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Electric Shock: From the Gramophone to the iPhone - 125 Years of Pop Music
Electric Shock: From the Gramophone to the iPhone - 125 Years of Pop Music
by Peter Doggett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The medium and the message, 25 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Peter Doggett's comprehensive, detailed and engagingly written account of 125 years of pop music, was an immersive and fascinating read

This is more than just a history of pop music though - it is a history of what happened to music when a method of recording performance happened. How did music itself, and our reaction to it, begin to change once we could recreate what once could only have been heard as it was being performed? How did the medium of recording and storing music begin to change that music, and how did musical demands change the machines themselves?

Doggett throws down an important gauntlet, right at the start :

"The invention of recorded sound transformed music from an experience into an artefact, with physical and psychological consequences which reverberate to this day. It imposed a distance between the moment when the music was made and when it was heard. It allowed for endless repetitions of what would once have been a unique performance"

This is an extremely powerful truth. Familiarity does breed contempt. Hear a piece of music which hits the heart, the guts, the soul once, and its power is astonishing. Play it again and again and it begins to diminish. And then if it is picked up and becomes part of a background when you are no longer actively listening to it - used in ads, heard in lifts and shopping malls, belted out from passing cars, then it gets quickly reduced to wallpaper

Every marvellous gift has it's sting in the tail, and ubiquitous background music noise means, I suspect, we settle for easy listening, but may not be hearing.

But, back to Doggett and his great journey. Something which comes up, again and again, throughout this book, is the wonderful subversion of popular music, right at the start of any new movement, be it blues, jazz, swing, rock, punk, hip-hop or techno. When the sound is underground, when the sound is on the streets, as it were, the music beats out a new rhythm, it arises in reaction to what has gone before and has become tame. There is an electricity there. Part of that electricity is sex, pop music is an invitation to the rhythm of movement.

The book is crammed full of wonderfully outraged quotes from `the parents' and `the moral guardians' of church, state and media, bemoaning the disgusting and dangerous effects of new music on the young.

As an example, in 1902 "As a habit, ragtime ranks with cocaine and morphine" Right up to 1992's jacket quote "Rap music has no place in our society"

In fact, another marked trend in that 125 years is the evidence of unease which the establishment felt about music arising from black communities.

And, there is a ceaseless watering down of the subversion of a constantly new and evolving pop music. The shock of the new starts from the bottom up (except when technology creates changes from the top down) and is cult-y to begin with. Then, as it becomes clear that this `new' is tapping into the pulse of the young and rebellious, business moves in. The new becomes sweetened, toned down, softened, blander, homogenised into the basics of its nature - and grows indulgent, stale, sellable.

And a slightly younger group of teens will be looking to find something else. And so it goes on

Doggett works through the initial excitement of practically every musical genre from the 1890s to date.

And, as said previously, there is also the relationship between the medium of recording - shellac, 78 rpm discs, through to vinyl, the alteration of speed, 45 rpm for singles, 33 rpm for the LP, moving on to tape, reel to reel or cassette, through to the CD, and then to the whole revolution of the internet age, MP3, streaming, the rise of video and MTV, techno, synthesisers, as new `instruments', the rise of the DJ, the VJ, dubbing, scratching, - the technology itself changing the music - and the tie up of music as dance, something not to be listened to, something to be moved to.

This is a fabulous book. The subject fascinating, but, more importantly, the knowledgeable author is an wonderful communicator of his subject, an erudite and engaging writer

I have one criticism (which won't knock me down from love to like) - pictures would have made this perfect. And this book definitely needed to exist in some sort of new reading experience, - a dedicated eReader but with embedded links so the reader could play the music they were reading about, preferably with pictures of the musicians as well!

Sure, I know the internet can be searched for all of this, but, maybe by the time the second or third edition of this comes out, that technology will exist!

A strong suggestion to those wanting to buy this book, which I was lucky enough to receive as an ARC - indexing, sourcing and bibliographical information on a non-fiction book with LOTS of this, which this is, is far more easily done in hard copy! (Though, as is common with ARCs, index and bibliography get added later)

Our Endless Numbered Days
Our Endless Numbered Days
Price: £9.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars And after the end of the went on, because the end did not begin., 24 May 2015
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Clare Fuller's first novel, the brilliantly titled, teasingly contradictory Our Endless Numbered Days, is a strange, disturbing, beautifully written book about dark family dynamics, the wonder and magic of childhood, deep fears, obsession, staying alive, the end of the world tied up with the enduring power of childhood fairy stories, and their dark symbolism

The book takes place over a 9 year time period. It opens in Highgate, London, in 1985. Peggy is 17. She has returned to her family home after a 9 year absence, disturbed and traumatised after being inexplicably missing, kidnapped by her father, when she was 8.

