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P. Strand "Laughing Buddha" (Nowhere in particular)

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Guillaume Tell: Teatro Comunale Di Bologna (Mariotti) [Blu-ray] [2015]
Guillaume Tell: Teatro Comunale Di Bologna (Mariotti) [Blu-ray] [2015]
Dvd ~ Juan Diego Florez
Price: £15.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Musical perfection, 22 May 2015
The musical performance of this excellent Rossini opera is absolutely first rate, and the only reason I haven't given this five stars is the production itself, which is nothing short of totally abysmal, and also an insult to good taste and the beauty and power of the music itself. The set design is dismal to the point of being depressing, stage direction is laughable and the whole "concept" of the production, whatever it is all meant to mean or represent, is nothing short of ridiculous. It all comes across as unbelievably pretentious, and really ruins the experience of this brilliant opera. If this is the best that the director Graham Vick can come up with, he ought to seriously consider a career change. Maybe he should take up archery.

But other than that, this is really top notch stuff. The orchestra play magnificently under the great Michele Mariotti, and the singers are all brilliant, especially so the main roles, and in particular the amazing Juan Diego Florez in the role of Arnold. His performance is truly outstanding and it's worth watching this production if only just to see and hear his performance. Marina Rebeka as Mathilde, Nicola Alaimo as Tell and Amanda Forsythe as Jemmy are also all wonderful. The chorus is excellent throughout and the smaller roles also are very good, so from a purely musical point of view this is just about as good as it's ever going to get. So all in all, I do recommend getting this, but only for the musical performance which really is superb. These great singers are also very good actors, and it's always a joy to watch great singers perform, so from that perspective, it is worth watching, although I think that for the most part I'll just close my eyes and listen.

This is a wide-screen recording made at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italia, and video and audio quality are both excellent.


How to Attain Enlightenment: The Vision of Non-Duality (Spirituality Religious Experie)
How to Attain Enlightenment: The Vision of Non-Duality (Spirituality Religious Experie)
by James Swartz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book on enlightenment currently available, 24 July 2013
"How to attain enlightenment: The vision of non-duality" by James Swartz presents the ancient science of self-knowledge known as Vedanta in a way that is easily accessible and which can be readily understood by everyone. That's not to say that this book is in any way lightweight or undemanding. It is very likely that it will be quite challenging for most of us. The science of self-knowledge is not the spiritual equivalent of a fast food meal, so it's not necessarily something that can be immediately assimilated and digested by anyone. It would appear that it really does require time, effort and perseverance to fully understand and live the message that is presented in this book. It's not that Vedanta is difficult to understand, but rather that for many of us our spiritual and cultural conditioning might make it harder to allow this teaching to fully flower in our lives.

James Swartz has given the world a great gift by writing this marvellous book. With "How to attain enlightenment" he has managed to distil the world of Vedanta into one single very readable volume that seems complete in itself. This book may very well prove to be the last or only spiritual book you'll ever need to read. The philosophy and methodology of Vedanta are clearly explained and unfolded, and the way it's presented leaves the reader in no doubt about the supreme importance and efficacy of this ancient spiritual teaching. It should be noted that James Swartz is no spiritual neophyte. He studied and practiced extensively under the personal guidance of such spiritual luminaries as Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Dayananda, who were two of the 20th century's greatest exponents of Vedanta and non-duality.

Vedanta is a genuine and thoroughly tested methodology for self-realisation and enlightenment, and stretches far back into the distant past. James Swartz is true and faithful to this great tradition throughout this book, yet at the same time he presents Vedanta in such a way that it will have great appeal to people in our own time, or at least to those who are qualified and ready for it. The book is written in a clear, straightforward and accessible manner and presents all aspects of Vedanta in a logical and appealing way. It is divided into 16 chapters, although the last two chapters could possibly be seen as forming an appendix to the book rather than being part of the main body of the book. The first of these final chapters is a very interesting and illuminating discussion about the teaching of Ramana Maharshi while the second one is a quite convincing critique and dismissal of the so-called neo-advaita movement.

"How to attain enlightenment" is a tremendous achievement, and a book of such strength, conviction, integrity, wisdom and clarity that it deserves to be regarded as one of the greatest books on spirituality of our time. It really ought to be mandatory reading for anyone who is at all interested in Vedanta, non-duality and enlightenment. A true classic!


