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F. S. L'hoir (Irvine, CA)

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The Coalition Book
The Coalition Book
by Martin Rowson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.58

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars British Politics for Fun!, 3 Nov. 2014
This review is from: The Coalition Book (Hardcover)
How I am enjoying "The Coalition Book", a Coffee Table Book, which has found a permanent niche on a conveniently-located bureau in my loo, since continued laughter aids digestion!!!

To enjoy this book as much as I, you must be [in whatever order you wish] a) interested in British politics b) preferably of the Labour [or Green] persuasion c) disenchanted/furious with the current UK Coalition Government d) mad about Martin Rowson's cartoons, which I stumbled upon in the Guardian just after the UK general election of 2010, and have followed ever since.

With its ongoing cast of recognisable recurrent characters, "The Coalition Book," a [jaded] commentary on notable UK political events from 2010-14, presents the adventures of the denizens of Rowsonland: a fantastic country headed by a little fat lordling in lace, blue velvet, and ruby slippers, who bears a more-than-casual resemblance to the British Prime Minister; a sinister-but-preening behind-the-scenes axman in patent-leather shoes, white gaiters, and striped Public School trousers, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the budget-slashing Chancellor of the Exchequer (He is aided in his schemes by his ginger-haired frantic 'familiar,' Beaker Alexander); and a wooden puppet who wants to become a 'real politician', but instead ends up as part of the furniture (He may remind readers of the Deputy Prime Minister). Aided by their dubious cabinet chums, as well as Fat Cat Banksters and Capitalist Pigsters, the superannuated schoolboys (& 1 girl) get up to all sorts of larks at the expense of the Rowsonland public, which, many readers may find, is a dead ringer for the British Public.

Regular fans of Rowson Cartoons will know that his remarkable drawings are not 'one-joke' cartoons. Filled with visual puns and references to art history, they are multi-dimensional enigmas that send one scurrying both to articles on the politics pages and to the internet, to discover the source of the artistic allusions (which make the cartoons such fun). Mr Rowson's cartoons are informed not only by great political cartoonists such as Gilray and Hogarth but also by sundry old masters, including Michelangelo, Brueghel, and Goya, to name only a few among dozens.

My major criticism of the book is that it does not include some of my favourite cartoons, such as Little Lord Cameron--stars in his baby-blue eyes--posing in the buff for his personal photographer on a polar 'bearskin' rug, but one cannot have everything. Besides it must have been difficult to choose which cartoons to include out of so many.

Now it should be noted that Rowson Cartoons are guaranteed to offend many people for one reason or another. There are those who will constantly complain that the cartoonist draws too many fat cats, and these same people will continually lament that they don't 'get it' (For the politically mystified, Cartoonist Rowson provides a succinct commentary). Others will be offended by the cartoonist's imagery (either implicit or explicit). Then there are those politicians that Rowson's paintbrush skewers, who will likely be less than thrilled with their respective portrayals. Instead, they ought to be extremely grateful to Cartoonist Rowson who has made each one of the faces of the Government Cabinet instantly recognisable. I mean who, under normal circumstances, would be able to pick out the Secretary of State for Education or the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions from a Cabinet lineup?

After all, facial recognition goes a long way when garnering votes!

(Or not ;-)

Breathless [DVD] [2013]
Breathless [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Jack Davenport

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Six Plots in Search of a Denouement!, 9 Sept. 2014
This review is from: Breathless [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
Because of the excellent acting, I kept watching "Breathless", but I have to confess I was left scratching my head wondering at the end. And then I read that the series, which is set around a 1960s London teaching hospital, was meant to have a second season, but was cancelled. This explains why threads of really absorbing plots were left hanging like wires from a 1960s' electrical appliance, leaving so many unanswered questions.

I especially liked seeing the nurses uniforms, which, in those days gave one a feeling of quiet confidence and reinforced the concept of nurses being 'Angels of Mercy'.

The actors, directors, and costume designers invested a lot of talent and effort in the aptly named "Breathless," which because of it's cancellation, had the wind knocked clean out of it!

