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Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics
Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics
by Jodi Dean
Edition: Paperback
Price: 14.99

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One for the 'academic and typing left', 13 April 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is an interesting, albeit rather academic, book. Jodi Dean herself refers frequently to the 'academic and typing left' and this is presumably her target audience. Largely based on Lacan, Marx, Lacanian Marxism and, inevitably, Slavoj Zizek, she divides the book into six chapters: Technology, Free Trade, Democracy, Resolve, Ethics and Certainty. At the end, unlike many left commentators, she does not feel obliged to finish on an optimistic note, even given the current travails of global capitalism, and this adds to the credibility of the work.

Saying all that, some chapters are mainly discussions and critiques of particular thinkers. So, the chapter on democracy is largely a critique of Gutman and Thompson's ideas on 'deliberative democracy', while the chapter on Ethics engages with the works of Judith Butler. All well and good if you are familiar with these ideas, but pretty heavy going otherwise.

Still, there are some interesting ideas here. Starting with Technology, she outlines the concept of 'Communicative Capitalism':

'The proliferation, distribution, acceleration, and intensification of communicative access and opportunity result in a deadlocked democracy incapable of serving as a form for political change. I refer to this democracy that talks without responding as communicative capitalism.' (P22)

It appears that there is intensive debate happening all the time - blogs, web sites, e-mails etc. etc. etc. but no-one is actually debating, everyone is simply talking but not responding. In the end, these isolated individuals (themselves a result of the extreme individualism of neoliberalism) may be ignored. In the lead up to the invasion of Iraq:

'Bush acknowledged the massive worldwide demonstrations...He even reiterated the fact that a message was out there: the protesters had a right to express their opinions. [But] He didn't treat the words and actions of the protesters as sending a message to him that he was in some sense obliged to answer. Rather, he acknowledged the existence of views different to his own.' (P20)

In other words, he took advantage of the prevailing 'post modernist' propensity for acceptance of multiple viewpoints and used it as an excuse to dismiss views not concurrent with his own. There is, as Dean says, 'a significant disconnect between politics circulating as content and official politics.' (P21)

In the chapter entitled Free Trade, Dean considers 'The Neoliberal Fantasy' and the all pervading sense that 'there is no alternative'. Much of her argument here is reminiscent of Thomas Frank's 'The Wrecking Crew' but also calls upon David Harvey, Foucault and Zizek (his re-working of Lacanian 'jouissance') amongst others. The breakdown of (self-)discipline and the imposition, in its place, of control is mirrored by the atomisation of communities and the role of evangelical Christianity in providing alternatives, supporting neoliberalism:

'[The churches]...attempt both to fill gaps produced through neoliberal capitalism (the financial insecurities brought about by job loss and the social insecurities occasioned by the absence of community) and to respond by repurposing the lessons of advertising, marketing and public relations. An element of the reassurance provided by the promise of material abundance integrated into the spiritual message.' (P60)

And, coupled with this spiritual backing, neoliberalism promotes the fantasy that we are all winners. If you are not (yet) a winner, then the market is not yet fully free and so the system must be further strengthen/liberated.

This analysis is backed up with reference to Zizek's reading of Lacan and Lacan's concept of 'jouissance', including an interesting discussion of the 'decline of symbolic efficiency'. Dean suggests that this decline is linked to the move from a 'disciplinary society' to a 'society of control'. The breakdown of social institutions such as nuclear families, unions, schools, neighbourhoods means that no-one has a 'place' any more, no 'fixed' identity, and so control must be exerted from outside. Although dressed in psychoanalytic language, this does at times sound reminiscent of Critical Theory and, indeed, there are also references to Jurgen Habermass.

This breakdown is further explored, but from a rather different angle, in the final chapter 'Certainty'. This is mainly concerned with the proliferation of conspiracy theories; particularly those centred around 9/11. Dean analyses these with reference to various forms of discourse. Many of the conspiracy theories are based on a strange mixture of certainty and scepticism - certainty of their interpretation of the facts, scepticism and lack of belief in the 'official' story:

'This combination of certainty and scepticism takes the form of the discourse of the university. We saw in chapter 3 [Democracy] that in university discourse the facts speak for themselves. Experts claim objectivity even as they attempt to overlook the institutional power that supports their claims to expertise. Scientific socialism, the press, and economics are all instances of university discourse. Each emphasises facts...Purporting to let the facts speak for themselves, the 9/11 truth movement is structured in accordance with university discourse. Yet it lacks its authorising support...Accordingly, I view the movement for 9/11 truth as a clone of university discourse, a psychotic clone.' (P151)

