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William Cohen (London)

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Business Secrets from the Bible: Spiritual Success Strategies for Financial Abundance
Business Secrets from the Bible: Spiritual Success Strategies for Financial Abundance
by Rabbi Daniel Lapin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

4.0 out of 5 stars If Gordon Gekko became a rabbi..., 26 Aug 2014
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I found a lot of what Rabbi Lapin has to say refreshing and inspiring. I came to his work after reading people like Jonathan Sacks and Yoram Hazony, who give accessible insights into Biblical stories, which I find very helpful.

Rabbi Lapin is a bit more populist and we get plenty of his opinions to go with his Biblical insights. He's a bit old school - explaining his contempt for the commencement speeches that tell graduates to 'follow your dream'. He says learn to like what pays well.

In my younger days, I worked for a City law firm which was well-paid, but it wasn't easy, and the quality of human relationships was poor. According to Rabbi Lapin, I should have stuck with that rather than struggling as a freelance for many years.

Having read Yoram Hazony and Abraham Twerski and other rabbis on money, I think he rather simplifies the complex ethical ideas Judaism has around earning a living.

Still, I read it in a weekend, and feel better for it.

The Past [DVD]
The Past [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bérénice Bejo
Price: £10.89

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The perfect French art house movie - only without sex, 28 July 2014
This review is from: The Past [DVD] (DVD)
Intense dialogue, symbolism, beautiful people, multicultural strife, long meaningful pauses - this is a perfect French film for a miserable wet afternoon. The only thing missing is gratuitous sex. Oh it goes on, deftly revealing the hypocrisies, misunderstandings and repressed feelings of the characters, but is it entertaining?

The work that goes into creating something like this must be colossal. It's a plausible scenario - it's hyper-realistic, but I didn't really enjoy it or find it uplifting in any way. This is Michael Haneke territory - exquisitely done, but only for art house aficionados.

Mad Men - Complete Season 1 [DVD]
Mad Men - Complete Season 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jon Hamm
Price: £10.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Meretricious: Eastenders for sophisticates, 28 July 2014
I've watched every episode of Six Feet Under at least twice, I've watched every episode of the Sopranos, and I've watched two and a half series of Boardwalk Empire.

I started watching Mad Men and realise that HBO are very clever, but like all good businesses, they stick to the same formula.

In this case, as with the Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire, it's very beautiful people being cruel to each other on very glamorous sets. As with the Sopranos, a charismatic but deeply flawed character keeps the action going, with other members of the family revealing themselves through affairs, psychotherapy and troubled pasts.

There are a few good one-liners, a few insights into the period and the dramatisation of how we became the consumer society is intriguing, but there's little joy here.

Young Adult [DVD]
Young Adult [DVD]
Dvd ~ Charlize Theron
Price: £8.82

5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Recovery Movie, 24 July 2014
This review is from: Young Adult [DVD] (DVD)
This is a bleak but rewarding film which shows the mixed feelings that can develop when someone leaves a hick town to make their way in the city.
I enjoyed watching Mavis show her contempt for her roots - the film shows small town America in quite an unflattering light - but it also shows how we see things through our own lenses - and if we're bitter and remorseful that's not going to make us very effective in the world.

I cringed a lot at Mavis's self-destructive impulses and delusions. Unhappiness isn't pretty.

It's well written, amusing in parts, and a useful case study of middle-age frustration and anger.

The Death of a Pope
The Death of a Pope
by Piers Paul Read
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.87

4.0 out of 5 stars The new versus the old in the Catholic church, 21 July 2014
This review is from: The Death of a Pope (Hardcover)
I've read nearly all of Piers Paul Read's novels and I like the milieux and the characters. I finished this one in a week - it's bit of intrigue set against the election of the new pope. It's a bit far-fetched but it also gives some insights into the motivations of terrorists, and how middle-class women might be drawn into their idealistic campaigns.

The Pursuit Of The Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages
The Pursuit Of The Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages
by Norman Cohn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The depressing history of eschatological false prophets, 25 Jun 2014
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This is a fascinating history of what happens when socially alienated group, struggling for economic survival, find a messianic leader offering hope.

