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Mr. Tristan Martin (Hertfordshire, UK)

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No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan
No Direction Home: The Life and Music of Bob Dylan
by Robert Shelton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.57

3.0 out of 5 stars I only wanted to read one book on Bob Dylan - and felt like I chose the wrong one, 27 Aug 2014
Author Robert Shelton is sometimes described as a Bob Dylan insider, given that he was a critic who "discovered" and befriended Dylan back in the early 1960s. Therefore, this biography could perhaps be described as semi-official, semi-authorised. The more relevant question is that given the author was a personal friend of Dylan and that Dylan was interviewed for this book, does No Direction Home have sufficient objectivity - or at least, does Shelton manage to maintain distance and his critical faculties? The answer, in short, is a resounding no.

Having long been an admirer of Bob Dylan's work but never having read anything substantial on the man, I thought that this book would be a great place to begin, given the wealth of material on the subject. No Direction Home seemed fairly comprehensive and certainly Shelton has done his work, interviewing many people throughout Dylan's life and varied career. The disappointing thing about this book is that Shelton is too sympathetic to offer up any real criticism of his subject and consequently, this book veers in to hagiographical territory. Sure, you can cherry-pick the very occasional sentence in which Shelton offers the mildest of rebukes but on the whole, this book is relentlessly fulsome in its continual praise.

No Direction Home is subtitled, "The Life & Music of Bob Dylan" but Shelton is very selective on what facets of Dylan's life he reveals: like many of his contemporaries, Dylan had some involvement with illegal drugs. You wouldn't know it from reading this; you'd leave it thinking that Dylan likes a beer and the occasional glass of wine but otherwise he is a model of sobriety. Then there is Dylan's divorce: Shelton writes one sentence on ""who slapped who and then rhetorically asks if it is really important? If Bob Dylan physically assaulted his wife then I'd say yes, it is important. What of Dylan's fellow musicians: the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison are not mentioned, Elvis Presley's death gets a few sentences, as does the murder of John Lennon. Are we then to believe that these events were not particularly relevant or impactful to Dylan's life?

Ultimately, author Robert Shelton has no faith in his audience's ability to make judgements for themselves: we get page after embarrassing page attempting to convince us that Bob Dylan is a poet. Perhaps this "debate" was interesting back in the 1960s but from today's vantage point, surely we can decide for ourselves? Then there's Shelton's interpretation of Dylan's music. He does a great job in giving us the critical response of the time but then gives us far too much depth of his own judgement - the tarot card-based analysis of Desire is one of the worst examples of a writer going off the deep end with no benefit of a disciplined editor to rein him in.

As mentioned above, Shelton has interviewed many people for this book and certainly paints an interesting portrait of Bob Dylan and some of the musicians that were around him at the time, as well as the hangers-on (the making of Dylan's film, Renaldo and Clara, with the painfully embarrassing Allen Ginsberg, is particularly exasperating to read). However, No Direction Home is sorely in need of better editing. It has a broad chronological sweep but within each chapter, the time frame jumps around so much that sometimes it is a struggle to determine which decade we are meant to be in.

Robert Shelton wrote for the New York Times, so I have difficulty in believing that he is actually such a disorganised writer (the continuous inserting of Dylan lyrics and song titles in to the text is particularly clumsy). I can only assume that his enthusiasm for the subject has gotten the better of him and in writing such an in-depth book, he has lost sight, or at least perspective, of his subject. Ultimately, despite my huge admiration for the music of Bob Dylan and the appreciation of the lengths Shelton went in interviewing so many people, this book was ultimately unsatisfying.

Please note that this review pertains to the hardback, first edition, released in 1986.

Fisher-Price Thomas & Friends Tray Play Booster Seat
Fisher-Price Thomas & Friends Tray Play Booster Seat
Price: 31.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Toddler loved it!, 21 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Our 18 month-old baby girl loves it. We haven't attached it to a chair so far, since we haven't travelled since we received it, but we use it regularly. She likes to sit in it to have an afternoon snack and waits patiently for me to put the tray on. Also, when we are sitting out in the garden having lunch, she has her lunch in it on the floor.

We have another booster without the tray and I have to say that the tray is a life-saver. She enjoys feeding herself, so we can just put her lunch on it without worrying about her dropping the bowl. Also, as the tray can go in the dishwasher, you can ensure that, wherever you go, you can put food directly on the tray without worrying whether the restaurant table, for example, has been cleaned to your standards.

The only downside is the little train insert. Perhaps an 18 month-old baby is too old to get entertained by that. Luckily, you can easily take it out so you can add your own toys.

