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The Castle
The Castle
Price: $2.99

1.0 out of 5 stars The book itself is great, but you'll definitely want to steer clear of ..., April 5, 2016
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This review is from: The Castle (Kindle Edition)
The book itself is great, but you'll definitely want to steer clear of this particular version of it. Lots of OCR errors--it constantly puts apostrophes in the wrong places, and regularly you'll find large strings of meaningless text which seem to be taking the place of actual parts of the book! Shoddy work that Amazon should take down right away, if not refund the three bucks of everyone who actually bought it. Lord knows they can afford to.


Flixster
Flixster
Price: $0.00

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Used to be great, March 13, 2016
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This review is from: Flixster (App)
Without movie playback, this is an app that does nothing a Google search couldn't do.


Election 2014: Why the Republicans Swept the Midterms
Election 2014: Why the Republicans Swept the Midterms
Price: $9.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Resource, December 8, 2015
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Ed Kilgore's book is a short, readable account of what exactly happened in the 2014 election--why the Republicans surprisingly overperformed their polls and had a very nice election night. Kilgore puts it in perspective as owing much to difficult off-year dynamics for Democrats, combined with election-year events that put them at a further disadvantage, added to which was a deeply flawed strategy on the part of Democrats, consisting of staying out of the way of red-state Democrats to avoid making trouble for them. Very much worth reading.


I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiography
I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp: An Autobiography
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers
Price: $12.99

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read, March 17, 2013
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Forget the naysayers. Hell's book more than met my expectations. This is hardly his first book, he knows how to put together words and how to build up a rhythm, how to keep a person reading. Going in, I basically wanted to read about the following things:

* Early Television era, with emphasis on himself and Verlaine, their initial partnership and splintering.
* I like The Heartbreakers, so I wanted something on that.
* Impressions of the overall CBGB's scene.
* Solo work with the Voldoids, Robert Quine, touring, etc.

And that's all here, and committed well to words. He does go into detail about drugs and women, though usually in interesting and revealing ways. The book in general is revealing, but a little elusive. I greatly enjoyed it.


I Feel So Far Away: Anthology 1974-1998
I Feel So Far Away: Anthology 1974-1998
Price: $21.99
28 used & new from $14.13

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VU Drummer Strikes Out On Her Own, With Positive Results, April 19, 2012
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Maureen "Moe" Tucker has long been one of my favorite drummers. Her spare style with the Velvets was a big boost to the band, and much as I liked Loaded, her absence on it was definitely felt. The conclusion you would naturally draw from that record (and from this great new collection) is that Tucker truly is rock 'n' roll. There are some mellower and softer songs on here, but the compilation feels more continuous with the Velvets' work than Lou Reed's or John Cale's. There is present throughout this quarter-century spanning set a continuous current of energy and attitude that flowed and fluxed during those guys' careers, I don't think anyone would deny that. Tucker isn't doing a direct continuation of the VU's thematic material, but it's not completely different and she gets the tone and attitude right. It's no mean accomplishment.

The set features a few different things. There is original music, which I'm happy to say is generally first-rate. Tucker's own background as a single mother living in tough economic circumstances lends a credibility to the music that similarly-themed efforts often lack, her point of view is authentic enough to be fresh, and her approach is talented enough to render the songs quite vivid. Songs like "Spam Again" are compelling as art because they really just tell the truth in a direct way, and there's a populist charge to it that a Bruce Springsteen might envy. In addition to this, there are new versions of a number of Velvets songs, redone with Moe playing instruments and singing. (I would say they're covers, but they're not, really, because she was in the band.) Tucker famously sang "After Hours" on the eponymous VU LP, which here is the last song on the second disc, and it's got almost a reggae feel to it this time. What's most notable about this version is the vocals--Tucker's work on the original track was famously amateur-sounding, which was the point, but here (and everywhere on the comp) her voice is clean and clear, with quite a bit of power. On some of the tracks she plays all the instruments, and always seems to be proficient on them. Additionally, there's the odd cover of some other artist and the odd instrumental piece ("Ellas", one of the latter, is quite good). As someone who was only vaguely aware that Tucker had a solo career of her own (and assumed it must not have been very good or else I would have heard about it), I was surprised and delighted with this compilation. Tucker doesn't exactly cut a glamorous figure, and the music isn't exactly friendly, but it rocks with the sort of bristling cool that the Velvets' best work had abundantly. I think that is most fitting.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 22, 2012 9:19 PM PDT


