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Alma Lavandeery "Alma" (Italy)

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Bellydance First Steps [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Bellydance First Steps [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Neon
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: 9.67

5.0 out of 5 stars The best I've ever seen, 6 Aug 2011
I have, literally, tens of belly dance DVDs, and in my opinion, this is the best one, followed by the rest of Neon's DVDs. This one is very thorough, it covers an incredible range of movements, and provides excellent explanations, along with visual aids that render every movement crystal clear. The DVD is divided into sections, each section covers a few movements, then puts them together in one combination in the end, hence giving you a feel of performing a piece of a dance, as well as an experience of the variety of contexts wherein such movements could occur. I am a big fan of Neon, having liked the first DVD I purchased of her, and went ahead to order most of them. Her explanations are impeccable, her voice itself is very pleasant to hear (unlike some dance teachers who have shrill voices that can be off-putting!)and her passion for belly dance shines throughout her entire work in a very refreshing, uplifting and pleasant manner. I highly recommend this DVD as it covers so many moves, and the ideas and combinations in it could be used as a reference for a long time, even after you have mastered the techniques it contains.

Bellydance for Beginners [DVD] [2008]
Bellydance for Beginners [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Bellydance for Beginners
Price: 9.28

1.0 out of 5 stars The cameraman blew it, 6 Aug 2011
I'd have given this DVD two stars (maybe even three) had the cameraman not been so incompetent. Just like many other reviewers, I was extremely disappointed with the shots concentrating on her face or upper body when she was explaining hip movements and "showing them", but we never get to see them because the camera just wouldn't budge from her face!! When the camera did move away, it would focus only on one part (say, the feet, or the upper body) while rarely ever providing a shot of the entire body doing that movement! This is not just terribly inadequate, but also completely unprofessional!

What surprises me, is that "Ms Dolphina", who must have taken a look at her very own video before agreeing to put it on the market, did not see anything wrong with those shots, nor anything missing.... so much for her professionalism as well! What that tells me is that this is not just about the cameraman fancying her, as one reviewer rightfully remarked, but about her fancying herself to such an extent that she did not mind compromising the quality of her work in order to show off...

So, charming and cute as she is, I would NOT recommend this DVD to anyone, as she put professionalism and INTEREST IN DOING A DECENT JOB on the backburner, in order to showcase interest in herself, which maybe nice for her or her admirers/boyfriends, but not for us who are mainly interested in the dance form. As far as I'm concerned, this is one more dancer (of a long line, actually) who uses art to serve herself, instead of using herself to serve art. There are many better DVDs out there, Leyla's DVD is much better, so are ALL of Neon's, which offer excellent explanations and professional shots, as well as a palpable love for the dance.

Chess: A Novel (Penguin Classics)
Chess: A Novel (Penguin Classics)
by Stefan Zweig
Edition: Paperback
Price: 4.79

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spellbinding, 25 Jun 2010
A most gripping story written in a spellbinding fashion. I just couldn't put the book down and had to consume it in one go! Fascinating to a lover of chess ( I don't know how it would seem to someone who knows nothing about chess, though), and very poignant in its depiction of the power of chess, both in its positive and negative potential.

Unfortunately, there's a basic (but huge) mistake, (on page 48) when the narrator describes the moment he came to understand the notation of the chessboard, saying that the letters "a, b, c" stand for "horizontal" rows of squares, where as the numbers, "1, 2, 3" stand for the vertical rows: the truth is the exact OPPOSITE! Just one look at any chessboard would verify that! I don't know if the mistake is Zweig's, or that of the translator (with the editor not caring to revise properly?)! It would be very surprising if it were Zweig's since the whole story suggests a very intimate knowledge of chess, not just in the technical sense, but also in the profound understanding of its emotional impact and power. (I guess the only way to know whose mistake it was would be to read it in the original German!)

That blunder aside, the story manages to combine emotional truth, darkness, and humor, and would leave you feeling like you've been on a roller coaster ride into the depths and heights of what the Royal Game is capable of invoking in its truest devotees.

