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The Caesars - The Complete Series (2 Disc Set) [DVD] [1968]
The Caesars - The Complete Series (2 Disc Set) [DVD] [1968]
Dvd ~ Freddie Jones
Price: £13.37

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, almost perfect, 22 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Before writing the review itself, some background information.

Here and at Amazon.com I have seen several reviewers compare this series - favourably or not - to the BBC's "I, Claudius" series of 1976 - as if both were different versions of the same book, someone even suggesting that "The Caesars" was based on Robert Graves's "I,Claudius". So let me correct this (those not interested in the historical background may wish to skip the next two paragraphs).

The novel "I, Claudius" was based on the available writings from the ancient Roman historians - mostly Tacitus, Suetonius, Cassius Dio, supplemented by scattered pieces here and there. "The Caesars" and the novel "I, Claudius" cover the same historical period (the BBC series goes further by including the sequel, "Claudius the God"), that is, the years AD 14-41; in other words, from the end of the reign of Augustus to the beginning of Claudius's. 23 years of this period of 27 years corresponded to the reign of Tiberius, and in fact, despite the somewhat misleading titles of the individual 6 episodes, in "The Caesars" Tiberius is the central figure throughout, except for the last one-and-a-half episodes. For the period covered by the first four-and-a-half episodes, the most important historical source is, by far, the writings by the Roman Senator Tacitus, some 70 years later. So, Tacitus was the main source for the events in the reign of Tiberius both "I, Claudius" and "The Caesars" - hence the very similar, nearly identical, plots in both series.

There are however some differences, which can be summed up thus: Robert Graves essentially copied-and-pasted the interpretation by Tacitus of Tiberius as a cruel tyrant, and of his heir Germanicus, and his wife Agrippina, as tragic heroes. "The Caesars" followed a more generally accepted modern interpretation that sees Tiberius as an essentially honest and competent ruler, Germanicus as an overrated lightweight and Agrippina as actively trying to undermine Tiberius politically. Anyone who has read (or watched) "I, Claudius" will immediately be struck by the very different portrayal of those individuals in "The Caesars". This happened because Tacitus was a very scrupulous historian who was careful to be factually accurate - while at the same time giving the facts his own "spin". So it is possible, when reading Tacitus carefully, to arrive at very different conclusions from his as to the character and motivations of Tiberius, Germanicus and Agrippina.

"The Caesars" is a nearly perfectly faithful (if necessarily simplified and abridged) adaptation of "Tacitus with a positive interpretation of Tiberius". Pretty much everything described in the first four-and-a-half episodes has been directly adapted from Tacitus, with very little modification (the most obvious being the merger of Agrippina's two elder sons into one). The storyline is essentially about Tiberius becoming the second Roman emperor on the death of the first, Augustus, reluctantly at first, but slowly accepting that a military crisis on the frontiers required him to keep power in his hands, and eventually to administer the political intrigues caused by the uncertainty of his own succession. This storyline ends with Tiberius's death and the ascension of Caligula, whose reign is covered by the final 1.5 episodes (by the way, the sections in Tacitus's work dealing with Caligula's reign were lost, and all narratives of Caligula are more speculative and sketchy than those on Tiberius).

The writing and actors are all excellent. André Morell is perfect as Tiberius, with a character that is totally consistent and convincing even as his personality gradually changes. Roland Culver is excellent as an aged Augustus (an infinitely more accurate portrayal than Brian Blessed's in "I,Claudius"), as is a young Ralph Bates as Caligula. Bates gives the most convincing and plausible interpretation of Caligula I've ever seen. The two praetorian prefects under Tiberius, Barrie Ingham as Sejanus and Jerome Willis as Macro, are also excellent - as is almost all of the cast, all wonderful actors and mostly very well selected for their roles.

It must be mentioned that this was a British tv series filmed in black-and-white in 1968, certainly with a limited budget. For this very reason I have to say that the set designer was a genius. The sets are all historically plausible and very convincing (even when it's obvious that some sets were re-used with just minor changes): Tiberius's Villa Jovis on Capri; the Senate; Tiberius's "office"; and even Germanicus's camp in Germany - and countless smaller sets. The writing is superb, equally adept at adapting into dialogue exchanges described in detail by Tacitus and at creating dialogue for scenes only described by him - the best example of the latter is the recreation of Tiberius's rambling letter to the Senate denouncing Sejanus.

