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Kevin L. Nenstiel "omnivore" RSS Feed (Kearney, Nebraska)
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A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird)
A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird)
by Claudia Gray
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.37

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Thousand Pieces of You, October 27, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Marguerite Caine is caught between worlds. Literally. Thanks to her parents’ invention, the Firebird, she can leap into parallel dimensions: a technologically advanced London, Russia where the Revolution never happened, a research colony on the ocean floor. But she isn’t leaping just for fun. Marguerite is seeking the man who killed her father, stole his trailblazing research, and not incidentally broke her heart. Along the way, she’ll uncover dimension-spanning conspiracies that undermine everything she knows.

On one level, journeyman YA author Claudia Gray compiles elements familiar from her genre. For instance, on Page One, she declares unambiguously which character Marguerite believes killed her father. If you’ve read more than one YA novel—well, more than one any-age novel—you realize that, by page 350, circumstances will reverse everything she believes, every obvious judgment. We know where Marguerite’s journey ends; we only read to discover what circuitous route brings her there.

However, that route remains gripping. Gray constructs an elaborate superstructure based on secrets and revelations. Every unveiled event opens a cascade of further secrets, as what begins in an apparent crime proves far larger. Details dropped before page fifty suddenly prove consequential after page 300. Marguerite’s life is massively interconnected; it’s impossible to tell, at any moment, which flippant detail might prove massively important. The complexity of Gray’s story keeps readers eager for another discovery.


Vega Sport Sugar-Free Energizer, Acai Berry, 30 Count
Vega Sport Sugar-Free Energizer, Acai Berry, 30 Count
Price: $39.99
8 used & new from $34.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Energy Drink For Grown-Ups, October 24, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Length:: 4:42 Mins

Not your typical fizzy energy drink: this is a clean, good-tasting supplement for people who need to make good use of their minds and bodies.


Star Trek Into Darkness
Star Trek Into Darkness
DVD
Price: $9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Mess, October 23, 2014
Let me start by saying that I surely like this sequel better than the movie which came before. The first Star Trek reboot struck me as little more than a thin premise designed to hold the special effects sequences together. This film, by contrast, continues Gene Roddenberry's tradition of commenting on contemporary issues through science fiction standards. In this case, Star Trek asks: is it ever okay to use one enemy as a weapon against an even worse enemy?

That said, while this movie is a step up, it still lacks something. And when I say "something," I mean to echo Roger Ebert, who noted that Roddenberry used the original series as "a vehicle for his humanist values." Though it's hard to miss the Operation Iraqi Freedom implications in this movie, I struggle to identify any particular values, besides the fact that someone hijacking our own aircraft and flying them into major national landmarks, remains as scary now as in 2001.

At this late date, there's no sense in acting coy. Benedict Cumberbatch ("Sherlock") plays Khan Noonien Singh, and the storyline plays off our expectations remembered from "The Wrath of Khan." Sometimes director J.J. Abrams does what you'd expect, other times he inverts your expectations. For instance, in the famous scene where Spock saves the ship at the cost of his own life, Kirk instead makes that sacrifice, knowing death, for him, is irreversible. Or is it?

The story feels like it takes forever. Kirk gets kicked off the Enterprise, then reinstated. The crew is in San Francisco, then they're amid the Klingons, then they're chasing, er, someone through space. Carol Marcus appears, basically so we can see her. Kirk and Khan are foes, then allies, then foes again, then something else. It's hard to say. The movie has not one, not two, but three false endings. Spock throws his head back and screams "KHAAAANNNNN!!!" I check my watch.

This happens, I suspect, because Abrams designed the movie to maximize the opportunity for sleek graphics. Moments where, say, Kirk engages Khan in a gun battle he knows he cannot win, or the Enterprise takes a pounding from a seemingly impossible ship, are really good-looking. But as in the prior movie, they don't so much emerge from a values-driven story, as motivate the story; the script essentially bridging one gorgeous cinematic moment onto the next.