Back in 1976 Peggy was the beloved only daughter of a wealthy, apparently happily married couple, though both, in their own way, were rather self-obsessed. German mother Ute was an internationally lauded classical pianist, who has rather slipped into domesticity following her cradle snatching marriage to James. At 17, James was 8 years Ute's junior.

Despite the hazy gloss which the returned Peggy remembers, of the summer of 1976, there were definite cracks and oddities in her parents' marriage. James had become a member of a group of Retreaters, survivalists preparing for a some-time imminent end of the world, `after the bomb falls', by retreating far from civilisation, finding remote pockets in the countryside, learning again how to fish, hunt, gather. The group is led by a mysterious American.

Peggy, who is obsessed by the book The Railway Children, is nicknamed Punzel (as in Rapunzel) by her father. And, yes, all the symbolism and allegories are there a-waiting.

In the summer of 1976 Ute departs for a concert tour. Left in the care of James, father and daughter appear to have a kind of idyllic summer (in the child's imagination) as they begin to act out the end of the world retreat in the jungly back garden of their Highgate mansion, which merges in the undergrowth, with the cemetery. They live under canvas, don't wash, and eat squirrels and rabbits which James traps.

This, to Peggy/Punzel is all an enormous adventure, much more exciting than school and the discipline her mother imposes. And then the adventure gets even more exciting and wilder. James and Peggy leave the country, en route to die Hutte, a mysterious hut deep in the forest:

`A magical, secret place in the forest' my father said with a catch in his voice. `Our very own little cabin, with wooden walls, and wooden floors, and wooden shutters at the windows.' His voice was deep and smooth; it lulled me. `Outside we can pick sweet berries all year round; chanterelles spread like yellow rugs under the trees; and in the bottom of a valley a Fluss overflows with silvery fish, so when we're hungry and need supper, we can just dip our hands in and pull three out.

The Hutte is a real place, marked on a map, and Peggy is excited, as she expects they will meet Ute there.

However, excitement and strangeness soon turn very dark indeed, as once far from civilisation, James tells Peggy that the world has indeed ended, and the two of them are the only survivors.

Except, clearly, it hasn't, and they aren't. None of this is a spoiler, as we know, from the opening chapter, that Peggy is now 17 and has only returned from that hut in the forest two months ago. Peggy is forced to be an unreliable narrator because her father, who has created this narrative for her to inhabit for her endless numbered 9 years of days, has made a lie the reality by which the two have lived

An eight year old, and her father, in a dark, Grimm's fairy tale forest, the only beings left alive, somehow having to survive the freezing winters. What happens to a child with no other human contact except one other being - no other world view except her own, as told to her by the other human?

A forest, too can be as inaccessible a prison as a tower. Not to mention the roles of various forests in other fairy tales.

Fuller's dark, frightening book employs nothing of the supernatural - there are no tricks of external fantasy, but certainly the reader will be aware of the dark psychological undercurrents which the fairy tale is constructed to explain.

It's a dark and twisted tale, but also has a strange beauty. There's a kind of seductive dream in the Walden-like idea of that life in the forest, a kind of honest simplicity of living within the landscape, learning its ways. Though nothing in this book is simple, and its whole premise is fashioned on a lie a father has created for his child.

Banished [DVD]
Banished [DVD]
Dvd ~ Myanna Buring
Price: £13.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Banished - A stunning drama - The first and (sadly), the only series., 23 May 2015
This review is from: Banished [DVD] (DVD)
I was completely hooked on this excellent 7 part series when it was transmitted earlier this year, and have been urging anyone who missed it to buy the DVD.

It was a stunning drama - the fact that Jimmy McGovern was the writer, almost guaranteed that we would have gritty realism, punches (many) to the heart and gut, and a lot of complex and nuanced issues to leave the viewer puzzling over - not to mention difficult challenges for the characters, who would be complex people.

The script then would be a wonderful starting point for a potentially brilliant drama, and `all' that would then be needed would be equal brilliance from director, technical crew, and most of all, some wonderful actors. Tick, Tick, TICK!

The background and setting is Australia, 1788, and the arrival of one of the first convict ship with transported criminals to be banished (some for life) into this new world. So, the convicts are one group, struggling in a harsh place, to survive. Then there are the military, here for a limited term of duty (but this is still in years) to keep those convicts under control. And then there is the governor, not a military man, a Crown appointed ruler. So, clearly some different agendas going on, and a wealth of potential conflicts. And also of course some other disparate people, with different agendas again - mainly, the representative of Divine Law - the Church, which in this case is in the guise of a Reverend (and his wife) who are deeply committed to saving souls.

