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Neal Matheson (UK)

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Green Wizardry
Green Wizardry
by John Michael Greer
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant work, 3 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Green Wizardry (Paperback)
Review of “Green Wizardry” by John Michael Greer. New Society 2013

John Michael Greer is the ArchDruid of the Ancient Order of Druids of America (don’t go!) A highly respected author and one of the key voices in the Peak Oil movement. Despite (let’s face it) the handicap of being an ArchDruid he is a key speaker and one of the most influential writers involved in Peak Oil. This is no wishy-washy patchouli smelling new-ager but a ferociously clever mind relentlessly living in the apparent (or real) world who won’t give you any where to hide your beliefs or assumptions. Though he makes no claim to pre-historical descent he is very much in the mould of the Druids that Caesar described; intellectuals and natural philosophers of enormous sophistication.
The book is divided in four the first part starts with principles, then food, energy and lastly whole systems. He starts with a description of the challenges that Western civilization faces. How energy, matter, information flow through systems and what actually constitutes sustainability. Food deals with growing and raising food., storage, manuring and other skills. Energy deals with conservation of energy and alternative power sources for the individual family. The last section deals with how to put things together, the value of discensus and a realistic appraisal of solutions and then why it all matters.
The book is enormously easy to read and is filled with JMG’s subtle, gentle sense of humour, he only writes about what he knows works and is attainable in a garden or workshop. JMG is American but much of what he writes about is easily transferable to other countries based as it is on backyards and small workshops . This is not a book for massive scale change, whether technological or social and in fact JMG gives such works short shrift. His writing on why movements fail is particularly good, he concentrates on the Global warming movement and singles out the leaders of the movement especially Al Gore for particular admonishment. He is also scathing of those nauseating eco-home types, rightly pointing out that the very large sums of money required mean such change is well beyond the ability of most of the population, and in the UK at least very difficult in terms of planning permission.
The concept of the Green Wizard is of small, unimpressive overlooked people busy keeping unfashionable but fundamental skills alive during the Dark Age he believes we have entered. He bases this on his research onto actual Wizards (the word means wise) who roamed Europe during the medieval period annoying the church and advising kings. They were, he has found, repositories of all the arts essential to civilization, many of which were lost during the collapse of Rome. He believes that organic gardening and many of the appropriate tech skills developed during the response to the oil crisis of the ‘70s are the skills that should be carried forward into the future. He also states that these skills add a great deal of richness to life and will greatly improve the lives of individual families over the next few decades.
The book provides superbly laid out principles advice on key skills, experiential wisdom and most importantly lists of resources. Though nearly anyone picking up this book will be at least passingly familiar with gardening and other green skills I have to admit that it is very hard to think about how to apply much of what he writes about to my already downsized and greenified life though I am going to work a bit harder on closing my allotment “loop” and am looking at applying some of his energy principles. His work on pest control “the outsiders” was also fantastic.
JMG is very much an agriculturalist, which is apt for life in countries or regions with large populations. I wondered why hunting or fishing was not mentioned in the book as he does talk about the importance of meat hunting and fishing in the small town he lives in. I also have to disagree with the idea that Paleolithic humans were engaged in any kind of “limited farming” his source for this was also not especially impressive or indeed up to his usual standards. That said I believe Australian Aborigines were aware at least of the potential for cultivation they just chose not to do it and while the enormous (1Million) population of medieval Edo was fed successfully by intensive agriculture health in the metropolis was far from ideal with famine and nutrient deficiencies being commonplace.
His concept of L.E.S.S less energy stuff and stimulation is very useful if JMG is correct about civilization’s path less is going to be the norm anyway an element of voluntarism in the process can only be good, going with the flow rather than struggling against it.
Not so much a “how to” but more like a series of “why tos” with guideposts and very helpful pointers this book won’t really be saying anything new to readers of his other work but is still a worthwhile read, and while those in the “paradigm” will rail and yell the strength of the message and logic of his arguments is hard to resist
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 3, 2014 11:46 AM GMT

The Illustrated Guide to Viking Martial Arts
The Illustrated Guide to Viking Martial Arts
by Antony Cummins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 11.99

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars You can get his information for free, 10 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Okay I had a moment of weakness and bought this book...I have been involved in martial arts for many, many years and have recently and sadly ended a five year exploration of WMA. I am also a scholar of the Icelandic sagas and Norse history in general.