Don't mistake me. Had Abrams presented this movie as a freestanding high-budget science fiction spectacular, in the mode of "The Fifth Element" or "Galaxy Quest," I'd probably embrace it wholeheartedly. But connecting it with Star Trek, a franchise known for its moral backbone as much as its individual storylines, brings certain expectations to the table. Abrams shows little interest in that moral fiber. He sees Star Trek, fundamentally, as a cool platform for slick adventure.

J.J. Abrams has signed on to direct the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII. Like Star Trek, Star Wars has mythological implications beyond its literal implications (cf. Whitt and Perlich's "Sith, Slayers, Stargates, + Cyborgs"). Considering what a beautiful hash he's made of Star Trek, one wonders what visually stunning but lukewarm slumgullion he'll make of Star Trek. As a true lover of genre fiction, methinks I'll wait for the DVD.


2 Ultra Comfortable Sleep Mask with Ear Plugs and Adjustable Strap (Black)
2 Ultra Comfortable Sleep Mask with Ear Plugs and Adjustable Strap (Black)
Offered by Shacke
Price: $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The Sleep I've Been Looking For, October 23, 2014
Length:: 3:58 Mins

I wanted to show you what this sleep mask looks like in action. I didn't realize I'd look quite so much like Ray Charles doing it.


Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis
Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis
by Alexis Coe
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.03
49 used & new from $8.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Lesbian Murder Circus of Victorian Tennessee, October 23, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
On January 25th, 1892, 19-year-old Alice Mitchell brutally slashed 17-year-old Frederica "Freda" Ward's throat on a crowded Memphis boardwalk. She apparently intended to kill herself afterward, but surging crowds prevented her suicide; after a brief delay, police arrested Alice, who never walked free again. Though gruesome, Mitchell's actions probably wouldn't have mattered beyond Memphis itself, until her motivations became clear. Mitchell and Ward were in love, but conservative families thwarted their plans to get married.

Mitchell's spectacular actions, and the media pageant following, gripped national, even international, attention throughout 1892. However, these events are now mostly known only among historians and gender scholars. San Francisco-based author Alexis Coe has written on gender issues for multiple high-gloss magazines; in her first book, she purposes to return Alice and Freda to popular awareness. If telling their story raises awareness about America's deep-rooted sexual framework, both then and now, so much the better.

Alice Mitchell's influential, well-heeled father, a fixture in the Memphis economy, preemptively declared Alice clearly insane. Why else, he reasoned, would a well-bred white girl think she could disguise herself in men's clothing, marry another girl, and get (gasp!) a job to support them? Alice's defiance of Victorian gender standards quickly became a two-pronged fork, supporting her insanity defense while titillating newspaper readers nationwide. In Coe's telling, nationwide journalism quickly descended to slut-shaming and voyeurism.

Alice and Freda made elaborate plans. Alice intended, adopting the male identity of "Alvin J. Ward," to elope with Freda, marry in church, and set up housekeeping in St. Louis. Freda helped Alice device subterfuges worthy of Hollywood Gothic, and their letters, which remarkably survive, reveal mutual affection worthy of celebration. But when their families discovered their romance, fraught with complications that seem tragicomic after what followed, they were ordered to stop. Alice couldn't obey.

This story unfolds with alternating tones, careful historical research intercutting with gripping narrative. Coe's story starts with Freda's murder, then unfolding both ways, revealing the girls' "unnatural" romance while the sensationalized trial transforms backwater Memphis into a global hotspot. Judge Julius Dubose, a consummate showman and benchmark of spotty ethics, contrasts splendidly with ambiguous Alice, systemically silenced by the men around her, still an enigma a century after her spectacular trial and subsequent mysterious death.

Coe promises, in her introduction, to eschew complex gender politics and sexual identity ideology which colors most modern writing about this case. She's more successful at some times than others. Gender issues dominate this story: the white men steering Alice Mitchell's story, including her father, her attorneys, and the judge, keep bringing gender back into the proceedings. The antiquated gender standards applied to Alice's evaluation will surely strike modern readers as pseudo-scientific, dictatorial, and bizarre.

