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The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better For Everyone
The Spirit Level: Why Equality Is Better For Everyone
by Richard G. Wilkinson
Edition: Paperback

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A political clarion call, 17 Oct 2010
For those of us who are uneasy with the way the political debate has gone for the past thirty years and who looked on in horror at the growing poverty at one end of society and the hugely inflated bonuses handed out to the other; who felt vindicated by the collapse of British industry (does anyone remember how we use to make cars?) and of the world financial system (aka the biggest crap game in town), then this book is for you.

Wilkinson and Pickett argue that a greater equality in society is better for our mental health, will reduce crime, will create more social cohesion and sense of community, will improve the environment, will extend democracy, and will even improve the economy. They deal with each issue chapter by chapter, using sociological research and statistical data to argue their case.

The case for equality is a powerful one and it is powerfully made here.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 7, 2011 11:51 AM BST


The Gods That Failed: How the Financial Elite Have Gambled Away Our Futures
The Gods That Failed: How the Financial Elite Have Gambled Away Our Futures
by Larry Elliott
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hang the bankers., 9 Oct 2010
The financial sector use to be a subsidiary of the economy, a supplier of funds to those who actually made things. This changed in the 80s under the premiership of Margaret Thatcher, - the worst prime minister that we ever had - who allowed industry to collapse due to a strong pound and allowed the Financial sector - The City of London, the building societies, banks, etc. - to continually de-regulate until there were hardly any regulations left at all. This allowed them to make money by any means possible no matter how risky or how un-ethical. The credit crunch is the end result. Elliott and Atkinson, in great detail, tell you how this came to be. It is a sobering book. I read in despair how these buccaneers in the City played fast and loose with other peoples' money. This book can be a little heavy at times - not surprising considering it's subject matter; but I stuck with it and learnt a lot.

Bring to account the bankers, the hedge fund managers, the stock brokers and all the other useless parasites that feed off society until there is nothing left and who then demand that the tax payer help them out.


Buddha's Nature
Buddha's Nature
by Wes Nisker
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.80

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Buddha's timeless wisdom, 29 Sep 2010
This review is from: Buddha's Nature (Paperback)
Science has dealt a death blow to religion and has relegated the Abrahamic God to the status of mythical has-beens, like Odin or Zeus. However, one religion, if it can be called a religion, not only has been unaffected by the onward slog of science, but can accommodate it and, in the fields of neurology, evolutionary biology, and quantum physics, is strengthened by it. This book could just as easily have been subtitled: Why Buddhism is more relevant today than it has been in the last 2,500 years.

2,500 years ago, the Buddha asked a simple question: Why are we, as a species, so dissatisfied with our life? He realised that the answer was due to the attachment we put on things that are transitory, and that to find contentment, we need to break free from this attachment. He deduced that the method of doing this was a step-by-step guidance known as The Eightfold Way, which includes wisdom to see things as they are, ethical conduct to guide your life through to happiness, and meditation, the tool to gain complete control of your mind, without which you will never free yourself from attachment. An important element of meditation, along with concentration and commitment, is Mindfulness, which is what this book is about.

Mindfulness is about awareness of the now, about how things really are, about recognising how delusion dominates every aspect of our thinking. The Buddha saw that Mindfulness required the recognition of the four foundations on which the mind rested: 1) the physical elements that make up the body; 2) the nervous system that creates awareness; 3) our emotional life that colours experiences; and 4) ideas, beliefs, concepts, and perceptions that colour the mind. Each of the four foundations has a chapter to itself and Wes Nisker brings modern day discoveries in science to support the Buddha's ideas. Modern day psychiatry has caught up with the Buddha's understanding of the mind. The quantum world of the atom confirms the Buddha's view of reality as being illusory and unstable. Evolutionary science has shown that the Brain, like everything else, has adapted to circumstances and the Buddha has shown how we can, with effort, adapt the brain for our own purposes.

Only by understanding the four foundations of the mind can we hope to control the mind. Without it, Mindfulness is impossible and without Mindfulness, meditation is also impossible.

This book is important in that it shows that the Buddha's wisdom far from being of its time is as relevant and true now as it was 2,500 years ago and will remain relevant and true as long as human beings remain human beings.


Cyrano: The Life and Legend of Cyrano de Bergerac
Cyrano: The Life and Legend of Cyrano de Bergerac
by Ishbel Addyman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.13

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cyrano: A fascinating legend. An even more fascinating man., 14 April 2010
Cyrano de Bergerac. A fascinating legend. An even more fascinating man. He was a duellist who once fought (ahem) a hundred men at one go; a soldier who was disabled out of the Seven Years War; and a writer who wrote plays, polemics, and his masterpiece, Journey To The Moon, which was the first science fiction novel and a satire on 17th Century society as Cyrano saw it. He wrote widely and covered many subjects: The tyranny of the Catholic Church and the iniquities of the Inquisition; an advocacy of atheism; a defence of scientific rationalism against supposition, and in particular in defence of Galileo; against belief in witchcraft; and surprisingly for a soldier and a duellist, advocating love as a more noble activity than making war.

