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Mark Chadbourn (UK)

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Gone Girl
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Books For The Price Of One, 28 July 2014
This review is from: Gone Girl (Paperback)
In a way, you get two different books here. Luckily, both of them are very good. The first is a suspense thriller with a mounting sense of unease built through the accretion of tiny details and the realisation that two different people are looking at the same events in different ways. The revelations are eked out by the author's skilful work and keep the ground moving under your feet. It's an addictive telling that's grounded in truly good writing that particularly captures both a sense of place and the deep psychology of people.

At the midway point we begin to transition to the other book, Gillian Flynn's dissection of the state of modern love and marriage, with some very acute observations and analysis. If you're an old school sentimentalist, you might not like what you find. What I enjoy about the author's take is that she doesn't cosset the reader. She's not afraid to reveal the harsh nature of human beings, the transactional state of some relationships and that love can mean many things to many different people.

Some people have complained about the ending. I have no problem with it. If this were only a suspense thriller, it would not be the ending you'd want, but it fits perfectly with the author's design of her characters and her themes. She's created a very good monster here, but one that could easily exist though few would want to admit that (I've met a handful of sociopaths who play in the same ballpark).

My one criticism is that the second half - in plot terms - is too rushed compared to the first half. I think the ending would have been better served by a slower pace and more of the detail we were used to. But overall, a great book, a great character study, a great commentary, and one that will grow over time.


The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies
The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies
by Erik Brynjolfsson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything Will Change, 11 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The first machine age was the Industrial Revolution which ran from about 1760 to the middle of the 19th century. It changed everything, disrupting the agrarian-based life of most people and hurling everyone into the world we see around us. This book, by two MiT professors, suggests that we're now in a second machine age, a second industrial revolution, driven by technological development that will change the world even more fundamentally, and much, much faster. They present an excellent argument, drawing on the knowledge of people at the cutting edge of all the disruptive changes now affecting every aspect of life - from Silicon Valley pioneers to economists and academics.

It's certainly an important book for the times, bringing together all the many strands that cause those queasy fears that many experience as comforting familiarities fall away. But why should you read it? Because as with the first industrial revolution, there will be winners and losers (in the 18th century, the losers were all those poor field workers who had to uproot to work in the dark satanic mills. The winners were those who seized control of the emerging technologies). If you're planning your future, your career, or thinking ahead for your children's sake, there is vital information contained within. Tip: don't become an accountant, a driving instructor, or do any task that involves repeating a process. And really, truly, do not give up on education - go as far as you can.

The winners will be people who have ideas, who can create, whether in business or art. They'll set up their own businesses, get hired as freelancers, and be handsomely rewarded. The losers will be anyone who offers their labour, who performs a task for the benefit of others. Read the book to find out why this is true, and what is means for society.

The authors make their case with an easy-reading style backed up with lots of solid evidence, but it loses a point, possibly unfairly, for an issue that is probably beyond their control. Two chapters are devoted to recommendations, short term and long term, that can help us get the best out of the massive change that is coming to the world in the next ten years. But they are generally far too broad brush. That's because, as the authors point out, it's so hard to predict how fast these changes are going to come: the rate of disruption is accelerating and the churn is getting wilder because one small innovation influences a great many more.

The book is not wholly comforting - the pressures on society are going to be huge - although it could be. The message is plain. We can't resist these changes. They're coming whether we like them or not, and if we try to fight them, all our energy will be wasted in a futile endeavour. But if we try to manage that change we can minimise the destructive elements and maximise the vast potential benefits for society as a whole. All we need to do is to pay attention now.


A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies
A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies
by Martin Scorsese
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterclass in Film, 19 Nov. 2013
If you're a screenwriter, a budding screenwriter, or if you just love movies, this book will make you see film in a different light. From the silent era through to the seventies, from the forgotten-but-great to the classics, no stone is left unturned as Martin Scorsese gives his account of how Hollywood shaped the film industry and - as the title suggests - the director's own career.

Don't think this is a dry history. To all intents and purposes, this is a film course, taught by one of the greatest teachers you could imagine. Scorsese dissects the films he considers the most important in this early period of the movie industry, examining scripts - with short scene extracts - direction, and cinematography. Stills abound. As a masterclass in what makes a movie great, it's unbeatable.

