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The Man of Feeling
The Man of Feeling
by Javier Marias
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.00
18 used & new from $6.37

4.0 out of 5 stars Of memory and love, March 10, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Man of Feeling (Hardcover)
I'm a little surprised by the reviews above, both positive and negative, discouraging (or having the effect of discouraging) potential readers from picking up this book. It is an excellent introduction to Marias and an excellent novel. It has the hallmarks of his style, as I've come to know it: the reflective, slightly melancholy narrator, given to acute, but perhaps somewhat untrustworthy, dissection of psychology; and the capacity to turn quickly to a comic tone while leaving the reader wondering just how much he should be laughing. Not much "happens" in the story to outward appearances, but there is much to think about. A young opera singer writes by memory, refreshed by a dream, of a train trip he took to Madrid and subsequent stay there, while preparing for the role of Cassio in Verdi's "Otello," in which he meets three people: a beautiful young woman, her husband, and their companion. The multiple layers of dream and memory, and the narrator's odd courtship of a married woman while most of the time accompanied by her companion (but not her husband), allow Marias great flexibility in having the narrator reflect on the endeavor, his career, and past romance, and this in turn allows the reader a range of opportunities to reflect on love and memory as well. The style has an air of mystery about it -- as it should; the subject isn't entirely knowable and memory stands in the way to boot.

The whole of it by the way can be well-read (not just raced through) in about three hours. It's probably not Marias's best novel but it's very, very good, and anyone in the least intrigued will know where to go for more.


Elysium  (+UltraViolet Digital Copy)
Elysium (+UltraViolet Digital Copy)
DVD ~ Matt Damon
Price: $11.99
139 used & new from $0.01

7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overtly political SF, with tremendous action, August 11, 2013
This is a rip-roaring action picture, and the most overtly political SF I've ever seen, which is fine by me, so long as the heart is in the right place. And here it is.

In his "Discourse on Inequality," Rousseau holds in essence that inequality develops from the first perceived differences among men, and then is secured by those favored by such perceptions; thereafter inequality begets development and corruption which beget further inequality which begets development and corruption, and so on. The world of 2154, as imagined in "Elysium," is as if Rousseau were confirmed, and apparently by a pessimist to boot. The rich have left the ravaged Earth and its poor behind, to live on a space station, where they hoard all the resources, especially health care. But by the end of the picture we see that writer/director Neill Blomkamp has a more optimistic view of humanity and technology, and the capacity of the latter to serve noble aims. Along the way there are vicious parodies of contemporary inequality, the paranoid security state, the hyper-punitive criminal justice system, immigration paranoia -- pretty much everything out there deserving righteous indignation.

The plot is driven by action sequences almost as much as its central idea. If you think you've seen every gunfight, swordfight, and fistfight you'll ever want to see at the movies, then skip this, because it's got plenty. I thought they were tremendous, tense and involving, with inventive technology. In that regard, I'd say it's up there with the best of them, the best being probably "Aliens" and "District 9." A comment from another reviewer here, in a generally strong review, suggested that he was less impressed by the weaponry in this film than by "District 9." I respectfully disagree: Just as in Blomkamp's breakout film, "Elysium" is substantially enhanced by imaginative fight sequences and futuristic weaponry.

Matt Damon does a fine job, even if he's never challenged much by the script. Jodie Foster on the other hand is quite awkward, as if she was nervous or something during the making of it. It's a minor complaint though.

The film isn't subtle, and the broad arc of the storyline is of course predictable (though among genre pics, whose isn't?), but the several steps along the way are not. Anyhow it's not for everyone, but if you've been considering seeing it, don't let the criticism discourage you; see for yourself.