The book is reasonably presented and basically features Mr Cummins commentary on techniques gleaned from Norse literature. The illustrations are fun and clear. The problem with the book is that more or less the same information is available for free from the Hurstwic site, while fencing with the large shield is covered by instructors on youtube, again for free.
Asides from the sagas there is little insight given by Mr. Cummins about actual fighting with early medieval weapons and the book seems largely concerned with offensive actions with them. The large shield has a number of particular dynamics which are not covered in the book yet are the chief concern of nearly all other works dealing with "viking" fighting.
The comparisons with Japanese martial arts are to expected given the authors background but he did seem only passingly familiar with Western sources. Talhoffer is mentioned a few times. This is relevant as there is a fair amount of information on shield fighting from European works which could have informed the book. I could continue but actually the first point I made is enough and is the most relevant. This information and more insightful,informed is available for free from other sources.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 13, 2014 6:58 PM GMT

Northlanders TP Vol 06 Thors Daughter
Northlanders TP Vol 06 Thors Daughter
by Simon Gane
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.18

3.0 out of 5 stars Treading water?, 1 Jan 2013
If you have read some of the other books in this series you will probably know what to expect, and here we have a middling effort providing more of the same. The three stories have been dealth with by other reviewers. The siege of Paris is a semi historical take on..."the siege of paris". It features the cynical, anachronistic telling of early medieval history that was present in the other books of this series I don't really like it but you might. The main character is basically the Sven character but a bit more believably medieval in outlook, honestly this story is more than a bit tiresome. The second story is brilliant a story of loss, meaning and identity while the third story is simply too short, its good but it doesn't really get going, I would have loved to have seen this one spun out into a full book. Brian Wood really seems to be able to write women well, especially Norse characters, while his men often come across as sarcastic tough guy cliches. The artwork is good throughout, being excellent in the story "Thor's daughter" the whole book is very slim and I was a bit miffed forking out 11 or so for it.
The whole of this series is very inconsistent in quality and I had decided not to continue with it, however I have read that there is only one more volume to be released and I will probably buy it. If you can tolerate not having a full collection this might be a volume to skip or try and get second hand, it's good enough and certainly better than the poorer efforts of this series but it a long way from the better showings.
I have seen that Brian Wood is writing for the flagging Dark Horse Conan series which might be a interesting and worthwhile use of his talents.

The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death and Happiness
The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death and Happiness
by Mark Rowlands
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A review for those interested in wolves., 8 Mar 2012
I have given the product two stars mostly because most amazon 1 star reviews come across as bitter or totally inappropriate "arrived late" etc. Two out of ten would ,perhaps, be more accurate.
I see that those who have given this book less than stellar reviews have had lots of "unhelpful" clicks and some follow up in the comments. This review is for people thinking of buying the book not for those who have read it. I am also going to offer some recommendations for other books.I no longer own this book.

I have had a lifelong interest in the natural world and northern predators in particular. I am especially keen on wolves. The book was bought for me as it seemed to be a neat blending of my two loves of phiolosophy and nature.
I didn't finsh the book I think I got half way through. I put it down at the point where he decided to go vegetarian for moral reasons which is fair enough, I remember that he wrote about the animals having no choice in their role. He then elected (obviously unilaterally) to feed his wolf a vegetarian diet. The book went down at that point.
The author clearly harbours a deep dislike for humans his self hatred is as profound as his ignorance of ecology and zoology. The book comes across as a series of increasingly thin rationalisations for the choices he has made for himself and his pet. I believe it is illegal to own a wolf except under very special circumstances, this has been addressed in other reviews but the author makes it clear that he owned a 100% wolf at the beginning of the book. That he then makes endless moralistic arguments highlights his amazing inconsistency and the hypocrisy of his arguments. His rugby and beer machismo is also deeply unattractive.
I did think at points that I was looking into the mind of one of those people who tells you their dog is fine while is growls and snaps at your wife and kids. His thinking is much in line with the poor chap in Werner Hertzog's "Grizzly Man".
You won't learn much about philosophy and you certainly won't learn much about wolves.
Anyhow Barry Lopez's fine work "of wolves and Men" is a far more satisfy and frankly less emotional work which actually deals with western man's paradoxical,uncomfortable relationship with wolves and wildness. You could also go with Rolf Petersen's "Wolves of Isle Royale" as a look at wild wolf populations.
However the book I would most strongly recommend is "the Wolf" by David Mech almost certainly the world's foremost expert on the wolf. David Mech had a pet wolf "lightning" for many years he however highlights that the animal was unhappy and unfulfilled with the life he could offer it (in sharp contrast to Rowlands) and said "it is very,very wrong to keep a wolf as a pet". I will leave with a quote from the work. "and lastly to lightning-if it is permissable to address a wolf in print- the only thing I can say is, "I'm sorry"."
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 23, 2013 3:36 PM GMT

