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ARWoollock "Life is NOT an Instagram opportunityģ"

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NoŽl - Christmas at King's
NoŽl - Christmas at King's
Price: £8.36

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb renditions and unrivalled ambience, 1 Jan. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Because my extensive CD collection was sadly bereft of any Christmas music I decided to rectify that situation, and this year I purchased the following Christmas CDs:

i) A Classic Christmas
ii) The John Rutter Christmas Album
iii) Nöel - Christmas at Kings
iv) Legends Christmas Collection

If I were to rank this CD amongst those four, I would put it firmly in first position; the clear winner.

Whilst I do note the varied recording quality is a negative issue with some purchasers, for me it is exactly the opposite. How magical to find that on this wonderful CD there are recordings from as far back as 1959! FIFTY YEARS AGO... What joy! What an honour to be able to put these discs in one's player and drift back to an age when the world was on the cusp of modernity, when society still had structure, morals and the social contract was still firmly in place. It is amazing to think that those youngsters who sang so beautifully on these varied recordings and fathers and possible grandfathers, what an amazing thought!

It is rare to find such a slice of history that has stood the test of time so well and remains as appropriate and joyous to the listening audience today as it did half a century back. Surely this CD does, and is a definite must for anyone interested in not only English Christmas Music, but also the wider historical and anthropological reverberations.


A Classic Christmas - The Ultimate Collection of Christmas Classics and Carols
A Classic Christmas - The Ultimate Collection of Christmas Classics and Carols
Price: £4.10

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Certainly worth purchasing, 1 Jan. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Because my extensive CD collection was sadly bereft of any Christmas music I decided to rectify that situation, and this year I purchased the following Christmas CDs:

i) A Classic Christmas
ii) The John Rutter Christmas Album
iii) Nöel - Christmas at Kings
iv) Legends Christmas Collection

If I were to rank this CD amongst those four, I would put it in second position behind Nöel, which was the clear winner.

There is nothing wrong with this CD per se., I think anyone who purchases it will be more than satisfied with both the quality of the recordings (varied) and the atmosphere it creates in your home. Certainly it contains a one-stop-shop for anyone looking for a definitive Christmas album, but there sadly lies-in the one minus point.

As this CD is an eclectic mix of various: recordings, choirs, arrangements and quality, I personally found this aspect detracted somewhat from the overall cohesion of the CD. Whist I fully appreciate others might like this eclectic approach, I sadly do not, hence I preferred the King's recording.

Nevertheless, having stated the above, I think you will not be disappointed by this CD and I would recommend it to any potential purchaser. I would also state, that I found by playing the three classic CDs mentioned above in rotation I managed to create a superb Christmas ambience, something which certainly enhanced and enriched this year's Festive Season.


Mdz.04
Mdz.04

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh yes... YES!, 31 Dec. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Mdz.04 (Audio CD)
No point in attempting to articulate the relative merits and demerits of this aural experience to you.

Suffice to say that if you have not wandered in uninvited from elsewhere i.e. you have consciously found yourself at this page and you don't presently own this CD, then after asking yourself 'Why not?' you need to run off and get your credit card - buy this as fast as you can.

If you died without listening to this CD even once, that would be an utter travesty and something you would regret for eternity. Something which could preoccupy the thoughts of Man as he sat in-line waiting to be called for Divine Judgement; a time which is supposed to be given over to contemplating one's mortality - not one's mistaken CD purchases or lack thereof.


The Best American Essays
The Best American Essays
by Adam Gopnik
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.66

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can we define our terms, please!, 15 Dec. 2009
Before we begin deconstructing this particular instalment in the Best American Essays series, we should first begin by setting our parameters and defining our terms. Specifically, what constitutes an essay. With this Houghton Mifflin series being so clearly defined as to offer eight other genres for correct placement, there should be no need for misplacement and no tolerance should it occur.

As per the 2007 offering, there are in this 2008 volume, numerous examples of that which is simply NOT an essay, and if one is to rate and evaluate the merit of this anthology, one must first discard that which is not an essay and simply sift through what is left.

