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Lark (North Coast of Ireland)
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Look Who's Back
Look Who's Back
by Timur Vermes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant time travel and political humour, 7 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Look Who's Back (Paperback)
I cant think when I've enjoyed a popular paper back quite as much as I have this book and therefore I heartily recommend it.

There are some of the staples of time travel science fiction here, the protagonist, in this case Hitler with his unique perspective, encounters all the modern or interim innovations and developments responding to them as someone of his own earlier and different age. Its humorous, and that's the main point often in science fiction time travel fiction, but it also gives you occasion to think about the mundane or ordinary that is presented in this way. This was one of the great things about Terry Pratchett's Discworld series.

Vermes starts out simple enough, Hitler has been transposed from his more immediate setting in the middle of the war, the dress and behaviour of young people who meet him bewilders him as a consequence, their dress and skateboards but slowly, and I think the pace is excellent, one mod con after another is introduced, ring tones, mobile phones, "the mouse", the internetwork, wikipedia.

The political aspect of the humour and satire is done well too, for instance Hitler's thinking about the turks from his being taken in by a turkish news stand operator through his rise to youtube and television personality, to his meeting with modern day "nationalists", ie nazis and their response to him. This was something which had been done already to a certain extent by satirical political humourists like the team behind Iron Sky which had "moon nazis" visiting earth and beating up present day represenatives of thuggish fascism.

I dont believe that this book is particularly courting controversy, Hitler is not just any figure for history and that's understandable but this to me is no more contentious in its use of Hitler than Benny Hill sketches or Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator. If anything fascism and staples of fascism such as the Furher Principle appear as ludicrous as they were in practice, sometimes Hitler criticises in others the behaviour which was typical of himself during the war.

However, just as there are repeated misunderstandings as to meanings between Hitler and his TV production team, the press and those viewing his material, such as the repeated "the jews are no laughing matter" idea, it is not hard to see how some pretty serious, dangerous thinking was then and now easily misinterpreted as being more innocuous than they really were/are.

So for a popular read is proves almost as thought provoking as it is amusing and entertaining. Recommended.


Disinherited Mind: Essays in Modern German Literature and Thought
Disinherited Mind: Essays in Modern German Literature and Thought
by Erich Heller
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Great paradigm shifts in European thinking and philosophy, the aftermath and response to it all, 7 July 2015
I absolutely loved this book, it is at once an excellent example of what it is itself presenting and an excellent presentation of subject material. The author has arranged a series of essays ranging across philosophy, history, belief and poetry but his writing is pretty poetical itself.

If you are interested in any of the authors who are featured in the essays I would recommend this book, if you like German or central European thinkers I would recommend this book and if you are a fan of Kafka I would recommend this book too.

The contents break down as follows:
Preface; Goethe and the idea of scientific truth; Goethe and the avoidance of tragedy; Burkhardt and Nietzsche; Nietzsche and Goethe; Rilke and Nietzsche, with a discourse on thought, belief and poetry; Oswald Spengler and the predicament of the historical imagination; The world of Franz Kafka; Karl Kraus: The Last Days of Mankind.

There are endnotes and bibliographical references but no index.

The chapters I liked the best included the chapters on Nietzsche and Goethe, Oswald Spengler and Kafka, although this may be because I am more familiar with these authors and their source material while the chapter I liked the least was that on Karl Kraus, which was good but read more like a tribute to Kraus but was a little light on presentation of the primary material.

The pace and style of the writing I really enjoyed, its obvious that the author is very familiar with all the authors he presents and has absorbed something of their style into his own writing. Worth owning in hardback and reading a second time, great survey of great writers and reactions and responses to them.


The Burning House: What Would You Take?
The Burning House: What Would You Take?
by Foster Huntington
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

5.0 out of 5 stars To have or To Be?, 21 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this book after following the blog for a long time which I discovered on facebook some time after it had been started. At first I took an interest in the blog because it, to my mind, resembled post secret, it updated every once in a while with new pictures and accompanying lists instead of a postcard containing a stranger's secret. The question posed by the blog interested me and its a simple one, as the author indicates in his introduction, the longest piece of writing in the book at four pages, is one which used to a staple of dating profiles or an ice breaker in conversation, "what would you take with you if your house caught fire?".