The Eagle [DVD] [2011]
The Eagle [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Channing Tatum
Price: 3.00

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I honestly didn't think it could be so bad, 22 Feb 2012
This review is from: The Eagle [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
I have read the book and liked it, but I won't compare the film with the book as this has been done by many reviewer, I won't talk about the historical inaccuracies (inaccurate is far too light a term) I won't even talk about the American accents as they didn't bother me apart from in the case of Mark Strong. I suppose it makes sense that they were speaking Gaelic north of the wall instead of making up a language but it did bother me a little bit cos I kept understanding bits probably. Jamie Bell's wandering accent confused me for ages until I realised that he was supposed to be, what Scottish?
I want to talk about the film, it's just awful from beginning to end, I honestly couldn't believe that they have made such a rampantly pro imperialist film in 2011. The main character is so incredibly unlikable and one dimensional that we simply don't care for him at all his character does not develop in any way and is a brave but simple thug with a father complex. The character of Esca is far more ambiguous and the performance is pretty good but there appears to be absolutely no chemistry between the two at all.
In fact when Esca apparantly double crosses the child killer Marcus I just thought "good" kill him and live up there.

I couldn't identify with the Imperialist dullard child killing slave owning rich boy played by a pretty wooden actor delivering pretty wooden dialogue.
As one IMDB reviewer put it it's like if the soldiers in Avatar had killed all the blue aliens then waffled on about honour.
And Esca's refusal to kill children (yes it really bothered me) is demonstrated as a weakness on his part not a derangement on Marcus's.
I nearly turned it off half way through and did in fact fast forward the end oh a big fight and funeral, wait I think I've seen that before!

Northlanders: Metal (Vol. 5)
Northlanders: Metal (Vol. 5)
by Brian Wood
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Viking Slaine?, 22 Feb 2012
Of the Northlanders series this is the work I enjoy the most. Three stories, the sea road, metal and the girl in the ice.
the sea road tells the story of a desperate trip to find an new sea lane by a captain. The crew travel north into the far ice and the story is well served by references to Norse mythology especially as the crew start to go a bit mad. Nice art work too.
The girl in the Ice has shakier art work (at least I thought so) and tells the story of the need for justice in an Icelandic community after a girls' body is discovered. A moving piece, well written.
Metal comprises the meat of the work. The chronology seems a bit off but in 8th century Norway but a blacksmith tackles the incoming Christians. Great art in the Viking-skater style with a really interesting story with a good blending of Norse mythology. The mix of mythology with a goddess type figure and an evil "moral" invasive religion really reminded me of themes in Pat Mills' Slaine. The main hero while being deceptively dull is a solid Norse re-working of the wordy, effusive, Irish Slaine.
This was the second of the Northlanders I read after volume 1 and is the book that lead me to buy others in the series the strength of this work managed to get me to buy more after I read the terrible volume 2. While I think the Plauge widow is probably the beter book, Metal is the Northlanders I re-read more often.

