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Grendel
Grendel
by John Gardner
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.54
549 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, multifaceted, multilevel philosophical exploration, July 1, 2010
This review is from: Grendel (Paperback)
It's quite difficult to understand the number of negative reviews this particular novel has accrued. Worse still, the vehemence and brevity of the critiques suggests a serious lack of understanding of the authors intent, let alone the depth of meaning. This is a wide-ranging and erudite examination of numerous philosophical concepts couched in the guise of a parallel novel. That it is generally accepted as a brilliantly executed novel bespeaks the mastery of the English language that Gardner so skillfuly employs.

As in the main portion of the similarly excellent 'Freddy's Book' (for example, Bishop Brask's obscenely literate monologues in the main portion, 'King Gustav and the Devil': "tell me about pride, pretty Jesus!"), Gardner offers up the concept that good cannot exist as such without evil as an antithesis or metric. That said, the author of 'On Moral Fiction' is no Hegel - this is an artist at the height of his powers. His views on language and it's relationship to Reality are never far from the forefront, particularly so when the Shaper shows up.

Further, the apparent (evolving-into) existentialism of the title character is brilliantly contrasted with the nihilism of the similarly doomed, omniscient Dragon. The astrological connotations of the conflicts in the chapters (a Ram? a stupid, incoherent, sexually driven masculine sheep?) and the evolution of the world-view (solipsistic to...) are absolutely brilliant, and merit repeated readings regardless of Gore Vidal's prissy slanderings of the author (could Red Horse's reasoned anarchism really be that threatening? One wonders!). The dialogue between the ancient priest and Grendel alone is so impressive that it bears comparison to nearly anything found in contemporary fiction.

True, Gardner presupposes some familiarity with both the original epic and with some philosophical concepts, but that does not mean this novel is inaccessible to general audiences! Quite the contrary, Gardner's evocative and astonishingly varied prose, not to mention his casting of the ultraviolent central anti-hero (with internal justification), make the novel a true joy to read and re-read.

Gardner has succeeded beyond all expectation where so many others have failed. Contained within this volume are concepts beyond imagination, perhaps beyond reason. There are truths that cannot be expressed with words, but, however paradoxically, some of them may found within the pages of this book. This is as challenging and evocative as English can be without being obtuse and unapproachable.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 9, 2011 7:32 PM PST


JVC America FLAT Headpones - Black
JVC America FLAT Headpones - Black

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Relatively efficient, good sound, excellent value, June 20, 2009
For $15 or less retail, these are shockingly competent sealed headphones that are both dynamic and comfortable to wear for hours at a time. The bass response seems very good without being overpowering while the mid and high frequencies are better than one has a right to expect in this price range.

Their low price, small size and rather robust construction (excepting the cord) make them a good choice for travelers. The ear cups fold flat for superior portability. The drivers are sensitive enough to produce reasonable volume even with replay-gained music played through the underpowered headphone jack of my dell mini 9.

In short, a good product at a good price. Recommended.


Funky Broadway: Stax Revue Live At The 5/4 Ballroom
Funky Broadway: Stax Revue Live At The 5/4 Ballroom
12 used & new from $25.12

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Stax Revue Live in 1965 - Incredible, April 6, 2009
Provided you can find it at a reasonable price, this is a superb album. Just under an hour of show with Booker T & The MGs headlining and then backing up some of Stax Records' finest artists. Wilson Pickett apparently played the show, but was under contract to Atlantic and so does not appear.

This disc was recorded at the 5/4 Ballroom in south central Los Angeles three days prior to the '65 Watts riots and features the famous LA DJ Magnificent Montague ("Burn baby burn!") as the emcee. The MGs instrumental performances are incredibly high energy - drummer Al Jackson Jr. and guitarist Steve Cropper in particular just blow the roof off of the building with their intensity. Booker's organ lead work is fantastic, and Duck Dunn is perfect as always.

Booker and the boys do the first four songs, then back up The Mad Lads (song 5), the Astors (6), The Mar-Keys (7), William Bell (the eighth and ninth songs) and Carla Thomas (10). The MGs then do "Bootleg" by themselves, and end the set backing up the incredible Rufus Thomas on two cuts. I strongly doubt there is a better live version of "Do The Dog" (9:19 in length) anywhere. Rufus rocks the house, growls and barks, and then stops to show the audience how exactly the dog is supposed to go. One wonders if even Wilson Pickett could have possibly kept up. There is a stage announcement by Montague or a house announcer between each change of artist excepting between Carla Thomas and the MGs doing "Bootleg".

All of the vocal performances are top-notch, although the Astors get assaulted by Steve Cropper and almost run over by Al Jackson on "Candy". The way the Mar-Kays horns and the MGs lock on "Last Night" is pretty awesome to hear, possibly worth the price of the disc alone. William Bell had just got out of the army and puts in good renditions of "Any Other Way" and "You Don't Miss Your Water".

