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John Brooke "Dr John the Day Tripper" (Reading, Berks, United Kingdom)
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London In The Nineteenth Century: 'A Human Awful Wonder of God'
London In The Nineteenth Century: 'A Human Awful Wonder of God'
by Jerry White
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.39

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fascinating, 14 April 2009
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It helps if you're familiar with London, or parts of London (as another reviewer has noted, there aren't many maps involved although there are small area maps at the start of each chapter). But even if you're not, the wealth of information in this exhaustive study, especially the people-related stuff makes this a book that you just keep on turning the page to see what new little nugget comes up. It's a complete treasure trove of information for those, like me who delight in what is probably useless knowledge (though you never know, it may come in useful for Trivial Pursuit, Mastermind or the like).

If you live or work in London you're almost certain to find something fascinating in here; for example, I discovered that the square where the office I was working in last year is located was where all the "penny dreadfuls" were produced and published. Totally useless to know, but it pleases me to think that these have now been replaced by a news agency office and an office of one of the "big four" accountants, who are probably cooking up something just as lurid as their predecessors.

On the basis of this I've also ordered Jerry White's study of 20th century London and hope it will be just as entertaining and fascinating.


Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media
Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media
by Nicholas Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This really could do with a bit of radical editing, 5 Feb 2009
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Some of this is very good. Some of it is not really new; did anybody really believe there was a golden age when journalists were decent, honest and truthful, and bothered to check their facts? Some, perhaps, but go and read some of the biographies of people who worked in Fleet Street before the 80s; there are plenty of stories about corrupt and untruthful practices, stories being invented in El Vinos to meet a deadline, and so on.

However, Davies has some valid criticisms to make of the way news is reported nowadays; "churnalism", the combination of commercial pressure to get more "news" out more quickly with less cost, the interaction of that with the rise of PR for all, and the inclination of governments, public bodies, and private companies to try and manipulate the news for their own ends all combine to give us a toxic mix of stuff that is really not very wholesome.

Trouble with all this is that this book is overlong. These points could have been made in many less pages; Davies really could do with the services of a good sub-editor to tighten the whole thing up. I also think that he has a very naive view that there is some absolute "truth" out there that journalists should be reporting; most of the stuff that gets reported as news is a combination of events and societal attitudes to those events, so that the "truth" about any event depends on the prevailing attitudes either of one society or another, or the same society at different times.

Davies suggests that many of the purveyors of news should be reporting the truth, rather than being impartial by reporting the attitudes of different groups to events; that implies that the journalist is somehow better positioned to judge which set of attitudes to an event is correct. Given that Davies also bemoans the lack of knowledge on the part of most journalists to be able to critically examine the facts that they do find (and this is in large part because many of them are from arts backgrounds and don't have scientific or technical knowledge) how are they supposed to determine "truth"?

The arguments made in this book are important and worrying, but it would benefit from a) radical editing to focus the arguments and remove the repetition and b) some critical thinking and examination of some of the assumptions on which it rests. We need these sorts of challenge to the status quo, especially given the worrying decline in the accountability of politicians and government, but many people will find this book does not make those challenges in a clear and forceful way.


Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic (Two-Disc Edition) [DVD]
Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic (Two-Disc Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Jason
Offered by Gray Fox Europe
Price: £24.90

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Odd., 16 Dec 2008
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Hmm. When I heard they were making Hogfather into a 2-part TV series, my immediate reaction was "what an odd choice". Hogfather (the book) contains some interesting ideas and is very funny in parts, but if you aren't familiar with the backstory of the Discworld, then I would have thought it was incomprehensible. I watched it, however, and was somewhat underwhelmed, and felt that a good interpretation of one of Terry Pratchett's novels (which I love) was yet to come.