What really shines through is Scorsese's own passion and his love of the medium. He highlights the moments that made him want to be a director and talks about how he felt when he saw these great works unfold on the big screen. And he doesn't focus on one particular aspect. You're as likely to get an analysis of a romance as you are a noir, a western as a Biblical epic. Even if you consider yourself an expert, you'll likely find some movie here to surprise you.

And if you just love film and want to see something great, there's a filmography at the end, which takes you all the way from Douglas Sirk's lush All That Heaven Allows through to William Wellman's gritty Wild Boys of the road.


Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife
by Eben Alexander
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars There And Back Again, 26 Oct. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Near Death Experiences (NDEs) are a fascinating topic. They affect people regardless of cultural background or religious belief, or lack of it, and they've been recorded from the earliest days of civilisation. For years science has suggested explanations for the tunnel, the white light, the dead relatives waiting to greet you, and all the other familiar markers of an NDE. But whether dumps of DMT from the pineal gland, primitive brainstem programs or toxic overstimulation of cortical neurons, those theories have all been found wanting as we have discovered more about what really happens to the brain under the threat of death.

If you had to suggest what would make the best case study of an NDE, it would involve: a skeptical patient, someone who was an expert in neuroscience, and a situation where there were extremely detailed records of what was happening to brain chemistry at the point of death. By the laws of chance, that is never going to happen...

Except here it did. Eben Alexander is a leading neurosurgeon with a well-documented career of writing and teaching about neuroscience in leading institutions. He was also a confirmed materialist and a skeptic of anything spiritual - even of the notion that consciousness existed beyond a mechanical construct of the brain's processing of experience and memory.

And then Alexander was struck down by a rare and seemingly incurable form of bacterial meningitis that threw him into a coma. The doctors at the hospital where he worked gave him less than a ten per cent chance of survival, and even if he did pull through he was expected to be irretrievably brain-damaged. Finally they advised his family to turn off life support.

Yet against all the odds, Alexander did wake up, and with all his faculties intact. And he came back with a staggering account of an NDE that is all the more powerful because it could not...should not...be. His detailed medical records show that there was no activity in his brain that could possibly have accounted for what he experienced - in effect, the human, thinking part of him was dead.

The unique case study alone is worth the four stars - it's an important account in the study of NDEs. The book itself, for me, probably deserves three. It's easy reading - no doubt because Alexander wanted to convey his experiences to the widest possible audience - but I would have preferred some more analytical writing and less visceral or emotional.

Having said that, Proof of Heaven is worth reading because of the confluence of Alexander's scientific background and the life-changing experience he underwent, one which kicked away all the props of the intellectual life he'd built over his years in science.


End of Big, The
End of Big, The
by Nicco Mele
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Future Is Here, 3 Oct. 2013
This review is from: End of Big, The (Hardcover)
This is an important book. We're going through the fastest period of change in human history and one that's accelerating - everything we're used to is going to alter in some way, and if you want to survive with your job, finances, health and sanity intact, you have to be prepared for what's coming. The End of Big is your road map.

Nicco Mele, who sits on the faculty of Harvard's Kennedy School, examines the changes that are rushing through different sectors: business, the news media, the entertainment industry, politics and government, universities and education, the army and warfare, while touching on other sectors too. As he says: "We're at the beginning of an epochal change in human history. Scan the headlines every morning - through your Facebook and Twitter feeds - and you can feel history shifting under your feet. Every day I find more and more evidence that we are in the twilight of our own age, and that we can't quite grasp it, even if we sense something is terribly amiss."

As the title suggests, the author's evidence shows that 'big' cannot survive - whether that's big political parties or big companies. We're not only moving from serving the general to serving the specific, but economies of scale have less impact with the technology that's emerging. For book lovers, Mele shows, for instance, why the big publishing companies have little hope of continuing in their current form. Don't get the impression that this is all negative. The author indicates that there are a great many opportunities coming up fast. If you're a creator, or have particular skills, you'll thrive. Small businesses and independent retailers are well-placed for success. (The subtitle is: How The Internet Makes David The New Goliath.)

Don't be deterred by what may seem heavy reading matter; it's really not, and Nicco Mele writes with a very engaging, popular style. Because of the scope, this is necessarily a broad-brush approach so you aren't going to get bogged down in the detail of a sector that doesn't interest you. I have minor doubts about a couple of the author's conclusions, but that's exactly how it should be. The book tells you exactly what *is* happening, right now, and what's coming up in the near-future, and then lets you answer your own questions about whether those changes are good or bad.

