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Henners "Henners" (UK)

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The Male Brain
The Male Brain
by Louann Brizendine MD
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book. Very important, but not enough!, 5 April 2014
This review is from: The Male Brain (Paperback)
Great stuff. And a very important book in some ways. As another reviewer says, men's and women's heads ARE indeed wired very differently. It suits some people interested in gender politics to pretend that the genders have essentially the same psychology. The best scientific model (as well as common sense) tells us otherwise, but it's actually an uphill struggle

I mean who would you believe - a politician (with an arts or gender studies degree) or a scientist? Nevertheless the idea persists. "Never underestimate the power of denial"

Anyway, that aside, I myself would have liked to see a lot more in this book. There is an incredible amount of research about what goes on in the male brain from about 8 weeks after conception. The hormones (hugely important for our motivation as well as basic reproductive biology) are set up pretty differently, and as a result, the brain structure apparently proceeds slightly differently. I appreciate that we don't know exactly what goes on here but the work is interesting enough to mention, with caveats

Similarly throughout childhood. Boys seem to behave quite differently before puberty, despite only limited testosterone spikes. The gender politics brigade want to argue that this is due to gender-as-a-social-construct etcetc, but the argument does not especially convincing to me thus far - particularly as differences are noted (at nurseries) very early, and apparently in absence of any obvious "social conditioning".

But I don't know of conclusive evidence yet either way - would have been interested to get more from this book

Boys from the Blackstuff [DVD]
Boys from the Blackstuff [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Angelis
Price: 6.50

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent - one minor point, 1 April 2013
This is superb television drama. To look at the 70s and 80s you'd think the UK produced world-class TV without effort, over and over again. The acting, the sadness & importance of the whole thing. And to be so entertaining at the same time... I saw Yosser Hughes' story when it was first shown. It was much later I saw the unforgettable pub scene with "ShakeHands"

However, on the back of the DVD cover, it says that BftB was one of the most eloquent attacks on Thatcher's Britain. Some reviewers repeat this mistake here, I've heard it a few times

Now Thatcher (like all leaders) no doubt made mistakes, perhaps many. But the fact remains that this drama was conceived and written before Mrs T ever came into office, and years before her policies could have an effect on people's lives.

It is therefore completely false to associate this masterpiece with one government. I know that there are countless people who WANT to blame Thatcher for all our ills. But a little bit of study of Harold Wilson's government in the 60s and industrial change in Britain will show that the sad theme of this series is of a long slow death (of a way of life) that was going on long before Thatcher.

It's A Blessing
It's A Blessing
Price: 0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising blues, 2 Mar 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: It's A Blessing (MP3 Download)
If I were on Youtube I would say "gives this review a thumbs-up if you heard this song in starbucks first then came here"

...or something like that Anyway I had to ask the staff at Starbucks what this was, and they looked it up for me.

I'm very very choosy about the blues. I couldn't usually care less about Muddy Waters & Howlin Wolf, and am not too bothered by the old Robert Johnson & Blind Blake records. Just occasionally something totally sublime comes up by eg: Lightning Hopkins, or Blind Willie Johnson. I think the pentatonic blues scale has a unique sound.

Anyway I'm turning into a pretentious music journalist. This is one of those magical songs, give it a listen

How It All Began
How It All Began
by Penelope Lively
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reliably enjoyable author, not a ground-breaking work, 15 Jan 2013
This review is from: How It All Began (Paperback)
A long time ago I read about 10 of her books up to about 'Moon Tiger', thereafter none till this one.

Penelope Lively doesn't disappoint here, but there is nothing earth-shattering, or that you won't have seen before in her novels. The theme of the butterfly-effect/chaos theory has been much talked about, and I'm sure has featured in literature before (certainly Terry Pratchett made good comic use of the idea at one stage). It's not a particularly strong idea, as so many different happenstances come together to "cause" one event, that it's often misleading to blame one accident for the string of "consequences" following, but a favourite topic for Lively, I think.

