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Dick Chuckens "Dick" (Sussex, UK)

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by James Ball
Edition: Paperback

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What is rational anyway?, 24 Nov. 2009
This review is from: Irrationality (Paperback)
This book goes some way towards identifying some of the ways people make apparently bad decisions but it contains some pitfalls itself. I became irritated that it does not clearly explain how the rational choice in a situation was decided upon before any experiment was conducted. This omission gives a sense that Professor Sutherland is rather smug about his own rationality.

Science has often rightly been criticised for oversimplifications due to a reductionist approach. The same is true for some of the supposed rational decisions Prof Sutherland claims. Humans are social animals so what may appear to be an irrational decision for an individual or group of individuals can be quite rational for a social group.

There seems to be a further reductionist error when the results of small group studies are extrapolated into a wider social context. There are interesting theories arising from looking at how people respond to rewards in some of the experiments this book describes, for example. However without further experiments that look at the more complex situation of workplace psychology it is simply wrong to say, as Sutherland does, that payment degrades peoples' motivation to do a good job. Sadly he repeatedly makes this kind of mistake.

There is much good work covered in this book. Stanley Milgram's work on obedience is outstanding and salutory. Unfortunately not all of the works this book desribes, or the conclusions arising from them, are as good.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 1, 2011 6:26 PM GMT

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
by Naomi Klein
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.09

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rigorous, analytical explanation of Western post-war policy, 9 Nov. 2009
Everyone should read this book.

If you have ever wondered about the contradictions in the received explanations of Western policies, or of why our taxes seem to be handed over without question to private companies, then read this book.

If you want a scholarly, rigorous explanation for the madness of the free market that has so intoxicated ruling elites across the world, then read this.

Everything falls into place, contradictions become consistencies and the finger of truth points to the very few super-rich who wield power through trans-national companies and control governments around the world. This is not paranoia though you may feel a bit paranoid; this is not Marxism though you will despise Friedmanism and the Chicago school capitalists who spread the doctrine.

I was angry, sad, disillusioned and despairing at times, wondering about even my small involvement in British politics and the time I had wasted. However I now feel empowered by the truth thanks to Ms Klein. I hope that if you read this review that you go on to read the book and share my experiences. Truth does set us free!

Web Of Deceit: Britain's Real Foreign Policy: Britain's Real Role in the World
Web Of Deceit: Britain's Real Foreign Policy: Britain's Real Role in the World
by Mark Curtis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.38

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sometimes polemical, mostly angry, shockingly true, 9 Nov. 2009
I read this book after Naomi Klein's excellent book, "Shock Doctrine." They complement each other very well.

Curtis is very angry and sometimes this runs away with him to the detriment of this book. It is also slightly out of date though that is largely irrelevant to the facts he presents. There is an inconsistency in the foreign policy he suggests should have been implemented when he criticises the NATO involvement in the former Yugoslavia but then suggests there should have been greater criticism of Russia or even an intervention in Chechnya.

However, while it is possible to disagree with Curtis on a few points the facts he has dug from released British Government papers lay bare decades of foreign policy based upon exploiting poorer nations as ruthlessly as possible and lying to the people of Britain about it. Had Tony Blair read this book he would never have had to ask why Iraqis hated the UK even before the current madness (Blair hadn't heard of Mosaddeq when interviewed on the BBC). Curtis' thesis that Britain is run by, and for, a small elite rings true and is very worrying in these increasingly extremist, paranoid times.

Honky Soul Race Music
Honky Soul Race Music
Offered by Bear Family Records GmbH
Price: £16.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Head stuff for special folks, 17 May 2009
This review is from: Honky Soul Race Music (Audio CD)
Those of us of a certain age and disposition may well remember the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. I suppose that those who were really there, shouldn't. I have some vague recollections, my student life having been somewhere between them and The Young Ones. Anyway, rambling over, this is their Creator's choice of music.

Gilbert Shelton is not God and this isn't Desert Island Discs. However there's some great stuff here. I would suggest that if you have a mind flexible enough to appreciate the Freak Bros. then you'll love this. Jazz to Country through comic and other stuff that defies classification, this is wild, enjoyable and a unique collection of music.

In Defence of Food: The Myth of Nutrition and the Pleasures of Eating
In Defence of Food: The Myth of Nutrition and the Pleasures of Eating
by Michael Pollan
Edition: Hardcover

21 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Confused and conceited, 26 April 2009
Being interested in good food and taking an interest in the effects of the modern diet I thought this would be a useful book. Perhaps its my fault for expecting a Pulitzer winner to write an academic book on the subject, but I found this book disappointing.

Pollan irritatingly conflates Western with American, which becomes especially confused when he writes about the many and varied European diets. In fact the book is mostly about American industrial food. However Pollan cites scientists and politicians as the principle villains, not mentioning free-market capitalism until almost half-way through the book. From a more European perspective the existence of the Twinky is an American phenomenon, it happened because it could make money for someone. It is notable that there are no Twinkys in Europe.

