niece as a 12th birthday gift. Mara, the spunky 17-year-old slave girl, is a wonderful role model for adolescent girls: far from perfect (in fact, rather devious), but brave and eventually quite heroic as she risks death rather than betray the people and ideals that she loves. I'm not entirely happy with the fact that Queen Hatshepsut, another feminist heroine of mine, was the villain of this novel. For the record, the real Hatshepsut ruled Egypt for many years of peace and prosperity, and as far as we know, died peacefully of old age. Her stepson (NOT her brother) Thutmose then destroyed her statues and inscriptions in a fit of petulant pique, but did not overthrow her.
Still, who cares? This version makes a wonderful, swashbuckling story, and also provides an excellent introduction to the culture of ancient Egypt for kids who are curious about its history.

The Others (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
The Others (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Nicole Kidman
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 30.28
36 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars But did you guess ALL the plot twists?, July 3 2002
SPOILER ALERT: don't read this review unless you have seen the film. As one earlier reviewer has observed, you can figure out one major plot twist about halfway through, but I think you're supposed to. When the missing and presumed dead husband turns up walking and acting like a zombie, and says he's come to say goodbye, it becomes obvious when Kidman throws her arms around him that either he's still alive (unlikely) or that neither of them are. But the question still remains to be resolved, who are these frightening "others" in the house that no one except the little girl can see, and what are they doing there? The final twist was very effective, IMHO, and surprised me even though I had seen The Sixth Sense. What really makes this movie work, however, isn't just the story, which would have fallen apart in lesser hands, but the excellent direction and performances by the entire cast, with special kudos to Kidman, who creates a wonderfully ambiguous character, and a couple of excellent child actors. Like The Sixth Sense, this movie uses its slow pacing to build up a relentless mood of suspense, and the typical reaction at the end is "Wow!"

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