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Reviews Written by
Laurence Dann "LD strategy" (Hampshire, England)

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Shooting Straight: Guns, Gays, God, and George Clooney
Shooting Straight: Guns, Gays, God, and George Clooney
by Piers Morgan
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Interviewing is his gift, yet journalism is his passion, 7 Jun 2014
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Having recently read Piers Morgan's Misadventures of a Big Mouth Brit, this diary
was refreshing in that it reads better without the endless banter, blarney and
endless self promotion. I know some enjoy the gossip and name dropping but
I prefer this more subdued and reflective style.

I was expecting something of a diatribe about his war on the American Gun culture.
Instead, Piers Morgan makes a few well made points that peaked my interest into thinking
about a nation that sees safety in it's ability to defend itself with weapons. Statistics
bely this belief, yet intelligent arguments are made either way, by himself and his
interviewed protagonists.

I have read a few, if not all of the Piers Morgan diaries so far and without exception, found
them entertaining and full of impressive achievements due to relentless passion and
humour for life. He reveals more of himself in this book, regards his children's sporting
success, his Mom's maternal exchanges with Gordon Brown and highlighting his son's
hero worship of Oscar Pistorius (before the fateful Valentine tragedy)

I found it endearing to read, yet hardly surprising, that he struggled to be separated
from his boys, that he found the endless flights and sleepless nights tough to deal with.
He makes his feelings clear regards the Levison Inquiry and gets an apology from the
Labour MP that accused him of boasting about phone hacking.

One thing Piers Morgan isn't, is boring. His writing is conversational and this helps when
he reminds us of interviews he did with world leaders and made complex issues simple
and easy to digest. He is family man and strongly believes in loyalty between friends,
especially when they are in trouble. This is evident in this book, while at the same time he
let's us understand the pressures and complexities of working in high profile media positions.

Personal anecdotes about colleagues and celebrities are handled diplomatically and
entertainingly and at the same time enrich the tapestry of how complex and how
pressurised his job at CNN really is. I found it endearing how Piers Morgan revered
Larry King and that he mentions a few mistakes with some credible humility.

I have always found Piers Morgan to be a likeable and entertaining man with an uncanny
understanding for seeing the 'big picture,' who despite a few feuds, stands his ground
and forgives fairly easily. Interviewing is his gift, yet journalism is his passion so
one can forgive him for wanting to land his perfect position to share his voice as an anchor
on the mighty CNN stage.

He is a local lad made good. Good for him, especially since his sacrifices reaped rewards.
I enjoyed this book and recommend it as a light and entertaining read.

Babysitting George
Babysitting George
Price: £6.39

2.0 out of 5 stars More suitable for the tabloids., 2 Jun 2014
I struggled to read this book. The story (if you want to call it that) is about the whims of a drunk.
Irrespective of the fact that that the protagonist was a superb footballer and once a hero to many.
This book is about his final days and provides insights into how dishonest and devious the media
is in getting their 'scoop' for which they may feel entitled for exchanging some filthy lucre.

George is depicted as a self-centred, narcissistic, egomaniac who trivialises most things with
endless flippant remarks as he plays the victim card repeatedly. His immaturity and entitlement
provides a repetitive 'non-story.' This isn't sad, its stupid. This book should not have been published
as his womanising and drinking habits are already needlessly documented in the media for decades.
It's an ingratiating piece of indulgence by a writer who should know and do better. Celia Walden
is able to write, so why she chose to write this book seems disingenuous and a mystery to me.

I don't see how a self respecting professional can take any pleasure in writing about George
making a fool of himself, hurting others and then ultimately killing himself. I am able to see that
there is a market for extending tabloid journalism into books and some readers will revel in it. I
for one, did not like it and may prove to be in the minority. Irrespective, even if you feel this review
is unhelpful, I don't recommend that you make the time to read this book. It would have found a
better home serialised in a tabloid newspaper.

Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind
Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind
Price: £6.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended to save time, improve relationships and get better results., 5 May 2014
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Having spent a couple of decades working with teams on strategy and strategic thinking,
I know that the value of thinking and listening is significant. A friend of mine who is a coach,
recommended that I take a look at what Nancy Kline has to say on listening. This book is a
treasure and certainly one to go back to repeatedly.

