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Mr. GM De La Bedoyere "Guy de la Bedoyere" (Grantham, Lincolnshire United Kingdom)
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Vikings - Season 1 [DVD] [2013]
Vikings - Season 1 [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Travis Fimmel
Price: £9.99

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An every day tale of Dark Age gangland violence, 20 Aug. 2014
Given that this is set in the Dark Ages, you'd expect a lot of general gloomy weather and grime and The Vikings is no exception. Like most self-respecting residents of the Dark Ages, these Vikings are to a man (and woman) utterly encrusted in dirt and filth. Every single one of them looks as if he/she could do with a bath. Not that it would do any good as they take any opportunity to resolve situations with an all-out battle on muddy hillsides or sandy beaches which leaves them even dirtier than they started, and usually showered with blood spatters which they leave on for the rest of the day. The whole story is built round the rise to fame of Ragnar Lodbrok (Travis Fimmel) who seems to have eyes equipped with blue LEDs. Presented to us as a sort of noble savage with intellectual pretensions he is simply a violent gang leader whose great rival is the earl Haraldson. In this respect the show is difficult to distinguish from Sons of Anarchy and Game of Thrones, not least because Travis Fimmel bears more than a passing resemblance to Sons' Jax Teller, and his rivalry with Clay Morrow. In this case the Sons of Anarchy Lodge - sorry, Viking HQ - is a village on a fjord on which the Vikings set out on their Harley-Davidsons - sorry, boats, to steal from and kill their enemies, which are variously each other or the Saxon English who Ragnar has discovered a way to sail over the North Sea to attack. The English are of course completely useless at fighting the Vikings despite having taken the precaution of using time machines to travel into the future and equip themselves with Norman helmets and various other bits of medieval armour. One of the English travelled a little further to pick up a violin so that he could play it at a feast attended by the Vikings (I won't ruin it by saying why the Vikings are round at the English king's hall, but suffice to say like most meetings between motorcycle gangs - sorry, Dark Age peoples - it ends badly; pity he didn't go further and pick up a machine gun). The action is mostly set in fjords and dank looking woodland but judging by the row of the cicadas during some night scenes the Vikings seem to have made it to somewhere in the tropics. For those who watch Game of Thrones for the gratuitous smut, this series will be a disappointment. For those who like axe-style violence the series is a welcome change from the usual sword or gun wielding of other gangland dramas. The Vikings in this series are simply thugs whose entire existence is based round killing each other and anyone else, and also shaving the back of their heads. Oh yes, I should add that the women are as feisty and as violent as their husbands; well, some of them anyway. Utter, utter nonsense but so long as you view it as entertainment and are familiar with shows like Sons of Anarchy you'll feel at home.


A Bigger Prize: When No One Wins Unless Everyone Wins
A Bigger Prize: When No One Wins Unless Everyone Wins
by Margaret Heffernan
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant expose of the futility of the idea that cutting costs is the catch-all solution, 20 July 2014
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I found this a very interesting read. The book seeks to expose the myth that cutting costs results in more efficient businesses and a more successful society which enjoys more choice. Margaret Heffernan argues that the exact opposite is the outcome, not least because workers on minimal wages cannot afford the products they make (or even lunch) and that competition stifles the creativity of collaborative working. Speaking as someone who works as a teacher it is self-evident to me that she is right. Schools are being forced to pretend to be businesses and are being obliged to cut costs by not replacing teachers who retire, by hiring newly-qualified teachers (who can be exploited more easily) instead of experienced staff, by using performance management systems to manage experienced (and thus inconveniently more expensive) people out of their jobs. What is the result? Staff who are frightened for their jobs, who are terrified of suggesting innovations for fear of being earmarked as not being 'on message', and who take on the duties of staff made redundant out of fear of being made redundant themselves. Subjects deemed to be 'non-viable' are cut along with their staff, thereby diminishing the curriculum on offer and making the schools less attractive. This diminishes student uptake, thereby necessitating more cuts and further decline. School leaders increasingly are little more then government ideologues acceding to the exhortations to cut, save and cut some more in the interests of their own pay packets, instead of being innovatory and creative. Schools now brazenly compete with one another for students and even staff meaning that the 'better' schools (which means those that restrict themselves to scoring on government data) attract students whose gullible parents believe the government data and solicit staff from other schools who they bribe with attractive extra payments that they deny their existing staff. The more challenged schools decline some and then decline further. This is happening all over the UK exactly as Heffernan describes that it will. Heffernan spends most of the book analyzing the crippling and destructive effects of self-serving competition which anyone in the UK will recognize. Will anything change? I doubt it very much.


