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Adam "Say something about yourself!" (Dunton, United Kingdom)
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Perlasca: The Courage Of A Just Man:English Sub-titled [DVD]
Perlasca: The Courage Of A Just Man:English Sub-titled [DVD]
Dvd ~ Luca Zingaretti
Price: £6.79

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hope in a world of hatred, 17 April 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This 2002 Italian companion piece to Schindlers List was released as a two part television film. It was very well received. Wikipedia tells me that when the second part was aired, it attracted 13 million viewers, 43% of the total Italian TV audience share.
It is based on a true story, that of Italian cattle dealer Giorgio Perlasca, here played solidly by Luca Zingaretti best known from BBC hit detective series Montalbano. His performance gives a real central gravity which the rest of the film grounds itself confidently on. His character begins the film trapped in Budapest in 1944. He witnesses the violent treatment of Jews, and gradually moves from an appalled bystander to someone who actively opposes the violence around him, in way that embodies the whole spirit of the non- violent resistance movement. He impersonates a Spanish consul at the end of 1944 and beginning of 45, and intervenes in the political and bureaucratic spheres, engineering the salvation of thousands of Jews. He also intervenes more physically and directly, literally snatching children from the jaws of death under the malevolent gaze of none other than Adolf Eichmann. The scene stands out and is particularly chilling. "Who was that monster?" Perlasco asks with us, before we are made aware of his identity. The Eichmann character has just contemptuously dismissed them with a remark that they can save a few, but he will massacre thousands. The encounter is said to be true.
The film captures well the urgent brutality of the Nazi regime in its death throes. Amongst the Nazi protagonists, there is an icy performance from György Cserhalmi as SS captain Bleiber, relentless in his persecution of the Jewish population of the city. The cold heart in his performance is that he has entirely rationalised this within himself as just following orders and doing his job, the ultimate cop out of evil.
There's an avoidance of the death camps themselves, which works to the films credit. We can look elsewhere for those. Instead we get the squalid, claustrophobic desperation of a brutalised city and of the ghetto, with people ripped from their homes and brutally marched through the streets to the death trains or to their new ghetto residence. Perlassca finds his world to be moving between safe houses and finding new ones as the SS grip tightens in its hatred and fear, as the Russians advance.
Other performances of note are Jérôme Anger as the lawyer Farkas, who become Perlasca's accomplice. His quiet integrity is stretched to cover the defiant actions of Perlasco, and by his own vulnerability as a Jew. He is a mirror to the Ben Kingsley character in Schindler's List. We also have Mathilda May as Contessa Eleonora, the lonely wife of a Hungarian high officer commissioned to the Soviet Union. Her role is more complex, as she has been complicit in the regime to an extent in moving in society circles and concealing her own Jewish identity. Her progress through the film lies in unlearning her surface role and re-finding her identity with her people. It is a fascinating performance that combines elegance and charm with a shattering vulnerability.
In terms of production values, it has the straightforward narrative drive of the TV mini-series. It does not sacrifice story telling for cinematic spectacle and is as much character as event driven. The score by Ennio Morricone does more than nod to John Williams in its use of strings at climactic moments, and at times does seem intrusive. We know how to feel, and silence or something more minimal may have served some of the atrocities conveyed better.
To its merit the film balances scenes of courage and hope and the triumph of goodness with terrible scenes that do not flinch away from the evil of the regime. The film has many good characters you may expect to see taking a train to freedom at the denouement. And indeed at one point, as Perlasca thinks of commandeering a train in an exodus of mass salvation, it looks like the film may lurch towards a studio directed happy ending. But the film does not cop out. Many characters you grow to care about do not see salvation at the end. But the film retains its message of hope, and you will not finish feeling desolate.
It is good to see a film bringing to light the actions of a historical character that did good and brave things and that you may have overlooked. Watch out for a brief excerpt from a TV interview with the real Perlasca just after the final credits, where he quickly sums up what he did and what he would want the young to grasp, as our duty to oppose violence.


