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rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France)
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DBPOWER 6W LED Dimmable Desk Lamp (3-Level Dimmer, Adjustable Flexible Gooseneck Arm, Touch-sensitive Control Panel, White)
DBPOWER 6W LED Dimmable Desk Lamp (3-Level Dimmer, Adjustable Flexible Gooseneck Arm, Touch-sensitive Control Panel, White)
Offered by MyStore365
Price: £19.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent product, 13 Oct. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This lamp is an example of the new lighting techn, LED lights. They are not harsh and extremely good energy savers. I could not be more pleased with this.


IBRA® 3.5mm Stereo Jack to Jack Audio Cable Lead Gold 2 m - PINK
IBRA® 3.5mm Stereo Jack to Jack Audio Cable Lead Gold 2 m - PINK
Offered by Hd Zone
Price: £29.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very useful, 13 Oct. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Durable, if a bit clunky. I am sure I will use this for many years, just what I needed.


UV Light, Zookki 12-LED Lights, Pet Urine & Stain Detector, UV Blacklight/ Flashlight/ Torch, Utlra Violet LED Light
UV Light, Zookki 12-LED Lights, Pet Urine & Stain Detector, UV Blacklight/ Flashlight/ Torch, Utlra Violet LED Light
Offered by ZookkiDirect-UK
Price: £29.99

4.0 out of 5 stars It works fine, 13 Oct. 2015
If you need a portable urine detector, this is for you. It is very striaghtforward: just use it in the dark and you can find where you, your cat or dog missed.


Suaoki 16W Solar Panel Charger High Conversion Efficiency Dual-Port with TIR-C Technology for iPhone iPad Samsung and Other Phone Tablet and Digital Devices (Water-resistant)
Suaoki 16W Solar Panel Charger High Conversion Efficiency Dual-Port with TIR-C Technology for iPhone iPad Samsung and Other Phone Tablet and Digital Devices (Water-resistant)
Offered by SUAOKI
Price: £49.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Light, quick, convenient, 20 Sept. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a very nice product. With its USB plug, it is ideal for recharging an iPhone or an iPod when it unexpectedly fizzles while hiking, for example. It folds for easy carrying and is very light. Recommended with enthusiasm.


Calily™ Ultrasonic Essential Oil Diffuser Aromatherapy with Relaxing & Soothing Multi-Colour LED Light - Perfect for Home, Office, Spa, Etc.
Calily™ Ultrasonic Essential Oil Diffuser Aromatherapy with Relaxing & Soothing Multi-Colour LED Light - Perfect for Home, Office, Spa, Etc.

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very satisfying, 31 Aug. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
We have been very satisfied with this product: it is quiet and soothing. It also shuts off when it is empty, which we had worried about. If there is one thing I would criticize, it is that we were uncertain to what level we should fill it with oil.


The Guns of August( The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Classic about the Outbreak of World War I)[GUNS OF AUGUST][Mass Market Paperback]
The Guns of August( The Pulitzer Prize-Winning Classic about the Outbreak of World War I)[GUNS OF AUGUST][Mass Market Paperback]
by BarbaraWertheimTuchman
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars the bold strategy that turned into hell on earth, 25 Aug. 2015
This book covers the first month of WWI, when the sides had not yet settled into the quagmire of trench warfare. It was a time when things seemed possible, when the illusions of the traditional ways of war - where honor, valor, and elan were supposed to get men through - were giving way to the first wholly realized industrial methods of killing. Tuchman's book is a remarkable reconstruction from the point of view of the principal protagonists, i.e. the politicians, royalty, and military men. She explains how they saw the world, what they were thinking and why, and what they did.

Germany, Tuchman says, was in a kind of imperial fever since her victory over France in 1870, led by a megalomaniacal Emperor (Wilhelm II) whose grip on reality was tenuous. He wanted to dismember France, take Britain's place as the maintainer of the global order (forging an alliance between fellow "Germanics" in the process), and establish suzerainty over Russia; to do so, he was ready to start a war on 2 fronts. French leaders wanted vengeance for the past defeat, to protect itself, and teach Germany a "lesson". Great Britain wanted to maintain the balance of power, which worked in favor of its vast empire. Russia feared Germany, but its Emperor was insouciant of just about everything and the recent war lost to Japan was taken as proof of Russia's weakness. These points of view were so entrenched, according to Tuchman, that no negotiation to avoid war (or stop it once started) appeared possible. At any rate, everyone was convinced that war could not last longer than "a few months", due to cost, the need to encourage international trade, the certainty of victory, or what have you. The Sarajevo assassination provided the spark for the entire rickety system of alliances to explode.

