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Family Genesis
Family Genesis
Offered by NANA-Ichiba-JPN
Price: $39.99
63 used & new from $3.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nintendo comes back, August 9, 2008
This review is from: Family Genesis (Audio CD)
For kids growing up during 80s, Nintendo was the thing in Japan. It could only generate three tones (plus some noise) at once, but the tremendous effort, creativity, as well as techniques by the sound programmers back then made the platform surprisingly expressive -- just listen to Super Mario Brothers. Nintendo game music is a perfect example of limitations breeding creativity. To me, the seemingly simple music has attained as much depth and structure as baroque music in the process of overcoming the software as well as hardware limitations. Also, the PSG sounds are themselves quite unique, something that has been lost amid the sampling craze since 90s.

YMCK understands what makes Nintendo sounds so appealing, and by following the musical limitations, they successfully recreate music that is their own. The cute vocals add distinct J-Pop flavors to the songs. If you grew up playing original Nintendo, this album provides you with an opportunity to reminisce the old days. Highly recommended (but try to get it cheaper elsewhere!).

Bulletproof Web Design: Improving flexibility and protecting against worst-case scenarios with XHTML and CSS
Bulletproof Web Design: Improving flexibility and protecting against worst-case scenarios with XHTML and CSS
by Dan Cederholm
Edition: Paperback
87 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very practical and offers excellent practices, August 5, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I have been a so-called "table monkey" and have been longing to become a human being. So I picked up this book.

Throughout the text, the emphasis is placed in creating an XHTML/CSS page that does not break, when the user environment and/or the browser setting are not what the site designer expect or anticipated. At first I was a little skeptical of the author's rather strict adherence to the design that does not break in situations such as, say, a user uses a very large font setting for better readability; such a consideration may be of little importance nowadays, since even Firefox 3 now "zooms" in and out the entire page contents by default, not just text fonts. Furthermore, for many web developers under pressure to produce web sites that just work "well enough" for most reasonable cases, it does seem like the practices that are recommended in this book seem to take a little more care and time than desired.

However, all the design ideas presented in this book are very well thought out, and it actually does not take much extra effort to implement, once a designer gets used to them. I am in the process of updating my web design skills from what I knew as a table monkey, and I assure that this book offers plenty of enlightenment to those in similar situations as I am. Good thing is that once I learned the techniques presented in the book, I can come up with other effective ways to use CSS to fine tune layouts. Using HTML tables still offer some advantage if you need to support older nonstandard-compliant (Microsoft) browsers, but the flexibility of CSS just cannot be beaten if the site designs require extreme attention to detail.

The only drawback is that the presentation of the XHTML/CSS codes is slightly too meticulous and verbose for someone who is already very proficient in reading them. It is also not a cheap book for the amount of contents. Highly recommended, especially considering that the good CSS support in most modern browsers has started allow us to transform ourselves from table supermonkeys to CSS subhuman.

CliffsQuickReview Physics
CliffsQuickReview Physics
by Linda Huetinck
Edition: Paperback
128 used & new from $0.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Does more harm than good, July 28, 2008
I picked up this one when I needed refresher for a tutoring job that I took on recently. I have an advanced degree in physics and have been a teaching assistant at the university level for this type of physics, so I do qualify to review this book.

One of the major reason why I tried Cliff's Quick Review was that I had a very good experience with a couple of their high school math review books, namely geometry and pre-calculus. I was expecting to give me very quick overviews of what I remember learning but have since forgotten about the details. They did not disappoint.

The physics version, however, is an entirely different story. While it does give you a very superficial refresher of equations and concepts on most topics, the discussions are not very thorough and often erroneous. In fact, I became angry reading the authors' very half-baked discussions and descriptions. The diagrams, which to my mind are very important to visually understand physics, are not very meticulously drawn and sometimes wrong. Especially horrendous is the chapters on modern physics (nuclear physics, special relativity, etc.). At times I do not think that the authors even understand about what they are writing. For example, to understand special relativity, it is crucial that one properly identifies which are the observed and the rest-frame quantities, but the authors do not elaborate the point and just write down equations. It is a good thing few high school instructors emphasize those topics that students do not have to learn from the chapters from this book.

Overall, it is very clear that this book lacked proper editing by capable hands. One of those books that should not be recommended.

