ARRAY(0xb12fe7b0)
 
Profile for E N Cuentro > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by E N Cuentro
Top Reviewer Ranking: 148,007
Helpful Votes: 249

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
E N Cuentro (London)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3
pixel
Foot Mouse (Slipper Mouse) with Programmable Pedal for PC and Mac
Foot Mouse (Slipper Mouse) with Programmable Pedal for PC and Mac
Offered by Special Import Europe
Price: 119.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Necessary if you are trying to recover from RSI/tendinitis, 2 April 2013
I'm not giving this five stars because it's perfect. On the contrary, on the basis of around a week`s use, using it can place some strain on the knees and ankles, and it is certainly much less accurate and quick to use than a normal mouse.

It may even be that getting a better office chair that I can adjust to be higher will help with those things, and the same goes for readjusting my software mouse settings to make it less sensitive. If those things do help, I'll update this review.

But anyway, I'm giving this five stars because if you are considering buying it, it's probably because you are suffering from a serious condition which makes it impossible or difficult for you to use your hands to operate a conventional mouse.

In my case, I have very serious RSI/tendinitis related to computer use. Not the sort that goes away after a couple of weeks or even a couple of months, but the sort that has in the past hung around for around a year. It doesn't just affect my ability to type, but to use a trackpad or mouse too.

There are various mouse alternatives available: the "air mouse" which you can wave around in the air; upright or joystick mice, which change the angle at which your hand sits on the table; and tablets, which allows you to use the associated "pen" to control the cursor. In my case, I found that these were less stressful to use than the trackpad or conventional mouse. But nonetheless, all are somewhat stressful to my hands, wrists, and forearms.

Resting, rather than straining, the injury is the most important part of recovering from RSI/tendinitis. Use of the computer - possibly aggravated by the use of touchscreen devices such as smart phones - is probably the most common source of RSI/tendinitis. But if you have the condition in the first place, it's probably an indication that using computers is important to you, whether for work, or for some reason outside of work. In modern life, it's pretty hard to get by without using a computer at all, and it can be extremely frustrating to have such a condition, because you constantly feel like you have no alternative but to use a computer for something, and constantly therefore aggravate your condition. And that makes it much harder to recover in the long run.

In that context, speaking personally, I find this device to be extremely useful, because although it is slow and unwieldy, it does allow me to navigate on my desktop and the Internet and perform basic operations. I use it in combination with Dragon dictation software - which is often frustratingly bad, but there is nothing better unfortunately - and the pop-up on-screen, clickable keyboard which is integral to the Mac operating system. The latter allows me to correct the numerous mistakes made by Dragon, and enter words or numbers that it can't recognise easily. Mistakes are so common that correcting them using a mouse and keyboard ends up aggravating my condition further. I'm sure if you are a Windows user there is a similar integral keyboard, or if not, that you can download one fairly easily. I have written and posted this review without using my hands for anything.

If you are a Mac user, as I am, it isn't currently possible to use an "head mouse" type device, at least not if you have the most recent version of the operating system. "Head mice" are devices or software which allow you to move the cursor by moving your head: either a purpose built camera or the web cam utilises software to track the movement of particular point on your head, which may be marked with a small adhesive dot. For Windows users, there is even a free downloadable program available online which makes use of your existing web cam. So if you are a Windows user, I guess it can't hurt to check that out. But even then, I believe that you either need to install automatic clicking and scrolling software - which as far as I can see makes it hard to do things like right click, and auto scrolling doesn't work in many Mac programs - or use clicking hardware, i.e. a "switch", or pedals. If that is what you need, this product might still be worthwhile for you, because it has special buttons for left click, right click, double left click, two assignable buttons (which I haven't bothered to assign yet), and a wheel to scroll with, which is pretty great, because scrolling is a huge part of what we use the mouse or trackpad for, and the wheel makes it easy.

I have seen one other commercially available navigation system which makes use of your feet, in this case two tilting pedals, one for clicking, and one for navigating. It isn't available commercially in the UK although they will post from the US, but even in the US it's much more expensive.

