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Agent "J" (UK)

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From Sepoy to Subedar
From Sepoy to Subedar
by Sita Ram
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Who is Sita Ram?, 1 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: From Sepoy to Subedar (Paperback)
It's very difficult to know how to rate this. When I bought it I was interested in Indian voices from India under the Empire. I had a quick look at the debate over whether the text is authentic or the concoction of some British officer and it seemed the general consensus was towards authenticity.

As I read the book I began to have serious doubts about this. The views of 'Sita Ram' are far too much like the views a British officer would want his sepoys to have. There is a lot of confusion about dates and places that begins to seem deliberate after a while. And the rhetorical flourishes that are meant to sound 'native' come across as forced to me.

I should say I'm no expert on Indian texts, but my suspicions were roused and I looked a bit deeper into the debate over authorship. I found an essay on the topic by Alison Safadi in the Annual of Urdu Studies No. 25 which confirmed some of my suspicions and finds new grounds to cast doubt on the Indian authorship of the text. That essay is available online so you can read it yourself.

But of course whoever wrote it, this is still a very interesting historical document. It was taken as authentic and used by the British for some decades - perhaps out of wishful thinking. And it certainly describes someone's ideas about the colonial military life in India. The question is, whose?


The Gone-Away World
The Gone-Away World
by Nick Harkaway
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Massive entertainment, 1 Sep 2013
This review is from: The Gone-Away World (Paperback)
This is like a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel that is funny and wise and entertaining all at the same time. It is like that, but better than that, because it also has ninjas.


David Cameron Lifesize Cardboard Cutout Standee
David Cameron Lifesize Cardboard Cutout Standee
Offered by Hot Dog Movie Posters, Prints & Gifts
Price: 26.99

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Buyer beware, 27 Mar 2013
I bought one of these and it stole most of my stuff and urinated heavily over everything else. Would probably be okay if it came handcuffed and shackled and with a gag in its mouth. The gag is important: you would not believe the poisonous nonsense it spews about immigrants when you catch it doing some horrible thing and it knows there's no way out.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 17, 2013 10:42 AM BST


50 Peaks By Hi-Tec Men's Penrith Wp Walking Shoe
50 Peaks By Hi-Tec Men's Penrith Wp Walking Shoe

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A slight problem, 10 Jun 2012
I do not, I like to think, place unreasonable demands upon a waterproof walking shoe priced at 25. I do however expect them to be waterproof. These are not. I know this because my feet are currently sopping wet after a bike ride in the rain - not off-road or anything, just around town. My feet have previously got wet in these shoes while walking through wet grass, stepping in shallow puddles, and walking on the pavement in the rain. They get one star for successfully being a shoe.


Olympic Mascots 20cm Plush Wenlock
Olympic Mascots 20cm Plush Wenlock
Offered by The Entertainer
Price: 1.00

33 of 76 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Problematic psychological side-effects, 27 May 2012
= Durability:1.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:1.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:1.0 out of 5 stars 
I was initially pleased with this soft toy and our children seemed to love it, but as time went on I became worried about whether it was genuine. I wrote to LOCOG and the Met but neither has got back to me yet. In the meantime I live in fear of my door being battered down by a police assault team enforcing Olympic logo protections. Could the toys perhaps come with a signed letter from the Queen or something so we wouldn't have these worries?
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 15, 2012 12:37 AM BST


Olympic Mascots Wenlock Policeman Figurine
Olympic Mascots Wenlock Policeman Figurine

339 of 350 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If you want to imagine the future..., 27 May 2012
= Durability:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:4.0 out of 5 stars 
...imagine a policeman, baton drawn, watercannon at his shoulder, standing guard over an Olympics logo, while beside him McDonalds sells more burgers to more unhealthy people than ever, and drones cruise the sky collecting data from the phones of people suspected of anti-Olympics feelings...forever.

And to get into the spirit of your inevitable future you should buy this mascot like I did. It sits upon my mantelpiece, an extrusion of the future into my life, just as the Olympics offers itself as the future of human development: taxpayer-funded, corporate, unequal, and not for the likes of us.

Most reviewers have given a low star rating to this - very mean I think. I would have given it five stars but I expected the clear plastic shell to be made of the same plastic as police riot shields and it turns out not to be, so it loses a star for lack of authenticity.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 16, 2012 4:08 PM BST


The Loser (Vintage International)
The Loser (Vintage International)
by Mark M. Anderson
Edition: Paperback

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An incorrect review, 26 Nov 2011
This review is going to do something that novel reviews aren't meant to do: that is, reflect on the substance of the ideas and thinking behind the book, rather than on the quality of the book as a novel.

