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The Kitchen [Explicit]
The Kitchen [Explicit]
Price: $8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hiero's Immortality, August 20, 2013
This review is from: The Kitchen [Explicit] (MP3 Music)
An interesting part of being any sort of immortal entity is that the times change around you. When I got into Hiero, the world was fundamentally different. No 9/11, no global recession, in many ways a brighter environment to enjoy music in. In that world, Hiero was a star. Third Eye Vision is in the top 5 of hip hop albums, and that's applying charity to everyone else out there. But the world has changed, and Hiero has somewhat had to change with the world. That's liable to happen when you are in the game for 20 years.

Music-wise, this release is about as good as Hiero's previous efforts. The album delivers the same sort of funky, underground beats on the two earlier albums, and the distribution of lyrical responsibility is similar to Full Circle. I was concerned about who "The Sleeprockers" were, but they make some interesting musical collaborators. Note the ending to Partly Me, which on first listen seems like a CD malfunction, but now seems like some talented spinning out weighting the quality of the song. Watch how a Del spit in Golden later becomes an intro to a song. The Sleeprockers' presence on this album is similar to Automator on Deltron 3030. In the Hiero world, that's high praise.

Content wise, however, this seems weaker than earlier Hiero efforts. Hiero has it's origins in freestyle battles, sure, but it's been 20 years, and keeping up with the crew, I know that several now have masters degrees, and most have families. You'd figure that would be a wellspring for a lot of interesting experience and storytelling, but the content has remained at best similar, and at worst has regressed. Compare "At The Helm" to this album's "That Merch." One is an ultra insightful delving into human existential agility delivered by Hiero standout Del. Pep Love's stand and deliver solo effort is likewise well delivered, but essentially what he's talking about is busting caps (Gun Fever) and boinking bitches (that he met at the merch booth, in the car In "All is above so be low") and the same mercantile bragging as we could get in a Lil Wayne or Jay Z release. Ironically, the album's standout verse is delivered by the Hiero member that on Third Eye Vision seemed the most like a "typical" rapper. The verse in question is Casual's quixotic Madden playing in the face of grating family responsibility, and it is one of the moments on the album where music and rapping seem to be at the level we might expect from a mature Hiero crew.

I may sound critical, but that's just because my expectations of these guys are so high. When they do well, like Third Eye Vision, they are the best, but their brand has been tainted a bit by one too many "Eleventh Hours," and they need to realize that only by releasing innovative music and lyrics, will they be able to combat a fan base that is aging, hurting for money, and moving on to other things, and a music industry that has radically altered since they began their imperium. I enjoyed this album greatly, and it's a common move for me to turn off the radio when I hear Hiero "fan" Mackelmore, and submerge myself in some real hip hop such as Gun Fever or Golden, but I still find myself wanting better.

The History of China (The Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations)
The History of China (The Greenwood Histories of the Modern Nations)
by David Curtis Wright
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $47.45
25 used & new from $27.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dominion of the Tyrants, February 28, 2013
It should be stated that this look at China's history is focused not on military, not on art, but rather, the diplomatic and political side of China's history. In this context, David does an admirable job of traveling from China's Shang barbarians, to the people's republic so influential today. Interesting facts abound. As an American, I found the Yaun dynasty, an instance where China was invaded, and captured completely, only to preserve the Chinese national identity, fascinating. Likewise for Wright's portrayal of China's self perception. Independent America would never bow to the Chinese as the world's center. But Wright portrays historical moments where China put themselves at a disadvantage as another party kowtowed subserviently.A lesson to be learned from the stubborn west? Perhaps. But there is another central theme, that Wright does a good job of explicating, just beneath the surface.To state the theme here would negate the need to read this book. I'll just say It's a lofty theme that grants a great deal of hope for the future of the ancient nation and it's people.

Halo 4 - Xbox 360 (Standard Game)
Halo 4 - Xbox 360 (Standard Game)
Offered by Jim's Electronics
Price: $11.40
516 used & new from $5.99

9 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Ruined, December 15, 2012
I want to focus on the single player campaign. I actively debated buying Halo 4, or renting it at a Redbox. I'm aversive to renting things, figuring that if it's great, I'll end up buying it and spend more money in the long run. That being said, I was a little short on cash, so I rented Halo 4. The dollar or two I spent at the redbox saved me 40 or so in the long run.

