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Mark Pack (London, UK)
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Umbrella PLEMO Classic Black Automatic Folding Travel Rain Umbrellas Auto Open and Close for Men and Women
Umbrella PLEMO Classic Black Automatic Folding Travel Rain Umbrellas Auto Open and Close for Men and Women
Offered by PLEMO UK
Price: £29.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Decent umbrella but not that long lasting, 26 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Reasonably robust although mine started to show serious wear and tear after around a year.

As with nearly all 'automatic' umbrellas, the button does not really collapse it all the way - rather it does half the job.


Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive
Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive
by Jodi Dean
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

3.0 out of 5 stars An almost exclusive emphasis on literary theory at the expense of other perspectives is both the book's strength and weakness, 25 May 2016
Jodi Dean’s analysis of the economic, political and social impacts of blogging (and social networking more generally) covers broad themes that will be familiar to readers of technology authors such as Clay Shirky or media commentators such as Charlie Beckett. However, the particular aspects, the style of argument and even the vocabulary are heavily different – for this is a work of critical literary theory. The lack of overlap in cited sources, points of debate and choice of jargon highlights how even in the interconnected world of online punditry (all three frequently write online) there are many distinct niches and communities who rarely interact even when the broad subjects of their interest are the same.

For readers unfamiliar with such literary theory Jodi Dean’s book will be hard going in parts, with Hegel and Foucault both making an entrance on page 1 - even if at under 130 pages it is not a long text.

Underneath the layers of literary theory are issues that people who have never penned a word of such theory also address, as when Dean talks about the irony of the military and big government roots of an internet which then spawned a cyberculture amongst early enthusiasts that was decidedly non-military and anti-government.

From this Dean extends her argument to make the point that the internet should not only be seen as a tool for freedom but also as a possible tool for repression. It is an argument similar to that made by Evgeny Morozov, though whilst he presents practical examples of this double-edged nature at work, Dean relies on trains of literary theory argument rather than direct evidence.

Similarly, an argument roaming across people such as Lacan and Freud leads to the view that there have been “increases in economic inequality and consolidation of neoliberal capitalism in and through globally networked communication”. What this book doesn’t attempt to do is present either economic evidence or business anecdotes to substantiate its case, which is a shame as there are a range of different arguments that can be made – not all of which fit with the conclusion of the largely psychoanalytic discussion.

Has improved communication via networks made it easier for large Western companies to become larger and not just Western? Or has improved network communication allowed small scale businesses to prosper at their expense, as you can see each day online with a multitude of small firms able to sell goods and services thanks to much lower entry barriers? Or has improved network communication taken activity away from business, as in the way Wikipedia has largely replaced paid-for encyclopaedias with free, voluntary effort?

All three are to an extent true, leaving a plenty of scope for debate on whether the internet and other communication advances are strengthening, changing or weakening neoliberal capitalism. That debate is not to be found in this book however.

Some of the book’s applications of literary theory to online developments do not fully convince. So Dean takes to task one of the impacts of word-clouds (such as those generated via Wordle), rightly highlighting that an analysis purely based on the frequency of words misses out on context, wider meaning, subtleties of language such as irony and the sense that a speech or article is more than simply the sum of its words. But Dean goes on to then say of a word-cloud that it, “The word-cloud might transmit the intensity, it might incite a feeling or a response, but it doesn’t invite the interrogation of that response or what induced it”. That is a curious claim, both at the pragmatic technical level (many word-clouds are clickable and do therefore invite interrogation; why did that politician use the word ‘goldfish’ so often? Click on the word-cloud and find out by seeing all its uses) and at the more theoretical level (is not telling you the pattern of an event an intellectual invitation to find out what caused the pattern?).

More convincing is the book’s pair of warnings about the enticing nature of online activity and against confusing online activity with political impact: "As we share our opinions and upload our videos, there are more opinions to read and videos to watch and then more responses to craft and elements to mash up. And then there are still more responses to read, and as these increase so do the challenges of finding the ones we want … It’s easier to set up a new blog that it is to undertake the ground-level organizational work of building alternatives. It’s also difficult to think through the ways our practices and activities are producing new subjectivities, subjectivities that may well be more accustomed to quick satisfaction and bits of enjoyment than to planning, discipline, sacrifice and delay."

