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I last made serious contributions here in 2010 - please note the dates before commenting on anything I wrote back then.

656 Reviews by Chris

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LaBeautes
Peridress

Peridress

5/22/11
This is one of a collection of half a dozen Chinese sites based in Shanghai and owned by someone called Xiaozhe Zhou. Between them they sell Chinese fashion, bridal dresses, wigs, and more.

So this is likely to be a wholesaler running a dressmaking shop on the side. No way to tell, unless it's verified, as it's commonplace for Chinese sites to use a certain economy with the truth when describing their businesses.

The Chinese often don't run businesses the way we expect, to put it mildly. And even the honest ones assume that you've read ALL the details before handing over your money - who wouldn't?

So in case you don't spot the answers on the site, here are some useful questions to ask yourself before you do business here:

1. Is that dress in the photo one that you made?

Answer: No, we've never seen it. We took the picture from some other website because we thought we might be able to make something sort of like it, more or less.

2. Well is that the dress I will get, then?

Answer: No. We'll do our best to get it to look mostly the same, though.

3. What do you mean by "mostly the same"?

Answer: Well, for a start we're working from the photo, not the dress itself. And the color might be different. And the embroidery, we can't get that right at all. And obviously, the materials and the quality will be nowhere nearly the same. But apart from that, it will look more or less the same, mainly.

4. Will the dress fit me?

Answer: Probably not. You'll need to get it altered by someone locally, that's normal.

5. But will it at least be the same shape as in the photo?

Answer: mostly. It depends.

6. If I don't like it, may I ...

Answer: No.

7. How long will it take to get it?

Answer: In theory, a month, plus shipping time. Or however long it takes to make it.

This part is not a scam, because almost all of the above is right there on the site if you take the time to look for it before handing over your money.

But wait, I could be wrong, so go read some of the "testimonials" such as this one, from Sonia Smith:

"The moonlight Quinceanera prom dress was sent to me in 6 weeks, which was promised as a delivery time of Peridress. I came across the website in chance after thousands webpages was browsed and found no derised simple silhouette in dream. I placed an order immediately but my friends were skeptical about the dress quality worked out from an online dress shop. As result, I was the bid winner for the dress from experienced Peridress seam workers were beyond my imagination from the web-picture, everything was perfect only some wrinkles left on the well wrapped fabric. But it didn't care. All guests at the Quinceanera prom didn't meanly give their positive complements. I love it and will find more chances to wear. Thanks for their deligent work in my dress. "

Convincing, no? No. Everyone in the testimonials department seems to have come down with a case of me-no-speaky-Engrish, such as this one (and note the unfortunate use of the word "woe" instead of "wow", by the way!):

"When I knew I should do majority work of wedding plan, I was very confused. In particular for bridal gowns, I had nothing about it, although Sandra, a bridal-to-be had caught the fancy of different styles on Peridress, She was so excited to decide which is an exactly fit to her. Both of us felt nothing to do, however thank for their professional advisers, whose are so nice to provide with personal service throughout whole of order procedure and manufacture flow.

"They told that simple silhouette, for example a line will flatter me more. And I also said I need the same result of glim beading as picture on their website. Finally they made it. Woe, is the only word when I received my dress package and stand before the mirror to look into myself. Another thing can't be neglected is so promptly they are from the order placing day to sanding dress oversea. Nearly waiting for 40 business days, I got the dreamy dress.

"I couldn't restrain excitement to look forward to wedding banquet coming near. On Sept 5th 2009, almost all the people at this ceremony stared to give comments on my dress. "Beautiful", "perfect fit", and "stunning", all wonderful words swamped around to give a happiest feeling. "

This part IS a scam. The photos of these genuine brides and grooms have been stolen from the web and used here alongside clearly faked so-called testimonials, and this is all as phony as it gets.

If you're still unconvinced, take a look at the reviews, in which someone is threatening to report the site to the FBI. Are we done here yet?

Look, all this is right here on the site. Are you about to hand over $300 to these people? Even now?

