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Mark Mewell "Mark" (UK)

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Music Inspired By Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? [Double CD]
Music Inspired By Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? [Double CD]
Price: £6.29

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A great toe-tapping combination, 14 Sept. 2010
I loved the movie this album shamelessly exploits and had already purchased the original soundtrack. This is more of the same and that's fine by me. A nice mix of bluegrass and country music. Great to accompany the BBQ party on a balmy summer afternoon (like we so frequently enjoy here in the UK).

30 Rock Season 2 [DVD]
30 Rock Season 2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tina Fey
Offered by FREETIME
Price: £8.24

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 30 Rocks!, 14 Sept. 2010
This review is from: 30 Rock Season 2 [DVD] (DVD)
I lucked onto this by buying the boxed set in a sale after hearing good things about it in the review section of a decent newspaper. It's great character comedy with some killer situations and snappy one-liners. The star guest turns are generally a cut above the walk opn schmoozing of other series - they get a genuine role to play rather than simply popping up to add lustre to proceedings (as was often the case in the increasingly tiresome Friends).

Some great moments to be had here: Baldwin's impersonation of sundry family members during therapy for his leading star, Buscemi's private deective, the 'Followship award', to mention just a few. Enjoy.

State Of Play - Complete Series [2003] [DVD]
State Of Play - Complete Series [2003] [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Simm
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £5.26

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 8 April 2010
A first class political thriller that leads the viewer on without missing a beat. Constant twists and turns mesmerise and the cast is first class. If only there was more like this on TV.

The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World
The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World
by Rupert Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.43

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting, if wordy read., 8 April 2010
The author's military experience is a very useful corrective to any amount of war theory by armchair warriors. However much of the material is repetitive and overlength and sometimes the reader feels as if he is being spoken down to by an immensely patronising figure. The history of the evolving tropes of warfare is useful, as is the insistence of the author that all conflicts need to be viewed in the round to generate the appropriate application of force to render a useful outcome. It might be nice to have some statesmen pick up on this and consider the utility of victory as a theme, ie optimising the outcome of a conflict rather than prolonging the justification for having begun it in the first place. I was reading this, and some other books, to try and see if there is a better way forward than the debacles of Iraq and Afghanistan and it strikes me that the flip side of the utility of force is that the insurgents have embraced the force of utility as their credo, and it works, alas.

TimeRiders (Book 1)
TimeRiders (Book 1)
by Alex Scarrow
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.49

11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Dr Who - by some margin, 12 Mar. 2010
This review is from: TimeRiders (Book 1) (Paperback)
I'm not usually a reader of young adult fiction but this came highly recommended to me by another adult (who had had it recommended to him by a son), so trusting this person's judgement I gave it a go. And I'm very, very glad that I did. This is top rank stuff. A great high concept (a secret agency recruiting people from situations where they face certain death, to fight criminals and extremists who have got their hands on time travel mechanisms developed at some point in the future) is married with a fantastic plot, characters who a reader easily warms to, including a combat droid named Bob (who strangely was a very sympathetic 'character'). It's a heady mix of ingredients and Scarrow carries it off with great skill.

Without trying to spoil the plot too much, the first 'case' the TimeRiders have to deal with is a doozy. In a future world where the climate has gone to pot, a desperate scientist and his team of carefully selected ex-soldiers, take an armful of lethal technology back in time to change the future and make a world where there is no climate crisis and there is order. The catch is, that such a world can only work under a totalitarian regime. So, without hopefully giving too much away, they take over the Nazi government and lead the Thrid Reich to global domination, in order to save the world. It's a blinding masterstroke of story-telling to get the reader to follow through the logic of this and agree with it to an extent. Needless to say, the regime faces a challenge from the Timeriders who must find some way of restoring the original timeline.

I have not enjoyed a book as much for a long time. It reminds me of the delight I had when I read the first Artemis Fowl book. This knocks spots off the recent Dr Who series and is pacy and clever as well. Do yourself a favour. Buy a copy, read it and then press it into the hands of a friend. They'll be as grateful as I was, I guarantee it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 23, 2010 4:15 PM BST

Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance
Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance
by Steven D. Levitt
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Economics for the FHM generation..., 1 Feb. 2010
This is the sequel to the fabulously silly Freakonomics in which our dynamic duo sought to introduce a kind of blue skies approach to economics to a low brow readership. Of course, there are casualties in such an approach and the book ended up feeling like a collection of first drafts for an obscure column in one of the Guardian's Saturday supplements. Super F is more of the same, and even less convincing than its forerunner. It's mostly to do with the fact that there is no sense of any genuine and workable organising principle around which the book is written (other than cashing in once again on their dubious fame. Think Starship Troopers and Starship Troopers 2 and you'll know what I mean).

Super F reads like a collection of scraps, but that is not the worst of it. Economists, and particularly economists working alongside hacks, should never be allowed to try to be funny. Ever. The attempts at humour fall flat enough, but it is the constant harping on a `humorous' theme (such as the don't walk drunk quip) that begins to grate almost at once. Worse still, is the bogus thinking that underlies their very first example of F'nomics `thinking'. The authors put the case for drink driving being safer than walking drunk on a per mile basis. The logical flaw in the argument, i.e. that the safety comparison only works if the drunk driver and drunk pedestrian travel the same route is apparent to even the most casual reader. At once F'nomics is shown up for what it is: assumptions based on statistics abstracted from pragmatics and real contexts and causality.

