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M. Roberts (london United Kingdom)
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Andrew James Halogen Oven In White, 1300 Watts, 12 Litre Capacity With Replaceable Spare Bulb And Full Accessories Pack
Andrew James Halogen Oven In White, 1300 Watts, 12 Litre Capacity With Replaceable Spare Bulb And Full Accessories Pack
Offered by Andrew James UK LTD
Price: £37.99

3.0 out of 5 stars 2012s answer to the Atari games console, 14 Jan. 2013
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There's no doubt that halogen cooking is the future - it's fuel efficient, generally quick and clean. Don't get me wrong, I really don't want to discourage you to buy one - we got ours at Christmas and have used it almost every day but - there's a bit of feel of 1970s microwave about the whole thing - a sense, if you will, that this is the clunky prototype and which, in a couple of years, will look like a museum piece.
Let's start with the timer - remember the old joke with microwaves about the new Indian dish called 'Chicken Ding'? Well it's back with the halogen oven - a horrid old analogue clicky clock which cannot be turned backwards and yes folks, actually goes 'ding' when finished - surely, surely, surely they could have incorporated some good old 1980s LED technology with the timer. As to cooking - well, you're on your own a bit; there's nary a cooking book in the land that will give you halogen oven times so there's a fair bit of experimentation involved - so far we have had quite good part baked baguette, excellent bacon and sausages but very soggy pizza and burned frozen meat pies (you've guessed we're not gourmet chefs). Oddly vegetables take much longer than a standard oven so much of the advantage is lost. One finally little niggle Andrew James - the bowl gets very hot and the flex is designed in such a way that, unless you are cooking in a large farmhouse kitchen with acres of surface space (we're not and nor are most of the country) it tends to rest against said hot bowl - dead dangerous in my book.
But look - halogen ovens are cool and are definitely a bit of a talking point at the moment if you like to feel you're on the cutting edge - with a bit of experimentation they do a great job and you can feel all warm and glowy about the reduction in global warming you're contributing to. However, if you don't want to be a pioneer give it a couple of years whilst the lovely one we bought joins the Atari games console and only reappears for TV programmes on the theme of 'remember this?'


Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the Corporate Dream
Bait and Switch: The Futile Pursuit of the Corporate Dream
by Barbara Ehrenreich
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not quite as advertised, 4 Dec. 2011
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Barbara Ehrenreich's dark and unquestionably depressing book exposes us to a world in which the human soul is repressed to a level that the great twentieth century monocrats could only have dreamed of. The irony is that she (and the book) suffer from the very fealty to a lief lord that the unfortunates with whom she mixes are also subject. For them it is utter subservience to the corporates, for her it is her publisher.

What is quite clear is that Ms Ehrenreich pitched one book but discovered another. Sadly, whether she was indeed pressured by her publisher or whether she just didn't see the elephant in the room, the book she has produced is an odd hybrid of the original idea and the potentially much more interesting one that emerges.

So now I'm going to ruin the plot; Barbara Alexander (aka Barbara Ehrenreich) does not get a job. Sorry folks, but in the opinion of this reviewer, if you're going to enjoy this book (and trust me you can), you need to know, from the outset, that her mission to go undercover in corporate America from the inside fails. However a publisher's press release which reads `Barbara Ehrenreich goes undercover in corporate America but doesn't' butters no parsnips so to speak. Sadly we are drawn in with a promise which remains unfulfilled presumably to put a positive spin on the failure of the premise and salavage some sales.

On the very last page of the book Ehrenreich flags `courage' as the missing ingredient amongst the employed and unemployed of American business. It's just this quality that the press for this book lacks. Whether the author of the publisher are at fault here are unimportant, what matters is that an opportunity to create a much better book has been missed.

However, don't let this put you off, just be aware of which dish you have before you. As Barbara Ehrenreich's alter-ego moves painfully through the murky world of America's white collar unemployed what emerges is not so much a story of the short-comings of American business, but a much more profoundly chilling and universal tale of the benality and redundancy of Western life at the end of its most shameful century. (Ok it's 2006 but eras seldom follow neat chronology!).

Here we have a tale that, as life imitates art, would have made Samuel Beckett proud. More relentlessly quotidian than Godot and more absurd than End Game, Ehrenreich uncovers the stories and characters from a dark, dystopian world that sees them chasing rainbows, worshiping false gods (often literally) and pursuing hopeless, eye-wateringly expensive dreams in the misguided belief that it will all end in the job that will give them back their lives, their social status and their dignity.

