Profile for Mark Vardy > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Mark Vardy
Top Reviewer Ranking: 251,460
Helpful Votes: 21

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Mark Vardy

Page: 1
Drive On!: A Social History of the Motor Car
Drive On!: A Social History of the Motor Car
by L. J. K. Setright
Edition: Paperback

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Loose ragbag of prejudices and post hoc reasoning masquerades as academic rigor., 6 May 2014
Everyone must have at least one friend like L.J.K. Setright. Possessed of a disconcerting number of outré opinions, steadfast in their rejection of alternatives (or indeed logic), they are resolutely convinced of their own correctness. I was talking with one recently, and he was insisting that recent studies show that if you stop training for a mere two weeks, then all your fitness is lost. So presumably if Mo Farrah misses a fortnight, I'll be able to run 5K faster than him. Of course.

As frustrating as these people are in person, it turns out they are more so in book form, where you are deprived of the option of attempting to argue with them. I suppose you can put the book down but it's not the same. Setright (he always refers to himself, somewhat pompously, in the third person, using just his surname) had a number of signature opinions which in his head were, I'm sure, entirely rational, and this book provides him with another opportunity to air them, like a greatest hits album.

What are they? The Honda Prelude, or possibly the NSX, is the greatest car ever made. Front wheel drive is an abomination forced on us by sheep-like manufacturers copying VW. Rolls Royces are wildly overrated and have been since about 1920. Most car manufacturers apart from Bristol and Honda are ruining cars. Diesels are evil. And so on.

Setright clearly knows his stuff and is passionate about the subject, which ensures the book is often interesting. For some reason, however, he seems to harbour a deep sense of injustice and resentment on behalf of the motor car itself, directed at, variously, the avaricious manufacturers intent on making money (how dare they), the vulgar and stupid public who asked for and paid money for all the wrong things, and the weak designers who resorted to giving the public what they asked for and should have known better.

If only all of them had asked Setright who, you could be forgiven for thinking, had been there all of the time advising of the correct route, instead of ranting from the sidelines of a magazine column with the full benefit of hindsight. After a while this becomes wearing, when reading for the fifth time how, say, Ford shunned the right thing ("right" according to Setright, judging them thirty years after the fact) in favour of the popular, money-making thing.

Setright has his fans still (he died a while ago now) but it's an acquired taste. I probably won't bother again

God Explained in a Taxi Ride
God Explained in a Taxi Ride
by Paul Arden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Where the greatest minds of history have failed, a former advertising executive unsurprisingly also fails., 2 Mar 2014
I don't want to sound judgemental, but this is a book only someone in marketing or advertising could have written.

First of all, there's the conceit and arrogance. History's greatest philosophers have spent years thinking about God and millions of words attempting to understand and explain the idea. But Paul Arden can do it in about one hundred pages? That seems unlikely.

Secondly, there's the simplistic, childish approach and layout. In advertising, there's value in presenting your ideas in short, punchy pages, because you're presenting simple ideas: buy this, think that. In philosophy, you're not trying to sell anything, and any attempt to reduce complex ideas to the level of an advert is bound to miss the point.

I find it difficult to understand why this book was published, other than the obvious and reductive reason that people might pay money for it. It's a collection of vague, random thoughts on God and religion, with no obvious organisation or direction. Here's a page that suggests building a mosque at ground zero; there's one with St. Anselm's proof of God's existence (with the footnote that the "proof" might require "another taxi ride to think about!", when in fact it could be countered by a child, or in a two panel comic). Each brief thought is given its own two page spread. The only insightful comment is marketing related, which speculates that Scientologists are perhaps more committed because they have invested more.

Finally, Arden gets to his point. Something caused our universe to come into existence, call it "creation" or "evolution" or "chance"; these are just names, as is "God". So why not call it "God"? But giving something a name doesn't explain anything - whereas actually, those other names do at least embody an attempt at explanation (and real explanations are complex).

This is a simple book for simple minds. It's tempting to say that it's by a simple mind. Paul Arden appears to have been a successful advertising executive, but judging by this and what I have seen of his other books, his skill is in stating the obvious in simple, attractive ways. There's no depth here - and, ultimately, no explanation.

