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R. Seehausen "aeroblaster2" RSS Feed (Cypress, TX United States)
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10,000 Days
10,000 Days
Price: $11.33
122 used & new from $3.32

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another powerful masterwork from a classic band, May 3, 2006
This review is from: 10,000 Days (Audio CD)
I've always considered Tool this generation's Pink Floyd. As a dark, intellectual progressive metal band, they've achieved outstanding commercial success and a near-fanatical following among their hardcore fans.

This album once again demonstrates why.

10,000 Days is not so much an evolution from the band's last album, Lateralus, as it the well-polished sum of all their work to date. Tracks like "Vicarious" and "Jambi" recall the band's earlier work, with heavy distorted guitars and pounding bass-heavy rhythms, all coming together in a polished, mature way. The pair of songs "Wings For Marie" and "10,000 Days" recall the powerful, spiritual songs of Lateralus, taking them to new heights of emotion. Singer Maynard Keenan's voice is at its best here, driving the latter song forward and carrying it by the sheer power of his vocals.

The album does take a turn down after its midpoint, reaching what is perhaps Tool's most commercial song to date ("The Pot"). It's still high-quality work, but not as complex or emotional as the first four tracks.

Fortunately, after a couple of shorter bridging tracks, the album once again reaches for the high quality work earlier on the album with "Rosetta Stoned". It's a weird song, but who does weird better than Tool? Guitarist Adam Jones is at his crunchy best here, driving the song forward with riff after riff.

While not as memorable as previous songs, the album's closing tracks, "Intension" and "Right In Two" provide a fitting conclusion. The first serves as a break from the heavy metal assault of the majority of the album, but lacks the dynamics and emotion of "Wings For Marie/10,000 Days". The second plays in much the same vein as "Vicarious" and "Jambi", another well-written progressive metal track. Its lyrics lambast humanity itself, referring to us as "silly monkeys" fighting over unimportant issues.

As a whole, 10,000 Days suffers in comparison to Lateralus. It lacks the coherency of vision present on the band's last album, feeling much more like a collection of songs than a single, precisely constructed work. Still, the songs themselves are excellent, and Tool proves themselves a mature metal band well-deserving of their success--if that not the fanatical devotion of their followers.


Assassin's Quest (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 3)
Assassin's Quest (The Farseer Trilogy, Book 3)
by Robin Hobb
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
194 used & new from $0.01

32 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good trilogy hits its low, January 29, 2006
Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy started out strong, but each of the books became slightly disappointing when compared to the last. Where the first book was almost perfectly crafted, the second book was powerful but flawed, and the third was well-written but comparatively disjointed and unmoving.

The problem with this book is that from the get-go it severs too much of its own emotional power. The main character, FitzChivalry, already believes he has lost everything at the beginning of the story, and the book's ending only confirms his belief. The first two books thrived on the familiarity of Buckkeep and the characters residing within it; it drew on both the setting and the relationships of those characters to sustain its drama and emotional resonance. In this final installment, FitzChivalry never again sets foot in Buckkeep, and those characters are not present at all for at least half of the story. When they are present, they've changed almost beyond recognition.

In that way, reading Assassin's Quest is like having the rug pulled out from under you in much the same way it was for its main character. I'm sure Hobb knew this would be the effect of her decisions, and perhaps she even strove for it. That doesn't change the fact that this story is that much less engaging and emotional than the last two.

It is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy, though, and probably the inevitable one. Why Hobb had to tell this story, I don't know, but she accomplished what she set out to do. It's a good read and necessary if you read the preceding books. It is not, however, their equal.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 24, 2012 12:48 AM PDT


VAPOR TRAILS
VAPOR TRAILS

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vapor Trails remaster not yet released, August 26, 2005
This review is from: VAPOR TRAILS (Audio CD)
As far as I know the remastered version of this album has NOT been released. The label (Atlantic Records) has been postponing the release for well over a year now and rumor has it that they're waiting until the release of the next Rush album (2006?) to release it. So don't buy this until you've seen confirmation that it's been released (at very least on this reviews page).


Octavarium
Octavarium
Offered by megahitrecords
Price: $8.76
105 used & new from $1.95

5.0 out of 5 stars A fine effort from a fine band, June 16, 2005
This review is from: Octavarium (Audio CD)
I've held off on writing this review for awhile, simply because I wanted to savor the album, let it wear on me if it was going to do so, and just generally avoid coming to a hasty judgment on its merits. I believe that a proper album review should be from a person who's heard the album in question at least a dozen times, spun it again and again until it's sunk in properly.

