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DAVID BRYSON (Glossop Derbyshire England)
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Britten: Peter Grimes  (DECCA The Originals)
Britten: Peter Grimes (DECCA The Originals)
Price: £12.34

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHO SETS HIMELF APART...WE'LL DESTROY, 28 Oct 2013
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Britten's centenary will be over in about ten weeks, so it was time overdue to rectify a major omission from my opera collection, his masterpiece Peter Grimes. This is BB's own performance of the work, with Pears in the title role, and that is what makes this issue a unique historical monument, intending no disparagement of other fine versions. The sound has been remastered, and the remastering seems to have been particularly well done. The singers all perform well, although I don't suppose I could award special commendations to them. Pears has the kind of authority that forbids question; and of the other two main roles I thought James Pease outstanding as Balstrode and Claire Watson as Ellen sweet-toned but with a little too much tremolo for my own taste. Above all, this is an opera, a drama. It is not `absolute' music but is as much a drama as any stage play. It is also by one of the most distinctive composers of the 20th century, and its swiftness of movement and vivid orchestral effects are realised here in a way that will be hard for any later director to emulate. The Royal Opera House orchestra distinguish themselves with the sensitivity of their appreciation of Britten's special orchestral sound. Above all the characterisation of the participants, the feature that more than any other makes Peter Grimes the wonder that it is, is memorable and convincing. I couldn't see Britten tolerating anything short of that.

What do you think this opera is about? There is a very interesting and thoughtful liner essay by Philip Brett, but I think he makes a meal of it. To me, Peter Grimes is the tragedy of a man who is totally self-concerned. In the original poem by Crabbe, the ur-basis for Montagu Slater's libretto, he is a brute and a thug. The Grimes we find here has the soul of a poet, to judge by his long dreamy solos. There's more to him than soul, sad to say. He has a short fuse, short enough for him to strike his devoted Ellen, whom he had hoped to marry, when she tells him their relationship has failed. He is not sadistic with his apprentice, but he is obviously a bit rough all the same, not from malice but from impatience to take what he perceives as an opportunity to make money and thereby sweep away the criticisms he gets from his fellow citizens of the Borough. There is never any expression of affection for Ellen, she is just to be an adjunct to his career. As for his apprentices, they are just there to do what he tells them, and when in the process one dies from thirst while sailing out of reach of land, that does not say much for Peter's exercise of a duty of care. His basic problem is one that he fails totally to recognise, although the worldly-wise Balstrode understands it when he advises Peter to go to sea and get away from the Borough. In any such closed and static community you stand outside its culture and ethos at your peril. Such a community will take any opportunity to criminalise the nonconformist, and Peter was asking for what he got from the suspicious and resentful citizenry of the Borough. It would not have been different if he had caught enough fish to feed all East Anglia. Balstrode knew that. There is a Greek-tragedy-model chorus that remarks near the end
Who holds himself apart
Lets his pride rise.
Him who despises us
We'll destroy.

To my mind, there is no more need to try to `universalise' Peter's tragedy than there is to do that with Hamlet's. Obviously, any of us is influenced deeply by the society he or she grew up in, but to understand this marvellous musical drama we are better without 1960's-style attempts to shift the burden of individual responsibility on to society generally, proclaiming that `we are all guilty' and such like. There is no real `lesson to be learned' either in my own opinion, because we all knew it to start with. Here we have a special version of the story acted out with incomparable vividness and subtlety, told through the medium of a bewitching and audacious musical style. What might we not give to hear any of Handel's operas directed by its composer? I'm not sure Handel ever had as good a libretto to work on as this.


Freaksome Tales: Ten Hitherto Uncollected Stories of V. V. Swigferd Gloume
Freaksome Tales: Ten Hitherto Uncollected Stories of V. V. Swigferd Gloume
by William Rosencrans
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars LOVE THE CRAFT, 19 Oct 2013
At least `William Rosencrans' seems to be a real name and not a nom de guerre or nom de gore. His stories here are clever and entertaining, and I would expect them to appeal strongly to aficionados of the old-style gothic novel, particularly with the winter nights drawing in. By the author's own admission the tales serve to pastiche Lovecraft. All the same, Rosencrans is no mere imitator. He has a distinctive style of his own, and in particular he has something that dear old Lovecraft totally lacked, namely a sense of humour. I don't know where the gothic narrative has gone in recent years, but Hammer Films used to do some really fine specimens of the genre, always slightly tongue-in-cheek, and most of the longer numbers out of this collection would lend themselves admirably to films of that kind.