Math Workout for the New SAT (College Test Preparation)
Math Workout for the New SAT (College Test Preparation)
by Princeton Review
Edition: Paperback
127 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful and to the point for the SAT math part, April 7, 2008
I am not sure why the book gets bad reputations from previous reviewers. Maybe the newest printing that I own did smooth out all the editing kinks that were mentioned in those bad reviews. I have gone through about half of all the problems myself and probably found only a couple potential mistakes in them (though my reading has been cursory I must admit).

To make it short, if you want to take practice exams and get the feel for what kind of questions you may encounter in the "real" exam, there is absolutely no substitute for working with the copies of real exams or using the prep book published by whoever makes the real exam (i.e., ETS). I high recommend that approach.

However, I strongly think that Princeton Review delivers here in developing effective test-taking strategies and techniques. While I was in need of taking SAT, I did superbly on the math part without knowing these things, since I had a strong math background already. Now I am tutoring and reviewing these weird trick questions for which ETS is known for, I must say that the techniques work even for the students without strong mathematical foundations, and probably save a lot of time without doing full algebra.

On the book, I feel the harder problems tend to be a little more difficult than what the real SAT would ever have. There are also quite a few problems that are a bit obscure, perhaps due to Princeton Review's attempt to imitate the funky ability of ETS to make up weird questions, which test whatever ETS thinks is the "scholastic aptitude."

Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China
Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China
by Guy Delisle
Edition: Hardcover
29 used & new from $13.62

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lovely drawing work, but a somewhat subpar story, December 21, 2007
I have read both Delisle's travelogues, Shenzhen and Pyongyang. Pyongyang was on enigmatic North Korea and interested me even purely because so few information come out of that country. To be able to see (weird) North Korea from a regular traveler's standpoint (even though Delisle was on a work assignment, which he was again at Shenzhen) was curious and very refreshing. On the other hand, Shenzhen, while Delisle's keen attentions to cultural details still shine through his wonderful drawing, somewhat lacks that curiosity factor. The story is filled with more of the portrayal of his loneliness in a foreign land, where he can hardly communicate with anyone. I feel Shenzhen is a sort of a more realistic version of the movie "Lost in Translation." The book still receives a very high mark for its artistic value, but if I were to choose only one between two of Delisle's travelogues, it has to be Pyongyang.

Bach By Design
Bach By Design

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An interesting idea made unenjoyable by performance, January 2, 2007
This review is from: Bach By Design (Audio CD)
This is quite an interesting project; I almost wish that I had access to some sort of text explaining exactly what kind of codes are used to produce the music where the styles are "learned" from the past musical greats. The booklet describes the impressions from Cope himself, but they do not go much beyond impressions and are not very useful in knowing what makes things succeed and not succeed in imitating certain musical styles by a computer.

The performance is less than desirable; all the piano pieces sound as if they are played by a MIDI instrument coded with all the "velocity" setting at a constant value. Hence this one really fails as a recording; it sounds like the CD is worth getting only if it happens to be available at library.

by Jeffrey Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.49
47 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A heart-warming tale of things happening day-to-day, October 14, 2006
This review is from: Clumsy (Paperback)
Jeffrey Brown's drawing is so uniquely "awful" that it just really stands out when shown among the works of other "well-trained" artists. That is exactly how I first noticed his work in one of McSweeney's Quarterly Concerns. I am not sure if they are intended to be, but Brown's total disregard to human anatomy (i.e., human arms or legs cannot be bent in certain ways, not to mention their lengths vary from page-to-page; sometimes I cannot help contrasting Brown's characters to octopuses, haha) makes the whole thing enjoyable purely as really poor drawings.

I must say, however, his style of drawing is so matching with his tale of unpretentious love and attendant uncertainties and, ultimately, loneliness, to the extent that the story cannot be told in a better way --- James Kochalka's review uses the word "frailty" to describe Brown's line and story, and I cannot agree more. It is really a nice break from the kind of unrealistic relationships portrayed in movies or novels. Brown's story does make you recall things from your past, especially those parts that were clumsy.

Grado Prestige Series SR125i Headphones (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Grado Prestige Series SR125i Headphones (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Offered by Wazingo
Price: $199.99
6 used & new from $158.00

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ignorance was bliss, January 16, 2006
I am not one of those who afford high-end audio equipments, so my review here inevitably is based on a more casual usage, mostly portable. While some may argue using a set of low-end audiophile headphone like Grado SR125 would be overkill, the clarity of details you can hear with it is simply amazing. Mind you, the improvement could be only subtle in the beginning if you have been so used to one of those sub-$50 headset; I had such a bloated expectation that I couldn't really hear the improvement I was anticipating.

