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Michael JR Jose (the UK)
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Old Scofield Study Bible
Old Scofield Study Bible
by C. I. Scofield
Edition: Leather Bound

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OLD FAITHFUL, 21 Nov 2000
I must now replace my worn out KJV Scofield Reference Bible (1967 ed.) which I received as a gift in thirty years ago, and I find that there is still nothing quite like it on the market. Although text critical scholarship may have moved on, the basics of a book that has lasted millenia do not change in a mere century. As chief editor to the combined bible, commentary, and chain reference Scofield provides the basics - and more - very well indeed. I have found nothing quite so precise, so concise, and nothing displaying such moderation and common sense, all couched in a style with a minimal jargon.
For the Old Testament there is a one-page introduction to the Pentateuch, the historical books, the poetic and wisdom books, and the prophetic books. For example, there is a description of the key technique of Hebrew poetry (parallelism of thought) in the introduction to the poetical and wisdom books. The basic variations on this technique are demonstrated with great clarity and economy. For the New Testament there is an introduction to the gospels, the epistles of Paul, and the general epistles.
One of my most loved features is the concise concordance at the back, which is compiled with an eclectic brilliance. Some of the footnotes are small masterpieces of exposition, some push concepts such as typology much too far. But I do not suppose Scofield would have declared this work to be perfect, or incapable of being usefully updated - and it would be hard to say that about any reference book.


First Scofield Study Bible-KJV
First Scofield Study Bible-KJV
by C I Scofield
Edition: Leather Bound

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OLD FAITHFUL, 21 Nov 2000
I must now replace my worn out KJV Scofield Reference Bible (1967 ed.) which I received as a gift in thirty years ago, and I find that there is still nothing quite like it on the market. Although text critical scholarship may have moved on, the basics of a book that has lasted millenia do not change in a mere century. As chief editor to the combined bible, commentary, and chain reference Scofield provides the basics - and more - very well indeed. I have found nothing quite so precise, so concise, and nothing displaying such moderation and common sense, all couched in a style with a minimal jargon.
For the Old Testament there is a one-page introduction to the Pentateuch, the historical books, the poetic and wisdom books, and the prophetic books. For example, there is a description of the key technique of Hebrew poetry (parallelism of thought) in the introduction to the poetical and wisdom books. The basic variations on this technique are demonstrated with great clarity and economy. For the New Testament there is an introduction to the gospels, the epistles of Paul, and the general epistles.
One of my most loved features is the concise concordance at the back, which is compiled with an eclectic brilliance. Some of the footnotes are small masterpieces of exposition, some push concepts such as typology much too far. But I do not suppose Scofield would have declared this work to be perfect, or incapable of being usefully updated - and it would be hard to say that about any reference book.


Old Schofield Study Bible (Bible Akjv)
Old Schofield Study Bible (Bible Akjv)
by C. I. Scofield
Edition: Leather Bound

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OLD FAITHFUL, 21 Nov 2000
I must now replace my worn out KJV Scofield Reference Bible (1967 ed.) which I received as a gift in thirty years ago, and I find that there is still nothing quite like it on the market. Although text critical scholarship may have moved on, the basics of a book that has lasted millenia do not change in a mere century. As chief editor to the combined bible, commentary, and chain reference Scofield provides the basics - and more - very well indeed. I have found nothing quite so precise, so concise, and nothing displaying such moderation and common sense, all couched in a style with a minimal jargon.
For the Old Testament there is a one-page introduction to the Pentateuch, the historical books, the poetic and wisdom books, and the prophetic books. For example, there is a description of the key technique of Hebrew poetry (parallelism of thought) in the introduction to the poetical and wisdom books. The basic variations on this technique are demonstrated with great clarity and economy. For the New Testament there is an introduction to the gospels, the epistles of Paul, and the general epistles.
One of my most loved features is the concise concordance at the back, which is compiled with an eclectic brilliance. Some of the footnotes are small masterpieces of exposition, some push concepts such as typology much too far. But I do not suppose Scofield would have declared this work to be perfect, or incapable of being usefully updated - and it would be hard to say that about any reference book.