It is an interesting, if rather arcane, approach. Overall, then, the book is a detailed and highly critical view of the failures of left discourse in the face of an all-triumphing neoliberalism. It is a largely academic text, requiring a fairly specialised level of knowledge on behalf of the reader. It is a challenging, thought-provoking but at times rather abstruse analysis, especially for the general reader (i.e. me.) Helpfully, though, there is an extensive bibliography. O.k. - you have been warned.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 23, 2010 9:46 AM BST

Lenny Henry in Othello (BBC Audio)
Lenny Henry in Othello (BBC Audio)
by William Shakespeare
Edition: Audio CD

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth it..., 11 April 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
According to the sleeve notes, Lenny Henry's previous experience of Shakespeare is probably pretty much the same as everyone else's at school - "The books were given to us and we were told to read them...When you look at a Shakespeare text and all the footnotes and the little numbers by it, and the archaic just feels like Chinese algebra or something. We just didn't get it." But, being a comedian and comedy actor, it was pretty much inevitable that he would encounter Shakespeare outside of the classroom. And it is pretty lucky for the rest of us that he has.

I had never read or heard Othello prior to listening to this production. I admit that the first time I listened to it, I didn't really get very much out of it. The nice thing about radio generally is that you can do other things while listening to it. But you can't really do anything else while listening to Shakespeare. The second time I listened to it was quite different. After about the first fifteen minutes or so, the play really started to take over. I thought it would be difficult to distinguish between the various actors but Lenny Henry is immediately distinguishable by his warm, deep voice, as is Iago by his oleaginous northern tones, Desdemona by her initial vivaciousness. Using those as pointers, the rest come fairly easily.

I'm going to listen to it again - having 'got' the plot, now I can go back and listen to the language and maybe appreciate the performances more. I'm still not completely convinced that radio is the best medium for this play but, on the other hand, it is far more 'portable'.

So, initially, this seemed a bit of a chore and I suppose memories of school days were partly to blame for that. But the production is lively, fast-paced, believable and engaging. I would say something about the plot but for those who have never come across Othello, that might spoil it and, for those more familiar with it than me I doubt I could add anything. Suffice to say that as the story unfolds, I found it truly shocking.

This is definitely worth a listen.

Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? (Zero Books)
Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? (Zero Books)
by Mark Fisher
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.55

66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The End of the Long, Dark Night?, 28 Mar 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Let's get the negatives out of the way first. To start with, the author refers to several books and writers but gives no references at all, except an occasional mention in the text. Neither is there either a bibliography or an index. The lack of a bibliography is particularly annoying.

Secondly, the text itself is, at times, intimidatingly impenetrable in ways reminiscent of those lampooned in 'The demolition merchants of reality' chapter in Francis Wheen's book 'How Mumbo-jumbo Conquered the World'.

Still, once you've got over those points, there are some really interesting analyses and ideas in this slim volume. Perhaps much of what is covered is not entirely new but may be found in, for example, Thomas Frank's books 'The Wrecking Crew' and 'The Conquest of Cool' plus David Harvey's books, including the excellent 'A Brief History of Neoliberalism'. However, Mark Fisher puts forward his arguments with reference to Slavoj Zizek, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Jacques Lacan, Franz Kafa, Nietzsche, Fredric Jameson as well as David Harvey.

The proposition is that we are living in post-Fordist Capitalism. No longer authoritarian in the old 9 to 5 sense, control has shifted internally, with people being unable to imagine themselves 'outside' of Capitalism. In that sense, then, Francis Fukuyama's suggestion that we are at 'The End of History' is correct. And this is what Mark Fisher refers to as 'Capitalist Realism' - a term he prefers to 'Postmodernist' as he feels that we have, in a sense, gone past even that nebulous state. As he says:

"What we are dealing with now, however, is a deeper, far more pervasive, sense of exhaustion, of cultural and political sterility." (P7)

Secondly, whereas Postmodernism was still involved in a process of absorption and commodification of Modernism (a la Thomas Frank), that process is now complete:

