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Movie Reviews

Jet Li’s “Hero” Review

I already know what you’re thinking, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. Let me start by saying “wrong!” While this does explore Asian mythos on a small level, it actually taps into China’s (arguably) biggest historical figure to date. Qin is the man responsible for uniting China into one land, and is also responsible for the creation of the Great Wall (of China). Hero’s focus is actually telling about the method of uniting China. So everyone is wondering, is this a second rate “Crouching Tiger..” or a first rate Hero?

Plot:
There are many devices in this movie, the plot is magnificent and compels the movie forward. It begins as a nameless warrior (Jet Li) arrives at the emperor’s palace, and the warrior comes bearing fantastic news for he has killed off the King’s assassins and now the king will finally let someone within 100 paces of himself. The emperor has the nameless one recount his story of how he killed the foes and thus the action of the movie unfolds in flashbacks. I really do not want to go too far into the plot as it is truly special in the way it is interwoven with the characters and action. Just know that it’s very intriguing without even letting you know what to consider as truth and what is fiction.

Acting:
I always enjoy non-english acting, because I don’t notice bad dialogue, the very language of Chinese (Asian language in general) always comes across so authentic and genuine that there’s hardly room for corny lines to be noticed. The drawback is of course that you have to read all the dialogue (which, by the way, gave me a splitting headache when watching “Crouching Tiger..”), but here it is not that difficult since there is a lot of non-verbal skills at work, and it’s used very effectively. The whole cast effectively brings the story along with a sense of purpose and destination.

I particularly enjoy the culture’s values on things such as honor and humility, yet a high amount of pride in family and people (I’m not an anthropologist, but that’s the impression I get). Throughout the film there are distinct impressions of respect for everyone, even their enemies are respected in life and death and this is beautifully communicated throughout.

Directing:
Zhang Yimou did an amazing job with the use of actual locations mixed with perfect colors. Now colors are not always utilized in a movie’s concept and themes, instead colors are mainly used to set the tone and mood. However, in “Hero” there clearly is some symbolic meaning attached to the way he uses colors, although I wasn’t particularly clear on the all the meanings attached to the color schemes it was apparent that there’s more depth to the film awaiting anyone who cares explain it to me.

The locations chosen for filming are all native to China and are very beautiful indeed. There are many moments captured simply by expressions and camera angles. If there is only one word to express or describe this movie, the word would have to be “beautiful”.

Final Thoughts:
Summarizing this movie is by no means simple, it’s a very complex movie with a lot of heart and homeland pride involved. In Asia, it was actually released two years prior to the U.S. release, but they did not wish to release it here immediately so it would not be written off as a “Crouching Tiger…” wannabe, and this is anything but a wannabe. On the contrary it stands perfectly on its own and will find its way into the category of timeless masterpiece.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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Music Reviews

Nas: God’s Son Review

It would appear Nas has been busy since dropping his last LP “Stillmatic”. Since then he has managed to put out a lost tapes collection, a remix collection as well as his latest LP “God’s Son”. At this point Nas has little to prove to the industry or to the streets, he can without a doubt produce, flow and look the part of a street warrior without breaking stride. He managed to pack in 7 guest appearances throughout the span of these 14 tracks which is probably be a record for him as he prides himself on being able to hold down a track by his lonesome. He’s arguably sitting as king of the east coast rap game, will he be dethroned?

“God’s Son” opens up with “Get Down”, laden with trumpets, pianos and a bassline that will invoke a 70’s memory, even if you weren’t born yet. The hook is so simplistic yet very effective that it will be ringing in your ears, so far Nas is off to a good start. We move on to “The Cross” with a very slow beat with a scratch at the end of the bar. Mr. Jones decides to let the streets know that he’s carrying ‘the cross’ of the rap game, and calls out various people as well as methods of rap such as the use of R&B hooks, but isn’t he rumored to be hooking up with Irv Gotti? Anyway, just a self-hyped up track not worth hearing more than twice.

Moving on to “Made You Look” we are once again transported to the past via the beat, this time we are transported into the late 80s with Nas’ updated verbal spit. I think we have our official first track gone to absolute waste. Production is all off, the voice/beat mixture doesn’t work at all, the beat is just plain wack, and it ends with an acapella finish which is also horrid.

“Last Real Nigga Alive” is another detriment to this CDs name. It’s as if the kick drum and clap was stolen from “Thriller” and mixed with a synth from “Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind”, the hook is wasted oxygen that will only stress trees and their liberal counterparts.

If out of place tracks is the objective, then “Zone Out” fits right in. The beat consists of a kick and snare played in reverse, and a background that makes you wonder if Nas couldn’t afford Neptunes and took the next best thing, which is still wasted money making me wish Nas had ponied up the dough for the real thing. Oh yea, the Bravehearts are on here too, and they are also out of place. Sloppy hook, sloppy beat, decent lyrics makes this song equivalent to pots and pans noises pounded on by a singing 8 year old.

We are next accompanied by lovely singers Kelis and Claudette Ortiz on “Hey Nas”, but apparently our host didn’t feel it neccessary to get full usage out of them by supplying a good hook for them to shine on (wasn’t he ripping RnB hooks a few tracks back?). Going for the majestic feel to build up an air of Nas looking for love this track is another failure outside of a few lyrical spouts. Feel free to fast forward through this track.

