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J. M. Salinas (London, UK)

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The Complete MAUS
The Complete MAUS
by Art Spiegelman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.89

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterpiece, 11 April 2008
This review is from: The Complete MAUS (Paperback)
Only graphic novel to date to win the Pulitzer Price.

That should be compelling enough to endear anyone to this masterwork.

The drawing isn't perhaps as expressive as that of Sacco, but the novelty in Maus not only comes from the controversial bestialization of the characters (Poles are pigs, Jews are mice, Germans are cats, etc) but also from the timeline jumps that mix the chilling tale of Vladek's survival of Auschwitz and the author's process of discovery and acceptance of his father's personality as he is retold the survivor's tale.

So while we are presented with the horror's faced by Vladek, the book also deals with the strained relationship between the author and his father, his father's second wife and the author's converted wife.

One can only praise Spiegelman's honesty at the less than perfect portray of the old age Vladek and his own insecurities.

Iggy Pop: Open Up And Bleed: The Biography
Iggy Pop: Open Up And Bleed: The Biography
by Paul Trynka
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.39

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lust for Life, 11 April 2008
This is a great rock biography, thank in a great part to the subject in question.

The book follows Jim Osterberg (Iggy) from his middle class upbringing in Michigan to his hazy days in The Stooges and his up and downs as a solo artist.

The book is compelling to read though not as much as other rock biographies such as Anthony Kiedis' Scar Tissue or Motley Crue's The Dirt. Perhaps this is so because the author has chosen to focus a lot more on the personal traits of Iggy rather than the drug and groupies stories (though they still abound) and instead examines in great detail Osterberg's obsession with success and his love/hate relationship with David Bowie. This last point being of particularly interesting during the two's stay in Berlin.

The book is undoubtedly well researched, tracking down childhood friends, girlfriends, and old bandmates of Iggy during his tenure as a drummer in the Iguanas.

Both recommendable for fans and newbies to Iggy alike.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable
by Nassim Taleb
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fair Point but..., 9 April 2008
Mr Taleb has a point. And working in financial markets, I can only but agree with him.
Yes, we are exposed to randomness.
Yes, it is random events that are the big market movers.
Yes, by their very nature such events are unpredictable and no amount of analysis of historical data is going to prepare us for Black Swans.
And that is it. That is the whole point of the book. Nicely summarised. We don't need the other hundreds of pages to tell us so.
Mr Taleb was a trained quant for an investment bank with aspirations of becoming a philosopher, he says so himself in the book. And there lies the problem of this book. The author mixes (with very moderate success) financial markets theory with philosophy and his own account of growing up in war torn Lebanon, producing a book that yes, it is interesting, but yes, it is also a mixed bag of vaguely related stuff that seems more like an ego boosting exercise than a serious theoretical proposition.

Fair point Mr Taleb, but where twenty pages could have worked as an academic journal type article, why write a whole book?. Money, books are scalable as mentioned at the beginning of the book itself. More money, more widespread fame, more ego.

Nightfall in Middle Earth
Nightfall in Middle Earth
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: 14.95

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly Overproduced, 24 Jan 2008
I don't know why the reviewer below says Blind Guardian stick to a winning formula.
Changes relative to their previous and fantastic Imaginations From the Other Side:
Hansi Kursh leaves bass duties to concentrate on vocals
Enter studio musicians to record bass
Greater emphasis on orchestral arrangements
Greater emphasis on epic choruses and string arrangements

So no, no winning formula here, just taking a further step into the path of prog/power metal.

To me, the album sounds overproduced, and yes, there are great tracks with Into the Storm, Mirror Mirror and Time Stands Still at the Iron Hill, but the rest is sort of merely correct within the genre but not exactly mind blowing.

As a concept album on the Silmarillion, well, it was doomed to fail, cannot think of a more difficult book to turn into a concept record.

Hansi excels in vocals, switching from whisper to baritone to growl all in one verse, the twin guitars are there and the drumming is the usual relentless attack Thomen has got us used to (just watch him come out exhausted from the Live at Coburg DVD).

I think that yes, Blind Guardian wanted to evolve and push themselves as musicians, but their peak was reached with Imaginations From The Other Side.

I saw them live without an album to promote, and the fact that they played 7 out of 9 tracks from Imaginations shows that they acknowledge this fact themselves, or that their new music is to be enjoyed at home and it is much harder to take to the stage.

Laughing On Judgement Day
Laughing On Judgement Day
Price: 5.18

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What Happened Here?, 18 Jan 2008
No matter how much I listen to this album, I can't figure out what is wrong with it.

You see, in principle, there is nothing wrong. Same guys that made the fantastic Backstreet Symphony get together and follow the same recipe. Is that what went wrong?