Halo 1 was a classic. It reminded me of Contra on the NES, a mindless
Romp vs aliens. Halo 2 actually managed to construct a plot around that conflict, and had enough new gameplay elements that it was likewise legendary. Halo 3 was less impressive, but still closed out the franchise in a satisfying way.

Halo has been the product of Bungie and 343, Bungie left the scene, and boy are they missed. It starts out promising. There's a really interesting cutscene about the master chief's battlefield supremacy, followed by a rousing chase through the doomed spaceship Chief and Cortana are stuck on. Soon after this, things fall apart.

The bad guys in this are the forerunners, who act like gods in Ancient Greek clothing. It's very similar to FF12's plot twists. There, it served the story. Here, it just stagnated the game nonsensically. The forerunners are served by Knights, who look strait out of Zone of the Enders with lighted armor, along with covenant backup. Why did the covenant side with these guys? I have no clue. And that's a pretty important story question. The covenant has personality. The panicky grunts, samurai elites, and barbarian brutes. These new guys have no dialogue, only robotic noises that to be honest were pretty grating. I longed for the Australian in Halo 2, making quips as the chief burned through enemy ranks. Here the sound is just nasty discords.

Because the writer of this can't write, he can't write Cortana's quips, so they give her a computer malfunction, and with it, pathetic dialogue like: "chief I'm splitting myself apart, arrrtgh!" She comes across like a bad wife or girlfriend, that the developers cling to because they aren't intelligent enough to move away. You'd figure after MGS2's complaints, a figure like this wouldn't pop up in a mainstream videogame. Unfun, like the pathetic last boss showdown.

343 should be ashamed of themselves. The quality of this game, compared to the last few, shames the franchise. In my case, renting this at redbox was a genius move. A dollar spent, 39 unspent, and I can walk away from the ruins of a once great videogame franchise.

Ready Player One: A Novel
Ready Player One: A Novel
by Ernest Cline
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.96
104 used & new from $6.87

12 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful., July 11, 2012
This book might go on my least favorite books of all time list. Let me walk you through this.

Non-existent characters.
The main character likes 80's stuff and is a teenager. He has a best friend, and an online crush. They are aided by two Japanese stereotypes. They fight against a corporate square who kills people. That really is all you learn about these characters. Why do I hate it? No depth. Come on, video game characters have more dimensions than this. This guy makes Edward Cullen seem like he's got the depth of Hamlet. At least Edward had a noticeable voice.

Lack of Creativity
Every action is based on the work of someone else. Monty Python. George Lucas. Blizzard Entertainment. Having recently written, that's an incredible cop out to me. This guy really hasn't even made a literary world for himself. He just rummaged through pop culture like it was a trash can, selected it, and copied it. Lame.

Mary Sue and her Deus Ex Machina
I almost puked at the scene that made a villain out of a guy who didn't know 80's culture well. That some sort of joke? Any objective person would say "who gives a crap" as to what video games came out in 1987. And his bashing of people who call tech support was likewise funny. Can't you look up the problem on the Internet? Uh... That's why I'm calling you. My Internet isn't working. Reminds me of a garbage man who said: "you think it's our job to just pick up stuff for you?" Yup. It's so obvious this guy isn't able to separate himself from his subject matter. That's to the detriment of the entire book, it makes everything one note. Likewise, everything is "solved" by the character's 80's pop culture knowledge, which he happens to have in the right amounts at the right times. I'm supposed to believe that 2044 people are obsessed with joust? I can't even interest GTA3 fans in GTA2...

Lame Plot Twists-
Oh no! Crappy Japan Man 2 died! His trailer park, with a bunch of cardboard cutouts blew up! Just like Star Wars! Eff you.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 12, 2014 12:23 PM PST

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter
Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter
by Tom Bissell
Edition: Hardcover
106 used & new from $0.44

7 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not A Fan, June 19, 2012
So glad I found this at a library and not a bookstore. It's very redeeming that I didn't have to pay for this book, which is more an author's self reflection than an effort to say anything. Other reviewers have stated that the subtitle "why games matter" is ignored. Boy is it ever, and worse, it's actually refuted, by the authors portrait of his coke-addled, selfish lifestyle.

Bishnell really should have used that substance abuse break to learn how to address his audience. He descends into descriptions of his left for dead play where he saves his team. No one cares. He is easily distracted by the ferraris the people he interviews. He does nothing to prove that he's an authority on what he's talking about. He discusses GTA Vice City as his induction into the Grand Theft Auto series. The game before it had most of the paradigm shifts he endorses, in fact, if you really want to get technical, the game with most of it's features had been released years prior. Most people arrived to the franchise late, as if the fourth game was the first. I get that. But this guy wrote a non-fiction book about it. A little research might be in order. Everything is confined to his limited perspective. He warns of that in the initial pages. If I knew how narrow minded it would be, I would have closed the book there.