Why?
Rovio Entertainment

Rovio Entertainment

5/10/11
Finnish software house Rovio is the developer of Angry Birds, currently the top-selling paid app on every mobile device in every country on every planet in the known universe. At the time of writing, sales figures run into the hundreds of millions and the game is being ported to just about any device, mobile or not, that can handle it. And that of course includes all smartphones, either Apple or Android or Nokia or Palm, Windows, Mac, all games consoles and even the color Nook e-book reader.

For anyone away in some not-entirely-parallel universe this last year, Angry Birds is a video puzzle game which involves stylized cartoon birds being launched by slingshot at stylized cartoon pigs. There are five different types of birds, each with their own special characteristics, and the pigs are protected in a variety of clever and frustrating ways by an assortment of materials of different degrees of destructibility. To progress through the levels, and there are hundreds of them, requires skill and practice; luck might play a part but it's skill that moves you along.

The description doesn't begin to explain why this is the single most addictive video game ever, leaping from mobiles to all devices and topping the charts all over the world. Nothing can explain that easily, you have to play it to understand. But if I had to pick a few characteristics, I'd say it appeals to everyone who needs to break things now and then - all of us, in other words; it appeals to anyone who loves beating puzzles set specifically to defeat them, and it's pitched at a skill level that keeps players having one more go, and progressing at exactly the right rate to sustain interest and tempt them to the next level. It's also funny and charming and silly enough to appeal to kids and adults alike. Like any good game of skill, you can learn how to play within minutes and then spend hours and hours learning that just knowing the rules is nowhere nearly enough.

And like any media phenomenon, we are now beginning to see the spin-offs: more games, cuddly toys, clothing and more cuddly toys. The movie, the TV series and the sponsored racing team are no doubt being lined up right now.

For this year at least, this is the "killer app" that almost every device is going to offer. It's not on the Blackberry yet, but that's close, so expect the level of attention at your next executive meetings to be less than perfect and don't believe anyone who says they have to answer an urgent call. Also coming soon is the ability to port your scores across devices, so you can carry on the same game on your iPhone, Nook, and PC depending on where you are. Just be careful not to keep Real Life on hold for too long, OK?

Note that this is the developer's website. To buy the app or the port, you'll need to go to the app store appropriate to your device or computer. For Windows, that's Intel AppUpp, and at the time of writing the price is $4.99, which is outstanding value for a game likely to occupy you for hundreds of hours.
NewsBiscuit

NewsBiscuit

5/7/11
Newsbiscuit (I guess that translates as "news cookie" for the US audience) is the UK's answer to The Onion, spoofing the top events of the day with a distinctly English bias. The rest of the world is represented, of course, or at least the civilized bits and the USA, but it will enhance your experience enormously if you have some grasp of British politics and politicians, TV celebs and other media personalities.

It has the very cool feature of allowing anyone to contribute, offering up whole articles, one-liners and headlines which are then considered for reproduction on the front page of the main site. Or as the writers' guidelines explain,

"NewsBiscuit is founded on the traditional capitalist values of getting others to do all the work and then not paying them for it."

Founded by comedy scriptwriter and author John O'Farrell, who wrote for such British institutions as Spitting Image and Have I Got News For You along with colleague Mark Burton, another contributor here, the site is now largely driven by reader contributions and is a great way to try out your English humor and see who throws the rotten tomatoes. It's free to register and post, it's free to vote on other writers' work, and there's even the challenge of a prestigious Writer Of The Month award if you're prepared to bribe the site owners enough.

All your work remains in your copyright, which is getting less enforceable these days but is still a welcome and appreciated touch. At least you can threaten to sue anyone who uses your work, on the remote offchance that it might be good enough to be worth plagiarising.

