Sunday, November 30, 2008

Twilight - Stephenie Meyer - Book Review - NOT Movie

Just to start off so no one is confused on this one, I am reviewing the book not the movie. I have yet to see the movie, but will review that when I see it.

Twilight is the first of a four book series written by Stephenie Meyer. I was given a copy of the book to read and decided what the hell, why not, let's see what the big fluff is all about. I'm not a teenager or anything near it, actually I just turned forty so maybe I'm too old to understand, we will see. I'll start off by saying that I have always been a fan of Anne Rice and the wonderful Vampire Chronicals she wrote over the years. These books may not compare in anyway, but I wanted to give the first one a shot and see.

This is a story as many already know about a teenage girl named Bella Swan, who moves to Forks, WA to live with her father, Police Chief Charlie Swan. When she first arrives at school she is immediately attracted to a pale young man named Edward Cullen. From their the adventure begins and will continue throught a series of four books.

So far having only read the first of the four books and coming off reading two books about mountain climbing, I would have to say that this was a change of pace for me. I haven't read a work of fiction in a long time.

The pace of the story is good and it keeps the read going and wondering what will happen next. It's not necessarily original in it's style, but certainly has it's own twists and turns that make it it's own read. It's not like I could just write I read this the first time by Anne rice or something of that nature. I think it's kept clean and readable by young as well as old.

I'm going to continue to read the next story and eventually see the movie to see if it was translated well or not. As always, I'm not going to give away the story as I didn't know it when I read it, so all I will say is that you will pick this one up and it willbe hard to put down. I finished it over four evenings after putting two kids to bed and feeding and taking care of two dogs and a cat. So it certainly intrigued me enough to get through it quickly.

I would recommend reading at least the first of the story and see if you get sucked in as well.

The Shield - The Final Season(Season 7) Review

I can't believe the final season is done and gone - that was way too fast.

Season Seven as we all knew coming in would be the final season for us to be watching Vic Mackey be a badass! From the start of the season with Vic in trouble with the Armenians for taking over 2 million off them. Shane obvious is the one who put this all into play. So we have Vic and Ronnie pretty pissed off at Shane because they find out he killed Lem and now has them all in trouble. The final series from week to week just leaves you hanging out there wanting to know what's going to happen next.

How was this all going to end? That's what we all wanted to know!

So from Shane kidnapping Vic's ex-wife Corrine and daughter to save their lives getting things into more trouble. The Armenians and the Mexicans are squaring off and having little turf wars. Who's going to step in and take care of it all, Vic Mackey for sure.

The season kept us wondering how were they going to get out from under the debt of the Armenians and what would Vic do to Shane once he had the chance? Vic gets hhoked up with ICE and has an idea on how to get him and Ronnie out from all this mess. He still needs to figure out what is he going to do with Shane.

So Vic sets up a hit on the Armenians by the Mexicans and leaves Shane their to be taken out. But Shane is off around the corner and survives the hit making off with $100K out of the deal. Shanes problem is that his wife Mara is pregnant and they have another young son and no one to turn to for help. Mara sticks her nose in the business and now has others all riled up.

Vic is playing off everyone from trying to save his job by working with Councilman David Acevada who was once the Chief at The Barn. Then it's ICE to go and work for the feds to save his job. Then eventually he looks to get immunity for him and Ronnie through ICE by setting up one of the biggest busts around between the Mexican Cartel and the Black Gangs.

There's a bunch of underlying stories with Dutch in a relationship with a woman who he believes her son is a derranged potential serial killer. Claudette is dying and trying to keep it under raps, but has been having difficulty. Billings is suing the department when he got hit at work. So not going into all the details, just going to stick to the strike team for this review.

Basically what it all boils down to is that Mara tells Corrine all about what Vic is up to while her and Shane are on the run. Corrine goes into the Barn and wants Vic put in jail and tries to set up a sting. All the while Vic is working out an immunity deal with ICE.

There were several close calls that almost cost Shane his life and in one case just the opposite and he sets up Ronnie and Vic and it all goes wrong.

So now Vic realizes that he's about to go down for all the bad shit he's done over the years and gets ICE to strike a deal with him leaving Ronnie hanging. Vic's confession of all the things he's done ends up putting ronnie away for a long long time.

When it all comes down in the end, the Mexican Drug Cartel goes down, Corrine goes into witness protection and leaves town. Ronnie gets arrested for all the past crimes. Shane has no where else to go and the cops are closing in. He poisons his kid and pregnant wife and then starts to write a note and as the cops approach he takes his own life.

Acevada makes out the best with a sure win as mayor. Vic has pissed so many people off that he is now stuck behind a desk for the next 3 years working for ICE. Always having to watch his back and will never know when his time will be up.