Stillness Speaks: Whispers of Now
Stillness Speaks: Whispers of Now
by Eckhart Tolle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stillness speaks within your heart, 28 Sept. 2012
In the late 1990s Eckhart Tolle shot to fame in the world of contemporary spirituality with the publication of his book The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, and a few years later, with good help from Oprah Winfrey and her book club, his popularity and success moved onto a whole new level with the book A New Earth: Create a Better Life. In-between these two excellent books he published another little book that in its own unique way is as good, but not nearly as well-known and popular as it deserves to be. This book is called Stillness Speaks and it is a lovely collection of sutra-like statements centred around some of Eckhart Tolle's most familiar themes.

The book is divided into 10 chapters, each dealing with a particular subject, such as The Now, Acceptance and Surrender, Silence and Stillness, Nature, Relationships, and Who You Truly Are. These are all subjects that Eckhart Tolle has covered extensively in his two main books, but the difference here is that instead of writing about each theme in great detail, he writes just short statements which can all be read separately. In other words, you can just open the book anywhere you like and read something, and regardless of what you chance upon, it is bound to be very good, inspiring and enlightening. This book is more suited for quiet introspection, meditation and reflection than for the kind of thorough study and exploration that The Power of Now and A New Earth invite. To give you a feeling of what Stillness Speaks really is about, it might be useful to quote from Eckhart Tolle's introduction to the book:

"This is not a book to be read from cover to cover and then put away. Live with it, pick it up frequently, and, more importantly, put it down frequently, or spend more time holding it than reading it. Many readers will feel naturally inclined to stop reading after each entry, to pause, reflect, become still. It is always more helpful to stop reading than to continue reading."

This might seem like a rather strange kind of advice from an author, but the funny thing is that this book, more than any other I've come across, really does seem to invite the reader to just hold it, look at it, and thus experience or feel the essence of it. It is a rare book indeed that has the power to induce a state of peace and meditation just by being held, but Stillness Speaks carries that little extra special something. It is a beautiful book in all respects, and one to be loved and treasured over a lifetime. Stillness Speaks may be a small book, but in its own unique way, it is a vehicle for transformation and authentic spiritual maturity.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 13, 2013 11:36 AM BST


Attractions: With Bucky Pizzarelli
Attractions: With Bucky Pizzarelli
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A precious gift, 5 Nov. 2011
Attractions was released in 2007, and like Cynthia Sayer's other albums, it is a wonderful collection of impeccably performed tunes. The band on this album includes Joe Ascione on drums, Greg Cohen on bass, Sara Caswell on violin, Jim Fryer on trombone, Randy Sandke on trumpet Scott Robinson on clarinet and saxophones, Bucky Pizzarelli on guitar and of course Cynthia Sayer herself on banjo and vocals. Cynthia also wrote all the arrangements, and it's obvious from the way this music sounds that she has a rare gift for finding new ways of presenting material than in some cases could be said to be well worn. You would perhaps expect tunes like Over the Rainbow and You are my Sunshine to have been done almost to death by now, but in Cynthia Sayer's arrangements and this band's brilliant performances, even these old standards get a new lease on life.

The selection of songs is very varied to say the least, with material by Sidney Bechet, Hank Williams, Irving Berlin, Django Reinhardt amongst others. The biggest surprise perhaps in this sense is the closing selection, which is a beautifully performed solo banjo version of Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. Regardless of what material she performs, Cynthia plays with a fresh and contemporary feel, while still being very respectful of the tradition that the music came from.

As usual, Cynthia Sayer has chosen her band members with care, and while they all play superbly, the collaboration with the great and legendary guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli is particularly inspired. These two master musicians complement each other perfectly and the interplay between them is a joy to listen to.

Cynthia Sayer plays the banjo with great flair and exuberance, and her passion and enthusiasm both for her instrument and the music she plays are very obvious throughout this excellent album. Her sense of rhythm and timing is perfect and she drives her band along beautifully with her infections and swinging style of playing.

Cynthia Sayer is known not only as one of the world's foremost banjo players, but also as a very accomplished singer. Her vocal performances on Attractions are better than ever and she puts her own personal stamp on all of the songs she sings. It should also be mentioned that she wrote two of the selections on Attractions herself; an elegantly swinging instrumental called Banjo Tango and a quirky little story called The Gift, which has a great tune and lyrics that are both humorous and thoughtful.

