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BD "bigdave2020" (UK)

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Canon PowerShot SX120 IS Digital Camera (10 Megapixel, 10x Optical Zoom) 3.0 inch LCD
Canon PowerShot SX120 IS Digital Camera (10 Megapixel, 10x Optical Zoom) 3.0 inch LCD

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good build, great pics... but battery life questionable..., 6 Jan. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am an experienced photographer who has owned and handled all levels and manner of photographic hardware (mainly Nikon and Canon) since my teens until the present day, with extensive experience of wildlife, portraiture, weddings and sports genres, and I agree with the comments made regarding battery life (although a one star review is a bit harsh!) In short the battery life is terrible and way below the standard I would expect. With a pair of brand new alkaline high power batteries with the picture quality levels set at what I like to use (and should be able to as this is what the camera is designed to do) and the occasional bit of fill in flash or zoom, and its 50-60 shots (at best) and your done! I got approx 40 more shots if using the recommended rechargables with similar levels of use, but again that was it. I would expect more from Canon and the battery life issue in my view let's the camera down. I want to be able to take a camera out with me and feel confident that I will be able to capture all of the shots I need, the SX120IS did not give me that confidence. My better half has an IXUS 130 and the battery life from the manufacturers rechargeable cell is fantastic so this proves it can be done.

On the other hand on the positive side, the picture quality I was very impressed with for the price, even when using the zoom fully extended. Canon's trademark IS technology working well, even with panning sports shots on full zoom. Build quality was excellent and the menus are up to the usual clear and intuitive standard. The only time I found the camera struggled was in half light conditions where the camera seem confused with contrast and whether to initiate the flash or not but the SX120IS is not unique in this regard.

The SX120IS has now been replaced with the SX130IS so a 120 can be picked for a small amount of money and now represents such a lot of camera for the outlay, but it would seem reading through the reviews published so far for the SX130IS, the battery life situation has not been addressed by Canon. After a few weeks of trying to persevere with the SX120IS, I sold it on (the first camera I have ever done this with) and now my better half's IXUS is the default non SLR that is taken out with us on walks and to family events.

In my view unless you really need a compact camera with an optical zoom beyond 4x or 5x or a 3" LCD viewing screen, go for an IXUS model instead.

New Urban Farmer
New Urban Farmer
by Celia Brooks Brown
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Aspiration not information..., 4 Jan. 2011
This review is from: New Urban Farmer (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What this book provides is one person's experiences and anecdotes and tales of growing their own, which whilst entertaining and enjoyable and something to discuss whilst sharing coffee's with your friends, if you are after a more thorough guide to growing your own I would look elsewhere.

I would describe this book as a `lifestyle' advice book which in this case presents itself in an idealistic and pretty world of red brick terrace middle classness complete with Cath Kidston bunting, shaker cabinets, Le Creuset pots and Aga ovens which from a style point of view may seem lovely but ultimately leaves the reader wanting more.

I ordered this book for my better half who enjoys this type and style of publication and the proof of this books success (or lack of) is `The New urban Farmer' rather being a serious guide to refer to, has now become an ornament gathering dust on the shelf, alongside the Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay cookbooks.

AmazonBasics Universal Camera Case FF Black
AmazonBasics Universal Camera Case FF Black

2.0 out of 5 stars Good until the zip broke, 2 Dec. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was initially impressed with this camera case and thought it represented good value but after only three months light use the zip decided to break rendering it useless. Initially good value but spend a bit more and you will get a product that lasts.

Jabra Halo Bluetooth Stereo Headphones
Jabra Halo Bluetooth Stereo Headphones

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good sound quality but poor value and function, 2 Dec. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Received these via the Vine programme and to be honest overall i don't think they deliver. Blue tooth functionality (with my smart phone anyway) seemed to be variable at best with an echo of my own voice coming back at me during conversations, which wasn't impressive. I also found the headphones didn't immediately feel comfortable on my head and the product had a flimsy fiddly feel to it.

Sound quality via the chord was good connected to a variety of sources, but if I wanted a set of good sounding chord headphones I would recommend buying a pair of Sennheisers for the same price or less (HD515's for example) that will blow these headphones away into the middle of next week in terms of build and sound quality.

I have awarded three stars because of the idea behind the device but unfortunately attempting to be a jack of all trades has meant some trade offs, and for me this product is too compromised to be judged successful in delivering its promises.