Frankly, I expect that it's possible to design this much better, including by giving the clicking deck a lower profile, so the user's foot isn't angled awkwardly up, and perhaps by placing the buttons closer together. But at the moment, as far as I can see the reality is that there isn't a good alternative to this product. I see that other reviewers have said that it breaks easily. If that's true, that's a shame, but then I think the thing to do about that is get one, and then insist on a replacement if it breaks unreasonably quickly.

Anyway, I would encourage anyone who has a similar reason for not being able to use a conventional mouse to consider this. Your foot isn't as naturally well-suited to fine control as your hand, and the weight of your leg doesn't help, so while you are using this, navigating probably will be a bit slow, and sometimes frustrating. But on the other hand, you will recover quicker, and if you do have RSI/tendinitis or a similar condition, that's really what you want. Or at least, that's what I want.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 29, 2014 7:20 AM GMT


Skins 1 & 2 Box Set [DVD]
Skins 1 & 2 Box Set [DVD]
Dvd ~ Nicholas Hoult
Price: 23.67

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No better than this, 11 Dec 2008
This review is from: Skins 1 & 2 Box Set [DVD] (DVD)
TV in Britain. We're stuck home watching genre busting magnificence like US drama The Wire. Where do we turn for some authentically UK goings on?

Bring on Skins. Every British kid who can remember being 16-18 in the last decade can recognise the characters in Skins, or at least can see clearly two or three people who that character is made up of. That age was emotional for us all, I'm sure. This series is an essay on that time, what it meant, and what it could have meant.

Skins blends brilliantly in and out of the authentic, and the comic, and the purely fantastic. The sad, and the hilarious - and the 'I don't know, but god I can feel it like it was yesterday'. I've never felt so close to a collection of characters.

Even in the bits that grate a little, this shines through.


A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present
A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present
by Howard Zinn
Edition: Paperback
Price: 37.99

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The new world - from a new perspective, 29 Sep 2008
The opening chapter of Zinn's book is an essay on the political content of history. With Christopher Columbus as the case in point, Zinn shows that by choosing to emphasise certain facts, and downplay others, mainstream historians - in fact, all historians - stake out a political position. Even, or perhaps especially, when they would say they are being 'neutral' or 'objective'. In history and, by implication, the present; perspective matters.

That is why Zinn tells the story of the United States, not through the eyes of its statesman, great financiers, generals or industrialists, but through the eyes of ordinary people. That is to say: the displaced Native Americans, the enslaved Black people, the women struggling for the vote, the exploited working class, the civil rights movements, and the victims of US foreign policy during the Cold War.

This is remarkable. The popular narrative of the United States as land of liberty and opportunity is stripped bare, and torn down. In its place: a nation of contradictions and tensions, built on class war, ethnic cleansing, and manifold other repressions.

Now, in fact, a similar story could be told about a great many countries in the world. One reason it is particularly worth listening to Zinn's story about the US, is that the myth of the US, and its emancipatory principles, is so strong. As the premier world power of the present day, it does us well to understand where that power comes from.

Most important of all, this is neither a bleak book, nor a preachy one. It is a great work of narrative history, and as such lays as much emphasis on the courage and achievements of ordinary people, as it does upon their suffering. A great piece of writing. A book for our times, courageous and humane.


Storming the Millennium: The New Politics of Change
Storming the Millennium: The New Politics of Change
by Tim Jordan
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dense theoretical waffle from self-appointed movement leaders and academics, 26 Sep 2008
The target audience for this book is, according to the introduction, those interested in the British direct action movement of the '90s and early '00s. That audience will find nothing of any great worth here, certainly nothing that can't be found better elsewhere. It starts off badly as Tim Jordan waffles about social theory he doesn't understand, lunges vaguely at post-modernism, and makes grandiose claims about the future of the 'movement of movements'.

A series of oddly irrelevant chapters follows (bisexual politics, hacking, etc), finished off by an interview with some elderly Communists including Stuart Hall who have apparently started a (then) new left wing journal. They refuse to say anything that is not extremely general. The end.

There is a small amount of material in three of the chapters that might be useful to someone doing exhaustive research - Rupa Huq's average chapter on rave being one. But generally, steer well clear.

A note, unless the reader thinks I am being harsh, just because this is not the sort of book I could ever like. I am keen on serious academic writing (see my other reviews), and very sympathetic to the movements which the book tries to cover. But those movements need to be taken seriously, their stories told attentively, and on their own terms, not used as an opportunity for someone to rant about "difference" and "post-socialist politics" while sliding helplessly down the outside of an ivory tower.


