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Lend me your Ears
Lend me your Ears
by Boris Johnson
Edition: Hardcover

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected, 22 Jan. 2004
This review is from: Lend me your Ears (Hardcover)
Johnson's last book, "Friends Voters Countrymen", was a joy to behold. "Lend Me Your Ears", far from being the sequel the title suggests, is more "Boris writing about politics" than "Boris writing about his own involvement in politics".
I don't mean this as a criticism, but more a warning to those who might buy this book expecting more light-hearted recollections of Johnson's (successful) attempts to become an MP, combined with his role as editor of The Spectator. Instead, expect Johnson's view on such subjects as the inner workings of the EU. Although there is a sprinkling of humour, it's much less frequent than in "Friends Voters Countrymen".
Although it's not really my cup of tea, I don't want to actually criticise the book at all. If you're a Boris fan only in the sense of enjoying his appearances on Have I Got News For You, my advice would be to go for the earlier book.

The Best of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore [DVD]
The Best of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore [DVD]
Dvd ~ Peter Cooke
Price: £4.75

60 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Could have been so much better, 22 Jan. 2004
This DVD gets off to a storming start with a fantastic sketch about Pete and Dud reuniting, twenty years after their last meeting. Pete launches into an all-out assault on Dud for no particular reason other than that he isn't saying much, andgoes to great lengths to tear apart his argument that he can't get a word in edgeways.
Unfortunately, it all goes downhill from there.
What's left is some of the pair's most famous sketches, such as the excrutiatingly brilliant "A bit of a chat", and some of Pete and Dud's chinwags (incuding the Art Gallery and the Zoo encounters). The rest seems to consist of some long drawn out sketches that outstay their welcome, and then stay a little longer. "Bo Dudley", "The Glydd of Glood", "Superthunderstingcar", and Dudley's Beethoven sketch go on seemingly forever, and don't really do anything but fill space.
What I had hoped for was some of the sketches that relied on Cook's brilliant wordplay and ability to veer wildly off into surreal flights of fancy, while Dudley corpsed uncontrollably. Unfortunately, this is in short supply here. Classic sketches ommitted include "Beethoven's Fifth by Tuesday Week" and, believe it or not, "One Leg Too Few".
Overall, apart from the fantastic opening sketch, this is probably one more for the newcomer to Cook & Moore. For existing fans, this will be a disappointment.

Stovold's Mornington Crescent Almanac 2002
Stovold's Mornington Crescent Almanac 2002
by Graeme Garden
Edition: Hardcover

60 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mornington Cresent - a true underground movement., 25 Nov. 2003
This book mercifully avoids the pitfall that has ruined so many other Mornington Crescent books through the ages, which have devoted so much space to explaining every intricacy of the rules in such detail as to leave little room for any analysis or history of the game. Thankfully, “Stovold’s Mornington Crescent Almanac” credits us with a bit of intelligence and assumes we know the rules – after all, it hardly takes a rocket scientist to grasp the basic principles of the game.
No, what Stovold has done is to provide a truly universal tome that appeals to both the hard-core Crescent-head and casual player (if such a thing exists). Some fascinating revelations are made in this book, including the discovery of evidence that Stonehenge was built as a primitive Mornington Crescent arena, and that the Chinese invented a much-simplified version of the Game for simpletons, and called it “Mornington Chessent”, which was later abbreviated to “Chess”.
Another plus point is that the book does not stick to the ludicrously simple version of the Game popularised by the Radio 4 programme “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue”. In fact, by contributing to Stovold’s, they have defied much of the criticism that has been hurled their way. Many purists had previously resented their version of the Game, with many observers saying that from listening to them carry on, you’d think they invented the game themselves.
As well as the serious business of the Game, the book contains some moments of light relief. For example, did you know that the original 7" version of The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset” had a B-side in which the band gave a very convincing argument for why Morton’s Reversal should be limited to Circle Line post-Crabbitt junctions only. This was deemed unacceptable for the pro-Crabitt record company bosses, and was never released.
Overall, this is an essential buy for anyone who doesn’t know their Googe Street bi-laterals from their elbows, or who has ever got their Hampton Court in a Shepherd’s Bush loop. However much you thought you knew about Mornington Crescent, this book will increase your knowledge by around 35%.