(Moderate spoilers from here on)

But ok, in this case Charlotte's accident does seem to set in train many different events. Her daughter, Rose is unable to accompany a retired professor of history ("Lord Henry") and, deprived of her organisation, he suffers a blank episode in a public talk he is giving - makes rather a fool of himself, and is eagerly picked on by unsympathetic historians. This humiliation sets him on a path to try and get back his reputation, though in truth he seems to have long lost the sharpness necessary for survival in the world of historical research and writing. One feels that the debacle would have happened sooner or later.

Lord Henry's niece is having an affair with someone involved in interior design (like herself), they are discovered when she has to change their plans to help her uncle. Both (like Lord Henry)come across as struggling to be bothered much about other people's problems. Her lover, Jeremy reminds me of a type I seem to remember from other Lively novels, a relatively cheerful and charming adulterer who has no ill-will, or gloomy moods and gets by on charm and optimism. His slight flaw is the apparent disconnection with the havoc that his actions have caused. He is slightly resentful, even though he knows his wife was always highly strung to start with. Why are people being so unreasonable?

Jeremy wants to save his marriage, but has his work cut out for him. Right away a perpetually-angry sister-in-law appears, persuades his wife to get a divorce, having "never trusted" Jeremy. She has decided what is best for her sister and a divorce lawyer appears on the scene strongly agreeing that any contact between the two would be a bad move - best to communicate through solicitors... lest any reconciliation happen! I find these characters despicable, but quite believable.

So we come to the characters in the novel we are meant to find more sympathetic: Charlotte, Rose and Anton. Charlotte retains only Anton from her adult English reading class, he comes to see her at Rose and her husband's house, where she is convalescing from a broken hip*. He is from an unspecified Eastern European country, is dealing with the memory of a broken marriage, trying to rebuild his life in the UK, and struggling with the language.

Rose and Anton form an attraction - it is pleasingly slowly paced, if rather predictable as you read it. They know they should do nothing about it, and Lively seems (to me) to like them far more than the egocentric interior designers. Affairs are a recurrent theme in Lively's work, and she handles it pretty well. In some books the characters feel as though events are out of their control (but of course they still make decisions one way or another!), and in others they are simply selfish. It's never a simple subject - for example it is implied (but not explored in depth) that the lack of excitement in Rose and Gerry's marriage is his fault. He has in any case rather retreated to his work-shed, and a quiet, unemotional life.

There is an echo of the novels themes of causation in Lord Henry's increasing isolation in the Historical establishment. I wonder if Lively (like me) is sympathetic to his emphasis on great lives and seminal events. Myself I feel historians have followed the single-minded search for broad economic forces in a rather herd-like fashion. But I won't get started on historians!

Maybe this book deserves 4 stars - it is a fine book - but I try to mark harshly these days and reserve 4/5 stars for something that really impressed me.

* the convalescence is quite well described, but rather easier than I expect it would be in reality.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 16, 2013 10:42 AM GMT

Ted and I: A Brother's Memoir
Ted and I: A Brother's Memoir
by Gerald Hughes
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.68

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful memoir, 11 Nov 2012
I first started reading Ted Hughes' poetry, and anything I could find about his life, more than 20 years ago. I've always thought of him as something of an enigma. He was clearly nothing like the character certain rather ignorant feminists wanted to paint, but much seemed hidden, partly because he was such a private man.

This still remains true (though maybe a forthcoming biography will shed more light). But over the decades there has been this steady flow of treasures that have shed more light on this extraordinary man. Even in his own collections there were some poems in Wolfwatching, and then of course Birthday Letters, such a contrast with what had been written about Sylvia Plath before. One of my favourite books of all has to be Hughes' selected letters. But this memoir from his brother has to be an almost equal delight for Hughes fans.

There were plenty of signs - for example in 'Poetry in the Making' - that early Ted's relationship with his (ten years older) brother Gerald was an important part of his imaginative and personal life. Now we have this profoundly dignified and moving tribute from Gerald himself, still alive. It brings Ted alive again from the point of view of one of the most important people in his life, that we've heard little about thus far.