The pace of change is so great that The End of Big is going to be out of date very quickly. All the more reason to buy it now, so you're fully prepared for those changes and can plan your own future effectively in these turbulent times. Highly recommended.


Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever
Transcend: Nine Steps to Living Well Forever
by Ray Kurzweil
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.52

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Live Forever, 9 Sept. 2013
Want to live forever? This is the book for you. That may sound like a fatuous statement to accompany some woolly, magical thinking guide, but everything here is based on the latest scientific studies (all referenced, if you don't want to take the authors at their word). Indeed, Kurzweil is a leading scientific philosopher, best-known for his writing on the coming technology singularity. Grossman is a doctor.

How can you live forever? It's a simple equation. In the 2020s, biotech advances will extend lifespans. In the 2030s, nanotech advances will help your body repair itself ad infinitum. This book is a guide to everything you can do yourself to help you live just long enough to reach the first 'bridge', which should then carry you through to the second. Simple. Here is all the latest thinking on nutrition, exercise, relaxation, supplements, calorie reduction, new technologies and more - and not just what works, but why it works. You will also find some of the surprising, hidden things that are slowly killing you. And if you think you know all this stuff, I'm betting that you don't.

None of the advice is onerous. Little changes have big consequences. Even if you're a confirmed cynic, making those changes will undoubtedly make you feel better, so what's to lose?

If you don't consider yourself 'scientifically minded', don't worry - all the scientific evidence here isn't hard-going. The two authors have a lively writing style and communicate detailed information in an easily-digested form. This is a 'how to...' guide, recommended for everyone. Philosophically, it'll make you look at the world around you in a different way. And as a template for really improving your day-to-day existence, it's unparalleled.


Uriel's Machine: The Ancient Origins of Science
Uriel's Machine: The Ancient Origins of Science
by Christopher Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Science of Prehistory, 21 Aug. 2013
Stone circles, megalithic mysteries, prehistoric planetary catastrophes and a 'lost' history of the world - with that kind of colourful and compelling content, it's hard to understand why the authors went with such a sales-murdering title. But this is a worthy book for anyone interested in those things. Knight and Lomas are not only knowledgable fellows, they're freemasons with access to the restricted library of freemasonry.

They also delve into areas of academic study that have failed to break the surface of public consciousness and which is, in its own way, quite astounding. More than that, Knight and Lomas delve into the spaces among the currently accepted research and create a powerful what-if that may point the way to future research. If this was only based upon other people's studies and ancient texts, all well and good, but the two authors have carried out their own research at ancient megalithic sites which has uncovered potentially ground-breaking new information. Here you will be able to consider the 'science' of prehistory - the astronomical alignments of megalithic sites - and the reasons for it, the links between druidic and Jewish traditions, freemasonry, arcane Royal practices and how all these things are linked.

If I have one criticism, it's that Knight and Lomas haven't completely tied together all their many and varied strands. I presume they consider much of this implicit, but there is such a wealth of information here - covering archaeology, history, religion, science and cultures as disparate as 'the curved ware people' of northern Europe and the Zadokites of the Holy Land, that it needs to be made explicit to gain solidity.

And it's worth mentioning that I have never read a book from a major publisher littered with so many errors. The publishers and their proof-reading team have really let down their authors.

Recommended.


Triangle [DVD]
Triangle [DVD]
Dvd ~ Melissa George
Price: £3.60

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Thinking Person's Horror Film, 4 April 2010
This review is from: Triangle [DVD] (DVD)
A very clever horror film that should be celebrated for not treating viewers like idiots. The director doesn't explain things, but leaves it for the careful viewer to piece together the many clues scattered throughout the movie. At first glance there appear to be plot holes or elements that don't make sense - but once the final connection falls into place everything makes perfect sense and it reveals a deeply satisfying whole. Yes, the viewer is expected to play an active part and not sit back passively and be drip-fed answers, but that ultimately makes the story much more rewarding.


Scrooge (1935) [DVD] (Digitally remastered in colour)
Scrooge (1935) [DVD] (Digitally remastered in colour)
Dvd ~ Seymour Hicks

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Cut to Pieces!, 22 Dec. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Don't waste your money on this! They let you know that this is the "colorized" version of this great movie. What they DON'T tell you is that it's had almost 20 minutes lopped out of it - a quarter of the entire movie! Great sequences have been lost for what is a cheap and nasty cash-in which treats viewers with contempt.


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