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A Ryder (London UK)

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Music of the Kabarett: The Songs of Berlin Between the Wars
Music of the Kabarett: The Songs of Berlin Between the Wars
by Graham Vickers
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £24.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome...., 21 July 2014
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Does what it says on the cover: some context, but mostly the sheet music with lyrics in German and printed separately in English, of several cabaret songs. I have to admit I knew only one at first glance, 'Lily Marlene', but I bought the book because I knew so few songs of the period, so I can't but be satisfied. To paraphrase a common saying, if you like Weimar, you'll love this.

And no, naturally nothing from 'Cabaret' in here, but it makes you realise what rich source material Kander and Ebb had to work from!


Last of the Line: Traditional British craftsmen
Last of the Line: Traditional British craftsmen
by Tom Quinn
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars An 'old ways' compendium, 21 July 2014
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Much better than some of Quinn's text-based books which are mostly of the 'strange tale' variety. This doesn't claim to be comprehensive and is much improved for that. Instead it's a description and depiction of modern craftsmen employing traditional means to do tasks such as trug-making (useful items!) to figurehead carving and painting (sadly but understandably a dying art). Each section is devoted to a different craft and there is a helpful index at the end with names and contact details for the craftsmen, so if you are wanting scenery for a Thomas Hardy adaptation, or you just fancy a pub sign for your abode, here is where you will find it!


Tim's Vermeer [DVD] [2013] [2014]
Tim's Vermeer [DVD] [2013] [2014]
Dvd ~ Teller
Price: £8.54

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A novel way to spend a fortune, 15 July 2014
Tim's Vermeer now hangs in a frame above the mantelpiece in his(?) bedroom and this is the story of how Tim undertook his copy of Vermeer's 'Music Room', filmed by his friends Penn and Teller.

I love Vermeer and the Dutch School, but I am neither artist nor scientist, so the truth of whether JV painted this way in 17th Century Delft eludes me: from the scant evidence, it would seem that he did use unusual techniques, possibly using lenses and mirrors, since unlike other paintings, x-rays have not revealed sketches underneath, and as Tim points out, there is a slight curve in the line of the virginal that could have been JH's failure to compensate for curvature in the lens.

For me though, pursuing his technique is beside the point. Much is made of the documentary nature of paintings and how they tell a story. The result of Vermeer's extraordinary labours is remarkable in the case of this and his other work. This film is like an academic byway, illustrating a 'wouldn't be interesting if...?' scenario, and the first thing after the 'if' is 'if I had a fortune to throw at this'. Tim is an inventor and entrepreneur, more than competent both technically and practically, and has the kind of money for lear jets. In pursuit of his obsession with Vermeer's technique ("I lay awake at night thinking, 'I must paint a Vermeer'") he leaves his San Antonio home to visit London, where the original 'Music Room' hangs in Buckingham Palace, then to York to have a chat with the artist David Hockney and subsequently to Delft where Vermeer lived and painted. On his return, he builds a life-sized replica of the room that Vermeer used for his painting, down to assembling the furniture and contents of the composition with the aid of CAD and various machines. Then he sets up his lenses and begins to paint, using only materials available in the 17th Century, and by a technique that is almost like tracing from life. It's painstaking, it takes many months (though whether it's an all-day/everyday pursuit isn't clear) and let's not be under any illusions that Tim's claim that he's no artist is true: he obviously has a good eye, a steady hand, and the basic ability to paint.

The result proves nothing, aside from establishing that this wasn't impossible. Tim's vast expenditure and herculean labours have no doubt given him great satisfaction, although many would argue that he could probably have bought the genuine article for not much more. I found it interesting to watch, even while my inner 17th Century Puritan was dismissing it as a self-indulgent vanity project, and the folly of a rich man who might use his considerable intelligence to improve the world and do something towards sustaining the forms of life who live in it now and will in the future....
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 8, 2015 12:03 PM BST


A Social History of The Third Reich
A Social History of The Third Reich
Price: £8.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and fascinating, 3 July 2014
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Like Ms. Johnston, I read this after having watched 'Generation War' recently, since that challenged my perceptions of how much the 'ordinary' German citizen knew about their Nazi government.

