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since 04/02/2009


Beanpod Camera-Support 28/10/2010

The tripod that's full of beans !!!

Beanpod Camera-Support The Beanpod is a fast and versatile camera support solution. Or beanbag! It simply slips under a long lens such as those found on SLR cameras or compact cameras and gives support. This means longer shutter exposures and much less camera shake. No more blurry images! Rather than carrying around a full-sized tripod which you may not even use and some feel slightly embarrassed about the Beanpod is small enough to slip into your pocket at 8 by 5 inches oval by 2 inches thick. Now any flat surface which is available becomes a stable support e.g. car, wall, fence post, rock, even vertical surfaces! It's certainly a lot quicker to use than setting up a tripod too! Alternatively, by placing it in your camera bag you provide another soft cushion between your other equipment. The camera itself and the lens are protected from scrapes too - by using a Beanpod as a support you can utilise the rough surface of a brick or stone without fear of damaging your hard-earned equipment! The low profile also means that low-level photography is catered for too. You can get the camera much lower to the ground than if you were to use a tripod. A Beanpod is very lightweight weighing in at around 50 grammes. This means it is hardly noticable when you're carrying it. It also means it's a good alternative for taking on a plane for holiday photos..leave the heavy and cumbersome tripod behind! As well as looking more professional than a home-made effort the product is made from quality materials and is ...

The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda's Road to 9/11 - Lawrence Wright 27/10/2010

The definitive book on the fight between the East and West.

The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda's Road to 9/11 - Lawrence Wright Lawrence Wright is a staff writer for The New York Times and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda's Road to 9/11". This excellent tome is a historical review of what lead to the awful loss of 3000 lives in the Twin Towers plane attacks in New York in September 2001 and the general view of radical Islamists around the world and their hatred of the West, particularly America. The title comes from a Quranic verse which was quoted in a speech bin Laden made during the attacks to his followers - "Wherever you are, death will find you, even in the looming tower." Whilst the subject matter is going to be complicated because of the worldwide dispersal of the main players and the overall feel of the story will be sinister, Lawrence Wright does a fantastic job of keeping your interest in a series of events which I feel we should all at least attempt to understand. His research is excellent and he is able to give greatly detailed descriptions of both the Arabic fundamentalists and the American FBI and CIA characters. Very personal details are revealed which shed light on the deeply felt beliefs of both sides of the fight. I never felt that he was stretching out the story - every detail is informative and relevant. Although essentially a series of increasingly violent events starting in Egypt with the Islamist intellectual Sayyid Qutb's book "Milestones" and leading to the bombing of the World Trade Center several years before the plane attacks, Mr ...

Rose and Crown, Warwick 06/09/2010

Friendly and enjoyable dining venue.

Rose and Crown, Warwick I've heard good things about this restaurant and bar in Warwick and have finally had a chance to try it! The date of this review is September 2010 - I had a Sunday lunch there with my girlfriend and mother. Service was quick when we waited to be seated and a table for four was found by the wall in the middle of the restaurant. The bar was busy, there being a cycle race around the Market Square where the building is situated. Customers were a mixed bunch, all enjoying the fine beers and wines available. Bread was brought to our table quickly - a nice crusty wholemeal. Water was also brought along with our drinks orders. I was pleased to find that they served Black Sheep ale so that was me happy! Sadly only a half as I had a long drive ahead. We only ordered a main course from the specials board and were advised that the portions were generous so we did not order any starters. All three of us ordered the 28 day aged Aberdeen beef which arrived quickly and cooked to order. Accompanying the beef were fantastic roast potaoes (I think there was some honey used in their glaze?), huge yorkshire puddings, mashed butternut squash plus cabbage and broccoli. The gravy was excellent and the beef delicious. I had ordered mine pink and this was very tender. My mum found a piece of metal shaving in her beef - presumably from hanging - but it was visible enought that she didn't swallow it. A shame as otherwise the food was excellent. Service was excellent and a member of staff was always ...

