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Mega Bloks First Builders Fast Tracks Raceway
Mega Bloks First Builders Fast Tracks Raceway
Offered by TheNewMall
Price: $22.75
10 used & new from $19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An enthusiastic response from Nathan, October 20, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Nathan at 2˝ gave a high five when he saw the Fast Tracks set. He needed help in putting the ramps up and applying the stickers but after that he was on his own. His parents weren't sure the toy was worth quite $25.00, because there weren't a lot of building blocks included. But Nathan's gratifying response was heartwarming. He was joyous and enthusiastic and his parents would definitely recommend the race track for other children. The age range recommended for the set is quite wide-from 1-5 years. Toddler age seems to be about ideal, however, even though a little help is necessary to get the small cars rolling and the stickers applied neatly.


Five Fingers
Five Fingers
DVD
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Literate and exciting!, October 20, 2014
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James Mason is absolutely in his element in this espionage counter- espionage true story. He is so perfect as the villain he even makes handsome good guy Michael Rennie seem somewhat dull. There was so much double-crossing in this film I got confused as to who were the villains. However even the bona fide Nazis in the film are likeable. John Wegraf as von Papen the Nazi ambassador is an attractive character, played to the hilt.

Of course masquerading butler to the British ambassador James Mason, who blithely steals secret memos and documents from the British embassy and sells them to the Nazis, is a rogue but how can you resist him? In the German embassy he stares at a picture of Hitler then walks by and stares at a a bust of Hitler. No expression at all. But you are thinking “This guy is not a Nazi!” In two scenes he meticulously puts on a pair of white leather gloves. Somehow I think this is an allusion to the five fingers of the title. The ilustration for the movie shows a hand with a sin written on each finger- lust, greed, passion, desire and sin

Danielle Darrieux is wonderful as the greedy Countess Anna Staviska who is given a great deal of money by James Mason, money gleaned from his spy operations. The Countess is beautiful and charismatic but wily. She probably admires nobody except herself. She's fearless if indescrite. She makes a crack about Hermann Goering's recent wild pig chase as “brother against brother”.James Mason has, of course, fallen for Anna, his one indiscretion, his one mistake.

The film is shot on location in Ankara, Turkey and Rio de Janeiro, adding authenticity and wonderful ambiance. This highly literate movie has a humdinger of an ending which appears just right. Highly recommended!


SmartyKat Feather Whirl Cat Toy Electronic Motion Ball
SmartyKat Feather Whirl Cat Toy Electronic Motion Ball
Price: $14.97

4.0 out of 5 stars Cats not overwhelmed, October 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
How this interesting toy goes over with your cat depends more on the personality of the cat than the quality of the Feather Whirl gizmo, but the toy is well made. My two elderly cats, male and female, each fifteen years old, reacted very differently. The male gave a perfunctory bat at the flailing feathers then turned on his heels and stalked off as though he were saying "That thing is just for babies, not me!" The girl got fairly excited by the twirling feathers and swiped at the them, flopping over on her back to swat them that way. However, when an hour or two went by and I turned the Feather Twirl on again she gave a half-hearted swat then sacked out nearby for a nice siesta. She was saying "Been there. Done that." The cats' reactions to a toy costing twenty dollars were certainly not very satisfying and perhaps younger cats might have been more intrigued. I am giving the Twirl four stars because it is quite ingenious and although my parade has been rained on, hopefully all will be sunny when your kitty confronts this toy.

A small sized Phillips screwdriver is necessary to open the ball to insert the batteries and this wasn't too easy. I ended up twisting the screw out with my fingers, Two AA batteries are required and they are not included.


The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams
The Remarkable Education of John Quincy Adams
by Phyllis Lee Levin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.92

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great biography!, October 18, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Author Levin puts John Quincy Adams in your pocket, that is how close she comes to capture his spirit as well as his importance and she makes sure you get the picture. For most Americans, alas, the great founding fathers are Washington and Jefferson and maybe Franklin. How lucky the fledgling America was to have the extraordinary men who steered the ship America to a safe harbor, rather than, say, a Hitler. And one has to realize that John Quincy Adams was one of the greatest. (During our second great crisis, the Civil War, we lucked out again when Providence sent us Abraham Lincoln).

The destiny of John Quincy was ordained by his parents, John and Abigail Adams. As though written in the stars they charted his course, including what academic subjects he would study as he grew up, and these subjects included Latin, French and Greek. At age ten and a half he accompanied his diplomat father as clerk and secretary to Paris where he met Benjamin Franklin and later Thomas Jefferson and learned to speak French fluently. He visited Holland, Germany, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Saint Petersburg, Russia. When you consider there were no trains or planes in those days the feat is remarkable. By his middle teens John Quincy was very cosmopolitan and when he returned home seven years later when his father had been appointed to the Court of Saint James, he was a man of the world.