Carla Thomas and The Astors struggle a little to be heard over the MGs, but other than that there are few complaints about sound quality. For a mid-sixties live recording, the fidelity is very good indeed.

As far as R&B Revues go, this was it - it does not get any better. Provided you can find someone selling it for a price that is less than crazy, you will not be sorry you bought it.


Canon Rebel XSi DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens (OLD MODEL)
Canon Rebel XSi DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Lens (OLD MODEL)
Offered by transbiz
44 used & new from $180.00

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic sensor, great functionality, decent kit lens, November 3, 2008
Overall, this is a first-class entry from Canon, with a superb 12.2MP CMOS sensor that keeps noise to a minimum, even more so with NR enabled. Paired with good lenses the XSI/450D can provide jaw-dropping images with incredible detail. Overall shooting speed is very, very good and the viewfinder is generously sized. The LCD is large and bright.

As there are a large number of reviews of the Rebel XSI already, I'll attempt to detail the few negative aspects of the camera so prospective owners can decide if any of them are deal-breakers for their specific needs.

-Body Construction. The XSI is built almost entirely of high density plastic and feels more flimsy to me than the Nikons. The plastic LCD cover is quite exposed and probably needs an after-market screen protector. Like many entry level SLRs There is no auxiliary settings/metering LCD on the top of the camera (the viewfinder does give you a good amount of info). The battery compartment appears to be relatively fragile when opened.
If weather sealing and robustness are paramount, the Pentax K200D is more solidly built at a slightly lower price point.

-Auto White Balance. While you can readily correct this issue with custom WB settings, the fact remains that under the fluorescent light setting (& often Auto) the XSI is off color balance wise. With Live View it is obvious that there's too much red/yellow under fluorescent. Incandescent is better but not perfect. Tungsten seems very good, and during daylight hours the WB seems excellent. Nikon may have slightly fewer problems with some default settings, but I believe most manufacturers have some WB issues out of the box.

-Auto-Focus and AV. The versatile eleven point auto focus is generally very quick, but occasionally freaks out. Distance AF can be inaccurate at times in bright light. Exposure Compensation goes to + or - 2 at maximum. Continuous drive mode has an upper limit of exposures even in JPEG mode.

-Hand grip. The XSI grip is relatively short and less secure in my large hands than the Nikons, Pentaxes and Sonys I've tried. While the grip is relatively comfortable, it's small size means I'm gripping the camera with my middle and ring fingers, bracing the bottom with my little finger. A hand strap might come in handy, but the Opteka feels too flimsy for my taste.

-Kit Lens. The 18-55 EF-S lens is a big step up from a P&S camera, but not especially impressive by SLR standards. By Nikon/Canon kit lens standards it is good, and the image stabilization works quite nicely. Were I to buy the camera today I might forgo the kit lens altogether and jump right in to a 28mm prime, keeping my f1.8 II 50mm. The difference in image quality between the f1.8 II 50mm and the kit lens is noticeable. Remember the 1.6x crop factor (50mm effectively ~80mm for example) due to the APS-C sized sensor.

-Default JPEG settings. The default JPEG settings are good, but seem a bit less saturated and a bit sharper than typical for Canon. This can be readily adjusted of course. RAW is flawless.

-Live View is limited and cannot be used in Auto mode. Live view shuts off the viewfinder entirely (except during AF) and is limited in the modes it can use. The Olympus Live View is reputedly better implemented, but the 400/500 series viewfinders are smaller. For tripod use, the XSI Live View with image magnification and manual focus could be indispensable.

-Proprietary Li-Ion battery. The 450D uses a (long-lasting) 7.4V 1080mAH Canon battery and includes a charger; replacements are not cheap and third-party versions can be inferior. Nearly all other manufacturers also use expensive proprietary packs, with the K200D being one exception.

Absent from these small flaws, the Rebel XSI is a truly great camera with good features and a sensor that can really make make use of top-notch lenses. Versatile and compact, the XSI is more than enough camera for almost anyone.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 5, 2008 3:19 PM PST


Voguestrap TX877761 Allstrap 16-20mm Black Adjustable-Length Fits Fast-Wrap-Expedition Watchband
Voguestrap TX877761 Allstrap 16-20mm Black Adjustable-Length Fits Fast-Wrap-Expedition Watchband

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Really Poor - weak watch retention and significant scent retention, July 5, 2008
While this watch band does wrap quickly, that is just about all it does well. Due to the largely nylon ("leather-cloth"? More like nylon cloth with a sewed-on leather patch) construction of the watch band, it picks up liquids and scents readily, and retains them unless you vigorously wash and dry the band, every day.

After less than a month of my using the band, it began to smell like bacteria fermenting sugars to vinegar, as did my wrist after wearing the watch for any period of time.

