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Sea Change
Sea Change
Price: $8.39
131 used & new from $0.36

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beck's Blood on the Tracks, March 22, 2006
This review is from: Sea Change (Audio CD)
Beck is what I'd consider a postmodernist, in that, all of his music is a sort of ode to something that came before. In all of his older albums, Beck built his sound by sampling the sounds of music you'd heard before. They were original and inventive whether he was delving into country, grunge or hip-hop, but there was a detachment to all of them.

Not the case with Sea Change. In a sense, the folksy style of this album will be familiar to you because Beck is doing what he does best -- taking what's familiar and making it his own. However, this time he has his own perspective.

It's an album dripping in melancholy, yes, but it's a cathardic act because by the end of the album he's expressed every aspect of the end of a relationship and the loss of love. This time around Beck's lyrics aren't just sonic window-dressing -- they are actual thoughts.

I think I read somewhere that this was Beck's Blood on the Tracks and that is probably as good a comparison as you're going to get. Both albums feature two great artists at the end of long relationships. Both albums musical innovation with honest emotion. Both albums are classic.


Mouse & The Mask
Mouse & The Mask
Offered by Speedy CD
Price: $10.04
68 used & new from $1.53

4.0 out of 5 stars A Great CD, March 16, 2006
This review is from: Mouse & The Mask (Audio CD)
The Mouse and the Mask is a great cd and MF Doom is a great lyricist. I found this album by reading the reviews of other people on Amazon and have to say I lucked out. Otherwise, i never would have heard of it.

Every track is fun and there are a lot of great guest appearances on this album. The track with Ghostface Killa is my favorite on this album. Another noteworthy appearance is made by Talib Kweli who should by now be a house-hold name.

I still don't understand why Kweli's album isn't on the radio dial when he has hits by Kanye West and lyrics on par or better than the best. For that matter, this album should be a huge hit too.

You really have to wonder how these artists with absolutely no talent get their music on the airwaves. The only thing I can think of is that the stations are getting paid.

I'm glad I got to hear this album because for a long time now I thought hip-hop was dead, but I guess I was just listening to what was on the radio. This album is a must have for any hip-hop or music fan.


Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
by Ron Chernow
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.18
119 used & new from $5.75

71 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Titan - A Powerhouse, March 16, 2006
Ron Chernow's Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. is a powerhouse from beginning to end. Chernow is fast becoming one of my favorite biographers after reading Alexander Hamilton and now this. In both books, he is able to keep you turning the page while, at the same time, building carefully rendered portraits of these complex historical figures.

In Titan, he is at his best, describing Rockefeller as both a great philanthropist and also a man possessed by greed. Chernow's Rockefeller can be as consumed by creating a great Baptist University [University of Chicago] as building tactical alliances that will squeeze out any hope of competition for his company, Standard Oil.

With his first brush stroke, Chernow paints the picture of Rockefeller's father a mountebank, philanderer and a bigamist. From meager beginnings, it is amazing to see the determination with which Rockefeller builds himself up. Rockefeller's ability to move so rapidly from a life of destitution and failure to one of unparallelled wealth and success is built with clear precision though at a dizzying pace.

Chernow's decision to focus so heavily on Rockefeller's father in the beginning of the book is important because the man Rockefeller becomes is a repudiation of everything his father stood for. The son in this case knew what a scoundrel his father was and acted in every way to become everything he was not. The father was a philnaderer, while the son remained devoted to his one wife even when he had become wildly successful. As the father placed his own interests ahead of his family's needs, the son put his family ahead of everything else. And in the realm of business, the father had become a complete failure, while the son achieved successes beyond the wildest expectations of anyone to that point.

But, for all of his success and his blindess to the fact, Rockefeller grew up to be much like his father. His father's ability to con his way out of any situation at any cost was a built in feature of Rockefeller's personality. No matter how much good he did in the world and how much he evolved as a man, he was his father's son. This was no more evident than in the way Rockefeller did business as the leader of Standard Oil. He removed any and all competition at any cost.

For all of his achievements, Rockefeller was never able to completely remove that original strain of human frailness that his father gave him. This was what eventually led to the downfall of Standard Oil and which made Rockefeller Sr. such a complex figure both beloved and hated by those who knew him or of him.

Despite his profound understanding of the mechanics and psychology of the business world, it is Chernow's ability to develop strong character studies that make his books so admirable. During many of the best parts of Titan, Chernow is developing a colorful hybrid of supporting characters every bit as interesting as Rockefeller himself. What makes it all the more impressive is that Chernow does so while carefully tying everything in to build the theme within Rockefeller's life. You get the idea from reading Chernow that you are witnessing the actual motivations of the characters he writes about.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 17, 2009 1:38 PM PDT


Be Cool
Be Cool
by Elmore Leonard
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
186 used & new from $0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Be Cool -- The Leonard Tabula Rosa, February 25, 2005
This review is from: Be Cool (Mass Market Paperback)
I have read a number of Elmore Leonard books before reading Be Cool and have hears a number of people I respected tell me how great Leonard was, but I just never got it. Sure, the characters were all cool and the plotlines exciting, but the way these people loved him there always seemed like there was something more. I couldn't find that in any of the books I'd read before this one, and so I just didn't get it. Then I come across Be Cool.