Driven [DVD] [2001]
Driven [DVD] [2001]
Dvd ~ Sylvester Stallone

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Abysmal - bordering on the offensive, 27 May 2003
This review is from: Driven [DVD] [2001] (DVD)
One thing some of the previous reviewers seem to have missed is that this is NOT a film about Formula 1. This is based on the USA-based ChampCar (also known as CART) championship. That is why there are so many races in North America.
Much of this film is laughably bad. It seems that if you find yourself last in a race, all you have to do is start humming - HUMMING - and you'll suddenly be two seconds a lap quicker.
The most hilariously bad section though is the big crash scene. On the rare occasion a car goes into the air, what do you think happens? The warning flags come out, the other drivers slow down, the safety crews get to work, right?
Wrong. The drivers carry on at full speed as if there's nothing there, hit the flying car as it lands, and send it rocketing into a lake. Safety crews are nowhere to be seen, and so it falls to the other drivers to stop their cars, jump into the lake, and save the driver just before the car blows up with the power of an Atom bomb. Oh yes, and the two rescuers are perfectly OK to take part in the title decider a week later. Hold on though, that couldn't happen in the good old US of A could it? No, better make sure it happens in Germany instead.
Even more comically, the baddie of the film is an arrogant aloof German driver in a red car - who could that have been based on I wonder?!
Now, if you're wondering why I used the work "offensive" in my review title, well I refer to the idea of putting the ruthless team boss in a wheelchair, well if that isn't a sicko reference to F1 team boss Frank Williams, then I don't know what it is.
As for the rest of the race footage, it is laughable. Tracks that start as an oval, then become ultra-narrow road courses half way through the race, circuits with no safety barriers to stop cars going into rivers, the list goes on and on.
Even the "smaller" crashes are hilariously ham-fisted. It seems that cars can't rub wheels without one car flying into the air, everybody crashing in avoidance, and all ending up in the air, wheels that go flying into the sky only to land in the crowd, who just shuffle out of the way so that it can land safely, and what happens? The race carries on without so much as a caution flag being waved!
If this film were made in an Airplane!/Naked Gun style, its flaws would be acceptable. Instead, we're supposed to genuinely believe in this rubbish.
I wonder what made the ChampCar authorities accept this movie? It paints their sport in a bad light if it suggests that spectators at their events shouldn't be surprised to find a wheel hurtling towards them at 200mph!
Overall, this is one of those films that is so abysmal that it is utterly hilarious to watch.

Jean Michel Jarre: Europe In Concert [VHS]
Jean Michel Jarre: Europe In Concert [VHS]

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful souvenir of a stunning show., 15 Aug. 2002
This is the best Jarre live video by a huge margin. The music, mainly from the then-recent Chronologie album, easily one of his best ever, is wonderful.
Thankfully, the video is of a show near the end of the tour, after the removal of those Chronologie tracks which didn't suit being played live, and their replacement with more up tempo tracks from JMJ's past, such as Magnetic Fields 2 and Equinoxe 4. My only criticism of the set list is that the show's awesome opener, Chronologie part 1, is cut from the video while the overly-long Rendez Vous 2 is presented yet again in a form practically identical to previous videos.
The show itself was very different to Jarre 's previous efforts, in that it mainly played stadia, rather than city centres, and didn't include the spectacle of projections on the sides of skyscrapers and massive firework displays. Perhaps surprisingly, their absence doesn't make too much difference. The projections onto the on-stage screens are superb, far better than any previous Jarre show, meaning that the spectacle of the event (on video at least) is actually better than ever. The thing that really lifts this video above the others, however, is Jarre himself. Far from the moody, frowning figure we see in the other shows (most notably Destination Docklands), here we have a manic Jarre, who runs around the stage, grinning from ear to ear. The fact that he appears to be enjoying himself as much as the audience makes the whole thing a lot more fun for the viewer.
Forget the downtown extravaganzas, if you're looking to buy your first Jarre live video, this is the one to get. It's an absolute joy both to watch, and to listen to.