GA10: From The Vaults 1997-2007
GA10: From The Vaults 1997-2007
Price: £22.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly put together..., 2 Dec. 2010
If anyone should know how pick the best moments from Groove Armada's back catalogue and mix it together it is the Groove Armada duo themselves and what a great job they have done here with this self produced 10 year tribute. The album is a double disc set with one disk being an uptempo set put together by Tom and the other is a downtempo set put together by Andy. If you are familiar with GA you will probably think you have some idea of the tracks featured here but this is not a commercial stocking filler greatest hits. This album is GA mixing together their own personal favourite tracks from their 5 studio albums and remixes.

We've all been there, a new album in the player and you look at the playlist when a duffer comes up and probably skip it, not so here. One of Groove Armada's strengths has been the variety of their output for over 10 years, never afraid to change mood or direction from one album to the next, and despite this amount of diverse output, the tracks selected by the pair in the two mixes really flow well together taking you on a journey.

You may notice that i haven't disected the setlists and detailed each track, because in my view there is no need to here. Just put the disks in and enjoy the top notch production quality and sound of the Groove Armada taking you on a personal trip from bedroom to dancefloor via a world tour and back again. Superb.

Hotel Costes 14
Hotel Costes 14
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £13.97

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Has Hotel Costes run out of steam ?, 13 Oct. 2010
This review is from: Hotel Costes 14 (Audio CD)
It would be a real shame if the long running HC series were to come to an end, but based upon the evidence of this instalment in the series, it would appear so. The tracks do not flow well, the song choices curious (but not interesting) and the usual slick appeal has been lost.

I am under no illusions that the marketing behind the Hotel Costes compilations has sold its chilled out 'frenchness' to me very well, and the Hotel Costes series has kept me entertained and chilled for over a decade, but unless the series can return at least to the standard of instalment 11 and earlier, then perhaps it is now time to hang up the 'decks' and perhaps leave us with the Number 2 - Number 12 legacy intact.

Successful Novel Plotting (Secrets to Success)
Successful Novel Plotting (Secrets to Success)
by Jean Saunders
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad for the beginner..., 25 Aug. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have never owned a writing guidance book before, so I ordered this with an open mind.

If you detach the advice from the genre featured in the book, then this guide is decent place to start. I would suggest that perhaps the common sense elements of story plotting are mentioned quite often (but I guess they can be missed) but otherwise I found the book easy to follow and appreciate the values of storywriting the author was trying to get across.

However i would say that this book is not of sufficent depth to perhaps begin a professional career or an award winning book, and this book is only a guide and cannot teach you the instincts of a natural writer, but otherwise this little book is not a bad place to start, especially as at the time of writing you can pick up new example for only a couple of pounds.

Glengarry Glen Ross [DVD] [1992]
Glengarry Glen Ross [DVD] [1992]
Dvd ~ Al Pacino
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.37

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Always be Acting..., 25 Aug. 2010
Put simply Glengarry Glenross is one of the finest movies of all time. Based upon a stage play script originally written by David Mamet (who's other credits include The Untouchables), and directed by James Foley, originally the film lost money in the US upon cinema release (only made $10m against the budget of $12m), but has since become a cult film receiving a remarkable 98% rating on review site Rotten Tomatoes and a wealth of 5 star reviews including this one (which I apologise in advance for being a long review but I hope you like it)

The plot and setting revolves around Premier Properties, a real estate sales office in Chicago (the play was originally set in New York) owned by Mitch and Murray and run by office boss John Williamson. A majority of the scenes are set in the brutal and gritty sales office where your sales volume is king, excuses for failure are your own and the language and dialogue are direct. New high quality sales leads have been acquired to pitch plots of land in the Glengarry highlands in Florida and are set to be distributed to the top closers from the current sales force of four men, Shelly Levene, George Aaronow, Dave Moss and Ricky Roma. However a top salesman called Blake from the `Downtown' office, is sent to their office to not only hand over the sales leads to the office manager John Williamson, but also to deliver a motivational `sales conference' to the salesman. The news is that following this month's sales contest, First prize is a Cadillac, 2nd prize a set of Steak knives and third prize is you're fired. As a further kicker, the new high quality leads will be assigned to `closers only' once the sales contest is over, and not before. The film then unfolds and follows the sales office and its inhabitants and how they react to this `contest' and situation they have been presented with. Ricky doesn't care, he doesn't attend the conference, he is already top salesman this month on the sales board, and is busy pitching to another punter. Shelley has hit a bad streak and reacts with desperation and bribery all of which have consequences. George reacts by blaming the sales leads they are given and Dave plots revenge, and the film beautifully unravels from there.

The cast is an eclectic mix of some of Hollywood's finest men. Jack Lemmon, Kevin Spacey, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Jonathan Price, Alan Arkin and Alec Baldwin... all present and correct and between them they deliver a career defining performance. With this much talent and ego on board one could assume that the actors would be fighting for screen time but not the case. All (with the exception of Baldwin who is given just the one exceptional cameo seven minute scene, and that is all he needs) are given pretty much equal screen time in their roles for you to understand their character, and enter into their world. One background story to the film is that the actors enjoyed making the film so much, they turned up on set even if they were not due to be filming, just to see the other actors plying their trade, and I think this shows.