Those sorts of questions are discussed by people across many different disciplines. In Blog Theory they are considered almost exclusively from the perspective of critical theory, which is both the book’s strength and its weakness.


Five Million Conversations: How Labour lost an election and rediscovered its roots by Iain Watson (2015-10-10)
Five Million Conversations: How Labour lost an election and rediscovered its roots by Iain Watson (2015-10-10)
by Iain Watson;
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read, but don't read it on its own if you want an accurate picture of why the election was won and lost, 22 May 2016
The gap for the 'instant narrative' books about general elections such as Iain Watson's Five Millions Conversations has got progressively squeezed over the years as the day-by-day coverage during elections includes increasingly lengthy and detailed analysis whilst the more analytical books pulling on research evidence (such as the still excellent Nuffield series) are coming out sooner after polling day too.

Yet despite this squeeze, Iain Watson shows there is still some life in the formula of a book written in the style of a daily campaign diary, thanks in particular to the sharp ways in which he depicts the frequent indecision behind the scenes in Labour over how to handle the SNP, what to say about immigration and the fallout from Ed Miliband's reluctance to stick with any big theme for very long. Miliband almost always moved on to something new long before enough had been done to get the previous theme over to more than a small slice of the population.

Watson also uses his ringside seat during the election to depict well not only the realities of behind-the-scenes campaign management but also the huge contrast between Labour's self-estimation of the quality and volume of its grassroots campaigning (the five million conversations of the title) and the results actually secured when the votes were counted.

Although Ed Miliband and others in Labour come out badly from the book, Watson is never gratuitously or unreasonably putting the boot in. Rather, he treats his subjects fairly. In Miliband's case he even makes the sharp and fair point that the enthusiasm from members of the public to have selfies taken with Miliband made for an excusable backdrop against which the Labour leader could believe that he was really cutting through to voters.

The main downside of the book is that its close up day-by-day account of the election naturally exaggerates the importance of individual events, as if the election turned on what happened one day in Leeds ("it was the beginning of the end" the book quotes someone as saying). But in fact the election had long been determined by issues of leadership, trust and economics over previous years - a better perspective well painted in the more analytical and more academic books about the 2015 general election.

Watson is still an interesting read, but don't read it on its own if you want an accurate picture of why the election was won and why it was lost.


Five Million Conversations: How Labour lost and election and rediscovered its roots
Five Million Conversations: How Labour lost and election and rediscovered its roots
Price: £6.47

4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read, but don't read it on its own if you want an accurate picture of why the election was won and lost, 22 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The gap in the political book market for the 'instant narrative' books about general elections such as Iain Watson's Five Millions Conversations has got progressively squeezed over the years as the day-by-day coverage during elections includes increasingly lengthy and detailed analysis whilst the more analytical books pulling on research evidence (such as the still excellent Nuffield series) are coming out sooner after polling day too.

Yet despite this squeeze, Iain Watson shows with his volume that there is still some life in the formula of a book written in the style of a daily campaign diary, thanks in particular to the sharp ways in which he depicts the frequent indecision behind the scenes in Labour over how to handle the SNP, what to say about immigration and the fallout from Ed Miliband's reluctance to stick with any big theme for very long. Miliband almost always moved on to something new long before enough had been done to get the previous theme over to more than a small slice of the population.

Watson also uses his ringside seat during the election to depict well not only the realities of behind-the-scenes campaign management but also the huge contrast between Labour's self-estimation of the quality and volume of its grassroots campaigning (the five million conversations of the title) and the results actually secured when the votes were counted. Energetic campaigning did not seem to generate that many extra votes.

Although Ed Miliband and others in Labour come out badly from the book, Watson is never gratuitously or unreasonably putting the boot in. Rather, he treats his subjects fairly. In Miliband's case he even makes the sharp and fair point that the enthusiasm from members of the public to have selfies taken with Miliband made for an excusable backdrop against which the Labour leader could believe that he was really cutting through to voters.