If you just want to read, you'll find there's a wide range of talent here and being a wide range, it does have a bottom, no-votes end as well as occasionally reaching into the realms of comedic greatness. As with all user-driven ideas, you'll understand the challenges and appreciate the successes that much more if you register and try it out for yourself, so don't be too dismissive of the failed attempts to entertain until you've had a go, yourself. It's fun and free, what more do you need?
Popbridal

Popbridal

5/6/11
As another reviewer has asked us to pounce, I thought I'd get in here and pounce. So without repeating anything we already know, here's something you might have missed: the registrant's address** is part-phony, part-joke and refers to a building which belongs to Harvard University, so I'm wondering if this isn't a student in-joke. Any ex-Harvard reviewers who missed that one, shame on you ;-)

(http://www.radcliffe.edu/about/map.aspx address number 2)
** http://whois.domaintools.com/popbridal.com

BTW the phone number given is a cell, most likely also phony but you never know. You could phone up and see if anyone with a Harvard accent answers.
Caitlin De Ville

Caitlin De Ville

5/6/11
You'd think Caitlin had everything going for her: beauty, youth, skill, an obvious love of performance and even a fashionably celtic name. And despite her propensity to playing her music while airborne on a trapeze or under water, and despite the odd gimmick of a bow with built-in lasers with which to play her custom electric violin while dressed as a pirate or standing in a fountain, she really, really can play.

So why have you never heard of her? She's in Zambia, which she describes as being about as far as you can get from anywhere. So, no US tours and no opening for Blue Man Group, for which, incidentally, she'd be perfect. We can only check out her site and visit her YouTube channel for now, and hope she will get the attention as a performer that will allow her to refine an act which is frankly not showcasing her talents as well as it might. Pity. She's actually good at what she does, lasers or not.
Texas Snakes

Texas Snakes

5/5/11
Every venomous snake in the USA lives in Texas, apparently, alongside more than a hundred non-venomous and non-aggressive species. So for Texans it may be more important to know the difference than for the rest of us, whose experiences of poisonous reptiles are generally limited to court cases and tax inspections. Oh, and elections, obviously.

This site is a solid educational source of serpentine information, run by "Clint the Snake Man", who spends his time teaching the folks of Texas that snakes are people, too, and may be invited to parties. No, really, he takes the snakes in his collection out to kids parties almost every day of the year, and will even cater for adult snake parties, though I should say immediately that these aren't *those* kinds of adult parties, in case you were thinking what I was thinking.

The site asks, "what's more fun than getting your picture taken with a beautiful snake around your shoulders?", which is a good question even if not one you may be prepared to answer immediately. For the many people who are scared of snakes or find them very uncomfortable even to look at or think about, this helpful site might be a starting point to overcoming those fears.

It couldn't have been done in a more friendly, accessible way and leaves you almost itching to get that snake round your neck at your next office party. It'll be an improvement on the office manager you had to deal with last year and you won't have to cope with it looking smug at the coffee machine the following morning.
Taobao

Taobao

5/4/11
I'm surprised this one got overlooked so let's catch up: This Chinese site sold more goods in 2010 than Ebay, which had already turned tail and fled from China when Taobao's parent company, Alibaba, acquired Yahoo! China in return for Yahoo getting a 40% stake in the business. That was back in 2005 and since then, there have been ongoing rumors that Yahoo and Alibaba weren't getting along, and there were alleged negotiations involving a break between the companies as Yahoo's investment in it wasn't working out. Rumors as late as the end of last year forecast doom for the "unhappy marriage".

So, in the inverted nature of such things, it should have come as no surprise when, just a couple of days ago at the time of writing, Yahoo USA received a huge boost from a big investment from a famous American hedge fund. The reason? The fund managers had done their sums and figured that Yahoo's share in Asia, and especially Alibaba, and especially Taobao, is going to be worth more than the entire company's declared public value today. Yahoo shares immediately shot up, something that probably doesn't happen as often as it might these days, and the fund made some money, naturally, and the owner of Alibaba declared that Taobao would be the next Walmart. Which it may well be, since everything at Walmart is probably already made in China anyway.