The Firm (Penguin Readers series- for younger readers)
The Firm (Penguin Readers series- for younger readers)
by John Grisham
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ORIGINAL GENRE FICTION, 17 Nov 2000
Taken as a crime/legal novel this has all the usual ingredients delivered with a very well observed level of detail. The idea of an 'establishment' law firm very well camouflaged, but entirely dedicated to the Mob, is a fresh idea made very believable by the careful construction of the firm's 'acceptable face of the law' with a sinister matrix of wheels-within-wheels which really power the Mafia machine that it is. The mix of characters works well. There are burnt-out characters, dead characters, avuncular but deadly bosses, there are innocenti who will never know the true nature of their employer, and there are those who will be inexorably targeted - to be sucked into the web of deceit. Once suitably comprised and bound as partners in crime, they will never leave the firm, or live honest lives again. The main character is the ardent young Mitch McDeere, brilliant, ambitious, honest, and poor. He and his wife embody the American Dream, and this job will be the first step in his brilliant career. Will the firm break him and swallow the pieces, or will he survive?
As I normally detest gangster films and books (I can't shake off the "apes in Italian suits" stereotypes which I find nauseating and boring) I was surprised to find I thoroughly enjoyed this work on its own genre merits. The detail that goes into describing the firm's workings as a company, its obsessive secrecy and surveillance, and the cast of characters are varied and well observed. Some inevitable stereotypes exist, but they relate to each other in a believable fashion. The plot moves quickly with the right amount of surprises and good luck/bad luck coincidence. The final end of the story has winners and losers, turning on an unusual legal point. It guarantees that the ending is not as you would expect or could predict. I will be trying another John Grisham at some point!


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3) Paperback
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Book 3) Paperback
by J.K. Rowling
Edition: Paperback

4 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars HAIRY POOTER AND THE KAMIKAZE POISONER, 8 Nov 2000
Initially I gave this one star, but my magnanimity got the better of me. Two out of five? As a story, I think it is the best of the three so far - but the price we pay is getting higher. I know one father who decided midway to stop reading this as his childrens' bedtime story. So, get your party-poopers ready, what is the problem?
Well, I still like the plot, athough it is three in a row for the paint-by-numbers formula. It works. Practice makes perfect, and the writing is getting better, the descriptions are more vivid. The pace is breathless in places. And I admit to another laugh-out-loud moment (two in three books!), when Malfoy got mud in his eye.
But now I am wondering which genre these books really belong to. Narnia (CS Lewis), Middlearth (JRR Tolkien), and Earthsea (UK LeGuin) fantasy? Not quite. Rowling does not bother to create a separate, consistent world to play in - or she cannot do it. But the horror element seems to grow as one book leads to another. Far from the magic being fun, it all gets colder and deadlier as time goes by. The dark is rising, and there are only cardboard cutout heroes to dispel it. Rowling does not love her 'good' characters, and they remain wishy-washy compared to the exciting evildoers. The heroes need all the dumb luck that they can get to escape the clutches of the Evil One. She does not even create her own monsters. The grey Dementors (demonic soul destroyers) use fear as their weapon, and are taken from the Black Riders in the Lord of the Rings. Just a change of shade, like a photocopier nearly out of toner. The other monsters are taken from Dungeons and Dragons books. The dialogue has been seen before in soap operas - the ones where the actors get their lines and think, 'Script weak - shout. Script very weak - shout louder'.
As the scale of values slides towards the Dark Side Harry and co. pull the 'Simpliciter absurdo pifflewiffle' spells out of the bag to survive. The adults dispense advice which veers between the obscure and the obtuse. The woman teaching the third form Divination is a tea-leaf reading quack - until she is possessed by an evil spirit, and gives a real dark prophecy for Harry's personal unbenefit. In fact, now I broach the subject, possession is a common theme through all three books. First book a teacher, next book a pupil, now an army of soul-suckers and a medium. So do you feel that it is all as harmless as it might seem?