Introducing the cast, let us begin with the elder statesman of the cast. The late great Jack Lemmon is truly exceptional as Shelly Levene, an old school salesman whose reputation as `the machine Levene' is struggling to hold muster with a dated sales technique against fresher younger salesman (when on the phone, the technique of referring to his `secretary' Grace for example) and has hit a streak of `bad luck'. The result of this combination of factors is a low sales volume and a loss of bragging rights and status within the company, which ultimately leads `the machine' to desperate measures including boasting about past glory and attempting bribery to get back on track. Jack Lemmon is utterly sublime in this role, his ability as an actor to influence those around him and affect the scene he is in. Lemmon is truly a genius at work here. For example whilst negotiating with office Boss Williamson after the `sales conference' hosted by downtown top salesman (Baldwin), his personality, approach and expressions changes from one of a charmer, to threats and then to a desperation all within 5 minutes. Within the DVD commentary extra features Alec Baldwin describes Jack Lemmon as a reactionary actor and this is clearly on display here, especially in his final scene with Williamson at the end of the movie, awesome stuff. In my view the movie is worth watching if only for Lemmon's performance.

Kevin Spacey plays the character of office manager John Williamson who is the hub (whether they like it or not) that the sales force ultimately revolves around and depend upon, and acts as the go between the company owners and a punch bag for the sales team with limited (but choice) opportunities for retaliation, and genuine authority. Williamson has the at times thankless task of being the `company man' a role which salesman Ricky Roma (Al Pacino) points out all too eloquently during a tirade of abuse disguised as advice, after a deal falls through. However despite Williamson's insistence on the company line of allocating good leads to closers, and the following of directives from `Downtown' he also proves that he is not beyond backroom dealings and company politics to advance his position, and certainly shows favour to some salesmen over others (unequal allocation of leads for example).

Al Pacino superbly plays Ricky Roma as the fresh faced cocky young gun, who's sales technique currently makes him the sales leader and aloof above the threat of losing his job, and therefore avoiding the `sales conference' verbal grilling from Alec Baldwin's character Blake earlier in the film. This current position gives him bragging rights in the office and in a position to put down proverbial cry baby Dave Moss several times in one conversation. He also has authority and power (for the moment at least) over office manager Williamson who he eagerly rips into at will.

Ed Harris plays Dave Moss a moaning underachiever who blames everyone and everything else for his situation and status in the company, and possibly the world, and in a cowardly act decides to plot revenge against his employer after being torn a new one during the `sales conference' hosted by Blake, but makes his excuses for not executing the revenge himself, and would rather split the benefits.

Jonathan Price plays James (Jim) Lingk a weak willed apologetic married man who over a number of drinks and a seductive sales pitch supplied by Ricky Roma (which avoids the subject of land or a sale until the final close), signs up to buy plots of land in Florida, a decision which he regrets in the cold light of day, and who's parting shot from the office is "I've let you down, forgive me" when he discovers the truth behind his sale, the almost admirable spin he has been sold, and fears the backlash from his wife.

Alan Arkin plays reluctant salesman George Aaranow who is probably the newest and most naive member of the team. George is easily led by the others especially Dave Moss, which ultimately places George into a vulnerable position in the second half of the film. Throughout the film George regularly prompts his colleagues to ask how is, so he can share his troubles and concerns whether they are interested or not. The character of George is perhaps the most understated part of the whole film.

Finally to Alec Baldwin who plays top salesman Blake who is sent from Downtown "on a mission of mercy" by company owners Mitch and Murray, to motivate the sales force. He issues instructions to close more sales leads with the threat of being out of a job if you finish in third place in the sales figures. Taking the form of a bullying outspoken verbal baseball bat, Drake makes it clear that the new better quality leads are `for closers only' and whilst doing so delivers one of the finest scripted moments of modern cinema with a seven minute speech that will stun even the most hardened film critic. Three quotes from this are below.

(To Dave Moss) "This watch cost more than your car.... You see that's who I am, and you're nothing"
(To Shelly Levene) "There are people out there just waiting for you to take their money, you going to take it? Are you man enough to take it?"
(To George Aaranow) You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse you c*** ****er, if you can't take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit? If you don't like it, leave."

