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Taza Chocolate Mexicano Chocolate Disc, Guajillo Chili, 2.7 Ounce
Taza Chocolate Mexicano Chocolate Disc, Guajillo Chili, 2.7 Ounce
Offered by GROUNDS FOR TEA
Price: $6.98
8 used & new from $3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "Wow" is Right!, December 16, 2014
I was so miffed when I saw the title I'd planned to use - "Wow!" - had already been taken. And by the most helpful review too!

All I can do at this point is acknowledge that I completely agree with the sentiment. This has to be one of the most amazing - and surprising - chocolate experiences I've ever had. I'm not sure if it's the stoneground cacao itself or the otherwise minimal processing, but this chocolate has the most unusual texture I've ever encountered. It's gritty, but in a wonderful way. Almost cookie-like. Simultaneously rich and sugary, and the chilli works amazingly well too. And those are the only ingredients: cacao, cane sugar, and chilli powder. All organic. Health conscious consumers who want their heart to enjoy the benefits of dark chocolate will be pleased to see this is completely dairy free.

The only down-side is that it's way too high in sugar to be a true chocolate health-food. The company's website lists it as having 21 gm of sugar per 38 gm serve (two serves per packet). That makes it 55% sugar, which is not so great. Meaning that in my case at least, this will have to be an occasional treat rather than a daily staple.

Still, I can't wait to try their Taza Organic Stone Ground Chocolate Bars - 70% Dark (3 ounce) product. There may be a new review coming from me on that front tomorrow!

;-)

Theo.


God's Little Princess Bible: New King James Version
God's Little Princess Bible: New King James Version
by Sheila Walsh
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.75
45 used & new from $14.67

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Put Not Your Faith In Princesses!, December 16, 2014
Okay, at first I admit I was delighted: finally a Bible for princesses! One that would at last warn them against the terrible sin of wearing clothing made from more than one type of cloth (Leviticus 19:19): a sin that princesses seem horrifyingly, almost Satanically drawn to.

But no. Once again this crucial aspect of God's teachings has been hidden away in the fine print, with no special attention drawn to it. I am appalled that this, supposedly a Bible made specifically to address the spiritual needs of princesses, does not put such vital information front and center.

I can only hope that any princess unfortunate enough to have this as her only Bible will at least be lucky enough to have brothers who will sell her into slavery (Genesis 37:28).

Only in this way may she atone for her sartorial sins and be spared the eternal fires of Hell.

Theo.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 18, 2014 2:00 PM PST


Paleo Athlete: A Complete Guide On How To Improve Your Performance, Recovery, Health And Fitness With The Paleo Diet
Paleo Athlete: A Complete Guide On How To Improve Your Performance, Recovery, Health And Fitness With The Paleo Diet
Price: $2.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Inconsistent & Unreferenced, October 28, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The paleo diet has been the subject of serious research in recent years, and so far the results look pretty good. While not yet as extensively investigated as the Mediterranean diet, paleo is not just some wacky fad. This is an approach that, at the very least, is worth exploring and looking into.

On a further positive note, this "book" is short, clear, and to the point. You can easily read it in the time it might otherwise take you to eat your lunch - paleo or not. While some folks might complain that they're not getting a "real" book, personally I consider the length (or lack thereof) a major plus. Far too many diet books could easily have been one tenth their actual size if only the author had not been obliged to churn out enough pointless verbiage to make their book the same size as all the other books on the shelf at Borders.

Well... in this brave new world we live in, that's not the case any more.

But anyway, having checked out the other reviews, I can honestly say I have no idea what the reviewers who slammed this author's style were talking about. Yes, there were the occasional minor errors that one so often finds in self published material. But overall I found his writing to be both simple and straightforward. This book is not poorly written.

So far so good, right? Unfortunately there were some fairly serious negatives that would prevent me from recommending this.

First, that whole "Athlete" angle seems to be nothing more than a gimmick that's been very poorly tacked on to a short booklet that otherwise does little more than summarize the basic rules of the paleo diet. Readers should also be aware that even within the paleo community, many would regard some aspects of this book's approach as highly controversial. For example, in directing readers to eat meat protein with every meal, to restrict their intake of fruit and nuts, and perhaps most of all, in its claim that carbohydrates are not an essential macronutrient.

Second, when we do get onto athlete-specific information, the author pretty well immediately contradicts the basic paleo principles he's elsewhere laid out. In particular, I'm referring to the fact that his recommended post-workout meal includes a whey protein shake, despite the fact that dairy is specifically forbidden on the paleo diet! It's true that this author suggests 3 cheat meals per week, but I can only wonder: is every post workout meal intended to be a cheat meal? What if you workout more than three times per week? Is it possible to have a cheat meal _other_ than a whey protein shake? Then there's the fact that he specifically recommends that all cheat meals for the week be eaten within a 36 hour period...

