Profile for J. Mcdonald > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by J. Mcdonald
Top Reviewer Ranking: 182
Helpful Votes: 1496

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
J. Mcdonald "Yelochre" (Glasgow, UK)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20
pixel
The Strange Affair of Madeleine Smith: Victorian Scotland's Trial of the Century
The Strange Affair of Madeleine Smith: Victorian Scotland's Trial of the Century
by Douglas MacGowan
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Madeleine Smith., 26 April 2014
This is one of the most recent and complete accounts of this infamous 19th century Glasgow murder case.

The author presents a large selection of the secret correspondence that took place between the 21 year old Madeleine Smith and her older, socially inferior lover Emile L'Angelier (mainly Madeleine's letters - only a few rough drafts of some of Emile`s were found) which - on their discovery - led to Smith being charged with two counts of attempted murder and one of murder by poisoning. The case quickly became a sensationalised cause célèbre across the country thanks to extensive coverage in the Victorian press. The frankness of Smith's letters - which also revealed her teenage romanticism, naivety, loss of virginity - and her rather manipulative character - were both the damning evidence that resulted in the charge and the cause of the intense public interest - well-bred young ladies of the time were not expected to behave or express themselves in this way; Madeleine Smith broke all the social rules - did she also break the law in the worst possible way imaginable?
The book deals with the social aspects of the times, the biographical details of Emile and Madeleine, the evidence as it was gathered and submitted and the details of the court case. It doesn't deal with police procedure - medical forensics were barely evolved in the 1850`s and competent detective work was probably a matter of luck; had the letters discovered at Emile`s lodgings been destroyed or left unread the case may never have been brought. An attempt to obtain the letters by Smith's father before they were read was thwarted, though he wouldn't have had any true idea of their content.
The verdict of "not proven" was delivered; this is another of the elements which has kept the case alive amongst theorists and ensured continued debate ever since.
MacGowan keeps a fairly neutral position in his presentation of the facts, rarely speculating, allowing the reader to consider the evidence for themselves.
Madeleine Smith went on to have an interesting, colourful life, marrying a minor artist who was nevertheless at the centre of one of the most important cultural movements of the day; MacGowan misses an opportunity here as he seems to have overlooked the importance of the position she was in during this period; perhaps he wished the case to be the main subject of his book, but there's a fascinating biography waiting to be written there...

I found this to be an absorbing read, well-researched in the main and a good reference for the case. On a personal note; I`ve passed what was once Madeleine Smith's window countless times; this volume brings that dark event just a little bit closer to the present for me.


Omron HN289 Personal Scales - Midnight Black
Omron HN289 Personal Scales - Midnight Black
Price: £23.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Omron Personal Scales., 25 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a no-frills set of bathroom scales; ready to use straight out of the box - just remove the tab on the back to initiate the battery. The unit is compact and very stylishly minimal in look and design and can be set to read in kilos, pounds or stones/pounds/ounces.
They must be used on a flat, level surface - as you`d expect of any proper precision measuring device of this sort - a carpeted surface will result in a false reading. They are rather overly sensitive, requiring a few moments to settle; I found they gave an incorrect readout on each initial weighing, resulting in an error message; once they are settled they are quite consistent, presumably they are accurate - I am currently without a set of scales to compare them with.
I think these are decent enough scales but are perhaps - at £25 - a little overpriced.


The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
by John Godey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars The Taking of Pelham 123., 25 April 2014
This thriller novel by Morton Freedgood - writing as John Godey - is the source for the classic 1974 film, a lesser known Canadian TV film from 1998 and the most recent Tony Scott re-make from 2009, which has prompted this re-print.