Having extravagantly praised the series in all respects so far, I must reluctantly mention the two main things I disliked. First, Freddie Jones as Claudius is very well cast and his acting is perfect - except for this: his portrayal of Claudius is of someone not only with a limp and stammer but also with a constantly twisted neck, which in my view exaggerates how Claudius was perceived. Suetonius describes Claudius as dignified at a distance, and while standing. His physical disabilities became more obvious only when he started to walk or to talk (in this respect, Derek Jacobi's portrayal of the adult Claudius in the BBC series is far more accurate). This is not trivial: the historical events suggest that it was far easier to take Claudius seriously if you didn't get too close to him. Second, Nicola Pagett plays Messalina as a haughty, arrogant and brave woman who defies Caligula directly - the same Caligula known to have people executed on the spot, including close relatives. I found it hard to accept that as an accurate portrayal of the then 18-year old Messalina, especially from what is known of her later life and antics.

Anyway, if you got to the end of this review: this series is nearly perfect in every way, much better acted and written than anything else I have ever seen on ancient Rome, in film or TV (and yes, even better than the BBC's "I, Claudius", which I also like).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 24, 2013 1:51 PM BST


The Conquest ( La conquête )
The Conquest ( La conquête )
Dvd ~ Denis Podalydès
Offered by DaaVeeDee-uk
Price: £41.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent portrayal of Sarkozy's rise to the presidency, 27 July 2012
As the director himself has explained, this film was inspired by similar films from the Anglosphere, such as "The Queen", that is: not really "docudramas" but cinematic versions of real events involving contemporaty politicians. And just like similar films, "La Conquete" works best for those who know enough about the events, and individuals, to recognise them, but not so much as to already know everything that is going on.

Personally, I have been keeping an eye on French politics for the last couple of decades or so; and Franz-Olivier Giesbert's series of biographies is informative in the extreme - as are the documentaries directed by Patrick Rotman, the writer of "La Conquete". So, to me, there wasn't all that much that was really new.

I greatly enjoyed this film (and I have already watched the DVD a few times), so I recommend it without reservation. In more detail, what I liked most (and least) about it was:

The good:

- most actors are excellent in their portrayals. Above all, Bernard Le Coq as President Jacques Chirac is astounding. He hasn't just played Chirac - he has become him. It was difficult for me to remember that I was watching an actor. The mannerisms, the expressions, the patterns of speech - they're all there, and yet he also conveys the thoughts behind those mannerisms. I think that is the best impersonation by an actor of a living person that I have ever seen on screen.
- Samuel Labarthe as Dominique de Villepin was also very good.
- the script accurately conveys the known events of the last couple of years before Sarkozy's election, with a few scenes that are convincing speculations(?).

The not-so-good (and why I reluctantly did not give it 5 stars):

- I hate to say that about an obviously fine actor, but - Denis Podalydès's portrayal of Nicolas Sarkozy is lacking - nowhere in the league of Bernard Le Coq as Chirac. It's as if Le Coq fully understood what Chirac is about, and Podalydès not relating to Sarkozy to the same extent. Podalydès gives a good interpretation of the hyperactive, let's-get-to-the-point Sarkozy, who can also be rather bitter and resentful. However, Nicolas Sarkozy himself can also be far more relaxed, and able to laugh at himself, as is obvious from some of his interviews (including those for Patrick Rotman's documentary on Chirac). That side of Sarkozy was hardly ever visible in "La Conquete". Also, the chemistry between Podalydès's Sarkozy and Florence Pernel's Cecilia never matched that which did seem obvious between their real-life counterparts in their happier times. The scenes between Podalydès and Pernel are mostly awkward.

The above is the only flaw in an otherwise perfect film - but it remains a major flaw. Hence the 4 stars. Yet, I recommend this film without reservation.


