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Hi, I am the Ciaoer formerly known as 'PJE' (Ciao added a flattened penis to the end of my username against my wishes.) These days I live on goodreads where I am user no. 949843 - feel free to say hello over there, or on Twitter (phillipjedwards).

Reviews written

since 06/08/2000


Ideas That Changed The World - Felipe Fernández Armesto 05/01/2006


Ideas That Changed The World - Felipe Fernández Armesto Ideas is a chronological tour through the concepts that have shaped our world, illustrating society's progress from cannibalism to cultural pluralism. 175 of them in all: the beliefs, doctrines, theories and perceptions which lay behind the events of history -offering a deeper insight into how we all came to be where we are today. Not all of them are good ideas, mind you. Some are extremely controversial: anarchism, eugenics, fascism and the idea that war improves society, for example. Not to mention capitalism, communism and terrorism. It's not just isms either: relativity, chivalry, monetary theory and civil disobedience are all discussed, as well as more abstract notions like zen, existentialism, or the idea that thought alone created the universe. Every page is illustrated, in keeping with Dorling Kindersley's wonderfully visual style, giving the book the feel of a high quality magazine; and since each idea is allocated just two of those illustrated pages, the author has had to be quite concise - which is no bad thing when so many of the ideas are philosophical - there's no airy-fairy waffle here. This helps to ensure it all stays quite objective: there's no room to stray too far from the basic facts. There are a couple of sidebars (or to be more accurate sideboxes) accompanying every article: one signposting 'connections' to other ideas elsewhere in the book, thus allowing the reader to proceed through the book in a non-linear fashion - jumping between ...

Evans' TV Trivia - Jeff Evans 01/11/2005

Oi'll give it foive

Evans' TV Trivia - Jeff Evans You know how it is: you're walking along, minding your own business, and a book just jumps off the shelf in front of you, begging you to take it home. Evans' TV Trivia did that to me, your honour, and it was such a lovely shade of sky blue as well - how could I resist? Within moments of opening it I had discovered that Civilisation began on February 23rd 1969, five days before On The Buses. And on the seventh day He rested, presumably. This is one of the best trivia books I've ever seen because, as Donald Rumsfeld might say, it's full of things I didn't know, things I didn't know I didn't know, things I didn't know I wanted to know, things I had forgotten I knew and things I didn't know I had forgotten. One unknown unknown that I didn't know I didn't know was exactly who the eponymous Evans was - at first I was afraid (yes, maybe even petrified) that it was the ginger one, but, no, it turned out to be Jeff of that ilk - "a well-known television historian and writer" apparently. He has also edited the Campaign For Real Ale's 'Good Beer Guide' eight times - so he probably has a beard, even if it's not ginger. Whoever he is, he has done plenty of research in compiling this book. Names, dates, places, theme tunes, spin-offs, sequels, sidekicks, catchphrases and quirks - they are all here. Of course, if your view of television is that no good has come of it (as one long-forgotten editor of The Guardian once predicted) then this book is quite pointless - and quite right ...

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon 17/10/2005

"Listen to the innocent one"

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon This is a book review. PJE said I could write it for him. It is a review of a book called "The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night-Time" - which is a very long title. PJE told me that it was something Sherlock Holmes said in a story called Silver Blaze† and that the curious thing was that the dog didn't do anything in the night-time, but I don't think that makes sense. My name is Ludo. I do not have Asperger's Syndrome, or anything like that, I am just pretending - like the person who wrote this book. He says his name is Christopher John Francis Boone: and that he is fifteen years, three months and two days old - but that is a lie. His real name is Mark Haddon. PJE says that that is because this is a novel, and none of it is really true. The writer says that this book is a murder mystery, but it's not. Not really. My dictionary says that murder is "the act of putting a person to death" - but there are no dead people in this book. Not that I would notice: I don't see dead people. I saw a film about a boy who does though - one night when I should have been in bed. I asked PJE if they would make a film of this book too, and whether that boy would play Christopher. He just groaned. The only dead thing in this book is a dog called Wellington. Wellington was a poodle but now he has been forked to death in Christopher's neighbour's garden; but since a dog is not a person it is not really murder, it is caninicide. I think I might have just made that word up, but ...