The Shadow Lines
The Shadow Lines
by Amitav Ghosh
Edition: Paperback

35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An little known gem, 26 Sep 2008
This review is from: The Shadow Lines (Paperback)
For any novel, but especially for a first novel, this is an extraordinary achievement. Dealing in history, human frailty, the lenses of memory and self deception, the sources of identity and belonging: this is a brief epic which is never grandiose, and always close to human experience.

The inner world of the narrator is so pitch perfect it hurts. You can feel him growing, and the people around him too. Each and every personality in it is startlingly realised. The narrative forces its way on, covering a great emotional range. The style is impeccable - restrained, precise and beautiful or harsh and the situation demands.

I suppose that no one reading this review will believe quite how good The Shadow Lines is - and apparently his other books don't quite reach the same standard. This, however, is a great, neglected work of modern literature.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 21, 2012 5:33 PM GMT


To The Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History
To The Finland Station: A Study in the Writing and Acting of History
by Edmund Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.99

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A difficult book to review, 29 Jan 2008
Edmund Wilson is a great stylist, and if the quality of the prose were the only factor under consideration, this would surely be among the best non-fiction titles I've ever read.

Furthermore, as a whistle stop tour of revolutionary lives and ideas, in which every idea and every story is painted in big, bold, exciting brush strokes, this is also a wonderful book. Wilson rushes through the stories of Jules Michelet, Gracchus Babeuf, Marx and Engels, Michael Bakunin, Lenin and Trotsky, in such a way as to leave the reader with a very profound and strong feeling about each of those men, and some sense of the personal as well as the ideological differences between them.

But it is let down by a literateur's reading of political theory. While Wilson is insightful, provocative, and interesting, some of his interpretations of Marxist theory are unfortunately innacurate and rely on arguments from 'error theories', rather than taking the arguments seriously. He makes rather too much of an out of date interpretation of the Hegelian dialectic, and blames a crude application of it on Marx.

The book is also let down by the old Bolshevik's lingering hagiography of Lenin, sitting uncomfortably with the final rejection of Marxism. When read in the light of careful histories of post-1917 Russia (such as Brinton's The Bolsheviks and Workers Control), as well as Lenin's own political writing, Wilson's romanticisation of Lenin seems simply implausible, and a little false. He never, really, tackles the defects in Lenin's politics, and seeks to imagine their relation to the deteriation of Russian politics after Lenin arrives at the Finland Station.

All this would not matter so much if the book were not so highly respected and well known. The reader might really believe they are getting a definitive history of revolutionary ideas. And in fact, they are getting a lovely and stimulating book. But it cannot substitute for reading the writers - especially Marx and Engels - first hand. And it cannot substitute a reading of the political history of revolutionary struggles, the Bolshevik project among them. Nonetheless, it remains an excellent outline for a reader who wants to join some of the dots between the theory and practice of the thinkers already listed - though it is a great omission we don't hear anything much about Rosa Luxemburg.

In the end Wilson lost his Bolshevik faith, and lapsed, as so many did, into a sort of well-meaning social democracy - a fact attested to well enough by the epilogue to this volume. Perhaps its enduring popularity is caused by those who have some sympathy for the raw power of the revolutionary project, but are happier being told that, in truth, it is dead and buried. That conclusion is all well and good. But if it is to be reached, it deserves a more rigorous, though no less enjoyable, consideration than this.


The Pursuit Of The Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages
The Pursuit Of The Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages
by Norman Cohn
Edition: Paperback
Price: 16.99

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insanity and insurgency in the Dark Ages, 11 Jan 2008
I have a special place in my heart for books which combine the utmost intellectual rigour in their research and method, with the most off the wall subject matter imaginable. Perhaps it is the contrast between form and content, perhaps it is the breadth and depth of the conclusions reached by the microscopic examination of insanity.

Whatever the reason, Pursuit of the Millenium is brilliant example of the kind. I suppose you can tell that a book has reached a certain stature when it is referenced in later classics, and that the book must be especially wonderful of its kind if it attains this status despite pertaining largely to the arcane matter of medieval religious sectarianism. If this is true, then the reference to Cohn's opus in On Chesil Beech by Ian McEwan (in which principle male character is reading the book) is some sort of validation - especially given McEwan's predilection for using his novels to drop unsubtle hints about the sort of activities he considers culturally worthwhile.

