Profile for A man > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by A man
Top Reviewer Ranking: 19,728
Helpful Votes: 157

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
A man (England)

Page: 1 | 2
Opening Heaven's Door: Investigating Stories of Life, Death, and What Comes After
Opening Heaven's Door: Investigating Stories of Life, Death, and What Comes After
by Patricia Pearson
Edition: Hardcover

2.0 out of 5 stars Tedious, 13 Sep 2014
I have read a lot of books revolving around the subject of death, and what happens to us after it, and I am always keen to learn more; but I found this account dull, stodgy and unconvincing. The over descriptive style of writing, elaborately setting the tone of the least encounter with unnecessary verbiage, made it hard to get to grips with; and the narrative, such as it was, meandered to a very uncertain conclusion. I was surprised there was so little of substance, and so few genuine insights, or insightful moments, in a book that promised great things.

My criticism is for the style and substance of the book rather than it's subject matter. It simply adds nothing new, and I ended up resentful at having had to struggle to finish it. Having read and experienced enough to know there is more to life and death than meets the eye. I recommend anyone interested in the subject gets hold of a copy of 'Human personality and it's survival of bodily death' by Frederick Myers, which was written more than a century ago, yet provides a wealth of meticulously detailed case histories, alongside some genuinely original explanatory thoughts.

Rustication: A Novel
Rustication: A Novel
by Charles Palliser
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

4.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, 30 Jun 2014
This review is from: Rustication: A Novel (Paperback)
While not in the same league as the Quincunx, in length, depth, scope or effect, I found this novel, for all its implausibility, quietly affecting. Richard, the main character, who often seems naive to the point of stretching credulity, is a disturbed adolescent; and his mixture of inflated self importance, reckless bravado, and muddled thinking interspersed with keen insight, leading to a thoroughly confusing narrative, adroitly reflects this. The denouement, when it comes, seems entirely in keeping with his propensity for shifting allegiances, while imagining others hold him in lesser, or far greater, esteem than they do.

Most of the characters Richard encounters are loathsome. They are self serving, cruel, vindictive to a degree, managing to maintain the upper hand they were born with, or had otherwise gained for themselves, while doing down, as vigorously as possible, those who they perceive as in any way threatening. The kinder, gentler types are far fewer and less assertive; but nevertheless, they stand tall by comparison with their inwardly twisted, tormented brethren.

Four characters shine out of this book as particularly worthy, and yet all are poorly served by fate, compared to those whose only thoughts are for their own advancement. The young governess who is dismissed with no references, the established lawyer with a heart, the mother of the hidden child; and the young servant girl who lives with Richard's family.

As the author notes in his afterward, it is not known what became of Betsy; but readers might hope that someone of such slight importance to the overall story, a peripheral, if constant, and benign presence, who had suffered cruelly, but who was not blighted by this, carrying no resentment, expecting no favours, only wishing to be liked, for herself, gained recognition for the goodness of her heart and steadfastness of her soul.

This is not a book to be read for the originality of its plot or the fulfilment of its main characters. It's more of a glimpse into a small, mean world, seen through the even smaller, meaner world of a family in straightened circumstances. The descriptions of pettiness and dashed hopes, played out against an inhospitable terrain, ring resoundingly throughout. The time is midwinter, and the bleakness shows.

I'm not sure what the moral of the story is. Fathers feature prominently, disappointing their children, being disappointed in their children, having expectations for their children, abusing their children. Yet, as Betsy memorably declares, "We can't help what our dads do, none of us".

Fox Run Italian French Bread Baguette Pan Bakeware Makes 2 Loafs 4"X15" Each New
Fox Run Italian French Bread Baguette Pan Bakeware Makes 2 Loafs 4"X15" Each New
Offered by US-Kitchen Company
Price: £12.16

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 21 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was given one of those Teflon coated, perforated french baguette pans and it annoyed me intensely. The Teflon came off (onto the bread?) and my dough often squeezed itself into the holes, making it impossible to remove the cooked loaves cleanly.

