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Benjamin Girth "NI5 MCR" (Hampstead N6)

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Lincoln [DVD]
Lincoln [DVD]
Dvd ~ Daniel Day-Lewis
Price: £2.99

7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Historical commentary - where is it?, 2 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: Lincoln [DVD] (DVD)
I know this to be a good movie, a compelling political narrative, excellent acting with high production values but...

If you do not have a detailed historical knowledge this movie is hard going. More than that it is a lost opportunity to acquire familiarity with this fascinating period of American politics.

My simple request why is there not an historical commentary from a professional academic or author, with the director and actors chipping in (optional)? There is so much detail, who the characters were, where events were leading. Almost every scene was frustrating - I felt I was missing much. I can see why people were bored.

I simply ask for more value added - if not watch it on cable or buy a bootleg. Hollywood needs to deliver more to those that buy their product. It is not hard, there are no shortage of articulate American historians expert on this period. So for a few dollars get one of them to add a commentary.

I bought the Blu Ray version, wasn't the point of this format to add such extras? Surely a commentary would add to their sales and the enjoyment of those who bought it? I had exactly the same issue with J Edgar. Am I alone in wanting a little more?
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 14, 2013 10:02 PM GMT

Roberts Stream 83i Stereo DAB/FM/WiFi Internet Radio with 3 Way Speaker System
Roberts Stream 83i Stereo DAB/FM/WiFi Internet Radio with 3 Way Speaker System

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Live sport.... sadly computer says "NO", 30 Nov. 2013
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For my home in France I bought this to listen - via the Internet - to UK stations. And I am 100 % happy, this is an excellent radio. The remote is great, sound fine etc and I accept the DAB is not available.

It works really well for most channels (all the normal BBC, commercial and local stations). No drop out despite thick stone walls.

But if you are outside the UK be aware you are excluded from some channel content.

I bought it to listen to the Test Matches and football (e.g. Radio 5 Live Sports Extra) BUT with licensing restrictions you cannot get them. They are on my TV via a UK satellite link so I did not think the ISP (in my case Orange Fr) would be an issue. The internet is the 'world wide' internet, now I know it is not.

If like me you wanted to listen to sport the "computer says no." The other channels are great so still a good buy.

Sony BDV-NF620 Home Audio System
Sony BDV-NF620 Home Audio System

1.0 out of 5 stars Complete failure buy a Panasonic, 4 Nov. 2013
I am yet again disappointed with Sony.

I bought the previous model three years ago and in July the DVD decided a) not to read 3D, then b) Blu Ray then c) then any DVD.

I asked Sony for advice and the girl on the (e-mail) help desk demanded a lot of information then told me to take it back to "the country" I bought it from. It was made in Malaysia but it was bought in that department store in Knightsbridge. Which country was she talking about?

I complained at this off hand ""get lost couldn't care less"" attitude and her advice after 10 days or more was to " switch it on an off." Shock, that did not work and I had actually done that the day it failed.... are these people on help desks real or electronic fabrication of artificial intelligence (sic)? I really hope the latter, sad if a human being was actually paid to process a query in this way.

I bought this model on 31st of August and it is now back for repair. Again it will not read DVDs - brilliant!

When it works with my top of the line Bravia no complaint - great - but premium prices charged by Sony equates - one assumes - with a premium service.

I know Sony are as a company in a complete mess but quality of this product and bizzare support service suggests they have no one to blame but themselves.

Trees and Man: The Forest in the Middle Ages
Trees and Man: The Forest in the Middle Ages
by Roland Bechmann
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. a fascinating multi dimensional history, 9 Sept. 2013
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The wonders of Amazon, that you can buy quirky books usually well hidden in University or specialist libraries.

This book is a hybrid. While it is a technical treatise on the history of the French forests in the middle ages it goes well beyond this (and further than France). Starting with the folklore, it explains the economic value of the forests, how they were farmed, the myriad of ways the wood was used, the complexity of legal ownership, taxation, politics, the social importance. The forests were a source of food (fruits and range of animals within them) not simply trees. They were also a playground for those who had the legal right to exploit them; the nobility took their hunting rights very seriously. The clergy (monks) also had a significant role, large owners of forests they were economically innovative.

If you are interested in social and labour history, geography, ecology, there is a lot of fascinating detail. For example the introduction of the saw (page 72) was not welcomed, compared to the `honest' adze and axe. The saw was a silent tool it allowed `dishonest' people to steal wood. The forests also were crucial in the broader economic development process in so many ways. Wine needed barrels to mature in (page 91) so vineyards next to forests had an advantage. This book shows is how the rural and urban functioned in tandem, a very sophisticated process.

