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All reviews - Books (80) - Music (40)

Six Months in the Gold Mines: From a Journal of Three Years Residence in Upper and Lower California 1847-48-49. review

Posted : 4 years, 12 months ago on 1 July 2012 07:41 (A review of Six Months in the Gold Mines: From a Journal of Three Years Residence in Upper and Lower California 1847-48-49.)

Interesting first-hand account of the laborious occupation of gold mining in 1840s California. The author never really struck it rich, but managed to make a decent living regardless. His meticulous descriptions of mining techniques and the day-to-day tedium of sifting, digging, and scrounging for the "yellow stuff" can get a bit tedious, but he makes up for it in the wealth of info on early California people and places. Worth a look.


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Up and Down California in 1860-1864: The Journal of William H. Brewer, Fourth Edition, with Maps review

Posted : 5 years ago on 15 June 2012 12:18 (A review of Up and Down California in 1860-1864: The Journal of William H. Brewer, Fourth Edition, with Maps)

In the 1860s, botanist William Brewer assisted in the first official geological survey of California. He traveled thousands of miles and wrote wonderfully meticulous descriptions of people, places, flora, and fauna. This book is a treasure of early California history and also a great true adventure account. Particularly noteworthy are Brewer's observations of gold mining operations, the Sierra wilderness, and the devastating 1862 floods near Sacramento.


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Lucy Breckinridge of Grove Hill: The Journal of a Virginia Girl, 1862-1864 (Women's Diaries & Letters of the Nineteenth-Century South) review

Posted : 5 years, 2 months ago on 31 March 2012 02:52 (A review of Lucy Breckinridge of Grove Hill: The Journal of a Virginia Girl, 1862-1864 (Women's Diaries & Letters of the Nineteenth-Century South))

This Civil War diary comes not from a soldier’s point of view, but from that of a teenage girl living on a large slave-holding estate in Virginia. She watches as her brothers and male friends go off to the war:
"I wish the women could fight.. I would gladly shoulder my pistol to shoot some Yankees if it were allowable."
Unfortunately, being a only a girl, her prospects were limited to staying home reading novels, tending to the wounded, mourning lost friends & family, and writing in her trusty diary.
Lucy had a bright and inquisitive mind. She wrote about her frustrations with her lot as a woman in a man’s world (she wasn’t keen on the idea of marriage), religion, love, and other social issues of the day. She intended to destroy her diary someday, but she never got around to it (she died relatively young). I wonder what she'd think if she knew her words would still be read almost 150 years after her death?


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Five Leaves Left review

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 26 March 2012 03:38 (A review of Five Leaves Left)

I love the instrumental elements on this album, the lush strings in Cello Song, the melancholy strings forming the backdrop of “Day is Done”, and the low hum supporting the wistful “River Man”. Along with Drake’s mellifluous voice, it makes for rich listening indeed. Makes me think of early evening gloom and treetops tossed in autumn storms while sitting inside drinking a warm cup of tea.


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Tallis: Spem in alium · Latin Church Music /Taverner Consort & Choir · Parrott review

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 26 March 2012 03:21 (A review of Tallis: Spem in alium · Latin Church Music /Taverner Consort & Choir · Parrott)

Marvelous CD. My favorite track is the wonderfully complex and ethereal Spem in Alium, a motet for 40 voices. It starts with a single beautiful voice and than more & more voices join in, until the result is a truly exquisite interweaving of vocal artistry.
The Taverner Choir can be relied upon to tackle some challenging pieces with consummate skill. Not everyone is willing to try their hand (or throat) at a 40-part motet!
Other excellent tracks on this album include excerpts from the Lamentations of Jeremiah & Gaude gloriosa Dei Mater.


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The Segovia Collection review

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 26 March 2012 03:08 (A review of The Segovia Collection)

Segovia had such a distinctive and romantic approach to classical guitar, it's easy to recognize when it's one of his interpretations playing on the radio. Anyway, this 4 CD collection is splendidly remastered and provides a great portrait of a true master.


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Bill Cosby Is A Very Funny Fellow Right! review

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 26 March 2012 03:00 (A review of Bill Cosby Is A Very Funny Fellow Right!)

This is Bill Cosby's debut album and it's quite funny. Highlights are his description of free entertainment on the New York subway ("A Nut in Every Car") and his take on the conversation between God & a very put-upon Noah.


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Persuasive Percussion review

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 16 March 2012 09:41 (A review of Persuasive Percussion)

First produced in 1959, this is the pimp daddy of lounge music albums, the Velveeta cheese of bachelor pad soundtracks, the acquired taste that will make some grin maniacally and others wince in pain. I personally love it.
It's hard to take life seriously when you're listening to the frenetic, horn-happy Enoch Light version of "Brazil", the incredibly tacky "Japanese Sandman", the oddly devious "In The Mood for Love", or just about any track on this CD.
PS: It also makes for dandy freeway driving music.


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The Decameron (Signet Classics) review

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 14 March 2012 01:31 (A review of The Decameron (Signet Classics))

I read The Decameron and The Canterbury Tales at around the same time, and as collections of medieval stories go, this one wins by a landslide. The translation by Mark Musa is very accessible and the variety of the material is just about unsurpassed. There are tragic tales of loves lost and unrequited, even a story about a woman who puts the head of her dead lover in a pot of basil. (MMm. Spicy!)

The comic stories are my favorite, though. The Decameron spins colorful yarns of adulterous lovers pulling tricks on unsuspecting husbands, practical jokes involving pompous religious figures, and enjoyably naughty tangents like the one about the solitary monk and the young temptress who shows up at his cave.

It's over 800 pages long, but there's so much diversity I really didn't notice. Good stuff.


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A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland AND The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (Penguin Classics) review

Posted : 5 years, 3 months ago on 14 March 2012 12:45 (A review of A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland AND The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (Penguin Classics))

Best of friends, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson, venture into the wild, barbarous country of Scotland. (It turns out not to be quite so barbarous, but they meet a lot of wonderful people along the way.)
As travelogues go, I have to say that I found it a bit on the dull side. Still, there are some good points:

1.) While Johnson is busy observing the country and its people, Boswell is busy observing Johnson, leading to some great anecdotes regarding that grand character.

2.) It's an interesting view of 18th century Scotland, contrasted between the view of a native eager to share his culture (Boswell) and that of an extremely intelligent, but judgmental and contumacious personage (Johnson).

P.S: If Johnson was a magnificent frigate of high British culture, then Boswell was the sometimes annoying, self-important barnacle clinging to his hull. Never-the-less, without Boswell, we wouldn't know so much about Johnson, so we'll take what we can get.


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