Crazy stuff but a great finish to the series as a whole. I had originally missed seasons 1-3 and went and bought them on DVD. You can usually find the DVDs on sale, especially around Christmas for about $20 a season. Check it out for sure if you need to go back and see the whole thing it's well worth it as it's a continuing saga from the first episode to the very last.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bolt - Movie Review

My daughter had been waiting for weeks for Bolt to come out and we decided that it would be great to take her the day after Thanksgiving with her Grandparents. So off we went to the packed mall and movie theater to catch Bolt.

My daughter is still young enough that it's hard to get through a whole movie without here being afraid of something. As Bolt starts off it shows the dog in action on his film fighting the evil green eyed man. This was a little frightening at the start, but after that we were free and clear for the rest of the film.

This is a fun movie for people of all ages from the 2 1/2 year olds all the way up to the 60+ year olds. It's a fun little story about the dog realizing that he really isn't a super hero and that he still wants to get back to rescue Penny his owner.

It's fun for everyone and it's a good story. There are some pretty funny parts to the movie and it really doesn't get slow at all.

It's well worth seeing this one, take the kids or just go yourself. It's entertaining for sure. Miley Cyrus & John Travolta play the main characters Penny and Bolt. They even sing a duet at the end that is pretty good.

Go see this one.

Lincoln Hall - Dead Lucky: Life After Death on Mt. Everest - Book Review

Having just finished the story of Ed Viesturs, I was on a Mountain Climbing book kick. I decided to read Lincoln Hall's Dead Luck: Life After Death on Mt. Everest. This is the story of how Lincoln was pronounced dead on the mountain and somehow managed to come to life and make it down the mountain.

Lincoln hall was an accomplished climber over the years and has been on many trips, but was left with one void and that was climbing Mount Everest.

Lincoln had an opportunity to climb Mount Everest as part of a team in 2006. His task was to document the climb of a 15 year old Australian who was going to be the youngest to climb the mountain by 3 months.

Lincoln wasn't even sure if he would be going because of the cost and sponsorship money. With only 2 months until the expedition Lincoln was called up and told he was going to Everest. Now he had two months to get ready for a mountain that would take at least 6 months to prepare for.

So the adventure begins and off Lincoln goes to try to tackle his Mount Everest.

The coolest thing about this book is the descriptions along the way. From the hotels in town to the trek out to base camp. Even Lincoln's descriptions of the mountain and the steps along to climbing to the peak. I think that having been an accomplished writer helps make the readers feel like they are there every step of the way.

From the missed opportunity at the start thinking he was going to pack it up and go home through to his rescue going down the mountain, this is an amazing story of how Hall survived out in the open above 28,000ft over night and made his way back facing hallucinations and other things on his way back to base camp.

I'm not going to tell you the whole story and get into too many of the details only because it's all a part of reading the story and following through this epic journey.

There are certainly controversies in the story and I think even Lincoln has tried to work out the truth to some of those. All I will say is that it certainly had to be a struggle making his way back to life and dealing with the healing.

I don't believe that I will ever attempt to climb Mount Everest, but you never know and if some crazy opportunity came up I can't say I would turn it down.

This is a fantastic book and well worth the read. As much as I love hiking and going out on adventures, I like to read these stories to remind myself that we are still human and things can go wrong.

I also like the descriptions of what gear he uses at the different elevations. This is something that I'm always interested in reading about.

Ed Viesturs - No Shortcuts To The Top - Book Review

Ed Viesturs is one of the most accomplished mountain climbers from the United States. After many climbs he decided that he would try to climb all the worlds 8,000 meter peaks, that's 26,250 ft and there are fourteen of them. This is a task that not many have accomplished over all the years people have been climbing.

I've had this book on my shelf for quite a while, but have not had a chance to read it until now. Having kids sure does take a lot of your time, but worth every minute. So let's get into this one.

No Shortcuts to the Top starts telling Ed's story from leaving Rockford, IL heading out to Washington to go to school and working on getting his Vet degree. He discovers climbing and gets hooked. So from chosing the life of working as a vet to climbing mountains for peanuts, Ed chose climbing.

I really like how Ed tells his story and the story of many of his climbs and some of the loses as well as the accomplishments over the years.

I also like the way that through out the book he refers to some of his readers and those who comment as "armchair mountaineers". I don't consiser myself an "armchair mountaineer", but more of a hiker, climber. I have bigger ambitions than I have time or money. I have climbed some smaller peaks and love to spend time out camping in the wilderness. There's a lot more I would like to do like Mount Rainier and many of the Colorado 14ers. Those who have never set foot on a trail and know what it's like to feel the pain in your muscles from climbing are certainly "armchair mountaineers", those who have read all the books published and think they are experts on what happened on Everest in 1996.