I liked the way the writer first stated the process that she and her team developed over time,
with many clients. Refining and improving what became a ‘Thinking Environment.’ The book is
thoughtfully and logically constructed, with countless gems of advice and sufficient underlying
logic and anecdotes to make the implementation of the process believable and understandable.
I like the way the Thinking Environment is explained to be applicable in a variety of circumstances.
Making it a means to use anywhere and any time. With toddlers, teenagers, boardrooms and in
parliaments, all.

Quite simply the book shows how to unlock assumptions that hamper our decisions and activities.
This listening process helps to change our behaviour and consequently our results. Everyone is
able to learn this practical model. Some of the steps involve: Listening without interruption and
judgement, Allowing the Thinker to release all their ideas, Checking what the Thinker would like
to achieve, Identifying assumptions with questions and then writing down the Incisive ones. The
value of positive reinforcement is explained well and should convince even the cynics amongst us.
I don’t wish to tell any of the writers story as this could best be known from reading the narrative
ourselves. That said, I do feel that people in the services industry, particularly consultants, would
benefit from this book as it embodies a tried and tested process.

The Listener leverage's off the Thinkers ability to think for themselves. A simple concept,
but not easy to master relentlessly. Life throws us many challenges and many relationships
and there is no doubt in my mind that this book would enhance many aspects of our respective
lives. I am grateful that my friend introduced me to this book as I intend to start paying attention
to my listening and thinking skills because of it. I confess that I enjoyed the book so much that I
hardly put it down from beginning to end.

While I do understand the value in repeating the application of the principles on various
circumstances, I did on a couple of occasions feel that there some unnecessary repetition.
This is a minor criticism and did not detract in any way from the value of the content.

Could a Thinking Environment change the way we do things and improve our world? Starting
with our families, moving onto friends, firms and the future - certainly. I hope many more join
this credible thinker in improving our legacy. I liked this book and recommend it to anyone who
wants to save time, improve relationships and get better results.

Alex Ferguson My Autobiography
Alex Ferguson My Autobiography
Price: £7.94

3.0 out of 5 stars I think the book, OK, nothing more., 2 May 2014
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I didn't find this a riveting read. It has merit in that we get a retrospective
account of Sir Alex's view on players, games and how he manages people.

He would like us to believe that he is a canny judge of character, is an avid
reader and enjoys to chew the fat on a variety of topics. The narrative speaks
about a close knit family, an affection for players that tow the line and a mix
of criticisms of players and himself.

One has to admire Sir Alex's frank approach, yet his reference to players as
boys or lads is clearly patronising. He lets the reader know that part of his
success lies in management by fear and discipline. His main weapon being
punishment. That of removing the right to play being the primary weapon.

Throughout the book, one has to remember that the writer is providing the
reader with Sir Alex's take on proceedings. While it tells us about the man, this
obviously doesn't help with objectivity. Wise words from a successful and sage
manager do not permeate. We read his candid views, as is. Take it or leave it,
with a pinch of salt. Consequently, criticisms from people he has a go at, are
inevitable from the sensitive.

I never gained the impression from the book that Sir Alex was anything but
a sombre, melancholic man, focused on his will to win. He chose his team
of followers to manage the coaching, scouting and information flow and
between them they plotted and planned the downfall of competitors and the
recycling of players to improve the chances winning. Authority, respect,
compliance and loyalty is absolute in the Ferguson factory.

There are criticisms of Beckham (celebrity seeker) Keane (anger management)
Rooney (slow learner & loss of fitness fast) to name a few. Counter to this, Ronaldo,
Giggs and the likes of Scholes can do no wrong. Overall, the criticisms throughout
the book seem rather sanitised. I think this is because it was Sir Alex's job not to
know and like people, but to identify their strengths and weaknesses and leverage
off that. This then makes a series of superficial takes on his sizeable number of
relationships with household heroes.

There are references attempting to make Sir Alex appear to be a man of the people.
His wife is the decision-maker at home, he is proud of all of his son's achievements
(but wasn't around much to raise them) and he does have moments of self deprecation
which seem honest enough.

That all said, I don't feel after reading the book, that I know Sir Alex any better than
before I read it. I think he attempted to reveal more of himself, but the soul, the spirit
and the drive of the man - and his emotional intelligence are left wanting in the readers

We are not told about how he built the club around the Class of '92, his views on
succession planning, his relationships with captains, who did his bidding, thinking
and research. Little is said about the Glazers, the business model as it affects the
strategic thinking, the players lifestyle management or travelling repeatedly with
players or his relationships with fans.