“Pelham” is very much a thriller of it`s times; The Vietnam war was still going on, urban and international terrorism was both in the headlines and in the movies. With this background in mind the novel was a sure-fire candidate for adaptation; written using a first-person approach, the author jumps around from character to character providing multiple points of view as the events unfold. This also allows for a great deal of exposition not found in any of the films, but the structure is very invitingly laid out for any screenplay writer. It reads as an ensemble piece, but only the leading characters are truly rounded out, with Ryder, the ex-mercenary emerging as the most interesting. The novel is very frank in its racism with frequent use of the “n” word and just about every racial slur for a wide range of ethnic groups gets referenced, not to mention sexism… Radical politics of the hippie alternative culture, the black-power movement and street-life attitudes all mix in with the fabric of the narrative.
It all seems very dated, but the novel still succeeds in being both entertaining and gripping, especially towards the finale.

“Pelham” may not be quite a great classic of it`s genre but it`s an effective and absorbing read, certainly worth a shot even if you’ve seen the films - none of which truly follow the book completely - in fact both later versions are really only updates of the first, with little consideration paid to the novel.


Sorolla the Masterworks
Sorolla the Masterworks
by Joaquín Sorolla
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.40

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sorolla: Masterworks., 24 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Joaquin Sorolla is one of Spain’s most highly regarded artists, and this sumptuously illustrated volume does full justice to his work.

Sorolla is often bracketed as an Impressionist - in the way that, say, the Russian Impressionists or John Singer Sargent were; essentially realist artists who worked en plein air, influenced to a degree by French painting but not strict adherents to the movement’s colour theories. Sorolla was a distinctive talent whose work was characterised by dashing brushwork and his wonderful ability for capturing the effects of light.
The book contains examples of his broad range of subject matter which encompasses portraiture, landscape and coastal scenes, social and historical themes. There are 125 colour illustrations, beautifully presented and all of good size; I am assured that the reproduction quality is excellent by one of my painting students who extensively viewed his work in Madrid.
The text provides an informative biography and is supported by many black and white photographs of the artist at work and with friends and family.

A high quality book, valuable as both an introduction or a reference volume on a fine painter who deserves greater recognition; at the time of writing the book is available at a very reasonable price.


Into the Blue
Into the Blue
Offered by kevin26821
Price: £24.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Into the Blue., 23 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Into the Blue (Audio CD)
This was British trumpeter Guy Barker's second album as a leader, his first after signing to Verve; the album was nominated for a Mercury Prize that year - 1995.

The album is an impressive, straight-ahead, no-nonsense affair delivering a good dose of high calibre post-bop playing; there are 10 tracks on the CD which has a run-time of just over 63 mins.
The quintet consists of three Brits; Barker on trumpet, Alec Dankworth - bass, Ralph Salmins - drums, Icelandic altoist Sigurdur Flosason and Portuguese pianist Bernardo Sassetti.

Track listing:
1. Into the Blue
2. J.J.Swing
3. Oh, Mr. Rex!
4. Low Down Lullaby
5. Did It "N" Did It
6. The Sphinx
7. Enigma
8. Ill Wind
9. This is the Life
10. Weather Bird Rag

The majority of the compositions are originals - five written by Barker; most impressive is the tour-de-force tribute to Rex Stuart (track 3) with Barker displaying his range of growls, smears, half-valved notes and fancy mute-work, emulating the great cornetist and alluding to Stuart's often Dixieland flavoured style with an evocative marching-band rhythm.
"The Sphinx" is an Ornette Coleman number with a typically folksy, drawn-out theme; it makes a refreshing contrast, though the band choose to eschew Ornette`s shuffling pulse style in favour of a fast regular beat.
The album signs off with a trumpet/bass version of the Armstrong/Hines classic "Weather Bird Rag".

A fine album by an excellent quintet and a good showcase for it`s leader's talents.


Adrian Ghenie
Adrian Ghenie
by Juerg Judin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £55.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adrian Ghenie., 22 April 2014
This review is from: Adrian Ghenie (Hardcover)
This review is specifically for the volume published in January 2014 by Hatje Cantz, as illustrated above; Amazon have incorrectly placed a review for a different book on the same page.

