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Mr. David R. Watson (UK)

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On Pietersen
On Pietersen
by Simon Wilde
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Anodyne, 3 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: On Pietersen (Hardcover)
There is not much to say about this really. It smacks of a rush job to cash in on the recent enforced retirement of Pietersen from international cricket. Whilst the premise (looking at different facets of Pietersen's character in discrete chapters) is a promising one, the actual work itself seems cursory and trite. There is little, if any, original research and the author relies heavily on accounts available elsewhere - such as Steve James' assessment of the England set up and Flintoff's radio interview with KP. I would have expected original interviews and research to have been used, but most of this seems to be off the peg stuff. If you are looking for a subtle and insightful account of the tensions and complexities in Pietersen and his relationship to the England team, look elsewhere; do so also if you are looking for genuinely penetrating psychological insights into the mind of a successful but flawed sportsman. I read it in about an hour and a half and was mildly entertained. It comes nowhere close to the best sports biographies or essays, such as Matt Rendell's work on Marco Pantani, or recent top class cricket writing by the likes of Gideon Haigh. I bought it on the back of hearing the author interviewed about it on Test Match Special, but to be honest reading the book told me little more than was in the TMS interview. I'm glad i did not pay the cover price. In short: nothing more than a typical piece of anodyne and trivial sports writing.

Con Art - Why you ought to sell your Damien Hirsts while you can
Con Art - Why you ought to sell your Damien Hirsts while you can
Price: 0.90

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tired and anything but brave., 21 Jun 2013
I detest Damien Hirst's art almost as much I detest that of Sarah Lucas and others that came to prominence alongside him. However I also detest the trite cliches and self congratulatory tone of someone like Spalding who seems to think that he is saying something urgent and startling. The book is little more than a (very familiar) rant that seems unable to demonstrate a coherent position against the art he rails against and also seems to lump so much divergent art together. It is possible to admire and be engaged by the work of (say) Duchamp whilst seeing the work of Hirst as trivial and hackneyed, simply because they are different very artists in different moments saying radically different things. Spalding seems utterly unable to make any aesthetic judgements, or even theoretical distinctions and simply throws out a stream of vapid and cliche ridden put downs that will do no more than preach to the converted and make them feel good about their unexamined prejudices. It is interesting how many people giving positive reviews to this book praise it as an affirmation of their own views - it is generally more rewarding to read a book that challenges ones own views, but sadly I found little challenge and a great many specious platitudes in this book. If you like to read the Daily Mail this is the contemporary art book for you. If you want a thorough critical analysis contra much contemporary art you would do well to look elsewhere. A good place to start might be Rosalind Krauss's jeremiad against much installation art, so called relational aesthetics and post medium art of the last twenty years (Under Blue Cup) as it it actually engages with the work at a profound, intelligent and indeed (unlike Spalding) informed level.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 1, 2014 3:13 PM GMT

Lionel Asbo: State of England
Lionel Asbo: State of England
by Martin Amis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.19

17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poisonous and contemptible, 8 Jan 2013
Amis sits in his cosy, insulated literary tower and looks out with sneering contempt on those who are less fortunate than himself. This is not a state of the nation satire, it is a lazy and morally corrupt book full of unexamined prejudices and presumptions about people who Amis knows little about. Amis sets himself up like some Roman patrician looking down on the vulgar pastimes and behaviours of the masses, never once pausing to ask why might these people be like they are, or what is it about the state of the nation that shapes the lives he so crudely depicts. The book strips Amis down to his essential characteristics: arrogance, snobbery and intellectual laziness bolstered by cheap laughs at the expense of others. No doubt the chattering classes enjoy having their prejudices about the moral and cultural failings of the lower orders presented to them in the guise of literary fiction, but ultimately this book tells us more about the insularity and arrogance of the class to which Amis belongs, than it does about the class he purports to depict.

No Title Available

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, detailed, hifi sound, but not for bassheads, 26 Jan 2011
These are easily the best in-ear phones I have tried. They deliver a very clean and crisp sound that reveals the detail in the music in a very natural sounding way. if you want masses of overstated bass then these will not please you, but I find them superb at creating a genuinely involving sound with a realistic soundstage. I listen to a great deal of chamber music and piano music and the nuances that these phones bring out make them absolutely ideal. They are also good with orchestral music that can often sound mushy on in-ear phones and also work very well with densely layered pop music. My only criticism is that the filters can get dirty quite easily and will need replacing from time to time. I tried the black filters but reverted to the grey as they give the most balanced and complete soundscape.

