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Mr. N. Foale "electronic word" (Devon, UK)
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What did the baby boomers ever do for us?: Why the Children of the Sixites Lived the Dream and Failed the Future
What did the baby boomers ever do for us?: Why the Children of the Sixites Lived the Dream and Failed the Future
by Francis Beckett
Edition: Paperback

15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never trust a hippy, 19 Sept. 2010
A generation fought and prevailed in World War Two. Not content with that, and even as a broke country, they bequeathed their children the NHS, free university education, and the welfare state. They wanted the best for their children and so stood up to evil landlord Uncle Sam and did the right thing. And how were this stalwart generation repaid?

Basically with rebellion, with sex, drugs, and rock n roll - with American anti-socialism imported by starry-eyed flower children. The generation that fought the war, their values and their sacrifices, were rejected by their children. And for what?

This book spells out for what in shocking detail. For celebrity culture, for individualism perverted into individual greed, for modish vacuity and irresponsibility and petulant denial of what was handed to them. The baby boomers did not just drop the baton but bartered it for a second home and a comfortable retirement, then contemptuously pulled up the ladder on their own children in turn.

All the hot air on marches and demos was just that. The placard wavers turned out to be reactionaries such as Charles Clark, Jack Straw, Peter Hitchens. Inevitably we got our baby boomer PMs - Blair and Brown. They turned out to be martial immorals (Blair's Iraq / Brown's 'national service' scheme) who widened the poverty gap that Attlee had closed. They denied the next generation the liberties they themselves enjoyed, such as the free further education that put them into their supposed positions of responsibility. They denied their duty to act responsibly. They looked forward but not back.

And so we find ourselves marooned in Cameron's Britain, under our first post-boomer PM. Not only socialists need to reassert the values that Beveridge and Attlee stood for. Even pre-boomer Conservative polticians such as Macmillan appreciated the value of what Attlee achieved. From Thatcher since that consensus has been trashed.

In this, the 70th Anniversary year of the Battle Britain, we need to re-appreciate the massive achievements of that war and post-war era, before the attention seekers of the 60s came into technocolour view. Now should be just the time to see through the boomer's Glam-Racket. It is the least our progressive ancestors and proper traditions deserve.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2012 4:17 PM BST


Whoops!: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay
Whoops!: Why everyone owes everyone and no one can pay
by John Lanchester
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Be afraid, 9 Sept. 2010
Shocking. The extent of our society's greed, symbolised by the City's bonus culture, has left us all in the mire. Its certainly not clear to me that either government, the financial sector, or "the Man who is no longer on the Clapham Omnibus due to service cuts" really appreciate the warnings laid out in this book.

So we probably remain deep in peril. Indeed we may well need an even worse financial crisis before we gain the political will to curtail the money fixated, so-called Anglo-Saxon, economic model we have built and lived through over the past 3 decades.

This book spells out future frictions such as the pensions crisis, and more besides. We have a rocky economic road ahead. So please read this book. Doing so is a step towards coming to our collective senses. We might yet pull together as a society, and move beyond our recent ignoble and insane financial history.

See also: The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets, and Reckoning with Risk: Learning to Live with Uncertainty.


Better Business English: Make an Impact with your Written English: How to use word power to impress in presentations, reports, PR and meetings.: 2
Better Business English: Make an Impact with your Written English: How to use word power to impress in presentations, reports, PR and meetings.: 2
by Fiona Talbot
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow! Words, 9 Sept. 2010
The contemporary writer may bewail the changes wrought by the Web's "speeding billboards" reading model (see Don't Make Me Think!: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability) but as this book rightly points out written text remains the most valuable and important part of most websites. It goes on to suggest that writing business English might even be "the business cycle itself".

