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Paul Bowes (Wales, United Kingdom)

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Estone String Action Gauge Ruler Guide Setup Guitar Measuring Fork Bass Luthier Tool
Estone String Action Gauge Ruler Guide Setup Guitar Measuring Fork Bass Luthier Tool
Offered by accecity
Price: £3.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful cheap string height gauge, 21 Jun 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Product was as described - a roughly credit card-sized, double-sided stainless steel gauge in imperial and metric. Took sixteen days to arrive from China, but this was acceptable given the very low price. A simple, useful tool.

Free Will: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Free Will: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Price: £6.07

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Highly repetitive and surprisingly unhelpful 'introduction' to the problematic concept of free will., 14 April 2014
Earlier reviewers here have made all the substantial points. This book doesn't really function as an introductory text. It is dryly written and extremely repetitive, which makes it unnecessarily difficult to read, given the relatively straightforward nature of the arguments advanced. If anything, the author's style, if taken by the reader to be typical of philosophical prose, is likely to put the reader off investigating these matters further.

The 'Short Introduction' books are generally excellent, but this is one to avoid.

Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love
Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love
by Simon Blackburn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.95

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A rather basic and unexciting preliminary amble around contemporary narcissism, 14 April 2014
'Mirror, Mirror' is an examination of narcissism and self-regard. Simon Blackburn looks at the ways in which we conceptualise and talk about self-esteem, and at what point such self-esteem tips over into personal and social pathology. Broadly, he comes to the conclusion that some measure of self-esteem is necessary if we are to esteem others: that we are perfectly capable, if we choose, of identifying justified and unjustified self-regard; and that history demonstrates that ours is far from being, as it is sometimes represented, a uniquely narcissistic culture or age.

Although Blackburn is a professional philosopher, he makes clear at the outset that the book is not intended to be an academic study of its subject: rather, a looser discussion around the issues. In fact, it was at its best for me when driven by strong emotion: the author's despair at the implications of the "because you're worth it" slogan - originally, and revealingly, "because I'm worth it" - and his anger in the face of the 'klepto-parasites' who infest the higher reaches of banking, industry and politics, their greed fuelled by apparently inexhaustible arrogance, their selfishness rotting necessary social values.

At other times, the argument becomes rather dry. A lengthy divagation through Milton's 'Paradise Lost' takes a long time to make some rather simple points. In fact, the book's central weakness is that nothing really new is advanced. The arguments, though for the most part clearly communicated, are unsurprising and curiously unilluminating. In a sense, an all-out polemic might have made for a better book.

'Mirror, Mirror' may serve usefully to bring things into focus for a reader who has never given much consideration to these issues. Others will want to look elsewhere for stronger meat.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 10, 2014 12:29 PM BST

Behringer UZ-400 Ultra Fuzz
Behringer UZ-400 Ultra Fuzz
Price: £15.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Basic fuzz pedal, 23 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is about the cheapest fuzz pedal available. The three controls (Level, Tone, Fuzz) provide a good variety of fuzz sounds from a fairly basic 'Satisfaction'-type fuzz on single notes to a much harder tone on two- and three-note chords.

What doesn't it do? It doesn't do spitty, dying-battery sounds; it doesn't do chaotic/random; and it won't replace a Big Muff or Fuzz Face. That said, it costs £19. Players who want a more individual or less predictable sound will probably have to spend at least three times as much.

In terms of durability and ease of use, it's similarly basic. The battery compartment is under the on-off pedal itself, which can be detached by pressing in the hinge pins - which are plastic, so be careful. Like all the other pedals in this series, the cost has been kept down by using plastic where others use metal. About half the weight of the pedal is in the metal and rubber baseplate: everything else is plastic. It's good enough for home use, but if you intend to gig - or if you're the kind of player who tends to kick pedals around - you should probably look elsewhere.

Fair quality for the very basic price.

The Turing Test
The Turing Test
Price: £2.56

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting short stories from a contemporary British SF writer, 23 Mar 2014
This review is from: The Turing Test (Kindle Edition)
This is a useful collection of Chris Beckett's short fiction published between 1991 and 2006 in such magazines as Asimov's and Interzone. It includes the story 'Dark Eden', later expanded into the novel of the same name, which won the author the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2013.

Beckett tackles a wide variety of subjects and settings, and avoids most of the more irritating genre clichés. His characteristic manner is quiet and considered rather than flashy, workmanlike rather than head-turning. It's very much in the humanist SF tradition; intelligent meditations on the pitfalls of bioengineering, the surveillance state, and the sheer malleability of human culture and identity. Although a few of the stories are linked, they work best independently rather than as a 'collection', and like most such are best taken a few at a time.

