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Profile for Mr. Paul J. Bradshaw > Reviews

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Reviews Written by
Mr. Paul J. Bradshaw (Midlands, UK)

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Online News: Journalism and the Internet
Online News: Journalism and the Internet
by Stuart Allan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £21.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading, 2 Nov. 2006
In 2004 American technology journalist and publisher Dan Gillmor published We The Media, a book that described how journalism in the new media age was changing from a `lecture' to a `conversation'. It quickly became the bible of online journalism, while Gillmor was heralded as a guru on citizen journalism in particular.

With Online News Stuart Allan has produced a book of comparable importance, but from a much-needed British - or at least transatlantic - perspective.

The concept is straightforward: an overview of online journalism in its different forms, with a historical perspective focusing on key events. The execution is clear, critical, and thoroughly researched, and even much-repeated stories - such as the `Rathergate' or `Memogate' affair that led to Dan Rather's resignation - are illuminated with fresh detail.

Allan identifies two key `tipping points' in the development of online news: the tsunami in South East Asia and the importance that that gave to citizen journalism - and the speech by Rupert Murdoch which finally acknowledged the need for newspapers to embrace the web - or be buried by it.

From there he explores a number of other `tipping points': how September 11th "redefined" news when mainstream agencies crashed under excessive demand, and smaller sites took up the strain; how the Iraq war created a demand from readers for alternative voices from abroad; how participatory journalism is creating opportunities for news outside of commercial pressures; and how bloggers have become both news source and news watchdog.

What is laudable here is the rigour with which Allan approaches his subject matter, and his avoidance of the hype that characterises so much writing on online news. While the importance of blogs are acknowledged, for instance, the potential for descent into `mob rule mentality' is outlined - for instance, in the way in which rightwing bloggers targeted what they perceived as the `liberal' CBS and CNN. Likewise, while bloggers can be seen as `democratising' journalism, Allan points out that there is an emerging hierarchy of "celebrity bloggers" that dominate that conversation; and that "bloggers who actively resist pressures to conform - that is, who continues to strive to speak truth to power - will find it that much more difficult to reach a broad audience".

In his final chapter Allan notes the importance of Google News and its `computer editors' for the future of journalism and news distribution, while also identifying how "notions of `authority', `credibility' and `prestige' are in flux". The BBC is held up as an example of the genuinely empowering possibilities of new journalism technologies - particularly the organisation's moves to make both software and archive content available to users - but ultimately "too often the pressures of the marketplace being brought to bear on online news are working to narrow the spectrum of possible viewpoints to those which advertisers are inclined to support".

Summing up, Allan identifies a worrying trend in online news becoming "aligned with the `attractive wrapping' of commercial television", a trend which has most recently been reinforced by The Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Sun and Trinity Mirror all making moves towards producing online video. If the promises of online news are to be fulfilled books like this deserve the widest possible readership.

Haroun And The Sea Of Stories
Haroun And The Sea Of Stories
by Salman Rushdie
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of fun, 12 Sept. 2006
Plenty of fun to be had in this tale of a storyteller and his son. Rushdie imagines a world of light and dark, noise and silence, with some memorable characters and places. It's all done with great imagination and no small wit - reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. Really, it's a children's storybook, but with plenty to keep the adults entertained as well.

House Of Leaves
House Of Leaves
by Mark Z. Danielewski
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.04

5 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Style over content?, 12 Sept. 2006
This review is from: House Of Leaves (Paperback)
This is a great example of style over content, but that's not to say that this book isn't without its merits.

Essentially this tells a gothic folk tale, but in the style of a PhD thesis, with copious footnotes, quotes, and critical analysis, at least some of it genuine (I recognised one quote about the death of realism in photography).

The story itself, about a door that one day mysteriously appears in a house - and the explorations of the corridors that lie behind it, is pretty simple, and reasonably compelling in itself. There are some great design ideas which reflect what is happening in the story - such as blocks of type getting smaller as the space itself does - and this does bring the story to life, but by the end I was wishing that the author had put as much energy into the story.

The ending is disappointing - an anti climax which resolves nothing of interest. But the sub-plot of 'Jonny Truant''s sex-and-drugs-and-violence footnotes (which I can only assume are meant to lighten the overly academic tone of the main story) is of no consequence and eventually quite boring. I recommend you don't read the footnotes at all.

That aside, this is an interesting book that at least tries something different with design and layout, and with a central story which is a good yarn.

Fire Under The Snow: True Story of a Tibetan Monk (Panther)
Fire Under The Snow: True Story of a Tibetan Monk (Panther)
by Palden Gyatso
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An eye-opener that leads you to want to know more, 5 Sept. 2006
This is the compelling story of the life of Palden Gyatso, of which over 30 years was spent in Chinese prisons. It is also the story of China's invasion, occupation, and transformation of Tibet, albeit mainly from behind bars.

It reminds me of Primo Levi's 'If This Is A Man', the account of his time in the Nazi concentration camps. Gyatso suffers because of his religious beliefs, as well as his refusal to 'reform' to communist ways.

What is most amazing is the apparent belief of the Chinese authorities that a culture could simply be 'educated' into a different way of living; that those who resisted could, by brute force, be persuaded to change their beliefs. But then, a similar process of 'education' is no doubt going on in the world now, as nations try to 'democratise' countries they occupy.

