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The Body for Beginners
The Body for Beginners
by Dani Cavallaro
Edition: Paperback
21 used & new from $5.48

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful introduction for the careerist seeking helpful directions and acceptable diction prior to delivering that first paper, June 24, 2016
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This review is from: The Body for Beginners (Paperback)
Fifteen years ago I felt that the human body had been underserved by theorists (including semioticians). It seemed to be an unavoidable yet neglected subject, especially in the context of the bigger-than-life scalings made possible by modern technology. How is one to compare Marilyn with the weak and unflattering representation of her in Madonna's "Material Girl"? After the auto-centric theory of Lacan and the sex/textual studies of Barthes, what is the appropriate diction for addressing representations of the human body in prose fiction, poetry, biography and autobiography, the visual arts of film and paintings, and of course in the performance arts of acting, dance and music? And what about the body of the author and its influence on the reader's sense of the body of a narrating subject? Can a reader hear the writer's voice without seeing an image of the speaker? Was Shelly the angelic, "hirsute-challenged" man-boy the reader might visualize while reading his poetry or was he the dominating, muscular specimen with a grip as strong as the damning judgments that some feminist critics have made about him? Was Emily Dickinson slight in stature, thin-boned, pale and unattractive or was she the rough-riding, bring-it-on, libidinous warrior-adventurer of Paglia's "Sexual Personae" (which completely changed my image of her--from a sedentary recluse to perhaps American literature's most notable precursor of Dean Moriarty).

The "performing" arts, unlike the subjectivity of literature, afford us more opportunities to see the relationship between semantically-rich meanings and the body of the artist. For example, pianist Bill Evans is frequently cited by jazz critics as the example of an artist whose very "touch" at the keyboard is capable of expressing a wide range of emotions--from melancholia, loneliness, and resignation to defiance, passion, and delirium. What is rarely taken into account are the photos of his physical features, revealing not the shy and thin aesthete of the earliest written accounts of his appearance but a player with broad and powerful shoulders, large and heavy hands, and fingers that are not only long but exceptionally "thick." Suddenly it becomes clear how the sound Evans' extracted from a piano could be so different from the sound produced by other players at the same piano, "striking" the identical keys and playing the same chord voicings. The size and weight of Evans' hands alone account, in great part, for the complexity and "volume" (not loudness, but "fullness") of the tones he coaxes from a grand piano, in construction one of the most mechanical and percussive of instruments. Other players get the spectator's attention by standing up and "banging" the piano from above, some even making an orgasmic display of their efforts with vocal squealing accompanying each sound. More than one photo of Evans captures him with his head beneath the keyboard, his hands above him, touching the keys as if making an offering to his Muse. The leverage and mechanics of his body could not have been more complementary to the demands of a Steinway, the mechanical apparatus serving as an instrument of worshipful expression.

Of course, the body and its meanings in literature--especially after the theory and practice of Roland Barthes--can no longer be limited to questions about the its representations "in" the text. Instead, the body suddenly "is" a text, worthy of the reader's closest attention to each nuanced movement and expressive detail. Following Barthes' example, I once presented a paper interpreting the various significations of the body dancing on one of the round tables at a typical, syndicated, upscale "Gentleman's Club," rendered a participatory exercise by the responses of male spectators whose huddling around the dime-sized dance tables resembled boy scouts encircling a small, warm fire. They seemed less voyeurs than a supportive community of squires serving their lady with the regular offering of their folded dollar-bills into the elastic garter belt of the lady they served. Her claim to a place of extreme adoration was signified to other dancers in the room by the overflow of dollar bills in a belt inadequate to the task of holding them secure. With each loosened bill, the squires responded like dutiful servants, each more eager than the next to secure the vagrant bill and keep it safe until the conclusion of the performance. At another meeting of the Popular Culture Society I analyzed in excruciating detail the face of James Mason during George Cukor's intricate staging of his suicide--his final swim occurring even as Mason and we remain intimately connected with the reassuring voice of Judy Garland in the adjacent room. In conclusion, the large screen and the camera set-ups employed by Cukor along with the nuanced choreography of Mason's facial expressions in concert with the content-rich narrative of Harold Arlen's musical score proved as emotionally powerful as the Oscar-winning performance by Garland herself. The close reading of the non-verbal meanings of the body by film stars who know how to use the movie camera as an instrument of intimate expression can yield understandings equal to the gain from the verbal means of Shakespeare's most memorable soliloquys. In the last ten years, books about reading body language--in daily life as well as in the arts--have multiplied to a point of inarguable excess. This preoccupation with the reflection of the face in the mirror and with improving it with cosmetics and surgery reflects a spectator trapped in the narcissism of a nnfant, incapable of moving from Lacan's "mirror" stage to the signifying / sign-reading stage of an adult who is equipped to communicate with others in discourse that is meaningful, productive, and directed toward objects outside the preoccupations of the undeveloped, embryonic self.