We Were Young and Carefree: The Autobiography of Laurent Fignon
We Were Young and Carefree: The Autobiography of Laurent Fignon
by Laurent Fignon
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Standard sports autobiography - was hoping for more, 14 Aug 2010
Fignon was known in his heyday as a maverick and something of a thinker, so I was hoping for a more considered and insightful autobiography than is typical from most sports stars. The book is interesting enough in a fairly straightforward way, but that is about it. There is some analysis of how he coped with defeat and failure (always, I think more interesting, than reading about success - more revealing of the personality), but don't expect any startling insights. I got the feeling that in the end the book is somewhat guarded: little mention of his wife, or children, how his career and moods swings might have affected them and his relationship to them, no serious analysis of the psychological impact of being so successful so young, little that is revealing of the true nature of his breakdown in relations with Guimard (and Guimard don't forget was instrumental in making Fignon the success he was). Sadly also nothing on the poetics of this most romantic of sports. By the end Fignon turns into a sort of cycling equivalent of Geoff Boycott, suggesting that things have inevitably gone down hill and were better in his day, perhaps they have, but it reads like typical middle aged nostalgia. I loved the way Fignon raced and memories of him in his heyday are greater than this somewhat run of the mill sports autobiography can offer. For a recent sport auto biography Andre Agassi has far more to tell us about life and life is what I want to learn about from an autobiography; I can look up the statistics if I just want a description of a career. For great books on cycling look to Matt Rendell's "Kings of the Mountains" or his "The Death of Marco Pantani".

Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before
Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before
by Michael Fried
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 27.00

39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Challenging, insightful and wilfully perverse, 29 Dec 2009
What to make of Fried's belated entry into the debate around photography? What exactly does a noted Greenbergian and champion of `post painterly abstraction' (Louis, Noland, Olitski) bring to the discussion of recent photographic (and despite the title, video) art? Fried's background as a critic is well documented and his antipathy to `theatricality' has been a leitmotif in all his writing dating back to his celebrated attack on Minimalism in the late sixties. Anyone approaching this book needs to be aware of his earlier work - partly because it will contextualise the debate and partly because Fried is continually referring back to his own earlier writing. The central point of this book is that contemporary Art photography in conceiving work `for the wall' has turned toward a form of `anti-theatricality'. He sets up `absorption' as the antipode to `theatricality' and uses the scale and compositional strategies of painters (such as those mentioned above) on the one hand and what one might call the quietude of French domestic genre painting (Chardin for example) on the other, as models of this. As such he seems to be trying to marry the theoretical positions of Clement Greenberg and Denis Diderot - the two cardinal influences on his own writings.

The book is ambitious in its attempt to frame a coherent model for work as diverse as that of Wall, Gursky, Struth, the Bechers, Dijkstra, Hofer, Delahaye, Streuli and various others. The strengths and weaknesses of the book seem to come from the same place; he isn't stuck in the critical rut into which much of the writing about these artists often seems to be stuck, but at the same time he is often bending over backwards not to use well established critical frameworks. In trying to frame a philosophy that aligns the artists covered with his own longterm concerns he ends up doing some pretty complex intellectual gymnastics. It is quite straightforward to see how some (though by no means all) of Jeff Wall's work employs (or depicts) `absorption' as a strategy. And it is with Wall that he is most persuasive, where his use of Wittgenstein is genuinely original and insightful. He has some striking things too to say about Douglas Gordon's film `Zidane'. But when he moves on to figures such as Dijkstra he is less convincing; it is hard to see how the frontal presentation/self presentation of her subjects is a manifestation of `absorption'. At its worst his discussion seems downright perverse: finding paradigmatic `absorption' and `anti theatricality' in for example Struth's group portraits, or the work of Thomas Ruff. At times he doesn't help himself by quoting (and dismissing) other critics whose readings often seem more plausible than his own at times convoluted and contrived arguments.