White girls' upbringing in 19th Century Memphis seems remarkable to modern viewers. (I say "white girls" deliberately; Alice's lopsided relationship with an African American kitchen servant looms large in her narrative.) Segregated education cultured domesticity, submission, and servility. Strangely, though Victorians couldn't imagine same-sex love, girls openly practiced "chumming," a practice of affection and play courtship among schoolmates which, parents imagined, prepared girls for mature relationships with men. That's how Alice and Freda's romance began.

Alice must've been deranged, eminent physicians argued, because she suffered adolescent nosebleeds--"vicarious menstruation," they called it. Her asymmetrical face proved homicidal capacity. Seriously, doctors, white males all, made these diagnoses. Alice's fondness for baseball, and disinterest in dolls, ostensibly proved her lunacy. And what well-bred merchant's daughter could possibly live satisfied in a marriage that couldn't ever produce children? Alice and Freda's shared acceptance of child-free marriage basically secured Alice's ultimate "present insanity" finding.

Coe's narrative benefits from Sally Klann's copious illustrations. Klann recreates the visual texture of fin-de-siècle Memphis, a world removed from today's standards. Beyond its horse-drawn simplicity, Memphis' deeply hierarchical society divided populations by gender, race, wealth, and family prestige. (Alice's trial coincided with the People's Grocery Company lynching that galvanized Ida B. Wells.) Klann's illustrations also help expand Coe's text, which is remarkably brief: too long for a magazine article, but barely standard book length.

Reading Coe's narrative, I received two impressions. First, alienation: the shoddy science, cash-and-carry justice, and haughty moralism make Memphis a foreign landscape. Second, recognition: these characters have their blinders, but who doesn't? Will my grandchildren feel about our era as we feel about Victorian Memphis? We cannot know what implications we miss because we don't know where to look. Coe's story, like all true classics, old and new, succeeds because ultimately, it's all about us.


E-ON Energy Drink Ginger Crush, 12 Ounce (Pack of 24)
E-ON Energy Drink Ginger Crush, 12 Ounce (Pack of 24)
Price: $61.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful Effects, Harsh Taste, October 20, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I have a mixed history with energy drinks. Some, like Full Throttle, really wake me up and keep me moving, while others, particularly Red Bull, make me jittery and irritable. Considering I work graveyards, which is the opposite of how human bodies are designed to work, I'm often looking for that little boost to jazz my energy and sharpen my attention. I figured I'd give this stuff a try.

Holy moley. The last time I felt that focused, I was in graduate school, facing looming deadline pressure. Everything extraneous vanished. The rush lasted about four hours, and not only did I get plenty of work done, I maintained good spirits and enthusiasm, even while working a dispiriting job. Moreover, though I had copious energy, it wasn't excessive and flustered, but let me keep productive.

Some reviewers have complained that this beverage tastes medicinal. Well, that's energy drinks. Manufacturers make them taste slightly astringent and pharmaceutical, because many consumers think the medicinal taste jibes with effects. If that bothers you, this isn't your beverage. Personally, I don't often choose the pharmaceutical-flavored drinks, but I'd make an exception for this particularly effective one.

However, let me say this about the flavor: the ginger should be more prominent. I've become something of a ginger expert recently, having started drinking Reed's Ginger Beer with my evening meds. I love ginger for its own qualities. And the ginger qualities in here are vanishingly slight. They're definitely there, more so than, say, Sioux City Ginger Ale. I just wish there was more ginger.

So, to recap: this energy drink works well as an energy drink. Momentum, clarity, focus, all there. But it doesn't taste that good. This is a beverage you drink for its effects, not for its savor. If that's what you're looking for, good for you, and enjoy. Just know what you're getting before you buy.