I define an essay as a mixture of the following: 'a short literary composition dealing with a subject analytically or speculatively' and 'a short literary composition on a single subject, usually presenting the personal view of the author'. For my definition, the keywords are 'analytical' and 'personal view'. If it does not adhere to the above universal definitions, then I feel justified in deeming it not an essay.

From the twenty-one pieces in this volume here, briefly is my summation:

Three are either short-stories or memoirs and should not have been included:
Salamanca,
This Old House,
Tripp Lake.

Four were totally unworthy of my time and I didn't read past the first paragraph:
The Constant Gardner,
Everybody's Nickname,
On Necklaces,
On Celestial Music.

Two I simply read and marked 'Dull!':
Candid Camera,
Extreme Dinosaurs.

Four I gave two checks to:
Notable Quotations,
Cricket Fighting,
Where God Is Glad,
Buzzards.

Six were worthy of a mere one check
Becoming Adolf,
The Way We Age,
The Lesbian Bride's Handbook,
Solipsism,
Run Like Fire Once More,
The Renegade.

One I marked 'OK':
The Ecstasy of Influence.

One I marked 'Depressing and meritless':
Cracking Open

As I arrived rather late to this series, I cannot tell whether it has ran out of steam, or whether it has always been this poor. Certainly I cannot imagine it is really a genuine reflection of the state of the American Essay - if it is, we are in pretty poor literary and scholastic shape. Unfortunately, however, after buying two instalments a piece of both 'Essays' and 'Short-stories', I would have to say that based upon those four volumes, I shan't be purchasing any more of 'Essays'.


The Best American Short Stories
The Best American Short Stories
by Heidi Pitlor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.45

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Is this REALLY the best?, 28 Nov. 2009
This is the second year I have purchased this anthology, and although I was hoping that in 2008 with the superb Salman Rushdie at the helm it might have improved, sadly it hasn't. Last year found me complaining (as per the title), "Is this really the best...?", to which a colleague replied, "Well, what would you expect with Stephen King as the guest editor? I mean, he's no writer, no literary expert!", that comment left me thinking that perhaps my colleague was correct and that maybe I had expected too much of such an intellectual featherweight as King.

So, to repeat, with this year's volume to hand and the name of the ever inspiring and lucid Mr. Rushdie plastered across the front, I felt we could hardly go wrong. Surely HE would lead us to calmer seas and breathtaking views, surely he would sift through the sand and show us diamonds in various stages of polish. Surely...

In his introduction Rushdie begins very academically by establishing and defining his terms. He asks of the reader to define just what an American Short Story is, and then tries very articulately to give us his definition; a definition befitting of a Modern America. After reading that I felt confident we would arrive safely in port.

To respond to Mr. Rushdie's enquiry, I would like to offer my own definition and then explain why this is SO important and why this book didn't meet that definition, didn't function within those parameters and thus ultimately sunk offshore.

As a teacher of literature and academic writing (not creative writing) I truly value the American Short Story. I concur that in its purest form, it is one of the greatest literary traditions and certainly THE greatest offering to the world of c.20th and c.21st literature. No other country can come anywhere near to challenging the dominance of the distinctive American Story. There is a sense of space and depth, an underlying tension (or lack of it), a distinctive presence and use of language, a unique world-view offered in the American Novel that is simply unparalleled and unrivalled on the world literary stage.

America is often given short-shrift when it comes to matters of culture and Art, but to do this is simply to display one's ignorance. American Literature and Art is NOT a parody of European values and aims, it is wholly unique and independent. It reflects America in all its diversity, in all its 'superficiality', in all its pop, in all its values, beliefs, desires and aspirations. It is no poor cousin to Europe, not at all. It is a mirror of equal quality and value simply reflecting a different view and scene.

That established, any writer of an American tale should be an American (in whatever form that takes), they should be a product of that country; born of that culture, dyed and immersed in all its colours. The author must be more than a mere tourist or transitory nomad. They must have lived and breathed the air of America, they must have witnessed the struggles and triumphs of that land continually on a daily basis so that it has penetrated every corner, every cell of their being, so that when they exhale, they are exhaling America. If they fail to do this, and if we fail to set these requirements, and simply allow 'someone in America', anyone with a pen and paper to essentially be heir to that Literary Tradition, then we risk (as is proved in this collection) of diluting the strength of the Word, and tainting the colour of the literary fabric.