Dear Lord, not another 80s kick and snare, yet “I Can” ultimately can’t. It would seem that Nas wanted to make a track for his child to give a positive message while using a Beethoven sample and allowing children to follow his lead on the chorus. This would have been better suited on a “Sesame Street” soundtrack, where there would perhaps be less contradicting statements with other songs on the CD. “Book of Rhymes” starts with a laid back keyboard and bass rift, and smoothly mixes with Nas’ vocals. Our self-proclaimed son of God spews old verses that were never used and makes a song out it, a good idea that is pulled off slyly, but only worth a few listens.

“Thugz Mansion” features Tupac and J. Phoenix, both give outstanding performances over an acoustic guitar. Strangely, I greatly enjoyed this on Tupac’s “Better Dayz” but find myself impatient for the track to end on Nas’ slightly different version, it comes across unoriginal since Tupac’s version was released a month before Nas’. Should’ve left this as a B side. The next song, “Mastermind” starts off with a refreshing bass-lead beat, but soon after quenches the thirst. Quickly forgettable chorus is only echoed with lazy flow, which is disturbing to hear Nas miss opportunities to spit flame.

Alicia Keys is featured next on “Warrior Song” and delivers a commanding hook. The intro to the song leaves you shaking your head but when the beat drops it’s a sigh of relief, because it’s a solid beat. Nas switches his flow to a more militant style to fit in seamlessly with the beat as if his voice is just another instrument used by the producer. A definite highlight to please your ears. “Revolutionary Warfare” features Lake who holds his own during the 2nd verse. The chorus is weak as Nas spouts a few quick uncatchy lines. The 3rd verse is shared between Nas and Lake, nothing noteworthy here though.

The most heartfelt song Nas has offered thus far is without a doubt “Dance” where Nas speaks to his late mother Ann Jones. The beat does its duty providing a reminiscent feel that allows Nas to express his heart concerning his mother. The tracks ends on a trumpet with a wah-wah mute which is awkward at first but then settles into place. Our last feature guest Jully Black is on the last track “Heaven” (before the bonus disc), a beautiful hook starts on a thought-invoking beat and ultimately a nice track which is probably inspired by Nas’ late mom.

Now we start the bonus disc with “Thugz Mirror Freestyle” which has a beat similar to the other 80s felt beats, read: 13 years too late. Don’t worry about looking for this proclaimed bonus. “Pu*** Killz” starts with bouncing strings, and then sparks a peacful piano rip, the track soon turns urgent once Nas starts spittin about sex. Bearable flow depicting the dangers of women, sex and love. Chalk this up to the forgettable category if there’s anymore room left. We end on “The God” where Nas declares “The God’s Son King of NYC”, which is par for the course at this point (not a good thing).

Well it looks to me that Nas went for a retro-80s retake that is bound to give him heart pains once he realizes what he released: a retro-80s mix that should’ve only had a handful of songs make the final cut. According to Jay-z’s math, we have to wait another 9 years before Nas drops another phenomenal classic, and so far Jay is right. With only a few exceptions Nas shoots enough blanks to white out his book of rhymes, God may have to disown his son here, assuming God will even associate himself with Nas in the same sentence. It pains me to do it, but Nas fully deserves his 2 out of 5 stars.

Track Listing:
1. GET DOWN
2. THE CROSS
3. MADE YOU LOOK
4. LAST REAL NIGGA ALIVE
5. ZONE OUT (W/BRAVEHEARTS)
6. HEY NAS (W/KELIS & CLAUDETTE ORTIZ OF CITY HIGH)
7. I CAN
8. BOOK OF RHYMES
9. THUGZ MANSION (W/TUPAC & J. PHOENIX)
10. MASTERMIND
11. WARRIOR SONG (W/ALICIA KEYS)
12. REVOLUTIONARY WAR (W/LAKE)
13. DANCE
14. HEAVEN (W/JULLY BLACK)

Bonus Tracks:
Thugz Mirror Freestyle
Pu*** Killz
The God

2 out of 5

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Music Reviews

Scarface: Balls and My Word Music Review

If you don’t know who Scarface is, then this isn’t the CD you need to pick up. You would be better off swinging through the mall and finding “The Diary” or even his latest success “The Fix”, although those are hardly his only releases, just the peak of the glacier actually. When Face left off on “The Fix” I was mad hyped up over him all over again just like when I was younger, so when I heard through the grapevine that he was already releasing another CD the anticipation rose to new heights. However, isn’t it always unfair to expect an artist to do a repeat performance since they’re supposedly looking to take their flavor in a new direction and try new stuff out? Not to me. When I got the advanced copy my hopes were floating pretty dang high. The turnout? <sigh> Not what I was hoping, but still above the average artists skill level, word is that many verses from here are taken from some of his previously layed flow from a few years back.

The intro was pretty nice, he brought back some of these old school samples that he used on his old joint “Mr. Scarface”, pretty hot. He brings a little heat in “Recognise” when he spits out “how can a nigga from the south get a pass in every section / and walk the projects with no protection / be surrounded by a mob, and not get robbed / can a sinner be a savoir and not be God?”. The beat has that down south style to it, but not as nice as “On My Grind”, this beat is serious fire with a slow bobbin bass line and piano rift. Face flows about his days of slinging powder and making connections as a youngster, Z-Ro laces the chorus and makes it nice.

“Bitch Nigga” samples Dre’s hits on his beat and 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”, and is aimed at calling out snitches and haters, Z-Ro spits some hot stuff “look at mama’s baby out here starvin for an ass whippin / beefin with a magician and trippin, now his ass missin / I’ll be damned if I pull a rabbit out of a hat / but pull a pistol outta a holster and put a bitch nigga on his back”, and if you get a chance to listen to this track, that third verse is blazing, but I’ll leave that for you to discover.

