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The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
by Betty Edwards
Edition: Paperback
385 used & new from $0.01

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ideal for those with no confidence, January 22, 2003
I can understand why some previous reviewers who already have developed skills in drawing would see this book as overrated but I think that it is heavily aimed at those who believe that they can't draw and who are radically unsure of how to begin. My own experience was that this book debunked some of my core beliefs about drawing: I can't draw because I don't have the manual skill; people who can draw are dismissive of those who are not as able as them; there is no use in trying if I can't become a brilliant artist; etc, etc.
This book made me realise for the first time, despite attending art classes for many years at school, that drawing well is not about the dexterity of your hand but about how you see things, the approach you take to looking at an object and how you translate that to the page. Not having a scientific background, I am not able to judge the accuracy of Edwards's use of right/left brain theory but in some ways the 'truth' of it is irrelevant. What is important is that you recieve the confidence to give it a go and to persist, and not be intimidated by those more advanced than you. Subjectively, I have found that time spent drawing is a very different experience to my usual language based pursuits, and I do feel that I'm stretching hitherto unused faculties, whatever side of the brain they are on.
I would strongly recommend this book to any beginners interested in improving their ability to draw what they see. Practising this is no less of an artistic endeavour than any other - the element of originality and self-expression exists in everyone's unique way of seeing and interpreting things around them, This book simply helps you to pay more attention.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 12, 2009 9:05 PM PDT

Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
by William Blum
Edition: Paperback
66 used & new from $0.01

39 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great introduction, November 4, 2002
This book is an incredible eye opener. So much of the information contained in it was new to me, particularly the reports of America's (CIA's) role in the torture of people in Latin America. I also found Blum's comments on the way in which the US government narrowly defines 'democracy' as 'free elections' and ignores notions of human rights to be absolutely on the money. Only a few weeks before reading this I saw George W. Bush on television saying that Castro "oughta have free elections". So many of Blum's criticisms ring true, and the chapter which records US voting on UN resolutions in the early eighties is alone worth the price of the book for what it reveals about the American government's self-interest, greed, and lack of support for human rights and environmental concerns.
Blum has collected many quotes from government officials defending their actions that are unbelievably revealing of the way in which the government prioritises its economic and political interests above the lives of foreign citizens (and sometimes its own citizens).
My only real criticism (apart from the inconsistent referencing) is that I wanted to know more about all the different instances discussed in the book, but as Blum is trying to catalogue the history of US government's immoral foreign policy there is not enough room to discuss all the issues in a great deal of detail. For this reason I would classify this book as an excellent introduction to the subject that once and for all refutes the lie that the US government is a force for freedom in the world.

No Title Available

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars strong adaptation, October 30, 2002
I really did enjoy this film, but, like other reviewers before me, there were some aspects that didn't work for me. My overall assessment is that it is an excellent film. I thought I would point out what I liked the most and the least in this adaptation.
I particularly liked:
1) Most of the cast performed excellently, and those who played Gandalf, Frodo, Bilbo, and Strider, deserve particular mention and praise. They accurately captured the characters from the novels and were charasmatic presences on the screen.
2) The scenic cinematography was just gorgeous and wonderfully diverse, capturing a variety of climates and moods. The Shire was appropriately picturesque, while Moria was amazingly large and daunting.
3) Unlike some previous reviewers I beleieve that Jackson did need to edit incidents, and although all the scenes that were cut would certainly have added to the story (Tom Bombadil, the Barrow Downs etc.) it would have been impossible to include them all. Many of the excisions were well chosen, although missed.
4) A think a fine balance was struck between the great and mighty and the personal. By this I mean both great battles, mighty duels, and the awesome landscape were effectively counterbalanced by Frodo's incredibly expressive face, Gandalf's obvious concern for the hobbits, and other smaller, more personal instances in the film. Gandlf's research in the Library of the White City was a lovely personal moment in the film.
I wanted to like the following but I couldn't:
1) While most of the special effects were, well ... extremely effective, there were a few that just didn't work for me. Galadriel's "all will love me and despair" speech looked awful to me, with its photographic negative appearance. I wanted to hear her conflict in her voice, and see it in her bearing, not see a special effect so lacking in subtlety.
2) While the cuts that Jackson made were fine, I didn't feel the same way about the additions. I too feel that Arwen's recue of Frodo and her sole claim to keeping the Nazgul at bay was unecessary, and gave a false idea of the relative strength of the elves and Mordor. I also found the scene where Boromir examines the sword in Strider's presence a strange addition, when the same information could be given to the audience using scenes from the book.
3) Sam. I really wanted to like this performance but I found it so hard. Yes, he captured Sam's innocence, love of Frodo, and inferior intelligence adequetly, but there was an essential "Samness" missing I felt. Sam, in the novel, is headstrong, forthright, and stubborn, and endearing because of these qualities. I felt that the screen Sam was a lot weaker than Tolkein's. (I also found his accent a bit unconvicing.) Hopefully as his role develops in the next two films his character will reveal more of the textual Sam.
All things condidered, there is so much to like about this film that the flaws don't strongly effect the pleasure of watching it. It is a strong and beautifully filmed adaptation.

