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Willo The Wisp [DVD] [1981]
Willo The Wisp [DVD] [1981]
Dvd ~ Kenneth Williams
Price: £7.90

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid, 25 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Willo The Wisp [DVD] [1981] (DVD)
In recent years, there has been much discussion as to whether The Sopranos, or perhaps The Wire, can claim to be The Greatest Television Ever Made.

They can't, wonderful as they are. It is a little known fact that the high-point of art on the small screen was reached in 1981, right here in the UK. And this is it.

Nothing, (I find), is quite as sublime as watching The Moog exclaim "My name is The Moog. And I...Am...An...Elephant!!!"

Kenneth Williams was a genius and this is, oddly enough, probably his finest legacy. Delicious.


Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age
Jacquard's Web: How a Hand-Loom Led to the Birth of the Information Age
by James Essinger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but slightly sketchy at times, 27 Aug. 2007
The first two thirds of this book is well worth reading, and overall, I agree with the above reviews. The story of Jacquard (or as much of it as is known), and his momentous invention is a very important and overlooked one.

Much of the later sections of the book, however, will be old ground to anyone who's reasonably familiar with the history of information technology. And I found the last chapter - a meandering riff on the future of computing and the fact that, ooh!, we just can't predict it - to be a complete waste of time. It reads very much like something written in a state of 'Oh My God I need 15 more pages before my deadline tomorrow' panic.

The biographical sections of the book (most of it, to be fair), are extremely well done, employing a well-tuned balance of historical context and personal detail. I was disappointed, though, by the passages that attempt to convey exactly how each new device or discovery described actually works. Rather than a step-by-step breakdown, accompanied by a useful diagram or two, there was usually a few sentences referring vaguely to principles or processes which it is assumed the reader must be familiar with.

Overall though, that's a quibble, and Jacquard's Web is an extremely absorbing tale.

Just skirt delicately around the last chapter and head straight to the appendices...


Every Shape, Every Shadow: A Novel Of Guadalcanal
Every Shape, Every Shadow: A Novel Of Guadalcanal
by Roger L. Conlee
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Not great literature, but very accessible history, 27 Aug. 2007
This is not a great novel. In places it's so badly written that I suspected it was a vanity publishing project (it isn't). But, mostly, it's workmanlike rather than actively wince-inducing, and because it allows the actual conflict of the Guadalcanal campaign to take centre stage, it quickly becomes an addictive read.

The story is driven mainly by the fictional characters who populate a platoon of Able Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. They are fairly stereotypical characters (wisecracking city boy, tough-as-nails Southern seargant with heart of gold, disturbed sociopath who wants to avenge father killed in Pearl Harbour, Native American who rarely speaks, committed Christian with a troubled conscience...) but they work well enough. The author has bent the facts slightly, in terms of which units were deployed where, allowing the main characters to be present at all the key battles in the struggle to defend the American section of the island.

The book gives a good overview of the whole situation by switching from a fox-hole view of the action to strategic meetings of the high command, and particularly the thoughts, letters and daily life of General Vandegrift, the commander who was landed on the island along with most of his division, then effectively abandoned by Navy high commmand to fend for himself, in expectation that amphibious attack would never work.

The Japanese forces are also represented by two characters - a dive-bomber pilot and General Kawaguchi. They are portrayed as normal men stuck in an institution which is led by fanatics, aware of the shortcomings of their regime but driven by strict codes of honour.

This is a well researched and very readable account of one of the most important turning points of WWII. It's not especially worth reading as a novel in it's own right, but as an easily digestible chunk of history, especially for those unfamiliar with the details of the campaign, I recommend it.


Scarface (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD]
Scarface (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Al Pacino
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £2.93

15 of 88 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Soooo overrated!, 21 Aug. 2005
I bought this film because I'm a fan of good gangster movies. There's no better way to understand how capitalism and the American Dream really works. I'd never seen Scarface and the reviews here made me feel I must be missing a classic...

Nope.

This really is unredeemably awful - and I could watch Al Pacino do cat food adverts, he's that good. Brian de Palma, with a couple of exceptions, (Carlito's Way, The Untouchables), makes bloody awful films. This one has a great cast, a mediocre script, truly bad direction and a soundtrack so awful that if you tried to pass it off as a pastiche of bad eighties music, it just wouldn't be plausible.

My personal lowlights from this film come early on - the riot scene in the detention centre has no sense of menace or chaos, but consists entirely of dodgy-looking extras standing on the spot, hopping from one foot to the other, waving (as opposed to throwing, or hitting anyone with) sticks or bricks and grimacing unconvincingly. It really does look pathetic. I guess the audience is supposed not to notice because the camera just pans across it for a few seconds. And Tony Montana's first job in Miami is wonderful - he has to negotiate a deal with a Colombian coke dealer who's briefcase has two compartments - one for the coke, one for the chainsaw he uses to torture people. Isn't that fantastic? The shops must be full of stuff like that in Colombia, probably the only kind of equipment any self respecting dealer would travel with.... As for the final bloodbath - it is incredibly silly, but to get there you have to sit through two hours of shapeless, boring tripe.

If you've never seen this film - really, don't worry.


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