This Italian version has no Teflon and no holes, and is an absolute joy to use.The finished bread is slightly wider, and flatter, due to the shape of the tin, but there is no difference in quality. I'm unclear why the French version has holes, as they seem to make little difference to the cooking process; and I'm mystified why they should have become so ubiquitous, while these Italian ones are relatively difficult to find.

I use no oil. Mine is a sourdough recipe, which I roll in flour before stretching to fit the pan. Bread making this way has become a doddle - five minutes mixing, an overnight wait for it to rise, a couple of minutes preparation, and the oven does the rest. These bread pans don't even need any cleaning!

HoMedics PA-MHW Compact Percussion Massager with Heat
HoMedics PA-MHW Compact Percussion Massager with Heat
Offered by Gadget Grotto
Price: £39.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical device, 7 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I have been in pain for seven years, following a traumatic climbing experience. I was told by my doctor and NHS physiotherapist I needed a new set of hips. I have spent a small fortune on seeing osteopaths, acupuncturists, massage specialists and sports injury therapists, to absolutely no avail. I have temporarily stretched my way out of pain in a thousand different ways, only for it to return with a vengeance. I could feel the source of the problem lay deep within my gluteal muscles, but nothing I did, and nobody I saw, seemed able to reach it. I was close to the end of my tether when someone suggested I try a hand held massager.

I paid £24.99 for this massager, which was considerably less than any of my 'experts' had charged per session. I wasn't particularly hopeful when it arrived, but after only a couple of days of running it over the muscles of my upper legs and hips, and then digging it deeper into my buttock area, I began to experience astonishing improvements. For the first time in months, I could turn over in bed without wracking pain. Getting up from a chair, I noticed I was tensing up to counteract an expected stab of pain that failed to materialise. The range of motion of my legs at the hip joint increased markedly. Referred pain down both inner thighs has lessened. It's early days, but this device has had more beneficial effects than everything else I have done put together.

The process of using the massager is relatively simple and I experience little if any discomfort. The conclusion I have come to as to why it is helping, and nothing else did, is this: I believe that the traumatic event I experienced when climbing caused muscles deep within my pelvic area to go into protective spasm. For whatever reason, they have stayed that way ever since, 'protecting' me from harm every time I try to do anything involving mobility at the hips. Whenever I tried to stretch these muscles, their automatic response has been to tighten further. By forcing the issue, and stretching through 'resistance', as I did on innumerable occasions, I caused the situation to become worse. Foam rollers and static, trigger point massage devices had similarly short term beneficial effects, but a lasting legacy of increasing tightness and discomfort.

I feel I was in a vicious spiral where nothing I did was able to interrupt the messages going from my central nervous system to the muscles in spasm, and where directly pulling or pushing on those muscles made the spasm worse. By placing this device on or around the affected muscles, the vibrations - the effect of which must extend well beyond the point of contact, as I can feel the reverberations throughout my body - not only seem to have an immediately softening effect on the tightness there, but cause a permanent reduction in the strength of the messages being sent for the spasm to continue. My hope is that through continued use, eventually those messages will cease altogether.

The person who recommended I buy this massager said he used it on an ongoing basis for stress related shoulder problems associated with his work. He had no expectations of a permanent 'cure' as he was renewing the cause of his tension on a daily basis. My hope is that as I am not doing anything remotely as stressful as the activity that caused my muscles to go into spasm in the first place, I have every chance of putting the massager to rest, in due course. We shall see!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 20, 2014 7:11 PM BST

The Lazarus Effect: The Science That is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death
The Lazarus Effect: The Science That is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death
by Sam Parnia
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A milestone, 23 Jun 2013
The first half of this book is devoted to the emerging science of resuscitation; the author details precisely how people die, and how they are - or can be - brought back to life. He bemoans the lack of organisation in terms of critical care that leaves a majority of those who suffer cessation of critical functions, who could be 'recovered' but aren't, prematurely dead, because of a failure of understanding, coordination or simply availability of resources. I found this of only moderate interest, though I acknowledge the information is something many others might appreciate knowing. Certainly, the author does a good job of explaining highly technical and often complicated procedures in comprehensible terms.