This glib superficiality becomes even more apparent the further from home these two homeboys look. The expansion of satellite TV viewing in India is put down to a `steep fall in the price of equipment and distribution' with no reference to the illegal activities of the cable wallahs who have festooned the country with rooftop feed cables. And the idea that the rural women of India have been `empowered' by satellite TV simply flies in the face of reality. It's equally possibile that TV simply supplanted prior activities without changing power relations between the genders.

Or take the explanation a few pages later as to why old New York buildings rise from street level to the second story parlor. Dubner and Dumber would have us believe that this was a `design necessity, allowing a homeowner to rise above the sea of horse manure.' Leaving aside the fact that these properties were usually tenanted, they were designed that way to establish a social hierarchy between buildings and within buildings (as they were in the UK), rather than to keep people above a `sea of horse manure'.

Then on page 14, the authors transmute their specious earlier argument about walking drunk into `knowing'. Typical of the cheap slight of hand that pervades the book. Likewise the argument that follows about shark attacks. Apparently in 2001 there were just 68 shark attacks. Which kind of begs the question about how we get this figure. Might the claim have been better if the authors were honest enough to admit that this was actually 68 RECORDED attacks? In the next paragraph, the authors claim that elephants kill 200 people a year but we aren't as scared of them as we are of sharks. This is because `most of their victims live in places far from the world's media centers.' What? And shark victims don't? It is indicative of the authors' own lack of confidence in their material that they end the introductory section with the telling comment: `you may find a few things in the following pages to quarrel with. In fact, we'd be disappointed if you didn't.'

The book is pretty much downhill from there and the authors come across like a couple of freshman who are keen on the subject, but undisciplined enough to question their initial assumptions and who cannot resist that childish male urge to make really poor puns, so that their arguments about pimps and their `pimpact' are undermined, and in the end have little impact (or more appositely, they have `dimpact', if you will).

At times this immaturity becomes quite insensitive. They define terrorism as `civic passion on steroids'. I'm sure that once relatives of terrorist victims get over the reductio ad absurdam, they'll be splitting their sides. The ensuing discussion on terrorism is almost wilfully stupid. At other times the authors are too impatient to even check their own maths. On page 87, for example, they claim that more soldiers died in peacetime that during the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When you factor in the smaller army size recently there is no increase, therefore no argument. To cap it all the authors conclude with the following:

"To further put things in perspective, think about this: since 1982, some 42,000 US military personnel have been killed - roughly the same number of Americans who die in traffic accidents in a single year."

And your point is? That last clause could be just about anything. Try this. `roughly the same number of fridge magnets that are sold in a single week.' Astounding, eh? Like the conclusion that an islamic terrorist is likely to come from a particular ethnic group. Just think, without F'nomics no-one would have ever guessed.

So far, so bad, but then we get to the bit where the authors' attitude really sticks in the throat. The subject is climate change. Those who espouse the view that there is global warming are smeared as quasi-religious fanatics. Why isn't it a credo to believe that the world's climate is not getting warmer I wonder? Or try this one. `Keith Chen... after a brief infatuation with Marxism, made an about-face and took up economics.' (p.213) Er, chaps, remind me what Karl Marx's trade was again... Oh that's right, he was a real economist, unlike you two jerks.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 19, 2011 4:03 PM GMT

Magix Soundpool Collections 15 (PC DVD)
Magix Soundpool Collections 15 (PC DVD)

4.0 out of 5 stars nice waves man, 7 Dec. 2009
An excellent addition to the Magic Music Maker package. A useful range of sound files in a variety of genres and (bpm) and great fun to use. As ever, this is never going to result in chart success, but it is great fun to use anyway.

...and all the pieces matter, Five Years of Music from The Wire (deluxe version) [Explicit]
...and all the pieces matter, Five Years of Music from The Wire (deluxe version) [Explicit]
Price: £11.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The sorrows of a Wireless world, 18 Oct. 2009
Finally finished the brilliant TV series and had to buy the album to stave off the despair. It's got a great selection of tracks as well as four versions of down in the hole. I didn't like the final version at all, so it is not missed. It's a fairly eclectic mix but it works and the interspersed audio clips are good, but for my money I wanted something longer since the scripts of the tv programmes are so, so cool and clever. Hence lopping off one star. If you liked the series then you just have to have this album.

PS does anyone know where I can by a Bunk voice synthesizer, or an Omar facial scar kit, or a McNulty libido jab, or Prospect Joe's guide to slimming? I WANT IT ALL!!

Philip Glass Soundtracks
Philip Glass Soundtracks
Price: £11.30

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Glass is only half-filled, 14 Aug. 2009
My fault I know, but I had not realised this was a purely piano based interepretation of GLass, which really needs the full orchestral and choral components to work to best effect. This feels a bit thin and missing a certain something.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 16, 2009 10:40 PM GMT

Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia
Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia
Offered by ReNew Entertainment
Price: £3.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Best album I have bought for ages, 9 Aug. 2009
This is an extraordinary album by any standard. I bought it on the strength of a TV ad and five live football where the background music was Bohemian like you. That alone is worth the price of the CD. It was like rediscovering the Rollign Stones all over again. However, when I sat down and listened from start to end it was a completely satisfying experience, from the subtle build up of the opening track, with its weary feel, through to some cheeky fun tracks and then an impossibly romantic song about yearning and dreaming of a lover. This really does capture the ethos of young urban living, with its intoxicating mix of celebratory crassness and at the same time a yearning for sophistication. What an album.

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