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gille liath (US of K)

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The Fight (Penguin Modern Classics)
The Fight (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Norman Mailer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.78

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'Fixed? So was Portrait of the Artist'..., 19 Feb. 2016
Norman Mailer isn't as good a writer as he thinks (even Hemingway, his hero, isn't that great) and inevitably there is a lot of padding in this, the longest Big Fight despatch ever. Pretty much every Westerner present in Zaire for 'the Rumble in the Jungle' comes in for a digression. Then, when he comes to the actual fight, he runs up against the fact (which also hampered Hemingway) that in these cases a picture is far better than a thousand words.

But the bigger problem is that sport isn't art; if you try to explain one in terms of the other, you can end up looking like you don't understand either. When nights like this happen they can seem like a big deal - and maybe they are, though their significance in the grand scheme of things is so infinitesimally small. But you can't tell it, you can only experience it; you can communicate only a small fraction of what it felt like to you. Mailer takes his own excitement and objectifies it as Muhammed Ali's genius. Was he a genius? Was he a political hero, or even martyr, as someone else said? Or simply a boxer with talent, but also a big ego and a flair for self-promotion, who knew how to ride his luck? The fact that Mailer compares this fight, approvingly, to a book that was merely Joyce's 'prentice piece, makes you wonder whether he has an adequate yardstick by which to measure.

All the same, this book is just about worthwhile for its portraits of the fighters in their quieter moments; Ali particularly seeming far more interesting and sympathetic away from the cameras.

Story of China [DVD] [2016]
Story of China [DVD] [2016]
Dvd ~ Michael Wood
Price: £11.67

4 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars you'd better learn to like 'em, that's what I say..., 14 Feb. 2016
This review is from: Story of China [DVD] [2016] (DVD)
The BBC's 'China' season has basically been a glad-handing. Trussed up between political correctness on the one hand and fear of the government on the other, there has been little to balance the idea that China is the best at everything past, present and future, and a general pretence that it is somehow no longer a repressive dictatorship. This series has been one of the worst offenders; its entire tone has been the girlish glee of Alice discovering Wonderland (actually, Alice had a bit more detachment). It's publicity, not history. It couldn't be more of a brown-nose job if it had been presented by George Osborne (now, that really is a sickening idea).

It makes great play of Chinese 'tolerance', which of course is the cardinal BBC virtue; but it's easy to tolerate what doesn't threaten you. In China you can believe what you want, it appears - as long as you do what the government says.

Oh well...at least it doesn't have Kate Humble in it.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 14, 2016 5:09 PM GMT

PRB Superior Dark Soy Sauce 500ml
PRB Superior Dark Soy Sauce 500ml
Offered by Tradewinds Oriental Shop
Price: £4.45

0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars well dodgy, 13 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This stuff looks and smells very much like treacle. That's not a figure of speech. Could it have been made with a generous dose of the black stuff? Put it this way, I'm glad I didn't buy the really big bottle. Avoid.

ETA To the people who are no-voting this review: you either have no sense of smell, or are clinically insane.

Private Investigations - The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler
Private Investigations - The Best of Dire Straits & Mark Knopfler
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £5.40

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars here come Johnny singing oldies, goldies..., 13 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you believe that music is just about cyclical fashions, then Dire Straits ought to be due for a revival; but I don't see any sign of it. They are as unfashionable, unmentionable, as Zeppelin were in the 80s - only, where Zeppelin were eventually too good to be ignored, they have been that way now for the best part of 3 decades. Do they deserve to be?

Well, listening to this, I'm surprised to find how samey and stereotyped it is. The band do their best to disguise it, always playing with gusto, but the progressions in (say) Tunnel of Love, Sultans of Swing, Walk of Life and Money For Nothing are pretty similar. Come to think of it, the titles have a similar ring too! The lyrics, though generally vague, are too often the tired old theme of rockin' and 'making it'. Even Knopfler's guitar - you can't deny he has ability, but somehow he doesn't often *move* you (I'd make an exception for Brothers In Arms). In fact it's music with a superficial sheen of quality, but lacking real commitment; that, I think, explains both the popularity at the time and the disappearance since. As for this compilation, it has a long, self-indulgent 'tail' of later tracks - surely most people likely to buy a best-of would rather have had more from the band's early-80s peak. I think I should have bought the 2-disc set and thrown the second disc away...

So no, Dire Straits are not among the greats and I'd hesitate to recommend them to anyone. But that doesn't change the fact that I very much enjoyed hearing some of these tracks again, two in particular. Romeo and Juliet is one song, at any rate, that is obviously from the heart; and Local Hero a good example of Knopfler's notion that the guitar 'can say the parts you can't say'.

Macbeth [DVD] [1971]
Macbeth [DVD] [1971]
Dvd ~ Jon Finch
Offered by Bee-Entertained
Price: £2.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good as a film, not so good as a play, 11 Feb. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Macbeth [DVD] [1971] (DVD)
This was the first time I'd seen this film since I was studying Macbeth for GCSE, and the main thing I remembered about it was Martin Shaw (then mainly of Professionals fame) as Banquo - and the coronation scene, where Macbeth is lifted on the shield. The latter is in fact one of many visually striking moments, Polanski milking one of Shakespeare's most potentially 'filmic' stories for all it is worth. The fighting and killing is pretty full-blooded for 1971, though it might seem a bit limp today.