It is only in the second half of the book that Sam Parnia begins to examine what happens to the consciousness, rather than the body, of those who die, and then, often after several hours, come back to life. He is especially intrigued by the accounts of a number of survivors that seem to show they continue to enjoy the use of faculties - sight, hearing, thought - registering as scientifically non existent during the period between their clinical death and their subsequent recovery.

He examines most of the explanations put forward by fellow scientists for this phenomenon; and in straightforward, layman's terms, details why they fail to hold water. As a scientist himself, he is not dismissive of the various 'brain failure' hypotheses as cause for what he prefers to term ADEs (actual death experiences) rather than NDEs (near death experiences); but the case for these is so weak, he is forced to conclude something other than physiological forces are at work.

He devotes the remainder of his book to explaining what he believes these forces are. That is, he methodically examines what it is that makes us individuals, by exploring the origin, seat and motive force of our psyches - by which he means individual consciousness. His tentative suggestion (he is too circumspect to call it a 'conclusion') is what I found most interesting about the entire book. He first points out what should be obvious to the meanest intelligence. Science is only able to verify what it can currently measure.

At present, it can't explain, never mind isolate, consciousness. It assumes, somewhat blithely, that it - consciousness - must be the result of brain activity, since the two so closely accompany one another. That it might be the other way around, with the brain 'channelling' consciousness, seems unthinkable. However, as Parnia points out, parallels exist. Electromagnetic rays have been in existence since time immemorial. They 'predate' humanity. Yet, until 'science' learned how to measure them, the opinion of the day would have been that they didn't - couldn't - exist.

Parnia thinks it is reasonable to suppose there might be other elements, or entities, that exist, and always have existed, but that science is currently unable to detect, or explain. One of these, he believes, might be consciousness. His suggests this is likely to be because it - consciousness - is irreducible. In other words, it requires something other than the current measuring tools of science in order to be properly recognised, beyond it's obvious 'effects'. Parnia is confident the necessary tool will one day be found. In the meantime, he is content to work in areas which are readily accessible. Chiefly, that means studying reports of those who have clinically died but claim to have had conscious experiences of living outside their bodies while 'dead', and verifying, or proving false, their claims in as objective a way as he can.

To that end he describes the current state of play in the AWARE project, which aims, amongst other things, to study reports of ADEs and NDEs first hand, and to try and establish any corroboration between what is claimed by a person when 'out of their body' and what occurred at 'ground level'

I don't think this is a great book on the subject, but it is a useful addition. Nothing the author says shows that it has yet been proved that individual consciousness can continue to exist after brain death, still less persist indefinitely. Quite what would constitute convincing proof is open for debate. Science would like something more than an endless succession of anecdotes, which are proving tantalisingly difficult to verify. Some of these anecdotes have become near myths in their own right. The 'shoe on the ledge', the 'false teeth in the drawer'. Sceptics love to tear these accounts apart, to show how risible the subject is.

I suppose 'extraordinary claims' do require 'extraordinary evidence'; but I occasionally experience a sense of wonder that in courtrooms across the world, people are being convicted of crimes, and sentenced, on the basis of testimony that is no more certain than anecdote. Often, the word of a casual witness is taken as fact, whereas the accounts of those who have experienced NDEs are regularly derided, primarily as being unreliable.

Still, that is the way science works. It will resist anything outside its comfort zone, until it is blue in the face. It has to do this, because generally, ninety nine wacky theories clamouring for its attention will fall by the wayside, having been correctly labelled false. Whatever is persistent enough, though, usually has an element of truth to it. Eventually, science relents, and in the blink of an eye, proclaims its new understanding from the pulpit, as if it had been heralding it all along. Only time will tell what will happen concerning the study of consciousness. My money is on our brains having evolved to filter it, rather than it having evolved as a function of brain. I think Dr Sam Parnia believes this, too; but he recognises there is a long way to go to prove it.

Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century
Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century
by Edward F. Kelly
Edition: Paperback
Price: £21.95

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavy going, 13 Jun 2013
I borrowed this 'door stopper', as another reviewer called it, from the library, and have so far managed to read only one chapter - the one on NDE and OBEs. I'll probably leave it at that; but if I ever get a chance to be abandoned on a desert island, I might buy a copy to take with me.

I have some sympathy for the authors, as they are trying to come to a balanced assessment of subject matter that is considered by orthodox thinking, and therefore most scientists, as baloney. The chapter I read did an excellent job of evaluating all the explanations science has put forward for NDE and OBEs and then comprehensively dismantling them. It did this in a professional way, which necessitated many quotes and references. I found it hard work to read, but tremendously reassuring to discover my gut instinct (that science had no clear answer, and was casting about for straws) was right.

I just wish I had the time, patience and stamina to read the rest of the book.

The Last Frontier: Exploring the Afterlife and Transforming Our Fear of Death
The Last Frontier: Exploring the Afterlife and Transforming Our Fear of Death
by Julia Assante
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.82

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading, 22 May 2013
I savoured this trenchantly written appraisal of the history of humanity's relationship with the unseen world. I've read widely on the subject, and sometimes I've despaired at the gulf between the open mouthed, simplistic credulity of those who claim to see the light, and describe it in such mundane detail, expecting - imploring - others to see it the same way; and the astonishing closed mindedness of those who maintain with equal certainty that light of any sort is an illusion.

The author comes across as admirably balanced and dignified, enthusiastic and scholarly, passionate and cheeky, 'way out there' while remaining resolutely down to earth. She recognises the unseen world for what it is: infinitely vast, endlessly variable and magnificently elusive, often seeming as far from us as anything could be, while remaining as essential a part of existence as our breath. She doesn't criticise science for failing to see the wood for the trees, but she does point out that the increasingly detailed study of those 'trees' is throwing up some remarkable information. As she cogently describes it, science is slowly but surely finding itself coming face to face with what it is most earnestly endeavouring to deny.

Her exposition on the varieties of afterlife belief from various civilisations reveals not only how nonsensical it is to suppose one creed holds sway over another, but how equally nonsensical it is to imagine these beliefs don't represent a malleable reality. The author is no apologist for theology, though. She details how each religion, as it grows, infiltrates society, and adapts shamelessly in it's pursuit of control. Perhaps her most frightening suggestion is that the sense of worth each of us carries within us, which is largely determined by the nature of our cultural upbringing, is in fact so heavily tainted with religious belief, even those who no longer share those beliefs can't help but be intimately affected.

This isn't a casual matter. She describes humans as spending huge amounts of time and energy, on a daily, minute by minute basis, totting up personal ledgers of credit worthiness according to belief systems that have no bearing on anything but the maintenance of societal control; and bemoans how damaging this is, to the furtherance of us collectively as much as to each of us individually. She would place Christians calculating how good deeds outweigh bad ones in the same basket as Buddhists measuring their past and future karma.

Her views on how the afterlife coexists with our present, earthbound reality is refreshingly original; and she is equally scathing - and accepting - of the differing way we tend to approach this today compared to those of our ancestors. She is no more dismissive of an époque that glorified the heroism of men dying in battle by assuring them a quick entry to the highest echelon of heaven than she is of those who believe the quintessence of spirituality is to encapsulate meekness in all areas. Both are the realities of their day.

Her afterlife doesn't subscribe to linear time. Reincarnation doesn't happen as a string of sequential births, each one extinguishing the last. We exist in many guises, at all times, including the present. Any notion of bettering ourselves and achieving transcendence she sees as false. We are fully alive and part of everyone and everything, always. Consciousness is our bedrock and our apogee. It is a refreshing vision.

