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Lawrance M. Bernabo (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota)

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The Ruins
The Ruins
von Scott Smith
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 18,97

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5.0 von 5 Sternen So much for ever wanting to go visit Meso-American ruins in this lifetime, 25. Juli 2006
Rezension bezieht sich auf: The Ruins (Gebundene Ausgabe)
Of course "The Ruins" shows up during the hottest summer in many a years, with the humidity rising and the smell of vegetation heavy in the air. That makes it easier for you to slip into Scott Smith's second novel, mindlessly drinking ice water as you go along to keep some distance between yourself and these ill-fated characters. I am sure the publishing of "The Ruins" in late July is not happenstance, and that I would expect the paperback version (or the movie adaptation) in that same season as well. This is a book to be read outside in the sun. Having it on the nightstand to read a while before going to sleep, would not be appropriate in this case.

Four Americans are visiting Mexico for three weeks in August, hanging out in the Yucatan where the weather is too hot and too humid. Jeff is the one who came up with the idea of a last fling before he and Amy start medical school in the fall, found a good deal on the Internet, and talked Amy into coming along. She convinced her friend Stacy, who convinced her boyfriend Eric. In the Yucatan they are hanging around with Mathias, a German whose younger brother Henrich has gone missing, and a trio of Greeks who do not speak English and who have adopted the Spanish names Pablo, Juan and Don Quixote. With nothing better to do the four and Pablo decide to join Mathias in an attempt to find his brother. It seems Henrich went off with a blond archeologist who was part of a group working on some ruins. Henrich left a crude map for Mathias and on the basis of that they are heading off into the jungle by taxi.

Suffice it to say that things go wrong and leave it to you to discover the why and how bad parts yourself. I am reminded of a line from Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman," when he writes that there was the "sound of tearing paper and fear and the stink of madness went up the flue and there was nothing, absolutely nothing they could do about it"? But the ability of human beings to intellectualize impotence and helplessness is now all it is cracked up to be, which is why "The Ruins" is a tale of survival where survival seems but an illusion. Still, who can live (or die) that way? In a situation where there is not much to do there is not much to write about, so Smith tries to work things out in bits and pieces. I was struck by a conversation in which some of the group try to lighten their collective spirits by imagining that a movie would be made of their story. The talk about who would play each of them quickly descends into how Hollywood would see each of them as stereotypical characters, and what I noticed was that while I would agree they represent such stereotypes, they are not the ones that they think that they are, and I further think that Smith intended this rather subtle bit of irony.

"The Ruins" is one of those books where I am not sure it is a good thing to be holding it in your hands and now you are getting closer to the end. When the psychology of the characters is based on temporal illusions and the effectiveness of the book depends in part on your ability to imagine suffering along with them, knowing the end is near can become a problematic part of the equation. "The Ruins" wants to create a sense of disquiet and it wants that feeling to carry through to the end of the book and the blank pages beyond. Scott is interested in tension and not explanations, and just like with "A Simple Plan" it is clear a defining element of his weltanschauung is that when thinks go bad they go really bad and they go bad pretty quickly. I rounded up on this one in the end because I like the way Smith plays this one out, going for the whimper instead of the bang.


Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac

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5.0 von 5 Sternen The debut album of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac (not to be confused with the other one), 11. Juli 2006
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac (Audio CD)
The greatest irony of Fleetwood Mac was that when the group started playing the late 1960s it ended up taking its name from the only two members who would be with the bad through all of its various incarnations. But all you have to do is look at the title of their first album to know who was providing the musical direction for the group in the early days. What had happened was that John McVie was playing bass for John Mayall's legendary British blues group, the Bluesbreakers. After Peter Green replaced Eric Clapton on lead guitar and Mick Fleetwood joined as drummer, the trio decided to split from Mayall in 1967 and form a power trio in the mold of Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. But by the time they go into the studio tor record this 1968 album they had added slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer to the band.

"Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac" is actually a retrospective revision of the name to distinguish it from the 1975 "Fleetwood Mac" album that kick started the band's super group stage. The album was a lot bigger in the U.K. than on this side of the pond, where it never even charted, hitting #4 on the U.K. album chart and spending over a year in the Top 10. But then the blues were making a major impact on British bands at that time (keep in mind that Led Zeppelin started off doing more blues and even folk rock that heavy metal in the beginning). The only major complaint about the album is that the playing in general and Peter Green on guitar in particular, are superior to the songwriting. That would explain why there are covers of a pair of Elmore James tunes, "Shake Your Moneymaker" and "Got to Move," and "No Place to Go" by Howlin' Wolf. As you can tell, the common denominator here is to boogie loud and hard.

