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PetSafe Little Dog Spray Bark, PBC00-11283
PetSafe Little Dog Spray Bark, PBC00-11283
Price: $67.97
33 used & new from $65.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Waste of money, September 23, 2014
My husband and I own three hounds, ranging from about 20 lbs to 75 lbs, and none of them is shy about howling, baying, or barking when the spirit moves them. However, since we live in suburbia, I do my best to keep the noise down.

My go-to bark control is always a freshly-loaded citronella collar; for us, it's more effective than an electric collar, webcam supervision, or ultrasonic controller. I've experimented with a few different ones, and I thought I'd give this one a try. I should have known that there would be problems ahead when two different pet store employees helpfully reminded me to keep the receipt in order to return the collar.

Out of the box, the collar was easy to fill with the (included) citronella aerosol...but wait, how do I turn the collar on? I pawed at it for a few minutes before checking the instructions and discovering that the only way to turn the collar on and off is with a coin or flathead screwdriver. Srsly? Because when I'm already 10 minutes late for work, the last thing I want to be doing is hunting around for something to turn a collar on (or, more likely, wrestling with a squirming hound to remove the collar that I forgot to turn on first, THEN hunting for a screwdriver). But I was willing to try.

Once I turned the collar on--and you have to be careful, because you can pop the battery out if you turn too far--I watched the LED lights blink for start-up. In order to test the collar, I turned the sprayer end away from my face and blew into the microphone; that's enough sound and vibration to trigger a bark collar.

Nothing happened.

I huffed and puffed and thumped the microphone. I yelled "bark!" as close as I dared. Nada. So back it went into the box, and back to the store it will go. Given the ridiculously user-unfriendly design, I'm not going to bother replacing the unit with anything other than my usual spray collar.

Dark Fall: Lost Souls
Dark Fall: Lost Souls
Offered by AOOutlet
Price: $7.50
7 used & new from $5.49

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stylishly creepy, August 17, 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dark Fall: Lost Souls (DVD-ROM)
The third installment of the Dark Fall games reprises the Dowerton train station and hotel featured in Dark Fall: The Journal. This time, you are playing as a nameless Inspector who has come to investigate the 2005 disappearance of an 11 year old girl, in the hopes of resolving the mystery that ruined your career.

Compared to the earlier Dark Fall games and especially the mammoth undertaking that is Lost Crown, Lost Souls is streamlined and plays quickly. Many of the puzzles are logic/common sense rather than inventory-based, so it takes some mental bandwidth. Several puzzles repeat themselves throughout the game (e.g., picking locks or talking to ghosts) so once you solve the first one, you have something to work from. The game also requires manipulating objects by zooming in and dragging up/down/left/right, which I found awkward. A few puzzles are timed--if you happen to die, the game automatically restores you.

Pros: The graphics are excellent--almost as good as Syberia--so if you like (or at least tolerate) the macabre, then there is PLENTY to look at. I'm not a big fan of the ghost-hunting equipment that Jonathan Boakes likes to use, so I was happy that I didn't have to mess with goggles and ghost-sensors and whatnot. Best of all, the game flow isn't overly burdened with complexity or a zillion characters to keep track of, so things move along quickly. Often, solving a puzzle and walking out of the screen is enough to prompt guidance on where to go next from a mysterious character who sends timely SMS messages.

Cons: So if the design is superbly atmospheric, what's the problem? The story--both by itself and in context with the other Darkling games--is pretty illogical. I don't want to give anything away, but while the trees are very nice, the forest needs a lot of work. Case in point: the game's tagline is "It Knows Your Name." No, it doesn't. The character is only referred to as Inspector, so if it knows my name then it does a darn good job of never saying it.

Overall, Dark Fall: Lost Souls is more than worth the investment. And if Boakes needs a continuity editor, then I'd totally sign up for the job.

Lonely Planet Iceland
Lonely Planet Iceland
by Fran Parnell
Edition: Paperback
42 used & new from $0.01

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Easily the best, December 14, 2008
This review is from: Lonely Planet Iceland (Paperback)
Having been to Iceland several times, and having tried out multiple guides, I think this one is easily the best all-around book. It's certainly a lot better than the 2007 Rough Guide, which just lifted everything from the 2004 edition with very few updates. Yes, it's a small country, but things do change.

The maps are good, the recommendations provide as much variety as possible, and the historical/cultural information that LP guides always provide are interesting. My only complaint about the book is that the authors' enthusiasm for Iceland occasionally spills over into gushing about the wonderfulness of it all. I happen to agree, but I prefer more unbiased reviews.