Then I heard that Sky were going to make another TV adaptation - this time of The Colour of Magic. My immediate reaction was to question which planet these people were from - it certainly wasn't Earth, or the Discworld, come to that. I came across the Discworld series by picking up one of the books some way from the start (Guards, Guards, I think) and only subsequently read The Colour of Magic. If I'd done it the other way round I don't think I'd have persisted, because I think The Colour of Magic (the book) is pretty poor. As Terry himself admits in the interview about this adaptation, it wasn't until he wrote the sequel (The Light Fantastic) that he bothered about adding a few small essentials, such as a plot.

Having said all that, I actually think that combining both The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic into this one programme helps a lot. It comes across as a coherent story, and that wouldn't have been the case if they'd just stuck with the first book. As a self-contained story without the need for prior knowledge or explanation,it works much better than Hogfather did.

I have to agree about the casting - David Jason's too old, Sean Astin isn't Auriental enough, and as somebody's pointed out, Vetinari wasn't Patrician in The Colour of Magic (though I did think Jeremy Irons made a good Patrician - an adaptation of a story where the Patrician plays a more central role, such as Going Postal, would be very interesting). But they overcome these objections just by being good actors.

In the end, though, I think the real issue with TV or film adaptations of novels is that they take away the freedom - or the responsibility, take your pick - from you to construct these alternate universes in your own mind and, instead, present you with somebody else's interpretations. If they correspond to yours, you'll like them; if they don't, you'll hate 'em; and if you've never read the books yourself and therefore don't have any preconceptions about how things ought to be then you might find this more coherent and enjoyable than Hogfather.


Targus Bluetooth Laser Mouse - Mouse - laser - wireless - Bluetooth - black, blue
Targus Bluetooth Laser Mouse - Mouse - laser - wireless - Bluetooth - black, blue

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nice mouse, rubbish batteries and documentation, 28 Nov 2008
This is a very nice mouse but the batteries supplied with it are *rubbish*. I sent the first mouse I received back because it wouldn't take any charge, got a replacement and had exactly the same problem. (if the scroll wheel doesn't glow green when you plug in the USB cable then you have the same problem - not that you can tell this from the documentation, which is also rubbish).

Looking at the reviews on amazon.com it seemed that the batteries were the problem, so I bought some new (800mAh NiMH) rechargeables and it works like a dream.

Photoland were very good about replacement but they should get Targus to supply decent batteries - a pack of rechargeable AAAs cost me another 7.99 to get this working properly.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 13, 2011 5:16 PM BST


Going Postal (Discworld Novels)
Going Postal (Discworld Novels)
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heir to Wodehouse and Waugh, 19 Nov 2008
Anybody who thinks Pratchett is a lightweight populist should read the first chapter of Going Postal. It's a tour de force from somebody who I consider to be one of the great humorous writers, combining the ability of P G Wodehouse to draw sympathetic characters with the darker edges that you would find in Evelyn Waugh's novels. To write a chapter like this, which centres around an execution, requires skill of a high order.

Ankh-Morpork is one of the fictional universes I like to retreat to, along with Blandings Castle and McCall Smith's Gaborone; the characters have human flaws, various unpleasant things happen, but somehow you finish up feeling comfortable in the world that Pratchett paints and care about what happens to the characters.


Smiley's People [1982] [DVD]
Smiley's People [1982] [DVD]
Price: £8.25

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow burning, totally compulsive viewing, 12 Nov 2008
This review is from: Smiley's People [1982] [DVD] (DVD)
I watched this when first broadcast in 1982 and was utterly hooked - it was one of those programmes that was compulsory viewing and much discussed at work the following day. (although I remember Clive James, in his TV reviewer guise at the time, was a bit rude about the fact that it could make a heroine out of Connie, queen of the files.... well, you can't please everybody).

Anyway, the years went by, and then a couple of years ago I accidentally stumbled across this again as it was being repeated on BBC4 or some such ghetto channel. Unfortunately I'd missed the first couple of episodes (they were broadcasting it two episodes at a time) but I got hooked once more and made suitable arrangements to ensure that I caught the rest of the series - my family thought I was mad, but what the hell.

