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Paul Bowes (Wales, United Kingdom)
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Fender 9050 Stainless Steel Flatwound Long Scale Bass Strings9050ML 50-100
Fender 9050 Stainless Steel Flatwound Long Scale Bass Strings9050ML 50-100
Offered by RST Music
Price: 17.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent strings, good value for money, quick delivery, 19 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These are excellent strings. They're brighter and more articulate than I expected for flatwounds, without being tinny or clangy - this may be the stainless steel's contribution - smooth but not slippery, and nicely balanced across the set. This 9050ML set is intended for long scale instruments: i.e., the standard 34" scale as per the Fender Precision or Jazz. Should be fine for anything that doesn't demand extreme treble response: may not suit slap'n'poppers.

I haven't used Fender flatwounds before, but I will be buying them again, particularly at this price, which is cheap enough to attract experimenters. Delivered in 2 working days from RST Music by Royal Mail.


Jimmy's Guitar String Bible
Jimmy's Guitar String Bible
Price: 2.67

2.0 out of 5 stars Very basic guide to guitar strings, 9 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a basic guide to guitar strings. It's aimed at the complete beginner who has no clue about types of strings, string gauges, tuning the instrument correctly, or how to attach the strings securely to the instrument. As such, it meets a need, although all the information here is easily accessible on the net, and any competent music retailer will answer questions about strings.

I found it something of a missed opportunity: there's literally nothing here that I didn't already know, and I don't consider myself to be an expert. A 'string bible' - in the sense of an authoritative study of the subject - it isn't, which is a pity as there's a gap in the market. Whether you consider the low price to excuse the limited content is a vexed question. I took advantage of a limited-period free download offer.

Recommended only to readers who have no idea where to start and very limited time for research.


Letters from a Stoic: Epistulae Morales Ad Lucilium (Classics)
Letters from a Stoic: Epistulae Morales Ad Lucilium (Classics)
by Seneca
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars A useful and readable selection from the 'Epistulae morales ad Lucilium', 7 July 2013
'Letters From a Stoic' translates and collects forty of the one hundred and twenty-four letters written by Seneca to his friend Lucilius (Epistulae morales ad Lucilium) around 64-65 AD. The translator, Robin Campbell, notes in his introduction that these polished letters were probably intended for publication from the beginning, and often resemble what we would now call short essays rather than a casual exchange of news. Seneca was in his sixties at the time of writing and was shortly to be required by Nero to commit suicide. This book reproduces in an appendix the account of that death given by Tacitus.

This is an intelligent selection from the Letters that gives the modern reader an interesting and almost painless introduction to the world of Rome in the first century AD, with many sidelights on daily life, and to the practical Stoicism of which Seneca was an influential advocate. Seneca was an independent and humane thinker, whose surviving writings were influential in Europe well into the seventeenth century. He had been at the centre of events long enough to know how imperial Rome worked, but was far from uncritical of its values: the letters that deal with the 'entertainments' of the arena and advocate humane treatment of slaves are in advance of their times.

Recommended particularly for readers looking for an accessible way into the literature of classical Rome. The translation dates from 1969, with minor revisions in 2004, and is very readable.


The Truth About Jazz Guitar
The Truth About Jazz Guitar
Price: 1.86

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brief, rather unengaging collection of magazine columns, 25 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
'The Truth About Jazz' is a brief collection of articles previously published in Just Jazz Guitar magazine. They are written from the perspective of a player working in the mainstream tradition - Wes Montgomery is cited as the model player - and concentrate mainly on aspects of musicianship and performance that have more to do with values and perspectives than technical skills or repertoire. There are discussions of 'time', of 'telling a story', of the importance of the audience, of how an obsession with speed of execution can damage musicality and so on. As a result, 'The Truth About Jazz' seems to be aimed at beginning and intermediate level jazz guitar players.

The 'book' - more of a pamphlet - is very cheap, and much of what Skip Morris has to say is wise. Whether these things may be usefully discussed, or only demonstrated directly, is open to question. I didn't find much here that wasn't fairly obvious, and lacking in specificity: but 'The Truth About Jazz' might make a young player pause for thought.


2013 Guitar Gear FAQ
2013 Guitar Gear FAQ
Price: 2.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introductory guide to selecting and using guitars and gear, 25 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Do you want to know how to set up a pedal chain rationally? At what point you need to invest in a separate power supply for those pedals? Whether valve amps are 'better' than tube amps? How solid-state rectifiers differ from valve rectifiers? What a player means when he describes a guitar tone as 'woody'? Whether an amp attenuator is worth the money? What relationship scale length has to 'playability'? How you fix a loose pickguard screw? Whether you are safe leaving your guitar in the boot of your car in hot weather?

It's all here, explained straightforwardly without unnecessary jargon or mystification, from the common-sense standpoint of a player who has owned and used many of the items he describes. The author even describes how to pack a guitar safely for mailing.