Alba PCD604 26/09/2005

Perfect product for poor podless people like me!

Alba PCD604 Earlier this year I decided to retire my old walkpersonalstereo, but not being able to afford a really good mp3 player I decided to go for an mp3 CD player. I'd had an Alba personal stereo in the past, and for £19.99 from Argos (later reduced to £13.31 and almost certainly now out of stock) the PCD604 looked good value. It certainly has been - it's been filling my life with music for the last four months. For the uninitiated, an mp3 CD player does exactly what it says on the box: as well as playing ordinary audio CDs, it plays mp3 files from a CD. This means you can cram lots of albums onto one disc - exactly how many depends on how compressed the mp3 files are, but we're talking a dozen or more. (For example, I recently burned 761 minutes worth of music onto a single 700MB disc at at the 'near-CD quality' rate of 128kbps; while at 48kbps - which I find adequate for audiobooks - I've managed to squeeze just over 30 hours onto one 650MB disc.) The mp3 files can be on any ordinary recordable CD-R disc - even mixed data CDs work - it will find any mp3 files on the disc even inside nested folders. But be warned: it does NOT play Windows Media Audio (.wma) files or Ogg Vorbis (.ogg) files - just mp3s. I also had trouble using re-recordable CD-RW discs - I wanted to be able to make temporary recordings of radio shows, say, and listen to them on the move - I couldn't get them to work as mp3 CDs but they do work when formatted as audio CDs. I've spent the summer giving the ...

A Long Way Down - Nick Hornby 01/05/2005

Keep passing the open windows

A Long Way Down - Nick Hornby You've decided to kill yourself, right? So you make your way up on to the roof of a tower block intending to throw yourself off - but it's New Year's Eve, so it's like Piccadilly Circus up there. What do you do? What is the etiquette in a situation like that? Who jumps first? Should they toss for it, or form an orderly queue by the edge? Ladies first maybe? Nick Hornby's latest attempt to get to grips with the meaning of life is narrated by four very different people, complete strangers in fact, who meet on the roof of a tower block which is such a notorious suicide spot it's known as 'Topper House'. The opening may sound like the storyboard of a Radiohead video, but don't let that put you off - this is not a depressing book. In fact the gallows humour soon had me snorting with laughter. I was in love with it by page twenty: at which point a young American called JJ turns up to deliver pizza - this is on the roof of a tower block, remember! He is the last of the four to arrive, and describes the others like this: "A middle-aged woman who looked like someone's cleaning lady, a shrieking adolescent lunatic and a talk-show host with an orange face . . . It didn't add up. Suicide wasn't invented for people like this. It was invented for people like Virginia Woolf and Nick Drake. And me. Suicide was supposed to be cool." The four of them start to talk, telling each other why they have chosen to end it all. Martin, the orange-faced talk show host, is a disgraced ...

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax - Liz Jensen 01/12/2004

Narrator in a coma (I know, I know)

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax - Liz Jensen Just recently it seems to have become the in-thing to have a weir...oh, erm...hang on, what's the PC term for it? have a 'differently-abled' child narrator - and Louis Drax is certainly different: he's in a coma. Even when he was conscious his school-mates called him 'Wacko Boy' and as far as young fictional oddball, er, sorry - 'different' characters go, he is probably the Next Big Thing. This is how he introduces himself: "I'm not most kids. I'm Louis Drax. Stuff happens to me that shouldn't happen, like going on a picnic where you drown." Not as dead as Susie Salmon in The Lovely Bones, not as vulgar as Vernon God Little (although he does tell us that "Being born was gross...") and not quite as cruel to animals as Frank in The Wasp Factory (although you really don't want to know what happens to his pet hamsters) - Louis is, or was, an intelligent nine year-old French boy. But to say that Louis is accident prone would be an understatement: like the proverbial cat with nine lives he has survived a number of injurious mishaps; but now he is in a coma following an unfortunate incident at a family picnic where he fell off a cliff and drowned in the river below. Except that he didn't fall: he was pushed; and although he drowned, he didn't die. According to his distraught mother, Natalie, he was pushed off the cliff by his father, Pierre (who has now disappeared) and, to the embarrassment of the hospital concerned, he shows signs of life after being declared ...