The Trip
The Trip
DVD ~ Steve Coogan
Offered by Sperry Good Emporium
Price: $9.95
57 used & new from $1.29

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful film about comedy and much more, September 12, 2011
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This review is from: The Trip (DVD)
I am a fan of Coogan's comedy, and I enjoyed the prior filmic interactions between him and Rob Brydon, so I went into the movie with high expectations. I'm pleased to say they were easily met. It's possible that American viewers who don't know the context of Coogan's career might not know where they're coming from (I will recommend watching I'm Alan Partridge - Series 1 no matter what), but the movie actually does a decent job of setting things up. Coogan and Brydon play what I assume are variations on their own selves, as competitive comedians as well as good friends. What makes the movie work is that the one-upsmanship comedy sequences aren't merely just excess, but it is often used as deflection, or to make a point, or to express a feeling. There's a definite tone of wistfulness, of middle-aged ennui, which makes the movie work as much more than a sum of comedy bits and impressions. It's the opposite of pointless, and well worth anyone's time. (Also, it appears as though they've edited out a lot of the more arcane British references from the source material to make it more accessible to Americans, so no need to worry about that.)


Mercury Falls (Mercury Series)
Mercury Falls (Mercury Series)
by Robert Kroese
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.99
73 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Apocalypse, Gen-X Style, December 22, 2010
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Robert Kroese's Mercury Falls is a tongue-in-cheek reimagining of the Biblical apocalypse, one which prominently features silliness and insanity as the key features of the world's end. If the Left Behind books are the "Fail-Safe" of apocalypse fiction, then Mercury Falls is the genre's "Dr. Strangelove": jokey where the other is serious, funny where the other is oppressively humorless, and highly entertaining where the other is ultimately overwrought. Kroese is a witty writer, perhaps a bit less witty than he thinks, but I had a blast reading the book and quite a few of the jokes hit their mark. Conceptually, the book owes a debt to the work of Joss Whedon for its tone, and to C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters in its imagining the administration of the afterlife as resembling a cumbersome bureaucracy, in which the power is held by the lawyers who have negotiated an Instrument of Apocalypse that Satan is trying to get around so that he'll actually get to win the Apocalypse and potentially wipe out everything on Earth and beyond. It's up to Christine, a tabloid journalist on the beat of nutty would-be messiahs and a flaky angel named Mercury to stop him and save the Heavenly Plane, and maybe the world too. If it's possible.

What I liked about the book is that it has a fairly light tone for its subject matter, though there are nice touches of depth here and there. I liked the notion of God as something not quite comprehensible unless he wants to be, of not even knowing if you've seen Him or been in His presence. The book is offbeat (whatever that means, this is it), and I liked how at no point it felt like a conventional story would. That is to say, it's original, but unlike many original things IT WORKS as a story. It does, however, bear some of the flaws of a first work, particularly in its pacing. Still, a very entertaining read, and it shows a lot of promise for its writer, Robert Kroese. He's one to watch for.


Security for Microsoft Windows System Administrators: Introduction to Key Information Security Concepts
Security for Microsoft Windows System Administrators: Introduction to Key Information Security Concepts
by Derrick Rountree
Edition: Paperback
Price: $34.95
32 used & new from $8.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good overview of security concepts, December 22, 2010
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This is a basic level guide to computer security. People who have a background in the subject will probably find that they already know most of these concepts. For people trying to learn in the first place, this is a good place to start. The book covers the sort of threats and security measures that come up with individual machines as well as broader networks, and emphasizes the importance of "non-tech" security measures as well, including those posed by physical threats (namely theft), environmental problems like excessive heat, fires and humidity. There are plenty of illustrations and lots of examples using utilities already available to Windows users, which might infuriate Linux and Mac types but is probably the smart move for a general audience.

Overall, a good primer for the basic concepts.


