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since 30/11/-0001


The League Of Gentlemen - Series 1 (DVD) 30/11/2002

The best black comedy ever

The League Of Gentlemen - Series 1 (DVD) The League of Gentlemen, for those of you who have been living in a cave, is a cult comedy series on the BBC. It's really difficult to put into a comedy genre, but I think the best way to describe it is dark surrealism. All the characters, apart from children are played by the same three men, with amazing plausibility. The women in particular are really well-done. The series is set in the Northern town of Royston Vasey: a non-descript post-industrial town in the middle of nowhere, and full of characters with dark secrets. For instance, we have Babs, the transexual taxi driver, Bernice, the bigotted priest, Hilary Briss, the local butcher who supplies more than just pork chops... and of course, Tubbs and Edward, who are married siblings, running the "Local Shop". Although the series has some memorable catchphrases, it is never predictable, and can occasionally be just completely off the wall. It is, however, not for people easily offended, as it seems to include almost every tabboo: homosexual teachers, transexualism, lesbianism, disability, fatal nosebleeds, murder, incest, marital hatred, animal cruelty, cannibalism, suicide and infant mortality. It's darkness is what makes it deliciously funny, and provided you are prepared to be shocked, it'll make you laugh out loud whoever you are.

Fujifilm FinePix A101 26/11/2002


Fujifilm FinePix A101 I bought this camera for snapshots, as it occurred to me that I could get back the money I had spent on it after a while, through not having to buy and devlop films. It comes with the cable and software you need to put the photos on your computer, and it was really easy to install. It's very easy to use, and I didn't really need to look at the instructions very much at all. It's got a fairly basic zoom, a close-up mode, and you can take short pieces of moving picture (about 20 sec.) without sound. The picture quality is about what you would get on an average photo, perhaps not quite asgood, but more than adequate for the computer. It has a really effective self-timer, and you can alter your photos before transferring them. The only problem I had was that it really guzzles batteries. There is an AC adamter available though, and to save money I've started using rechargable batteries. I'd say it was money well-spent, particularly considering the amount I'll save on developing. I'd recommend it, as long as you don't want to take too many photos all at once: you can take about 20 with the card that comes with it. If you want to take more, you need to buy a bigger card, which could cost a bit. PS To answer your comments: It costs £100 and uses 2 AA batteries. I think the software takes up 32 MB of space and comes with a USB cable.

Nicorette Nicotine Patches Full Strength 22/10/2002

Medium hell with Nicotinell

Nicorette Nicotine Patches Full Strength I'm wearing a Nicotinell patch now, as I'm currently trying to give up a 30 a day habit. Of course the patches are expensive: about £20 a pack, but cheaper in the long-run than smoking. I put my first patch on the night before my first smokeless day, so that I would have nicotine already in my body for the first, worst morning. The patch really helped me get through the first morning, although it was not easy. Over the next few days it got worse, but I'd say that the patches halved the withdrawal symptoms. I'm pretty sure I couldn't have even got through the first morning without the patches. All the same, the annoying thing about them is that you have to press them down for 20 seconds to make them stick. This would be alright if it worked! I almost invariably find that the patch is peeling or slipping after a while, and I have now started sticking them to my body with masking tape!! It sounds silly but its the only way to keep them on. Apart from the stickiness problems and the expense, I'd reccommend these patches to people who are serious about giving up.

FreeSpeech 2000 Complete package 21/10/2002

Ok if you have a powerful PC and a BBC accent

FreeSpeech 2000 Complete package I picked Freespeech up at a 2nd hand shop and it was cheap, so I thought I'd give it a try. Firstly, the microphone that came with it was hopeless. Not only did it give poor sound quality (it failed Phillips' own audio test), but it was also an old-fashioned hand-held type thing which defeats the purpose of hands-free typing! I used a better headset microphone and began to train it. This took longer than the other package I have tried: Dragon, and was a less effective training. When I first started using it, it recognised about 10% of what I said, and came out with the most ridiculous words: (chiefly Americanisms, so not actually words at all). I suppose that if I had either a BBC accent or the right kind of American accent it would have been more effective, but despite hours of training this program, it still failed to understand my (only slight) Welsh accent. Admittedly it was faster on recognition than other packages, but this was cancelled out by the time I had to spend with corrections and the length of time it took to load. It also gobbled up my memory at a nasty rate. On the whole I would not recommend it to potential buyers.