An American Novel or short story does NOT mean it was simply written in America, or worse, simply published in an American magazine. Far from it. Why this edition fails, is because the editors apparently did not realise that and so they cast their net too wide and too far, and what they hauled in were colourless minnows and not fully grown specimens of weight and beauty.

There is a bar that must be jumped to, a height that must be reached, a point that must be crossed, after which a story can be said to warrant the highly-prized seal of an American Short-Story. As with Champagne and sparkling wine, whilst they may appear similar (to some), anyone with taste immediately know the impostor and the real. In this volume, all but Tobias Wolff's masterpiece, 'Bible', Jonathan Letham's inspired, 'The King of Sentences' and A.M. Homes' dark, 'May We Be Forgiven' can really said worth of a seal that reads 'American Short Story'. The rest with the exception of Kevin Brockmeier's 'The Year of Silence', which deserves and honourable mention, are simply not AMERICAN Short-Stories, are not Champagne, rather, they are merely fizzy coloured water which gives an illusion to something which it clearly is not.


Motherless Brooklyn
Motherless Brooklyn
by Jonathan Lethem
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3.0 out of 5 stars A tale of two parts, 1 Nov. 2009
This review is from: Motherless Brooklyn (Paperback)
From the simplest perspective, this novel delivers a feeling akin to riding a roller-coaster from the '50s. What I mean by that analogy, is that although this is a roller-coaster ride of a tale, which has a likeable central character, well-drawn supporting characters, a reasonable plot-line, it suffers (like an ageing roller-coaster) from a lack of pace and umff, which means it loses momentum in parts and ultimately ends up coasting to the finish.

I would certainly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading for either style and or content, although it has to be said that the reader for style will enjoy this more that the once searching for content. The story is quite mediocre, the plot a little dull in parts and many of the characters are quite predictable. From a narrative perspective then, it doesn't really offer the reader anything new. Where this book does excel, is in the central character and how he perceived the world and conversely how the world perceives him. In that regard the thin 'murder-plot' is largely irrelevant, it is simply a vehicle through which to present this quite extraordinary rendering of a man afflicted with Tourette's and how that man navigates the world around him.

Of course having stated the above, I should now reveal to the more advanced reader, that it is not a detective story at all. There is no crime, the crime is in the mind of the central character (like the illusive 'giant') and Brooklyn is simply a metaphor for his affliction. Towards the end when he ventures out into Maine and experiences the absence of physical walls and the opportunity for new experiences, this again represents a shift from his movement away from dependence on his tics (Brooklyn) to a more tic-free existence.

As the author hints at early on in the text. Suffers of any lengthy disorder or disease come to embody themselves in that affliction. If the disease or disorder is cured or treated and they are left tic free, addiction free, illness free, then it is as if their Self, their identity too has been removed and erased. That is really the central thesis of this novel.


I Think We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat
I Think We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat
Price: £13.41

1.0 out of 5 stars BPA = Bloody Poor Album, 29 Oct. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
What, prey tell was Norman on when he conceived this shipwreck? Was he having some acid-flashback and nostalgic hankerings to his days in the Housemartins? or was he simply fulfilling his contractual? Whatever it is or was, and whatever the reason they wasted the earth's precious natural resources on producing and manufacturing this utterly meritless compilation is largely immaterial, the fact is they did and now it exists. It exists like a landmine in a bargain basement bin, or worse, still on the shelf at full price. Ready to blow a hole in some poor unsuspecting soul's wallet and then single-handedly destroy the notion that they once had a coherent and well-selected CD collection, which of course, if they added this dud into, they could no longer claim to have.

Where and how does Norm draw the artistic and musical connection between a good number of these tracks which he sliced together brilliantly on the superb 'Dance Bitch' and this Christmas album? I am simply at a loss to correlate the two. Norman Cook aka Beats International aka Fatboy Slim aka this absolute and unmitigated garbage What happened? different genre... different BPM... different! VERY different. I mean the BPA connection, it's not even relevant. All this is, is a collection of never-was and almost-rans. A collection of minor '80s or '90s-sounding b-sides.

BPA? Brazen Pig's A**e?


