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Helot "Film Buff 199" (Midlands, UK)

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The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion
The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion
by Robert Spencer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.04

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evidence based and clearly argued, 1 Sep 2014
The blurb on the cover led me to expect a right wing rant. That is far from the case here. The author uses only those sources that Muslims claim to trust. From these sources he shows without doubt that any non-Muslim should be wary of claims that their founder was a peaceful man. We need to educate ourselves as to the true nature of this religion. I suspect that most Muslims are unaware of most of what this book contains, and they need to learn.

Perfect Your German, Advanced [With Paperback Book] (Teach Yourself: Language)
Perfect Your German, Advanced [With Paperback Book] (Teach Yourself: Language)
by Paul Coggle
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Too many errors, 29 July 2014
I've borrowed this from my local library and am half way through it. Unlike some other reviewers, I am quite enjoying its layout and approach. However, there is one caveat which has so far stopped me buying it, even at a discounted price: there are many errors. Not regarding the language, but in the lessons. For example in the first lesson, some text questions about the audio conversations on the CD refer to parts that don't exist except in the transcript. Similar errors litter the book and make it more confusing to use than it needs to be It should have been professionally edited and proof read and this is far below the standard I would expect from such a reputable publisher.

The obsession (A Panther book)
The obsession (A Panther book)
by G. F. Newman
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A Controversial Kind of Loving, 4 Jun 2014
Well, that's how the blurb describes this long-deleted novel of an English MP's sexual relationship with a pubescent girl. Back in the Seventies and Eighties, when this was published, a writer could use the word "lover" in this context and not be regarded as worse than Hitler. These days, a novel like this would never be published. Whether you regard this as an improvement or not depends on your view of the main theme: can a man and an underage girl truly love each other?

But there is geat value in this book, flawed though it is. Kalmann, the protagonist, is portrayed in some depth, painting him as a sad and tragic figure, caught by his own desire for Afra, the somewhat privileged young girl naively enjoying the attentions of this powerful man. Why does Kalmann risk everything? Perhaps Afra provides him with a fulfilment unavailable elsewhere. Their relationship is written in a realistic manner, showing Kalmann's self-delusion that he can somehow keep her, that he won't be discovered, and that Afra's love for him is more than an adolescent crush. Afra, to Newman's credit, is never seen as just some victim of a predatory man, but as possessing desires equal to those of Kalmann and at least some understanding of her own, even if she has little idea of what is really going on. Is she corrupted by the relationship? Possibly, but perhaps more by the need for secrecy, which puts pressures on her that no child should have to experience. Inevitably it all collapses horribly in a somewhat pulpy and Gothic denoument.

Newman's novels never shied away from exploring topics others keep at arm's length, and it's to his credit that he explores the reality of intergenerational love without treating it as inevitably cruel or abusive.

War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times
War Games: The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times
by Linda Polman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Biting, intensely readable, surprisingly hilarious, 30 May 2014
I came to this book via my local library, having been deeply impressed by her previous book "We Did Nothing", about the failures of UN peacekeeping. Polman turned her attention to the unholy connections between aid and war, and has produced a work which, while it might not win awards for academic rigour, succeeds brilliantly in its purpose of showing us how the almost unimaginably vast sums our governments and charities spend in our names are rarely used for their supposed purposes.

The opening chapter's description of the gigantic refugee camp set up after the Rwandan genocide in 1994, in Goma, Zaire (now Congo), makes for astonishing reading. I was unaware that this well-reported creation was, in fact, populated mainly by Hutus, the ethnic grouping responsible for the genocide. They were using the camp as a base to launch attacks back over the border and some in the camp grew very rich on the proceeds of stolen aid, robberies which the aid organisations were unwilling to confront because it might mean they would have to give up their lucrative jobs and leave.

The thesis of the book is that aid is so poorly administered that, in the majority of case, it causes far more harm than good. To her great credit, Polman offers no simplistic solutions: she does not call for the ending of all aid, which would be both moral cowardice and rebound on us here in the developed world. But, as she states, we are far too willing to believe everything we're told by self-interested governments, institutions and non-governmental organisations. We need to question much more, to demand that our money is spent wisely, or not spent at all. Personally, I would go further and greatly reduce overseas aid budgets, which from all the evidence are out of control. We should also be a lot less naive about NGOs and charities before we set up that direct debit, recognising that these are, at heart, businesses like any other, and demand that they show that the long-term effects of their activities are providing value for our money and genuinely helping people who can't help themselves.