Still, on balance I think the best track is Green's "If I Love Another Woman," with its Latin-rhythms that pre-sages "Black Magic Woman" (big time). Most Green's other songs, "Merry Go-Round" and "Long Grey Mare" especially, are more derivative of the blues songs they are covering, but he does play around with some funky rhythms on "Looking for Somebody." Oh, and yes, you want to pay attention to the acoustic guitar riff in "The World Keeps on Turning," because it does come back as "World Turning" on "Rumors" (at least according to those who know). The songs written/arranged by Spencer, such as "My Baby's Good to Me," are a bit funkier, apparently because he liked the way the sound contrasted with his slide guitar work. Still, for four British lads playing the Blues, this is a damn fine album and I have to round up.


House of M
House of M
von Brian Michael Bendis
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 18,10

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Brian Michael Bendis turns the Marvel universe into the House of Magnus, 16. Mai 2006
Rezension bezieht sich auf: House of M (Taschenbuch)
Brian Michael Bendis' "House of M" is obvious an important event in the Marvel Universe, since virtually every comic book title has to deal with its consequences in some way or another. The eight-part crossover event is collected in this trade paperback volume is really just the beginning, so that the end is not so much the conclusion as it is setting the stage for what is to follow. So be forewarned, that if think picking up this book is going to get you totally up to speed on what is happening in all of the "House of M" titles, that is not going to happen. What is here, is prologue.

"House of M" follows up on a previous set of story arcs, most prominently "Avengers Disassembled," also written by Bendis, in which Jack of Hearts detonating killing Ant-Man and destroying half of the Avengers Mansion, She-Hulk tore the Vision in two and put Captain America, Captain Britain, and the Wasp in the hospital, and Hawkeye sacrificed his life to save his teammates from a Kree warship. The Scarlet Witch, Wanda Maximoff, turned out to be behind the attacks, having lost control of her reality-altering powers and suffered a total nervous breakdown over the loss of her children. Stopped by Dr. Strange, Wanda is taken away by her father, Magneto, to the devastated island-nation of Genohsa.

The story begins six months later with the New Avengers and the X-Men meeting to discuss the fate of Wanda. Professor Xavier has been working to aid Wanda in her recovery, but he has failed and Wanda is back to trying to alter her reality, now bringing back her children and her husband. So the superheroes have gathered to debate whether Wanda should live or die. Captain America, Wonder Man, and Spider-Man are against the idea, but Wolverine wants to know how many more people Wanda has to kill before they stop her. But when they get to Genosha, Wanda is gone, taken by somebody. Emma Frost finds Wanda, but when they approach the world goes white-and when it fades away Peter Parker is awaken from a sleep by the crying of a baby. When he gets up to take care of it we notice that the woman in the wedding picture and the one sleeping in the bed has blonde hair.

"House of M" stands for the House of Magnus and the world that Wanda has created is one in which mutants rule the world and it is now humans who are the oppressed minority. Everybody knows that Peter Parker is Spider-Man, who is married to Gwen Stacy, and has a son named Richie. Steve Rogers is an old man, retired from the U.S. Air Force living in the Bronx, Kitty Pride is teaching grade school in Cincinnati, and Stephen Strange is a psychiatrist. We see what has happened to many of the superheroes who attended the meeting, and then Wolverine wakes up and remembers-everything (including, apparently, his real name). Now all he has to do is convince the others that they are former superheroes that they are living in a world gone wrong that needs to be set back to rights.

All I have done here is sketch out what happens in the first of the eight issues, and touched on the first couple of pages of the second issue and the crux of what is to come. The importance of the story comes from the general idea, but the fun in reading the story comes in the details. Oliver Coipel did the pencils, with Tim Townsend with Rick Magyar, Scott Hanna & John Dell doing the inking. The cover art is by Esad Ribic, although you will find alternative covers by a variety of Marvel artists, from Joe Quesada to Chris Bachalo. As I indicated above, the fact that not everything is neatly tied up at the end of this one, which ends with a big question as to what happens next, will proven maddening to some readers.

