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the antiquary (England)
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Shit My Dad Says
Shit My Dad Says
by Justin Halpern
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tao Te Ching, with more swearing and less sex, 5 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Shit My Dad Says (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Justin Halpern is down on his luck, his girlfriend has just dumped him, he is given a job writing unfunny articles for maxim dot com and he has to move back in with his parents. Like the best worst Hollywood film Justin finally finds spiritual and comedy enlightenment in the sayings of his dad. We can't blame him for taking so long because Justin's dad has no shame; being his son involves much embarrassment, like much of the best comedy of Basil Fawlty or Frasier.

The bad language putting you off? I'm the last person to appreciate lazy swearing for comic effect, but Sam Halpern swears expertly with gruff style. The language is foul, dirty, rude, yet funny, effective and never truly obscene (except maybe once). Yet somehow it seems inseparable from the genuine and strongly held views which are grounded in a solid morality.

A swift, invigorating and unpretentious read. Bottom line, if you don't like laughing don't buy this book.


Snark
Snark
by David Denby
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A politically biased diabtribe against the American Right, 20 May 2010
This review is from: Snark (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Snarks are breeding unchecked like rabbits. They need to be hunted, stamped on and put in their place.

Unfortunately David Denby is not a snark hunter, he was a film journalist, but now straying into politics what Denby really is is an earnest Cheerleader for Barack Obama. We end up on the wrong part of the map in all sorts of ways. Denby's method to drone on through the undergrowth of history fails to land hits on a single snark, fails to inspire in his commentary on the past, fails to connect the past to now. Given the result Denby's choice of The Hunting of the Snark is an appropriate allegory, even if he has po-facedly misappropriated the poem with a complete lack of fun.

Incorrectly described as 'sharp' and 'witty', neither does it come across well as 'polemic'. Denby even, risibly, describes himself as 'cool and clever', failing the first rule of cool - that you must never claim to be - as for clever, you must either show you are or go home.

Politics is the wrong arena to confront snarks in such a fashion. Denby's own personal bias is on show and makes his conclusions worthless. American politics may lack intelligent arguments between left and right, but this is a failure of engagement, and both sides are to blame.

This book is a disappointment and a turn-off in all of its goals.


Double Falsehood (Arden Shakespeare Third Series) (The Arden Shakespeare)
Double Falsehood (Arden Shakespeare Third Series) (The Arden Shakespeare)
by Brean Hammond
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.99

20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alackaday, 6 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Blast, how slow am I to have quickly fallen for a 300 year old fraud? Like my namesake The Antiquary a ready dupe for any charlatan with a piece of muddy broken pottery and tales of auld lang syne.

The best hope that is reached for is that Double Falsehood is a 'ghost' of the lost Cardenio by Shakespeare and Fletcher (also see the 'found' Cardenio or the Second Maiden's Tragedy, rejected as false). For ghost read rip-off, forgery, (in)famous and typical 18th century meddling.

Double Falsehood, apart from sounding like a Shakespearean Bond film, and aptly named now with this revival, is such an obvious early 18th century guess of what this Shakespearean play might have been that surely no-one who actually reads it can be fooled.

Three stars stolen from me for being an interesting curiosity - but it won't be shaming the same shelf as my facsimile of the first folio. Minus 5 stars and curses to 21st century academics, who in their pseudo-scientific socio-historical-linguistics only take us further away from history and art. To Brean Hammond, out of whose interest in Pope and his enemy Theobald, rather than Shakespeare, this work seems to have sprung: 'Thy sin's not accidental but a trade'. And boils to publisher and media for getting my hopes up and failing miserably to justify the headlines.