"Capitalist Realism no longer stages this kind of confrontation with modernism. On the contrary, it takes the vanquishing of modernism for granted; modernism is now something that can periodically return, but only as a frozen aesthetic style, never as an ideal for living." (P8)

And thirdly, we have history - or at least 'events'. As he points out:

"a whole generation has passed since the collapse of the Berlin Wall. In the 1960s and 1970s, capitalism had to face the problem of how to contain and absorb energies from outside. It now, in fact, has the opposite problem; having all too successfully incorporated externality, how can it function without an outside it can colonise and appropriate?...Capitalism seamlessly occupies the horizons of the thinkable." (P8)

That is a fair point. However, capitalism seems quite adept at inventing an 'outside'. After the collapse of the Berlin Wall and all that that symbolized, suddenly we found ourselves in a South American 'War on Drugs', with General Noriega surrounded and pounded into submission by pop music. Then, of course, there was the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan - and the ongoing 'War on Terror'. There is a material basis to this - keeping the U.S. military-industrial complex in funds, and the enforcement of what is, for all intents and purposes, an economic conscription. It will be interesting to see what 'other' may be constructed subsequently - perhaps China looms as a successor at least on an economic, if not ideological, level.

Still, Mark Fisher draws his examples from popular (remnants of counter-) culture (Kurt Cobain, Nirvana), from cinema ('Children of Men', 'The Truman Show', 'Memento'), literature (Kafka, in particular 'The Castle', William Gibson's 'Neuromancer'), from the TV documentaries of Adam Curtis and from his own experience teaching in Further Education. At times, particularly when writing of his teaching experiences, he sounds almost like that arch-neoconservative, Allan Bloom, but his points regarding the ever-optimistic, ever-irresponsible, ever-memory-less management strategies certainly mirror my experiences of 20 years working for IT companies, with their rotting figleaves of 'Corporate Social Responsibility' programmes.

Although the book clearly owes a lot to Zizek, when it is grounded in experience it has a weight and relevance that shines through some of the more turgid prose and, most happily, it 'makes you think'.

Of course, being sold on Amazon perhaps emphasises the seeming inescapability of 'Capitalist Realism' and it's Petrushka doll-like powers to prevent 'thinking outside the box'. Clearly, I still have doubts though. Whenever I read a text like this, I more or less inevitably think of the ironically titled 'How We Became Posthuman' by N Katherine Hailes which reminds us that all this must be grounded in a real, and thoroughly material, world - a world full of military expenditure, industrial waste and economic serfdom.

However, he ends on an up-beat and almost optimistic note, citing the 'long, dark night of the end of history' as an opportunity. Sign me up!

Constantine [Blu-ray] [2005] [Region Free]
Constantine [Blu-ray] [2005] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Keanu Reeves
Price: 8.12

22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What is it?, 28 Mar 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
What is it about this film that makes me come back to it over and over again and to even buy it again on blu-ray? There are very few films that I will buy again on blu-ray, but amongst them are The Thing, Blade Runner and, when they come out, the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone - and this.

I know there is a lot wrong with this film, but it keeps reminding me of The Dark Knight which is another Warner Brothers film that I keep watching over and over. There are many similarities between them. No - not cast, director, crew or anything else that I can see on IMDB, but still both films have a fantastical film noir feel to them that, it seems, only Warner Brothers can do (other examples include, of course, The Matrix and even, from 1974, The Exorcist).

To start with, the sound tracks are similar. In both, a simple, insistent syncopated beat with largely acoustic instruments (violin, bass, guitar, marimba) is interspersed with moody orchestral chords. There are also one or two sound references to The Matrix, as when Isabel is standing on the roof of the hospital. Then there are several similar shots - such as rain shot from high-up looking down onto the protagonists. And the highly effective use of tinted filters is another seeming stock in trade for Warner Brothers films of this genre.

There are some excellent supporting performances. Apart from a mainly first class performance from Rachel Weisz, there is also Shia LaBeouf delivering a much better performance than he ever managed in the awful Transformers films, Max Baker as 'Beeman', Djimon Hounsou as 'Midnite', the voodoo priest, Pruitt Taylor Vince as Constantine's deranged Catholic priest 'side-kick', Peter Stomare as 'Satan' and, of course, Tilda Swinton as 'Gabriel'. Anything with Tilda Swinton in it is not going to be all bad! And that is far from an exhaustive list.

