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S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl - PC
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl - PC
Offered by BLS Mart
Price: $14.99
53 used & new from $1.04

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Game that has Stayed with Me the Most, September 29, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Don't flinch at the age of this game. Just buy it, and then download the free texture and atmosphere upgrade mods available online. There are also some other minor equipment and convenience mods to explore that will make the game a little more enjoyable. However, they are not by any means necessary. This game stands on its own. Skipping the equipment and sleeping bag mods will just make a game with already challenging gameplay a little more difficult.

I cannot think of another game that has stuck with me, other than perhaps some classic NES hits out of sentiment and a couple of other select titles for their tight design, in over 25 years of gaming. That being said, for its lingering awe inspiring frightful impact, this game stands head and shoulders above other games that I think highly of. This game has the atmosphere and residual impact that Fallout 3 wishes it had.

There are other, perhaps objectively creepier games out there. However, this game exudes a very specific type of creepiness that has stuck with me a couple of years after I first completed it. It very well conveys the feeling that it advertises. You feel alone, generally underequiped, and vulnerable in a landscape filled with mutant animals and hostile opportunistic forces that will pose a significant challenge. This occurs in a world where the day advances into a very dangerous night that you might not even have the guts to confront. Daylight is creepy enough. Rain and other atmospheric changes (especially with the improved atmosphere mod) serve to enhance the feeling of desolation, vulnerability, and isolation. The world is vast, and staying alive is often difficult.

If you enjoy gaming as an experience and not just as a means of killing time, if you think that gaming has enhanced your experience on this planet by even a small margin, then the biggest favor you can do for yourself is to purchase this game, download a few mods, and play it all the way through. You need this experience. There is a learning curve, and strategy is needed on a variety of fronts. However, the time invested will have been worth it.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
DVD ~ Bill Murray
Price: $8.88
102 used & new from $2.68

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps Wes Anderson's Best Film, July 19, 2014
This movie is polarizing. The reviews for it illustrate as much.

When I first saw it, in the theater, I was nonplussed to moderately amused and I hated the ending that I, then, found to be, what's the word? Mushy? That was part of it, but that word doesn't encapsulate my entire feeling about that shark at the time. I think that I felt that the shark was a bit like a giant Disney animatronic animal that shouldn't have been used for the denouement of any film worth seeing (take that, shark!). However my prior feeling is articulated, I can state that the ending didn't sit well with me. For years, I maintained that opinion and, unsurprisingly, didn't watch it again during that period. Then I started watching through all of Wes Anderson's films again and, when I ran out of films to watch, I again watched The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

After the second and third time I watched it, it grew on me. I grew to like the, yes, 'mushy' ending in light of the emotional fragility, insecurity, and chronic tragedy that the characters were subject to throughout the film. A cheap trick? Maybe. I might care more if the film wasn't so painfully original and well acted.

It only gelled for me on repeated viewings. I believe that this is because there is a lot going on, and its difficult to keep up in a way that properly organizes the totality of the story in terms of character nuance, and even the general story line, until it is viewed repeatedly. Can one call such a fantastical dark comedy complex? If you can, then it assuredly applies to this film; although, at first blush the complexity might not be perceived. All you may remember is Bill Murray being both sad and angry, Seu Jorge doing Bob Marley covers, and a giant leopard shark swimming to Sigur Ros. My point is, on first viewing, the movie can seem like a bit of a blur punctuated by a CGI shark and I can see how it could be written off. However, If you enjoy creative films, my advice is to give it a second and even a third chance that will allow for a closer look.

The above might seem like an over-analysis, but it's the best explanation that I can come up with that elucidates how this movie can go from mediocre at best, in my eyes, to, in my opinion, perhaps Wes Anderson's best. It is his best at least from the perspective of a movie that is, in my opinion, both his most creative as well as one that is successful in what it attempts to do.

Other movies of his are successful in telling a fascinating, well written story (ie: The Royal Tenenbaums), and are exceedingly creative but ultimately less so than The Life Aquatic. Still other movies of his, like Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel, are superficially creative in their set designs and other Anderson-esque style markers, but in my opinion, fall flat in terms of their story and dialogue creativity (especially if re-used stylistic signature is taken into account).

