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David J. Kelly (Scotland)
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Dereconstructed
Dereconstructed
Price: £7.98

4.0 out of 5 stars Rightfully, one of the Southern albums of 2014, 15 Dec 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Dereconstructed (Audio CD)
firstly, I don't like the production on this album, especially listening to it on my iPhone as it sounds too muddy. The CD sounds much better, so be warned, listen on good equipment. This is the kind of Southern Rock I like loud, lyrically aware and with that little bit of a country soul feel. This is this band's second album and here they channel the Clash and the Replacements compared to their less raucous debut. The lyrics are still great, not anodyne but full of meaning and a particular Southern progressive sensibility giving you an album with references and influences that tell you that it comes from Alabama. Lee Bains lyrics express his affection for his home state but also what he would change about it, so you have the acerbic, Flags and We Dare Defend Our Rights paired with the more nostalgic The Kudzu and the Concrete and The Weeds Downtown. All songs written by someone who has an affection for his homeland while understanding the weight of its history and the effect that has on its present.


A Message from Martha: The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and its Relevance Today (Natural History Narratives)
A Message from Martha: The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and its Relevance Today (Natural History Narratives)
by Mark Avery
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.59

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We must do our damndest to make sure this doesn't happen again., 26 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Why is the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon a century ago important to us today? I think that is the question that Mark Avery is posing in this book. Most of the species which have become extinct in recent years have been restricted range species, found on islands, or species found more widely but which have small populations. The Passenger Pigeon was a super abundant, widespread continental species which was probably the most numerous bird in the world. So the author's question is one that we need to understand.

The author explores the biology, ecology and social history of the Passenger Pigeon and goes on a road trip through the main part of its historic range. He looks at the small cultural footprint left by this species and its part in American history. He explores the possible reasons that caused it to become vulnerable to extinction, and the shows how the Passenger Pigeon may be the canary in the mine. The impact of our increasing population has affected and will affect so many more species unless we take action now. The last chapter draws parallels with the Passenger Pigeon and the European Turtle Dove where a catastrophic decline seems to have been caused by human "progress".

I enjoyed this book, it taught me a lot I didn't know about the amazing biology and extinction of this unique species. We don't need illustrations, this book is about ideas. The message from Martha, the last of her species, that Mark Avery channels is that we need to change, we are causing extinctions, sometimes deliberately, sometimes inadvertently but it is us. As in his previous book he ends with a call to become politically active for all concerned by the threat to our environment, by being active we can put the environment further up the politicians' agenda.


Girls Who Cry Need Cake
Girls Who Cry Need Cake
Price: £10.94

4.0 out of 5 stars An assured debut, 25 Aug 2014
This review is from: Girls Who Cry Need Cake (Audio CD)
After getting a hold of Jenny's new album, Small Town Misfits, I decided to investigate her back catalogue. This is her debut album and there is a decade between this album and her latest and, I am glad to say, they are very different even although they are both distinctively Jenny Queen. The newer album is more varied in tone and subject, darker and more mature. Girls Who Cry Need Cake is mainly about a break up, or maybe break ups, and is a quieter album, where acoustic instruments take the lead and so is less varied but no less interesting.

At ten songs the album doesn't overstay its welcome, and the songs are well written with good, articulate lyrics and with a more traditional, beautifully simple country feel. The theme running through the album means the songs are personal, describing the emotions and thoughts of someone going through a break up. One song, "Porcelain", is a cover of the Moby song and it fits seamlessly into the album, very different from the original but still recognisable. It was apparently released as a single, as was the opening track "Drowning Slowly".

It is difficult to pick a standout track as they are all pretty high quality. As I write I am waiting for a CD of the second album to arrive and it was released in 2009, so that's five years between albums. If it's as good a Girls Who Cry Need Cake or Small Town Misfits then it'll be a long wait for her fourth album. I am really glad that this artist brought herself to me attention, her material is rare in the UK but she deserves to be much better known.


Small Town Misfits
Small Town Misfits
Price: £7.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A cycle of songs exploring the darker aspects of our lives, 22 Jun 2014
This review is from: Small Town Misfits (MP3 Download)
This is the third album from Ohio born, Sydney based, Jenny Queen, a singer songwriter, author and natural history geek, which is how I got to this album. As the title suggests the album is a cycle of songs about small town life, literate songs which are well crafted and which draw the listener in. Jenny's songs show some essential elements in common with a few of my favourite bands, the Bottle Rockets, Drive-by Truckers and even Slobberbone, in that she is telling a story in each song, without forgetting that these are songs and making sure that there's a good tune to match. The thirteen songs on this album run to 44 minutes, to me that's a perfect length and all of the songs are less than 4 minutes long.