The way I see it the book is more than Hollywood insider jokes and irreverant colorful characters and zany capers. When Leonard writes about Chili Palmer he's really writing about himself. Replace Chili with Elmore and you get what he's talking about. You get the idea that Leonard is really telling you how he creates the novels he's written. He finds a bunch of cool characters, puts them in the same room and find out what happens -- just like Chili Palmer. It is so important that the characters drive the plot that it almost feels to him like they're writing the story and he's just taking notes. And he seems to find the things about the characters that make them special -- mobsters in sneakers and sweatshirts in Hollywood studios. And through all the marketing tactics and the different editors trying to change things and the money on the line, he's trying to keep his book true to itself just like the rock band, Odessa. He hopes he succeeds.

This may or may not be his best, but it's the one that taught me how Leonard worked. And I've gone on to reread some of the others I had read previously and got a little more out of it because I knew there was something more I could expect from the novelist, I just had to dig a little deeper.


Angela's Ashes: A Memoir
Angela's Ashes: A Memoir
by Frank McCourt
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.91
1566 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars It Makes You Laugh and Cry at the Same Time, February 25, 2005
The greatest aspect of Angela's Ashes is that you feel like Frank McCourt really put himself in that book. The narrator really is him. Unlike most memoirs, you get the sense that you are sitting with McCourt at a table and he's telling you his story. You can tell he's being facetious, you're not sure all of the story is exactly how it happened, but you don't care because the story is so good and the message he's trying to deliver is so honest that it doesn't really matter. The narrator and the author just happen to be natural born storytellers and they tell it to you the way they felt it because sometimes that's more honest than telling you the way it was.

With most other memoirs you get the sense that they don't share seem to have any feelings about any of the events happening. The author, of course, felt the story because he's the one being written about, but somehow they never place those feelings in the mouth (or words) of the narrator. The book might as well have been written by a biographer.

But McCourt writes in his own voice. And you can almost feel him reliving these stories as he tells you about them. At one minute, he's crying over heartbreak and the next he's laughing at the irony spread throughout the story of his life.

When he's at his best, he is laughing with you at the child he once was, the beliefs he once had.

The book is terrific, but I don't have to tell you that because you already know.


Mulholland Dr.
Mulholland Dr.
DVD ~ Naomi Watts
Price: $7.49
154 used & new from $0.50

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mullholland Drive -- Visual Poetry, January 2, 2004
This review is from: Mulholland Dr. (DVD)
David Lynch's Mullholland Dr. is a movie that demands something new from its audience, but it is does not mean you have to be a brain surgeon to figure this movie out. This movie is obviously split into two parts. In the first half, Naomi Watts' character is an aspiring actress and her life seems to play out like a dream. Everything seems sublimely perfect -- in one scene it is almost histerically perfect. When she steps off of the airplane in Los Angeles for the first time with the elderly couple, the scene reminds you of the type of over-the-top happy scene you would find in a movie from the 1950s. It is done intentionally. Later Watts' character finds herself slowly becoming a star in Hollywood -- her luck is almost too perfect. But, it's not perfect. Under this facade there are monsters lurking -- as is illustrated visually by the man scared of the monster behind the diner. When Laura Harring's character is first introduced, she is in need of help and Watts gets to be the hero. But as the second half of the movie emerges you realize that Watts is the one who needs help. She watches as Harring becomes a star and everything about Hollywood now follows the path of the negative things we here about the town. People become prostitutes and waitresses and ruin their lives. What Lynch doesn't say is which one is real and which one isn't -- I guess neither is really true or false. It depends on your perspective, but since it's all really a dream anyway then parts of both are true. Lynch's movie is like poetry -- what you see is really a metaphor for something else. The crux in understanding Mullholland Drive lies in watching it without expecting a linear plot line like you would in your normal Hollywood fare. It is a poetry on film -- brilliant.