What is illustrated is how intensively used and populated the forests were. In a world of wood they were immensely productive encompassing a range of human activity and skills that we have all but forgotten. Living in France I often take my Land Rover Defender into the woods to splash about. My local forests are economically worked, a lot of wood taken. I have always assumed this somewhat sterile - monotonous - environment has been there forever. No, the countryside has been massively depopulated over many generations. Often you come across an large stretch of overgrown dry stone wall. I never appreciated why. Now I know that there was a time when this land was intensely farmed, managed, lived in. The ghost of generations past come to life. I found this book easy to read (well translated) it complimented much of what I had read, I learnt such a lot from it.

Rien a declarer (Nothing to Declare) English Subtitles
Rien a declarer (Nothing to Declare) English Subtitles
Dvd ~ Danny Boon
Price: £9.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny but on reflectiona little disturbing, 12 Jan. 2013
I live in France so the French are an increasingly mysterious entity to me. Watch this movie and you'll probably agree.

I had enjoyed the Rom-Com 'Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis' (2008) that parodies the gulf of misunderstanding between the French who live in the South and the North. Witty and endearing, interesting characters and slapstick fun, the film is good entertainment. There are several hilarious scenes - I hurt my ribs laughing when the Southern wife arrives in the fake village meant to convince her how awful life in the North is.

'Rien à Declarer' (2011) is superficially more of the same. Set on a Belgian French border crossing it is the struggle between a genial French customs officer - Matias Ducatel - secretly in love with Louise his Belgian counterparts sister. The problem is the Belgian - Ruben Vandervoorde - hates the French. Not just hates, despises any and everything French. Add in the demise of border controls (the movie is set in 1993) the two are thrown together. It ambles along towards a buddy movie.

But on second viewing it occurred to me this film shows a nasty, bigoted neo-Nazi style Belgian abusing his authority. The scene where he arrests a poor man trying to buy cheaper petrol is near the edge. He is a lying, violent and irrational bully handy with his pistol. He thinks nothing of opening fire - even inside a church when he discovers Matias wants to marry his sister. More unpleasant Vandervoorde is teaching his young son to hate, prejudices with passion. It ends with Vandervoorde venting his spleen against an unfortunate man of Chinese origin who dares to park his van next to him.

This film is lots of fun but on reflection it is a little disturbing. I am no politically correct leftie liberal but this man is perhaps more real than we are comfortble with. You do not want to meet him - certainly if you are French or any other nationality other than Belgian.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 17, 2013 3:21 PM GMT

Bose ® Solo TV Sound System
Bose ® Solo TV Sound System

14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bose - adequate but why not go for a BR home cinema?, 1 Jan. 2013
I am a fan of Bose, I have the Wave Radio and Quiet Comfort Headphones. However my reservation is Bose charge three times more than the competition and are not in the forefront of the latest developments (they were very late to discover DAB and Blu-ray).

I had wired a TV via my Bose Wave Radio II using AUX - and it worked VERY well. Should have left it at that but.....

I bought this to beef up my 32" Sony in the bedroom. Flat screen sound is poor and the thinner they get the duller the sound. This system does the job but over a range of DVDs (old and new) the performance was not nearly as good a my Sony 2.1 Home Cinema. And with that I get DVD upscaling which is really excellent. The TV sound enhancement is an improvement but again the 2.1 system is far better (especially on talk radio).

Simply why not buy a compact home cinema and tidy it all away? Bose - for this item - is overrated and overpriced.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 18, 2013 4:21 PM GMT

Napoleon and the Invasion of Britain
Napoleon and the Invasion of Britain
by Alexandra Franklin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.00

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars For the hard core Napoleon buffs, 28 Nov. 2012
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Sitting on my bookshelf for many years I have just read Peter Lloyds' "The "French Are Coming - the Invasion Scare 1803-5." So - always a risk online - I bought this publication blind.

In the description it claims "Chronicling the real fear of a Napoleonic invasion of Britain from 1798 to 1805, this book reconstructs Britain's political, social and military response, and tells the story of the forces dividing the nation in the 1790s, and the debates underlying the patriotism of 1803."

NO IT DOES NOT! It is not a book, it is a [sponsored] catalogue to accompany a 2003 exhibition in the Bodleian Library (Oxford) This is simply a description of the 90 exhibits. It is of interest but not that interesting.