For me, Beckett's work is competent but ultimately lacks the conviction and surprise of the best SF writers. I don't think that there's anything here that is likely to change anyone's life. Nonetheless, there's enough to keep the reader's attention.

NUX PG-2 Portable Guitar Effects Pedal
NUX PG-2 Portable Guitar Effects Pedal
Offered by Hossen
Price: £28.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Reasonable headphone amp for the price, 17 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a small headphone amp for the electric guitar. It offers three basic voices: clean, overdriven (think Marshall) and high gain (think Boogie). Gain and volume can be set independently, so in practice it's possible to dial in an approximation of tones from pristine to filthy. EQ is the normal bass/middle/treble. The unit is quiet, and there's switchable noise reduction.

Effects are controlled by two three-position switches, so only two effects can be engaged at once. For practice purposes this isn't too much of a limitation. The two switches are: reverb (two types) OR delay, and tremelo OR chorus OR flanger. Depth or speed of effect is controllable in a basic way via a single knob for each switch. A small number of preset sounds is also offered, and the player can store his or her own sounds. As always with units at this price, the basic sounds are more convincing than the effected sounds; but it's easy to get the two or three sounds that most players will want. Time spent exploring the manual is rewarded, as the four knobs and various press-buttons are multi-function (a child might need some help with this).

The unit has an AUX IN mini-jack socket for playing along to an external sound source if required. There's a metronome (with tap tempo function) and tuner built in. There's a belt clip. There's a switchable backlight for the display. Power is from two AA batteries or an external 9V DC centre-negative power supply. Battery life is very reasonable, and the PG-2 works well with decent rechargeables.

Inevitably there are limitations to what you can get for the price. The case is plastic, as are most of the sockets and the controls, and the pop-off battery cover has to be handled with some care. This isn't a unit intended for professional use, or for kicking across the floor. However, the PG-2 is an accomplished little item for basic practice purposes, and I'm quite satisfied with it. Recommended to anybody looking for a headphone amplifier for silent practice with realistic tones.

The Insufferable Gaucho
The Insufferable Gaucho
by Roberto Bolano
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Short measure and minor interest, 17 Feb 2014
Almost nothing that the late Roberto Bolaño wrote is without interest, but the barrel is now being scraped. The reader of this short volume is offered five short stories and two brief essays. Both of the latter give the impression of being semi-improvised speeches rather than considered work. Bolaño's distinctive voice comes over strongly. The stories - one of which is an 'homage' to Borges' famous story 'In the South', another to Kafka's 'Josephine the Mouse Singer' - are merely competent exercises. Only in the opening story, 'Jim' - a three page fragment - do we encounter Bolaño at something like full strength.

Recommended only to the Bolaño completist, who may still feel short-changed. Readers new to the author should not start here.

The Dig
The Dig
by Cynan Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A novel of masculinity in crisis, 16 Feb 2014
This review is from: The Dig (Hardcover)
'The Dig' is Cynan Jones' second novel, and the first published by Granta, his earlier writing being published by the Welsh press Seren. Jones' excellence has been a known quantity in Wales for some time; now the author is receiving the national attention he deserved but hardly received for 'The Long Dry' and his first novel, 'Everything I Found On the Beach'. Does 'The Dig' justify his move to a larger publisher? With minor reservations, the answer is 'yes'.

Jones' real subject, as in his first novel, is modern masculinity and the relation between man and place. He is the rare contemporary writer who is accurate and unapologetic about the character of ordinary maleness, an unfashionable subject now for decades. This makes his voice refreshing among his contemporaries, although his subject is an old one. His two novels speak directly concerning the difficult situation of men in a society that seems to have diminishingly little use for male virtues and masculine values, but continues to lay on them burdens of expectation stemming from traditional male roles that now exist only on the ragged economic fringes of modern Britain.

In 'The Dig' Jones offers linked portraits of men struggling with what it is to be a man. The farmer Daniel, having lost his wife to an accident, is trying to cope alone with his grief and with the inhuman demands of lambing season. The unnamed 'big man', a loner involved in illegal hunting and pitting of badgers, seems at first Daniel's polar opposite: a focus for the dark, destructive forces of rurality, as Daniel is a nurturer. But this is not a simple antithesis. It is the strength of this short, intense novel that Jones binds these two intensely realised men together in a way that allows the reader at last to see that each in his way is a victim of forces more powerful than individuals; forces that are in the process of corrupting the succeeding generation even as the older men go down.