Rosencrans scores over Lovecraft in another respect (of a piece with the sense of humour), the respect of being a better craftsman. Lovecraft quite often gets carried away - as an example At the Mountains of Madness quite literally loses the plot. I found a few of these stories to be just a little bit over-long, but one should not lose patience, because Rosencrans knows how to reserve a sting in the tail - perhaps I should make that `tails' in the case of Manuscript Found Beneath a Service Pipe. He also stops short of laying on the effects with a trowel and even when his story line involves features that could reasonably be called revolting (entrails, vomiting, that kind of stuff) he stays within the bounds of what I for one would call tolerability. One respect in which he does not go much further than Lovecraft does is his treatment of sexual matters. Lovecraft was terrified of sex more than he was of Cthulhu, Nyarlothatep or his Elder Gods, and shunned its intrusion into his plots. Rosencrans is not so squeamish, but there is very little of an overtly sexual nature here, and you can safely give this book to a 12-year-old I would guess.

I read very little fiction these days, and when I do I tend to find that I am expected to Explore Issues in it. Much of my recent reading has been of books on economics, which are of course mega-explorations of issues and often also very involving. After all I read them because I am interested. However it is really pleasant to find something to read just simply for entertainment, the way I always read Lovecraft. I wish Willy every success. Lovecraft starved to death in his 40's, to the bitter end taking himself desperately seriously, if we can believe Arthur C Clarke. William Rosencrans strikes me as having a lot more sense of proportion than that, and I feel confident that this book will entertain many others, even in America, where the late Gore Vidal said `nobody reads.'


Handel: Rodrigo/Radamisto/Admeto/Fernando/Arminio/Deidamia
Handel: Rodrigo/Radamisto/Admeto/Fernando/Arminio/Deidamia

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE FIVE-QUID OPERAS, 13 Oct 2013
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From any point of view, this set provides a lot for the purchaser. There are six operas, three given a disc apiece per act, the other three squeezed into two discs each. This neat arrangement obviously allows for three loads of a five-bay cd player, two complete operas at a time. The sixteenth disc contains the libretti with English translations, together with synopses of the plots, essays and shorter notes, these latter with French and German translations in best EU style. Finally there is a nicely-printed booklet identifying the performers and the contents of each track.

That leaves only the minor issues of quality in the performances and the recording. I would call the recording excellent, speaking as a music-lover and not a hi-fi buff. Not only is it satisfactory all the way through, the type of sound is consistent all the way through. By the end of the 20th century recording technicians had got the measure of early music sound, helped I'm in no doubt by the way performing standards in that kind of music had settled down. The approach taken here is as I like it. No longer is the orchestral sound scrawny, with a harpsichord resembling a birdcage played with toasting-forks. Slow speeds, where applicable of course, are allowed and there is no quest for speed records at any point nor any sense that the 2-disc operas are a tight fit. The vocalists are easy on the ear too, mellifluous singing matched with faithful and strain-free recording.

Obviously, all this would go for very little if the performances did not come up to expectations. In fact the set is going for very little (at the date of writing) here in England, and in the best sense namely that it is costing very little. In bang-for-a-buck terms this is not fully matched yet in the USA, but perhaps that only needs patience: the set was a lot dearer at one time in Britain too. My own opinion is that this set is a brilliant bargain anywhere. The standard of the artistry is so high, and so high consistently, that anyone wanting even one of these six operas would get his or her money's worth from buying the package. There is a patchy market in alternative performances, but Handel's operas have not yet reached the level of popularity that their brilliance deserves, and I can't see such a market providing versions so superlative in all six works that this set could be thought superfluous for a long time yet, if ever. At the very least, every single account here is going to be competitive with whatever turns up, and it can hardly be a bad thing to own more than one first-class version of music like this. I have looked through other reviews and I was not surprised to find that comment was overwhelmingly favourable. Where there have been reservations, I'm happy to say that I have no criticism that I think worth publishing of the accounts of either Admeto or Arminio. Arminio has a rather problematic libretto, discussed entertainingly in a witty essay by Handel's great champion Donna Leon. Leon suggests that the composer's tongue may have been in his cheek to some extent, and if so I could be persuaded that the lively rendering suggests much the same where the performers are concerned.