Pig Nonsense - Mark Woods 19/08/2010

Being a selection of nonsense poetry and dubious verse by Mark Wo

Pig Nonsense - Mark Woods "Being a selection of nonsense poetry and dubious verse by Mark Woods." Exactly that. This short but very enjoyable collection of poetry by English author Mark Woods contains humour and illustrations that both adults and children will enjoy. I'd probably say that in fact it is aimed at a more mature market but some verse will appeal to younger readers and the illustrations by the author certainly will. Published by in December 2009 this book poem has titles such as "Chipolatas" about the validity of this particular sausage type, "The Hobnightgobblewargtrice" concerning folk-tales, "Robert Johnson" telling the tale of the corssroad-bound musician and "Quentin the Sensitive Alien" who finds his condition very moving. By turns comic and then more serious Mark skips through his somewhat dark imagination at rapid pace and you will find yourself devouring the coffee-table length tome in one sitting, no doubt. A personal favourite is "MouseBoots" - the tale of a band of mice holding out in a farmhouse under attack from a savage army of cats. A lot of Mark's humour is of a slightly surreal nature. A personal taste. If you like Tim Burton, Vic Reeves or Salvador Dali then you will, I'm sure, love his writing. The book itself is available from and and was recently published in "Kindle" format which enables it to be downloaded to e-readers such as Amazon's own kindle, iphones, Sony e-readers plus netbooks and PCs with e-reading software. The cost for ...

Moon (DVD) 04/11/2009

Atmosphere on the moon.

Moon (DVD) In the cold vacuum of space Moon is a breath of fresh air! At last, what fans of intelligent science fiction have been waiting for. A film with a proper plot. Ideas. Atmosphere. Duncan Jones, known to some as Zowie Bowie, to others as David Bowie's son, directs his first major motion picture. A modest budget of 5 million dollars enables him to bring us a tale with believable subjects and brooding menace. Sam Bell is a miner working on the moon in the near future for the resource Helium-3 which now powers Earth. Quarries on the lunar surface provide the cargo which is periodically shuttled back to Sam's home planet during his contract. This is 3 years. The film joins Sam as he is nearing the termination of this period. He is feeling lonely - unsurprising as his only companion is GERTY, Lunar Industry's maintenance computer. As with most symbiotic man-machine relationships in science fiction the computer comes across as thoroughly sympathetic and friendly but also slightly untrustworthy and a little too good to be true. His surroundings are the grubby rooms of his living quarters. His food comes in small, square packets which simply need heating. Convenience and boredom abound. There is a communications glitch with the Earth-Moon communications which has dragged on for much of Sam's shift. This means his conversations with his wife and child are recorded to disc and played back to him. Never mind - his shift is about to end. Right? Wrong. Sam's routine, beginning with his ...

Bronson (DVD) 24/09/2009

"Prison was an opportunity..........."

Bronson (DVD) "Bronson" tells the story of the man who is allegedly Britain's most violent prisoner. Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring the brilliant Tom Hardy in the lead role as Michael Peterson the film recounts the events that have led to this man serving more than 34 years behind bars. Michael Peterson is bored. He's bored with his schooling. This leads to confrontation. Confrontation with his peers. Confrontation with his teachers. He is then bored with his job in a fish and chip shop. He's bored by his first marriage. "Irene and I got hitched. It was alright...we didn't have it bad for a couple from the chippy". But Michael feels that he is cut out for greater things. He believes that he is destined for more than this. So he saws the end from a shotgun and robs the Post Office. Sentenced to 7 years his mother shouts to him in court that he'll be out in four. 34 years later he's still inside. The story is told as a monologue from Tom Hardy to camera intially and then to an imaginary audience which Peterson imagines. He sees himself as a performer and describes his reasoning behind the decisions which have cost him his freedom. An original theft of £ 26.18 has cost him everything through a refusal to behave in any decent way. The character revels in the attention and notoriety that go with getting one up at every available opportunity. He has now spent time in over 120 prisons and been a guest at Broadmoor hospital. He has spent only four months and nine days a free ...

