Sunday, August 26, 2007

Music Review: MINK

MINK's self-titled debut album is one of the best new sounds I've heard in a while. I was a little dubious about them when I first listened to them, but the more I listened the more I liked them. No, scratch that. The more I listened, the more I loved them.

More than once I thought it would be great to let the rest of my band listen to the album so we could jam to their songs. MINK is so full of energy that they just make me want to be a part of it. Our drummer constantly complains that a lot of the songs we play are boring, but I'm absolutely certain once he listens to MINK, he will be a huge fan too, especially since MINK's drummer, Stella Mozgawa, is a force to be reckon with. I have the utmost respect for her power and creativity, and her talent has definitely brought a very unique sound to the band.

I'm actually the vocalist in my band, and I tend to focus more on voice and melodies rather than bass and drums, but both the drums by Stella Mozgawa and bass by Grant Fitzpatrick have caught my attention in this album. Their sounds are very tightly knit, and bring a lot of depth to their music. That's not to say I don't like their vocals and melodies though. Lead singer, Neal Carlson, is my new idol. I don't know what it is about his voice I like, perhaps it is because it is so changeable and smooth and raspy all at once. Or perhaps because you can feel his complete engagement in the music. He has a certain 'Suede-ish' sound to his voice that I find irresistible.

While the bass and drums caught my attention in the faster songs on MINK, the guitar sounds stand out more to me in the slower (which aren't exactly all that slow) songs like "Will Not Let You Down", "Sweeter", "Crazy World", "Dematerialize" and the bonus track "Look Into Each Other". Incidentally, these are also my favorite songs on the album. Perhaps, with the exception of "Dematerialize", all these songs appeal to my romantic nature and I can't help but be partial to them. I especially love the guitar sounds in "Dematerialize" though. Lead guitarist, Nick Maybury, and rhythm guitarist, David Lowy are no slouches.

I don't usually make predictions and it might be presumptuous for me to say this, but I'm certain that MINK will be the next big thing in music, to the proportions of Guns N' Roses, Queen, and the like. Every radio station will play their music, everyone will know them, and every musician will study them. Or maybe I'm just bias, but you know, MINK is good enough that they just might prove me right.

The Reality Diet by Steven A. Schnur, M.D.

It's about time someone came up with a realistic and healthy method of losing weight and keeping it off. I'm in the natural health industry, and we have many people who come to us for advice about their health and diets. One of the most important things we tell them is to get enough fiber in their diets to help eliminate all the wastes and toxins in their bodies. Losing weight is a natural side effect, since the fiber ensures that most of the wastes exits the body instead of piling up inside (for the sake of delicacy, I won't go into much more of the details of body wastes), but you won't lose a lot if that's the only thing you change about your diet.

We recommend fiber to combat constipation among other things, rather than to combat fat, so when I came across The Reality Diet, the tagline "Fight Fat with Fiber" attracted my interest immediately. I thought to myself, 'I've got to read this book' and I was immensely delighted by what I found inside.

Dr. Steven Schnur doesn't make false promises. He doesn't give you unrealistic advice or tell you not to eat. He doesn't pretend that you can lose weight without exercise. Instead, he tells you the truth; if you want to lose weight, you need to watch your diet, and you need to exercise. The good news is, you can eat a variety of healthy and delicious meals, and you can eat a lot of it. The better news is, they will give you lots of energy to exercise. The even better news is, you'll lose weight and all the risks of medical problems that come with it. You'll look good, and you'll feel better.

Dr. Schnur takes you step by step on how to make The Reality Diet work for you. The book is divided into four parts. In the first part, he educates you about food and how it affects your body, the different types of carbohydrates, protein, and fats, and what is good or bad for your body. Contrary to what the low-carb diet programs are telling you, carbohydrates are actually good for you, and they don't make you fat. You should stay away from refined carbohydrates though, because those are the ones which contribute to unwanted weight gain.

The second part of the book describes more about the details of The Reality Diet. Dr. Schnur advices on how to choose the right food for you out of all the choices in the supermarket, and how to plan ahead on your diet to ensure that you will succeed in losing weight. If you want to slim down for an upcoming event, make sure you plan ahead for plenty of time to do it. He also tells you to set realistic goals, so that you won't despair and give up if you don't lose 30 pounds in 30 days.

