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  • Tom Benton - One of the greatest albums of all time; flawed brilliance

    Pink Floyd's "The Wall" is a classic, the band's most ambitious masterwork. Later used as the soundtrack from the hit 1983 film, "The Wall" is a mix of songs that is among P.F.'s very best. This time around, instead of going for psychedelic rock (as in "Dark Side of the Moon"), P.F. goes more for odd, eerie, wacky pieces - and yet, these songs tell a story like no others.

    The album's grand opening piece is "In the Flesh?", which compares the album to a wall that the following songs alone can break. The second song begins the story of a man's life, "The Thin Ice", about the simplicity of young childhood. Then we seep into the first part of one of Pink Floyd's most popular songs, "Another Brick in the Wall", which eventually became one of the most played radio hits of the 80's. "The Happiest Days of Our Lives" moves us on to the man's childhood, where he was placed in a school full of abusive teachers - which then seeps into the best part of "Another Brick in the Wall" (Part 2). "Mother" tells us about the young man's worries, which he speaks to his mother; "Goodbye Blue Sky" is something of an obituary for childhood; "Empty Spaces" finds the man trying to conceal his horrible memories, but he can't; and therefor we find ourselves hearing about his "Young Lust". Then we learn about Pink's temper towards his wife in "One of My Turns", which leads to his wife leaving in "Don't Leave me Now". "Another Brick in the Wall" then finishes with "Part 3"; and the first disc closes with "Goodbye Cruel World".

    The second disc is considerably different from the first; it focuses on life behind the Berlin Wall. It opens with "Hey You", then moves on to "Is There Anybody Out There?" and "Nobody Home" (in which a man tries to hide from the authorities in charge of the Wall). "Vera" talks about Pink's seperation from his lover on the opposite side of the Wall; "Bring the Boys Back Home" is about Pink's desire to have his old friends back; and then comes "Comfortably Numb", one of Pink Floyd's greatest pieces. Pink has become numb to anything going outside the Wall (contrary to popular belief, the song is not a druggie song). Then there's "The Show Must Go On", and two live pieces - "In the Flesh" and a good version of "Run Like Hell". The ending of the second disc sounds as though it was inspired by Queen, not at all like P.F.'s traditional compositions. Finally, the album closes softly with "Outside the Wall".

    "The Wall" can be taken in a few different directions; is it about drugs? Is it about the Berlin Wall? Or is about a troubled, drug-addict's horrid memories? The lyrics are excellent, making some terrific songs; unfortunately, the songs just don't flow as on P.F.'s earlier albums.

    All in all, you may like "The Wall", or you may not. In my opinion, "The Wall" is one of the greatest albums of all time and among Pink Floyd's best. To sum it all up: "The Wall" is flawed brilliance.

  • C. Cahill - CHANGED MY LIFE

    Align has totally changed my life. The doctor who prescribed it to me knew what he was doing. I had a totally out of control situation and Align has turned my life around.

  • P. Wung "Engineering is my vocation, volleyba... - A thought provoking and practical look at gender inequity.

    A good friend threatened me if I did not procure and read this book. She claims this is as close to her experience in the world of politics, public policy and sports. I was pretty skeptical until I saw Sheryl Sandberg speak in a TED Talk and I was intrigued.

    I bought the book and I sat down and read it. It wasn't very long and Sandberg has a very nice style of writing, the lessons flowed and the points were made very clearly and concisely. The book is organized partly as a scholarly study of feminism and a chronicle of women in the upper echelons of the new technology economy, yet it was also an autobiography of Sandberg's career in the highest reaches of politics and technology. It is this juxtaposition which is the most problematic and this is also where she is taking some lumps from conservative women. They were taking her to task for not having written a more traditional tome. The research done on the book was extensive, and perhaps true to Sandberg's background in business, she seemed, at least most of the way through the book, to be making a case in front of the board of directors rather than readers. I think she felt compelled to approach the subject with this kind of tactic because she wanted to fully support her case with full documentation. I appreciated the effort but I struggled my way through the footnotes and figures.

    It wasn't until after the bulk of the point was made that the narrative flowed, Sandberg got away from the numbers because she was now writing from experience and her full emotional engagement was no long hampered by the statistics, this emancipated her prose to more effectively reflect her own passions and philosophy.

    So what about the topic? Even though she wasn't completely original with her arguments, it is, after all a very broad subject which has dominated the landscape of the gender wars for quite a few decades. Sandberg makes her points forcefully and does bring a fresh spin to the age old questions. Her own solution to being a mom and a COO is too seemingly easy, and she easily acknowledges the fact that she has the wherewithal and means to resolve her scheduling problems by throwing money at it, she is very well paid. She was also honest and unapologetic about the path she has taken. The point is that you need to do the right thing your own way and that decision is the one that will do more to resolve the problems than anything else.