The same is true of post-modernism. Change is so rampant, the digitalization of our worlds so instant, the dominance of "the Cloud" so complete that the once exciting, provocative theories of Derrida, Foucault and Baudrillard are on the verge of degradation into transient electronic impulses within the undifferentiated "stream" that now subsumes all texts, including the existential terrain of the subjective self.

For better or worse, I sense a declining interest in modern (and postmodern) readership theory and the continual tweaking of increasingly abstruse jargon that seems designed to exclude the unenlightened majority. No matter. Let it wait. I think college students need to read and understand the classic philosophers (above all, Socrates and his interpreter Plato) and from there the radical revolution of the Romantics, who replaced the Enlightenment with a brighter light than the Age of Reason was capable of providing.

This book assisted me in gaining a foothold in writing a number of papers that I delivered at scholarly conferences and wrote for publications in the '80s and '90s, most of them from a feminist point-of-view, whether analyzing the work of Dorothy Arzner (the first woman director in Hollywood) or refuting the feminist stereotyping used to discredit Yeats, Joyce and Lawrence--which led me to the discovery of numerous texts by young "revisionist" feminists who were challenging a prevailing, almost "party-line" form of "woman-as-victim" feminism.. But students of literature would, at the present time, best be served by going to the literature itself--not the theory and criticism of it. And they should not do so under the illusion that upon successful completion of a substantial canon of authors--ancient and modern, British and American--they will have their choice of graduate programs much less job offers from tony colleges and universities. ("Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance" is a helpful tour guide from the classicist to the modernist, a story that's motivated and energized by the constant conflict between reason and rhetoric. The student who can negotiate that struggle has the best chance of succeeding in the profession.

Canonical literature must always be read as its own reward and, God willing, should a vocational award ensue from that exercise, all the better. The drill is plain and simple: first, the complete plays by William Shakespeare--and from no idealogy or theory other than "reader-response," which is a complete and total engagement with the text, calling upon the reader to undertake a Stanislavsky-like relation to character and action throughout each reading--not in the pursuit of more "information" (we have too much of that) but rather the unending quest for understanding, knowledge, thoughtful interpretation that is an examination of the self and its history in the present moment. ("The French Lieutenant's Woman" is a compelling, non-sentimental view of a Victorian age that illuminates our own God-fearing heritage of respectability and challenges us to evolve from the protagonist's superficial "modern sensibility" and dilletantish trifling with the science of evolution to a whole and genuine transformation requiring that he lose the self in order to regain his soul--"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting / The Soul, Our life's Star, Hath had elsewhere its setting and cometh from afar. / Not in entire forgetfulness and not in utter nakedness / But trailing clouds of Glory do we come / From God, who is our home." The author provides two endings, and it's not at all certain that either the character or the reader will select the best option. (Today, after a vote separating Britain from the EU, the internet was abuzz with Brits who were recorded Googling, post-election, questions like: "What's the EU?" "What's a Brsexit?" "Is it good for England, or bad? Will it help me or hurt me?" The option is there, or rather "was" there. Perhaps the tardiness of the questions is sufficient to attest to the "rightness" of the choice made by Britain.

After Shakespeare, the most important author is not Milton but Chaucer, whose opening lines to the "Prologue" to the "Canterbury Tales" should not only be required reading but mandatory memorizing. In a mere 26 lines Chaucer: 1. fathers forth spring and its season of growth in the mineral, animal and human worlds (external and interal); 2. fathers forth the English language which, like the nature that "priketh" in the hearts of restless birds with an eye on a mate, is a marriage of Anglo-Saxon and Norman French; 3. pronounces the birth of English literature in arguably the language's most sensuously earthy, spirtually sublime epic poem (though almost three-quarters short of its planned destination.) I may be old-fashioned, a senior citizen, a printed name of extinct e-meritus (a synonym for "disabled") status. But when I encounter degree'd professors who can distinguish the jargon among 6-7 French feminist theorists but don't recognize a single character or phrase from "The Canterbury Tales," I'm at onced scandalized and disheartened. Maybe it's time to set right the most recent crop of careerists scrambling for residency in a dying discipline ("The students can't write! We must have more seminars on writing pedagogy!")

Been there, done that--many times over. No one's able to bring themselves to admit the secret that could undermine their own careers--viz. that students can't read! I say: Bullcocky! (to quote Rachel). I think they can. But besides threatening, seducing, rewarding, and constructing imaginative games and contests, the teacher must be willing to assign the texts most worthy of reading What's the gain of assigning contemporaneous reading of Kate Chopin's novelette "The Awakening" in four separate courses at the expense of Faulkner's Caddy ("Sound and the Fury"), Addy Bundren ("As I Lay Dying"), and Rosa Coldfield ("Absalom! Absalom!). Is such a reading syllabus too challenging for the student--or too much for person responsible for planting those texts and overseeing their development in eager, rapidly expanding young minds. Teach the students, be a nice guy, like the students ostensibly enough to make them like you. But teach them something they will never forget. Things that are difficult, challenging and hard-earned--these are the prizes of any college education worth the price.