My view is that the chapter topics are rather dumbed down and lacks fresh
creativity. I found the book rather safe, facile and not particularly revealing,
considering the vantage point and experience the subject has. It is a book that
promised much, but in actual fact delivered little more then what is in the public
domain already. My sympathies are for those readers that are well versed in
Manchester United culture - who may have been able to contribute quite a few
more interesting anecdotes themselves.

I think the book, OK, nothing more.

American Soul
American Soul
Offered by MasterDVD
Price: £4.79

4.0 out of 5 stars If you enjoy the art of musical interpretation, then this won't disapoint., 12 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: American Soul (Audio CD)
I was somewhat slow to buy this CD as I didn't feel
the song selection had enough tracks in it to carry
the album. I was wrong. Listening to it as a soul collection,
it remains tasteful, relaxing and enjoyable throughout.

After listening a few times (four) I am impressed and
hooked. I find that album is not over produced, it is free
of gimmicks and could be replicated live. This is Mick's
strength and his great voice of course. His interpretations
are mostly sublime and understated.

My favourites are: I'd rather go blind (that screaming organ,
backing vocals and conviction in Mick's voice are great) ;
Lonely Avenue (while it has a marching beat, the vocals are
a balance between raw and fragile and the lyric raises an
interesting and novel dilemma)

I only have eyes for you (I would be one of those that would
say only Art Garfunkel could carry this off. Again I was wrong.
Listen to this version, it more than compares) My favourite
track is the, Tell It Like It Is (This take me back a good few
decades and reminds me how good music could be then too.
Mick's use of a little falsetto and slow timing works well) ; The
girl that radiates that charm (will get any audience moving with
a brass section that punctuates in all the right places)

Maybe the vocal that surprised me the most was Let Me down
Easy (Loads of emotion without melodrama, the guitar work and
strings are a subtle touch) Well known songs like Don't let me be
misunderstood ; Its Impossible and Hope There's Someone are
also well done.

Overall there isn't a badly performed or arranged song on the album
and it has a rich quality throughout. If like me, you listen to it a few
times you may begin to like it more than you would have erstwhile
believed or care to admit.

The thing about Mick on this album, is he really can interpret songs
well and sings extremely well. More importantly, he really loves these
tunes and it shows. I recommend this CD for those who are prepared
to ease into it slowly. Enjoy.

PS: My reason for giving this four stars is that it is an collection of
covers, so much of the creativity remains with the arrangements and
superb vocals. If you enjoy the art of musical interpretation, then this
won't disappoint.

Mike & The Mechanics Hits
Mike & The Mechanics Hits
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £10.42

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some great hooks and memorable pop vocals., 12 April 2014
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Having owned and sold this CD some years ago, it was hearing Paul Carrack
sing recently that prompted my desire to call back the past. This collection
did more to jog my memory of some great events associated with quite a
few of these hits.

I suppose today, this would be seen mostly as pop music heard on oldies radio
or something one would hear in a shop or as background music. This doesn't
make it bad music, it's just seriously dated from another dance or sing-along era.

My favourite tracks are: Over my shoulder (A timeless classic of a song, interesting
chord progressions, great vocals) ; Another Cup of Coffee (the bass line is tasteful
and supports the melody well) ; A time and place (the lyrics are sentimental but make
an interesting point about overcoming difficulties - some might say its best heard in an
audience with everyone waving their phones of flames to the anthem. It has a decent
crescendo) ; Taken In (this metronomic melody reminds me of an old Gilbert O'Sullivan
song, however its the simplicity and innocence of the song that appeals to me) A beggar
on a beach of gold (Few would argue that this is a pop classic, sung with passion and

Not everyone likes to revisit a whole batch of pop music from a bygone era, but I found that
this compilation of well known favourites had enough quality, hooks and messages to make it
worthwhile, even at this time. Made in and for the pop genre it should stand a few more
tests in time. To recall some sins in the past, I recommend this CD.

Céline Dion - Through the Eyes of the World [DVD] [2010]
Céline Dion - Through the Eyes of the World [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Celine Dion
Price: £12.79

4.0 out of 5 stars More than just a voice, 29 Mar 2014
If you ever wondered what it would be like to be the centre of an entourage and have to shoulder the ultimate responsibility for delivering 'on time, every time'- then this DVD delivers. Sure, Celine Dion has many helpers and enjoys the attention and adoration of more than just her fans. However, the pressure of her world tour was relentless.