AmazonBasics Wired Keyboard Black US QWERTY Layout
AmazonBasics Wired Keyboard Black US QWERTY Layout

2.0 out of 5 stars Faulty, 6 April 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Have given this the only low rating on the product page so far as it is faulty. Simply, three keys are cross wired, giving the wrong symbol when pressed.
This is a shame, as I guess that the Amazons Basics range seeks to give sleek and attractively designed products at a budget price. And this keyboard is sleek and polished, a shiny and attractive product with well spaced and responsive keys. If it worked well it would be my replacement keyboard. But it doesn't, so it isn't.
I considered notfying Amazon and asking for a replacement to rate, but I believe you have to rate your first experience of a product as given. It could be that mine is a one off fault, but I would ask other reviewers to test the £, # and \ keys as it could be a while before you stumble across this fault.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 22, 2014 10:58 PM GMT


Politics and the English Language (Penguin Modern Classics)
Politics and the English Language (Penguin Modern Classics)
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £1.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Careless writing; the deceiver's cloak, 16 Mar. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Just as the war-time slogan "careless talk costs lives" highlighted the potential fatal consequences of careless gossip, so this essay underlines the power of lazy writing to deaden thought, to "make lies sound respectable and murder truthful, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind."
Here Orwell is actually talking about 'political' writing, which he sees as synonymous with lazy and careless writing.
He lists the characteristics of such writing as composed of worn out metaphors, recycled images and phrases, overused Latin and scientific words, and 'not un-' constructions, e.g. lazy writing not unlike political writing. These are often cobbled together, Orwell claims, to construct sentences and paragraphs that have no original thought and that do the work of the writer, doing away with the effort of finding clear images or words that actually state what the writer means. The writer is often left with something that is mendacious nonsense, or just plain nonsense.
Amusingly, Orwell gives some passages at the start of his essay culled from various sources including prominent thinkers, pamphleteers and letter writers. They are indeed examples of pretentious hot air, and we have fun as Orwell deconstructs them. But the more sinister underlying message is that truth is often the victim when such writing is penned by the Political classes, as Orwell claims it often is, to prevent either them or us thinking too clearly, and making acceptable and palatable that which is monstrous and evil. He gives examples we will be familiar with today; 'pacification' for the firebombing of civilian targets, 'relocation' for the brutal exile of civilian populations, and so on.
These themes developed in the distortion of language in the Newspeak of 1984, and the deceptive political sloganeering and deceptions in Animal Farm. And how Orwell would have loathed and gone to town on the language of the Blair government in its justification of war, and the anesthetizing mush of the centre ground of current politics, and the language of austerity.
See? With the use of 'gone to town' I've done it myself, employing a lazy overused phrase to save me coming up with a more accurate one.
The argument does seem a bit overstretched, and there is a place for metaphor, and I think it is possible to use familiar metaphors and phrases in a way that serves good writing. But this remains a timely and bracing clarion call indeed.
This edition also includes Orwell's review of an unabridged translation of Mein Kampf in 1940. It is good to have it included, a gem. His argument that Hitler held power over the masses because, as well as starved and unemployed, they were also fed up with a consumer ethos that preached fulfilment through consumption, comfort and enjoyment, and craved something more instinctual and challenging, a creed of sacrifice for a greater cause, blood, and glory on the battlefield. In an age where the consumer culture is failing, leading to riots, and the rise of far right factions in Europe, this is chillingly relevant.


Doctor Who: Shadow of Death (Destiny of the Doctor 2)
Doctor Who: Shadow of Death (Destiny of the Doctor 2)
by Simon Guerrier
Edition: Audio CD

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid outing for Second Doctor, 9 Mar. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
`Destiny of the Doctor' is the second in a story arc that progresses through the Doctors. Brand new adventures, there are tantalising links to Matt Smith's Doctor, who seems, unless I have got this completely wrong, to be guiding his predecessors to some end that one presumes will be revealed in the last instalment.

It's a fast paced tale written by Simon Guerrier, at 1 hour and 25 minutes, which speeds by in a straightforward who by numbers story involving a mysterious planet, a scientific expedition, and a mysterious creature that is picking off these scientists one by one. There is running down corridors, misunderstood aliens, all the things that tick the boxes in Who's well loved tales. To say it is Who by numbers is not to write it off as unoriginal. There are good twists, chiefly in the way time is used as a weapon by the monster and distorted by the scientists. The monster is a shadow creature that can distort and shatter metal and age people to death with a touch, through the use of time. The scientists distort time with a temporal field on their base as time slows to a crawl outside the base through the excessive gravitational effects of the pulsar start the planet orbits (I think). Shadow creatures of course are not new to Who but this adventure is not looking to score points with originality. Instead we have a claustrophobic, contained, fleet footed yarn that classic who fans will appreciate. There's a hint of the over complexity of new Who's story arcs with the brief cameo of the latest Doctor, but this does not intrude over much, the tale itself takes precedence.
It is well performed by both Frazer Hines who takes on his old role of Jamie and also, superbly, Patrick Troughton's Doctor, as well as the linking narration and other male characters, and Evie Dawnay does Zoe and the chief female scientist.