Eats, Shoots & Leaves - Lynne Truss 28/11/2004

The do's and don't's of punctuation

Eats, Shoots & Leaves - Lynne Truss A few years ago, in the category 'How to Write Opinions', I offered the following advice with regards to punctuation: "Make it up as you go along - I do. After all: nobody knows what a semi-colon is used for anyway; so... just throw in anything that looks pretty, ok?" I wasn't joking. I'm from the generation(s) who weren't taught grammar or punctuation in school. At least, not in English anyway. Our German teacher once started a lesson with the words: "Today we are going to learn about the dative case in German. You all know what the dative case is, don't you?", miss, never heard of it. She was somewhat put out. Actually it might have been the accusative case, but who cares? Well, Lynn Truss probably would. In fact she had a similar experience herself because, even though she attended a grammar school a decade before I went to a bog-standard comprehensive, she wasn't taught punctuation or grammar either - except in Latin, French and German lessons. And yet she has become a stickler for punctuation. Although, as she admits: "It's tough being a stickler for punctuation these days. One almost dare not get up in the mornings." Shopping must be a bit of a drag as well, as she refuses to use the 'eight items or less' checkouts because it should be 'fewer' not 'less'. ! I daresay she is as disappointed as I am that John Humphreys doesn't use the phrase: "the contestant with the fewer, or fewest, passes" on Mastermind, as Magnus Magnusson always did. What really ...

Marillion 28/11/2004

Uncool as f*@k

Marillion "We didn't set up Marillion so's people could put us in a box and call us 'progressive' ... God I hate that word. We're just Marillion. Full stop." The words of Fish in 1983. For those who don't know, Fish (a nickname deriving from the amount of time he spent soaking in the bath, and an improvement on his real name - Derek Dick) was the original lead singer of Marillion. (The band's name being derived from The Silmarillion - JRR Tolkien's unreadable prequel to The Lord of the Rings.) Marillion have never been trendy. Right from the start they were ten years out-of-date, but they didn't care, and they never have in the twenty years of uncommercial obscurity. In recent years they even sold t-shirts bearing the band's name along with the legend: "Uncool as f*@k". In the early days, a major international record company said they could become the biggest band in the world if only they would shorten their songs by about ten minutes. But they wouldn't play ball. "We never wanted to be another Styx or another Foreigner," said Fish, supplier of lyrics and vocals for the first four of their thirteen albums to date before leaving the band to be replaced by Steve Hogarth who as well as singing, also plays the piano and cricket bat. The rest of the band consists of Steve Rothery on lead guitar, Pete Trewavas on bass, Mark Kelly on keyboards and Ian Mosley on drums. The original drummer, and founder member, Mick Pointer was acrimoniously sacked in 1983, and over the next two ...

Music Industry Versus Internet 28/11/2004

By the way, which one's Fish?

Music Industry Versus Internet Illegal downloading is killing the music industry. Good. Kill the greedy buggers - they've been ripping off artists for decades and they used the invention of the CD as an excuse to fleece the British record-buying public out of millions of pounds. Good riddance to 'em. Mind you, we should be so lucky - they've been riding the gravy train for a long time and their snouts won't be removed from the trough without a struggle. In the 1980's we were told that "home taping is killing music" - was it bollocks. In those days, my friends and I often swapped tapes - let me tell you about one of them: Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield. This was not something I was ever going to hear on the radio, so a mate taped it for me. However, it was a cheap wonky tape, so a few years later when I saw a copy of the LP in a second-hand¹ shop I bought myself a legit copy. Now, at this point, neither Mike Oldfield, or his record company, had had a penny from me - so why hasn't the music industry ever run a campaign saying that second-hand shops, ebay, or car boot sales are killing music? There is only so much money to go around; only so much disposable income - just because someone downloads something for free, doesn't mean that they would have bought it. There's no doubt that many people download music as a supplement to what they can afford to buy. According to an academic study by Felix Oberholzer-Gee of Harvard Business School and Koleman Strumpf of University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, ...

