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R. A. Langham "Rob Langham" (London, UK)

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Lenovo Z50 15.6-inch Full-HD 1080p Laptop (Intel Core i7-4510U 3.1 GHz, 8 GB DDR3L RAM, 1 TB + 8 GB SSHD, NVIDIA GT840M 4 GB, HDMI, Webcam, Bluetooth, DVD RW, Voice control, Wi-Fi, Windows 8.1) - Silver with Free Windows 10 Upgrade
Lenovo Z50 15.6-inch Full-HD 1080p Laptop (Intel Core i7-4510U 3.1 GHz, 8 GB DDR3L RAM, 1 TB + 8 GB SSHD, NVIDIA GT840M 4 GB, HDMI, Webcam, Bluetooth, DVD RW, Voice control, Wi-Fi, Windows 8.1) - Silver with Free Windows 10 Upgrade

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful - a screen you can't read and which reflects ..., 18 Jun. 2015
Awful - a screen you can't read and which reflects even the dimmest of light, a ton of what others seem to call 'bloatware' - packages you don't want and which are way inferior to other versions. A not loud enough speaker and lots of other niggles - was talked into buying it in the shop and am now repenting at leisure. Utterly, utterly shocking.

Sport Italia: The Italian Love Affair with Sport
Sport Italia: The Italian Love Affair with Sport
by Simon Martin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sumptuous, 2 Nov. 2012
If anyone had any doubt about sport's ability to warp society, Simon Martin's sumptuous Sport Italia will leave them without arguments. A nation, remember, only since 1861; Italy has survived its first one and a half centuries by following the path described in Benedict Anderson's influential book, Imagined Communities - and sport has played an integral part in that.

Witness the birth of the Giro d'Italia cycle race, launched by a newspaper in La Gazzetta dello Sport that has intervened on many occasions to reflect the interests of politicians, businessmen and lobbyists. Witness also the carefully constructed reputation Italy forged for itself as a motoring nation, both on the track and the autostrada.

Martin is the author of Football and Fascism and the inter war period naturally looms large in this account. The monuments of Foro Mussolini attest to that - and many still stand. It was a strident period of success for Italy, with two World Cups won - the number of foreign born players that helped them to victory conveniently forgotten by the heinous regime.

After the defeat of the far right, the country reverberated to a number of battles for souls. The old guard versus a resurgent Communist Party; the rapidly industrializing North versus the undeveloped South. On the individual level, these paradoxes were exemplified by two greats of cycling - the God fearing, upright Gino Bartali versus the `alternative' Fausto Coppi. In truth, the two were closer in spirit than their proponents would ever have admitted.

The period bookended by two great showpiece events - the Rome Olympiad of 1960 and Italia 90 - was an initially turbulent one, with the actions of the Red Brigades and murder of Aldo Moro indicating a still buoyant extremism, but surprise World Cup victory in 1982 steadied the nave.

Ever since, there has been an apparent smoothing of Italian politics with the wily Giulio Andreotti, memorably portrayed in Paolo Sorrentino's film Il Divo, serving the government in a number of roles and drawing on the experiences of more chaotic times. He presided over a gradual depoliticization of Italian life, a process brought to its natural conclusion by one Silvio Berlusconi.

Sport has been fundamental to this. The media magnate has stewarded the fortunes of Associazione Calcio Milan of course, but he has also ushered in a period of `footballization' - an update of Marx's opium of the people concept and the idea that apolitical distractions can allow corrupt governments to continue. It's a marvellously well-argued and convincing thesis and one supported adroitly by Paolo Sollier in quotation - for sport and politics are utterly intertwined - and no more so than in the Temple of Silvio.

Martin's insistence on portraying Italian sport against its drape of politics, culture, history and society is carried off with verve and skill as well as being meticulously researched and engagingly written. Later sections on betting, match fixing and racism do not obscure his obvious love for this spellbinding country - for Simon Martin has not only served us with a history of Italian sport, but a history of Italy itself.

The Blizzard: Issue Four
The Blizzard: Issue Four
by Jonathan Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Consistent Quality, 3 Aug. 2012
A fifth outing for the venerable Blizzard and the quality remains high.

Challenging When Saturday Comes and a rash of superb blogs in the production of considered and intelligent soccer writing, this particular issue's highlights include a marvellous account of the short-lived Athletic Bilbao/Barcelona rivalry of the early eighties from Scott Oliver, Graham Hunter's portrait of Catalan midfield maestro Xavi and an entertaining geopolitical travelogue of the 2012 African Cup of Nations from editor Jonathan Wilson himself.