Imperial Germany had a plan to crush France in a pincher movement, like Hannibal at Cannae, in an early form of blitzkrieg, over about a month. The trouble was, Germany would have to attack France through neutral Belgium, which would engage Great Britain to entangle itself in European affairs. Russia would be dragged in too, as an ally to France. To make matters worse, Germany adopted a strict policy of terror in the occupied territories, retaliating with extreme brutality to any resistance, which set world opinion against it; among other things, Louvain was burned to the ground, an irreplaceable cultural loss in addition to countless civilian lives. Germany's only ally was Turkey, which signed on in the last minute.

At first, all went well for Germany, though Belgian resistance was surprisingly strong, causing a slowdown. Then, Russia mobilized for war sooner than anticipated, entering East Prussia in 2 weeks and not 6. To counter this, Germany pulled a few divisions out of France, again slowing its progress; a mistake was made stretching German lines with long gaps, which the Brits and French attacked after much infighting. Paris was saved in the battle of the Marne, and the forces dug themselves in in accordance with Gallieni's system of trenches. This set the stage for the massive, unprecedented war of attrition we all know.

Tuchman portrays all the personalities involved in wonderful yet not excessive academic detail. The French Maréchal Joffre was unwaveringly optimistic, pursuing an ineffective offensive counter-attack plan, but his attitude held France together at the right moment. His German counterpart Moltke obsessively stuck to the plan, even when his lines were depleted, over-extended, and exhausted from a superhuman effort. The field Marshall John French, though reluctant and attempting to preserve the best British units (3/4 of which were to be killed in the coming months), was convinced finally to join the effort at the Marne. There are scores of other characters, all equally rich in the telling.

If there is one thing I would criticize, it is that the Germans are not given as full a portrait as the others. Tuchman clearly disliked them, which is a bias that detracts from the picture. But this truly is the only shortcoming.

This is a fantastically engaging narrative, with plenty of analysis thrown in. Warmly recommended. It deserves its status as a classic.
Comment


The Agricola and the Germania
The Agricola and the Germania
by S. A. (Translator) and Radice, Betty (editor) Tacitus Handford
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars A dull read with a ploddingly pedantic intro, 25 Aug. 2015
This is an older edition with the original introduction by Handford.

It is always risky to read an original source (albeit in translation). Sometimes, they astonish with with freshness and multiple levels of insight, but often they disappoint. This one disappoints, in my reading experience.

First, The Agricola is a light read, a kind of hagiography of Tacitus' father in law: he was a noble man and a hard worker and great achiever as a general and governor of Britain, whose career was cut short by a bad Emperor, Domitian. THough he should have moved up, Domitian's fear and jealously perhaps led to his assassination as a potential rival. In the end, it is a moralistic tale of rise and fall in a dangerous political atmosphere. This is fine, but in spite of its interesting subtext, it reads more like propaganda than biography. For the Roman history buff, this is a useful portrait. It just isn't very fun to read.

Second, as the first detailed source on the Germanic tribes that is almost anthropological, The Germania is invaluable for historians. But again, it is a dull and thin read. The subtext is that the Germans - a marshal people whose virtues can put Romans to shame - deserve study and even emulation. Whatever.

This brings me to the introduction: it was one of the most boring and useless that I have yet read. He goes over basic Roman history and institutions in a sketchy detail that would only be of aid to those completely ignorant of the period (which presumably isn't anyone who would conceive of reading such a recondite text). I can hope that the one in the new addition is better, which is a bar so low that it must be.

I cannot recommend this edition. The text itself is worthwhile to historians and students, but not for the general or informed amateur.


The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution and the Twentieth Century
The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution and the Twentieth Century
by Peter Watson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.78

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a dazzling intellectual history, within political and cultural context,, 25 Aug. 2015
The principal idea behind this book is that we should not let the Holocaust completely dominate our perception of German culture. In his massive intellectual undertaking, Watson attempts to shift our attention to the flowering of the German mind from 1750 to 1933 as well as its transformation post-WWII. Though often a bit too encyclopaedic, Watson succeeds in putting it all into context without neglecting Hitler. As a read, it is thoroughly engrossing and enlightening, an inspiration regarding a subject that western historians have indeed neglected.

