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Denis Joe "Denis Joe" (Liverpool, Britain)

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Verdi - Rigoletto / Verdi & Rossini arias
Verdi - Rigoletto / Verdi & Rossini arias
Price: £12.26

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars After the prelude: Heaven, 8 Jan. 2011
Naxos has done it again. Releasing the outstanding recording of Rigoletto is another feather in their cap. What these historical recordings may lack in sound quality they are more than made up for in the quality of the voices and the playing.

That said, the quality of the Prelude, on this recording, is vastly different to the rest of the recording. The Prelude sound muffled as if the sound recorder was unsure about taking the microphone into the orchestra pit.

But the cast are outstanding. Björling, as ever, is outstanding as the Duke and Merrill excels as the Jester, to the extent that you don't have to see the actual singer to realise what the character is feeling. This is perhaps the greatest voice I have heard singing Rigoletto.

As if that were not enough Naxos tack on a few extras: Robert Merrill singing (and showing off, which he was entitled to do) "largo al factotum" from The Barber of Seville and three arias from Verdi operas. It is one of the Verdi arias that makes the purchase of this CD a must for anyone who appreciates the singing voice. "Di Provenza il mar" from La Traviata, reduced me to tears. I have always thought that Verdi was the greatest Opera composer when it came to the baritone voice, and this particular aria is the ideal example. But Merrill's singing of it, on this CD, is something unnaturally beautiful.

If for no other reason, the purchase of this CD just for that one track is worth the price.

Selected Writings (New Directions Book) (New Directions Books)
Selected Writings (New Directions Book) (New Directions Books)
by Guillaume Apollinaire
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The last Great European Poet, 19 Dec. 2010
It's beggars comprehension as to why so little of this giant's work is available in translation. Equally difficult poets of the period, Rimbaud and Verlaine have had translations widely available for many years now, but, until this volume, the only collection I could find, in English, was a slim volume, translated by Oliver Bernerd for Penguin Modern European Poets series back in 1965.

This volume is most welcome. Unlike the earlier volume, the translator, Roger Shattuck, provides us with a bilingual collection. Shattuck also provides a better translation which captures Apollinaire's idiosyncrasies and originality far more sharply.

The opening lines of Zone, serve to illustrate:

For Bernerd:

`In the end you are tired of that world of antiquity

`O Eiffel Tower shepherdess the bridges this morning are a bleating flock'

For Shattuck:

`You are tired at last of this old world

`O shepherd Eiffel Tower the flock of bridges bleats at the morning'

Whilst Bererd is correct about the feminine (maybe a redundant point), Shattuck is greatly aware of Apollinaires rejection of punctuation and manages to create a clearer image by allowing the lines to flow. Bernerd attempts to maintain the line length of the original and in doing so undermines the sensation of the poem.

This volume offers a generous selection of Apollinaire's poetry. It also contains some of his prose. like many poets, his fiction was pretty basic. But his critiques expose a sharp and original intellect who was not bogged down by the modern world like the War Poets or T S Elliot, but embraced it with massive enthusiasm. He saw the changes in the art world, such as Cubism, as something that presented the world with a challenge: a new perspective that cut through the chaos of war and said :'This is how it is'. And Apollinaire captured that in his poetry.

Roger Shattuck has grasped this lust for life in his translations. Apollinaire is, perhaps, comparable to Whitman in his impact on the art of poetry. I hope that Shattuck intends to translate the remaining body of Apollinaire's poetry. It would be a great service to mankind.

Piccadilly [1929] [DVD]
Piccadilly [1929] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gilda Gray
Offered by Home Entertainment Online
Price: £9.88

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Technically innovative. Morally bland., 19 Dec. 2010
This review is from: Piccadilly [1929] [DVD] (DVD)
From the opening credits you get to see how far ahead of its time this film was. The use of buses for stating the personnel involved in the film, was a stroke of genius. The restoration by BFI is outstanding and the film feels so fresh. What is obvious about Piccadilly is that it was made as a silent film and Dupont put all the energies into the visual side of the film. In doing so I feel that he set the standard for talkies, even though I do not think Piccadilly works as a sound film.