The book's discussion of carbohydrates is similarly inconsistent. While at some points we are told we are allowed to eat sweet potatoes and fruit, in the book's final summary of the paleo diet, we are simply admonished "Eliminate Carbs". Bizarrely, just two lines later, this is followed by the rule that we are allowed a maximum of 1 serving of fruit per day.

Unsurprisingly, analysis is also not this author's strong point. There is no attempt at all to come to grips with more mainstream medical findings or recommendations such as that high levels of meat consumption are associated with higher rates of mortality; or that we should all eat at least two servings of fruit per day.

Finally, none of this book's claims are referenced in any way. None. Nada. Zip. Literally everything is left at the level of raw assertion. This is particularly problematic in the author's repeated (and completely bald) assertion that gluten is indigestible.

Really? I'm not convinced. It's certainly true that people with celiac disease need to avoid the stuff. But totally indigestible for everyone? I did some searching myself after finishing this short book, including on the medical database pubmed. And while a case can be made that avoiding gluten could be more broadly beneficial (even for those of us without celiac disease), I could not find anything to back up the claim that gluten is indigestible. Hey, if I'm wrong about this, by all means leave a comment on this review correcting me.

But peer reviewed evidence based research only, please.

Theo.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 29, 2014 5:07 AM PDT


Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery
Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery
Price: $3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bernheimer Doing What Bernheimer Does Best, October 13, 2014
This is the second novel I've read by Jim Bernheimer - the first being Confessions of a D-List Supervillain. In both cases I'd have to say that if there's one thing Bernheimer knows how to do, it's tell a story that grabs you by the throat and takes you on a thrilling adventure ride from beginning to end.

In many ways I'd consider him a modern successor to the writers of the golden age of pulp. He's not an Arthur C. Clark or Kim Stanley Robinson, intent on taking you through a meticulously thought out course of scientific and technological development. Bernheimer is all about the story. And I have to say I've enjoyed his stories immensely.

That said, I would also like to add that his stories are not entirely without that something deeper that all good science fiction must possess. It has often been said that all stories about the future are really about the present. While I wouldn't accept that as an absolute, Prime Suspects can certainly be read as a critique of this second gilded age we seem to be living in. There is enough here to leave you wondering about many of the things you've encountered - things both said and unsaid. And there's certainly plenty of room left open for a sequel. I'd be genuinely interested to see how Bernheimer would explore the deeper basis to society he's created here, should he choose to do so.

On the technological front, my only quibble is that I would've thought that for a society with the biotech to create not only clones, but clones that emerge as fully functioning adults with all the memories and skills of the donor, creating mere replacement organs (such as, say, a heart, a kidney, or a uterus) would be child's play. But... it's not like this was an important plot point, and it didn't interfere with my enjoyment of the story.

I did receive a free electronic copy of this work for reviewing purposes. But that said, if the author did write that sequel I suggested earlier, I'd have no hesitation at all in buying it with my own money.

Theo.


Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go [Blu-ray]
Monty Python Live (Mostly): One Down, Five to Go [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Graham Chapman
Price: $18.74
5 used & new from $14.99

50 of 84 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Mistake, October 6, 2014
I never thought I'd give a bad review to a Monty Python piece. The sad part is, those of us who felt the need to give a poor review to this thing are nevertheless Python fans too. But... here goes.

Opinion here on Amazon is divided on whether you need to watch or read something all the way through to review it. I'm of the view that if if you gave something an honest attempt but just couldn't make it to the end (or in this case, really didn't want to) it's okay to say so. I tried to watch this a few times. In the end, I made it about halfway through before finally giving up.

To be fair, this was... not bad as such. It made me smile often. Chuckle occasionally. But the experience was a long, long way from what it was like to watch the originals. I say "originals" because almost none of what you'll see here is new. All the old familiar sketches are trotted out. With just the occasional tweak here or there to a punch line. The only truly funny part - the only part with all the savage irreverence of old - was, ironically enough, when they went off on a complete tangent with a short video insert featuring Profs Brian Cox and Stephen Hawking. It made me wish they'd had the guts to do the unthinkable and hit us with a show of all-new material. I even fast-forwarded through the rest of the show to see if there was indeed any more.

But... there wasn't. Instead they went down the safe and obvious route and pandered to the fans. So what we have here is kind of like (well, almost exactly like) watching a band of aging rockers put on a show doing all their old hits from decades past. If you do have the chance to see the show live and you don't happen to have a handy time machine lying around, then yeah, sure, why not. But if you're going to buy a recorded version anyway, you're better off by far if you get them in their heyday.

Same deal here.

The youthful energy just isn't there anymore. The performances are all lacking what I can only describe as a certain "tightness". You can see these people have gone through these motions, have read these lines, enough for one lifetime. Dead Parrot anyone? Or perhaps an Albatross?