I enjoy this movie immensely, and there isn't another film that is remotely like it. I go back and forth as to whether this or The Darjeeling Limited, a simpler film that I find to be Anderson's most pleasurable movie to (re)watch, is his overall 'best'. You can check in with my review on that latter-mentioned film's amazon page for a more thorough exposition on those thoughts (and more The Life Aquatic Angst).

The Darjeeling Limited
The Darjeeling Limited
DVD ~ Owen Wilson
Offered by amazingwildcat
Price: $6.53
89 used & new from $2.16

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Eminently Rewatchable Wes Anderson Movie, July 19, 2014
This review is from: The Darjeeling Limited (DVD)
Although I think that Wes Anderson's reused stylistic elements are just beginning to become tiresome for me as of The Grand Budapest Hotel (although, i strongly suspect that this opinion is affected by the fact that i find that movie very weak overall for a Wes Anderson release - a slide that started with the Moonrise Kingdom - both of these films rely entirely too much on Anderson's style signatures for substance), he remains my overall favorite director. This is mostly because of the often deeper dialogue that is wrapped in meticulous set design and unique, creative stories that are presented by actors who mostly have great comic timing. For many years, "The Royal Tenenbaums" would be my response if someone were to poll me as to what was my favorite film. Over time, that opinion has changed to be supplanted by a response of "The Darjeeling Limited".

I'm not sure if this film or A Life Aquatic is Anderson's best film (note: 'best' being a different category than 'personal favorite'). When I first viewed both, I enjoyed them but didn't rank either especially high on my Wes Anderson List.

Like complex music, however, they both grew on me and I slowly realized what great movies they were. I find the emotional angst and rampant insecurity of The Life Aquatic to be fascinating to watch. The ship sets are fantastic, as is Italy, and the adventure theme combines well to balance the melancholic subject matter and to keep the viewer engaged to the bittersweet end. However, I don't find the Life Aquatic as emotionally conducive to wanting to watch it again and again to the level that I do The Darjeeling Limited. My criticisms of the Life Aquatic, once I became used to it over repeated viewings, are few and I really love the movie. I just enjoy, on a visceral level, The Darjeeling Limited more; even if A Life Aquatic might be argued by some (including myself) to be a more complex and grander film.

In short, The Darjeeling Limited is my impulsive favorite of the two movies that I consider to be Anderson's best. Its relative simplicity of story allows me to engage it less cognitively and more emotionally. Its like an easy ride through a vibrantly colorful India, punctuated by an entertaining story told through the stooges like interaction of Anderson's favorite muse: young people of wealth going through existential crisis. That's not a criticism, as I think that this muse is interesting, little explored subject matter. Cinema is overflowing with the trials and tribulations of the struggling classes. Wealth, indeed, allows people to free themselves from the crisis of surviving and engage more with the crisis of living. It's subject matter that is interesting to me on the human, humorous level that Wes Anderson deals with it. Even when this element is not a direct part of the main character's background, such as is the case with Steve Zissou, the protagonist in Rushmore, and the Hotel Manager of the Grand Budapest Hotel, these characters are intimately connected with the world of the 1%. The resulting relationship affects their lives in ways that make for interesting, if not sometimes socially maladaptive interactions. Whether or not the outsider(s) of more humble means or the wealthy themselves are either the primary protagonist(s) or ancillary characters seems to alternate in his movies, but the relationship is a primary recurring theme for Anderson.

The Darjeeling Limited is an easy, colorful, funny, adventure-oriented, yet emotional story that is well acted and directed; and it has just enough variety in its story and dialogue. For all of these reasons, it is, in my opinion, the most overall enjoyable and thus re-watchable movie of Anderson's superior catalogue. I think that it's an evolution of the more somber (yet still great) The Royal Tenenbaums. He had to make that movie to make this one, and it's an evolution that I hope continues to progress, in the future, past what I hold to be the too-formulaic exercise in also-ran set design and minimal story in The Grand Budapest Hotel. I don't think that The Darjeeling Limited can or should be recreated in another form. It's that good, in my mind, in all of its glorious simplicity, brilliant color, and physical comedy. However, if Anderson looks to the brand of originality evidenced in The Life Aquatic for his next adventure, he will be well served.