It seems to be a film about beautiful people (and Anna May Wong is certainly that) and there is much emphasis on the trappings of money. However. Although Ian Cristie's sleeve note suggest that the storyline is progressive, I beg to differ.

Set at a time where the social classes were more physically separated from one another, we can understand the the distance between the lives of Valentine and Shosho's background. For example when the two visit Limehouse we catch a glimpse of poorer people gathered around a brazier. We do not see their faces but we are supposed to sympathise with their poverty.

Shosho, however, is the stereotypical mysterious Oriental who deserves more than just being a scullery maid. And, as such, she is a likable character. However once she does climb the social ladder our view of her changes. She becomes scheming and nasty (this reverses the role of her and Mabel, who she usurps and who is portrayed as a spoilt rich girl at the beginning of the film). In the end, no matter how beautiful she appeared, we are left in no doubt that Shosho has it in her to be a `scheming bitch'. The role of her sidekick, Jim (who is also Chinese) also suggests that these people `should know their place', even though we are made to sympathise with him.

When we do get to see the faces of the poor they are invariable an ugly lot, either physically (as in the case of Bessie) or morally. This brings me to another opinion in the sleeve notes. there is a scene in a bar where a black man (an actual black person as opposed to a white person, blacked - up, which was the norm at the time) dancing with a white woman (and we are left in no doubt that the woman is a prostitute). Their dance is broken up by the boorish pub-owner, who is white and from the lower classes. Cristie seems to suggest that this scene shows Dupont in a progressive light. I don't think so. It suggests to me that Dupont saw the wealthy as the guardians of moral virtue who could accept a foreigner (even stereotypically) whilst those in the lower classes where either the deserving poor, huddled around a fire or boorish brutes with narrow-minded views.

This last point is something that I feel is relevant to today. The portrayal of poorer people by the media, especially the liberal media, is either of a `deserving poor' or as overweight, loud, bigots. There is another scene that touches on contemporary morality: An overweight diner (a young Charles Laughton), who is one of the wealthy patron of the Piccadilly Club, is only interested in stuffing his face rather than the two stars dancing on the floor. Again we are provided with a caricature that seems cheap, but fits in well with much of today's thinking.

Piccadilly is an outstanding film. It has a gripping story line (one that would have been suited to a later Hitchcock film), the scenes are beautifully shot and in many ways it was well ahead of its time. But it was also a product of its time, which illustrated the divide between the wealthy and the poor.

Sadly, although society has become enlightened since then, many of the prejudices, portrayed in the film, have been recently resurrected and are the common parlance of the chattering classes.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 27, 2012 12:33 AM BST

On Liberty and Other Essays (Oxford World's Classics)
On Liberty and Other Essays (Oxford World's Classics)
by John Stuart Mill
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Revolutionary For Today, 27 Nov. 2010
In my young, Marxist firebrand, days I would have been looked on as suspect if I was caught praising Mill. It was all about building alliances, supporting liberation struggle and striking miners. Mill was only concerned about the individual. The individual within society {this was not Max Sterne) but the individual whose concerns would have to wait until the Revolution.

That was a few decades passed. There has been a revolution of sorts since then, but not the utopia we had in mind. But it is not that I have become more conservative as I get older. It is the world that has changed

Today we live in a world of such intolerance that even the racism, sexism and anti-gay prejudice of the 70s can be looked on with almost idealistic yearning.

In a time when even that bastion of liberalism, The Guardian newspaper, can happily run an advert and favourable articles on organisations such as the Optimum Population Trust, whose policies on euthanasia, birth control (especially for those `darkies' in Africa) and general social policy, might make even a budding Goering balk. or the apathetic acceptance that the Government have a right to tell us how we should behave: from petty rules; whose infringement can lead to an on the spot fine or an ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order), to hectoring from some bureaucrat or TV celebrity about what we eat and how we should exercise.