And, yes, Milton is important, too. Chaucer prepares the student for Chomsky's phrase structure rules while Milton illustrates the best advice in Aristotler's "Rhetoric." If time permits, top it all off wtih a course in literary theory, Plato to Baudrillard to Steve Jobs, or an equally familiar living creator of the digital mediascape that we, above all, have been entrusted to work with if not defeat. It's a tall order--only for the messenger who is equally tough in body and in soul.


ESPN 30 for 30 O.J.:Made in America DVD and Bluray Combo
ESPN 30 for 30 O.J.:Made in America DVD and Bluray Combo
DVD ~ O.J. Simpson
Price: $23.21

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic, universal and "relevant" docu-drama that makes the viewer a juror in a trial yet to be decided., June 23, 2016
Some reviewers have insisted that "O.J.: Made in America" is sufficiently compelling to hold any spectator's attention for its 10-12 hour duration. Not only is that a tall order but it's misleading, especially if it produces in any American over the age of 30 expectations of seeing documentary footage that's unfamiliar--images new and sensational enough to lead to a suspension of the usual binge-watching of, say, a year's worth of "The Blacklist' or "Criminal Minds."

"Made in America" isn't that kind of film. It's a most ambitious, labor-intensive, artfully-arranged montage of documentary footage that, without the assistance of some unidentified 3rd-person narrator, tells the story of O.J.--from his emergence as a college football star to his success as a franchise player in the NFL, from his post-career steps and missteps to his lucky break and bigger mistake. The viewer is left to judge whether O.J. is guilty or innocent--or if it even matters.

The more interesting question--if the viewer chooses to ask it--is whether O.J.'s fall is "tragic" or "pathetic." Was it the "fatal flaw" of a potentially noble hero, temporarily blinded by pride and self-importance? Or was O.J. the victim of the circumstances of America, its racism and violence, and its celebrity culture? Was his fallure Shakespearean and universal? Or was it cultural-specific? Was O. J. made "in" America or "by" America? The former question acknowledges the free choice offered the individual in American democracy, with no guarantees that the offer will be "fair" or the outcome "just." The latter places the individual in a system that's "rigged" against him and is ultimately to blame for whatever he becomes--man or monster. As we've seen in the '16 election, this view is not lacking for support.

The film offers ample evidence for viewers to play jury before issuing their final judgments about O. J., about America, and about the relation between the two. It's a comprehensive yet detailed picture that should be viewed from the very beginning and in its entirety (I chose to view it in 30+ minute installments for almost 30 consecutive nights).

The documentary is not Shakespeare, but it may be as close as many present-day viewers will get to what's at stake in Shakespearean tragedy. And at this moment in our nation's history, the film may strike some as having an unexpectedly close connection with a certain Presidential candidate-- whose blown-up media persona, even with its outsized warts and colossal failures, remains the embodiment of the American success story many of us would like to claim as our birthright, too.

If the film succeeds in making Americans look inward--reflecting on matters of race, celebrity, violence, freedom and responsibility--it will have proven itself many times over. This may be the one film about O.J. that's not merely another exploitive spin-off about an American idol whose fall led to the trial of the century. We've all already been there, done that. This documentary invites us to move on.


Some Other Time: The Lost Session from The Black Forest [2 CD]
Some Other Time: The Lost Session from The Black Forest [2 CD]
Price: $19.69
43 used & new from $17.05

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Miraculous Discovery of a Bill Evans Session Recorded by a Legendary Engineer, June 19, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this title on Amazon. The words “recorded in Germany’s Black Forest” were by themselves sufficient to justify purchase. That was the home of jazz aficionado and cutting-edge audio engineer Hans Brunner-Schwer who in 1968 began recording piano virtuoso Oscar Peterson—first, with Ray Brown (b) and Ed Thigpen (dr) Exclusively for My Friends, Vol. 1: Action and, somewhat later, Oscar’s next trio with Sam Jones (b) and Bobby Durham or Louis Hayes (dr) Exclusively for My Friends, Vol. 3: The Way I Really Play. After collecting 8-9 of these albums--each as distinguished by the "sonic imaging" of the trio and the faithful reproduction of the Bosendorfer grand as by the musical content--I was satisfied that Oscar's piano and ensemble had been captured with a clarity and brilliance outshining his numerous American recordings on Verve. Hearing that Bill Evans had recorded with the same German engineer and in the same home studio as Oscar Peterson and that the results were available now—in the spring of 2016—was an unexpected giftt and an occasion for celebration by any admirer of the innovative pianist whose influence during the 2nd half of jazz history is arguably rivaled only by Miles Davis and John Coltrane.