On the side binding of this volume there is the "H" and the left side of the "O" of "House of M," which means if you get all of the "House of M" paperback collections up on the shelf in the right order it will spell out the title. That sort of marketing ploy could set you off as well, but having read "House of M: Spider-Man" (in the original comic books), I know that you do not need to move beyond this one unless you really want to. But at least from this one you get the set up for the brave new world Bendis has created in the Marvel Universe.


The "Beatles": The Biography
The "Beatles": The Biography
von Bob Spitz
  Gebundene Ausgabe

4.0 von 5 Sternen Not everything there is to know about the Beatles, but more than you know now, 12. Mai 2006
I find it interesting that this book was "Edited down from a staggering 2,700 pages" because I kept thinking that "The Beatles: The Biography" was not long enough. Part of that was because when you get to the end Paul spills the beans, John gets mad, and that is the end. George and Ringo have nothing to say. Bob Spitz's endnote is a single paragraph that runs more than a page that covers the release of the "Let It Be" album in a half sentence. Their last #1 song, "The Long and Winding Road," is ignored (although the saccharine overdose provided by Phil Spector's orchestration certainly contributed to McCartney's decision to bolt) and the obituaries to come are more prominent than the musical successes (even though Lennon with "Imagine," Lennon finally writes a song more powerful than McCartney's "Yesterday"). Spitz tells of the boys before they were the Beatles, and corresponding chapters at the end would be nice.

This biography gets off to a better start, beginning in media res, with a prologue on December 27, 1960, set at the Christmas dance at the Litherland town hall when the group opened their set with "Long Tall Sally," concluded with a rousing version of "What'd I Say," and that night, according to Spitz, "they had become the Beatles." The contents are divided into three sections: Mercy (Chapters 1-20) begins with Liverpool and the birth of John Lennon, and ends with "Please Please Me" making it to #1 on the British pop charts. Mania (Chapters 21-28) starts with the Beatles becoming a national rather than northern phenomenon and takes us to the decision to name an album "Rubber Soul." Mastery (Chapters 29-37) begins with "Rubber Soul" breaking everything open and ends with the Beatles broken up.

The prologue is certainly captivating, and it ends up focusing the book more on the process of becoming than what happened on the way down. But then we know more about the story of the Beatles once they were the Beatles, so that sifting through the legends and the doctored autobiographies to make the case for what really happened is obviously of more interest. Spitz focuses as much on the hard work as the rampant creativity, and if you had an idea the Beatles were an overnight sensation this biography certainly dispels that notion. We get the backgrounds on Paul, George, Ringo and Brian Epstein as they join the band, so instead of trying to deal with parallel stories Spitz adds new threads to the weave.

The middle part of the book suffers in comparison because of the attention to how everything came together. For me the fascinating part during the glory days is how they put together their albums, especially the landmark efforts of "Rubber Soul," "Revolver" and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Spitz could double the amount of time he spends on those albums and made me happy, but then you can always reference something like Steve Turner's "A Hard Day's Write" if you want to check out the stories behind every Beatles song. If there is anything Spitz proves with this 984-page literary doorstop is that no single volume history of the Beatles is coming to be truly comprehensive, but his effort should forestall a multi-volume treatise for some time. Depending on how your interests vary from others, you will certainly find sections of the book to gloss over before Spitz gets back to what you consider to be the good parts.

The last act is rather disheartening and Spitz presents a series of fights and angry exchanges that actually make you want them to break up just to put themselves out of their collective misery. In retrospect it is amazing they kept things going on the edge for as long as they did, and Spitz makes no real effort to work out the contradictions between words and actions at this point in the history of the Beatles, although I doubt anybody on the outside could get further than the idea they were committed to each other out of habit and economics. As a writer Spitz does tend to interject himself a bit too much at times, getting a bit too cute now and again. But he does do a good job of rendering verdicts on key moments: for example, he makes it clear that when the other Beatles let John bring Yoko Ono into the Abbey Road studio, that is essentially the point of no return. There are eight-plus pages of notes in the back, along with eleven pages of bibliography, a discography and an index, so you can double check facts to your heart's content. Getting through this is a bit of a chore, but at least you can play appropriate albums (and songs) as you go merrily along.


