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The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Greed, Violence and Depravity in an Age of Beauty
The Ugly Renaissance: Sex, Greed, Violence and Depravity in an Age of Beauty
by (Historian) Alexander Lee
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Factual but fascinating, August 28, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Alexander Lee's scholarly and meticulously researched expose of the Italian Renaissance may leave you, the reader, reeling. Vice of every description drove the great Rebirth. The underbelly of Florence is exposed for Florence was “the loom on which the fabric of the Renaissance was woven.” Perhaps the broken nose of Michelangelo is a sort of symbol or mascot of the age. A fellow artist, jealous of the sixteen year old's miraculous talent and fed up with his boasting, punched him, flattening his nose, ruining the symmetry of his face for ever.

Florence was a teeming mass of humanity, the wealthy, the poor and indigent, whores and merchants selling their wares at the top of their voices, parades of often hypocritical sex-crazed ecclesiastics, shrieking children, everybody trying to elude the mounds of human waste dumped in the ill-paved streets, rubbed cheek by jowl. Pickpockets did a lively trade, murders were endemic, the smells horrendous. Michelangelo’s magnificent David at the Piazza della Signoria looked down upon a city of sinners, a city of vice and corruption. With David Michelangelo's genius was fully recognized. However, like all artists of the period he was dependent upon patrons for his livelihood.

Disease was rampant in the city, but although he lived to be 88, Michelangelo suffered from health issues his entire life. Personally he seldom bathed or combed his beard and hair, never changed his clothes. Malaria and typhus carried away thousands of citizens and the new disease, syphilis, brought back from the New World by Columbus, soon became deeply entrenched. Bubonic plague, the Black Death, carried by rats whose fleas happily moved on to humans devastated some 75 % of the Florentine population in the late fourteenth century. The crowded conditions of houses enabled any disease to cut a wide swath. There was no privacy whatever and citizens became thoroughly jaundiced by sex, leaving no room for romance but nevertheless they fornicated as vigorously as ever. It was said no woman in Florence remained a virgin after the age of twenty and both men and women were serial adulterers.

As he aged, Michelangelo who was undoubtedly influenced by the love of Dante for Beatrice and by Petrarch's infatuation with the elusive but gorgeous Laura, found his own love, Tommaso de'Cavalieri. Tommaso was twenty years old and Michelangelo was fifty-seven. Michelangelo rationalized this homosexual relationship by turning to Boccaccio's Decameron. Boccaccio justified abandonment to pleasure in all its forms since life was so short and so unpredictable. Beauty itself was a “reflection of the divine” and Tommaso was “his own Venus who pointed the way to heaven”. In a way, the Black Death fueled the Renaissance” as a sort of hysteria gripped the entire population and drove people in all walks of life to commit excesses and devote themselves to hedonism in case their tomorrow did not come.

At the time of the Renaissance Italy consisted of some thirty independent states such as Florence and Milan, each with its own government, laws and mercenaries- and vices. Rome, incredibly, was a backwater until a series of churchmen and several popes determined to make it Christianity's crown jewel not really as a glorification of Christ but a glorification of themselves. Somehow Jesus the son of a carpenter, was lost. The Sistine Chapel (named after Sixtus IV), the Borgia Apartments and even Saint Peter's Basilica were monuments not to Christianity but symbols of wealth annexed to the families of Popes and cardinals. The great beauties of the Renaissance were obtained at a price. Artists had to have patrons and the patrons had to have power. Politicians as they were, churchmen schemed, and eliminated those who stood in their way. They needed the artists and sculptors to create their aura, mold their public persona, the craftsmen needed the income. An unholy alliance, but as author Alexander Lee explains, without the corruption the Renaissance masterpieces as we know them wouldn't exist.


Murder Most Foul
Murder Most Foul
DVD
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun!, August 24, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Although the Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple films are more a vehicle for Dame Margaret than a vehicle for Agatha Christie, it doesn't matter. Chritstie's Miss Marple is an autere old lady, serious, wise and a bit sneaky, hiding behind the typical old lady syndrome. Dame Margaret is full blown, a rollicking personality, a bloodhound on the scent but seldom taken seriously while in full view she connives to catch the killer.When joining the cast of a small theatrical compny where she hopes to ferret out a killer, Dame Margaret is hilarious reciting "The Shooting of Dan McGrew." Charles Tingwell plays Inspector Craddock perfectly, treading a thin line in which he has to appear a competent policeman and not a klutz constantly one-upped by Miss Marple. Stringer Davis as Mr. Stringer is actually Dame Margaret's husband, and he has a balancing act, too, although in his role as a sort of factotem of Miss Marple, he pulls it off and saves his dignity.