And, almost greater than all of these individuals and their conflicts is the harsh, unknown, inaccessible continent itself. Reaching Australia was dangerous and hazardous, the colony will need to support itself - growing food, farming the livestock they brought with them, hunting what they can, and the difficulty of the journey means that it is impossible to know when more convict ships (with more supplies) will arrive, the present military will be relieved, or, indeed whether the mother country will remember its servants and its outcasts at all. And, even more unknown - what of any indigenous peoples, and will they be friend or foe, `savages' who can be duped and exploited, or, perhaps, peoples to be respected and negotiated with.

Now the bad news, the very very very bad news is, that the BBC recently announced that there would not be a second series, so some of the threads which were clearly waiting to be developed, won't be - and the relationship with the indigenous peoples was clearly a major strand for the second series, as, in the first series, almost the whole focus is `inside the colony' with only one episode indicating that there might be some other human life outside the cleared area of the first settlement

This is an absolutely operatic, epic, classical tragedy type piece, - the very antithesis of a familiar, little, domestic drama. Consider, for example, the fact that there are male and female convicts, but soldiers do not come with their wives or with their children. So, how are `men's needs' to be met - why, the female convicts of course. They are there as bounty, the soldiers' creatures for the choosing. And it is a hanging offence (for male convicts) and a flogging (for females) for the convicts to have sexual relationships with each other.

Then there is the issue of how the female convicts 1 woman for every 5 men, should be assigned (assigned to soldiers) For fairness, lots are chosen, women will be the property of several men, and of course, higher ranking officers get dibs. Disobeying orders given by a superior officer is also a punishable offence. There are potential challenges between the military and the governor, with a more hard-line military leader, and a governor who is more idealistic, and with more `humane' ideas (though still autocratic) And then of course, there is 1 armed soldier to every 10 convicts. And these prisoners (not to mention the soldiers) are short of food, starved of sex, and not neatly confined behind bars - the 'prison' is the harsh land, and it is only that, and the prospect of quicker starvation which prevents mass escape

There are some wonderful central stories to follow. First are two sets of star crossed lovers. One is a more mature couple - the charismatic Julian Rhind Tutt as Tommy Barrett, who has fallen in love, on that voyage, with Elizabeth Quinn (Myanna Buring) Quinn is a strong, forthright and equally charismatic woman. The two also have a fierce friendship with fellow convict, James Freeman, the magnificent Russell Tovey. Freeman's story is the central one. He also loves Quinn - and has an equally strong bond of friendship with Barrett. So clearly, a painful struggle for him between sexual love and the strength of loyalty given between friends. The rules of the colony of course prohibit Quinn and Barrett being together, and Quinn is useable by the soldiers, and cannot choose refusal

The second star-crosseds are a young and beautiful pair, innocent and in some ways not yet tested by complexity. Pretty Katherine McVitie (Joanna Vanderham) has been falsely accused of theft by her jealous employer, because the master of the house tried to force himself upon her. She, and an idealistic young soldier, Private MacDonald (Ryan Corr) have fallen in love, and both are anxious that she should only be his bedfellow, and that she shall not have to share her favours. Unfortunately, MacDonald's highest ranking superior, the Machiavellian, Iago like figure, Major Ross (Joseph Millson) - another stunning performance, the person you love to hate - has become obsessed with McVitie

But there are many many more conflicts than these - every single character is nuanced, and at times divided against themselves, torn by different beliefs, different loyalties. It almost feels invidious to name any of the actors, as every one commits wonderfully to the piece, and many of the performances are brave, raw, and shocking.

However, it is James Freeman, more than any other character, who is tested, torn, challenged by some unbearable choices; he is forced to be both villain and hero, sometimes in the same instant. And I have to say that a number of times, in the series I was on the edge of my seat, literally shouting `No, NO, NO!' as something absolutely inevitable was clearly going to happen, and Freeman would be both the perpetrator and the victim, and torn apart by conflict.

I SHALL be buying the DVD, for sure, but I am still kind of needing the astonishing power of the initial transmission of this to settle, before I am ready to watch it again.