Still worse, then watch proper attaches to the band via a strip of elastic-like material that loops behind the watch and over the main nylon band. While highly flexible to accommodate the fattest watch bodies, the elastic material is almost comically weak for a band with the "expedition" logo on it.

If you want an easily adjustable replacement watch band, I would strongly recommend investigating rubberized plastic watch bands, since the scent and weakness of the attachment on this band make it.

Avoid.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 29, 2011 11:33 AM PDT


Stompin at the Savoy
Stompin at the Savoy
10 used & new from $36.00

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolutely incredible collection of classic R&B, blues, doo wop, boogie, jazz and more, March 21, 2008
This review is from: Stompin at the Savoy (Audio CD)
The packaging of "Stompin' At The Savoy; The Original Indie Label 1944-1961" claims that it is "The ultimate anthology of ground breaking R&B classics", and for once this is not hyperbole in any way - overstating the quality of this box set is nearly impossible. Packed full of nearly four hours of brilliantly transferred classics, this is probably the only place one can find the best secular hits and B-sides of both the Savoy and National labels in their prime (mainly 1945-1959). As such, the set is an absolute gold mine of jump blues, doo wop, R&B and other styles that verge on or prefigure soul and rock 'n' roll, representing an incredible musical education for nearly anyone.

According to the limited general liner notes, the owner of the Savoy label (who later purchased National and other, smaller labels) targeted R&B radio listening and 78-buying audiences and encouraged his artists to 'overplay' in studio, resulting in music that is still incredibly fresh and spirited. As luck would have it, the A&R men working at Savoy and National had great taste in the acts they hired and produced, resulting in the legacy of this set and in the record companies those A&R men would later start (including Atlantic).

This is the one place to find the early singles of Johnny Otis, Joe Turner, Nappy Brown, Brownie McGhee (solo), and the last, best, two cuts from the immortal Big Maybelle. While the general liner notes are sparse, the individual track notes are extensive and spotlight the enormously talented nature of the artists. Even the virtually unknown artists put in superb performances - Pete "Guitar" Lewis' loping, slashing electric lead guitar on Johnny Otis' "Midnight At The Barrel House" (1947) has got to be the nastiest, loudest, most distorted guitar on record until the 60's.

Included on the set are the ORIGINAL versions of some certified American classics including "Uncle Sam Blues" (Hot Lips Page), "Open The Door Richard (1&2)" (Dusty Fletcher), "Candy" (Big Maybelle), and "(Night Time Is)The Right Time" (Nappy Brown). As a matter of opinion, even the much more famous cover versions of the two latter songs have still not equaled the versions heard here.

The Ravens' "Gonna Write Me A Letter" from 1947, possibly the first popular rock'n song ever (a #5 R&B and #24 Pop hit), is on disc one, as is 1947's "We're Gonna Rock We're gonna Roll" by Wild Bill Moore (who would later play sax on Marvin Gaye's "Mercy, Mercy Me"). Billy Eckstine (think Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie) has an orchestral cut on disc one, and Hal Sexton's (think Duke Ellington) barn-burning #1 R&B hit "Corn Bread" shows up on disc two. There are four Nappy Brown (still an active performer!) cuts on discs three and four - "Little By Little" and "Don't Be Angry" highlight the possibilities of his unique vocal style.

Listening to the music in this collection gives one a very good idea of where 50s and early 60s popular musical luminaries were coming from. Ray Charles, Bill Haley, James Brown, Curtis Mayfield and Elvis did not arise in a musical vacuum - they were listening to many of the songs included here! Can there be a more compelling recommendation?

Incredibly, the digital transfer of these ancient lacquers and tapes has been pulled off without a hitch, and the fidelity of these mostly mono records is phenomenal given their age. A handful of the cuts have unavoidable, audible hiss, but the majority were remarkably well-recorded and are transferred and mastered flawlessly. A job well done by Denon Digital.


Tommy James & The Shondells - The Definitive Pop Collection
Tommy James & The Shondells - The Definitive Pop Collection
Price: $18.08
37 used & new from $6.25

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shame on you Rhino! Excellent songs, but much too short for the price, November 26, 2007
As the previous reviewers have pointed out,this collection has essentially all of the Tommy J & The Shondells studio cuts that anyone could possibly want, including nearly all of their notable hits and a good number of quality misses. There is, however, a notable catch.

This is a 2CD collection and is priced as such. Unfortunately the collection features under 85 minutes of total music on those 2CDs. Given that a single CD is capable of holding up to 80 minutes of music, paying $20+ for this collection seems not just unwarranted, but a deliberate attempt by the once-excellent Rhino Entertainment Group to gouge it's loyal customer base while providing minimal content.
One might be tempted to judge this an aberration, but Rhino's recent "Definitive..." 2CD sets routinely suffer from this "problem". Sam & Dave's "Definitive Soul" is worth less than 82 minutes on 2 Discs, while Frank Valli & The 4 Seasons merit a slightly more generous 90minutes.