The actual selection of the six operas is a good one, being chronological starting with Rodrigo at the outset of Handel's career and ending with the last of his Italian operas Deidamia. Musicians who have never heard of a work by Handel called Fernando, may actually know its more familiar version under the name Sosarme. Handel's previous offering to London operagoers had been Ezio, and Ezio had flopped, possibly on account of too much secco recitative for London taste. Whatever the real story, there was some frantic rewriting done with much hacking out of recitative material (not something I complain about). The change of names and setting may also have had political reasons, avoiding possible offence to the King of Portugal from the Fernando version.

The essays and translations are admirable. If you have difficulty getting a satisfactory presentation on a screen you may find it best to do what I have done and print it for permanent filing in a lever arch folder. The actual texts are password-protected, but all one has to do is transfer them on to the desktop and print from there. The `factory setting' is on portrait orientation and hard on the eyes, but changing this to landscape not only makes it more legible but also halves the number of pages. The essays are informative and literate, three of the `main' offerings being from Anthony Hicks and one from Alan Curtis himself. Curtis seems to be a bit of a renaissance man of many talents. As well as providing admirable direction of six operas he contributes four of the shorter comments as well as the translation for Rodrigo. Hicks does the translation for Radamisto and the admirable Hugh Graham is on hand to do the same for Admeto. The other three translations are from contemporary sources, trying to put rhyming Italian in the arias and duets into rhyming English. Housman once remarked that English is poor in rhymes, whereas of course it would be hard not to rhyme in Italian even when you don't want to. In general the efforts are not bad, but chorus-masters are probably relieved to be using Italian at the end of Arminio where the English rhymes `bliss' with `peace'. An unhappy record for cacophonous dysrhesis is also achieved in Fernando. All my life I had thought this record was held by Matthew Arnold for his sonnet beginning `Who prop, thou askst, in these dark days my mind?' In fact Samuel Humphreys had already beaten `askst' with `expectst'.

What a golden treasury. What an incredible bargain.


Making Capitalism Fit For Society
Making Capitalism Fit For Society
by Colin Crouch
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CAPITALISM AND CAPITULATION, 11 Oct 2013
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This is an excellent book, and very readable despite some rather professorial terminology, not unexpected from a professor I suppose. The wording Crouch mainly uses describes polar alternatives called `neoliberalism' and `socialism'. Where neoliberalism is concerned I could not really claim that they speak of little else in my town, and it more or less equates to the way Crouch uses the term `capitalism', which is at least a word in general use, however vague the popular usage often is. We are to imagine `pure' capitalist and `pure' socialist economic schemes, and Crouch argues expertly for what he calls social democracy, this being a market-based economy that also features social provision and market regulation.

I hope Crouch's terminology doesn't get in the way of his message, but it might. Pure market economies and pure socialist economies are pure abstractions in my own opinion. I don't believe anyone has believed in state-controlled economies since the heady early visions of Mao were reduced to parody by the childish western fun-revolutionaries of the late 60's and early 70's. In China itself Deng's `socialism with Chinese characteristics' is nearly all Chinese characteristics and next to no socialism so far as I can see; and even in North Korea some sharp-eyed commentators have spotted that the official vocabulary is focusing more on the cult of the Kim dynasty and soft-pedalling the `communist' or `socialist' bit. Crouch identifies three types of neoliberalism, but in practice it is always the selective kind. In Britain we have a blatantly rigged market, he is not alone in observing, with corporations, politicians and civil servants in cahoots. In America purist critics of the bailout given to the banks by the state (who else?) usually waited until it had been safely delivered.

Behind his academic verbiage the professor has got the basic point, more important than any other, nailed on p45 where he says that neoliberalism is a political movement. Economics is a branch of politics abusing techniques of sociology, in my opinion. When market enthusiasts and aficionados argue for some supposed inevitability of their pet ideas, don't believe them. When it is pointed out that their policies involve a transfer of wealth and the power and influence that wealth brings with it from the poor to the rich that is because they want it that way and are trying to fix it that way. There are certainly inherent tendencies in society that take economies in that direction, but don't believe that there is no alternative or that we just have to lie back and enjoy it.