Dead Snow (DVD) 25/08/2009

Ein! Zwei! Die!

Dead Snow (DVD) Recipe for Good Zombie Pie: Take several fresh young actors (enough to fill 91 minutes) Cool to near freezing on a weekend trip to a log cabin somewhere in Norway (well, Øksfjord, actually.) Heat the tempers of a platoon of undead Nazi Zombies by invading their personal space. Add a large dollop of humour. Wrap up filming with decent photographic direction. Consume with several beers. Right, enough of the pie's not really going anywhere and I feel slightly queasy.... Dead Snow is a Norwegian film which follows the usual teenagers-versus-unspecified-hostiles-in-a-secluded-location-format. This time its a platoon of Nazi Zombies. During the Second World War the evil Nazi Colonel Herzog and his platoon terrorised the local village of Øksfjord. They performed unspeakable acts of horror upon the population and made their lives a living nightmare as they raped and looted to their hearts' content. Finally unable to cope anymore the locals banded together and managed to get the upper hand, chasing the troops into the mountains and it was presumed that they had all frozen to death. The story takes place in the present day. A group of medical students, who, as usual, are far older than the teenage characters they are supposed to represent, are holidaying. They drive to their log cabin in the mountains and are equipped for a weekend of fun with all the snow-mobiles, music and drink they could wish for. It's not long before fantastic shots of fjords and snow sports fill ...

Flight 666 - Iron Maiden 23/06/2009

Loud and ludicrous!!

Flight 666 - Iron Maiden "Iron Maiden: Flight 666" follows the rock band Iron Maiden on their last tour. Nut this is no ordinary tour! Having been told by accountants constantly that certain locations were too expensive to play Bruce Dickinson, the band's singer, hit upon the idea that if they flew directly to anywhere with an airport, joining the dots across the globe, they could complete the most insane rock tour ever planned! Being a trained pilot himself who better to fly "Flight 666" than Bruce himself?! This is what they did. Already impressed you then will see the band, its entire road crew (who are quite obviously insane) and their entire kit, 70 tonnes of it, fly across 5 continents over 45 days, cover fifty thousand miles and perform 23 huge gigs in India, Australia, Japan, USA, Canada, Mexico and South America. I'm a huge fan and have been for a long, long time (since me Dad bought me Number of the Beast in 1986!) but this film will interest anyone with an interest in rock music. Or travel. Or just plain effort!! These guys deserve their enormous following. As artists they're great anyway but this documentary demonstrates the energy these guys have and the reason they still tour a quarter of a century after I first heard of them! I feel old now! The band members are thoroughly dissected under the lens. Bruce Dickinson - lead vocals (1981–1993, 1999–present) - is clearly deserving of the legendary status he holds among the rock following. Rockstar, pilot, novelist, international level ...

Creative EP 630 18/06/2009

Cheap but bassy.

Creative EP 630 After many years of using my Sony headphones I've finally had to admit it. My ears are weird. The things keep falling out. The headphones that is - not my ears. Having recently taken up occasional running again - and I do mean occasional - I found that the movement caused by jogging caused the earpieces to constantly fall out. I'd heard about in-ear headphones with changeable sizes of earbuds and decided to give them a go. I ordered my pair of Creative EP-630s from eBay for the princely sum of four pounds including delivery. First impressions were that they looked well built as I would expect from Creative. I immediately tried them with my Sony mp3 player and was surprised to hear what appeared to be an underwater concert. After experimenting with the earbud sizes (four are supplied) and the method of inserting them into the ear I got much better results, The sound is a lot more bassy than I'm used to. I adjusted the graphic equaliser on my mp3 player and got very good results in the low, middle and high frequency ranges. Sounding good. The problem of them falling out was only partially cured. The earpieces do stay in better than my previous set but they still fall out during running sessions. I now run without them. Listening while walking was improved though. They stay in place all the way into town and back. No more constant readjusting. My major complaint is that the wires are coated in a thick rubberised material. I'm sure this makes them more durable but it is so ...