I always dislike trying to compare artists to each other but it sometimes helps bring people in to listen to music they may not have tried before. Musically there's a lot in common with Lucinda Williams or Ryan Adams, which is a good thing in my opinion. I will now make the effort to get hold of her other albums, hopefully in old fashioned CD form.

As for highlights, well that's a great t shirt on the cover, but in all seriousness the songs are pretty consistently good and I would find it difficult to choose one over the other. I normally prefer rockier songs but the ones on this album which really stick in my mind the most are probably the least rocky, such as the rather dissolute and sad song about coming down after a night out "Wait for the Night" or the song "Mother Son" concerning the effects young men's sometimes fatal love of cars, this struck a personal note for me. I am really happy that I was pointed towards this album, it's tunefully dark take on life with a feminine twist means I have been listening to it a lot over the last week..


Politics and the English Language
Politics and the English Language
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Effective and thought provoking, 13 April 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The first part of this publication is an essay on the use of the English language and the prevalence of poor, lazy English among the political writers of the mid twentieth century. It is, however, just as true today, as it was when it was written and I was able to see many of the faults Orwell picks out in many passages I have written. The essay is thought provoking and has made me more aware of how I use language. Clarity and simplicity are the main messages that Orwell is attempting to get to the reader, and as one would expect with a great writer does so clearly, simply and effectively.

The second part of the booklet is a review of "Mein Kampf" and it is difficult to read this now as a reader in 1940 would have. We are now all too aware of the horrors which Hitler and his party brought to Europe. From the review we can see that Orwell had begun to understand he true nature of Hitler and his regime but he and his 1940 audience still have no idea of the true nature of Hitler's tyranny and the genocidal years that follow.


TP-Link TD-W8968 300Mbps Wireless N USB ADSL2+ Modem Router for Phone Line Connections (USB Port for Storage Sharing, Printer Sharing, 3G Modem Sharing, FTP Server and Media Server)
TP-Link TD-W8968 300Mbps Wireless N USB ADSL2+ Modem Router for Phone Line Connections (USB Port for Storage Sharing, Printer Sharing, 3G Modem Sharing, FTP Server and Media Server)
Price: £29.00

2.0 out of 5 stars Unreliable, 1 Mar 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
After three days this router loses its internet connection every 5-10 minutes. I am on BT Broadband and the HomeHub was a lot more stable and gave a better Wi-Fi signal than this, my I phone 4GS responds better if I switch off wi-fi when it is in range of this router. Unless performance improves I will be reverting back to the HomeHub. I see a lot of satisfied reviewers on these pages but even with the power of the internet (when it's on) I can't find an explanation or solution to my intermittent access.


Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid
Kraken: The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid
by Wendy Williams
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A teuthological review, 21 Feb 2013
This book is a popular review of the latest science around the biology of the Cephalopoda, not just the squid of the title but also various octopus, cuttlefish and the Nautilus. Many of us will be familiar with these animals as food, calamari or pulpo, but their importance goes far beyond that. As the biologists who study cephalopods, teuthologists, uncover more data on these animals the more questions they need to answer. The science of squids and their ilk has led to advances in evolutionary biology, neuroscience, fisheries ecology and ethology.

Wendy Williams uses this book to review the state of modern teuthology, concentrating on the swuid including the little know but fascinating Giant and Colossal Squid and our search to discover more about them as well as their passage from creatures of myth to fully described and named species. The ecology of the Humboldt Squid, its researchers and what their research may reveal about the changing ecology of the oceans features a lot in the book but so does the importance of squid neurons in understanding how the human nervous system works, the evolution of the eye and the amazing life cycle of all cephalapods, exemplified by the Pacific Giant Octopus. Through it all the question of cephalaopd intelligence comes through, how it compares to mammalian intelligence and how these animals learn, communicate and develop forms a fascinating and intriguing major theme of the book.

Williams is a good author she lets the scientists tell their stories and writes around these. The book is beautiful, with an old fashioned feel to the paper and that and the splendid cover wre what first attracted me to it. Once I started it I found it easy to read and, despite, probably having a bit more knowledge about these animals than the average reader I found out plenty of new information which showed why these animals fascinate the scientist heroes of the book.