Having studied this period of history, I thought I knew quite a bit about it, but this is a very thorough and informative text, helpfully divided by chapters on topics such as health, students, the army etc. and explaining how each area of life changed under Nazi rule. The book is also very readable and contains lots of well-sourced snippets as well as evidence from primary documents of the era. The snippets highlight the absurdities of a regime whose prejudices came into conflict with both reality and other prejudices, and - as these things inevitably will - tied them up in knots. The everyday double-think in a society where, for example, 'protective custody' meant imprisonment and eventual death, encouraged farcical situations with people convincing themselves that apathy or active cooperation was, in fact, the best thing for all concerned.

There is also objectivity in so far as the few positive (some unintentional) improvements that happened are also dealt with in their relevant chapters. These mostly took the form of more opportunities for the working population, rather than the old-fashioned class bias lingering through the Weimar Republic after the end of Imperial rule. Since in practice, however, this meant that instead of those with moneyed backgrounds, preference was given to those who were fanatical party members, it seems mostly to have substituted one form of corruption for another.

An essential read, I would say, for anyone interested in everyday life in Germany between 1933 and 1945: the author is careful to differentiate between peacetime and wartime, while stressing that society, culture and the economy were always geared towards conflict and particularly so from 1936. It gives a real, overall sense of what life was probably like for many, with details on everything from life in the Ordnungsburgen (schools for the future elite), through the monthly 'Eintopf' meals, to the widespread flatulence caused by changes to bread from the new food regulations. Highly recommended.


Forgotten London
Forgotten London
by Elizabeth Drury
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not forgotten while these pictures exist, 25 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Forgotten London (Hardcover)
The 4 and 5-star reviews garnered by this book are understandable. It's a fairly substantial volume full of evocative, detailed images, accompanied by informative captions. Of-course, you always want to know more than is known about the photographs that interest you and, as another review mentions, maximising clarity of image has resulted in a sort of standarized sepia tone to them all, but there are some very atmospheric, vivid pictures which make this a good 'album' to have. I also appreciate the way that the authors draw out the sense of history in the photos (such as those of soon-to-be-demolished buildings and elderly street traders still dressed in the fashions of 30 years previously) highlighting that any era, while having a sheen of the modern, is also a sum of the past. I aim to peruse with older relatives to prompt some memories!


Broadchurch [DVD] [2013]
Broadchurch [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Olivia Colman
Price: £7.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent enough but..., 13 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Broadchurch [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
... suffers from its own hype, sadly. It's a solid production with a very good cast, but it's too long and just not interesting enough to sustain the tension. In trying hard to be the UK's answer to 'The Killing', it felt overwritten, with Tennant's ticks and quirks sliding into tiresome by the end. I look forward to the day when writers are inspired by good drama to go and write something equally original, rather than just copying the trend. 'The Killing' wasn't even quite as good as the hype (a couple of plot holes at least, plus one in the famous jumper that gets miraculously mended), but overall it was far better than your average cop drama, and I wouldn't say that this was in that league. I will probably watch the next series, but not with expectations of an outstanding drama.


From There to Here [DVD]
From There to Here [DVD]
Dvd ~ Philip Glenister
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £11.94

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The good, the bad and the mid-life crisis, 13 Jun. 2014
This review is from: From There to Here [DVD] (DVD)
This is basically a family drama in which the Manchester city centre bombing of 1996 proves a catalyst for big changes in everyone's lives. Well, mostly in Philip Glenister's as the main character Daniel Cotton. He starts leading a double life, having embarked on a relationship with the cleaner he rescued from the pub. It has a great cast, some smart lines and doesn't outstay its welcome at around 170 minutes (originally shown in 3 episodes on the BBC) but I'm not sure I believed in decent Daniel's moment of epiphany having had a close shave with death. He was supposedly happily married so wouldn't he rather have been more thankful for what he had? Still, that's a personal opinion, as is the distraction of casting Liz White as his girlfriend when she was put-upon 'Doris' Annie Cartwright to his D.I. Gene Hunt in the superb 'Life on Mars'.