Northlanders TP Vol 04 The Plague Widow
Northlanders TP Vol 04 The Plague Widow
by Leandro Fernandez
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars The best of the bunch, 22 Feb 2012
Volume four leaves the others behind. A strong story which creates a real feeling of peril, good period characters and despite longswords and back quivers good solid art work.
In Russia this time a plague strikes a trading outpost the decison to quarantine themselves over the winter creates deep schisms and tensions in the community. The main character looses her husband and has to fend for her family in the savage cold while the thuggish warriors attempt not only to take over the community but claim her as well.
Hilda is really well written, a well rounded character who is very easy to empathise with. Most of the characters even the irredemable Gunborg are realistic and have believable motivations.Unlike previous offerings this work feels "right" for the early medieval period and the "realistic take" actually feels realistic rather than an act of time travelling.
My ointment is however not fly-less, the priest naturally believes that the plague is caused by "invisible creatures" and actually says " sickness is a thing to be explained by science" yes that's right the priest says that! Amazingly , in fine American comic tradition, he turns out to be an ex-warrior cliche who is astonishingly good at fighting (and immune to frostbite)he reads okay and does not jar in the way that many of Brian Wood's other Vikings have.

story gripping
characters believable and well written
art solid if uninspired.
The one of the series to get.

Northlanders: Blood in the Snow v. 3 (Northlanders 3)
Northlanders: Blood in the Snow v. 3 (Northlanders 3)
by Brian Wood
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars more modern and current than viking stories should be, 22 Feb 2012
Here is the third book and the last one I bought. The art is decent throughout I particularly liked the art on the shield maidens. The book consists of four short stories.
1; A saxon boys view of the raid on Lindisfarne
2; A description of Viking combat
3; A story about three female vikings defending themselves
4; Sven the returned defending his new family.

I particularly liked the third story which was nuanced, original and well drawn, I would easily rate it alone at four stars. I felt the first story was decent though once again I was wincing at viking "longswords". The forth story was predictable and tedious with absolutely no doubt to the outcome, I don't care for the Sven character especially the story says nothing and goes nowhere, but the art is good. The viking combat section followed in the "realistic" view of the viking world which this series takes. Rather than realistic it just comes across as anachronistic and a bit, well, teenage. The art is bad for this story.
Brian Wood should buy a copy of Peirce's "Swords of the Viking age" and give it to the artists or just direct them to the Hurstwic site, I know it's a comic but jeez there is no excuse for getting it so wrong anymore, post "Google" it just looks lazy.
The language feels less forced and the writing in general appears to have improved coming across more as a modern take on the viking world rather than modern people in tunics.
worth a look especially if second hand

Northlanders: v. 2: The Cross and the Hammer (Northlanders 2)
Northlanders: v. 2: The Cross and the Hammer (Northlanders 2)
by Brian Wood
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A poor second showing, 22 Feb 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I didn't buy this series in order which is good for the publishers as I would have stopped if I had got this book second. The art is substandard, the weapons armour etc are really poorly researched. Especially as a "google" search will tell you all you need to know, A real step down from the first book.
The story is a kind of "braveheart" version of the battle of Clontarf, we don't read comics for a history lesson so it's not a big problem. Real history particularly Irish history is to too large and amorphous for most writers.
I wasn't keen on the anachronistic and (unneccesarily) vulgar writing of the first volume in book two it gets worse. The Vikings for some reason talk like 21st century policemen on about the forth page one of the main characters says "do you know what they called these in class at college". The tone is like that for the whole book however the final act was pretty good.
Unlike 'Sven the Returned' the art in this volume is totally substandard, the story is okay and even good toward the end, the dialogue and characterisation are woeful and the swearing extraneous and jarring.
This is the book of this series to miss.

Northlanders TP Vol 01 Sven The Returned
Northlanders TP Vol 01 Sven The Returned
by Davide Gianfelice
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.64

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Vikings done right?, 22 Feb 2012
Sven is a gritty hard bitten warrior who returns to Orkney to reclaim his birth right from his pagan uncle.
I very much enjoyed the artwork and there has obviously been a decent amount of research into the subject which makes a few of the art mistakes a bit hard to excuse. If you know a fair bit about the culture of the Norse lands in this time period you will probably see them they don't really detract from the story overly. The vikings look like kind of skate punk vikings which I really quite liked, it's vibrant well paced and well laid out. Four stars for the art.
The story is pretty standard stuff and fits in quite well with stories from the Norse sagas, the characterisation however is strikingly contemporary. This to me was a bit of a problem as Sven's opinions and motivation seemed utterly 21st century. His atheist, rational, realistic mind just doesn't fit in a medieval world and really seemed like poor piece of writing, or a clumsy attempt to get the audience to identify with him. I have to admit that I found much of the violence overdone and the swearing comes across as totally gratuitous and jarring. However I could see the germ of something good here and went on to buy more of the series.

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