No Title Available

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good product, but what's up with the price here?, August 6, 2013
Great beverage, good ingredients, and a nice, refreshing taste, but $11 per bottle? My local Whole Foods sells them for $3 apiece. Something is wrong here.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 22, 2013 1:06 PM PDT


Missing Links: In Search of Human Origins
Missing Links: In Search of Human Origins
by John Reader
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $27.62
70 used & new from $6.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent history of discovery and interpretation in paleoanthropology, August 4, 2013
In considering this book, it's best to understand what it is, and what it is not -- I did not know when I bought it that instead of an up-to-date summary of paleoanthropology (physical anthropology, or the study of human evolution), this is instead a history of discovery. As a consequence it does not take you in a linear way through human evolution, and in fact one might complain, for example, about the relative lack of emphasis on Homo heidelbergensis, thought to be the ancestor of Homo sapiens. Still, Reader tells a colorful and rich set of stories, including discoveries real and misleading (e.g. Piltdown Man), providing along the way short biographies of the many characters who have pushed the science forward, or sideways or backward, in some cases. Reader is an excellent guide and tale-teller. The book jacket trumpets his photographs as well, and they're useful, but not breathtaking. Reproduction quality is decent but not art-book quality. More photos of the specimens described would be helpful. There's no question though that if you are interested in the subject, you'll enjoy the book and end up even more enthusiastic about it. In my case, I dashed off to the human evolution exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, and ordered a few more books to get more books on the latest evidence and interpretations.


Authorized Bootleg: Austin Texas 5/25/87
Authorized Bootleg: Austin Texas 5/25/87
Price: $11.18
31 used & new from $5.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robert Cray at his best!, April 23, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is Robert Cray at his absolute best, not long after the release of his breakthrough album "Strong Persuader." There are several tracks from that album as well as others from previous records which are still a bit less known but no less deserving. Everything sounds terrific -- Robert is in great voice, the guitar playing is alive and inventive, the band sounds terrific, and the recording is in excellent sound. If you are a fan of the artist, you MUST get this live recording.


The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set
The Beatles Stereo Vinyl Box Set
Price: $319.00
38 used & new from $284.23

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful set, good-sounding digital masters, some pressing issues, November 13, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
There are some early reports of pressing issues with this set, and indeed my copy of "Abbey Road" has got many problems, not least of which are some serious scuffing in the dead wax and an overall appearance akin to a used record. And sure enough it is very noisy -- defective output from the pressing plant, most likely. Online conversations suggest I'm not alone.

Now, with that out of the way, and assuming that gets resolved, this is a lovely set. The box and book are beautiful, the cover art all well done.

Most important, how do the masters sound? And where do they come from? There is some misinformation circulating about the sources, including claims that the vinyl records are transfers from CD. That is not the case. The transfers were made from unlimited 24-bit, 44.1kHz files which were the parent, so to speak, of the CD files, but the key difference is the lack of limiting that was felt to be necessary for the CD release. Tech specs aside, how do the records sound (at least those that are not defective)? Terrific, in my opinion -- excellent detail and clear bass. Sean Magee, the Abbey Road engineer responsible for the transfer, has stated that the intent was to replicate the sound of the original tapes, not necessarily the sound of the original LP releases, which would have been made with compression so that they could "compete" with other pop music in circulation at the time. I've never heard the original tapes of course, so I can't compare, but these cuts do sound true.

To sum up, assuming I can get a clean copy of my favorite album, this should work out wonderfully. For anyone like me, a fan of the band not already possessed of older, beloved vinyl versions of the albums, this is something you'll love to have.

EDIT: Please be sure to check out the comments thread below, where some other Amazon members have posted some very helpful information on the sources for various issues of the remasters, thoughts on this vinyl issue, etc. Thanks Amazon friends.
Comment Comments (13) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 17, 2012 6:34 AM PST


A Naked Singularity: A Novel
A Naked Singularity: A Novel
by Sergio de la Pava
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.35
87 used & new from $5.25

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's just incredible., September 3, 2012
I want to capture Sergio De La Pava for hours and get him to tell me how this book came to be and why it is the way it is. Failing that perhaps send copies to several friends willing to serve as readers and discussants. But in either case a full and satisfying explanation would be unlikely. This book may be beyond explaining. And I'm hardly up to the task myself, but I liked it so much I feel compelled to at least try to do it and the author a small favor by posting some praise here.

The novel was originally self-published several years ago, and apparently after getting some attention online it was picked up by the U. of Chicago Press and released in this paperback version. What a lucky break we got as readers when Chicago put its name on the spine and pushed the book into stores.

