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Kenneth F. Mcara "Kenneth F. McAra" (Dundee, Scotland)
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ebertSankey 100-Litre Slim Space-Saver Water Butt
ebertSankey 100-Litre Slim Space-Saver Water Butt

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ideal product, 14 July 2011
I've got 2 of these linked together by Sankey Water Butt Link Kit (Black, 0.5 Metres) attached to a downpipe from my roof. You need to get the Sankey Slim Water Butt Sand (Black) for each butt and the Sankey Water Diverter Kit (Black, 0.5 Metres) to attach it to your downpipe.

The only tools you really need are:
* a drill to make 25mm holes in the butt to fit the pipe(s);
* a junior hacksaw to remove a small section of the downpipe so that you can insert the water diverter;
* a spirit level to make sure you're not trying to make water run uphill!

You'll be surprised how quickly the butt(s) fill after a heavy shower of rain, and this provides an almost inexhaustible supply to keep the garden well-watered without having to use your domestic supply.

A great piece of kit - you'll wonder why you didn't get one (or more) of these years ago! The nifty slimline design (and colour) also means that they are not too obtrusive wherever you decide to site them.


Spartacus (Polyg9on Lewis Grassic Gibbon)
Spartacus (Polyg9on Lewis Grassic Gibbon)
by James Leslie Mitchell
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of the Free Legion, 14 July 2011
It is really interesting to read a variation on the tale which eventually was filmed as Spartacus [Blu-ray] by Stanley Kubrick, based on the later novel Spartacus by Howard Fast. This book was written by James Leslie Mitchell who was better known for his works published under the pen-name Lewis Grassic Gibbon. It is firmly based on historical documents of the time, although Gibbon/Mitchell takes some artistic licence as the foreword makes clear.

The style is almost that of a detached observer, and characterisation is kept to a minimum. This is perhaps appropriate for a legendary figure such as Spartacus, allowing us to create a picture in our own heads. It did not take long for the association of Kirk Douglas' face to disappear as I read further into the book. It is hard to imagine him speaking the dialogue given to Spartacus here. Conversely, I was hearing Laurence Olivier in my head as Marcus Licinius Crassus when reading Robert Harris' fine novels Imperium and Lustrum - perhaps he had this characterisation in his head as he wrote. The events of the Harris novels follow directly on from the tale of the slave revolt as described here.

Gibbon/Mitchell also gives us a very clear idea of the brutality of the times and the author does not shrink from giving us detailed descriptions of killings, crucifixions and other violent incidents. It is not a book for the faint-hearted, or those put off by a somewhat archaic writing style, but is well worth the effort of tracking down and reading.


The Fall Of The Roman Empire [Blu-ray]
The Fall Of The Roman Empire [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Sophia Loren
Price: 9.50

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There's no place like Rome, 13 July 2011
This is an interesting and infuriating film in almost equal measure. When measured against other contemporary examples of this genre - for example Spartacus [Blu-ray] - it is at least as impressive as them visually, but the casting of the lead roles leaves much to be desired. Stephen Boyd was 3rd choice as Livius after Charlton Heston (who had not enjoyed the best of relationships with Sophia Loren whilst making El Cid (Blu-ray)) and Kirk Douglas (who had fired director Anthony Mann after only a week of filming Spartacus). Unfortunately this is not Boyd's finest hour, and he spends most of his time wearing the expression of a man who is concerned that he might not have remembered to lock the front door after leaving his house that morning. He is also utterly unconvincing in his romantic relationship with Loren, who looks beautiful but otherwise adds little to the piece. Guinness as Marcus Aurelius is as interesting as ever, but it is Plummer who puts in the most convincing performance in the film as the gradually disintegrating Commodus.

Anthony Mann mounts some fine spectacles during the film - the Rome that Commodus returns to looks fantastic in this blu-ray edition, for example, and the final javelin duel is gripping - but he muddies the storytelling badly in places. For example, the battle surrounding the recapture of Loren from Omar Sharif makes very little sense as it is depicted here.

Completists will note that there is no Overture,Intermission or Commentary on the blu-ray.