In the third part of the book, Dr. Schnur guides you on how to make The Reality Diet work for you in the real world. He addresses the serious business of exercise because not only is exercise essential for burning calories, it also makes your body feel and look so much better and healthier. He also tells you not to worry yourself to death about straying or setbacks, The Reality Diet is designed to allow you certain indulgences once in a while. Most importantly, he advices on how to stay on The Reality Diet when eating out and during holidays. We all know that holiday feasts are the dieter's nemesis, but not with Dr. Schnur's sound advice. Finally, Dr. Schnur gives practical advice on how to keep the pounds off for good in the last chapter of this part.

The fourth part of the book consists of an 8-week program of healthy reality recipes that makes up about half the entire book's contents. There are a variety of healthy and wholesome easy-to-prepare meals, and they all look delicious. You can also mix and match them, or come up with your own variations of the recipes, as long as they fit the dietary requirements Dr. Schnur has recommended. There is a useful list of possible alternative ingredients that you may use for your recipes at the back of the book. There's also a weekly shopping list for the 8-week program available on the website.

Overall, I think The Reality Diet is very well-researched, and is filled with much valuable and practical advice. Dr. Schnur has obviously done extensive research on his part, and he has had many successes in helping his patients lose weight using the principles found in this book. Follow the instructions in this book, and you'll be losing all your extra pounds in no time!

The Reality Diet is the best diet plan I've seen, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who's serious about losing weight and being healthy. Losing weight, being healthy, and feeling good, while having the most absolutely delicious and satisfying meals? What's not to like? In fact, slim people should absolutely go on this diet too!

The Killer Book of True Crime by Tom Philbin and Michael Philbin

I picked up The Killer Book of True Crime after dinner, thinking to just flip through some of the stories to get an idea of what I could look forward to, before going back to some other books that I was supposed to read first. But as soon as I picked it up I literally could not put it down. I kept thinking, after every story, that I should go back to my other books, and then I kept thinking, "No, one more, one more! Let me finish one more story first!" It went on that way until I finally finished reading it.

At the back of the book, it says, "Hours of Nail-Biting True Crime" and then describes what they have to offer inside the book, namely lots of trivia, quotes, photos, and detailed stories about some of the most prolific crimes in history. Then, at the bottom of the page, it says also that, "These and many more shocking tales and tidbits will have you double-checking your locks at night!" Now that I've safely finished reading The Killer Book, I read those words and I have to laugh ruefully at myself, but for the two nights I was reading it, it wasn't funny at all, I can tell you.

I was a nervous wreck, jumping every time a board creaked or a door slammed. I even declined a dinner invitation with some friends because going would mean that I would have to drive home alone in my car. And yet, while I did double-check that I locked all my doors and windows, I did not bite my nails. So there.

This isn't a book of horror stories. There are no vampires, zombies, or werewolves. This is a book about true crime, and the evil capabilities of man, and that is a much more terrible horror than tales about vampires and witchcraft. You will read about serial murderers like John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Edmund Kemper, and about their backgrounds and what motivated them. You will read about mob killings, rapes, terrorism, cannibalism, stalkers, female killers, and even children who are killers. There are also stories and trivia about celebrity crime and murders, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy, details about Marilyn Monroe's death and the death of O.J. Simpson's wife, Nicole Brown Simpson.

The Killer Book of True Crime is terrifying to read, but the details are very real, and it provides a valuable inside look at crimes and the minds of criminals. Tom Philbin and his brother Michael Philbin have done a great job in compiling all the data and arranging them into anecdotes that are easy and interesting to read. If you are a true crime and mystery fan, The Killer Book of True Crime is a must-read for you.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Music Review: Five Times August - The Independent (l.p.)

The first thing which impressed me about Five Times August is that it is a totally independent act unsigned with any record label, and yet it has achieved more than most other albums that have signed with record labels.

Five Times August is actually a one-man project by Brad Skistimas. His birthday is on August 5th and the project was named based on the thought that it would be easier to remember Five Times August, than the name Brad Skistimas. I beg to differ however, Skistimas' name is not one I will soon forget.