Stylistically the book is perhaps a minor triumph, and if you can read close to stream-of-consciousness prose there is something hypnotic about the repetitions that reflect the looping thoughts of a human mind.

It is not necessary enjoyable to read this style, though that is a subjective judgement. However I found it hard to force myself through a style that - while accomplished - I didn't much like, because the substance of the book was somewhat repellant to me.

I think it is possible to write a book about art, success, failure and so on without wallowing in delusions of superiority. This all of the characters, and I suspect the author himself (the ironic distance is not well maintained, despite some self-mocking) completely fail to do. This is a work of relentless elitism by someone who understands rather too well the feeling of disgust for his own audience. I cannot see it as anything but the author's attempt to establish his own superiority.

This is not how one is meant to write a review, because I suppose it comes down to this: regardless of the merits of the novel, I do not like Thomas Bernhard.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 22, 2011 11:00 AM GMT


Innocent Voices [DVD]
Innocent Voices [DVD]
Dvd ~ Carlos Padilla
Price: 5.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a film just about war and children in war, 10 Oct 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Innocent Voices [DVD] (DVD)
Most of the reviews here are very positive and I agree with them. This is a heartwrenching account of children caught up in war. The film also makes it clear that the US was a major force in this war, including training child soldiers. But even that can be interpreted by some as 'the madness of war' or the result of unaccountable military funding channels.

What is missing here is an understanding that this, and wars like this, are what your wealth is built upon. Europe and the US have maintained military empires even when pretending otherwise, and the purpose of this is to distribute wealth to the 'right' places. The US has been almost constantly at war since WWII, and the war in El Salvador was not an aberration but part of a pattern of war fought for power and money. We, as residents in Western countries benefit from these wars, though some more than others of course.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 17, 2011 8:15 AM BST


Welcome to Everytown: A Journey into the English Mind
Welcome to Everytown: A Journey into the English Mind
by Julian Baggini
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not much of a journey into the English mind, 1 Oct 2011
I thought I would enjoy this book when I started it and it had moments of interesting thinking (the Daily Mail is a working class paper anyone?) but it suffers from several flaws, and ones which expose Baggini as a bit of a lightweight. Firstly he mis-sells his own book, claiming it to be an investigation into the philosophy of the English. This sounded like an interesting book: I would have loved to hear people talk about their attitudes to the meaning of life, death, evil, ethics, happiness and all the other things philosophy has traditionally addressed. Unfortunately that interesting book isn't the one Baggini wrote, even though he claimed to be doing so. Instead he wrote a book about the way of life of the English, that is, how their lives appear to an external observer, and as a consequence it is a rather shallow book in which we discover very little we didn't already know (some English people go to English pubs on holiday!).

Secondly, Baggini takes the view that the English 'philosophy' (read attitudes) have not changed much in several decades. His examples of this are unconvincing however. He points out that girls who sleep around too much are still labelled 'slags' and that people still get married. But he fails to note that no one in their right mind would expect a woman to be a virgin when they marry. Or that marriage is not as permanent as it once was. A related problem is that he does not examine the structural aspect of people's lives. That is, he points out that people use their cars a lot, but he does not comment on the economic structures that have created this tendency, choosing to see it as a 'preference' instead. This is a related issue to that of change because people's lives have changed recently partly in response to changing structural forces. Failing to notice this is serious intellectual shoddiness.

And finally, at the risk of sounding mean, you end up feeling that despite all Baggini's efforts at research, he gets most of his 'data' from four blokes in a pub. I hope his other books have a bit more thought in them than this one.


Blind White Fish in Persia
Blind White Fish in Persia
by Anthony Smith
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars An uninspired account of a trip to Iran with some historical interest, 3 April 2011
I picked this up at the bookstall in Deptford market. I like travel books and thought it would be interesting to try a largely forgotten book. It recounts a trip by some Oxford students to Iran to investigate qanats, the underground irrigation tunnels used in Iran.

Predictably the book is scattered with colonial attitudes - an automatic defence of the Anglo Iranian Oil Company for instance - to go along with the colonial adventure (these are the type of chaps who stop off at the ambassador's residence on the way to somewhere) but this is mitigated by the author making some efforts to understand what Iranian people might have seen in the expedition, and some attempts to understand the cultural attitudes that puzzled or frustrated them.

The writing is however a little flat (a bit like this review actually) and some of the technical details of the expedition take up too much space without imparting useful information. There is also a refusal to really consider colonial politics. Still, a little historical curiosity to pass the time if you like travel tales.


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