Monkey Trousers - Series 1 (DVD) 03/06/2009

Seriously funny sketches.

Monkey Trousers - Series 1 (DVD) Monkey Trousers is a sketch show originally aired on ITV in the UK and penned by Vic Reeves (Jim Muir), Bob Mortimer,Steve Coogan,Simon Blackwell, Jill Parker and Christian Azzola. It also features Ronni Ancona, John Thomson, Mackenzie Crook, Ralf Little, Alsitair McGowan, Rhys Thomas and Tony Way. They're all here! Its format is similar to The Fast Show or Little Britain being character driven. We return to scenes such as the Geordie Moonshot Crew - "I smerk way mur than him, like, so I should get the ashtray", the Steve Erwin pastiche that is "The Croc Botherer"- "Let's dive on the ****!", the Idiot Estate Agent - "Has the house been on the market for long?", "I don't know - but you'll notice the shower is arranged so that the water falls onto you rather than you manually having to draw it up onto your body". Steve Coogan's disturbing creation, the Toy Shop Owner, is a highlight; "Oh, doesn't she like the Little Princess Amputee?". John Thompson had me in stitches with his voiceover artist whose performance is dictated by the type of cigarettes he smokes in the booth. The Menthol had a distrubing effect. I own the double DVD set of this series so I've seen it a few times now...I know what I'm talking about when I say I think you either "get" Vic and Bob or you hate them. Personally I love em. Always have..always will. If you do "get" this brand of humour you'll love this series. The comedy acting is second to none...with Vic, Bob, Steve Coogan, John Thomson et al putting ...

Sleeper (DVD) 16/04/2009

Woody Allen's finest hour.

Sleeper (DVD) Woody Allen plays the part of Miles Monroe, a down-trodden chemist from 1973, who has been involved in an accident which necessitated him being frozen for 200 years. He is now woken and has to come to terms with his new surroundings, the huge technological advances of the last 200 years and the changes in people. These are all too much for him and he struggles to cope. Additionally he becomes involved in a rebel plot to oust the ruling government. He is in deep - way above his head! During his adventure he wins over Luna, a female hostage he is forced to take, played very well by Diane Keaton. Initially very scared by her captor's strange ways she comes to enjoy his company. Perhaps they will find an alternative to the universally accepted "Orgasmotron" which replaces physical contact in this new Utopia? After being invited into the underground movement Miles embarks on a dangerous mission which, if successful, will stop the president of the new world being cloned. Sleeper is the film which I would consider to be Woody Allen's finest work. It is genuinely funny, well filmed and the comic acting is top class. Diane Keaton is especially funny also. A science fiction story helped me enjoy the film although it is not technical enough to put you off if sci-fi isn't your thing. It's just a peg to hang the plot on. Factoid: Woody Allen confirmed the feasibility of his scientific ideas with the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. The script makes fun of many sections of ...

Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck "Essentials") - John Steinbeck 26/03/2009

A wordsmith's genius.

Of Mice and Men (Steinbeck "Essentials") - John Steinbeck Having never read this book and finding that my partner's youngest is studying this currently I decided to finally read it. It's only around a hundred pages and this was a task long overdue. I'm glad that I did. George and Lennie are travelling manual workers in California. The plot is set during the Great Depression. Work is hard to find. Things are tough. Very tough. George is smart and slight. Lennie is large and less bright. He relies on George to guide him through life and to keep him out of trouble. George has taken pity on him. The book takes us through their attempts at getting work on yet another ranch after yet another "incident" which was caused by Lennie's childlike behaviour. They have been forced to run from their last job and George hopes that they can make enough cash this time to buy a small holding and settle down. They find work and are hopeful of making it this time. Sadly, things get out of hand yet again and without spoiling the tragic ending the deal is off. You will be moved and shocked both at once by John Steinbeck's writing. His descriptions of the landscape of California and character development are incredible. I was amazed at how much emotion and imagery was packed into a mere 100 pages. You feel that you know the characters and care for them in this short time. You can almost taste the coolness of the falling evening by the river as Steinbeck paints a mental watercolour. Just because a book is heaped in praise it doesn't always follow that ...

