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Louise Stanley (Reading, Berkshire United Kingdom)

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The 2-Hour Tarot Tutor: Learn the Ancient Art of Tarot - the Easy Way
The 2-Hour Tarot Tutor: Learn the Ancient Art of Tarot - the Easy Way
by Wilma Carroll
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Wilma, 9 May 2006
An interesting book by an American psychic who advocates an intuitive method of reading Tarot; although it is geared more to the classically illustrated Rider-Waite deck, it will work with any Tarot deck: you just look at the cards and decide what **you** think they mean. Carroll, who on the eve of the rather chaotic 2000 American presidential election predicted that George W Bush would win the White House (thereby giving hope to all us budding psychics that their political projections may be more accurate than we dared hope), guides us through her system: although I'm not going to give the game away by mentioning exactly what she suggests, the two hours is basically the time it takes to go through your deck of 78 cards and note down the associations you - and only you - make with your deck. I tried the method with my Avalon tarot (not based on the RW illustrations) and came up with a system radically different from the standard card associations, which worked when I tried it out by casting the cards for Charles Clarke. And we all know what happened to him, though I had the privilege of knowing in advance - possibly before Tony Blair even did.

The remainder of the book is dedicated to explaining the "point" of tarot - while other authors such as Sharman-Burke tend to emphasise the psychological over the psychic, Carroll sticks her neck out and goes for the sceptic's jugular - tarot is about supernatural divinatory powers. Her details run to fascinating case-studies, including the appearance on an American chat show to pick the winner a few days before the American election. That reminds me of waking up after a dream at the end of October 2004 sweating with cold fear and panic knowing that George Bush had won the 04 election - three or four days before he actually did.

I am of the opinion that everyone has the talent to use tarot like this, not just seventh daughters of seventh daughters. Carroll is an inspiring writer, charting her own humble beginnings at university, struggling to memorise the meanings given by standard tarot texts. Carroll's method is presented in this exciting book graphically - and for a crib sheet there is a list of meanings at the back, one card per page as in other books. But don't cheat! Try it and see how it can work wonders...

Step by Step Tarot: The best-selling introduction (Complete Course in Tarot Readership)
Step by Step Tarot: The best-selling introduction (Complete Course in Tarot Readership)
by Terry Donaldson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Card of the Day, 9 May 2006
This is a brilliant book, not least because it uses the Morgan-Greer tarot cards as the illustrative set, and I love these bold, bright cards with their expressive figures. My deck is still on order from Amazon but for the moment I am using this book to pick my card of the day, since my other Rider-Waite deck is a bit anaemic and not as bold as the Morgan-Greer, and the other decks I have are more specific to their purpose than something as mundane as picking a card to relate to modern life as we know it.

Donaldson's book is well-written and the cartoons by Nick Newman on the front (of my library copy anyway) and inside give it a down-to-earth feeling, almost as if you were buying a book about humorous anecdotes from "Private Eye" rather than a book on mystical fortune-telling. Later editions have replaced this cover but Donaldson's style still does a great job of introducing the Tarot to beginners. It's hard to connect this Terry Donaldson to the Muslim mystic who went on to write the book of Tarot Spells I bought a week or so ago, and I can only suppose that in the intervening ten years he stopped trying to be a copywriter for Mystic Meg and started exploring the mysteries of folk Islam.

The book contains a short explanation of tarot, and guidelines for getting started with the cards, including sample worksheets which I guess can be photocopied. Then the "heightened meanings" of every card in the standard Rider-Waite-clone deck - those are decks produced during the turn-of-the-century Tarot revival by A. E. Waite, illustrated by Pamela Coleman-Smith, which managed to produce a fully illustrated set of 78 cards which gave meanings more explicitly in pictorial format, rather than relying on the older-style "Marseilles" or "Swiss" cards which were more like normal playing cards with minor arcana cards with only, say, two cups or four swords on them (Tarot cards were originally used solely as playing cards, and only later came to be used as tools for divination). The Morgan-Greer updated the drawings at the end of the 1970s (in that kind of art that reminds you of the cover of a psychedelic prog-rock album, let's say Jethro Tull meets Bagpuss), so the cards illustrated have a chunkier, more solid feel than Coleman-Smith's classical Art Nouveau drawings. The symbolism is maintained, however, for those used to handling Rider-Waite. (And I also found when reading with my more eclectic decks, the meanings correspond whether or not your 5 of Cups has a hooded figure contemplating "spilt milk" - or a sci-fi ogre guzzling on a human foot.)

