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[Review] Gifts of Abraham: Unity and Peace Through Meditation

September 25, 2012 Leave a comment

Gifts of Abraham: The Untold Story of Brahman, a Jewish PerspectiveGifts of Abraham: The Untold Story of Brahman, a Jewish Perspective by Audi Y. Gozlan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this book back in 2002 when author Audi Gozlan came to talk at my synagogue in Miami Beach. At the time I found his lecture, focusing on Abraham as the father of meditation in both east and west, interesting, so I purchased the book. It took me 10 years to get to it, but the timing was just perfect.

Gifts of Abraham presents a look at meditation across the world religious landscape and shows how it all ties back to Abraham with the use of Biblical commentary, Talmudic discussion, midrashim (legends) and the tools of Torah exegesis. His presentation is clear and concise, well-documented via endnotes showing his sources (both Judaic and otherwise), and thought-provoking for anyone willing to consider a far grander picture of world history. Though the book is geared toward Jews and Judaism, I believe it should prove an interesting read for anyone who appreciates theology, world history and philosophy, not to mention meditation and meditative practices.

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Categories: Religion Tags: , , ,

[Anime Review] The Tower of Druaga

January 16, 2011 6 comments

My wife has been teaching herself Japanese for some time now, and in order to get her ear accustomed to the language being spoken, we have been watching a lot of anime. This is a series of reviews about some of the shows we have seen.

The Tower of Druaga

Ironically, I watched this show by myself while my wife was away on vacation, so it’s an odd choice to start a series about shows we’ve mostly watched together. But it’s the one burning a hole in my mind at the moment, so it gets to be the first.

The Tower of Druaga is a fantasy anime available for free online at Crunchyroll.com. It consists of two parts, each part 12 episodes long:

It is based on a series of Nintendo videogames from the 80s, though the events of the game are only the springboard for those of the anime. This wasn’t a game I knew of, and the reason I watched this show was because I’d seen a trailer for it while watching another anime (El Cazador de la Bruja, a show I’ll eventually review here as well) and this being fantasy in very much a D&D vein, it caught my attention.

I was expecting this to be a fairly standard fantasy action anime with lots of cool visuals of swords and sorcery. Frankly, I would have been happy just getting that and calling it a day. What I got instead was a show with a well-defined world setting borrowing elements from Babylonian and Sumerian legends, a somewhat complex story with not a few twists and turns, a nice mix of action, drama and comedy, and an idea generator that has taken residence in my brain and is making me start a new game.

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Categories: Editorials Tags: , ,

Miami Bike Report Goes Live

December 13, 2010 Leave a comment

A fantastic new online tool has gone live today: Miami Bike Report.

This is a website with a real-time database that can be updated by users via text, email, Twitter or directly on the site, providing a map of South Florida showing where things like blocked bike lanes can be found, road hazards are present or collisions have happened. In short, it’s a living repository of cycling/road information about South Florida updated by the very people on the streets.

This is huge. For people riding their bicycles, it means they can see where trouble spots are found along their planned travel routes. For advocates, they can see areas that deserve special attention for whatever reason. For law-enforcement, they can see places where they should maybe take  a look and ensure all is kosher. For city planners, they can see the areas that they should be paying more attention to based on the actual use feedback.

Literally, this has the potential to be the most useful tool available to bicycling/walking/urban advocates in South Florida. But if, and only if, we the people on the street, use it.

Spread the word about Miami Bike Report and the ways in which it can be updated with reports from the streets. That is the only way in which this will truly be useful and hopefully lead to improvements in our various cities.

Find Miami Bike Report online:

Kudos to the creators for their vision and hard work. You’ve got another supporter right here.

A Visit to the Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens

My wife has been learning the Japanese language on her own for a while, which means an appreciation of Japanese culture has seeped into our household beyond pop-culture mainstays like anime, manga, sushi and ninjas! Part of understanding a language is understanding the culture that uses it, that shaped it, and we’ve both been enriched by what we’ve learned. For some time now we’ve known we have a couple of locations with a Japanese connection we could visit in our general vicinity, and last Sunday we were finally able to make it to the largest of them, the Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach.

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An Evening With Imogen Heap

I knew of Imogen Heap; her name is uncommon enough that once you hear it, it tends to stick in your memory. I knew of her from the song “Let Go,” featured years ago in the soundtrack to Garden State (though it took some time before I learned that strange voice belonged to a woman!). Beyond that I had heard a couple songs here are there, especially on Pandora, where her music would sometimes come up as part of some of my playlists. So I knew of Imogen Heap, but I didn’t really know Imogen Heap. Until last night.

It was my wife’s idea to go see her in concert at The Fillmore in Miami Beach; tickets were cheap, general admission and given her non-top-40-radio status, the attendance would probably be manageable. Sure! And then it snuck up on me. Yesterday I played her latest album, which you can stream from her website, but that was it. I was going in cold, ready to soak up the new music.

There were three short opening acts: Euphoria, a trio of high-school kids from Boca Raton who won a contest held by Imogen; Geese, a violin/strings duo who are also part of Imogen’s band; and Ben Christophers, a guy and his guitar, also part of Imogen’s band. They each played 3 songs (Ben did 4) and were each good. The kids from Boca were very good for this being their first show (and what a show!); Geese was weird (in a good way), using computers, loops and effects to create soundscapes; and Ben was fine with his guitar, especially on a very trip-hoppy number that actually got the audience listening. About half an hour after these three acts were done, Imogen took the stage.