Five Times August's achievements are truly remarkable. His first album, originally titled Fry Street, has sold more than 100,000 digital downloads online and 11,000 CD's throughout North America and Europe, and nine of the albums' songs had been featured on popular television shows like Laguna Beach and One Tree Hill.

A remixed and remastered version of his first album, aptly retitled The Independent was released just a few days ago, on August 7, 2007, to be distributed from Wal-Mart stores nationwide. The album consists of two discs; which includes a bonus disc of acoustic sessions, and 26 tracks; fourteen tracks on the main disc, including three bonus tracks, and twelve tracks on the bonus acoustic disc.

If I could use only one word to describe Five Times August, it would be unique. Skistimas has a very unique playing style with the guitar, and my boyfriend, who is a very talented guitarist himself, was very impressed with Skistimas' style. I agreed with him, but not only on the guitar style. Everything about his songs were unique; the lyrics, the melody, everything. Each song was so uniquely different from each other, and all so very special in their own right, that it was hard choosing favourites.

The nine songs which had been featured on television shows, "Better With You", "First Time For Everything", "Roll Into You", "Do It Again", "Save It For Later", "The Way You Do", "So Typical", "Up To Me", and "Wherever" were all very good, and it's not hard to understand why they were featured. You can hear the full songs here.

Unlike other albums, where I usually had a few tracks I really liked, and others that I just skipped over, there were none here that I wanted to skip. I liked them all, and I honestly couldn't choose just a few favourites. If I had to choose just one though, it would be the bonus track, "Most Uncommon Thing". It is hauntingly beautiful and profound, and touches me in a magical place in my heart.

The thing I liked most about The Independent and Skistimas' exceptionally talented songwriting skills, was that each and every song had a story to tell. And I don't mean the lyrics. I mean the music. Each song has a story embedded in its music; a beginning, middle, and end, a climax, a lull, a peak, and a calm. There were so much dynamics in the music, and so many surprises, because sometimes you think the story is going one way, and all of a sudden it changes directions. It is just wonderful how Skistimas has managed to manipulate music like putty in his hands.

I could spend hours discussing each song, but I suspect that would take more than just a few hours and may even take a few months. I have so much to say about them, but I believe that each person has to interpret the songs their own way. The only thing I have left to say is that Five Times August has stolen my heart, and I am now a lovesick fan who will be anxiously awaiting more of his music. There are plans for a new album to be released in early 2008, and you can be sure I will be one of the first to acquire it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

New Music

I did a little shopping yesterdayyyyyy!! *in singsong voice*

Yeap! I actually went shopping!!

But then again, I didn't shop for clothes...

I did BETTER! =D

I bought CDs!!! =)

I don't even remember the last time I bought a CD... I used to buy them by the dozen, but since I moved, my radio hasn't been set up yet, so I can only play CDs on my computer. But yesterday I bought three 'new' CDs! Yayyy!

Wanna know? Wanna?

Well, I'm gonna tell you anyway. =P

Avril Lavigne's The Best Damn Thing

Her new album is definitely different from her last two, more poppy and um...chirpy. But there are a couple of songs I really like still, so I just thought I'd give it a try. Besides, I have the other two albums, and I just couldn't resist 'collecting'.

The Corrs' Home

I'm a big fan of their regular music, and I love Irish music. They've gone more traditional rather than pop with this album, that's probably why I haven't heard any singles from this album on the radios. But even though their style here is very different from their usual, I love any kind of music, and they know music.

Norah Jones' Not Too Late

What can I say? I love her, I love her voice, I love her style, I love her music... She's just getting better and better, and I forsee my CD cupboard filled with more of her albums in the future to come.

I'm listening to them now...(one at a time, of course) and I'm enjoying them to bits! Will be back with more later maybe.

Wheeee!! =)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Saving Jane - One Girl Revolution

I can totally relate to Marti Dodson’s chagrin about the music industry’s tendency to treat girls in the industry like sex symbols rather than musicians. Almost everywhere I look, female singers and musicians are shaking their booties and showing off their cleavages. I admire Dodson, Saving Jane’s lead singer, for starting a One Girl Revolution to show the world that girls are more than just sex symbols. There is so much more to us than that.

