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Reviews Written by
Russell Smith "egobreed" (Glasgow, Scotland)

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Breville VHB061 800 W Black and Chrome Hand Blender Set
Breville VHB061 800 W Black and Chrome Hand Blender Set

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great bit of kit, 6 Oct. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Having used blenders like this in the past with, er, mixed results, this Breville really is in a different league. So many products these days use the word 'professional' to suggest high quality and durability, but in this case it seems justified.

The blender has a nice, solid weight to it, and attachments clunk in to place with the reassuring precision of a German saloon car. In use, it's very quick to chop, but still controllable, with onions shredded in seconds.

Cleaning utensils like this is generally enough of a pain to put you off using it at all, but this is certainly no worse than any other - and definitely much easier than our Magimix.

Not the cheapest hand blender out there by any means, but it feels like it will last for ages, so should be a good investment.

Mustaine: A Life in Metal
Mustaine: A Life in Metal
by Dave Mustaine
Edition: Hardcover

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and very entertaining, 23 Sept. 2010
If you grew up in the late 80s or early 90s listening to thrash metal, then this will be a nostalgic reminder about everything that was so brilliantly absurd about that scene. As someone who listened to 'Rust In Peace' pretty much constantly, and bought 'Countdown to Extinction' the day it came out, Mustaine was a bit of a hero to me, both in terms of talent and persona.

His unapologetic arrogance still comes through, but there's also wit and intelligence, even if some of the polish is supplied by the co-writer.

Inevitably, the early days are the most entertaining sections, charting the rise of Metallica, then The Firing, and finally the gradual rise of Megadeth as a true competitor to the throne of Metal. The whole adventure is fuelled by drug abuse and conflict, and it's amazing that Mustaine actually managed to produce some classic albums through this period.

I began to lose interest towards the end, where everything seems to have gone wrong: having relapsed and lost the ability to play guitar, Dave is on the verge of losing his wife and kids. 'Finding God' is such a cliché for disgraced celebrities, but it's obvious that Christianity now plays an important part in Mustaine's life. He does try to take an 'each to his own' attitude and 'not shove it down people's throats', but it just seems completely at odds with the rest of the story, and my respect for him began to ebb away.

Last chapter aside however, this is an entertaining and candid autobiography.

Robert Downey Jr: The Fall and Rise of the Comeback Kid
Robert Downey Jr: The Fall and Rise of the Comeback Kid
by Ben Falk
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable warts n' all biog., 8 Sept. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I've always been a bit suspicious of unauthorised biographies, but really - why should we feel more comfortable and reassured by an 'official' life-story that the subject has had a chance to edit and sanitise?

'The Fall and Rise...' can lay claim to being an uncut, warts n' all version, but in the case of Robert Downey Jr., his Dark Years are already well documented in the tabloids. What may surprise some readers is the extent to which drug addiction ruined his life, career and finances - as well as the sheer number of relapses and court appearances, and the fact that this was all still happening fairly recently, given his current A-list status.

Whilst the author is very matter-of-fact about the drug issues, a genuine admiration for Downey shines through on every page, and the selected quotations from friends and colleagues all tend to endorse the view that he is a charming but troubled genius.

His films are reviewed with honesty, which frequently demonstrates that Downey has been in a great deal of mediocre movies. The consensus does however tend to be that his performance is the best thing about the film, but to be fair, this view is often supported by the opinions of contemporary reviewers.

Where 'unauthorised' biogs tend to be weak is in their lack of direct access to the subject, and there are shades of that here. Some sections about his private life, for example, are presented as 'fact' when they are clearly speculation; for example, the thoughts and feelings of others in his life. Quotes from Downey himself also seem to be trawled from sources as 'definitive' as DVD extras and commentaries for his films, which can rob the book of that essential feeling of closeness and intimacy.

There is, perhaps inevitably, a sense of this being a cash-in on the recent successes of Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes. The book also makes the prediction that Downey will be the biggest movie star in the world upon the release of Iron Man 2. Well, hindsight is a wonderful thing, given the 'mixed' reviews for that film.