Whether a remarkably strong affection for the series by a lot of committed viewers can over-ride the generally underwhelmed response of the quality heavy papers, and persuade the BBC to rethink their decision over a second series, remains to be seen. it would not surprise me if this turns out to be one of those mourned slightly cultish series which will perhaps be reshown, to better acclaim in 5 or 10 years time

Recommended without any reservations

Rexel Advance A4 Stay Put Pocket and Prong Folder - Red (Pack of 5)
Rexel Advance A4 Stay Put Pocket and Prong Folder - Red (Pack of 5)
Price: £11.60

2.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably overdesigned, probably therefore overpriced, leaving me remarkably underwhelmed, 23 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I got off to a very very bad start with these - one of those products which have a large sticker on each file with product details (pretty unhelpful) in a multiplicity of languages. Okay, but within less than half a second I was fuming, wondering why the maker hadn't just put a nice little loose-leaf note inside each file with this information, rather than using glue. I note one reviewer says 'easy to peel off' - and another reviewer says 'couldn't get the label off and it left a sticky mess' Now perhaps different glues are being used, but easy peel it wasn't. For one file TEN MINUTES to try and take of a piece of paper which did not come cleanly away but ripped in little bits. At the end of all this the surface looked as if a peripatetic slug had been performing a complicated dance - horrid. Another file it did peel off more easily, and I have no idea what caused such dramatic variation. Possibly the hard one was cold, and the next one improved because I left it leaning against a warm radiator. That slug had clearly still be dancing though - just not as much! And it still took 5 minutes, and still needed scrubbing. Clearly, some work with acetone (nail varnish remover) is needed for the rest. So unnnecessary, a bit of sourcing of better sticky (less indelibly sticky) or the aforementioned loose leaf note inside. Back to the (Non-stick) drawing board needed!

Off to the sink armed with steel wool and washing up liquid, but I'm afraid the slug dance is still there.

Okay, whoever sat down at the drawing board to come up with this is seriously falling between stools. It contains various vertical and horizontal dividers, and the few loose leafed papers you would file in it before bulking it out would need to be secured under the corner flaps. I have had far far simpler, far far less expensive loose leaf paper files with just flaps and an elasticated closure (this could do with this sort of closure) or even the A4 document folders with a simple press stud.

Sorry, this is just a bit stupid. If you really want to secure papers in this, the next option would be to use hole punched plastic pockets and get some treasury tags as this has holes for punched paper (but nothing, like a ring binder has, to hold them

TBH I'm really not sure of the purpose of this item, I think it's pretty silly. And the price would preclude wanting to present something a bit different to delegates at a presentation or conference to gather up all the loose papers left on their chairs.

All (not particularly good) style; very little substance. The product is called Advance. I'm afraid I think it is clearly Retreat. Not to mention the fact it has pockets, but no prongs. So whoever named it is as daft as the designer! I suspect that 2 different designs may exist, as I note one reviewer mentions 'sharp metal lugs' No metal lugs on this version. And he also mentions no ring punch holes, which this has. pays your money, and may get something with holes so a treasury tag/ribbons will be needed, or you may get something with no holes but with prongs, and there is clearly a superglue impossible to peel off label version and an easy peel. Lucky dip, clearly

I go 2 star rather than 1 because it's a nice colour

Life or Death
Life or Death
by Michael Robotham
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £15.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A very superior thriller indeed., 22 May 2015
This review is from: Life or Death (Hardcover)
Michael Robotham's Texan set thriller clearly owes a lot to Stephen King's Shawshank Redemption as a beginning, an idea, and a kind of relationship: Two convicts, ones the reader is absolutely meant to root for, in essence good and noble men, one black, one white. The white man Audie Palmer in theory is obviously in no way hardened, or dangerous, and is likely to get beaten and savaged. But somehow, he survives the ten years of his sentence, despite various inmates making sporadic beelines to try and kill him. He and the black man, Moss Webster, strike up a deep and quiet friendship during Palmer's sentence.

Audie Palmer had confessed to an armed payroll robbery, in the course of which, 4 people died. The 7 million dollars taken in the robbery have never been found, and much of the violence meted out to Palmer in prison was from various inmates and guards and gangs anxious to beat the money's hiding place out of Palmer.

The novel opens the night before the end of Palmer's sentence : he is to be released the next day. Instead of which, he escapes from prison, and goes on the run.

Something, in fact, pretty well everything, is not what it seems.......and the reader very quickly will come to the conclusion that despite confessing to the crime, Palmer is clearly innocent. So that becomes another question. And, whilst rapidly everyone starts frantically searching for Palmer, including not just local law enforcement officers, but the FBI, one of the FBI agents is also battling with a growing feeling that Palmer may indeed be innocent (so, shades of The Fugitive too)

Robotham builds a tightly twisting spider's web of a story, with some useful red herrings thrown into the mix. Central to the plot is that ten year friendship between Moss and Audie, both their back stories, the strong women in their lives, Audie's own background, figures with Mob connections, corrupt politicians and business leaders. And good police and bad police. And much more.