This studio recording, though issued on the same label as a somewhat later session by Bill's trio in the same year-- Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of The Gate [2 CD]--has the advantage, and by a wide margin, in terms of audio quality, even though the German and American recordings occurred within several months of each other in 1968. On the German-made recording, each of the instruments is up-close and personal yet afforded its own definitive space, without the overbearing, near-distortion levels of the slightly later American recording, which places the listener in the middle of the ensemble. On the present recording, Bill's piano is recorded between Gomez' bass (from my right speaker) and DeJohnette's drums (from my left). The result is a stunning, vividly realistic sound-stage that affords the listener an opportunity to follow the musical conversation among the threesome as an invited guest, seated 10-15 feet in front of the ensemble. Ironically, both of these 1968 sessions have come to light due to the dedicated efforts of George Klabin, founder of Resonance Records (the label for both sessions and one of the few remaining record companies devoted to preserving and promoting America's indigenous art).

As was the habit of Bill during this period, Gomez is given more than his share of solo time. The bassist's technical busy-ness, especially in the upper register, may seem like an unsatisfying response to the pianist’s sweeping lyricism, increasingly supported by the churning texture of clustered chords given ever greater prominence in the left hand. Yet, even after the loss of the legendary Scott LaFaro, Bill's confidence in the young prodigious bassist who had joined him two years earlier is demonstrably well-founded on this recording. Gomez' bass, moreover, is captured better than I've ever heard it--especially in the lower register, where the instrument's wooden cabinetry resonates with depth and power unlike the non-decaying, "buzzing" sound heard on the "Top of the Gate" recording. DeJohnette's drums remain, throughout, quietly supportive of, and quickly adaptive to, the inspirations (and whims) of the pianist, not for an instant threatening to encroach upon the instrument's solo space.

Listening to Bill Evans on this recording is a refreshing and rich experience, bringing the past into the present moment with such dynamic realism and stirring life that evaluation of the music itself almost becomes a secondary consideration. Yet Bill tackles the thorniest chord progressions with unbroken streams of melodic invention, each note sounding with the unmistakable clarity that first attracted Miles to Bill's piano touch--as unmistakable and unique as the sound of Coltrane's tenor saxophone. (How different the course of jazz history might have been--in musical direction and popular acceptance--had Coltrane and Bill remained with Miles. Coltrane's final two years saw the departure of not only McCoy and Elvin but thousands of suddenly disillusioned fans. Bill's trio with LaFaro, on the other hand, struggled to attract serious listeners to what sounded to them like "background music." Miles' persona as the Pablo Picasso of modern jazz assured him of a receptive audience and loyal label (Columbia) regardless of his next move--possibly a stunning sequel to "Kind of Blue"?)

Yet any scenario about Bill Evans is fatally flawed if it casts him in any role other than 1) leader of his own piano trio and 2) an improviser enabled (not "limited" or restricted) by a repertory of traditional "standards." Neither a free nor fusion player, Evans would maintain throughout his career a close connection with the Songbook, which was as central to his musical brilliance as the traditional sonnet form was to the genius of Shakespeare as a poet. A third strength was a technical facility that not only complemented his mental and physical constitution: it was so deeply lodged in his muscular-skeletal structure that nothing short of death seemed capable of affecting his "chops." Evans' career included so many ups and downs--even beyond the suicides among his family and loved ones and his continual struggle with drug dependency—that the wonder is that he could perform at all let alone do so with a piano touch of unequaled control and power--evident as much in the most hushed passages as the climactic, thunderous stretches of a solo. At all times, Bill's powerful shoulders, large hands and thick fingers work together to produce playing that is "deep in the keys," avoiding the light, glossy, "fingery" touches of many of his presumptive heirs and protegés.

The first disc is the more “finished” by the pianist. It can be seen as a singular affirmation of Bill's abiding faith in the standards of the Great American Songbook as offering the harmonies and melodies that could still carry the day for serious players--even at a time when the folkish tunes introduced by guitar-playing singer-songwritesr along with the music of Nashville, and even the 12-bar blues form itself, were threatening to replace the more complex, less immediately accessible melodic-harmonic tradition of the composers who had held sway during the century’s first four decades. That music had continued to serve artists--jazz instrumentalists and vocalists alike--for the next two decades. But by 1968 Sinatra was on the verge of his first retirement and Miles Davis had abandoned the Songbook and its "standards" completely.

The second disc presents Evans in a more "experimental" mode, trying out new ways of playing old songs, and occasionally halting midstream or ending with graceless impatience, as if to say "forget that take." Despite several uninspired takes and even a few mis-takes, this two-disc package is an essential pick-up for the Evans fan as well as for anyone seeking a better understanding of jazz and American music 1965-1985, a period during which Bill Evans along with Tony Bennett were less "keepers of the flame" than "cultural outliers," obstinately adhering to the course of a dying tradition. "Some Other Time: The Lost Session" offers listeners an opportunity not only to relive, or encounter for the first time, a lost past but to consider its application--if any--to the present time. Many observers have declared jazz dead or, at best, an art form on life support.