Ghenie is a Romanian figurative painter who trained at the University of Art and Design in Cluj; he lives and works in Berlin. This is the most substantial monograph on him to date.
His work is strongly Neo-Dadaist, wittily and sarcastically referencing history - the fall of Ceausescu, Stalin, the communist state, world war two and popular culture; he has a penchant for slapstick and the darkly absurd - for example, he has based a series of works around the idea of a pie-fight, inspired by a Three Stooges movie. He uses collage techniques to explore his ideas and his paintings are a combination of strong draughtsmanship and loose, richly coloured semi-abstract application of paint.
His work inhabits similar territory to artists such as Neo Rauch, Daniel Pitin, Justin Mortimer, Lars Elling, etc., but his style and approach is very individual, quite unlike any of those others.
The book is a well-presented hardback volume with about 80 illustrations, almost all in colour, with some double-page details of key works. The plates are generally of good size with many full-page; the reproduction quality is excellent.
The texts consist of a revealing introduction by Juerg Judin and an informative - if rather ponderously academic essay by Mark Gisbourne entitled “Baroque Decisions: the Inflected World of Adrian Ghenie”.

Ghenie is undoubtedly an interesting artist; this volume is a useful addition to the growing number of reference works dealing with young artists quietly re-establishing the prominence of serious figurative painting in the Post-Modernist art arena.


Revell Control XS Nano Quad Micro Quadrocopter (White)
Revell Control XS Nano Quad Micro Quadrocopter (White)
Price: £28.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Nano Quad Micro Quadrocopter., 21 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I found this little `copter to be really quite fun, though initially difficult to control.

The instruction sheet provided has a set of diagrams outlining the handset functions etc., although the English description is several panels down the page; it`s a typical multi-language affair.
As others have found, it`s important to learn how to adjust the trim controls as after each collision - or even a heavy landing - these may need to be reset. There is a procedure described in the instructions for a complete re-calibration should it be required, though I haven`t had to use that. The instructions do tell you all you need to pilot the craft successfully, though the response is a little oversensitive for complete mastery - it`s difficult to land without a fair old thump even after a well-controlled flight circuit. One tip; the left control stick, which controls ascend/descend, also turns the little craft left/right on it`s axis - this will get you out of potential disasters without faffing around with the right stick which allows for broader, directional control. I`d also advise keeping your initial flights low and over a carpeted surface.
It seems robust enough, though I had few very hard impact crashes; it probably isn’t smart to fly it over a concrete floor or in a heavily furnished room.

The Quadrocopter requires considerable patience, but it`s quite an impressive piece of technology, generally quite stable once the trim has been set; you`d pay a lot more for something larger with less control than this and it`s certainly up to the standard of expectation from an established company like Revell. Put the time in to learning the controls and fly it in a suitably large indoor space and you`ll find this an entertaining gizmo to fool around with.


Kids: Live At Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
Kids: Live At Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
Price: £14.45

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovano and Jones., 20 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is a lovely duo album between pianist Hank Jones and tenorist Joe Lovano.

Lovano is from the grand tradition of lyric tenor-sax playing with a warm, breathy tone and a dazzling technique employed with taste and restraint; he and Jones make a very compatible pairing; the music is relaxed, sensitive and satisfying.
Jones, of course has worked with many of the music’s deities; he pretty much qualifies for that status himself. His easy-going style and excellent support for Lovano`s soloing carries the programme along very nicely and he has two solo features - “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin`” and “Oh, Look at Me Now”. The album consists of modern jazz standards and some originals, mainly ballads in nature, with a few variations in tempo - like Monk’s “Four in One”, for example. The final track, “Lazy Afternoon” features Lovano on soprano sax.
A live recording made over two sessions in 2006 in front of a polite but appreciative audience, the CD runs to just over 69 minutes. Go to the MP3 download page to hear the sound samples.

