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Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre
Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre
by Keith Johnstone
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars still crazy, after all these years, 17 Oct 2010
It's a brilliant, practical book, and things like this don't really date much because it's about the essence of dramatic improvisation. It changed how I taught and directed students nearly 30 years ago, and I bet it still could do so for those who havn't retired! The insights into status apply to life all round us - on any crowded city street, you can see status plays forming and resolving. Fascinating.
The one-star review, by the way, related to Amazon and not the content of the book, which doesn't seem quite right.


The Good Funeral Guide
The Good Funeral Guide
by Charles Cowling
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.49

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Neccessary and Unique Book, 24 May 2010
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This review is from: The Good Funeral Guide (Paperback)
I came to this book via the website of the same name, and got it this pm. I sat down just to look quickly through it and got up over two hours later, having read the lot. It's an even better job than you'd hope from the highly informative and entertaining website. The book will really help you if someone has just died, but it's even more valuable if you read it well before someone close to you dies. And therein lies an element of its value: it is part of a changing attitude towards death, as well as being a crisply-written, eminently practical guide to funerals if you are about plan one. I'm a funeral celebrant, and it will further shape and guide my practice. It is quite remarkably fair-minded and well-balanced, in a field fraught with prejudices, strong feelings, and fierce commercial self-interest. It also has flashes of the wit and originality you'd expect from the website.
But: take heed! when the author warns you that a specific part of the book is not for the squeamish. He means it, although it's lightly stated. That's not just the sort of squeamish as in when you're watching a movie. If you have just lost someone close to you and if you don't have an unusually bracing and robust attitude towards dead bodies, then the bits labelled "not for the squeamish" are, I'd say, to be avoided.
That's one big reason why we should read this book before we have to! It's hard to be objective about such things when you're reeling from a sudden bereavement. But getting to grips with them in advance might help with bereavement, when the time comes.
The book is also full of very useful practical information, leads and links. And it is surprisingly reassuring.
A really excellent job, for which we should feel grateful. Not everyone in the death business will like it - which is an excellent sign - and I'd say you could use the book itself like a canary down a coal mine: if a funeral director, priest or celebrant takes exception to what the book says, get out quick, he's only interested in your wallet, not your feelings. (Well, liike a reverse canary then, i.e. the canaries died whereas... Oh, I'm sure you get the point!)


Treasure (Eyewitness)
Treasure (Eyewitness)
by VARIOUS
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a gem (ha ha - sorry, couldn't resist it..), 27 April 2010
This review is from: Treasure (Eyewitness) (Paperback)
But actually, it is. It's informative entertaining, good to look at and since it includes a wall-chart and a CD, it's a steal at the price. It's also thought-provoking. It is, in fact, the sort of book that makes you think twice about over-relying on the internet for information (at any age), because of its clever thematic approach - clear and simple, but intelligent, and you can sense the thoughtful approach behind it, leading into big questions. Excellent! Just wish I'd bought it at the Amazon price....


Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness meditation for everyday life
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness meditation for everyday life
by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.79

76 of 77 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars growth point for any of us, 16 Mar 2010
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This man's work seems to me to be one of those growth points in human culture that don't crop up too often. He's making enormously beneficial mind-training techniques available to ordinary western(ised) people, without the cultural and religious associations of their origins, which can be very challenging for most of us. I mean, you don't have to be a Zen master to benefit from this!
What I like about his approach is that it is so simple and down-to-earth. It's not "alternative," it's here-and-now, everyday, (yet demanding.)
Seems to me if more westerners used his insights and techniques, not only would they feel better about themselves and their lives (I do, already)but the planet might be a safer place to live. Maybe that's pitching it a bit high - but give it a shot and see if you agree.
The book is beautifully lucid. I think most of us need some other additional regular guidance and structure to make mindfulness part of our everyday - well, I do, anyway - but more courses are springing up, and no doubt the CDs help.
But it's not a magic bullet - it takes time and application, and in a funny way, it's quite hard work. And I think it's worth getting into it even if you are not depressed or in pain, ahead of the times when you have to face suffering, yours or someone else's - because it adds so much to ordinary life.
It has taught me to question and adapt or change some of my characteristic responses - or at least to start doing so - and that's not always comfortable. But it really is worth it.
If you're a sceptical rationalist like me, be reassured - this man isn't a freaky guru, he's a trained scientist, a genuine teacher. This isn't a cult. It won't claim to change your life in a flash. But if you give it a chance - it really will help, with a lot of - "stuff." And it can actually be very enjoyable.