The story begins with the father of Frederick the Great, who began to institute a more comprehensive educational system. He was a pietist, the Prussian version of the Puritans, with a great belief in education as a way to improve one's character and, by implication, the nation; this was called the Bildung, a grounding in general culture in the humanities with an emphasis on classical antiquity. Frederick the Great expanded his father's policies, but in the tradition of the Enlightenment, his were more secular and skeptical. This led to the emergence of an educated middle class, the largest in Europe, with rates of literacy far beyond all other nations. They were to be the employees in the bureaucracy as well as replace clerics and pastors as the intellectuals in the society. This also culminated in the establishment of the modern research university in the 19C, complete with PhDs, specialized publications, and research institutes that far surpassed those in other western countries in both quantity and quality.

In addition to this, given the autocratic nature of the Prussian state, the Bildung was largely inward-oriented - encouraging introspection and self betterment rather than political reform or activism. This created a serious tension within the society, a kind of top-down imposition of policies by the state for which there was little alternative. Nonetheless, to fill the void that secularism was opening in German hearts and minds, Watson argues that philosophy rose to take Christianity's place with the idealist concepts of Kant and Hegel, to mention only two; this makes for some pretty turgid reading and cannot really serve as an introduction to the complex and often obscure contribution to western thought. Beyond philosophy, there was an extraordinary flowering in all the arts, from writers and painters to composers. That being said, the population apparently persisted in placing a significantly larger amount of unquestioning trust in the authorities, who "knew better" and had their "interests at heart"; this left the German political culture stunted and undemocratic until after WWII.

During the 19C, the innovators themselves, though too numerous to cover in any depth, are sketched out in context, often showing their inter-relationships. For example, the great German symphonies were regarded as philosophical works, mirroring their counterparts in the academy; this astonished me. Innovators included Nietzsche, who opened the way to post-modernism, essentially denying that any meaning or truth can be taken as absolute or categorical, but is only relative and uncertain. (He summed this up as "God is dead.") In the economic realm, of course, there was Marx, whose revolutionary philosophy was one of the most consequential of the 20C. Freud introduced new concepts as well, leading to a therapeutic approach that attempted to make sense of one's life as a meaningful narrative, i.e. a new kind of introspection that quickly spread to the rest of the world and remains a mainstay of the modern mindset. While the thumbnail portraits are fascinating, they are of necessity rather superficial and vary in quality. (For example, Watson makes some pretty glib claims about Freud's accomplishments, dismissing them as "wrong" or arrived at under "faulty" methods without offering sufficient proof.) I often found this frustrating.

According to Watson, it was at the dawn of the German industrial revolution that the balance of power began to change in Germany: manufacturers, managers, technologists, and financiers began to displace the cultured bourgeoisie, whose humanistic Bildung could no longer monopolize elite status outside of royalty and the aristocracy. Furthermore, scientists were also gaining in influence, again without the introspective underpinnings of the Bildung. With the lack of political reform, Watson argues, this left less and less space for the middle classes, who when the economy collapsed could offer little effective political opposition to the fascists.

To his credit, Watson acknowledges that the rise of the Nazis and their apocalyptic excesses may never be fully understood. Nonetheless, he shows how they transmogrified many of the innovations credited to the great German intellectuals, such as Nietzsche's superman concept, social darwinist racism and eugenics, and the concept of a superior "Volksgeist" or "spirit" of the German people, which was always a nebulous notion to me. Watson also covers how the Nazis and those willing to unquestioningly follow them, including Heidegger and many other intellectuals, destroyed much of the educational and research systems that had grown over the previous 200 years. As everyone know, it is a sad chapter from which Germany is still recovering.

Finally, Watson argues, once the western allies created the Federal Republic, the break with a past of political authoritarianism is at last accomplished. With the institutional groundwork imposed from outside, the protests of 1968 set off a transformation towards modern democracy, according to which the younger generation asks questions that the older one was unable to do, in particular when addressing the Nazi past. This was the least convincing to me, kind of thrown in at the end. Having lived in Germany near to this time, I still found students rather rigid in their ideologies and arrogant as to the superiority of the German culture over American capitalism ("Die Amerikaner sind alle kulturlos.") That being said, I completely agree with the author that Germany has created a decent society that has grown beyond the Nazi catastrophe.