“Stuck At The Standstill” is still Face droppin street science over a street beat, nicely done. “Strapped” is a short interlude of a guy/girl phone conversation that could’ve been left out. “Only Your Mother” brings in Houston favorite Devin the Dude, the hook is saying “only your mother could love you”, and the verses go on to talk trash about multiple situations on women. Not really a brilliant song or any notable flow, just brings a derogatory feel to women that is not contributing anything worthy of praise from a professed Christian.

Speaking of faith, the next track “Make Your Peace” develops thoughts on God and afterlife. The beat is provoking and sparks the mind to listen and think, Scarface goes over different lines of thought such as God versus science, or Christian Scientists and the like. The only problem is that any valid thought in this song is drowned out by the rest of Face’s music and lyrics that reveal the contradiction in his words leaving no room for one to take advice from a hypocrite.

Aries sings the hook on “Spend The Night” which is about one night stands. Hot beat brings a vibe of something you would roll to on a summer night, the lyrics are seriously lacking though. “Mary 2” is a psychedelic song about weed. I’m sure Mr. Jordan accomplished what he was going for which is a song to vibe to while you’re high, but since I’m critiquing here, he should’ve dropped some of the mid-level sounds to make his voice more clearly heard. “Dirty Money” mixes in a 70’s style with a little 90’s, definitely a nice feel to it. The topic is obvious from the title, it’s all about the street hustle and Tanya Herron is a nice addition for the chorus since she fits like a puzzle piece for this bluesy-rap song.

“Fuckin with Face” and “Invincible” are average as far as Scarface beats go, nothing notable and nothing to track back to, the latter suffering the same mixing fate as “Mary 2”. Mostly filled with mundane lyrics, but there’s a few hot lines here and there on “Invincible”. “Real Nigga Blues” is a hot spoken word track, very dramatic and some great vocal emphasis from Lil Papa Roach.

Now I’m a big fan of Scarface from way back, and there’s definitely some pretty phat tracks on here such as “Recognise”, “Bitch Nigga”, “Stuck At The Standstill”, “On My Grind”, “Make Your Peace”, but that’s about it (unless you’re in the mood for spoken word over a dark beat then “Real Nigga Blues” is for you). Face has been a street legend for years now, and this definitely won’t deteriorate that in the least, but it probably won’t be remembered after a couple years either. Now the only other issue that Face needs to address outside of the things already mentioned is the marketing, very few people are even aware of this CD being released, perhaps he’s experimenting and trying to see if he can produce a more long term sales effect by letting the music promote itself? Who knows the bottom line is that this is not his finest work and neither his worst, it’s mediocre when it compares to his other releases and above 90% of other emcees’ work, thus it deserves the very fine rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Track Listing:
01. Balls and my Word
02. Recognise
03. On My Grind ft. Z-Ro
04. Bitch Nigga ft. Z-Ro and Dirt Bomb
05. Stuck At The Standstill
06. Strapped
07. Only Your Mother ft. Devin the Dude
08. Make Your Peace
09. Spend the Night ft. Aries
10. Mary 2
11. Dirty Money ft. Tanya Herron
12. Fuckin’ with Face
13. Invincible
14. Real Nigga Blues ft. Lil Papa Roach

3.5 out of 5

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Articles

How Do You Know What Is The Right Thing To Do?

With all of the books, tapes, seminars, and lectures regarding money and finances, how does one decide what is best? First and foremost, it is important to formulate some goals regarding your money. These goals should encompass the long-term as well as the short-term. Are there kids to put through college? Is there mortgage to pay off? Is the Caribbean calling, or is it simply time to increase the amount put into retirement or savings? Yes, all of the books and tapes, etc. available might seem enticing, but if it is not in line with goals you have created then it will just be a waste of money.

Time and time again it has been stated that goals should be many things. Among these they should have the ability to be measured, be able to be achieved, and most importantly, the goals should be realistic. Another important fact regarding goals is that they should be written down somewhere. Writing them down, or just saving them somewhere, makes goals more concrete and allows the ability to review and update as needed.

After goals are established and a path is created then, if further research is desired, books, tapes, seminars, and lectures can be scrutinized. Any information that can be obtained with little or no money is good as long as the information is coming from a reputable source. It would be wise to shy away from deals that promise any type of get rich quick scenario. Furthermore, some seminars might be free on the outset, but once there it is found that money must be spent to find out the rest of the story. All of this will just come down to understanding the motives behind the products. Is it really to help you out or is it more to help their wallet?

Knowing the right thing to do comes down to knowing yourself and understanding your abilities and limitations. Limitations can be changed through educating oneself in the importance and power that money holds. Additionally there are many competent professionals available to answer questions and offer guidance.

By Catherine Monreal

Catherine received her B.S. in Finance in 2006 and is currently pursuing her M.B.A. in Finance.

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Articles

When Couples Ponder on the Reason for Infertility

Hundreds of thousands of married couples feel driven to learn why they seem unable to start or enlarge a family. Hundreds of thousands of married couples ponder on the reason for infertility problems, the unwanted “guest” in their bedroom.

When a couple already has one or two children, the most likely reason for infertility problems is age. Statistics show that the percent of complete pregnancies declines as a population ages. An older woman must accept an increased likelihood that her egg might not survive the long trip down her fallopian tube to her uterus.