Child-Lovers, The: Study of Paedophiles in Society
Child-Lovers, The: Study of Paedophiles in Society
by Glenn D. Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.79

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dated but useful contribution, 14 Dec 2011
Amazon's print-on-demand service has produced this comparative rarity. It is a study of minor-attracted persons (MAPs) which did not set out from the start to bolster British society's preconceptions of this much maligned group, but rather to let them speak and then to draw tentative conclusions about their sexual orientation and its implications. Depending on one's viewpoint, this was either to let them condemn themselves or as a useful contribution of evidence to a debate obscured by emotive claims.

Drawing upon questionnaires and in-depth face-to-face interviews with 77 members of the 1970s Paedophile Information Exchange (a UK pre-internet attempt at creating a MAP community), the authors present their results in a straightforward manner. At the time of publishing in 1983 it was a little easier to find `out' MAPs, as society was arguably more open to non-mainstream sexual practices than it is today. An aim was to avoid the biases present in some previous studies which examined only MAPs who were in custody or undergoing clinical treatment.

Results were interesting and mostly failed to reinforce prevalent assumptions about the background, personality, fantasies and practices of minor-attracted persons. Few claimed childhood sexual experiences with an adult; psychological and personality scores were within normal parameters; and their social skills were well-developed. Of most interest are the numerous case studies, which summarise interviews with cooperative MAPs. A number describe ongoing relationships with children (mainly boys) and it is interesting to note that today the authors would be forced to notify the police if told of illegal actions such as these. This would violate the trust placed in the researchers and destroy the integrity of the project. No doubt some would regard that as both inevitable and good, but the present level of ignorance and prejudice about these people amongst the public, politicians and the criminal justice system means that this kind of study is needed more than ever.

Naturally, one must take care to be aware that MAPs, like all of us, can be deceptive and self-serving and it is to the authors' credit that they have taken this into consideration. However, it is striking that all of the interviewees stressed the vital importance of love and care in their relationship with a child, and that any kind of force or pressure is utterly unacceptable. Another study a little later than this one (see Sandfort, T., Boys on their contact with men: A study of sexually expressed friendships, New York: Global Academic Publishers, 1987) interviewed children who were sexually involved with adult males, and the results conformed strongly with the claims of mutual enjoyment from the men in this study.

It is only in the conclusions that the authors display some failure of nerve. They concur with contemporaneous studies which found no consistent evidence of harm from non-coercive sexual contacts between child and adult. However, they cite Finkelhor's weak argument that, despite this lack of harm, the power imbalance between child and adult means that any lightening of the law's load might allow an adult to take advantage of this, giving as examples teacher-student and similar relationships. Given that adults such as parents or social workers routinely use their superior power to force children to do many things they don't want to do, and that the power imbalance in Western society is now very much in favour of the child, this argument appears to have little validity.

More positively, the final paragraphs urge the authorities to reduce their interventions and to use `discretion and compassion' when they regard intervention as necessary. Gazing upon the dismal landscape of ruined lives of adults and children caused by unhelpful or vindictive prosecutions, it is deeply sad that our society has failed to move in this more positive direction.

Further useful reading on this topic can be found in Li, C.K., `Adult sexual experiences with children,' in Li, C.K., West, D.J., & Woodhouse, T.P., Children's sexual encounters with adults, London; Duckworth, 1990a, pp. 139-316.

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America
by Chris Hedges
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.00

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A timely warning, if overstated., 2 Sep 2011
Does Chris Hedges ever examine his own beliefs as critically and thoroughly as he has demolished those of the so-called Christian Right in the USA? It seems from this book that he is afraid to take the final step into the great unknown of atheism, which a man of his intelligence and sense should be able to do. Join us! It's nice here!

He is as woolly as Rowan Williams or Prince Charles. For example, in the first chapter, "Faith", he clearly sets out the vast inconsistencies and repellent hatreds in the Bible which utterly undermine any claim to inerrancy (unless God forgot to employ an editor). But then he states that "We are saved, in the end, by faith - faith that life is not meaningless and random... acts of compassion... sustain the divine spark, which is love." Do those words have any meaning? If his faith is not in a supernatural entity, then why pretend to be a Christian at all? If it is in God, then why not say so?

Anyway, most of this is compelling stuff, full of the first-hand details which bring an immediacy to his accounts of the paranoia, arrogance and sheer lunacy which characterise the dominionists who seek to turn the U.S.A. into a theocracy like Iran. He vividly shows the closeness of these fundamentalists' beliefs and practices to those of earlier fascists by starting the book with Umberto Eco's list of fascists' typical features and then going on to let them hang themselves with their own words.