While overseas, Abigail, John Quincy's mother and his sister Nabby visited father and son in Paris and author Levin's observations of Nabby are very interesting as she grew from a rather morose and unsmiling young woman into a delightful girl who wrote beautifully. Like her brother she seemed to sprout wings, becoming much more extroverted. Her observations in Paris from the indulged royal family on down are fascinating. Nabby and John Quincy were very close, soul mates in fact. Throughout the biography are many vignettes of the characters on the John Quincy stage and their dreams, aspirations and failings, their observations add so much to the richness of the text.

In character, John Quincy was much like his father. In spite of his eminence he had to be pushed into accepting appointments, disliking social events and wishing fervently he could just stay home and read. He did not feel adequate probably because of the depression which hounded him throughout his life. He was not proud of his appearance, being five foot seven and yet he was not ugly, having dark brown very expressive eyes and craggy but rather patrician features.

After returning to America after years abroad with his father John Quincy graduated from Harvard College phi beta cappa and put out his shingle as a lawyer. But the law really did not fascinate John Quincy and he was further demoralized by an unhappy love affair, falling in love with an exceptionally beautiful girl named Mary Frazier. John Quincy's strong-willed mother Abigail, did not approve of Mary and it is astonishing that John Quincy seemed in his twenties to still be in some ways influenced by his mother.

George Washington appointed John Quincy as ambassador to Holland, but although he found the Dutch uninspiring at first he changed his mind later. He was able to spend considerable time in London where he met his future wife, one of seven daughters, Louisa Johnson. Louisa and John Quincy were not well-suited. John was on the re-bound from his relationship with Mary Frazier and both John and Louisa were depressives, but it became a love match. However, Louisa couldn't understand John Quincy's love of books or even his patriotism both of which she felt came before her. I think they were about equal.

I think we who are lesser mortals than John Quincy may suspect that great men do not experience the slings and arrows that are common to the common man, but of course this is not true. Remember, Author Levin has put John Quincy in our pocket. John Quincy loved and lost, he was often bowed down by depression, he had contempt for his own physical appearance but his marriage was exceedingly happy although his wife, Louisa, was almost always ill. She suffered several miscarriages but managed to produce three healthy boys, George Washington. John and Charles Francis, named after John Quincy's brother who died an alcoholic at aged thirty. A little girl born in Russia followed but she died in infancy.

While ambassador to Russia, John Quincy often had audiences with Tsar Alexander II. The tsar remarked that he almost didn't recognize John Quincy who arrived wearing a fur cap "because of his headdress, ranging as it did from bald to wig to fur cap." Wouldn't his head get too hot under the fur?wondered the Tsar. The bald John Quincy replied that he only wore the cap in cold weather "as his head was so much uncovered by nature, the fur was not too much for it." The tsar was over six feet tall, ten years younger than John Quincy, all topped by a mop of red hair. John Quincy was paunchy, bald and middle-aged but these two had a rapport. They spoke in French.

Until he was aged 50, John Quincy acted as a sort of revolving ambassador, the greatest linguist of his time or perhaps any time. Finally he was able to come home for good when appointed by the President James Monroe in 1817 as Secretary of State. Levin's biography ends here as this is the end of his "education." John Quincy, would of course, go on to be elected President in 1825 and in an "Afterward" Author Levin places John Quincy where he belongs in history. John Quincy "pursued his passionate desire '' ' to become a useful member of society, a friend to [his] country and a guardian of her laws and liberties' ".
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 20, 2014 4:15 AM PDT


Mega Bloks World Builders NYPD Mobile Command Center
Mega Bloks World Builders NYPD Mobile Command Center
Price: $29.99
4 used & new from $29.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Needs a lot of help from Dad, October 17, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Seven year old Alex chuckled when he saw the "bad guy" in his orange prison suit and immediately put the villain and the two cops in his model cars and zoomed around. The Command Center really needs to be put together by a supervising adult as the directions are obscure and the pieces come in little bags according to shape, I think. Nathan's dad is right now in the process of helping Alex set things up but Alex is still more interested in giving the little characters rides in his model cars. The directions say for five years up but a five year old would have trouble understanding the obscure directions. Alex at almost eight is about the right age but he still needs help from Dad. The pieces are colorful and of good quality but the little persons and pieces are small and therefore this Command Center should not be within reach of a toddler.