The Goonies
The Goonies
DVD ~ Sean Astin
Price: $4.28
125 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Likely the Best Overall Kids Movie Ever Made that wasn't Animation, July 10, 2014
This review is from: The Goonies (DVD)
As if another review is needed, but feeling compelled is its own reason I suppose.

I enjoyed this movie as a kid. Watching it as an adult imparted to me the revelation that this is likely the best overall kids movie ever made. It excels in storytelling, humor, compelling adventure that bridges the real and fantastical, and therefore succeeds in taking kids (and adults) along for the Goonies ride. You identify with the Goonies, want to be one, and are one for the length of the movie.

The isn't much else to be said that hasn't been.

American Experience: The Amish
American Experience: The Amish
DVD ~ .
Price: $14.84
33 used & new from $8.94

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Sensationalist and Defamatory Hack Piece that Follows a Disturbing Media Trend, July 6, 2014
This film barely earns the title "documentary". It largely focuses on negative issues, including domestic issues that are found in all cultures (and are therefore sensationalist and innapropriate for a culture-specific documentary unless that documentary is meant to be intentionally defamatory). This production is designed to leave the viewer with a negative impression of the Amish. The Amish happen to be, despite their idiosyncratic way of life, arguably the most functional community in the country.

If you disagree with my assessment of this film's defamatory agenda, please see the followup film that focuses solely on a rare community event: shunning.

What's disturbing is that these defamatory films are being funded and produced by publicly funded television (PBS). What business is it of PBS to use public tax money to critique the Amish? Also, why the Amish and only the Amish? These films follow an obvious and disturbing trend in the media to portray the Amish negatively. See the utterly ridiculous "Breaking Amish" and the Amish Mafia show from TLC and the Disocvery Channel.

There are several other religious sects in this country, with substantial populations that exceed that of the total "plain folk" (Amish) population, that have equal or greater idosyncratic traditions that could be sensationalized or 'exposed' with our tax dollars. Where are the PBS and cable shows that showcase these communities, inclusive of their problems, to the American public?

Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences
Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences
by John R. Hibbing
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.27
47 used & new from $14.66

5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dubious pseudo-academic nonsense that toes a dangerous line, May 27, 2014
Politics arise from value judgements that manifest from perspective. As information is gained or becomes invalid, perspective changes. As perspective changes, value judgements change. As value judgements change, political affiliation moves. That's the process.

To state that the reality, instead, lies within a genetic predisposition toward behavior denies that this well documented and widely applied process of behavior and value change does not exist. The evidence to the contrary outs this book as farcical.

Personality, as defined by the various so called "conservative" and "liberal" personality traits that the authors suppose, is malleable to perspective insofar as a person has a strong cognitive ability toward impulse control. If a person literally cannot control his/her impulses beyond a certain level, then their ability to change their behaviors, habits, and values (because all values will ultimately be self-serving despite any protest to the contrary) will be limited. Beyond such a cognitive limitation in impulse control, the reality of behavioral change is well documented (and has progressed so far as to be able to make significant progress in those with impulse control issues when change methods are applied in an empirically supported manner). In fact, there are large industries based on this very process. If values and behavior weren't malleable, these industries would not exist nor enjoy the success that they do.

Furthermore, when people change political affiliations, which they regularly do in large numbers, they often adopt the bulk of the so called genetically inborn traits that the authors would have us believe are genetically determined. When I switched political affiliation, after having been an exceptionally prototypical member of the other affiliation, my habits and behaviors changed precisely because my values and perspective changed. There was no genetic impulse that prevented me from easily making these changes. A value change, based in a rational perspective change, was all that it took. There is no genetic predetermination, other then a somewhat common genetically determined defect in executive function, that would cause a person to behave or take on a perspective that is in anyway different from what their environment, information, and resulting perspective determines.

The dangerous undertone in this book is that dysfunctional social behavior, either rooted in or excused by politics (remember the self-serving values) has a genetic origin. That sets the stage for "weaponizing" this pseudo-science for political means. It also sets the stage for claiming that large groups of people, who tend toward specific political systems, are genetically different from other groups. What happens when certain political systems are deemed dysfunctional by the ruling political party du jour?

