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Paul Bowes (Wales, United Kingdom)
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Dept. of Speculation
Dept. of Speculation
by Jenny Offill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.03

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Another limp exercise in marital strife and self-absorption, 6 Aug 2014
This review is from: Dept. of Speculation (Hardcover)
I read this short novel, or novella, by an author previously unknown to me, on a recommendation. At such, it was a disappointment. It combines a dumbed-down version of the mosaic narrative style of Renata Adler's 'Speedboat' with featherweight reflections on young love, young motherhood and a marriage turning sour: something that has been done to death almost everywhere, and too often better than here.

Inoffensively competent, but really no better than a speedy summer read for an idle morning at the beach. Look to Adler or Didion for something in the same general style, but with greater intelligence and bigger, sharper teeth.


No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Bone nut and saddle set for classical (nylon-strung) guitar, 30 Jun 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A nut and saddle set for a classical guitar. It appears to be made of bone, as described, and the dimensions (as measured with a digital caliper) are exactly as quoted, except that the 9mm height quoted for the saddle is a maximum, for the bass side only: it runs off to 8mm on the treble side. All edges are cleanly cut.

The nut appears to have been machined on something like a CNC machine, with clean but basic string grooves and profiling. The saddle has compensation for the third string. Both pieces will of course require sanding and adjusting to fit the individual instrument, but that's up to the buyer. These are not 'fit-and-forget' parts.

Delivered from China in 9 days from order, post free. I am very satisfied with the quality and delivery at this price.


Death and the Afterlife (The Berkeley Tanner Lectures)
Death and the Afterlife (The Berkeley Tanner Lectures)
by Samuel Scheffler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 19.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How far do human values and the meaning of life depend on our assumption that the lives of others will survive our own deaths?, 22 Jun 2014
In 'Death and the Afterlife' the philosopher Samuel Scheffler asks an unusual question: to what extent does it matter to the individual human being that humanity itself survives his or her death? Rather than think about 'the afterlife' within a religious or traditional philosophical framework, Scheffler asks us to consider to what extent the value and meaning or our lives are affected by our - largely unconscious - assumption that human life will continue, even if we ourselves will not.

Scheffler approaches this problem by way of two thought experiments. How would we feel about our lives if we knew that mankind was going to be exterminated en masse by an asteroid strike thirty days after our death? And then: how would we feel if we knew that, due to some environmental catastrophe, mass infertility would gradually lead to species extinction as all living human beings enjoyed a full life but died without heirs?

The tentative answers to Scheffler's what-ifs prove to be interesting and not immediately obvious. The book's format divides between Scheffler's original lectures and the responses of his professional peers, who are unanimous in seeing the problem as novel and interesting, but uncertain of its significance, or the validity of Scheffler's own conclusions. A final chapter allows Scheffler to address their caveats without closing the discussion.

The question of how our human sense of meaning and our values are to survive the modern scientific perspective on individual death, species demise and the eventual destruction of the universe has become steadily more urgent, particularly for those of us who cannot fall back on religious belief. Scheffler's book is an interesting one, bringing long-suppressed problems to the surface of consciousness. The second half of the book, in which four of Scheffler's colleagues raise their doubts, is somewhat drier than Scheffler's exposition, but may be particularly interesting to those who wish to see at first hand how contemporary philosophers engage in debate.

Serious philosophy, but accessible to the intelligent general reader.


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

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: 4.12

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: 15.26

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.


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