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Magic Lemur (Somewhere in Madagascar)
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He Who Appoints
He Who Appoints
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Indepth and textured worship song, 6 Jan. 2012
This review is from: He Who Appoints (MP3 Download)
I've been going to St Aldates (Oxford) a few months now and, as I'm a bit of a lost sheep, was given a welcome pack of books and a sample CD. Along with 2 sermons and this song the CD contained this as the second track.

This song is quite long (at 7 minutes) but is sung by one of the best singers in St Aldates, who has real vocal flexibility. The sample available above may give you some impression of this, but really the song is not quite as slow as it seems from that short snippet.

To give you an impression of what the full track is like, it is a bit of a slow-builder and is sung by one vocalist. Think Amazing Grace, combined with the gradual building of This Is Our God and you have a good impression of what the song is like - the type of song that you *can* sing along to, but is actually better if you just listen and admire its craftsmanship.

So, if you're not from Oxford (and hence can't get a free welcome pack ;) ), then this song provides an good sample of the excellent singers produced by St Aldates. That said, if you're after more of a worship song then do try this or the whole album which, if this is anything to go by, should be well worth hearing.


He Lives
He Lives
Price: £0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Up there with the best, 6 Jan. 2012
This review is from: He Lives (MP3 Download)
I've been going to St Aldates (Oxford) a few months now and, as I'm a bit of a lost sheep, was given a welcome pack of books and a sample CD. Along with 2 sermons, the CD contained this as the first track.

Interesting thing I found about this track is, although it sounds like it's from Hillsong, it's actually written by the worship team at St Aldates!

This is quite unusual as my experience of homegrown modern British worship music is limited to 'Shine Jesus Shine' and Hail to the King, (one of which is now over 20 years old and the other of which sounds good but is rough around the edges).

So, if you don't live in Oxford and want a good taster of the main album, then look no further than this MP3, as it the real deal. It was also written in 2011 so, at last, we have homegrown talent to rival the Americans!


The Social Network [DVD] [2010]
The Social Network [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Jesse Eisenberg
Price: £2.66

5.0 out of 5 stars As good as most people say..., 3 Jan. 2012
When you get to the end of a movie and are thinking it must be only half way through it must be a good movie!

Written in a fascinating way about a subject that could be really boring, I found every moment of this film compelling and really connected with the main charactor (being semi-autistic myself).

As the spiel says, this is something like Citizen Kane, although personally, I found it better, more understandable and more accessible.


Amazing Grace [DVD]
Amazing Grace [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ioan Gruffudd
Price: £5.91

5.0 out of 5 stars "A Shrimp that became a Whale", 3 Jan. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Amazing Grace [DVD] (DVD)
If you're not into history, Christianity or politics, then this film probably isn't for you.
If you are, then this film is pretty much definitive of its class in being the story of how one man can, within his lifetime, achieve something noble and leave the world in a far better place than if he'd never existed.

Though it is quite a predictable plot - starting with his friendship with William Pitt the Younger and ending with his success in banning the slave trade - the film maker has done his best to take slightly different tangents, such as including hymnwriter John Newton and making his lesser known wife and William Pitt into central charactors in the tale.
With these charactors, it is also worth mentioning that the actors chosen are generally first rate, and the script they're given doesn't have any special howlers within it.

In being a story that is as well-known as this one, it would be easy to get this film totally wrong. Just imagine a story of Martin Luther King to see how wrong it could go (e.g. doing a 'postmodern perspective' or, conversely, sucking up to his legacy).
But as I sit here in the aftermath of the film, it feels like the first time I'd seen Braveheart - the movie may not be perfect, but the bagpipes linger on (playing Amazing Grace), as does the spirit of the film.

So even if your normal films include The Expendables or Sahara (i.e big budget and simple), do give this a go as it is truly a rewarding film, and not just some exercise in evangelism or boring politics. As a non-believer and B-movie junky, I can honestly say that this film is well worth watching, even if it's only to make you a better person.

P.S. In light of the recent Jeremy Clarkson scandal, it's interesting to note that Wilberforce's right-hand man in the film was a guy called 'Thomas Clarkson'. If only he'd lived up to the promise of his ancestors...


Tenacious D: The Pick Of Destiny [DVD]
Tenacious D: The Pick Of Destiny [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jack Black
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Not great, but deserves more attention than it gets..., 2 Jan. 2012
If you're thinking of watching this film, then all you need to know is:
1. If you like Tenacious D and their sense of humour (adolescent and brash), then you'll love this.
2. If you want a classic comedy (in the league of Spinal Tap or Team America), then this is sadly not one.