Silence Of The Lambs (DVD) 22/08/2002

Classic and gripping

Silence Of The Lambs (DVD) Silence of the Lambs was most people's first introduction to Dr. Hannibal Lecter. This film is very unusual, like its sequel, "Hannibal" because it is one of those films that leaves you trying to decide whether you love or hate Dr. Lecter. Anthony Hopkins' performance in this film was so utterly phenomenal that it almost destroyed his acting career: he was no longer convincing in other parts because nobody could forget his performance as Lecter. I'm particularly interested by the way good and evil are seperated in this film only by very hazy and shifting boundaries: there is always the suggestion of ambiguity in people's motives and actions. At any rate, you have to respect and admire Lecter: he is a kind and well-mannered man, exrtraordinarily cultured and educated, thoughtful and sensitive. He just happens to enjoy eating people too. However, his motives are always impeccable: he ate one of his early victims, a disappointing flute player, "to improve the sound of the Baltimore Philharmonic". Starling is also a very strong character, and the two characters compliment each other in this film. I would recommend this film, which is NOT horror, but psychological thriller, and possibly the best example of that genre. ...

Freecom Portable DVD-8/40 12/01/2002

Good, but be warned...

Freecom Portable DVD-8/40 I bought the Freecom portable DVD-ROM drive for my laptop, which only had an internal CD ROM drive. I wanted to play DVD's and was able to do so. The drive is external, and connects to any computer via a parallell port, firexire, USB or PC card, through the PCMCIA slot of a laptop. If the PCMCIA port also has ZV (Zoomed Video) capability, it is a huge bonus. It came with an excellent driver, and software, and was easy enough to install on Windows ME (it is also supported by NT, 95, 98, XP etc). However, I did find that the picture and sound were quite jerky, and sometimes almost unwatchable. I got around this by buying a hardware MPEG II decoder card ("Dvd-to-go", from Margi systems), which sorted out the problem. But I was lucky that I happened to have 2 PCMCIA slots, as it turned out i needed both: one for the Freecom card and one for the Margi card. The moral of the story is that if your processor is a Celeron 600Mhz like mine, or anything less, the strain put on the processor will be too much to ensure good playback unless you have a hardware decoder card. It's an easy thing to overlook. All the same, the drive itself is cheap, reliable, durable and perfectly sufficient for ordinary use.

The Silence of the Lambs - Thomas Harris 24/10/2001

His pulse never got above eighty

The Silence of the Lambs - Thomas Harris If you are already familiar with the film, don't think that the book isn't worth reading. I've seen the film dozens of times, and I think it's one of the best films of all time, but I recently read the book, and realised how much richer in graphic detail and personal description it is. There are lots of scenes in the book that just aren't in the film, and never could be, but they contribute to the story in different ways. Even when you know what is going to happen, it is still a gripping read, and that's part of Thomas Harris' skill. I expect if I had read the book before seeing the film, I wouldn't have liked the film so much, because, as in so many cases, the film destroys your own picture of the characters and events. But if you read the book after seeing the film, the book can serve to reinforce the pictures you already have from the film, and make the whole experience more vivid. It's hard, in this case, to say which is better, the book or the film, but it's certainly good stuff.

Doctor Strangelove (DVD) 19/10/2001

Mein Fuhrer, I can walk

Doctor Strangelove (DVD) This is the film with probably the best ending line. Dr. Strangelove, a demented German weapons specialist with behaviour that can only be called utterly and totally bizarre. The Russian ambassador scuffling with the US generals "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, this is the war room". General Ripper's paranoia, defending to the last man, "our precious bodily fluids" from "communist perversion". The placid and occasionally sinister Captain Mandrake. Peter Sellers (again) as the US President, on the phone to "Dmitri", his Russian counterpart..."I'm as upset as you are, dont say you're more upset because I'm upset too...ok?"........"oh Dmitri don't be like that, of course I like to talk to you"... All of this top class humour from a film about nuclear anihilation and mutually assured destruction. It is an extremely odd film, and can't really be described, but it is incredibly funny and well made, and one of those classics that you just can't miss.

The Great Escape (DVD) 16/08/2001

Motorbikes are faster than aeroplanes

The Great Escape (DVD) I would venture to say that this is the best war film of all time. All right, It's NOT realsitic. Its a brilliant example of the swashbuckling allied bravado genre. It seems that McCarthy may have had some influence in the making of this film, as the heroes are all American, and anyone who isn't American or British is portrayed as either suspicious or a bit dim! But the film sticks pretty much to the true story, and its a lot of fun. Of course, the horrors of a POW camp are not to be seen here, only officiers with pipes and cardigans, creeping around in the dark making fake passports out of their blankets etc. One very funny thing about the film is that motorbikes evidently travel faster than planes, as you will see after the escape. It's a great film, but don't watch t if you are a German or a historian dedicated to accuracy.