Petit Nicolas [DVD]
Petit Nicolas [DVD]
Dvd ~ Maxime Godart
Price: £9.40

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A boy's life, 5 Mar. 2013
This review is from: Petit Nicolas [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Drawing from a series of books by Asterix creator Rene Goscinny first published around 50 years ago, this is a timeless, charming and funny depiction of childhood. It has the zest, innocence and humour of Anthony Buckeridge's 'Jennings' and Richmal Crompton's 'William' books. In all of these we have a child's eye view of the world, with a gang of friends, and a range of adult characters variously helpful, benign, bemused and irate.

In all of these school and family life and the times of friendship and exploration in-between are the pivots on which the adventures turn. Here, Nicholas becomes convinced, through a series of misunderstandings that he will soon have a brother, and his parents will abandon him in the woods to make room for the new arrival. He and his friends devise a plan to ensure Nicholas survives. Meanwhile, Nicholas's parents strive to entertain Dad's boss with the hope of securing a promotion.

It all comes together in a series of comic set pieces, arriving at a very sweet and warming conclusion. Watch out for the nod to Goscinny's Asterix heritage as the boys make a version of Asterix's strength potion.

This is never cloying or sentimental. It is very funny, affecting and inventive, and it took me back to those serial comic misadventures of the child's world I used to love with the Jennings and William books. The film looks gorgeous, the cast play it straight from the heart, and there are no knowing winks to the 'adult' audience that Hollywood children's films love so much these days. It is fantastic family entertainment. Look out for it.


Al Murray: the Only Way is Epic
Al Murray: the Only Way is Epic
by Al Murray
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £9.25

4.0 out of 5 stars Hail to the ale, 22 Feb. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the Brighton leg of Murray's 2012 "The Only Way is Epic" tour. As a recording of a live act there are visual gags and moments that you will miss. Namely, the introduction, presumably played on a big screen, where Murray casts around for the venue, to the "riddle" gag of packing a tent away at the end.
But there is more than enough to make this a brilliant standalone audio. The Pub Landlord is a brilliant piece of character comedy. His trademark is of course a strain of British identity that out Mails the Daily Mail, that, and incredible verbal set pieces that build in pitch and scope to epic rants that end with a punch line cried out as an appeal to sanity. An example of this on this cd is the discourse on entry to the EU, and an examination of Greek fiscal history, ending with the cry "why did nobody f@#%ing check?!" Then there's the countdown of all governments to Churchill, listing their huge non achievements and loudly declaiming each one as "the worst Government of all time."
The cd opens with a prolonged piece of audience engagement and improvisation that is brilliant and very funny. That established, Murray launches on his self-improvement seminar of what it means to be Epic. He tackles the EU, "kids today," political disenfranchisement, national identity, the debate on Scottish independence, and more. In this respect he differs from Peter Kay, who keeps his focus largely on the domestic, appealing to those everyday quirks of family life we all recognise. Murray is more about the corporate, national and societal. Yes he is a character who is a grotesque stereotype. But he does it so well as to imbue it with an incredible pathos, and like the best comedy, his outrageous gags throw up the occasional truth.
I listened to this on a run, and it had me guffawing in the street. It works, it is very funny, give it a go.