For novice Tarot readers, and those with a good imagination and intuitive response to pictures rather than learned memories, this is more than helpful. There is also a section with "concentrated meanings"; Donaldson writes almost as much or even more on the Major Arcana here but restricts minor arcana cards to a couple of sentences at the most for easy reference. He then proceeds to show several spreads and then discusses ethics, practicing on colleagues and even attaches a form for the reader to sign that promises "As a Tarot reader, I pledge myself to the Code of Tarot for the good of all..." - a really nice touch.

A good blend of the mystical and mundane, and a must for every reader of Rider-Waite decks.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 24, 2014 11:10 PM BST

Avalon Tarot: 78 Cards with Instructions (Lo Scarabeo Decks)
Avalon Tarot: 78 Cards with Instructions (Lo Scarabeo Decks)
by Joseph Viglioglia
Edition: Cards

4.0 out of 5 stars Knights of the Round Tarot, 9 May 2006
An interesting deck. Impressive comic book art, though not exactly what I think of when I think of the Knights of the Round Table. I bought it unseen, and like any good Tarot student think that the deck chose me rather than I chose it - it is an excellent deck to use when casting cards for politicians, as much of the imagery reminds me more of contemporary politics than Celtic legends. There are much better decks on the market than this one if King Arthur is your mythos of choice.

As a political animal and political science graduate, however, this deck has its uses. Using a more intuitive method than the "typical" references more relevant to the standard Rider-Waite imagery (or even those supplied in the instruction booklet, which introduces a very simple to learn spread, the Pentacle, which is a spread in which you can see movement and progress rather than a particular "snapshot", and I use it regularly with my Rider-Waite style decks), I managed to see most if not all modern political archetypes and situations in these cards, and used it to cast two sets of political predictions. In Charles Clarke's cards came Death as a final outcome. Quite appropriate really, though if we hear more from him (Death represents not so much as finality as transformation - what next for him? the next Labour leader?), you read it here first. So we now know it works.

For my council candidate boyfriend, it came up roses - quite literally, as on one of the cards Lancelot stands thinking in a garden of New Labour red roses. (So it knew who I meant). My boyfriend stood for the Labour Party and increased his vote while most of the rest of his party were getting chased from town halls left, right and centre. It's about this time you start to realise that there is more to life than meets the eye, though if you are interested in Tarot I suppose you knew that anyway.

It's the artwork that bugs me and stops it getting the full five stars (I'd only take half off if I could though). It's more sci-fi than many Arthurian decks, and I was disturbed at the amount of naked flesh on the cards on initial perusal. However with politicians notorious for "pressing the flesh" in a more intimate manner than many, perhaps this is also appropriate, and you get used to it after a while. Some of the images of women are incredibly drawn, particularly the Queen of Swords and the 3 of Cups. Just be warned - not for your granny! I suppose it is an Italian-published deck from Lo Scarabeo, so a little licentious behaviour is to be expected in their interpretations of the lusty Knights, particularly of Lancelot and Guinevere; the way the false Guinevere sits curled on her throne on the 7 of Swords is exquisite - and I must warn Her Majesty - I cast her fortune and this one came up straight off the top of the deck.

Duty Free: The Complete First Series [VHS] [1984]
Duty Free: The Complete First Series [VHS] [1984]
Offered by Discountdiscs-UK : Dispatched daily from the UK.
Price: £6.95

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make mine a double!, 26 April 2006
This is pretty good, half-way between the old-school Britcom and some more modern stuff and the best of both worlds. Redundant Northampton draftsman David and his wife Amy meet up-market Henley couple Robert and Linda on a package holiday to Spain - when such things were still a luxury - and after trying to impress them, David falls for Linda and the hilarity continues from then on over six episodes set during the first week of the holiday. Caustic Amy and parochial Robert both find themselves trying to reign in their respective spouses, and although some of the jokes stretch a little thin over six episodes, the plot's ups and downs resemble something more like recent favourite Nighty Night rather than trying to be a Blackadder or Red Dwarf or 'Allo 'Allo where each episode is more of a stand-alone story in its own right.

Gloriously silly moments abound, such as when Amy takes her revenge on David by painting a swastika on his back and letting him loose among a bunch of German tourists (the butt of many of Robert's wilder moments - when he's not propping up the bar seemingly oblivious to what his wife is getting up to) and the discussion over a Praying Mantis working up to the inevitable comparison with Linda's appetite for David.