Other key elements of the core message are expressed simply and memorably in this book. `Politically managed competition' (as in Britain) is a good phrase, and so is the statement on the following page that `capital is frequently able to demand a secure rate of return, throwing the risk on to the other participants'. Two statements on p159 are worth quoting in extenso, and they are `Political parties ...find it easy to identify internal opponents of the common good when these latter are weak and unable to fight back, such as immigrants, or people dependent on benefits.' And also `it has become possible again to talk about the problem of inequalities, and to criticise the behaviour of banks, private firms delivering public services and other corporate interests. This provides an opportunity to dismount neoliberalism from its dominance of public debate, and demonstrate how individual ends often need to use collective means.' I also liked the neat swipe Crouch takes at soi-disant opponents of the EU in the British Conservative party who enjoy being able to appoint Commissioners and then bewail such Commissioners' lack of democratic accountability.

On p188 comes the important perception that neoliberalism is too intellectual to mobilise masses, but that it can be popularised with slogans about individual freedom. Crouch perceives clearly what the corresponding, and more serious, problem is for social democracy - where are the masses it can appeal to? The British Labour Party was founded in 1906 to represent the broad mass of labour, mainly at that time and until the 1950's manual industrial labour. These days the Labour Party is reduced to trying to pick up votes where it can. These are largely protest votes, and sadly its supplementary constituency of middle-class citizens with a disinterested concern for the underprivileged looks likely to remain a small one. The task is to establish some kind of dominant social democratic coalition, and I suspect that the way to do that in the shorter term is to go negative in our public relations; and let me say clearly that this is further than Professor Crouch goes. To me, that is something that might almost be thought a shortcoming of this generally excellent book.

Crouch distinguishes between defensive and assertive social democracy, and I would like to see more assertiveness and less fatalism, particularly on the last page of all. Where the professor has been wise is in hardly using the term 'left' at all, because it helps our opponents by suggesting some nebulous threat in the minds of the unthinking. (I guess I might call this a negative virtue). What can unite differing strands of opposition to any oligarchy these days is modern communications. We see people spilling the beans on the internet with increasing frequency, and with a bit of organising and marshalling this could be focused into a permanent spotlight on what is going on. Occupy Wall Street lacked any such management, but a good deal could be learned from Private Eye, I suspect. How effectively the vocabulary can be turned in favour of the enlightenment can be easily seen from the accepted taboo on racist and sexist comment. Self-concern and a sense of victimisation is another glaring vulnerability among the oligarchs, and the changing demographic of the USA must keep them awake at nights. What if labour, following capital, could organise itself internationally? There's a thought.

Revolutions happen when enough people have just had enough, regardless of economic theories.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 23, 2013 11:04 AM BST


Jack and the Beanstalk: A Book of Nursery Stories
Jack and the Beanstalk: A Book of Nursery Stories
by Harold Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £13.48

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars RING IN THE OLD, 10 Oct 2013
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Should this book be classified as old-fashioned or as traditional, I wonder? In my own children's day the stories we got for our infants in the rather 'enlightened' and politically correct village where we lived were, say, Raymond Briggs, or Where the Wild Things Are. At an earlier stage of reading they were also fairly contemporary stuff like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. This was 30-odd years ago. 30-odd years before that I was given stories like the stories here, from the Brothers Grimm or Hans Andersen.

By 1980 and even earlier children's tastes were being formed by television, and of course the ultimate disaster for them was not to be with the current trends. Obviously reading matter of any kind, traditional or up-to-date, all had the same objective of teaching them their native language, and as parents we tried to guide the process so that it wasn't controlled by others. However I really wonder how we would have got along with the kind of storybook we have here. It's beautifully produced, so I have got it for my grandson aged 20 months at the date of writing this. The book will have two control-points to get through. The first will be whether his parents want to go anywhere with it, and the second will be how the little guy responds to it. As sometimes, I wish the system allowed me longer to see what happens, but items off the Vine have to be reviewed within a month. Apart from anything else my grandson is being brought up bilingual, and if this book becomes part of his early education in English I wonder how it will combine with the English he learns from his little mates.