We are also constantly presented with this image of Downey as an intelligent, funny genius, so it is grating to find each chapter prefaced by a bland, witless, narcissistic quotation from the man himself!

For the most part, hearing actors talk about themselves and their 'motivation' is a tedious, predictable experience, but in the case of Downey, his personality and life story justify it more than most.

Autoglym Clay Detailing Complete Kit
Autoglym Clay Detailing Complete Kit
Price: £22.99

77 of 85 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great product, 2 Aug. 2010
Firstly, let's assume that you already want to spend a fair amount of time making your car look amazing. This is not for your average (normal?) person who gets out the sponge and the turtlewax on a Sunday and gives the motor a half hour wash n' rinse.

I've tried a lot of Autoglym stuff on my Candy White Scirocco and I've usually had good results, so I decided to go with the same tried and tested brand for my first shot at the claying process. Doubtless, there are many more specialist options that you could go with (Dodo Juice etc.) for fairly comparable prices, but this has the benefit of having everything you need in one box.

The process is not difficult, but it is fairly time consuming. After washing the car (Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner 500ml. with a lambswool washmitt, followed by drying with an Autoglym Aqua Dry), you spray on the lube to a small section - like quarter of a bonnet for example - and gently rub the clay over the surface. The effect is noticeable, and fairly instant. A panel that you thought was fairly clean becomes stunningly smooth to the touch, and all the invisible road film, tree sap etc. is gone.

Some sections need more work than others; the lower parts of the front doors on my car were covered in tar spots and these took a bit longer to come off. After doing each section, the supplied microfibre cloth makes a great job of removing the overspray and shines to a decent finish.

The kit also contains a small (100ml) bottle of Super Resin Polish. This a worthwhile extra stage, and takes much less time than the claying itself.

All in all, the kit is decent value. I used perhaps half of the lube spray, and maybe half to a third of the actual clay. The polish is only a small bottle and will just about stretch to doing a whole car.

That may sound like you won't get much use out of the kit, but unless you're ultra-obsessive, I can't see anyone wanting to clay their car more than about once every six months. I might do it a couple more time over the 4 years that I'll have the car, and it would also give a great 'as new' look if you were wanting to sell privately for example.

It's a wee bit fiddly and time consuming, but the results are totally worth it.

Oh, and DON'T DROP THE CLAY!! It's very easy to do, trust me...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 20, 2015 10:25 PM GMT

Breville Antony Worrall Thompson VTP099 Gourmet Pie Maker
Breville Antony Worrall Thompson VTP099 Gourmet Pie Maker

9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A competent pie-maker, if you really need such a thing..., 20 July 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
You can almost follow the trail of Breville's logic here: "Right, we have this deal to put Antony Worrall Thompson's face on some appliances - he's coming in later today and we've got nothing to show him!"

"Well, how about we just take one of our tried and tested toastie makers and adapt it to make...er, pies?!"

And so, here we have what is essentially a large toastie machine, albeit with the sandwich shapes replaced with four small pie-holes.

To test the machine out, we used some shop-bought shortcrust pastry, and, as Antony suggests, a filling made of tasty leftovers: some roast chicken and roasted vegetables, mixed up in a nice Bertolli 'pesto mediterraneo'. Our first attempt was an instant write-off; because the machine is pre-heated, the pastry base begins to contract as soon as you put it in, so if it's not perfectly straight, there's not enough spare pastry round the edge. The second attempt was a little better, but still poor. The instructions warn against over-filling, but actually, if the pie is not full enough, then the top doesn't touch the cooking surface and stays raw. After over 15 minutes cooking, we were left with a very brown base and a near inedible top. Still, the filling was piping hot.

Attempt three actually made fairly decent pies, and to be fair, the final batch were absolutely perfect. So, as with anything new, a little trial and error is required, but the results were good.

I can't help feeling though, that this is a completely unnecessary gadget, and for several reasons.