Philips GC2045/26 Easyspeed Steam Iron with 120 g Steam Boost and Ceramic Soleplate, 270 ml, 2300 Watt, Blue
Philips GC2045/26 Easyspeed Steam Iron with 120 g Steam Boost and Ceramic Soleplate, 270 ml, 2300 Watt, Blue
Price: 34.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Comfortable & does what it does very well., 21 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This iron is very comfortable to use and it's not overly complex for what it is. The only downside is that the calc-clean - unless I'm doing something wrong, which is a possibility - is very slow to use.

Another good feature of this product is that it is stored in a heat-resistant box. For me, this is really useful as I normally store the iron with my linens & a hot iron, just unplugged, could be a potential fire hazard. With this iron you can place it hot back in it's box, no need to wait for it to cool down.

All in, this iron is ergonomic with a few good features but the calcium clean seems great in principle but slow in practice.

Teamson Sunny Safari Rocking Chair
Teamson Sunny Safari Rocking Chair
Price: 92.00

3.0 out of 5 stars Lovely range of furniture, but rather expensive, 17 Aug 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Lovely range of furniture, but rather expensive. My daughter likes it very much, but it just seems too expensive (80 at the moment) for a rocking chair.

Disney Frozen Castle and Ice Palace Playset
Disney Frozen Castle and Ice Palace Playset
Offered by Il Regno Della Fantasia
Price: 90.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great quality but very overpriced!, 17 July 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This Disney Frozen castle is lovely and big. My niece, who is an absolute Frozen fan, loves it! It is a pretty large with lots of little features to play with. It also looks like the one in the film.

It does take quite a bit of time to put together and the instructions are not very helpful, but it is large down to common sense, so I got it together in about an hour.

The real downside to this is that the dolls are not included and you have to spend an extra 45 for both dolls, if you want the good quality ones from Disney. So, for the price (125 at the time this review was written), I would expect at least one doll to be included. Just to highlight that this castle works better with the 12" dolls. Of course, you don't have to buy them. My niece doesn't have them and still loves to play with it. She uses her other dolls and it's just all the same to her.

In summary, you will be very popular with your daughter/granddaughter/niece if you buy this, but you need to decide if it is worth the money.

Trunki Travel ToyBox (Pink)
Trunki Travel ToyBox (Pink)
Price: 13.03

1.0 out of 5 stars Just a fancy and expensive way of putting toys away, 26 Jun 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is basically a plastic box. I was expecting higher quality from Trunki as I had heard lots of good things about the suitcase. However, it's not big enough to take any big toy (we have just filled it in with balls) but it's bulky enough to take quite a lot of space in the boot of the car. The wheels will only work properly on a hard surface and not on carpet. Also, they make a grinding noise occasionally.

There are lots of better alternatives for taking toys with you when travelling. For us, a large bag with a zipper works wonders!

Logitech Pro Protective Case for Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro and Note Pro
Logitech Pro Protective Case for Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro and Note Pro
Price: 109.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid build but a few flaws, 19 Jun 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a well built case and lightweight with it.

However, I wasn't keen that the case, when folded, had the keys brushing the screen. Too early to tell if this would have long term repercussions but I wasn't keen on that design. I didn't like the lack of flexibility with this product - lay it flat or one upright position does not provide enough options. Finally, it seems seriously overpriced for what it offers.

Ultimately, if you can try it first, you might find this comfortable and solidly built. For me, it worked fine but a few underlying concerns and a miss-judged price tag stops this being anything except adequate.

Breaking Bad: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
Breaking Bad: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Bryan Cranston
Price: 73.99

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Implausible, overhyped and simply average, 8 Jun 2014
You've probably been in this situation yourself: a family member or friend starts raving about the brilliance of Breaking Bad: "Best series ever!" et cetera. When that fails to convince you, their fall-back position would be to compare it favourably to something they know you already like: "It's better than The Sopranos / Oz / Deadwood / [insert name of your favourite series here]!" This was how Breaking Bad was positioned to me.

The first series was dull but I thought I'd stick with it because first series are often as much about laying the foundation as they are about telling stories - characters, situations and so forth. Things didn't improve with the second series but people kept saying that it gets better. It didn't and I finally stopped watching with the penultimate episode of the fourth series.