The site is in Chinese, naturally, but still worth a look for its, well, Chinese-ness, and for the joys of running it through Google Translate, which does a truly awful job. I found my way to the adult section at once, just at random of course, where I discovered that unlike Ebay, the site offers such delights as "Inflatable doll half shake entity male vocal apparatus", and "Semi-solid high explosive section 2011 inflatable doll real voice chiling special spike Japan". The Chinese appear to have overcome their long enmity with Japan when it comes to cutting-edge inflatables, and I'm not too surprised that there are none of the female tractor drivers and construction workers that you might expect from a purely Chinese range.

Spurred on by the prospect of another 99 pages in this category alone, I mused over "Japan semi-solid inflatable doll - gentle voice of female", which looks scarily like Ozzy Osbourn, was thoroughly turned off by "2011 latest buy a real shot to send ten feet high with" (don't ask), and amused that the site uses little images of steaming cups of tea to cover up the naughty bits. "100% genuine lovers doomed to be thrown swing male" was a puzzle even with the photo, but after much deliberation I settled on "2011 latest models have finger toes burst halfling entity" as my choice of imaginary evening entertainment. Although I declined the invitation to "cument the recent turnover" I did find many previous "cuments" and according to the translation, they were all good, Ebay-style, with plenty of "fast delivery", "great service", and so on, plus one "quick recharge" which may not have been correctly translated at all.

Anyway, there you are, the next Walmart and likely to be a tad more interesting than the current one, by the looks of it.
Indian Cook

Indian Cook

5/4/11
(yummy)

Indian cookery - what's not to like?

Don't be put off by the SNAKES, it's supposed to read "SNACKS". Whew. Maybe those guys with the baskets and ropes were actually "snack charmers"? That would make a lot more sense. Or not. I don't know, I wish I hadn't started this paragraph now.
KeyLlamaimage coming soon

KeyLlama

5/3/11
To clear up some possible misconceptions about these products, those on offer include a handful of hardware keyloggers and one GPS tracker.

The keyloggers are devices disguised as regular computer plugs and adapters, and they have to be inserted between the keyboard and the computer. They do not work on laptops or any device with a built-in keyboard. They cannot be seen by the computer software, but they can be seen physically. Hence unless someone has the back of their desktop computer concealed from view and is not ever going to want to get to it, there is a chance that they will see the device and remove it. And there goes your keylogger and the money you spent on it, because if I ever found one on my PC it would be flushed down the toilet for sure.

This may not be an issue for you, but you do need to remember that these are vulnerable to being spotted and identified, if the victim is smart or wise or suspicious enough.

It is generally illegal to monitor a legal adult and if your victim catches you, he or she may report you to the police.

To get the data back out of the device, you need to remove it and install it on a different computer. Afterwards, you need to replace it in the first computer again. This may increase the possibility of your scheme being discovered,

The GPS tracking device is similar in a couple of respects. It stores data which can only be accessed later on, by your retrieving it from the vehicle, loading it into another computer and downloading the data. It then has to be charged and replaced. It is much larger than a USB stick and again, there is a chance of discovery, or simply having it lost somewhere on the road. It is useless as a device to track a stolen car, since you cannot get the data until you recover it anyway.

Be aware that interfering with the privacy of adults is likely to be illegal wherever you are and you always will run the risk of being discovered, more so than if you use software designed to hide itself on a machine. That may have its own limitations, but I would certainly look at both options and especially since software is so much less expensive.

Obviously, if you so badly need to monitor a partner then you have problems you aren't going to solve by buying one of these anyway, but you knew that already.
QFX SOFTWARE

QFX SOFTWARE

5/1/11
Keyscrambler lives here. It's an application that tackles the problem of malware using a so-called 'keylogging' application to send all your keystrokes - typing, in other words, including passwords and personal data - through a backdoor and on directly to a hacker somewhere. Allegedly most types of malicious wares include a keylogging facility and most antivirus apps can't catch it reliably.

Keyscrambler deals with this in a unique way, by encrypting everything you type as you type it, and keeping it that way until the data reaches the application you are using, where it is decrypted again. The process is transparent to you, and protected deep within the Windows operating system. If you wish, though, you can watch the app at work and see the encrypted version of your text as you type. There is no appreciable decrease in processing speed.

