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Mr. N. Foale "electronic word" (Devon, UK)
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Imperium
Imperium
by Ryszard Kapuscinski
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Against the tyrrany of the fact: against tyrrany in fact, 25 Mar 2011
This review is from: Imperium (Paperback)
Perhaps his best book because it is about the Soviet-Bloc, his home-land, and hence about himself.

There is a contemporary hoo-hah about the journalistic accuracy of Kapuscinki's body of work. In particular Timothy Garton Ash in Facts are Subversive has ccriticised Kapuscinki. Even James Hamilton-Paterson has touched upon similar criticism. But to criticise Kapuscinski for his literary style is to ignore that he wrote under the perilous Soviet eye. Absolutely his work should be read heavily dolloped as allegory - as critique through literary means.

At one point in this book Soviet customs officers neurotically sift through a huge pile of buttons. What can they possibly expect to find, wonders the author. The way in which authoritarian governments waste peoples lives, jolts from the page.


Pompey
Pompey
by Jonathan Meades
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pompey 7 - Posh 0, 11 Mar 2011
This review is from: Pompey (Paperback)
On each page Jonathan squishes the blood-filled tick of life. Of all his books this one delivers the full force of the suited, unmuted, be-Shaded Meades voice.

His mind swims in murky waters - feel its undertow suck you in. Biblically brutal: a possible soundtrack is Come on Pilgrim.

Pompey is certainly fishy and wholly foul. Pompey is slaughterhouse: pigs to the. Pompey the Charnal house. Welcome home.


04:30 [DVD]
04:30 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Young-jun Kim
Offered by fat_buddha
Price: 4.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Boy, 11 Mar 2011
This review is from: 04:30 [DVD] (DVD)
Shows the tiny happenings that a child's mind imbues with gargantuan significance. Shows the hell-bent cheek of the child. Shows how logic is nothing compared to the raw emotional is-ness of growing up.

Warning! This film will interrupt your day. You will unexpectedly snap back to seeing the world through this boy's eyes. Touchingly you drift back to the world that the child-you knew.

The film also takes you into the world of Singapore. Ice cream on bread, instant noodles, cramped apartments. Also of tai chi. A group of pensioners practice it very morning in the same city clearing. However one morning this clearing is cordoned off - is being rebuilt. And with it, the pensioners - the boy's surrogate patiences to try - disappear too. Bereaved the boy drags his morose heels to school (and its inevitable humiliations).

Shape-shifting Singapore - the Asian Tiger come Lion City - has spawned a classic on that most intense and weirdest trip that any of us will ever take - that of childhood.


Not in My Name: A Compendium of Modern Hypocrisy
Not in My Name: A Compendium of Modern Hypocrisy
by Julie Burchill
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Its not about you, 11 Feb 2011
The title of this book spells out its thesis: that the chattering classes are a bunch of self-regarding thought police. It argues against the herd-mentality that pronounces judgment against lazy targets rather than making the effort to think out personally held and defensible opinions. It lambastes Saddam appeasers, reactionary so-called alternative comedians, anti-Americanism. The Catholic Church also gets a well-deserved kicking.

I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't say I relish this book. It fizzes along and skewers a gamut of modern hypocrisies, then grills them on the flames of its author's venom. Pay attention and you'll periodically cleanse your palate too by spooning choice morsels from the fruit salad of said author's own inconsistencies.

In conclusion: a call to arms for the thinking classes.


Inventing Japan
Inventing Japan
by Ian Buruma
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightenment from the East, 27 Jan 2011
This review is from: Inventing Japan (Paperback)
Britain prides itself on our special relationship with America. Of course it is special in that it is our unique relationship with the World Superpower. Yet the British Isles have many other relationships. As does America - not least with archipelagos further East such as the Philippines (see America's Boy), and with Japan.

This thoroughly concise book describes how Japan could have fared far worse than the American stewardship they underwent after the war. The book describes how feudal Japan has been, and remains despite its "Economic Miracle". Business centres of power co-exist uneasily with government. The book concludes with the observation that many young Japanese feel that fresh American interference now would do the country a world of good.

Japan has long thought of itself as a Western style power transplanted in Asia. Yet the truth is that Japan's snazzy cultural fabric is cut from very different cloth. This book cuts through the surface illusions and lets us appreciate a beguilingly Other people. A people that compete and co-exist with the rest of the world in their special way, as do we.


Empire of the Clouds: When Britain's Aircraft Ruled the World
Empire of the Clouds: When Britain's Aircraft Ruled the World
by James Hamilton-Paterson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.00

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highs & Lows, 19 Jan 2011
Once upon a time, before we were a nation held to ransom by bankers, Britain was the nation that gave birth to the Industrial Revolution. Starry eyed tinkerers made machines that transformed the world. Could that forward-thinking spirit possibly be alive even today in our mismanaged, risk-averse land? This book stirs the embers.