Still, the reason for infertility problems should never be automatically attributed to a female partner. For about 40% of couples with infertility problems the cause lies in a failure of the woman’s reproductive physiology. In another 40% of such couples a problem with the man’s physiology has caused the couple’s infertility problems.

Sometimes a couple’s infertility problems derive from a combination of male and female problems. At other times the reason for infertility problems remains a mystery to the most knowledgeable health professionals. A medical history does not always reveal sufficient evidence to support a suspected case of male or female infertility.

One medical history suggests that a later marriage can, in some cases, decrease chances that a couple might need to hear about the suspected reason for infertility problems. One young woman with menstrual problems delayed marriage until a time when those problems had become a quickly-forgotten concern. Having normal periods at the time of her marriage, that woman faced no infertility problems.

Had that woman chosen to become a younger bride, she and her husband might have been forced to ponder about the reason for infertility problems. The medical history of that woman suggested an earlier failure to produce gonadotropin releasing factor. When the woman’s hypothalamus failed to produce that factor, her pituitary gland failed to produce an adequate amount of lutenizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).

The low amount of FSH and LH in the woman’s bloodstream prevented production of estrogen. As a result, that woman went a number of years without a period. Neurosurgery eventually corrected the problem. That woman was later able to bear two children.

The above story offers specific details about one possible reason for infertility problems. Other couples with infertility problems will no doubt discover yet another possible cause for the failure of a couple to have children.

A woman might, for example, have a blocked fallopian tube. That would prevent an egg from reaching the uterus. A woman might have endometriosis. Cells lining the endometrium of such a woman would demonstrate a strange behavior; they would, at times, migrate to various locations within her pelvic cavity.

In order to eliminate infertility problems caused by the male partner, fertility experts usually examine the man’s sperm. They make sure he is able to produce a sufficient number of sperm. They also look for misshapen sperm, or sperm that show signs of weighing either too much or too little.

by Sue Chehrenegar
Sue has an MS in Biomedical research along with 30 years of experience in her field of study.

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Music Reviews

Nappy Roots: Wooden Leather Review

Nappy Roots banged out a name for themselves with their first single “Awnaw” off their debut CD “Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz”, then set it to relatable heights with their second single release “Po’ Folks” single-handedly putting Kentucky on the hip hop map. Nappy is composed of six men putting it down for their state without any shame whatsoever. After a full listen to their debut CD it wouldn’t be true in any shape to deny their talent and level of excellence. So after having such a successful (and may I say ridiculous) first album, will they be jinxed by the sophomore slump?

Let’s begin with the production. There is not a bad beat on this entire album, some songs have exceptional beats however, such as “Nappy Roots Day” which sets the mood incredibly well with a lot of low noises and a voice sample that strings the beat along. The only producers you may recognize is Raphael Saadiq, (“Work In Progress”, “Leave This Morning”) who is more commonly viewed as an artist than a producer, Kanye West (“These Walls”) and Lil Jon (“What Cha Gonna Do?” (The Anthem)). That’s right, no Timbaland, no Puffy and no Neptunes, and guess what? It’s a more original album for it. Lots of guitars, hand claps and organs lace plenty of beats without the monotony ever drying it up, especially with crazy beats thrown in like “Twang”.

Raphael Saadiq is definitely not a disappointment with his production skills and is actually really nice on “Leave This Morning” creating a very neo soul environment and for a moment you forget you’re listening to some Kentucky boys kicking some flow with the hook provided by the man behind the mixing board, good stuff. His skill doesn’t quit there though, he hooks us up again on “Work In Progress” (which he does not add his vocals to), a very intellectually provoking aura to back up such lyrics as “everybody knows it costs to be the boss / yeah the price is kinda steep, but sacrifice is never cheap”. Kanye does an amazing job on “These Walls”, the beat never taking the focus off the lyricists yet not making it impossible for them to make a point, the ending of the song however may leave you speechless in empathy as you hear a public sampling of the announcement of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. Lil Jon’s beat could easily be identified in a police lineup, not that it’s bad in any way, it’s just very Lil Jon-ish is all I’m saying, but it’s good none the less.

The greatest compliment to the production (Executive Produced by Kevin Mitchell & Mike Caren, Caren Exec Produced their previous album) is that the music never gets stale and always supports the group, always falling into its proper position as another supporting member there to provide atmosphere for head bobbing, chin scratching, or in Lil Jon’s case, carpet cutting.

The overall style of Nappy Roots is so diverse that they won’t allow you to predict their next move, other than the obvious “it won’t be something we’ve already done”. It’s a brilliant mix of different character styles yet constantly taking a focused approach to each track to present near perfect harmony. The track ordering seems like it was planned out before the tracks were even laid down, good flow of the CD. Guest appearances were kept to a low, I guess when you have six people to draw talent from there really isn’t much need to call in a lot of outside sources. The only guests are Anthony Hamilton (from the first album’s “Po’ Folks”) on “Push On”, and the aforementioned Raphael Saadiq, both delivering admirable performances.

Lyrically it’s tough to correct them, each one delivers on-point performances always stepping up to the plate and getting the job done with no slouch. Here’s a few excerpts:

“…why my wife is curious / bout how much she could get me on for life insurance / wish there was bummin, no problems, that’s when life was purest / mo’ money mo’ problems that’s right notorious”: “Sick & Tired”.