Yankee Broadcast Network
Yankee Broadcast Network
by Martin Ott
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.75
2 used & new from $7.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yankee Broadcast Network, October 19, 2014
Poetry has always dwelt in strange neverlands, caught between today's commonplaces and an idealized, probably allegorical past. Poets address today's needs using bygone methods. From Homer to the medieval troubadours to modern MFA workshops, poets have always somehow not belonged to the present. Therefore, despite repeated pronouncements of poesy's long-overdue demise, poetry today, if anything, matters more. Barraged by media messages and ever-shifting issues too fast to comprehend, we're all somehow outside our time anymore.

Welcome to the Yankee Broadcast Network, home of such undying television classics as "Lusts of Midgard," "Real Housewives of Wayne County," and "The B-Team." This network's gelatinous onslaught of reality TV, plaintive melodrama, and pandering blockbusters keeps audiences hypnotized, while advertisers strategically market dissatisfaction and ennui. This dystopian hangover of television's reptile-brain impulses blurs boundaries between life and semi-scripted potboilers, reducing viewers to a dreamlike fugue where fever visions increasingly resemble MTV montages, or vice versa.

Casual readers might easily mistake Buckley and Ott's satirical poetry for mere light verse, interesting but forgettable like Edward Lear. But as poems mount up, as verse styles both traditional and experimental tease readers' expectations, and as pop culture references meld with ancient poetic tropes to create new hybrids, easy judgments vanish. Eighteen years ago, Ani DiFranco sang "Art imitates life, but life imitates TV." Buckley and Ott assert those are outmoded distinctions in terrifyingly half-joking poems like "Commercials of the Apocalypse":

When even the walls began to turn on each other
and kids kicked around skulls in the wreckage for fun,
from skin to sin they sought to sell us things, and so
advertising was born again. Who can forget Zom-B-Gone

with its blend of seventy-three special herbs and
pesticides, able to repel hordes of undead salesmen
and make scorched lawns lush once more? Doesn't
everyone still hum the jingle from Crazy Ed's Eyeglass

Emporium and the double-eye-patched pirate's ayayays?

Poets seldom collaborate today; we've come to expect solemn navel gazing interspersed with outbursts of Billy Collins-style try wit. It's tempting to parse these poems seeking which lines Ott wrote, which Buckley. But that misses the point of their extroverted, non-gloomy experiments, reminiscent of that stalwart theatre class game, "Yes And." Try to miss the improvisational implications veritably streaming, jazz hands aloft, from poems like "Coming Soon to the Disaster Channel!":

Tornado week features The Traveling Travails
of Tracy, a ragdoll that flew from Tulsa to Tallahassee,
her left arm torn when it toppled a telephone pole
in Mobile, Alabama, the snapping of the pretty hem

on her tiny gingham dress sawing Baton Rouge oaks
into splinters. Will she and eight-year-old Stacy,
her newly homeless owner, ever be reunited?
Tune in Tuesday at 9PM for a whirlwind adventure!

It's easy to recognize the time-delayed rubbernecking popular from cable TV, the hackneyed "History" Channel train wrecks too real for parody. Yet these poets capture not only the voyeuristic excess and shameless hucksterism behind the shows themselves, but also our childlike will to permit such content into our homes and minds. This perversely symbiotic relationship between producers and audience informs poems like "Better Living Through Television" and "Television Through the Ages: a Smithsonian Walkthrough."

Buckley and Ott experiment with forms. Besides formless free verse, traditional techniques like sestina, ghazal, and terza rima appear periodically. Many of their best poems have lines too long to excerpt for review. Images which originate in one poem reappear elsewhere, giving the collection a Sherwood Anderson-like internal consistency. For example, Hayden Smunchner, evolves from promising talent, to vulgar, fawning huckster, before appearing one final time, in the painfully topical "Fireside Chat":

The fireplace has been replaced by a TV
cracked open like a dinosaur egg, a blue
flame flickering inside the screen. President

Smunchner, half-ruined face still swoon-worthy
from the right, patiently waits for the drums
to subside, for children to trust they won't be

eaten. The purple mountains proudly wear
their scars, the length of battlefields smoking
onscreen like Tinseltown toughs. His voice

is low, clear, reasonable--there'll be extra
rations for rebuilders. His words are not
important; they rarely are. He has taken

the country as a bride, the smoldering
dream of courtship denied...