At one point he attacks Mario as primitive by comparison to today's world building efforts. I'd like to hear his reaction to angry birds, a basically 8-bit game that is at this point, more culturally relevant than many a sci-fi 360 blockbuster. Tom seems to extol the parts of the industry increasingly detested by many gamers. The violence, the graphics, the big production values and success that make innovation and ideas more and more unlikely. To some, however, the creativity of a rolling katamari will ever be more significant than the blasting of aliens.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 28, 2012 8:07 AM PDT

The Letters of Gustave Flaubert: 1830-1857
The Letters of Gustave Flaubert: 1830-1857
by Gustave Flaubert
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $61.20
31 used & new from $17.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Work, May 23, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I was given Madame Bovary as a gift, and found it to be, by my estimation, the best written novel I had ever read. I pursued Flaubert in his other works,and finally turned to the man. For those lovers of Madame Bovary, the true sequel to the richness of that literary experience is this compilation of letters. In this volume, we get a glimpse of Flaubert the child and teenager, and we see that his interest in literary art began at an age where today, children are only expected to attend elementary school. This is followed by a rocky relationship with Louise, a girl whom the reader suspects Flaubert is not completely engaged to, despite sharing her physical passion. This is soon followed by a trip to the orient, modern day Egypt, and the composition of the Madame. Steegmuller is a phenomenal Flaubert scholar, and in both footnotes and quick paragraphs, he provides both antecdotes that give the story richness, as well as providing a thematic view of Flaubert's life. Reflecting on his efforts to compose this book, his work is comparable to Flaubert's humble, yet fantastically aesthetic brush with existence.

Luther: Season 2
Luther: Season 2
DVD ~ Various
Price: $27.98
45 used & new from $18.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Short but sweet., March 16, 2012
This review is from: Luther: Season 2 (DVD)
Luther returns. With a cliffhanger ending to season one, any fan of the show will be eager to get season two. They will not be disappointed.

Except by the amount of episodes. Call me a critic, but I don't consider 4 episodes of anything a "season." It's a month of weekly programming. The good news is this is Luther, and those minutes of those hours count. Idris Elba deserved every award he got for acting this role. Ruth Wilson, as the femme fatale, is much sexier acting like an English lady than a lot of actresses are dressing in bikinis and trying to be sex kittens. Minor characters are well drawn. Frank, a goon for the mafia, gets as much characterization as any of the protagonists on criminal minds have gotten in six seasons. This characterization occurs in the course of about 15 minutes. That's Luther in a nutshell, a parsimonious elevation of the crime procedural.

I was a tad bit disappointed that Alice didn't have more screen time. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Any pair of adult friends isn't going to be pinned by the hip, if the relationship is true. Wilson and Elba have great chemistry, and Wilson's presence in scarce scenes is phenomenal, to the point she can realistically serve as a literary solution in an episode she's not in.

Four episodes though... I would have loved to buy the DVD, but I ended up settling on the shows in downloadable form. When the numbers get that low in terms of episodes, your saving some serious money by buying three dollar episodes as opposed to a 26 dollar disc. Consider yourself forearmed.

No Title Available

1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not As Good As The First, January 16, 2012
Sherlock and Watson return, but this time, the cracks in the franchise are noticeable. Heavily drawing from The Final Problem, this movie is entertaining, but owes most of that value to Conan Doyle and not to director Guy Ritchie, whose motions we've seen before (slow motion) or are insulting to Holmes lore (Mycroft).

Most of the actors here do a good job with what they've been given. Two characters ticked me off. The first was Mycroft, who acted more like Austin Powers than say, Sherlock Holmes' genius brother. The other was Irene Adler, who is portrayed by Rachel McAdams. Her performance in the first movie was panned, so the powers that be put her in this movie, and quickly show her the door. This is at this point, the cliche of female protagonists in the second movie, removing them for emotional leverage over the audience. See also: Bourne Supremacy, Dark Knight, to an extent any James Bond movie. The problem with that trick for this franchise is Irene Adler is Sherlock's anima, not easily replaced. In comes Rooney Mara, who takes over the female lead and does... Nothing. Except run around with the boys and act ineffectual. What's insulting is you can almost imagine Rachel McAdams saying the same things she does and filling in that role. Maybe if movie critics had been kinder, it would have been Irene's brother they were after?