Empire of the Clouds describes the trajectory of our aviation industry - from prevailing in the Battle of Britain, through trailblazing the jet-age, to throwing it all away through managerial ineptitude and political blind-spots. Today as we take stock of the credit crunch and our over-reliance on the financial sector, this paean to the post-war British jet-age is timely. Such exhilarating feats of engineering as the Vulcan bomber created a sense of National pride that is hard to imagine today. It is valuable to recall such feats of engineering. One beautiful aircraft after another soars from this angry, passionate book.

Read it for a number of reasons then: for the peerless writing, for the highly relevant story, but mostly to stoke the fires of your imagination. It made me smell the aviation fuel, feel the heat, and hear the sonic booms. It made me imagine sitting on my parachute in one of these trail-blazing aircraft, priming the burners, and screaming into the sky.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 5, 2011 3:04 PM BST


You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto
You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto
by Jaron Lanier
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neither are you an eel..., 13 Dec 2010
...but with the right technical prostheses you might become an octopus - you'll learn about that in the last chapter. Really.

This book distills years of deep thought about the computing project in its widest sense. In doing so it highlights how blinkered much of the the theory and practice of computing has got.

Discusses the phenomenon of lock-in. In other words how arbitrary design decisions reify and limit people's expectations and experience of what technology can do. Also argues forcefully against the hive-mind zeitgeist exemplified by wikipedia (see also The Cult of the Amateur). By definition such groupthink is profoundly anti-individualistic, and so anti-expressive (see also Ourselves and Computers: Differences in Minds and Machines (Macmillan Information Systems).

Personally I find that as the web's hive mind increasingly encroaches I seek ever more individualistic viewpoints. Books like this one for example. Give it a read and free your imagination.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 11, 2012 7:18 AM GMT


Wetlands
Wetlands
by Charlotte Roche
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Catcher in the smegma, 10 Dec 2010
This review is from: Wetlands (Paperback)
Exhileratingly base. The story is built around an anal lesion, homemade tampons, and one girl's single-handed crusade to increase the tonnage of bacteria in the world.

This is against a backdrop of a broken family, a mother's attempt to gas her baby son, and our heroine's gestating infatuation with her male nurse. Oh, and don't forget her babies: the avocado stones.

For all its secretions though, this book has a serious point. It reflects a breakdown of communication between generations. In her obsession with bodily fluids our heroine is creating her own cultural Ground Zero. She personifies the adolescent scream against hypocrisy.

P.S. The soundtrack to the film will be Germ Free Adolescents.


Digital Culture
Digital Culture
by Charlie Gere
Edition: Paperback
Price: 23.51

5.0 out of 5 stars Carry on up the cyber, 15 Oct 2010
This review is from: Digital Culture (Paperback)
Nerds, digits, blue screens of death. Ah the connected, wired, wireless brave new world in which we all subsist. This brilliant book sums it all up - its history, its science, its implications. However its focus is so avowedly digital (that is its strength and so must also be its weakness) that in this review I am compelled to take a step sideways and describe it with reference to some recent political books (all of which I have reviewed).

This solidly satisfying book explains how digital culture and capitalism are lovingly entwined. The abstraction of things using symbols exemplified by money leads inexorably to the disembodied deregulation that led to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the Credit Crunch (see Whoops!: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay). Reducing everything to mere data imperils knowledge.

The digital mindset is also eerily attuned to the rejection of necessity that is the contemporary sickness, as described in The Age of Absurdity: Why Modern Life Makes it Hard to be Happy. After all what do we use computers for? Increasingly it is for games, shopping, anti-social networking.

Digital culture is also thoroughly entwined with the postwar rebellion amply criticised in What did the baby boomers ever do for us?.

Through the prism of these three other books one can't help but feel, and for all the breadth and depth of this book's admirable analysis, that digital culture is ultimately vapid. Compare and contrast with the solid values and humane achievements portrayed in Attlee's Great Contemporaries: The Politics of Character.


The Crystal World
The Crystal World
by J. G. Ballard
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart of sparkliness, 15 Oct 2010
This review is from: The Crystal World (Paperback)
Who can resist the lure of the jewelery shop window? Peer inside - ogle over chunks of purple crystals, diamonds, semi-precious stones. Ballard exploits our cosmic magpie tendency and with cinematic effect draws us into his Crystal World. Perhaps he wrote it after his one and only LSD trip (see The Kindness of Women).


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