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Donald Lush "lushd" (United Kingdom)
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The Basement Tapes Raw: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11
The Basement Tapes Raw: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11
Price: £16.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bob Dylan's Time Machine, 4 Nov 2014
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How lucky we are to have this. One of the great musicians and artists of the twentieth century caught working up new material, rough edges, failures, gems and all. Everyone sounds drunk, happy, committed to the creative process and the results are louche, smart, charming, silly and more often brilliant than anyone had a right to expect. Some of these songs would go on to greatness, some would gather dust and only time would be able to tell which. This is as close to being an earwitness to the birth of some of the greatest music by Dylan and The Band you will ever get. Joyful and endlessly fascinating.


Discovering Scarfolk
Discovering Scarfolk
by Richard Littler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For information, please read this review, 16 Oct 2014
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This review is from: Discovering Scarfolk (Hardcover)
Those of us who grew up in the 1970s will be plunged back into the horrors of being locked in the cellar and made to watch The Generation Game while being fed only on electrified blancmange and forced to confess their wicked dreams to judicial pigeons.

Everyone else will wonder if beige was a colour or a state of mind.

For more information, please re-read this review.


Everything I Know I Learned From TV: Philosophy For the Unrepentant Couch Potato
Everything I Know I Learned From TV: Philosophy For the Unrepentant Couch Potato
Price: £5.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and a little frustrating, 11 Oct 2014
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I read this after thoroughly enjoying The Philosopher At The End of The Universe which gives an excellent and accessible introduction to the major questions of modern western philosophy. This book takes up where the great philosophers Schwarzenegger et. al left off by looking at the themes of philosophy manifested in popular TV shows. One reason to love it is the contention that everyone is a philosopher and that although there may be many learned academic papers out there, the ideas they discuss are everywhere and part of our everyday lives. If you read this book I don't think you will be able to doubt that.

The style is, as before, light but lucid, the jokes occasionally cheesy and a little desperate and the links to the TV programmes chosen sometimes a bit tenuous. I don't think this matters much; Rowlands is very good writer with a gift for making obscure ideas easy to follow. He doesn't really need the help of the TV programmes at all, although he does get some good use and some good fun out of them.

I've particularly found this book useful for thinking about free will, identity and morality. Like Rowlands I am a big fan of Aristotle and the way he opens up Aristotle's sometimes complex and alien thinking has really helped me on these questions.

There are two things that made me knock a star off though. One is that the book is sometimes a bit too light. Take the treatment of Freud's ideas, for example. Rowlands doesn't say anything that's actually wrong but he veers dangerously close to over simplification. Freud's work wasn't even settled and clear in its author's mind so it's very hard to state confidently that Freud really said anything definite, conclusive or valid. Freud's greatest contribution may well have been to spend 24 volumes of books and papers saying "it's complicated". If you read this book, go and read Freud as well. He too is an excellent writer and he will reward and annoy you magnificently, leaving you confused but curious, I hope.

My final hesitation is on Rowland's take on the modern era. Don't get me wrong - I think western philosophy and ideology have stimulated great changes in our view of ourselves many of which are beneficial. But I think, again, Rowland's key propositions about modernism are over simplified and a little bit too close to saying that the modern world is rubbish (although he denies this) in an emotional rather than a rational way.

But - a great read, very helpful and clear, some great wisdom and stimulation to further thought. Highly recommended.


Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin in the Middle Taiga
Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin in the Middle Taiga
by Sylvain Tesson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Look at me, I'm all alone ... look ... look ... why aren't you looking?, 17 May 2014
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It's not often I read a book that I don't know what to make of. I know I enjoyed it and I know I had reservations. There's quite a lot of showing off, probably a bit too much rumination that borders on the pretentious and definitely far too much self-obsession. But there is also much to charm and delight. Tesson's love of the forest is obviously sincere, his descriptions of his visitors dry and witty, his digressions thoughtful and interesting. And I salute his reading list. Anyone who takes Schopenhauer and Marcus Aurelius to read is OK with me. I could have done without the lists of supplies, the endless announcements about amounts of alcohol consumed and the verbatim recording of conversations though - they just seemed like padding.

In the end, and I'm aware this seems harsh given how much I enjoyed reading it, the word inconsequential comes to mind. There's no real drama, no insights that shake the readers view of the world and nothing much of anything happens. It's pretty much what you'd expect in a place where there is almost nothing but snow, trees, lakes, wolves and bears. Nature, in the end, however desperately one wants it to, has no meaning or purpose. As Tesson would have known if he'd taken his Schopenhauer more seriously.


A Short Gentleman
A Short Gentleman
Price: £3.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, clever and moving, 10 May 2014
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This review is from: A Short Gentleman (Kindle Edition)
The gentleman in this case being a man of the utmost integrity and honesty, albeit burdened by a lack of self awareness, making the mistake that everyone does or at least should share his moral code and outlook on life. Thus a basic formula of comedy, misunderstanding between different people of the same events, is set in motion and with great success.

This success is down to the authors achievement in bringing Robert Purcell to convincing life. Arrogant, smug, over privileged, a man from who we would shrink in everyday life, he quickly becomes a sympathetic fictional character, surrounded as he is by fakes who want things from him that he has never promised and who then treat him as though he has let them down. Very often, I found myself sighing and laughing at the selfish whininess of the characters as they try to use him for their own ends.

The book plays a very clever conjuring trick. We're invited in to laugh at Purcell and we discover that the real monsters of the book are much more like ourselves, if we read it honestly. Which gives it tension and drama; like all good comedy, some of it is quite uncomfortable, especially in the clash of ideas over what a marriage is or should be.