Me To You Tiny Tatty Teddy Buggy Squeaker (Blue)
Me To You Tiny Tatty Teddy Buggy Squeaker (Blue)
Price: £6.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars READY, TEDDY, GO, 6 Oct 2013
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A teddy is a teddy is a teddy, I guess. It would be hard to go wrong with one, and this teddy is a sweet little guy, small enough to fit in an adult's hand and with a soft texture and a nice face. The other selling point is that he makes a squeaking noise which will, they say, keep the infant amused while being wheeled around. My own experience, first with my children and now with my grandchildren, is that the infant always wants the adult to get a toy to squeak. When you hand it back to them they want to hug it rather than try to make it make the sound for themselves.

One way or another this is a nice little new friend to have. I would have liked more time to see whether my grandson (20 months) was developing any special fondness for it. However the new Vine rules require a review within 30 days, and rules is rules I suppose. Nothing to criticise, so 5 stars.


What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets
What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets
by Michael J. Sandel
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars LIGHTWEIGHT, 30 Sep 2013
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The topic that this book addresses could hardly be more important, and the author is Professor of Government at Harvard. There is every reason to have high expectations of the book, and indeed it is excellent in some ways, but it ought to have been a great deal better than it is.

I should also say that Professor Sandel is on my own side of the dialectical fence when it comes to taking a view on the legitimate role of markets, so when I criticise his handling of the question I do so not as an ideological opponent but as an ally and sympathiser. In particular one remark (p179) that deserves the status of poker-work motto is `making markets more efficient is no virtue in itself'. At various points Professor Sandel contrasts `purely economic' arguments, allegedly value-free and concerned only with economic self-interest, with what he calls `moral' objections to them. Broadly, I go along with his general outlook and many of the instances that he uses are fine by me, but he weakens our argument in two ways - first, I don't know what ivory tower we would have to visit to find value-free economic beliefs. The proponents of laissez-faire markets these days are nothing if not strident and hectoring. Secondly, Sandel's use of the term `moral' seems to me slack and hit-or-miss. There are two ways of applying the term. One categorises specific areas of human conduct, and the other is just a device for excluding alternatives, and it may have nothing to do with morality in the first sense. We could talk of a moral certainty, for example, by way of opposing it to a mathematical or actuarial certainty, and morality is not involved in this perfectly legitimate usage. Between the two there is a grey borderland, and I think Sandel should have been more careful of the instances he uses. He himself recognises the issue on p139 when talking about viaticals, i.e. forms of insurance that are tantamount to bets on when someone will die. `Maybe', he says rightly, `it's merely creepy, not morally objectionable.' However he lapses again on p145 when discussing some ghastly betting on the survival prospects of certain refugees, although I admit that he ducks out from under by attributing the view that this was `morally appalling' to `most people', as if forsooth he knew most people. Then on p153 he calls the objection `moral' as if there were no two ways about that.

What I regret particularly is that Sandel misses the really obvious case of morality-vs-economics, namely some socialist legislation. As I type this we have a live argument in Britain regarding a proposal by the opposition in parliament to freeze domestic energy prices to prevent more of our low-income citizenry freezing to death. The economic objections are perfectly intelligible - that holding down prices when costs are volatile could frighten off investment. True enough, but what that says to me is that a solution has to be found that will tackle the dilemma and not just assume that to avoid the one problem we have to put up with the other. Saving lives is a moral matter, and here we have genuine morality confronted with rational economics. What is also particularly unsatisfactory to me is the Professor's frequent tendency to assume that his standards of acceptability, whether we call them standards of morality or just of taste or something in between, are universally shared, or more or less. Even worse is the plonking pronunciamento at the end of chapter 3 that communitarian impulses are `more like muscles that develop and grow stronger with exercise.' So there. Repeat that after me. I happen to share Sandel's view here, but he and I are not everyone nor even most people, and the `moral' case can't just get a pass like this.

What I would have liked from the author is a view, preferably argued so far as that is possible but at minimum clearly stated, on how standards of behaviour - under whatever banner whether as moral or not - relate to rationality. My own view is that they are not matters of the intellect at all. I simply do not believe that they can be explained in terms of some calculus of advantage generally, least of all financial advantage. Tell that to the suicide bombers or to religious enthusiasts generally. It is always available to us, of course, to rationalise our impulses as some kind of profit-and-loss account (whether financial or in terms of some other benefit) but all that seems a contrived and ludicrous oversimplification to me, invoked to buttress what is not, at bottom, a rational case.