“baby I told you how I made a dollar, outta dime and a nickel / blue collar, gotta grind on instrumentals / see my pencil and pad has been punchin the clock / I put in time and a half skip lunch I can’t stop”: “Leave This Morning”.

“slept and ate with our peeps but we let the streets raise us / kept the weed blazin and the let drink age us / used to live outrageous / now we just couch potat’es / without the wages / straight out them project cages / make do with what we got, use the logic that God gave us….” “Now we finally feelin plush / goin gotta do it keep our nails air brushed / J’s straight out the box ain’t ne’er been touched”: “Push On”.

“”I’m bout 3,000 miles from Graceland / by the county from Akin / but you would think an arm reach from satan”: “These Walls”.

Obviously, that’s only a taste and will not do justice without the style and presentation. They definitely do not bring some lyrical flow that is tough to outwrite, but they bring it with conviction and a deep sense of poetry which makes it more real for the listener and more than mere words. Choruses are sharply written with precision you could only find on an exacto-knife. “Good God Almighty”, “Nappy Roots Day”, “Push On” and “Leave This Morning” are a few of the oustanding ones (there’s many), but very few fall below quality level. The only ones that could use a new thought are “War / Peace”, “What Cha Gonna Do?”, and some were just decent like “Light & Dark” and “Twang”. Some party vibes are shot through joints like “What Cha Gonna Do?” and “Twang”, which are both sure to make DJ’s happy roun’ the globe.

Overall, a very quality album to cop (which is highly recommended) which should not disappoint many if any. If you thought their debut CD was worth while, then you’ll love the latest since it surpasses the forerunner which is not easily done when an artist debuts a hot CD, most typically crumble under the pressure to be too creative and end up with a crappy record, but clearly not here, they keep it nappy to the fullest. 4 out of 5 stars.

Track Listing:
1. Intro
2. Good God Almighty
3. Nappy Roots Day
4. Roun’ The Globe
5. Lac Dogs & Hogs
6. Sick & Tired
7. Twang
8. Leave This Morning ft. Raphael Saadiq
9. Work In Progress
10. Push On ft. Anthony Hamilton
11. No Good
12. These Walls
13. War / Peace
14. Roll Again
15. What Cha Gonna Do? (The Anthem)
16. Light & Dark
17. Outro
18. Roun’ The Globe (Collipark Remix)

4 out of 5

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The Need to Know On Care Packages for Soldiers

With today’s society thrust into a war that has seemed to wear on and not end, families have to deal with things like deployment. Deployments are tours of duty where a person can be sent to hostile territory and be gone anywhere from 4 months to 18 months. A person can see this everyday as they stand in line at the post office and see a woman come in with two or three small children lugging a big box with a very unusual address on it. She fills out a white custom form and hands it to the attendant. She usually sends it priority mail because that means it will get there in about 6 to 7 days compared to two weeks or so. She has learned to have everything written right and to come at the time when there is hardly a line and the post office is not very busy, she is a military wife.

For family members who are not as knowledgeable about how to send packages they have to look on the web or even try to call to see what not to pack or even what could last the long journey that might be extremely hot or cold. Well enclosed is a “how to list” of things to send your soldier so that he/she feels loved and missed.

Things you can send:
Calling cards, batteries, envelopes/notepads, puzzle books, travel sewing kits, hand held games, books, cameras (disposable), NERF toys, playing cards, postage stamps, small battery operated fan, toy squirt guns, cordless electric razor, sun block, handheld stress balls, lotion, tooth brushes/paste, soap, wipes, hand cleaners, chap stick, razors, foot powder, towels, tissue paper, dental floss, odor eaters, playing cards, t-shirts, extra underwear & socks, glade stickups or plug-ins, blanket from home, eye drops, eyeglass cleaner/wipes, mouth wash

These are a few items that will make your soldier feel loved and also will help him not miss home so much. Also remember that they might not have everything they may need to prepare some items so be mindful that some things like kool-aid may need sugar so send drink mixes like tang or lemonade with sugar already combined. Remember when sending candy that even some solid candy such as gummy bears have even been known to melt. If your soldier needs these items or really wants them make sure to send them in a separate baggy so they won’t destroy anything more precious that you are sending. Photos of family and the kids doing everyday activities are a great way for them to keep up with how things are changing and how the kids are growing.

Things you cannot send:
Obscene articles, prints, paintings, cards, film, horror comics, nude or seminude persons, pornographic material, religious materials, pork or pork by-products, alcoholic beverages, fruits, living plants, firearms, explosives, including fireworks, illegal substances

These items are not a good idea to send because they could get open in public and could cause your service member to get into some serious trouble, which no one would want. With everything use wisdom and make sure that what you are sending is going to be something of use and not trash which they will throw away or even give away. Remember to always keep an eye out for free boxes or even order them online from the USPS, for priority shipping boxes only. Have fun with surprising them and sending them things that you know they will love and cherish because this is the only piece of home they have until they return.

by Sherita Smedley

Things you cannot send:
Obscene articles, prints, paintings, cards, film, horror comics, nude or seminude persons, pornographic material, religious materials, pork or pork by-products, alcoholic beverages, fruits, living plants, firearms, explosives, including fireworks, illegal substances

These items are not a good idea to send because they could get open in public and could cause your service member to get into some serious trouble, which no one would want. With everything use wisdom and make sure that what you are sending is going to be something of use and not trash which they will throw away or even give away. Remember to always keep an eye out for free boxes or even order them online from the USPS, for priority shipping boxes only. Have fun with surprising them and sending them things that you know they will love and cherish because this is the only piece of home they have until they return.

by Sherita Smedley
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GET RICH QUICK!