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Book 2)
by J.K. Rowling
Edition: Paperback

6 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars HARRY AND THE SECRET CHAMBER POT, 1 Nov 2000
I am not sure if I should err on the side of generosity here, but I cannot give one and a half stars, so it is two. I will do my best to give a reasonable account of my bad mark, as ninety-something percent of the Amazon reviews give top marks, and I don't want to be a sour grape for no good reason.
The general plot is familiar if you have read book one, but this is not a bad thing as there is still a 'whodunnit' element. The book is inventive, and the humour is still there, and a little more sharp-edged in places. I got a wry botanical smile out of the magical mandrakes (plants with human-shaped roots), which are nursed in the potting shed from young plants to full grown during the story. They betray approaching maturity by becoming moody and secretive, and trying to move into each other's pots. I think I can also detect improved writing technique, as some of the scenes are more coherent and descriptive than book one, although the characters are barely more fleshed out. And as I am an enthusiast for spiders, my favourite fantasy monster, I enjoyed the big spider scene. (I am trying to not reveal the plot too much, or I would wax more lyrical here.)
As to the down side, I am not too worried by the Defence Against the Dark Arts classes, but I am bored by the overly obvious new DADA teacher, who is an unfunny buffoon and a charlatan. I can only presume that a bigger fool employed him. Much worse, the mentally disturbed, slime-ridden self-harming elf who tries to help Harry, just detracts from the whole story. He is in bad taste. I think Rowling hates JRR Tolkien's elves, and hates them with a passion, and wants a spoiler in here. Parents reading this story to their children will want to avoid having to answer too many questions about this elf. They may also have grave doubts about the moral example of the criminal way Harry and co. acquire the ingredients for their Most Potente Potion. It is too much like organised crime for me. Even Malfoy's father has a sneer for career thieves in the Little Shop of Horrors, earlier in the book.
Lastly, there is an unpleasant undercurrent in this book, as there was in the first. In the first few chapters, before we get to Hogwart's, there are a number of striking references to ordure - filth, excrement, the smelly stuff, etc, ad nauseam. Dung abounding and toilet humour - Harry completes his potty training! Do we need it? Do we want it? Mercifully, these references largely disappear when we get to school, but only to be replaced by many scenes located in the girls' toilets. Still, flushed with success, Harry completes his mission, so all is well.


Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Book 1)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Book 1)
by J.K. Rowling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

13 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars EXSPELLOPOTTYBARMUS!, 25 Oct 2000
As the Pottermanian opinion holds sway in most quarters, with even the Financial Times favourable in the UK, I have to ask myself: 'who am I to rain on the parade'? Well I have mixed feelings about it all, so I hope I can make a good job of explaining my two out of five mark.
I like the traditional downtrodden-boy-hero-triumphs plot with a twist in the end, and there is originality aplenty in the detail. The pace of the story keeps the action alive, and the curious menagerie of characters is introduced at the right speed, and with great variety. I had at least one laugh-out-loud moment with the regular flashes of wit in the dialogue. There are one or two humorous allusions to Greek myth that may only be picked up by older readers, and much incidental fun with words. (My favourite being the mythical London street 'Diagon Alley' - you have to say it out loud to get it.) Encouraging reading in young people is an unquestioned benefit, as is a practical example of the use of a library for research. And I had my vocabulary expanded with the word 'bezoar' (useful to goat keepers, as I was once). But how does this add up to a forty-percent mark?
Unfortunately, I find that there is not a single loveable character in the book. Harry is as ordinary as can be, and as wooden a character as poor little Pinochio. The same can be said for his school friends and favourite teachers. There is little about them that children could be safely encouraged to copy. Their descriptions merely say that they are brave, noble, redoubtable, and so on, but the writing fails to actually convince by what they say and how they act. Rowling is only one of a long line of authors who fails to convince when portraying good characters, or the good that they do. It is as if she does not really like the good guys, and her heart is not in them. In a book of heroes and villains this is a serious failing. Perhaps Hagrid, the well-intentioned gentle giant, comes closest to being a sympathetic character, struggling with his stigmas, and surviving, if not overcoming the odds.
As to the villains, evil is easy to do, and they are actually more realistic than the heroes when they avoid falling into pantomime postures. The demented cackle of the moustache-twirling, cape-swirling rotter echoes through their petty speeches with a monotony relieved only by the timeliness of their come-uppances. While I am on the subject of weak caricatures I cannot avoid the bizarre Muggles (ordinary non-magical folk). Harry's adoptive family members are not too unpleasant to believe, but they are too stupid. Mr Dursley, hardheaded business manager that he is, trying to knock in a nail with a fruit cake? I just can't swallow it. And then there is Hagrid, the eleven foot giant (see p. 16) who manages to take Harry shopping in the capital city, via train, underground, the streets of London, and a burger joint, attracting stares wherever he goes (see p. 52), and no-one gets a picture and makes headlines? Perhaps all the live TV crews were out at fires, and took all the photo-journalists - but all the tourists were sleepwalking, and the all security cameras were offline too? A quick look at the unofficial HP websites will interpret the other minor Potter contradictions as loveable foibles for us, but we should not be required to take our brains out while reading fiction, only to suspend disbelief.
There is an air of irrationality about the whole book. Why are all pupils forbidden to go into the forest: because it is full of dangerous beasts. So, why are eleven-year old boys sent as a punishment for breaking a minor school rule into the forest at midnight to see what is killing all the unicorns? The whole book rests on magic - if you enjoy Tolkien and CS Lewis you might enjoy this book - but just making everything magic and expecting that to explain away every objection is sloppy thinking and writing.
Lastly, and worst of all I feel, there is an undercurrent of nastiness throughout, affecting the whole book. Parents might not want the more sensitive child reading the blood-drinking episode. And there is a definite hate theme in there. Hate is the commonest emotion expressed. Before I read this book I was told that Harry is saved by love. This is a common defence given out by Potter apologists. However, the characters are always declaring their hate for one another. A quick count of hates reveals that 'hate' occurs seventeen times throughout the book. The one 'love' passage gives the book a total of four loves in those five lines. Exspellopottybarmus! (Spell for turning poorish storybooks into good ones.)