Roller Coaster: Wooden and Steel Coasters, Twisters and Corkscrews
Roller Coaster: Wooden and Steel Coasters, Twisters and Corkscrews
by David Bennett
Edition: Paperback

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Comes close to being a great book, then lets itself down., 15 Aug. 2002
It's tough for me to come up with a verdict on this book. It tries so hard to please both those the hardened coaster fanatic and those with a passing interest in the subject, and ends up sitting uncomfortably somewhere in-between the two levels.
Let's start with the positives. Thankfully, it avoids falling victim to the flaw that lets down many of the roller coaster books I've read, namely making the assumption that great coasters are found solely in the USA. In fact, Bennett provides what has to be the most geographically even-handed book I've come across, giving roughly equal billing to Europe and America, while giving good coverage to the less famous rides of the Far East. Furthermore, it is one of the few books to give the superb coasters that travel the German funfair circuit the credit they deserve.
Also in its favour is the fact that it is not just a guidebook telling you what coasters can be found where. A good chunk of the book is devoted to the science and history behind the ride. From the origins of the coaster, through to features on long-gone rides, the book offers a lot of good information and excellent photographs for the budding coaster historian, all presented in a highly accessible manner. Besides the coasters themselves, a chapter is dedicated to a series of good biographies of some of the great designers, which again impresses thanks to the fact that it includes not only the celebrated designers of the past (Fred Church, Harry Traver etc), but also recent designers like Ron Toomer (designer of The Big One at Blackpool), and Anton Schwarzkopf (designer of countless classic steel coasters), whose inclusion helps to prevent the chapter from coming across as overly nostalgic.
While 90% of the book is excellent, it is badly let down by a series of silly - and I mean SILLY - errors. Here are some of my biggest gripes:
1 - Photographic errors. Far too many photos are printed back-to-front, while others are incorrectly captioned (a two page feature on Tonnerre de Zeus at Parc Asterix in Paris is accompanied by a large picture of Megafobia at Oakwood, Wales). Worse, It's easy to imagine people seeing the pictures of the Cobra at West Midland Safari Park, deciding to try it out, and arriving at the park only to realise that the book failed to mention that the ride was dismantled years before its publication!
2 - Diagrams and explanations. A diagram of the layout of the Crystal Beach Cyclone is so badly captioned as to be almost useless - a straight piece of track on the diagram corresponds to the caption "high speed figure-8" for example. Elsewhere, a discussion of coaster physics is explained via a bizarre section named "A Fictional Conversation with Anton Schwarzkopf" - whether the great designer actually uttered the words attributed to him is left unclear. The final section, a guide to the world's coasters, is blighted with an overly complicated colour/shape coding system which is which is made worse by the fact that the descriptions are sometimes plainly wrong - I doubt Alton Towers will be too flattered to see Oblivion, one of their star rides, listed as a children's coaster! In another odd twist, the listing for German coasters suggests that the only coaster there are those on the travelling fair circuit, despite having photos of German theme park coasters earlier in the book!
These errors may not be the end of the world, but they do suggest a lack of research. When you come across a new piece of information, the amount of errors elsewhere makes you unwilling to accept the author's word as fact. For example, having been impressed by the section on coaster history, I'm suddenly inclined to believe what the book has to say when I realise that, in the case of Oakwood's Megafobia, or the portable Olympia Looping, it fails even to spell the rides' names correctly!
This could (and should) have been a fantastic read, and I really wish I could endorse it. Unfortunately, the number of careless errors means that I can only recommend it to those with a passing interest in the subject. My fellow coaster fanatics, I wish I could offer a glowing recommendation, but I'm not sure I can. The errors are too big and too frequent for that. It is definitely the best book I've read in terms of giving a global view of the subject, but that's ultimately because I'm yet to find a really top-notch book. It's certainly worth having, and it certainly seems fantastic when you first flick through it. Sadly, it doesn't really live up to that initial promise.