The D-Word: Talking about Dying: A Guide for Relatives, Friends and Carers
The D-Word: Talking about Dying: A Guide for Relatives, Friends and Carers
by Sue Brayne
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.06

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars wonderful book, one significant flaw - sorry!, 15 Feb 2010
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This really is a superb book, and not just for people facing their own death or that of someone close to them. It is helping me change my attitude towards mortality itself. I heartily recommend it, and hope it doesn't get buried in the plethora of "this book will change your life" half-baked stuff that is such a large part of "mind, body spirit" sections in our bookshops. The reports from the front line are really first rate, and it is intelligently and sensitively written, with a beautifully balanced feel about it - er, mostly. So - I'm sorry if this seems like carping, but I can't give 5 stars to it because it seriously under-represents the views of those with no faith, and genuine agnostics, and lacks reportage on how such people can be helped to face their end.

This isn't an insignificant flaw, I'm not just being picky. Apparently the 26th British Social Attitudes Survey found that 43% of the population is happy to self-define as non-religious. So why does this otherwise excellent book have the usual multi-faith perspective - Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist? Does the author think that atheists are all mindless hedonists with no need to explore the great mysteries and wonders of life and death, are already relxed about discussing death openly, have no need to go on the same journey towards living with death in their lives as religious people? Could she not find a humanist to give some perspective in chapter 4 from a non-religious viewpoint that yet embodied a supportive belief system?

Atheists and agnostics also seek higher truths and deeper meanings, and must deal with their mortality. This is not just a multi-faith country, as the author maintains at the start of chapter 4, this is a multi-faith and no faith country, if we take no faith simply to mean someone who doesn't follow a religious belief that offers an after-life. This is a brave, kindly and undogmatic book with a curious silence in it! Please give us a second edition that has a full perspective of views in it - then I'll give this ten stars.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 10, 2011 4:09 PM GMT


We Need to Talk About the Funeral: 101 Practical Ways to Commemorate and Celebrate Life: 2
We Need to Talk About the Funeral: 101 Practical Ways to Commemorate and Celebrate Life: 2
by Jane Morrell
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent, beautifully balanced guide, 12 Feb 2010
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I'm an experienced funeral celebrant, and I was humbled and challenged by this excellent book. It can be consulted with confidence by those who do and those who don't follow a religion, and by those who are and those who are not sympathetic to "alternative," "green," "new age" rituals. It is an important part of the movement to reclaim and open up the ceremonies and rituals of death, but it is also informative, fair-minded, and beautifully designed and produced. At about the price of a long paperback novel, it is fantastic value. As another reviewer has said, don't wait till you really need it; one of its core messages is, don't rush, take your time. I shall read it and think about with regard to my own funeral. Thankyou to the authors.


Ten Zen Questions
Ten Zen Questions
by Susan Blackmore
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.99

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the real thing, 1 Feb 2010
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This review is from: Ten Zen Questions (Hardcover)
The book is accused by one reviewer of being a mish-mash and full of psycho-babble. I think, with respect (or without) that the reviewer is missing the point. The book is experiential. It's the reverse of psycho-babble, which is an evasion of thought and an avoidance of difficult truths. Ms B is trying to do something exceptionally difficult - she is trying (and for me, succeeding remarkably well)to record the pattern of her own thoughts, and in summary, her thinking, about how she thinks. This is like trying to chew your own teeth. This honesty to her own thought patterns is very valuable to me, and it's the basis for her effort to bring together meditation and scientifically-based work on consciousness studies. She feels (and she knows a lot more and has experienced a lot more about this stuff than any of us reviewers, so let's have a little respect here, buddy!)that only such a fusion of two approaches will yield her real progress.A recent newspaper article warned about what the author, an academic philosopher, described as "mindfulness lite," by which he meant using mindfulness as a placebo for avoiding profound and uncomfortable truths, the sort of truth that the tough guys of Buddhist meditation seek to realise: that the self - me - is an illusion, for example. He was arguing that true mindfulness has at its heart these very demanding insights. Well, be assured - this little book is not mindfulness lite, it's the real thing. Such a personal journey is not going to be a comforting or easy read (though it is easy TO read.)I am still ingesting this book, a chapter at time, and it's not touching the sides, it's so good. Thanks, Ms B.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 15, 2010 9:58 PM BST