AmazonBasics Hard Black Carrying Case for My Passport Essential
AmazonBasics Hard Black Carrying Case for My Passport Essential
Price: £5.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Handy Little Protective Case!, 16 Jun. 2014
This attractive little hard canvas protective case has a zipper. It opens into two attached halves: on the left is a net compartment to hold the USB cord; on the right is a thick elastic band to hold the My Passport Essential for Mac, which fits perfectly into it like an old-fashioned cigarette case (like the one my father carried!). Zip it up and tuck it into a drawer until your Laptop nags you to take your 'Passport' out and, yet again, update your Time Machine!

An excellent product!

Criterion Collection: Juliet of Spirits [DVD] [1966] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Criterion Collection: Juliet of Spirits [DVD] [1966] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Price: £18.32

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five-Star Enchantment (but there are some cuts)!, 16 Jun. 2014
I sat down to watch this film wondering if it was as good as I recall it being (I saw it about 10 times in the theatre), or if my memories would be based on little more than nostalgia. Well, from the moment I heard the crickets chirping as the camera focused on the jewel box of a white house in its forest of umbrella pines, I was mesmerised from beginning to end. I was particularly thrilled with the sharpness of the transfer; the phantasmagoric images blazed in jewel tones as I played this DVD on the fancy-shmancy Blu-Ray player that my son had given me for Christmas.

Giulietta Massina's performance is both restrained and effortless. With a mere glance of her eyes, she conveys a wealth of inner emotions, disappointment, embarrassment, distress, anger, wonder. We are experiencing--from her character's point of view--the sense of rejection she has suffered both as a lonely child, and as an even lonelier wife, as she copes with the glib evasions of her handsome philandering husband. The overblown couture of her ice-cold mother and superficial sisters as well as the outrageously sexualised fashions of her glamorous neighbour are projections of what she perceives as her own modest insignificance, although, at the same time, her own dressing in vivid reds and greens indicate that she feels that the eyes of others are always upon her.

As much as I enjoyed watching the film after so many years, I did notice that some of my favourite bits were missing. Some of these are minor, as when Giulietta, driving home from the psychic reading of the androgynous Bishma, becomes hypnotised by the broken lines on the road which seem to be moving while the car seems to be standing still (Her friends have fallen into a deep sleep.). Others, however, were really disappointing, as when the child Giulietta recalls playing the part of a Saint in the nun's school play and being hoisted up on her fiery grill towards the window of God. The unforgettable visions of the weeping statues, who were dripping with melted candle wax tears, had--inexplicably--been cut in this version.

Some of my favourite images: Giulietta and her maids stringing red and green peppers for the winter (I took up the practice after seeing the film the first time); the Roman umbrella pines (I think some scenes were shot in the Pineta--the pine grove--of the Villa Doria Pamphili); the rose trees covered in plastic sheets after her marriage disintegrates, and of course, the weeping wax-covered statues, which are, except for one peep, no longer there. (I suppose I'm now going to have to find whether there's an uncut version.).

Despite the flaws, I'm giving the film five stars, as it still held me spellbound from beginning to end.

Blue Jasmine [Blu-ray] [2014] [Region Free]
Blue Jasmine [Blu-ray] [2014] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Cate Blanchett
Price: £8.49

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Little Kindness from Strangers, 16 Feb. 2014
Cate Blanchett gives a devastating performance as Jasmine in Woody Allen's latest production. Her nuanced portrayal of a woman whose life is in the process of disintegration is so convincing that we experience her inner turmoil sometimes merely through a glance, a glint in her eye, as in the disturbing scene in which she is presenting a self-serving justification of her life to her nephews, frightening them in the process.

The story, told in flashbacks that reflect Jasmine's fragmentation of her life, moves between a rather seedy San Francisco and an elegant New York. A story for our troubled economic times, it pays homage to Tennessee Williams' "Streetcar Named Desire", in that Allen presents a similar dynamic between two sisters, one, well brought up, who has ostensibly married 'well', and the other, of low self-esteem, who has made a series of marital or near-marital blunders. Like Williams' Blanche du Bois, Jasmine, who is paying an extended visit to her sister, considers the latter's boyfriend uncouth. Like Blanche, Jasmine, who seems to have developed a borderline personality, has erased all the sordid events of the past from her memory banks, although like a victim of post-traumatic stress, they have a way of intruding onto her consciousness when she least expects them. Like Blanche, she tries to start over with a plausibly respectable man; and like Blanche, her past impinges suddenly onto the present, shattering her hopes which have been built on a foundation of fantasy.