Somebody please send for an aged philologist to flay this corpse.
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 12, 2012 9:59 PM BST


Dragon Age Origins: Awakening (PC DVD)
Dragon Age Origins: Awakening (PC DVD)
Offered by GeeksWholesaler
Price: £6.99

77 of 92 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Subscribes to the theory sequels are worse rather than an improvement, 25 Mar. 2010
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
It is only an expansion, not a full-blown sequel, but here's a rush of reasons why Awakening is under par, followed by optional waffling:

Half-finished. Half-written. Small-scale treatment of epic matters. Buggy. Crashes to desktop during combat. Loses items. Wait for a patch if you need immersion. Lacks coherence. Lacks fire. Disconnected with DA:O. Too easy. Limited conversations. No romance. NPCs and party members not as interesting. No camp. Limited effect of choices, but more epilogues, which is nice. Lacking depth. Lack of atmosphere - even with the decent level design. No tension. Short, should be cheaper. Enjoyable. Bizarre bring-back character choice justified overall. Still slightly addictive, qualified Dragon Age fun.

-Mild spoiler for Dragon Age: Origins (but not for Awakening, except at the end*)-

If you accepted its limitations Dragon Age Origins was a blast, a Hollywood blockbuster version of role playing games. Although falling short of Baldur's Gate, it was its illegitimate nephew, rising to take the RPG crown.

With Awakening we have been promised more of the same things we loved about Dragon Age. Apart from the combat that's a promise which has been broken. That's because what got everybody really involved with Dragon Age, and generated the headlines, wasn't the loot, but the personal relationships, running the gamut from sleazy to meaningful. Despite itself we loved the plot too. All of this is limited and half-hearted with Awakening, and tension, either with characters or in the plot, is almost non-existent.

Dragon Age was a multiple personality of a game written by too many people. One minute incredibly and sincerely lame, the next bouncing back with a killer one-liner. One minute awkwardly contriving a plot device, the next springing a twist that would put any soap opera to shame. The laughs are still in Awakening but conversation is blander and there's no camp (in the tent sense and Shale and Zevran sense as well). Instead you have to hold down the tab key all of the time looking for trees and statues to talk about. The languages of the Elves, Qunari and Dwarves still all sound like Klingon - but fortunately the dull, instructional, Star Trek Voyager-like feeling in some world areas is mostly gone. Another good thing is that the voice talent is talented, with plenty of British accents to water down the American.

The claustrophobia of a vast world packed into small locations is much worse in this add-on - given the story, the abilities of PCs and consoles now and the amount of people on the credits, the anti-epicness of the delivery is astounding, from the supposed city to the supposed large-scale battles.

As an add-on it doesn't gel very well, you can't visit Soldier's Peak or any part of the old map. The set up is as forced and unnatural as DA:O except moreso. For some reason your character walks alone to Amaranthine. Yes, even if you're effectively the King as well as the Grey Warden leader, your only escort will be some girl sent to fetch you for the last 5 miles. As well as some of my best gear I had also `forgotten' all of my shields, so my skillset was useless for some time - it seemed to be a bug, apparently there is a mod out there that fixes this.

In the brief moments of continuation from the previous game my DA:O decisions seemed to carry through, so thankfully Alistair stayed dead, although I was given another whiney miserablist voiced by a similar sounding actor. Bioware please, after Carth and Alistair I've had my fill of damaged needy men (don't shout that too loudly down the pub if you're a bloke).

This is combined with one of the worst patches ever, 1.03. The majority of people play a game soon after release so it is criminal to subject them to simple and obvious bugs. Now we have extra crashes to desktop, and an easy game made technically even easier. This will not stretch anyone who EA/Bioware ought to have remembered must have played and got used to the first game. Even a well-signposted chance to repeat one of the best and hardest battles of the first game is thrown away.

It's not as much game as I expect for the RRP, even with Amazon's discount - after the rip-off of Soldier's Peak I should have expected that.

If the fighting was all you cared about, it is still good fun even if it is too easy and similar. The same simple types of groupings appear over and over again. Loot is overly plentiful, although I still kept my old armour throughout. The new rune system tiresome. Some of the new combat abilities are fun and improve a system that was too simple to begin with, but make you even more overpowered for the competition. Awakening was still a game I had to complete, but I can imagine some abandoning it.

