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Bruce Coker (London)

Page: 1
Offered by Foster Trading Ltd (
Price: £68.24

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Made of tin foil, 30 Dec. 2011
I can't really recommend anyone to buy this. I'm not an engineer so this is not a qualified opinion, but both the materials and the concept struck me as potentially problematic. For a device that houses a naked flame, I'm amazed they're allowed to sell something of this design and construction. As the manufacturer points out in the reply to this review, it must conform to British Standards, so I'm not saying it's not safe. But I will say that I wouldn't want it in my home. The metal is so thin that to me it appears barely capable of supporting the weight of a full gas bottle. Also, the bottle support panel is equally lightweight, meaning that it kept twisting and detaching itself from its mountings during assembly. This made me nervous that it might twist itself loose during use, leaving the bottle basically free to fall over, as without the panel the heater has little stability. This in turn would make the whole heater follow. You can imagine the rest...

I don't like the way the stability of the design depends entirely on a flimsy panel, which is not secured tightly in place but simply clipped behind some self-tapping screws which are not intended to be fully tightened down. I'm sure it's safe enough if - as per the instructions - it is not moved or touched whilst alight. However, reality suggests that some people will probably try to move it, brush into it etc. while it's on, and I would be concerned that this could be enough to dislodge the retaining panel. It should, to my mind, offer greater resilience to such treatment.

For these reasons the heater made me feel very nervous. I would not buy it.

Note: I have updated this review to give a clearer, more extensive explanation of my opinion of the product, in response to requests from the manufacturer for me to remove it entirely. I note that they claim to have received no complaints, while pointing out that they have in fact received at least the one you're reading now. I have also clarified that my opinions are those of an ordinary person with no engineering background. As such, they should be taken for what they are worth. I very much hope that the reps who keep trying to ring me about it will now leave me alone.

Beijing Doll (Abacus Books)
Beijing Doll (Abacus Books)
by Howard Goldblatt
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.78

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A horrible book written by a horrible person, 22 Jan. 2007
Both the tag line and the twenty-year-old Chinese author Chun Sue describe this book as a novel. The description is wildly inaccurate, as the book is entirely lacking in qualities such as plot and character development that are normally associated with the form. Constructing a novel takes more than a pretty turn of phrase. Beijing Doll is in fact a memoir, and a wafer thin one at that, of Sue's troubled teenage years. Hating just about everyone, from her parents and teachers to her classmates and numerous equally angst-ridden boyfriends, she relates a tale of unmitigated misery and despair in which the two recurring themes are her abject misery and her unflagging sense of superiority to just about everyone she encounters. The latter despite the striking absence of any word or deed to justify such over-inflated self-importance.

Very little of note actually happens over the course of the book's 200-odd pages. Sue repeatedly leaves and rejoins school, hangs out in malls and McDonalds, goes to gigs, dyes her hair, argues with her mother, and lurches from one miserable relationship to another with monotonous regularity, all the while failing to grow up at all or to grasp the blindingly obvious reason why nobody much likes her: she's a vain, opinionated, spoilt brat. For example, at one point she tells us how much she likes politics classes and how eagerly she's looking forward to a new one starting. But the reason for her enthusiasm isn't because she might learn something. People and situations she feels can teach her something are rarer than hen's teeth in Sue's world. Instead she just can't wait for the chance to show off and impress everyone with her intelligence.

But for all the awfulness of the content and the author's dysfunctional personality, the book's real problem remains its disjointed and incoherent style. Sue meanders haphazardly through a multitude of themes and scenarios without ever taking the time or trouble to develop an idea properly. Over the course of the book she joins two different bands, but we never learn anything substantial about their music or even whether they play any gigs. At another point she mentions taking guitar lessons, but we never hear any more about her progress with this either. The book is full of examples of this type of arbitrariness.

Sue also demonstrates an annoying and - for a writer - extremely unhealthy over-reliance on other peoples' words, often quoting at length from the song lyrics and poems that have inspired her. The dubious value of this approach is emphasized by the frequency with which these borrowed words, despite their banality, are so much more resonant and insightful than her own.

The book's stylistic problems begin as early as the first couple of pages, where Sue introduces in great detail someone we are led to believe is a major character, only to drop him completely two paragraphs later. From then on people come and go with bewildering speed, offering the reader almost no hope of distinguishing the important ones from the bit part players. Everyone is her 'friend', yet none of these relationships is more than skin deep. However, after a while this turns out to be less of a problem than you would imagine, primarily because it rapidly becomes apparent that the 'novel' contains just one significant character: the author herself. No-one could realistically hope to share equal billing with such a monstrous ego. As early as the introduction she reminds us, her foreign readers, what a great debt we owe her translators for giving us the chance to partake of her pearls of wisdom. And then she complains, poor thing, about having had to submit the manuscript to over twenty publishers before getting an offer. Someone should remind her she was lucky to be born Chinese, for the only elements of interest in these incoherent ramblings are provided by a Beijing youth-culture background rarely encountered by the Western reader. The brutal truth is if the author had not been Chinese this book would never have been published. I get the strong impression that it was only published at all because of its supposedly raw and uncompromising treatment of adolescent sex. Yet despite the occasional (and often pointless) obscenity, and Sue's undeniable promiscuity, the fact remains that for a self-confessed rebel and relentless advocate of freedom, She shows a remarkable timidity toward the subject, veering away from anything remotely explicit, and even at one point euphemistically and bizarrely saying she'd "forgotten to bring something" when talking - presumably -about a lack of contraceptives. Earlier, presented with a spray can and a blank wall, she has to ask her companion what to write. All in all, you couldn't hope to meet a shyer, more inhibited revolutionary.

In fairness I should mention that some of the book's problems may be the result of poor translation. We are given no clue as to what qualifies Howard Goldblatt for the task of translating contemporary Chinese fiction, but some of his English language constructions are wordy and strange, adding a further layer of awkward clumsiness to an already rambling narrative.

I ended the book feeling almost sorry for Sue. She comes over less as a rebel than as a scared and spoilt little girl, too used to getting her own way, and with a major personality disorder as a result. There are signs that she may have the potential to be a halfway decent writer if only she would read more, listen more, self-edit occasionally, and learn the value of discipline. But by feeding her already over-developed sense of self-worth, I fear that having this miserable little book published could turn out to be one of the worst things that ever happened to her. And if even half of what she tells us in Beijing Doll is true, that is saying something.

Price: £17.06

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Goodbye Beatbox (Hello Guitars), 3 Dec. 2002
This review is from: Lovebox (Audio CD)
It was almost a disappointment that this was so perfect. I mean, how can these guys keep knocking out such creative, immaculately produced material at this alarming rate? As others have said, this selection certainly shows more of their influences even than Goodbye Country...
Madder and Purple Haze are filled with chunky guitars and truly rock, while Remember features an unlikely yet extensive sample of sadly missed folk diva Sandy Denny's heavenly voice.
As others have said, Richie Havens provides perhaps the finest moments on Hands of Time.
As usual though, it's the production that really catches the ear. It's full and warm, and it really sounds as though Tom and Andy had a blast doing it. Once again this is a sublime recording that has to be worth a dozen quid of anybody's money.

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