The book is a succession of remarkable stories, interlaced with the development of the ideas which informed each instance of revolutionary eschatology. Similar motifs and patterns crop up again and again with such surprising reguality over periods of centuries that it is hard not to think that the commonalities must point to some sort of underlying human or structural bias. What it is though, is hard to say. Because it deals with revolutionary movements in the dark ages, it is also a fascinating comparative text for anyone interested in the revolutionary and social movements of the recent past - though Cohn does arguably lay that on a little thick at times.

No real prior knowledge of the subject is necessary to read the book, though I personally needed to make occasional recourse to Wikipedia to remind me of what some theological terms mean.

This, in case you haven't noticed, is a glowing review. Read this book!


Car Wars: Battles on the Road to Nowhere
Car Wars: Battles on the Road to Nowhere
by Christopher Mosey
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, but useful when read in context..., 30 Aug 2007
You'll want to pick this up if you're interested in the growth of the roads network, and car culture in Britain since the late 19th Century, and recent attempts to challege its expansion. About half the book is devoted to each; though since I'm primarily interested in the latter, I'll focus on that in this review.

The resistance began to pick up force in the 1970s with John Tyme and associates disrupting public inquiries up and down the country, seeing several road plans shelved. After a hiatus during the '80s, a new movement rose to greet the Tories' early '90s road building programme. As a narrative history, Mosey's prose bubbles along disarmingly, dropping anecdotes here and there to sustain the reader's interest.

The book is not without its flaws though. Mosey doesn't really understand some elements of the ecological direct action movement of the '90s - sporadically misusing the quite specific term "Dongas" to refer to all road protestors, rather than the small group of around 30 that it in fact was.

He fails to appreciate the frequency and importance of more militant "night work" direct action - "monkeywrenching" construction equipment, and so on - preffering to present the movement as adopting a tactical repetoire essentially rooted in public "civil disobedience" to "raise awareness". He relies too much on newspaper articles, and makes too little reference to movement documents such as Do or Die and the Earth First! Action Update. He doesn't understand that there were divisions and disagreements within Reclaim the Streets (RTS). He underplays the importance of Earth First! and has little to say about contribution of travellers' and alternative cultures to the movement.

His failure to "get" RTS, either strategically or organisationally is quaint: almost a parody of the gentlemanly liberal, Mosey is dismayed at the necessary messiness of actual grassroots organisation, and yearning at all times for the Holy Grail of Moderation.

But despite its flaws, this book does work that no other volume on the same subject does. It locates the defeat of the roads programme not only as a product of the direct action movement, but also of a more passive rebellion by Middle Englanders in Tory heartland. While hardly mentioning campaigns against the A30 or Manchester Airport expansion, and breezing over M11 and Pollock in a few paragraphs, it gives good, detailed rundowns of Newbury and Twyford Down - these are genuinely exciting, and hard to come by elsewhere.

The reader will find that this book and Derek Wall's Earth First! and the Anti-Roads Movement (1999) fill in alot of gaps left by each other nicely, though the greater academic command of Wall's work makes it easy to see why it is more widely read today.


Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals
Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals
by John Gray
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars kinda loopy, but well worth it..., 22 Aug 2007
If you like your philosophy analytical, in the Anglo-American tradition, this is not for you. If, on the other hand, you're prepared to give a philosophical work the latitude to be completely bats, as long as it's stylish and thought provoking, this is for you.

Gray's book is a series of only loosely connected mini-essays which - as other reviewers point out - argue against a sort of anthropocentrist exceptionalism and in favour of a sort of misanthropic, deep-ecological nihlism. Will Self, predictably enough, loves it.