The book has been reviewed as though it were transparently the best thing that Jones has written. I would qualify this only by saying that 'The Dig' is no more impressive than the largely ignored 'Everything I Found On the Beach', which treats many of the same themes from a different angle.

'The Dig' is a powerful vision that occasionally teeters on the edge of melodrama. In general, Jones has created a way of describing things and people that is as straightforward as a mattock, but that has the exact fitness for purpose of any well-made tool. The result is an hallucinatory existential clarity in which quite ordinary things are seen as though for the first time. (Comparisons with Hemingway's early short stories are not entirely misplaced, though Jones lacks the American's sentimentality.) Occasionally, the pressure of feeling behind the words drives them past their limits, and the reader feels a twinge of uneasiness; but Jones always pulls us back from the lip of empty lyricism into the concrete world of his characters, in which smell, touch and hearing are almost more important than sight, and certainly more important than speech.

Because Jones is writing about a world – the small agricultural communities of West Wales – of which most readers will have no direct experience, and a way of life that has been foreign to most British people for generations, there will be a temptation to dismiss this writing as a provincial oddity; fascinating in its exotic detail, perhaps, but ultimately of no relevance to our overwhelmingly urban and thoroughly mediated lives. That temptation should be resisted. Jones is a sophisticated writer and a powerful stylist. He has chosen to attack head-on contemporary themes that others have ignored, and to deal without ironic distance with ungovernable and even unavowable emotions. In this and his other writings he demonstrates also an admirable concision that contrasts markedly with the flabby excesses of much modern fiction. This is a short book with no wasted words.

'The Dig' is a genuine and serious achievement. It is unlikely to leave the reader indifferent. I hope it sends many back to Jones' other books, to see what they have missed.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 15, 2014 2:17 PM BST

Reality Hunger: A Manifesto
Reality Hunger: A Manifesto
by David Shields
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A literary polemic fails to convince, 12 Jan 2014
'Reality Hunger', as its subtitle suggests, is a polemic in which David Shields attempts to define and promote a new, hybrid literary aesthetic. This aesthetic has three principle characteristics. It is inclined to ignore any historical distinctions drawn between fiction and non-fiction. It eschews the traditional engines of plot and character in favour of a concern with ideas; and its preferred formal method is collage, in the light of which it refuses to respect creative 'ownership' of texts and raises plagiarism - redefined variously as 'appropriation', 'repurposing' or 'remixing' - to the status of a duty. The book is itself an example of this aesthetic, being frankly a compendium of unattributed quotations interwoven with the author' musings on their common themes. (Attributions are provided, at the insistence of his publishers' lawyers, in an appendix that the author exhorts the reader not to read.)

It has to be said that there is nothing particularly new in any of this except the absence of shame. Shields seems caught between a frank admission that he is merely justifying and recommending his own chosen methods - which he seems to have arrived at from inability to write or find satisfying fiction of a more conventional type - and a more serious analysis of the genuine formal aesthetic problems that confront the serious writer of contemporary fiction in an age in which competing renditions of a supposedly unmediated 'reality' may seem to have rendered mere fictional 'realism' an irrelevance and a bore. In practice, this seems to amount to the substitution of reality television, long-form journalism and the personal memoir - however untrustworthy - for the plain artifices of literary fiction.

For me, the book works convincingly at neither level, but still might have some value as a lively starting point for discussion; this in spite of its obvious faults of hectoring tone and repetitiveness, and the author's curiously mediaeval belief that the mere piling up of 'authorities' somehow lends weight to a thin argument. This is a book that believes itself to be far more innovative and daring than is actually the case.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 25, 2014 4:14 PM BST

Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All
Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All
by Laird Barron
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.28

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More high-quality horror, 6 Jan 2014
This is the third collection of stories from Laird Barron. It maintains the high standards that he set with 'The Imago Sequence' and 'Occultation'.

Barron is one of the few writers working in modern horror who has managed to transcend his influences. Although he is working broadly within the Lovecraftian tradition, Barron stands out from the hordes of pasticheurs as a powerful and literate stylist who is well on his way to developing his own fully-realised fictional world. Some of the stories here feature recurring characters and motifs, and Barron has a grasp of the grimier side of American history, which lends his fictions an unusual and convincing depth of detail. These are not simple penny shockers.

Evil in Barron's stories is recognisably human in origin, rooted in the old sins of lust, greed and cruelty. His protagonists are often violent or criminally inclined; all the more disturbing, then, when their tendencies bring hard men up against less familiar forms of harm.

I greatly enjoyed this book, and look forward to its successor. Recommended to anybody who enjoys literate modern horror.

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