See this film for Cate Blanchette's remarkable portrayal of a flawed woman who both fascinates and horrifies us, since, in these turbulent economic times, she could very will be someone we know, if not some version of ourselves.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 18, 2014 2:13 PM BST

WD WDBLUZ0010BSL-EESN My Passport for Mac Portable External Hard Drive, USB 3.0, 1 TB
WD WDBLUZ0010BSL-EESN My Passport for Mac Portable External Hard Drive, USB 3.0, 1 TB

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it, Love it, Love it!!!, 21 Jan. 2014
When I arrived home, the other day, a box from Amazon was waiting on my doorstep (I was surprised because I had ordered the hard drive only two days previously). I took it inside. The box was so light that I thought that the carrying case must have arrived, and that the external hard drive was yet to come. Imagine my surprise when I opened the package and found both the WD My Passport and the carrying case.

The hard drive looks like a 1930's silver cigarette case--you know, the kind you see in the old noir films--Sam Spade offering the blonde vamp a cigarette, just before she pulls a gun on him--and it fits perfectly into the sturdy little black Amazon Basics Hard Carrying Case for My Passport [This zipper case has an elastic band for the hard drive and an ample net pocket for the USB 3 cord].

The most difficult problem I had was prying open the box [I had to take a knife and carve the lid off!]. Because I didn't want to make any mistakes in setup [the instruction book is minimalist], I telephoned my Apple Care people [The service goes with my Macbook Pro, so I might as well use it], and they helped me coincide the hard drive with Time Machine, the functions of which they explained to me (I hadn't used Time Machine previously--I had a WD External Hard drive onto which one had to drag files. With the Passport and Time Machine, it all happens automatically). The 1-foot USB cord doesn't bother me, since I work with the laptop on my lap, and I can tuck the Passport next to me.

I purchased the 1 Tb version because I do a lot of photoshop as well as downloading all the episodes of "Downton Abbey" in HD from I-Tunes. I needed some place to remove and store my ancient history keynote lectures and photos, which were taking up a lot of room on my hard drive (I had got to the point where I was getting warnings that my Startup disk was full. One must know one's priorities! ;-)

The handsome *WD My Passport for Mac 1 Tb Portable Hard Drive Storage* is just the 'apple' that the Apple doctor ordered!

Those in Power [DVD] [2006] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Those in Power [DVD] [2006] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Political Thriller!!!, 10 Dec. 2013
If you like political thrillers, "Those In Power" will grab you from beginning to end.

The plot focuses on Charlotte Ekkeberg--played to perfection by Alexandra Rapaport--an idealistic young married woman with children who stands for the Swedish Parliament and, in the first third of the trilogy, is more or less exploited by certain Ministers in her Party because she is an exciting new face, although she is taken under the political wing of the one woman, Elizabeth Mayer, who has maintained her position of power in a male-dominated party. Charlotte's new exciting political life eventually takes a toll on her marriage, and the two-part episode otherwise focuses on party shenanigans of the Ministers of State, who plot to overthrow their party leader, whom they believe to be past it, even though he is still popular with the people.

The second part of the trilogy shifts to the ghastly Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has aspirations of leading the Party, but (secretly) treats his wife, played by the excellent Marie Richardson, like dirt under his feet, and then goes after a brilliant young Muslim university student whom he inveigles into becoming his political adviser. Some of the scenes in this part of the trilogy are difficult to watch, but the political revenge taken on him at the end by both women is worth waiting for.

In the last part of the trilogy, Elizabeth has become leader of the party, which takes a majority at the elections, and so she becomes Prime Minister. Ably aided by Charlotte, Elizabeth must confront two problems that threaten both her political career and her life. The suspense in the last part of the trilogy will keep you on the edge of your seat as the story builds to its shattering climax.

As much as I enjoy "Borgen," I think that I prefer "Those In Power", as it is more compact. The characters are fascinating, as is the dynamic of political power and the motivations of those who seek it.

House of Cards - Season 1 (Blu-ray + UV Copy) [2013] [Region Free]
House of Cards - Season 1 (Blu-ray + UV Copy) [2013] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Kevin Spacey
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £5.99

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Marked Cards, 6 Dec. 2013
When I first heard that they were remaking Michael Dobbs' "House of Cards", my first reaction was "Why?" Because the British original with Ian Richardson as the plausibly charming but malevolent chief whip of the Tory government in the House of Commons was so pitch perfect. Nevertheless, I decided to order it along with the BluRay of the original British series, "House of Cards" (which, since it has been remastered, is *splendid*).

