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Reviews Written by
Mark Pack (London, UK)
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   

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Just a Minute 7
Just a Minute 7
Offered by Audible Ltd

5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of classic humour to enjoy., 23 April 2016
This review is from: Just a Minute 7 (Audio Download)
Lots of classic humour to enjoy from 2002 and 2003.

The timing and description information for this is a little confusing, as the audio download is both described as being 1:52 long and as containing 7 episodes - which wouldn't fit in 1:52. What the download I got contains is 1:52 with 4 episodes and then a supplementary chapter with a further 3 episodes. All of which makes it a bigger package than many of the older Just a Minutes which, based originally on the capacity limitations of cassette tapes, frequently came in at four episodes only.


Mr Palfrey of Westminster [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Mr Palfrey of Westminster [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Price: £19.40

4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as The Sandbaggers, but still a pretty enjoyable watch., 23 April 2016
Mr Palfrey of Westminster ran for two series in the mid-1980s, bringing a more intelligent than usual verve to espionage thrillers. The DVD set includes not only the full two series but also the initial pilot and a one-off sequel episode featuring one of the main characters a few years on.

The pilot is interesting for revealing the changes made before commissioning a full series of Mr Palfrey, moving the eponymous character - a mole hunter for British intelligence - from a swanky office with a large team to a pokey old office with minimal staff support. So minimal that it is implausible for one boss, one assistant and one part-time secretary to do the sort of research, staking out and tailing of suspects which the plots require them to. One person hardly makes for an effective 24x7 monitoring operation to follow a suspect, and it's this sort of implausible detail which is at the heart of the show's strengths and weaknesses.

The weakness is that the operational details are so often simplistically implausible - as also, for example, with the remarkably quick and cursory look round a room which counts for sweeping it for bugging devices in one episode. Yet the wider plot lines are very plausible, mirroring the sort of events we know about from the public record and without any exaggerated implausibilities of the Hollywood movie type.

Despite the show's age, it still looks good - the very crisp footage still looks good on modern screens - and the acting has also aged well. Even the cringey dialogue about a female boss is - sadly - a rather accurate reflection of what much of the the 1980s were really like.

There is very little in the way of chases, violence or gadgetry - though the old fashioned computers and phones are quite fun to see once again - but rather clever plotting, variations in pace and structure which keep you guessing, and good acting all round. Not as good as The Sandbaggers, but still a pretty enjoyable watch.

No subtitles, unfortunately, nor any other extras beyond the pilot and one-off sequel


Mr. Palfrey of Westminster [DVD] [1984]
Mr. Palfrey of Westminster [DVD] [1984]
Dvd ~ Alec McCowen
Price: £9.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as The Sandbaggers, but still a pretty enjoyable watch., 23 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Mr Palfrey of Westminster ran for two series in the mid-1980s, bringing a more intelligent than usual verve to espionage thrillers. The DVD set includes not only the full two series but also the initial pilot and a one-off sequel episode featuring one of the main characters a few years on.

The pilot is interesting for revealing the changes made before commissioning a full series of Mr Palfrey, moving the eponymous character - a mole hunter for British intelligence - from a swanky office with a large team to a pokey old office with minimal staff support. So minimal that it is implausible for one boss, one assistant and one part-time secretary to do the sort of research, staking out and tailing of suspects which the plots require them to. One person hardly makes for an effective 24x7 monitoring operation to follow a suspect, and it's this sort of implausible detail which is at the heart of the show's strengths and weaknesses.

The weakness is that the operational details are so often simplistically implausible - as also, for example, with the remarkably quick and cursory look round a room which counts for sweeping it for bugging devices in one episode. Yet the wider plot lines are very plausible, mirroring the sort of events we know about from the public record and without any exaggerated implausibilities of the Hollywood movie type.

Despite the show's age, it still looks good - the very crisp footage still looks good on modern screens - and the acting has also aged well. Even the cringey dialogue about a female boss is - sadly - a rather accurate reflection of what much of the the 1980s were really like.

There is very little in the way of chases, violence or gadgetry - though the old fashioned computers and phones are quite fun to see once again - but rather clever plotting, variations in pace and structure which keep you guessing, and good acting all round. Not as good as The Sandbaggers, but still a pretty enjoyable watch.

No subtitles, unfortunately, nor any other extras beyond the pilot and one-off sequel.