Unlike Primo Levi, however, Gyatso's book seems to be missing an element of self-reflection. In under 240 pages you get a strong sense of events and terrible cruelty, but only briefly does he mention that he too had to denounce his fellow prisoners. Nowhere does he address the problems of the feudal system that the Chinese so hated. I get the impression that in trying to make a case for a free Tibet, the story has been trimmed of some of the nuances that might have made it less a story, and more enlightening. Having said that, it certainly is an eye-opener, and inspires you to find out more about the recent histories of Tibet, China and Asia in general.

by Isabel Allende
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun, if not a masterpiece, 30 Aug. 2006
This review is from: Zorro (Paperback)
Having loved House of the Spirits, and been disappointed by City of the Beasts, Zorro comes somewhere in between. Firstly, this is no literary masterpiece - it is a picaresque 'voyage and return' romp that shows how Zorro came into existence, enjoyable without being particularly challenging.

Allende has clearly done her research, and is like a kid in a sweetshop when presented with all the opportunities of the period. As she says in the 'PS' section at the back: "It was the time of the Napoleonic wars, the wars of independence in America, the pirates of the Caribbean, the secret societies, the new discoveries in science and the exploration of the world." Perhaps she tries to cram in too many of these in crafting her tale, while being too 'knowing' as a narrator to fully dive in (there are postmodern asides to the reader about the epic narrative). The fights are not particularly excitingly described, and over with quickly, while in getting through so many events no time is left to build a lasting tension.

What is refreshing is the female perspective she brings to the story, which features some strong female characters and a feminine view of Zorro's egotism without losing the appeal of the hero.

In short, worth reading for light relief and an interesting peek into the world in the early 19th century, but don't expect literature or high tension.

The Vote: How it Was Won, and How it Was Undermined
The Vote: How it Was Won, and How it Was Undermined
by Paul Foot
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, 16 Aug. 2006
How strongly can I emphasise the importance of this book? Instead of ancient egyptians and the roman empire, this is the sort of history - and political education - that I wish I'd had at school. It is vital.

Foot begins with the civil war of the 17th century - when the army's leaders shrunk from obtaining universal suffrage - moves through the shocking lack of any increase in suffrage during the 200 years following, then through the Chartists' small advances in the 19th century to the impact of the suffragettes and labour movement of the early 20th. Along the way he shatters a number of myths, including the reasons for women being given the vote (their economic rise during WWI was crucial).

In the second half he chronicles the depressing frustrations encountered by (Labour) governments in trying to create a more democratic society, as financiers and unelected bodies like the IMF forced policies on them they hadn't been elected to push through, ending with New Labour's rejection of social democratic policy and the current choice between two conservative parties.

So what constructive solutions does he offer? Hope, he argues, comes from strike action and the anti-capitalist movement - movement from below, rather than actions on high. In this we can only hope.

Bare Stripped Naked
Bare Stripped Naked
Price: £16.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Laid back, 15 Aug. 2006
This review is from: Bare Stripped Naked (Audio CD)
The latest offering from Bettie Serveert is a pleasant, laid-back affair which can quickly pass you by. Gone are the Neil Young-esque guitar squalls, sadly, but the patchy experimentation of Log 22 is also eschewed. Van Dijk's voice is as compelling as ever, and the result is a mature offering that shows a confidence in what they do. If you're a Bettie fan, worth buying; if not, buy Palomine or the more recent Private Suit.

Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life
Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life
by Jon Lee Anderson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.59

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced, extensive and well researched, 1 Aug. 2006
How many people have a poster of Che Guevara without knowing anything about the man? This book is extensive and extremely well researched, and essential for anyone who wants a balanced account of the iconic figure.

Like any biography, you have to wade through a generally uninteresting youth before the action begins, but from the beginnings of the revolution in Cuba, through to doomed adventures in the Congo and Bolivia, this is a fascinating account. What comes through is a picture of a single-minded and strong-willed man whose principles sometimes came at the expense of lives. This is neither hagiography nor character assassination.

In addition you get a rare insight into South American history and the rival politics of USA-USSR-China.

Imation 18648 CD-R 52x 100pack Spindle
Imation 18648 CD-R 52x 100pack Spindle
Price: £15.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good value for the money, 1 Aug. 2006
Unlike other reviewers on this page, I've almost never had CDs fail to burn with Imation. With other manufacturers you're never sure how much you're paying for the brand. OK, the CDs do sometimes deteriorate (if left in a hot car glove compartment for months without sleeves, for instance), but then other makes do too.

Walden Two
Walden Two
by B. F. Skinner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.95

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not a page-turner, 14 Jun. 2006
This review is from: Walden Two (Paperback)
Utopian fiction is difficult to get right: after all, how do you make a compelling story out of something where nothing goes wrong? Aldous Huxley tried to solve the problem by creating an external threat, with mixed results. With Walden Two, Skinner sets up a narrator who is viewing the utopia and may be tempted to join. And strangely, the founder of Walden Two is presented as quite dislikable.

The result is not compelling reading, but surprisingly good considering that Skinner wasn't a fiction writer by trade, and knocked this off in two months. What it is, is interesting. It poses a number of questions and suggestions about how life might be made better.

Sadly, the most thought-provoking section comes barely 60 pages from the end of the book, by which time many readers will have given up, and challenges you to think about how valuable our 'democratic system' really is. It's such a fundamental value in our society that it's quite healthy to question it, if not reject it.

The other value of this book is in promoting the concept of positive reinforcement that Skinner is famous for, and that can only be a good thing when the alternatives are force or threat of force. But it'll be some time yet before our culture is so completely transformed as to produce something like the lives described here.

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