Strictly speaking, there is nothing new here. What Lance Holland has done is to gather together a lot of essential information for the beginning player that is otherwise scattered across many forums, blog pages, websites, books and magazine articles. He's also left out all the dubious stuff that gets in the way: theological discussions of Gibson-versus-Fender, whacky opinions parading as facts, adverts masquerading as content. When Holland offers advice on, say, which value-for-money pedals or amplifiers are worth purchasing, he's quite clear that this is subjective: but his advice is sound, and one never feels that he's favouring particular manufacturers. He also has no patience with manufacturers' hype. His brief discussion of relic-ing, for example, is a model of fairness. Where links to web sites and online video are provided, the content is genuinely illustrative of the point being made.

There are a few small black marks. The proof-reading has been a little erratic: there are a few missing words and misspelled words ('Peavey' is 'Peavy', for example), and the formatting is occasionally ragged, though nothing is unreadable. The purchaser also needs to be aware that the book was written with an American reader in mind, so measurements are in inches and ballpark prices quoted are in dollars: but these vary from country to country anyway, and any online currency converter will make conversion easy.

Given its small size, this is a remarkably useful and time- and money-saving introduction to the nuts and bolts of buying, setting up, maintaining and using the electric guitar and its associated technology. The low cost makes purchase a no-brainer.


Idiopathy
Idiopathy
by Sam Byers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.34

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Promising first novel with a great central character, 23 Jun 2013
This review is from: Idiopathy (Hardcover)
'Idiopathy' is primarily a character study, with gestures in the direction of being an oblique portrait of a generation. It's in this sense that the medical term 'idiopathy' - a condition that arises spontaneously or from an unknown cause - is germane.

The three central characters, each in a different way, are failing to cope. Daniel has settled for a relationship that may be not just second-best but actively hollow. Katherine, Daniel's former partner, is possessed by rage and helpless in the face of a perverse instinct to sabotage her own, and everybody else's happiness. Their friend Nathan, newly emerged from institutional care, is struggling to find a viable way of being that doesn't end in self-harm. All three have parents who are variously absent, self-absorbed or actively toxic. In the background, a new disease of cattle is causing increasing disquiet.

Sam Byers has been extensively praised for this first novel, and it's easy to see why. He can create complex, believable characters - a skill that many more experienced writers have yet to master. (Katherine in particular is wonderfully drawn, but even the minor figures are clearly characterised and memorable.) He can write sharp dialogue. He can handle comedy and satire without resorting to cartoon-like exaggeration. He's intelligent enough to understand that a good fictional experience doesn't depend on the reader liking the central characters: there are several memorable monsters here, and Byers is particularly good on the seemingly endless capacity of human beings for hypocrisy, moral cowardice and lack of self-awareness. In 'Idiopathy' all these strengths are displayed.

He also has faults. His structural sense is much less acute than his feeling for character and his grasp of psychology. This lack manifests itself in different ways. For me, the weakest aspect of 'Idiopathy' was the plotting, which proceeds by fits and starts and culminates - if that's the term - in an anticlimax. Readers expecting much about cattle, unusual diseases thereof, or the sins of 'big food' are particularly likely to be disappointed: this is not the eco-novel that the cover and blurb might lead you to expect.

Older readers may notice what appears to be the excessive influence of R.D. Laing (of 'Knots' fame) on the endlessly ramifying analyses of contradictory and self-defeating thought processes: how much patience the individual reader will have with this will vary. There is a also a general tendency to a complacent sub-Jamesian elaboration of sentence structure that didn't add much to this reader's experience. Tougher editing would have disposed of this. At 310 pages, the book is probably fifty pages longer than it need be.

That said, 'Idiopathy' is serious, readable, amusing, perceptive about aspects of contemporary life, above the standard of most first novels, and at its best promises better to come.


Instruction Manual for Swallowing
Instruction Manual for Swallowing
by Adam Marek
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: 6.98

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Moderately interesting stories with an enigmatic bent, 22 Jun 2013
'Instruction Manual For Swallowing', Adam Marek's first collection, appeared in 2007. It gathers fourteen stories, of which a handful have appeared in anthologies and magazines.

Marek is still a relatively young writer, but was already in his thirties when this book appeared, and had developed a consistent voice. Typically, the tone is straightforward, even flat: there are no verbal fireworks, and Marek's narrators are ordinary people with no special powers of understanding - though they encounter others who are less predictable.

Marek decants some of these people into situations in which ordinary life, with its sushi bars and iPods and art galleries, is transformed by an eruption of the bizarre. Some find themselves subject to cartoonish social torments. Others inhabit nightmarish parallel or future worlds, in which they labour against grotesque odds to perform a version of normality. Little is explained.

Adam Marek is writing about our world, with its familiar gadgets and cultural memes, but his stories range further: they are not limited in imagination to the hermetically-sealed world of the metropolitan middle-class. Nor is Marek frightened of being thought low-brow for treating themes more familiar from SF and fantasy than from literary fiction.