Whether or not you think the evidence is as strong as it claims to be (it isn't, quite); or whether you think, even if true, it necessarily supports Gray's conclusions (it doesn't); this is nevertheless an absolutely wonderful book. Read this as a work of literature, not philosophy. Some wonderfully challenging and thought provoking questions are lobbed at the reader in volly of intellectual non-conformism. From Lord Jim, to the organisation of ant societies, the Rwandan genocide to what it is to think of one's self as a coherent person, Lao Tzu to Karl Marx and pre-modern anthropology... just read it, it's fun!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 12, 2009 11:36 PM BST


Earth First! and the Anti-Roads Movement: Radical Environmentalism and Comparative Social Movements
Earth First! and the Anti-Roads Movement: Radical Environmentalism and Comparative Social Movements
by Derek Wall
Edition: Paperback
Price: 42.46

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is really pretty good..., 9 Aug 2007
I arrived in politics at the tail end of this movement - in the first few years of this century - when all the people were still buzzing from its excitement, and felt that they were still part of something alive and special. Its zenith was already past, and as a movement with real disruptive and popular force it had already ceased to register as it once did. (Though a recent "Earth Liberation Front" action, and a spate of GM test-site trashings are testament to its continued existence in some form.)

This is the only volume to attempt an academic survey of Earth First! and the broader ecological direct action movement in the UK in '90s - the movement that brought you street parties, road protests camps, and the whole counter-culture protester stereotype (dreadlocks, dog on a string, no job, etc.) that's seeped its way into the public imagination. In many ways, this stereotype is a shame, not because it's wholly innacurate, but because it encourages caricature, and dissuades careful analysis of the only really successful British radical social movement since that against the Poll Tax - it set out to beat the roads program, and dammit it did that. For anyone who's now interested in action to combat climate change, this should be a first stop text.

If you want to go to the movement's principle primary sources, you need to read the EF! Action Update, SchNEWS, and Do or Die volumes 1-12. (Indeed at least a couple DoDs have been published since Wall's book, the last one contains a brief narrative history of the movement in it, which is a good reference.)

And now for the obligatory critical comments.

The book does relate alot of its arguments to existing social movement theory, as is intimated by its sub-title. This is sometimes useful, but alot of the time its fairly unhelpful. This isn't Wall's fault, it's just that the present state of social movement theory (much as with International Relations theory) is just so bad that it doesn't illuminate much. He makes a fair stab at locating aspects of EF! within the theory though, and (if you were to be interested) it's not a bad, practical, introduction to the theory of comparartive social movements.

The style is ok... but it doesn't have the raw narrative exhiliration of social movement classics such as Piven & Cloward's Poor Peoples' Movements or Kirkpatrick Sale's SDS. Its also a shame that it doesn't capture as well as it might have done the complete psychedelic mentalness of aspects of the movement... here isn't the place to go into some of the stories you hear, but jeez...

My main complaint - if this is a legitimate complaint - is just that I wanted more. The book's just under 200 pages long, and with all the room given over to relating material to contemporary debates in social movement theory, there's unforunately little on the actual key struggles of the period. There's little sense of the dynamics of each anti-road battle, and almost nothing but the most skeleton outline on the Reclaim the Streets organisation, and next to nothing on the anti-Criminal Justice Bill organisation. As a social movement activist, I do appreciate Wall's engagement. But I really want to know more about how things were organised, where they got the resources, etc.

There's also little quantitative data. For example - how many people really were involved in this movement, and its related millieu? It also would have been good to see a tabulated breakdown of significant facts related to the 29 in depth interviews undertaken by Wall in the course of writing the book - e.g. class identification (if any), age, gender, cultural identifications etc. Indeed, criticisms of the movements failures are currently rife in activist circles, and the book does little to evaluate them. Perhaps these critiques have become more prominent since the book's publication in 1999 however.

There's a good survey or where the roads building program came from, but little real detail on the extent to which it was pushed back. Nor of how far its victories now threaten to be eroded - which was the subject of speculation of Burbridge and Torrance, the founders of EF! (UK), in a 2001 Guardian article. Though again, the book is nearly 10 years old now, and many of the developments have occured since it was written.

But all in all. This is an essential work if you're seriously interested in this movement, and picks up well on a lot of stuff that total outsiders don't really get - the synergy with rave culture, Greenham Common activists, urban squatters etc. A little dry at times, but in summary very valuable. The book charts the birth of something fascinating and important. The rapid and unpredicted radicalisation of tens of thousands of people, a not insignificant proportion of a generation, in the heat of action: radical and uncompromising "in defence of Mother Earth!"


Page: 1 | 2 | 3