The app comes in three flavors, including a free browser plug-in which works in Firefox and Internet Explorer and encrypts data entered into these apps only. The "Pro" version is, name notwithstanding, the one to get for the average user who types a lot of offline mail and correspondence in general, or who uses a different browser, as it protects a far greater range of applications. Lastly there is the Business version with some more bells and whistles. Prices are currently $25 and $45 respectively for the Pro and Business versions, the browser plug-in being free.

Nothing much to fault here, as long as the claims made for the app are as good as they seem, and there's no reason to doubt that. If you are concerned that you're typing sensitive information on a regular basis, in word processors and other offline applications, this is worth a look. Otherwise try out the free browser plug-in and keep your online secrets secret. What happens in Firefox should stay in Firefox.
Watchthisletme

Watchthisletme

4/30/11
File-sharing directory which links to other, similar venues by way of some of those dodgy deals and browser add-ons and stuff that you know better than to install. All linked material will have been pirated. One or two sneaky tricks are in place to get you to download and install things which are not what they seem to be, so all in all I'd stay well away from this one unless you can't think of a better way to get to pirated material and don't mind reinstalling your operating system later.
Daily Star

Daily Star

4/28/11
The Daily Star is the British newspaper that offered Sun readers something more mentally stimulating, or at least, some slightly longer words. It was the latest and last new newspaper to be published in the country since the Daily Worker, now named The Morning Star, a left-wing journal easily distinguished from its tabloid name-alike by the absence of boobs. The Daily Star, or just "the Star" is somewhat to the right of center, though focusing less on the political balance between left and right and more on keeping the boobs equally sized and preferably equidistant from the center. As such it continues the tradition of topless "Babes" established by The Sun's page three girls, and wouldn't last ten seconds in the USA, where nudity at the breakfast table has yet to make an impression on the print media. I must admit, after years in the States I was almost embarrassed to look at the Babes page here even though when I lived in England, I wouldn't have looked twice. Well, maybe just twice. But not thought much of it. How different we are here, happily selling such brain-dead nonsense as "Obama baby found on Moon" at the checkouts but balking at the odd pair of boobs with our breakfast bacon.

Apart from the photographic interest, the paper is largely concerned with the lighter side of the news, plus celeb gossip and sports. If the serious news happens to be sensational and hopefully involves celebs, sportsmen, royals, or vegetables shaped like the Virgin Mary, this is the place to read it. Or if not read it, at least look at the pictures.

But it's more intellectually challenging than its major rival, The Sun. According to Google, a massive 86% of readers are at the "intermediate" level, while The Sun manages only 70% and has double the amount of "basic" readers. Neither does terribly well in the "advanced" league, scoring 2%, but that's no huge surprise, because both papers know their markets and don't mess with them.

Nobody out-Murdochs Murdoch, which means that the Star might attract some Sun readers, but can't hope to achieve the same crass vulgarity which its mortal enemy pulls off so effortlessly. It claims to be Britain's most successful newspaper, but I don't know what it's the most successful at, as it's not saying.

If you're an expat, a trip to the website will fill you with either nostalgia or despair for the old country. I guess, like the topless babes, it all depends how you look at it.
Chai-tea.org

Chai-tea.org

4/28/11
Not invented by Starbucks after all, chai is the word for tea across India and most of Asia. A deceptively simple concoction of milk, black tea, spices and sugar, it has a character quite unlike any other beverage and lends itself readily to experimentation. If you're a fan, you make your own chai masala, which is the spice mix you add to the tea. This will most likely include cinnamon and ginger and coriander and other sweet and especially aromatic spices of your choice.

Otherwise, aside from Tazo (owned by Starbucks) there are many versions of chai readily available in tea bags, including Twinings, a common English one available in supermarkets at a reasonable price.

Ideally though, you make your own and this site includes recipes along with a wealth of chai knowledge and experience, including people's happy memories of their first chai, which are on a par with other first-time experiences that last forever.