I have never read the graphic novels, so I came to this 'fresh', so to speak and I am impressed with the depth and multiple layers that the film manages to give to the story. Why does Detective Weiss spend the whole film with his arm in a sling? Clearly, this suicide is outside the normal, material, realms of earthly authorities. It is strange that both demons (Balthazar) and angels (Gabriel) share a taste for pin-stripe suits. At one point when Rachel Weisz's character (Angela Dodson) meets Constantine, she is filmed behind a wall of deep green glass, as though she is under water. Shortly after that, she is immersed for real, (baptised) in order to be able to see the hell her sister is in. Hell itself turns out to be a storm ravaged post-apocalyptic vision of Los Angeles, wrecked flyovers concealing Hieronymus Bosch-like horrors.

And, yes, we get to met Satan. The sheer banality of his evil is perfect; understated but with an aura of malice that fits right in with the cool fantastical horror of the whole story. And then Constantine - not the other DC Comic, Ayn Rand-inspired billionaire techno-hero Batman, but a terrified man aware of his destiny, fighting it and, incidentally, doing 'good' along the way.

O.k. - it's not a Great film, but there's enough here to repay repeated viewing, enough here to leave you thinking.

One tip - maybe you know this already but this film, like The Dark Knight, has an English Dolby True HD soundtrack, but the disc defaults to 'ordinary' English Dolby 5.1 - you have to go into the language settings and select the True HD track.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 7, 2010 10:14 AM GMT

BRITA Elemaris Meter XL White Water Filter Jug
BRITA Elemaris Meter XL White Water Filter Jug
Price: 14.98

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hummm...time for tea., 21 Mar 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This isn't the first Brita 'Maxtra'-type water filter jug I've used. The first was a Brita Aluna Xl. That was o.k. - well, I'm still using it - but it has a fairly limited capacity and the 'memo' cartridge meter function is pretty basic, simply warning you when you've been using the same filter for a while.

But this one is much better. For a start, the meter actually does a bit more than simply time the usage. According to the manual, the meter:

'...monitors the filtration performance and indicates the remaining cartridge life . The three-way measurement takes into consideration the volume of water filtered, water quality (hardness) and time'.

So, whereas the meter on the Aluna simply sits on top of the jug, this one has a couple of sensors that dip into the pre-filtered water. It also indicates when water is going through the system by displaying a flashing row of drops.

Another feature of this water filter jug is that you don't have to take the lid off in order to fill it (unlike the 'Aluna'). There is a covered hole in the top on a spring. When you run water on to it, it drops down, allowing the water to enter. Of course, the first time I filled it, I opened the tap far to wide with the result I sprayed myself and the whole kitchen with water - but, after a little practise, I determined the force of water required to open the trap door without soaking the kitchen.

It certainly seems to have a much larger capacity than my previous 'Aluna' model. That is good, but it does also mean that the jug is pretty hefty when full. Still, it has a very sturdy rubberised hand grip that feels solid and more than capable of handling the weight. Similarly, it has four rubberised feet which means that it stays put on my worktop and is not going to slide off if knocked.

It is quite wide and does not fit in my fridge, but the 'Aluna' model does, so I'm not really that worried about that. Anyway, if you want to use it for chilled drinking water, you could fill up large plastic bottles from it and keep those in the fridge. It does pour very well. (That's a good tip for keeping the cost of running your fridge down, by the way: always try to keep it full!)

The whole thing, except for the meter, can be washed in a dishwasher and it is a quite easy job to remove and replace the meter. The manual is o.k., but it covers 9 languages and nearly all current models, so can be a bit 'if yours is like this, then do this, but if it's like that, then do that' and you're sat there thinking 'well, it's not like this or that'. No, its not that bad, really.

All-in-all, a major improvement on my older 'Aluna' model. Both use 'Maxtra' filters and, even though the water that comes out of the taps is perfectly drinkable, filtering it does make a noticeable and pleasant difference to tea. Not sure about coffee 'cos I might as well face it, I'm addicted to tea.

The Museum of Everything (BBC Audio)
The Museum of Everything (BBC Audio)
by Danny Robins
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 13.91

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gets better...:-), 28 Feb 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
According to Wikipedia, this series was first broadcast in March and April 2004. Somehow I missed it so I came to listen to this with no preconceptions.

