Share this page on

blue Status blue (Level 3/10)

ronniec

ronniec

No member profile available. The person you are looking for is no longer a Ciao member.

Reviews written

since 03/11/2000

60

Lost 1973 Album - John Dummer 09/10/2002

The end of the line

Lost 1973 Album - John Dummer The last of the Smiths albums, Strangeways Here We Come is probably the band's weakest offering and paints a very different picture of the group than that of the previous three. Recorded around the time of their split, the album oozes the resigned tones of a swansong. Much like the dying swan, the Smiths' final words were beautifully tragic. Whereas the first three Smiths albums were aggressive both musically and lyrically, Strangeways seems comfortable sat back with a much calmer sound and Morrissey's lyrics seem to reflect his personal life at the time. A mix of romantic confusion and resignation, combined with the growing divisions within the group, produced an album which does not have the musical greatness of earlier EPs or lyrical wit which makes the first album, The Smiths, a classic. Describing a Smiths album as depressing is akin to pointing out the Pope is Catholic, but Strangeways runs an extra mile with rare hint of anything brighter on the horizon. In some ways this is disappointing. What should have been a glorious end to their life as the greatest pop band of the time, instead finishes as an introverted bemoaning of the world around Morrissey. Every song concerns Morrissey's ills, from his rejection of love in the opening track through to his cry that 'this is my time' in the ending song. Strangeways also marks a clear move towards Morrissey's sound, the slower and more relaxed sound which he used throughout his solo career. Johnny Marr's guitars, for ...

Smiths - Smiths (The) 07/10/2002

A smile lights up her stupid face...

Smiths - Smiths (The) The Smiths' self-titled debut album, released in 1984, met with NME's usual critical acclaim. Y'know, "the next Stones", "have the new Beatles arrived?", all the usual questions they feel obliged to ask of a new band at least once a year. Although you'd generally be foolish to listen to their opinion too seriously, in this case in late '83, they were unquestionably correct. A year or so after signing to their first record label, The Smiths got round to releasing this album, recorded in both London and Manchester over a period of several months. Since beginning to really get into music, it's always been my opinion that debut albums are rarely bettered. Manchester bands, in particular - think Joy Division, Oasis, Stone Roses. Debut albums, I guess, are the first outpouring of anger and tension the band has, so it all gets crammed in there at one hundred rpm. I know that if I had the talent and opportunity to record an album with Johnny Marr, I'd make sure to get my two penn'orth in before the chance passed, having finally come at last. Morrissey, seemingly so ever-confident, might not have felt his chance would be so fleeting, but the anger and resentment is expressed most thoroughly in this album regardless. The beauty of Morrissey's lyrics lies in the beauty of his words, and this album is perhaps the pinnacle of his achievements in that respect. Of course, this is a very personal opinion, and there is so much of merit in their other three albums that to highlight this ...

Lexmark Z 13 Color Jetprinter 07/10/2002

False economy defined

Lexmark Z 13 Color Jetprinter Having been a student for the majority of my life, printing from home has never been a necessity for me. There has always been a printer of quality far beyond my means available at school, college or university, so for years I did not even consider adding a printer to my PC. That changed recently when I was, shockingly, forced to work for a year and suddenly discovered life without free printing. Cue a stroll down the unfamiliar aisles of computer stores, printers stacked ten-deep, a maze of features and dots per inches that left me yearning for the good old days of dot matrix monstrosities that just did the job and left you alone. The Lexmark Z13 was my choice simply because of the price. At £29 from Argos it was the cheapest I had seen anywhere and it looked reasonable for the price, as all products in home shopping catalogues somehow do. Only a fool would have expected much for £29, yet the Z13 managed to disappoint even these low expectations. Much of the disappointment I experienced with this product was due to my own stupidity in impulse buying this lump of plastic and I hope by reading this you will perhaps avoid the same misfortune. With the advantage of hindsight, let me state categorically that I would sooner have tried to buy £29 worth of crack from a policeman than blow the money on a product which redefines false economy. The Z13 follows a similar marketing model to, for example, the Nintendo Gamecube, in that the product itself is sold at a near-loss with ...