MMmmmmmm ...
Beatrice

Beatrice

4/26/11
Once upon a time, the worldwide web was a creation of and for scientists, eventually escaping the labs and universities and stumbling out into the daylight, looking for something useful to do. Whether that goal has yet been achieved continues to be the subject of debate, but one thing that evolved early on was this site, which in one form or another, dates back to those glorious days in the mid-1990s when people still read books. If only while they were waiting for their dial-up connection and Netscape Navigator to load.

Introducing readers to writers is the goal here, in a blog by Ron Hogan and a vast archive of interviews with literary luminaries across the last fifteen years, names such as Douglas Adams, James Ellroy and Lisa See amongst many less immediately recognizable authors who have been introduced to readers here.

Still running and active, this is a heavily textual site as befits the subject matter, and also befitting the Wordpress blog that powers it, for once not re-imagined as a content-management system and adhering to the traditional left-hand blog, right-hand sidebar format. Easy to read and navigate.

I'm not saying this is the best possible venue for readers looking for new works and new authors, but it has to be up there amongst the best blogs. It's a bookmark for the book-minded and a source of some interesting early interviews that add to its authority and usefulness.

However, having said all that, I came here for Ron Hogan's translation of the Tao Te Ching. Not exactly shiny and new, it's from 2004 but it's the latest of the best attempts to translate this into English and it's far and away the most daring.

I'll spare you the tale and the theories about the origins and authorship of the Tao Te Ching itself, because as one of the pillars of Chinese philosophy there are many sites devoted to it already. Suffice it to say that it's more than 2000 years old, written to be relevant to the times, regardless of the passage of time, and it carries just as powerful a message today as it did whenever it was written. As such, it's vital that any translation is sensitive to zeitgeist, and that's a challenge to any translator. Ron Hogan is such a sensitive, and he's somehow managed to get away with a radical rewrite in modern idioms, without the almost inevitable outcome of the establishment guarding the original and hating him for messing around with it. For once, someone has made a classic work more readable and been accepted.

Here's a sample of one of the earlier translations of the book:

REASON'S REALIZATION.

1. The Reason that can be reasoned is not the eternal Reason. The name that can be named is not the eternal Name. The Unnamable is of heaven and earth the beginning. The Namable becomes of the ten thousand things the mother.

Therefore it is said:

2. "He who desireless is found
The spiritual of the world will sound.
But he who by desire is bound
Sees the mere shell of things around."

3. These two things are the same in source but different in name. Their sameness is called a mystery. Indeed, it is the mystery of mysteries. Of all spirituality it is the door.

And here's Ron Hogan:

If you can talk about it,
it ain't Tao.

If it has a name,
it's just another thing.
Tao doesn't have a name.
Names are for ordinary things.

Stop wanting stuff;
it keeps you from seeing what's real.
When you want stuff,
all you see are things.

Those two sentences
mean the same thing.
Figure them out,
and you've got it made.

http://www.beatrice.com/wordpress/tao-te-ching
http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Right-Tao-Contemporary-Ching/dp/*******982
OptYourLife

OptYourLife

4/26/11
It might be worthwhile, I will never know. Be warned, because having spent your time completing the test and waiting for the result, you will be dumped unceremoniously if you have AdBlock or any other ad blocking software turned on. You appear to lose all the results, since going back resets the test and going forward again just gives the same message even if you have subsequently turned your ad blocking off.

The excuse is that the site owner needs the money from the advertizing in order to keep the site free. Not convincing. There are other ways to advertize and other ways to earn ad revenue, and in this case and who knows how many others, the site has just lost a potential paying customer and shot itself in the foot.

In many places, your local employment department is much better qualified to tell you not only what your strengths are, but more importantly, whether there are any actual jobs to be had locally. And that service is free. It might be worth checking out.

