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S. Matthewman "Writer, theatre reviewer, geek" (UK)
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Sam & Max: Season 1 (Wii)
Sam & Max: Season 1 (Wii)
Offered by RAREWAVES
Price: £5.66

3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Infuriating design cancels out the fun, 1 Feb. 2009
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
The sense of humour than runs through Sam and Max varies between greatly amusing and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Unfortunately, the slow speed at which the point-and-click interface runs is so frustrating. Great comedy is all about timing, and when you have to have such a lag between clicking on something and the results of that interaction being shown, playing the game soon becomes a trial rather than a pleasure.


GEAR4 LeatherJacket - Leather Case for iPod Video - Black
GEAR4 LeatherJacket - Leather Case for iPod Video - Black

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Better than nothing, 7 Feb. 2008
This case was an extremely snug fit for my 60GB 5th gen iPod. So snug, in fact, that actually lifting the covering flap up in order to operate the controls or view the screen requires careful maneouvering to avoid the case getting caught on the earphone lead. It's also nigh on impossible to use a cabled charger into the bottom socket, as the hole that nominally grants access to the docking port on the iPod is so snug that the cable can't fully click into place.

The belt clip feels too loose when attached to be trusted, and while the lanyard seems a sensible alternative, the weight of the hard drive-based iPod doesn't work too well suspended from one's neck. This relegates the case to use within a pocket -- the cushioned leather is good for protecting the iPod, without significantly adding to the bulk.


Absolute Sandman: v. 2
Absolute Sandman: v. 2
by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sumptuous, heavyweight version of a classic comic, 4 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Absolute Sandman: v. 2 (Hardcover)
This second volume of The Absolute Sandman covers a purple patch in Neil Gaiman's epic series. Every page of the original run has been digitally remastered to produce the highest quality reproduction - and in the impressive hardback cover and larger page size, it's a sight to behold.

A couple of revisionist elements jar slightly. Colleen Dolan has re-inked her issue of "A Game of You" (originally Sandman #34), while a panel in "The Hunt" has been completely redrawn because the original (depicting a pair of werewolves mating) apparently looked a little too like just a man and a wolf. I remain unconvinced that the revisions bring any enhancements to the table.

The same cannot be said of the extras: a never-before-reprinted story about Destiny, various artists' interpretations of Morpheus (previously published as A Gallery of Dream), various other reprints and Gaiman's script for one of the Season of Mists issues, illustrated by the original pencil drafts for the same issue.

This impressive and weighty book is an invaluable record of one of the comics world's landmark series, and will be an essential part of any Sandman fan's (suitably reinforced) bookshelf.


Intempo Digital RDI  iPod Speaker Dock With Built In DAB
Intempo Digital RDI iPod Speaker Dock With Built In DAB

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good performance, great looks, great value, 20 Jan. 2008
The RDI is a great looker -- and, crucially, retains both its looks and its usefulness even when the iPod is removed, unlike many other dock systems. Sound reproduction is on a par with what you'd expect at this price range, although you may need to tweak the bass and treble settings to get the best out of the machine in your own environment.

While the alarm and sleep/snooze settings are a bonus, this is no clock radio but a decent living room system that combines playout of your iPod library with a decent DAB/FM radio and support for other audio through the built-in AUX port.


Defensive Design for the Web: How to Improve Error Messages, Help, Forms, and Other Crisis Points: How to Improve Error Messages, Help, Forms, and Other Online Crisis Points (Voices That Matter)
Defensive Design for the Web: How to Improve Error Messages, Help, Forms, and Other Crisis Points: How to Improve Error Messages, Help, Forms, and Other Online Crisis Points (Voices That Matter)
by 37signals
Edition: Paperback

16 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear, concise and inspiring, 7 May 2004
Murphy's Law applies just as much in the online world as in the physical one: if something can go wrong, it will. How we deal with those situations is what makes the difference between good web designers and great web designers.
37signals' book throws its readers straight in there, no messing about: screen grabs of sites, pointing out the bad design decisions and highlighting the good. Simply laid out, 37signals' book allows the examples to speak for themselves, adding just enough information to back up their reasoning and no more.
Peppered throughout the book are a selection of "head-to-head" comparisons: on the left-hand page, a site that makes a fundamental mistake; on the right, a competitor that gets it right.
This book can't make a bad designer a good one. But if you're a good designer, it will help you improve no end.


The White House Mess
The White House Mess
by Christopher Buckley
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly amusing, 24 Feb. 2004
This review is from: The White House Mess (Paperback)
The White House Mess is a parody of those self-important memoirs that crop up after every change of administration in the White House. As such, it's competent, and funny in its own way.
However, the joke of having a minor player constantly over-estimate his own importance does wear thin after a while, well before the book's end. Devotees of "The West Wing" (which started after this book's first publcation in the US, but before its UK reprint) will not find the sophistication of wit that they have come to expect from a not-always-as-competent-as-they'd-like-to-think administration.
I came to this book expecting great things, after loving the same author's "No Way To Treat a First Lady". While I had fun reading The White House Mess, it's a pale shadow of what it could have been.