A hypothetical: "what's that you say? Liberals are genetically different than conservatives? Ok, well, liberalism is an existential threat (because conservatives are overwhelmingly in charge at this point) and therefore 'liberal genes' are an existential threat". See where this pseudoscience leads? Switch the affiliations around in the example and the result is the same.

I'm not afraid of this discussion, as long as it is had free of sophistry, and neither should anyone else be. However, know that it opens a an of worms. Also, know that this book isn't so innocent. It attempts sheep's clothing, but the wolf's snout is unmistakeable. It's setting the stage for a dangerous type of division between conservatives and liberals. It attempts to be the insofar unused and innocent gun on the table, until someone dares pick it up.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 7, 2014 11:43 AM PDT

Ancient Paganism
Ancient Paganism
Price: $6.99

11 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Victor's Hate Speech, March 23, 2014
This review is from: Ancient Paganism (Kindle Edition)
Imagine a large globe that represents the earth.

A globe about the half of the size of the room that you are in will be helpful for this exercise.

The earth in front of you represents the earth as it existed roughly two thousand years ago.

Now, imagine a small circle that covers part of the Middle East. Assign it a color to make it easy to differentiate.

Now, imagine another circle in the Mediterranean region, a circle in Northern Europe, a circle in India, a circle in China, a circle in Japan, and a circle in North America. Imagine them all as different colors.

There are more circles, but we don't need to imagine more for the exercise. In fact, if it is helpful, you can choose to concentrate only on one circle. I suggest the circle in Northern Europe as this circle is commonly thought of when one thinks of "pagan", and many of the traditions of the original tribes of that region are where the author casts his aspersions. However, almost any circle located in Europe or the Americas will do.

Each of these circles, whether located in the west or the east, represents a unique worldview of a different people to include their history, culture, perspectives, and theology. Occasionally these circles collide and mesh together at the edges, but mostly they do not when left peaceably be. Each one is unique, each one was tens of thousands of years in the making, each one is special to the people who created it, and each one is a jewel.

Furthermore, it is objectively impossible to assign a value to each circle relative to another. Each one is valuable, and it is especially true that no metaphysical theology is more legitimate than another. If I told you that there was a green god and a blue god, and these were the only two gods that possibly existed, could you tell me which one is good or evil based on these descriptions? Could you tell me which one was the true god and which one was not? It is likely that you would tell me that the god of your circle was the true god, and you would be right. The god of my circle would be the true god, and I also would be correct. The myths surrounding each of our gods would be full of metaphysical mystery, miracles, and they would feature our respective peoples as the central focus of our individual theologies. It would be exceedingly difficult to objectively assign a differing value to either god if we originated from neither of the circles from which either god originated.

Now, imagine the circle in the Middle East. It's growing. It keeps growing until it completely overtakes the circles in the Mediterranean as well as the circle in Northern Europe. It further grows until it overtakes the circles in the British Isles, North America, South America, and it is slowly chipping away at the circles throughout Asia to this day.

Every time this circle usurps the former position of another circle, the previous circle mostly evaporates forever and in its place is the worldview that previously was only the theologically based worldview of a small group of people in the Middle East. The other world-views are effectively lost forever, eventually only survived by mostly inaccurate attempts at reconstruction by people who long for their historical spirituality and theology that was erased by the usurping worldview and theology.

Moreover, the circle in the middle east mostly spread to erase other circles, in its most prolific growth period, by threat of death, colonial occupation, war, and death depending on the specific circumstance.

Ken Johnson, and people like him, represent the modern incarnation of the predecessor force that violently oppressed so called "pagan" religions and cultures. He continues the tradition of anti-tolerance toward non-Semitic religions (Christianity and Islam are both considered Semitic sects), despite the murderous, culture cleansing history of his predecessors.

People like him, as well as the missionaries that continue to do the work of spreading the Middle-East-originated Semitic worldview to the detriment of the ancient cultural diversity of the rest of the world (watch out India and Japan), do not have nearly the shame that they should have given their bloody, colonial role in the past destruction of the "pagan" theologies and cultures that Johnson rants against. They are, inexplicably, allowed to continue their work today in the regions with the only surviving "pagan" belief systems, which should instead rightfully be considered and unmolested as living anthropological treasures.

