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Russell Tofts (Cambridge, Cambs, United Kingdom)

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Grammar for Grown-ups
Grammar for Grown-ups
by Katherine Fry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 7.69

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grammar made fun and interesting, 13 April 2013
This review is from: Grammar for Grown-ups (Hardcover)
Bought myself this book on impulse. Now there are some people who might opine that, having written two published books and a hundred journal articles, I possibly don't need a book on the correct usage of grammar. I pride myself that I can tiptoe my way through the many subtle nuances of the English language. After all, did I not (to my shame) once humiliate my college tutor by correcting him in front of the whole class for carelessly using the word "infer" when he should've used "imply"? My cockiness on that occasion still embarrasses me when I think back to it.

Well, it's a fascinating book and I lay awake until 5 O'clock in the morning devouring it. And I've learned a surprising amount. (Such as it's OK to begin a sentence with "And" as I did just then; previously I had always thought that beginning a sentence with "And" or "But" would bring the wrath of heaven down on my head. Shakespeare did it, and if it's good enough for Shakespeare, it's good enough for me.) I discovered that, all my life, I've been putting a fullstop after "Dr" and sometimes after "Mr" when that's incorrect practice. I've discovered the distinction between "which" and "that" (honestly, that's something that's been bugging me for nearly thirty years - I have really got to get out more! - as I felt sure these two words, used correctly, were not really interchangeable, but until now I haven't known what the difference is. And I've always wondered whether the correct expression is "Suffice to say..." or "Suffice IT to say..." (in fact either way is fine).

I've improved my vocabulary since reading it. I've learned that three dots (such as I used above) is called an "ellipsis" (sounds a lot better than "three dots", you must admit) and the proper name for a slash or stroke is a "solidus". (I've also just noticed I've put "sounds a lot" in that last sentence. Now that is a no-no, according to this masterly book, as "a lot" is much too vague to convey any meaning. And I know now the distinction between "masterly" and "masterful" to use this adjective with confidence as I did just then.)

The book, which could've been quite a dry tome, is written in a clear, easily understandable way (is that tautologous?) and spiced with many amusing asides. (The best text books are those that use humour to put their points across). I have always maintained that English, used correctly, is the best and most expressive language in the world. This book is proof positive of that. This was money well spent.


Buffy The Vampire Slayer - The Movie [1992] [VHS]
Buffy The Vampire Slayer - The Movie [1992] [VHS]
VHS
Offered by pkeylock
Price: 8.59