Attractions is a delightful album with plenty of variety and very inspired playing from everybody. I must have listened to it dozens of times by now, but still find that the music is fresh and engaging. If you like honest, heartfelt and authentic music, you can do no better than exploring the wonderful musical universe of Cynthia Sayer. Attractions is a perfect place to start.


Forward Moves (feat. Kenny Davern & Vince Giordano)
Forward Moves (feat. Kenny Davern & Vince Giordano)
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A joy forever, 8 Oct. 2011
Forward Moves was recorded way back in 1991 but still sounds thoroughly fresh and joyful 20 years later. Cynthia Sayer is a marvellously accomplished 4-string banjo player, and if you think you don't like banjo, it just means that you've never heard Cynthia play. She's a virtuoso on her instrument and one of the few banjo players in jazz these days. She is also an excellent singer with a warm and sincere quality in her voice. On Forward Moves she was joined by the master clarinettist Kenny Davern, and the collaboration between the two proved to be very creative and full of delightful surprises. The other musicians on this album are Vince Giordano on bass sax, Peter Ecklund on cornet and Greg Cohen on bass. Seven of the tracks feature Sayer, Davern and Giordano only while the rest of the tunes were recorded with a band consisting of Sayer, Davern, Ecklund and Cohen. You might think that a line-up of only banjo, clarinet and bass sax or banjo, clarinet, cornet and bass doesn't seem very promising, but Cynthia Sayer's arrangement are so wickedly clever and the playing is of such a supreme quality that the result is a pure joy to listen to. This is an album that all lovers of traditional jazz will enjoy, but its appeal goes way beyond that, because these classic performances have a universal quality. I would go so far as to say that this is music that is almost impossible to dislike, regardless of where your musical heart is usually located. In a world dominated by commercialism and superficial, mass-produced music, Cynthia Sayer's music obviously comes from a place of heartfelt sincerity and is a breath of fresh air. Forward Moves is guaranteed to make you feel good!


God Is an Atheist: A Novella for Those Who Have Run Out of Time
God Is an Atheist: A Novella for Those Who Have Run Out of Time
by N. Nosirrah
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Amusing and profound, 20 Dec. 2010
There are many good and worthwhile books on spirituality available these days, but it's quite rare to come across one that's as unique as "God is an atheist: A novella for those who have run out of time" by N. Nosirrah. To give you a sense of what kind of book this is, let me quote the blurb on the back of the book:

"A profound tragicomic romp through the bizarre landscape of religion, spirituality, and the contemporary clash of cultures of belief, with special attention to the human obsession with knowing what can't be known. Nosirrah provokes just about everyone as he describes a world where God is on the run from Islamic extremists, the Pope announces he shares a bed with Richard Dawkins, and Buddha's son disappoints by getting enlightened instead of becoming a doctor."

"God is an atheist" has humour, spiritual enquiry, philosophical conundrums and logic (or maybe the lack of it) all mixed up in a delightful stew that is both nourishing and exciting. It's a whimsical journey through contemporary spirituality and culture that holds nothing sacred and asks questions that most people probably might not even want answered. Nosirrah's writing style is fresh and original, but at the same time unpretentious and straightforward. Although this book is full of what can best be described as meaningful nonsense, there are also truly profound insights and comments to be found on almost every page. The book is even illustrated, by none other than A. Nosirrah, and while it has to be said that the artwork is on the far side of the naive and almost childish, and may not be to everybody's liking, somehow it seems to fit into the text very nicely all the same.

Who is N. Nosirrah? Does he even exist? He has only the following to say about himself on the back cover of the book:

"N. Nosirrah is an enigmatic writer and philosopher who asks his readers to question their existence, God's existence and in particular, Nosirrah's existence."

And as if that wasn't enough, he also claims that "Those who understand these writings have no need to meet me, those who do not understand have no reason to meet me, and those who need to meet me have no need to read my writings."

At only 119 pages, "God is an atheist" is a short book, but quality wins over quantity every single time, and I for one would choose this little book over many a weighty tome by the celebrated hot shots in today's spiritual marketplace. Who knows, maybe Nosirrah really is not, but he delivers all the same.


Perfect Brilliant Stillness
Perfect Brilliant Stillness
by David Carse
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.25

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond the individual self, 26 Oct. 2010
One of the most extraordinary books on non-duality to emerge over the last few years is "Perfect Brilliant Stillness" by David Carse. This book takes a very direct, honest and uncompromising approach to spirituality and spiritual awakening, and reading it means embarking on a journey beyond the individual self, to a place of stillness, oneness and clarity.