The Great Survivors: How Monarchy Made it into the Twenty-First Century
The Great Survivors: How Monarchy Made it into the Twenty-First Century
Price: £6.59

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really what the title suggests, 14 July 2012
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This review refers to the Kindle edition of this book. The Kindle edition itself is good, although without the pictures that (I presume) are present in the paper editions.

Perhaps a bit naively, I was expecting more of a historical analysis of the political, social and psychological reasons for the survival of Europe's monarchies to the present age (non-European monarchies, such as Japan's, Thailand's etc are mentioned just in passing). In this, I was disappointed.

The bulk of the book is a collection of information on the biographies of the present monarchs, their spouses, heirs, family members, etc, with a lot of attention devoted to their personal relationships - but not, let me make it clear, in a gossipy way. After you read the book, you are up-to-date on who the present European monarchs are, who their immediate predecessors were, and who their children, heirs to the throne, and close relatives are and what they have been essentially up to. So, if your purpose is to become informed on the present members of the royal families and what they've been generally up to, this book is excellent.

But the impression I got is that most of Europe's present royals are essentially well-meaning but rather average people who are at the same time "condemned" to play a role they didn't choose, but which at the same time demands little from them except being reasonably "respectable" and decent and not particularly weird. None of them struck me as being anything but average, which suggests to me that to call them "survivors" is a bit of a stretch, if that is taken ot mean that they actually possess any particular survival skills. Arguably only Spain's King Juan Carlos deserves credit in this respect, while Prince Charles, on the contrary, seems to be totally lacking in that area. Peter Conradi does touch on all of this, and he is knowledgeable when he does; the pity is that such considerations cover only some ~20% of the book, with the bulk of it consisting of such things as reporting in eventually boring detail the successive romantic partners of every prince and princess in Europe.

To give an example of what I mean. I lived in Belgium for a few years, and it was obvious that the Belgian monarchy is in many ways a far more interesting subject than the British monarchy. The King of the Belgians, Albert II, is both politically more powerful, and arguably a less impressive character, than Elizabeth II; and his sons, Philippe and Laurent, are essentially embarrassments. Yet the Belgian monarchy enjoys very strong support - in the French-speaking Wallonia, and not so much in Dutch-speaking Flandres. The explanation for this is not that the Walloons are particularly "monarchist" as such. Rather, there is increasing support in Flandres for the eventual break-up of Belgium, a prospect that, on the other hand, terrifies the Walloons. Since the monarchy is one of the few institutions in Belgium that are truly representative of the a country, rather than of one of its regions (the others being "the soccer team and some beers", according to Yves Leterme, a recent prime minister), it makes perfect sense to associate the survival of the monarchy with the survival of Belgium itself. That is what accounts of this huge difference in support fo the monarchy between Walloons and Flemish. Conradi does touch on this - but very little. Yet this is a perfect illustration of how the survival of monarchies can be due to far larger factors than the survival skills of the royals themselves - skils which, I would argue, neither Albert II, nor his rather silly queen, nor his sons, posses to any degree, unlike his brother and predecessor, Baudouin.

I got the impression that Conradi is perfectly able to write a book with a much greater focus on the historical and political reasons for the survival of European monarchies, yet he - or his editor - chose to focus far more on the biographies of the royals (this book reminded me of Sueotonius's "Lives of the Caesars"). Which is ok - as long as you know what you're getting.


L'Enfer de Matignon 4x52- DVD
L'Enfer de Matignon 4x52- DVD
Offered by Prestivo2
Price: £29.98

5.0 out of 5 stars A very good documentary on the power structure of the Fifth Republic, 11 July 2012
This is a two-DVD documentary, split into 4 episodes of about one hour, on the French prime ministers of the V Republic, that is, the constitution introduced in 1958 with Charles de Gaulle.

Rather than follow a linear historical narrative, it is structured by subjects: the process of appointment by the president, of appointing the cabinet, etc, and more personal subjects like the choice of residing in the Matignon palace. It illustrates its narrative mostly by interviews with all living former prime ministers (except Jacques Chirac, who was also president), and the then current PM, Francois Fillon; but also with considerable use of journalistic footage.