Originally a show at the Edinburgh Festival, like many shows it transferred to Radio 4. And, like many Edinburgh Festival shows, it's a bit patchy. But, saying that, it survived to go on for two more series and I can hear why.

The first episode is pretty clunky but things do start to pick up around about the third episode. Ostensibly set in an infinite museum (maybe a bit reminiscent of Jorge Luis Borges!), it is a sketch show, with the same characters turning up pretty much every week. Of course, some characters work better than others. I particularly enjoyed 'Bagshot Grange' where a lady in straightened circumstances is forced to show uncouth foreign visitors around her stately home while trying to bump off her long-suffering wheelchair-bound husband so she can get the insurance.

And then there's Badgerland which sounds lots of fun - with a Badgerquarium and a badgertarian option at the restaurant. I can hardly wait. And don't forget Euro Badger too! 'Kiss my Badger!' Er...

A special mention must go to the Announcer (Lucy Montgomery), whose gnomic pronouncements punctuate the normally serene boredom of museum life - 'Welcome to the Museum of Everything. Please fell free to wander round our many galleries and experience the History of Everything. Children are welcome but please keep them in the bags provided' and 'The History of Stairs exhibit is located between floors one and two'. Or how about 'This is a visitor announcement. The History of Soluble Aspirin exhibition is now closed due to flooding'.

It's fun, I enjoyed it and I've listened to it more than once and will listen to it again. But I've been listening to a lot of 'Round the Horne' recently and I've listened to 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy' for several years and it's not really on a par with those classics. One way to judge radio is to ask 'how good are the pictures?' and this does pretty well on that score. I think maybe there are better radio series around though - try 'Bleak Expectations' or, if you want to hear more Marcus Brigstocke, listen to the 'The Now Show'. Hummm...on the other hand, I'm listening to the series again as I write this, and it is definitely growing on me.

Think maybe I'm going to have to look out for the next series...:-)
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 17, 2010 4:38 PM GMT

The Universe: Complete Season 2  (4 Disc) [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
The Universe: Complete Season 2 (4 Disc) [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Offered by ludovico_institute
Price: 8.99

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars CorGoshGollyGeeWow!, 26 Feb 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
O.k. - let's start with the contents:

Disc 1 - Alien Planets, Cosmic Holes, Mysteries of the Moon, The Milky Way, Alien Moons.
Disc 2 - Dark Matter, Astrobiology, Space Travel, Supernovas.
Disc 3 - Constellations, Unexplained Mysteries, Cosmic Collisions, Colonizing Space, Nebulas.
Disc 4 - Wildest Weather in the Cosmos, Biggest Things in Space, Gravity, Cosmic Apocalypse, Bonus: Backyard Astronomers.
Soundtrack - stereo English. Options for English sub-titles.

The menu system makes it easy to navigate between each episode and within each episode to particular chapters. The format of the chapters changes a bit about half way through, becoming rather less obtrusive.

Each episode is about 45 minutes long so, with the bonus material, that is over 14 hours of programmes.

What's it like? Well, there's a bit near the beginning of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy where the Book is telling us about Space:

"Space," it says, "is big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly hugely mindbogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist, but that's just peanuts to space, LISTEN!" and so on..."

And so on. Yes, well...this series is pretty much in the same vein. Which is not necessarily a criticism. It's just that I found it a bit exhausting after a while.

The series relies pretty heavily on computer graphics, which makes me wonder why they released it on blu-ray. Blu-ray is wonderful for nature shots, cityscapes, people, but computer graphics are relatively straight forward and so don't, to my mind, really benefit from the added definition of blu-ray.

Still, where there are 'real' images, these are pretty stunning. That's partly why my favourite episodes were the ones about Alien Moons (i.e. moons of planets in our solar system) and Nebulas (some stunning pics from Hubble, the NASA Spitzer Infrared telescope, amongst others). I also loved the last episode - talking about Cosmological Decades, the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the ultimate heat death of the universe always sends shivers down my spine!

There is a large array of eminent scientists from a variety of US universities (for example: the charming Beth Biller - a Goth fire dancing planetologist from Hawaii University, the cuddly Neil deGrasse Tyson, the perpetually enthusiastic Alex Filippenko of the University of California, Berkeley, the always worth watching Michio Kaku to name but a few), NASA and JPL, plus a couple of Brits and Germans. But there's no Alan Guth or Martin Rees.