In this cross-cultural and web-connected age (a cliche but no less true for that) the writer must deliver correctness, clarity, impact, and, critically, customer focus. Pitched between How to Write Effective Business English and Executive Writing Skills for Managers this is the middle volume of a valuable trilogy summarising some of today's latest expertise in business, intercultural, and Web writing in English. Concise, knowledgeable, and effective, in some ways this handbook supersedes older guides such as Informative Writing: Your Practical Guide to Effective Communication.

SUMMARY:

The book both encourages and helps you to continually improve your written skills and, through them, discover how many opportunities you can create for yourself. In general it recommends that you:

* work to keep getting better,
* don't hold yourself back,
* not set limits,
* follow its technique of Written Word Power skills.

As a primer I have extracted the following KEY POINTS:

1. Analyse, understand, and write for the reader, i.e. WRITE FOR PEOPLE NOT PROCESSES.

2. Give pointers to the main items that your audience needs. Highlight these and/or put them up front.

3. Use the POWER WORDS that the book lists (some are in this review). SET YOURSELF APART. Use "the Wow Factor" to develop "Brand You" and SHINE.

4. Learn from others - both from their effective language and from their mistakes.

5. Write to open up OPPORTUNITIES.

6. Use plain English and edit. Keep it tight but not over-tight.

7. Use positive, proactive words.

8. Avoid words that put up barriers.

9. Follow the 4 steps: CORRECTNESS, CLARITY, IMPACT, CUSTOMER FOCUS.

10. PLAN key points well before you write.

11. Be topical, interesting, newsworthy.

12. Actively highlight key messages.

13. Include a clear summary for busy readers, where you can.

14. Write a story/narrative. Show what follows what. Lead into future action.

15. WORDS ARE A WEBSITE'S MOST VALUABLE AND IMPORTANT FEATURE.

16. Think carefully before posting/publishing/sending in cyberspace (and don't I know that from some of my Amazon reviews).

17. Remember to refresh your English writing style regularly.

18. Be aware of how your online mistakes can go viral.

19. And the candle on the cake: writing business English is a key and HIGHLY TRANSFERABLE skill.

P.S. I found part one of the trilogy rather noddy but, based on this second volume, would hold out higher hopes for part three.


Beyond Coral Shores: Life and Work with a Remote Tribe (Missionary Life Stories)
Beyond Coral Shores: Life and Work with a Remote Tribe (Missionary Life Stories)
by Martin Haworth
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bibles under the bamboo, 1 July 2010
Not the sort of book I'd normally read but I'm interested in all things Filipino. The writing is serviceable and this British missionary family's adventures show you a little known part of a poorly understood country. I learnt a lot about the lives of ordinary Filipinos, and especially of remote rural folk like these.

The family experience kindness, sadness, but also joy. A friendly villager builds them a hut; their neighbours bring them logs, water, and food. With such support they spend long days ministering to the community's, often practical, spiritual needs.

N.B. Even if the Filipino people similarly help newly inaugurated Philippines President Benigno Aquino III and his new administration, as their new president has requested, I doubt that the prospects of the Filipino poor will much improve. Still, we live in hope.


All Quiet on the Western Front
All Quiet on the Western Front
by Erich Maria Remarque
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never Forget, 1 July 2010
It was only towards the end of this book that I realised it was a novel and not a memoir. That said it is written from first-hand experience of First World War trenches. The characters hum with vividness. The training camp, battle, and downtime scenes convince.

The most vivid scene for me is the barrage endured in a cemetery. Our heroes end up sheltering under shattered coffins. In the distance horses shriek in death agonies worse than any human.

My second most memorable scene is when our heroes swim across a river to visit French women. But in the end the narrator realises that it is the combatant's impending battle horrors that the women feel tenderness towards, not they the individuals (the boys). We are shown the dehumanisation of war simply and devastatingly (for a woman's perspective on the dehumanisation of war, try A Woman in Berlin: Diary 20 April 1945 to 22 June 1945).

The reader learns how an older generation lost the respect of its children. Children that they pitched into such horror. The book is written from a German point of view. But this loss of respect inevitably happened in all the participating nations, on both sides of this brutal war.