It was particularly encouraging to see bloggers such as Brian Phillips and Juliet Jacques represented and this refutes the unfounded criticism that only mainstream journalists need submit (I was very fortunate and thrilled to have a piece of my own included). For the first time, I made my way through one issue continuously and the sense of hopping continents and time periods was most enjoyable. My one quibble would be the same as that directed towards Issue Zero - why bother including a pretty unremarkable interview with Alex Ferguson? - the Blizzard was founded as an antidote to the mainstream press's obsession with 'access' after all.

Estates: An Intimate History
Estates: An Intimate History
by Lynsey Hanley
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Social History par excellence, 9 April 2009
A fascinating trawl through the history of social housing provision in the UK since the construction of the historic Boundary Estate in Bethnal Green in 1893. Hanley's account really comes to life in the book's pivotal chapter, "Slums in the Sky" with shocking tales of corner cutting and well meaning modernism. Erno Goldfinger - rehabilitated in some quarters in recent years - is firmly back in the Naughty Seat although a one bedroom apartment in his Trellick Tower will still set you back over £400,000.

The book is polemical and comes across as more passionate as a result. The Conservative administration of Harold Macmillan is blamed for many of the ills. The book could perhaps have done with a little more international material - "La Haine" and Chicago's Cabrini Green are mentioned and it is crying out for an index, but overall, this is essential reading. Hanley's most interesting question revolves around the stigma of council housing - why are we embarrassed to have our homes provided for by the state when there is no such outcast status associated with free education or health? That Mrs. Thatcher was a great brainwasher.

Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report
Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report
by Iain Sinclair
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as parochial as one would think, 3 April 2009
I embarked upon this book with some trepidation. I'm a Sinclair fan and feel he has been overlooked by prize givers, partly because of the thorniness of his meticulously crafted prose and the no holds barred obsession with the obscurities of London geography, as well as its lesser heralded artists, writers and film makers. A six hundred page book on the subject of just a single London borough promised to try all bar the most attentive of readers and I was ready to be disappointed. Had he gone too far this time?

Not so. This is a compelling account of a borough on the point of transformation due to the 2012 Olympics. His exploration of diverse neighbourhoods such as de Beauvoir Town, Dalston, Homerton and Hackney Wick really gets under the surface of these places. Interviews pepper the text and provide enjoyable relief from the more literary sentences constructed by Sinclair himself. Among the interviewees are Astrid Proll and Will Self; among the anecdotes are tales involving Orson Welles, the Mole Man of Mortimer Road, Jean Luc Godard and Julie Christie. Sure, the usual cast of Sinclair's characters all make an appearance - Stewart Home, Ian Askead, Chris Petit - and some of them are occasionally shoehorned into the text unnecessarily, but overall, this is a great account of seventies anarchism, renegade GPs, soaring crime and brutal gentrification. Perhaps the best tribute I can pay is the fact that it inspired me, book in hand, to make several expeditions into the borough in order to check out the places referred to at first hand.

Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £24.95

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Discordant electronica, 13 April 2008
This review is from: Crystal Castles (Audio CD)
I have been waiting for this album for a while since the track "Air War" was included on a Rough Trade compilation from a couple of years ago. The Toronto duo have turned out a fascinating clutch of songs which reminds one of the best of leftfield electronica of the past thirty years. There are scrappy, distorted tracks such as "Alice Practice" that evokes a saturday afternoon in an amusement arcade and then there are smooth, haunting recordings such as the six minute "Magic Spells" and the single "Crimewave". Definitely a band to take notice of.

Mason & Dixon
Mason & Dixon
by Thomas Pynchon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars America at its outset, 29 Dec. 2007
This review is from: Mason & Dixon (Paperback)
In the search for the mythical "Great American Novel", too many are guilty of forming their idea of what this should be before reading any of the contending texts. Hence, the likes of Don De Lillo, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth and John Updike are those most often mentioned in this context. The assumption is that the beast should deal with twentieth century material - the America of skyscrapers, mass immigration, tenement buildings and baseball.

However, what better way of getting to the soul of a country than an exploration of the initial conditions at that nation's birth? Thomas Pynchon obviously agreed and came up with a kaleidoscopic overview of America in the womb.