It all moves along at a really cracking pace and this is one of the things that got me down after a while. Talking heads are never on-screen for more than 5 seconds (if that), the camera is continuously zooming in and out or panning, the soundtrack is ceaselessly whooshing or booming and the narrative contains a little too much hyperbole for my taste. :-)

Saying all that, it is still a great deal of fun. It is definitely not as detailed as the BBC's 'The Planets'; it's rather more like 'The Complete Cosmos - The Solar System / Discovery Into Deep Space'.

The Bonus material - 'Backyard Astronomers' - basically consists of a number of little summaries of what may be seen in the night sky each month throughout the year. I imagine this could be rather useful to new or would-be astronomers.

It's an enjoyable introduction to the field. It is a bit breathless and 'gee whizz' and it doesn't have the weight of most BBC science docs but for someone developing an interest in astronomy and cosmology, I would really recommend it.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 18, 2010 7:34 AM BST

"Round the Horne": v. 2 (Vintage Beeb)
"Round the Horne": v. 2 (Vintage Beeb)
by Barry Took
Edition: Audio CD

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moby Duck Anyone?, 22 Feb 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've just sat through both episodes back-to-back and am now playing them again. And I can see myself listening to them many more times. Both recordings are from the mid/late 60s ('66 and '67) so I was expecting some of the humour to be rather dated, but it is still fresh, sharp and laugh-out-loud funny. They are both quite wonderful!

The Goons opened up the possibilities of radio humour in the 50s, but whereas most of The Goons' allusions were to service life, 'Round the Horne' much more reflects the irreverent '60s. Kenneth Horne presides over an anarchic gang including, amongst others, Betty Marsden (you really have to hear her Daphne Whitethigh!), Bill Pertwee and, of course, the other Kenneth - Williams.

Radio humour obviously lends itself to 'double entendres', outrageous metaphor and all manner of word play but couple this with a wonderfully English sense of irony and surrealism and you have truly classic radio. Yes, obviously such series as 'Round the Horne' influenced television as well, but in radio you can still hear echoes of 'Round the Horne' in such later series as 'Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'.

If you've never heard 'Round The Horne' before, you really are in for a treat. If you are familiar with the series, then you won't be disappointed. Included are 'old favourites' such as Julian and Sandy speaking their subversive and suggestive 'Polari', Rambling Syd Rumpo (hello, my dearios!), and Daphne Whitethigh giving one of her special cookery tips (duck billed platypus flambe, actually).

Then we have a dramatisation of 'Moby Duck', which is wonderful. Somehow it morphs into 'Mutiny on the Bounty', with the captain calling to a very Jewish sounding Mr Christian. I wonder if they could get away with broadcasting that today? Other brilliantly silly lines include:

"Avast! Avast!"
"A vast what?"
"I don't know, but it's pretty big!"

(That does rather brings to mind the famous line from 'Carry On Cleo [1965]': "Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me!") Then, from the captain of the ship (Kenneth Williams):

"I know what's being whispered on this ship! You all think I'm a raving madame! I..."
"Ah, it's a misprint, it should be a raving mad man"
"Oh, oooh, yes! I thought it was a bit bold!"

I'm sure you get the idea. :-)

The quality of the recording is generally first class - presumably it's been tidied up a bit. The audience sound a little distorted at times - but they are laughing pretty hard! The CD itself is rather nice - it's black, and made to look like the original LP. I hope the BBC release many more episodes of 'Round The Horne' in this format - I'll be looking out for them.

Lovely! :-)
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 15, 2010 1:19 PM GMT

Price: 10.79

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply a Classic, 19 Feb 2010
This review is from: Clues (Audio CD)
Earlier Robert Palmer albums such as Pressure Drop and Double Fun are deep south, Mississippi, Louisiana and maybe even Caribbean sounding albums, influenced by Lowell George, Allen Toussaint and even Toots Hibbert. But this album is far more urban, maybe less funky and less a homage to past influences and more breaking out into a new, more electric, sound.

Saying that, the eponymous 'Looking for Clues' is a pretty, syncopated and funky little track, giving a bit of continuity, along with 'Sulky Girl'. But the album really starts to branch out when we get to the wonderful, mellifluous, flowing 'Johnny and Mary'. The production is strange, with a sort of looming boom coming in on the chorus, but it works, helping to make the song more rounded, giving the story told in the lyrics a more inevitable feel as Johnny and Mary's story just goes around and around.