The Component-Based Business: Plug and Play (Practitioner Series)
The Component-Based Business: Plug and Play (Practitioner Series)
by Richard Veryard
Edition: Paperback
Price: £63.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Business Software will never be Lego, 16 Jun. 2010
This is a satisfying and stimulating study of building business software with components. Veryard points out that for all the benefits of service-providing components you cannot create mature systems by simply wiring together various components/objects/services. The author points out that system complexity here tends to move to the engineering of effective interfaces between a ragbag of components. To me this is an argument for efficiently engineered component sets such as Delphi's VCL.

So the book focuses more on the interfaces between components than the components themselves, stressing the concept of articulation. It defines articulation as loose coupling (i.e. both separation and connection of parts - decoupling and recoupling). Another aspect of articulation is that it implies clear communication between components and hence clarity of structure at all system levels. Again we see that disparate components will not simply assemble into a meaningful whole - software design remains problematic.

As for the technology so for the business. Between business components (such as departments and teams) interfaces and articulation are also key. Deal-making negotiation skills are essential in the compenentized organisation (e.g. to manage business partnerships, external service providers, contractors, etc).

These are a few thoughts from notes I took. But the book is richer than my review suggests. You may even come away thinking that business software engineering holds the key to Life, the Universe and Everything .


The Cult of the Amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube and the rest of today's user-generated media are killing our culture and economy
The Cult of the Amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube and the rest of today's user-generated media are killing our culture and economy
by Andrew Keen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cult or Culture?, 9 Jun. 2010
Do you really want amateurs interfering in your own profession? When the poop hits the prop you probably don't. There is a place for amateurism and a place for professionalism, but they shouldn't be mixed too freely.

In my Central European travels I recall Polish museums exhibiting a panoply of pamphlets from people's underground printing presses. During the Solidarity era these helped to undermine and finally to dismantle the Iron Curtain. This show of expression proves how circumventing the establishment can be an urgently necessary thing to do. Often though these presses were manned not by amateurs but by professionals - forced underground by totalitarian insanity.

This book suggests that we need to foster a healthy establishment to complement our latest people's press, the Web. After all we don't want our own institutions to go the way of Brezhnev's and Jaruzelski's.

Before we proceed, some etymology:

Cult-> cultus -> to tend or take care.
Amateur -> amor -> love

[source: Dispatches from Blogistan: A Travel Guide for the Modern Blogger (Voices That Matter) page 60]

Yet, before we get too gushy, lets not forget that there's plenty of destruction and hate on the Web too.

Like any polemic this one should not be swallowed whole. Yes I regret every record and book shop killed off by Amazon and iTunes. In this and other specifics the book preaches to the converted. However it does not give due credit to the sheer energy in amateur circles such as those enabled by the Web. After all, any professional was once an amateur. For example Punk's D.I.Y. ethic put a firecracker up the backside of the musical establishment, but subsequently was assimilated by that establishment, re-energizing it in the process. The Web will continue to be a place where authors, musicians, filmmakers (etc) find their feet before they move on to prove themselves in the wider world (The Arctic Monkeys headlining at Glastonbury springs to mind).

However, for all the dynamism in amateur circles, it is counter-productive to build a cult around amateurism. Andrew Keen is right - it is wrong to preach that amateur content will supersede all that has preceded it. In this vein Keen criticizes Wikipedia's model of hive intelligence, and recommends Citizendium instead. In my arbitrary test neither encyclopedia was perfect; both still need uncyclopedia to leaven the mix. Long-term perhaps we will see the mighty institution of Wikipedia assimilate Citizendium's ideas - a webosphere instance of this book's argument of the need for stable institutions.

And we in turn, as social individuals, need to learn how to assimilate the web, rather than vice versa. To avoid becoming locked into poor web design models we will benefit from a plurality of web models and from books such as this one that fertilise the debate.