It's a brutal story (if not always completely believable in terms of the amount of beatings, maimings, shootings and the like that the fictional human body survives) but what lifts it above just another thriller is the strong characterisations (although I do have a cavil, here too) and the extremely well drawn relationships. Audie and Moss, and their respective significant others are all extremely attractive characters, whom the reader will care about, and have empathy with, and this is also a big plus for this book. You will be involved, without a doubt.

There are also a lot of very ignoble, unattractive villains, with little redeemable about them, and, because they are out to get the people we care about, it is a classic battle between good and evil and the reader will root for the heroes and want the villains to get their justs, too

And then there is that FBI agent who all the way through smells rats......and rather knows the rat is not at all Palmer. Special Agent Desiree Furness is a brilliant operative. And she is shrimp sized, and despite being as tough, feisty, brave and fit as any ripped muscle hunk in the Feds, is under a huge disadvantage as her size makes everyone think she is a wee teen. And she gets permanently teased and humiliated. However, she is made of very strong stuff indeed, gives as good as she gets, and provides much of the necessary humour in the book, as she can outclass most of those who patronise her in wit, sass and intelligence. Moss too has a nice line in not only repartee, but his own internal thoughts about matters, as related by Robotham (the book is third person narrative):

"Moss is not a lover of the countryside. He's city born and bred, preferring to know the proximity of his nearest takeout than seeing newborn lambs gambolling in a meadow or a field of wheat shivering in the breeze. The countryside has too many things that buzz, bite, slither or growl, and it also happens to be full of murderous hicks who think lynching black men should still be a recognised sport, especially in parts of the South"

If I couldn't quite go 5 star on this it was for two reasons. Firstly, in order to make all those many cliffhanging tension moments that are scattered in the various chases (all very filmic), there were rather too many coincidences for my liking, and in fact I did think, `this is filmic in structure - I could `see' the cutaways, and indeed hear the kind of soundtrack playing in my head - it for sure will get made for the screen. I would lay money on that, even if not quite a missing 7 million dollars!

And the second reason is that though absolutely excellently done our heroes and our villains are on the one hand a little too noble and on the other, a little too unremittingly sulphurous in their villainy. I do prefer the greater discomfort of nuance.

I received this as a review copy from the publisher, Little, Brown Book Group UK

Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad series Book 3)
Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad series Book 3)
Price: £2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Tragedies of epic, archetypical themes., 18 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Each of Tana French's books places a different detective centre stage, but a central character in one will crop up as a not-quite-peripheral, or even as a major minor player in another.

Faithful Place has a particularly challenging protagonist/instigator-and-victim of fate. We met Frank Mackey as a powerful, charismatic, dynamic figure in The Likeness. Mackey heads up Undercover Operations. We don't know too much about his past, but he is hugely influential in The Likeness. And he will appear again as a slippery, influential player in The Secret Place, attractive and manipulative by turns. In those two novels, the reader sees pretty well only Mackey's mask.

In this book, he is slap bang in the centre, and the source of his complex and damaged personality, and how that damage is used both positively and in a retrograde way, comes clear. He is like some kind of scorpion figure. Scorpions (well, female scorpions) are fiercely protective of their families - and the family, in this context, may spread far wider than blood family. But, as all know, their sting is deadly, and a wide berth should be kept!

Mackey is certainly not an attractive figure here. The book is told in his voice, and that voice is generally brutal, unforgiving, self serving. What redeems him is his love for his precocious daughter, Holly. And his love for his ex-wife, Olivia, though it is largely Mackey's driven, controlling, self-protective angry personality which made Olivia end the marriage.

Mackey came from a very dysfunctional family indeed. Father an alcoholic, unskilled, though with a huge potential which was never realised, due to neighbourhood enmities going back a generation; mother a manipulating fearful and aggressive mammy martyr. And the 5 children, Carmel, Shay, Frank, Kevin, Jackie, the battleground on which the parental war was played out.