Death Has Come Up into Our Windows (The Zombie Bible)
Death Has Come Up into Our Windows (The Zombie Bible)
by Stant Litore
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Well of tears, 21 Feb. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is the first of Stant Litore's "Zombie Bible" series. He has undertaken perhaps the most challenging and audacious genre mash up in history, the Bible, and the zombie horror sub-genre. He weaves something that is utterly dynamic and compelling, recharging the mythology of the undead with spiritual energy.
The starting point here is the story of Jeremiah, that Old Testament Prophet or `Navi' whose heart burned against the social injustice he saw in his city's streets. He traces it to the unfaithfulness of the ruling classes to the Covenant with their God, including the priestly caste, the Levites, and the folly of King Zedekiah in pursuing a stubborn course of national pride in allowing his city to fester in a siege brought on partly by arrogance and folly towards the opposing military power Babylon. The spiritual and political corruption of Jerusalem is so great that Jeremiah sees Babylon as God's cleansing instrument. Jeremiah is one of the most passionate and `human' prophets of the Bible. His words are soaked in angry tears and yelled by a voice hoarse with burning emotion. Clearly his message was not a popular one with the authorities, and in the book of Jeremiah he is unceremoniously tossed down a dry well to think it over.
And this is the framing event of this novel. Jeremiah crouches in mud up to his thighs, remembering pivotal events, personal and national, that have brought him there. This being the Zombie Bible, the undead are an addition to the original text! Litore's central idea, here and in the other books of the series, is that the dead rise because of human individual and corporate negligence to the ties that bind us to each other. They are primal hunger personified. Here a new plague is in the offing because of the neglect of King Zedekiah and his court including the Levites, of the poor and needy, forsaking the demands of the Covenant with their God to this effect. So the poor starve in the streets and rise again. And atrocities proliferate, with child sacrifices to a pagan God who is perpetually hungry, being one. And what's the worst thing the King can do which he does in the face of Babylonian siege? Shut and bar the city gates of course, trapping the inhabitants in with the dead, and allowing the siege to needlessly continue when surrender could save many lives.
The horror in this novel is visceral on one level. But this comes less from the rending of flesh by the undead, although that is present, but by the vivid description of the conditions of the Navi in his well, the mud sucking at his skin, the additional horror of corpses being added to the mud, the smell, the physical sensations of such a situation, they are all brilliantly realised. The psychological and emotional and spiritual horror is also brilliantly realised, you feel the prophet's horror and isolation and disgust at his situation, and his growing despair. The live corpses that are thrown down the well that Jeremiah has to dispatch become almost secondary to this in horror.
And one of the most searing passages in the novel is Jeremiah banishing his wife because he feels he cannot protect her in the increasingly dangerous city.
This is the shortest novel in the series (97) pages and the first. As such it feels that it is a flexing and stretching of authorial muscles before the later works, where Litore develops the themes and ideas in this novel, giving them further scope, context and room to breathe. It lacks the climatic battles with the undead, and key action scenes of the later books. The action and situation are here more cerebral and confined. It remains, though, an outstanding work, and the writer has a unique voice, fired by his love of God, and of the living.


Strangers in the Land (The Zombie Bible)
Strangers in the Land (The Zombie Bible)
by Stant Litore
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.64

5.0 out of 5 stars A People, their Law, the Land, and the Dead..., 20 Feb. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"Strangers in the Land" gives us an absolutely gripping installment of Litore's undead scripture, the largest and most epic so far, which suits the massive Old Testament backdrop of the Hebrews early settlement in their promised land.
Stant Litore has undertaken perhaps the most challenging and audacious genre mash up in history, the Bible, and the zombie horror sub-genre. He weaves something that is utterly dynamic and compelling, recharging the mythology of the undead with spiritual energy. Here he takes the tale of Deborah and Barak in Judges 4 and 5. Your Bible will describe a very human war between factions, with the chief villains being the Canaanite King and the commander of his army Sisera. In Litore's book the human oppressors become the undead, in their tens of thousands, marching across the lands and laying waste to whatever settlement they stumble across. There is real human evil here as well, as there is in the best zombie tales, in the form of ruthless warlords and warriors, and again as in the best of these tales these are people supposedly on the side of the angels, but who are driven to their darkest colours by the extreme situation of the war against the undead.
Before I started the book I wondered if the transposing of human armies with the undead was something of a biblical cop out. The wholesale slaughter of the `heathen' tribes by the Hebrew armies as they forge settlements for their people has for centuries given the strongest challenge to those who turn to the Bible to nourish faith, and will no doubt have driven many to atheism. This is, they may think, a God who sanctions and drives ruthless genocide. But the writer of this work does not use this easy way out. Instead, he uses the undead to embrace the most difficult questions of the human condition and the nature of God, and what our lives are often called to be, a path of suffering where we are strengthened by God to alleviate where we can the suffering of others and to fight for and work for principles of justice in all its forms.
Stant Litore has drunk deeply of scripture and is not afraid of its darkest problems and challenges. He writes about the first Covenant Law in a way that is truly enlightening, how it forms a tent over its people wherever they be, giving a shelter and home and the guidance of a loving parent to keep whole the identity and safety of a people in a harsh and threatening, if not majestic and beautiful, environment. But Litore also speaks of the dangers of the law, and at one point a character says that the law was meant to preserve its people, not the people meant to preserve the law at all costs. Litore signposts themes that are brought out later in the Bible, that Law will move from a set of rules inscribed on tablets, to something written in the human heart. This is embodied in Devora's story in the novel, as she moves from a Prophet or Navi of the people, limited to her judgement seat, to one who, sword in hand, moves to free the people, any people, from the grip of their suffering and of the undead. The Law is rendered useless when everything becomes unclean, so there is a need to journey with the law written on the heart.
If I put off any readers by making this seem a work of dry theology, please do not let me mislead you. Litore is an amazingly skilful writer who is able to deliver and weave a full blooded horror survival adventure that will not disappoint the most hard-core fans of "The Walking Dead," with the elements described above. The gore and zombie attacks are the full throttle stuff that Romero originally gave us. And in the best tradition of these tales, we are asked what happens to the human heart in the darkest of circumstances. Do we become monsters, dead or undead, or do we spiritually rise to preserve the best gifts of what it means to be human?
This is an outstanding work by a brave and inspired writer.