Brilliantly scripted, the acting can be a little wooden or OTT and Amy's voice does start to grate a bit (Gwen Taylor is more North-West than Northampton). But overall it's one more screen classic that should be repeated more often - and probably would have been if it had been made by the BBC rather than for ITV.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Special Two-Disc Collector's Edition) [DVD] [2005]
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Special Two-Disc Collector's Edition) [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Georgie Henley
Offered by lightningdvd
Price: £21.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lionhearted, 10 April 2006
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This is one of the most incredible movies I've ever seen. Once it came to the end, I wanted to sit through it again, and would probably have done so if the last bus home hadn't been just about to leave. Although in hindsight it might well have been worth the £15 taxi fare to see it in all its glory on the big screen instead of waiting for the inevitable disappointment of the DVD small screen version. However good the film is - and this film is the film to end all films - there is no comparison between the atmosphere of a packed cinema and one's own home entertainment system, especially on a small portable TV.
The big budget and effects do the story justice, and anything the screenwriters have added in only serves to enhance the book's rather straightforward and unembellished storyline. While the book is perfect in its own right, for a movie to have enough verisimilitude and substance there was a definite need for extra scenes - such as the escape - to explore the themes not only of good versus evil but crumpets on the tea-table, a warm crackling fire and hot cocoa before bedtime - the homely feel of the Beaver couple and their dam, and Mr Tumnus' hollow home (giving Bilbo Baggins a run for his money there!). Effortlessly contrasted is the austerity of the White Witch's ice palace, with the miserable Mr Tumnus given extra scenes just before he is turned to stone.
Other extras include more interaction between Edmund and the witch, and Mr Beaver's woodland pals arranging their escape from the pack of hungry wolves. Although the film leaves out the encounter between the fauns, foxes and squirrels at their first Christmas tea-party in 100 years, a more moving and bitter scene is substituted which puts Narnia's plight under the White Witch across much better. The BBC version stuck too religiously to the book text and missed out on the inventiveness and intense symbolism of this film. Father Christmas as an ancient Norse warrior is another stroke of genius which shows the thought and care that has gone into making this into more than just another stale Disney fantasy film.
The battle scene is huge, and some of the tactics are reminiscent of some real-world war films - and of course there is much more made of the backdrop to Lewis' story than Lewis himself made in the series. I remember the tacky BBC film which turned the battle into a simple woodland skirmish, rather than the definitive and decisive fight for the soul of a kingdom that is in this film. The tension is unbearable as you hope and pray that Aslan will make it to the battlefield in time to save another griffin from being turned to stone and smashing to its death on the rocks below. I was much more worried about the outcome of this battle than I was by the BBC version, although that of course was state-of-the-art for 1988.
While purists may argue that this twists Lewis' original message into more of a political polemic, it does give rhyme and reason to some of the characters' reluctance to get involved in the turmoil in Narnia, and the interplay between the children is more down-to-earth than Lewis' pat "jolly-hockey-sticks" atmosphere without losing any of Lewis' core meaning. Besides, his Anglo-American stepson Douglas Gresham was closely involved with the project (I also recommend buying the hefty "Making of" book) and plays the radio announcer, so Lewis' fans need not be dismayed that the film is taking unnecessary liberties with the book.
Although it has its detractors I can honestly say that if you don't like this (and are not prepared to look past the CGI flaws or slightly cheesy Professor), then you will never find your own Narnia.
I am looking forward to seeing the DVD with extras and outtakes, but quite honestly wish I could hire my own private cinema to watch this again as I don't think it will be the same even if I watch it with the lights out and intense concentration.

The Blackadder - The Historic First Series [1983] [DVD]
The Blackadder - The Historic First Series [1983] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rowan Atkinson
Offered by ReNew Entertainment
Price: £4.88

