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Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror
Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror
by Jason Burke
Edition: Hardcover

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars comprehensive, unbiased, and enthralling, 27 Nov. 2003
While so much of the literature or journalism about 'Al-Qaeda', and the melange of issues that the name 'Al Qaeda' spews up, tend to leave the reader more confused, Jason Burke has written a book that grounds specific judgements in specific historical facts and brings the reader to some very balanced conclusions about the size, scale, threat, and disparate structure of 'Al-Qaeda' while implicitly pointing out the folly of our 'war on terror'.
For those however seeking snippit, Michael Moore-style, ammunition to aim at the Bush administration and their cronies, disappointment will prevail because this is not a book of soundbites. It contains the narratives of various terrorist attacks pre and including September 11th 2001 that have been dubbbed posthumously 'Al-Qaeda'. Burke explores, with remarkably lucid prose, the histories and associations of the characters involved in the various episodes and paints quite a terrifying picture. Throughout the incidents told, connections to Osama Bin Laden are sought and much of his motivation is explained. From disillusionment with the Saud dynasty and his dismissal of indulgence in the Bin Ladens' riches Burke traces Osama's international trail. Burke has not been too timid to address the relationship of Islam with the terrorist movement either, much of the book in fact revolves around the idea of Islam being a massively political religion and argues that although many terrorists are currently aiming their hostility at the west it is in order to remedy political hypocrisy in their native lands. It is a very well balanced book that has a lot of contemporary importance. It shows what the political Islamists are fighting for and goes some way to categorising the different strands of the movement without making it seem too straightforward. If bigots and various dogmatic stances about Al-Qaeda or George Bush and his cronies are beginning to grate and you wish to return to the beginning of the saga as we know it (ie brief overviews of the effects of Suez, Nasser, the assasination of Sadat, the Iranian Revolution, the storming of Mecca, the first Gulf War, the embassy bombs, and the subsequent blitzes in 1998) this book will revise the foundations and clear the cobwebs from these rather bigoted times.
The only reason I haven't given it five stars is because when starting out I was an ignoramus with regards the names of so many of the key players and it is easy to get very lost. Burke has obvioulsy met many key players and knows and writes of many more. It was a baptism of fire which can only really be a reflection of how good a journalist he is but was still quite overpowering when plodding through it. It is however a very, very important book that I really hope our representatives in the international sphere have the intellect to read!

Super Furry Animals: Phantom Power [DVD] [2003]
Super Furry Animals: Phantom Power [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Super Furry Animals
Offered by marxwax
Price: £2.49

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars an eye to the interactive, 5 Nov. 2003
If you're expecting a feature length animation, akin to the 'Rings Around The World' DVD, and are not the type content to be trying something different then you will most likely be disappointed.
SFA have taken a leading role in carrying music through to the twenty first century. The music speaks for itself; they are one of very few bands who can build bridges between many different genres of music, avoid being pigeon-holed, and not turn stale. 'Phamtom Power' is testament to this and the experimental success of the band is reflected in the structure of this DVD. It seems not to have been the intention of the band to produce what many punters would have expected. They have instead introduced, what one can only hope, other bands will try to reproduce. The dvd proves SFA to be visionaries and may be the answer to record companies gripes about revenue losses etc.
The structure of the DVD is at first mildly baffling and will deter an unadventurous mind. Expecting to be able to just press play, as one could with 'Rings Around the World', and have magical visions spew along with the music for an awesome hour but finding that the only additional entertainment provided with the played album as a whole is a seemingly static picture of a model railway, I began to feel dissappointed. I then realised that I would have to be a little more in control of the DVD and work from the main menu. The main menu allows you to move yourself around a 'phantom'-ridden dungeon-esque area to the title page of each track on the album. Each track on the album is then split into four sections; the tune itself, the remix (some of which are some of the best transitional techno-SFAesque genre tracks available), a scroll of the lyrics, and a dry and very ironic producers' commentary. The producer's commentary will, I think, be looked over by many but it had me in stitches, it is the jewel in the genius of this DVD. So from a different perspective what one has with this DVD is the album with far better sound quality, a new album of awesome remixes by the likes of Zan Lyons (remixing 'Out Of Control'; the most unlikely song on the album for him but still mind-bogglingly good) and a truly phenomenal jazz-electro remix from Fourtet, and a Spinal Tap-esque commentary about the production of the album. (Note, no mention of animation).
The DVD is a music programme that you can take control of and opens up a new world of entertainment that other artists should think of copying or adjusting. SFA have brought comedy to music without having to sing about lumberjacks or sperm, and they have found a way of keeping their original tracks sacred alongside the introduction of new tracks that should blow your mind. Their intention seems to have been the introduction of a new format and they have not missed the mark. The one thing that I would critiscise is the expense that we all have to go through to get the programme and am surprised that those who 'need devolution because they can't affpord the price of cake' are willing to put us through this financial hoop in order to get the full album that is the price of the DVD and CD combined. On this note however surely there is an answer to record companies' gripes. SFA as financial genius. It is for these reasons that the DVD is awesome and visionary.
The animation however is disappointing. The static pictures shown during the songs are pleasant but dull. The animation prior to the the songs (30 sec snippits) are too short but, as afore said, the animation seems not to have been SFA's priority. With insight one might have presupposed this anyway. 'Phantom Power' has a completely different concept to 'Rings.........' so to make comparisons (for judgement's sake) is futile.
Therefore, here is a new format. A format for the combination of arts. A format for bringing music into the interactive age. This dvd will hopefully go down in history as a first of its kind. However as with most debut ideas it is not flawless; the animation could be better without it needing to be as much of a distraction as it is with 'Rings' and there should be ways of playing the dvd as a whole if you do just want to sit back and let the awesome melodies wash over.

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