My advice to Bioware? Replay Baldur's Gate to relearn atmosphere. For graphics swallow your pride and take on board what The Witcher did with your own engine, and take advantage of the power of today's machines.

*Ughh, emo darkspawn.
Comment Comments (10) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 15, 2010 9:49 PM BST


Evans Lichfield Union Jack Traditional Tapestry Cushion, 18 x 13 Inch, Polyester Fibre Filled
Evans Lichfield Union Jack Traditional Tapestry Cushion, 18 x 13 Inch, Polyester Fibre Filled
Offered by Findmeagift
Price: £16.87

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars For appearances only, 23 Mar. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Is it unpatriotic to sit on the flag? Who knows? But it is uncomfortable, small and with insubstantial stuffing. This is a cushion for arms only, sad to say that a sprained ankle won't be supported by the British flag except perhaps as an additional softener. It is rough and hard-wearing - too much for a pillow, and I don't think the insides would stand such regular use, this does give Alex Salmond ammunition in his opposition to Union cushions.

The flag itself is in fine antique looking colour and printed the correct way round. On the reverse is a decent enough beige. Personally it's too much of a statement for the lounge, but is useful for a recliner in the garden.


Norton Internet Security 2010 Performance Pack, 1 User, 3 Computers (PC CD)
Norton Internet Security 2010 Performance Pack, 1 User, 3 Computers (PC CD)

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Norton back to its golden years - but beware the Utilities, 10 Mar. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Hurrah, after what must be around 10 years I can use Norton antivirus again - in fact the whole internet suite is no longer a naff resource hog taking over your computer. And it's effective, on the first scan finding a trojan and a downloader that had got past my free AVG antivirus and free Comodo firewall and also sorting out many tracking cookies.

There's absolutely no downside to Internet Security I can find, it is a simple, unobtrusive (no disruptive firewall pop-ups), all-in-one package. Short, sweet and painless, but if you need to there are still silly graphs to stare at.

So only four stars? DO NOT install Utilities, it messed up my registry, failed to go back to its own restore point, stopped me using Windows's restore point, slowed down my PC and is just otherwise full of unnecessary tinkering toys. Now I no longer have a sidebar and can't get it back. Thanks Norton Utilities.

If you would like a software PC mechanic TuneUp Utilities 2010 is the best.


The Churchills: A Family Portrait
The Churchills: A Family Portrait
by Celia Lee
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great companion to My Early Life, 18 Feb. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What should one expect from this family portrait? It is best not to view it as a full biography, it feels more like a good old fashioned straight history, free from the political bias or obligatory fresh angle that plagues most popular histories today (by free of bias I mean of structural dogma, no Whig or Marxist tendencies on view here; the Lees are sympathetic to the Churchills, mildly sticking into Salisbury and Balfour for example).

We are given a fairly straight-forward chronological rendering of Winston Churchill's immediate family history sourced mainly through their own letters (more extracts of these would have been welcome) and the work and recollections of Winston's nephew Peregrine. While Lord Randolph, Winston's father, still unfortunately comes across as a remote figure (only natural for a solid Victorian), this book does help somewhat by presenting fresh information to form a more rounded character, and we feel we can understand Winston's mother Jennie, even while tutting at her behaviour towards her youngest son Jack, about whom we learn much.

The book is somehow substantial, despite its often sketchy but easy-reading style. Conjectures and judgements by the authors are few, unobtrusive and made on a sound and sensible basis. What would have once been incredibly embarrassing and dynamite exposures are not shied away from. The most sensational accusations are rejected and only the hopelessly prurient will be disappointed.

Wholeheartedly and strongly recommended to anyone with an interest in Winston Churchill, and inherently interesting enough for a great many others fresh to his history.