A collection of 2hrs+ is certainly warranted for Tommy James, particularly if one were to include live material with a generous array of B-sides and alternate takes. Since Rhino is producing and selling a 2CD set, they certainly have enough capacity to give their customers 160 minutes of content. Instead they have chosen to flagrantly fleece their customers with roughly half that.

There is no longer any compelling reason to purchase (newly produced) Rhino products - apparently all principles vanished with previous management.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 14, 2014 6:50 PM PST


Philips Norelco 8140XL SpeedXL Men's Shaver
Philips Norelco 8140XL SpeedXL Men's Shaver
3 used & new from $319.99

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A quiet and close shave, with caveats, May 11, 2007
The 8140 SpeedXL model is the first time I've tried using a Norelco shaver in almost a decade, and the results have been superior to earlier models, equaling the closeness of shave seen with midrange foil models from Braun or Remington. There are some caveats however, as the head is less well suited to going over any given area of the face a single time, and has more difficulty with the areas above and below the lips. Unfortunately, the attached trimmer is one of the worst designs I've seen unless you use it exclusively for thinning out your beard hair.

This particular unit is very quiet for an electric, and is possessed of a NiMH rechargeable battery making it less apt to developing a crippling "memory-effect". This is a plus, and while the battery capacity is not the absolute best, the shaver does seem to recharge rather rapidly. The NiMH battery also reduces the mass of the shaver; the seemingly low-powered motors add little more, making this a very light shaver for it's size.

While the closeness of shave is quite comparable to pivoting foil-head models from Braun and some of the dual-foil Remingtons, the Norelco seems to require going over the same 'section' of skin more times. The area of the head of the shaver is of course larger, so there are fewer total 'sections' to shave, but the Norelco does seem to take a bit longer, with plenty of touch up needed above and below the lips, the top of the chin, and the neck. Overall however, a very close shave is possible without using a mirror. Beware of shaving with only one of the heads however (as on curvy area of the upper lip), as skin can get pulled uncomfortably.

Norelco touts this shaver as being directly washable, but I would not wash the razor more than monthly, rather mopping up the inside with a piece of tissue three or four times a week (if you have thick, quickly growing hair). Also note that the head section dries rather slowly, and should probably be shook vigorously dry before reattaching.

The pop-up trimmer is a disappointment as it seems much lower-powered than Remington or Braun trimmers, requiring more attention in use than it should. Much like the head of the shaver, the trimmer must go over the same section multiple times to get the job done. It's not possible to do precise trimming with a corner of the trimmer, and it is also definitely wider than is preferable for precise trimming. Still worse, the trimmer has even more of a tendency to fold back into the main unit than the competition. The sole saving grace of the low-powered trimmer is that it is probably the best design going for trimming and thinning out large areas of beard, mustache and sideburn.

Barring the trimmer, and using care when shaving the upper lip, this is a high quality design that should stand the test of time. Since it does not have an easily tear-able foil or a bendable head that require replacement, it should also be cheaper to maintain over the long term unless one washes it daily. Finally, the percieved level of irritation induced by the shaver seems comparable to Remington/Braun and less than the thin-foil Panasonics.

If you can get around the trimmer and the trade offs inherent in the head design, this shaver is one of the better units on the market, and should serve you well for many years.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 15, 2008 10:15 PM PDT


Fast Man Raider Man
Fast Man Raider Man
Offered by newbury_comics
Price: $14.67
38 used & new from $0.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Superb, laid-back, country-fried (4.5 stars), January 5, 2007
This review is from: Fast Man Raider Man (Audio CD)
Frank returns to the wonderful world of Honeycomb with some of the best musicians to ever lay tracks to wax, and the result is arguably even better. From the classic "If Your Poison Gets You" through the numbers co-written with punker Reid Paley ("I'm Not Dead, I'm In Pittsburgh" is superb), all the way to the end, this album is stunningly satisfying to repeat listens.

This is not a new Catholics album played by other people, this is a unique entity. Music legends Al Kooper, Levon Helm and Steve Cropper all feature with amazing result, but this is still definitely a Frank Black album. Take a listen to the musical progression and lyrics of "Kiss my ring" if you doubt.

Then, just for fun, listen to any of the instruments individually, in any song.

Perfect.


No Title Available

23 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Extremely cheap, incredibly easy to damage, November 9, 2006
The 'crystal' of this watch is in fact made out of plastic, which causes it to become marred and scratched nearly as soon as it's removed from the containing box. The backlight is almost totally worthless and the databank function is unusable with a total of four buttons. The analog dial does not even feature a second hand.

Avoid.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 17, 2011 10:41 AM PDT


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