Spider-Man: The Other (Amazing Spider-Man)
Spider-Man: The Other (Amazing Spider-Man)
von J. Michael Straczynski
  Gebundene Ausgabe

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4.0 von 5 Sternen Evolve or die? Actually, Spider-Man does both in "The Other", 21. April 2006
In former days, that is to say "Once upon a time," a significant change in a comic book character was if they changed their costume, suddenly developed new powers, or if someone they cared for died tragically. That is certainly true of Spider-Man, who before he even had his own comic book lost Uncle Ben, then watched Gwen Stacy die before his eyes, and even had Aunt May die on him at one point in Volume 1. As for new powers, there was the time in "The Amazing Spider-Man" #100 that he grew two extra sets of arms (no, Spider-Man as Leonardo's Vitruvian Man on the cover is not a hint as to what happens within these pages) and in the wake of the blockbuster Hollywood movie followed suit and starting shooting webs out of his arms without the webshooters. Then the "Secret Wars" came along and suddenly Spider-Man had a new black costume, and we all remember how well that went. However, a few years back J. Michael Stracynski, writing "The Amazing Spider-Man," decided to follow Alan Moore's example with "The Swamp Thing," and rewrite Spider-Man's origin taking as his premise the idea that getting bit by a radioactive spider does not make a lot of sense.

As Lois Gresh and Robert Weinberg explain in "The Science of Superheroes," all spiders spin silk but many (tarantulas, jumping spiders, and wolf spiders) do not make webs; only hunting spiders have the ability to walk on ceilings or up the sides of bathtubs (but they do not spin webs). Spiders are not particularly fast for their size (eight legs make that a problem) and spiders are not known for their strength (unlike ants, which are). Consequently, spider strength, spider speed, and spider agility have nothing to do with real spiders; only spider-grip and spider-sense of Peter Parker's five super powers have any relationship with actual spiders. Therefore, Stracynski came up with the idea that our hero was given his powers not by some fluke, but rather by the totemic spider spirit.

The fact of nature behind "The Other: Evolve or Die" is that there are spiders who shed their skin once in their lifetime. That is actually a good thing because Spider-Man has been weaker and slower than usual, with his powers actually failing him from time to time. So he has some tests run on his blood and they reveal that there is something terribly wrong, that cannot be understood by modern medicine, let alone cured. The diagnosis is terminal, and while Peter and Mary Jane try to come to term with the news, Morlun, the parasitic hunter who has already tried to kill Spider-Man once, has returned from the grave. The initial question is whether Morlun can kill Spider-Man before Peter Parker drops dead, but then we get to the big fight and there are suddenly a whole bunch of questions to be asked and answered.

"The Other: Evolve or Die" was a 12-part series that consists of "Friendly Neighborhod Spider-Man" #1-4, "Marvel Knights Spider-Man" #19-22, and "The Amazing Spider-Man" #525-528. Those three titles are drawn, respectively, by Mike Wieringo, Pat Lee, and the pencils and inker team of Mike Deodato and Joe Pimentel. Now, this will sound confusing, but while those three titles are currently being written by, respectively, Peter David, Reginald Hudlin, and Stracynski, the first three parts of the story are written by David, the next three by Hudlin, then three by Stracynski, and then each writes their own title in the final third. Since Stracynski started the ball rolling on this one I assume that he is the main architect behind the new and improved Spider-Man, which is what we get at the end of this mini-series.

Fortunately the new costume does not pop up until the issues after the ones collected here, because I did not like the black costume and I do not like the new one either. Iron Man can come up with a different suit for each day of the week, but that does not mean I want him designing new threads for Spider-Man. But the new costume is the least of the concerns here because what matters the most is the upgraded version of Spider-Man that we have by the end of "The Other." I understand that these are more realistic, in terms of what abilities spiders have in the real world, but there has always been a sense in which comic book superheroes are not living in the real world, no matter how much they draw it to look that way. I though webbing shooting out of Peter's wrists creeped me out, but now there is something else added to his arsenal that I think is a move in the wrong direction. Go back to the splash page of the first story in "Amazing Spider-Man" #1 and you find the words "Freak!" and "Public Menace!" It appears that over 500 issues J. Jonah Jameson got it half right.

This is an important mini-series because at least for the foreseeable future everybody who writes and draws a Spider-Man comic book is going to have to follow the lead of what has been established here. Consequently, "The Other" is going to be important, perhaps even more important than it will be controversial, although that is going to be a close call. A lot of people are going to be outraged by what they find here. At this point I am more disappointed than anything else, and given the track record of Stracynski and David (Hudlin is more of an unknown quantity with me at this point) I am certainly willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I certainly have my doubts and I know I am not alone. Fans of Spider-Man will have to read this one and make up their own minds, but they might not like what they find themselves thinking.


Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
von Doris Kearns Goodwin
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 25,40

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Reaffirming Abraham Lincoln as the greatest president, 20. März 2006
In "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," Doris Kearns Goodwin confirms my belief that Abraham Lincoln was literally the only man in America who could have preserved the Union in the face of the Civil War. The book offers parallel biographies of Lincoln and the three men who were his chief rivals for the Republican nomination for president in 1860--Willam Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates--as well as the man who would serve as Secretary of War for most of Lincoln's administration, the (War) Democrat Edwin Stanton. The emphasis is on how their personal and political lives shaped their personalities and their destinies, as well as how circumstances compelled them to accept posts in the Lincoln cabinet and (with one notable exception) come to recognize that the president they served was the greatest man of his generation.
Goodwin presents Lincoln as the first consummate politician, as indicated by the subtitle, which is to say that in being nominated for president he proved his rivals to be amateurs, making his surprising nomination seem totally inevitable. The parallel biographies lead to a series of incidents in which Lincoln must manage not only these people but issues and events as well. More importantly, she makes it clear that from at least his first defeat for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois in 1855 that Lincoln had been living by the words of his Second Inaugural address: "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right." Goodwin also emphasizes Lincoln's driving ambition of "being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem."
Otherwise, "Team of Rivals" reinforces the judgments history has made of these historical figures. I continue to see both Chase and McClelland to be detestable figures, and the book gives me a much better appreciation of Seward (and also of Gideon Welles). Lincoln is such a towering figure that a book like this does serve to remind you that these other men actually did things besides try to act as defacto president. Goodwin also makes an effort to put Mary Lincoln in a better light, and highlights Lincoln's visits to the troops. One of the key recurring elements is the way diverse parties as Frederick Douglass and the "Charleston Mercury" reversed their opinions about Lincoln as president, explaining why it was the most vilified American of the 19th century when he was first inaugurated would become a secular saint whose death was met with almost universal bereavement.
The book ends with all of Washington present for the two-day "farewell march" of the nearly two hundred thousand Union soldiers past the reviewing stand on Pennsylvania Avenue. All of the members of the cabinet were there, but not Abraham Lincoln. Goodwin privileges a story told by Leo Tolstoy of how the name of Lincoln was known even to a tribal chief in the wild and remote area of the North Caucasus. The epilogue covers the deaths of the principle members of Lincoln's cabinet and of Tad and Mary Lincoln (but not Robert). However, Goodwin's thesis is well and truly proven when Lincoln accepts Chase's resignation, which would make the nomination of Chase as Chief Justice the pertinent epilogue. But Goodwin can hardly be faulted for continuing to play out the rest of the war and Lincoln's life. For me the most poignant moment in the volume comes when Seward, recovering from his own assassination attempt and spared the news of what happened at Ford's Theater, knows the president is dead because he sees a flag at half-mast and knows his friend would have been the first to visit at his bedside.
As to being an implicit indictment of the current Cabinet, I suppose there is an attendant irony given that those who served Lincoln were under the mistaken belief they were smarter than the President. But historically only the first cabinet selected by George Washington can measure up to the team Lincoln assembled (having both Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson settles that matter, although Henry Knox and Edmund Randolph are not slouches). The Kennedy administration came make claim to having assembled "The Best and the Brightest," but that is hardly comparable to bringing together the biggest names in the party. Still, obvious parallels between Stanton and Rumsfeld aside, the thought of John McCain serving in the Bush cabinet would certainly represent the sort of inherent tensions Lincoln faced repeatedly in his day. However, today Cabinet officers clearly function more as administrators and as advisors specific to their responsibilities, than as the general council on all matters political and military that Lincoln enjoyed.
"Team of Rivals" does not break new ground in terms of Lincoln scholarship, but it does try to put Lincoln in a slightly different light, and if there is one figure in American history who deserves to be revisited from time to time, it would be Abraham Lincoln. The crises, both major and minor, come so fast and furious during the Civil War that Goodwin cannot really justify using break them into discrete subjects worthy of individual chapters. Consequently, once the book gets past introducing the primary figures, it sticks to a straightforward chronology. There are close to a hundred contemporary photographs and illustrations throughout the book, but with an eye always turned towards irony, I note that the endpapers consist of a view from Pennsylvania Avenue of the unfinished U.S. Capitol in the 1850s, and a stereoscopic view of the finished building after Lincoln's death when the nation that was torn in two had been reunited.


