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Miketang (London, UK)

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Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery : An East-West Dialogue on Death and Rebirth from the Worlds of Religion, Science, Psychology, Philosophy, Ar
Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery : An East-West Dialogue on Death and Rebirth from the Worlds of Religion, Science, Psychology, Philosophy, Ar
by Sylvia Cranston
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars An encyclopaedia of reincarnation, 8 April 2017
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Excellent compendium on this subject covering a large, comprehensive spectrum. Can become tough going on occasion. The best approach may be to treat it like an encyclopaedia and read whatever takes your interest when dipping in rather than reading from start to finish. It is difficult to assess the cogency of sections where one has little familiarity with the cultural or religious background. What I can say is that much of the material from Christian sources supposedly supporting reincarnation is really stretching it a lot. Still, much of the book is informative and thought provoking. A more serious and scientific analysis, rather than a compendium, may be found in Reincarnation by Hans Ten Dam, though many may find that tough going and dry-as-dust.


SODIAL(R) White Summer Mens Casual Sports Slim Mandarin Collar T-shirt Cotton Short Sleeve Shirt Clothing 3XL
SODIAL(R) White Summer Mens Casual Sports Slim Mandarin Collar T-shirt Cotton Short Sleeve Shirt Clothing 3XL
Offered by A Brilliant Planet
Price: £4.66

4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasant surprise., 8 April 2017
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Pleasantly surprised. Nice, serviceable t-shirt for summer with novel collar. Finish not brilliant but OK for a casual product, besides you really can't beat the low price considering what you'd pay for a similar product in shops here. Beware sizing, however. Other reviewers are correct, you have to allow for massive differences in the size indices in China compared with Western sizes. My chest measurement is small by UK standards, 37/8". Taking account of the reviews and size figures quoted, I ordered 3XL with reservations it would be like a tent. As it is, it fits almost perfectly. So if you are average Western size or above it may be advisable to give this a miss. But personally very pleased. Let's see how long it lasts!


The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Twentieth Century Classics)
The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (Twentieth Century Classics)
by Yukio Mishima
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The Temple of the Golden Pavilion - Mishima, 30 Mar. 2017
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Not as accessible as some of Mishima's work, but a great novel, serious in substance, psychologically penetrating and articulated in the author's exquisite, refined style.


The Way of the Samurai (Echoes of the Ancient World)
The Way of the Samurai (Echoes of the Ancient World)
by Richard Storry
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully produced study of the Samurai, 30 Mar. 2017
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Absolutely brilliant, beautifully produced book. By a respected academic in Japanese studies, the text is informative but accessible; comprehensive but succinct, complemented by stunning colour photographs. Despite its publication in the 1970s, this more than holds its own with some more recent studies, which are let down by small text and poor production values. Highly recommended for the general reader or layman interested in Japan and its history.


The Swimming-Pool Library (Vintage Blue)
The Swimming-Pool Library (Vintage Blue)
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Accomplished but flawed, 30 Mar. 2017
Accomplished, often stylishly-written, but patchy novel. Too much in-your-face (ambivalence intended) sex for my taste (though some might consider this contextually justified). Occasionally I feel he can't resist showing off his knowledge of recondite vocabulary. I like the chronological shifts between modern and earlier times in the lives of the two main characters, Will and Nantwich, revealing surprising parallels as well as differences, refracted through their own outlooks and experiences. Some may find the mise-en-scene too precious - a novel where, in Brideshead fashion, the protagonists are some or all of rich, well-connected, handsome, educated and refined. So much easier to drift through life in a cosseted haze of pleasure and self-indulgence, exempt from the mundane tasks of making a living, money and time to spare, with rough trade at-the-ready to fall into one's lap, as it were (!). In fairness, though, this is a good deal better than the meretricious Brideshead. There is a serious reflection on life trying to get out. Entertaining and a page-turner. I highly recommend it if you can discount the above flaws. Probably 4.5 stars for entertainment value.


From London far
From London far
by Michael Innes
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Per ardua ad astra, 25 Mar. 2017
This review is from: From London far (Paperback)
Brilliant novel, had me up all night reading. Some great eccentric characters, including the protagonist Meredith and two sisters and a sea captain in Scotland (obviously the author's Scottish roots came in handy for the Scottish dialect). Fast moving, sometimes intricate plot meant the book kept me reading wanting to know the next twist. Some good descriptive sections. This is also great for those fond of literary allusions and deciphering epigrams and quotes in foreign tongues. Therein also lies the only problem. The author assumes a far higher level of general education, literary and in both ancient and modern languages than can be found these days even among most graduates of the higher echelons of Oxbridge. I found it OK, though admit to having to check a few words and references, as well as German phrases, as I have no German. But the almost continuous inner dialogue of a main character who is an editor of Martial and Juvenal and well read in such widely-ranging authors as Johnson, Peacock and Aretino, as well as the usual Shakespeare et al, not to mention a connoisseur of art is likely to prove tough going for most people. To have to keep stopping every other sentence to fathom a Latin or literary quote is not conducive to maintaining the pace to appreciate the story.


Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere: A Memoir
Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere: A Memoir
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting expatriate account of Japan, 22 Mar. 2017
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Riveting read about one man's experience of Japan mostly in the 60s, 70s. Admittedly somewhat easier for the writer because he was a scholar and translator of Japanese, with the facility of an American extrovert to forge a network of connections among the academic, literary,movie and journalistic community. Note also this guy has a big ego, though tempered by an engaging candour allowing him to take a self-critical view of his own actions and motivations and to laugh at himself e.g. admissions to falling flat on his face when overconfidently overextending himself into the more recondite areas of Japanese culture, notably acting. But his inside portraits of authors like Mishima, Abe and Oe are fascinating, though in the case of Mishima in my opinion often simplistic (even though he translated one of his books). His bitchy characterisation of Mishima's work as like looking at an exhibition of over-refined picture frames was unworthy, though again he has the honesty to admit this derived from personal animus as part of an altercation between them. His career as a moviemaker of insightful documentaries into Japanese life - ranging from a poor generations-old farming family to portraits of the famous Blind Swordsman actor Katsu show another side of Nathan's multi-faceted creative talent. Makes you wonder how one man can get so much into one lifetime. His insights into how the social, political and cultural scenes worked and connected at that time, as well as the mores of Japanese society classes in the broadest sense, are also central to what makes this such an eye-opening read for those unfamiliar with Japan and its people. Of course we are talking about two generations ago now, so this is by no means a reflection of modern day Japanese society but more a social and cultural portrait. On the downside there is sometimes too much cloying, self-indulgent self-portrayal of the US "liberal-hippie-abroad type". Easy to entertain an extended "family" of pot-smoking, laid back artists and drop-outs with the insulation of money and connections.

As this is an autobiography, Part I of the book often diverts from Japan to Nathan's returns to the US. However some of the narrative about US publishers and the film industry reveal the tackiness, cynicism and avarice of the system and its power-brokers. As this subject arises in the course of describing personal relations with some of the people involved, I'm not sure whether Nathan fully realised just how badly this - and they - come(s) across to the outside reader. Of course for that very reason it's all the more insightful for us.

Part 2 of the book, marks for me an abrupt decline in the book's interest, tempered by the resumption of his Japanese interest, especially relating to Oe, in the last 40 pages or so. The author's personal journey, romantic and family preoccupations take centre stage, as does the pursuit of the "American Dream" of affluence and respectable personal security. No doubt this goes with the territory of personal memoir and without it we would not have the earlier intimate insider description of Japanese life that gives this book its true fascination. However we've had many accounts of people pursuing the mercenary American Dream, few of Westerners equipped to live in and learn of Japan and its culture and enigmas.

Part 2 of course still contains much of interest, borne along by Nathan's descriptive and narrative skill. Indeed much of it is taken up with transmuting that skill into dollars through screenwriting. In the process, continuing a theme foreshadowed in Part I, Nathan has some sardonic observations on film moguls and the movie industry when he became a luckless apprentice screenwriter after moving to California (to try and save his marriage). He is revealing of just how shallow, vulgar, self-regarding and manipulative were some of the better-known moguls and A-list actors of the Hollywood media industry - in my view (if not necessarily Nathan's) essentially a money-spinning, hard violence and (increasingly hard) porn factory with any real cultural element strictly adventitious (allowing for rare exceptions).

He also presents an acerbic view of American "New Age" pretensions - a Zen group in California composed of pampered scions of the US plutocracy, no doubt sharpened by his (soon-to-be ex) wife's membership at a time when the marriage was falling apart. This is a sad but honestly described part of the more personal side of the story.

Ironically Nathan's success as a film-maker - apart from the earlier specialist films about Japanese life for which he won an Emmy - came not through the Hollywood sausage machine but through business documentaries, ranging from the distasteful (pun intended) "The Colonel Goes To Japan - Kentucky Fried Chicken's assault on the Japanese market" to the piously worshipful of the enterprise culture: "In Search of Excellence", based on Tom Peters' best-selling book about successful entrepreneurs. The latter made him modestly wealthy - for a time. The "American Dream" realised. But that says it all in a way. It matched perfectly the Western zeitgeist from the 1980s onwards: the burgeoning descent into greed and materialism, the obscene wealth of the few so-called "entrepreneurs" at the expense of the many. Where does true value lie? In terms of Nathan's personal memoir, what a banausic come-down from pursuing the abiding excellence of Japanese culture and scholarship.