I cannot do justice to the breadth of Watson's coverage. For example, towards the end, he abruptly gets into Heidegger's warnings about technology, which (he argues) the age of genetic engineering has proven "relevant"; I was left unconvinced and feel that Heidegger is over-rated for nationalistic reasons. Nonetheless, in terms of content, this is an exquisite sketch of the basics. I am not sure if what he claims is true - that the intellectual movements actually meant what he says they did - but the connections often made sense to me and put things in a new light. This is a great intellectual adventure and it left me very hungry for more, a sure sign of the book's success.

Warmly recommended.


Under The Skin
Under The Skin
by Michel Faber
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Alien capitalists doing their thing on Earth, 25 Aug. 2015
This review is from: Under The Skin (Paperback)
This is a masterpiece of hard scifi. The narrative, of a mysterious woman hunting hitchhikers, immediately draws the reader in. Her character is angry and frequently in pain, but cunning in a cautious way. It is very subtle and a consistent portrait is built over the course of the novel. Why she is doing what she is doing remains a mystery for a long time, which is fun, though it is spelled out a good deal more clearly than it was in the film. Behind her complaints (in particular at the surgical mutilation of her original body) and class resentments, the structure of the alien society also emerges, and if it captures your imagination, it is very interesting indeed.

What is so intriguing is how slowly the truth emerges, layer after layer peeling off, often in contradiction to what the woman is thinking or assuming. For example, an elite scion arrives unexpectedly, and she wants to avoid him. Then, they have a long discussion that leads into a number of hidden places on the farm, revealing much about the purpose of their presence. He proves to be far more complex and questioning than she wants to admit to herself, though it hardly gets her to think much more.

This is a very different work than the slow, if excellent, film with Scarlett Johansson. Of course, you can get what is not explained in the film, but the plot and basic details diverge significantly, so much that they are separate works of art. Recommended.
Comment


A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924
A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924
by Orlando Figes
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.60

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Narrative history on the 20C's most radical social convulsion, 25 Aug. 2015
If you want the definitive one-volume take on Lenin's revolution and all that it entailed, this is your book. I was mesmerized from the first page and it lasted right until the end, complete with characters who are followed throughout the entire story, quick and dense analyses of the forces behind events, and a full explanation of the consequences that inevitably followed. It is a masterpiece of historical exposition.

The story begins with an analysis of the old regime, the last major one to survive in Europe. On top was the Tsar and the aristocracy, which dominated government and much of the bureaucracy. They owned most of the land, had the most education, and controlled the armed forces. There was a slim tranche that represented an urban middle class, a rising bourgeoisie that dominated commerce and the rudiments of a manufacturing industry, but they were too weak to have much political influence. All the rest, over 90% of the population, were peasants in primitive villages, most of them illiterate; though serfs until the 1860s (bound to the land under the total control of the gentry), they had recently gained some legal rights, including minimal self governance; they were a mix of reactionary conservatives and the disgruntled, who carried a simmering rage.

Nicolas II, the Tsar, was so ill-suited to his role that the socio-political forces he faced led to complete catastrophe. Rather than take an interest in the reforms needed - or even in the practical tasks of governing - he chose to live in a dream world in which he imagined the "people" loved him as the eternal soul of the entire country. After a series of assassinations and violent uprisings, he indulged in the idea that autocracy was the answer for the Russian Empire, egged on by his German wife, who believed he should rule as Ivan the Terrible had done. Because Nicolas II was suspicious of anyone who challenged his authority, he actively undermined the government and bureaucracy, preferring the fawning nonsense of manipulative courtiers and religious figures, such as Rasputin. As the social situation worsened, he remained studiously unaware of what should be done to protect Russian institutions and his office. After the 1905 revolution, the Tsar agreed to establish a Parliament, the Duma, but he did not choose to nurture or work with it, losing a significant opportunity.

