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Frank T "frank-t"

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Rolling a Kayak Whitewater
Rolling a Kayak Whitewater

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It works!, 24 Feb. 2013
For several weeks I had been trying in vain to roll a kayak in my club's swimming pool sessions. I'd read descriptions of what to do, but nothing clicked.

I watched this video today, an hour before my pool session.

In the session I rolled the boat with a 70-80% success rate, without any help from the club's coaches.

Can't say fairer than that!

Whiting's instructions are a model of clarity. He emphasises the need to get your support strokes and hip flick right before progressing to the roll. The roll itself is covered succinctly but clearly. Whiting shows that the technique is not as black an art as some would have you believe!

My only complaint is that for some reason (regional settings?) the DVD was in black and white on my player. A bit irritating, but no more.

All Her Bones Were Silver
All Her Bones Were Silver
by Sarah Hunter Carson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Serious, and disturbing, insight into the legal profession, 1 Feb. 2013
This is an unusual novel that defies its obvious immediate classification as a "legal thriller". It tells the story of a talented but self-doubting barrister, Mervyn Walkinshaw, who, while undergoing simultaneous personal and professional crises, experiences a kind of romantic awakening when defending a girl charged with possession of drugs. However, human weakness and self-deception take their toll on the characters, and one senses quite early on that dreams and reality are set on a collision course.

"All Her Bones Were Silver" has the advantage over many legal novels that its author has extensive first-hand experience of working in the legal system. Legal process is described in interesting detail and un-self-consciously. What also rings true is the portrayal of the arrogance and complacency of many who operate within it - including the undisguised disgust that defence barristers can exhibit towards those whose cases they argue. One can believe that their clients are often coldly regarded as mere means to the ends of wealth and power.

Oddly, though, it is the evocation of the worlds of the clients, rather than of the lawyers, that is the novel's greatest strength. Three young characters in the novel, for all of whom the wrong side of the law is a kind of home, are painted with a sympathy that is never sentimental or deliberately controversial, but based on the understanding that the environment we are born into is a matter of luck. It would have been easy for Carson to portray them as either victims or monsters, but instead they emerge as three-dimensional human beings with flaws and virtues, striking above all for the way in which they stoically accept their lots - if not without anger, then nevertheless without self-pity.

Carson's writing is at its best - and at its best it is superb - when she fully enters the flow of sympathy for her characters. The story is a very interesting one, which takes surprising turns. It is not a cheering read, but there is a paradoxical sense of luminous redemption in its sad final pages.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: Complete HBO Season 2 [DVD] [2004]
Curb Your Enthusiasm: Complete HBO Season 2 [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Larry David
Price: £7.95

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every episode a classic, 25 Jun. 2011
There hasn't been a duff series of "Curb", but Season 2 is comedy perfection. As usual, it's a portrayal of a grotesque version of LA where everybody is petty, hypersensitive and absurdly defensive about their social identity.

The central theme of "Curb" is the unspoken rules and taboos of social engagement. It's stuff we all recognise from real life, blown hilariously out of proportion. It presents a world in which all the stupid little resentments we harbour privately are given full voice - where nobody, least of all Larry David himself, ever lets anything lie; where good intentions are wilfully misinterpreted, and where small lies and discourtesies are punished a thousandfold.

The improvised dialogue allows the real-life chemistry between the actors to show through - and a large part of the hilarity comes simply from facial expressions and spontaneous nuances of comic timing. (Check out Cheryl's delivery of the line, "This is so stupid", when Larry announces his intention to become a car salesman.)

But it's not just the belly laughs that lend this series to repeat viewing: in fact it's only on re-watching that you notice some of the subtleties of the brilliantly intricate plotting.

In some of the later series, a few episodes are a little slack. Here, every episode is a classic, and to quote a couple of memorable one-liners would do a disservice to the dozens of others. All the same, one line really ought to go down in history with "Don't mention the war" from "Fawlty Towers": the moment in "The Doll" when Susie Green stands outside her house yelling, "Where's the f***ing head?!"

Mad Men - Season 3 [DVD]
Mad Men - Season 3 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jon Hamm
Price: £8.98

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Luxury soap, 4 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Mad Men - Season 3 [DVD] (DVD)
I enjoyed the first two series of "Mad Men", which I found moving and extremely well-acted. If anything let them down, it was the lack of subtlety in some of the writing: themes were hammered home, and references to contemporary events were crowbarred in rather than allowed to arise of their own accord. On balance, though, I felt the quality of the acting, and the visual stylishness, carried it.