If I had written this review after my first listen, I would have called Octavarium "masterful but slightly uneven". What's odd is, I did fall in love with it the first time I heard it. I can't say that about any of the other Dream Theater albums, and I've heard them all, extensively. Dream Theater, without exception, has always had to grow on me. I've had to take the time to comprehend everything that's going on in the album, to get a feel for the tracks and the lyrics. All that changed with Octavarium. Despite some parts that I couldn't get into, I loved most of the album the first time I heard it.

I've only grown to appreciate it more the more I've heard it. The parts I considered weak have grown on me, though I still don't like them as much as the songs I initially loved (with the exception of The Root of All Evil, which has become one of my favorites even though I was ambivalent about it on first listen).

Dream Theater almost always produces varied (some would say eclectic) albums, but Octavarium really pushes the envelope. It goes from emotional ballad (The Answer Lies Within) to pop-flavored rock (I Walk Beside You) to blistering metal (Panic Attack) to progressive epic (Octavarium) and everything in between. Some have accused certain songs of being derivative, saying that Dream Theater are wearing their influences too much on their collective sleeves. It's a valid complaint in at least a couple places, but the songs are so well-written--arguably much better songwriting than the bands that influenced them--that I personally find it a forgiveable offense.

A more distinct complaint is that drummer Mike Portnoy and guitarist John Petrucci have "dumbed down" their technical show-offery too much for this album. For me, it's a welcome change from the far-too-long solo sections on Train of Thought, and it only exemplifies stronger, tighter songwriting, and the willingness to service the song over personal pride. Dream Theater have already proven time and time again that they can play; perhaps it was time that they prove that they can suppress their virtuosity in favor of good songwriting.

The most apparent mark against this album is its lyrics. They range from terrible to to decent (and mostly mediocre). Is this the same band that wrote "Voices"? And what's so bad about giving bassist John Myung a shot again? The lyrics in this album are mostly simple and obvious, and they're occasionally ridiculous and somewhat nonsensical. There are some rare good moments, like in Petrucci's "These Walls", but they're few and far between.

It's fortunate, then, that singer James LaBrie gives by far his best performance to date. He demonstrates great versatility and the ability to adapt to different styles, and gives arguably his most emotional and convincing performance yet. So even when the lyrics look terrible on paper or when considering them afterward, it's hard to argue against them when listening to LaBrie sing them.

This is Dream Theater's most accessible album. You won't find many several minute solos here (though there are some long instrumental sections in the title track); if you want to introduce someone to the band, this is the album to recommend.

Octavarium is not typical Dream Theater. It's less about virtuosity than it is about simply good songs. But they're very, very good, and that makes this one of my favorite albums by the band.


Falling Into Infinity
Falling Into Infinity
Price: $13.98
141 used & new from $0.32

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stronger than it's given credit for, May 14, 2005
This review is from: Falling Into Infinity (Audio CD)
1997's FALLING INTO INFINITY has long been denigrated by fans as Dream Theater's weakest album, primarily because it moves away from the progressive excesses of past efforts. What's ironic, though, is that this album contains some of their tightest songwriting. It occasionally feels like an unusually rich commercial rock or metal album, but at other times it's Dream Theater through and through.

I personally prefer this album to those released after it, simply because Dream Theater's later albums (including the highly overrated SCENES FROM A MEMORY) grow more self indulgent and lose some of the eclectic variety that brings forth such a constantly diverse and intriguing experience in albums like this one and IMAGES & WORDS.

Some noteworthy songs on this album include "Peruvian Skies", "Hollow Years", "Hell's Kitchen", and "Trial of Tears". The first is indeed one of my favorite Dream Theater songs, which is surprising given the apparent simplicity of its progression.

This is a good example of the fact that Dream Theater's technical showmanship is definitely more subdued here, but it makes for a more accessible and repeatable listening experience, without losing the intelligence that sets Dream Theater apart from commercial bands you might hear on the radio.

Because it cuts out much of the over-excessive soloing and self-indulgence found in later albums, I consider FALLING INTO INFINITY to be one of Dream Theater's strongest, and an excellent one to start out with if you're new to the band. Give it a look with an open mind, and you won't be disappointed.


Shadow of the Giant (The Shadow Series)
Shadow of the Giant (The Shadow Series)
by Orson Scott Card
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.48
236 used & new from $0.01

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fitting but slightly unsatisfying conclusion, March 15, 2005
One of the questions a person reading this review might be asking himself is, does this end the story? Yes. Shadow of the Giant is the end. Oh, yes, the possibility remains for Scott to tell more stories about his genius children, if he wants to do so. But the story of Bean and Petra and Peter Wiggin? Yes, it ends here, as far as I can tell.