Ishbel Addyman's biography puts Cyrano in the context of his own times and separates fact from fiction, dwelling on both the legend, and how it came about, and the real man, who was both brilliant and flawed. She has done an excellent job. This book is entertaining, scholarly, and written with panache.


The Deer Hunter [DVD] [1978]
The Deer Hunter [DVD] [1978]
Dvd ~ Robert De Niro
Price: 3.98

11 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars More right wing than Rambo, 16 Dec 2007
This review is from: The Deer Hunter [DVD] [1978] (DVD)
So, here is the - ahem - classic film that won five - five!!! - Academy awards in 1978. It must have been a bad year for films because this is a real howler. This is a review of the first 70 minutes because after that I switched off. It may have improved in leaps and bounds after that. I have my doubts, but you never know. The first 50 minutes or so deal with a group of Pennsylvanian steelworkers: their lives, their fights, their bonding, their background, culture, etc, all of which is quite entertaining - but not very - and then goes on to the war in Vietnam. It is from here where the film goes from being mildly engrossing to being an insult to the intelligence, a disgraceful rewriting of history and a hysterical jingoistic piece of flag waving.

The first scene in Vietnam shows our Pennsylvanian ex-steelworkers trying to protect Vietnamese villagers from the Vietcong, who are portrayed as a bunch of blood thirsty crazed geeks who shoot dead mothers and their children with gay abandon. Thank God for the Americans, eh? Anyone remember My Lai? Imagine a film set in France during World War II which showed German soldiers protecting French villagers from the French Resistance and with the French resistance portrayed as blood thirsty demons and the German soldiers as decent, brave Caucasian heroes. There would be a howl of outrage and everyone involved in the making of the film treated like a pariah. Deservedly so, too. In the same way that the French were fighting against a German invasion, the Vietcong were fighting against an American invasion, and no amount of Hollywood re-writing of history will change this fact.

The Russian roulette scenes are ridiculous -and a complete invention, they never happened in real life- and show the director's racist attitude towards the Vietnamese.

The best that can be said for this film is that some of the set scenes in Pennsylvania are quite good, especially the wedding scene, and shows Michael Cimino has a talent as a 2nd Unit film director. The acting and the cinematography are fine. One star for each. Avoid this film. It is awful. It makes the Rambo movies look like Pontecorvo's "The Battle of Algiers."
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 25, 2014 6:00 AM GMT


Juliet Of The Spirits [DVD] [1965]
Juliet Of The Spirits [DVD] [1965]
Dvd ~ Giulietta Masina
Price: 12.99

6 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pantomine has more artistic merit than this!, 25 Jun 2007
I don't know what it is about classic Italian film-makers, but they only seem able to make one classic film each: De Sica's The Bicycle Thieves; Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers; and Rossellini's Rome Open City, to name just three. Fellini is a case in point. La Dolce Vita is a truly beautiful and stylish film, but everything else he has done has left me cold, and that includes the hopelessly over-rated 8 .

Juliet of the Spirits is about a woman, played by Fellini's wife, Giulietta Masina, who is on the brink of being abandoned by her husband. Her life is empty outside of being the wife of her husband, so the effect on her is traumatic and she experiences a slow mental breakdown.

Material like this would be grist to the mill for a director with subtlety and flair, and while Fellini is no slouch in providing flair, subtetly escapes him completely. He shows her breakdown through flashbacks to her childhood, which are done quite well, and visions, which are handled with all the kack-handedness of a reluctant primary school teacher who has been ordered by the headmaster to direct the school Nativity play. A good example of this is when she imagines a group of nuns swarming into her room like a flock of geese. (Heaven alone knows what this is suppose to represent. Catholic guilt, maybe? ) The scene should have a nightmarish quality about it, creepy and unnerving. Instead, it looks like what it is - a cast of extras marching on to the set on cue. Fellini fails to convince that we are witnessing a mental breakdown through the eyes of the victim. What we really experience is Fellini's inability to understand the potential of cinema. I know this is probably sacrilege in some circles, but that is what I thought as I watched this. Giulietta Masina carries off her part with a quiet dignity, but even she cannot save this film. Everyone who hates art house movies probably thinks they are all like this. Sadly, some are.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 10, 2011 9:44 PM BST


The Last King Of Scotland [DVD] [2006]
The Last King Of Scotland [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Forest Whitaker
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 2.73

2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The wrong story about Amin, 17 April 2007
This film follows the fictional story of a Scottish doctor played by James McAvoy who became the personal physician of the real Ugandan dictator, Ida Amin. A fascinating premise? Yes, but, sadly, not in this case. The story is just ridiculous. I wont ruin it for you by describing how utterly unlikely any of this could happen because I want you to watch the film. Why? Beause of Forest Whitaker. His performance is spell binding. His playful menace is terrifying and I was gripped by his performance every second he was on the screen. If he had been on the screen for every second, I would have given this film 5 stars. Alas, he is not.