Although Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright turn in outstanding performances in their roles as the formidable Chief Whip and his even more formidable wife, who share an almost mesmeric relationship in their marriage, and the series kept me absorbed from episode to episode, I had to divorce myself from the British original and consider the series on its own terms in order to enjoy it. You will enjoy it, too, if you do not compare it to the original.

That being said, the story has become transmogrified beyond recognition in its journey across the Atlantic. The pace has become far more leisurely than the original that had me glued to my seat for every episode. Unlike Francis Urquhart, whose evident charm and polished manners drew me into his spell--his initially confidential asides put me in the position of a willing co-conspirator, enjoying the intrigue, until I gradually realised that I had been trapped, unable to evade his eyes, which had taken on the aspect of a cobra's--Francis Underwood [Urquhart's American counterpart] is unmitigatedly nasty from the get-go. In fact, I found him and all of the Washington characters charmless. The series has also lost its sense of humour, and what was subtly suggested has become rather coarsely stated.

I do think that the scenario works better in the Westminster parliamentary context, since the seductive dynamic of power was turned on its head in the American Production by making Francis Underwood visit his little reporter in her tacky downmarket apartment. Francis Urquhart wouldn't have been caught dead visiting Mattie Storin's eminently respectable mews flat. The thrill came from Mattie's clandestine visits to Francis's elegant townhouse. Power is far more seductive in a Savile Row suit and silk tie than it is in Francis Underwood's shirtsleeve-slumming in an area of Washington DC that Francis Urquhart would have termed a neighbourhood of 'knocking shops'.

I found the discs difficult to extract from their sleeves, but luckily I do not seem to have scratched them, and the images in the Blu-Ray are sharp.

Again, if you watch this as a well-acted and interesting American political drama on its own terms, you will not have wasted your time. But you might find yourself turning back to the splendid remastered Blu-Ray of the original. 3.5 stars.

The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Murder that Changed the World
The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Murder that Changed the World
by Greg King
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Spark that Ignited the Conflagration, 30 Sept. 2013
All wars are stupid--to begin with a generalisation--but the so-called War to End All Wars takes the cake in the stupidity sweepstakes, since what began as a family squabble among the crowned heads of Europe and Britain, ended in annihilating or maiming an entire generation of young men. I was particularly interested in the authors' account of the serial assassinations that preceded the event of the title, something that I had not previously connected to the war itself.

Greg King and Sue Woodman have written an absorbing account of the events leading up to the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his morganatic wife, Sofie. Since my topic is ancient history, and my exposure to World War I consists of one very interesting undergraduate class many moons ago, I am not -au courant- with the scholarship on the topic, so I cannot comment on the accuracy of authors' detail, but the book is well footnoted and has an extensive bibliography. It also contains an extensive "cast of characters" and a complex family tree.

What is lacking, however (in its present form), are photographs (which abound on the era)--something to do with the economy, one supposes. These would have made the book more accessible to the reader who is not an expert on WWI, especially given the extensive catalogue of personages essential to the narrative. The book also lacks an index, which is indispensable in an historical study.

Despite these drawbacks, I found the book to be extremely readable and intensely interesting.

Reviewed for Vine; Amazon.com
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 20, 2013 8:45 AM GMT

The Back Road
The Back Road
by Rachel Abbott
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Meandering Road, 19 Aug. 2013
This review is from: The Back Road (Paperback)
If you like fast moving thrillers with a touch of romantic suspense, this book is not for you. It begins unpleasantly and then, between creepily repetitious interludes, wanders here and there, introducing too many characters, who have too many conversations (about nothing in particular) that do nothing to further the plot (e.g., "I'm not one hundred per cent sworn off of men.").

At 471 pages, this book could use an editor with a sharpened [virtual] blue pencil. When Chapter Five is entitled "Day Two: Saturday" and Chapter Thirty-Four is entitled "Day Six: Wednesday" you know you're in for a long haul along the back road to a coherent novel.

And you still have nineteen chapters to go.

Reviewed for Vine; Amazon.com

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