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Old Ones, 10 April 2006
Fresh from making the seminal "alternative" comedy, The Young Ones, Ben Elton tried his hand at a period sit-com, the first in which was to become one of the all-time greats in the BritCom pantheon, up there with Fawlty Towers, Yes (Prime) Minister and Red Dwarf.
The lavish sets, location shooting and costumed extras were scaled down for further series - when the producers realised they had gone hideously over-budget - and the series does owe more to "The Young Ones" than even to the successive Blackadders. Quirky asides from helmetted guards and besmocked peasants, Baldrick being smarter than the average dung-carrier, and lots of horse-chase sequences make this merry mediaeval romp worth watching, but for me personally it's not the Blackadder we came to know and love. Rowan Atkinson's rubber-faced antics as the Duke of Edinburgh (Selkirk, Roxburgh, and, oh yes, Peebles) make him out to be the put-upon fall-guy rather than the loveable rogue royally screwing royalty and nobility of II, III, and Goes Forth.
However, the series does hang together as a plausible serial, and like many first series introduces the characters well enough to generate plots and in-jokes that were returned to in the subsequent series (though Rik Mayall had yet to perfect the Flasheart character - as witnessed in the final episode, which is a rather disappointing finale to an otherwise good series, which finds him still in his original role as pimply, lisping "youth", though any more would spoil the plot). No "Bob"s to speak of, though, and Brian Blessed's "Chiswick, fresh horses!" quip failed to catch on through the rest of the show's history. Meanwhile the milksop Prince Harry likewise was ditched in favour of more robust characters such as Fry and Laurie were able to bring to the rest of the serieses.
The first series of any long-running comedy show is always a chance for the writers to experiment, practice with their puppets and refine things for the second, third and fourth series. Blackadder had to wise up pretty quickly to survive, but shades of the slapstick of the subsequent series can be seen particularly in the episode with Edmund becoming Archbishop of Canterbury and the episode where international diplomacy requires a swift trip up the aisle with the Spanish Infanta ("one love bird...and one love elephant!") - and her hapless interpreter. The last two episodes have always struck me as too slight and inconsequential, and the first episode setting the scene just too spooky with Richard III's head-juggling antics a little overdone.
But what the heck? It's Blackadder...if you are unfamiliar with the series, watch this one before you try the later ones. And if you are familiar with the series, you don't need me to analyse it for you.

Forever Amber
Forever Amber
by Kathleen Winsor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.78

32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Tis pity she's a..., 10 April 2006
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Forever Amber (Paperback)
I ripped through this at an amazing rate, it took me three days cover to cover.
Normally I dislike reading fiction when there is so much interesting non-fiction to go round. However "Forever Amber" reminds me a lot of some of the pop-history books I have enjoyed in the past - incredibly detailed, going into lascivious detail about the period and about all walks of life, from the poor in Newgate to the upper echelons of the court. It's also heartening to read that the Stuart royal family was just as decadent as our own, and it actually makes Charles, Camilla and Diana look positively virtuous by comparison.
Amber is a very unsympathetic heroine and the end is very abrupt (there is another doorstop of a sequel here for anyone who cares to write it, about what Amber finds when she disembarks in America). Until she and Lord Bruce Carlton recover from the plague, they are both admirable characters; they seem to lose their gloss after this escapade leaves both in turn fighting for their lives, as if the Black Death has taken some of their soul away. All of the characters - including the non-fictional ones such as Nell Gwynne, who makes a cameo, the King, his mistress Barbara Palmer and her rival Frances Stewart - are three-dimensional with their own lusts, needs and station in society to maintain. While seeming beyond the pale to modern readers (or those reading the book when it was first published in 1944) they are all in their own way genuine, honest and open: Amber's only flaws are her naivete and her extravagance, which looks set to ruin her at every turn. No-one hides behind a mask of hypocrisy, not even the beatific Corinna Carlton, who is brought down into the mud of jealousy by Amber's wanton behaviour, and the delicate Queen Catherine of Braganza, whose barrenness led Charles to seek amusement elsewhere, and by failing to produce an heir for the Merry Monarch ultimately contributed to the downfall of the House of Stuart and the imposition of Hanoverian rule.
In Amber's world, it is vice which always gains the upper hand over virtue; the virtuous, such as Samuel Dangerfield, the poor Quakeress with no money to buy her way into comfort in Newgate, and Jenny Mortimer, are all diddled and left by the side of the road. Therefore any "nice" character cannot be successful; at the end of the book you find yourself siding with Corinna Carlton only to be oddly satisfied when she reveals herself to be as jealous and catty as Amber herself. The book is full of deliciously amoral catfights, and you can feel the fur fly over an emerald necklace and hear the scratch of nails on face as if it was right in front of you. Much more satifying than an angelic heroine being ripped to shreds by a cruel world!
The rich text is written in a seventeenth-century patois; while still intelligible to a modern reader the period flavour of the characters' speech betrays extensive research into terminology, oaths and cant despite sounding rather corny at times.
A really satisfying and indulgent read and one which should keep the reader absorbed from start to finish. The only similar book I've ever read is "Nana", by Emil Zola, but that is high literature and so has an unhappy ending, while "Amber" is under no such obligation - which makes the actual ending rather disappointing. Essential reading for any fans of period drama or just someone wanting something really meaty for a holiday book. One to be enjoyed thoroughly - and guiltlessly.