American Beauty (1999)
American Beauty (1999)
DVD ~ Annette Bening
Price: $9.67
510 used & new from $0.01

33 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars misunderstood, October 22, 2002
This review is from: American Beauty (1999) (DVD)
I'd like to address some of the criticisms made in earlier reviews about this film and offer my interpretation. The main criticism seems to be twofold: firstly, the film uses cliched characters rather than realistic portraits, secondly, the film offers a simplistic message about breaking out of mundane everyday life.
To begin with, yes the film does use cliches. It's deliberate. At no time does American Beauty claim to be a realistic portrayal of suburban life. It uses extremes and saturated emotions, as well as saturated colours in the cinematography, to offer an incisive, sarcastic, and over the top criticism of Western Culture. (Althought the film is set in suburban America I think it could have been set in the affluent suburbs of many Western nations and still have been apt.) The characters are consciously and obviously stereotyped - the middle aged man in the throws of a mid life crisis, the shallow and ambitious real estate agent, the beautiful cheerleader, the latently homosexual marine - but we are encouraged to recognise these as stereotypes and to focus on the way in which these figures struggle with the details, desires, and fears of their world. It is a hypereality that is being presented, and is which is used to mock and criticise the actual.
Some have seen the film as little more than a saccharine message about being true to yourself in the face of mediocrity. I think it is a film about the impossibility of just that. There is no happy ending, no comfortable resolution, Lester ends up dead, and those around him frustrated, imprisoned, and weary. It's a film about the way in which society succeeds in alienating us from ourselves and each other, not about trite attempts to break out. Lester's job quitting and his buffing up don't succeed in bringing him happiness. Nor does Caroline's affair or rifle range education. It is the small, temporal moments that give us pleasure: small, fleeting visions of beauty in a cold and frustrating world. Overall, the film ends on a sour note (gorgeously contradicted by the score) and argues that simply refusing to cooperate doesn't stop the machine from turning.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2009 9:47 AM PDT

'Salem's Lot
'Salem's Lot
by Stephen King
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
109 used & new from $0.01

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars genuinely frightening, October 22, 2002
Yes, I know, I'm supposed to think that this genre of popular horror is trash, etc, etc. To be honest though, this is a genuinely frightening book. Engrossed, and reading it at night and alone, I pulled the curtain across my window after I read the 'window' scenes, just nervous enough that some child like cadaver would float past and force me to run screaming into the hallway.
Regarding King's manner of writing in general, I really enjoy his portraits of small town life, and the web of relationships that emerges as the novels progress. It is a nice combination - being really frightened yet also interested in the psychology of people in the town. King does this well, showing us how individuals are dragged into the horror; which weaknesses and desires lead people into particular vulnerabilities to the villains (in this case vampires). It's a fun, frightening, and gripping read.

Picnic at Hanging Rock (The Criterion Collection)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (The Criterion Collection)
DVD ~ Rachel Roberts
7 used & new from $28.79

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars unusual cinema, October 19, 2002
Sure, this movie is not for everyone. It is a slow piece that focuses on landscape, music, mystery, and characterisation for its effect, so naturally some find it too low-geared. On the other hand, I first watched it as a child and found it absolutely gripping from beginning to end. The opening scenes with the chirping birds and images of the rock broken by Miranda's piercingly sweet voice and then the stirring pan pipes is as close to a perfect beginning as you can get. Peter Weir is a master of both beautiful landscape shots (think also of the gorgeous American scenery in Dead Poets Society) and of using ambient music to bring an emoional pitch to a scene. A few previous reviewers have found the film pretentious, which I don't agree with at all. It is a very simply presented film that deals with issues of class in turn of the century Australian society in a subtle manner, while ensuring that the mystery at the centre of the film is proritised. It leaves a haunting feeling after watching it, and is a film that can be viewed many times without become stale or uninteresting. I would strongly suggest giving it a go, as, if you do enjoy, you will be thinking about for a long time afterwards.

A Cry in the Dark
A Cry in the Dark
DVD ~ Meryl Streep
Offered by SpReAdLoVe
Price: $5.99
95 used & new from $0.07

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars chilling account, October 15, 2002
This review is from: A Cry in the Dark (DVD)
This is a measured, sober, and critical film that very clevery presents the way in which public hysteria can affect justice for individuals and is relevent to all societies. With this in mind, I would like to object to an early comment about "the blood thirsty, bigoted morbid folk of Australia." My mother, with many of her friends, campaigned on Lindy Chamberlain's behalf at the time and although there are others with opposing views it hardly warrants that kind of stereotype. I doubt that as an Irish person that the reviewer would like to be judged by some of the ridiculous cliches and stereotypes about the Irish. The film, on the other hand, is incisive and intelligent and depicts with moving gravity the seriousness of trial by media.

More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws
More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws
by John R. Lott
Edition: Paperback
144 used & new from $0.01

31 of 122 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars get real !!!, October 10, 2002
I would strongly encourage readers of this book - and John Lott - to get on a plane and see how other democratic nations operate in terms of gun control. Lott's claims, for those living outside the US, and many who live in it, are simply ridiculous. Fatalities from firearms in my own country of Australia, as well as New Zealand, Britain, France (and many more) are so much lower than for the US that it makes me wonder whether Lott has ever been outside of America and seen the evidence of firearms restrictions around the rest of the world. Most democratic nations do not consider a 'right to bear arms' as legitimate in civil society, and they are rewarded for this view by living in a society with a very small number of fatalities through gun use. If the right to bear arms leads to less crime and a safer society then the Wild West must have been a model of politeness and non-violence. Yeah right. Please, read the book if you wish to, but then go somewhere with stricter gun contols and see for yourself how wrong Lott is.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 7, 2009 9:12 PM PDT

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