Let me get a quibble out of the way first. As another reviewer commented, at times there's too little differentiation among the characters' manners of speaking. Too often too many of them speak in the same rapid-fire, sardonic style. Still, it would be going too far to say they all sound alike all the time. And, more importantly, each of the major characters has his own clear outlook and moral position. The protagonist, Casi, sits at the center, where he shields his uncertainty with jokes; his amoral co-conspirator, Dane, stands to his left; and Melvyn Toomberg, Casi's perfectly right and perfectly nice colleague in the public defender's office, stands to his right. All three are sculpted in detail and Casi is fully in the round. Even minor characters are memorable and unmistakable despite there being almost too many to keep count.

And what a wonder they all are to watch and listen to! Amidst a hyper-real satire of the criminal justice system there are practical exegeses on philosophy and physics, better than you would find in a cafe of grad students; a mini-biography of the boxer Wilfred Benitez, tracing the arc of his life in parallel to the course of the novel; a hilarious x-ray of a first date, and the funniest scatological story I've ever read; a family story encapsulating the contemporary immigrant experience; and, at the novel's core, a crime story, involving money, drugs, and not guns but swords, so riveting you'll need oxygen or resuscitation when you've made it through. It contains multitudes, but it's not the work of a show-off. It's well-plotted, and even the digressions are purposeful. Thinking back on it all, I'm sure Sergio De La Pava could have gotten the book sold earlier, the usual way, if he'd made some cuts. But I'm grateful he didn't.

Is the ending entirely satisfactory? I'm still thinking about that one, and whether the balance between realism and post-modernism tilts too far in one direction. I'll be thinking about it all for a while. But that's a good sign.

Five stars aren't nearly enough. This book swallows stars like, well, a singularity.


Early Piano Works
Early Piano Works
Price: $13.04
27 used & new from $4.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite wonderful and pleasing, February 4, 2012
This review is from: Early Piano Works (Audio CD)
I hesitated before purchasing this album as I was not sure whether the music would be more of interest to scholars than listeners, but it's really quite wonderful. The pieces consist mainly of shorter works Scriabin composed during his student days and time as an Army cadet (his teenaged years). Pianist Stephen Coombs provides a mini-biography of Scriabin in this period in an intelligent liner note, which incorporates a brief musical analysis of each piece. As other Amazon reviewers have said, the predominant influence sounds like Chopin, particularly in the Waltzes and Nocturnes. But they don't by any means come across as inferior rip-offs. There is also an alternate version of the well-known Etude in D-sharp minor, which Coombs plays with effective restraint, in a marked contrast to most performances of the version commonly heard (e.g. by Horowitz). One Amazon reviewer of the earlier CD issue of this recital disliked it, and took a gratuitous and fatuous swipe at Coombs's technique; she plainly missed the point of the album, as well as the abundant evidence of Coombs's ample ability. Anyone intrigued by Scriabin or late Romantic Russian music should not hesitate to pick this up.


Phase 7 (Bloody Disgusting Selects)
Phase 7 (Bloody Disgusting Selects)
DVD ~ Daniel Hendler
Price: $6.24
41 used & new from $2.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic film, tense, and hilarious, January 3, 2012
I saw "Phase 7" last year at the Philadelphia Film Festival's "Danger After Dark," a short series of genre films. It was my favorite from that lineup and one of my favorite movies from all of last year. The plot is simple -- after the outbreak of an epidemic, a goofy, clueless young guy and his pregnant wife are quarantined inside their medium-sized apartment building -- and so are the occupants of about a half-dozen other apartments. The film is fairly low budget, but doesn't look cheap, except during the violent scenes, which is fine because a bit less realism makes it easier to swallow anyway. But I love the film for building its story on this question: What happens if the paranoid nut in the apartment next door turns out to be the best friend you could have? Coco is a lovable clown and the film is funny and gripping at the same time. Anyone who isn't turned off by reading subtitles should check it out!


Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro II USB Analog & Digital Audio Adapter
Turtle Beach Audio Advantage Micro II USB Analog & Digital Audio Adapter
Price: $26.36
60 used & new from $18.36

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Jitterbug, September 21, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This item should be for convenience only. I can't say for sure that I know the problem is jitter, but I can tell you that what is described to be the sonic shortcomings of jitter -- bright, glassy, metallic sound with artifacts -- is exactly what I heard from this device. There are plenty of USB DACs available now for a bit more money, but it would be money well spent if you have a decent setup and are interested in sound quality. Pass on this one unless you're looking for a temporary hookup.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 4, 2013 8:23 AM PDT


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