What could be a simple enough dilemma stressing a tension between the practical and the sentimental is merely the jumping off point for a greater reflection upon life, materialism and what matters and its meaning. An excellent summation of this is made once again in the introduction: "Today, developed countries are consuming more than ever before. This culture of consumption is often fueled by people's desire to define themselves by the possessions they amass. The Burning House takes a different approach to personal definition. By removing easily replaceable objects and instead focusing on things unique to them, people are able to capture their personalities in a photograph".

I found this amazing as a source for musing about culture, politics and many other things besides. I recalled a friend at university, when I studied politics, economics and social policy to a Post-Grad Masters level, discussing how socialism could never challenge capitalism because it was a bigger engine for precisely the sort of consumer identity the author mentions. Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize was unlikely to exist in the socialist lexicon or if it did in a more narrowly defined and universal or uniform manner than the highly individualised western capitalist market place which simultaneously exploited and encouraged consumerism as the channel for non-conformity, novelty and uniqueness. Orwell made this contrast a centre point in 1984 too, although not always given the gravity it deserves Winston Smith buys a snow globe because it is a "pointless thing" of the sort Big Brother and the IngSoc party ideology despises, it is also destroyed when Smith is apprehended by the Thought Police.

The question and how many different people respond to it, and the author really did curate the site and include in the book the submissions of individuals from all walks of life, all generations, different nations etc., also made me think of Erich Fromm's question from To Have or To Be? In which he asks if an individual is what they have and you take that away from them then what are they? In posing this question Fromm aimed to contrast the having mode of existence, in which we live, and the being mode, which he felt would be superior or more desirable, and suggested that while modern man did indeed possess a lot, that he himself was not a lot. The epitome of a having mode of existence would probably be a very full garage of expensive, show case modern commodities but no depth of personal character to lend itself to discriminating choices in the event of a fire as to what to take and what to leave, what may prove irreplaceable because it cant be "bought on Amazon" as Huntington puts it.

The rest of the book is composed to photographs of arranged belongings much like those pictured on the cover with accompanying lists explaining what is in the picture, even if you are not interested in any philosophising attendant to viewing each of the pictures it is interesting to view some of the curios and keepsakes people have accumulated. One of my favourites was a framed note, a scribbled bet made by a friend to its owner about whether he would marry the girl he was on a second date with, and the hundred dollar bill itself.

I recommend this book to fans of photographic art books but also anyone who enjoyed the post secret books or the humans of new york series.


Figures of History
Figures of History
by Jacques Rancière
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A tedious and difficult read, 18 Jun. 2015
This review is from: Figures of History (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book is not a rewarding read, I am beginning to think that perhaps this is a characteristic of some french writers, particularly from Satre onwards.

The pace and style of writing reminds me of a kind of meandering conversation with someone in earnest about appearing inellectual and interspacing one or two interesting but short points with lengthy, protracted rambles which do not exactly bridge well between the good points.

I think some of the clearest examples of what I am talking about are in the first chapter, the author reflects upon how camera footage portray life in unintended ways which paintings allowed the great men of history, such as a czar, to avoid, there is a reflection upon how the camera encourages the subject to behave in certain ways, using the example of a colonised people doing their best to be accomplished through acquisition in their own oppression.

I could not say that I hate this book, it is interesting and in some ways original, for me, at least to read reflections upon photography and film which is not a one dimensional diatribe against how technology's capture of life events is always propaganda and lies.