My lengthy personal experience of similar churches in the UK bears out the truth of his descriptions. And any time of the day we can look at the religious TV channels even here in the UK and see the lies, the fake promises of miracles, the appeals to the emotions which these already-rich evangelists use to enrich themselves even further.

The book includes an extensive bibliography and references to ensure accuracy.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 28, 2014 7:01 AM GMT

Let the Right One in [DVD]
Let the Right One in [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kåre Hedebrant
Price: £3.50

3 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, pretentious, full of holes, 17 Aug 2011
This review is from: Let the Right One in [DVD] (DVD)
Like many others, I read glowing reviews. However, the film doesn't match up.

To allow us to understand the themes and subtexts, a film needs a coherent, credible narrative. Many arty films fail in this regard and LTROI is no exception. A few teenage bullies can clear a pool of all except one child? That child is the wettest wuss in the history of motion pictures? A woman is savagely attacked and seriously injured but doesn't bother to go to hospital? A man watches from his window as another man is murdered in plain sight, but does nothing at all? How does being a vampire allow the girl to become Spidergirl and climb brick walls and trees so easily?

The CGI in the cat attack scene was so bad as to wreck it and make it laughable.

The acting is fine, the cinematography is excellent, but not enough to make this film more than a cheap b-movie with an arty gloss. Yes, perhaps the vampire girl is just a figment of Oskar's imagination, but I really detested him so much that I didn't care about his feelings. He had a virtual sign on his head reading "I'm more pathetic than any boy ever, please hit me."

Don't bother with this one. There are a few horror films much better than this, though not many, as the genre is heavily populated with dross. Just look at the Horror Channel!

A-Ha: Live In South America [VHS]
A-Ha: Live In South America [VHS]
Offered by smallerneil
Price: £19.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars They should have had a different director, 10 Feb 2010
I had this on VHS and I hope they don't bother releasing it on DVD. The musical performances are fine, though some of it must be mimed because different shots in each song are cut from different nights. Why do that?

One of these days, someone will produce a rock music DVD in plain vanilla direction, without show-off effects and editing. This isn't it.

Monument: Remastered Definitive Edition
Monument: Remastered Definitive Edition
Price: £11.36

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too late to rectify their mistake, 2 Feb 2010
It's a real shame that Ultravox ever thought this was good enough to release. A handful of tracks from a full show. Every song on the DVD has much of the onstage footage replaced by some from the song's video. In the case of Mine for Life, the only non-single, they used footage from the Passing Strangers video. Given that the VHS of The Collection was available shortly after this was first released in the 1980s, what was the point? I suspect that it was that the band, or whoever else was responsible, thought that onstage footage alone would be too boring to attract the average pop fan. And why so short?

Despite that, the glimpses shown here portray an exciting live band giving their best to an ecstatic crowd. This was the first tour that the band used digital synths like the PPG Wave 2.2, as opposed to their mainly-Yamaha analogue setup previously, and the string sounds in particular suffer in comparison, showing an obvious thinness. Try playing Vienna or Reap the Wild Wind next to their studio counterparts.

I'd say only worth buying if you don't have it already in some other format.

Michael Jackson: Live In Bucharest - The Dangerous Tour [DVD]
Michael Jackson: Live In Bucharest - The Dangerous Tour [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Jackson

19 of 57 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Creative decline, 21 Jan 2009
Never having seen a Jackson show, I was curious to see how he came across in the heady days of the early 90s before his troubles. The show itself is predictably spectacular, bombastic and rather cold. Jackson seems totally wrapped up in himself with no real attempt at involving the audience. This was touring Dangerous, his last good album. After now, his extra-curricular problems would overwhelm his creative genius.

The sound and vision are adequate for the time, being stereo 4:3. However, the real faults are in the choices made by a production crew with no Jackson input. The sound mix has far too much audience noise mixed in. The shots are about 70:30 stage:audience, which for my taste is way too much crowd. From the beginning, the aim seems to have been to show how big a star he was, not how great the music and show were, and the DVD suffers greatly from this. The band are almost invisible, which is a shame considering what superb musicians Jackson had the sense to employ.

I doubt there'll be another Michael Jackson tour, so this is the best you can get, but that's not saying much.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 14, 2011 10:53 AM GMT

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