No thanks.

The Terry Gilliam of today is a great director, not a great Gumby.

It's time for us all to move on and let these people be what they now are.

And enjoy Monty Python in its original form when the mood strikes us.

Theo.
Comment Comments (73) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 17, 2014 2:10 PM PST


Justice League: The New Frontier
Justice League: The New Frontier
DVD
Price: $2.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It started off so well..., October 4, 2014
DC's Animated offerings have long boasted universally high production values and a general level of finish that can only be described as superb. On a deeper level, however, the quality of their output has varied enormously. At its best, their material easily holds its own against even the most intelligent programming made for "grown up" TV. But there have also been rather disappointing efforts that, as much as it pains me to say so, really were just for kids.

This one starts off extremely well. The story is set in the mid 20th century, with cold war paranoia at its height. Even superheroes are not immune, and as a result we find ourselves entering into a complex and compelling world with real murkiness in its shadows. Conflicts simmer and seethe beneath the surface, threatening to erupt at any moment. Much is merely suggested or hinted at. I was especially impressed by how well the writers, actors, and animators were together able to create a sense of depth across such a wide array of characters.

The film is also remarkable for its departure from the canonical style of drawing first laid down by Bruce Timm in Batman: The Animated Series. In its place we encounter a visual language that is very clearly intended to pay homage to the commercial art and architecture, and most especially the comic books, of the era in which The New Frontier itself is set. True, some of the Googie we find in the Las Vegas scenes has probably been misplaced by about a decade. But seriously, who cares? When something works as well as this does, I think we can forgive such minor acts of artistic license. As much as I admire that "canonical" style I mentioned earlier, what this film brought us was an amazing creation in its own right. So for quite a while I found it an extremely impressive piece of work. Up until about two thirds of the way through, I really thought it was going to be one of the great ones.

Unfortunately...

At a certain point the writers lost their way. I don't know whether they just plain lost their nerve, or if they truly did not know how to meaningfully resolve the conflicts they'd set in motion. Perhaps they just didn't have the stones of Alan Moore. But however you might choose to explain it, let's just say that at a certain point things got real simple and stayed that way.

A profound disappointment.

Theo.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 12, 2014 12:19 PM PDT


Dredd (Blu Ray/3D/Digital Copy) 3-D
Dredd (Blu Ray/3D/Digital Copy) 3-D
4 used & new from $8.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does What It Needs To, September 21, 2014
This is your basic, functional, shoot-em-up sci-fi action flick. No thinking required, but at the same time all too plausible as a vision of the future.

Is it brilliant? No. Is it light years ahead of the cringe-worthy Stallone travesty from the 90's? Absolutely. Karl Urban manifests infinitely more presence than the pathetically humanized Stallone - not least of all because he has the basic decency to keep his helmet on. Olivia Thrilby also delivers the goods as Psi Judge Anderson.

Where I personally found this film lacking though was in its failure to capture the feel of the luridly, almost claustrophobically dense city-scapes of the original 2000 AD comics. Which was, I think, a feeling worth capturing. By contrast, in this film the streets, the wide open spaces, and most especially the vehicles were all a bit ordinary. None of the vehicles or even the roads would've looked out of place in today's world: just the kind of thing you could see by looking out your window. I can't help but wish this film had known the touch of someone like Terry Gilliam or Tim Burton: someone who knew how to create a dense, surreal, and yet also hyper-real cinematic experience. As it is, the fundamental ordinariness of the visuals gave this film the feel of a work with a budget significantly less than the $50 million it apparently cost to create.

The villain of the piece, Ma-Ma, played by Lena Headey, was also verging on the ordinary. Not exactly substandard, but by no means the overpowering menace a truly great hero requires.

So in the end we're back to where we began. This is your basic, functional, sci-fi action flick. Not brilliant, but not too shabby either.

Theo.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 9, 2014 11:30 PM PDT


Dredd [3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray + Digital Copy + UltraViolet]
Dredd [3D Blu-ray/Blu-ray + Digital Copy + UltraViolet]
DVD ~ Lena Headey
Price: $7.88
85 used & new from $3.44

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does What It Needs To, September 20, 2014
This is your basic, functional, shoot-em-up sci-fi action flick. No thinking required, but at the same time all too plausible as a vision of the future.

Is it brilliant? No. Is it light years ahead of the cringe-worthy Stallone travesty from the 90's? Absolutely. Karl Urban manifests infinitely more presence than the pathetically humanized Stallone - not least of all because he has the basic decency to keep his helmet on. Olivia Thrilby also delivers the goods as Psi Judge Anderson.