Histories of Nations: How Their Identities Were Forged
Histories of Nations: How Their Identities Were Forged
by Peter Furtado
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.32

4.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts but not always good with parts, 20 Feb 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The book attempts to consider how the the histories of various states are perceived within those states through asking historians from each statewrite an essay examining their countries' respective pasts and offer an opinion on how their home state's "national identity" is based around the popular perception of its history.

The States or counrtries examined include Egypt, India, Iran, Greece, China, Ireland, Spain, France, Russia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, Netherlands, Sweden, Great Britain, USA, Australia, Ghana, Finland, Argentina, Canada, Italy, Japan, Germany and Israel. I can't call all of them countries as some are multi-national states such as Russia, China, the United Kingdom and Spain. The treatement of each state is inconsistent. The multi national chartacter of some states comes out well but in others the dominant national "identity" is discussed to the detriment or exclusion of the others. Where more modern states are discussed this is in greater depth than with the more ancient and complex states such as Iran.

A further criticism of the book would be in the Eurocentric bias shown in the selection of states discussed. There are few African states and only the largest Asian and South American states are given space. I found the book interesting in parts but often the essays were too superficial. I enjoyed it but I was not sure that it was telling me much new about the countries discussed.


A History of the World in Twelve Maps
A History of the World in Twelve Maps
by Jerry Brotton
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting but a challenging read, 5 Jan 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I found the subject matter of this book to be of great interest and it probably says more about me than it does the author that I found this a challenging read. The concept is that for as long as people have been producing maps of the world they have put their own cultural spin on those maps. Whether it is the ancient Babylonian stone tablet that starts the book where the centre of the world is Babylon, the Hereford mappa mund which has Jerusalem as its pivot through to the controversial Peters projection which sought to address the Eurocentric, "imperialist" bias of the standard Mercator projection in the 1960s and 1970s.

Brotton is really good at explaining the geometry of the production of maps and how the various map makers through history used the latest advances in science and technology to map the world. He also charts the development of the "science" of geography and of how the cultural norms and ideologies of the map makers influence their maps. The book takes us all the way through to Google earth and the readily available geo-images we now have access to on our tablets and smart phones.

This is a well written book, explaining the advances in map making and their results and bringing out the personalities and biographies of the cartographers. As I said, it probably says more about me that in some of the more technical passages I found myself losing concentration and the book took me longer to finish than many of the historical books I have read. I found, however, that it was actually worth the effort.


Fighting for Birds: 25 Years in Nature Conservation
Fighting for Birds: 25 Years in Nature Conservation
by Mark Avery
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.69

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why we need the RSPB and its ilk, 23 Aug 2012
This book distills one man's life but it is not an autobiography, it is the story of his vocation, his calling to a cause which should be important to every single person who has been uplifted at the sound of the skylark's song as spring approaches and the days grow longer in Spring, or had the privilage of watching hen harriers quarter over fields in search of voles. Mark Avery was employed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for 25 years and he describes it as a love affair rather than a job. He convinces the reader that of all the conservation NGOs in the UK, the best and most effective is the RSPB. It isn't perfect, and Avery suggests many ways in which it could be improved, but it has been effective in so many struggles to protect what we have left of our natural environment.

He covers the conservation issues which have hit the headlines over the last 25 years. Forestry in the Flow Country, the intensification of agriculture and the subsequent decline in common farmland birds, the growth of nature reserves, the reintroduction of iconic species such as the Red Kite, White-tailed Eagle and Common Crane to areas from where they were lost, climate change and our responses. Even the misguided and thoughtless responses such as the switching of food production to the production of biofuels and the presecution of Britain's birds of prey by the privileged few so they can shoot mass reared, artificially maintained hordes of game birds, many of which are as wild or native to Britain's countryside as Turkeys and Chickens. These are some of the topics covered in this passionate and eminently readable book which is unashamedly one sided, as it should be, and yet readable and thought provoking.

The whole ethos of the book is summed up in an anecdote Avery recalls about a rather testy meeting with Ed Milliband, the then Energy and Climate Change Secretary, that he should bear in mind that the environmental NGOs, such as the RSPB and its allies, were on the same side unlike the spokesmen for the vested interests. The NGOs were fighting for what they believed was right and stood to make no profit from their position, and the Sceretary should put more weight on the evidence they presented than of that of the spin doctors and lobbyists employed by those who stood to make money from damaging our natural inheritance. Avery says this is true, and it is.


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