My Ciao'ing 28/11/2004

PJE ♥ Ciao

My Ciao'ing 1) Full name: Phillip Ј█████ Edwards. 2) Ciao Username: PJE 3) Date when you joined the Ciao community? 4) Why did you join Ciao? I joined on August 6th, 2000; but in those days, surfing the net was a commando style mission: get in, do the business and get offline again as fast as possible to avoid a big phone bill. Then a few months later I got an e-mail announcing some changes to Ciao, and having ditched BT for ntlworld, I decided to take the plunge. I particularly wanted to tell people about a stunning book which, shamefully, is still as relevant to the world today as it was when it was written: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (The 'No Logo' of its day, only well written.) At first I planned to vent my spleen on epinions, to wind up the Yanks, but then Ciao b∙ought me here by offering to pay out at £10 - a much more attainable target than epinions' $50, or dooyoo's 50,000 dodgymiles. 5) Are you a member of any other review sites? Yes, I'm pje on dooyoo and epinions and probably one or two others I've forgotten. I chose PJE in capital letters for Ciao, and then felt self-conscious that almost everyone else had chosen lower case for their usernames, and maybe I was breaching netiquette by SHOUTING MY NAME like a self-aggrandizing lout; so when I joined dooyoo I used lower case - not realizing that that would look like 'pie'. Tch! 6) Reviews written to date: Ciao: 88, dooyoo: 97, epinions: 01. 7) How ...

The F-Word: The Complete History of the Word in All Its Robust and Various Uses - Jesse Sheidlower 28/11/2004

No 'F' in 'censorship'

The F-Word: The Complete History of the Word in All Its Robust and Various Uses - Jesse Sheidlower PREAMBLE: ¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯¯ I was disappointed to read yesterday that one of danielse's reviews had been removed from Ciao. "Your review violated our Terms and Conditions because it contained vulgar language and content inappropriate for our website" they told him. So are some words unacceptable on Ciao? If so which ones? And what about context? I cannot find any mention of vulgar language or profanity in the T&C's, unless, that is, you consider such words 'immoral'. Tonight I discovered, quite by accident, that I had used the past participle¹ of the F-word in a review. Now, frankly, I think that if you are stuck up a mountain and your partner has fallen and broken a leg, you have every right to use the F word; but was I wrong to quote the word without censoring it? Or is using The F Word in a quotation acceptable? Of course, people will argue that children have access to Ciao, and could be corrupted by their exposure to vulgarisms. Imagine the opprobrium that might be conferred on them if they used such words on their school playground - the other kids might think they were big and clever or something! So I decided to investigate - to see how many obscenities there are on Ciao... and Wow! - isn't it amazing what you find when you google + fucking?! Not only do some children already know these words, their parents even teach them how to spell them correctly! Anyhow, I've saved you the trouble of googling dirty words yourselves, just check out these ...

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell 28/11/2004

"Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies"

Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell To paraphrase one of Mitchell's own characters, Cloud Atlas is a sextet of overlapping narratives. Six short stories linking the past, present and future of the human race: each one enveloping the next, like a set of Russian dolls. A bold enterprise indeed. Please don't be put off though, Cloud Atlas is the sort of book you don't so much read, as devour. From the journal of Adam Ewing, on his voyage home to San Francisco across the South Pacific in 1850; to Zachary, a native of Hawaii, reminsicing about his encounter with one of the last survivors of the 'fall of civilisation' in some not-too-distant future; each story is told using a different narrative style. Adam Ewing's journal, for example, which reminded me of Matthew Kneale's novel English Passengers, features some wonderfully rumbustious 19th century prose: "An Indian farmhand peered through the window-pane at his master's visitors. No more tatterdemalion a renegado I ever beheld, but Mr Evans swore the quadroon, 'Barnabas', was 'the fleetest sheep-dog who ever ran upon two legs'." But this storyline is left dangling as the second (Letters from Zedelghem) gets under way: transporting us to 1931, and the letters of Robert Frobisher; in which he bleats on like someone from a PG Wodehouse or Evelyn Waugh novel. A self-confessed idler, he is buggering off to Belgium... "Uneventful journey to the Channel . . . cancerous suburbs, tedious farmland, soiled Sussex. Dover an utter fright staffed by ...