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Slayer is Unmasked, 6 Oct 2002
John Wayne's real name was Marion Morrison. Why do I mention this in a review of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the movie"? Simple. Because we can't help forming stereotypes based on a person's name. Would John Wayne have achieved the success he did had he retained his original name? I think not, for the simple reason that you would not expect somebody with the effeminate name of "Marion" to be a butch, no-nonsense, tough-talking cowboy. To succeed in the movies, Marion Morrison had to become macho-sounding John Wayne. By the same token, it is almost inconceivable that anyone bearing the name "Buffy" would be a kick-ass vampire slayer and saviour of the world. With apologies to anybody of that name, "Buffy" tends to suggest a vain, vacuous blonde, with a low I.Q., a passion for shopping and clothes, and more interested in boys, looking pretty, and partying all night than spending more time than is strictly necessary for studying. But that is the point. By burdening his eponymous heroine with the unlikely name of "Buffy", writer Joss Whedon is cleverly cocking a snook at such unjust stereotypes. Reviewers who criticise the film (and later television series) for what they consider to be an incongruous title, are missing the irony.
This 1992 film was universally panned by the critics when it first appeared, who didn't quite know what to make of it. Was it horror? Was it comedy? Was it a brave attempt at blending both genres?
Now, of course, as a direct consequence of the global phenomenon of the television series, this modest, understated film is enjoying a re-emergence and is even amassing something of a cult following. Like all radical scenarios, the basic premise took time to establish itself in the public psyche. I am, however, surprised that the video is not more widely available than it is, and I have yet to see it on sale in video stores.
It is fascinating to compare and contrast the Kristy Swanson film version with the more famous Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle. If the film appears to suffer by comparison, it is only because the ideas expounded in it have not yet been fully developed. In the film, the vampires hiss a lot, are capable of levitation and do not disintegrate into dust once they're staked (the chief vampire's sidekick hams it up by giving a protracted - totally OTT - "dying fly" performance after he has been staked). Buffy is told about her birthright by the mysterious Merrick (Donald Sutherland) in the gym, yet in the television series (as we saw in a brief flashback scene) it is on the steps of the school that she was apprised of her destiny. In the first episode of the television series, we learnt that she was expelled from the school for burning down the gym, but in the film no such conflagration occurs.
The script sparkles with humorous one-liners as Buffy starts off every bit as obtuse and frivolous as the stereotype implies. She thinks El Salvador is in Spain, for goodness sake! She jumps on the environmental bandwagon because it seems the cool thing to do, with little understanding of the issues she's campaigning about. When her friend, Cassandra, asks her, "What do you think about the ozone layer?" Buffy, not knowing what the ozone layer is but unwilling to admit her ignorance, replies, "Yeah, we gotta get rid of that."!! In one scene, the irreparable damage Buffy inflicts on a hot dog is calculated to have every man crossing his legs.
One very unconvincing scene, ironically the pivotal one, is where Merrick, a complete stranger whom she has only just met when he interrupted her callisthenics, demands that she accompany him to the graveyard late at night because he has something to show her! Instead of running away and reporting him for apparent propositioning, like she should, she agrees to go with him!
After she kills - sorry, slays - her first vampire (remember that SMG's Buffy disputed that a slayer is just a killer), the character soon grows in stature, becoming more sympathetic in almost every frame. She dumps her immature girlfriends and starts to display the selfless qualities seen in her later SMG incarnation. It's not the most intellectual film ever made, but it is an honest production (it never had any pretensions of winning an Oscar nomination). Kristy Swanson is an enjoyable Buffy, with a good supporting cast even if some of them are inclined to overact at times. Watch out for a cameo appearance by Seth Green who, of course, went on to appear as Oz in the series. The plot, such as it is, is pretty banal, but it's enjoyable tosh for all that, and, for those interested in seeing how the saga began, this is compulsive viewing. No home library of Buffy videos is complete without it.


Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Season 6 (Box Set 1) [VHS] [1998]
Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Season 6 (Box Set 1) [VHS] [1998]
VHS
Offered by JamesHarvey Fast dispatch from the UK
Price: 5.89