Lots of reviewers here have said that this is how BBC drama used to be, but I disagree to some extent - this is exemplary programme making by any standards. I've watched some other programmes that I thought were compelling on first viewing (I, Claudius, for example) and their age shows - still probably better than most of the rubbish spread thinly across all the channels today, but nowhere near as good as this. Don't go looking for high speed car chases, fisticuffs, or the like (although there are occasional flashes of very nasty stuff - for example when Smiley goes on the boat in Germany, or what happens to the Russian emigre's dog) - this is a slow burning, highly atmospheric story that gradually notches up the intrigue and tension, draws you in and eventually resolves with a satisfactory conclusion yet leaves enough questions dangling to wonder what happened next, and people's motives for their decisions and actions.

A terrific series, in short.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 19, 2009 12:37 PM GMT


A Snowball In Hell
A Snowball In Hell
by Christopher Brookmyre
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.47

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and inventive cartoon nastiness, 13 Oct 2008
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This review is from: A Snowball In Hell (Paperback)
It's always worth buying the latest Brookmyre to see what bit of inventive nastiness he's come up with this time. Where some other authors would make all this mayhem stomach turning and unpleasant, Brookmyre somehow manages to get away with it because it comes across as cartoon violence; sort of "Reservoir Dogs" where the dogs in question are Huckleberry Hound and Deputy Dawg.

There were some excellent plot twists and it's definitely a page-turner, but I didn't like this as much as his previous book (Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks), perhaps because the underlying theme there (the inability of people to discount bogus ideas) was stronger than the theme here (the celebrity of non-celebrities; yes, we'd all probably like to dream up some unpleasant fates to visit on participants in Big Brother, or indeed on Endemol executives). So four stars rather than five; if you are familiar with Brookmyre's novels, then you'll probably buy it anyway, but might not make a lot of sense to you if you haven't read a couple of previous pieces of his work where the characters here were previously introduced.


Nation
Nation
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of those feel-good experiences, 1 Oct 2008
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This review is from: Nation (Hardcover)
Every so often you come across a book that just makes you feel good. The first time I read "The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency" was like that, and even though I've been reading Terry Pratchett's books for many years now, this book was another of those experiences.

That's not to say that this is all warm, fuzzy stuff. Indeed, there's death aplenty (and since this isn't a Discworld book, no DEATH) but the way that Pratchett handles all the less palatable aspects of life and death still gives you a good feeling. (I read somewhere recently that he'd had an experience where he suddenly felt that all was right with the world and there was no reason to worry - not something he would describe as a religious experience, but similar in some ways. I wonder whether that was before, after or while he was writing this book, because a lot of it seems to seep through).

Highly recommended both for people who are already Pratchett fans, but also for those who have never read him or avoided him - stop being snobby because he's a popular author and find out WHY. This is a fine piece of work.


The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2
by Alan Moore
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Collision of comic worlds, 30 April 2008
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I have to say that I was of the opinion that this was more of the same as the first volume (which I enjoyed) but nothing special (and rather a lot of pages devoted to rumpy-pumpy). Then I got to the section where Quatermain and Mina meet Moreau's creatures and I found turning the page a real, actual shock - one of those occasions where the brain has to turn itself through several revolutions in order to get the pieces to fit, eventually laughing out loud. I won't say more than that as it would spoil it for others, but I thought it a brilliant bit of invention.


Make A Jazz Noise Here
Make A Jazz Noise Here
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £16.95

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all-time favourite Zappa recordings, 28 April 2008
This review is from: Make A Jazz Noise Here (Audio CD)
Taken from live concerts shortly before Zappa's last touring band broke up in acrimony, this double CD features playing which can only be described as stupendous. The band are all hugely talented, the arrangements and the playing are as tight as can be, it mixes Zappa's compositions - both "classical" and rock - with snatches of Stravinsky and other composers, and on top of all that there are some extraordinarily fine guitar solos by FZ (City of Tiny Lites and Cruisin' for Burgers in particular).

Since I bought this several years ago, it has rarely been unplayed for long - there's just so much in it to marvel at (and regret that the band broke up prematurely and put Frank off touring ever again). Essential.


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