As far as the relationship with the president, parliament, and the nature of the job, go, there was very little disagreement between the prime ministers (interviewed separately but in the same studio which was very effective) - all of them said pretty much the same thing. All of them sort of whined a lot about the impossibility of a position where you're the one who runs the machinery of government, yet the ultimate political power and prestige lie with the president - even during a cohabitation with a president of an opposing party.

Besides the political analyses, I found the different personalities and characters of the prime ministers very interesting. The most detached in analysing the role of the prime minister, and their own term in office, were Laurent Fabius and Alain Juppe'. Fabius, in particular, seemed to have no illusions about the signifiance (or lack of) of his appointment as PM by Mitterrand, nor was he bitter about the circumstances of leaving office. Michel Rocard was the precise opposite: he apparently is still bewildered, even hurt, by the way Mitterrand appointed him - and then sacked him 3 years later - specifically to burn him out politically. Edith Cresson was something else: she seemed bewildered by the mere fact of ever having been prime minister, and she seemed clueless, while blaming others by her failure - I did not have enough support from the party, so-and-so worked against me, etc. Lionel Jospin and Dominique de Villepin seemed most concerned about defending their own legacies, justifying themselves and patting themselves on the back in a very obvious way. They're either very sure of themselves or the opposite: very insecure. Jean-Pierre Raffarin and Francois Fillon seemed rather balanced - as if they did not expect anything more from the job except serving the presidents that appointed them. Juppe' and Fabius seemed to be the most intelligent of the lot.

Overall, a very good documentary for anyone who's interested in French history and politics - but of no interest for others.

NOTE: this review is about the French edition of these DVDs. They do not have English subtitles, so obviously, only buy it if you understand French.


Atlas Shrugged Part 1 [DVD] [2011] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Atlas Shrugged Part 1 [DVD] [2011] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Michael O'Keefe
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £2.38

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good adaptation, 26 Nov 2011
I have read the book and just seen the movie on DVD, and I have read and watched a few reviews.

Some people have said that the movie looks cheap. That's absurd. Considering the budget it had, the production values are excellent. It looks like a competently-made, middle-budget theatrical film or a high-budget made-for-tv film. The producer, cinematographer, and director did an excellent job.

As an adaptation of the first third of the novel, "Atlas Shrugged", it is very good. I think anyone who has read the novel could fast-forward to any scene at random and immediately recognise what point of the book it's from; likewise, all the main characters are immediately recognisable the moment you see them on screen - even if a few are played by actors who don't really look like how Ayn Rand described them. That made no difference: the main actors were excellent and well cast, and they embodied the spirit of their characters.

I don't give it five stars for the following reasons. A couple of scenes were not really that well adapted from the book, especially Dagny's discovery of Hugh Akston at his diner. In the movie, the scene was abridged to the point of near-irrelevance. Also, the movie did not really make clear enough, I thought, how the design of the John Galt Line's bridge, from an engineering point of view, was only possible due to Rearden Metal's properties - even though the bridge is indeed accurately portrayed in the film. Still, it would have been easy to make that point more clear by having Rearden draw rough drafts of his bridge when he meets Dagny at the old bridge - a scene that would have underlined Rearden's engineering genius. But that's just my opinion - maybe other people would have found that boring.

I confess that I am a bit skeptical that parts 2 and 3 - if they do get made - will maintain the same quality, especially given the producers' (understandable) decision to set the story in the near future rather in the novel's alternate-reality 1950s. For instance, are the exploits of Ragnar Danneskjold's truly plausible in the 21st century - in the North Atlantic? But, let's see.

Anyone who is familiar with the novel will enjoy "part 1", I'm not sure how easy the plot will be to follow by those who haven't read the book.


Roots of Obama's Rage
Roots of Obama's Rage
by Dinesh D'Souza
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.93

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing special - not particularly good or bad, 5 April 2011
This review is from: Roots of Obama's Rage (Hardcover)
I found "The Roots of Obama's Range" to be a book that you can read easily in a short time, and which does make you think - a bit. But, it's nothing special.