Towards the end of the book Ehrenreich's employs a strikingly effective metaphore in which the employed are in the castle and the job-seekers occupy the hinterland at the base of the ramparts. As she claws onwards towards the `citadel' she encounters the disillusioned on the way back. Most of her fellow job seekers actually profess a powerful urge not to return to the hell that exists inside the corporate walls. They long for a life that will break the fetters and give them back their souls. But as citizens of Communist Russia discovered, when stripped of party membership for some unnamed crime, the only recourse is to succumb to the death, whether real or virtual, that loss of membership will bring. It is not the Party (or corporate America) that has failed but themselves. The only route to salvation lies the endless worship of the Golden Calf however palpably it fails to deliver.

So please buy this book but be ready for one subtly different from that advertised. Barbara Ehrenreich is a likeable companion for 220 pages - unquestionably witty, indisputably intelligent and rigidly, but admirably principled.


The Rings Of Saturn
The Rings Of Saturn
by Gulzar
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

9 of 34 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Whos' having a laugh?, 8 Nov. 2011
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This review is from: The Rings Of Saturn (Paperback)
WG Sebald's Rings of Saturn has a distinct whiff of the Emperors New Clothes. The eminent and seemingly irreproachable Nobel Laureate at the height of his powers? This curious (curiously boring) travelogue, part Cobett's Cottage Economy, part Bill Bryson's Small Island (stripped of the humour) and part appalling self-indulgence just doesn't convince. The 'economical' prose for which he receives so much praise, is simply lightweight prose. If you're looking for truly impressive economy of style see almost anything by Orwell and, especially in this context 'Wigan Pier'.

The trouble is, it seems to me, that Sebald embarked on this work not really convinced of what he was trying to achieve. That it is a self-indulgent piece is beyond dispute and not necessarily wrong for being so. The trouble is that what he indulges in sparks little interest and this where I fear that the Emperor's New Clothes rises to meet us most forcefully. His cast of characters (Flaubert, Conrad and Swinburne inter alia) immediately gives the content an air of erudition. Sprinkle liberally with obscure references to long dead English eccentrics, recluse academics and disposed aristocracy and the formula is complete. The sages nod knowingly hardly daring to gainsay the great writer and thinker - those characters in the book we know are unquestionably noble; thus, by their juxtaposition, the ones we don't must be. Really? One is left with the strong impression that here was an author under pressure to produce 60,000 words for his publisher and has served up what looks like a fine meal but is completely bereft of seasoning and thus flavour.

Perhaps some of the blame may be laid at the door of the translator - there certainly are some apparently odd words but I'm inclined to think that the translation is accurate and that the original choice of words are indeed just odd. As I don't speak german I shall never know but is the arcane phraseology and use of language (omnibus for bus for instance) an attempt by the author to create a 'timeless' landscape or just bad translation? I fear the former and it just doesn't work. I hear Sebald trying to say to me: 'Are we in 1995 or 1895 or 1795? Confusing nein?'. Confusing I should coco.

Ultimately this is just one those books with a promising and potentially original premise that simply falls short. An attempt at poetry which is, at best, just verse, an attempt at wisdom that is just a succession of facts (and not all that interesting ones), an attempt at recreating a dream from which it would have been better that Herr Sebald had never awoken.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 7, 2012 9:43 PM BST