"One of my da's tragedies was always the fact that he was bright enough to understand just how comprehensively he had shat all over his life. He would have been a lot better off thick as a plank"

Frank Mackey, back in his teenage years, had a secret first love, Rosie Daly. Theirs was a Romeo and Juliet affair as the Daly and Mackey fathers were sworn enemies. Frank and Rosie were deep in the planning of elopement and escape to England, but the night they had set for this to happen, Rosie didn't show up, and left a note for Frank, saying that she was going to England and was sorry to hurt him. This devastating blow to his idealistic dreams not only damaged, for life, his ability to trust, be intimate and open with anyone, but also meant that he also ran away from his own home, that night. He had after all, planned to do this with Rosie, now he did it alone. Twenty two years later, he is still estranged from his family who never forgave him for leaving. The enmity between the Mackeys and the Dalys has also grown, as the Daly family had been convinced, given that both Frank and Rosie vanished on the same night, that they had gone together, and that somehow Frank must have abandoned Rosie in England, and returned to build a better life for himself as a member of the Garda. The community don't have much liking for the Garda.

And now, events happen which bring Frank back to his family and community, both personally and professionally, and these events fling open all the doors revealing community cupboards full to bursting with skeletons.

It took me a little longer to surrender to this book than most of the others - and in the main it is because of the challenges of an unlikeable central character. French manages this brilliantly, but Frank's heat, and rage are uncomfortable to be with. But for sure you are made to fully understand and engage with why Frank's aggression, despair and anger are as they are - and he is also a man who struggles and positively tries to engage with his shadows.

And it also has to be said that Mackey's dark wit keeps the reader going. His is an unkind humour, but he is amusing

"A handful of ten-year-olds with underprivileged hair and n o eyebrows were slouched on a wall, scoping out the cars and thinking wire hangers. All I needed was to come back and find that suitcase gone. I leaned my arse on the boot, labelled my Fingerprint Fifi envelopes, had a smoke and stared our country's future out of it until the situation was clear all round and they (expletive deleted meaning `went away') vandalise someone who wouldn't come looking for them"

Now all I can do is wait impatiently for Tana French to write book 6, now i have finished reading all magnificent 5

Webbox Cats Delight Complete Chicken & Duck 400 g, Pack of 4
Webbox Cats Delight Complete Chicken & Duck 400 g, Pack of 4
Price: £9.71

5.0 out of 5 stars Satisfyingly large kibble leads to satisfyingly loud crunch, 18 May 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The target audience approved, all 3. Mind you, they have a predilection for the new, and I've been suckered before into thinking 'that's a success then', but a few months down the line whatever was in, is now out, and will stay out for a good few months to a year before memory fades, and it gets received as a brand new, novel food again, and therefore worthy of a discerning feline's attention

What I like about this is that it is a much larger kibble than what they are currently on (Hill's, Nature's Best) The problem with smaller kibble is that there is a tendency, at least from my greediest, giant sized (well, no surprise there, given the greed) cat for a hoovering action to take place, as he throws it into his mouth and swallows whole, rather than crunching. And the problem there is what goes down in large pieces comes back up, very quickly, in large pieces.

So far, so good; the crunching starts the digestive process properly in the mouth and sly little vomitty puddles have not appeared.

I like the smaller packet size, for freshness, but still feel that a self-seal would have been the final best way of finishing off, to keep the packet fresh for longer. Not too big a problem with three cats, I suppose, as each packet is going to be a 2 day event, approximately.

Oh - and daily weight of food, to weight/size of cat, is given on the packet, to help correct portion size

Bitter Greens
Bitter Greens
Price: £4.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Easy read Bon-Bon with surprisingly satisfying dark, tough centre. And a feminist, and erotic tale, to boot!, 15 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Bitter Greens (Kindle Edition)
This is a clever page turner, kind of easy, kind of straight forward. Absorbing, almost effortless - until you realise that there's a lot more going on, including neat and clever games with plot - a story being told within the central story which is also yet another story. Yet Kate Forsyth manages this without confusion or artifice, and the reader can easily hold the braided threads together

Bitter Greens is both a historical novel, a romance, and a fantasy, a fairy story - and at the centre of it all, are 3 strong female characters, fighting the powerlessness of a woman's lot, in their differing ways.

The central character is a real character, who lived in Versailles, the King's Court, during the reign of the autocratic Louis X1Vth, the Sun King, to whom she was related, This was the time when the Catholic ruling elite were moving towards the eventual stifling of `dissenting' Protestant religion. Louis XIVth's reign saw the degree of religious toleration brought in by his grandfather, Henri of Navarre being rapidly eroded. He was far from a tolerant king, and in 1685 revoked the freedom of worship act, The Edict of Nantes, which had been passed in Henri of Navarre's reign. Huguenot's were forced to `convert', and to try to leave the country in order to avoid this, was punishable in some cases, by death.

Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, the main character, (whose childhood nickname in the book is Bon-Bon) was a relatively plain, highly intelligent woman, one of Louis' cousins, who became a well-regarded writer. She had several lovers, but did not marry (scandalously) till she was middle-aged. Her family were Huguenot, and she `converted' to Catholicism, around the time when such conversions were enforced. She was exiled by Louis to a convent (a fate imposed on many women who displeased men, and particularly, a fate meted out to Huguenot women) So, `Bitter Greens' is her first person narrated story, mainly taking place at the end of the seventeenth century, in that convent, as she looks back on her life. However, Charlotte-Rose is the writer who is known as the author of the fairy-tale initial known as Persinette - (a kind of variant on Parsley,which features in the story) `Persinette' later was retold by the Brothers Grimm as `Rapunzel' - or, to give it a similarly herbal flavour, a variant on `rampion'

Rapunzel is of course the story of the powerlessness of a young girl, who falls foul of a powerful witch, and is imprisoned in a tower (or convent, in Charlotte-Rose's case, after she fell foul of a powerful despotic monarch) It is also a deeply erotic story, though the eroticism is covert in the children's version. Rapunzel is rescued by (who else) a prince who climbs her outrageously snaky, ever-growing, shimmering ladder of hair.

However, an earlier version of the story exists, from the pen of an Italian writer, Giambattista Basile, published some 60 years earlier, as Forsyth relates, but scholars have puzzled how (or if) Charlotte-Rose might have read it as the story was written in Neapolitan, and was not translated out of Neapolitan till many years after Charlotte-Rose's death. As she never went to Italy, and did not speak Neapolitan, it is something of a mystery. One which Forsyth wonderfully disentangles, explores, invents, surmises.

So, the second story is that of `Marguerite' a fairy story told by a wise nun, who is the convent's infirmarian and herbalist, Soeur Seraphina. Marguerite, (another plant, name `Daisy') of course, is the girl who becomes `Persinette' and she too, like Charlotte-Rose, will transcend the powerlessness imposed on her by the witch.

Where do malevolent witches come from, however - in this story, we get to understand, and see a further story about the powerlessness and lack of choices available to women.

It is a marvellous tale within a tale within a tale - and, moreover, Forsyth upends the `victim' status of her imprisoned female, - though there are some attractive princes, even princes may be imprisoned by those more powerful than they - kings, fathers opposed to rebellious sons.

Interspersed are also various poems by other writers on the `Rapunzel' theme.

Hopefully, the fact that I've unpicked some of the rich substance to the story will not put potential readers off - this is a wonderfully told tale, with 3 extremely interesting major characters, one of whom (Charlotte-Rose) is wonderfully witty, sardonic, amused - and a remarkably sensual woman as well as a highly intelligent one. So the book has its degree of raunch as well!

There is a wealth of historical, literary, artistic information, in here, but Forsyth wears her obviously careful research lightly, seamlessly, gracefully. You learn without `being lectured'

Highly recommended, and I shall certainly investigate her second book for adults, which again mixes history and fairy story as it is about one of the Brothers Grimm.

Arvo Part - Lamentate
Arvo Part - Lamentate
Price: £13.41

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bleak, deep and curiously comforting, 14 May 2015
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This review is from: Arvo Part - Lamentate (Audio CD)
I've been devotedly in thrall to the pared down, often stripped to the bone, music of Arvo Part, for some years. Part, arguably Estonia's best known citizen, created his particular style of minimalism, `tintinnabuli', based on the close harmonic overtones heard in the `tintinnabulation' when a bell is struck. Part's stunning music is not just empty stylistics, however, but always arises from his own deep connection to the numinous, to deep reflection, to his faith.

Nearly 80 now, he continues to sear the listener with the potency and deep reflection in his work. His music is always something best listened to with full, awake, attention. And the silence and space between notes is as much part of the soundscape as the heard music.

This particular CD consists of 2 works, a short a capella choral piece, Da Pacem Domine, beautifully floated by The Hilliard Ensemble, and a long orchestral piece Lamentate.

Lamentate was inspired when Part saw Anish Kapoor's Marsyas in The Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, and had a kind of cataclysmic, cathartic experience from how he was affected by it. `Lamentate' is not a lament, as is often the case in sacred `Lamentations' for the dead, it is a lamentation for the living - for the fact that we are all in relationship to the knowledge of our own, individual mortality. Whether we consciously seek to live with awareness of that, or whether we live in denial, it shapes us.

As Part's notes on this piece reflect " I have written a lamento - not for the dead, but for the living, who have to deal with these issues for themselves. A lamento for us, struggling with the pain and hopelessness of the world."