The main downside of the book is that its close up day-by-day account of the election naturally exaggerates the importance of individual events, as if the election turned on what happened one day in Leeds ("it was the beginning of the end" the book quotes someone as saying). But in fact the election had long been determined by issues of leadership, trust and economics over previous years - a better perspective well painted in the more analytical and more academic books about the 2015 general election.

Watson is still an interesting read, but don't read it on its own if you want an accurate picture of why the election was won and why it was lost.


Panasonic RP-HJE125E-K Ergo Fit In-Ear Headphone - Black
Panasonic RP-HJE125E-K Ergo Fit In-Ear Headphone - Black
Offered by DIGITALGUY INTERNATIONAL, INC
Price: £5.31

5.0 out of 5 stars Great set of mid market ear buds, 22 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Snug fit, good sound quality and a sensible cable length - recommended


Menalux 3100 MP 12 x Vacuum Cleaner Bags with 2 Micro Filters
Menalux 3100 MP 12 x Vacuum Cleaner Bags with 2 Micro Filters
Price: £16.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Does the job, 22 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Do what they are meant to do, and at a decent price. Recommended.


Punch - Instant Shoe Protector Spray - 200ml
Punch - Instant Shoe Protector Spray - 200ml
Offered by Bargain Genie UK
Price: £3.06

5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing extra special but does the job well, 22 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Straight forwardly does the job at a decent price. Recommended.


The Wrong Box [DVD] [1966]
The Wrong Box [DVD] [1966]
Dvd ~ Michael Caine
Offered by Door2DoorEnt
Price: £5.20

3.0 out of 5 stars Either a wonderfully enjoyable throwback or a mostly unfunny anachronism, 22 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Wrong Box [DVD] [1966] (DVD)
This is a stylish, star-studded comedy packed full of the cliches of such 1960s movies. That means you'll find it either a wonderfully enjoyable throwback or a mostly unfunny anachronism depending on your taste.


Death by Chocolate
Death by Chocolate
by Toby Moore
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent and very funny satire about a future in which fat is treated like alcohol was during Prohibition, 18 May 2016
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This review is from: Death by Chocolate (Paperback)
An excellent and very funny satire by Toby Moore about a future in which fat is treated like alcohol was during Prohibition, with high-fat food being smuggled across the Mexican border into the US and underground eating places where people gorge on illicit hamburgers.


Charlie Wilson's War [DVD]
Charlie Wilson's War [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Hanks
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £3.33

4.0 out of 5 stars The combination of ingredients should make this an amazing film, but it falls just short, 17 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Charlie Wilson's War [DVD] (DVD)
A wild, wacky but true story of an outrageous character who changed the course of the world. A screenplay by The West Wing maestro Aaron Sorkin. An all-star cast which is also an all-talented cast including the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Those should be the making of an amazing film. And they nearly are. Nearly, but not quite.

Charlie Wilson's War is the real life story of how an undistinguished American congressman found a purpose to his political career beyond enjoying the drink, drugs and women - helping the Afghan opposition to the then occupying Soviet military forces. What started as a relatively small $5 million increase in US covert funding for the Afghan opposition spiralled over time into a multi-billion dollar operation.

Tempting as it is to exaggerate the impact of any one person when retelling part of history, in this case most of that change in support for the Afghan opposition - and the huge influence it had on defeating the Soviet military - does indeed seem to be down to Charlie Wilson.

The real man himself features in two fascinating extras on the DVD and in the actual film is portrayed skillfully by Tom Hanks. Many of the other performances are also fine, and the script sizzles at times with Sorkin's trademark intense verbal wit. But the film also has its flaws, such as the uneven interweaving of at times surprisingly amateurish looking attempted footage of war scenes.

So a very enjoyable film about a fascinating example of a politician finding a way to use a relative humble position in the political pecking order to change the world - but not quite the all-time classic movie its ingredients gave hope for.

One annoyance about the DVD - it comes with an enforced, non-skippable, four minute long advert at the start. The advert is for a good cause (UNICEF) but even so, it's a long sequence to be forced to watch.


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