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buffy Bounces Back, 4 Oct 2002
In Season Six we're plunged into darker, more sinister territory. This is made clear right from the first few episodes. Buffy is wrenched back from the dead and finds herself, in a disorientated state, surrounded by motorcycle-riding demons, mayhem, noise and conflagration, and all that before she witnesses the violent destruction of the Buffy-Bot. It is not surprising that she is convinced she must be in Hell. And who can blame her? It must be disconcerting for her, to say the least, that the first thing she sees on her return is her own tombstone. No wonder she is miserable about being brought back by her well-intentioned, but ultimately misguided, friends. The gang can't understand her melancholy. Why, they ask themselves, is she not dancing for joy? Eventually, in "Once More, With Feeling", Buffy blurts out the reason she is unhappy and, for the first time, Willow and the others wonder whether they have mucked things up for her. Xander hits the nail squarely on the head when he says that, sure, he was selfish in wanting to have her back, when Buffy herself might have preferred to remain in a dimension she now believes was Heaven where, in her own words, she was "warm and loved and finished", but is it wrong for him to feel a certain smug pleasure that she's back? As he so eloquently puts it, with characteristic Xander-like succinctness: "Me like Buffy - Buffy back - Me glad."
The episode in which Buffy returns to life is one of the strongest, and one of my personal favourites, although that is not to say it is perfect. There are a number of glaring inconsistencies. Buffy emerges from her grave, dishevelled, but looking amazingly clean. Her hair doesn't appear even to have any dirt or leaves in it. And I am far from convinced that, having been dead for almost 148 days, she would have the strength to walk, let alone kick some serious demon ass within minutes of her resurrection.
For reasons which are explained in the show (I won't bother going into detail here; you'll just have to watch it to find out what they are), the method by which Buffy is brought back can never be repeated. Ever. It was a one-off. This is, perhaps, just as well because otherwise it would rob the programme of much of its excitement, knowing that every time a major character is killed off, he/she could be brought back to life again in a trice. ("Dr Who" was never quite the same when you realised that it didn't really matter if the Daleks or the Cybermen got the upper hand, because the good Doctor would simply regenerate into a different, and inexplicably younger, body each time.)
Much of Season Five and the first half of Season Six were slightly marred by Willow's over-reliance on magic, until it got to a stage whereby you knew that, whatever dire adversity the Scoobies faced, Willow would simply invoke a spell to banish or incapacitate the demon. But I now see this as part of the larger picture. Willow was getting hooked on magic. The drug addiction metaphor is unavoidable, and comes to its apotheosis when Willow crashes the car, almost killing Dawn. (A pity there are too many dramatic conveniences within the series, like just how did Buffy (and Spike) contrive to wander past at the exact moment when the accident happened?)
Some of the best episodes are: "Bargaining"; "After Life"; "Wrecked"; "Gone"; and (the less-than-brain-taxing premise notwithstanding) the extended musical extravaganza, "Once More, With Feeling". This last episode, which I didn't think I would enjoy, proves that writer Joss Whedon could, if he so wishes, carve quite a comfortable career for himself as a writer of musicals.
The worst episode is "Life Serial". The one original idea in it - that time moves at an accelerated rate for Buffy when everyone else is on "real" time - is never fully explored and is resolved too soon. The interminable scene in the Magic Box, in which Buffy is caught in a time loop and having a little difficulty with a disembodied Mummy's hand, is just too preposterous. And can anybody explain how the Three Geeks, Andrew, Warren and Jonathan, are such great inventors of incredible gadgets when they appear as so calamity prone?
I can understand the darker story lines not meeting with the approval of every die-hard fan, but I found the new direction a refreshing change from the levity that characterised the early seasons which, at times, was inappropriate for the grave situations (no pun intended) in which Buffy and the others found themselves. The characters in Season Six are older, wiser; they've mellowed; they're facing adult responsibilies. Xander is even preparing for marriage. And Buffy is finding that slaying all the evils the Hellmouth can unleash against her is a piece of cake compared with such mundane issues as mending a leaking water pipe, pacifying the social services who want to take dawn into care, and applying for a bank loan (the latter a stressful task at the best of times, even if you're, unlike Buffy, you're not interrupted by a demon intent on robbery).
I enjoyed the "pop culture" references which pepper the script as thickly as they have done in the past, which show that BTVS does not exist in isolation, but the characters inhabit the same world, and are exposed to the same cultural influences, as the rest of us. The danger is that such topical references might prematurely date the show when episodes are repeated on television (as I'm sure they will be) in ten or fifteen years time.
The major problem facing the scriptwriters must be (to paraphrase a song refrain in "Once More, With Feeling") where to go from here. Having had Buffy face such apparently indestructible foes as The Master, The Judge, The Mayor, Adam, and Glory, it can't be easy for the scriptwriters to think up new protagonists for Buffy to pit herself against.


Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 6 - Episodes 12-22 (Box Set) [VHS] [1998]
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 6 - Episodes 12-22 (Box Set) [VHS] [1998]
VHS

16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars On A Par With Previous Seasons, 2 Oct 2002
The new, darker theme explored in Season Six may not meet with every die-hard fan's approval, but I found the new direction a refreshing change from the levity that characterised the early seasons which, at times, was inappropriate for the grave situations (no pun intended) in which Buffy and the others found themselves. The characters in Season Six are older, wiser; they've mellowed; they're facing adult responsibilities. And Buffy is coming to realise that slaying all the evils the Hellmouth can unleash against her is a piece of cake compared with the travails of managing a house, acting as a surrogate mother to a kleptomaniac sibling, and holding down a regular job. Watching her getting "sloshed" in one episode makes the character more "human", less infallible. Somehow she's not that much different from the rest of us.
And I love her new, shorter hair style. It suits her.
Willow is finding it hard to do without magic. The drug addiction/cold turkey metaphor is obvious. A less obvious metaphor is Buffy's use of Spike to extract information about the Underworld. Spike is useful to her, although she doesn't admit, even to herself, just how useful. He has the "info" on all the demons, leading Buffy to resort to what is, to all intents and purposes, prostitution. Instead of rewarding Spike with money for all the help he gives her, as she has done in the past, she uses her body as payment.
There are many highlights which put this purchase on a par with previous seasons. The very best episodes are: "Doublemeat Palace"; "Dead Things"; and "Normal Again" (this last one I rate among the very best from all the seasons, especially for its originality, integrity, and courage in deliberately choosing to draw attention to certain anomalies that have crept into the last two seasons, such as the very sudden and unexpected appearance of Dawn). And who could fail to be excited by the concluding episodes which portray the apocalyptic aftermath of the death of one of the main characters (I won't reveal which one, although the character's identity is fairly common knowledge)?
The worst episodes are "Older and Far Away" and "Hell's Bells". Set on Buffy's twenty-first birthday, "Older and Far Away" does contain a memorable demon with an unusual method of escaping. Question: Since something terrible always seems to happen on Buffy's birthday, why doesn't she just give up celebrating them?
"Hell's Bells" is redeemed to a certain extent by Emma Caulfield's as usual delightfully quirky portrayal of Anya.
The episode in which Buffy is convinced she has killed a young woman and is about to confess all to the police, provides one of the most emotionally charged scenes. Buffy tries to explain to a tearful Dawn that she (Buffy) has no choice but to turn herself in. What makes the scene so poignant is Buffy's use of exactly the same words ("Dawny, I have to") that she first used when about to make the ultimate sacrifice at the climax of Season Five. The parallel is striking and makes for engrossing viewing. Then she was about to lose her life; now she is faced with the prospect of losing her liberty. In both cases, she is resigned to her fate; in both cases, she is prepared to sacrifice herself for the people she loves.
I enjoyed the "pop culture" references which pepper the script as thickly as they have done in previous seasons, which show that BTVS does not exist in isolation, but the characters inhabit the same world, and are affected by the same influences, as the rest of us. The danger is that such topical references might prematurely date the show when episodes are repeated (as I'm sure they will be) in ten or fifteen years time.
"Buffy" is spoiled slightly by the number of unexplained dramatic conveniences. For example, the night, just after Willow had turned bad, when Dawn sneaks off for a secret assignation with a powerful, evil warlock, how did Buffy know where to find her, and arrived (of course) just in the nick of time to save her?
The last three or four episodes, in which Willow embraces black magic big time, are extremely dramatic and suspenseful, and show the old adage of Hell having no fury like a woman scorned, to be a gross understatement, as Willow prepares to destroy all she loves in her insatiable quest for revenge. I couldn't wait to watch each succeeding episode to see how things panned out, even if the final denouement, when it came, seemed rather contrived. This is truly edge-of-the-seat stuff. For once, in an unexpected turn of events, Buffy doesn't get to save the world - one of the other Scoobies does.
The major problem facing the scriptwriters must be (to paraphrase a line heard in "Once More, With Feeling") where to go from here. Having had Buffy face such apparently indestructable foes as The Master, The Judge, The Mayor, Adam, Glory, and now a vengeful Willow Witch, it can't be easy to think up new adversities for Buffy to come up against.


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