As per his own account, Dinesh D'Souza started by trying to spot what was the ideology behind Obama's words and actions - was he a conventional liberal Democrat in the US sense, or even a socialist, or someone who saw himself as a sort of continuation of Martin Luther King Jr, etc? To me that was already a weakness in the book: D'Souza just assumes that Barack Obama will have a consistent ideology in his psyche, and the key to understand him, is to find out what exactly that ideology is - as if he was reading Obama's "software", so to speak. Well that may work for some people. It probably does work for Dinesh D'Souza himself, with his Christian-Reaganite ideology. It may even indeed work for Barack Obama - or it may not: would anyone get anywhere by trying to spot, say, Bill Clinton's or Richard Nixon's precise ideology? That D'Souza just assumes that that is the key to understanding Barack Obama tells a lot about D'Souza himself, that is, projection.

Anyway: Dinesh D'Souza does make an interesting case that what he calls the "neocolonial" ideology plays at least a significant role in shaping Obama's worldview. It would be even surprising if it didn't, given Obama's generation and background. The "neocolonial" ideology was - to some extent still is - taken for granted by most people of "intellectual" pretensions in Africa, Latin America, French and US universities, etc, especially in the 1970s. It is not even necessary to stretch to the breaking point - as D'Souza does - the evidence in Obama's book, "Dreams from my Father", and from the life of Obama's father himself. So my overall impression is that D'Souza is describing something that probably has some truth to it - but then exaggerating both its significance, and the evidence for it. One result is that the book can be very repetitive and it reads like it was written in a hurry. One indication is that, three times, D'Souza refers to Nicolas Sarkozy as France's prime minister, rather than as France's President. This is not trivial: it means either that Dinesh D'Souza is not aware that Nicolas Sarkozy is the president of France, rather than (just) the prime minister - which would suggest an "intellectual" of very limited interests and knowledge - and, or, that the book was not edited by anyone broadly knowledgeable. Either way, it made me skeptical of how much homework he does when writing his books.

Nevertheless, it remains an interesting read and it convinced me that there is probably something to his thesis, but not as much as he thinks.


The Great Gatsby [DVD]
The Great Gatsby [DVD]
Dvd ~ Robert Redford
Offered by Rapid-DVD
Price: £8.68

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bit too "epic" but rather good overall, 2 April 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Great Gatsby [DVD] (DVD)
For some reason I had never seen this version of "The Great Gatsby"; having recently read the novel, I thought I might finally watch it.

My main impressions were that (1) the screenplay follows Fitzgerald's novel more closely than most screen adaptations of books and (2) on the other hand, the effect of the story gets blurred behind a fog, that is: the production of this movie as a sort of "roaring twenties epic" rather than the more intimate, people-focused feel of the novel. The film has outstanding production values: cinematography, sets, wardrobe - but rather than just serve as a tool to recreate the 1920s, they became a goal in itself, as if the director was thinking something like, "it would be a shame not to use our budget to its fullest" or "let's give the folks who might find the story too boring something gorgeous to look at".

As for the cast: I thought the main actors were very good, and that the cast gave good portrayals of the characters, with one exception, Bruce Dern as Tom Buchanan. It is not that his acting was bad, on the contrary: I think he was miscast as Tom, and his interpretation of what Tom was like was all wrong. In the novel, Tom Buchanan is a more natural, straightforward kind of brute, as summarized by Nick, the narrator, as he concludes that he could not remain angry at Tom since he was like a child. Bruce Dern plays Tom as a more self-aware kind of con man. In the novel, at the end (no spoilers), I could believe Tom's sincerety as he expresses his feelings; in the film, he sounds like a hypocrite.

Many people have criticized the casting of Mia Farrow as Daisy. I thought she was an excellent choice. Granted, she may not correspond precisely to how Daisy is described in the novel. But she conveys the character's shallowness, with feelings that are fickle but nevertheless genuine, and which can plausibly charm those, like Gatsby, who mistake her present-moment, circumstancial feelings for something more durable and profound. The contrast between Daisy's personality with the more intelligent and perceptive Jordan, well played by Lois Chiles, is immediate and very true to the book.