It is as if we are living in one vast kindergarten. And it is the individual that suffers and, as such, so does society. Because without the talents and discourse that reside within the individual, society cannot progress and becomes moribund.

Mill's most famous, and beautifully argued essay, `On Liberty' shows that he would have had no truck with today's anti-racist, anti-gay, anti-women crusades; not because he was a reactionary but because he recognised that a free and healthy society had to tolerate dissent, however disagreeable. Free speech for Mill was not something that could be applied here and there: free speech is an Absolute: it exists for everyone or it does not exist at all

`No society in which these liberties are not, on the whole, respected, is free, whatever may be its form of government;'

[ `On Liberty' p 17]

Many of the countries with Bonapartist regimes such as Franco's Spain and the various Junta's that ruled some of the countries of Latin America until, relatively recently; and the Stalinist regimes of the Eastern Bloc, existed for years where individual liberty was vastly restricted. They existed but they did not thrive.

One of the ironies of history is that once the Berlin Wall fell and the Stalinist regimes disappeared, the West, and particularly Britain, adopted many of the policies that they criticised the eastern European dictatorships for. Today's Britain openly employs a network to spy on the population and will even recruit schoolchildren to keep an eye on adults, should they break any petty rule (particularly rules concerning environmental issues). Britain, through a vast network of CCTV cameras, has one of the largest populations of people living under near-constant surveillance.

Once a land where individual pursuit was promoted and heroes like Nelson, Scott, Darwin, Emmilene Pankhurst, etc. where examples of what the individual was capable of as well as standing as examples to be emulated. these days they can't even put up a pelican crossing without a major risk assessment done.

Today we live in a society that cannot justify its own existence. this has led to some of the most ridiculous steps being taken by the government. Not least of all is the initiative (for want of a better word) to measure the happiness of the British people. `Utilitarianism' can be seen as an extension of the arguments laid out in `On Liberty'. Mill recognised that the happiness of society is dependent of how free that society is. As long as no other was harmed, the individual should have the right of pursuit of their pleasures, unhindered by the state or popular moralism. Even if that pursuit led to the [foreseen] harm of the individual.

No such freedom exists today. Over the last few decades government have consistently forced in legislation and petty local rules that stated, for example, what children should eat (and this moralism has moved from the school canteen to the home). And even the relativism that dominates much thinking on policy (particularly in higher education) and criticism in general; what some refer to as `dumbing down', plays a role in restricting people from taking their pleasure.

`Men lose their high aspiration as they lose their intellectual tastes, because they have not time or opportunity for indulging them; and they addict themselves to inferior pleasures, not because they deliberately prefer them, but because they are either the only ones to which they have access, or the only ones which they are any longer capable of enjoying.

[`Utilitarianism' p. 141]

Today it is not the infirmary of the individual that restricts access to pleasure, but government, non-elected `representatives' from various organisations and the busybody (championed by the media).

I recall a case that arose back in the early 1990s when a group of gay men were arrested and charged with obscene behaviour. The crime was that they engaged in sadomasochist practices (admittedly, if the press are to be believed, a bit extreme). They videoed their session for their own pleasure and each participated having given consent. Yet the full weight of the law imposed a prison sentence on each, even though they were not causing any harm to anyone else. it would be difficult to imagine that happening today but the government still continue to restrict the pleasures of the individual, especially through `health' campaigns..

Mill recognised that happiness was an emotion specific to the individual and the pursuit of happiness for society was not something that should be lampooned as airy-fairy but should be seen as the ultimate goal of a just and fair world.

Happiness cannot be imposed on society (Joe Stalin tried it, thus exasperating greater misery for the Russian people). But pleasures can definitely be restricted, if not outlawed.