Saving Jane’s new album, One Girl Revolution, is all about keeping it real. The lyrics are straightforward and outspoken, reflecting Dodson’s strong opinions. Dodson has a talent for writing heart wrenching and ass kicking lyrics that people can relate to. The title track, "One Girl Revolution," is Dodson’s way of fighting back against the stereotype of girls as sex symbols in the music business. She's more than just a pretty face, though it's a very pretty face. She's got brains, and she's not afraid to use them.

Saving Jane's new album covers almost every issue that young people are facing. "From the Sky" is also a song with 'fight-back' lyrics, but not as aggresively sung as "One Girl Revolution" is. "What I Didn't Say" and "Let Me Down Easy" are songs of lost love, and "Say Please" is about wanting him to beg you for forgiveness. "Grace" is about faith, "Far From Home" is about leaving home for the first time, and "Better Day" is about picking yourself up after a fall. Dodson also covers more serious issues like smoking and alcohol addiction with "Nicotine" and "Writing On the Wall."

"Loser" is about a loser ex-boyfriend you're so glad you broke up with, and it's my particular favourite. I think the lyrics are hilarious and the melody is really catchy. And I know what you're thinking, but no, I did not just break up with a loser boyfriend. I broke up with him more than a year ago.

The bonus track, "Ohio" is about, well, Ohio, and Dodson's love for her homeland. It's more country than rock, but it sounds good, and Dodson's voice sounds good singing country. Overall, One Girl Revolution makes for good listening, with catchy melodies, compelling lyrics, energetic music, and enthusiastic singing. While I prefer their previous album, Girl Next Door, I think One Girl Revolution will speak to the heart of many Saving Jane's fans, and is definitely worth a listen to.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Taj: The Woman and the Wonder by Sandra Wilson

Taj: The Woman and the Wonder is the fictional account of the very true story behind the building of one of the Seven Wonders, the Taj Mahal. Although it's fiction, Sandra Wilson keeps the facts real, and all I can say is, if all my history textbooks read like this, I would've aced all my exams.

We all know about the Taj Mahal as one of the most famous monuments in history. It is beautiful, enchanting, and ever changing. Just like a woman. I've never had the opportunity to see the Taj Mahal in person, but those who are lucky enough to have seen it and be enchanted by it, will be just as enchanted by Wilson's Taj.

Wilson brings history to life with her book Taj. The descriptions are so vivid and colourful, I felt as if I traveled back in time and was actually there. When Shah Jahan was betrayed by his scheming stepmother and lost his father's favour, I was so frustrated I wished I could've beheaded his stepmother or at least tell his father that it was all a misunderstanding so that he would behead her. When Shah Jahan's beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, passed away and he was so heartbroken and distraught, I felt my heart break too for the loss of such a wonderful woman. Wilson's portrayal of Shah Jahan and his wife were brilliantly written, and it showed how true the saying was, that 'behind every great man there is a great woman.'

Mumtaz Mahal stood by her husband through everything, even when he was forced to go to war with his father, because her aunt, Shah Jahan's stepmother, was power-hungry and wanted to rule the empire. Her devotion to her husband never wavered, although she was forced to be on opposing sides with her own father, who was brother to Shah Jahan's stepmother.

There is so much to the story behind the Taj Mahal. Before I read Taj, all I knew about the Taj Mahal is that it is one of the Seven Wonders, and that it was built by an emperor for his wife whom he loved very much. A touching story in itself.

Now that I've read the book, I see that there's so much more to it than that. The Taj Mahal is a testament of an emperor's love for his wife, yes, but it is also the testament of her devotion to him, his struggle to regain what was rightfully his against all odds, and the power of a love that transcends time and death. I understand more clearly now this love between an ordinary man who was emperor, and his exceptional wife who was completely devoted to him and stood by him through all the best and the worst of times, that led to the building of one of the Seven Wonders of the world.

Kudos to Sandra Wilson, for writing such a compelling story about Taj; the woman, and the wonder.

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