Then 'What Do You Care' - a jerky, quite aggressive track - 'What do you care, 'bout what other people think?' leads us up to the brooding opening of 'I Dream of Wires'.

'I Dream Of Wires' maybe a Gary Numan song, but there's no way Mr Numan's nasal tones can deliver the power and depth of Robert Palmer's rock-trained voice. That, and the storming production delivers all the post-apocalyptic vision of the lyrics:

"I am the final silence,
the last electrician alive,
and they call me The Sparkle,
I was the best, I was them all"

This track always reminds me of 'Candy Man' by Vincent King, a wonderfully twisted and bizarre post-apocalyptic novel - it has the same feel of power tempered with a kind of regret. It really is a classic - the unlikely partnering of Numan and Palmer actually works and does them both great credit.

Well, after that, we're let down gently by the charming 'Woke Up Laughing'. A gorgeous, lilting track with slightly daft and surreal lyrics:

"I was waiting for you,
I was sat in the sun,
I could picture your face on the tip of my tongue,
I woke up laughing"

'Not a Second Time' is a fairly standard rock ballad but the production still has a feel of 'Johnny and Mary' to it, which makes it more interesting.

And then finally the strangely down-beat and weird 'Found You Now' (which, for some reason, on my copy is written 'Found You Know'). Co-written with Numan, it's a gloomy electric song but with syncopated and off-beat rhythms - a mix of Gary Numan's fairly standard fare with Robert Palmer's more funky heritage. Not a great way to end an album.

Patchy but great. I mean, 'Looking For Clues', 'Johnny and Mary', 'I Dream of Wires' and 'Woke Up Laughing' are so wonderful that you can pretty much overlook the not-so-strong tracks. Overall, it really is a classic. Released in 1980 - I've been listening to it for 30 years. :-)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 21, 2010 11:38 AM GMT

Day Out of Days: Stories
Day Out of Days: Stories
by Sam Shepard
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 27.97

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Traveller's Tales, 7 Feb 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
These are not really stories. They don't have beginnings, middles and ends. Some are a mere paragraph, none more than seven or so pages. They are more 'vignettes', little snippets and 'over heards'.

Several are tales from travels around the Mid West. Many of the titles make this plain - 'Haskell, Arkansas (Highway 70)', 'San Juan Bautista (Highway 152)', 'Faith, South Dakota (Interstate 25)'.

'Costello', written in the first person singular, is a short tale of a man revisiting his home town after 45 years. He likes to sit at café tables, studying the characters around him, making notes. He accidentally catches the eye of a fellow customer who starts talking, saying how the author reminds him of an old school friend from years ago, the times they ran off to Mexico, stealing cars and raising hell, now gone off to be a successful film star. The author denies all knowledge but, as the man leaves:

"I watched him walk across the parking lot toward a blue Ford Galaxie sedan and just as he searched for the keys in his pocket he made a little squirting spit between his front teeth. It darted out in a thin brown jet. I remember how he always used to do that just before we'd jump a car and roar off toward the border. Just before we got into all that trouble.'

Many sketches then, of life on the road, through snow storms and deserts. The scenery seems almost like the landscapes from, say, Annie Proulx's Wyoming, or maybe even from the pictures of Dorothea Lange. And, of course, from Paris, Texas. They are often bleakly beautiful, but perhaps it's a bit too easy to romanticise. Perhaps a bit Ansel Adams mixed with American Gothic. Some reminded me of Joni Mitchell's Amelia as she sang of that blazing desert and those 'six white vapour trails, across the bleak terrain', others of Lowell George's Willin' - 'I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonopah...'

Other parts are like snippets from play scripts, no description, just dialogue.

Then again, there seems to be a recurring theme of decapitation. A bizarre little tale centred around finding a head in a ditch keeps returning; first from the man who discovers it, then placing the head in the landscape, later returning to hear from the head.

There are prose poems, too, and simple questions, and anecdotes some might share over a drink - of, for example, the funeral of a noted stallion.

Horses figure large, and farm land, old dogs, Mexico, and Mayan faces. Even wives and children. The whole makes up a sort of collage, impressionistic but somehow rather uninvolving, cool and deliberately detached.

It's also a handsome book. The pages are rough cut, nicely bound with a note about the type. Manufactured in the United States of America. Where else?

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