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Alan Pavelin (Chislehurst, UK)

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British Politics For Dummies (For Dummies Series)
British Politics For Dummies (For Dummies Series)
by Julian Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.18

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strongly recommended for any politics student, despite some minor errors., 18 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This book is directed at young people in particular, as is evident from the style in which it is written. Provided you don't mind that, it is a very comprehensive (404 pages) study of the history and current situation (pre-2015 election) of British politics, venturing also into EU and U.S. politics. The author, interestingly, became a Tory MP at the 2015 election.
Personally I am a political anorak rather than a dummy, so any student embarking on this study might like to note a few small errors I picked up:
Page 60, Cameron became Tory leader in 2005, not 2006.
Page 75, the election referred to was in 1929, not 1928, and Labour didn't get a majority, it was a coalition government.
Page 88, the Lib-Lab pact wasn't a coalition, and was formed in 1977, not 1974.
Page 92, the London mayor is elected using the supplementary vote method, not the alternative vote (there is a detailed description of various types of electoral system in the book).
Page 120, the Liberal Democrats use the alternative vote, not the single transferable vote, to elect their leader (though, to be fair, the former is a variant of the latter).
Page 279, the SNP government in Scotland is a majority, not a minority, government.
Page 283, Joel Barnett, inventor of the famous (or infamous) formula, was an MP and government minister, not a civil servant.
Despite these errors, inevitable in a detailed book such as this, it can be strongly recommended for any serious politics student.

Our Souls at Night
Our Souls at Night
by Kent Haruf
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent final novel about two elderly people, 17 May 2015
This review is from: Our Souls at Night (Hardcover)
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I had not heard of Kent Haruf, who died last year, but he seems to have been a highly-regarded novelist in the USA.
His novels, like those of writers such as Anne Tyler and Marilynne Robinson, are set in the same location, in his case the fictional town of Holt, Colorado. An elderly widow goes to call on an elderly widower with whom she is slightly acquainted, and by the third page she asks if he would go round to sleep with her. What follows is a moving, sympathetic, and realistic portrayal of two lonely people, and of the effect on their friends and relatives, with a denouement which is realistic rather than novelistic. This short novel, less than 200 pages, is devoid of any kind of salacious content which might be expected based on how it begins, is beautifully written, and wholly sympathetic towards the two main characters. The back cover even states that the author is "equalled to Cormac McCarthy and Ernest Hemingway"; I wouldn't go that far, though like the former he dispenses with quotation marks when writing dialogue. An excellent swansong, easy to read, with a real feeling for ordinary human lives.

The Lure of Technocracy
The Lure of Technocracy
by Jürgen Habermas
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.79

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A specialist book by a leading German intellectual, 2 April 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I had only vaguely heard of the German intellectual Jurgen Habermas, and decided to acquaint myself better with his ideas, via this newly-published collection of essays (some of which are lectures given by him).
The book is in three parts, each with 3 or 4 chapters. The first part gives the book its title, and turns out to be an impassioned case for what in Britain is called "more Europe" or "European federalism". Part II is called "European Conditions. Continued Interventions", and argues a similar case to Part I. Part III is, for the most part, very different, and is entitled "German Jews, Germans and Jews". The first of its chapters is a paper Habermas delivered about Jewish intellectuals who returned to Germany after the war. The two remaining chapters are about Martin Buber and Heinrich Heine, two philosophers greatly admired by Habermas. The chapter on Heine returns to the subject of European integration, which the author considers Heine would have strongly supported.
The book is obviously of specialist interest, but is not difficult to read, except for a chapter in part I about legal aspects of the European project.

Simply Good News
Simply Good News
by Tom Wright
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.39

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Theology aimed at the general reader by a leading New Testament scholar., 26 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Simply Good News (Paperback)
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Tom Wright is a former Bishop of Durham (surprisingly, not referred to anywhere in this book), an admired New Testament scholar, and a popular writer on theological matters. As the title implies, his emphasis is on the Gospel as "good news", not as "good advice" or "rules for living". He stresses that God's Kingdom is to come on earth, not just in heaven which he appears almost to relegate as of secondary importance (at least, that is the emphasis of the book). He also takes pains to stress that the coming of Jesus is firmly linked to previous Jewish history. The book is aimed at the general reader rather than the academic, and perhaps for this reason it tends to take some time to make particular points. Nevertheless it is well worth reading for those interested, though some may disagree with his emphasis, if not with some of his conclusions.