Dame Margaret's wardrobe is simply stunning featuring among other creations a slinky grey job with a draped bodice into which is tucked an enormous artificial flower, and an elegant black velvet evening gown. The clever couturiers make Dame Margaret into a fashion plate and the result is wonderful to behold.

P.S. To the reviewer who complained about the size of the caption letters- the size can be adjusted from small to very large.


Beyond Belief (Emily Castles Mysteries)
Beyond Belief (Emily Castles Mysteries)
by Helen Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.99
43 used & new from $1.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fine romp by the sea, August 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Although other reviewers have called “Beyond Belief” an homage to Miss Marple or even “Miss Marple lite” the sleuth Emily is twenty six years old not the elderly Miss Marple who emerged full blown from Agatha Christie”s pen at the age of seventy or so. You really cannot compare this light-hearted novel with any work of Christie. Although Christie's sense of humor is apparent throughout her lexicon and she can be tongue-in-cheek, it is never light. Miss Marple, in particular, goes after any suspicious criminals like a bloodhound on a scent. Somehow you cannot imagine Miss Marole laughing.“Beyond Belief” is a good story and charmingly written, but if compared to Christie it inevitably is left at the starting gate. It is therefore best to enjoy the novel on its own merit and forget about Miss Marple.

The characters in the novel are not gathered in the library of a stately home but at Torquay Beach where a symposium called “Belief and Beyond” is about to convene. A psychic named Perspicacious Peg had predicted in London that there would be a murder at the conference and she and her cronies employ young budding detective Emily Castles to attend the conference as a future crimes investigator. Peg had even announced the future murder victim as being one Edmond Zenon, a famous illusionist who has promised fifty thousand pounds to anyone who could prove that the paranormal exists. A paranormal experience is one which cannot be explained scientifically, the realm of ghosts and unicorns.

What the magician plans to do is walk on water. To see this phenomenon as well as proselytize for various causes and beliefs come a motley crew of odd-balls. There is Madam Nova, a flamboyant fortune teller who'll deliver just what you want to hear if you cross her palm with silver. Bobby Blue Suit is an amiable young man arriving with his three psychic dachshunds in tow. There is a bereaved couple who has lost their only son, Liam, and who hope some sort of spiritualist can put them in touch with the dead boy. And there are three members of a religious cult. Accompanying this group are our sleuth Emily, and her friend Doctor Muriel, a lively old lady who walks with a silver cane but who is anything but decrepit.

Throwing together this heady brew of believers in the supernatural, the spiritual or the other side of the coin, legitimate science, is bound to create tensions which very quickly reach the boiling point. There is a large number of zany characters on this stage. They are amusing and well-defined but it's unlikely you'll guess the murderer. The novel presents a very good sense of place and you can almost smell the Torquay sea air and the descriptions of a hearty English breakfast at the hotel where the attendees of the occult conference are staying will get your taste buds jealous.

Will sleuth Emily Castles solve the mysterious deaths of three people? Of course she will. The whole scenario is a bit preposterous but as you scramble around cheek by jowl with the characters who are a very mobile as well as talkative bunch, you'll have a good time, trust me!


The Dinosaur Feather
The Dinosaur Feather
by Sissel-Jo Gazan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.27
88 used & new from $4.31

4.0 out of 5 stars Original but heavy going at times, August 18, 2014
This review is from: The Dinosaur Feather (Hardcover)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Perhaps, to feel at home and also intrigued by “Dinosaur” one has to have been at one time a graduate student, the halls of academia being a different world, but an intriguing, familiar one if you've been there. The author has thrown everything into this archeological brew, including two bizarre murders, police work running cheek by jowl with an educated elite and deeply flawed characters floundering here and there. No heroes here but human beings behaving like human beings. And that is one of the strengths of the novel. Detective Soren Marhauge representing the Law, does not escape author Gazan's critical eye. In a rather astounding description she says” he appeared to have eaten beets for lunch...{there was] a purple stain at the corner of his mouth.”The remark stayed with me as I read on and I could not disassociate Soren and the beet juice on his chin. Anna Bella Nor the book's female protagonist, who has two weeks to prepare for her oral defense of her dissertation and that dissertation ends up, in of all places, the bloody lap of a murdered professor is a single a single mom, balancing her complicated academic life with her toddler daughter, Lily, who is given to tantrums. Anna Bella does not escape author Gazan's jaundiced eye, appearing at one point “scrawny and spotty.”