The later chapters are even more densely intellectual, referencing modernist and post-modernist theorists I was not familiar with and french thinkers probably much more familiar to the author than to me. I am not sure that I really understand Ranciere's theory of history or, for instance, the associations he makes between the revolutionary terror of the Russian Revolution and the later Nazi extermination of the Jews but it was not compelling or interesting in the manner I have found other history theorising, such as Hegel, Marx, Goethe, Scheller (I recommend Erich Heller's The Disinherited Mind) or anti-historicism, such as Karl Popper.

The book has a contents, no index but an index of citations of films mentioned throughout the book.


Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall
Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Readable but not a particularly a page turner., 16 Jun. 2015
A distinctly mixed presentation.

I have to say that the selection of stories here is readable, its good writing but its not especially good writing, either by this particular (good) author or I would say in general, so far as anthologies of short stories go. I think that some of the good reviews I've read of this book and some of the hearty recommendations I have been made by friends with reference to it are a result of peoples hopes that a book about music, romance, relationships and life would be something special and exceptional colouring their experience.

There are a series of stories which incorporate music as a pivotal point, also waxing and waning romance or life experience feature prominantly too. I feel there is a certain bitter sweet or world weariness about each, although I would say that about this author's other (I felt better) writing too, a certain sense of realising too late your disappointment and having limited options for doing anything about it. Personally I would consider this a matter of how you "make peace" with your circumstances when you realise it is not going to change or is highly unlikely to change and you have to carry on. Something of an acceptance of the absurdity if I were to borrow an idea from Camus.

This is certainly the case in my favourite of the stories, the second one, in which someone who may or may not be personally troubled (it is a first person narrative and he clearly disagrees with the opinions others have formed of him) who meets someone he once knew and loved and listened to records with. His muse is married now, she and her husband dont appear to be getting along and he is led a merry dance by each of them, he makes a fool of himself on the direction of one of them, recovers, and the tale abruptly finishes around that point with him dancing with his muse listening to the music they had mutual affection of once again.

The first tale is one of someone serenading someone from a boat, their relationship is foundered and the absurdity of a romance carried on when the love may be gone is brilliantly rendered. I like that stories exhibit a realism without being cynical. There is another story featuring a college/university drop out musician, refusing to come to terms with the popularity of bands making a living from cover artistry, who encounters an older couple who have done precisely this. There was a sense in that tale of the couple meeting their past selves in him and he meeting a possible future self in them. I felt there is something of dip in the tales from that point on, no longer proving as interesting as the ones preceding them, with an artist getting cosmetic surgery, meeting celebrities and musing about whether his talent or his image are what sell or should. So as you see many of the stories feature that coming to terms or making peace with circumstances.

The writing is well done but sometimes the pace is uneven, dull, then more interesting, making for an uneven read but for all its faults, making it good but not great like other books by the same author, there is some brilliant depicting scenery, people and places. Characters depth or development is not great but I would suggest it is done very well for the medium of a short story.


Cellfade Skin Enhancement lightening Cream 50 ml
Cellfade Skin Enhancement lightening Cream 50 ml
Price: £34.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cellfade skin enchancement cream, 16 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have given this cream a three week trial to test its effectiveness. The cream is waterbased so its ideal for both normal and oily skins, I am really impressed with this cream, the substance is rich and smooth and spreads smoothly. The dispensing mechanism is easy to operate and comes out of the dispenser in a fine tubular line so that you can never dispense too much at a time and cuts down on unintentional wastage.

There is a noticeable, I believe, improvement with clearer skin following use, with lightening of darker skin on the area between the nose and upper lip lightening up considerably. Wearing glasses for a long time has contributed to dark spots and wear of the skin around were the glasses rest and this cream has helped treat this. I also shared this product with my mother who has experienced a similar wear of skin around the eyes and who was self conscious of the same following eye surgery, although the cream has not miraculously removed the dark spots, the marks are not as noticeable as they were and I think if she continues to use Cellfade the results may be even better. My mother intends to buy the produce herself again as she has found the results of frequent use of it to be very encouraging.