This is a warts and all DVD. While it depicts her in less than flattering poses and places, without make-up, singing off key, singing with a distinct nasal tone at times, the documentary provides insight into her persona without being voyeuristic or distastefully invasive.

Clearly her family is the love of her life, so too her sizeable number of musicians, dancers and support organisers. She is depicted as a leader who inspires and connects with many. The scale of the productions, the attention to detail and the need to be 'on point' is evident. Even walking through the crowds with security guards needs close scrutiny.

It is the clip when Celine tells her security team, that there is a problem with how they are walking too slowly, in front of her or standing on her dress that the viewer is able to see how incisive she is in solving problems. She communicates clearly, respectfully and incisively.

You get the impression that there is rarely time to waste, for her to relax and unwind. I think her husband has admirable patience and understanding, allowing her to come back to earth slowly after the high of doing a show. He has his foibles, his blue shoes and dry sense of humour. He knows he shares her with the world and he seems accepting and relaxed about that. Both their devotion to their son is evident.

While the trappings of fame and fortune are easy to see in the DVD, so too are the stresses and the routine of repeating the same show on many continents. That said, no two shows can be the same. Accidents happen, illnesses appear, equipment malfunctions, dancers get injured, replacements have to learn the moves in a few days. Throughout, the impression is that those involved are respected and their own lives as well. Fans who are devoted, who have waited years to see their star, get a piece of Celine's time too.

Celine seems driven to please people. To push herself and use every moment and piece of energy in her quest to bring the best experience to the people she meets. Clearly she takes her responsibility of delivering her art and the songs of her writers, very seriously. She is am concerned and consummate professional.

For some, Celine's use of vocal gymnastics or 'technique' for effect is not appealing. Or the obvious indulgences in endless sentimentality. I am ambivalent about quite a large slice of her music catalogue, yet am hugely impressed by some of her CDs. I prefer her singing in her native tongue. Clichéd I know, but I find her voice sounds more settled, more relaxed or more at home.

No matter her critics for singing covers, for singing schmaltz at times, her fans and her people adore and respect her. She uses and shares her talents the best she can. Her end product is cleverly created and delivered to a very high standard. I for one, would never envy her success, she certainly has had to work for it and as she said, sometimes "at what price?".

Celine Dion is more than just a voice. Watch the DVD, see and hear for yourself.

The Armstrong Lie [DVD] [2014]
The Armstrong Lie [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Alex Gibney
Price: £10.00

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Armstrong's psychology is riveting., 17 Feb 2014
This DVD is well made. It is detailed and full of excellent footage.
The production too is impressive. There are many clips with Armstrong
in front of the camera where his personality seems complex and unpleasant.

In essence, Lance is depicted as an aggressive, competitive, demanding and
a 'win at all costs' person. If he is to be believed it is at your own peril.
Many suggest that he lies often or is deluded into constructing complex webs
of nuanced opinions. Even at the end of the DVD Armstrong is satisfied that
in decades time, he will still be remembered for winning seven French tours.

Armstrong's plan to involve so many people worked. He intimidated many to
remain 'on message', to keep to the party line. Needless to say collaborators
were well rewarded. It required a man with a badge and a gun to crack the
nerve of cohorts. Armstrong, with less conscience and more to lose, has held
out on either proclaiming his innocence or guilty with extenuating circumstances.

His claim that his punishment is unfair is ludicrous. The arrogance and
opportunism is seemingly sociopathic and could anger even the most mild
mannered. He obviously has no idea as to the extent and ramifications of
his behaviour.

In fact, the documentary says repeatedly that it was his comeback that
started his demise. He was always under suspicion and attracted negative
publicity but for years was never proven guilty. He involved medical
specialists, team riders, the media and cycling officials in a scheme that
made many a lot of money. This made me wonder repeatedly about other
sports where doping and gambling are suggested to exist. Does this mean
that the professional era of sport, has spawned endless teams and
individuals that look for loopholes to exploit financially? The idea that
a fair contest is increasingly unlikely does not auger well for sports fans.

A minor problem that I had with the DVD is, now a year old, most of the
facts, anecdotes and stories are well known through the media. This is no
fault of the documentary maker of course. It is merely that as news it
doesn't age well. This means if you have followed the Lance saga with
interest, the viewer won't learn anything new. If this is your first attempt
at finding out what the fallen legend is all about, then this is a highly
credible place to start.