My qualified enthusiasm for the show has been seriously dampened by Series 3. The narrative is running out of steam, and the writing, always overrated, is becoming a real weak link. There's nothing more for us to find out about Don Draper; the younger characters' emotional and relationship problems from the first two series have vanished without obvious resolution, to be superseded by new but unrelated ones; and the show is struggling to find new things to say about either advertising or life in the 1960s.

For the most part, it remains watchable, and three or four episodes from Series 3 are very good indeed. But in the rest, the writing merely treads water: competent but superficial, it's the sort of thing churned out by bored, practised Hollywood hacks. There's no craftsmanship or subtlety; the concern is too much for "stories" rather than themes or psychological consistency. If that makes it sound like a soap opera, well, to be quite honest, that's what it has become. (Incidentally, I reached this conclusion independently of Ms. Williams below!)

"Does it matter?" you might ask. No, of course not - if you want a soap opera. But "Mad Men" makes no secret of its pretensions to sophistication and universality, pretensions that it manifestly fails to live up to in this series. It flatters the viewer's taste and intelligence, without actually engaging them.

Worst by far is the final episode, which is boring beyond description, and whose shouty, predictable dialogue would be an embarrassment in a "Dallas" script.

"Mad Men 3" is still better than most dramas, but I'd hoped to be able to voice stronger praise for it.

The Dark Side of the Moog Vol. 8
The Dark Side of the Moog Vol. 8
Offered by Boyrecords
Price: £20.86

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For a spooky chill-out experience..., 13 April 2011
This is the kind of ambient music that really floats my boat. Relaxing but definitely not easy listening, it combines the eeriness of 70s Tangerine Dream with modern Orb-like production values and trippy basslines. The creepy vocoder vocals on the first track are particularly, and wonderfully, strange. I will definitely be looking into other CDs from this series!

Tangram 2008
Tangram 2008

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 19 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Tangram 2008 (Audio CD)
I was so impressed with "Hyperborea 2008" that I immediately bought this as well. A mistake. Whereas "Hyperborea 2008" develops and subtilises the sound of its 80s source material, "Tangram 2008" rides roughshod over it. The modern producers' credo of "If in doubt, add dance beats" has been followed to the limit: whereas the original album consisted of upbeat pop tunes interspersed with meditative sequences, here the drums kick in at 1'15 and don't stop until 40 minutes later. Given the mellow nature of the original material, that makes about as much sense as creating a funky house version of a Mahler symphony. The cool, austere atmosphere is totally lost.

It doesn't even work as dance music, either. The smooth melodies and chord sequences don't fit the new "chunka-chunka" rhythms at all. Forget this album - but check out "Hyperborea 2008", which seems to have had a completely different thinking behind it.

Hyperborea 2008
Hyperborea 2008

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly tasteful re-recording, 18 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Hyperborea 2008 (Audio CD)
[NB This is a review of the 2008 re-recording, not the 1983 original - Amazon need to split them up :\ ]

Tangerine Dream are now well into the "Money for Old Rope" phase of their career, and I wouldn't normally have considered buying a new version of this Schmoelling-period classic. However, I heard a couple of tracks from this re-recording on, was pleasantly surprised by them, and have been more pleasantly surprised by the whole CD.

For the most part, nothing has been bent out of shape, and the overall soundscape is the same as the original. But there's a sprinking of new synth layers over the old ones that generates a smoother and subtler sound. Changes are not made to excess: one feels that TD were working from a predetermined vision of the atmosphere they wanted to create, and not simply after garish novelty (which unfortunately seems to have been the case with the woefully naff "Tangram 2008").

I'm not even sure that I don't prefer the new versions of the title track and "Cinnamon Road" to the originals. The former (now split into two tracks) has been given a more ethereal makeover that works very well; the latter retains all the joyfulness of the original, but with even more exciting electro-flurries in the background.

"Sphinx Lightning" gets similar treatment, being structurally unchanged, but with a sound that is both lusher and crisper than the 1983 version. It makes a somewhat more forceful impression than the original, which is no bad thing; I know I'm not the only one who found this track, for all its atmospherics, this least arresting on the original album.