Bach: St Matthew Passion (highlights)
Bach: St Matthew Passion (highlights)
Price: 6.01

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HUNGARIAN DELIGHT, 19 Oct 2000
Another Naxos value-for-money delight. This all-Hungarian performance encapsulates light and dark, passion and calm, beauty and tears. The full seventy-five minute selection is of the best loved arias and chorales from the whole. There are no stand-out star individual performers, just excellent, passionate individual contributions. The Hungarian Festival Choir and the Children's Choir do all that could be asked of them. The whole is a delightful and moving blend: a miniature masterpiece. It fills me with awe at the beauty of it all. Ungiven as I am to panegyrics, I unreservedly recommend it.


Mozart: Requiem
Mozart: Requiem
Price: 5.54

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars TRADITIONAL MOZART RENDITION, 6 Oct 2000
This review is from: Mozart: Requiem (Audio CD)
This is a digitally remastered (ADD) recording which comes out of the process very well with a good dynamic range. The performances are good, with the all-Germanic performers blending together well. The atmospheric slow choir parts are particularly enjoyable. The pace is a little slow for my liking on the 'Dies Irae' and similar parts, but this is a Karajan performance, so if you are happy with his style, you will be happy with this.
Just for the record, the label is Deutsche Grammophon Resonance.


The Elements of... - The Baha'i Faith
The Elements of... - The Baha'i Faith
by Joseph Sheppherd
Edition: Paperback

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A SINCERE FAITH EXPLAINED, 8 Aug 2000
This slim volume divides into two equal parts. The first half covers some of the author's life experience and makes extensive reference to the recent founder of the Baha'i faith. I think it is fair to say that this section is more impressionistic than informative. However, the second half (from the chapter 'God and the purpose of human life') gets down to business, and delivers a systematic account of the teaching and practice of the faith. Some interesting line drawings, muddy in texture, show the mosque-like form of their temples.
Much use is made of borrowed terms, such as the Christian term 'progressive revelation' - but here the usage is turned about face. It is made to mean that all ways lead to God, and therefore all religious teachers are equally messengers from God. This results in 'Krishna, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Christ, Mohammed', and so on, all being cast in the same mould and tradition. But as their religious differences clearly outweigh their similarities (except in the respective moral codes perhaps), this requires at least some explanation, which is not forthcoming. There are also many adopted parallels to parts of the Islamic faith, such as the annual fast, equivalent to Ramadan.
The practical resolution of all this is found in the Baha'i message of 'consultation and universal participation', and 'service to mankind'. Many laudable humanistic, social progress statements are made. The aim is to appeal to all mankind in some way, to the widest possible audience of faith and non-faith, to work for earthly progress, peace and prosperity. The overall message is one of an "over-faith", aimed at syncretism and ecumenicism.


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