This test might be useful - I'll never know, but perhaps if you're just starting out and really don't know what to do, it may well give you a sense of your aptitudes and weaknesses. It won't tell you whether you're suited for any of the work that's actually available, though, and there are so many factors involved in just getting past an interview that this can only ever be a part of the process.

If it's ever accessible without the advertizing restriction, let me know, I'll go have another look. For now, though, meh.
Cherry Red

Cherry Red

4/24/11
I came here from across the pond as an excuse to review Pink Floyd's Greatest Hits Covered, a budget double album released on this label at the end of last year (and on Redline in the USA). This is not a big, shiny American record company, it's the oldest and most revered English independent with a hugely diverse range of labels encompassing an equally eclectic range of material. So go check them all out for yourself, because I don't have the space here.

But a budget Christmas tribute album, by Various Artists, was surely bound to fail for at least the reasons that nobody would approve of the track selection, regardless, and every track that was chosen would be panned for being too close or too far from the originals. What were they thinking?

Well, I was right about the selection. There's room for 30 tracks here, but given the source material, no way is that enough. So whole albums, notably Animals and The Division Bell, have been ignored. But the big surprise is that instead of DSOTM getting the pig's share of the space, as you'd expect with a double album compilation, instead we get The Wall.

Now I know it's a famous album, movie and T-shirt range, but no way is every track here a Greatest Hit. This is, however, probably what Pulse would have been in the hands of Roger Waters, and it would have been less memorable for that. No offense, but The Wall needs space around it whereas DSOTM, though also a concept album, plays well with others.

The redeeming feature, and why, aside from the bargain price, I think you should add it to your collection, is that some impressive players have turned out for this one. You'll find Steve Lukather, Keith Emerson, Dweezil Zappa, most of Yes, and King Crimson, and Toto, Asia and more. By and large, the material is in safe hands and where it's presented with respect, as a tribute, it generally comes off well.

I have to say, though, that some of these bricks don't fit too well and where interpretation and experiment take over from tribute, the result is less memorable.

No Floyd cover album is going to rise above being a tribute, because the originals were perfect the first time around, and continue to be revered by a huge fan base. This album attempts to tread a line just far enough away from the originals to keep the faith and still be different, but not too far to become painfully experimental. In all but a very few embarrassing diversions, it succeeds pretty well.

I've listened to other Floyd tributes, and less uneven and more pleasing overall, but despite its faults, I'd say that the unusual track selection, personnel and budget price of this one make it a keeper unless you really, really can't cope with the despairing atmosphere introduced by the presence of The Wall.

Official UK page:
http://www.cherryred.co.uk/remix/artists/variouspinkfloyd.php

From Amazon independent dealers for under $10:
http://www.amazon.com/Pink-Floyd-Greatest-Hits-Covered/dp/B0045U3AJ4
VampireFreaks

VampireFreaks

4/23/11
Shakespeare would have understood the emo thing; life's but a walking shadow, he would have observed, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more: it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. And the mid- to late teens populating this community would have agreed, whilst nevertheless getting happily drunk and uploading awkward photographs of themselves reflected in their bathroom mirrors.

Whatever excesses are displayed here, I'm quite confident that the vast majority of members will evolve into whatever passes for normal adulthood by the time they get there. I would be concerned, perhaps, as a parent, but a darned sight more concerned about some of the adults who populate the web's human sideshows. They never grew out of it and are infinitely more threatening.

If the creators of MySpace had left instructions to freak out anyone over 25, and nine out of ten parents, and not by appalling web design, hideous noise and ghastly commercialism, it might have looked like this. Yes, it's populated by high-school and college-age teens who are, as coming-of-age movies are won't to describe it, exploring their sexuality. Yes, it's populated by pubescent girls - and in some cases boys - in zombie makeup and frequently somewhat underdressed for the occasion. But although more explicit material may well pass in private, I saw nothing here that would raise an eyebrow or anything much else on the beach.