I don't know if it's my imagination but I can occasionally hear a similarity, in the turn of phrase, to some of Ted's more informal writings. This may have been there since they were both young...

Gerald himself also had a fascinating life, from his experiences growing up in the 20s and 30s, his time in the war, and then moving to Australia. From a selfish point of view, I could read as many reminiscences as he could remember. But anyone familiar with Hughes' life will know how little respect has been shown for the family's privacy already.

It's a great book, a joy.

Under The Frog
Under The Frog
by Tibor Fischer
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worked for me, 26 Aug 2012
This review is from: Under The Frog (Paperback)
Not to everyone's taste, I see from a few of the reviews. But it did the job for me.

There is indeed plenty of scatological jocularity here, the author appears to have swallowed a thesaurus (someone being hanged at night is described as a "nocturnal suspension" - I'm pretty sure this is with humourous intention). And no doubt the tone of the stories from the depressing period of communist rule is rather light-hearted, but you sense that people think their lot in life is awful - hence the title of the book, as you learn.

But I found the main characters to be lovable rascals. The trials & tribulations of Gyuri's 'romantic' life were pretty amusing. This seems to me a very well told story. And I immediately went over to wiki to learn a little more about the Hungarian revolution. I remember very well from the TV series "the rock'n'roll years" the desperate sound of a Hungarian radio announcer calling on "London, Paris, New York.." etc for help as the Red Army rolled in. There is a passage that makes you think he's made some of the story up to be about the (presumably anonymous) female resistance fighter whose picture appears on the front cover.

One of the saddest things about the book is the brief flickering of optimism that everyone feels - just for a moment they think they are free of the Red Army - and of course the reader knows that the wait for freedom will be several times longer than they have already endured...The actual history is truly a story of hope crushed

CSI: Las Vegas - Complete Season 2 [DVD]
CSI: Las Vegas - Complete Season 2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ William L. Petersen
Price: 11.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe the best CSI series, 18 Jun 2012
I've seen all the vegas CSI, and I think this may be the best. I'm trying to think of any of the countless US crime dramas I've seen (and loved) that come close to being as good as this. And my memory goes back to Columbo and Hawaii 50 etc :)

In the first half we find so many of the stories that have stuck in my memory. Then, commencing with the return of Milander in "Identity Crisis", there are a string of stories that are pure class: "The Finger", "Primum Non Nocere", and "Stalker" are outstanding.

The usual CSI political-correctness is there to a degree, but the stories are so good I forgive them :)

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Las Vegas - Season 3 Part 1 [DVD] [2001]
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - Las Vegas - Season 3 Part 1 [DVD] [2001]
Dvd ~ Laurence Fishburne
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: 10.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the other series, 18 Jun 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'm a CSI Vegas fanatic, I have to admit. But this series seems weaker than many others (maybe 1, 2 and 7 stand out)

It seems very much as though the producers sat round a table and determined to educate us - and there is one thing we apparently need educating about: politics. At times the characters seem to forget they are in a story and start talking almost to the camera about what to think about an issue. In case you were going to make your own mind up about it :)

Doc Robbins and Grissom will be conducting a post-mortem, and will just stand there having a ridiculous conversation - not examining the body or anything - basically giving a how-to-do-PC-thinking-if-you're-not-quite-managing-it tutorial. "Little people" lecture the CSIs about their privileges, and Grissom wisely and humbly defers. Catherine looks at a scene, nods sagely and says "Testosterone!" with contempt in her voice. It really is ludicrous. I'm not interested in the political views of the programme-makers.

The stories and too much of the dialogue seem to have been tweaked or constructed according to a right-thinking formula. This detracts from the reality of any story, and if a story loses it's reality it's in trouble.

Also get ready for an increase in the gore, here. Eyeballs, ground-up bodies, executions, CGI stabbings with "splat" noises. Yuck.