Had there been peace, more peaceful political change might have eventually come, but Nicolas II chose instead to join in the Great War as a Western ally. This war - the first fully modern one that required both an industrial capacity and more flexible institutions - brought the situation to a head. Not only was the aristocratic military revealed as incompetent and uncaring of the lives of its peasant foot soldiers, but the catastrophic conditions under which the war unfolded completely undermined the support of the masses for the Tsar's autocratic government. The result was a revolution that forced him to abdicate in favor of a new parliamentary democracy, which was soon identified with Kerensky.

One of the weaknesses of coverage is the precise configuration of the institutions that emerged to fill the gap created by the collapse of the autocracy. First, the Duma remained unrepresentative and weak, particularly with the absence of any viable middle class. Second, there were the Soviets, which apparently were more spontaneous groupings that better reflected the revolutionary forces, though they varied widely in their composition and openness. It was here that the Bolsheviks (the "Reds"), Mensheviks, and various Social Democrats met to debate courses of action. Third, there were disparate groupings that might be seen as power centers, including conservative Aristocrats (the "Whites") and many others, such as ethnic groups, but few added up to any coherent force. I was never clear on how these interacted or what their powers were.

Nonetheless, the politics of the situation is very well covered. As the rage of peasants was unleashed in a series of violent movements that attacked and disenfranchised the landed gentry, the Duma appeared impotent to restore order to the situation. Meanwhile, as the war wreaked havoc on the economy, the Bolsheviks emerged as the only ones who clearly opposed continuing to fight (as well as the only party to endorse the aristocracy's destruction as wholly desirable as well as the takeover of industries by workers). This won them the political heart of many peasants, who identified the Reds as the only true force genuinely supporting the revolution. No one else seemed to understand these political facts in the civil war that erupted after the Bolsheviks seized power in the October 1917 coup - the Whites appeared to want to restore the monarchy and land rights of the aristocracy, which at this point was politically impossible and hence completely undermined their cause in the medium term.

It is at this point that the personal stories become important. Figes proves that Lenin was the dominant politician of his time, pushing the Bolsheviks to seize power and establish their own form of autocracy, improvising the whole time with decisions that would prepare the ground for the ambitious Stalin to take over the party apparatus and soon (with his ability to appoint cronies in key positions) the entire government. The portraits of these men and scores of others are compelling and fascinating in their quirky detail. Figes is of the opinion that, due to the institutions that Lenin set up, Stalin was an inevitable and natural outgrowth of all that followed, even though Lenin came to oppose him while on his death bed.

Once the Bolsheviks were in power, even though they withdrew Russia from the war (with great difficulty), they made a series of mistakes that plunged the country into famine, renewed civil war, and desperate anarchy that took years to set right. To keep themselves in power, they relied on terror in a similar manner to the Tsar, but with ideological purpose guiding their actions and a huge bureaucracy that they installed, often run by uneducated and inexperienced peasant revolutionaries. Figes covers this process well, but his explanations of the impact of Marxist theory were less than satisfying for me, perhaps due to my own ignorance of it (i.e. he goes on about the lack of a capiltalist class, which had to be skipped).

Throughout the book, Figes exhibits an admirable skepticism, never indulging in romanticization of any of the characters or their ideas. Except for certain individuals, no class or group comes off well - not the peasants, not the revolutionaries, not representatives of the old regime. A very interesting analysis is offered regarding the mentalities of each group. Cut off as the vast majority was from the ideas in ferment to the west, there was a poverty of ideas under discussion, with few alternatives emerging organically from the society. Instead, the few ideas that did get into the country were viewed as exclusive panaceas rather than part of a mix that required compromise and negotiation; rather than an openness of mind, the lack of education and ignorance promoted rigid minds that rarely questioned opinions once they were adopted. For their part, the Bolsheviks disdained the peasants and workers, in whose name they established their dictatorship. I cannot due justice to the subtlety of Figes' ideas here, but it was one of the most interesting cultural aspects of the book for me. (For example, he views the search for philosophical answers to everything as a key to the appeal of the great Russian novelists of the 19C.)

This book is as satisfying an intellectual meal as the general reader could hope for. I simply could not stop reading it and almost never felt bogged down over its 800+ pages. It is an astounding achievement: for the first time in my life, I feel I truly grasp this revolution and all that it meant. While sometimes exhaustive in its detail, Figes never covers events to excess: there is always a purpose to his narrative, so that every single battle or political maneuver is not described; instead, significant or illustrative episodes are highlighted, a relief for lay readers.

Recommended with the greatest enthusiasm.


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