When Mill was working on `Considerations on Representative Government' the two main political parties, the Conservatives and The Liberals, were going through an ideological crisis (their way of dealing with it may be familiar to us today: compromising principles). This crisis was brought about by much social change in Britain at the time, particularly the extension of the franchise which allowed for a wider section of society to vote. Today's government do not face such a crisis of ideology simply because ideology has been abandoned. Policy is driven less by representation and more by knee-jerk reaction to events as they occur.

What Mills is writing about in this essay is a crisis brought about because the political parties had to face up to long-term issues.

Even though the idea of getting government, today, to see beyond the next election, Mill's essay is a reminder to us of the role of government and that the electorate have legitimate rights to expect government to work for the benefit of society. And it is here that we face another problem. Because Mill saw government as the democratically elected administrator of society. he saw that politic involved a dialogue between that administration and society itself. Today it would be more accurate to describe government (such as the British one) as oligarchies rather than representatives. They operate more as an elitist grouping than a democratic organisation that interacts with society. And yet Mill's essay is worth examining; if only to remind ourselves of what a government should be.

The final essay has less relevance to us. The Subjugation of Women was quite a challenge to the Victorian society that maintained a family as an economic unit that, collectively, maintained Capitalism either through providing fresh labour or cannon fodder. Mill recognised that the role of the woman, whether in the working class or the middle class, was one that was inhuman through the enslavement of half of humanity in domesticity. The essay, itself can be seen as a further development on his concerns over Liberty.

I do not believe that government are carrying out some evil plan. far from it: I think that government of whatever name, has the best intentions. Moreover the level of apathy amongst much of society and a general lack of vision means that local communities, for example, will begrudgingly accept levels of state intrusion because it mean that something is being done about unruly behaviour in their neighbourhood.

The lack of vision is not just restricted to government, it exists throughout society and has dragged in much of the intelligentsia. Few people are prepared to stand up for individual rights and there is a mass acceptance of the restriction on what people can and cannot do.

If, for no other reason, it is worth reading the essays of this great thinker. It should serve to remind us how debilitating the restrictions on liberty are; not just as an individual nuisance but how those restriction put a brake on all aspects of our life from private and public discussion to finding solutions to problems that affect all of humanity.

Carnegie Hall with Tin Walls
Carnegie Hall with Tin Walls
by Fred Voss
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.04

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of Heroic Stiffs And Poetic Misfits, 26 Nov. 2010
One of the poets that I could never get my head around was Charles Bukowski. His stories are okay but I found his poetry to be dross. It seemed to say nothing except: `just how great am I?'

Yet so many people love him and so many great poets found their voice through him.

Fred Voss is such a poet. But Voss is not really parading his bones across the page. For him it is the working man who is the hero and, as such, has to have his place in the poetic canon. In this sense Voss' lineage seems more Whitman than Bukowski.

There seems to be a line of development that suggests that the poems of 'Carnegie Hall With Tin Walls' are presented in the order that they were written. One gets a sense of the misanthrope from the first couple of poems. Such as 'One of the Joys of the Job' where one of the machinists shout: 'Yeah I'm an asshole!'. But this is not so. Voss paints his poems with crazed individuals and groups. But we are drawn into this world that can make us feel very uncomfortable.

Poetry is not meant for this!

But Voss is a poet with a real heart for the craft. His poems sing to us, sometimes like those old blues songs. It's just that the tempo doesn't repeat itself with familiarity.

For Voss the celebration of the disenfranchised is necessary. The working man maybe macho; maybe racist; maybe a drunk. But he is also a human being who (as the title of this collection suggests) those with a foot on the higher rung are only there because the working man is where he is and what he is. For the working man, their entertainment, their diversions, cannot be foung in Carnegie Hall, their life is the tin walls of The Goodstone Aircraft Company.

And even when it is time to go home:

'and you put your foot down
on the sidewalk and get off
the bus now
is all
we have'

[Now is When Einstein Shatters the Universe with His Mind].

This is one of the most beautiful collections of poetry I have encountered in a long while. Each poem is a song, not of sadness, necessarily, but of the triumph of facing a new day.