This film is both funny and watchable but is not really new or ground-breaking. Personally, I like Tenacious D and their sort of humour but, as other reviewers prove, they are very much like Marmite (as a test of whether you'll like them or hate them, try this song - I've found it is the best way of telling fan from foe).

Anyhow, about the movie, this is basically a comedy-musical history of how Tenacious D formed (like a cross between 8 Mile and The Rocky Horror Picture Show). If you haven't heard the album, the songs are rather good, and the plot is fairly simple, with some excellent dialogue (e.g. the bit they're told they don't need the Pick of Destiny as "Satan lives in all our hearts" lol).

And although many people pan it and want it to be a better film than it is, it is pretty much as described. It may not as good as Shaun of The Dead, but equally it is not as insultingly bad as Pearl Harbor or AVP2.

But this is the sad thing - awful movies that are over-promoted (like Pearl Harbor) are still box office smashes (and director Michael Bay is a major Hollywood player), whereas the failure of this film has ended Jack Black's movie-writing career, and undeservedly so in my opinion.

So, I'd say watch the movie and make your own mind up. In my opinion, it isn't so atrocious that you'll feel that 'there's 93 minutes I'll never get back' and, equally, if you like comedy musicals, then it is a perfectly good film.
That said, one unforgivable thing this DVD has done wrong is in not having extras. For a band that is normally good to their fans, this does leave you slightly miffed...


Hitch 22
Hitch 22
by Christopher Hitchens
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Swansong-Memoirs in living memory, 28 Dec. 2011
This review is from: Hitch 22 (Hardcover)
In politics, there are sometimes rare people who seem to reach their pinnacle just before their death and hence are saved an ignominious downfall.
An example that springs to mind is British Prime Minister Disraeli, who said of himself that he'd "climbed to the top of the greasy pole", but was lucky enough never to have to slide back down it (like many before and since).

Hitchens in this book has gone out as he wanted to and I feel that his diagnosis with cancer will see to it that this book stands as a good summary of his career and life.
In it he explores first of all his parents (including his mother, who committed suicide), then moving through his school and university days and moving onto his work all over the World as a journalist.

The narrative is fairly chronological, though it gets quite blurred towards the end of the book and makes the strange omission of talking about his wife (bar one passing reference).

Although I think it's what Hitchens wanted, I don't think it does nearly enough justice to his life and work.
A lot of themes are left unexplored and questions go unanswered - the most obvious one's being the stories behind the photos in the book (e.g. the rather suggestive picture on page 340 of him "With Angela Gorgas"), why he doesn't ultimately want truth to prevail over the falsity of religion and why he disagrees so intensely with George Galloway.

But maybe this was intentional - to leave some mysteries in his wake. In truth, up until the penultimate two chapters, this book satisfactorily answers a lot of questions about his views on Iraq and his relationship with his brother and I actually found this book ended a literary dry spell I was having.

I suppose we aren't meant to know all his secrets, but at least this book gave Hitchens the opportunity to reveal some interesting insights into his charactor, albeit on his own terms...


No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Two Socialist Titans battle it out, 28 Dec. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Although I'm not a socialist myself, I do find that the best type of old politician you can meet is an old socialist. Somehow age seems to mellow any militancy of their youth (especially in the case of Hitchens) and what remains has usually aged like fine wine.

And I found one of the enduring memories I had after I read this book is of the Comradely warmth expressed by Christopher Hitchens towards Blair towards the end of the debate (pages 49-52) and the reciprocation of this. How refreshing this is when compared to Hitchens' bitter debate with Galloway or Blair's fractious relations with Gordon Brown!

This aside I found this a fascinating debate and can honestly say that I rarely enjoyed a polemical text more. Certainly as a debate it outclasses anything Hansard or C-SPAN has to offer shows two highly skilled orators skillfully marshall their arguments.

Of course there is always going to be a winner and, although I shan't plot-spoil, Hitchens is the better man in this field but only just. Tony Blair may not be as used to debating religion, but he still makes good use of language in conveying his argument (e.g. in saying "my point is very simple...").
Rather surprisingly Blair does also have some convincing arguments in favour of religion being a force for good. For instance he compares it to politics and journalism and how there is always bad eggs in all fields and even Nicky Gumbel's work Searching Issues (Alpha) is not quite as crisp as Blair's arguments.

Sadly the old Hitler/ Stalin/ Mao arguments do rear their ugly heads, but only briefly and there is no long boring diversions into other fields.

Overall, I was highly impressed and thought it was well worth pre-ordering and waiting the 2 weeks for it to come to the UK. If you've read Hitchens and are at all worried that he is losing it then don't worry - he still knows his beans.
And if you haven't read Blair's Memoirs or are worried that he'll just bang on about Iraq then don't worry - it doesn't and it this debate provides a good taster of what the memoirs are like.