Over 700 pages of the most impressive prose imaginable, Pynchon takes us on a tour of eighteenth century America, with doses of South Africa, the UK and St. Helena thrown in. But this isn't just an academic exercise designed to create dazzling prose, this is a touching novel with larger than life characters and a big heart - a human novel that emphasizes decency, open-mindedness and human frailty.

Oracular Spectacular
Oracular Spectacular
Price: £2.99

18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A vital new album for 2008, 28 Dec. 2007
This review is from: Oracular Spectacular (Audio CD)
This is an important new record to kick off 2008 and the band and record company have wisely held it over until the new year. I believe that the CD has been available in the US for a couple of months now.

Classifying it, however, is a real tough one. There are some real curveballs in there - notably, "Electric Feel" which sounds just like the Bee Gees. But don't be put off by that, this is no Scissors Sisters-style music for hen parties album. There are two tracks at least that look odds on to appear in some future, "Now That's What I call Indie" collection -"Time to Pretend" and "Kids" tick all the boxes that go to make up the "anthem" category.

All in all, there are enough bubbles and bleeps and enough innovation to make this a fascinating listen. The mode is primarily electronic but guitars do get a look in. All in all, an impressive pop album.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 16, 2008 10:38 AM BST

All Hour Cymbals
All Hour Cymbals
Price: £10.30

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At least they are trying something different, 25 Nov. 2007
This review is from: All Hour Cymbals (Audio CD)
The latest thing is supposedly Indie Music informed by World Music and Yeasayer are perhaps the prime exponents of this trend. Looking back, there have been hybrids of this kind in the past - the Wedding Present's side project, The Ukrainians being a prime example. Then there were a host of bands in the early nineties who went a stage further and added dance music into the indie-world mix - the unfairly forgotten and utterly wonderful Transglobal Underground are a case in point.

Now come Yeasayer, Vampire Weekend, Animal Collective and Beirut amongst others. These artists follow the template to carying degrees with Beirut the least indie of all and Animal Collective providing only hints of non-Anglo sounds. Yeasayer, however, need to be congratulated for making a very good fist of attempting a brand new sound. The LP really is a difficult one to compare to anything else and if a few of the tracks take a while to get into, most hit the spot very well indeed. Prime amongst these is the fabulous "2080" - a lament for the planet which rings out over crystal clear production and is topped off with a marvellous multi-person chorus at the end. "All Hour Cymbals" is not showstoppingly good, but it's one of the most refreshing new albums released in 2007.

Behind the Curtain: Travels in Football in Eastern Europe
Behind the Curtain: Travels in Football in Eastern Europe
by Jonathan Wilson
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A worthy effort but the perhaps a missed opportunity, 17 April 2006
Writing any book about Eastern Europe must be a hazardous process. The chief problem involves a decision on whether to concentrate on life before the collapse of communism or what has ensued since. Most authors take the former course and so Wilson should be congratulated for attempting to tackling the chaotic, often anarchic, events of recent years.

Wilson does well to capture the fast pace of change in Eastern Europe and the rise of previously unheralded clubs such as Litex Lovech and Groclin. The pace of events also proves to be his downfall though. It is quite possible that he should have waited until he was a bit older before writing the book (a mention of a 1992 school trip to Russia marks him out as startlingly young) and it is not clear if he travelled to the eastern Bloc before the end of the old systems, and recent astonishing events such as CSKA's UEFA Cup win and the huge sums dished out by the likes of Dynamo Moscow are relegated to the epilogue. He also states that "..for Steaua Bucharest, a second European Cup success is as far away as a second league title is for Ipswich". As I write, Steaua have secured themselves a place in the semi final of the 2005-06 UEFA Cup - merely weeks after this book was published. It is incumbent on the publishers to request amendments to the book in time for the paperback's appearance in the autumn of 2006.

Another frustration is the selective nature of the coverage. To be more authoritative, the book could have been a good deal longer, with a statistics section at the back listing league title winners in the various countries. It might also have benefitted from broad brush analysis and less reliance on the personalized accounts of whichever personality Wilson managed to track down at any particular time (interesting as some of these undoubtedly are.)

East Germany - and Dynamo Berlin's run of league titles in the 1980s - is a major omission. It would have been fascinating to have Wilson's opinions on how the likes of Hansa Rostock and Dynamo Dresden have struggled in a united league. And what of Latvia? Their achievement in reaching the finals of Euro 2004 isn't mentioned at all.

Overall, however, the pace with which I read this book is a testament to how interesting it is and Wilson is certainly a football writer to look out for in the future.

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