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muddy-funster (Kent, England)

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Music: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Music: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Nicholas Cook
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Appears to have the wrong title, 9 Dec 2011
An interested, non-academic reader might expect a book called "Music: A very short introduction" to cover topics like the history of music, different genres, basic ideas from music theory (harmony, chord progressions etc), perhaps some recommended recordings and how to go about listening to them - and so on.

Instead this author talks at great length about the different ways music theorists have thought and written about music - and by "music", he essentially means the classical repertoire - since the 18th century. On the way, there are a couple of interesting revelations, such as some of Beethoven's supposedly exotic harmonic experiments actually being printing errors, but much of the ground covered here will be of little interest to most "lay" music-lovers. The final chapters on "gender theory", for example, will be frankly incomprehensible to the majority. A better title might have been "The history of classical music scholarship: a very short introduction for academics".


FAQ About Time Travel [DVD]
FAQ About Time Travel [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anna Faris
Price: £6.06

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Three men go into a pub..., 9 July 2011
This review is from: FAQ About Time Travel [DVD] (DVD)
...and an awful lot happens before they can get out again. Very enjoyable stuff, particularly the time-travel paradox side of things. The special effects are actually pretty good for a low-budget movie, on a par with the more expensive Doctor Who episodes. (Fans of Steven Moffat will enjoy this - indeed I was [wrongly] convinced when watching it that he had written it.) Perhaps the dialogue lets it down a little (do we really need another nerdy debate about Empire Strikes Back v Return of the Jedi?) but the acting is great, especially the lovely Anna Faris. Recommended.


Rainbow Magic - Return To Rainspell Island [DVD] [2010]
Rainbow Magic - Return To Rainspell Island [DVD] [2010]
Price: £6.46

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rainbow Magic meets Battle of the Planets!, 4 Jun 2011
An odd choice of animation style for the RM adaptation - looks more like a manga action cartoon from the 1980's. Still, kept the kids quiet for an hour.


Atonement
Atonement
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Staggeringly good, 29 May 2011
This review is from: Atonement (Paperback)
My previous experiences with McEwan have been mixed - Saturday, Solar - so it was wonderful to read one of his novels which finally explains what the fuss is all about. This is a genuine masterpiece. I don't want to go into details regarding the plot as it might spoil it for future readers (or the 1% of them who haven't already seen the film, at any rate); so I'll just say that this book made me first very angry, and then very moved, as McEwan had intended - and that's the highest compliment I can pay the author.


Doctor Who - The Curse of Fenric [1989] [DVD] [1963]
Doctor Who - The Curse of Fenric [1989] [DVD] [1963]
Dvd ~ Sylvester McCoy
Price: £5.60

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been so much better, 7 Jan 2010
No doubt the die-hard Whovians will vote against me on this one but: Fenric is far too complicated to work. There are simply too many ideas thrown into the pot. Here are just some: the WW2 Enigma Machine ("Ultima" here), the start of the Cold War, chemical warfare, the future evolution of the human race, Vikings, Russians, vampires (!), faith or lack of it, Runes as computer programs, Ace's personal story, the chess game, Nicholas Parsons as a sensitive vicar (he's very good)... I could go on. Any of these are potentially great elements of a Doctor Who storyline, but all put together in just 4 episodes makes for a bewildering experience. Clearly some major cuts have been made; some events don't really have an explanation, and others could have been dramatically effective but for the hurried production (lots of scenes involve the Doctor running into a room, quickly speaking three or four lines, then running out again).

It reminded me a bit of the Beatles' White Album: lack of editorial control resulting in a missed opportunity to produce a masterpiece. If this is the best of the McCoy era, I for one will not be exploring the rest. (Apologies to people who love this series, I'm just being honest!)


Cold Comfort Farm (Penguin Classics)
Cold Comfort Farm (Penguin Classics)
by Stella Gibbons
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

3 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The weirdest science fiction novel ever, 26 Dec 2009
In this book, Stella Gibbons predicts video phones, air mail dropped in back gardens, an "Anglo-Nicaraguan war" and widespread domestic aeroplane ownership. Didn't see that coming!

Anyway, I think this book proves that satire only works if (a) you're very familiar with the material being parodied (in this case Mary Webb, Thomas Hardy etc) and (b) if you are culturally well-aligned with the author (in this case, an early 20th century, female, middle-class journalist with literary aspirations and a dysfunctional family background). For these reasons, I personally find Charlie Brooker very funny, and Stella Gibbons almost completely unfunny. Enjoyed the plot, though.


Saturday
Saturday
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A brussels sprout of a book, 30 Oct 2009
This review is from: Saturday (Paperback)
It was surprising to find so many 1- and 2-star reviews here at Amazon. "Saturday" has a lot going for it. Much has been made of the technical impressiveness of McEwan's prose; his meticulous research into multiple topics; the attention to detail in the stream-of-conciousness narration of the central character, whose constantly calculating approach to life seemed entirely fitting for a brain surgeon (sorry, "neurosurgeon").

I found the meditations on the state of society and current affairs of 2003 particularly satisfying. One of the best sections was the argument between Daisy and Henry about the rationale for the Iraq war, youthful moral absolutism on the one hand and sloppy pragmatic consequentialism on the other. (My own position on this issue has oscillated between the two over the last six years.) There were some gripping moments (I won't spoil things by going into detail) and, perhaps, some clever allegorical points being made - invasive brain surgery being contrasted with invasive military action, for example. And I'm pretty sure that learning how Henry thinks has, in a small way, changed how I think, for the better.