Rent
Rent
Wird angeboten von Giant Entertainment
Preis: EUR 31,99

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Heresy, but I like the soundtrack better than the cast album, 28. Februar 2006
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Rent (Audio CD)
With thirty minutes of dialogue, much of which is taken from songs that were cut, the movie soundtrack for "Rent" has less songs (28) that the cast album (43). I have been listening to the soundtrack pretty much nonstop since I saw the movie, playing it back to back with the cast album a couple of times. I am as stunned as others that all things considered I like this soundtrack album better, even if that means giving up on the voice mails from Mark's mom. Director Chris Columbus ended up casting six of the original eight stars of "Rent" for his movie version, and one thing this album has going for it is that they have brought a decade's worth of experiencing signing these songs plus to this recording. This point is exemplified by Jesse L. Martin as Tom Collins, whose "Santa Fe" and "Ill Cover You (Reprise)" evince considerably more emotional and vocal depth: flat out, the man puts his younger self to shame. A similar argument can be made for Wilson Jermaine Heredia as Angel Dumott Schunard and Anthony Rapp as Mark Cohen as you pay attention the different nuances they bring to songs like "Today 4 U" and "Halloween," respectively. The same thing applies to the duets, such as Martin and Heredia on "I'll Cover You." Taye Diggs as Benjamin Coffin III really does not have that many vocal moments to shine, but what there is sounds better than before.
The two newcomers to the show add something to the mix as well. Tracie Thoms as Joanne Jefferson ("Tango: Maureen") brings a power in the high range that we did not hear before, and I found Rosario Dawson as Mimi Marquez ("Light My Candle") to be a lot better than I expected. One of the vocal highpoints of this soundtrack in during "Goodbye Love" when Thoms and Dawson blend their voices and power through the lines, "I'd be happy to die for a taste of what Angel had, someone to live for, unafraid to say I love you." I would also swear that their set up makes Adam Pascal as Roger Davis respond in kind. There is a complaint to be made that the soundtrack has a studio recording of "Over the Moon" by Idina Menzel as Maureen Johnson, versus the live track she recorded during the film. But then that was always the one song that would suffer from being performed in a studio.
As long as I am being heretical I will admit that I really like the way "Finale B" is played straight for the emotional impact of Mimi's revival instead of the mock deus ex machina that we find in the cast album. Again, I realize that those who have seen the musical can hold the exact opposite position and I fully appreciate that seeing the show live results in an entirely different calculus for rendering judgments. Finally, while all honor and glory deservedly goes to composer & lyricist Jonathan Larson, Columbus gets props for brining in producer Rob Cavallo on this album. Probably best known for his work with Green Day on "Dookie," "Insomina," and "American Idiot," Cavallo takes full advantage of being able to do whatever he wants with instruments to really punch up the music. If you want you can try and decide whether the music has improved as much as the singing or the other way around, but I will leave that to others and will just starting at the beginning and listen to the soundtrack one or two or three more times (before dinner).


V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta
von David Lloyd
  Taschenbuch