No Mercy: True Stories of Disaster, Survival and Brutality:
No Mercy: True Stories of Disaster, Survival and Brutality:
by Eleanor Learmonth
Edition: Paperback
Price: £2.86

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but flawed, 7 Jun. 2014
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This book has fantastic content and I certainly hadn't heard of some of the disasters. The reader is left horribly wised up about humanity and our fundamental nature as animals bent on survival at anyone else's price, with links to William Golding's Lord of the Flies throughout. However, I found that structurally the book leaps about, often featuring one part of a disaster and then drifting off to another one. So it becomes quite hard to follow each individual story. Moreover, the treatment is inevitably superficial. The Batavia story of 1629 happens to be one I know a fair amount about and this book's treatment of the episode barely skates over the surface. For all that it's well worth reading, if only to appreciate that many of the stories here will merit following up.


Mammon's Kingdom: An Essay on Britain, Now
Mammon's Kingdom: An Essay on Britain, Now
by David Marquand
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant exposition of Britain's plunge into the moral dereliction of the marketplace, 7 Jun. 2014
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I only bought this book a week ago but I can already say that it is one of the most important books I have ever read. I am now a schoolteacher, a profession I entered seven years ago. In that short time I have seen how schools have been converted into petty fiefdoms squabbling in the marketplace, and where education is degenerating into an individualized commodity. Marquand reviews the whole concept of the development of the concept of public and collective responsibility, enshrined in farsighted 19th century legislation, only for this to be systematically dismantled by recent governments in favour of a world in which individuals are only out for themselves. Thus for example there is now no sense that graduates are also an important part of the greater collective good; instead, a degree is a purchasable commodity only of benefit to the graduate, hence the obscene levels of fees. This is amply summed up on p. 183 where he says 'In heath care, universities and schools marketization has speeded up, turning yet more public goods into commodities and yet more public servants into harassed salespeople'. Devastatingly true - in schools the systematic annihilation of Humanities and the Arts is a consequence of a belief that the only purpose of education is to churn out operatives who can make themselves and Britain financially richer. One of Marquand's crucial points is that this has all been derived from the absurd economic notion that we can all be predictable components of an economic system, conducted in an environment totally oblivious of the broader historical and economic context and all its lessons which are now being blithely ignored in the race to short-term profit. This is an excoriating review of modern Britain and it should by read by everyone who can get his or her hands on a copy. Nothing I have read in recent years so effectively cuts to the heart of dystopian modern Britain and its absurd fixation with the notion that market forces resolve everything. If there is a downside it is that the first part of the book is definitely very heavy-going with its survey of economic history and philosophy; and, also it's fair to say that one is left wondering where to go with all this in the sense that Marquand does not offer a solution and ends with the words 'we can't go on as we are'. But buy it. Read it. Remember it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 5, 2015 1:24 PM GMT


Sons of Anarchy - Season 5 [DVD]
Sons of Anarchy - Season 5 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Charlie Hunnam
Price: £7.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Violence and total chaos, 4 May 2014
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I don't really know what to make of this series. The Sons exist in a world characterized by a fatuous sense of juvenile mateship and 'loyalty' and conducted in an environment of utterly senseless violence and feuding. They're like scorpions in a barrel where an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth take on epic proportions and make the Old Testament read like a nursery rhyme. They have absurd pretensions to honour and family sensibilities, commodities which they overturn without a thought, yet treat everyone else as completely disposable extras. Oddly they seem to live in their own exclusive world where they can meet with their hoodlum contacts openly in railroad yards and have shootouts in the street (or anywhere else) that appear to go wholly unnoticed by the police or anyone else. Members of the public are all but non-existent, even in the background. The Sons act largely with apparent impunity - even jail terms are little more than transient inconveniences before they're back on the streets free to kill and rarely inconvenienced by any semblance of officialdom. More oddly, their enemies are generally stupid enough to load their guns with blanks before firing at the Sons. This would explain the remarkable survival levels exhibited by the Sons, something normally only enjoyed by James Bond. This series takes violence and a macabre fascination with their murderous lives to new depths. Jax receives a freezer box with a severed thumb and breast to appease some of the thugs he has dealings with in a pretence of having killed a young woman he has promised to. Naturally, we get a look at those. He hasn't killed her, of course - he's far too much of a gentleman for that, but whose breast and thumb they are remain a mystery. Of course, being a Son he obviously had a contact for when he needed these things. We're also treated to Jax hacking up some of his victims with an axe. The remarkable thing about Sons is that every single character (apart from Lyla Winston) is a completely revolting, psychotic, homicidal lunatic which at least helps my feel my own life isn't too bad. It's fairly watchable but I can say I haven't got the faintest idea of what is going on. I can just live in hope that they all get blasted away one day and buried in one of their own mass graves which is where they belong.