It's not that Breaking Bad plagiarises other, better films or television shows, though it does, blatantly. The "fixer" role of Harvey Keitel's character Mr Wolf from Pulp Fiction is transposed to a much less verbose character in Breaking Bad but it's essentially the same function; the theme of a person deeply immersed in organised crime but trying to keep his domestic suburban family arrangements as normal as possible is one of the themes more memorably played out in The Sopranos; the gun purchasing scene is taken directly from Taxi Driver; the DEA agent Hank Schrader is incredibly familiar as Vic Mackey from The Shield (minus that character's deep corruption) and sleazy clichéd lawyer Saul Goodman seems a composite of every ambulance-chasing shyster you've seen a dozen times before, even Lionel Hutz from The Simpsons.

I could accept all these things because if you're going to steal, steal from the best. My issue with Breaking Bad is that I kept waiting for the "wow" factor and it never happened. I wanted to like this programme a lot, I was expecting to be hugely impressed with it. Perhaps if the hype around it hadn't been so overblown, I would have enjoyed this a lot more. The bottom line is that there are far better series around than this implausible tale of a high school chemistry teacher who teams up with a drop-out and they beat the Mexican cartels at their own game (if you've read anything about the Mexican cartels, you'd realise how comical and unrealistic this is).

For me, Breaking Bad was oversold and underdelivered. If you want a tale of organised crime in the suburbs, go for The Sopranos. If you're after a detailed, rich story of a drug empire and its ramifications on the city, try The Wire. If you want a safe, unchallenging fairy tale about an everyman who becomes a drug kingpin, you'll love Breaking Bad.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 11, 2014 8:02 AM BST

Ultralieve Personal Ultrasound Therapy
Ultralieve Personal Ultrasound Therapy
Price: 129.40

4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing for troubled knees but useless for sore wrists, 15 May 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
My wife, despite her short age (she is only 34) suffers from joints pain. The pain comes and goes depending on how much she exercises.

One of her knees gets locked and it becomes very painful. This is when this little gadget comes in. She has had physiotherapy using ultrasound waves before, which is why this is perfect for her. She uses this every time that her knee is sore and swollen and after just a few days of treatment it feels so much better.

However, it is pretty much useless for her tendonitis in her wrist, which is due to a repetitive strain injury. She has tried using it on a regular basis but it just doesn't improve. Maybe this therapy is more useful for larger muscles or joints but it just didn't help.

It is ergonomically designed and very comfortable to use, even when using the injured wrist. An improvement would be for the handle to be rechargeable rather than have to depend on being near a socket. Saying that, the cable is long enough to sit comfortably on the sofa whilst using it.

Overall, a good investment if you can't be bothered to wait for 3 to 6 months to be referred to your local hospital for physio.

Dredd (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray)
Dredd (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray)
Dvd ~ Karl Urban
Price: 6.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Respect the badge - he earned it with his blood", 4 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As a longtime 2000AD reader (since the Block War story line for about ten years), I can honestly say that I loved this movie. For my friends who've never read a single Judge Dredd story, they loved it too. When I watched this in the cinema, it was filled with mostly thirty-something males like myself. I sat there with clenched fingers, thinking, "Please be good, please be good." This film didn't disappoint! When Dredd states the line, "I am the law" the cinema erupted in cheers. This wasn't the ridiculous buddy movie of the awful, stagey, Stallone version, this is the gritty Dredd lifted straight from the comic.

For the record, this was actually filmed before the movie The Raid (a great work of martial arts cinema); Dredd was released after The Raid because it had more complex post production work.

Dredd follows one bloody drug bust, contained in one city block. Dredd goes in the megablock with rookie partner Cassandra Anderson, they get trapped and have to shoot their way out. If this excellent films reminds me of anything, it's those classic 1980s 18-rated action films that were made on modest budgets and told lean, vicious stories: think John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct Thirteen, or Paul Verhoeven's Robocop, which of course, borrowed a lot from Judge Dredd.

Dredd is a brilliant, efficient action film; every actor embodies their role (Karl Urban in particular, is incredible in his understated grimacing), director Pete Travis evokes a sweaty atmosphere of a city on the brink of anarchy, held together by the unflinching, remorselessness of the Judges and writer Alex Garland crafts a great script that introduces us to a brutal world laced with dry humour. The only downside is that this film is clearly the introductory first part of a planned trilogy, one that may never see the light of day, which is a huge shame, considering that is rumoured to feature the Dark Judges.

If you love old school action films before everything started to get watered-down to fit a child friendly rating certificate, Dredd will appeal to you. If you ever read 2000AD, you'll love Dredd. If you want a film where people "reach out" to each other and learn to connect with their inner feelings, give this a wide berth! Dredd is bloody and grim but laced with that black humour that Dredd fans will cherish.

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