Reading this surprisingly funny condemnation, we progress from cognizant laughter, to squirming amusement, to undeniable realization: if TV does this to us, we're willing participants. We've chosen the passive path, while producers like YBN merely sell what we've already purposed to buy. Like all good, timelost poets, Buckley and Ott ultimately don't write about TV; they write about us.


Sidetracked [HD]
Sidetracked [HD]
DVD

5.0 out of 5 stars Reviving the Mystery Genre, October 12, 2014
A tear-streaked teenager pours gasoline over herself and immolates herself in a farmer's field outside Stockholm. That night, a former Swedish cabinet minister is murdered in a manner clearly designed to send a message. Inspector Kurt Wallander (Kenneth Branagh) doesn't immediately see the connection between the deaths. But when more murders replicate the manner of the first, Wallander and his team must unpack what drives the murderer if they hope to stop him.

Though Wallander, a story set in Sweden but performed entirely in English, precedes recent feature-length British mysteries like Sherlock and Jack Taylor, it probably deserves a second look following those other shows' popularity. Like them, it has a short season of long episodes--ninety minutes apiece, feature-length. This gives plenty of room for character development. It also permits a very Anglophonic rendering of slow-moving Scandinavian existential ennui. Imagine if Ingmar Bergman did murder mysteries. Really slow, almost soporific mysteries.

Branagh plays Wallander as, in many ways, the remains of a man. With his shirt untucked and his buttons haphazard, he signals from his first shot that he's broken under a load of grief. Work, in some ways, provides his life some definition, something he's good at, but nothing he particularly enjoys. Mystery audiences will recognize his torture melancholy from countless prior mysteries. But filtered through Sweden's unhurried, introspective culture, Wallander makes these classic boilerplates feel new.

The story runs so complex, each part dependent on revelations of what came before, that synopsis feels like a doomed enterprise. With its references to progressive Nordic morals, a complicated global smuggling operation, Native American cultural appropriation, and decades-old police corruption, this feels less like a TV episode, more like a novel enacted before us. Which, I suppose, is the point. The show's languorous pace permits for philosophical introspection we seldom see on American TV. Wallander packs a year's worth of character growth into ninety minutes.

For audiences, like me, who've grown bored of conventional TV mystery fare, Wallander revitalizes a frequently moribund, even boring genre. It does this using familiar crime thriller building blocks, simply viewed through another culture's lens. Its use of ambiguously motivated characters, tormented antiheroes, and a criminal whose motives prove almost noble, raises this series above the numerous, tedious "cops and robbers" shows. And it reminds us that mystery is worth watching, because we see humanity's greatest potential in moments of bleakest anguish.


iHomeSet® 4 Pack Star Wars Silicone Mold Ice Cube Tray Ball - Ice Ball Maker mold - Whiskey Baking Chocolate Soap
iHomeSet® 4 Pack Star Wars Silicone Mold Ice Cube Tray Ball - Ice Ball Maker mold - Whiskey Baking Chocolate Soap
Offered by SKYBOK
Price: $29.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Good Ice, But Its Thermal Port Is Exposed, October 12, 2014
Length:: 7:10 Mins

If you're looking for good spherical ice, this doesn't disappoint. If you're looking for high-gloss Lucasfilm licensed merchandise, well...


Norton Security
Norton Security
Price: $53.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of the Norton Name, October 12, 2014
This review is from: Norton Security (CD-ROM)
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Length:: 3:00 Mins

Norton Securities: version 22.0, access for full digital download. No CD, to my surprise.


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