The Dark Heart of Italy
The Dark Heart of Italy
by Tobias Jones
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very revealing, 27 Jun 2009
This is a must read for anyone seeking to understand what's going on in Italy today. It provides a wealth of information about Italy's recent history, which helps enlighten the dumbstruck among us. The message, which is more like "they-have-always-been-corrupt", and "no-crime-will-ever-go-punished", fits perfectly with the state of current affairs, and shows that the present, rather than being an aberration, is but a logical conclusion to the past. Unlike the "grandmama's-pasta-is-fantastic" books, this one shows the flip side of the coin, which anyone seriously interested in Italy would like to comprehend.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery
Edition: Hardcover

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Holier than thou, 27 Jun 2009
Much as this story was well written, full of clever and profound remarks about life, literature and art, much as it revealed the workings of an indisputably highly intelligent mind, there was a tone of arrogance strung through it from beginning to end that left me incapable of sympathizing with its characters. While the story depicts the richness of the inner world of the main character (the concierge) as opposed to the ignorance and prejudice of her residents, who constantly acted in the belief that they were superior to her, the narrator adopted the same tone of superiority towards them, in the self-same one-dimensional, arrogant, cold-bordering-on-hostile attitude. The pretense to lay claim to modesty when depicting how the concierge constantly sought to hide her true nature, was not at all convincing. There was something haughty and pretentious in the way the story was told, despite all its cleverness and profound thoughts, and that something left me cold.

Out of Egypt: A Memoir
Out of Egypt: A Memoir
by Andre Aciman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.39

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hymn of love, 27 Jun 2009
This review is from: Out of Egypt: A Memoir (Paperback)
A beautifully moving memoir of the life of a young boy from a Jewish family that lived in Alexandria throughout the 20th century and until his family was driven out by the new regime in Egypt (essentially a military dictatorship) that took over the country from 1952 onwards. The author traces a map of his early life with tenderness, humor and enchantment.

The first part of the book recounts the history of his family and draws delightful portraits of its members from the time they immigrated to Egypt from Turkey at the turn of the 20th century. The story then moves to capture scenes from his daily life as a young boy, populated with memorable characters, whether family, friends, servants, shopkeepers, as well as disconcerting profiles of particularly mean school teachers.

Gradually, the story shows how events in Egypt's history at that moment in time started to impact his family, especially the 1956 attack on it by the British, French and Israelis, and how that began an escalation of tension towards the Jewish community (as well as towards nationals of Britain and France), who were becoming a target of suspicion of the regime. The mounting tension led to the harassment of his family from the secret police in the mid-sixties, which conducted a perverse form of daily-stalking-by-phone-ritual, and monitored the family's every move.

Despite his father's sincere efforts to do everything possible to safeguard his family's position and avoid expulsion, the ultimate betrayal took place, and like thousands of Jewish Egyptians (as well as many non-Jewish Europeans) then living in Alexandria, they were given an ultimatum to leave.

The reader familiar with events in the Middle East cannot help but be left with many questions about the population that was driven out of Egypt. One such is: how come we never heard the story of Egyptian Jews? How come we don't know that, on the other side as well, thousands upon thousands of people had to pay the price for the mistakes of someone else, taken for guilty by association, unjustly, since most of them had nothing to do with the state of Israel back then (and until many of them had to seek refuge in it after having been driven out of what were their home countries in the Arab Middle East)? The equivalent of such an act in the present would have been the US government eventually expelling every single person of Arab descent or Muslim religion from the US after the attack on the twin towers. To add insult to injury, their loss was relegated to near total oblivion as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict took center stage.

While such and similar questions well up in the mind of any reader who's been following Middle Eastern events in the last decades, the book is not about them, as it was not written in the tone of a lament about loss, but rather in one of loving celebration. It is a hymn of love from the author to the city of his childhood, the city he was uprooted from, it is a hymn of love of the author for his home.