    In the end, I think book shares a lot of lessons that are universal and that applies to any minority which are trying to make their way to a position of responsibility. The gender gap focuses the attention clearly and it exposes the rift between the traditionally powerful and those striving to get there. Sandberg's well delivered message rang true with this male who is an ethnic minority just as nicely as it would with a female striving towards the top.

    I plan on giving this book to every young female professional that I know because I feel very strongly about the topic and I feel like Sandberg has done a great deal towards focusing attention and opening up the discourse on this particular topic

  • Kriti Godey - One of the best anthologies I've ever read.

    I was really excited about this anthology! I love anthologies, I love kickass women, and the Martin-Dozois anthologies attract the best fantasy writers. I've read and liked one of their anthologies (Songs of Love and Death: All Original Tales of Star Crossed Love) before, but this one blew it out of the park!

    Dangerous Women doesn't just feature sci-fi/fantasy stories; there are a variety of genres represented. This makes the collection have an incredibly broad range. The eponymous dangerous women are all pretty different too - physically or magically powerful women, women who flourish despite their circumstances, femme fatales, vengeful ghosts, and more. Sometimes they drive the plot, sometimes they're the protagonist, and sometimes they're both.

    I enjoyed some stories more than others, but unusually, I didn't think any fell flat. Some were disturbing or implausible, but I think they still made good additions to the anthology. I'm not going to review every story, but I'll talk a bit about some standouts.

    THE HANDS THAT ARE NOT THERE by Melinda Snodgrass

    This story takes place in the same universe as one of my favourites from Songs of Love and Death, and I was immediately pulled into this universe again. Unfortunately there aren't any full-length books in this universe, but I'm hoping there will be soon! It involves an extraordinary story told in a bar, which if were true, would have incredible repercussions.

    SHADOWS FOR SILENCE IN THE FORESTS OF HELL by Brandon Sanderson

    I don't really like the title of the story, but the story itself was fantastic. It's set in Sanderson's Cosmere (although I don't know what planet) and features a terrifying world and a resourceful woman who makes it a little safer. I'm probably biased by my indefatigable love for Sanderson, but I loved this story.

    BOMBSHELLS by Jim Butcher

    I've only read the first book of the Dresden Files, but this story made me really want to catch up with it (it also contains major spoilers for the direction of the series, but I didn't mind that). It features Molly, Harry Dresden's apprentice and some other Dresdenverse women on a mission. Molly gets some great character development, and there's a lot of gratuitous ass-kicking. Some of it was a little cliched, but it was so much fun that I didn't mind.

    A QUEEN IN EXILE by Sharon Kay Penman and NORA'S SONG by Cecelia Holland

    Both of these stories were historical fiction and featured women figuring out how to become dangerous in a male-dominated world. Other than that, they were fairly different - in the former, Constance, future Queen of Sicily, takes charge of her unhappy life and in the latter, a young Eleanor of England, Queen of Castile learns how to get her way. I found both fascinating, and I really need to read more historical fiction.

    MY HEART IS EITHER BROKEN by Megan Abbott

    I don't want to say very much about this heartbreaking story, but it examines the emotional consequences of knowing a truly dangerous woman. Or thinking you do.

    LIES MY MOTHER TOLD ME by Caroline Spector

    This story is set in the shared Wild Cards universe, and involves a superhero that goes from having dangerous powers to being truly dangerous even without her powers. I found it very poignant.

    --

    I could keep going, but I'll just say that I also loved SOME DESPERADO by Joe Abercrombie (I can't wait to see more of Shy in his latest book, Red Country), THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR by Lev Grossman, NAME THE BEAST by Sam Sykes, and RAISA STEPANOVA by Carrie Vaughn (I haven't read anything by Vaughn that I haven't loved). THE PRINCESS AND THE QUEEN by George R.R. Martin read like the dry medieval telling that it was meant to be, but was strangely fascinating.

    The stories I wasn't as thrilled about:

    I KNOW HOW TO PICK 'EM by Lawrence Block

    This is an extremely well-written story, but it left me feeling unclean just having read it (which seems intentional). It definitely adds to the diversity of the anthology, but I wish I hadn't read it. It probably didn't help that I was envisioning Tricia Helfer as the "dangerous woman" in the story.

    SECOND ARABESQUE, VERY SLOWLY by Nancy Krees

    The idea behind this story was fascinating (discovering beauty in an ugly world), and I was somewhat touched by the ending, but I was distracted by finding the worldbuilding implausible - 99% of women are sterile, and civilisation totally breaks down. I can see how women's place in society would change significantly, but I don't think cities and technology would be completely destroyed. I didn't even mind the world, but the cause of it seemed forced.

    PRONOUNCING DOOM by S.M. Stirling

    I got the gist of this story, but was thoroughly confused by the world. American society is now heavily influenced by ancient Scottish/Irish tradition, and this all happens within a few years? I found out that this is set in the "Emberverse", but I don't think there's enough of an introduction to this universe for people not already familiar with it.

    --

    That ended up being much longer than I anticipated. Summary: this is one of the best anthologies I've ever read. Buy it!