December 07, 2008

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A book at bedtime

  • Kevin Myers: Watching the Door

    Kevin Myers: Watching the Door
    This book awoke major feelings of guilt - college days believing that in some way the IRA was a revolutionary force. I visited N Ireland in the days he describes and had a wonderful time, intoxicated by the cocktail of danger, alcohol and attractive women. It seemed glamorous. What an idiot I was. This great book tells you why. (*****)

  • Masataka Nakano: Tokyo Nobody

    Masataka Nakano: Tokyo Nobody
    One of my colleagues left yesterday to go back to college, and as a farewell present she gave me this wonderful book of deserted Tokyo cityscapes. Take care Caroline; we'll miss you. (*****)

  • Anna Politkovskaya: A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya

    Anna Politkovskaya: A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya
    Most people know what happened to this brave lady. However I imagine that few have read her book. I urge you to do so, to discover just how brave she was, and how dastardly are the brutes who had to shut her up. (*****)

  • Eric Talmadge: Getting Wet: Adventures in the Japanese Bath

    Eric Talmadge: Getting Wet: Adventures in the Japanese Bath
    An entertaining journey through the esoteric world of Japanese bathing culture. Unfortunately I dropped it and the pages got all soggy. (****)

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Half of a Yellow Sun

    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Half of a Yellow Sun
    Set in the tragedy of the Biafran War, this is a lovely and sad book which mixes romance and suffering, and provides a poignant insight into that almost forgotten conflict. The war was always on the TV news of my childhood and the images of the victims of Kwashiorkor were probably the first televised tragedy of so many, Darfur being the latest. (*****)

  • Muhammad Asad: Road to Mecca

    Muhammad Asad: Road to Mecca
    If I had to take 10 books on a desert island, this would be one. It's a wonderful account of how Islam and the revolt of the Arabs seduced a German journalist in the 1930's. It's religious, yet hopelessly romantic - and eerily prescient as to how oil wealth would destroy the morality of the Saud family. (*****)

  • Joan Didion: The Year of Magical Thinking

    Joan Didion: The Year of Magical Thinking
    I am a huge fan of Joan Didion's writing, and this book has been celebrated as a tour de force. However I can't help wondering how much admiration comes from guilt. Certainly, if you're feeling a little down, do not pick up this book.

  • : Business Solutions for the Global Poor: Creating Social and Economic Value

    Business Solutions for the Global Poor: Creating Social and Economic Value
    This book is superb! Absolutely brilliant. Especially the chapter co-authored by ... errr .... me. (*****)

  • Various: Meetings With Remarkable Muslims: A Collection

    Various: Meetings With Remarkable Muslims: A Collection
    This is really a travel book - a collection of encounters with very interesting people all over the world. An anecdotal antidote to today's climate of intolerance and fear. (****)

  • Jon Steel: Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business (Adweek Books)

    Jon Steel: Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business (Adweek Books)
    The best presentation I ever saw was by Jon Steel. Sadly he failed to stop me using Powerpoint, but he certainly made me feel guilty about it forevermore. Now he's put the best of his wisdom into a book, and just as his presentations are far better than the norm, this book is also far better than most business books. Truth well told, as ME claim - but in this case it's true. (*****)

Roots rockers

  • King Tubby -

    King Tubby: Essential Dub
    Almost a Greatest Hits, if you've never listened to the great man before, this is a good starting point.

  • Aggrovators -

    Aggrovators: At King Tubby's Studio
    Another special from the King, though sadly without sleeve notes. I wish I was on the beach... (*****)

  • Orchestra Baobab -

    Orchestra Baobab: Made In Dakar
    A wonderful synthesis of cuban, griot and rhumba styles from my favourite African city. Read Robin Denselow's excellent Guardian piece, and then run out and buy music designed to melt the Tokyo snow. (*****)

  • Shaggy -

    Shaggy: Intoxication
    Glad to see that Mr. Boombastic has given up his bland pop crossover attempts with this very hard selection. Includes the best single of the year (so far) - Church Heathen. (****)

  • Well Charged -

    Well Charged: Vital Dub
    More dub. Will it never end...? (*****)

  • Gregory Isaacs -

    Gregory Isaacs: Cool Ruler
    Nobody - not even Smokey Robinson - has a voice as velvety and smooth as the Cool Ruler. This greatest hits selection could be used to polish diamonds. (*****)