Uplifting, life-affirming music, good for the soul and available without the need for a prescription.


Cecily Brown
Cecily Brown
by Cecily Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £40.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Cecily Brown., 19 April 2014
This review is from: Cecily Brown (Hardcover)
Cecily Brown is one of the most interesting and accomplished artists of the 90`s generation; Dore Ashton`s book is the first proper monograph on her.

Brown’s paintings may look like a collision between the work of Tom Poulton (who was also educated at the Slade) and 1960`s period De Kooning, but her concerns are the classic Modernist (now Post-Modernist) painter`s engagement with the problem of obtaining a balance between abstraction while alluding to real-world imagery; as a result her paintings are in a state of constant flux with no obvious figurative resolution; combined with her remarkable ability to organise complex elements of colour and composition, her paintings are endlessly fascinating. And, unlike some other artists working in this field - given that sexual imagery is her chosen subject - she doesn’t need to spend time ensuring that she hasn’t inadvertently painted something rude…!
The book is one of Rizzoli’s sumptuous production numbers; a well-bound, hardback volume with a rough silk coating and an inlaid illustration plate on the cover. There are 225 colour illustrations including close-up details of some of the paintings and some examples of her source references. The plates are generally large, with some double-page spreads; the presentation is very good, making the most of the page-space.
The texts consist of a short but insightful, informative essay by Ashton and a very good interview with the artist. The bulk of the book however is made up of the illustrations.

This is definitely the current reference work to have if you are interested in Brown’s work; at the time of writing this, the book has just been given another print run - grab it quickly while it`s still affordable and available; Amazon were a little slow in re-stocking - keep an eye on the market sellers and shop around, the price for this will skyrocket as the stocks deplete.


TDK T32842 ST170 Phone Control Headphones - Black
TDK T32842 ST170 Phone Control Headphones - Black
Price: £18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars TDK Phone Control Headphones., 4 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This review is a joint effort between a family member and myself.

These closed-back, full-sized, lightweight headphones are made out of plastic with aluminium ear-cups; the construction is sturdy, they are easily adjusted and both the headband and the ear-cups are padded; they are very comfortable to wear, suitable for extended periods of use - even if you wear spectacles. They have a good one-cable-to-earpiece design which is a definite plus, as recent fashion trends have been for `phones with thin, dual cabling, sometimes with asymmetrical lengths - almost guaranteed to tangle, catch on clothing or otherwise invite damage. The ear-cups also have a 90° rotation which enables them to be stored flat. The cable has an in-line button control with microphone and a gold-plated standard straight ¼" jack; the cable is rather short, which is fine for mobility but a little limiting for home use. The button control only pauses the track on an iPod; it is intended to function mainly with iPhones and the particular Samsung phones stated in the product description.
The sound quality is really quite impressive; a good solid bass with no muddying in the lower range (often the drawback with cheaper units) good separation and clean middle and upper frequencies, delivering good definition across the entire range.
We listened to a selection of different music - opera, vocal, pop and rock, acoustic instrumental, orchestral and jazz. The phones responded well to each sample and only minimal EQ adjustments were required with one or two tracks.
The sound isolation is very good, however there was some significant leakage, not so much with the bass, more with the higher frequencies - a solo violin on a folk/rock track, an alto sax on a jazz track - listening at a moderate level is probably advisable if using in public, but they were no worse than other headphones in this respect.
I initially tried the phones out on my own using my mid-range music centre, a CD player and my MP3 player; we added a fourth generation iPod for the main test. While they proved to be good general purpose `phones, they didn't work properly with the MP3 - a Creative Zen model. The Zen is a good few years old now and the proprietary software isn't always compatible with the newer generation of dual-purpose headphones; this doesn't affect my rating, but I think it`s worth mentioning as you may want to try before you buy.

These are excellent headphones delivering performance quality beyond what one would expect at this price range; despite any minor reservations expressed above they get a clear five star rating from us.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11-20