If hypothetically `pure' economics and `moral' considerations don't belong on the same page, it would have been better not to put them on the same page. Sandel does not seem very impressed with this abstract view of economics, but I would have liked him to be clearer. Does he agree with Paul Mason, for instance, that there is no such thing as this? However suppose for the moment that there is such an animal as purely rational economics, Sandel could have pointed out the intellect's basic limitations that David Hume saw in the 18th century, and he could have attacked the silly little simplifications so beloved of the marketeers. For one thing, `maximised' good/happiness/utility are meaningless abstractions impossible to define or even identify in practice.

If Sandel really wants to influence the debate he should have tried harder to control its vocabulary. Alas, professors are professors, and sadly one of his Harvard colleagues is quoted (out of context so perhaps giving an unjust impression) on p130 as asking whether the desperately needy should be denied the take-it-or-leave-it `choice' of starvation earnings or nothing. An economic reply could be that quality matters more than choice. A `moral' response might be that this is odious smugness from someone comfortably off.

The long catalogue of examples suggests a student dissertation, with too much about baseball. All a pity.


The First Apple: Sold by Steve Jobs from his garage in 1976, discovered in a storage auction 28 years later
The First Apple: Sold by Steve Jobs from his garage in 1976, discovered in a storage auction 28 years later
by Bob Luther
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.76

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars CORE OF THE APPLE, 27 Sep 2013
Bob Luther bought an Apple-1 in a Sheriff's sale in 2004. He had a strong hunch that he was acquiring a valuable antique, but when his first attempt to publicise its story in a mid-length magazine article was ignored he decided to aim higher and devote an entire book to the story of all Apple-1's. We should be glad he did, because he has produced a volume of real history, far more significant than most politicians' memoirs. The book reads as if he did all the groundwork himself, because it would not have been easy to delegate. Naturally he had to start with the previous owner, then deceased in suspicious circumstances, but the investigations go on to turn up some fascinating bit-part players.

Concerning the main actors, Bob hardly knew Steve Jobs, but it was surprisingly easy to interview Steve Wozniak. Obviously anything coming from Woz came from the horse's mouth, but this book takes us to places and people not often visited, and the first of these is the third member of the original Apple Computer Partnership, one Ron Wayne. Ron's significance turns out to be greater than we are usually told, not because he comes over as an egotist or self-promoter but because Bob has taken the trouble to listen to him. Ron did not have the stomach for sticking with this startup enterprise - that's the bit we all know - but what he did was important, and one pleasant extra with the book is a b/w drawing, done by Ron and printed on stiff board, of the two Steves and himself preparing the typed-up partnership agreement.

There were not all that many Apple-1's built - only a few hundred - and it turns out not to be strictly true that the boards were built in the Jobs family garage. Woz tells us that they got a very good outsourcing deal for that, and it was the testing that went on in the garage. Only 48 survivors could be found in the online register, and the main reason for that was that Jobs was anxious that Woz had too many customer queries to deal with at a time when the business plan needed him for developing the much more advanced Apple ][, and he offered tradein deals with the specific objective of scrapping the returned Apple-1's. However the register does not seem to have identified every Apple-1. It missed Bob's purchase for one, and it was largely pure luck that he Googled a Stanford University Apple Archive (arranged chronologically) that conveniently had his Apple-1 on page 4 of 237. There was starting to be a serious possibility that Bob had the very first model: the traditional view had been that Apple's first sales of the Apple-1 had been a batch of 50 sold through a reseller. The customer cheques for these were naturally made out in favour of the reseller, but here was Bob's machine accompanied by a cheque dated July 1976 and made out to Apple Computers.

The long series of interviews is fascinating. I suppose a little editing had to go into making them easy to read, but there is an enormous amount of valuable detail in them. One thing I particularly like about Bob's way of doing this is that he doesn't obtrude introductory comment or `scene-setting' of his own but lets each interviewee tell it his or her own way. This naturally takes us beyond the strict topic of Apple-1's, but hooray for that. It tells us a lot about the early days of Apple, and sometimes goes far afield of that too. You may find the contribution of the pilot Owen O'Mahony particularly enlightening in some ways, for instance.