James McAvoy is a good enough actor, but he has to battle with a story line that makes your eyes roll with incredulity. The script also makes him so unsympathetic that even in his worse moments - and there are some pretty bad moments for him - it is impossible to root for him, no matter how hard you try.

At the end of the film, we are reminded of the brilliant Entebbe raid by Israeli forces. (Hope I am not giving too much away here?) Now that should have been the subject matter of this film. This would have given the film credibility and given Forest more time on screen. This dumb stupid story is a wasted opportunity.

A few scenes that jar: At a party, the doctor is introduced to British diplomats, one of whom says that it is nice to have another Englishman here. The doctor replies churlishly and indignantly that he is Scots. Of course he is! No Englishman would have mistaken the very obviously Scottish accented doctor for an Englishman. An example of extreme stupidity in the script. In another scene, the doctor goes to one of Amin's parties and goes off with one of Amin's wives to her bedroom. It beggars belief that anyone would do that knowing how thuggish and murderous Amin is and what the consequences would be. There are other scenes as bad but these two stick out.


Saturday
Saturday
by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A re-write, maybe?, 14 Feb 2007
This review is from: Saturday (Paperback)
Saturday is a day in the life of neurologist Henry Perowne, starting with his early morning wakeup and ending with him going late to bed. A lot is squeezed into Henry's eventful day, starting with him seeing a burning aeroplane flying across the sky of London to ...well, I won't ruin the rest of the story for you.

The book is like a mountain range: it has its highs and lows. There is a lot in this novel that is good. Throughout the novel, background information is dropped in about his work colleagues and family, most of whom make an appearance, and some of the character descriptions, especially those of his father-in-law and daughter, are well delineated. However, the medical descriptions read like a medical text book and the ending - where a thug's heart is melted by the reading of Matthew Arnold's Dover Beach - is just ridiculous. London is observed as a series of street names, which, as a Londoner, I enjoyed; but which a non-Londoner would find lazy and boring.

While not badly written, it is hardly a page turner. If I was his editor, I would have sent the manuscript back with the following note.

"Dear Ian,

Thank you for the following mss. Some lovely writing and there is much in here that I like. However, may I make the following suggestions?

1. Get rid of the medical jargon. It disrupts the flow of the narrative as surely as a car crash disrupts the flow of traffic.

2. The ending, although intriguing, didn't quite ring true and may raise the eyebrow of many a reader. Change it.

3. Maybe you could cut it down to under 200 pages, or would you like me to do that for you?

4. Too many London street names.

Apart from that, the novel is a delight. I especially enjoyed your observations on religion. It had me and my editorial staff in stitches.

Yours Sincerely,

Penguin Egg,

Chief Editor."


Robin Hood - Series 1 - Volume 1: Episodes 1-5 [DVD] [2006]
Robin Hood - Series 1 - Volume 1: Episodes 1-5 [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Jonas Armstrong
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 1.82

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dump Djaq: bring back Tuck, 9 Jan 2007
This series was loudly trumpeted by the BBC weeks, months even, in advance of its eventually broadcast. I would like to say that it lives up to its hype, but in all honesty; it is a fair series, enjoyable in an undemanding way, with some rather hard-to-swallow plotlines. Kids will like it, even if they won't lap it up. Keith Allen is great fun as the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham and Jonas Armstrong is a credible Robin Hood.

My main gripe about this series is the absence of Friar Tuck. Judging by other reviews here, I am not the only one. Robin Hood without Tuck is like the Fantastic 4 without The Thing. He is essential, if for nothing else, for a healthy dollop of humour. Tuck is replaced by Djaq, a Muslim girl, who is not only lacking in any humour whatsoever, but seems to have been inserted by the makers of the series to show their liberal credentials. We are reminded every week of how superior Muslim culture is to medieval European culture, how her parents died cruelly at the hands of the Crusaders, and how cleverer she is than the rest of the Merry Men. In other words, she is a sanctimonious pain in the arse. On top of that, I would question the assumptions made by the scriptwriters here. Must I remind them that Robin Hood and his men are supporting Good King Richard who is fighting the Crusades in defence of Christianity? On top of that, Islam had been attacking the borders of Christianity for centuries and would continue to do so for many more centuries? The Crusades are not as black and white as historical revisionists would have us believe.

It does not live up to the hype, but come along with average expectation, and you will enjoy. This series will be forgotten by the time a new series of Robin Hood is commissioned, which I hope will be soon and which will include Friar Tuck.


The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table
The Myths And Legends Of King Arthur And The Knights Of The Round Table
Offered by MEGA Media FBA
Price: 5.15

7 of 96 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An *expletive* load of *another two expletives.*, 7 Sep 2006
You have to hear it to believe it. The word pretentious doesn't even come close. This is awful, just awful. Punk would rescue us from all this. Thank God for the Sex Pistols.
Comment Comments (19) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 2, 2014 8:28 PM BST


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