What do I think of the book? Well, I'm still deciding. It's certainly not the best of the series. I think I'll have to reserve that honor for Shadow Puppets, which was more concerned with characters and relationships than this novel, and therefore touched me more deeply.

That's what's interesting about Shadow of the Giant. Card uses so much of the book to tell about how Peter won the world that it actually begins to overshadow the story of Bean and Petra. And that, I think, is my biggest problem with this book. I feel a little unsatisfied with the way Scott concluded their story. It just felt a little too inevitable. I can't spoil the story, but let me just say that I'm not satisfied with what I felt to be the lack of meaning Card gave to the story of Bean himself (I'm choosing my wording carefully here). It was like I kept hoping that there would be some revelation or change that would satisfy me, but it never came. You'd have to read the story to see what I mean, and I can't truly explain it without spoiling the ending for you.

Another small problem I had was that, though Card spends an extraordinary amount of time telling us about politics and warfare and the unification of the world, he concludes all of that rather hastily. There were a few things that I felt he should have shown us (instead of merely telling us about) by the end of the book, but they were left only as mentions in emails or in the chapters themselves. It left me feeling as if he cut off the chain of casuality a little too early for me to truly accept Peter's (inevitable, of course) victory.

Which, by the way, is one of the core problems with this entire series. Card keeps wanting to tell event stories about Peter unifying the world, but *we already know he won*. Most of the audience reading these books has already read Ender's Game, and by the end of that book, you know that Peter unified the world and become the legendary Hegemon. It's further detailed in the Speaker for the Dead trilogy.

This basically turns the elements of the story concerned with the unification of the world into a justification and explanation of Peter's triumph. Which means it's actually not nearly as meaningful as it would be if we had the suspense of not knowing that he would succeed. It's only because Card is such a fantastic writer--and because of the Bean/Petra part of this series--that these novels are still interesting and worth reading despite this problem.

But from where I stand, this book is the counterpart to Shadow of the Hegemon in that it's mostly about the events, about the politics and the changes in the world. Ender's Shadow and Shadow Puppets are more about Bean himself (and in the latter this also extends to Petra). So in my mind, those are the books that succeed the most, because that was the story that was most worth telling.

That said, there are parts of Peter's story that are absolutely worth the story of events whose conclusion we already know. It's the character elements, the stuff about why he acts the way he does and he does, that contain the most powerful emotions. Because Peter himself was always a great mystery in the first Ender series, these succeed magnificently, and make us understand and love Peter despite the way we were introduced to him in Ender's Game.

Shadow of the Giant is another excellent Orson Scott Card novel, but there are some elements of the ending that make it a little less satisfying than it could have been, and one of the core problems of the series as a whole still plagues this novel. That said, as a novel by Orson Scott Card, it is still tremendously easy to read, deep, and well thought-out. If you're a fan of the series, do not pass up this book. But read the rest first.


Angel - Season Four
Angel - Season Four
DVD ~ David Boreanaz
Offered by SFNew2You
Price: $8.95
100 used & new from $0.01