This is history all right, and important history, given the importance of Apple in the information era. What might we give for a similar set of interviews with the contemporaries of William Caxton , do you think? The methodology would have been recognised by the Father of History himself, I believe. `Historie' as Herodotus uses the word does not mean `history', it means research or field-work. Herodotus painstakingly collected the tales and opinions of people on the various spots he visited. Bob Luther has done something similar, and one interesting thing that one of the participants mentions (not new but starting to be forgotten) is that Xerox actually influenced Apple's later and more famous machines the Lisa and the Mac more than the Apple-1 did. Its significance is in carrying the name Apple.

The book is very well put together, I would say. In particular it comes to a proper conclusion, unlike a couple of books by distinguished academics that I have recently been given for review. This book has a beginning, a middle and an end; and if you think any such book of specialist record can be relied on for that, I wish I could agree. The production of the hardback is high quality with beautifully clear print. I noticed a few minor errors, but the proof-reading has generally been up to standard although I am still wondering how the date-stamp 7620 (p282) can signify the 20th month of the year 1976. I would hate to call this a misprint and be exposed as ignorant of some special kind of coding.

There have been books about Steve Jobs already and there will doubtless be more. His death occurred while this book was in preparation. He figures in it as a rather remote presence but the labour that has gone into researching the early history of the monument he has created for himself is my idea of a more significant tribute to him than many a standard biography.


In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence
In Spies We Trust: The Story of Western Intelligence
by Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars SINGLE SPIES AND BATTALIONS, 10 Sep 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
What with Mr Assange, Mr Snowden and Mr/Ms Manning, spies are very much in the news in 2013, so this book ought to catch the tide. I found it absorbing, and I can recommend it from several standpoints. The author is an acknowledged academic expert with a thorough grasp of the history of espionage in America and the UK, he obviously enjoys a good story and he recounts some of the racier episodes very readably. He is also (to my own way of thinking) fair-minded although conservatives may sense some hauteur and distaste in his depiction of their icons such as Mr Reagan and Mr Bush of Baghdad. More significantly still, he can thread his way through the tangled and jealous relations between American and British intelligence establishments without letting either patriotism or undue deference to the other party confuse his judgment or his narrative. Another thing he is certainly able to do is keep a story uncomplicated, but I felt, all the same, that some episodes were hardly recognisable as the contentious issues I once knew after being stripped down to the ex-cathedra simplifications of Professor Jeffreys-Jones. Is this really all there was to the Valerie Plame episode, for instance? Why on earth did I find it unintelligible at the time, if so? To this day I have never straightened out in my mind what was the real intelligence supplied to Tony Blair that provided the ostensible pretext for the Iraq war of 2003. I don't blame myself for that, as I don't suppose for one moment that Mr Blair and Mr Campbell wanted me or anyone else to be clear about the matter. They knew how to arrange that, even down to the masterly selection of a bumbling old judge to conduct an interminable enquiry and produce a report that managed to divert the spotlight on to total but helpful irrelevancies. These days the summation `dodgy dossier' has stuck, and rightly so, as far as I can tell; but maybe we could have done with Professor Jeffreys-Jones to put all our minds right years ago with bolts of effortless insight.

Strangely, my main experience after reading this book was that I had to ask myself `What have I just been reading?' Like the British weather and the Post Office in some recent tv advertising, this book does lots of different things. It tells the separate stories of the British and American secret services: it describes their tortuous and constantly changing relationship: it goes beyond the topic of gathering and analysing intelligence into that of political action, and for the very good reason that so did the CIA with increasing frequency. At the end the author, very reasonably, extends his scope by discussing the attempts by the EU to create its own intelligence service, and he finds the activities of the EU police force inseparable from this. I don't quarrel with this last feature, because the main story earlier could never be restricted to the intelligence services strictly so-called either, but had to take account at times of military, naval and police assertion of their own interests in the area of intelligence and the uses they could put it to. Nor do I quarrel with the breadth of the author's agenda. What I do think is that he has bitten off more than he could really chew as an author and that the book needs drastic revision in a second edition.