One is left wondering to what extent this book is a somewhat opportunistic attempt to reassert his long standing theses about `theatricality' via work that is currently fashionable and almost ubiquitous. Certainly he has picked on a group of mid-career artists (most of their strategies were first developed about twenty years ago) with secure reputations and doesn't stick his neck out regarding any younger figures, nor despite the title, does he set out how his ideas may translate into further developments for photographic practice. The inelegant title is of a piece with the rest of the book, often unnecessarily wordy, and also quite inconsistent, moving from a clear academic register to the conversational and back, sometimes in the same paragraph. Fried's fondness for self-quotation and his perpetual references to conversations he has had with the artists concerned becomes tiresome and somewhat self-congratulatory.

In sum this is an interesting read, by turns challenging, insightful and wilfully perverse. It has the merit of coming at its subject from an extreme and novel position, but it is not a book one could recommend to anyone who doesn't already have a secure grasp of the critical reception these artists have received elsewhere. In trying to pull all these artists into a coherent anti `theatrical' framework, methinks he doth protest too much.

The Baader-Meinhof Complex [DVD]
The Baader-Meinhof Complex [DVD]
Dvd ~ Martina Gedeck
Price: 4.37

37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BAADER, MEINHOF: not COMPLEX enough, 26 April 2009
`The Baader Meinhof Complex' is an ambitious film, but it is not entirely clear just what those ambitions are. It covers a ten year period from the 1967 shooting of Benno Ohnesorg (the trigger for the extreme radicalisation of student protest in Germany at the time) through to the deaths of the first generation of the Red Army Faction (RAF) and the murder of Hans-Martin Schleyer in 1977. The period is very well captured and the accuracy of the whole production is outstanding. No major event in the ten year `careers' of Baader, Enslin, Meinhof, Meins et al is omitted and they are presented in a stylishly directed film with some excellent set pieces. The performances of all the main characters are excellent and convincing as far as they go. It is clear that a staggering amount of research has gone into the realisation of the film, the sets are accurate to the nth degree and, where possible, original locations have been used; the references to well known documentary photographs from the time are neatly integrated without feeling simply clever or knowing. But, in a curious way the need to present so 'accurately' the sequence of events actually hijacks the film's core, leaving one uncertain exactly what the film is meant to be. Is it intended to be a description of what took place? Or is it a study in the psychology of people who allow ideology to drive them into extreme actions?

In trying to give a comprehensive account of events the film inevitably has to gloss over some of the more interesting questions raised by those events. The RAF were political radicals and politically motivated terrorists, yet the ideology that underpinned their actions is only hinted at as a generalised anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-American and anti-Israeli stance, and one never quite knows how much that ideology is actually driving them, nor what forms of coherence it claims to have. Certain of the membership were well versed in radical left theory and their praxis was derived from such theories, so it is surely a flaw in the film that one doesn't ever really know quite what they thought they were achieving (however deluded or unrealistic it may have been). But most seriously of all the psychological portraits of the protagonists are not sufficiently penetrating. I would have liked to have been given more sense of how they decided on their actions rather than simply what those actions were. It is only after they are arrested and locked up at Stammheim prison that one starts to get inside them as complex characters. Any one of the central characters is worthy of a film in their own right and perhaps that would make for a more successful project, for example: tracing the role of her religious upbringing in Gudrun Enslin's moral certainty and sense of martyrdom; examining Andreas Baader's troubled and delinquent adolescence and how his oppositional nature played out in his later actions; how exactly did the considerably older Ulrike Meinhof go from respectable journalist to underground terrorist (in the film it seems both too inevitable and too easy a move)? A more basic criticism is that the historical accuracy of the project results in a plethora of minor characters appearing and disappearing throughout the film; I doubt that anyone without a secure knowledge of the subject will know who many of them are or what they are doing there.

Nevertheless it is a valuable film and one that is well worth watching, raising as it does a number of important questions about idealism, ideology, radicalism and radicalisation. But it leaves space perhaps for more complex and nuanced exploration of those very issues. There is, of course, a danger that this film might come to stand as a definitive analysis of its subject and it would be a shame if it deterred other film makers from going there. In the end despite it being a long film I was left feeling that it was too short to do justice to its subject matter.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 17, 2011 3:03 PM BST

