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William Cohen (London)

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Politics Of Hope
Politics Of Hope
by Jonathan Sacks
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars There is such a thing as society, 13 Oct 2014
This review is from: Politics Of Hope (Paperback)
This is 'early' Jonathan Sacks. It contains the seeds of what he focuses on in greater depths in his subsequent books. This book deals with 'liberalism' versus 'libertarianism' and champions the former over the latter. It's more philosophical and academic than his later works.

I like the ideas, but his analysis of what's wrong in society pre-dates the rise of social media, and the emergence of the blogosphere. Sacks is socially conservative, but when divorce was difficult men and women endured much misery, and before homosexuality was legalised, there was also much misery. I like his traditional values, and I like the Jewish way. I'm not convinced that organised religion is going to make much of a comeback.

Fortunately 15 years later we can also watch Lord Sacks preach on YouTube.

Ebby: The Man Who Sponsored Bill W.
Ebby: The Man Who Sponsored Bill W.
by Mel B.
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.95

4.0 out of 5 stars This is a sad story. Ebby was in the right place at ..., 22 Sep 2014
This is a sad story. Ebby was in the right place at the right time for Bill W. but he wasn't able to maintain his own sobriety. The account of his many relapses and his inability to hold down jobs is quite harrowing at times. He was a lonely man, despite his ability to turn on the charm.

I think I first saw this book featured in The Sopranos - Christopher was reading it. It's well written and can be read in a few sittings.

God of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction
God of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction
by Shais Taub
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Uplifting, 21 Sep 2014
I saw Rabbi Taub on a video - he was amusing and profound. This book was just as wonderful - it offers many deep insights into human psychology, and at the same time it's easy to read. His basic point is that we've got to come to terms with reality to Iive well. He points out that 12 step programmes use many of the spiritual insights of the Torah, and you can be Jewish and maintain the integrity of your faith on the programme.

Rabbi Taub is a very likeable teacher and his wisdom will enrich your life.

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: £16.58

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: £5.75

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
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £4.39

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: £4.99

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.

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