Fabulous Small Jews
Fabulous Small Jews
by Joseph Epstein
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.13

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Gentle and charming tales, 22 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Fabulous Small Jews (Paperback)
Gentle and charming tales

I was fortunate enough to discover Joseph Epstein via an inclusion in the anthology, 'The Best American Short-Stories". Thankfully that story (My Brother Eli) did not re-appear in this edition and so that which I read in 'Fabulous Small Jews' was all new. I would like to say new AND fresh, but unfortunately I cannot.

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of eighteen short stories and would certainly recommend it; it would make a great holiday-by-the-pool read. Fresh however, is not really an adjective one assimilates to Epstein's work. Epstein has a keen eye for detail, he is observant of humans and human nature, his characters are sincere, likeable and believable and he knows how to tell a story. The problem is though, that he rarely (if ever) steps outside of his comfort zone and he rarely challenges or truly engages the reader. His stories fit like a pair of well-worn house-slippers, familiar yet somewhat uninspiring. When he does stretch himself, however, as with the superbly dark and witty 'Postcards', we get a clear glimpse of what Epstein could be if he only jumped for a higher bar.

The reason for a general lack of inspiration is partly due to the familiarity and plausibility of the characters (which of course makes them endearing and real to the reader) and partly due to Epstein's perpetual re-cycling. Plots, characters, locations and themes are all cut-and-pasted; repeated and recycled. So by the end of the book it is pretty hard to tell if you are experiencing a flash of deja vu or reading a new story. With that in mind, I couldn't imagine myself rushing to the bookshop to search out his other short-stories. Probably one collection is enough.

That stated, I did enjoy this, and there ARE no shortage of good stores. I would include amongst the best:

The Third Mrs. Kessler
Freddy Duchamp in Action
Dubinsky on the Loose

The best of the bunch, by far, has to be 'Postcards', which is simply brilliant. Although here again, one can't help feeling Epstein is keeping something for himself, holding back, not giving us his all; he doesn't quite have his foot all the way to the floor. Is he afraid of speeding? or of getting a ticket? who knows? Even with such an original and impressive tale as this, one cannot help but feel that this story could (and should) have been developed a lot further and pushed a lot deeper. This is an emotional response which continuously re-occurs throughout and something that makes Epstein (like his flawed characters) a good writer, but never a great one.


This is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession
This is Your Brain on Music: Understanding a Human Obsession
by Daniel J. Levitin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.49

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to place... is this academia or anecdotal memoirs?, 21 Oct. 2009
Difficult to place... is this academia or anecdotal memoirs?

First of all I think it needs to be said, that this is not a bad text per se. Sure it has faults - lots of them, but I really feel that the positives outweigh the negatives and that the hoards of supposed 'professional musician/scientist' (I think not) who appear to have read this text and given it a one star rating are perhaps motivated by false-pride and jealousy - never a good combination on which to build sound judgement!

The real problem with this text is that, to quote from the 1950s it doesn't 'know its place'. It reads in parts like an academic text, maybe an undergraduate thesis. Then it veers off into the world of gossip, anecdotes, and conjecture. It is almost like a mild Schizophrenic who thinks on the one side, they are an MIT professor of socio-musicology and on the other that they are an orator, a teller of stories, tales and anecdotes in an c.18th circus.

Throughout this tussle one cannot help but think Professor Levitin is not one of those sad baby-boomers who (under his sterile lab-coat) still tucks his paunch into a pair of faded blue-jeans, which he wears as some empty statement of post-conformist rebellion.

To the text...

The plusses.
i) There are lots of very interesting correlations between the points he makes, and the visual Arts, something which interested me personally.
ii) In contains some genuinely fascinating revelations.
iii) It appears to be mostly well researched and well founded.
iv) It gives the novice reader a window into both musicology and neuroscience - albeit a tedious and dull one.

The minuses:
i) It is VERY, very, VERY boring in parts. Is this due to the subject matter? or the penmanship? One is never quite sure.
ii) It is full of dull, mostly irrelevant anecdotes. The sad professor mingles with the has-beens, the never-rans and the odd star.
iii) Levitin appears not to know how to use personal pronouns. The text is littered with THE most bizarre use of 'he' and 'she', when a simply 'they' would suffice.
iv) Sadly the edition I purchased contains spelling mistakes and errors in literary protocol.
v) Very often conjecture masquerades as Truth, with no citation to support his stance.
vi) Levitin occasionally leaves his field of obvious expertise and wanders into other academic disciplines where he looks like an ill-informed half-wit.
vii) Overall, the text lacks continuity in parts; continuity of both argument and of logic.