Red Dragon - Thomas Harris 31/07/2001

Lets be honest about carnage

Red Dragon - Thomas Harris OK, if you have got as far as reading this, you'd probably be lying if you deny that you like to read about blood, murder, savagery, cannibalism and general nastiness. The main reason most people want to read Red Dragon is to meet Dr. Hannibal Lecter MD for the first time. If you are expecting a lot about Dr Lecter, you will be disappointed. Only a few chapters contain dialogue with Lecter. However, Thomas Harris's talent for conjuring up images of the perverse and bizarre really excells in Red Dragon. Francis Dolarhyde, the serial killer called the Red Dragon/ Tooth Fairy is a fascinating character in many ways. part of Harris's talent for producing gripping and exciting material lies in the way he produces empathy. At many stages of the book, I felt an empathy with the killer, and even wanted him to escape! Perhaps this makes me a psychopath too, but nevermind. If you have an appetite for nastiness, then Red Dragon will probably leave you feeling quite satisfied. If you are interested in the psychological/forensic side of it, there's plenty of that too. In general, it's at about the same level as Hannibal, and Silence of the Lambs, but it has been paid less attention. Brilliant twist at the end, by the way.

Diazepam 29/04/2001

Be very careful with this.

Diazepam Diazepam, (Valium) is a very useful drug to take for anxiety and panic attacks, and one of the advantages of it is that it comes in very low dose tablets of as little as 2mg, so that you can take the minimum needed. There are a few problems with it though. It is very addictive if you use it for a long time, and you can also become tolerant to it, so that you need to take more and more to get the effect. This makes it more likely that addiction may follow. There are hardly any side effects worth mentioning. As I said, it is very effective against anxiety, giving you a relaxed, but not too dopey feeling. If you take it, you should try to take the minimum neccesary, and try not to take it too long. apparently, you should'nt take it regularly for more than 10 days. Give your body a break after that. If you do that, then Diazepam is a very good drug.

Stilnoct 29/04/2001

Good for a while....

Stilnoct Stilnoct (Zolpidem Hemitartrate) is a prescription sleeping tablet, although it is part of a new generation of hypnotics/ sedatives, which are not as habit- forming as the likes of Temazepam, Nitrazepam or Diazepam. In my own case, I have been taking it on and off for a few years now, and I find that it is very effective, with the advantage that it does not give you a "hangover" effect the next day, as some tablets do. It also gives you a full nights sleep, unlike some medicines which will get you off to sleep, but then make you to wake up early the next day. However, it is worth bearing in mind that although they are not addictive, you can develop a tolerance for them very quickly. For example I can't take them for more than 4 nights in a row: they just stop working. I have to give myself a break of a week or so. So they are good for occasional use, but not the miracle some expect.

Paroxetine 27/04/2001

A warning

Paroxetine Paroxetine (Seroxat) has been very effective for me, over the last four years, but unfortunately, they are very difficulat to come off. I don't know if it is the same with all anti-depressants, but I have found that if I miss more than a few days by mistake, or if I run out over the weekend, I get some very nasty withdrawal symptoms, such as dizziness, sweating, panicky feelings and sickness. I am taking a high dose (40mg), and have been advised not to come off them anyway, but for those who are taking them for the short term only, I would warn you to be careful, as there are a number of reports of withdrawal symptoms. The actual side effects of seroxat, though, are very minimal, and go away after a week or so, and it is a very effective drug, especially when there is anxiety as well.

Lustral 27/04/2001

Unmentioned side-effects

Lustral I took Lustral for a few months two years ago, and I found it very unpleasant, but also ineffective compared to other SSRIs. The side-effects were particularly bad in my case: I know other people who have sufered the same side-effects, and it makes me think that perhaps the warnings in the leaflet are not realistic enough. I found that I had to eat a large meal before taking it, in order not to feel sick for hours. Under normal circumstances, this would be fine, but you have to take it first thing in the morning, and also, when depressed, you tend to lose your appetite. It also caused some very profound sexual dysfunction, impotence (which lasted for a while after finishing Lustral), and dizziness. As if this was not enough, it was not particularly effective in releiving anxiety or depression in my case.

Philosophy: the Basics - Nigel Warburton 25/04/2001

A Superb Introduction

Philosophy: the Basics - Nigel Warburton This smallish book is an excellent introductory read for anyone who is starting out in philosophy. It covers all the main areas of philosophy, such as Ethics, Politics, Metaphysics, Epistemology, etc. and all in very plain English. Nigel Warburton is well- known for producing really good introductory and beginner's guides to philosophy, as well as some more advanced stuff. Another good book by Nigel Warburton for those starting out in philosophy is "Philosophy- The Classics", which gives a chapter to each of about twenty really major works of philosophy, all the way from Aristotle to Wittgenstein. It's very easy to read, and very encouraging for somebody coming to philosophy for the first time. Another, more recent book by Warburton, "Philosophy- Basic Readings" is also very useful, although a little larger.
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