28 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An exhausting thrill ride or a muddled mess?, June 29, 2004
This review is from: Angel - Season Four (DVD)
If there's one thing the fourth season of Angel does, it's wear you out. It moves from one "oh my God, what are they going to do?" to the next, and by the time you reach the halfway mark of the season, you're just begging the writers to let up and give you some respite from the rollercoaster ride of emotion.
It's a profoundly disturbing season, and achieves horror in a way that neither Angel or Buffy ever have. Joss Whedon calls it emotional horror, the horror that comes not from having a scary thing pop around a corner or blood and guts splattered all over the pavement, but rather from characters we know and love having terrible things happen to them and acting in awful ways.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's a draining, exhausting thing, but it's not necessarily bad.
What is bad is the disjointed, messy plot of the season. In a season that has almost no episodes that stand on their own, outside of the plot, it's devastating that the plot is never clear and never makes sense.
It's not all the writers' fault. It was a troublesome season of television for both Buffy and Angel--Joss Whedon was off working on Firefly, and both shows suffered from difficulties regarding their regular actors. In Angel's case, the primary problem was Charisma Carpenter's (Cordelia) pregnancy. You get the sense that it forced the writers to make changes in the story on the fly, breaking earlier plotting and destroying an already convoluted and overly complex storyline.
The season isn't all lows, don't get me wrong. It is a thrill ride, jumping from one horrific situation to the next, each further pounding the Fang Gang into the ground. The Beast remains, in my opinion, one of the most effectively frightening villains in the history of the Buffyverse. Connor, while easy to loathe, is also fascinating in a sick, voyeuristic sort of way. Other villains, including (and especially) the return of an old "friend", provide even more horror and difficulty, mostly in a very entertaining fashion.
And the season starts out at top form. The resolution to the cliffhanger that ended season three, "Deep Down", was nearly perfect, answering most of the immediate questions from last season and leaving more open to explore throughout season 4. What follows is a short series of excellent stand-alone episodes (including the introduction of the fascinating, X-Men-esque Gwen) before Cordelia's inevitable return and the start of the season's thrill ride of a plot.
But the season's conclusion, which spans over four or five episodes, is terrible. The explanation for the convoluted storyline of the season is insufficient to say the least, and if it doesn't leave you confused, it'll still leave you gaping in disbelief. Not disbelief at any sort of surprise, but disbelief that the writers would explain things in such an inept and inadequate fashion.
But the season doesn't end there. It runs off into something entirely different in tone and unrelated to the type of emotional horror we've been constantly experiencing, and only loosely tied (by the previously mentioned inadequate explanation) to the previous events of the season. It's, if anything, even more disturbing, but in a way that will leave you more detached and confused than involved and frightened.
And once that ends, a completely unexpected and completely unrelated season finale caps off the season with even more confusion. It seems to serve only as a jumping point for the fifth season, which it serves as adequately (despite initial disbelief in the plausibility of a certain law firm's motivations). What it doesn't do is give us anymore satisfaction than the already unsatisfying ending provided in the episode preceding it.
It's a shame this season was such a mess. It showed great promise, and perhaps if the writers had gotten a clear, well-developed plot worked out and stuck with it all the way through, it would have been one of the best and most disturbing seasons of Angel or Buffy. As it stands, it's only a testament to the disorganized nature of both Buffyverse shows' writing staffs during this tumultuous season of television, a season that produced two of the weakest season plot arcs (this season of Angel and Buffy's corresponding season 7) ever to grace a Joss Whedon show.
Is it worth the money? Yes, because the journey is intense and contains many entertaining and worthwhile developments, and is written well other than the convuluted season's plot. The cast also gives it their all, with the possible exception of Charisma Carpenter, whose lackluster performance in the second half of the season can be excused by her advanced pregnancy and the ridiculousness of the plotline forced upon her character.
All of that said, I hold the opinion that this was the worst season of Angel, never delivering on its promises or matching its suspense and intensity with clarity and logical plotting. Buffy and Angel fans, buy it and enjoy the intense journey, but be forewarned about the lackluster plot and do not expect a satisfying conclusion. It will leave you disappointed.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 24, 2011 5:41 PM PDT


Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus
Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus
by Orson Scott Card
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $8.09
205 used & new from $0.01

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whatever it is, it's great, May 24, 2004
"Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus", like its titular character, could be called a lot of different things. It could be called a biography, or a history book, or historical speculation, or an alternate history, or a science fiction novel. It contains all of those elements, melding them into one coherent and powerful story.
The story revolves around Christopher Columbus, of course, and the idea that he was a "fulcrum of history". Card depicts him as an undeniably great man who was nonetheless human, with as many flaws as virtues.
It's interesting, then, that Columbus is what makes the first two thirds of the book a bit of a chore. Card intersperses a nearly biographical account of Columbus's life up until the point of his voyage to the New World with a growing story about the discoveries of Pastwatch, an organization initially created to study the past and now being used to change it.
The problem is that while these stories are interrelated, they don't have much direct effect upon each other until late in the book. And because there's little to no tension of "what happens next?" in the Columbus storyline until late in the novel, his sections tend to drag down the story of Pastwatch itself.
But because Card's prose is so easy to read and because the ideas presented in the Pastwatch sections are so intriguing, the novel still moves at a reasonable pace. Once the two storylines join, however, it's difficult to put the book down until you've reached the last powerful page.
Which presents the second problem. Card, in my opinion, did not spend enough time on this section. He wraps up a lot of events in one chapter, without taking us through what would have undoubtedly been an interesting part of the narrative. This fits with the sweeping, historical feel, but it detracts from the power of the conclusion and leaves us with a little less of what would certainly have been a delectable journey. One has to wonder whether this was an intentional choice, or whether he for some reason felt pressed for time, or worse, wanted to keep the novel to a certain length?
Regardless, the end is still powerful. It's the kind of conclusion that sends chills up your spine, and you're left satisfied that you've been informed, entertained, and most of all, made to think.
Orson Scott Card is one of the finest science fiction authors alive today. Even still, like any writer, he's had his ups and downs.
"Pastwatch" is one of his ups.