mradgood.co.uk 21/03/2001

Take my money. Please...

mradgood.co.uk Money, did you say? That gold stuff you put in your pockets and throw away on cider? That stuff you can get for doing absolutely nothing by signing up with Mr. AdGood and pressing a button twice on your mobile phone? Yes, that would be money, specifically the bronze variety, of which Mr. AdGood will throw three pence worth your way every time you do him a favour. And who would this kindly fellow be? He's a cross between those good Sirs Richard Branson and Clive Sinclair. On the one hand, he's got the entrepreneurial spirit that made the ginger one himself a millionaire many times over, and on the other he's a chap cursed with the belief that an absolutely mad business model might somehow succeed. OK, so maybe Mr. AdGood's idea might go further than the Sinclair C5, but the differences aren't enormous. Mr. AdGood is another of those nouveau marketing schemes that the internet has spawned over the last few years. Dooyoo have got in on the act recently with their EuroPanel affair, and essentially Mr. AdGood works along similar lines. Those lines being, targeted marketing. Over the last year or so, advertisers have finally come to terms with the fact that nobody ever clicks or even grants more than a cursory glance in the direction of banners. Y'know, those humorous animated advertisements that make you want to spend all your money because the zany cartoon character makes it sound like a cool space idea. In the place of banners, you'll have seen the pop-up adverts on ...

No Witnesses - Ridley Pearson 19/03/2001

Sexual intrigue and dairy products...

No Witnesses - Ridley Pearson Almost every thriller I have ever read has, unfortunately, followed a formulaic style. The crime, the chase, the scary bit, the catch. Occasionally a chapter or two will deviate, devoted entirely to character development and showing us that cops aren't all hard-bitten alcoholics. Even more rarely, you will stumble upon a book hidden at the back of the thriller shelves that doesn't follow this style at all. No Witnesses, by Ridley Scott, is one of these. I chanced upon No Witnesses while looking for my usual thick, flashy-covered thriller. Every couple of weeks I head down to the second-hand bookshop and scan the dusty shelves for anything that looks at least four hundred pages long and has some pretty cover art. It might not be a foolproof method, but experience has taught me it generally roots out the most accessible books, and this is one of them. Much of the thriller genre adopts either an elitist or condescending tone, assuming you are either a literary genius yourself or a bumbling fool who needs even the most basic clues laid out in big letters. Ridley Pearson is an author who I have come to admire over time, as his style is well-placed and his work is very accessible to a wide range of readers. Those coming from Agatha Christie et al will find his work a refreshing change, while fans of Stephen King and the like will enjoy the more sedate pace of proceedings. Pearson describes his work as suspense fiction, and No Witnesses, his most widely acclaimed novel, is a ...

Max HTML Beauty 19/03/2001

Beautiful, just beautiful...

Max HTML Beauty Picture a world where creating a webpage didn't involve endless cutting and pasting in Notepad; where you can click a button and have your paragraph tags inserted just like that; where you can use a whole range of powerful features to make it all a breeze. This world, should it exist, would have only one HTML editor, and that would be MAX's HTML Beauty. As a long-time user of this freeware product, I would not be able to live with myself if I did not spread the word of this glorious product. What exactly makes it just so good? Put simply, it is beautiful. Beautiful in the way that Anna Friel smiles, or Gary Bushell makes a fool of himself every week. Software does not turn me on very often, but this sexy piece of kit (to quote Jeremy Clarkson) arouses me more than a remake of the Emmanuelle films starring Shannon Tweed. Since its first version in the summer of 2000, Beauty has grown into an editor which can seriously rival even the best commercial alternatives - Allaire's HomeSite included, which is quite a feat. Add to this the constant and rapid development of the product and you may begin to understand why I feel such loyalty towards it. Beauty's feature-set is extensive, while still weighing in at a meagre 2Mb download. The screen layout is simple yet includes all the elements which are so rarely combined in other editors. A central viewing pane occupies the largest portion of the screen, which can display your files in any available font. Syntax-highlighting ...