The chase is clever, however, and the banter between Jude Law and Robert Downey is up to par. Most of the cool moments will ring familiar to readers, which in a way was disappointing, because the first movie was creative in terms of what happened, and more an homage to the themes of Conan Doyle's novels, rather than outright copying of content. There will be little doubt that the sequel is forthcoming, when they hunt down the marksman in an empty house....I might be there, but not with the same hope I had for this movie.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 22, 2012 4:39 AM PST

The Decameron (Penguin Classics)
The Decameron (Penguin Classics)
by Giovanni Boccaccio
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.73
154 used & new from $5.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Dawn, January 10, 2012
Somewhere between literature and culture itself, we have the Decameron, an incredible look into the year 1350. As a frame story, ten nobles flee from the decimation of the black death by inhabiting two villas in and around Florence. They amuse themselves through narratives, whose themes stretch from despair to lust to religious philosophy.

As one reflects upon the Decameron, it's importance as a landmark of literature grows. This novel is a photograph of the black death as it occurred, the shifts of thinking that occurred to people as it happened, and a fugue from a bygone method of looking at the world. The introduction paints a portrait of just how deadly the plague was, pigs killed off by sniffing on a scrap of infected clothing, former manors in the hands of servants who were lucky enough to survive. The economy gripped by terror, the church losing it's grip in a world where survival of the fittest and not divine judgement determined who lived and who died, the stories reflect disdain for the church's ecclesiarchy and endorse a new, sophisticated ethic of living. Decameron may be the novel that separated the dark ages and the new world of the renaissance. From the renaissance, the world as we know it today.

The tales contained are to be devoured and savored slowly. A lot of tropes in both literature and culture first appear in written form here. Ever heard the expression being able to look yourself in the mirror? The origin's right here. I noted some story elements later used by Tolstoy in War and Peace and Shakespeare as well. Talk about influence!

Turn the pages with reverence. The Decameron served as a new dawn for both literature, and the philosophy of the world.

Warm Springs
Warm Springs
DVD ~ Kenneth Branagh
Offered by Lights Camera Action DVD
Price: $19.99
13 used & new from $11.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Touching, Inspiring, Loose with Facts, December 27, 2011
This review is from: Warm Springs (DVD)
Very simple summary of the story: This is the tale of FDR, prior to becoming one of the greatest presidents of the United States, and how he came to terms with the disease he carried. Kenneth Branagh, having played Hamlet previously, is qualified to play FDR, and does so with touching respect. One can imagine FDR looking down and saying "Way to go Kenneth!" Cynthia Nixon, a well-known HBO alumni, plays Eleanor, likewise one of USA's greatest first ladies. Kathy Bates is not the waitress that serves FDR and his boatmen in an early scene, although that girl looks similar. She plays a Physical Therapist, whose aversion to despair might have inspired some new deal policies. This is a fine cast. You might also recognize David Paymer, who does a good job and is probably one of hollywood's more unsupported supporting men.

This movie is inspiring, a look at the crafting of leadership potential that would deliver America out of one of it's darkest decades. It's a look at FDR I found enlightening. Four years prior to being president, FDR wasn't a rabid politico, in the vein of a Clinton or a Bush. He was more accurately something of a hospital owner and a wounded healer himself. Likewise fascinating is the foreshadowing of the civil rights movement during a period of time America is a bit too preoccupied to deal with race. It's fascinated to see diseased people complain of stigma, be physically lifted, served, and pushed by black men, and basically ignore fountains that discriminate based on skin tone. The more I look back on the movie, the more intentional these quirks in the setting seem. The focus, however, is leadership, and how it's forged from adversity.

The film does paint a bit too much of a favorable picture of FDR though. He was a great president, but the movie seems to present his love life in a sort of redemptive arc, which was not the case in the real world. The mistress early in the movie is phased out by the narrative, making way for a mutually respectful husband-wife relationship. In real life, the mistress was with FDR as he died, one of many holidays from the marriage. The relationship was so cold some hypothesized that Eleanor was a lesbian. The media is likewise given a raw deal. The media is portrayed as opportunistic in this movie, while in reality, FDR knew how to use the media, and the media was gentlemanly in their non-publicizing of FDR's condition.

This is a moving movie, and it had me close to tears at some points. How I wish we had presidents like this today! But, like many movies based on history, do some reading later and beware of blunders.

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