The Definitive Monkees
The Definitive Monkees
Offered by Amtrak123
Price: £11.99

19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Now I'm a Believer!, 12 Aug. 2002
This review is from: The Definitive Monkees (Audio CD)
Like I suspect many people did, I bought the limited edition release of the Definitive Monkees simply because I saw it reduced in a shop, and it contained all of the universally loved songs like Daydream Believer, Pleasant Valley Sunday, Last Train...blah blah blah.
Once I'd listened to these most famous of pop songs, I turned my attention to the rest of the collection, firmly expecting it to be awful. To my surprise, I found some of the best songs I've heard in years. Alright, there are some real stinkers on there which sound like template for every manufactured group since, but for the most part, the "manufactured" music is OK, while some of the group's "own" songs are superb. Amazingly, Dolenz manages to make jazz sound good on songs like "Goin' Down" or "Midnight Train", while Nesmith pulls off the equally tough task of making me enjoy country singing on "What Am I Doing Hanging Round", "Listen to the Band", and "Circle Sky".

Again, not all of the tracks from this era are classics, and the odd one or two come across as unsuccessful experiments. If this is the price we have to pay for great songs like "Porpoise Song" or "Merry Go Round", I'm happy to pay it.
This collection is such a treasure trove that I actually started to feel ashamed that I, like most people, only thought of the Monkees as a cheesy pop band, a label which is well wide of the mark. It might not be fashionable to say so, but the Monkees are a great band!

Destination Docklands
Destination Docklands

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What is the point of this album?, 12 Aug. 2002
This review is from: Destination Docklands (Audio CD)
This album doesn't contain bad music, but I fail to see any reason for it to exist. Effectively, you've got the Revolutions album, with the epic Industrial Revolution heavily edited, and a smattering of greatest hits filling the gap.
Even worse, the album is simply the old "Jarre Live" CD, repackaged to make it obvious which concert is being used. Jarre live at least came with a nice thick booklet which contained plenty of photos and drawings, quotes from Jarre about the venue, most of which are cut from this release.
Even worse again, you only have to look at the track lisitng from the concert(s) to see that a HUGE chunk of the original show has been cut. As a full length double CD, this would have served as a great Best-of collection - after all, the tracks we have do sound the same as the studio versions, as a previous reviewer has pointed out). Given some of the classics cut out, what on Earth is the awful Computer Weekend doing here?!
What we're left with is a CD full of good music, but which provides nothing new at all. If you've got Revolutions, there's no reason to buy this, and if you haven't got Revolutions, that should be a much higher priority than this. Make it the last Jarre album you buy for your collection.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 19, 2015 5:10 PM BST

The Weakest Link (PS)
The Weakest Link (PS)