genie.co.uk 19/03/2001

Three wishes - SMS, e-mail, and...

genie.co.uk According to other users, genie.co.uk was apparently once a very poor site. Pages slow to load, messages slow to send, a sluggish design. I cannot fairly comment on any of these claims as I have used Genie only since its recent redesign which seems to have largely appeased its irate users. Looking at it from my perspective, though, it seems hard to believe this site could ever have had such problems. To sum up the site in three words like the poorest of Hale & Pace lines, Genie is a (one) communications (two) centre (three). At least, that is what it markets itself as, and on the basis of "over one million subscribers" it seems to be succeeding. Its reputation as the first free online text messaging service has surely also had something to do with that. Although there are a whole new breed of Genie-u-likes cropping up on the net as SMS messaging booms, Genie still has that hold over the net-savvies who derive distinct pleasure from recounting how they were on the net even before Genie started in 1998, y'know. And Netscape is waaay the best browser. Of course, these communications are distinctly limited to the digital sort. This is the twenty-first Century, and the days of the cap-doffing postie having his leg bitten by Mrs. Smithworthy's small yappy dog are numbered, apparently. Sign up for Genie, and you'll be able to communicate in an instant with anyone you know. So long, of course, as they have either an e-mail address or mobile phone. By definition most people ...

virtualave.net (Virtual Avenue) 14/03/2001

Doesn't get much better...

virtualave.net (Virtual Avenue) There are thousands of free hosts on the net but there are a select group whose names are always banded about in the knowing circles. Down at the bottom of the pile are the advertisers like Geocities, but at the top are the real top-class services - and virtualave.net are among them. There are several key differences between Virtual Avenue and their many competitors. 20Mb of storage space is allocated to you, which should be more than ample for all personal and business needs. First and foremost is the full support offered for Perl scripting. Few free services offer CGI access but Virtual Avenue most definitely does. There are no restrictions on what kind of scripts you can run, with the exception of free-for-all link scripts which have the potential to overload their servers. This opens up a whole new world for your website; commercial sites in particular will find the a huge advantage. It gets even better, though, as a dig through the documentation reveals they also offer SSI (Server Side Includes). This is even more of a rarity; and as an added bonus, you don't even have to rename your files to .shtml for the tags to work. For the Micro$ofties among you, they also support Frontpage extensions which means you can build your average, uninspired template-based site using all the proprietary tags Mr. Gates can throw at you, and it will run like a dream on their servers. As you may have guessed, I strongly discourage this but for those locked into custom-built ...

34sp.com 14/03/2001

A number 34, please...

34sp.com Holding the title among my friends as The Mightiest Webcaster In Existence, it is perhaps no surprise that the job of finding a host for our communal website fell to me. I have run this site for almost three years now, and in all that time it has been hosted on one free site or another - first Xoom, and most recently, Virtual Avenue. However, the time came when we felt it was right to move into the major league and buy our own domain name. Owning your own domain is very much like plastic surgery. You're still the same person on the inside, but you look a bit jazzier on the outside. From the decidedly average-sounding free host address we had, we now have a spanking new domain name that if it were a decoration on Blackpool Promenade, would be a funky shiny Father Christmas affair that all the children looked up to in awe. Sadly, finding a host for our new website turned out to be a much trickier affair than one would have expected. Having stopped reading computer magazines a year ago (sensationalist stories about Bill Gates' new operating system just can't compare to the Daily Sport), buyacheapdomain.com from the back pages was the last name to enter my mind. So, I resorted to a search through Google, and as the more intuitive among you may have guessed, 34sp.com were the pick of the bunch. In the big picture, 34sp are a website hosting and domain registration company. Based in the UK, they are a small but growing organisation and currently offer what I believe to ...

