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Phil Gyford (London, UK)

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Sony MDR-EX70LP Fontopia Headphones
Sony MDR-EX70LP Fontopia Headphones

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic if they fit, 10 Mar. 2003
I bought these because I'd found my Sennheiser MX-500s a little disappointing: too tinny, a loose fit, and the foam covers kept coming off. A friend had these Sony phones and loved them.
When I first tried them I was really disappointed. I understood why so many people have complained about the tinniness. They seemed to fit OK with the middle-sized buds but the sound was awful. An hour of listening and I couldn't bear any more.
Thankfully I experimented. I tried the large buds, which I thought would be too big. But, a little push and they were fine. Suddenly I understood all the other people who have raved about the sound. Wonderful solid bass. Still a little too loud on the top end for me, emphasising any inadequacies in MP3s, but my iPod's equalizer reduced that no problem.
So, the trick is to get a good solid fit - the buds should block your ears completely. The feeling should be a little like being underwater; you should be able to hear your breathing inside your head. This may take a bigger size bud than you'd expect, but it's worth the experimentation. Great stuff.


Mother London
Mother London
by Michael Moorcock
Edition: Paperback

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ahhh, s'ok, 24 Nov. 2002
This review is from: Mother London (Paperback)
I first tried reading this several years ago, but became bored a few pages in and stopped. I can see why now, as it's a slow start to a meandering tale involving many characters. This, of course, isn't necessarily a bad thing if the characters are interesting enough to hold one's attention, but sadly this isn't the case. Despite recounting the lives of a handful of Londoners who are either telepathic or slightly insane, there's not quite enough to make it addictive.
The story spans almost half a century, from early World War II to the mid 1980s, and follows the characters as they gradually meet and become friends. Unfortunately, each chapter jumps to a seemingly random year from this period and while I'm sure there's some literary justification for this, it's hard to get involved in the narrative.
Despite being a less than rollicking read there are interesting aspects and the older sections made me want to live in London again, albeit a London of the 1950s and '60s. The city is wonderfully depicted as an ever-changing place, with new buildings, people and stories being layered upon its already complex history. One of the book's best guides to the place is Josef Kiss, a telepathic and eloquent "character" who observes his beloved city changing around him as he wanders around its boroughs. While some of the imagery and atmosphere will stick with me, it wasn't quite enough to keep me absorbed.


Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture
by Douglas Coupland
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gets me every time, 24 Nov. 2002
I can't remember how many times I've read Generation X now. Not an obsessive amount, but every so often I need to re-read it as a kind of "touching base." On Saturday, as I packed to spend the weekend at my parents' house, where I grew up, I felt the need for something familiar, easy to read and touching, that would leave me comforted yet introspective.
But this is just my relationship with the book. The main narrative concerns three late-twenty-somethings living in a southern California resort town, somewhere anonymous in the desert. All are working in no-responsibility jobs, none have any idea what to do with their lives. Having grown up with the Cold War they're always expecting an apocalyptic end to their world of sun-baked desert and faceless industrial shopping malls.
Their conversations and rented bungalows are scattered with references to previous post-war decades in which everything seemed more certain and whose pop-culture seems like an escape from that of today. As the years pass since the book's publication it's becoming apparent that the world in which its set is just another past decade whose sayings and culture are ripe for ironic vultures. But every time I read it I find something that's relevant to my world (if "Legislated Nostalgia: To force a body of people to have memories they do not actually possess" doesn't hit I Love the 19x0s where it hurts, I don't know what does).
If you can, forget the whole Gen X thing that floated around back in the nineties, which is far too much baggage for this little story to carry. Well, "stories" would be more appropriate. There's little plot here, but the characters spend much of their time telling each other romantic and doom-filled (and impossibly eloquent) tales; thankfully this is Coupland's forte.
This could all sound a bit earnest and it is in places, but I can forgive the characters their occasional self-importance because their stories and lives never fail to get me where it counts, in my easily-touched heart.


The Dancers At The End of Time (Tale of the Eternal Champion)
The Dancers At The End of Time (Tale of the Eternal Champion)
by Michael Moorcock
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite, 24 Nov. 2002
I first read this trilogy half my life ago and it has been my favourite story ever since. While it could be described in part as science-fiction, its scope helps it transcend such tags. In fact, every sci-fi book you've read could well have taken place in the same world, thousands of years before the main events of this tale take place.
Set, obviously, at the very end of time, the world's tiny population benefits from the work of past civilizations. They have no idea how it works, but they can simply channel a great power that enables them to create whatever they like - houses, clothes, landscapes, creatures - and destroy them just as easily. This has resulted in nothing more than an endless succession of fads and fashions as people while away their endless, conscience-free days partying and gossiping, punctuated by the occasional arrival of time- and space-travellers.
When Jherek Carnelian falls in love with an accidental visitor from Victorian England, a whole new series of ancient fashions sweeps the end of time while he attempts to make sense of this unusual emotion and track down his confused sweetheart.
The wondrous setting of the end of time and its ever-changing inhabitants and visitors would be entertaining enough, but the story is also deepened not only by the cross-century adventures and misunderstandings but also by the discovery of what it means to exist at the very end of time. In addition, those who have read some of Moorcock's other tales will find familiar time-travelling faces popping up on their way to or from other tales, which adds to the sense of a gloriously rounded and believable universe.


Cities in Civilisation (Phoenix Giants)
Cities in Civilisation (Phoenix Giants)
by Peter Hall
Edition: Paperback

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't do what it says on the tin, 24 Nov. 2002
This 1000 pager is billed as answering such questions as "What makes a particular city, at a particular time, suddenly become immensely creative, exceptionally innovative?" Unfortunately it doesn't really answer this, and spends very little time attempting to do so.
This is not to say it's a bad book, just that you should know what to expect. The bulk of it is a series of histories of particular cities in particular times: Elizabethan London, Berlin 1918-33, Detroit 1890-1915, early Hollywood, Imperial Rome, etc. As such it is extremely interesting. Each 20-50 page chapter is a wonderful history of what made a place "happening," the emergence of whatever industry or culture made it the place to be. But any analysis of why this was is a brief section at the close of each chapter (and some summary chapters). While it's fair enough that these don't necessarily reach a concrete conclusion, the preceding history's depth often seems irrelevant. The analysis could be accompanied with a brief summary of a city's history, rather than a few dozen pages, and little would be lost to the main thesis.
However, if you expect a book with a collection of fascinating periods and places in history it really is worth a read.


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