Vodafone WLAN-Spot R215 LTE /4G black
Vodafone WLAN-Spot R215 LTE /4G black
Offered by Kryonet Ltd
Price: £59.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid, light and with a decent battery life, 23 April 2016
Used one of these for several years. It's a little bit bulkier than some of the rival devices, but solid, light and with a decent battery life. Certainly good enough that it's the quality of the network coverage which is what causes any problems rather than this device itself.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 12, 2016 12:05 PM BST


The Storm: The World Economic Crisis and What It Means
The Storm: The World Economic Crisis and What It Means
by Vince Cable
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable and easy to follow account of the economic crash, light on jargon but not dumbed down, 22 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Catching up on some political reading, I’ve been reading (or rather listening to) Vince Cable’s The Storm.

It’s an enjoyable and easy to follow account of the economic crash, light on jargon but not dumbed down in quality of argument. It does at times feel like it was written rather in a rush (as Vince Cable himself concedes) and partly as a result is more a selection of interesting accounts of different aspects of what’s happened to the economy laid out end-to-end rather than a book with a clear thread of argument running all the way through it.

As with other accounts it suffers rather from pointing out how many people made mistakes that now seem obvious, believing that it wasn’t a bubble that was building. The problem with that is that it doesn’t really help us work out what to do differently in the future. Even for people like Vince who gave warnings ahead of events there is still the question, “how can you be sure you are correctly identifying a bubble rather than a genuine systematic change in how the economy works?”

Such changes do sometimes happen, even if not as often as bubbles. A policy-making approach that views everything as a bubble will also end up making major mistakes. Major shifts in the economy are not always unsustainable or unwelcome. The long-term shift in the UK economy away from agriculture, for example, has been sustainable and policies over the decades, even centuries, based on fears that the country is going to run out of food if it doesn’t grow more have frequently turned out to look rather foolish.

The question of making accurate predictions in future is touched on a little, and referred to in the list of further reading, but in many ways the book is a much better guide to understanding the past than to making future decisions.

Understanding the past does usually help with the future though and the book is broader in its picture of the past than you might expect. It is not just about the credit market crunch; it also covers the changing international balance of economic power, the role of oil, matters of international trade and more.


Why Vote? A guide for those who can't be bothered
Why Vote? A guide for those who can't be bothered
by Jo Phillips
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars The book repeatedly pokes fun at the way democracy works, but in an affectionate way rather than an angry way, 22 April 2016
Why Vote? is one in a series just published by Biteback. Whilst the others promote voting for a particular party, such as the Liberal Democrat title reviewed here, this book is simply about encouraging people to take part in elections. It takes a rather curious approach because, as the book itself explains: "[This book] wants to persuade you to vote but gives dozens of very good reasons why you shouldn’t. On the positive side, it should give you a few laughs and provide enough trivial information to amaze your friends … What we hope it might do is persuade you to influence how the country is run."

If you’re familiar with my comments on the positive signs there are around about increasing turnout in some elections, and how the true story about levels of electoral registration is cautiously optimistic, you won’t be surprised to know I grumbled rather at the cliches such as: “Something is going seriously wrong in Britain if growing numbers of citizens feel voting isn’t worth bothering with.”

No. That was the story. But over the last few years turnout has not been falling. In many cases it has risen. Even at the last general election turnout was up – not by much, but it was up not down. In local elections, Mayoral elections and Parliamentary by-elections we have frequently seen rising turnout (when comparing like with like).

But once we get beyond that and – even worse – the comparison of the number of votes in Big Brother with general elections (multiple voting anyone?), the book picks up with a fast paced dash through the history and workings of our democracy, never dull or detailed but providing the sort of basic information that a large number of people don’t actually know – such as that the Prime Minister isn’t simply the person whose party got the most votes across the country – which was what the Jenkins Commission found many people believed.

The book repeatedly pokes fun at the way democracy works, but in an affectionate way rather than an angry way as if it’s bemoaning the way a slightly dotty elderly relative leaves dirty washing around the home. Hence this description of our system: "It has never been as perfect as the theory suggests – it couldn’t be when, by definition, a political system system has to be run by politicians. A recent suggestion that non-politicians should be allowed to get involved is like suggesting that non-drivers should be let loose on the roads or plumbers take over from doctors – or, for that matter, doctors take over from plumbers."