I don't even try to attribute it to some geeky process of "burning in," etc., but over time I started realizing my ears had been so used to the quality of consumer grade headphones. After a stint of listening to music with SR125, I really notice now that the sound reproduction of my previous headphones is not accurate at all---muddled in mid range with boomy bass. When I want to enjoy the subtle tones and the art of mixing, I definitely need SR125 to hear that.

Some audiophile reviews mention this, but Grado can be tiring for ears. I think this can be true for music that are intense on treble emphasis or with lots of noise element; this is partly a price you pay for excellent clarity. Also, the headphones are not a very good companion on the go; rather bulky cords gets in the way, and the open design means external ambient noise blends annoyingly with your music. On the other hand, I feel the headset is comfortable enough to wear, contrary to many reviews on Grado products.

Overall, the gain in sound quality over cheap headsets is worth it for me---you will definitely hear the difference; I feel I'm sacrificing sound quality a bit when I have to pick up my old headphones on the go just for the portable convenience.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 14, 2008 9:17 PM PDT

Japanese Story (Special Edition)
Japanese Story (Special Edition)
DVD ~ Toni Collette
26 used & new from $5.84

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very good acting by Collette, but the story needs some spice, January 3, 2006
I must have been so out of choices to watch a film featuring yet another boring Japanese businessman and how funny he appears through the glasses of Western culture; this was my first assumption, hopefully to be betrayed. In the beginning of the movie I was kind of pissed that the film totally followed my expectation and portrayed the poor Japanese guy as someone so boring and out of synch with the situation. I find a bit disturbing that such a stereotype is so prevalent that it is almost assumed that the audience does share the same view on a typical Japanese guy in business suits (otherwise how would we assume he so needed to be liberated).

Of course this is not an 80s movie, so it is not that the movie is trying to promote the stereotype for the sheer enjoyment. But the issue that I kept maintaining as the story went (a man and a woman put together in uninhabited places --- what else can you expect) us the fact that it is not clear at all to me how Sandy could find a connection to Hiromitsu. I guess the concept of polar opposite personalities finding connections would have been interesting, but it seemed to me that Sandy's emotional transition wasn't clearly elaborated.

Another issue is with the music. The vocal tracks used in the soundtrack are music of Okinawa, not the prototypical Japanese traditional songs. Okay, they still sound beautiful and who cares, but for someone who actually can hear the difference, I did not get the connection if the movie somehow wanted to sound Japanese. If anything, Hiromitsu should've just gone to Okinawa and find polar opposite of modern Japan driven by the corporate giants. That might have erased some of the rather sad stereotypical assumptions that you have to maintain about the Japanese businessman to enjoy the movie. Though that would not have sold to the Western audience.

Overall, I didn't really enjoy the movie except Collette's acting, which is very mature. I thought the movie could convey a similar message more convincingly if the setting was not so out of place.

Neo Geo
Neo Geo
27 used & new from $4.25

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gets better as you listen more music, January 1, 2006
This review is from: Neo Geo (Audio CD)
First time I got this album was like early-90s when I was just plain curious about Sakamoto the musician. My appreciation of music in general was not very mature at that time, and could not really understand what the deal was with this album. Always a bit of technophile, I plainly liked synth music, and Sakamoto, being a member of legendary Y.M.O., had always an appeal to me as a musician who has the mastery of using synthesizers. But I simply couldn't feel the aesthetics of combining Okinawan music, funk, rock, among others.

Since then I really started listening to a variety of music, and found myself liking the kinds of music I never thought I would enjoy so much---punk, funk, hip-hop, electro, fusion, to name a few. Then I came back to this album and this time I thought, what a creative combination of music! Sakamoto has always had his style of maintaining chic, mellow chordal progressions and it is still there in most of his tracks in the album, yet the whacky noisy production of typical Bill Laswell, throbbing baseline of Bootsy Collins, and that deep vocal from Iggy Pop strike a right balance, adding an intriguing array of new flavors to Sakamoto's classically-trained sophistication.

I haven't heard anyone doing Japanese- or more Okinawan-funk better than this album. I guess East-Asian music are not very known for syncopated rhythms, but they actually sound good. Just listen to Neo Geo and Shogunade.

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