Amazing Grace (DVD) 03/03/2009

The story of the abolition of slavery.

Amazing Grace (DVD) Amazing Grace is the story of the abolition of the slave trade through the efforts of the Member of Parliament William Wilberforce and John Newton, a former slave ship sailor who later turned to Evangelical Christianity to help atone for the 20,000 Africans he had transported to America. these he calls his "ghosts". It is set in the late 18th century and the film follows the factual course of events that lead to this great breakthrough in justice. The director Michael Apted has done a truly wonderful job here in keeping the viewer's interest. Some historical films can end up being either confusing or failing to provide the pathos that the subject matter deserves. This film succeeds in presenting an interesting and important story and keeping it so. Visually the film is beautiful....the locations are by turns grand and squalid..Parliament or slave ship, the feel of the scenes is very authentic. The acting is superb - there are many big names here; Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Ioan Gruffudd, Rufus Sewell.......but to single individuals out would be wrong. The whole cast put in fine and moving performances. The soundtrack swells and compliments the story fantastically. It could hardly fail to. The hymn "Amazing Grace" was written by John Newton and features throughout.. I feel that this film is so strongly made that it would interest even those who at first might feel that they are not concerned about factual historical dramas. I would strongly urge them to "give it a ...

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas (Xbox 360) 25/02/2009

Realistic combat...probably!

Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas (Xbox 360) Having played Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell on the PS2 some time ago (see my previous review) I was not expecting too much from this Xbox 360 title. My earlier experience was of a repetitive game which had a hard difficulty level which left me less than satified. As this game was in the same franchise I expected to be underwhelmed. I was wrong. This time the game obviously has a lot more processing power behind it. That doesn't mean it has to be much better but this sure is!! The plot revolves around Las Vegas being taken over by a well organised terrorist group and held hostage..With the threat of the Hoover Dam being released into the desert city your squad must move quickly! You play Logan, commander of the team, and armed to the teeth with modern technology you're flown into the action........ The game uses the Unreal Tournament engine and this makes for a great game.The visual aspect of a pitched gun battle becomes terrifyingly real (I'd imagine!). Smoke clears slowly after a grenade explosion...your vision is blurred for a few seconds after taking a hit or being around as a flashbang goes off...... The audio is great.....You really are immersed in the action. Explosions, shots, incoming radio chatter..all combine to form a frantic environment in which to fight for your life! I also had a quick go on the multiplayer online version but to be honest I felt it was a large step down from the story mode (1 player). The graphics weren't as realistic and just felt me feeling ...

Quatermass And The Pit (DVD) 06/02/2009

Truly a classic of horror/sci-fi.

Quatermass And The Pit (DVD) This film was made in's now 2008 and so I thought it about time I watched the darned thing! To be honest I wasn't expecting much. I have read and heard much praise but being a lover of all things horror and science fiction I tend to be a little disappointed when lead by other people's opinions. However in this case I was pleasantly surprised. The story revolves around the discovery of a mysterious object during renovations of the London Underground at the fictional station "Hobb's End". Without spoiling the plot this necessitates the arrival of the Army Bomb Disposal Squad along with a pacifist professor, his assistants and an army of press reporters. This area of London has a reputation for strange events dating back hundreds of years in the film. What impressed me most about this seeming deviation for Hammer Horror Films into science-fiction was their ability to use their horror expertise to achieve a truly unsettling mood with a very limited budget. This movie really does begin to get under your skin as the atmosphere builds and the identity of the discovered object is discovered. Performances are above par for Hammer Horror. Professor Quatermass himself (Andrew Keir) and the very easy-on-the-eye Barbara Judd (Barbara Shelley) stand out and provide very believable performances. This is impressive in a plot which requires a very healthy dose of "suspension of disbelief". Even with special effects limited by the age of the filming and an obviously ...
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