Firstly, the pies are small. They would make a generously sized Christmas mince pie, but for a family mealtime, it's hopeless. I ate three of my chicken pies last night quite easily, with accompanying veg and so on, but I wasn't especially full. Given that you can only do four at a time, you would probably need a minimum of two batches for a family of four, and possibly more. I suppose you could keep the first lot warm in the oven whilst you cook the next batch, but then it starts to defeat the purpose a little. Presumably, the word 'Gourmet' is there in the 'nouvelle cuisine' sense of the word.

Secondly, pies are bad for you. Let's be honest, no matter how many vegetable you put inside it, pastry is not a healthy food, regardless of the blurb on the box about the long history of pie making and its recent resurgence in popularity. I like a pie as an occasional treat, perhaps once a fortnight, but that's hardly enough to have a dedicated pie-making machine taking up valuable worktop and cupboard space.

Lastly, I like to cook, and making a big, home-cooked family-sized pie is not really that difficult. On the other hand, if I couldn't be bothered cooking, and I wanted a quick tasty lunch, I would just go to Greggs or my local supermarket instead.

So this is a fairly ill-conceived, niche product, which is nonetheless capable of making a decent pie. By all means, I would recommend it IF:

1. You have lots of empty cupboard space,
2. You are too lazy to make a real pie in the oven AND too lazy to go to Greggs,
3. You are a regular consumer of small, snack-sized pies and have no family,
4. You have a cavalier attitude towards your intake of saturated fat, and,
5. You really like Antony Worrall Thompson.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 23, 2011 4:18 PM BST

Shit My Dad Says
Shit My Dad Says
by Justin Halpern
Edition: Paperback

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Stick to the twitter version, 20 July 2010
This review is from: Shit My Dad Says (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I had been following Justin Halpern's tweets for a while, and more often than not, there would be an amusing quotation from his dad. They're funny, in isolation, because they drip with sarcasm, twisted logic, and pent-up frustration about everyday life.

Stretched out to the length of a short paperback however, the ratio of hits to misses begins to drop drastically, and the quotes quickly become tiresome. Whilst there is still an occasional nugget of brilliance, too often we just get left with an insult, directed at a child, and peppered with obscenities. Don't get me wrong - I have plenty of time for obscenities, but when they're shoehorned in to force a laugh, it gets old very quickly.

In order to justify making this a 'book', the rants are spaced out by autobiographical sections. Unsurprisingly, the author has led a fairly ordinary life thus far, and the short childhood anecdotes are mildly amusing at best.

You would be happy to find this book lying in a friend's bathroom, where it would hold your attention for a few minutes, but otherwise, just check it out in its natural habitat, Twitter.

Sony NWZW252W W Series Walkman 2 GB MP3 Player Water Resistant Headphones - White
Sony NWZW252W W Series Walkman 2 GB MP3 Player Water Resistant Headphones - White

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost great, but fatally flawed, 12 July 2010
This mp3 player is a fantastic concept, and in reality it almost works. As ever with Sony, it's beautifully designed, very modern and stylish and the sound quality is decent. And, refreshingly for a Sony product, you can just plug it in and drag files in to the folder, rather than having your PC crippled by badly written, spyware-infested software. So far, so good.

You accept the limited capacity of 500(ish) songs, because of the main supposed benefit - you can go running without the distraction of headphone wires looped under your armpit, flapping about with every stride. What you get instead, though, is the bigger distraction of headphones that almost fit snugly in your ear - but not quite.

Now, everyone is different, clearly. But I'm sure that I don't have the utter misfortune to have the oddest ears in the country. I'll be willing to bet that at least half of the people that try these will find that one ear fits better than the other, regardless of which earbud size you go for. My left ear - perfect. Fits brilliantly, and stays in place over the course of a 10k run.

My right ear? Useless. The standard 'medium' earbud worked itself out after a mile or so, and I thought switching to 'large' would help it to fit in to my ear more snugly...nope, even worse. The smallest size was actually better, but still not right.

If you're on the train, it's not an issue, but if you're being sporty, then you'll get frustrated and lose focus as you constantly fiddle with one side, trying to jam it securely in to your ear. And you won't wear them on the train, because as soon as you catch sight of yourself in a mirror, you'll realise that you look faintly ridiculous, and you will take them off and put them in your pocket, and start playing with your phone instead.