The main area where I found myself not nodding in silent - and occasionally vocal - agreement with Julia Assante was her tirade against the weight society nowadays places on avoidance of death. She is right to point out how much unnecessary money and effort is expended by humans trying to maintain the appearance of agelessness, and in avoiding the encroaching end by prolonging life artificially. It is true, the ultimate indignity of 'passing on' seems to infuriate us, so we do all in our power to deny it; but when the author derides humanity's obsession with fighting disease and pestilence, suggesting instead we should gracefully acknowledge when our time has come, even when that time is, by any reasonable yardstick, premature, I begin to wonder. As someone who is exceedingly thankful to be alive at a time and in a place when sudden death, serious illness and crippling accidents are rarities rather than everyday events, I can't share her view. Life seems too precious to take lightly, especially when children are concerned. However, I freely acknowledge that this feeling of mine is 'fear based', and that the fear in question is of separation from those we love at death, which is what this book ("...transforming our fear of death") is endeavouring to eradicate.

The author spends a lot of time talking about what happens before, during and after people die. This is much more involved, and much less clear cut, than I had imagined. That is, the process the dying go through, compared to our perception of what they are going through, can be diametrically at odds. Here, the reality of dying is picked bare, and much more sense is made of it than the general current understanding of passing on, or over, being a time of utter desolation and morbidity. A truer vision of death, we are assured, is as a second, joyous birth, with all its attendant drama and ecstasy.

When my father died, I scoured the book shops for something comprehensible to explain to me what had happened. I was driven half crazy by the bland pronouncements at the burial ceremony that he would be resurrected 'at the end of time', and even more so by the general acceptance amongst the mourners that although this priestly assurance was tripe (I did agree with that) the man we had lost had vanished into thin air, ceasing to exist in any meaningful way. I wish I had had access to this book then, not least for the section on how to communicate with the dead. This is explained so matter of factly, it is made to seem no more difficult than the early days of using the telephone, or - going back in time - semaphore or morse code. In fact, when I recall talking on Skype in its infancy, on a plodding computer, with a dodgy Internet connection, and a temperamental video cam, the pixelating image, metallic feedback, and our echoing, delayed voices, made communication trying in the extreme. But it was well worth it! As I have no doubt communication with the dead is.

Death is a subject that has a gloomy provenance. Julia Assante manages to imbue it with light, without losing any of its significance and longing, painting a portrait of the afterlife that is both captivating and alluring; and she does this in such a reassuring, familiar way, I wanted to reach into the book and hug her. Happily, although she does portray the unseen world - so tightly woven with this one, they are indivisible - in wondrous terms, it is without lessening her and our absolute, fervent allegiance to its material counterpart, repeatedly reaffirming earthly life as a vibrant, vital part of a far greater whole. George Harrison would be proud.

This book ranks as one of most accessible, informative and enlightening I've read, on any subject. What makes it stand out is the sheer effervescence of the writer, shining through on every page, detailing fantastic, rarified notions concerning death that ring as resoundingly true as the most prosaic realities of life. In a nutshell, she explains how much we are already part of any 'next world', while inhabiting this one; and how death is simply a transition process, of stepping from one room to another of a house that is inexpressibly large.

Even if it was pure fiction (which the resident sceptic in me suspects) I would still consider this a marvellous book. I recommend it to anyone and everyone.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 10, 2013 12:10 PM BST

Snail's Legs
Snail's Legs
by Damian Harvey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.10

1.0 out of 5 stars Macabre, 25 Mar 2013
This review is from: Snail's Legs (Paperback)
I've no idea what the moral of this tale was supposed to be, but I can't imagine any child, or their parents, would want to read it a second time. It should have come with a health warning. The illustrations are pleasing enough, but the story is not. The Brothers Grimm are sweetness and light, by comparison.

Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection [DVD]
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jeremy Brett
Offered by lightningdvd
Price: £39.94

25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Five star product spoiled by piracy warning, 29 Jan 2013
I was given this box set as a gift. The episodes themselves are wonderfully crafted with period detail down to a nicety. I have nothing but the highest praise for the acting, production and adherence to the consistent quality of the original stories.

However, one aspect of this box set - or at least the one I was given - is an abomination, and that is the infernal 'anti piracy' diatribe a viewer is expected - no, forced - to endure each and every time a DVD is watched. There appears to be no getting around this. The segment is in stark contrast to the Holmes stories: it is badly filmed, jarring, set in the modern age, brightly lit, noisy; and it is guaranteed to jar any viewer's sensibilities.

Whoever authorised this - and continues to authorise similar warnings, and also, unwanted adverts, pleas and other paraphernalia, on commercially sold DVDs - must surely realise they themselves are driving people into the hands of the pirates. There is a danger of it becoming no contest: either you pay for a product that is adulterated with garbage you don't want; or you download for free exactly what you do want.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 2, 2014 6:26 PM BST

Wheat Belly
Wheat Belly
by Davis, William MD
Edition: Hardcover

42 of 60 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars North American Belly, 9 Dec 2012
This review is from: Wheat Belly (Hardcover)
It's clear, there are many people who have adopted this author's wheat free diet and have reaped massive benefits. That's fantastic; but after reading his book, I think it unlikely the cause of these benefits is as described.

Firstly, William Davies blames the nature of today's wheat for our ills. He claims the grain has been changed out of all recognition, especially in the last fifty years, and now bears little relation to what first drove civilisation forward. While this may be true, he fails to provide any convincing explanation that those changes have made wheat eating increasingly problematic.

Instead, he bases his belief on the fact that the majority of North Americans from previous generations remained slim and healthy, whereas today they are overweight and unhealthy; and that as giving up wheat causes modern North Americans to lose weight and regain health, it must be the 'new' wheat that makes the difference.

If new wheat is no different to old wheat in its effect on health, his entire thesis dissolves. As he freely admits, North Americans eating old wheat were in fine fettle. He offers little evidence other than current North American ill health that new wheat is the culprit. If we look outside America, we find many nations where obesity and ill health are not rampant, but where far more wheat is eaten per capita than in the US.

These nations eat the same strain of wheat as North Americans - ie, 'new' wheat. It seems reasonable to assume, given their relative health, this 'new' wheat is no more pernicious to the generally slim and healthy of the world, living outside known centres of obesity and ill health, than 'old' wheat was to the North Americans of previous generations. If this is the case, it follows that 'old' wheat can hardly be considered any better than 'new' wheat now.

It seems likely something else is occurring. In North America, many more foods than elsewhere are processed, and many of these foods have wheat in them. That suggests an adverse reaction to the presence of wheat, even in tiny amounts, via overexposure, is more likely to occur, potentially leading to ill health; but crucially, it also means, for North Americans wanting to give wheat up, whatever foodstuffs have wheat in them must also be forsaken, which may well form the majority of their diet.

It would be hardly surprising if, in a country where so much processed food has traces of wheat in it, someone wanting to avoid it found they had to rebuild their diet from the ground up. Starting from scratch would almost certainly mean eating far fewer calories, for a start.

In North America, per capita intake of food, per se, is greater than anywhere else on earth. At the same time, per capita consumption of carbohydrates is less than almost anywhere else. These two telling statistics should be enough to make it clear that giving up wheat is not going to bring the US into line with those nations of the world where obesity and diseases of affluence are least prevalent.

In my view, 'Wheat Belly' is misnamed. It should have been called 'North American Belly', because it's the North American diet, with it's enormous calorie imbalance, sitting on the back of an extremely modest wheat consumption, that seems to be at fault here. By that token, wheat is an innocent bystander.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 10, 2013 9:44 AM BST

Page: 1 | 2