Like a lot of more recent Shakespeare films, though, this is stronger on spectacle than dialogue. A lot of the soliloquies are internalised - ie. the actor 'thinks' them, speaking them only as voiceover. It's an interesting idea, but rather hamstrings the acting possibilities. Mr and Mrs Macbeth (as my daughter calls them) are both a bit neurotic, and in general the cast are short on the traditional Shakespearean skills - most importantly, understanding the lines yourself and helping the audience to understand them. A lot of the lines feel rushed, the result of trying to a apply a more modern acting style, and overall the meditative aspect of the story is lost. But I have to say, with all its faults, I'd much rather sit through this than a camp, stagey version like the BBC one with Gandalf and M. Or, to be honest, one in broad Scauttish accents...

Tackle Boxing
Tackle Boxing
by Henry Cooper
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Hai Karate here we come..., 2 Feb. 2016
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This review is from: Tackle Boxing (Paperback)
An interesting breakdown of boxing techniques and tactics from one who, if he wasn't among the very best, certainly mixed it with them. With its numerous photos of classic fights from the 60s to the 80s, it's also a tribute to the great era of free-to-air boxing and a memento to me of some childhood heroes (and villains): Marvin Haggler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Barry McGuigan, Mike Tyson. Boxing has probably changed less than most sports in response to fitness science - if having the living daylights belted out of you wasn't enough incentive to get in shape, nothing would be - and you'd be hard pushed to argue that we have boxers of that calibre now. Plucky British triers like Frank Bruno, Tony Sibson and Dennis Waterman's brother are remembered too.

Cooper himself is probably the king of those 'nearly' men. If he does go on a bit about Cassius Clay (as he still insists on calling Mohammed Ali) and THAT fight, you can't blame him; he came so close to what would have been imperishable glory. But never mind, 'Enery; you did better out of that failure than many boxers have done from their success.

Just to be clear, though: this isn't a biography of any kind, but a good all-round boxing book.

Ancho Chilli Dried Whole - 100g
Ancho Chilli Dried Whole - 100g
Offered by Chilli Pepper Pete Ltd
Price: £4.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars too mild for me, 31 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Nice flavour, but *very* mild - much milder than chipotles, say. No chilli 'hit' at all. Seems a bit pointless to me; if you buy chillies you want at least a little heat.

Now You See Me [DVD]
Now You See Me [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jesse Eisenberg
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: £3.17

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars sacre bleu! - the art of misdirection, 31 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Now You See Me [DVD] (DVD)
Smart-alecky rather than genuinely clever, the main problem with this is the problem with magic itself. You know you are being gulled, the only question is how - but you don't really care because it's so cheap and trivial (savvy twist-spotters will have it sussed before the end, anyway). And though it has a lame plot like a bad spaghetti western, and some irritating performances, the main fault is the unforgiveable one: it's just tedious.

In true stage-magic fashion, though, there's more going on than meets the eye. I should have smelled a rat when a French bank was worked, irrelevantly, into an early scene. I laughed when a French 'Interpol' character was introduced, reminding me irresistibly of Ty Burrell and Sam the Eagle in Muppets Most Wanted. But the penny didn't drop until I saw the the end credits: this is a French/Canadian project in the guise of a Hollywood heist movie. Never going to work, was it? The Yanks can't do charming little films about people cycling through the countryside in the sunshine; and the French can't do this.

by Michael Wood
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.97

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars tv history - nuff said, 17 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Conquistadors (Paperback)
Released on the back of a major BBC series, at a time before such things were hidden away on BBC4, the lavish production of both book and film tends to obscure the fact that this is little more than a retelling of earlier accounts, with the odd sententious observation thrown in by Wood to remind you that he's there. There is absolutely no attempt to substantiate numbers, for example - whether of armies, populations, or casualties - and the probably much-inflated figures in the sources are taken at face value. The text is full of vague 'could have been', 'must surely have been' assertions.

As is now usual in such cases, Wood affects an objective relativism which tends if anything to extenuate the faults of the conquered peoples, play up those of the Europeans and minimise the incredible daring which, for better or worse, was needed to pull this thing off (if we think that a couple of cannon and a few horses guaranteed the Spanish victory we are misusing hindsight). But an arrogantly Eurocentric comment like 'our post-religious age' gives the game away. What purports to be relativism is usually just an equal disdain for the attitudes of both parties concerned; it's certainly not a genuine belief that they have equal validity with those of the writer. We can sympathise now with the Aztecs and their horrifying ways, dishonestly making the Spanish look bad by comparison (for example by talking as if they deliberately introduced the diseases which devastated native populations), because they have been comfortably consigned to history's scrap heap.

Paddington [DVD] [2015]
Paddington [DVD] [2015]
Dvd ~ Nicole Kidman
Price: £5.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars better than expected, 17 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Paddington [DVD] [2015] (DVD)
Yes, the story is thin and contrived, perhaps too much a parable about immigration, and the 'prologue' in Peru doesn't add anything (except to the otherwise lightweight running time, I suppose). I'm not quite happy with Paddington, either the voice or the animation. But it's brilliantly performed by a great cast (and Julie Walters); like the Muppets reboot, the Paddington name obviously attracted a lot of quality people to do cameos. It also has a lightness of touch unusual in a British film. Nothing can replace the fantastic Michael Hordern, who voiced the old TV series, but this isn't bad.

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