On the other hand, it was equally surprising to find serious critics absolutely bowled over by this novel; words like "dazzling" and "stunning" seem to crop up a lot in reviews. They all seem to ignore the novel's most obvious flaw: a family of uniformly high achievers will not only be not particularly likeable, but, when the achievements are *this* impressive, almost certain not to exist. Yes, there's probably an 18-year-old kid somewhere who is currently being feted by the British Blues scene as our next greatest guitarist - but you can be sure that his sister isn't our next greatest poet, his dad one of our greatest surgeons, his mum one of our greatest media lawyers, his grandfather one of our greatest current poets and his poor grandmother "only" a "county champion" swimmer. How could McEwan go to such lengths with the details only to get the big picture so absurdly wrong? Some characters who actually act like human beings in a real family (occasionally stopping achieving things to make each other laugh, or drive each other up the wall, perhaps) would give the reader something to relate to. (One wonders if the reviewers would have been so gushing if they had been unaware of the identity of the author.)

There's lots more to be said but you probably have better things to do with your time. So in summary:

It's a brussels sprout of a book. You feel you ought to consume it, because you know it's good for you and you see everyone else doing it; and while you might not enjoy it much at the time, you'll feel slightly better for it afterwards.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 4, 2013 5:12 PM BST


Lost Art of Being Happy: Spirituality for Sceptics
Lost Art of Being Happy: Spirituality for Sceptics
by Tony Wilkinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.79

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The no-nonsense approach to spiritual living, 9 Aug 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
So, what determines how happy you are? How much money you have? Your material comforts? Your level of health? Whether you are in a relationship, or a "good job"?

It's fair to say that most ordinary people would intuitively think the answer is "yes" to some if not all of these questions. But Tony Wilkinson begs to differ. In his view, these are mere "external circumstances", only a relatively small influence on our happiness. Instead, he suggests that it is our interpretation of our circumstances, and, in turn, our response to that interpretation that holds the key.

At first glance, this may seem to be a slightly fatuous appeal for us all to become "glass half-full" people: simply look on the bright side, and all will be well. But that's absolutely not what Wilkinson is all about. He instead proposes a system for *training* the inner life so that we can instinctively respond to our circumstances in ways that will make us happy, without any element of self-denial or delusion in the process.

He clearly sees this as a serious goal, something which can take years to master (although in my experience, just a few hours following his advice can make a significant difference!) and which we as individuals, and our society as a whole, would benefit from in all kinds of ways: less emphasis on consuming things as a way to palliate our nagging sense of soullessness, for example.

I have to say, I'm convinced. What helps his case is that he is from such a conservative background - a career in civil service and banking - and very far from a "drug-crazed tree-hugger"! I also got the sense that he's written this book from a genuine desire to help people rather than for the money (after all, he explicitly states "acts of benevolence" as a key happiness-inducing activity).

Wilkinson is quick to point out that his ideas are not new and includes a bibliography of inspirational texts; much of this book overlaps with the Dalai Lama's "Art of Happiness", for example. So this book also serves as a good starting point for the more up-market end of the self-help/spirituality genre. It also adds an interesting perspective on the current, seemingly interminable "god debate": those of us concerned that the current incarnation of society may have thrown out the baby of spirituality and reflective living with the rather filthy bathwater of religious superstition will find much food for thought here.

The only place where I found myself in disagreement was his view that happiness is the goal of life. This is tricky to swallow because many of history's great achievers - say a Newton, or a Beethoven - appear to have eschewed happiness in favour of their ambition; and, arguably the world has been a better place because of that choice. Of course, as someone of considerably more limited talents, that's an academic question when it comes to my own happiness!

On finishing this book, I was compelled to go back to the beginning and start again. I'll definitely be giving copies of this to friends, especially those of an introverted bent whose intelligence seems to unfortunately block their capacity for enjoying life. Highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 19, 2013 10:03 PM GMT


A Mighty Wind [DVD] [2003]
A Mighty Wind [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Christopher Guest
Offered by Sent2u
Price: £2.50

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, 22 July 2009
This review is from: A Mighty Wind [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
I agree with the previous reviewers - musically brilliant, very funny but not belly-laugh-inducing in a Spinal Tap kind of way. What this film has that Guest's previous offerings lacked is a real heart, with Mitch and Mickey's tragic tale at the centre.

The first time I saw this it would have been a 3-4 star, but repeated viewing reveals more and more delights (those album covers!) and for me, it's a 5.


French is Fun with Serge, the Cheeky Monkey! (Salut Serge)
French is Fun with Serge, the Cheeky Monkey! (Salut Serge)
by Sue Finnie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, 7 July 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
My daughter loves this DVD. At 2 and a half she can already speak some French - more than I could aged seven!

We bought this after deciding not to invest in Muzzy, on grounds of cost. I can only agree with other reviewers, it is a fantastic way to introduce small children to the French language. The themes are designed to appeal to that age group (pets, games, food and so on) and there are plenty of genuinely funny jokes which the parents will enjoy too! Singing along with the catchy songs is a great way to consolidate vocabulary and refine pronunciation.

The only downside is that the CGI is not up to the contemporary "Pixar" standard. But, again, my two-year-old doesn't seem to mind...!

Superb value for money and deserves to be more widely known. Merci beaucoup, Serge - génial!


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