Judging from his eventual disillusionment with the mercenary world of commercial film-making and return to his earlier career in Japanese culture Nathan seems to have come to a similar conclusion. For the "American Dream" - as has oftentimes been shown - has an obverse dark side where, as in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, the gold dust suddenly, unaccountably disappears into the desert sands just as rapidly as it appeared. Dodging bankruptcy, he also learnt the hard way about fair weather business and investor friends. The unravelling of his second career is recounted with Nathan's usual redeeming honesty.

Fortunately for him, he was able to fall back on his first career in Japanese literature, aided by the timely endowment of a chair in Japanese studies by a Japanese businessman at University of California Santa Barbara; and the even more timely Nobel award to his old friend Kenzaburo Oe. Mind you, his letter of congratulation to Oe, flagging up his own translations of Oe and the synchronicity of the prize with his own return to Japanese studies, is fairly cringe-making ("I like to think my translations, inadequate as they are, have allowed readers at least a glimpse of your vision"). No doubt the readers included some of the Nobel committee.

Of course Nathan's film-making has its place as part of an autobiography, as does the rags-to-riches-to rags tale of his flirtation with American enterprise and the media industry. However, it is in Part I and the latter section of Part 2 where Nathan returns to matters Japanese (albeit moonlighting on a business book about Sony) that are of permanent interest in this book. If the test of a book is making you want to delve more into the subjects it raises, read more of the authors mentioned, learn more of the society and culture it describes, then this book certainly passes that test admirably.


The Xenophobe's Guide to the Japanese (Xenophobe's Guides)
The Xenophobe's Guide to the Japanese (Xenophobe's Guides)
Price: £0.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Facile and misleading, 22 Mar. 2017
Well straight from the off, the Nationalism & Identity section does not accord with my experience. You should try walking around London NW3, especially Finchley Road, which seems to attract a fair number of Japanese expatriates. Based on my local experience the Japanese abroad are no more "gregarious" or "bright" or less xenophobic and less communicative than in Tokyo (which I've visited). Taking the charitable view, they may have language difficulties but that's partly their own fault because they work in subsidiaries of Japanese companies staffed mostly with compatriots all speaking in Japanese and seal themselves off from the local population. Japan can boast an ancient and refined culture, though that is succumbing to dumbing down by Americanisation. For the same reason the stereotype of polite manners is no longer universal. In short, books of this type simply reinforce outmoded cliches. By the same token I've found many Japanese individuals are really nice people. You cannot generalise about people based on ethnic stereotyping.


Kung Fu Shoes white with rubber sole
Kung Fu Shoes white with rubber sole
Price: £8.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 19 Mar. 2017
am i missing something? this is described as white but it sure looks black to me from that pic


The Calcutta Chromosome
The Calcutta Chromosome
by Amitav Ghosh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Calcutta Chromosome, 22 Feb. 2017
Extremely difficult to rate this book. The constituent parts of the story were gripping and well written. The ideas and background were interesting and well-integrated with the narrative. I did not expect it, but it was a page-turner which I finished very quickly. This was helped because the author split it into manageable chunks, unlike the unwieldy closely-written print of so many impenetrable novels these days. And yet…..to me his overriding idea somewhere got lost and the constituent parts ultimately failed to cohere. The ending was consequently a let down. I count myself a reasonably bright reader. However I could only half fathom out the end by going back to consult the beginning. If the novel was properly realised then what came between the start and finish should have made that unnecessary. The "big idea" was evidently chromosomal transfer - inserting chromosomes into another person and gradually taking him over - as a means of attaining immortality and/or consciousness overriding the normal limits of space-time. This is related in the novel to Ross's work on malaria and the pre-antibiotic technique of treating tertiary syphilis by infecting sufferers with the malaria bug. Presumably the cure points to some element in the bug (chromosome?) taking over constituents of the recipient's brain and thereby halting the syphilitic paresis. Transfer of chromosomes into another person parallels the transfer of the malaria bug. The idea of a mystical group guiding Ross to his discoveries in the hope of refining their own chromosomal transfer techniques is fair enough. Ditto the use of time shifts to point to survival of consciousness outside localised space-time. The elements are in place for a fascinating sci-fi treatment. Where the whole thing (for me at least) breaks down is in the idea that at the moment Ross discovers something the nature of the parasite changes, providing a new malaria variant and this would somehow help the mystical group advance their chromosomal transfer technique. Why? And isn't it a rather convoluted process? If the author has attempted to explain this, I'm afraid he lost me. For me the story-telling is excellent but the sci-fi theme ultimately remains unrealised and so the novel can only be regarded as partially successful.


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