I mean, where do we end up regarding the core topic of the relationship between the US and UK intelligence services? There have been plenty of insightful observations all the way through, but at the end it all rather peters out in a way that I found disappointing. I had wanted a summary, I needed generalisation, but nothing doing. Indeed, the book ends with a whimper after a rather half-hearted chapter on the current state of the European intelligence project, a discussion which was only a bit of an addendum anyway. The problem is not the amount of material nor even its breadth of scope, it is that this clever professor could have done with a more active and assertive editor to organise his thoughts and their presentation. There are a few errors that will doubtless be sorted out in a reprint before any substantial revision takes place - e.g. in 1971 Harold Wilson was leader of the opposition and Edward Heath was prime minister, not the other way about as was the case before the 1970 election, and was again in 1974. It may, indeed, be just the year that is wrong in the sentence in question. This is a valuable book, and a reader disposed to take good notes can put together a lot of the overall picture from the author's passing comments in the way I would have liked the author himself to have done for us. What the book really needs (and deserves) is a drastic rewrite, and I don't think that this is an outrageous or unreasonable suggestion. There must be some gifted ghost-writers out there who would relish the task and do it well. Indeed I almost think that if I were a bit younger I might offer to do the job myself.


The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest (Macmillan Science)
The Secret World of Sleep: The Surprising Science of the Mind at Rest (Macmillan Science)
by Penelope A. Lewis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.19

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars BELOV'D FROM POLE TO POLE, 27 Aug 2013
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Considering how important sleep has always been to me I was glad of the chance to learn a bit more about it from an expert. Penelope A Lewis is the Director of the Sleep and Memory Laboratory at the university of Manchester. Her book is what I might call an academic production for non-academics. The style is not unduly formal, indeed it is downright chatty at times, so to that extent she is being helpful to the lay reader. On the other hand she does not gloss over the technicalities, so the earnest lay reader such as myself can expect to have to apply some concentration and work at it a bit. This is the standpoint from which I am reviewing the volume - anyone who already knows as much as the author does about sleep does not need the book, let alone a review, in the first place: curious non-experts presumably want to be told how helpful they will find it and how far they can trust it without having to labour through academic disputations. So far as I am concerned the author's eminence in the field earns her an act of faith from me. Like any scientific topic this area of research will develop over time. For the time being this book will provide a basis of information together with theory current in 2013.

In general the division of the chapters by topic is clear. Naturally a lot of space is devoted to dreaming, and I wondered occasionally whether Lewis was keeping this topic as distinct from sleep more generally as she ought, but a second reading may help when I get around to it. What I definitely sensed was that the book treats sleep almost entirely as a single 7-hour or 8-hour daily shift. Napping is addressed eventually, but as a bit of an afterthought, and this is just not the way sleep happens to older people. Lewis makes a laudable effort to relate the technical processes of sleep to our experiences of it, but my own particular experiences in important respects were not really discussed, whether because they are not generally shared (which I could only believe up to a point) or because they are not as significant to a scientist as they are to the `consumer' (so to say). In particular I could have done with more explanation of the relaxing effect of vivid dreams. This even includes nightmares so far as I am concerned. Even while still asleep I seem to know these as `friends' because I am going to wake relaxed.

On the other hand proper space is given to the matter of restorative vs non-restorative sleep more generally. A lot of discussion is also given, very properly, to the important topic of memory and how sleep affects and assists it. However memory is treated, as usual, as if it is some separate entity from knowledge. If we take `knowledge' in a broad sense as comprising stored data about facts, experiences, skills, sensations etc, then `remembering' seems to me to be just what Richard Robinson called it, viz `knowing and not forgetting'. The author explains how sleep helps with `remembering' in two ways - preventing deterioration of the stored data and preventing blocked access to it, both of which we might categorise as `forgetting'. Considering memory from a different angle, I also did not feel convinced by Lewis's frequent assumption that events re-enact themselves more or less exactly in dreams. I may of course be mistaken, but I don't think that in 70 years plus I have ever known that to be the case. What I am really accustomed to is dreams that associate totally unrelated persons and events with one another.

Give or take special considerations like these, this book seems to me to fulfil what I suppose to be its general purpose very well - i.e. to be a work of technical reference for the lay enquirer. One oddity is the way it ends. There is no summary: it just stops abruptly after a word or two on apnoea and snoring. There are, of course, a few pages of references answering to numbered points in the main text, and one can hardly imagine an academic production lacking this feature. There are numerous diagrams, but there probably should be more still and perhaps a reprint will expand their number. How comprehensive the study is from an academic point of view I of course can't say, but to be going on with I should imagine that what I take to be its target public will find easily enough for their purposes. Let me finally applaud one not especially scientific apercu on p178 - beds are for two things in my own life-view, and these do not include reading or eating.


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