Emma (unabridged, 12 CDs) (BBC Audio)
Emma (unabridged, 12 CDs) (BBC Audio)
by Jane Austen
Edition: Audio CD

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 'I am very sorry to be right in this instance. I would much rather have been merry than wise.', 15 Feb. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Can such CDs as these be enjoyed as background noise? For that is what this becomes, unless you sit down and concentrate for long hours like, well, like reading a book.

So unless you have an unlucky affliction that prevents you from picking up the wonderful Emma, there seems no point in paying more for an inferior time listening.

If you are restricted to listening? Jenny Agutter is a very competent reader, impressive at times, but she has been asked to read too fast and asking her to read all of the characters in an unrelaxed manner cannot do her or the book justice - the resulting sound is not really bland but can seem so. Hence concentration is a must - 'tis no good for driving, nor even pottering about doing the housework.

The book's weaknesses, the proliferation of harmless, worthy and boring old women, Emma's unknowing affinity with them, are only amplified by this reading so that the middle CDs sag and lag greatly. Some dialogue is an almost psychotic twittering, and while a little mild hysteria due to a restricted life is a valid interpretation, it is too much here.

There is no connection with the TV series which is printed as the front cover.


Life's Too Short to Drink Bad Wine: 100 wines for the discerning drinker
Life's Too Short to Drink Bad Wine: 100 wines for the discerning drinker
by Simon Hoggart
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Not snobbish, but a bit of a bore, 15 Feb. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Ideally I think you need to be drinking the wines in question whilst reading this book so that the gratitude of a delicious find enables you to digest the waffling style. That feels unfair, Simon Hoggart is a personable chap, is full to the brim with sound and useful info and seems to be an English amateur of the best tradition, but I found this book a devil to get into.

While it feels like an individual book it lacks any eccentricity to give sparkle. Listing the wines alphabetically makes no sense in this context and just makes the whole experience very random and disconnected; as does splitting up the 'features'. I'm sure if S.H. was pontificating all this stuff at me instead, over a bottle in the garden, it would be splendid.

Don't be fooled into thinking that wine knowledge in itself is snobbish. Hoggart states his position on snobbery at the start and sticks to it. And don't be foolish by being surprised to find that the wines are more expensive than average in a book called 'Life's Too Short To Drink Bad Wine'. However, you have to question Hoggart's bargain-hunting abilities, you should not be paying fifty to sixty for a Cloudy Bay (not a wine he recommends) eighteen is more like it.

Essentially, despite Hoggart's winning conversational style failing to flow on the page, this an incredibly useful little guide - take note of the title, beginners will need a further, more comprehensive book.


1000 Ultimate Experiences (Lonely Planet 1000 Ultimate Experiences)
1000 Ultimate Experiences (Lonely Planet 1000 Ultimate Experiences)
by Lonely Planet
Edition: Paperback

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Marla you big tourist, I need this, now get out!, 21 Dec. 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First the good - it's full of ideas - as a simple reference it's almost worth the money.

Almost, because it's a soulless armchair exercise in list compilation with an annoying journalistic style sometimes as bad as a toned-down lads' mag. The anonymous authors lack wit, depth of knowledge, practicality, the worst are snide and snarky and seem only able to relate everything in terms of popular culture. Now I'm no fan of James Blunt but you're not qualified to whine witlessly about the whiner when your sole recommendations for music in the UK is as pedestrian as the Reading Festival and just 'go to London'.

And it's reckless with no advice about safety at all - all the while recommending such places as Sudan in 100 words or less, airily dismissing concerns and saying vaguely that, he? she?, was somewhere in the north. There's a patch of Sudan where the risk is low(er) (if you discount the general jihad against westerners that's been declared) but it's impossible to repeat the author's experience going by this book. It may seem obvious to most people to look-up the FO's travel advice, but I have had to check an acquaintance's bonkers plan to bicycle down the east coast of Africa because all he'd read was books like this.

Get this instead and really inflame a desire to travel: A Book of Travellers' Tales (Picador Books)


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