FHM 14/03/2001

You'll be a man, my son...

FHM The men's magazine phenomenon is a curious thing. Designed solely to appeal to the twenty-something man about the town who can take his beer, the entire craze centres around one idea: that men should be happy with the simple ways they are. The 90s man is subtly different to the FHM man. For the 90s man, see Paul Bown - the sickeningly wimpy actor who you may remember from mediocre 90s sitcom, Watching. A man who doesn't mind ferrying his mother-in-law into town to do her shopping. A man who works ten-hour shifts so his wife can fritter money away on satisfying her grotesquely large appetite for clothes. A man who, when told by his wife that he should wear slacks at weekends, does just that. For the FHM man, think Bono. A man of style, composure, wit and undeniable good looks. The women fall at his feet and he has more talent in his little finger than Linford Christie has in his whole lunchbox. When challenged by a stinging remark, he returns a witty reposte Wilde would have been proud of. And when his mum's gone out, he's got something wicked to entertain himself with, man. Of course, I am indeed more than a little disparaging towards the FHM man. My main problem lies with the culture that the magazine is not catering for, but fostering. It encourages the "laddish" attitude that seems to be increasingly popular among women (although they have less and less choice as the cult grows), yet is crushing for all other men (Paul Bown in particular, I imagine). Through ...

Blackburn (England) 14/03/2001

Four thousand holes, yadda yadda...

Blackburn (England) Think of Blackburn for a second. What comes to mind? I'd bet the football team is somewhere near the top of your list, and the more political-minded of you might recall that Jack Straw is the town's MP. Beyond that, the cliches start to come into play. Mills, flat caps and whippets, a chip shop on every street corner and enormous numbers of terraced houses, home to bitter, craggy-faced housewives with fifteen children under the age of five. I'd like to say those cliches are entirely untrue, but unfortunately there is still at least a small element of truth in some of them. It is still hard to find an area of the town without a Victorian mill visible on the skyline. The only difference now is that instead of churning out half of the country's cotton, they are derelict, vandalized shells which only serve to remind the town of what it once used to be. Likewise, should those dee-licious Weight Watchers 'shakes ever get you down, there's sure to be a chippy just round the corner to serve up a nice, healthy bag of chips and a greasy dab on the side. Blackburn, then, could perhaps have been the place A Tale Of Two Cities was referring to (only more pies, and less Parisian). On the one hand, the legacy of its long and quite successful history looms over the town, while on the other it is a town trying desperately to pull itself into the twenty-first Century. Both sides are clearly visible to the visitor and resident - from the uber-chic new train station and boulevard, right ...

freedom2surf.net 27/02/2001

Freedom 2 Surf, and host...

freedom2surf.net There is such a ridiculous number of free web hosting services and ISPs available all over the net now, that choosing one is becoming increasingly difficult. The first ever version of my homepage was hosted on the ever-popular Tripod. Then, I was attracted to the ad-free Xoom - before they decided to destroy their user base by forcing banners down your throat. Finally, I ended up with Virtual Avenue, which is where I would currently recommend you go for a free site - although f2s has several advantages which is why I have another site there too. f2s are a UK ISP who would like you to believe they are specialists in this crazy new "broadband access" thing. For the non-techies out there, the simple equation broadband = fast generally explains the matter. They offer an ADSL service, giving them the capability to offer connection speeds from 64Kbps/sec right up to the practical limit of 2Mbits/sec. Again, these will be meaningless terms to most, but trust an internet computing student when I say that these are as fast connections the UK will realistically be getting for the foreseeable future. The 64k and 128K dual ISDN connections are both available freely although the obligatory call/rental charges then come into play. If super-charged net access isn't your thing, f2s also offer a standard, free 56Kbps dialup connection. The main card that f2s hold here is that their relatively unknown status means their service is literally under-subscribed. Rather than having to slug ...