Five-Minute Activities: A Resource Book of Short Activities (Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers)
Five-Minute Activities: A Resource Book of Short Activities (Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers)
by Penny Ur
Edition: Paperback
Price: 14.08

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Resource, 15 Mar 2009
This is an excellent resource for teachers of English as a foreign language, containing tens upon tens of interesting and fun ideas for language activities. They would, however require more than five minutes to do with a class, the average time would be, I'd say, around 10-15 minutes, more if you want. (Maybe the five minutes were refering to the time the teacher needs to prepare them?)

Underneath the title of each activity, there is a short description of what language issue it is aimed at. After the activity is explained, one or more variations of it are provided (which, in turn, can inspire you to more variations). After some of the activities, "boxes" are provided, with samples of contents that could be used for that particular activity. At the end of the book, the index lists activities according to their aims, making it easier to zero in on what you need at any given moment.

You can, of course, adapt the exercises in all kinds of creative ways (changing the aim of an activity, but keeping its pattern, changing the pattern, but keeping the aim, etc.), but, should you not be in the mood to make changes, the book as it is provides a wealth of resources offering variety, entertainment, and an "outside-the-box" approach to learning the language. I will keep it as a valuable resource for as long as I teach.

The Weekend Sewer's Guide to Dresses (Lark Sewing)
The Weekend Sewer's Guide to Dresses (Lark Sewing)
by Kate Mathews
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bag ladies have an excuse, but these.....?, 12 Feb 2009
It is truly flabbergasting how someone with such bad taste could regard themself as an authority on anything related to the world of aesthetics! The "designs" in this book range between the very-ordinary-nothing-special at best, and the plain dreadful at worst. Contrary to its claim, this is NOT a book that teaches you how to make dresses, it simply refers to READY MADE COMMERCIAL PATTERNS (which are NEITHER included nor explained) and shows how to "create variations on them". It is extremely MISLEADING to market it as a book that teaches how to make dresses, since NO SUCH INSTRUCTIONS exist on ANY of its pages!

Not only are many of the designs plain ugly, but the "presentation" of them is unbelievably sloppy. The author, imagining that by taking "your average Jane" to model, would be providing an alternative to the pretzel-stick-ladies of the fashion world, which is all fine and good, BUT, why such average Janes did not even bother to brush their hair, and most of them look like they've been pulled out of bed and stuck in the dresses (without even washing their faces) is beyond me. Not just that, but most of the dresses DID NOT FIT them! Very often the waistlines were too high, the shoulders too wide, the sleeves too long, many of them were simply at least one size bigger than the lady modelling them, they looked RIDICULOUS, and to add insult to injury, some of the dresses weren't even ironed decently! Is this a bad joke? Bad taste? Sloppiness? NEGLIGENCE??

There are a FEW pages in the beginning about "sewing tips in general" that have some merit, but, at the scale of one page every five or six, the rest is plain drivel, where the author just blabbers on and on like some compulsive-obsessive chatterbox. Examples are, talking about "if you make a mistake", then going into her own "philosophy" of why one might make a mistake (one or two paragraphs to that), then, of what one might feel when one realizes that mistake (another paragraph or two), and then, how one might "be tempted to react" after that realization (one more paragraph), and how she advises you to react instead (still nothing about the actual sewing, all psycho-babble, and another paragraph or two to that), and, maybe telling you exactly what to do to relax (another paragraph), and then, how you'd feel after you've relaxed (paragraph), and you'd think that it's ABOUT TIME she'd give some concrete sewing-related advice, but no, she'd get inspired for one or more paragraphs of "why relaxation is good for you", or something in that vein, and it is only after one or two pages of such wisdom, she'd write that ONE sentence of what CONCRETE ACTION (pertaining to the world of SEWING) to take in order to remedy that mistake.
That is how the first sixty pages of the book proceed. Distill the bits-of-substance, discard the profound-nonsense, and you might get some 8 to 10 pages of good value.

As I mentioned earlier, this book WILL NOT TEACH YOU HOW TO MAKE DRESSES. Unless you buy the commercial patterns first, it is of absolutely no use. The unkempt-models-in-unironed-unfitting clothes are just going to make you angry you've been taken for a ride at every level.