What is it about these words that conjure such excitement? Is it the rich, the quick, or the fact that there is the opportunity for both? Just thinking about it makes my pulse quicken. So, if this is possible why is this not happening for more people? If all I have to do is just pick up the phone and attend a seminar on such a wonderful product, why are more people not insanely rich?

There are many infomercials available that offer training and all one has to do is register for a free seminar that will be coming to their area soon. After attending the seminar then participants will be well on their way to becoming rich individuals and will hold the elusive status of financially independent. I find it interesting that there is usually no mention of the free seminar being a pathway to actually offering pay services. There are lofty messages stated and wonderful success stories touted that show what a great system it is and the potential results that can come from its successful use.

People who have attended the seminar praise the wealth of information that is offered and how after a short time after following the system they were well on their way to early retirement. They never really mention how much money they spent to acquire the knowledge, tools, website access, or any other extra that I am sure they had to pay for. They also usually fail to mention the fact that there could be monthly costs associated with any system and of course there will always need to be further education to continue the program’s success. Additionally, there is no mention of how much initial time was needed to ensure the system was working correctly and how long it took to get comfortable with everything.

I guess there are reasons for this. If one were to find out that the “free” system actually costs thousands of dollars in initial start up and hundreds of dollars monthly, they might become turned off by the prospect. Furthermore, if they learned that the easy system was actually rather complicated, this too might sour them on the prospect. Now, if I am offering such a product would I really want to sour people before they had a chance to come to my free initial information seminar? Honestly, after I already have them there I am sure it would be easier to sway them to how great my product is and how the initial start up will be returned many times over in no time.

So, why don’t you just attend one of my free seminars, give me your credit card number and I can share with you ways to make huge profits?

Oh, you have already caught onto my plan? I guess my work here is done.

By Catherine Monreal

Catherine received her B.S. in Finance in 2006 and is currently pursuing her M.B.A. in Finance.

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Treebeard Moves!

Soon after its publication, JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings outgrew its popular fiction status. Lord of the Rings is a cultural event. With the motion picture, similar in genius, the meaning is further extricated from its origin. This phenomenon is hardly novel, but in respect to the profound cultural and philosophical significance of Lord of the Rings it is terribly useful to compare the movie with the book.

Of course from book to screen there is a revision. Deletions are especially obvious, but what is done to the overall meaning is less obvious. Also, in the change from literary to motion picture there are stylistic imprints.

The most significance difference is that not only did Tolkien take more time to construct the story, he also took more time within the story.

JRR Tolkien originated the work over decades, drawing it within a written tradition while favoring Anglo-Saxon and including invented languages. Peter Jackson’s movie involves a huge amount of things. Innumerable items, such as buttons, were made to two different scales to accommodate the shift in scale from human to hobbits. Converse to the quotidian is the use of satellites to coordinate all the elements working in different parts of the globe. As film is a kind of language, the innovations in special effects can be likened to Tolkien’s invention of language.

But apart from those differences in form, we think most of “Why did that get put aside?” “Why was that added?” and then “Why keep that?”. Those questions conceal the most important revision of all: Jackson’s portrayal on a smaller landscape, in a smaller scale in time.

Watching the DVD’s, there are many contractions in space from the point of view of the characters. Frodo’s view from Emyn Muil and Gandalfs view from Minas Tirith are not correct in proportion and proximity to Tolkien’s map, but perhaps spatially accurate in respect to Jackson’s requisite contraction of time and space. Overall, the space of middle earth seems contracted when it is compared to the landscapes and distances in Tolkien. These contractions in space automatically contract the story in time.

Tolkien scope of time is abnormally wide. Saving the world and global transformations are all cosmic events, but there is also a more humble, human scale in comparison with the motion picture as well.

Perhaps the first clue to this occurs at the beginning, in the discovery of the ring of power is in the hands of a Shire folk. Gandalf arrives, confirms that this hobbit does indeed possess the ring of power, and then this is put aside for weeks. In the movie they hustle out of the Shire. Is it just armchair, professorial pace here?

Tolkien goes on with interruptions not seeming essential to the plot. Or are they? The story’s time is near half a year. In the movies the transitions in time seem unremarkable.

Chase scenes and fights and romantic chases: movie time is popular, and it is by it own nature set, for the most part, in real time. It seems merely customary to delete scenes that delay the action in order to streamline or tighten the story dramatically.

Maggot, Bombadil, The Scouring of the Shire: deleted. But not just for the streamlining, but for the nature of the storytelling, do we lose the starting and stopping and starting again, of a story within a story. These deletions eventually weaken in sequence the progression of the movies. In that starting and stopping is a kind of charm, induced by a more comfortable use of time. At first glance, we develop care about the characters before the main event. It makes us identify strongly with the hobbits. But more important is the idea that is not so obvious, creating heterogeneous time.

Heterogenous time means a variety of different times, past, present, future, beginnings, middles and ends, stories within stories, back-story, fate, destiny, foreshadowing. This puts emphasis on character, or the character driven story.

This kind of time is very different in the movies. Not just that the movie must be shorter and in removing elements meanings change. Though there are a number of storytelling techniques within film narrative; flashbacks and ‘flashforwards’, dreams, parallel storylines, exposition with voice-over, repetitions, even fade outs and dissolves…the underlying aesthetic power of motion pictures is that the ‘now’ is overpowering.