Fire Over England
Fire Over England
DVD
Price: $1.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Reasonably good but not great, October 16, 2014
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I enjoyed this film very much but couldn't get beyond the fact that Lawrence Olivier and Vivien Leigh began their romance while making this picture and I did not think of them as Michael Ingolby and Cynthial but as their famous real personas, They did not cross the line between real and make-believe but contemporary viewers of the 1937 movie would not have this prejudice.Flora Robson was a good enough Elizabeth but Bette Davis in "The Private lives of Elizabeth and Essex" I thought was better as she portrayed the Queen as high strung and brittle, nasty at times but never humble and even her love for Essex had an edge to it. Morton Selten as Burleigh was perfect and Raymond Massey as Philip II was just right, too. Elizabeth's famous exhortation to her troops just before the Armada sailed, appearing among the soldiers on horseback, I thought fell rather flat with not enough drama. Although the well known speech was possibly written for the Queen some years after her death she should have said it even if she really didn't.The burning of the Spanish ships was reasonably exciting and Olivier was great to watch in his swash-buckling Errol Flynn type role. But I can only give this film three stars.


The Song Of Bernadette
The Song Of Bernadette
DVD
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly moving, October 14, 2014
I have seen "The Song of Bernadette" several times over many years and it never ceases to pluck at my heartstrings. Jennifer Jones is so perfect, so marvelous in the role that it is believable that a fourteen year old peasant girl could start an avalanche all by herself. Although born to poverty it is not abject poverty, there is love in the hovel and Madame Soubirous, played by the quintessential stoic mother Anne Revere, holds her family together by sheer will.

The bickering, sometimes pompous village officials and clergymen trying to get Bernadette arrested or even sent to an asylum are no match for Bernadette. The local Abbe Father Dominique played wonderfully by Charles Bickford is ultimately persuaded that the beautiful lady seen by Bernadette in the grotto really is the Virgin Mary. (In real life Jennifer Jones tried to commit suicide after the death of Charles Bickford. In real life the Abbe died before Bernadette did).

The black and white photography echoes the mood of the film and that mood is stark but it is not a lamentation. There is dignity here, and grace and courage because of the presence of Bernadette. The use of shadows from the desolate trees, from a ladder against a bookcase, from a silhouette of Bernadette against a wall are but echoes of life, echoes that are transient and fleeting just as life is.

"Song" is a beautiful film in every respect. The SD version which I chose from Amazon Instant Movies is very good indeed as to technical quality. Highly recommended.


Price on Their Heads: A Novel of Income Inequality and Mayhem
Price on Their Heads: A Novel of Income Inequality and Mayhem
by Jeff Posey
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.49
7 used & new from $11.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An exciting page-turner!, October 12, 2014
Author Posey writes with authority but his prose is nevertheless rich in description as he grapples with his protagonists Jackie and Jimmy Key. The boys grew up not exactly on the other side of the tracks, but close. Jackie and Jimmy are the sons of servants working for an ultra-rich man, one Mr. Willoughby.. Mr. Willoughby, one of the several Midases in the book, was heard to label his working class employees as “subhuman.” Jackie's Marine brother Jimmy stabs Mr. Willoughby with a knife belonging to the kitchen. He wipes the bloody knife with a dish towel and pushes the towel under the closed door of the kitchen. When confronted by police after the body of Mr. Willoughby is discovered, Jackie accurately and conveniently recognizes the murder knife left at the murder scene as belonging to the kitchen.

The poor cook consequently takes the rap for Jimmy and is packed off to an insane asylum. Jackie spends the next twenty-five years seeking justification for the murder, an atonement, a way of washing the blood off his hands, and yet he does believe Willoughby deserved to die because he had formerly raped his mother, killing her unborn baby girl. Mr. Willoughby deserved to die for calling his (Jackie's) family sub-human. He deserved to die because he was the 127th richest man in America.

Jackie becomes in time a professor of Economics at Texas A&M, his academic expenses having been paid for by a scholarship provided for in the will of the hated Mr. Willoughby, who had remarked to Jackie “ you are the only one,” meaning that the boy is the only member of his working class staff who is not sub-human.

The premise of “Price on their Heads” is that the ultra rich, including huge corporations, must be neutralized (perhaps castrated is a better word) before they destroy the middle class. The playing field on which the workers of the world struggle is not level between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have nots, but of course we know that, it's always been that way and it probably always will unless the likes of Doctor Jackie Key can reverse the trend. But in studying the economic ripple effect of Willoughby's assets and advocating the breakup of hoards of wealth, and of the rich men he names specifically, Jackie incurs the wrath of the University bigwigs and he is dismissed from his faculty position and goes underground along with his newly acquired reporter girlfriend. Maura. He is also on the FBI's Top 10 most wanted list as the law thinks Jackie advocates the assassination of the Top Five richest men in America.