The conclusion.
To restate, I would say it is worth investing your time into reading this and it is worth persevering until the end. Although there are a LOT of minor annoyances such as those mentioned prior, there are conversely, a good deal of genuinely interesting points, which may or may not assimilate with areas of your personal interests. Like Santa, though, I feel that there is surely something here for everyone, no matter how small the gift may be.


The Bridge [2005] [DVD]
The Bridge [2005] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Eric Steel
Offered by vivaverve
Price: £4.70

6 of 30 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Dishonest Documentary-maker Delivers Disappointingly Dull Document., 20 Oct. 2009
This review is from: The Bridge [2005] [DVD] (DVD)
Where documentary-makers significantly differ from film-makers can be expressed in two areas. Firstly in their responsibility and secondly in the fact that once a documentary has been shot it can never really be returned to and re-made; not in the way a regular film can. If a documentary, therefore, both squanders its opportunity and negates its responsibility, it represents a double tragedy. That is what this 'documentary' is and does.

The actual subject matter for this film could have been quite sound indeed and had massive potential to open both doors and discussions on a very real and engaging subject. Because of the general aversion to documentaries on death, dying and especially suicide, what 'director' Eric Steele had potentially stumbled upon here, was of the last chances in documentary-making to tread on virgin territory, yet another travesty.

Essentially what Steele offers up is ultimately no more than any film student on a B.A. course anywhere could have done. That is to imply that this effort suffers from weaknesses in five main areas. Areas which one might correlate to inexperience and youthful inadequacies when applied to an under-graduate, however, weaknesses that point to genuine shortcomings when applied to a supposed professional. Those weaknesses in no order of importance are:

i) A sever lack of cohesion, no real central thesis. Something which seems to have had the brief written after the shoot.
ii) Inferior image quality and selection of shots.
iii) Incompatible, and dull soundtrack, inappropriate choice of music and improper linking of music and images.
iv) Inclusion of much that is irrelevant. Again, linking with the first point. There sees to be a lot of 'winging' it here, going with the flow, found imagery and all that terminology which really means lack of planning and preparation, lack of foresight and imagination.
v) Dishonesty and lack of professionalism.

Anyone who knows anything about reading films or has encountered and engaged with deconstructing the documentary as a means of communicating the Truth, will immediately spot the aforementioned in this really quite mediocre effort. That said the last point may not be self-explanatory and so it is to that I would briefly like to turn and elaborate.

Steel was given permission by the Bridge Authority to film, because he said he was making a film which aimed "to capture the powerful, spectacular intersection of monument and nature that takes place every day at the Golden Gate Bridge. He did not, it did not. I would say that was dishonest.

In a BBC interview (freely available on YouTube), Steel said that he did not inform the loved ones of the deceased, that he had footage of their final moments, because he did not want people then heading to the bridge and jumping in an attempt to immortalise themselves on celluloid. As the relatives and friends were interviewed after their nearest and dearest had perished this makes no logical sense. It is a totally incoherent and irrational argument, in fact it is not even an argument per se. I therefore concur that he mislead these individuals and tricked them into co-operating. And here he was doubly deceitful because he starts to play an afterthought excuse that he was interested in mental-health issues, when he clearly was not because he brought nothing to the table on such a debate.
N.B. By stringing out the last jumper's pacing up and down and mixing that footage with interviews filmed with his friends, all of which was spread throughout most of the film and then by finally showing his very spectacular and showman-esque demise; the MOST spectacular..., one feels obliged to question if Steele, by his editing and his cinematic choices, did not achieve that posthumous immortalise ation for that last individual who was shown so graphically committing suicide.

To summate. Exceptionally poor documentary making. A tragic waste of a one time opportunity to face and deal with many issues and then lead society through the tragedy to further discussion and debate and ultimate understanding and progress.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 25, 2012 2:19 PM GMT


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