It is hard to dispute the author's central argument that we need a healthy professional establishment with its quality control and rule of law. We should not blot out the hard won lessons of our past. Regarding this constant need to maintain a realistic outlook, Gordon Brown's quote that technologies like Twitter would mean that "You cannot have Rwanda again" comes to mind. Gordon should Tweet that to people in Sudan, Northern Sri Lanka, Somalia, Iraq.

Keen argues that we need professional editors and campaigning journalists who have skin in the game, i.e they might be sued. Alternatively you might argue that through this book the publishing industry kills two birds with one stone: egging on a technologically savvy author to provide them with profitable product while simultaneously bolstering their cause. While there may be some truth in this it is also true that the publishers should be rewarded for bringing this illuminating read to market. Book length studies are necessary to make sense of things.

Unfortunately I am in danger of making a cult of The Cult Of The Amateur. After all plenty of specialists benefit from mainstream Web tools to write expert content. Ultimately though the book delivers a professional hit job on the Web's lazy establishment bashing. Worth a read.


How to Make Yourself Miserable: Manage Your Emotions by Controlling Your Thoughts (Overcoming common problems)
How to Make Yourself Miserable: Manage Your Emotions by Controlling Your Thoughts (Overcoming common problems)
by Windy Dryden
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy when I laugh, 26 May 2010
Windy; Dr Dry. His name puts you in mind of a particularly good drying day (sorry Doc). Actually his humour is rather dry.

This is probably his best book. By taking the piss it prods you to see your own worst tendencies. Windy shows how we actually will ourselves to suffer through clinging to bad habits. Think of each chapter as an anti-pattern. By the end of the book you will have learnt a key set of cognitive modes to avoid. However you won't automatically see the results - the author emphasises that to see benefits you have to work constantly and with forcefulness to apply what you learn.

So buck yourself up and smile into the bargain. This book, if you let it, will help you to rationally fight your silly traits. And you'll belly-laugh at yourself into the bargain.

P.S. I recommend all Dr Dryden's books.


English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, 1850-1980
English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, 1850-1980
by Martin J. Wiener
Edition: Paperback
Price: £27.89

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for the Country Set, 24 May 2010
Describes the familiar model of inner decadence causing an Empire's collapse from within. In England's case this decadence takes the form of a fetishism of gentry values. The book argues that we English are still fiddling while our country's prospects turn to ashes.

We English have a special relationship with industry. The Industrial Revolution began in England, and the backlash against it began here almost at once. In particular this book describes England's retreat into pseudo-gentrification as the new wealth sought to temper its perceived brashness by buying up country piles and taking up country & gentry pursuits. This anti-industrial mindset came to define English culture and sapped it of its competence and confidence. Nice but dim Oxbridge types could be sent off to administer our global market, but without a healthy stock of committed industrialists The Empire & England's preeminence in the world was doomed to decline.

While the retreat to nature might be argued to have protected our natural environment, the cost in terms of human dynamism and subsequent economic decline is high. This book does not explicitly probe how we might re-balance industry and environment. Rather it trusts in human industry and its positive benefits. Consider for example how the Cornish landscape would be lessened without Brunel's Tamar Bridge or its, similarly iconic, disused tin mines.

Ultimately the hint is that we should join nations like Germany & America, who embrace and benefit from technological progress, rather than continue to tend our gardens and tut (such an English trait).

P.S. Interestingly in The Angry Island: Hunting the English A.A. Gill argues that the unhealthy levels of anger he detects in the English are due to our endemic industriousness not being put to good use.


Posts
Posts
by Neville Gabie
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Jumpers for goalposts. Isn't it? Mmmmm. Marvellous., 13 May 2010
This review is from: Posts (Paperback)
A stimulating modern art project. The found objects of goalposts scattered across the globe are photographed as social sculptures. These are not the regulation posts in proper football grounds. Rather they are the cobbled together targets for street kickabouts and waste ground matches.

For football and/or/as art lovers everywhere.


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