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Alan Moore's most provocative graphic novel, 18. Februar 2006
Rezension bezieht sich auf: V for Vendetta (Taschenbuch)
It is perhaps simplistic to declare that "V for Vendetta" is Alan Moore's version of George Orwell's "1984." Orwell came up with his "prophetic" title by reversing the last two digits of the year in which he wrote his book. Moore began his story in 1982, picturing a future that was around the corner and setting his tale in then late 1990s in a Britain that had become a fascist state. Moore worked from the assumption that in 1983 the Conservatives would lose the elections and that the Labour Party would remove American missiles from the British Isles, which meant that England would no longer be a target during a nuclear war. In the post-holocaust Britain of the 1990s, Moore posited a Fascist takeover. The title character of V is a one time victim of a concentration camp medical experiment who is now an enigmatic hero wearing a grinning Guy Fawkes mask; Fawkes was one of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot that was an attempt to assassinate King James I of England. In the opening chapter V sets his sights on The Voice of Fate, the official voice of the government's propagandistic lies. From that small but significant initial victory, the battle continues.
There is something decidedly "English" about "V for Vendetta," and not simply because of the setting. Moore can talk about Harlan Ellison's "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the Ticktockman" and "Fahrenheit 451" being among the elements he drew upon to create his own brave new world, but it is clear that he owes more to Orwell and Huxley, to Robin Hood and "The Prisoner," than American manifestations of the same impulse to freedom. V is not a superhero, even if the medical experiments have somehow made him more than human. Sometimes we forget that a lot of our heritage, both culturally as well as politically, comes from England, and on one level this work reminds us of our English roots.
It is ironic that Moore tells his story as a graphic novel because traditionally your comic book superhero is essentially a fascist vigilante. However, Moore succeeds in finding the perfect context to turn the traditional approach on its head. Most people have no conception of what is meant by the term "Fascism." They equate the idea with Hitler, although it was coined by Mussolini, and Hitler means Nazis, Anti-Semitism and Concentration Camps. Of course, Moore knows better. Fascism is based on the "struggle" for "order" wherein the ends justify all sorts of means. This dynamic clearly runs counter to the democratic ideals of "liberty" and "property." Historically, then, we are confronted with the monumental irony that although the Fascists lost World War II, the Cold War was on one level the triumph of Fascism, a period where we allowed all sorts of travesties, from the McCarthy witch hunts to Nixon's executive orders in the name of "national security." Moore brings the idea of fascism home. If you cannot recognize it in England's green and pleasant fields then you are never going to recognize it when it walks down Main Street in your hometown, U.S.A. Don't you think you should?
David Lloyd is the artist for the "V for Vendetta" series, although Tony Weare did the art for "Vincent" and some additional art on "Valerie" and "The Vacation." Notice the pattern? All of the chapter headings in each issue begin or at least include the letter "V." Lloyd's peculiar style is particularly well suited to this particular storyline. It is odd and a bit off, just like the world it is depicting. Lloyd, Siobhan Dodds and Steve Whitaker did the coloring, and I give them special mention because there is a carefully constructed style that also fits the mood and tenor of the tale.


Essential Avengers - Volume 5
Essential Avengers - Volume 5
von Steve Englehart
  Taschenbuch
Preis: EUR 14,90

3 von 3 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen The Avengers storm Olympus and fight the Defenders, 17. Februar 2006
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Essential Avengers - Volume 5 (Taschenbuch)
There are some big names that show up as writers and artists in the issues collected in "Essential Avengers, Volume 5," but they do not show up for long. Just like the roster for Marvel's premier superhero team, the lineup for writing and drawing this comic book changed a lot. An original story by Harlan Ellison (1964's "Five Dooms to Save Tomorrow") is adapted in #101, while Roy Thomas finished as writer of the book with issue #104 and then Steve Englehart took over. Barry Windsor-Smith draws the first three issues here, even doing some of the inking (along with Joe Sinnott and Syd Shores) for #100 and then we get Rich Buckler (#101-04, 106), John Buscema (#105), George Tuska (#106-07), Jim Starlin (#107), Don Heck (#108-112), and Bob Brown (#113-19).
The Avengers line-up at the start of this collection consists of Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Quicksilver, the Scarlet Witch, and the Vision, with Rick Jones hanging around because he is sharing space with Captain Marvel. By the end Hercules, the Black Panther, Hawkeye, and the Swordsman and his paramour Mantis show up for duty as well, although everybody who has ever been an Avenger shows up for #100 as the Avengers assemble and invade Olympus because Ares the god of war has been causing trouble on Earth. The Ellison story has to do with killing innocents whose descendants will destroy the world, before we move on to more traditional super villain tales. As the Avengers hit 100 issues it is the Vision who is the key member of the group and he has to deal with his brother, the Grim Reaper before alone (#102) and in tandem with the Space Phantom (#106-08), while the romantic relationship between the Vision and Wanda continues its stormy way.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of issues focusing on Hawkeye, who comes back, quits (#109) and joins the Defenders. I never cottoned to Hawkeye (and never was enamored of the Green Arrow either) and even in retrospect he is, at best, a light proto-type version of Wolverine (think about it). There are also several issues dealing with evil mutants and other characters from "The X-Men." First the Sentinels show up (#102-04), followed by Lorelei (#105), and then Magneto (#110-11). Of course, Wanda and Pietro were original members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, so there is that history to justify it all and it does make for something different (the problem with a super group is that it is so hard to come up with a group of villains for them to fight, so you have to go with one supervillain, such as Magneto, who is arguably stronger than any one hero, which makes you wonder what happens when Cap, Iron Man, Thor, etc., has to deal with somebody one-on-one).
Collected in this volume are "Avengers" #98-119, "Daredevil" #99, and "Defenders" #8-11, so there are some cross-overs that involve not only Daredevil, who is teamed up with the Black Widow at that point, and the newest (at that time) Marvel super group. This clash was interesting because what happened was members of each group met in mini-battles: the Vision and the Scarlet Witch vs. the Silver Surfer; Iron Man vs. Hawkeye; the Black Panther and Mantis vs. Dr. Strange; Swordsman vs. the Valkerie; Captain America vs. Sub-Mariner; and in the last but not least position, Thor vs. Hulk (which is when the two groups finally get together to go after the evil tag-team of Loki and Dormammu. The problem with "The Avengers" is that the comic book never really seemed to jell, and it was always one step forward and one step back. If Buckler had stayed as the artist for most of these issues I could round up, but Don Heck was probably my least favorite Marvel artist during that time and I look at any title he was drawing as being second tier at best.