At a time of such dark pessimism, "Some Other Time" comes at the "right" time. For this reviewer, it's the most important, heartening musical release since the discovery and release, ten years ago, of the 1957 concert:Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall. It’s music that beckons us to rejoin Bill on his quest, taking us briefly into the same Black Forest as he once entererd--except with closer, more attentive listening each time--followed by a reminder, at the end, that it would be another ten years before Bill would embark on his third and final leg of a harrowing yet ultimately triumphant journey—one that would take him into ever deeper regions of the human heart--and to greater heights of intense, scintillating beauty.

Even if we wanted to let it all go, it won’t let go of us.

Addendum: The accompanying 40-page booklet ends with interviews of Gomez and DeJohnette, who recall surprisingly little about this recording session that would support its release let alone encourage purchase. Both remember with greater fondness the trio's subsequent month-long residency at Ronnie Scott's club in London--an extended time during which the three became comfortable with one another. Of this recording, DeJohnette (a pianist himself) recalls that Bill was playing a strange instrument, trying to "make friends" with it by "pushing" to make the instrument give him what he wanted to hear. As a result his touch was "different"--a little "stronger than normal." In listening to the recording for the first time, my feeling was much the same: Bill was not always in his comfort zone. But upon repeated listenings, I find it's that extra "push" that makes the recording as essential as it is exceptional. To any artist wearing the mantle of an innovator and game-changer, the last place he wants to find himself is in a "comfort zone."
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 20, 2016 7:55 PM PDT


Mokingtop® Luxury Sport Analog Quartz Modern Men's Fashion Wrist Watches Yellow
Mokingtop® Luxury Sport Analog Quartz Modern Men's Fashion Wrist Watches Yellow
Offered by sandistore
Price: $4.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Luxurious? Maybe not. Functional? Absolutely, providing you know how to start it., June 18, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
What you see is what you'll get, a colorful watch that tells time--really. And the part that's good or bad, depending on your level of experience with watches, is the protective plastic shield at the base of the stem (the middle dial on the right side, which is the only functional, moveable dial on the watch). That piece is there to prevent the battery from draining before you receive and use the watch. It's simply smaller (almost invisible) and tighter than the usual stem guard. (I had to hunt for the tiniest, micro-sized screwdriver to access an edge of the piece and pull it loose.)

Once the plastic piece was removed from the stem base, I could "push" on the stem to activate the battery (and start movement) and I could "pull" on the stem (to set the time)

The upside: The watch keeps time, and with hands that are very visible. Also, because of the plastic insert (above), you're assured of a fresh battery.

The downside: the watch's yellow rubbery strap is totally uncool, especially with the extra part that "spills over" on thin wrists. (I've cut off 'almost an inch to eliminate some of the excess.) If the watch runs good, I'll probably switch straps for something less clownish. Even faux-leather black would be a cosmetic improvement.


Elevator to the Gallows (English Subtitled)
Elevator to the Gallows (English Subtitled)
DVD
Price: $2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential in every way: a triumphant trifecta by Malle, Moreau and Miles, June 17, 2016
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This title existed (in its original French) in my consciousness for over half a century only because it was the flip side of the Miles Davis album on Columbia entitled "Jazz Track." The title in itself suggests that Miles Davis' soundtrack for the French film noir was originally intended as the A side of the album and that the B side, opening with the exquisite introduction by pianist Bill Evans to another movie song, Bronislaw Kaper's "On Green Dolphin Street," was seen as secondary by the Columbia execs. In the immediately following years, then, it was the B side that "took off," a seminal recording by the Miles Davis Sextet that soon became a jazz standard as well as one of the most popular instrumental tunes of all time.

More than half a century after the release of the album "Jazz Track," it's clear that whereas "On Green Dolphin Street" is superior movie music, "Elevator" ("Ascenseur Pour L'echafaud") is the better movie. It's both an example of "film noir"--the murky, high anxiety, atmospheric Hollywood product admired and emulated by the French--and of "decoupage classique"-- the smooth, seamless Hollywood style of editing and shot selection. The plot can be taken seriously or, if the spectator chooses, seen as a send-up of the genre--a dark comedy version of the prototype investigating motives and results of human greed and passion, violence and treachery.

As tempting as it is to retell the chain of events that lead to the convictions of the "wrong kilers" (who are killers all the same), any such summary would spoil the fun for a new viewer. Suffice it to say that the film, from the very first frame establishess a fast pace that's guaranteed to engage the most hostile viewer to films that are : 1. foreign (perhaps, above all, French); 2. photographed in black and white; 3. require the use of sub-titles (for the non-French spectator).