Oral-B Vitality Plus White and Clean Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush
Oral-B Vitality Plus White and Clean Electric Rechargeable Toothbrush
Price: £19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good basic brush, but a bit rough, 11 Mar. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I am using this brush as a supplement to my existing one. The head supplied (there is a second one) feels quite rough, so one needs to be careful that enamel is not removed. I have started using this in the mornings, and my other, with a less rough head, in the evenings. This one lacks a light to show it needs recharging, but it fits my existing charger so the one supplied I can use as a spare. A good basic brush, for which different heads can be purchased.

iPhone Portable Genius
iPhone Portable Genius
by Paul McFedries
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.58

4.0 out of 5 stars Very comprehensive, but rather bulky to carry around., 7 Feb. 2015
This review is from: iPhone Portable Genius (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have an iPad, but not (yet) an iPhone, and I acquired this book to see if I thought I could cope with an iPhone. At more than 300 pages it looks pretty complicated, but no doubt in practice one would not use all of the things described. As there is an overlap between the iPad and the iPhone, The book contained several useful suggestions for me, for example the use of dictation instead of typing. Because the book is quite bulky and heavy, it is not terribly convenient to carry around, when one is most likely to want to use one's phone. Apart from that objection, the book seems very comprehensive and certainly useful for the typical iPhone user.

Polish Film: A Twentieth Century History
Polish Film: A Twentieth Century History
by Charles Ford
Edition: Paperback
Price: £47.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but some extraneous material, 6 Feb. 2015
A fascinating mine of information for anyone interested in Polish cinema. There is much on pre-WW2 cinema, which will be new to nearly all readers. Most of the leading directors of the 20th century are adequately covered, though there is an unwarranted emphasis on the Hollywood output of Polish émigrés, such as Polanski whose Chinatown may be one of the best American movies but which has no relevance to Poland. Also Kieslowski's Blue and Red may be admirable films, but are basically French. At the same time an eminent and (to me) interesting Polish director like Zanussi is virtually ignored.
There is an extensive list of Polish films in an appendix, but hardly any bibliography.
Nevertheless an interesting book.

Leviathan [DVD]
Leviathan [DVD]
Dvd ~ Elena Lyadova
Price: £6.25

31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning Russian masterpiece, 27 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Leviathan [DVD] (DVD)
The Return (2003), The Banishment (2007), and Elena (2011), the first three features of Andrei Zvyagintsev, were all, to my mind, among the very best films of the first decade or so of this century. He has now crowned these achievements with Leviathan, and established himself as arguably the finest exponent of intense family drama in world cinema.
Like The Return, Leviathan is set in the coastal far north with its striking landscapes and seascapes. The title, referring to a giant sea serpent or whale, comes from the Old Testament Book of Job, in which a good man is smitten with all sorts of misfortunes. The Job-like character here, Kolya, not an obviously "good" person like Job, is threatened with losing his house and land to the corrupt local mayor Vadim, and invites his lawyer friend Dmitri to assist him. Things go from bad to worse, however, and the comparison with the biblical Job becomes more obvious, especially when it is spelled out to him by a local priest.
The film is also a condemnation of the corruption rife in today's Russia (state officialdom being equated to a kind of "Leviathan"), and it is surprising that the authorities have approved the film by entering it for the 2015 Oscars, especially as Putin's photo is prominently displayed in Vadim's office, the words "Pussy Riot" are momentarily glimpsed on a TV screen, and photos of past Soviet presidents are used as target practice in a shooting contest! Copious amounts of vodka are consumed by most of the characters, as well as numerous cigarettes.
Other "Leviathans" shown in the film are the rotting hulks of ships and the actual skeleton of a whale by the coast, plus a rather frightening machine which, to say more about, would amount to a spoiler.
The film looks stunning, and has an ominous musical score by Philip Glass. In the penultimate scene, an Orthodox priest delivers a sermon which is clearly the director's view of the events of his film.
Leviathan is a film in which everything that happens is bad, and none of the characters are very nice, except possibly Kolya's wife who is something of a doormat. This may sound depressing, but it is a riveting film, with lots of dialogue which requires constant concentration. It has already won awards (including "best film" at the 2014 London Festival), and should win more, including Best Foreign Film Oscar which has not been announced yet at the time of writing. It is a landmark in Russian and world cinema, and I would strongly urge all to see it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 24, 2015 5:22 PM GMT

Violette [DVD]
Violette [DVD]
Dvd ~ Emmanuelle Devos
Price: £9.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Probably of limited appeal, but excellently acted., 17 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Violette [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A biopic of Violette Leduc, a French writer and friend of Simone de Beauvoir. I don't know how accurate this portrait is, but she is presented as a tormented character with a messy personal life and a very low opinion of her appearance. The acting is excellent throughout, but the film is rather dark, both in subject-matter and (unless it is just my copy) visually. In fact the later scenes in Provence seem in striking contrast to those in Paris. Worth seeing if you are interested in the subject, but probably of limited appeal otherwise.

Finding Vivian Maier [DVD]
Finding Vivian Maier [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Maloof

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating documentary about world-class photographer, 30 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Finding Vivian Maier [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A fascinating documentary about a woman, of no distinction in her lifetime, who after her death was revealed to have been a world-class photographer. Co-director and presenter John Maloof acquired her many thousands of photographs, mostly of people she happened to spot in the street, together with undeveloped reels of film. A mysterious semi-recluse, of French origin but living in the USA, Maier worked as a nanny for most of her life, and the interviews for the film are mostly with parents who employed her and now-grown-up children she looked after. We see many of her stunning photographs, but in the latter part of the film the interviews reveal her to have been an increasingly eccentric, often rather dark, personality.

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