The best I took from this book was Pollen's motto, "Eat good food, not too much." Excellent advice. I was also left wondering about journalism. Is it getting easier to win a Pulitzer? This book would suggest so. It is a long way from the learned text I hoped for. As a polemic, which is what it is, it is a call to the converted. This is also its limitation.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 14, 2014 12:21 AM BST

Saving Private Ryan [DVD]
Saving Private Ryan [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Hanks
Offered by Revolution Media
Price: £4.97

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest, shocking depiction of war, 2 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Saving Private Ryan [DVD] (DVD)
I went to see this in the cinema when it first came out. My friends and I were speechless when we came out, this film is harrowing. The story is simple and the characters may be a little cliched but its hardly the point, what counts here is the depiction of war at its most brutally honest. In this film Spielberg proved his genius to me, rising above the silliness and indulgent sentimentality of most of his work.

There is some sentimentality in this, but as someone who was moved to tears when visiting the war graves at Omaha Beach I do not find it inappropriate. I wondered about the people whose memorials I saw and this film gives a graphic, shocking account of how they died. Veterans have said that in watching the first scenes of this film they were taken back to what they hadn't allowed themselves to remember. Spielberg did his homework well and the grainy, slightly overexposed look to this film adds authenticity.

We are all survivors of war but we do not understand it unless we have direct experience. As a man who would probably been a soldier during WW2 I look at this and wonder how I would have managed, what I would have done. These are questions we should all ask ourselves if we allow our countries to indulge in warfare and this film is starkly honest in its depiction of what is meant by heroism, sacrifice and the altered reality that is war.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 6, 2012 4:36 PM BST

Hombre [1967] [Dutch Import]
Hombre [1967] [Dutch Import]
Dvd ~ Martin Ritt

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great depiction of a great story, 2 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Hombre [1967] [Dutch Import] (DVD)
I like Elmore Leonard and this story is one of his best. Thankfully the film retains his simple, terse style allowing events to bring out the stories behind the protagonists and show us their true characters. Its not what people say that counts, its what they do.

Any actor could have been chosen to play the central character. There's no silent brooding but words are just a waste of time for the white boy raised by Apaches. Charles Bronson or Steve McQueen could have done this well but Newman is wonderful, his blue eyes the only white thing about him. Despite the brutality of the Apache they are depicted as being more honest than the white man, lacking sophistication in its most negative connotation.

Watching a movies about conflict one can allow oneself to simply observe, but more sympathetic people are drawn into the characters. Could you be John Russell and be strong and true despite the prejudice and loathing of the ignorantly bigoted people he finds himself saving, or would you give in, take the easy route and its consequences? A great movie and a metaphor for so much more.

The Thin Red Line [1999] [DVD]
The Thin Red Line [1999] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sean Penn
Price: £3.16

5 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars War as art?, 2 Mar. 2009
I have a problem with this film. I wanted to stop watching it, not because it was harrowing or graphic,but because I found it over long and irritating. To me the soundtrack was portentous and intrusive. I have to question the morality of using a depiction of war as the backdrop for cod philosophising.

We are told that war comprises long periods of boredom with short interludes of sheer terror. This could be one of the themes of this film, except the terror has been sanitised so you don't see any of the really nasty bits. Another theme is the indifference of nature, labouringly illustrated with beautiful scenes of forest or simply a butterfly flying by during a battle.

After a while the down home voiceover became a bit irritating. When a dead Japanese soldier starting to be heard it just became silly. I cannot accept the juxtaposition of thoughts of this type being voiced with the scenes of conflict being depicted.

I considered a career in the forces and I have often wondered how I would have reacted in a battle. I nearly signed up a year before the Falklands War so I could have fought there as a nineteen year-old. This film goes nowhere towards answering my questions about how I would have managed while it spends a lot of time indulging in inappropriate though beautiful cinematography. Much of it should have been left on the cutting-room floor, perhaps leaving a more appropriate reminder of the real sacrifices made by members of the armed forces.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 26, 2011 1:26 PM GMT

Worlds Apart
Worlds Apart
Price: £6.44

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars America's conscience......(Yawn), 12 July 2007
This review is from: Worlds Apart (Audio CD)
Too tendentious by half. Sorry, this just plinks and plonks along without really going anywhere. There's a lot of anger, but what's the point?

I will stand accused of being an old fart, but for psychedelia the Butthole Surfers (Hairway to Steven, Rembrandt Pussyhorse)do the biz far better. As a call to arms you can't beat 60-something Neil Young (Living with War).

In this album the ToDs take themselves far too seriously, and its dull. This kind of music should be visceral, emotive, exciting. This album isn't. As a protest album its puerile (ooh, bad language) and it doesn't touch on the climate of modern America, only teenage angst. I think we've all had enough of that kind of thing.

Mountfield HT55 Hedgetrimmer With Twist-Grip Handle
Mountfield HT55 Hedgetrimmer With Twist-Grip Handle

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Complete stinker, 24 Sept. 2006
Reading the blurb you might think this machine is easy to start. Given how heavy it is (note the weight is not publicised)you might think it would be tough. In fact I have sweated over the lumpy, horrible starter for a good ten minutes before getting it going. On the second outing the plastic grommet that is supposed to prevent the starter cord chafing came away, then the pawl in the starter mechanism popped off, requiring the dismantling of the starter mechanism. This is a complete stinker! How they justify the original list I do not know! Buy a Husqvarna or a Stihl! Save up! Its worth it!

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