I have often suspected that when someone writes a review signed "A Customer", it's probably a friend of the author, since they are mostly raving ones (check them out). Well, after reading the previous two "A Customer" reviews, raving over such a sloppy and misleading book, this suspicion has now been confirmed..

Utz (Vintage Classics)
Utz (Vintage Classics)
by Bruce Chatwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delight, 1 July 2008
This review is from: Utz (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
An exquisite novel, but Alas, too short!

And yet, it conjures unforgettable characters and evokes Prague in a way that makes you recognize it even if you've never been there.

It isn't just the main characters that are memorable, but all of the characters in this story, no matter how small a space they take up. Characters such as Orlik, the paleontologist who studies house-flies and who asked the narrator to examine Dutch and Flemish still-lifes of the seventeenth century "to check whether or not there was a fly in them", or the temperamentful ex-soprano who lived under Utz's apartment, or the man whose job was emptying garbage trucks, but who spoke English and was a writer, or the Ludvik and Zitek, other "garbage collectors" who were actually poets, writers, philosophers and out-of-work actors.

While most of the characters in the book seem unfazed by the restrictions imposed upon them by the regime in former Czechoslovakia, they do, however, express themselves in constantly enigmatic terms such as "maybe yes, maybe no", "maybe it is, maybe it is not", "maybe they are alive, maybe they are not"... whether that is the only deference to circumspection they are willing to offer, or whether it is
due to a need to inject mystery into their lives to compensate for its grimness and predictability, we do not know for sure..

The world of the story seems divided into several "parallel universes" that coexist side-by-side, that of the characters versus that of the figurines, whom "Utz", the protagonist, regards as living entities, as well as that of the communist regime versus the people, who find ways to navigate around it with the least confrontation and maximum benefit possible.

The question of the fate of the collection remains unanswered in the end, with the narrator offering a wild guess that is neither confirmed nor denied. The story ends at the sight of the one character that could give him the answers. We, however, do not learn what those answers are.

Maybe because the uncertainty of a "maybe-maybe not" is the only answer there is?

There is, however, one certainty about this book: its characters shall remain with you for a long time after you put it down.

The Shop on Blossom Street
The Shop on Blossom Street
by Debbie Macomber
Edition: Paperback

12 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Trite, 29 Jun 2008
I honestly don't remember if I read something that trite ever. From the very first pages, I had the feeling I was before a "packaged" product, whether the agent of that packaging is some "writer's software", or some other assembly-line system of writing that spits out one formula after the other.

And, as if that were not enough, the content itself is a series of cliches strung mercilessly one after the other.

The women in this book are mostly the "wait-for-your-man-and-cater-to-him" type, with nauseating cliches about their magic works in the kitchen, women who say things like "a man I could lean on", women who "make meals to please their husbands", women who are distraught they "disappointed their husbands" because they couldn't bear them babies.. etc..etc.

So, the author seems to believe it is just that type of woman who would be into knitting, repeating the old (and ignorant) stereotype about knitters as a species.

Then, the author keeps repeating writing about events she'd stated, over and over again like she'd forgotten she already mentioned them, and my question is: did she not revise even once? Where was the editor??

As if that were not enough, she over-explains everything like she she's writing to dimwits who have to have everything spellt out and repeated to them in every possible way in order for them to "get it"!

As for her dialogues, I found myself constantly wondering, "WHO ON EARTH SPEAKS LIKE THAT???"

Cliched words, cliched situations, cliched men and women, cliched stories and cliched endings... Smacks of some "machine-writing" to me... maybe a new writing wiz that you feed a few keywords the way you put in a search engine and it vomits a story out to you. But then again, I could be wrong about the machine, and this story could be the product of that author's imagination... which would be infinitely worse...

There is but one redeeming feature in this book, however, aspiring writers could use it as a way to learn how NOT to write, its merit lies in its instructive value as a perfect specimen of dreadful writing.
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