The story raises another question for me - Purcell's ideal of life is surely everybody's? Plenty of money, predictability, professional respect, good education, a long and comfortable life reaping all its rewards. I think (maybe it's just me) that Canter is asking some very clever questions about equality (as becomes clear when the plot twists unwind towards the end), that nothing is what it seems, including inherited wealth and privilege and that innate superiority of bank account, education or character are not the reasons for success.

So the book left me quite happily confused. I rather suspect that people of all political views will find something in it to confirm their prejudices about British life and at the same time find them questioned.

I've been a bit serious about a comedy - this book is mainly hugely enjoyable because it is very, very funny. There are too many deliciously dry and smart comic moments to list but trust me, you won't think about hoovering in the same light again after you've read it and I doubt if you'll be able to pick up the nozzle of a hoover without a certain image coming into your mind.

Big laughs, lots of emotion, some provoking thoughts. Highly recommended.


A Man Called Ove
A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sympathetic Villain, 3 May 2014
This review is from: A Man Called Ove (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Which is my favourite sort of villain. Ove is a man who only wants the world to be right and wrong, according to his categories of right and wrong. And of course it isn't and he is magnificently grumpy about it. To say more would be to spoil the story though take it from me, you will relish his grumpiness.

In the end though, this book is a tearjerker, an unusual romcom, sentimental, shamelessly manipulative and extremely funny and moving. If you don't laugh 114 times and cry 23 times, then you are probably not reading it correctly. Ove will be angry with you. And you don't want that!


Moscow, 1937
Moscow, 1937
by Karl Schlögel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Total History, 28 April 2014
This review is from: Moscow, 1937 (Paperback)
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The USSR is not always well served by historians. The narrative of the empire of evil is sometimes all too seductive (especially if you want to sell a few books) and the results accordingly biased, with the thesis that it was a Bad Thing dominating, the subtleties missed.

Of course, history is never that simple, as this wonderful book demonstrates. On the one hand you have the out of control mass murder of the purges, on the other, a great city reborn into the 20th century at breakneck speed through astounding achievements and the reader can feel the pride of the times through original documents and astute commentary. You also have a nation blossoming in science, engineering, art and technology and you have a government so weak and frightened of its own people, so concerned for its own survival, so lacking in imagination, that it loses all morality and ultimately begins to damage its own interests as well as those of Soviet citizens. It's almost Dickensian - the best of times, the worst of times, seen without sentiment and almost impartially.

Schloegel manages to combine careful history, this being an academic book, with a tremendous gift for story telling. The result is a complex picture, not stinting on the horror but that brings the every day and the exceptional to convincing life. Looming over the whole thing, for modern readers, of course, is the disaster of WW2. As Stalin busily and violently squanders the skills of those he needs to keep the USSR safe and strong, Hitler makes his plans and we all know now that the long suffering citizens of Moscow will have, just a few years after the events in this book, to pay in blood once again for their leaders stupidity, arrogance and weakness.

For anyone with an interest in modern Europe, this is an indispensable book.


Staedtler Karat 2420 C36 Oil Pastels - Assorted Colours (Pack of 36)
Staedtler Karat 2420 C36 Oil Pastels - Assorted Colours (Pack of 36)
Price: £13.63

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quality Item, 27 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Now supporting my daughter's desire to create her own comic cartoon characters, these are obviously a high quality product, well made, easy to use and produce strong, vibrant colours. Nicely packed, too. Everything you would expect from this brand. Recommended.


How They Made It: Inspirational stories of how others succeeded in their dream job - and how you can too
How They Made It: Inspirational stories of how others succeeded in their dream job - and how you can too
by Lucy Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very useful resource, 2 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I'm a careers consultant working with students at two London Universities and I am always keen to encourage my clients to stretch themselves a bit. Most of us have only heard of about twenty possible careers and alongside that have very definite ideas about how careers get started and develop that aren't always right or complete. A really useful and enjoyable way of addressing this is to look at the careers of those we admire and try to analyse them to see what made them work so well and if we can learn any lessons. This book provides a great deal of excellent raw material for doing that and is entertaining and interesting as well.

My only note of caution is the underlying assumption about great careers being synonymous with fame and wealth - it isn't necessarily so!


An American Prayer
An American Prayer
Price: £8.74

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Killer on the road, 22 Feb 2014
This review is from: An American Prayer (Audio CD)
Dear oh dear, since the death of Morrison the Doors seem to have dedicated themselves to destroying their legacy with substandard solo projects and an endless series of slightly different re-releases of existing material that looks like an attempt to keep the fans wallets open. This, though, is the lowest point. It's hard to imagine anything that could be lower.

Morrison was an original. Despite his alcoholism, his desperation as a human being, his appalling behaviour, he had the talent, commitment and integrity of a great artist. If he had lived longer, as the poems on here demonstrate, he really might have matured into the poet he wanted to be. But the trouble is that his work here is obscured by average to bad music, edited weirdly and emasculated.

The main appeal is Morrison's performances. Not all the poems are great (some are) and sometimes he sounds hesitant and awkward. But very often his sense of the music in spoken words and his gifts as a performer and his rich and sexy voice really grab the ear and leave you wanting more, astonished at the images he conjures. And then some lounge jazz and bits of old Doors records drown him. For a long time fan like me, this is terribly sad.

If the Doors had wanted to pay tribute to Morrison, the best way would have been to clean up the tapes, have a good literary editor make as much sense of them as possible and put them out unadorned and with a book to read along with. If you want to know why the Doors were special, listen to their records where they really gel as a revolutionary and dangerous rock and roll band or seek out the bootlegs of these tapes where all you get is Morrison. But avoid this. It does neither party any favours.


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