On the other hand, I found none of these stories particularly memorable. The best seem to aspire to something like Kafka's atmosphere of existential strangeness and dread, but lack that writer's compelling power. The lesser stories are variations on familiar themes in recent popular fiction and cinema. There is throughout too great a dependence on the device of refusing to explain, which aims at the fascination of the enigmatic but risks leaving the reader marooned with a sense that the stranger events of the stories are essentially authorial contrivances - strangeness for strangeness' sake, effortful and unmotivated. There is a feeling of falling between stools: of a writer who isn't powerful enough to aspire to the heights, but can't reconcile himself to writing out-and-out popular fiction for a mass audience. The stories that stay closest to the everyday are the most convincing.

On balance, 'Instruction Manual For Swallowing' is worth glancing at for anyone interested in contemporary British fiction. I found it too derivative of its influences to be of more than passing interest. Adam Marek has since produced a second volume of stories, which I haven't read.


The Economics Book
The Economics Book
by Niall Kishtainy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.55

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to economics from a surprising source, 7 Jun 2013
This review is from: The Economics Book (Hardcover)
Dorling Kindersley made their name originally with heavily illustrated books, many of them aimed at children and teenagers: but economics doesn't immediately suggest itself as a likely subject for that sort of treatment. Surprisingly, the illustrations are in the end the least important element here: but the book works well anyway.

The approach is historical, biographical and thematic. As a result, the reader is drawn along the line of historical development of the subject, and can see how the central concepts came into being as clever men and women attempted to deal with real-world problems. Unusually, the focus is as much on the failures of economists as their successes, and on the controversies that dog the subject; and while this is hardly a radical tract, the authors never lose sight of the social and political dimension, which some textbooks finesse out of existence. Nothing is dumbed down, and the momentous events of the last few years are covered.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an insightful introduction to the subject. No maths is required, and yet a great deal of meaningful information is conveyed. Although no adult will feel patronised, 'The Economics Book' would be ideal to introduce an intelligent young non-economist to the world of economic thinking.


Occultation
Occultation
by Laird Barron
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.29

4.0 out of 5 stars An impressive second collection of stories from a distinctive voice, 20 May 2013
This review is from: Occultation (Hardcover)
'Occultation' is the second collection of Laird Barron's short stories. It collects stories published between 2007 and 2010.

'Occultation' is broadly similar in character to Barron's first collection, 'The Imago Sequence', and readers who enjoyed that book are unlikely to be disappointed by its successor. Barron works the boundary between horror and noir fiction. His aesthetic once again owes something to Lovecraft and other, later American horror writers, but he has a sufficiently powerful voice to hold his own against those echoes.

The roots of horror in Barron's imaginative world lie in a completely modern understanding of human psychology. These stories are not musty imitations: they are set in our own time, among people with whom we might share a drink or a bed. His characters are worldly-wise travellers, sexual adventurers, familiar with alcohol and recreational drugs. In theory, they should be more capable of dealing with the sharp edges of an ancient and indifferent universe than were the God-haunted, repressed inhabitants of the classic American horror tales...

As with the earlier collection, the best stories here are the longer ones, in which Barron takes time to build the reader's rapport with his characters. He's a much better writer than is usual in the genre, and his emotional range is unusually wide; the gay protagonists of 'Mysterium Tremendum' and 'Strappado' are completely convincing, but so are the women struggling with loss in 'The Lagerstätte' and 'Catch Hell'.

There were moments in certain of the stories at which I felt that the language was in danger of sliding back into Lovecraftian fustian and hyperbole, and might have benefited from a keener editing ear, but they were few. 'Occultation' maintains the standard set in 'The Imago Sequence'. It's hard to believe that there are many better writers in this area at the moment than Laird Barron.


The Imago Sequence and Other Stories
The Imago Sequence and Other Stories
by Laird Barron
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.36

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First-rate stories by an impressive new voice, 20 May 2013
'The Imago Sequence' is Laird Barron's first collection of short stories. It appeared in 2007, and collects stories published in magazines from 2001 onwards.

Barron works here broadly within the Lovecraftian tradition of cosmic horror, but he has also been influenced by modern noir and crime writing. His imaginative world juxtaposes the modern urban America of electronics and drugs and casual sex with the more ancient rural and wilderness America that underlies the urban veneer. Beyond lies the indifferent Darwinian universe whose less comfortable possibilities Lovecraft was one of the first to explore.

Nonetheless, Barron has a distinctive voice and a personal style, and is not content simply to retread Lovecraft's themes in King's language. The stories here are impressively even in quality and varied in range. The best of them - 'Procession of the Black Sloth', for example - contrive to be disquieting without being over-explicit: though Barron can spill blood with the best of them, too.

Firmly recommended to anybody interested in contemporary horror, as is its successor volume, 'Occultation'.


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