In fact all of the characters in the novel are experiencing a winter of discontent, certainly nobody is a happy camper, please pardon mixed metaphors. Scientists converging in Copenhagen for a world conference on the evolution of dinosaurs into birds include the Canadian Clive Freeman who has recently punched his wife who walks out on him and he is amazed by the great difficulty of running a household without a wife. There are lady professors, too in various stages of malcontent. Soren does not escape life's slings and arrows. His long-time girlfriend, Vibe, wants a baby and he doesn't so she goes off to more fertile pastures. Anna Bella's lover, Thomas, won't marry her, either, in spite of their child, Lily. Nobody laughs in the novel- they are too busy being dysfunctional.

“Dinosaur Feather” is as much a psychological drama as it is a mystery or perhaps one could call it a psychological mystery. The many relationships are snarled and tangled and the skeins are unraveled before your eyes. There are many characters in the novel and their personalities and relationships are handled deftly. However. the ending brings to this reader neither satisfaction nor closure. But it will sort of stick in your craw. “Dinosaur” will give the reader much information about the evolution of birds- it's put on his plate and he is obliged to read it or skip to a juicer part. The book certainly deserves five stars for its originality but I found the characters unsympathetic. I kept wondering as I read along, how long it took for archeopteryx, once it to took to the skies, to learn how to sing. There is no singing in this book.


Remington Products R3 Power Series Rotary Shaver
Remington Products R3 Power Series Rotary Shaver
Price: $29.97
3 used & new from $29.97

3.0 out of 5 stars Performance good but not great, July 26, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Remington PR1235 electric shaver is the low end version of the PR1200 series shavers (PR1235, PR1240, PR1250, PR1260, and PR1270), although all shavers in the series appear to use the same shave head. The primary differences appear to be in the battery charging system, the charge indicator lights, and probably the motor. This shaver takes 16 hours to fully charge and then will provide 30 minutes of operation. This shaver was noticeably quieter than an older foil shaver I have. I don't know if it was my unfamiliarity with a rotary shaver or if it is truly "underpowered," but judging by the sound alone, it did sound a little "odd," like it was running a little slowly, but did provide a satisfactory shave, however. It is an inexpensively priced shaver, but it only came with a charger and a small cleaning brush. It did not come with a travel case or bag. On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) I would give this shaver an 8 for value and quality.
--
Roger Meyer


Omron BP785N 10 Series Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor
Omron BP785N 10 Series Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor
Offered by Heart Rate Monitors USA
Price: $79.99
14 used & new from $73.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pleased with this BP model!, July 25, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This sleekly designed monitor has several bells and whistles which should appeal to those who simply like a lot of functions. However the functions are useful, such as the automatic “TruRead” technology with which the monitor automatically takes three readings one minute apart and calculates the average. Little multi-colored points of light inform you how your reading compares to normal readings. The screen features a back light and your systolic and diastolic and pulse readings are in extra large digits. The screen is black with the readings in white. A little heart symbol on the right will warn you of an irregular heartbeat. Enough is going on for you while you're taking your blood pressure to make the experience almost fun. Of course, if your BP is nice and low you are apt to feel better about a monitor than if it's up there. But you gotta know and the Omron 785N will tell you loud and clear.

The unit has considerable memory storage and can be programmed for the date and time as well as saving the last 200 readings for two people. The unit requires 4 AA batteries ( not included) but also has an AC adapter. If you have a cord from an earlier Omron model it will work with this model. Although the monitor will run on batteries alone, making it portable, the batteries need to be in place when using the electric hitch-up.

The cuff is pre-shaped and according to the directions fits an arm 9 to 17 inches in circumference which surely includes just about everybody except, perhaps, for weight lifters. The cuff will clamp around your arm rather like a Venus fly trap but it is much more benevolent.

The 785 is the number One doctor and pharmacist choice for a home BP monitor and the 10 series is reported to be the most accurate monitor in the Omron stable. It is the most expensive, too, but of course you get what you pay for. It has a five year warranty.


Murder at the Gallop (1963) [HD]
Murder at the Gallop (1963) [HD]
DVD
Price: $3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Deliciously English!, July 23, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
A treat with three marvelous character actors- Margaret Rutherford, Robert Morley and Flora Robson. AND Rutherford's real husband, Stringer Davis, playing Mr. Stringer. Agatha Christie's Miss Marple was in no way a comic character. Joan Hickson played the old lady to perfection. Nevertheless , the Rutherford Miss Marple films are delightful in their own way and very English. Tea and crumpets English.

If you have never tried Amazon's Instant Movies, let me say a few words on the subject. I have rented many of them and the SD (standard definition) films have always been excellent. HD (high definition) may be superior, but I stick with the SD's and save a dollar. If an occasional glitch occurs with a movie you have rented, their customer service (I select chat but you can send an email) will straighten things out for you and if your movie selection simply won't play after they do a bit of tweaking, they will refund your money. I am particularly grateful for these movies because many of them are captioned and I am deaf. However, in some cases if the dialog is complicated the captions come in handy for non-impaired watchers.


Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor..Best Selling Digital Blood Pressure Monitor - Automatic & Portable For Easy Blood Pressure Readings - Perfect Home Blood Pressure Monitor - Control Blood Pressure and Hypertension - 100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE!
Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor..Best Selling Digital Blood Pressure Monitor - Automatic & Portable For Easy Blood Pressure Readings - Perfect Home Blood Pressure Monitor - Control Blood Pressure and Hypertension - 100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE!

5.0 out of 5 stars I am delighted!, July 22, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This little monitor is just great. You can set it for the date and time and for two groups taking measurements separately. An irregular heartbeat symbol will appear if your heart beat is 25% slower or faster two or more times than the average rhythm The LCD is very clear with the systolic and diastolic and the pulse rate in large letters.With the power off, pressing the set button will program the machine to indicate an average of the last three readings.Two AAA batteries come with the unit and when not in use it can tucked into the handy small plastic container provided.

The monitor is very nicely made and the cuff will fit my extremely skinny wrist. The unit needs to be placed above the large bone at your wrist. When measuring you should raise your arm with the unit in place across your chest at heart level. You should also be seated.The readings compare very favorably with my Omron upper arm monitor but the wrist monitor is so much handier and allows you to take your pressure anywhere. Highly recommended!


Model EZ-145, Cassette Hearing Amplifier, Pocket Type (Body Worn) Design, Worked with One Aa Battery, with Intelligence Uv Box, Gain Level: 50±5db, Easy to Use, Clear Sound, Fit Both Ears, Energy-saving Technology, with 3 Ear Buds(large, Medium, Small)to Fit Most Customers, Comfortable Durable Design, Intercept Sounds From 20 Meters
Model EZ-145, Cassette Hearing Amplifier, Pocket Type (Body Worn) Design, Worked with One Aa Battery, with Intelligence Uv Box, Gain Level: 50±5db, Easy to Use, Clear Sound, Fit Both Ears, Energy-saving Technology, with 3 Ear Buds(large, Medium, Small)to Fit Most Customers, Comfortable Durable Design, Intercept Sounds From 20 Meters
Offered by easyuslife
Price: $19.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Helps me, July 22, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Let me say right up front that my hearing situation is much worse than (hopefully) your situation. Being totally deaf in one ear and confronted with severe sound distortion in the other, I would be a candidate for a cochlear implant. However, the implant can (gasp) cost between $50K and $100K with considerable expensive follow -up therapy necessary. The only city near me who presents the package is 400 miles away. Medicare will pay 80% and to qualify you have to meet certain criteria. A cochlear implant is a huge production and a favorable result especially with seniors is not a foregone conclusion.

The amplifier model EZ-145 a nicely designed unit about the size of a matchbox and it comes with an elegant box.The directions are easy to follow with one switch inside the battery compartment and the amplifier wheel on the outside bottom. The amplification is 50 decibels at the loudest settings, but I still need more; however, for most people 50 decibels should be enough. Nevertheless this very nicely designed unit does help me- it is just a matter of degree. The unit requires one AA battery (not included). A little brush is included for cleaning purposes, and three different sized ear buds are provided. The model EZ 145 is a very nice product both in performance and appearance.


Murder, She Said
Murder, She Said
DVD
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Highly entertaining!, July 21, 2014
Margaret Rutherford is such a kick! As many reviewers have said, Rutherford is a long ways from Agatha Christie's Miss Marple. Joan Hickson was the quintessential Marple just as Jeremy Brett was the quintessential Sherlock Holmes and David Suchet the quintessential Hercule Poitot. But this new edition of Miss Marple, looking rather like a Saint Bernard with those droopy eyes and that round shape is loads of fun. You don't laugh at Joan Hickson's Miss Marple but Rutherford is certainly no slouch while being very funny- she bustles around in a very brisk manner and even carries around a bag of golf clubs that make a very good weapon in a pinch.

Of course we've all read "4:50 from Paddington" in which Mrs. Mcgillicuddy, a friend of Miss Marple's, sees the murder on the passing train and in the movie Marple sees it. Nevertheless the movie preserves that special Englishness that Agatha Christie captures so well. The photography is perfect in black and white especially the train scenes as the great wheels of the locomotive exude power and grind away remorselessly and unseeing as a murder occurs somewhere along the snaky tracks on a train passing by. Atmospheric,and delightfully wacky, fun for all.

P.S.The elderly gentleman in the film, Mr. Stringer, is played by Margaret Rutherford's real-life husband Stringer Davis.


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