Isle of Man (England) 27/02/2001

We're from the Isle of Man...

Isle of Man (England) Basing your opinion of the Isle of Man upon what you've seen of it from the infamous Fast Show sketches would quite probably be the worst thing you could do. Not only are the sketches utterly unfunny and devoid of humour of any kind, they are an insult to the Manx people and have a basis built on sand. Manx sand, at that. I jest. The sketches featuring the middle-aged husband and wife from the Isle of Man, holidaying abroad (see: a very wet field in Yorkshire) and loving every moment of it, are at the very least a little wide of the mark. In general, the principle behind the sketches has some basis - the people of the island can come across as somewhat insular and self-reliant. But in many other ways, this small island is one of the hidden gems of the British Isles that many, in the sweeping popularity of package holidays to Spain and Greece, now ignore. Let me make it clear: the Isle of Man is most definitely not for everyone. The vast majority of the island is very similar to quaint English countryside villages you might stumble across in the Lake District. Poorly-lit tea rooms, dusty corner shops and cockles on the beach (Windermere has a beach too, y'know). So before you even think of boarding the ferry, you have to ask yourself if that's the kind of holiday you want. Aside from Douglas, the capital, little of the island is geared towards tourisism in the sense most of think of it today. If you do go, you'd better be prepared to seek out the entertainment if you ...

HMV.co.uk 27/02/2001

Charlie Mingus' Slop, please...

HMV.co.uk Music dot.coms have had the field to themselves for a long time, but the relatively recent arrival of High Street heavyweight HMV into the arena has shifted the balance of power considerably in one swoop. In particular, as this opinion is being written, hmv.co.uk has just undergone a redesign which has addressed many of the problems I raised in my original opinion. In general, hmv.co.uk is the online arm of HMV, the record shop, selling identical products. As well as a vast selection of CDs, the site also prominently features DVDs, VHS tapes and to a lesser but growing extent, computer games. This wide array of goods makes the site an attractive option to many who may well find their entire entertainment needs catered for in this one site. The website itself has benefitted immeasurably from the redesign. I originally criticised the site for its awful loading times and numerous security and payment problems, but these have all been addressed more than adequately. In fact, I would rank hmv.co.uk as one of the most impressive sites on the net. It's like one of those impossibly obese people you see on the WeightWatchers adverts that sheds thirty stones in three weeks. You just can't believe that something that was once so rubbish is now so cool. It has a very clean and attractive look, using a simple white and blue colour scheme which doesn't force itself down your throat as many do. Browsing the site should be intuitive to most using the familiar navigation bar at ...

X-Men (DVD) 27/02/2001

Kirk is way better than Picard...

X-Men (DVD) Comic book films are in my experience among the most entertaining on the market. You've got the 90s Gothic brilliance of Tim Burton's Batman, the camped-up Superman of the 80s and those swinging Hulk movies from the 70s. Bringing us bang up to date comes the X-Men movie, the big-screen adaptation of the popular comic book series. I have one friend in particular who is big on comics. He can reel of a long list of obscure names and references even after ten pints. He knows the entire family tree of Spiderman and his many relatives. And he's even got a thing for comic book ladies now. So, I was hoping he'd be a good person to watch X-Men with. I was not disappointed. Watching films with someone who has a vested interest in them brings a whole new perspective that I for one would normally miss out on. I'm not a huge film-watcher, but I do like watching something with friends. X-Men is a great film for this - it never takes itself all too seriously, and fans of the comic will have a field day spotting the references and pointing out the plot flaws. The plot of the film is, to be precise, wholly unremarkable, and I would struggle to stretch out a hundred words to cover it. But then, I suspect a deep and meaningful plot was never top of the writer's list - trying to explain a long-running series such as the X-Men in under two hours just can't be done. The characters are never explored fully in the film, being only briefly introduced. Indeed, this is something of a ...
See more reviews Back to top