When it comes to the BBC and its love of long documents outlining editorial policies, the book turns Jane Austen: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a broadcasting organisation in possession of a good fortune must be in want of producer guidelines."

The book also takes a well-aimed pot shot at the media’s love of a rogue poll: "Let’s say there are half-a-dozen political polls a month and five of them, in common with the six from the previous month and the six from the month before, show that the Tories have a lead of around 12 points. Then one poll comes up with a Conservative lead of 8 points. Sensation! Tories slump in popularity! Labour closes the gap dramatically! Are the Tories on the skids? Could Labour sneak up and actually win the election? These are the questions on which thousands of words are expended. The answer can be given in one word though: No. Or at least it is on the evidence of this poll. The near certainty is that this is a rogue survey … But that truth hasn’t prevented not just the paper that commissioned the rogue poll but all the others and the broadcasters merrily, sensationally and learnedly banging on about something that is plainly wrong."

The book misfires on occasion, such as with the string of clichés when poking fun at electoral campaigning, ignoring the evidence and breezily affirming that campaign activities such as knocking up supporters on polling day don’t work.

There are a few slip-ups – such as it is over 4,000 criminal offences introduced under Labour, not new laws, and Parliament has moved on from having a sequence of MPs ask the Prime Minister his engagements for the day (it’s now just the first question). Similarly, whilst the book makes the common claim that the NHS is the third largest employer in the world, after the Chinese Army and the Indian railways, on the figures presented it is actually a smaller employer than Walmart.

What is common across the mistakes – and the misjudgements over falling turnout – is that they are only a small step away from the truth and reflect commonly repeated claims. Perhaps a sign of a book written in a little too much haste with a little skimping on the fact checking?

It all adds up to a rather odd book. For most of its length it pokes fun and aims ridicule at politicians and the political process, with rarely a generous word and often an exaggerated case against them made. Finally, in the last few pages there is an impassioned stretch about how politics affects everyone – and how if you don’t vote you don’t get a say in the decisions which alter so many aspects of your life.

By that stage in the book, will anyone still be listening? But it’s a light and breezy journey through the book. And who can not enjoy a book that talks about the impact of hats on the 1931 New Zealand election? (See page 4.)


Jane Doe
Jane Doe
Dvd

3.0 out of 5 stars Opening scene and acting are great; the rest, not so much., 16 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Jane Doe (Amazon Video)
A great opening scene and strong acting alas aren't enough, for the plot quickly slips into something so full of holes there isn't really much plot left standing and the 'development' of the characters is clunky and full of cliches. The acting and a decent pace of action make this a passable film, but with so many other 'innocent person framed as they struggle with their family' films out there, there isn't that much to commend this one for your watching time.


Unlocked Three Huawei E586 White High Speed 3G/4G MiFi 21.1Mbps HSPA+ MOBILE BROADBAND
Unlocked Three Huawei E586 White High Speed 3G/4G MiFi 21.1Mbps HSPA+ MOBILE BROADBAND

5.0 out of 5 stars A great reliable workhorse for me for years, 16 April 2016
This is a bit dated now, but it's been a great reliable workhorse for me for years. Small, light, robust and with an ok battery life, it has always done the job well for me.


3 Huawei E585 MiFi Mobile Broadband Wireless Hotspot Modem Ready-To-Go 1st Month Free
3 Huawei E585 MiFi Mobile Broadband Wireless Hotspot Modem Ready-To-Go 1st Month Free

5.0 out of 5 stars A great reliable workhorse for me for years, 16 April 2016
This is a bit dated now, but it's been a great reliable workhorse for me for years. Small, light, robust and with an ok battery life, it has always done the job well for me.


Stray Decor (Vintage Train Ticket) Bus Pass Wallet / Travel, Credit or Oyster Card Holder
Stray Decor (Vintage Train Ticket) Bus Pass Wallet / Travel, Credit or Oyster Card Holder
Offered by Stray Decor Holders
Price: £2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great design and a low price which makes up for lack of durability, 14 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Nice, stylish holder. The ticket on the outside is pretty sharply printed, looking good even very close up.

As with nearly all of these holders, it is made from fairly thin plastic and so is unlikely to last for a long time, except in very gentle use. But then the price is pretty low too so it's a decent trade-off.


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