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great game - for the limited time you get to play it., 12 Aug. 2002
This review is from: The Weakest Link (PS) (Video Game)
The Weakest Link was never going to be as easy to capture in a video game as Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, but what could have been a disaster is actually a very entertaining game.
The biggest surprise is how well the format stands up. Let's face it, nobody watches TWL for the game itself, they just watch for the banter, the jokes, and the toe-curling anticipation of seeing a contestant get berated for getting a question ludicrously wrong. It comes as quite a surprise that the game itself is great fun to play.
As the other reviewers have said, the presentation of the game is spot on, with an exact (if slightly grainy) copy of the opening and closing sequences, and all the in-game music. The representation of the studio is superb, complete with sinister looking audience gazing in from the darkness. Wisely, the Anne figure is only seen from behind, avoiding the problem of an unrealistic host.
Certain changes are made, however, which detract from the authenticity, most of which are there to cut down on the amount of speech required. Minor niggles include the constant repetition of phrases like "In sport, select the right answer", and the fact that the contestants don't say who they've nominated - instead the name just appears on their screen while voiceover man (Jon Briggs? or is that the US version?) reads them out. More mysteriously, why on Earth don't the last two contestants move to the middle podia for the final, like they do on TV?
The biggest difference as far as playing the game is concerned is that, by accident or design, one of the main dilemmas of the TV show, whether to bank or try to answer the question, is lost due to the fact that you are able to bank money long after reading the question. This can't possibly be in the "spirit" of the game, and as much as you convince yourself that you aren't going to take advantage of this flaw, you always do in the end.
When you first play the game, you'll love sitting back between rounds and hearing the automated Anne insult the players, but it won't be long before you realise that each character is woefully short of words and sometimes repeat their little speeches during a single game. Worse still, you can't skip these sections and have to sit there while you hear the same exchange you've heard a million times before. To make things worse, the game often switches between rounds to film of the real Anne Robinson at her podium insulting players or introducing the next round. Although you can skip these, it takes so long to load these films, that you soon get annoyed at the amount of time being wasted.
On the plus side, plenty of effort has been put into the single player game, with each computer-controlled player having their own characteristics, like the annoying bloke who banks at every opportunity, regardless of how little money there is in the chain. Similarly, the players all have their unique speech patterns and accents - although, being from Walsall, I must say the Austin's Walsall accent is awful!
You can't help feeling, though, a little bored in the early rounds due to the fact that there is so long between you questions. It does, though, give a good impression of what it must be like on the show - even with pretend money, you sit there getting angry at the other players for getting easy questions wrong, and banking too early, and get annoyed when you can answer everyone else's questions, but not your own. The "ladder" system of starting on a version of the show where top prize is £20,000 (why not £10,000?), and working up to the million pound version is good, and in keeping with the TWL spirit, no congratulations are offered when you win the final show.
Personally, I find the multiplayer game most fun, even if you play alone. As a pure quiz, you can play the game "being" all players and see how much you can make, or by taking control of half the team, and seeing whether the computer players beat you. This way, you get all the fun of the game, without the annoyance of waiting an eternity for your next question.
A previous review mentioned never getting bored of answering the same questions, but I beg to differ. As an example, I was once asked "Which of these Snooker players won 6 world championships?" - answer Steve Davis. Later in the game, I'm asked "How many world Snooker championships has Steve Davis won?". As much as I admire old Romford Slim, it's annoying that I seem to get some variation on this question every time I play.
In the end, the game is a truly admirable attempt to convey the TV show, and much better than I expected, but is badly let down by the awful slow pace of the game, a flaw which could so easily have been rectified by allowing us to speed things up between rounds. If it were a case of "time up, vote, walk of shame, let's play the Weakest Link", I'd be recommending the game without reservation. As it is, it's frustratingly slow, particularly in the later, shorter rounds where you spend more time sitting though the set-scenes than you do playing.
The game itself is immensely enjoyable, far more so that Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, but it comes with too much baggage to really make it worth persevering. Shame.

Oxygene 7 - 13
Oxygene 7 - 13
Offered by Captain Blood2
Price: £27.99

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great music, wrong title?, 29 July 2002
This review is from: Oxygene 7 - 13 (Audio CD)
This album ties with Chronologie for the honour of being my favourite Jarre album. Stunning 70s electronic instruments used to create more a more modern style of music, it just blows the mind.
Highlight of the album has to be Oxygene 12, which is a rousing dialogue between two distinct synths, set to a fast paced background. Get your headphones on, and listen to this in its full glory, it's one of the best pieces of music I've ever heard. With Oxygene 13 to bring you drifting back to Earth, it's a breathtaking finale to the album.
There's just one thing. I don't like the fact that it carries the Oxygene title. Unlike Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells 2, which brilliantly walks the tightrope between being too close to the original and too far away, Oxygene 7-13 switches between blatant rip-offs of earlier Oxygene tracks (much of pt9 is a rip-off of pt1), while much of the album is of a style completely different to the original album.
Unlike the Tubular Bells albums, the nature of the title suggests that it starts where the first album finishes. The trouble is that the albums don't compliment each other in this way. You can't listen to the two albums together, as the join sticks out like sore thumb. It seems that the album carries the Oxygene name mainly for commercial reasons, which is a shame.
If you listen to the album in isolation, it is superb. Get too caught up in the Oxygene name and you start to see the cracks. The fact remains that the music itself is incredible.

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