Femme Fatale
Femme Fatale
DVD ~ Rebecca Romijn
Offered by Lights Camera Action DVD
Price: $49.99
110 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Femme Fatale - Excellent and Overlooked, January 1, 2004
This review is from: Femme Fatale (DVD)
To view Brian DePalma as simply another thriller does the movie injustice. This movie is about the voyeurism that pervades in the world today. In the very first scene of the movie, you see Rebecca Romijn-Stamos watching Double Indemnity. Her image is plastered on the screen of the movie. Visually, DePalma is telling us that she is projecting herself into this movie. Later in the movie, DePalma uses split screens and other tricks to display how everyone is watching everyone else. Antonio Banderas actually plays a papparazo in the movie who watches Stamos' every move. It is not surprising then that a major part of this movie is Stamos' jewel thief taking on the role of her French look alike. She has a tendency like most Americans to project herself into the lives of others. Rather than living their own lives, all of the characters watch others or pretend to be someone other than themselves. DePalma has created a suspense movie, yes, but the movie's real story lies purely in visual storytelling. Much like David Lynch, DePalma loves to tell stories visually, and most people who see the movies will admit the slick visuals while remaining oblivious of what the images are telling them. Only upon carefully watching the movie more than once does the mastery of DePalma's use of style and technique make itself apparent. Like with Lynch's Mullholland Drive and some of DePalma's earlier works, this is a movie attempting to truly see movies rather than just hear them.


Gangs of New York (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
Gangs of New York (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Roger Ashton-Griffiths
Price: $13.29
361 used & new from $0.01

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gangs of New York, Warts and All, Is Still a Masterpiece, December 29, 2003
Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York is a flawed movie, but is still a masterpiece. It is Scorsese's most imaginative and boldest work. And the minor flaws that find themselves in this film make it even more endearing and show just how daring Scorsese was trying to be.
New York City and the rest of America is built on blood and every one in it is part of one gang or another. Gangs displays the virtuoso directing skills of a master creating a time period that is real and surreal at the same time. The movie is set in the Civil War era, but one discerns from the outlandish costumes and the sets that this movie isn't just America as it was then. It is America as imagined by Scorsese. Our vision of the past is distorted by time, and why not allow that to come through.
Scene after scene, Scorsese discribes how America as we know it was formed, much like an archaeologist, laying layer upon layer until you see just how much his thesis that everyone is in a gang is true. The politicians are just as corrupt as the Natives and the Dead Rabbits. Every group is an amalgamation of hypocrisies. Bill the Butchers Nativists call themselves Native Americans but everyone in the group is of European origin. The older generation of Dead Rabbits fought for their rights to the death in the beginning of the movie, but all but one of the key members became a willing partner with the Nativists. And the government jumps ship from gang to gang depending upon who can get the most votes. Everyone is corrupt.
The movie ends gloriously bringing all of the different gangs together in one great battle. Cutting from one group to another you realize just how much each gang is like the other -- America's future just depends on which one is the toughest not who's the most morally correct. And in the battle you realize that the U.S. government is the largest gang of them all and the most ruthless. The others use arcane weapons like knives while the American government employs cannons and guns.
There are some flaws with the movie. Daniel Day-Lewis gives one of the finest performances any actor has given in the past five years. It's an outrage that he did not win an Oscar for this -- but, then again, they gave Ron Howard the Best Director over Scorsese. But, Day-Lewis' performance is tarnished by the lack of abiltiy of his two co-stars. DiCaprio is passable, but he loses and regains his accent throughout the movie. Cameron Diaz, who may be great in a comedy, is miscast for this role -- she has the look but not the talent. Her character seems flat and predictible.
But, this, in no way, tarnishes Scorsese's achievement here. His work here reminds of you the brash and instinctive director who made such landmark films as Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. He is paving new ground and reaching for higher plateaus. Whenever you are wandering through uncharted territory, there are going to be some mistakes.
This movie, like most of Scorsese's movies, is one you have to watch more than once to really see what is going on. The long, uncut scene, where Irish immigrants are taken off of ships, signed up to enter the army and sent to war on ships while there are coffins being unloaded off of the same ships is visual storytelling at its best. Watch the movie and relish how Scorsese will cut from scene to scene to draw parallels. Watch how he uses a fade towards the end of the movie to show just how the blood spilled is wiped away by history, but it's still the blood that built this country -- all of this with images without words. Scorsese is a master and this is a masterpiece. It's flaws should be relished rather than criticised because the movie is by a visionary conquering new territory.


Mason & Dixon: A Novel
Mason & Dixon: A Novel
by Thomas Pynchon
Edition: Paperback
148 used & new from $0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mason & Dixon, December 26, 2003
This review is from: Mason & Dixon: A Novel (Paperback)
Mason & Dixon is Thomas Pynchon's most mature and compassionate work. Unlike in his other works where the characters are used as pretexts for his themes or jokes, in Mason & Dixon, Pynchon actually cares about the characters. They are people you actually care about by the time you reach the back cover. The normal Pynchon wit are on display here, but, this time around Pynchon finds the time to imbue the characters with some humanity. And we realize that the master is also a master at characterization. Both characters are real people with flaws -- things you can admire and things you can laugh at. Mason, the anemic wine drinker, as opposed to Dixon, the fun-loving beer drinker. Pynchon proves he is the best living writer in English literature.


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