From the crushing, weighty opening, of the first two movements, where it almost feels as if an implacable indifferent force will roll over the listeners, annihilating them, small, fragile, simple, beautiful and hesitant pause filled lines of melody arise in the third movement, carried by the solo piano. Later, these lines, are taken up, turn by turn, by other instruments. It's almost like an offer and an acceptance of tenderness, some comfort from another. Again and again, there are musical lines which arise, phrases which never quite complete and resolve - the ending is inevitable, but the answer can only be a kind of accommodation, a trying, a beauty created from a greater embodiment, so the `being here' is more and more fully realised.

These crushings, these solo questings, these arisings of musical line from the solo piano which are then taken up, questioned again by other instruments, are like some kind of manifestation of grace - the comfort of human consolation and connection in the face of the inevitability of death

Part's own history and background in devotional music is within the Eastern Orthodox Church, but there are even threads of musical influences from Arabic music in one of the movements, Lamentabile.

The whole movement of the piece, with the return, again and again to the knowledge of our mortality which shapes our living, is towards a deepening richness that comes from `living with knowledge'

And, though not in any way (obviously!) a great fanfare of a triumphal piece, it is a piece which is astonishingly beautiful, moving...and though I surrendered to it quite viscerally, getting flattened by the implacable opening, slowly having little green shoots of growth, moving towards the light of day, connecting, and then being flattened, the whole was about `responding, with growing strength, to be in the here and now'

As I reflected (as the piece makes the listener do so) I was reminded of the work of existentialist humanist psychotherapist Irving Yalom, and his books, specifically, Love's Executioner and Staring At The Sun. This music takes the same journey, and encourages `Living Awake'

The performance in this version, is from the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, with Alexei Lubimov, piano, and conducted by Andrey Boreyko. And it is all magnificent.

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Derma Roller + FREE User Guide - 540 Titanium coated 1.0mm Long Micro Needles On 9 Disks - Ultimate Skin Care Therapy And Treatment Of Acne Scars, Hair Loss, Stretch Marks, Cellulite, Aged Skin, Hyper-Pigmentation - 30 Day Money Back Guarantee
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Price: £10.01

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very scary........but without cause!, 13 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Although I had read good things about microdermabrasion, and indeed had a positive conversation with a beauty therapist about it, the thought of me rolling hundreds of little needles over my face made me feel distinctly queasy (and I'm not someone who has any anxiety at all about acupuncture!)

I think it was fear that I would end up damaging the skin on my face, and that it would all be remarkably painful.

How wrong, on both counts. So........for the similarly fearful. These needles are very very fine, and you are not grinding them into your skin, they are not making loads of scratchy bleeding holes, you are doing a very light (under your own control) rolling action in 4 directions. And it doesn't hurt (not with the lightest pressure) Think the gentlest of stroking actions. You can always apply a little more pressure as you get used to it. The only thing I would say, is, because the first time you do this, very gently, you might be so surprised at how UNpainful it is that you might be tempted to go a bit gung-ho and overdo the number of times you roll, or indeed the pressure - well, DON'T. Just be minimal and let your skin settle in response

The seller, The Skin Factory/Beaumonde Designs, is enormously helpful. My roller was despatched, I swear, before I ordered it, it arrived so quickly - I had an email with the instructions as an attachment and a follow up email to check on how I was going with the roller, and whether there were any questions I had or support needed. At that time I hadn't tried my dermaroller, so I emailed back `I'm scared!!' and it was the gentle encouragement in another email that made me bite the bullet. Or at least, roll my needles.

Your roller comes in a plastic container, to keep it clean and sterile. There are full instructions in the email attachment to preparing and sterilising the roller before and after each use (boiled water, then surgical spirit) and how to prepare and sterilise your skin - antibacterial face wash, then dab the area with surgical spirit - then use the roller as directed. Obviously surgical spirit will slightly dry the skin, so after it has all settled you could apply a serum, and then moisturise

And, for those wondering - does it work, and if so WHY does it work when you might think that piercing the top layer of the epidermis with hundreds of little needles sounds like a route to injury and scarring rather than beauty - the trick is in the fineness of the needles, their shortness, and the number of them. With LIGHT rolling you aren't getting into the dermis and breaking capillaries, but you are causing MICRO injury to the epidermis - and so stimulating the body's own heal-and-repair mechanism. It is a slight `assault' but enough to increase blood flow to the area, bringing nutrients, taking away toxins, and stimulating skin repair. Effectively, you are stimulating a mechanism which slows down with age. I'm not particularly spotty or blemished, but I do have a small area of milia right where specs rest on one side. And after one use there is a marked (positive) difference, without having needed to try any of those frightening looking milia tools, or going for an expensive treatment which might make my eyes water more through cost than the treatment itself!
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