The People's Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records
The People's Songs: The Story of Modern Britain in 50 Records
by Stuart Maconie
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but not as good as the radio series, 16 Dec 2013
Pop music is, ultimately, far more important than the orthodox canon of classic albums and iconic artists that appear in weighty lists and turgid books. Which is why I like the idea of The People's Music so much. It operates from exactly this point of view, and picks fifty pop songs from the last sixty years that encapsulate a period in time or summarise a cultural shift. Maconie's introduction articulates much better than I can why pop history is social history, so central is it to so many people.

The radio series - sorry, landmark Radio 2 series (it says here) - is essential listening for any fan of pop. The book, introduction aside, is a little lacklustre by comparison. It consists of the scripts for each programme - as entertaining as you'd expect from Maconie - but, without the interviews that are the programme's raison d'etre (it bills itself as an "aural history", after all), each individual piece seems too short and somewhat disjointed. And of course the book can't include any music at all.

The Olivetti Chronicles
The Olivetti Chronicles
by John Peel
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Not a natural writer, 29 Sep 2013
The short article is a difficult form to master, or even manage tolerably, if the evidence of books in my collection is anything to go by. Reaching the economy of expression of, say, Clive James' wonderful columns of TV criticism in the 70s takes practice, and if it's not your main occupation, you won't achieve it. I think it's fair to say John Peel was not a natural writer. "Margrave Of The Marshes" is good - or, at least, the first half is, which is the bit Peel wrote - but it's clear that he developed slowly as a writer. Some of the later pieces here are fine, and there are amusing one-liners from all periods; he nails my opinion of Springsteen, in 1975, by observing that he "[...] offers us an enjoyable supper-club pastiche of rock's brief history, served up in West Side Story-styled tat". However, too many of the articles are rambling and inconclusive. Still, an easy read and enjoyable in parts.

Guitar Electronics for Musicians (Guitar Reference)
Guitar Electronics for Musicians (Guitar Reference)
by Donald Brosnac
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Adequate but flawed, 25 Sep 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This began life as a ring bound, privately published, amateur publication, and it shows. Brosnac has a good reputation in guitar circles, and there's lots of useful information in the book - somewhere. Unfortunately it is obscured by an atrocious structure, so that descriptions of similar aspects of circuitry are in completely different chapters. It reads more like a scrap book of notes, clippings and articles that the author assembled over several years and then published as-is. It is also very out-of-date, although this matters slightly less because guitar electronics has moved on little, in general, in the thirty years since this was published.

The People's Music: Selected Journalism
The People's Music: Selected Journalism
by Ian MacDonald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a disappointment, 25 Dec 2012
MacDonald's Revolution In The Head is definitive, but this collection of magazine articles is indulgent. Clearly a highly intelligent, widely-read, erudite and articulate man, he nevertheless consistently mistakes his own prejudices for objective truths and is a canonical example of a rock snob. There is much of interest here but too often MacDonald merely comes across as an overly verbose grumpy old man. The title piece is several thousand words long but could be summed up in five: "I don't like modern music."
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 18, 2014 9:19 PM BST

LG 37LS570T 37-inch Widescreen Full HD 1080p LED Smart TV with Freeview HD
LG 37LS570T 37-inch Widescreen Full HD 1080p LED Smart TV with Freeview HD

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent TV, 9 July 2012
This is a good quality TV. The picture is excellent, particularly on HD channels, and noticeably better than the equivalent Samsung, which I was able to do a side-by-side comparison with. It has a good range of inputs, as you'd expect. It was very simple to set up. The BBC iPlayer app works well and looks good. I haven't tried the other apps yet. DVDs upscale nicely. The sound is very reasonable, given the lack of depth of the box. I have attached a hard disk to it and it now has simple recording recording capabilities and the ability to pause live TV.

I don't quite understand why so many people have given this a poor rating just because of the lack - now resolved - of an iPlayer app. It's a good TV with many other features besides this!

This Is Fats [Transfer from Vinyl]
This Is Fats [Transfer from Vinyl]
Price: £3.96

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Poor Quality, 25 Aug 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The CD sounds like it was mastered from vinyl running at the wrong speed. I didn't know the other songs but Blueberry Hill is definitely slow. Not recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 5, 2012 9:41 PM BST

Page: 1