There is a tidy 11-page scene setting introduction then photographs of the exhibits with notes added. What you get is a collection of satirical cartoons, medals, pamphlets and broadsides. A cornucopia of detail but I'd suggest of relevance only to those with a good knowledge of the period.

While the print quality (paper, photography and design) is high, the type face is very small (9 point?) so you will need your glasses. In preference to this, I enjoyed Mark Bryant's "Napoleonic Wars in Cartoons" which tracks similar ground up to 1815.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 30, 2013 8:08 PM BST

Napoleonic Wars in Cartoons
Napoleonic Wars in Cartoons
by Mark Bryant
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Propaganda & Art, sophisticated, literate & subtle, 28 Nov. 2012
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I came to this book having read "Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon" (Rory Muir) 1807-15 and "George III: A Life in Caricature" (Kenneth Baker). Here is a small but excellent collection of cartoons (although as the author points out they should be termed caricatures) and narration.

Dr Bryant's organises the material well. He starts with a 30-page commentary on the early years, where he sketches the historical events 1789-1801 introducing the artists and illustrating their work. Then each year is considered separately concluding in 1815. There is a wealth of compelling - entertaining - detail.

This is a sophisticated, literate and subtle means of communication. Essentially what this book shows is how art and propaganda fused to address a mass market. We all assume we are better informed and more sophisticated than our predecessors, but then compare these caricatures with modern satirical cartoons. It seems we have regressed. And go further back, to the English Civil War and look how well argued and literate were the popular political pamphlets.

This short (160 pages) A4 format book is best suited to those with some knowledge of Napoleonic period. My only "criticism" it would have been better for being A3 and many more examples. Using art, this is a very compelling way to absorb huge amount of history.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 17, 2013 3:25 PM GMT

The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson Volume 4
The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson Volume 4
by Robert A Caro
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard Core - an Historians History, 16 Oct. 2012
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If you are into "hard core" American politics and events some 60 years ago, then invest the time and enjoy this book. My reservation was with the 'passage of time' so much detail diminishes, not enhances, an understanding of the man and his times. And it is part of a massive biography; with three preceding volumes totalling over 2,500 pages! Here the period 1958 to 1964 is covered when Johnson was aged 50/56. A final volume is planned.

I found the book absorbing, at times a drama of Shakespearean intensity. But there was no "dramatis personae" at the beginning. That I have not read the previous books did not diminish this work but more background would have helped. Most of us will turn to Wikipedia for clarification. For example even Americans may not be familiar with George Berham Parr - the Duke of Duval - whose electoral fraud put [may have] JFK in the Whitehouse (page 154). Mr Caro describes in detail the 22 November 1963. Johnson was being exposed for corruption and he had become an electoral liability, politically dead he was about to be buried. Then two hours took him from Parkland Hospital to the Presidency.

Robert Caro provides a forensic account of a small period of time. Johnson had a fear of failure and sat on his backside assuming the presidential nomination would find him. He totally underestimated and ignored the Kennedy's professionalism and hard work. In the first 100 pages Caro tell us this, but it could have been done well in 10 pages. There was a time when such immense detail might have been relevant, when people who were around were alive! But those people are long gone and even their grandchildren are getting old. Here is a political biography that often fades into "Newsweek" reportage. An editor could have lost a couple of hundred pages and sharpened the book.

By way of illustration, Chapter Four (The Back Stairs) is the day LBJ was offered the Vice Presidency by JFK. It almost reads as a film script replete with stage direction between hotel floors and suites. Robert Kennedy - a man none would want as an enemy - was strident in his opposition. Caro details minute by hour the events of the day. But - sins of omission - he never mentions who was an alternative vice president. Bobby, Organized Labor and Civil Rights interests hated LBJ and felt betrayed by JFKs offer. After Dallas where might America have gone if LBJ had not got the job? Caro is a master of detail, not of analysis.

Caro's portrait of LBJ shows a political dinosaur, a back office bully living on aggression, cunning and immense vanity wrapped up in heavy drinking and smoking. He was also sordidly corrupt, on a modest $35,000 pa salary he became a multi millionaire (p 286 & Chapter 10). Their day was done, JFK and his generation of the "best and the brightest" saw them off....yes. Chapter Eight shows LBJ to be a hard line hawk over the Cuban missile crisis advocating direct confrontation with Russia. By then the Vice President had become isolated and irrelevant, moping about looking for someone - anyone - to talk to. Cuba confirmed that dinosaurs did have very small brains with a bellicose LBJ dangerously out of his depth. What Caro illustrates is that LBJ could talk but not that he could think. If LBJ had been in charge, add in Curtis LeMay et al, would the missiles have stayed in their silos?