Enter the Void [DVD]
Enter the Void [DVD]
Dvd ~ Natheniel Brown
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £14.99

22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last a true masterpiece for the 21st century, 14 Oct. 2010
This review is from: Enter the Void [DVD] (DVD)
Watching Enter The Void the film that came to my mind most was Mirror [DVD] [1974], by Tarkovsky. Many film makers have tried to ape Tarkovsky. Most recently Lars von Triers with Antichrist [DVD] [2009], but have failed simply because they concentrate on technical aspects rather than the totality of the Master's approach.

Gaspard Noe has succeeded in creating a masterpiece. And it is a masterpiece that, like Mirror, sets it apart from any other cinematic experience. And he has done this by adopting an approach that is tied to a philosophy. It is irrelevant whether you agree with Noe or not: it is the end product that counts.

Against all my expectation, I found Enter The Void to be a film of sheer beauty. It also put his previous films in perspective and also suggests why, as with Tarkovsky, he takes his time over making his films.

If one looks at I Stand Alone [DVD] [1999] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (only available on US import so far) one sees how Noe uses the camera to hammer away at the individual and see the world through his eyes. Ultimately I Stand Alone is concerned with the individual. Irreversible [DVD] [2003] took the process one step further and the camera is used, in that film, to make sense of the narrow environment. The scenes that stand out, the rape and the beating, take place within enclosed environments. But in Enter The Void Noe find the drama in the wider world: Tokyo. It is difficult to see where Noe can take this in a new film unless he decides on a science fiction, which seems like the obvious step to me.

As with Tarkovsky, it is impossible to appreciate Noe's films as straight forward storytelling. The story and, in this film, the characters, are incidental to the film as a whole. Much of the film reminded me of those inventive psychedelic films of the sixties and early seventies, especially in the imagery.

Some of the camera shots, especially near the begining, when the camera is used as the eyes of Oscar and the way that the camera explores the city itself, are mind-blowing (if the DVD has a `making of' documentary, then it might be best to avoid it and just wonder at the creation). And though Noe falls back on the camera use that he employed in Irreversible it is still amazing to contemplate in this film.

If Noe is seen as controversial it is only because he stands out from other artists who, in these times, rarely rise above banal and are either scared or incapable of being revolutionary in their art.

Finally, the music used in the film plays a very important role. The use of the Bach orchestral suite (commonly known as Air On A G String) played on (I think) a glass piano fits with the films theme of questioning aesthetics. The music itself sounds simple to our contemporary ears and this is reinforced by the playing of it on the chosen instrument (a glass piano is simply a selection of wine glasses filled with different amounts of water to a particular pitch) but Bach's music is supremely cerebral and still has the ability to sound inventive. Yet the instrument makes it sound innocent and this ties well with the repeated referral to Oscar and Linda's childhood and the act that seemed to determine their future and loss of innocence and the incestuous relationship that develops.

Here again we see the genius of Noe in that he refuses to bow to moralisers and does not portray the act other than something that arose out of events.

And perhaps this is what Noe is getting at: our environment is such a determining factor in shaping us as individuals. But there is also the recognition that nothing is certain, and that we as individuals also shape our environment. There is none of the determinism that we hear so much about these days (a misanthropic view that poisons our everyday relationships, whether through social policy or the arrogance of others). Noe doesn't appear to be fatalist and Enter The Void stands as both a triumph for Noe and for a mankind that allowed the space for this film to be created.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 22, 2013 10:34 PM BST

Plerion10 Chewable Worming Tablet for Dogs (NFA-VPS) - Single Tablet
Plerion10 Chewable Worming Tablet for Dogs (NFA-VPS) - Single Tablet

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bargain but a misleading one, 8 Oct. 2010
Whilst agreeing with the review above it should be made clearer that you only get one tablet though the picture and the use of the plural indicates otherwise. It is still cheap though.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 21, 2013 2:26 PM GMT

The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse
The Case of the Pope: Vatican Accountability for Human Rights Abuse
by Geoffrey Robertson QC
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

8 of 53 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars the Liberal's Bigot, 24 Sept. 2010
Having lived through different forms of government and been involved in anti-racist and anti war movements in my 50 or so years on this earth, I can say that I have never lived through such an intolerable time in my life. This book says it all.