Dragonflight (Dragonriders of Pern - Volume 1)
Dragonflight (Dragonriders of Pern - Volume 1)
by Anne McCaffrey
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
276 used & new from $0.01

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent, light fun, May 21, 2004
Anne McCaffrey's famous Pern series is "Science Fantasy"--that is, it incorporates elements (such as, of course, dragons) commonly accepted as Fantasy, but explains them with science. Science that is sometimes a little shaky, but rational, not magical or mythical, explanations, nonetheless. So one person might call it "Fantasy" and another might call it "Soft Sci-Fi", and they'd both be right.
That aside, the world McCaffrey has created is well-envisioned and fresh. Though the prologue is dry, it's interesting because the world itself is interesting.
"Dragonflight" was just starting to capture my interest and bring me into the world when it kicked me out... with time travel. McCaffrey introduces it too late for it to feel real, and serious logic holes in its operation (of the "why has nobody figured this out before?" type) cause some serious skepticism on the part of the reader. It pulls you out of the world and significantly damages the believability of the story.
As sketchy is it is, the time travel is necessary for this to be a novel rather than a novella... and for many other reasons. But it's still a tired plot device used in a problematic fashion, and it's the crutch this novel rests upon.
The time travel is but one part of why this novel feels like light fantasy. Though they're not caricatures, the characters aren't particularly deep--but they get the job done.
McCaffrey's prose turned me off at first, seeming a little flowery, but it either got better or I got used to it, because it was very easy to read for the rest of the novel.
But more than anything, the reason this novel is merely average is because the premise for the story does not offer a very good conclusion. This isn't a character drama, it's not about relationships. It incorporates those elements and more, but what this story is really about is saving the world. That in itself is not a serious flaw, but the fact that it takes fifty years before the world can be considered 'saved' is one. Because of the admittedly interesting setup, the peril that the dragonriders are fighting will last for half of a century... so since the characters are quite human, McCaffrey has to end the story without truly accomplishing what it set out to do.
And the way she ends it works... sort of. It doesn't feel completely fulfilling, but she did the best she could with what she gave herself to work with.
I could talk about the problems of "Dragonflight" for hours, but the fact is, it's still fun. It's just downright fun to read. Take it too seriously and you'll be disappointed, but come in looking for a "book snack" and you'll enjoy yourself.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 19, 2009 9:11 AM PDT


The Last Samurai (Two-Disc Special Edition)
The Last Samurai (Two-Disc Special Edition)
DVD ~ Tom Cruise
Offered by SOUTHWEST MEDIA
Price: $5.67
721 used & new from $0.01

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serene Elegance in a Tom Cruise Film, May 11, 2004
"The Last Samurai" was certainly one of the best movies of 2003. The main story is a reverent account of the character of the Japanese people and the Samurai in particular, but there's much more to it than simply that. The film has many subplots and resolves them all neatly without ever seeming contrived. Everything from Algren's (Tom Cruise) search for peace to his understated yet elegant love story with Taka (Koyuki) is handled as well as it conceivably could be. Writer John Logan avoids the overwrought melodrama that burdens most war movies; everything is as quietly graceful as the Samurai way of living depicted within the film.
The acting is, on every front, excellent. Tom Cruise gives an uncharacteristically melancholy performance as Captain Nathan Algren, while Ken Watanabe perfectly encapsulates the quiet honor of Samurai leader Katsumoto. The actors cast in the supporting roles are equally suited to the film, each giving realistic and powerful performances by turns.
Director Edward Zwick infuses the entire film with the necessary serene feel. He uses well-placed camera angles to complement and enhance the already magnificent sets, and even cliched choices (such as Algren's choppy, blurred memories) are handled competently. The only area that Zwick falls a little short in is in his directing of the action. Despite the R rating of the film, he displays a timidity in his direction which, at times, makes it blatantly obvious that these are stunts. Even still, this movie is not an action film, and it's appropriate that Zwick kept it from becoming a visceral bloodbath. This isn't too say that there aren't graphic depictions of violence, but Zwick generally avoids the blatant displays which fill movies like "Kill Bill", preferring to quickly cut away from gory moments.
If "The Last Samurai" has a real problem, it's that the story is about somewhat immaterial concepts: tradition, honor, and the character of a culture. It can be difficult to emotionally connect with things of such abstract nature, but even still, it's as elegant a defense of such things as the moviegoer is likely to find. And the stories of the characters and their relationships within this defense are powerful enough to provide more than enough emotional resonance to compensate.
In a year that saw the release of many excellent films, "The Last Samurai" is among the best. Patient, mature viewers will find much to admire herein, though those seeking a light-hearted action romp may wish to look elsewhere.


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