I personally love to read the stories myself and enjoy to hear the different stories and the different sides of the stories. I don't really form too many opinions of how people make mistakes or jusdge anyone, because I haven't been to the big peaks. Maybe someday, but for now I will stick to mountains in the US.

So getting back to Ed and his story. I think that Ed has told a great story about his life and what he has accomplished including a little about his family to show the reality of what a toll it can take on a family. When you see how he explains the rescues and the near misses. You realize that the number one priority of climbing is safety and to come home alive.

Ed talks about his working out and all his time being a Mount Rainier guide. I can only imagine what it would take to get in shape for a big mountain climb. Ed seems to be sort of a machine the way he can climb these mountains without suplimental oxygen. The man certainly can acclimate well in the mountains. I personally have worked out pretty hard to go out on 10 mile hikes and climbs and I'm always exhausted when I get to the peak.

It's quite an accomplishment and also a struggle what Ed has been through all these years. Fighting to get sponsorships to go off and climb the 8,000m mountains and having to come back and work on building houses and other stuff to make some money to get by. I can only dream about getting a chance to climb an 8,000m peak. I would never be able to come up with the money especially with a mortgage and family to take care of. Maybe when I was younger, but still maybe some day I will get the chance. For now I will stick to the States.

I think the one thing I would like to have heard more about in the book is the products Ed used and the different equiptment. I know he helped Mountain Hardwear out using equiptment and helping design their stuff as well. I love Mountain Hardwear and have many different products of theirs from a simple Monkey Man Jacket to a Down Jacket, Hiking pants that are designed specifically for backpacking and even some shorts and other stuff. It's all great and I certainly would love to have heard a little more just to test out some product myself.

I wish I had a chance to go out and see Ed when he did some of his speaking engagements. He certainly has accomplished a lot and continues to do more as well as a lot of work for environmental causes. The 2008 Canadian Arctic Trak for Earth Health was the latest thing he's been up to.

Check out Ed's website to see what's going on with him. I don't know how often he updates it, but it's the best way to see what he's up to.

The book is excellent and one of better inside looks and climbing the big peaks.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Dido - Safe Trip Home - CD Review

Safe Trip Home is Dido's 3rd official release and first in about 5 years. The best thing about Dido is that she is a Gooner, an Arsenal Fan, as far as I know. I haven't heard that change and my guess is that she still is one. Actually she also has an amazing voice and that's more why I like her. So from her breakout using Thank You to back track the Eminem song Stan, to where she is today has been a long journey and for those fans a good one. I'm not a fan of Eminem, but I really loved the song Thank You and thought No Angel was one of the best cds of that time. I like many others had not heard of Dido until Stan came out, but after hearing her own music, I certainly was hooked.

I picked this one up just knowing I couldn't go wrong. I put it on and right off the bat, we had the same soft, warm sounds of her voice. Dido works with producer, Jon Brion on this new CD. They started off at Abbey Road Studio in London and eventually she was convinced to move to Los Angeles to continue her focus. Not sure why LA, but it seems to have done the trick.

Most of the songs are relatively soft, mellow, warm songs. There is a mix of some acoustic guitar, drums, piano, recorder and more. She even had Mick Fleetwood help her out on drums with Grafton streen and Citizen Cope helps out with Burnin Love. This cd has a lot of the feel of some of her past works. Even adding some strings and other beats throughout. Still Dido has such an amazing voice she can make anything sound amazing.

The iTunes Deluxe version comes with a 4 minute video for Don't Believe in Love. It's an iteresting little look into people being comfortable in their homes. It's a nice little bonus added to the download. I think it would have been cool to see her doing a making of session or something, but this video is still cool.

I haven't seen Did live, only have heard the audio cd that came with her live DVD. I think she would be fantastic to see live in a smaller type venue where the show could be more intimate. Sprekels Theater in San Diego, Riverside Theater in Milwaukee, Uptown Theater in Kansas City are all places that would be awesome to see her at. I do hope that we are privilaged enough to get to see Dido here in Kansas City.