That said, as a summary of the story, it stands up well on its own and ends
with irony. Armstrong having alleged to having amassed a fortune of $125 mill,
was in 2013 being sued for 80% of it by the US government and Floyd Landis.
After which, if he loses, he could still come out of the doping scheme very
wealthy. Which makes one wonder if crime still pays. Irrespective, sports
managers have a huge challenge ahead as Armstrong took cheating to a new level.

It seems that participating in this DVD proved to be an indulgence for Armstrong.
Another vain attempt at self promotion and to avoid being made accountable for
his actions. He is not a lovable rogue, far from it. He has harmed people and
pretends not to know it.

Watch this DVD, if nothing else, Armstrong's psychology is riveting.

YouTube Strategies 2014: Making And Marketing Online Video
YouTube Strategies 2014: Making And Marketing Online Video
Price: £1.83

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Repetitive but real, 13 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The book provides a decent framework for beginners (like me) to make a check list
of basic things to remember when publishing on YouTube. The book takes a Q & A
format with each of the answers having a narrative, a summary and action points.
Plus a few 'bonus' chapters thereafter, that touch on Shooting videos, What's next
at YouTube, Favourite Tech and YouTube Marketing.

The points that I found interesting in this short book are:

1. YouTube monitors how long people watch your video for.
2. Its best to partner with YouTube, so both may benefit.
3. Mobile devices need special thought and attention.
4. YouTube is a powerful and social media tool that is easily integrated.
5. Single channels have no ranking benefit over multiple niche channels.
6. Marketing to the wrong people or using poor content is harmful and a
very short-term idea.
7. Owning or creating your unique 'topic tag' is crucial.
8. Transcripts in search may become important. (Would voice recognition
software help?)

I found some of the answers rather weak and incomplete. Such as the one
on using Annotations and the other, How to make your video go viral. Be warned
that most of the links suggested go back to the Author's content. This more than
anything narrows down the relevance and objectivity of the advice provided.

While this book is endlessly repetitive and has countless grammatical and
spelling errors, it is still useful. Despite poor editing, the Writer has
valuable experience with YouTube, which he shares generously and in good faith.

Podcasting is an emerging genre on the internet and will no doubt see many
improvements, ideas and writers in the near future. This book helps to list some
of the known basics thus far.

For these reasons, I recommend the book for YouTube beginners at the price.
It does provide an opportunity for beginners to create a useful background check-list.

Greetings from Bury Park: Race. Religion. Rock 'n' Roll
Greetings from Bury Park: Race. Religion. Rock 'n' Roll
by Sarfraz Manzoor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.37

4.0 out of 5 stars I liked this book for its simplicity, candour and humorous insights., 9 Feb 2014
I liked this book for its simplicity, candour and humorous insights. I grew up in Cape Town and have enjoyed limited interaction with Asian communities. Having lived in Luton briefly a few years ago, this sojourn ignited an interest and an admiration for Asian culture, especially their food, family and religion. This book gave me sufficient background about a Muslim guy, who primarily wanted a British identity, as opposed to a Pakistani one. Our family migrated to the UK, yet the sacrifices his parents offered their children are sobering and inspiring to me.

Saf Manzoor is bravely honest about his family dynamics and his fears in making something of himself. Two things stand out for me, his humility and his ability to write his observations candidly. He has an eye for the 'not so obvious' that makes many of the anecdotes memorable. The book is a series or themes or essays that have their own beginning, middle and end which means there is overlapping of information (repetition) between chapters. He looks at Faith, Father/ Family, Marriage, the land of the Free...and the Boss to name a few.

I feel I understand Saf's experience (through his good, clear, simple writing) and this helps me to remove some stereotypes and a layer of prejudice that I shamefully may still have. His chapter on Bruce Springsteen was rewarding for me in that I thought I loved music and some artists in particular, but never to the obsessive stages that he took it. For his troubles and effort, I see he pushed his interest to the limits and learnt lots from it. I admire that in him, especially since his peers thought it strange. Forging a friendship with a mate for life and then introducing his sister to Bruce, shows that he did inspire others by being true to his love for Springsteen.

If nothing else, look out for his documentary of a few years ago, called Luton Actually (YouTube) for more interesting insights and observations from this satirical documentary maker turned writer. Saf Manzoor is certainly a man, with whom I would grab at the chance to have a coffee. He appears interesting, likeable, entertaining and most importantly, understated.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and recommend that others give it a go too.

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