Cell: A Novel
Cell: A Novel
von Stephen King
  Gebundene Ausgabe
Preis: EUR 19,54

5 von 7 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Stephen King gives us the reason "cell" rhymes with "hell", 11. Februar 2006
Rezension bezieht sich auf: Cell: A Novel (Gebundene Ausgabe)
Like Stephen King, I do not own a cell phone. For that matter I do not have long distance, call waiting, call forwarding, a list of friends, a running total of available minutes, or anything approaching a calling plan. I suspect that if there is a reason in common why King and I do not own a cell phone it would be that the idea of anybody being able to reach us at anytime does not appeal to us (and, in point of fact, may horrify us). I would have to add that I do not like to hold a phone in my hand, having become addicted to my headset to the point that answering a regular phone makes my entire arm hurt at the unfamiliar use of muscles. So owning a cell phone does not appeal to me.
If we needed another reason not to want to own a cell phone, the Harvard University Center for Risk Analysis estimates there are as many as 1.5 million crashes annually in the United States, resulting in 560,000 injuries and 2,600 deaths, "due to phone use in moving vehicles" (so, to be fair, these might not all be cell phone related because you could get hurt trying to reach a pay phone by leaning outside your car window). In "Cell," King comes up with another reason not to want to own a cell phone when on October 1, God is His heaven, the stock market stands at at 10,140, and somebody somewhere launches what will come to be known as The Pulse and unleashes Hell on Earth.
This is not the same sort of Pulse that turns Seattle and the rest of America into a Third World nation in James Cameron's "Dark Angel." It is not an electromagnetic pulse that blanks computers and kills electronics. In fact, this Pulse requires the electronics to be functioning because it is transmitted through cell phones. You have probably heard about the conflicting claims regarding the dangers of cell phone radiation, and it is this particular ugly thought that King exacerbates in his story. When the Pulse happens those who are on cell phones or make the reflex action of getting on their cell phones to find out what is happening get their minds fried. Basically the Pulse turns them into gibbering homicidal zombies (only they are not really dead and they are definitely not gone). Clayton Riddell, a graphic (nee comic book) artist from Maine sees all of this happen in front of him on Boylston Street in Boston.
Surviving the moment is the immediate concern and Clay is able to do so because he hooks up with a couple of other survivors, a man named Tom McCourt and a young girl named Alice. Then the main agenda is staying alive, but Clay also wants to get back to Maine to find out what happened to his wife and son (although his imagination is well aware of the worst possibilities). They meet more survivors along the way, the most important of which turns out to be Jordan, a young boy at a military academy who knows enough about computers to have pieces together a hypothesis as to not only what happened with the Pulse but what is starting to happen in its aftermath. Jordan thinks the pulse wiped out brains like they were hard drives, which would explain why they are down to the biological imperative to kill or be killed. But it turns out things are worse than that, because those brains are now being reprogrammed and that 98 percent that is untapped is starting to come into play.
"Cell" is dedicated to Richard Matheson and George Romero, and if you want to do the horror genre math that would be "I Am Legend" and "Night of the Living Dead," only Clay is not the last man alive and these zombies are not flesh eating corpses. In Stephen King terms we are talking post-apocalyptic nightmare ("The Stand") combined with the dark side of untapped human potential ("The Tommyknockers") with the fatherly imperative to save a child who has been lost ("Pet Semetary"). I like novels about how society tries to come back from the edge of extinction, but "Cell" is not really one of those because it turns out to be about avoiding extinction. Like most King novels the journey is superior to the destination and reading this book in bed after midnight the past week certainly heightened the impact of the dark parts, which is the main point, and why I rounded up on this one. Having trouble getting to sleep after what happened on the road to KASHWAK=NO-FO counts for something.


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