How to be a Bad Birdwatcher
How to be a Bad Birdwatcher
by Simon Barnes
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To the greater glory of life..., 1 Feb. 2013
This wonderful short book is many things. It's a love letter to birds, bird-watching and the natural world, a hymn to bio-diversity and an exploration of the science, auto-biography, funny, and an enraged call to arms against environmental carelessness and its sibling, the despair of making a difference.
It gripped me from the start, with a short vignette on the sudden appearance of a Hobby dive bombing a flock of house martins. Then there's an exploration of what it means to be a "Bad Birdwatcher," really the central thesis of the book. A bad birdwatcher has the willingness to simply look at enjoy birds, to learn more about them, and to learn a loving awareness of them. It's the antithesis of `twitching,' the manic competitive spotting and ticking off of species; it's watching and learning to love birds, hearing their echoes through our history and culture. It's a way of life, rather than a pass-time.
The writer, Simon Barnes, is a sports journalist and columnist as well as a champion of and writer on birds and wildlife. He draws out how and where birds have impacted on his life, and how he became a bad birdwatcher. He writes tenderly not only about birds, but also about family and friends, places and situations.
His love for his subject is infectious, and clear in prose that will at times make your heart ache. He sees loving birds and loving life as intertwined, and by the end, I'm betting so will you.


What Our Eyes Have Witnessed (The Zombie Bible)
What Our Eyes Have Witnessed (The Zombie Bible)
by Stant Litore
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A zombie outbreak of Biblical proportions......, 30 Dec. 2012
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Every now again a novel gets under you radar and hits and surprises you with a force you weren't expecting, compelling you to read on and on until finished. For me, this is one such book.
Stant Litore has undertaken perhaps the most challenging and audacious genre mash up in history, the Bible, and the zombie horror sub-genre. He weaves something that is utterly dynamic and compelling, recharging the mythos of the undead with spiritual energy.
It's an alternative history or our history re-told. Nero burnt Rome to the ground because of an out-break of the undead and blamed it on the new sect of the "people of the fish," and initiating a persecution that includes the feeding of live souls to pits full of hungry creatures (not Lions, but you do the math).
The plague of the undead draws back, but sparks into life again, exacerbated by the cramped conditions of Rome's slums, the Subura, and the inequalities and social injustice of the Roman social order that tries to ignore and contain the un-dead outbreak in the Subura.
The early "people of the fish" continue to be blamed, and their "new atheism" and "desecration" of Rome's traditions, including honouring the dead, are blamed for the zombie nightmare. Enter Polycarp and his Gathering, a small Church attempting to bring truth and healing and community to a world that repudiates all of them. Polycarp (based on an actual figure in apostolic writings) has "the Apostles gift." He can bring peace to the walking dead with a touch, giving them permission to die.
Polycarp is brought into collision course with the Praetor Urbanus of Rome, Caius Lucius, the Patrician high official who has been left guarding the gates and justice of Rome, as his Emperor and family retreat. Caius himself is a dead man walking, shattered by personal trauma to a dehumanised authoritarian shell, believing in Rome's traditions and seeking to atone for his self perceived failings by the eradication of Polycarp and his sect. It's a clash of orders, of belief systems, of values, of what it means to be alive and human. And it energises the book. The walking dead, rendered very tired through recent overuse in genre fiction, perhaps, here are given new ferocity, new energy, that seems to draw from the truth at the heart of us. Stant Litore's central thesis is that human injustice, greed and cruelty creates a hunger, both physical and spiritual. It's that hunger witnessed on a backpacking trip that his brief cover biography claims motivated him to change his life. It's that hunger he describes as creating an internal abyss that drives the dead to rise from their graves, aided by the usual infection vehicles of bites and virus.
It's astonishing, compelling, and brilliant. It'll be sneered at by anyone whose hackles rise at the mere conjuring of Biblical stories and traditions, but please give this a go, before the dead rise again....


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