This is the curse of the early adopter, the gamble of buying something off the internet before it's been reviewed. I think 'version 2' of this will be out in a year, slightly revised, and will be great, probably with the bonus of improved battery life and capacity. I'd say 'try before you buy', but, er, you can't really. So, do what I should have done, and stick with something like: Sony NWS205 - 2GB Walkman MP3 Player - Black , along with Sennheiser PMX70 - Sportline Stereo Neckband Headphones ...which actually works perfectly well, even with the old flappy cable.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 25, 2010 2:48 PM BST

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution
by Richard Dawkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and entertaining science for the masses, 23 Jun. 2010
It's hard to approach a review of this book in an unbiased way; I am admittedly a fan of Richard Dawkins, and I agree with the vast majority of what he says. The theory of evolution is so elegantly simple, and so well supported by evidence, that it's hard to believe that so many people can even doubt it.

The opening chapter addresses the other extreme; those who are willing to believe a literal biblical explanation for the diversity of life on our planet, those who are so shackled to their religious dogma that their brains are unable, or unwilling to process the vast array of facts presented in this book. Wisely though, Dawkins does not labour the point by going back over all of the arguments made so successfully in The God Delusion. Rather, he lets the facts speak for themselves, and shows how every different observable facet of life on this planet points to the same conclusion that Darwin reached 150 years ago.

Whether it is the geographical spread of animals across the planet, fossil evidence, comparisons between living species or DNA, there are countless fascinating examples which build a compelling picture. Even if you don't need any convincing about the fact of evolution, there is a wealth of information which can only add to our sense of wonder about our own existence, as opposed to turning the miracle of life in to a sterile scientific equation.

Creationists will no doubt try to counter all the arguments with pseudo-science, and tired old clichés designed to brainwash their less educated, God-fearing flock. Hopefully though, a few people will pick this book up with an open mind, and find themselves persuaded that all life on earth is related, and that we share a common ancestor. If they still wish to believe that the hand of God somehow started or guided that process, then this book does not necessarily preclude that.

This book should be compulsory reading in every school science class.

by David Denby
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and well written, but not massively entertaining, 22 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Snark (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This slim volume is mildly diverting and occasionally interesting. It starts promisingly enough, as an angry rant against the kind of cheap-shot celeb-baiting writing that passes for journalism these days. The tone is, encouragingly, almost Hunter S. Thompson-esque in places, but soon runs out of steam, and the book becomes less of a rallying cry, and more of a tenuous trawl through 'the history of snark'.

This is sporadically interesting, and contains a few amusing examples, both of cheap, lazy snidey finger-pointing, and of the more cultured satire which Mr. Denby clearly has great respect for. Unfortunately, the book is not focussed enough to be a genuinely inspiring polemic, but neither is the writing funny enough to recommend for mere entertainment.

EVEN (David Trevellyan Thriller 1)
EVEN (David Trevellyan Thriller 1)
by Andrew Grant
Edition: Paperback

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, macho fun, 30 Mar. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Blokes will enjoy the vicarious thrills that this pacy thriller offers. We're thrown straight in to some tough-guy antics that any of the more familiar literary spies would acknowledge with a subtle, respectful nod. The plot twists and turns enough to keep you guessing as to what Evil Doomsday Scheme (TM) is to be released on the unsuspecting world. Andrew Grant manages the delicate balancing act of keeping the events exciting and movie-esque, whilst retaining a sense of believabilty, and relevance to current events.

Our new hero, David Tervellyan, is interesting enough to merit another outing, although perhaps in future books he will show some signs of being a mere mortal - he seems to have the upper hand, both mentally and physically in every single confrontation. A degree of vulnerability might make for a more rounded character and extend his lifespan somewhat. Oh, and each chapter begins with a short prelude which is essentially a 'memory from training'. These just happen to be an apt commentary on the events of the rest of the chapter, and as a device, it sometimes works, but the overall effect is a little cheesy.

Still - recommended, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

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