The ecstatic religious expectations can be manipulated and attract a devoted following. Cohn is clear how given the right conditions, you can generate a toxic revolution, which is very bad news for the established church, local government and the Jews. The behaviour of the Nazis was actually a throwback to many violent uprisings which characterised medieval Germany. They secularised the eschatology, but they used the same emotions with very similar results.

There's a horrifying pattern. It starts with a desire to cleanse the heathen and set up a new model community. That community doesn't tend to be much interested in working hard to build a new society. So they quickly end up resorting to rape, pillage and murder to keep the show on the road.

Thomas Muentzer, John of Leiden, Jan Matthys - they stirred up some serious trouble with their 'End of Days' ideas.

It's curious how in that era accusations against corrupt clergy in the medieval era are the same as the ones made against politicians, today. And we're also seeing some populist parties getting votes from this.

It's a gripping book, which charts the progress of a very dangerous set of ideas.

Frances Ha [DVD]
Frances Ha [DVD]
Dvd ~ Greta Gerwig
Price: £4.50

5.0 out of 5 stars What it's like to make your way in the Big City, 23 Jun 2014
This review is from: Frances Ha [DVD] (DVD)
I spent nine years in London from 1994 to 2003 trying to make my way as a writer/journalist and I could completely identify with the struggles of Frances Ha. The betrayals, the frustration, the setbacks - and the painful compromises. This is a brilliant portrait of a spirited young woman looking for love and recognition, but not getting it.

It's so rare to have money troubles dramatised on film - it's done very well here. The leading lady is funny, sexy and loveable. I really liked the bit when she made a trip to Paris on her own, only to find it makes her feel even more lonely. I've done that.

Her parents are supportive but hopeless, and her friendships are all a bit complicated. The director has included text message games, flatmate tensions and a few jokes about the internet, making it feel very modern. Like Nebraska, the b & w adds to the charm.

What Do Jews Believe?
What Do Jews Believe?
by David S. Ariel
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction, 9 Jun 2014
This review is from: What Do Jews Believe? (Paperback)
I'm not Jewish, but I've become fascinated by Judaism.

This book is very well-written. It states clearly what Orthodox, Reform and Conservative Jews believe. I became aware of some of the leading figures in Jewish history, like Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig and Rabbi Akiva. I found out how to distinguish between Haredim and Hasidim.

I know what the halakha is. And I derived some insights into messianic thinking. A very helpful book.

Nebraska [DVD]
Nebraska [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bruce Dern
Price: £12.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Humorous melancholy, 9 Jun 2014
This review is from: Nebraska [DVD] (DVD)
I loved the bleak settings for this charming story. Payne films malls and motorways in black and white to enchant them. The small details like the Hell's Angels overtaking turn the banal into the lyrical.

A quest to recover a $1m prize becomes a vehicle to re-examine relationships in a dysfunctional family. Lots of pain, lots of laughs, lots of truth.

Cuban Fury [DVD] [2014]
Cuban Fury [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Nick Frost
Price: £7.00

0 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars John Travolta need not lose any sleep, 28 May 2014
This review is from: Cuban Fury [DVD] [2014] (DVD)
I did salsa for four and a half years, so I was hoping to see some genuine insights into a very special world.

The theme was 'healing' which is a reason why many people take up salsa. The main character had a trauma in his youth because of his mates thought he was effeminate for taking it up. The film picks up years later when he's trying to deal with his inability to attract women, which is rooted in this humiliating experience.

The opening shots showed the flaws in the film. The backstory was told in a crude way. The characters tell us their problems instead of leading us to see them for ourselves. When Nick Frost meets his old salsa teacher Ian McShane, the dialogue is totally unconvincing.

There are lots of funny things about salsa dancing, but the writers hadn't done enough research, and the conflict supplied by Chris O'Dowd didn't seem at all plausible.

I didn't like or identify with any of the characters. You can't make a charming rom-com under those circumstances.

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