  • Carlton Patterson -

    Carlton Patterson: Black & White in Dub
    Just released, this selection of Patterson/Tubby dubs from the 70's/80's is soul sweet. I was always a massive fan of the Black & White label, and this has all the best dubs from that stable. Good sleeve notes too - apparently CP jacked it all in in the mid-eighties and moved to New Jersey as a construction engineer. What a loss. (*****)

  • Bullwackie's All stars -

    Bullwackie's All stars: Dub Unlimited
    A worthy addition to the archives, recommended to me by Paul Matheson. (****)

  • Gyptian -

    Gyptian: My Name Is
    Last year's best reggae single was Serious Times, by the new artist, Gyptian. This is his debut CD and it's very mature and smooth - gruyere cheese reggae. (****)

  • Winston Riley Productions -

    Winston Riley Productions: Dancehall Techniques 1986-1991
    Like most of the CD's the featured artist is the producer, not the singer or dj. This is a wonderful selection of Winston Riley cuts from one of those moments when the music changed direction. I was just back from NYC and couldn't believe how good music was once again in London. This was the era of endless new pirate radio stations, broadcasting off the roofs of council flats all over N London. Commercial radio was tired - but there was a free alternative.

Movie of the...week?

  • The Diving Bell and The Butterfly
    Wonderful reviews, great director. Deadly film. Especially irritating as the book is an utter masterpiece.
  • The Wind That Shakes The Barley
    Very moving, very thoughtful, very balanced. I can understand why Tory MP's hated it.
  • The Battle of Orgreave
    Serendipity. Just the other night a friend was e-mailing me with his reasons for being on the political right. Then the DVD of this film, which I had ordered months before, arrived. It's a fantastic documentary, re-enactment and piece of social observation ... and it reminded me why I should hold to what I believe, and where truth and honour belongs. It was, and remains, the litmus test of a generation.
  • Das Leben Der Anderen (The Lives Of Others)
    Much has been written about this drama of East German life. It's all true - wonderful film. Now I am hoping that the third great GDR retro film, Sonnenallee will one day be released with English subtitles.
  • La Grand Voyage
    Great film. A young Moroccan French guy is forced to drive his father to from Marseilles to Makkah for the Hajj. A voyage of discovery in so many ways, about the gap between generations and cultures - and a superb road movie.
  • Thank You For Smoking
    There's nothing like a good celebration of immorality.
  • Offside
    An Iranian film from last year, about the difficulties encountered by a group of young female football fans trying to watch their national team in a World Cup qualifier. Now released on DVD, it's witty, sharply observed and an insight into the other side of life in Iran.
  • Green Street (Hooligans)
    Take that weird guy with the boggly eyes who played Frodo in Lord of the Rings. Make him an American wannabe journalist, who finds himself in the thick of a West Ham 'firm' (modelled I imagine on the legendary ICF). Rubbish, right? Well, no, in my opinion. This was a gritty little film and rang fairly true. I'm embarrassed to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. (Though why on earth WHU allowed themselves to be featured in it, I have no idea.)
  • Famous dull films
    1. Brokeback mountain. A rare act of justice saw Crash win the monination instead. Crash is a film full of depth and shade. BBM is a tedious love gone wrong story, livened up slightly by the nature of the protagonists. 2. Capote. The book (In Cold Blood) is so powerful that my mother tells me she hid it from me when I was 9, as although she allowed me to read most anything else, she was concerned about the effect the graphic and utterly dispassionate prose might have on me. The film could have been used as a sedative, however.
  • The Proposition
    If you ask me, Australians should take less pride in their sports teams and more in their films. The film industry down under is one of the world's best, conjuring up magical visions of alternative slices of reality. This is a terrific example. An brutal drama from the early days of settlement, I recommend it for three reasons: 1. It harshly portrays the vile existence of life in those times - flies (thousands of them) and all. 2. The colours - scenes almost drenched in burnt ochre - are quite stunning. 3. Ray Winstone. A gorgeously expressive actor, terribly under-rated in my opinion. At his absolute best in Sexy Beast (where he partnered Ben Kingsley in his best role) but still superb here - a brutal cop, but with the only shred of decency in sight.
  • Walk The Line
    See main post.
  • Sophie Scholl; the last days
    A German film, made last year, this movie documents the last 6 days in the life of Sophie Scholl, a student member of the resistance group White Rose, to Nazi Germany in 1943. It is intensely moving and an education into part of that war which I for one was completely unaware of. The acting is superb, under-stated and subtle - avoiding cliche and stereotypes. The ending shocks, but the film itself leaves one moved and strangely uplifted.