That leaves "No Man's Land". This is the only track that sounds completely different from the original: the old rhythms and arpeggios are only heard in dream-like snatches, and there is a new motif whose repetitiveness wouldn't matter if its "boiiing-boiiing" sound weren't so obstrusive. I don't dislike this track, but the original's the one to have.

Perhaps this re-recording is not for everyone, but I advise old fans not to be deterred by the group's bland recent output. In no way a replacement for the 1983 "Hyperborea", this is nevertheless a very nice complement to it.

The Sopranos: HBO Season 6 (Part 2 - The Final Episodes) [DVD] [2007]
The Sopranos: HBO Season 6 (Part 2 - The Final Episodes) [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ James Gandolfini
Price: £14.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fitting, if not perfect, ending, 21 Jan. 2011
I regard "The Sopranos" as one of the masterpieces of American television, and on the whole this final (semi-)series is well up to standard. The acting is uniformly superb, and the constant promise of violence, as ever, makes for compelling viewing. Nevertheless, I felt there was something rather "bitty" about the plotting; in previous series the narrative has revolved around a single character's story (Pussy, Ralph, Adriana, Vito); here, there is no dominant character, so the narrative impetus isn't quite so great. Also, one or two episodes have a slightly "soapy" quality, with plot dictating character rather than vice versa (the denouement of Tony's relationship with Dr. Melfi is very contrived; and where did Tony's gambling addiction come from all of a sudden?).

The writing is, as usual, excellent, though I felt it wasn't quite as subtle as in some of the earlier series.

As for the bizarre ending: I hope the obvious interpretation is the correct one, and it's not a case of the producers themselves not knowing what happened. Certainly a mood is set that invites a particular interpretation, but I shall say no more.

Schubert: Death and the Maiden & String Quartets
Schubert: Death and the Maiden & String Quartets
Price: £7.21

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The recording I'd been waiting for, 5 Jan. 2011
I saw the Quatuor Mosaiques play the "Death and the Maiden" quartet at Wigmore Hall a few years ago and was blown away. I've waited years for them to record it, and I'm glad to say that the recording fully lives up to my expectations. I much prefer it to the Lindsays' version, which I feel lays on the intensity too thick: the music (like much of Schubert's) is so inherently poignant that it doesn't need the emotion wringing out of it. The Mosaiques, as they've shown in their Haydn and Mozart quartets, can always be relied on to perform with restraint, delicacy and focus. The slow movement is particularly beautiful, while the whirlwind of the final movement in their hands is truly exhilarating.

The quartet D173, which I skipped the first few times, is actually very enjoyable in its own right, owing something, I felt, to Haydn. It's nice and short, so doesn't outstay its welcome, and like "Death and the Maiden", is played with great taste. A top CD.

Dexter: Complete Season 1 [DVD]
Dexter: Complete Season 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael C. Hall
Price: £10.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Daft but watchable, 16 Oct. 2010
A drama involving a sympathetic serial killer who only kills "bad people" sounded to me a pretty lame or a pretty sick idea; however, enough people recommended "Dexter" to me for me to check it out.

As I anticipated, realism is not the series' strong point. We're expected to believe that witnessing a traumatic event can turn someone into a serial killer (in reality, it's more likely to induce post-traumatic stress disorder). Dexter's anger is implied to be based on a righteous desire for revenge, yet at the same time Dexter tells us again and again that he has "no feelings". So what is he: moral crusader or monstrous sadist? Is he intriguingly ambiguous - or just the unconvincing result of a contrived narrative concept?

The series coyly shies away from showing Dexter's murders in gory detail: to do so, of course, would make him seem a lot less cuddly. I couldn't decide if the viewer is manipulated into liking Dexter, or manipulated into believing he's a monster when really he isn't. Something just doesn't ring true about the whole thing.

But in the end, none of that matters all that much. As undemanding crime drama, "Dexter" is extremely watchable, thanks to the excellent central performance of Michael C Hall, good acting all round, and an extended plot line that may be absurd, but that nevertheless keeps the viewer in suspense.

Don't believe anyone who tells you that "Dexter" is the best US drama since "The Sopranos"; but it is pretty good, on its own bizarre terms.

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