No neat endings, thankfully, but still nothing outstanding. Steven Mackintosh as wayward brother Robbo is a tad hammy; the use of music to denote which year the events took place is annoying (does nobody play anything but this year's hits, in any given year?!) and the natural/adopted thing has been done in the 'Quirke' novels by John Banville, which unfortunately aired within a week of this. OK for a quiet evening in, particularly if you are a fan of Glenister's rugged features, but pretty inconsequential.


Imperial Germany 1867-1918: Politics, Culture and Society in an Authoritarian State (Hodder Arnold Publication)
Imperial Germany 1867-1918: Politics, Culture and Society in an Authoritarian State (Hodder Arnold Publication)
by Wolfgang J. Mommsen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Extremely dry, 4 Jun. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this as a background to studying the Weimar and Nazi periods and for that purpose it was a big of a slog. It's a collection of academic essays that date from the 1970s to the 1990s and so is quite dated in terms of referencing 'now' (just post reunification) and 'current academic thinking'. The subtitle promises a more rounded study than it turned out to be, with most chapters about in-depth political matters, Bismarckian policy and so on, rather than social and cultural tides. It is informative, but if there were more generic, accessible titles on the subject I'd have welcomed them in preference to this book. I'd suggest this isn't one for lay readers, but one for serious scholars of 19th Century Germany only.


No Title Available

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Piketty-endorsed?, 2 Jun. 2014
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I ask because as far as I can tell, it does what it says on the cover, which is to say, summarizes the controversial doorstop-tome of Thomas Piketty's 'Capital in the 21st Century' into an easy-to-read 40-page lite bite.

It goes without saying, however, that I haven't ploughed through the full text, so how neatly this captures Piketty's arguments, I'm unable to say. It also ought to go without saying that I'm no economist (or I'd read the whole thing with a glass of wine and gleeful abandon?) so I also can't comment on Piketty's arguments, beyond saying that to anyone who thinks and feels that wealth distribution should not increasingly favour the top decile at the expense of the bottom 50%, this makes sense. In fact, the author's findings and his suggestions for checking capitalism's ever-increasing concentration of wealth, are only what many of us have intuited from the everyday business of living in a capitalist world.

Since I've read reviews of the original work, I can at least say that this gives the gist of Piketty's ideas, so if you're interested in those without the minutiae of detail, labyrinthine economic discourse and a good many charts and graphs, this is a worthwhile read. There are one or two typos, but nothing to obscure the meaning, and the major graphs etc. are given as URLs for looking up online at leisure.


The Undertaking
The Undertaking
Price: £1.89

4.0 out of 5 stars A dystopian ‘Cold Mountain’, 30 May 2014
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This review is from: The Undertaking (Kindle Edition)
Peter Faber, a former schoolteacher, now a solder at the Russian Front in WWII, marries Katharina Spinell, a woman he has never met, in order to gain honeymoon leave. She has married him for the window's pension she will get if he dies. They both unexpectedly glimpse a chance of a life together after the war and vow to be reunited, but before that he must endure the battle for Stalingrad and she must survive the invasion of Berlin.

Magee’s writing is as visceral and unsentimental as the subject matter demands and she achieves the very difficult feat of making the reader both believe in and care about the central characters, whose mostly selfish, unempathetic actions aren’t endearing, to say the least. She is also ambitious in presenting two very different spheres of war, following different characters, and maintaining the reader's interest in both, hence the comparison to 'Cold Mountain'.

One thing grated slightly, which was the frequently missing word 'of'. It even caused me to look up the author to see if she was American. Things go "out the window" or "out the door" and not just in speech, which would probably be ok in a contemporary setting or Stateside, but jarred here. A small and possibly pedantic thing in an otherwise good read.


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