On the plus side, "Abra-Cadaver", "A night at the movies", and "Play with fire" are strong. One of Catherine's best ever lines: "I'm starting to like you...and not in a good way". And the ending is moving.

Series 1 was great. Series 2 had classic after classic - one of the best crime shows I've ever seen in my misspent life. But this season is a let down. A must watch for big fans though, as there are plenty of subtle character developments.

Diary of an On-call Girl: True Stories from the Front Line
Diary of an On-call Girl: True Stories from the Front Line
Price: 1.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great fun. And rather worrying, 15 Jun 2012
I've read a couple of other books by police bloggers. This is definitely a useful further take on the subject. Bloggs has a really rather witty, deadpan style.

At one stage in the book, she gets together with another WPC and wonders if there will ever be a day when we can just "forget about gender and get on with it" or words to that effect. Alas you won't be allowed to forget about it because she mentions the fact that she's a woman in every chapter, in case you've forgotten and missed the subtlety of the picture on the front cover.

Not only did I laugh out loud an awful lot with this book, I was also really worried by what I read. She makes a convincing case (familiar from Inspector Gadget and others) that convoluted and impractical rules are being forced on police officers, that entirely disregard their experience or common sense.

It's all about accountability. And domestic violence. And hate crimes of course. Someone has designated a case a hate crime before Bloggs gets to check it all out, and wouldn't you know it: when it turns out not to be a racist attack, she finds it very hard indeed to get this removed from the database system.

Similarly, with a clearly bogus Domestic Violence report, she finds herself having to PROVE that no violence took place before it is removed from the database, this turns out to be quite difficult.

Why, It's almost as though pressure is being put on the police to record crimes incorrectly so their area's force can submit reports that will be seen favourably by political superiors...

Given that we're not sure what %age of crimes the police successfully deal with, and the evidence here about the ludicrous way in which crimes are counted, I'm forced to conclude that the crime stats we hear and read are pure nonsense. Essential reading.

Wasting More Police Time
Wasting More Police Time
by David Copperfield
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very important book, 4 Jun 2012
This book contains a lot of complaining. Many police officers have plenty to say for themselves, that they've kept bottled up, or at least they feel they are not being listened to by governments or the general public.

Subjects are very topical - including the London riots of 2011, the causes of which we haven't finished talking about (I suspect we won't for some time). But also the representation of the police and rioters in the media, in particular the BBC and the 4 main 'broadsheets'.

Now I'm not naive enough to overlook the fact that the police will have their story, and the rioters perhaps will have their own perspective. But the more you read and research about what happened, the more unavoidable is the conclusion that the media coverage and opinions were FATALLY politicised, and thoroughly ill-informed.

Almost at once people started drawing the conclusions they wanted to, before any evidence was gathered. Those who wanted to blame 'inequality' for the riots got this story in as soon as they could, and then went looking for evidence to support it, as only the worst kind of scientist would. There was much knee-jerk criticism of the police.

If you subscribe to any of this, do yourself a favour and read this book, get the view of the people who were there, and had to deal with it. You'll learn more than if you spent hours reading the alarmingly bad journalism from the papers or the BBC.

I didn't find much about The Steven Lawrence case, which is a shame because there is another story the press has mostly failed to tell here. Also this book was probably completed before something on the recent 'grooming' scandal. The fight against racism does seem to have made some aspects of police work harder. Again, dial-a-quote journalists are on hand to make a generalised accusation against the police of racism. Some officers, all the same, do approve of the drive to stamp out racism in the force.

But most of all you'll see the story (already told by David Copperfield, Inspector Gadget and others) of the ridiculousness of modern UK police-work, the form filling, and having to ask people if they are 'happy with the service', while crooks laugh and get away with more crime.

The stories and opinions are heartfelt, and mostly contributed anonymously - so I am inclined to trust them all the more. Also there are many different opinions represented. The police see a side to human nature that most of us don't - thank goodness. We should listen to what they have to say about it...

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