In response to the above objections, "Elevator" is definitely NOT like the cerebral, subtle satire of French film classics such as Renoir's "Grand Illusion" and "Rules of the Game." By comparison, "Elevator" is an "action movie" that tells its story viscerally, or cinematically, with minimal use of subtitles. It reduces film to its essence--sight and sound--with little reliance on "literary" devices such as dialogue. Moreover, Miles Davis' score is simplistic yet representative of the trumpet player's emergent brilliance. The limited mid-register, generic sound of his horn on the late '40s Charlie Parker recordings has been replaced by a technically accomplished musician whose range, power, and expressive control of individual notes--bending, shaping, half-valving, "sculpturing" of pitches--will arguably make his the most identifiable, respected instrumental voice in modern jazz. He uses two phrases--a minor scale in D with occasional relief from a suspended C7sus chord--played slow or fast, depending upon action and characterization. But it's Miles' steely, "lonely" sound, especially in the upper register of the horn, that prove sa perfect complement to story, theme, and characterization. No other trumpet player could have fallen into character as perfectly, as inimitably as Miles.

As a 1958 film (not 1968, as reported in the Amazon description) "Elevator" compares favorably with the more acclaimed, contemporaneous French "new wave" films of Godard, Truffaut and Resnais. In many respects it's a better-made, more satisfying movie than the usual films used in the classroom to illustrate French contributions to the history of cinema--"Breathless," "Shoot the Piano Player," "Last Year at Marienbad." I confess I enjoyed "Elevator" more than any of the these proclaimed classics. Unlike the comparatively neglected "Elevator to the Gallows," all of these familiar, iconic French titles have stretches that are tedious and confusing.

And none of them has Miles Davis, whose very sound is like a 5th leading character in the film, guiding us from the emotions of one character to the next.. So why does this film remain so anonymous? Many reasons, one being the last five minutes of the movie, which present audience-pleasing closure that is tight, tidy and moral. That part of the film is so unoriginal and unlike real life, that neither followers of French movies nor cineastes can forgive the director for "selling out" with an unnecessary, unwanted moral sermon.. (Hitchcock could get away with it at the end of "Psycho" because of his well-established reputation.)

Regardless, I maintain that "Ascenseur" deserves admittance to the same cinematic halls of glory as the aforementioned French films. Why? Because it's not only a well-made, perfectly balanced mix of film noir and black comedy, but it's also a mirror of America! More specifically, the film reflects how America is seen by foreigners and how they respond to our movies--in and outside of their own films. For a fast 90 mintues we're allowed to see ourselves through the revelations of the French lens.

Malle knows that America is defined by two objects--the automatic handgun and the stylish, full-powered automobile, the symbol of status and of speed. Just as F. Scott Fitzgerald took those two symbols and showed us their effect on a misguided American dreamer by the name of Jay Gatsby, Louis Malle does the same in "Ascenseur"--but with a difference. The person who dreams the most and who has the most to lose is French! and she's a woman! (Our consolation: Jeanne Moreau's character does, in fact, lose more than any of the other hapless characters in the movie. But Jeanne Moreau the actress would, largely on the strength of her performance in this film, be propelled to the front stage of female actors in world cinema. At the age of 88 she is today one of the true shining stars of the cosmopolitan silver screen.)


Lie to Me Season 2
Lie to Me Season 2
Price: $29.99

2.0 out of 5 stars A single gimmick, derivative writing, and reductive moralisms = a combination antithetical to gripping drama., June 16, 2016
This review is from: Lie to Me Season 2 (Amazon Video)
I'm no TV expert, so I go along with my wife's picks. Some have taken me to drama that's as good as, sometimes better, than the best theatrical dramatic releases. "Inspector George Gently" will be a huge let-down if it doesn't renew for another season. The writing, the production values, the acting are capable of a suspension of disbelief that leads to the kind of self-examination of Shakespearean drama. The same is true of "Morse," "Endeavor" and "The Last Detective." All are British shows that "cut deeply" without resorting to the usual exploitive situations or to the numbing gun play of their American counterparts ("Criminal Minds" perhaps the best example--a "Serial Killer of the Week" series that wastes a talented group of actors on repetitious situations and plots aimed at titillating viewers who wish to see an "Orlando massacre" every week.

"Lie to Me" is a show with a gimmick that works for one season, thanks largely to the acting of Tim Roth, a highly "mannered" actor who can get "big results" but not when the writing utterly fails. I stayed with Season 2 until Episode 11, which uses an academic setting to unearth the sadistic murders of young female students and to follow the travails of a discredited teacher (who claims sitings of UFOs) to cram into 40 minutes a extremely condensed version of Hitchcock's "Psycho" (with a Tony Perkins' lookalike but without motivation, suspense or thrills) and with a pointless subplot (to afford the other regulars in the cast some screen time).

The episode points to the limitations of a one-idea show suddenly thrust into automatic pilot mode. Every single detail is predictable and "clichéd," the only interest remaining the acting of protagonist Tim Roth, whose incongruous drunken mannerisms, inscrutable expressions, and flailing arm movements fall short of saving the writing but not of making him appear absurd.

A single gimmick reduced to a "superpower" that's used at will by the protagonist and his three assistants to ferret out all the sado-masochistic is not a platform for drama. Instead, it's a "deus ex machina" that kills the life of the show as certainly as all of the weaponry used on the American NCIS, Law and Order, Criminal Minds counterparts. If you needed an excuse to go back to watching a classic film or reading a good Faulkner or Shakespeare, this is it.