This is an example of a great film that places fine acting and casting over CGI effects and predictable plots, and treasures acting talent over impressive backdrops. Its origins as a play are obvious during the film with only a few sets, simple lighting and minimal camera work, which leaves you to focus on the actors stunning collective performance. Much has been made of the films strong language (for example the `f' word and `s' word and their derivatives feature over 170 times) but it is all totally within context of a gritty cut throat sales office, and it wasn't until researching the background to the film more thoroughly before writing this review that I realised this, as during the film the language is appropriate and indeed relevant to the setting and context and never gratuitous. The salesmen (with the exception of George Aaranow) are cut throat, amoral and will say anything to get or keep a sale, and if that involves the use of colourful language (used well) then so be it.

So in conclusion I guess apologies again for the lengthy review but I felt the film deserved it, and spent more time than is probably healthy writing it, as I wanted to do this great film some justice. So far I have summarised the background, the plot and the characters. All that remains is for you to invest a few pounds and enjoy a fantastic film of the highest quality. I have watched the film several times and every time I watch it I see or feel something new. In short this film is a must see, in fact I urge you to see it. Just remember, A - Always B - Be C - Closing. Enjoy.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 21, 2012 8:21 PM GMT

Storm Watch Pirello Leather Blue
Storm Watch Pirello Leather Blue

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cool, classy, reliable, durable and affordable... what else do we need from a watch?, 19 Aug. 2010
The Pirello leather watch from Storm is quite simply the best watch i have ever owned in every sense. Over the years i have owned a variety of watches including Sekonda, Swatch and Fossil, and i reckon the Pirello Leather offers a fantastic combination of cool style, robustness and great value for money.

I wore it every day for over two years and received many compliments on its appearance, as the subtle style of the watch and unfussy classy appearance seems to pull off the trick of looking more expensive than it actually costs. It travelled with me around America, survived daily use at work, sport, everything except swimming. The brushed metal casing looked good right until the moment I stopped wearing it, the watch strap remained supple and easy to use and the scratch resistant glass for the most part managed to stay damage free. As with any leather strapped watch there are drawbacks with long term durability and keeping the strap 'clean', but this applies to any watch with a leather strap. At less than £80 the quality of the product is superb for the money, and at this price level, if the worst does happen you haven't lost a fortune.

The only reason I stopped wearing it is that eventually the battery died and the straps eventually perished beyond use. The cost of replacing these items was almost more than the cost of a whole new watch! So guess what, i bought another one! I have owned watches costing almost double the price of the Pirello Leather which don't come close to comparing to this quality offering from Storm. Highly recommended.

Jazz at the Pawnshop: 30th Anniversary/+DVD
Jazz at the Pawnshop: 30th Anniversary/+DVD
Price: £27.74

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the finest live Jazz recordings of all time... together at last..., 23 July 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you are reading this review, there is a fair chance you already know what the Jazz at the Pawnshop recordings are and what they are about, but just in case you don't I will give you a brief overview. December 1976 over a period of two evenings in a small jazz club called Stampen (The Pawn Shop) in Old Town Stockholm, Gert Palmcrantz recorded a leading group of Scandinavian jazzmen live. No rehearsals, re-takes, overdubs or sound level checks. Just a crossed pair of mics, the musicians started playing, the Swedish sound engineer pressed record and the rest has passed into Jazz and audiophile legend, and with justification.

The Pawnshop series have been released on many formats over the years separately, but for the first time, all three CD's appear together as a set and in superior (hybrid) SACD format. Knowing nothing of the history of the recordings or the musicians, I first came across the Jazz at the Pawnshop recordings in the late 80's whilst working in a specialist audio dealer in the Home Counties, and we frequently used them as demo discs as the clarity of the recordings was simply remarkable. Now in hybrid SACD the listening experience is indisputably further enhanced.

I have to stay I am surprised by the comments made in other reviews regarding the standard of the musicianship. The vibes played expertly by Lars Erstrand on CD1 opener 'Limehouse blues' are superbly detailed on this re-issue (as are the background sounds of the cash register chiming and the chinking glasses of the punters) and the Alto sax of Arne Domnerus on 'Over the rainbow' on CD2 leaves the hairs on the back of the neck standing.

If you are new to the Jazz at the Pawnshop series or if you already own them in standard definition CD, this Box set is a must purchase. You can't compare Jazz at the Pawnshop to Blue Note classic 50's recordings by Miles Davies or Dave Brubeck as they were of their time, but this hasn't prevented the sheer quality of the Jazz at the Pawnshop albums being recognised and hailed around the world as the best live jazz recordings ever, and based upon the evidence of this box set re-issue in SACD, I see no reason to dispute that claim.

I have been reviewing for Amazon for over 6 years, and as I approached Review #100 I was hoping for something special for this milestone, and I couldn't have chosen a finer album. Highly Recommended.

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