Robertson (or to give him his real name, Mr Kathy Lette)jumps on the populist bandwagon and puts forward all the middle-class prejudice that has come to the fore with the Pope's visit, turning them into legalese as if that gave them any sense of objectivity .

Catholics are an easy target. In Britain they are mainly of Irish descent and internationally they are from Africa, Latin America and Asia. In other words the very people that Kathy Lette and his middle-class crusaders, can feel superior about. Because Catholics are so stupid and are prone to being told what to do by a few cardinals in the Vatican.

There is no sense in saying `don't buy thi9s book'. If you are already a supporter of the Anti-Catholic Crusade then you are going to love this book because it will help to reinforce your self- righteousness.

If you are an opponent of this sort of bigotry then you will have heard it all before.

No doubt Lette and his mob will not be happy until they see the Vatican bombed to the ground (just like Yugoslavia and Iraq). If there is a crime against humanity, the Vatican have a long way to go before they can equal the level of hatred that thee anti-Catholic Inquisition of these times have reached.

This is an example of the small-minded bigotry that passes for radicalism these day. I hope that future generations will look back on this and marvel at how backward and intolerable a so-called democratic nation was to produce bile such as this book.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 15, 2011 11:50 PM BST

Music of Elliott Carter 8 (16 Compositions)
Music of Elliott Carter 8 (16 Compositions)
Price: £24.38

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still Sounding Like A Young Composer., 9 Sept. 2010
It is incredible that this disc was ever made. Carter looks full of life on the cover and the music (the earliest piece being written in 2002) is also full of life and the inventiveness that this Great Man has produced over the last 7 decades.

There are 16 compositions on this double CD. CD 1 has performances from British musicians including The Birmingham Contemporary Music Group under the baton of Oliver Knussen. The group give the piece, 'On Conversing With Paradise' (based on a group of the Cantos of Ezra Pound) a performance that will be difficult to equal. They prove their value as one of the world's best Contemporary Music groups.

Many of the pieces on these discs test the limits of the instruments as well as the artistic skill of the players.

What I love about Carter is his understanding of the relationship of music to poetry. Carter has set to music the finest of poets and for me it is 'Poems By Louise Zukofsky' that I have been looking forward to hearing. And though carter doesn't follow the enjambment of the poems precisely (but then which composer has ever done that?) the energy and vitality are raised to a new level. Carter sets 9 of Zukofsky's short poems and the soprano Lucy Shelton (aided by Charles Neidich on clarinet)delivers them effortlessly. This is no mean feat. Zukofsky is not a poet whose works can be easily read out loud and perhaps this is what Mr Carter found attractive in the poems.

Bridge have to be commended for their series of CDs of composers and not least for their consistent devotion to Mr. Carter's music.

I could go on about the excellence of this set for ever. But it would be better if you bought the CD and found out for yourself.

The Wild Child [DVD] [1970]
The Wild Child [DVD] [1970]
Dvd ~ François Truffaut
Offered by 101Trading
Price: £4.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Blast Of Humanity, 8 Sept. 2010
This review is from: The Wild Child [DVD] [1970] (DVD)
The film is excellent. There is no point in my repeating what other reviewers have said. This film is a triumph of cinema because it tell of the triumph of the Enlightenment.

The acting, with the exception of Truffaut is excellent. But even then Truffaut's woodeness is convincing.

I don't think that this story could be told with the same measure of humanity, today. in today's climate the only ending would be to send Victor back to the wilds.

What is amazing about Truffaut is how he got the best out of his cast, but also how he did that with children (5000= Blows, for example). But In L'enfant savauge, Jean Pierre Gargol is incredible.

This film should be shown to all the doom-mongers and misanthropes, whose voices hold sway these days. This film show what it is to be human.

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