The Pike
The Pike
by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, outrageous and unforgettable, 8 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: The Pike (Paperback)
I teach an AS-level History paper in totalitarian states, which includes Mussolini's Italy. So I'd heard of D'Annunzio and his seizure of Fiume. Amazingly, as a child I'd even visited Fiume (now Rijeka) in what was then Yugoslavia on a school cruise, which time it was a faded, shabby, and plaster-peeled shadow of its former self. But I knew very little about D'Annunzio's astonishing life and career. This book has the great virtues of being about a modern phenomenon and being written in an extremely readable way. I couldn't put it down. D'Annunzio was completely reckless in every way with himself and everyone else he came across. A shameless lothario, adventurer, an aviator who pioneered aerial bombing, a fantasist and visionary, he was horrifically misguided with his indulgent love of violence and nationalism that made him a proto-fascist. No wonder Mussolini admired him. The author paints her picture brilliantly through a narrative that is essentially a flashback from where she starts the book. Frankly, at well under a tenner the book is a bargain - if you have the slightest interest in history this will grip you with the opportunity to read about someone who created his own mythical image. Best historical biography I have read for years.


Panasonic TX-L39B6B 39-inch Widescreen Freeview Full HD 1080p LED TV (discontinued by manufacturer)
Panasonic TX-L39B6B 39-inch Widescreen Freeview Full HD 1080p LED TV (discontinued by manufacturer)

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very nice TV, 24 Sept. 2013
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This is a really good TV especially with the pin sharp picture on Freeview HD or off DVDs. The Freeview HD is astonishingly good and does have the effect of making the other channels look very diffuse by comparison. Easy set-up and we were away in minutes. There is so little frame around the edge of the screen that the TV is far less obtrusive than other examples of this screen size that are just a few years old. We were using a borrowed 42" - this new 39" Panasonic looks far smaller with very little impact on screen size.

Downside is that there is no VGA connector to link it to a laptop - that surprised me; however, you can get a VGA to HDMI converter cable and do it that way.


Flymo EasiCut 6000XT 600W 60cm Cut Hedge Trimmer (Old Version)
Flymo EasiCut 6000XT 600W 60cm Cut Hedge Trimmer (Old Version)

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely useless, 28 Aug. 2013
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This 6000XT hedgetrimmer is so heavy that frequent use would leave you with monumentally developed upper-arm muscles - except that it lasts such a short time there's no chance of you turning into a bodybuilder. We bought ours in the late summer of 2012 and used it about four times before autumn set in. Got it out again in July 2013 and started making a horrible noise within minutes. It soon packed up so it went to a Flymo-approved dealer for repair before the warranty expired. They told us the gearbox had completely failed. So we got a complete new 6000XT in exchange which we have put away because in the meantime we bought a Bosch AHS60-26 which is incomparably better AND far lighter. The repair place had this useful advice: 'if you want your new 6000XT to last longer, then just don't use it very much'. We also have a Flymo HT450 which we have had for years and still works fine. The 6000XT simply isn't up to the job and is a classic example of a contemporary product which is manufactured far too cheaply to be durable. So, buy a Bosch instead and hope for the best.