For me a great biography is about what you leave out rather than what you include. Mr Caro has left nothing out. He also takes a somewhat adoring view of the Kennedy's (especially RFK p227-43), a distortion not shared by all of us. When finished the books will be a gift for a good narrative historian to produce a single volume biography of genius. Mr Caro's work is excellent but unrefined. If you have the enthusiasm and stamina read this - I will be buying the final volume. It is an exceptional history of the man, less so of his times.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 17, 2013 3:24 PM GMT

Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807-15
Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807-15
by Rory Muir
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Britain and Napoleon. Peripheral Yes, Pivotal Definitely, 10 Oct. 2012
I have tended to marginalize the part Britain played in the defeat of Napoleon. I now know better. This book deals with the political, financial and military contribution made by Britain in the last eight years (it lasted 22 years starting in 1792) of the Napoleonic War.

This is not a book of battles and campaigns although the Peninsular war is well analysed from a strategic and political perspective. Here is what Britain did to defeat Napoleon in total. When we read history typically we isolate a battle or event, a treaty or personality. Dr Muir explains just how much was happening "an interlocking mosaic of problems" (page xii). And it is hard for us to grasp the lengthy time it took to communicate living in an age of instantaneous information and centralised power.

Britain had not wanted war, participation let alone victory was far from certain. There was the infection of 1789 revolutionary ideals; rebellion in Ireland and the Channel fleet had mutinied. Britain was a nepotistic oligarchy (the Wellesley clan comes to mind) with a mad King. Spencer Perceval, the Prime Minster, was to be assassinated in May 1812. Equally the country was a democracy where parties (or factions) and public opinion had to be courted. There were major domestic tensions - the Luddites and Catholic Emancipation were problematic. Even nature waded in with poor harvests and severe winters.

Then Britain's allies were hard to manage; coalitions were fluid and friends were often devious and dangerous. The Spanish were never easy, Danes and Swedes awkward, Mediterranean Kingdoms a distraction. Then new enemies came out of the woodwork (War with America 1811-1813). Britain had to formulate policies that saw clearly while often turning a blind eye.

Dr Muir details the economic aspects. Although wealthy it was a colossal strain to fund the war; the Gold Standard had been abandoned for paper money and huge borrowing (and debt servicing) was required. Muir is good at introducing characters - such as William Huskisson Secretary to the Treasury - and explaining complex policies. " By 1809 the system was beginning to break down, owing to the difficulties in raising new taxes and a considerable increases in spending" (page 111). Waterloo was not the only 'close run thing' in Britain's Napoleonic adventure. But all at a price "between 1808-1815 government spending grew to over 25% of national income... and the great bulk of the increase in government revenue came not from economic growth but from new and higher taxes"(p 376). Britain's national debt increased from £245m in 1793 to £834m in 1815. Then the reward after war - a severe and prolonged recession while income tax never went away.

Dr Muir style allows the reader to appreciate events rather than pushing his own conclusions. For example on the evidence it is easy to condemn the Spanish for their dismal military and political contribution. However he always puts the other side, Spain was suspicious of Britain taking her Latin American markets. His consideration of Wellington is balanced; his generalship aside Muir shows that he was a cunning politician (p268, his reluctance to invade France 1813 with Wellington behaving more as Prime Minster than field commander). He might have moved quicker had he not been weighed down by endless awards (and lots of cash) from a grateful nation.

Britain made an immense contribution to the defeat of Napoleon. Although peripheral it was pivotal in winning the war and the settlement that followed. Without Britain would the allies have been divided and picked off to France's benefit? Britain lost between 200,000 /250,000 men (p 377). While a large percentage were from disease rather than combat it is still demographically comparable to World War One losses. To keep the allies active, "Britain paid £65.8 million in subsides, which were never enough to pay more than a fraction of the cost of war, and they produced relatively little influence or gratitude"(p 380).

As a bonus the book is illustrated with contemporary cartoons, a much more sophisticated art form than we have today. My only disappointment is there is not a companion volume for 1792-1806. If you are well read or just curious on Napoleonic history, politics and economics, I would be surprised if you did not enjoy this book.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 13, 2013 11:08 AM GMT

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