As for Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby: my expectations sunk when I saw how the film changed the scene where Nick is introduced to Gatsby: from a casual encounter in the middle of the party, as in the book, to a mysterious, "James Bond villain" meeting in the film. Maybe the director felt it necessary to do that because the book scene would not work on screen, since viewers would immediately recognize Redford. But in any case, I thought that after that scene, Redford's portrayal of Gatsby was very good and mostly true to the book.

Overall, I recommend this film; but, maybe ironically, I think it might have been a truer portrayal of Fitzgerald's novel if it had been made with a smaller budget.


Dawn Dusk or Night: A Year with Nicolas Sarkozy (Vintage)
Dawn Dusk or Night: A Year with Nicolas Sarkozy (Vintage)
by Yasmina Reza
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Yasmina Reza's impressions and emotions - and, yes, a bit on Sarkozy, 9 Dec 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I got curious when I first heard about this book, which seems to have caused a (minor and short-lived) sensation when first published in France: playwright Yasmina Reza's book - on her year following presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy around while on campaign - supposedly had many revealing, and embarrassing, insights into his personality and character.

With that expectation, the book was a bit of a disappointment, and a surprise. First, the book - which is rather short, in large print - is most definitely *not* anything like what a historian, journalist or biographer would write given such an opportunity to study, at very close quarters, someone like Sarkozy. Its narrative is, apparently, roughly chronological, and it does contain several anecdotes of the then French minister of the interior while on campaign. Those anecdotes are usually interesting in themselves, but the point (and, to me, the problem with this book) is that the author is writing essentially about what she herself is thinking and feeling - whether about Sarkozy or anyone or anything else - and often slipping into irrelevancy, at least for those who may be interested in finding out something about Nicolas Sarkozy, rather than about Ms Reza's own emotions and intuitions. One example - which was gleefully, and uncritically, quoted by the French press - is that she states, a couple of times, that Sarkozy "is like a child". Maybe so, but how exactly? Is he childishly petulant? Immature? Inclined to temper tantrums? She does not say - she says, simply, that he is like a child, which actually means that, on those particular occasions, for some reason, she was getting that impression from him - maybe for as trivial a reason as his height.

Sometimes she quotes someone else making the same kind of assessment about him. For instance, someone saying that Sarkozy lacks "streets smarts" and is "like an American", "in the worst sense of the word". Again, maybe so - but what does that mean, exactly? There is no further elaboration or reflection. And is she quoting that just because she agrees with it anyway? The whole book is full of such disjointed opinions and episodes, just loosely connected by the overall narrative of her following him on campaign.

Having said that, the episodes she describes, when she gives some focus to what is going on rather than to her own internal intuitions and opinions, are often interesting and they do reveal something about French politics and Sarkozy himself. For instance, as Minister of the Interior, he spends quite some time having meetings with his counterparts in neighbouring countries, like Algeria and Spain. Yet those meetings - at least as far as the ministers themselves are concerned - are apparently far more about show than substance. That seems to surprise Ms Reza, but not Sarkozy - which is consistent with the impression I got of him (looking through the fog of Ms Reza's own impressions): he goes through the motions of the "public relations" side of his job, taking it for what it is, just like he goes through the motions of campaigning - which is something he, it seemed to me, sees as something that needs to be done but does not enjoy doing very much. In one episode, she seems surprised and a bit shocked that Sarkozy just walked through Churchill's war rooms in London, as fast as possible, so that she asked him, how can you not care about Churchill? Which to me illustrates the core issue with this book: Ms Reza seemed to expect Sarkozy (and everyone else?) to be a person like herself, continually affected - and distracted - by whatever is happening around him, so that he "should" stop to reflect on Churchill even when on a hurry.