Track Listing:

1. Don't Believe In Love
2. Quiet Times
3. Never Want To Say It's Love
4. Grafton Street
5. It Comes And It Goes
6. Look No Further
7. Us 2 Little Gods
8. The Day Before The Day
9. Let's Do The Things We Normally Do
10. Burnin Love
11. Northern Skies
12. For One Day (iTunes extra)
13. Summer (iTunes extra)
14. Northern Skies (Remix) (iTunes extra)
15. Don't Believe In Love (Short Film Version) (iTunes extra)

Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy - CD Review

So after a long spell of something like 17 years since Use Your Illusion I & II came out we are hearing Axl Rose perform under the name Guns N' Roses with his finally official release of Chinese Democracy. This is being offered exclusively through Best Buy to start. Not sure if it will remain exclusive or will be release eslewhere after. It's still hard for me to accept this as a real Guns N' Roses cd since Axl is the only one around, how about Roses Only or something.

At first take it's not bad at all. Axl is sounding pretty good and he backs himself with a lot of good musicians to help him out. I'm not sure if he will be able to duplicate that for live sets since he went from people like Buckethead and Robin Finnick to others after. It looks like the credits of the songs are all over the board. Axl is the only one thing that is the same. Different musicians and different studios along the way, but I guess that's what happens when it takes you over 10 years to record a CD.

Some of the highlights of the new CD are the title song, Chinese Democracy, Better, Prostitude, IRS as well as Catcher In the Rye. I like the piano on Catcher and the ballad type sound to the song. IRS has some strong Axl vocals as well as some really good guitar riffs. Better starts off a little strange, but kicks in with Axl singing and really had a good sound.

I am really surprised that the CD as good as it is for someone still lost in the late 80's. I look forward to see how the CD does since it's going to be sold exclusively through Best Buy. Typically people today would like to be able to buy a iTunes download and be a little green, by not wasting all the extra plastic it takes to make a cd - that is unless he's doing a post consumer recycles paper case with it :-) Anyways, I think that it is risky to go with just Best Buy, but my guess is it will be available on iTunes at some point. Maybe even next week, I haven't heard anything on that yet.

It's got a good sound if you are a Guns N' Roses fan, I think you will like this one. I still don't think I would spend money to see Axl perform. The last time I saw him he came out at some MTV awards show and practically collapsed of exhaustion while trying to sing a montage of classic GnR stuff. He still has the attitude and still throws fits more than Ryan Adams, so I'll listen to the cd, but will be staying home if he shows up in KC.

The track listing:

01 Chinese Democracy
02 Shackler's Revenge
03 Better
04 Street Of Dreams (a.k.a The Blues)
05 If The World
06 There Was A Time
07 Catcher In The Rye
08 Scraped
09 Riad N' The Bedouins
10 Sorry
11 I.R.S.
12 Madagascar
13 This I Love
14 Prostitute

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Clash - Live at Shea Stadium 1982

I've always been a fan of The Clash, but never a die hard fan. I've had a lot of respect for the music they created and the stuff that Joe Strummer did afterwards as well. I don't know much about the history, but have recently started reading Redemption Song about Strummer.

To me listening to this live performance from 1982 is pretty cool. I understand they were opening for The Who and the crowd just wasn't the same as it would be if they were playing in Brixton or Hammersmith or somewhere in the UK. I would really love to hear one of those performances and compare as I think the energy level would be different. I had heard stories that Pete Townshend was the only one in The Who that gave them the time of day and that Roger was a prick to them.

Still, playing a big stadium would have to be a fun gig.

Maybe we will see some more live releases from other shows with some good energy and quality sound. I know I have a couple of cool Joe Strummer shows from St. Annes and the final show he did before passing on. I'd love to hear soundboards of any of those.

This show was originally I believe the full October 13th show. They played some great tunes there. London Calling, The Guns of Brixton, Train in Vain, I Fought the Law. They added a few of the pop tunes like Rock the Casbah and Should I Stay or Should I Go, which are tunes I like. The only one I would love to hear from the Combat Rock cd live would be a nice long melodic version of Straight to Hell like Joe often played with Mescaleros.

Still, I like this recording and look forward to seeing if they will put out any others like this, but with the UK crowd. I know seeing them back in 1982 or 1983, it was in a small place in Milwaukee, WI, maybe The Auditorium, it was fantastic. I don't remember much of the show as I was a about 14 at the time, it was still great to see them. I even saw B.A.D in about 1992 and they were fun, but never got to see Joe with Mescaleros even though they played a lot of shows in LA and I lived not far away. That I regret.

Fun show and brings back some good memories. I like it and would recommend it for sure.

Track List:

1. London Calling
2. Police On My Back
3. The Guns of Brixton
4. Tommy Gun
5. Magnificent 7
6. Armagideon Time
7. Magnificent 7 (Return)
8. Rock The Casbah
9. Train In Vain
10. Career Opportunities
11. Spanish Bombs
12. Clampdown
13. English Civil War
14. Should I Stay Or Should I Go
15. I Fought The Law