The heterogenous time of disconnected or circumstantially connected events has been simulated in Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise by the inclusion of black frames, simulating a kind of ambiguity to where in time and space each successive scene is, but such a technique would not be applicable to the Fellowship of the Ring.

Heterogenous time, in this case a kind of stumbling from event to event, is necessary to create an overall feeling of the time of innocence. Such is the world of the Shire, despite Sackville-Baggins’s, and rings of power stashed in wooden chests. Such a world is necessary to contrast with the burden of contemplating one’s destiny and the cosmos. Thus we feel a hobbit as something in our own experience, going from carelessness of Arcadia to the release of the Grey Havens.

Motion picture techniques with time: introductions, flashbacks, narratives within narratives, are too useful to not use frequently and liberally. This could be confused with heterogenous time, but it is not. Such techniques, being used here and there for purposes of expediency, do not emphasize a contrast, or create larger scales of transitions from one kind of time to another, as occurs in the trilogy. In Tolkien’s narrative, heterogenous time changes into a quest that unravels into multiple storylines, whose threads then converge at the Crack of Doom. There is a compression of tense.

The Grey Havens is not equal in poignancy between book and DVD. Jackson sought to include the world weary tone that ends Tokien’s Lord of the Rings, but somehow, as the grinding pace of the Return of the King is ending there is more relief than a reluctance to let go.

Apart from the “necessary” deletions, weakening of the grip of the story can be attributed to Peter Jackson’s film style: his camera work is kinetic. It jumps, hovers, jiggles, leans, kants. It follows arrow-flights. It makes the impression of being hasty. It undermines the overall tone of seriousness, but it does add a value of greater intimacy.

The camera moves more than most other directors. It is essential to have a distinctive style as a director. Directing a film is a negotiated form of authority: others contribute much and a director is pressured to show vision. It is part of the economics, for a signature style, if successful, will encourage audiences to buy tickets again!

Jackson’s signature tendency is more controlled in Lord of the Rings, yet harkens to his hasty pace in a plethora of camera angles and in such gags as following the paths of arrows.

Perhaps the weakest shots are the sweeping aerial landscapes: they occur too fast and are felt as secondary. The sense of Middle Earth as a place is impossible to duplicate, not just because Tolkien put stories within stories, but because Tolkien describes nature and landscape with a particular genius.

Jackson’s style can feel artificial, sometimes self- conscious. Moving the camera about excessively brings attention to the effort. Though…there is masterly sensitivity to the story and character as the cameras is used. It moves more than average, but just right for the scenes.

Even though this kind of camera style detracts from the grandeur and seriousness of an epic spectacle, the mastery creates greater intimacy: our own view through our eyes is similar in dynamism. So it adds a personal touch that is lacking in the gap between film and fiction. Fiction talks to you, whispers in your ear, while film is presented to you on a screen somewhat distant. Jackson’s style goes one step in closing this gap.

Jackson has other idiosyncrasies. He will go for a gag; the dwarf tossing and excessive hobbit antics, for instance. Of course, Hobbits as not-spectacular-people enables comic charm. These are cheap shots, akin to the vaudeville sequence at Kong’s perch, with Ann Darrow attempting to amuse the great beast (Kong disapproves), but it also provides the audience with a sense that this is only a movie. There is a director who is to provide entertainment, not slavish imitation of a great author.

JRR Tolkien makes self-conscious references as well. However, his are really incidental, too subtle to really add to the structure of the narrative. The Lord of the Rings is ‘written’ by the characters. This is related after the adventures are over. Jackson dramatizes this, but its even more irrelevant in that the movie one sees is not made by the characters in the movie!

Such frames within frames is a self conscious device, actually bringing the author closer by putting a person between themselves and the audience.

This is not an important element of Tolkien’s work, but it in is Jackson’s, as a cumulative effect of a distinctive, hasty camera style and a nod to the audience.

Tolkien makes uses his idiosyncrasies as well. For example there is the delay in the narrative with Farmer Maggot. These starts and stops tactically encapsulate the sense of a boy’s adventure in tone, a tone which is to be destroyed, but strategically they contribute to the effect of heterogenous time.

Like Farmer Maggot, Tom Bombadil serves the reader as reminder that this is just another story. Yet his peculiarities go beyond the boys adventure story to something more cosmic. This is the peak, or strongest event in the development of the heterogenous time.

Why does Tolkien have Bombadil in the story? Bombadil is immune to the ring, and this would seem to undermine the risk. But Bombadil serves as subtle foreshadowing, as well as a sense of a local haven just around the corner. It is amusing to think that Doctor Tolkien is whispering ‘this is not going to hurt very much at all’, meaning, this is going to hurt, be prepared, but don’t be frightened, it is just a fairy story.

Jackson hastiness, naturally in the transition from book to screen and by Art in his camera style, undermines the final movie. The Return of the King, has a clunky, rushing feeling.

The material suffers because each of these sequences; Pelannor Fields and Black Gate, Shelob, the Orc tower and the Crack of Doom, feel like a regular thirty minutes apiece, again and again.

There is feeling that it is not an organic shape, but a mechanism. What is lacking?

That we do not have the same time stretching as in Tolkien’s undermines this sequence of events in the movie. Wherein, in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the battle after battle does not seem interminable, but to be picking up the unraveled threads of the story’s multiple plots and spinning them into a final thread. This is the narrative payoff of having heterogeneous time earlier in the story.