Actually, whenever she lets Sarkozy's words and actions speak for themselves, the impression I got of him was rather positive. He genuinely let Ms Reza in his inner circle and seemed to consider her as one of his team, even a friend, with no attempt to try to shape the portrait he knew she was painting of him. Nicolas Sarkozy came across, to me, as a very hyperactive (no surprise, here) man who goes through the motions in the games of politcs and campaigning but who also is refreshingly open, and genuine, whenever in the presence of those he regards as true friends - this was illustrated most obviously by the dialogue Ms Reza chose to quote in full between Sarkozy and Alain Juppe'. It seems to me that Sarkozy also came to regard Ms Reza as one of those close friends with whom he could be fully himself - yet the conclusion must be that this was not reciprocated. A better title for this book might be, "My intuitions and emotions during one year with Nicolas Sarkozy and how I remain clueless about him".


The Climate Fix
The Climate Fix
by Jr., Roger Pielke
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sane look at energy policies, 19 Nov 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Climate Fix (Hardcover)
I have been a regular reader of Roger Pielke Jr's excellent blog for some time, so I more or less knew what to expect. Despite the title, the bulk of the book is not so much about climate change or climate science as such, but about energy policy and the process of decarbonization of the world's energy supply.

Dr Pielke's argument is essentially that decarbonization of the economy - moving from carbon-intensive coal down to less carbon-intensive hydrocarbons, natural gas, to finally nuclear power and other sources - has been an ongoing process for some time, regardless of anything related to climate change or climate policy. However, since concerns about climate change have generated broad public (and so political) support for active decarbonization policies, we are (or should be) in an ideal position to use intelligent policies towards accelerating energy decarbonization - a desirable process that would happen (or more accurately, is already happening) anyway.

Where the book is most original (in relation to what is most commonly written on this subject), and most critical, is in the specific policies presently followed (or at least, prescribed): that is, the setting of specific carbon emission reduction targets at national level, following (supposedly) rigid deadlines for specific years. The problem with that approach - illustrated perhaps most clearly by the UK's Climate Change Act of 2008 - is that when it has been taken, it was together with a vast underestimation of the efforts and expenses needed towards meeting those goals - far more, in terms of expenditure, that any of the countries who have taken that approach have been politically willing, or financially able, to invest. Thus, whatever politicians may say, they are doomed to failure. The book's conclusion is then that the most sensible approach is to use taxes on carbon to finance R&D towards speeding up the already-ongoing decarbonization process.

At face value, one could hardly disagree with the process of decarbonization as such; the controversy then shifts to the issues of "carbon tax" and "policies" as such - as illustrated by a debate with Dr Pielke in London a few days ago. My own disagreement with the book's reasonings is the level of public support for such policies: Dr Pielke defends the view, in chapter 2, that there is a broad public support, even as he emphasizes that they are conditional to their not compromising economic growth. But then what does "public support" mean, if only for something that would cost nothing?


The Climate Files: The battle for the truth about global warming
The Climate Files: The battle for the truth about global warming
by Fred Pearce
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.26

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Limited value, 29 Oct 2010
The main problem with this book is that it adds very little to the factual information about the affair of the "Climategate" emails - while Fred Pearce's own analysis is superficial.

He does try to address the issues: what the Climategate e-mails were all about; how they came to be made public and their impact; the background of the climate science disputes which were at the heart of the e-mails, especially the "hockey stick graph" and global temperature statistics; the personalities and backgrounds of the main characters: Steve McIntyre, Phil Jones, Michael Mann, etc etc. As he had, apparently, easy access to participants on all sides of the dispute, he provides interesting snapshots of personal information and perspectives. Yet, what becomes clear is that this remains a book by a journalist who's still out of his depth in the technical issues involved - so, as so many journalists in this matter, as per his own narrative - he just lets the judgement of the "climate science community" replace his own - precisely what he seemed to warn his fellow journalists against, at some point.

This is an interesting book for those who already have a good grasp of what the Climategate affair was all about, as it provides the perspective of an obviously well-meaning journalist trying to come to grips with the issue and with his, and most journalists', failures to adequately (1) understand the issues and (2) report them adequately. Those for whom this book will be the first introduction to Climategate will, I'm afraid, end up as bewildered as Mr Pearce still obviously is. I suggest reading the e-mails themselves - freely available online - and then Andrew Montford's excellent "The Hockey Stick Illusion" for an introduction to the technical issues - and then read Mr Pearce's book.


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