The term 'pagan' is in quotes because it is a Semitic originated pejorative that is meant to differentiate between Semitic theology and non-Semitic theology. It is part of the Semitic worldview that refers to the "other", and thus should not be used by persons to describe their tribal or adopted non-Semitic theologies and spiritual practices.

In the modern world, we rarely think it appropriate for colonial forces to continue to demonize the people who they long ago dominated. This is especially true as the period of colonization and the extent of the oppression increases in length or intensity. Well, many of the circles outside of the Middle East have been theologically dominated and gone for many hundreds of years to over well one Millennium now. By any rational accounting, it's time to let up. The world doesn't look so great in just one color.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 15, 2014 11:51 PM PST

The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?
The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?
Offered by Audible, Inc. (US)

13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Failed Premise - Propaganda does a disservice, November 5, 2013
The subject of Seth Godin's book is, at this point, old and worn. We've heard it before. Be an artist. Be special. Don't settle. You can come up with a theory of everything. You can be Steve Jobs, MLK, or Henry Ford.

The problem with this type of tripe is that it's directed at the bottom of the pyramid. By definition, most of these people can't become MLK, Steve Jobs, or a world changing physicist. In service of their own happiness, they would do best to settle, have a modest but nice house, car, and family. However, they are fed the pie-in-the-sky propaganda from an early age. They are taught that they are essentially entitled to the career equivalent of fame and fortune. The result? Destitute people working bad jobs in midlife because they never took a career seriously that, to them, was settling. An entire generation of people lost to chasing fame, when in reality they were needed and best served in the middle class.

This type of book is okay for those born of serious privilege or those with a natural, undeniable talent that can't be ignored by them or anyone else. Those people should chase their dream, because they either have a safety net to catch them or it is completely obvious that they are doing the right thing. For the majority of everyone else the results, by statistical definition, will likely be a tragic tale of failed potential.

Listen, lower and middle class kids: Stop paying attention to the Seth Godin's, TED talkers, and unscientific proselytizers of this type of message that are doing nothing but making money off of selling you something shiny. They are preaching from a place of rare privilege, fame, or talent. If you are meant to go where they point, it will be obvious at some point by your talent that others will recognize. Barring that, get your butts into a good career with a solid job market.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 16, 2013 12:32 PM PST

FroliCat BOLT Interactive Laser Pet Toy
FroliCat BOLT Interactive Laser Pet Toy
Price: $12.99
34 used & new from $12.08

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dead on Arrival - Poor Quality Control, October 27, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The laser came not working. Unfortunately, I opened it a few days too late for a return. It would be nice for amazon to back up an out-of-the-box non-functioning product more than 30 days out. Instead, I'm simply out $20 for a piece of useless plastic.

Tiling for Contractors
Tiling for Contractors
by Michael Byrne
Edition: Paperback
Price: $23.87
7 used & new from $17.41

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Resource, June 4, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Tiling for Contractors (Paperback)
I'm very happy with this book. I bought it, despite it having no reviews at the time of my purchase, on the good reputation of the author's older book "Setting Tile", the high page count in a large 8x11 book format (which is rare for most DIY books), and the casual mention on a random tiling forum that the book had over 500 color pictures and illustrations (edited down from around 700). Why that is not currently mentioned on Amazon is a mystery, and I can only gather that the author could use a little help with self-promotion.

The book presents great detail in it's text explanation of tile installation from simple through advanced situations, but the text is balanced with great pictures and illustrations that make the information easy to comprehend. The illustrations tend to be used to show fine detail of installation at critical junctures: such as how to place and attach backer board at a corner, wet-area movement joint detail, how materials are utilized at a counter edge, the shower drain installation sequence when installing a tile shower floor, how the materials are placed around a drain flashing, and much more.

Check out the 'search inside this book' option and take a look at the table of contents and the overall production quality of the book. If you are embarking on a tiling project or, perhaps, tile for a living then I would submit that the book's cost is well worth it given the detail and quality that it presents.

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