Philosophy and the Idea of Communism: Alain Badiou in Conversation with Peter Engelmann
Philosophy and the Idea of Communism: Alain Badiou in Conversation with Peter Engelmann
by Alain Badiou
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Recommended but perhaps assuming some familiarity or prior knowledge of some ideas, 10 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a short book in the interviewer-interviewee or dialogue format, I remember first encountering in David Barsamian's interviews with Noam Chomsky in a book called Class Warfare when I was about seventeen. I have to say that I do not really enjoy that format as much as I once did, there are a lot of reasons for this and this book does exemplify some of the reasons.

The book, being a conversation, especially between two French intellectuals or philosophers, has a lot of name dropping and dense philosophical language, for instance "subjectivist positivism", "individuation" and "Sartrean Consciousness", at one time I was impressed with this and considered it a matter of signposting to other literature or keynote ideas, however, this can also feel more like a short cut, not a good kind, or sort of a trading game in "book smarts". At times in this book it did feel that way. Although perhaps there is an implicit assumption of some prior knowledge about the ideas of those engaging in this dialogue on the part of anyone choosing to read it in the first place, I think that may be fair to say. Also it would be a very artificial interview or conversation perhaps if this sort of exchange did not take place given that each party to it has academic knowledge which might not be disseminated too broadly or emerge that much in common parlance.

With this as a possible caveat, also something I have learned about left and right wing writing generally, right wing being more simple or straightforwardly clear but repetitive, left wing being often convoluted or less penetrable by the, often younger, readership it appeals to, in mind I can still recommend this book.

As the conversation progresses it moves away from Satrean consciousness, through disputing Hegelianism, in particular the idea of Hegel's absolute and what Badiou thinks is the substitution of "life force" for "spirit" as an internal absolute (see how some prior knowledge of some pretty academic or dense philosophy may be warranted here?) to discussions of different "marxs", ie different priorities in his writing, philosophical/Hegelian, analytical, revolutionary/political and beyond that into discussions of politics, both historical and more contemporary.

So in many ways I preferred the later portions of the book, the second half, to the outset, perhaps with the exception of a brief, all too brief perhaps, mention of conclusions stemming from Nietzsche's "God is dead" conclusion. Badiou draws attention to the idea that "if God is dead, all is permitted" can be considered in a restrictive rather than expansive sense, so if "all is permitted" then it is really very little.

The book has no contents, chapters, subtitles or index and references, the dialogue has bold type initials to indicate who is "speaking" at what point.


Hard To Be A God (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
Hard To Be A God (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
by Arkady Strugatsky
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History and progress arrested and off track on another world, what will our heroes do?, 31 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The brothers Strugatsky are emerging and firm favourites within the science fiction masterworks series, having read Roadside Picnic and throughly enjoyed it I expected it to be a very hard act to follow but this book has not disappointed at all. In addition to the introduction (by no less than Ken MacLeod) there is also an afterword by Boris Strugatsky outlining how the book was conceived, written and the context in which they were writing.

The book features the adventures of observers from earth planted within another alien world at a different point in that world's history which resembles that of medieval earth, think of any of the episodes of Star Trek or Star Trek: The Next Generation or similar TV shows in which the crew has been stranded upon planets or undercover for some purpose and seeking to obey the "Prime Directive", seeking not to interfer with that planet's independent development by exposing it advanced technology and ways.

This is Soviet science fiction though and therefore there is a context to be considered, both to the tale and to its writing, the agents from earth in this case are observing life with the aim of validating and vindicating historical materialism or historicism, the idea that history itself is working itself out to a purpose and all societies can be expected to evolve in a particular way to a particular point.

It is largely forgotten now but this was at a time a major plank in orthodox marxism and there were many bones of contention when it did not appear that the theory matched reality. I remember reading many dull accounts of how fascism emerged right at the point when many Marxists thought capitalist crisis would lead to the advent of socialism everywhere. It was a topic of seemingly endless debate and dispute in publications dating from during and after the second world war and even much later among left leaning students yet to be exposed to Karl Popper or other authors, like John Grey, issuing challenges to historicism and the idea of progress per se.