Where I personally found this film lacking though was in its failure to capture the feel of the luridly, almost claustrophobically dense city-scapes of the original 2000 AD comics. Which was, I think, a feeling worth capturing. By contrast, in this film the streets, the wide open spaces, and most especially the vehicles were all a bit ordinary. None of the vehicles or even the roads would've looked out of place in today's world: just the kind of thing you could see by looking out your window. I can't help but wish this film had known the touch of someone like Terry Gilliam or Tim Burton: someone who knew how to create a dense, surreal, and yet also hyper-real cinematic experience. As it is, the fundamental ordinariness of the visuals gave this film the feel of a work with a budget significantly less than the $50 million it apparently cost to create.

The villain of the piece, Ma-Ma, played by Lena Headey, was also verging on the ordinary. Not exactly substandard, but by no means the overpowering menace a truly great hero requires.

So in the end we're back to where we began. This is your basic, functional, sci-fi action flick. Not brilliant, but not too shabby either.

Theo.


Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox
DVD
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely Blew Me Away!, September 20, 2014
This film brings back a depth that's long been lacking in DC Animated productions - particularly in their one off feature films. Older fans might almost consider this work a very welcome blast from the past - a return to the halcyon days of Justice League Unlimited. I wouldn't quite say The Flashpoint Paradox shares the moral depth of that show at its absolute best. But it does come very close.

The film diverges far more markedly from that older material in just how dark it is prepared to get, and in just how far it is prepared to go. Stories set in alternate worlds have always granted writers permission to explore vastly more extreme events and outcomes than would be allowed in the proprietor's canonical universe. On home turf creators must always labor under the commercial requirement to keep all the main pieces of intellectual property intact. And let's face it: it's tough to create the illusion that anything is ever really at stake when characters and their worlds always seem ultimately to return to the manufacturer's default settings. But if there's one thing I can virtually guarantee about The Flashpoint Paradox, it's that it will take you places you never even imagined DC would go.

I'd also like to add that this film has an exceptionally strong soundtrack, courtesy of composer Frederick Wiedmann. We're all used to seeing DCAU features with amazing production values, but this score is another step up yet again. Like the film itself, it's of an entirely different order to anything we've experienced in a long while. I very much hope we'll be hearing more from Wiedmann in the future.

There are only two reservations I would express about this film.

First, this is NOT something you want to be showing to young children. It just isn't, okay? This is by far the darkest and most violent piece of animation I have ever seen from DC - or Marvel either for that matter. It's an awesome piece of filmmaking for the older fans for whom it is clearly intended. But it's not something you want to park the kids in front of.

That said, taking the film on its own terms, my only real reservation is as to the fundamental premise on which this film's alternate reality turns. It's all a bit wobbly; or at least, it seems so to me. This is a great pity, because Flashpoint is such an amazing piece of work on every other level. So it's all the more sad to see the writers letting themselves down in their fundamental concept. If they'd taken just a little more care and effort to line all the dots up logically, they could've spared a very good film an embarrassment it didn't need to have.

But even with such reservations, my final verdict is that this is still far and away the best animated feature length film I've seen from DC in a long time. If you have any interest in the genre at all, SEE IT.

Theo.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 9, 2014 11:37 PM PDT


Rick and Morty Season 1
Rick and Morty Season 1
Price: $16.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Funniest and Most Philosophically Dense show on Television?, September 16, 2014
I still remember the thrill of seeing SpaceGhost Coast to Coast and the original generation of Williams Street cartoons for the first time. Despite the ultra low budgets and the artwork lifted from old Hanna Barberra cartoons, they had an originality to them that just blew you away: that let you know that something fundamentally different from anything you'd seen before had arrived on the scene.

Since those early days Williams Street has continued to produce some very good stuff... but also some shows that didn't quite hold up to the standard of their original material. Shows that, more by dint of their failures than their successes, taught us that as easy as the greats might make it seem, there's a whole lot more to crafting a successful surrealist comedy than just stringing together a series of wacky non-sequiturs.

Rick and Morty is far and away the best thing that Williams Street has made in a long time. Maybe ever. Its surreal, madcap energy may well surpass that of any other show they've produced. But it's also so much more than that. The characters have just the right balance of nihilistic madness and humanity - and it is through their journey across infinite insanity and horror that this show faces up to the one great issue that all serious literature has had to face since Hamlet: the human quest for belonging and permanence in a cosmos that is ultimately a meaningless maelstrom.

Rick and Morty is rolling in the aisles funny. It's also quite possibly the most philosophically dense show on television. Not buying that claim? Try watching Morty's speech to his sister when she's about to leave home in episode 8 and then get back to me. Of course, that speech will mean a whole lot more to you if you watch episodes 1 through 7 first. Just sayin'.

I don't know whether to call this show existentialist, nihilistic, or simply absurdist. Or even that there are any pat answers to this question.

I only know that like all the greats, it wears the mantle of its profundity lightly.

And it makes me laugh harder than any cartoon has in a long, long while.

Theo.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 2, 2014 5:53 PM PDT


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