Frost and Fire (Re-mastered)
Frost and Fire (Re-mastered)
Price: 8.71

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars real roots, 12 Nov 2009
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There's interesting things happening in the British folk music world at present, not least recent work by Waterson:Carthy. And yet it's greatly refreshing to go back to this album. It was one of the definitive recordings of the "folk revival" of the 60s. When I first heard it, as a student and well into the Stones, blues and soul music and jazz,it stopped me in my musical tracks. I'd never heard anything like it - so uncompromising, and utterly different from everything around it, and I include other "revival" groups and singers - Ian Campell, Ewan McColl, whoever. It still sounds entirely unique. It takes fragments and oddments of custom and ritual from a past not so long ago in historical time but now, culturally, light years away, and it makes it something we can make part of our lives. Even the best folkies can sometimes try a bit too hard to be folky. For all his integrity and power, Ewan McColl sometimes seems to me a very mannered performer. He's got designs on you. This recording is utterly sincere, simple and direct. They are taken up entirely by their material, they make it their own, and they pass it on to us. What a great gift. Thanks to them.
So after hearing this, I went to see them live in a pub near Sheffield. I was late, and as I came up the stairs, I could hear a mighty sound sweeping towards me. Gooseflesh time.


Time
Time
by Eva Hoffman
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "time, like an ever-rolling stream..." except that it isn't., 31 Oct 2009
This review is from: Time (Paperback)
I feel it is doing a disservice to a very fine book to use of it the term "psychobabble," which is language that provides a pseudo-wisdom, that short-circuits real thought and feeling. This Hoffman certainly does not do. Any expert writer in a specialised field is likely to use at least some specialised language, and the book would be twice as long if Hoffman stopped to explain every single term not to be found in this morning's papers. She does explain particularly new or unusual terms. She draws on neuroscience, psychology, pscho-analysis, history, literature, and this isn't one for a lazy afternoon by the pool.However, I think she writes calmly, clearly and authoritatively - but I don't imagine they'll be making a film out of this book! (cf "Lost in Translation.")
Hoffman is very good indeed at bringing together insights from different fields to provide a new (to me, anyway) perspective on the nature of time. I'm only half-way through the book, and already it has changed my thinking about the significance of time, which is in amongst the very roots of our being. We all know that our perception of time is relative (waiting for the kettle to boil compared with being late to pick up a child from school)but I had never realised how important that simple fact is, how our individual perception of time affects our personalities in profound ways, how we can derail ourselves by a dysfunctional temporality, and quite possibly en mass derail important aspects of our civilisation.
It's not that every thought in the book is new in itself, (although plenty of them are to me) it's that the combination of concepts creates an overall new perspective. That is a great gift for any writer of non-fiction about an abstract but very powerful process such as time. If you want a new perspective on what makes you tick (ha ha)as an individual but also on what is troubling and dysfunctional in our cultures, I think you'll get it from this book, with a little patient and careful reading. I find that it's best read in shortish chunks, with time to reflect and re-order one's thoughts - processes which the book itself helps you to understand. I think it's probably an important work for "the general reader."I'm going to shut up now and get on with the book.


Angel Delight
Angel Delight
Price: 5.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars half-hidden gem, 9 Aug 2009
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This review is from: Angel Delight (MP3 Download)
..half-hidden, that is, by unhelpful preconceptions that bypass your ears. Sometimes categorised by critics as from a band in decline, by Sandy Denny mourners (of whom I'm one) as Fairport but lacking Sandy, by Thompson fans (of whom I'm also one) as Fairport but lacking RT, this album deserves some ear- and mind-cleaning before giving it a proper hearing. I think it then emerges as absolutely one of the best things generated by that wonderfully rambling long-lived collective known as Fairport Convention. Reasons: 1. sacrilege, I know, but the mighty Thomson did sometimes overbalance the band and led Swarb into some heavy speed;for my money this is better balanced than "Full House," and despite the shimmering beauty of much of"Liege and L," more consistent than that album. 2. Swarb really gets into his own style of singing here, a voice for traditional and tradition-inspired songs which isn't finger-in-the-ear heavy yet is English, not faux-American (or Irish!)3 Nicol, Swarb and Pegg are beautifully balanced on this album, and Swarb's playing is inventive, rhythmically powerful yet melodic, and never heavy-handed. 4. Where's the duff track? 5. It's got some humour in it (title track), good original songs ("Journeyman," "Wizard of the W.G.") some heavy songs (tracks 9 and 10) 6. DM, always faultless but sometimes a little too chuggy for me, is on best form - and so on. They are four exceptionally talented people in their own right, it's half-baked to see them as "notSandy" or "notRichard." And the digitally remastered edition with very enjoyable notes by Simon N is excellently done and packaged, so it's actually worth buying the CD itself, for once. Well, suit yourself, as Frankie Howard used to say, but try to forget that it was issued in the early 70s, and listen to it as though it had just come out. If you enjoy this kind of music, you'd surely see it as a really exceptional album and be impressed and - Delighted.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 9, 2012 8:57 PM GMT


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