After Season 1, this thin show is a downhill disaster. (If you see a good episode, take note of the writer's name for assistance in selecting the next program).


MagniViz Magnifying Glass with Light and Folding Stand - Large Illuminated Hand Held & Hands Free Magnifier 3x 4.5x Magnification - For Reading, Crafts, Hobbies - Bonus Cloth Pouch - Refund Guarantee!
MagniViz Magnifying Glass with Light and Folding Stand - Large Illuminated Hand Held & Hands Free Magnifier 3x 4.5x Magnification - For Reading, Crafts, Hobbies - Bonus Cloth Pouch - Refund Guarantee!
Offered by Lush Items
Price: $24.99
2 used & new from $8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Primarily a standalone magnifier (not recommended for handheld use), June 14, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
[I'm deducting a star because the "build quality" of this magnifier--which is intended for use as a hand-held as well as a standalone device--does not provide the user with a secure enough grip for employing the glass in hand-held position. The battery cover comes loose in my grasp, and when I attempt to hold it together, my hand can't prevent the glass part from buckling into its standalone position. I would recommend against purchase of this particular magnifier for standalone use.]

My main concern before purchase was whether the lightweight plastic of the base would be heavy enough to support the comparatively large glass as a standalone device. Now I can give assurance that the base, which accepts two (2) AA batteries is sufficiently weighted-down to enable the device to stand on its own, allowing the user to apply both hands to the project under examination.. The LEDs are neither excessive nor inadequate: just bright enough to make jewelry inspection, watch repair, etc. an easier task for the user, whether in daylight or darkness.

It's not as "pocket-sized" as the smaller, less expensive magnifier, which would be appealing as a "portable cheater" for reading the tiny font on medicine/vitamin bottles--even while shopping. On the other hand, the pictured magnifier is not too heavy or large to be used while traveling (especially since the base readily folds into the handle). It's not "rock solid" or capable of being extended horizontally without upsetting balance, but for most purposes it's sufficiently stable to "stand unassisted" for extended periods.

The larger part of the glass seems (to my eyes) to provide no more than 2X magnification (advantageous for seeing a line of text without moving letter by letter). Embedded in the bottom of the larger glass circle is a smaller glass circle (approx.10-15% of the surface area), under which the power is increased to approx. 3X. Using the small circle does, I've found, require folding up the handle and dedicating one hand to holding the glass.

Certainly, there are standalone glass magnifiers that are much bigger in diameter and much more powerful (5X to 50X). Professionals who require such a glass must be willing to pay the freight. For my purposes (primarily fixing watch bands, etc.) this one is quite satisfactory.


Carson® 5x MiniBrite LED Lighted Slide-Out Aspheric Magnifier with Protective Sleeve (PO-55)
Carson® 5x MiniBrite LED Lighted Slide-Out Aspheric Magnifier with Protective Sleeve (PO-55)
Price: $7.39
30 used & new from $7.39

4.0 out of 5 stars At best, a successful nail-trimming (finally) of a small and fidgety pet; at worst, a bloody sight magnified., June 13, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I may have been "swayed" (duped?) just a little by the "Add On" status of this magnifier, suggesting that it's a deal, even a gift, from Amazon for purchasing twenty-five bucks' worth of merchandise. Upon further investigation, I see similar magnifiers that are priced no higher than this one. But I'm not in the least disappointed.

This one is about the size of an iPod Nano (though twice the thickness). It weighs a gram or two more than a traditional metal cigarette lighter. The device is equally effective with or without its light (in the event you find yourself caught short by the requirement of supplying your own batteries--3 AAA's, to be exact). It's when you're in the dark, and not even within reach of an electric lamp, that the built-in light of the magnifier comes in handy. (It could also serve as a handy light on those nights when your house key and the lock can't seem to get their act together.]

Installation of the 3 batteries was quick and intuitive (The lower half shows a large arrow within a corrugated circle--simply put a thumb on that spot and push). Operation of the device is equallly user-friendly. To open it, pull the sliding, protective cover downward. Stop at the bottom of the glass if you don't plan to use the light. Pull it down a notch further (1/8th inch), or "all the way," to activate the light. Without the light, you can get equal results by viewing your object of inspection from either direction. With the light, you must view the object from the side OPPOSITE to the battery cover and the light itself. Otherwise, the light will simply illuminate your own face (and perhaps trigger a migraine). The device has no fewer that 4 grip-friendly rubber places (large cyllindrical areas) for fingers to move the cover up and down or to hold the magnifying glass absolutely steady (affording the user more precise control than holding the glass by a handle or base).