Age of Iron - J. M. Coetzee 28/11/2004

Not part of the solution

Age of Iron - J. M. Coetzee I found this an immensely powerful book, perhaps because it was written between 1986 and 1989 during the dog days of apartheid when South Africa was a powder keg waiting for a spark. Narrated by Elizabeth Curren in the form of a letter to her daughter who lives in America - having vowed never to return until the apartheid regime is overthrown - she is also trying to come to terms with what has happened to South Africa and the extent of her own culpability. For although she despises the men who behave with such inhumanity, she stays: an old woman who is powerless to do anything about it; but as Eldridge Cleaver said "you're either part of the solution or you're part of the problem." Elizabeth is dying: she has cancer - and this serves as a blunt metaphor for the cancer of hatred and violence which was eating through the country at the time. A widow, she badly misses her daughter and thus feels particularly isolated; so when she finds a drunken vagrant camping out beside her garage, she takes him in as a companion. Ominously, however, he calls himself Vercueil - which means "the angel of death". Elizabeth also has an uneasy relationship with her black maid, Florence, who says of her son Bheki and his generation: "they are like iron, we are proud of them." This is a generation who will not submit to the system, and who are determined to prevail by whatever means and at whatever cost. One night, because of a family emergency, Elizabeth drives Florence into the township ...

King - John Berger 28/11/2004

A dog's eye view of the homeless

King - John Berger This short, sparingly written book choked me when I first read it. I'm now reading it for a third time in order to write this review - I re-read very few books, but this one I keep coming back to - it's haunting. John Berger has a sparse, uncomplicated, writing style, and the matter-of-fact way he discloses unexpected details can be devastating. For example, on the second page you are jolted with this: "A month ago a gang of kids poured petrol over an old man who was sleeping in a street behind the Central Station and then they threw a match on to him. He woke up in flames." The book chronicles the events of a single day in the life of a homeless couple called Vica and Vico, as seen through the eyes of King - a stray dog who befriends them and follows them around. He becomes their companion and our narrator. King tells us how his previous companion Luc committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. Then he describes the community of down-and-outs living on the 'scrap mountain' called Saint Valery, somewhere near a motorway in somewhen France, on which they eke out their existence scavenging. Saint Valery may be chosen as the site of a new Olympic Stadium, in which case contractors will move in and bulldoze their world... This is an unforgettable book. It surprises you, moves you, and pricks your conscience. I'm ashamed to admit that one reason it caught me by surprise is that Vica and Vico aren't a pair of young drug addicts, they are an elderly couple, ...

Being There (DVD) 28/11/2004

Why Peter Sellers made those Pink Panther films

Being There (DVD) Just after this film was released Peter Sellers said: "My ambition in the cinema, since I came across it, was to play Chance the gardener in Being There, I have realized that ambition, and so I have no more." He died the following year. "Being There" is the story of Chance (Peter Sellers) a simpleton whose naive inanities are mistaken for profound thoughts when he is forced to venture out into the big wide world he has only ever seen on television. Sellers wanted to make this film from the moment he read Jerzy Kosinski's book in 1971. He identified with the character so much that he even sent a telegram to the author which he signed: "Chance the gardener". Unfortunately Sellers' film star status was on the wane at that time. However, he made a pact with director Hal Ashby that as soon as one of them gained the necessary box office clout they would make the film together. And so Sellers was persuaded to make "The Return of the Pink Panther" and "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" - entertaining the public and winning back the support of the moneymen. (Meanwhile Ashby had had a hit with "Shampoo" and received an Oscar nomination for "Coming Home".) The film opens with a TV clicking on, and filling Chance's bedroom with the strains of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony. The use of music in this film is exquisite, Johnny Mandel's background music reminds me of Erik Satie. Chance has spent his life in the house watching television or tending the ...
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