This is imported into the Strugatsky brother's tale as events on our observers planet do not match their expectation influencing their accordingly and sparking debates as to whether or not fascism in the shape of Grey Stormtroopers persecuting literates is fascism emerging from feudalism or merely the sort of courtly intrigue typical of the times. It all makes for a great tale but the afterword adds to the experience by underlining how writing a story of this kind could put the authors in precisely the predicament of their fictional characters.

In the afterword Boris writes about the brother's wish to simply write a story like The Three Musketeers, a romantic adventure, a page turner with pace, and in this also I think it is important to state that in this respect they succeeded. If you have no interest at all in the context of the story or any controversy or politics underpinning it all it will no doubt prove to be a great read anyway. There are scenes from the docks describing their appearance, the sights, the smells, the people, scenery which truly bring it all to life in a way I loved and I suspect others will too.


Brighton Rock - Special Edition [DVD]
Brighton Rock - Special Edition [DVD]
Dvd ~ Richard Attenborough
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deservedly considered a classic, a tale of a vanished age of mobsters in seaside Britain., 31 May 2015
Deservedly regarded as a classic of british cinema, this movie wont disappoint anyone who is a fan of the story of Brighton Rock (I have read the book, listened to some audiobook productions and seen the recent remake), classic black and white gangster movies or classic cinematography.

The acting is superb, perfectly cast, Richard Attenborough's portrayal of Pinkie is one which will stick in my memory, the edgy, menacing and intimidating character proving one to rival any later screen villains which could possibly spring to mind. In my humble opinion Attenborough's brilliant acting and every angle of every shot, the panning of the camera etc. do greater justice to Greene's original novel than any production since. Recommended.

Edit: NB, there is an excellent interactive menu in the form of a pier postcard stand and extras in the form of interviews, which I was surprised at given the era the film was made predating this sort of thing. These interviews were really great, Richard Attenborough talking about british film making and cinema attendance, the good movies being interspaced with lots and lots of not so good. Worth hearing.


The Constant Gardener [DVD] [2005]
The Constant Gardener [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Ralph Fiennes
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £2.57

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Post-Cold War spy games par excellence, 31 May 2015
This was a much better feature than I had expected it to be, a very believable look at the world of diplomacy, esponiage, corporate greed and corruption.

I have heard complaints, which I think for the most part are legitimate, that corrupt corporations, particularly those willing to exploit failed states, lawlessness or weak law enforcement of the "third world", are a little cliche in the post Cold War spy genre, whether it is film or books, but this did not prove to be a problem with this presentation.

The manner in which the perfidious mendacity and cruelty of, this time, pharmaceutical corporations operating on the margins is discovered, repressed and then brought to light is realistic. The villains are sufficiently villainous without being unbelievable as players in the business world, the problem of appearing "Too Capone to be corporate" does not occur here, the perpetuation of the villainy by those who're just willing to look the other way is done well too.

The characters are all brilliant portrayed as human, all to human, for instance, the campaigning wife, crusader for what they consider right is more than a little neurotic, while others are complicit, cowardly or too polite for the role they find themselves cast in by the course of events. I also think the casting was good for this feature, I would not have chosen anyone else for the respective performances, despite being unsure about one or another.

The film is not exactly up beat and while I am not sure if what is portrayed is perfectly factual it is definitely plausible, I have no doubt that the powerful vested interests featured as engaging in corrupt and deathly dealings could or would do so, exercising the sorts of power and leverage which were once the preserve of equally cruel ideologues or state agents in the past. So if you'd like a feature which is gritty and does not pull its punches this is the movie for you.

In contrast to some other features I've seen about spy games, not least of which the movie by the director of Enemy of The State, or perhaps that movie itself, this is the more believable feature. There is nothing sensational about what are truly horrible events and cover ups, developments playing out through quiet intimidation and disputes among fairly elite types on the golf course or over lunch in establishment restaurants.


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