In the world of spirituality all words are but pointers to the ultimate truth, but David Carse comes closer than virtually all other authors and teachers in giving expression to that which truly is beyond words. "Perfect Brilliant Stillness" is an unusually profound and far-reaching work, and there's enough highly explosive spiritual dynamite in this book to enable it to act as a powerful catalyst to the reader's spiritual understanding and awakening.

David Carse is a writer of incredible clarity and depth, yet has a rather unusual way of writing and expressing himself. There is something raw and unpolished, wild and untamed about his writing, and this very unique style gives the book a freshness and vitality that's quite rare. This also helps to make the book virtually free from the many clichés and banalities often found in writings on non-duality, and it is almost as if it's consciousness or stillness itself that speaks through this book. "Perfect Brilliant Stillness" is a work of exceptional spiritual maturity, so much so that it deserves a place amongst the best books on non-duality ever written.

David Carse plays down the importance of his own person to such an extent that he even refers to himself as 'the david thing', yet in spite of this he skilfully interweaves aspects of his own journey into the book. We learn that he died and was reborn while staying with an indigenous tribe in the heart of the Amazon jungle, and that it was only after his spiritual awakening that he started reading books on non-dual spirituality. He also started meeting some of the leading teachers of Advaita today, and had a close spiritual relationship with Ramesh Balsekar for more than two years.

This book was written by somebody who clearly doesn't want to draw too much attention to himself. It is stated quite specifically that he does not teach and even after 'the thing in the jungle' and all that followed on from that, yes even after writing this excellent book, he still works as a carpenter in Vermont.

The spiritual awakening that David Carse went through happened quite spontaneously, and without much in the way of previous spiritual practice or knowledge about non-duality and suchlike. He had never practiced meditation or any other spiritual disciplines and was never affiliated with any particular spiritual teachers before his awakening occurred deep in the Amazon jungle a few years ago. He was on his way to becoming a catholic priest many years prior to all this, but that seems rather irrelevant in the context of the kind of radical and total spiritual awakening he went through later.

"Perfect Brilliant Stillness" contains not only some of the most stark and direct statements of spiritual truth ever written, but also a lot of very interesting and enlightening comments on the current state of spirituality and spiritual practice in the western world. The text is sprinkled throughout with plenty of relevant quotes from many excellent spiritual teachers and authors such as Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Wei Wu Wei, Tony Parsons, Adyashanti, Jed McKenna, Robert Adams and Ramesh Balsekar, celebrated poets like Hafiz, Rumi and Kabir as well as a number of classic Zen masters from the more or less distant past.

"Perfect Brilliant Stillness" is an extraordinary book in all respects, yet it is clearly not a book that will be suitable for everybody. This book is a true gift for people who have gone beyond the ego or individual self or who are in the process of doing so, but the vast majority of spiritual seekers, people who are mainly trying to improve themselves or become better or more spiritual people, will probably not find it particularly helpful. It's certainly not a self-help book, in fact it would be more accurate to say it's a book that is more likely to dismantle the self altogether.

To give potential readers a taste of the flavour of Perfect Brilliant Stillness, it might be useful to quote the first few paragraphs from the author's preface, which he calls 'The fine print':

"There are many books out there that will help you to live a better life, become a better person, and evolve and grow to realize your full potential as a spiritual being.

This is not one of them.

At the time of this writing, almost every popular spiritual teacher in America and Europe is teaching that ultimate spiritual enlightenment, once attained only by certain yogis, gurus and other extraordinary beings, can now be yours; that reading their book or attending their seminar will help you toward that end.

This book will tell you that these ideas are absurd, because it's quite obvious that neither you nor anything else has ever existed."
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 17, 2013 9:07 AM BST


Spiritual Warfare
Spiritual Warfare
by Jed McKenna
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jed McKenna's Enlightenment Trilogy, 21 Oct. 2010
This review is from: Spiritual Warfare (Paperback)
Jed McKenna is no ordinary author. He has written a trilogy of books that are easy to read and very entertaining, yet at the same time exceptionally profound. These books are nothing short of excellent, in fact they're so spiritually advanced that a lot of people might quite simply not realise what true gems they are.

Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing is the first in the series and announced the arrival of a major new voice in modern spirituality. Jed McKenna pulls no punches, but tells it like it is. It's probably not to everybody's liking, in fact some people might find his approach a bit upsetting, as he obviously seems more interested in truth than making you feel good. The second book is called Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment and is every bit as good as the first one. It contains a very interesting and enlightening in-depth discussion about Herman Melville's book Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics), as well as more of Jed's hilarious and outrageous experiences and profound insights. The third book, Spiritual Warfare, might well be the best of the three books, and is even more uncompromising and direct than the first two.

Jed McKenna speaks of enlightenment and spiritual awakening, and does so without sugar-coating it. This is not for people who want something nice to play with, something pleasant to doze off to or some new belief or theory to occupy themselves with. Jed McKenna doesn't provide any kind of self-help and offers no tools for self-improvement. It would be more accurate to say that he encourages a complete dismantling of the self, instead of developing or perfecting it. His message is a stark and unforgiving wake-up call, yet it's all written in the most charming and eloquent manner possible. These are spiritual books in the very best meaning of the word. If you are serious about spiritual awakening, you are likely to find the weird, wild and wonderful writings of Jed McKenna truly enlightening.


Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment
Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment
by Jed McKenna
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jed McKenna's Enlightenment Trilogy, 21 Oct. 2010
Jed McKenna is no ordinary author. He has written a trilogy of books that are easy to read and very entertaining, yet at the same time exceptionally profound. These books are nothing short of excellent, in fact they're so spiritually advanced that a lot of people might quite simply not realise what true gems they are.

Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing is the first in the series and announced the arrival of a major new voice in modern spirituality. Jed McKenna pulls no punches, but tells it like it is. It's probably not to everybody's liking, in fact some people might find his approach a bit upsetting, as he obviously seems more interested in truth than making you feel good. The second book is called Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment and is every bit as good as the first one. It contains a very interesting and enlightening in-depth discussion about Herman Melville's book Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics), as well as more of Jed's hilarious and outrageous experiences and profound insights. The third book, Spiritual Warfare, might well be the best of the three books, and is even more uncompromising and direct than the first two.

Jed McKenna speaks of enlightenment and spiritual awakening, and does so without sugar-coating it. This is not for people who want something nice to play with, something pleasant to doze off to or some new belief or theory to occupy themselves with. Jed McKenna doesn't provide any kind of self-help and offers no tools for self-improvement. It would be more accurate to say that he encourages a complete dismantling of the self, instead of developing or perfecting it. His message is a stark and unforgiving wake-up call, yet it's all written in the most charming and eloquent manner possible. These are spiritual books in the very best meaning of the word. If you are serious about spiritual awakening, you are likely to find the weird, wild and wonderful writings of Jed McKenna truly enlightening.


Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing (Enlightenment Trilogy)
Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing (Enlightenment Trilogy)
by Jed McKenna
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.55

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jed McKenna's Enlightenment Trilogy, 28 Jun. 2010
Jed McKenna is no ordinary author. He has written a trilogy of books that are easy to read and very entertaining, yet at the same time exceptionally profound. These books are nothing short of excellent, in fact they're so spiritually advanced that a lot of people might quite simply not realise what true gems they are.

Spiritual Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing is the first in the series and announced the arrival of a major new voice in modern spirituality. Jed McKenna pulls no punches, but tells it like it is. It's probably not to everybody's liking, in fact some people might find his approach a bit upsetting, as he obviously seems more interested in truth than making you feel good. The second book is called Spiritually Incorrect Enlightenment and is every bit as good as the first one. It contains a very interesting and enlightening in-depth discussion about Herman Melville's book Moby Dick (Wordsworth Classics), as well as more of Jed's hilarious and outrageous experiences and profound insights. The third book, Spiritual Warfare, might well be the best of the three books, and is even more uncompromising and direct than the first two.

Jed McKenna speaks of enlightenment and spiritual awakening, and does so without sugar-coating it. This is not for people who want something nice to play with, something pleasant to doze off to or some new belief or theory to occupy themselves with. Jed McKenna doesn't provide any kind of self-help and offers no tools for self-improvement. It would be more accurate to say that he encourages a complete dismantling of the self, instead of developing or perfecting it. His message is a stark and unforgiving wake-up call, yet it's all written in the most charming and eloquent manner possible. These are spiritual books in the very best meaning of the word. If you are serious about spiritual awakening, you are likely to find the weird, wild and wonderful writings of Jed McKenna truly enlightening.


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