The Rational Optimist
The Rational Optimist
by Matt Ridley
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disruptive, subversive and brilliant, 4 April 2011
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This review is from: The Rational Optimist (Hardcover)
The Rational Optimist is one of the bravest books I have read. As Ridley himself points out optimists are regarded as fools whist pessimists are seen as earnest sages. For Ridey, himself an academic of some standing, to risk the opprobrium and scorn of his colleagues (and many others besides) is a valiant and selfless act of one who, of course, knows he's right.
This book is very uncomfortable reading, not only for people such as myself who would regard themselves on the liberal left, but for the far right, the middle and every bit either side. Quite simply it preaches the unfashionable, and often the publishingly disastrous, notion that we're not all going to hell in a hand cart. Quite the reverse actually. For anyone who wishes to stand Canute like in the face of progress this book is a deep embarrassment and I suspect, destined for their own Bonfire of the vanities.
What Ridley does is point out the blindingly, bleeding obvious that the world is a better place to be for the vast majority of its ever increasing population as every decade passes. Crucially this are not the insane musings of some kind of Darwinist evangalist; this book contains page after page of well researched empirical evidence to support his observations - you just cannot argue with the science.
Human progress, Ridley argues, is a certainty but for one thing - restrictions to human trade in both commerce and ideas imposed by the benighted self-interest of the few - the anti-genetic engineering lobby who are happy to leave millions starving or suffering from curable diseases for no good scientific reason, the anti-globalists who cannot see that the local prosperity provided by factory jobs is the most potent antidote to poverty yet invented, the environmentalists who believe that turning millions of acres of farm land over to the production of biofuels is the answer to our energy challenges. The list goes on. This is indeed uncomfortable reading as it's so much common sense and flies in the face of our insatiable appetite for bad news. Recently David Cameron was met with howls of derision for suggesting that politics might be about making people's lives happier - good gracious surely every politician knows that a people in fear are a people in thrawl, so let's just drop this absurd idea shall we David and rule on. Happily for readers of this book good news may not sell papers or help our rulers to rule but it's unquestionably and irrefutably out there. Read this and go seek.


Magento: Beginner's Guide
Magento: Beginner's Guide
by William Rice
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.56

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Deeply disappointing, 8 Dec. 2010
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First things first and credit where credit is due - this book is strong on how to put products into you site and how to arrange the database. This is no mean feat as it's possibly the most complicated aspect of building an e-commerce site and the one that can be the difference between a good site and a REALLY good one. However where this book really comes up short is on customisation. After you've dealt with getting the products into the store the next single most important thing is to give your store its own personality. I do happen to know that Magento design, for most people, is about themes. The word 'themes' isn't even in the index. Hilariously the relevant chapter on customisation is called 'Minimum customisation of your stores appearance'. Minimum .... I should Coco. For example the entry for the homepage (which this book rather irritatingly calls the Frontpage - perhaps an Americanism?) consists of just over 2 lines which basically says: 'Here's the front page' ...... er .... that's it? The bottom half of the page is completely blank, I can only guess the printers have left off a few paragraphs. I could go on. Basically, although the book has some merit it absolutely does not justify the £20 + price. For £20 I don't want to have to constantly refer to the Magento Help pages, You Tube videos and forums. I bought this book precisely to avoid this. So anyhow, now I'm off to, er, well Maganto Help pages, You Tube videos and forums and I'm twenty quid worse off.


Why Is Sex Fun?: The Evolution Of Human Sexuality (SCIENCE MASTERS)
Why Is Sex Fun?: The Evolution Of Human Sexuality (SCIENCE MASTERS)
by Jared Diamond
Edition: Paperback

9 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What a shocker, 30 Aug. 2007
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From it's purile title to its rambling, boring arguments and hopeless lack of any kind of conclusion this book is a real shocker. If you can get past the title - which I imagine was just a cynical prank by the publishers - the questions raised in the opening chapter are indeed fascinating (what a pity they had to be posed by his dog). Why exactly, in evolutionery terms, has human sexuality evolved as it has? Unfortunately having read the book - or at least as much of it as I could possibly stand - I still don't know or at least am none the wiser from some of the conclusions I could have drawn anyway from a rudimentary knowledge of evolution.
Diamond's tendency to spend over 3/4 of each chapter developing arguments that he doesn't necessarily agree with is just one of a number of irritating literary techniques which left me desperately trying to understand just what point he was making. My suspicions should have been aroused when, early on, he uses that well-known iron age text the Bible as an authority for his arguments.
The Phoenix paperback I bought is set in an unusually large point size and double spaced to fill out 192pp of drivel and make £7.99 look as though it was good value. It's not.
This book reminds me of the old joke about the guy who bought How to Hug only to discover it was volume 6 of the Encyclopedia Britannica - but least, in spite of his mistake, he would have had something interesting to read and might have learned something!


Brand Leadership
Brand Leadership
by David A. Aaker
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brand Leadership �David Aaker & Erich Joachimstahler, 30 April 2003
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This review is from: Brand Leadership (Paperback)
David A Aaker and Erich Joachimstahler have compiled a book on the subject of brands which is comprehensive in its scope, deeply researched and offers an in-depth analysis of current methodologies and practices. It is, however, not for the amateur. Their approach is academic and their language is dry, sometimes verging on the inpenetrable. If you are in the very high-brow stage of your MBA this the book for you. If you are a brand manager seeking a little light reading to brush up your skills - set aside a good deal of time.


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