Red Dwarf : Complete BBC Series 8 [2003] [DVD] [1988]
Red Dwarf : Complete BBC Series 8 [2003] [DVD] [1988]
Dvd ~ Craig Charles
Price: £6.74

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Space porridge, 27 Mar. 2006
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Series VIII was the only one I had never seen properly before, mainly because I was at university at the time and had other things to do than watch TV. It is Porridge in space - but since I love Barker and Beckinsale's double act, and indeed watched the first two series back-to-back the day before I got this DVD, that's my way of saying it's utterly fantastic, even before you get to all the extra goodies.

Coming to it not knowing what to expect (apart from all the lousy reviews) I suppose I was coming to it with a totally blank slate. Although it is a bit weird having a larger cast - and Rimmer no longer a hologram - it works as well as Porridge used to work - a hard core of characters with a larger supporting cast. Some of the plot devices are really interesting, and with the exception of the spectacularly weak last episode, it really gets back to the feel of the first two series with the added bonus of a larger budget and thus an opportunity to expand the imagination of the series.

It resists the temptation to parody real life in space, as Hyperdrive does. Hollister and his crew were last seen at the end of the 'eighties, and the writing is still such that they might as well be somewhere still back there. One of the faults of modern parodies is that they go too close to being topical, so Hyperdrive transports 2005-06 to space, whereas Red Dwarf always made sure it could be viewed in thirty years' time without spoiling some of the jokes.

"Cassandra" is my favourite episode - one of the strengths of Red Dwarf was its philosophical musings on time travel and future echoes. Cassandra is a wonderful character and the idea of the Canaries is a wonderful one - it makes sense given what the crew of the Dwarf used to do as a small salvage squad in their own right, and moves the plot on from the initial serial.

Kryten is also the star of the show on "Krytie TV" - an absolutely first-class joke at the expense of reality TV shows, again without being too close to topicality.

"Pete" - another two-episode series-within-a-series - is good too, particularly the climax of the episode which sees Hollister finally get his comeuppance.

However the last episode is left hanging - seems like they wrote a longer story and didn't have the airtime, budget or even just sheer willpower to finish it. Since there hasn't been another series in seven years, it is a shame to finish on such an inconclusive note after a first-rate series which was all the more appreciated after reading such lousy reviews and worrying whether I had wasted my money.

My Family - Series 3 [DVD]
My Family - Series 3 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Robert Lindsay
Price: £5.99

7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy Families, 20 Mar. 2006
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: My Family - Series 3 [DVD] (DVD)
Another fantastic series of the Noughties' answer to "Two-Point-Four Children". While lacking the political sharpness of the pre-cursor, "My Family" is definitely an antidote to the clever-clever sitcoms which play to an audience of their own writers and late-night BBC Three watchers rather than the general public. Robert Lindsay and Zoe Wanamaker are two absolutely classic BritCom actors and made for each other. Meanwhile, although we don't see as much of Janie this time, the children are now sufficiently grown up - if you could ever say that about Nick - to have more of their own lives this time round.
Abi is the new addition to the family, and while it might be thought that having both her and Nick on the same show is overkill, she slots perfectly into the setting - and gives Michael a new reason to exist, since it would hardly be fitting for him to fancy his own sister. Delightfully dotty, by the end of the series she is part of the furniture and replaces Janie's withering sarcasm with a wit of her own, particularly when her college video appears on late night Channel Four...
A feel-good, light-hearted romp, and one for relaxing after a hard day's night. Essential viewing for anyone wondering where all the good Britcoms went to.

Shaun of the Dead [DVD] [2004]
Shaun of the Dead [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Simon Pegg
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £3.73

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars May you live in interesting times, 20 Mar. 2006
This is one of the best and funniest British films of the last few years. It doesn't take itself too seriously, yet the final scenes are some of the most tender and heartfelt in modern cinema. Having seen this at the cinema with my head cricked back (the only seats were too close to the front for comfort), it's great to be able to see it again in a comfortable position at home.
The characters are believeable, and react to the crisis just as one might hope they would in Noughties Britain - by trying to get to the pub to hole up and wait it all out. Except the plan - which does work - proves to be the demise of many of those trying to reach the safety of the local, and leads to the difficult decision - could you kill a loved one? Particularly one that just yesterday was yelling at you to shut the front door properly, clean up and get a life? And, oh yeah, you've got red on you...
Like a good comic film, the devil is in the detail, with in-jokes and nudges to some of the ironies of modern life, from Shaun's mother and stepfather to the initial actions of the corner shop owner and Shaun's desperate attempt to salvage rare records from being used as makeshift weapons. It's not particularly scary to someone who has to live in the 2000s - though that says more about the 2000s than it does about the film!
Absolutely hilarious and a great spoof of "Dawn of the Dead".

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