The Nature of Photographs by Stephen Shore: A Primer
The Nature of Photographs by Stephen Shore: A Primer
by Stephen Shore
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great photographer, but limited as a writer, 12 April 2008
Shore is a great photographer whose influence has been significant in both European and American Art photography over the last thirty years or so. He is also a noted teacher. With these things in mind I had high expectations, but ultimately found the book something of a disappointment. Shore's first problem is that he is not a very accomplished writer and therefore a number of his points are quite clumsily made, inelegantly expressed, or are unintentionally difficult to follow. The tone of the book is generally straightforward but it is peppered with some odd turns of phrase where it is difficult to know quite what he meant. Some of the content is quite obvious and the style of the book (short snippets of text) does not allow ideas to be developed. Where the book scores highly is in the choice of images to support his points; here Shore's superb eye shows though. Ultimately by placing the chosen works in juxtaposition Shore forces the reader/viewer to speculate on the nature of the photographic image (Shore's intention), but the text is only of limited value in clarifying such speculation. Whilst it is always interesting to read the thoughts of a master practitioner, there are a number books that develop these issues with greater clarity and depth.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 1, 2008 1:53 AM BST

Schumann: Fantasy in C, Arabesque / Liszt: Sonata in B minor, La Lugubre Gondola
Schumann: Fantasy in C, Arabesque / Liszt: Sonata in B minor, La Lugubre Gondola

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A performance to convince any doubters, 1 Jun 2004
I will restrict my comments to the Liszt B Minor Sonata. I approached this recording armed with all my usual misgivings about Liszt, who has always seemed to me superficial and meretricious. Pollini gives a performance that sweeps away all prejudice within just a few bars. This is a reading of the work that strips it of affectation and self indulgence. It isn’t pretty, indeed it’s almost abrasive, but it is gripping and utterly persuasive. If only all performances of Liszt’s music were like this. Pollini has given us some of the greatest accounts of the late Beethoven Sonatas, and this performance of the Liszt is equal in stature. If like me you were wary of Liszt, you should make no mistake, in Pollini’s hands this is unequivocally great music.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Two Disc Theatrical Edition) [DVD] [2003]
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Two Disc Theatrical Edition) [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Elijah Wood
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: 3.48

10 of 60 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Widescreen Banality - Tolkien gets what it deserves, 27 May 2004
I seem to be in a very small minority, being neither an admirer of Tolkien's simplistic tosh, nor Jackson's overblown adaptations of them. The first instalment had a certain visual flair which was quite pleasing and masked the paucity of invention in the narrative, but by the time we reach the final film that visual flair has solidified into a set of predictable camera moves and an increasing reliance on scale and special effects. Before we even sit down to watch ROTK we know what a Jackson battle scene will look like (a bastardised version of Kurosawa, lacking the ability to make it anything more than spectacle), we are aware how he loves to have his camera plunge down mountain sides or through rocks, his trick of circular panning whilst zooming out has already become tiresome, and even the previously magnificent landscape photography has become all too obvious and cheap. The design, which earlier showed some genuinely effective and sensitive attention to detail used to differentiate cultures, by the final film also seems exhausted; when the denouement is reached all the director and his team can muster is what looks like a sort of gothic lighthouse falling over. The coronation scene is a pompous restaging of the end of Star Wars, and in one of the interminable false endings we really do see our heroes sailing off into the sunset (in a ghastly pastiche of a Claude Lorain painting). The acting is risible with a host of meagre talents delivering lines at funereal pace (less portentous speech patterns would have sliced a good half hour off the film), as though this will somehow make the preposterous drivel sound more profound - the exception is Ian McKellern, who manages through sheer craft to make the tripe he is asked to deliver somehow seem convincing. As for the claim that there is some greater theme to be found in the narrative: what we actually have is a simplistic battle between the good guys and the bad guys (though what motivates the bad guys is never even hinted at). As in the books we are asked to swallow a notion that certain races (Elves and Men for instance) are inherently noble and good and others (Orcs) are naturally and irremediably bad. Were it not so pernicious an idea it would be laughable. Ultimately this is a dangerous and racist world view, and the defence that it is only fantasy will not wash - fantasy reveals our ideas and deep-seated prejudices as eloquently as any other form. No wonder that the British National Party and far right American political groups claim Tolkien as one of their own. In the end these films are faithful to the spirit of Tolkien, despite the protests of some afficionados, in so far as they are as banal and superficial as their original and fall into the same trap of confusing size and duration with profundity.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 12, 2014 3:57 PM GMT

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