A college professor on the run is certainly an original concept and some of the the most intriguing parts of the book describe Jackie's and Maura's attempts at various disguises, wigs, hayseed clothing, an old decrepit Volkswagon. They have to learn street smarts to evade the law. The novel has a very left-wing bias advocating the trust buster techniques of F.D.R. The story is therefore not politically correct but even if you do not snuggle up to author Posey's political stances, there is a lot to learn from the narrative, it is practically economics 101. But Posey rubs your nose in it if you're right-wing. Jackie's ex-wife, Kathy, is a “mindless right wing apologist” and skinny, with little breasts until she becomes bulimic and three times her earlier size. Arch-conservative Kathy simply can't win. Girlfriend Maura is Liberal, with a nice big bosom and all the right curves. The story nevertheless will keep you turning the pages even if you love Ronald Reagan.

Jimmy, Jackie's brother, now a professional assassin, enters the story when of all things he kidnaps Jackie and Maura. Jimmy has become the mastermind of a team of killers targeting Jackie's Top Five who are “too rich to exist.” The big difference between the philosophies of Jackie and Jimmy is that Jackie wants a peaceful distribution of the Big Five's money, Jimmy wants to bump them off. This strange menage a trois runs from city to city at a pace that will leave you breathless, every hideout a dramatic scene of excitement and mayhem. In Colorado Maura, sitting on a rock, is spotted by a mountain who creeps up on her. And then there are Jimmy's hangers on, a weird group of misfits all bent on murder, the way they get their jollies.

While on the lam Jackie wins the Nobel Prize in Economics. Meanwhile a presidential election is near. A Libertarian candidate could win because he advocates a proposed constitutional amendment limiting wealth and reining in the influence of political puppets. With the Nobel, Jackie falls off the most wanted list but how is he going to escape the clutches of his brother Jimmy? Will he live to accept his Nobel?


St. Martin's Lane
St. Martin's Lane
DVD
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully heartwarming, October 8, 2014
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In 1956 I was in London as a young tourist and witnessed the possible last of the Buskers who performed in the theater district. The acts were so much fun, from a juggler to a guy playing the accordian to a couple of tap dancers and they made the rather long wait to get into the theater delightful.

"St. Martin's Lane" is Charles Laughton's film. His performance as a Busker reciting poems like "If" by Rudyard Kipling and his portrayal of Charlie, the fat and very plain Charlie, will bring tears to your eyes. Charlie takes in a lively. indigent young woman played perfectly by Vivien Leigh, and makes her part of his Busker troupe, but she is spotted by a theater producer, Rex Harrison, and soon eclipses Charlie in the legitimate theater and is mobbed outside the theater by autograph seekers. Laughton's feelings, the feelings of a man who appears to wear his heart on his sleeve but whose real heart is broken will almost break your heart, too. A lesson in humanity, the struggles of a few men and women who search sometimes blindly to find themselves and a purpose in life echo the struggles of people everywhere but "St. Martin's Lane" is unusually poignant and you will come away feeling better about the human race. Handsome, suave Rex Harrison, by the way, is in this movie like icing on the cake but Charles Laughton is the cake.


The Man in Grey
The Man in Grey
DVD
Price: $2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Gothic but not great, October 5, 2014
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I kept thinking while looking at the superb face of the very young James Mason (Lord Rohan) that he would have made a perfect Heathcliff. A very young Stewart Granger ( Peter Rokeby ) also stars in the film as the good guy but Mason upstages him. The film is good enough but has some major faults. The girls at the school where Clarissa ( Phyllis Calvert) and Hesther (Margaret Lockwood) meet all look like they are in their twenties and appear rather silly behaving like school girls giggling as they romp in the snow and build a snowman. Clarissa's page looks like a white boy in black face. Phyllis Calvert upstages Margaret Lockwood not because she is the film's good girl but because she is both prettier and a better actress.

The title “The Man in Grey”is rather strange since the movie is in black and white and consequently everybody is dressed in shades of grey. The plot is simple. The sadistic Marquis marries the sweet but naive Clarissa in order to beget an heir. The schemer Hesther, whom Clarissa considers her best friend, wants both the cruel Baron (they are alike) and Clarissa's place in society. In the wings is Peter Rokeby (Granger) who is Clarissa's knight in shining armor.I feel that Clarissa is extremely dumb not to see the obvious machinations of best friend Hesther and the Marquis amazingly blind to his wife's attributes which are perhaps greater than those of his Mistress Hesther. Oh well. I guess when you get right down to it this movie just isn't my bag. But I could look at James Mason forever.


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