The Progressive's Guide to Raising Hell: How to Win Grassroots Campaigns, Pass Ballot Box Laws, and Get the Change We Voted For
The Progressive's Guide to Raising Hell: How to Win Grassroots Campaigns, Pass Ballot Box Laws, and Get the Change We Voted For
by Jamie Court
Edition: Paperback
55 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening and helpful guide to activism, December 22, 2010
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I must say that I enjoyed reading The Progressive's Guide to Raising Hell by Jamie Court. The idea is to show how to translate public opinion into political action, and there are a lot of practical tips on how to do that in the book. I will say that it has an overtone of "How has Obama failed us today?" that I didn't quite cotton to, but aside from that the advice and info is all pretty spot-on. Court's major theory in a nutshell: seek confrontation with companies, get them on the record, force them to make mistakes, and then make those mistakes the issue. It's simple but good common sense, and effective if executed properly. I'd say I recommend the book to people who have an interest in political activism.


Sandinista!
Sandinista!
Price: $14.99
84 used & new from $6.43

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars London Calling: Thesis, Sandinista!: Anthesis, December 1, 2010
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This review is from: Sandinista! (Audio CD)
It wasn't until I listened to all The Clash's albums in order, one after another, that I appreciated London Calling. It came right after an album that started strong until it descended into a series sour lectures from Joe Strummer on what all the new punks were doing (crazy kids!) that play even worse when you actually READ the lyrics. After this, The Clash just goes out and creates a sprawling but disciplined double-album masterpiece that is strong on all the basics--the songwriting and musicianship are just top notch, and everything is just so polished, but not to the extent of being airless or unfun. A proper masterpiece.

Sandinista! is often superficially compared to London Calling. Both albums feature a diverse set of experiments in genre-mixing, but other than that they're opposites. London Calling exudes control, tunefulness, and even stability in a way (despite the album's apocalyptic touches). Sandinista! is the opposite: where London Calling is controlled, Sandinista! is out of control. Where London Calling couches its politics in tasteful and tongue-in-cheek contexts (You don't need the laundry, you can take it to the vet!), Sandinista! puts all of it out there plainly and baldly. Where London Calling is cool, Sandinista! is pulsating with white-hot energy. And so on. The closer the examination gets, the more it becomes clear that this improvised, sometimes shrugged-off, dramatic effort is not a case of aping London Calling with diminishing returns, but rather a deliberate departure by the group to try to find a new way of expressing themselves to keep from descending into staleness (as the latter half of Give 'Em Enough Rope threatened to do).

Of this album's flaws enough has been said already. Too long, too dense, not enough material to justify the length, would have played great as a double-album or even an LP. Some of it is even true. By my count there are only really 2.5 albums worth of viable material here out of the original three, what between the five final tedious dub tracks and the worthless "Mensforth Hill" (which happens to be "Something About England" played backward, obvious filler), and even that 2.5 is quite a bit to absorb. The process of recording the album led to something a lot less consistently great than London Calling. It's hard to justify calling it the better album, because that's just not true. But it's long been my favorite because, despite the occasional misses ("Crooked Beat" and "Equalizer" for example) and other songs where the musical concepts just don't quite cohere right, the times when it hits are simply astonishing. A song like "One More Time", which (probably intentionally) evokes Elvis's "In The Ghetto", could easily have suffered from the well-meaning, sincere condescension that has made Elvis's effort something of an embarrassment, but Strummer avoids the pitfalls and instead the song--a forthright wail over inner-city poverty--becomes a powerful anthem that has respect for its subjects. "The Call Up" is another example of pure Clash bliss, a vaguely funky number with very direct lyrics that someone with less formidable vocal skills than Joe Strummer would have botched badly (just imagine what Bono would do with a song about young boys going off to war!), but Strummer's lyrics key into the emotions of fathers and sons in a way that makes it resonant instead of preachy. There are plenty of other examples, but it's hard to see these songs as anything other than triumphs of the approach the Clash took to this album: the album thrives on spontaneous, found emotion, and packaging all that up in the London Calling fashion would have been counterproductive. Other highlights include: "Charlie Don't Surf", a surf-and-sitar tune that references Apocalypse Now and just proves how cool these guys were; "Police On My Back", which isn't an original Clash tune but it just rocks so hard; "Magnificent Seven", in which Strummer raps well before it's cool, and so many more.

All in all, this is an album that even the most charitable assessment must admit has some flaws. But it has some moments that hit home harder than anything else The Clash ever did, and even with the filler it's never not a highly rewarding listen.


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