The Prestige [DVD] [2006]
The Prestige [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Hugh Jackman
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.24

5.0 out of 5 stars Every bit as good as Memento or Inception, 28 Dec. 2011
This review is from: The Prestige [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Before watching this, I had no idea it was Christopher Nolan, and only really found out when the credits rolled. Ironically the first thought that popped in my head was "Wow - that was the best film I've seen since... Inception!"

The truth is that this DVD is every bit the equal of its peers, if judged without preconceptions.
Just as with Memento, it has intelligent use of the timeline.
Just as with Batman Begins, it sees Christian Bale at his peerless best, rather than his worst.
And just as with Inception, this film is the intelligent, well-directed brain candy that Christopher Nolan does best.

A word or two about the plot, the story follows two rival magicians who are ruthlessly trying to outdo the other in order to be the best magician in London. Although recommended by a magician friend, you don't need any knowledge about magic, and the performances of Michael , David Bowie and the two leads more than outdo any magical pretensions.

So if you want to see another Christopher Nolan film that really rewards the viewer, there are few better films than this one.
Alternatively, if you've never heard of him, then know that this is a film that, for a change, gets the plot and dialogue right, bringing home to you the magic of the movies.


Comrades! A History of World Communism (OBEEI)
Comrades! A History of World Communism (OBEEI)
by Robert Service
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A balanced history of an inspiring idea, 28 Dec. 2011
It is notoriously difficult to get a neutral view of communism. Read any review of Das Kapital or The Communist Manifesto and you will frequently find them either awe-struck or militantly against.

Although some reviewers say this book in anti-Communist, I sincerely believe that it is one of the best and most balanced scholarly (see appendix) accounts of Communism I've read. Furthermore, it contains valuable insights into the merits and flaws of the theory through to how different leaders put them into practice.

As the most prominent example of the fairness of this book there is the final chapter. I was struck by how little Service sought to dance on the grave of communism, instead mentioning how there continue to be successful communist movements in Kerala (India) and pseudo-communism in the hills of Mexico.
Also for balance, Service goes through the various crimes of capitalism too and the overwhelming impression I got was that, despite the tyrannical excesses of Communism, there is still potential there and unfulfilled ends to accomplish.

Aside from issues of fairness, I found the book a compelling read; the type of book you read in a week and skip TV to read more of.
In addition his portrayals of leaders such as Castro, Tito and Mao are vivid and his judgements are sound. Crucially it gives you a good feeling of what Stalin's Russia or Mao's China was like and, unlike other books on the subject, doesn't dwell too much on issues of Good/Evil, Gulags, etc.

So, if you want an interesting read, then this book takes some beating and, for $10 a copy, you get a 500 page tome that, at least, makes good shelf-filler.
However, for those that disagree, there is another history of Communism taken much more from a socialist perspective. Heaven On Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism (or at least the film adaptation) is equally as good as this, with much greater emphasis on socialism as a whole (e.g. Israeli Kibbutzes). On the DVD version there is even the sadly missed polemnicist Christopher Hitchens providing some of his best commentary so, if you found this book to be anti-communist, then give that a go instead...


Control [DVD]
Control [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sam Riley
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £3.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As described - an excellent biopic, 27 Dec. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Control [DVD] (DVD)
Before watching this film, it struck me how many ways they could get this film wrong - pandering to his wife (who co-wrote the script), unconvincing acting and, perhaps the greatest potential error: pretentious directing.

The good news is that the film avoided all of these pitfalls and was actually way better than I expected (for such an acclaimed film). Although not a ray of sunshine, the acting was convincing and the plot wasn't too focused around the bleak side of Ian Curtis. In my opinion, it seemed in keeping with Stephen Morris' description of Curtis being "an ordinary bloke just like you or me, liked a bit of a laugh, a bit of a joke."

And as for the story being biased in favour of his wife, the story seemed fair when it came to Annik Honore (Curtis' alleged mistress), portraying her as more of a friend, rather than any sort of bad influence.

Of course, if you don't like bleak films or biopics about troubled rock singers, then this isn't for you.

However, if you want to see a fairly balanced and well-researched treatment of the story of Ian Curtis, which shows him as a 3 dimensional, fairly normal guy, then this is about the best you'll get.

It's also worth mentioning that I'm not really a fan of Joy Division and have only really ever heard 1 or 2 of their songs. If you're concerned that this film is an inpenetrable geeky fan portrayal then don't worry - it's not.


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