The vocals are good, the guitar style is similar, but somehow Laughing on Judgement day doesn't rock like Backstreet did. For starters is the lenght of the record. As a matter of personal taste, 14 songs are too many for me on a record of this style.

Then is the lack of clear scorchers like Backstreet had in Distant Thunder or Dirty Love.

Laughing on Judgement days almost sounds like a Thunder By Numbers kind of record. It is not bad, but it does not stick with you either.

Skid Row
Skid Row
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 5.23

5.0 out of 5 stars Instant Classic, 15 Jan 2008
This review is from: Skid Row (Audio CD)
This album thunders out of your player like a train at full steam rolling. From the hard rocking Big Guns and the hard rolling Sweet Little Sister to the anthemic Youth Gone Wild this record is more Motley Crue than Bon Jovi.

Doc MacGhee managed the Crue, Bon Jovi and Skid Row, so you can see the pattern emerging here. The guitar sound is quite raw and the album does not drop the pace a notch throughout the whole record. And even when it does with 18 and Live, it does so with a classic that is still played across all classic rock stations to this day.

This is simple and dirty rock and roll as you would expect to come out of LA in the 80s and this record will sit comfortably next to Guns 'n' Roses' Appetite for Destruction, Motley Crue's Dr Feelgood or Poison's Open Up and Say Ahh.

by Irvine Welsh
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't cut the mustard, 27 Dec 2007
This review is from: Porno (Paperback)
Porno to the world of blue movies should be what Trainspotting was to the world of hard drugs. Unfortunately, it is not.

The comparison to Trainspotting is inevitable, as this is intended to be a ten years on type sequel.

However, while I admired the ability of Welsh to write so crudely and vividly about the use (and abuse) of heroin, it is fair to say that writing about making porn movies doesn't deserve such high praise. The writing in Trainspotting was more to do with emotions, feelings, experiences, and it did truly take you somewhere else. The writing in Porno, is... well, just about that, and I'm sorry to say, the internet is flooded with that kind of material, pretty much anyone can do it, though admittedly there are some truly grotesque and disgusting passages in the book.

Some of the characters take on a much more secondary role that perhaps they deserved, such as that of Rab, where his personal struggle could have expanded on a bit further.

All in all, compelling reading, but only due to the curiosity of learning what happened to the characters we loved and hated in Trainspotting.

Plays Metallica By Four Cellos
Plays Metallica By Four Cellos
Price: 6.82

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Too Hyped Up, 17 Dec 2007
I bought this record after seeing Apocalyptica perform at Eurovision, which I loved.

This record is just poor. It doesn't have any strength due to the lack of drums, and therefore all you get is four very simple cello lines which don't even work very well together.

My wife is a classicaly trained piano player and she actually forbade me from playing this at home, she found it discordant.

I look forward to finding a more recent album with a better production, I actually want to give these guys a chance, but this record was certainly a big disappointment.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 17, 2009 2:30 PM GMT

The Best Of Both Worlds
The Best Of Both Worlds
Offered by westworld-
Price: 7.78

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a Steal!!!, 7 Dec 2007
This review is from: The Best Of Both Worlds (Audio CD)
For this price, you should do yourself a favour and buy two copies in case you lose one of them, it is THAT good.

This double compilation is a fantastic introduction to Marillion, particularly to often overlooked Hogarth era, which is a real shame as there are some true gems in there.

The first cd comprises material from the Fish fronted era, with their most instantly recognisable material. The style is a mix of 70's prog rock and 80's pop, with some truly magical moments.

I didn't really listen to the second cd for a while, as I was so hooked on the Script for a Jester's Tear material, and now I can't stop listening to it. The style changed substantially with Hogarth, leaning to a much more commercial yet high quality pop that still feels and sounds relevant nearly twenty years later.

Buy it!!!

4 (Expanded & Remastered)
4 (Expanded & Remastered)
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: 5.41

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 4 Stars going on 5, 30 Nov 2007
Slight problem with this record. It contains one of the most famous ballads in the history of rock, the mega selling hit single Waiting for a Girl Like You, which tends to overshadow the rest of the material, which is a shame.

The band did not do themselves any favours by toping Waiting for... with an even bigger selling power ballad in their next record, the equally huge I Want To Know What Love Is.

These two songs branded Foreigner as a ballads band, when in the fact of the matter was that they were rockers, albeit with a softer edge.

4 kicks off with two great anthemic tracks, Night Life, a concert opener if I ever heard one, and the time changing Jukebox Hero.

The album then slows down a notch with Break it Up and bottoms out with the aforementioned Waiting for a... The second half of the record follows a similar pattern with Luanne (another rocker) then to slow down with the next few songs, highmarking the production in Urgent and Girl on the Moon(signature Mutt Lange tracks).

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