Frommer's Paris 2008 (Frommer's Complete Guides)
Frommer's Paris 2008 (Frommer's Complete Guides)
by Darwin Porter
Edition: Paperback
58 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for a first time visit, but..., August 12, 2008
Now that I'm old (well, 33), I felt it was time to graduate from the rough guide/lonely planet Paris guidebooks that I normally use and pick up one that covers more high-end suggestions than I could afford when I started visiting Paris 15 years ago. Flipped a coin between Frommers and Fodors, and got this one.

If this is your first trip to Paris and you want to make sure you know what the must-sees are, this is a great book to have. There are plenty of lists of "Best Restaurants", "Top Museums", 1-3 day walking itineraries, etc. There's a nice mix of hotel and restaurant recommendations for all budgets.

However, if you're a more adventurous soul, this isn't the book for you--it's geared towards the standard tourist experience. Their idea of offbeat is...the Institut du Monde Arabe. This is a famous building with incredible architecture by Jean Nouvel and fantastic rooftop views, not exactly off the beaten path.

Likewise, the foldout map covers central Paris, but doesn't even show the outer arondissements. (Nor does it have a lot of detail, so if you intend to walk a lot, then invest in a detailed arondissement guide, not a fold-out.) I was also irritated to see that while there's a map of the metro, the RER stops are not included.

Bottom line...great for the basics, but you'll have to look elsewhere for undiscovered or quirky Paris.

The Victim
The Victim
DVD ~ Apasiri Nitibhon
Offered by Paint it Orange
Price: $5.39
38 used & new from $2.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Horror gem, June 7, 2008
This review is from: The Victim (DVD)
Having sat through--and mostly enjoyed--a wide variety of Asian horror films recently, this one stands out: it's a horror film that happens to come out of Thailand, but it would be scary in any language.

The first 40 minutes are typical Asian horror fare; Ting is a goofy ingenue, an actress wannabe with a bad Bai Ling haircut who's hired by the local police department to help them reenact crimes. She quickly gains a modicum of fame, and a following...including the ghosts of every dead woman she portrays. Her big chance comes when the police find evidence of the death of international beauty queen Meen. Let me reenact your death, prays Ting, and I'll help find out what happened to you. Meen hears her, and her prayers are answered as the ghost starts haunting Ting.

To this point, the movie has every Asian horror cliche known to man--unintentional levity, ridiculous plot, stringy-haired ghosts in obvious greyish makeup, and hideously bad overacting by the girl playing Ting--but about halfway through the entire premise changes and it gets a LOT better; the cliches are revealed to be a joke on the viewer and swept away, and the story shifts to streamlined horror. Lots of horror. No spoilers, but it was creepy enough that I had to summon the dog to sit with me on the couch and keep me company.

There is a lot of CGI, but I thought it was done well, and the sound effects are excellent (I don't normally comment on sound effects but the ghost is announced by a tinkling ankle bell and by the last scene you'll dread the noise). There's no existential navel-gazing or long exposition--when the ghost comes out to play, the results are extremely effective.

Another nice touch from a director who clearly enjoys inside jokes: as the closing credits run, clips from the movie where images of the ghost were hidden are shown in tandem. Most of them are subtle, almost subliminal, but it makes for interesting viewing.

DVD ~ Urmila Matondkar
Price: $8.99
49 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good thriller, December 9, 2007
This review is from: Naina (DVD)
Since the orginal Hong Kong horror movie The Eye is one of my favorites, and I also watch a lot of Hindi cinema when I'm not watching asian horror, I was very curious about how Naina would stack up in both genres: surprisingly well, actually.

The plot is almost identical in both films--a young woman receives a corneal tranplant and develops the ability to see dead people--but the big difference is in how that story is told. Naina is not particularly horrific (although there are some nice moments); it's a mishmash of romance, a little broad comedy, clinical gore, and some low-grade thrills.

If you're looking for real scares, the Pang brothers' version is much better. However, this remake is vastly superior in exploring the more human elements; Naina's ambivalence about suddenly being able to see is much more nuanced in this version, as is the despair and loneliness of the young woman who originally posessed the eyes that see too much.

Independent of comparisons to the source material, Naina is not flawless entertainment--the end kind of drags on and Urmila Matondkar spends a lot of the film gasping theatrically--but it was a nice way to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon.

And if you don't want to watch either the Hong Kong Eye or Indian Naina, Hollywood is soon releasing yet another remake staring Jessia Alba and Parker Posey. Oh boy...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 26, 2008 2:05 PM PST

A Tale of Two Sisters (Deluxe Edition)
A Tale of Two Sisters (Deluxe Edition)
DVD ~ Kap-su Kim
21 used & new from $0.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Asian horror...but an acquired taste, October 3, 2007
If you're a fan of Asian horror, it doesn't get better than A Tale of Two Sisters. The story is chilling and scary, the acting is wonderful, and the country house setting is exquisitely creepy. I recommend this movie wholeheartedly, but here's the caveat: most Asian horror is an acquired taste for western viewers, and this is no exception. If you are willing to invest the time to think about the story (I had to watch it twice to understand everything) then you'll be rewarded. It's the kind of movie that will stay with you for years, and there's always a new detail to add to the scariness.