Fran, Peter and Phillipa’s revision takes us away from the serious tone of the literary Epic (although Jackson’s dominant style takes us away from Epic to intimacy in a large way) while connecting the story to a wider tradition of fairy tales.

In fitting the earlier audience into a tradition, Tolkien takes us away from fairy tale, with Goblins and Elves and Dwarves, into Epic.

Clearly, one important thread is the story of rival people’s, with a siege of a great city, all over a most precious thing, like the Illiad. And both stories charts a vast territory filled with monstrous beings, all in hope of returning home, like the Odyssey.

The comparisons go deeper, but the idea is in picking out where in our collective imagination the two works rest, for the film and the book make us experience a incredible and similar story through different medias.

This comparison is forced, but when considering the movie, the force goes too far. Why?

The epic is literary, poetic in fact. While Tolkien synthesized fairy and epic, his concern went more to geopolitics, war and to devastated personalities. Included are dynastic successions and a simulation of history…something we enjoy about Epic for history is an epic.

But, to some degree he marginalized an important Fairy theme. This theme is terribly personal for Tolkien, inspired as he was by the story of the love between elf and man. Lord of the Rings does not develop that story at all. It is a brief appendix.

But this theme is the greatest revision of the story by Jackson, Fran and Phillipa. It changes the tone and characterization of Aragorn and Arwen.

And it is the great success of the film. It is more effective as story between the love of Elf and Man, which is a more pleasingly intimate enchantment. It redeems the movie in that it is not just a narrowing of the material for the convenience of the format, but enlarges the story into, and in a way, closer to its origins.

The story harkens back to earlier times, seeking to bolster the difficulty film will have in doing so; again, it is motion picture’s nature to be immediate.

Gollum debating himself could not be as dramatic as a literary moment, and also punctuates the originality of the filmmakers. But it is an incident to the overall plot.

While the love story between Elf and Man is a great liberty taken by the filmmakers, Tolkien’s greatest theme, the collusion of psychological and environmental devastation, is dropped. This is one reason why the aireal scenery falls so flat. We expect an epic landscape, but this kind of landscape is perhaps Tolkien’s greatest effect. Tolkien’s epic landscape excels in comparison to all of literature. It is perhaps unequalled, but that is another essay.

Most of all, this detracts from the characterization of Treebeard. That Treebeard moves is great drama in the books. In the film, it is expected, and not nearly so significant. It is not because our imaginations create a better Treebeard that can be simulated. It is because the long descriptive passages about Nature converge on the meaning of Treebeard’s existence. Ents move only in regard to global events.

The meaning of Treebeard is further degraded in showing the destruction of Isengard as a spectacle of rampaging Ents. Jackson knew that the audience would demand to see such a spectacle.

But Tolkien did not dramatize the event. Tolkien is not inclined to dramatize mayhem,

but more important to the overall structure of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, dramatizing, or making a spectacle of the destruction of Isengard would celebrate the destruction of Saruman, ruining the delicate tone of a fallen, yet possibly redeemable hero.

The storyline of Saruman is directly connected as anti-thesis to the long intimate passages describing Nature. This is the most important cultural effect, lacking in the movie. One could say it is impossible to film, but it can be voiced.

If one were quick to dispute, the origination of an entire industry of epic fantasy is certainly a phenomenon. But this is not as far reaching as the global turning of industry to greater environmentally responsible. JRR Tolkien’s story of the devastation of human personality is inextricably linked with environmental degradation. Tolkien’s voice is at the forefront of this global issue.

Monuments? It is too neat to say that Jackson’s innovations in special effects, enabling and excelling in the visualizing of Lord of the Rings in three dimensions, balances with Tolkien’s own invention and care to tradition. But in way, it does.

These two works, Jackson’s being the sub-sub creation, are works to which Art History will refer. For in both cases the mighty scale of conception and the excellence in execution are rarely equaled.

Lord of the Rings will be produced again. In departing from Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, there should be a more faithful use of tense. Perhaps six movies, for whatever length of time needed (the standard two to three hours in length is diminishing as a convention) following the value of preservation and the tone sadness in the books with greater fidelity.

It may not be so entertaining as Jackson’s. However, what is Entertainment changes quite profoundly from generation to generation.

by Odilon Ross

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The Cancer Fighting Gadget

Do you have a tool that you count on for many different household repairs? If you have such a gadget in a tool box or a drawer, then you can appreciate the value of the chemical indole-3-carbinol, also called 13C. This phytochemical, a key part of the chemical make-up of broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables has been shown to be a natural way of preventing certain cancers. Prostate cancer is one of two cancers that will decline in incidence when subjects eat a diet rich in 13C.

The versatile 13C uses not one, not two, but three different methods for delivering its healthful effects.

1) 13C interrupts the cancer cell cycle;

2) 13C prevents formation of the blood vessels that tumors need;

3) 13C triggers cell death

This special chemical somehow cuts-off from the growing cancer cells the key ingredients that those malignant cells need for maintenance of their high metabolic activity. Without such ingredients, the cancer cells die.

The greatest value of 13C stems from the expected product produced once an individual has eaten a diet rich in 13C. Normally, the human body converts 13C into DIM. Dr. Fazul Sarkar, a researcher at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit , has found that DIM can remain biologically active in the human body for a longer period of time than can 13C, the compound from which the DIM originates.

The action of DIM gives mothers all the more reason to tell their children to eat more broccoli.

by Sue Chehrenegar
Sue has an MS in Biomedical research along with 30 years of experience in her field of study.