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[Review] Revere: Revolution in Silver

Revere: Revolution in Silver Revere: Revolution in Silver by Ed Lavallee

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having never seen the original 4-issue miniseries, I am glad Archaia Studios put out this deluxe collection because Revere: Revolution in Silver is a tale that demands to be read by all. The simple premise — Paul Revere fights off Werewolves during the early days of the American Revolution — grabs you by the throat; it’s amazing more tales like this, combining the early history of our nation and the supernatural, have not been done (and those that want more like this, should immediately go and buy Colonial Gothic: Rulebook). The tale has a nice pace, the writing is superb and the art both unique in style and evocative of the era and tone. The only flaw I find is that it is only the beginning of the tale and we are left with a very nail-biting cliffhanger! I want more!

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[Review] 40 Years of Gen Con (And More Thoughts on RPG History Books)

I wrote the following review at Goodreads, but I have more to say after it.

40 Years of Gen Con 40 Years of Gen Con by Robin D. Laws
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hard to believe that Gen Con has been around for 40+ years. Heck, hard to believe that roleplaying games have been around for almost that long! And right there, in the space where believing these statements are, amazingly, true, is where 40 Years of Gen Con lives.

Robin Laws had his work cut out for him in setting out to put together this book. Made up of a pastiche of chronological interview quotes from a vast array of people associated with Gen Con throughout its history, the book gives you a transcribed oral history of this most central gathering of the Hobby Gaming Industry. From its days as a tiny gathering at chez Gygax, to its move to current and gigantic home in Indianapolis, you can follow the wonderful and weird history of the convention, and in many ways of the industry as well.

If I have one qualm about the book is that, personally I would have preferred an actual written-out narrative of the history instead of the put-it-together-yourself approach of the various interview segments. A thousand kudos to Robin Laws for having the patience and the archeological skills to assemble a narrative out of all those interviews, though; that alone should win him some sort of prize.

Our hobby, our industry, has officially entered its second generation of life, and we’ve already begun to lose some of the pioneers. I continue to be amazed that there has been no effort to create a biography of the hobby/industry up to now, though 40 Years of Gen Con is a fantastic proxy that deserves to be in every gamer’s library.

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It is very strange to me that after over four decades of hobby gaming, from historical miniatures to the latest games debuting at Gen Con, this is the one history book about/on our hobby/industry available. Surely I cannot be the only one who sees value in there being a written history of the development of the industry, the development of the types of games, and even of some of the games themselves.

40 Years of Gen Con, beyond any flaws it may have, is a brilliant artifact because of the gathering of otherwise hard to find/lost information about that one (very defining) aspect of our hobby.

In 2014 we will see the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons (and my own, but we’re not talking about me now). Will we see a book on the history of this pivotal game? I hope so. I so hope so. But more than just a D&D book, I want to see a book (many books?) on the history of our hobby.¬† We deserve to have our history chronicled, and no one but us will do it.

Categories: Gaming, Writing Tags: , , , ,

Bicycle Film Festival Review: The Short Films – Pt 2

December 16, 2009 2 comments

Bicycle Film FestivalI did a review of the BFF as a show and of the first eight short films presented at the screening. Below are the reviews for the remaining nine short films from BFF Program 3.

Urban Bike Shorts

Pixel Gear Bikes – A short 1-minute video of 8-bit Paperboy-like bike riders doing stuff like riding in the city blowing red lights, pulling tricks and eventually crashing against a car door that opens suddenly. 1980s Nintendo synth music completes the package. Cute.

Cooking Up Bike Co-Ops in Los Angeles – This 5-minute documentary was just fantastic and represents another part of why I like film fests, the chance to see pieces that introduce people to situations they may not be aware of. The doc takes us to discover the Bicycle Kitchen, Bike Oven & Bikerowave, three different bike co-ops in LA, non-profit spaces where volunteers help people learn how to repair their own bikes, and the amazing community that has gathered around them. A short but inspiring film, you can view it in its entirety at Streetfilms.

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Bicycle Film Festival Review: The Short Films – Pt 1

December 15, 2009 1 comment

Bicycle Film FestivalYesterday I reviewed the BFF as a show, so now I’d like to review the 17 short films that I saw in Program 3. Short films are one of the things I like most about film festivals, as you rarely get to see them otherwise and they tend to pack a lot of variety of subjects, exploring the whole gamut of the topic.

Overall, the ones shown at BFF were entertaining and interesting, and in various cases, great conversation starters (for better or for worse).

I’m breaking the reviews up into two posts for easy reading; here are the first eight of the bunch.

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Bicycle Film Festival Review: The Show

December 14, 2009 2 comments

Bicycle Film FestivalThe Bicycle Film Festival (BFF) came to a close on Saturday, Dec 12, with the film part of the equation, three screening slots at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach. Program 1 at 5 PM showed WHERE DO YOU START WHERE DO YOU STOP and TOUR OF LEGENDS/ TOUR DES LEGENDES; Program 2 at 7 PM showed MADE IN QUEENS and WHERE ARE YOU GO; and Program 3 at 9 PM showed 17 short films. Because of it being a Saturday night and us having to wait till Shabbat ended to get ready and make it down to the theater, we only caught Program 3 at 9 PM, though this is the one I was most interested in. The BFF had other events associated with it on the two previous days, including a couple of parties, a Goldsprint, and two races. I only attended the one screening on Saturday and none of the associated events, so I guess you can make that statement my caveat for the review.

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