A non-spoiler plot summary: Su-Mi and her sister Su-Yeon come home to discover that they have a new stepmother; the beautiful and icy Eun-Joo isn't overly thrilled to have the girls around, and Su-Mi must protect her weaker little sister against Eun-Joo's casual cruelty. The family home, deep in the countryside, is haunted by several ghosts and Su-Mi grows more and more frantic in her efforts to defeat the wicked stepmother and save Su-Yeon. The last 15 minutes leave viewers reeling from revelation after revelation about what actually happened, and continues to happen, in the house.

I know that a lot of viewers get frustrated with the jumble of non-linear events and I wish there was an easy way to explain the chronology without ruining the story. There are several very good discussions floating around the internet, if you feel like you missed the point.

And if this doesn't sound like a movie you'd like but you're interested in other Asian horror flicks, try Cello (also Korean) or the Eye (Hong Kong)--both great movies, but much more straightforward.

A Ghost in the Machine: A Chief Inspector Barnaby Novel (Chief Inspector Barnaby Novels)
A Ghost in the Machine: A Chief Inspector Barnaby Novel (Chief Inspector Barnaby Novels)
by Caroline Graham
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
59 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Village murder with a kick, July 14, 2007
I'm a big fan of both Caroline Graham's Inspector Barnaby mysteries, and the TV series that spun off--although the books and the show could not be more different. A Ghost in the Machine, the seventh (and last, to date) of the Barnaby novels, is the book that's most unlike the on-screen version, and my favorite.

After Carey Lawson dies and leaves a large sum of money to her nephew Mallory and his family, everything starts to change for the Lawsons; their arrival in the village sets off a chain of events that results in the death of their neighbor and financial advisor, Dennis Brinkley. Dennis' timid friend Benny tries to convince the Causton CID that the death was a murder, but there's no proof...until a medium of questionable talents and equally questionable morals gets involved.

Barnaby and Troy don't put in an appearance until halfway through the story and solve the crime relatively quickly, but the murders are a small part of the bigger picture (which includes embezzlement, fraud, more murders, and child abuse).

Graham's dry sense of humor and clear-eyed descriptions of English village life have never been better, but what sets A Ghost in the Machine apart is the complexity of the characters, and the creepy ending.

Signs and Symbols in Christian Art: With Illustrations from Paintings from the Renaissance (Galaxy Books)
Signs and Symbols in Christian Art: With Illustrations from Paintings from the Renaissance (Galaxy Books)
by George Ferguson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.94
130 used & new from $1.21

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent portable guide, July 13, 2007
When I bought this book, I needed a quick and dirty reference to religious symbolism in western art--I was pleased and surprised to find out that it's small, lightweight, and therefore portable when I visit museums. (Why don't more publishers consider weight and size when they print books for travelers? Lonely Planet and DK, I'm looking at you.)

Its easy size belies the incredible amount of useful information it contains; there are fourteen sections covering everything from the significance of certain animals to religious garments to a brief hagiography for commonly portrayed saints. About one-third of the book is a set of reproductions (sadly b&w in this edition) of famous renaissance religious paintings. There's no discussion or explanation accompanying the paintings--which is the only thing I don't like about the book.

And if you read one of the earlier reviews and are wondering about the chocolate mouse in Rosemary's Baby, it's a reference to mice as a symbol of evil because of their destructiveness.

Sukob - Philippine DVD
Sukob - Philippine DVD
DVD ~ Kris Aquino
3 used & new from $10.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mild horror from the Philippines, July 12, 2007
This review is from: Sukob - Philippine DVD (DVD)
Sukob is a modest little horror film from the Philippines--it's not in the same league as the best asian horror coming out of japan, korea, or hong kong, but it's pretty good. (From what I've seen of Filipino horror films, they tend to be reliably entertaining but nothing extreme and this is no exception.)

Sukob stars Kris Aquino--Corazon Aquino's daughter--as Sandy, a young woman who finds out on the eve of her wedding that anyone who marries in the same year that a relative dies or a sibling also weds is doomed to a cursed marriage. In a far-away village, Diana is also getting married...and she learns about the curse when the body count immediately skyrockets the day after her wedding. Both Diana and Sandy discover a secret sister they didn't know about, and realize that finding her is the key to ending the curse forever.

Most of the horror is atmospheric--the director gets a lot of mileage out of a creepy little flower girl and some swirling leaves--and overall the story is more poignant than gory. There's a set of dichotomies at play throughout the movie, which I thought was interesting: it's a palimpsest of urbanity and wealth on top of a humbler, darker existence.

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