***SPOILER***

NOTE: a well-known reference website states that Gladiator (3 Disc Extended Special Edition) [DVD] is a shot-by-shot remake of this film - it isn't. Both films use the same basic Marcus Aurelius/Commodus story, but Commodus does not have Marcus Aurelius killed in this film, and Stephen Boyd does not thereafter have to become a gladiator (unfortunately).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 24, 2011 1:13 AM GMT


Rules of Civility
Rules of Civility
by Amor Towles
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Close enough for jazz, 21 Jun 2011
This review is from: Rules of Civility (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a mildly engaging book which takes the form of a reminiscence of times gone by - largely the early 1930s in the US - triggered by seeing a familiar face in a photographic exhibition. In many ways it is quite 'old fashioned' in its approach as there is little in the way of violence or harsh language, which gives them a greater impact on the very few occasions when they appear.

It could be argued that relatively little actually happens in this book, and there is one main incident around which everything else pirouettes. However, the persona is engaging enough to hold our interest, even when she is speaking about inconsequential things or life is just burbling along.

I would be interested in reading more by Amor Towles, who appears to be a very experienced journalist and somehow managed to get an advance of 100,000 on this, his first novel.

You could happily buy this book for your mother or a maiden aunt - they are unlikely to be offended by anything here.


tosca
tosca
Offered by Prestivo2
Price: 12.94

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dramatic performance, wonderfully sung, 5 May 2011
This review is from: tosca (Audio CD)
Too often this 1957 Rome recording is overlooked in favour of the Callas/Gobbi/di Sabata set from 1953, and yet it has much to commend it.

The clear recording has come up as fresh as paint in the current 'Living Stereo' release, and there is an excellent cast. NY Metropolitan Opera diva Zinka Milanov commits one of her finest performances to record in the title role, tussling with the menacing dark tones of Leonard Warren as Scarpia (and just listen to his fantastic rendition of the Te Deum at the end of Act 1!). The undoubted star of the set, however, is Jussi Bjorling as Cavaradossi, who was in magnificent voice at this point in his career and performs dramatically AND with wonderful musicality. The proceedings are directed by Erich Leinsdorf, in his first stereophonic opera recording, who would go on to make the equally impressive Puccini: Turandot recording a couple of years later.

If you've already got the 1953 recording, why not give this a whirl?


Verdi - Rigoletto / Verdi & Rossini arias
Verdi - Rigoletto / Verdi & Rossini arias
Price: 11.73

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic performance restored - at last!!!, 2 May 2011
Naxos should take a well-earned bow for this release, for reasons which may not be immediately apparent. Whilst this has always been a great performance of Rigoletto, every previous release on LP or CD has been marred by extraneous background noises - sometimes compared to a rumbling stomach - which could be heard in the background throughout. I had always assumed that this meant that the master recording was faulty and had thought it unlikely that it would ever be rectified. Whatever the reason, and whatever magic Naxos has worked, we can finally hear the recording the way it was meant to be heard after 55 years.

It's a delight to hear Merrill's Rigoletto without trying to ignore strange rumbling sounds and to appreciate Bjorling's Duke in full flow. Apparently, he had to be persuaded that 'Bella figlia dell'amore' was actually a quartet rather than a tenor solo accompanied by the other 3 singers (!) but once he understood, the result was a wonderfully balanced contribution to another fine complete opera recording.


Verdi: Il Trovatore [Recorded 1952]
Verdi: Il Trovatore [Recorded 1952]
Price: 11.03

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The 4 best singers in the world, 2 May 2011
This is one of the most enjoyable opera sets available, despite being nearly 60 years old. Cellini takes the whole piece at a rollicking pace, with one of the most exciting performances of 'Di quella pira" from Bjorling in his finest voice. This was his first big complete opera recording, and it was phenomenally successful. The rest of the cast, including Leonard Warren (underrated these days and ripe for rediscovery) as Count di Luna, Zinka Milanov and Fedora Barbieri, is just as strong, fulfilling Caruso's maxim that all you need to have a successful production of 'Il Trovatore' are the finest 4 singers in the world!

For its age, the sound on this set is pretty good, with only a slight amount of over-resonance. The standard cuts for the time are observed, so this recording fits comfortably on to 2 CDs. Those looking to hear more great Bjorling complete opera performances could do worse than to seek out Mascagni; Cavalleria Rusticana, Puccini: Turandot and of course La Boheme (Beecham, RCA Victor Chorus).

I've owned this recording in a range of formats, and always seem to find myself coming back to it, like so many of Bjorling's recordings.


Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull (PC CD)
Mystery Case Files: 13th Skull (PC CD)
Offered by PNA247
Price: 7.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Indiana Jones meets Scooby Doo!, 2 May 2011
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This game is the seventh in the Mystery Case Files series. You are a detective investigating mysterious goings-on in a Louisiana mansion, centring around the disappearance of a man who recently bought the property to live in with his family.

Navigation around the game is generally point-and-click, with access at the bottom of the screen to the vital treasure map (once you find it!), your inventory of collected objects, and - helpfully - a log book of your progress, which the program compiles for you as you go along. When you have successfully achieved an objective, or have discovered something, this is automatically updated with details you might otherwise have been scrambling to find a pen and paper to record. It also comes in extremely handy later on, but that would be telling you too much...

The game is largely linear, and you usually have to solve the current objective or puzzle before you are allowed - or able - to move on. You tend to meet characters, engage them in conversation, and then be set a task by them. ("I'd love to tell you more, but why don't you go and collect objects for me from random locations you have already visited? Bring them back and I'll tell you what you need to know...) These objectives are interspersed with a range of puzzles and 'hidden object' challenges which are familiar to those who love games such as Amazing Adventures The Lost Tomb (PC CD). The cut-scenes featuring characters you get information from are generally well-done, if a little limited in the way they are acted, and you may soon tire of the alleged Southern accents being used. Graphics are fine, and the music helps to add to the atmosphere.

This is a great game to keep you and/or your 'pesky kids' absorbed for a long rainy weekend. Try to avoid finding solutions to the puzzles on the internet, though, because the linear nature of this game makes it unlikely you'll be playing it through a second time.

Good, clean - if slightly creepy - fun!


The Decca Years 1955-1975
The Decca Years 1955-1975
Price: 9.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful singing, 25 April 2011
Kenneth McKellar's Decca recording of Handel Songs and Arias prompted Sir Adrian Boult, who had conducted the sessions, to describe McKellar as "the best Handel singer of the 20th century". This seminal disc has been unavailable for many years, although several of the arias can be found on this set.

For those who want to hear more, the only available complete version of the original LP comes as part of Disc 3 of Handel: Messiah Arias.

The tracks are:
* Ombra mai fu (Xerse)
* Love in her eyes sits playing (Acis & Galatea)
* Silent worship (Ptolemy)
* Deeper and deeper still/Waft her, angels (Jephtha)
* Where e'er you walk (Semele)
* Thanks to my brethren/How vain is man (Judas Maccabaeus)
* My arms against this gorgias will I go/Sound an alarm (Judas Maccabaeus)

Each track is beautifully - and seemingly effortlessly - performed, and puts many more recent recordings of this repertoire to shame. It is a real treat. Oh - and there's a free recording of Messiah with it! (but not the McKellar/Sutherland/Boult one...)


Handel: Messiah / Handel Arias
Handel: Messiah / Handel Arias

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hidden McKellar "Handel Songs & Arias" Gem!, 25 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Kenneth McKellar's Decca recording of Handel Songs and Arias prompted Sir Adrian Boult, who had conducted the sessions, to describe McKellar as "the best Handel singer of the 20th century". This seminal disc has been unavailable for many years, although several of the arias can be found on Kenneth McKellar - The Decca Years (1955-1975) [BOX SET].

Remarkably, tracks 9 to 15 of Disc 3 in this Messiah set (ably reviewed by others) comprise the only available complete version of the original LP.

The tracks are:
* Ombra mai fu (Xerse)
* Love in her eyes sits playing (Acis & Galatea)
* Silent worship (Ptolemy)
* Deeper and deeper still/Waft her, angels (Jephtha)
* Where e'er you walk (Semele)
* Thanks to my brethren/How vain is man (Judas Maccabaeus)
* My arms against this gorgias will I go/Sound an alarm (Judas Maccabaeus)

If your mental picture of Kenneth McKellar is of someone dressed from head to toe in tartan, singing 'Loch Lomond' or 'My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose', these tracks will be a real eye-opener. Each track is beautifully - and seemingly effortlessly - performed, and puts many more recent recordings of this repertoire to shame. It's difficult to pick favourites from this, but I love his perfectly executed pianissimo ending to 'Ombra mai fu' and the virile 'Sound an alarm', but the pick of the bunch is probably 'Silent worship'.

This is a real treat. Oh - and there's a free copy of Messiah with it!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 11, 2013 10:22 PM GMT


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