If I had to offer up a serious concern, it's that the experience for a much older adult is uncomfortably like wandering unseen around a residential dorm after hours. Those who are attracted erotically to such a scenario are going to be in their element. For the rest of us, the keyword is "uncomfortably", because as voyeuristic as this might be, there's a limit to the amount of teenage angst you can cope with before the desire to do something reassuringly vital in the real world sets in.

Compared to the textual communities of the past, the faux-daring imagery and ubiquitous YouTube clippings of today's teen venues promise a heightened sense of presence, but can't deliver the intensity of feelings that a solid paragraph of pure pubescent misery can bring to the page. Despite the spikes and the vampire makeup, this is less scary than, say, Tripod.com, back in the late '90s when the adolescent anguish dripped from every line of every page and formed a small pool of suffering somewhere down there by the copyright line.
RealSimple

RealSimple

4/23/11
According to the 'painless changes you can make for a green home' here, if you eat one vegetarian meal a week, that's equivalent to driving a hybrid vehicle. Presumably that implies, taking one gas-only vehicle off the road and replacing it with a hybrid. So given that there are about 62 million cars on the road here, and we can assume that vegetarians eat 7 vegetarian dinners a week, we'd need roughly another 9 million vegetarians in addition to the 7.3 million we already have, to make the equivalent of every family driving a hybrid vehicle instead of a gas-powered one. And we'd never need to build any more hybrids, just go on recruiting new vegetarians at the rate of one adult vegetarian and family per every seven new gas-powered cars. And we wouldn't need to actually take any gas-powered cars off the road, either.

Wait, what?

Well I don't know, it's too complicated for me, I'm a man. But it's a pretty simple site otherwise, which seems to be aimed at busy moms and single girls who could use help with boiling eggs, using leftover boiled eggs, painting easter eggs, and discovering new ways to use old CDs. For example, you can write on them and send them to people as party invitations, in cushioned envelopes, at about a dollar postage each. The old CDs then become the problem of the recipients, who are hopefully reading the same site and know to make them into cook book dividers and give them back to you as party favors.

I also learned what sort of bra to choose to wear under a T-shirt if you have one baggy breast, a problem I'd never even considered previously, but one which presumably haunts women with listing bosoms. The recommended product is a scary $95, though, so you'd have to be more than haunted, I reckon. Possessed, even. Mind you to be honest I have no idea how much these contraptions normally cost, never having bought one and generally preferring to cope with bosoms as they come, uneven or not.

This being entirely a chick thing, and a new-mom, never-cleaned-house, never-cooked sort of chick too, it's a playground for crass male humor. To its target audience, it's perfect, so take no notice of me. Men really aren't supposed to be in here at all.

PS In regard to the much older review, I run Firefox with AdBlock and saw no pop-ups or pop-unders at all here.
SCR

SCR

4/20/11
I came across this one apparently discarded in one of the many creative cul-de-sacs in the dusty corners of the web, homes to ideas that seemed good at the time, teams that fell out, inventions that didn't work, innovation that proved too far ahead of its time, concepts outpaced by events. The expansion of the web implies that there must be many such, though search engines try to sneak past without disturbing them if possible.

In this case, it's a Japanese collaborative arts project that produced a handful of innovative screensavers back in 2009, boasted of the beginnings of an exciting new project, and has apparently gathered dust ever since, with bug fixes for the work but nothing new. Which is a shame, as what did get produced was a refreshing change to most contemporary screensavers - probably why it never caught on.

There are animated examples of the work on the front page, click on each to see a video clip of the work in action.

The concept of screensavers is redundant, but just won't lie down and die respectably. Even operating system manufacturers continue to ship entirely pointless screensavers and probably will do so indefinitely, long after anyone remembers what a screensaver was originally intended to do. There's a great opportunity for the digital arts community to exploit here, and save us from the endless fantasy clocks, fish tanks and landscape scenes that dominate the genre, especially given the capability of modern machines to run fluid interactive graphics on the desktop. This project doesn't seem to have broken through, which I think is a pity. Perhaps, too Japanese, too arty.

Still, worth a passing visit, if only to admire the idea of a screensaver based on the current real-time wind speed in your city.

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