A Guide Book of Franklin and Kennedy Half Dollars (Guide Book of Franklin & Kennedy Half Dollars)
A Guide Book of Franklin and Kennedy Half Dollars (Guide Book of Franklin & Kennedy Half Dollars)
by Rick Tomaska
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.23

2.0 out of 5 stars Very narrow scope, 25 Aug. 2013
This book is #15 in the Official Red Book series which includes volumes on Morgan dollars, Lincoln cents and so on. While the other titles, and I have several, include a great deal of background information on the denomination, the designs, the mints and so on, this title is extremely disappointing by comparison. It is almost exclusively limited to discussing the coins in terms of those that can be classified as 'cameos' due to the quality of strike. It's clearly an absolute obsession of the author's, but it's equally plain that the coins concerned do not exist in large numbers. So I can only assume that the book will be of value to very few collectors. The history of the Kennedy half dollar, for example, earns no more than half a page (out of 280). Although each issue is illustrated the preference is always for multicoloured toned examples, presumably caused by the coins being stored in damp bags, which might be pretty to look at but make detail almost impossible to see. This reaches a psychedelic climax at the end of the book with a series of graded images (nothing below MS-65)showing lurid coins, nothing like any of which I have ever seen once in years of visiting coin shops across the US. To be fair I wasn't looking, but that's really the point - I don't suppose many other people were either. Such coins command high four-figure prices amongst their limited markets, making them irrelevant to most collectors.

There isn't even a section on error coins, which the US Mint seems so prone to producing, or even a history of the half dollar which has been produced almost constantly from the beginning of US coinage even though today it is only made for collectors, something the book is crying out for. So this book really misses the mark by failing to consider that not everyone (like me) who collects these coins has the same approach as the author. A true collectors' book serves the whole market, not an obscure niche. The Morgan dollar book in the series is vastly better and remains an interesting browse because it has almost 100 pages of background (compared to this title's 20 or so); the same could also be said for the Washington quarter title in the series which this book should have been modeled on.

The foreword, written by Q. David Bowers, claims that the book contains 'just about everything you wanted to know'. I think that is a considerable exaggeration.

On the plus side the book is pleasantly produced on high-quality paper. The tables at the end are the most useful bit of the book since they list mintage figures and values from VF-20 for the Franklin coins and MS-63 for the Kennedy coins, reflecting the fact that after 1964 90%-silver coins disappeared from circulation and the half dollar gradually stopped being used at all. But unless you like examining pictures of half dollars that look they've been sprayed with several different cans of coloured paint this book will be of little use.


Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story Of The Mad Heretic Who Led History's Bloodiest Mutiny
Batavia's Graveyard: The True Story Of The Mad Heretic Who Led History's Bloodiest Mutiny
by Mike Dash
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Go and see for yourself, 16 May 2013
I must have bought this book in or about 2007. Like so many other readers I literally couldn't put it down. An utterly compelling tale of total horror, all conducted on what must have seemed an unfathomably remote location at the time off the coast of what they called the Great Southland. The evil of Jeronimus Cornelisz in 1629 is only overshadowed by the willingness of some of the crew to carry out his macabre wishes to wipe out as many survivors as possible. I have reread the book several times since and resolved to visit the place for myself. So I did. In April 2013 we (self and wife) flew from London to Perth, visited the Shipwreck Museum at Fremantle where the Batavia's stern is displayed along with the skeleton of one of the victims and various finds such as coins and pottery. We then drove north to Geraldton to see the museum there too; on display is the arch destined for Java and being carried by the ship as ballast. We booked ourselves a day out with Geraldton Air Charter and went out to the Abrolhos Islands. You can only land on East Wallabi Island but you get a flypast over Beacon Island where the killings took place, Seal's Island where the mutineers were executed by Pelsart (the commander of the voyage) when he returned from Java with help only to discover what had been going on, West Wallabi Island where the marines had built their fortlets to defend themselves against the mutineers; finally you fly over Morning Reef where the Batavia struck and to this day the hole it wrenched out of the coral is visible. I took my copy of this book with me and read some of it again 'on location'. Worth every penny and every mile to get there and it all goes back to reading this book in the first place. You can't say that of most books!! Speaking as a professional historian and writer I'd say you cannot get a better story than this one. How and why the Batavia story has escaped being made into a movie I cannot imagine. You can see my scenic flight by going to Youtube and searching under Batavia and 1629.


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