The Book Group: The Complete First Series [DVD] [2001]
The Book Group: The Complete First Series [DVD] [2001]
Dvd ~ Anne Dudek

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Laughing at other people's pain -- sitcom at its best, 13 May 2003
Great comedy, it has been said, is all about somebody else’s pain. Whether it’s a custard pie to the face, a slip on a banana skin, or Blackadder’s hapless servant Baldrick having some form of root vegetable inserted into a bodily orifice, there’s something about watching other people squirm that makes us all laugh.
Never has this been more apparent than in the last couple of years, with comedies that go out of their way to show other people’s tortuous lives served up for our comedy delectation. Leading the vanguard of this movement has been ‘The Office’, to the extent that it’s now seemingly illegal to hold an awards ceremony without giving some form of gong to Ricky Gervais. In some ways this is a shame, as writer/director Annie Griffin’s ‘The Book Group’ for Channel 4 has been cruelly overlooked.
The premise is simple: uptight American Claire, anxious to meet new people now that she lives in Glasgow, sets up a book group – but the people that turn up are far from what she expected. The assorted group of misfits meet up each week, ostensibly to talk about a particular book, but real life keeps getting in the way.
The absence of a laughter track is a real godsend for this series, as so much of the comedy depends upon nuances of dialogue and subtleties of expression that are easy to miss. There are plenty of situations that would never work if an audience had to be given the space to find a punchline. In particular, at the end of the first episode as Anne Dudek's uptight Claire makes a ridiculously ham-fisted pass at Barney, shouts and cries in anger and despair once he's left, only to realise that she's not alone in the flat, is tortuous to watch. Like The Office, humour comes from us watching Claire sink as low as we think it's possible to go, and then sinking ever further.
The DVD comes with a commentary by the series' writer and director, Annie Griffin. Informative and enlightening in places, she does find talking for three hours non-stop a little much, and who can blame her? Every so often, she stops discussing the behind-the-scenes action, of character motivation. You can almost hear her sitting back in her chair, joining us as an audience member, drawing in breath sharply in response to a particularly cutting put-down by one character to another. Given that she wrote the lines they utter, the fact that they still entrance her as they do us is a testament to the efficacy of the script and the actors' performances.


The West Wing
The West Wing
by Martin Sheen
Edition: Hardcover

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Detailed plots of the first two seasons, 18 Mar. 2003
This review is from: The West Wing (Hardcover)
This delightful coffee-table book contains detailed summaries of every episode of the first two seasons of The West Wing. The plots all move so fast that it's impossible to get every nuance that the writers and actors bring to each episode, but it does a creditable job of realising one of the best TV shows in print form.
Each of the main actors is put under the spotlight as well, along with some of the background crew - especially series creator Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme. Some of the comments do get slightly repetitive (just how many times can any one person say they love working with Alison Janney?) but the feeling of camaraderie between cast and crew is palpable.


The Sacrifice
The Sacrifice
by Gordon Linton
Edition: Paperback

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Diverting, but undemanding, 17 Mar. 2003
This review is from: The Sacrifice (Paperback)
Anybody who has grown up gay in a small village will know how important it can suddenly become when you meet someone like you; someone who shares your secret. Greg Chaley, the hero of new novel The Sacrifice, finds out when he meets Kit, in his school choir.
Two years older than he is, the androgynous older boy is immediately aware that Greg is different; not because he's gay, but because, like himself, he has supernatural abilities. At first, Greg is sceptical. It is only after wishing a dreadful fate on his homophobic music teacher, who subsequently suffers a horrific car crash, that he begins to believe that Kit may have a point and that he really is not like other men.
Gordon Linton's debut as a novelist follows the path of Greg's dalliance with black arts through school and on into university. Whenever dark magic is used in fiction, there's often a strong link with sex (Buffy The Vampire Slayer's lesbian couple of Tara and Willow, concocting powerful spells together in their bedroom, being just one recent example). T's the same case here: as Greg's powers begin to grow, he meets and falls in love with the handsome Phillipe, only to find that their passionate lovemaking is channelling his powers into performing acts of criminal - and fatal - evil.
If the whole premise sounds hokey, it's redeemed by the absolute seriousness with which it's taken within the framework of the novel itself. When the plot dips into pure melodrama, the fact that the reader's own scepticism is echoed by Greg's own thoughts helps to propel the story onwards.
As the story is moves on to its inevitable climax, Linton for the most part manages to keep on the right side of the line that divides the fantastic from the faintly ridiculous. One of the least believable elements, though, is the manner in which the villain of the piece is despatched. While the method is just about plausible within the framework of the book, the fact that it needs to be explained a few pages later on is maybe a sign that its execution is weaker than it should be.
All in all, The Sacrifice is a satisfying, if at times undemanding, read.


Money 2003 Financial Suite (inc. Tax Saver Deluxe)
Money 2003 Financial Suite (inc. Tax Saver Deluxe)

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Immensely useful, though not worthing upgrading from 2002, 30 Jan. 2003
A recent newspaper report said that over 9 million Britons suffer from "financial phobia" - a condition which renders them incapable of forming a "consistent and productive relationship with their money".
if that's the case, MS Money ought to be available on prescription. It's incredibly easy to use for anybody who's not used to keeping track of their finances.
If you have a compatible bank or building society internet banking facility (for example, Nationwide's, which I use), you can download items directly into your "account register". Company names, etc., often come down in the same shorthand code that appears on your printed statements - but correct this to a fulle rversion once, and future downloaded items automatically use the corrected name. It's touches like this that go a long way to curing one's phobia about sorting out your money!
If you already have Money 2002, there possibly aren't enough improvements to make upgrading an essential purchase. Some of the "upgrades", such as a task-based home page, are less than useful, especially when the customisable "normal" front page is so useful. But as an upgrade from hiding from the bank manager, it's an essential purchase!


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