5X power is more than I'd anticipated (3X is plenty). If you choose to go even higher, you're apt to encounter the object's molecules and be none the wiser about its utility. I purchased this item to be able to read tiny font, to work on a "woman's" tiny, dysfunctional Skagen watch and, last but not least, to be able--just once--to cut my guinea pig's 14 finger and toe nails without severing the "quick," which results in an injury as great to this guardian and the wife who washes his shirts as to Sparky himself. Here's hoping the light doesn't cause Sparky to freak out (the blood would probably be the same in quantity, though it would look greatly magnified to the naked eye).


AV SuperPak 2 Frame Computer and Gaming Eye Strain Relief Glasses Pack Anti Glare and Non Reflective Blue Ray Blockers for Home and Office
AV SuperPak 2 Frame Computer and Gaming Eye Strain Relief Glasses Pack Anti Glare and Non Reflective Blue Ray Blockers for Home and Office
Offered by Low_Baller
Price: $8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars High quality frames, and the glass (a day later) does seem to reduce eye-strain at the computer, June 12, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
It's really too early to call these glasses "5 stars"--unless you've put them on and experienced instant, unmistakable removal of eyestrain--"from" reading a computer screen and "while" reading the small print from that same screen. That was my primary consideration in ordering these glasses. A secondary one was obtaining a shade dark enough to eliminate the nasty blue rays we've heard so much about (maybe not so much from your opthamologist---he's more likely to be informed about the harmful effects of UV rays).

What you can be assured of is getting two excellent pairs of glasses, averaging out to under $5 per pair. The fit is, at least in my case, "just right," even for my narrow head--no adjustments needed. The frames and glass look and feel as good to me as the $200 specimens I find on the display racks at my local eye doctor's or at the big stores' eyeglass departments. And it's reassuring to see that each pair comes in a silk-like protective pouch inside a stiff, protective, branded box along with the manufacturer's assurances that you have made not only the most economical choice (no room for argument there) but also the best decision when it comes to protecting those peepers!

Cataract removal is not necessarily a stressful procedure--but it can be quite inconvenient and drawn out, rendering your old glasses worthless and saddling you with lenses that simply can't satisfy your unique needs as a see-er, much less a close and attentive reader of texts, including the one that is the world around you. So in the interim a pair of these can be effective as stress relievers, actual and imagined (because I've had glasses resting on my nose since the age of 6, I feel unsettled--even identity-less--without some comparable replacement).

At first, I was in disbelief concerning these glasses--they appear untinted when compared to the light yellowish tint that's apparent on the pictured pair. But now that I'm convinced they indeed are tinted and that they reduce a small amount of glare, I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. Moreover, the previous orange pair I had ordered from Amazon were so dark that, while they may have filtered out the blue light, they did so at the expense of all other light. So given the choice, these get my vote--1. they're lightweight yet "substantial"; 2. they fit; 3. they're not overly aggressive about removing you from a world of light and color.

Can't ask for much more than that--not at these prices.


Colgate Total Advanced Deep Clean Toothpaste, 4 Ounce (Pack of 6)
Colgate Total Advanced Deep Clean Toothpaste, 4 Ounce (Pack of 6)
Price: $14.82
15 used & new from $14.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Coke or Pepsi? Colgate or Crest? (What happened to Pepsodent and Ipana?), June 12, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Because of their similarity, toothpastes have a tough row to hole (perhaps a bad figure-of-speech to a cavity-plagued consumer). How can they differentiate themselves sufficiently to convince the prospective consumer to favor one brand over another? And the customer's job can be all the more daunting when a single brand comes in multiple sizes with different ingredients aimed at tooth-bearing humans with apparently different needs. It stands to reason that the brands--like Colgate and Crest--with the biggest budgets devoted to promotions, advertising, and Madison Avenue techniques, including effective use of social media--will always have a formidable advantage.

Efficacy: I frankly wish more funds were devoted to R&D (what happened to the "pump"-ejecting containers of several decades ago. Nevertheless, Colgate "appears" to come up with formulae that can actually benefit the health (and appearance) of people's teeth. "Total" was both an ingenious name and, if effective, advantage to the customer with too little time to brush his teeth several times each day (preferably after eating). And thankfully the company's more abrasive whitening toothpastes have not driven out the original Total, with its emphasis more on cleaning than on taste or radiantly gleaming 'pearlies." For anyone who makes cleaning the primary consideration, the pictured formula is Colgate's most desirable.

Taste: Anything tastes better than my grandmother's salt and soda mixture (once force upon me). Yet for me Colgate has a distinctive, pleasant, yet deeply satisfying flavor. Brushers who prefer a flavor that can be felt in the sinuses, seeming to "chill the air" as it is breathed, will prefer Crest to Colgate toothpaste, which confines its taste to tongue and throat.

Size: The larger sizes are more economical but, depending upon available space, etc, may be awkward and unwieldy. The pictured size is large enough to last yet small enough to pack for a week-end.

Price: By ordering through Prime subscription services, the price works out to about $2 per tube. As mentioned, the larger containers are more economical, but can also lead to more waste. This brand, subset and size is what I wanted and got.

P.S. For what it's worth, I once heard Jim Cramer recommend Colgate.


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