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since 30/11/-0001

633 03/03/2007

THE RISE OF HELIUM I have been on review sites for what seems ages. I enjoy them. I also enjoy diversity, and sites don't come much more diverse than a new kind of site, where instead of producing reviews, a member produces articles. Joining up is simple, and upon examination of the site, what I found was a refreshing change from the opinion sites that I have previously belonged to, in that they offer members the chance to air their views on all kinds of topics, and it is more an information database than a product review writing site. Looking through the existing categories, which range from Arts and Humanities, and stretch through to Sciences, Lifestyle, Finance, Jobs and Careers, plus a very wide range of what they label 'channels', it really is not hard to find areas where your expertise or areas of interest lie. You can literally write articles about anything at all, and they really do not mind if you articles are cut and pasted from sites where you have already posted them. What they are looking for is quality articles, though how do you define quality ? Judging by many of the articles on the Helium database, the site is in its early learning stages. There are numerous poor articles. By introducing better articles, you can actually make a fair bit of pocket money from the site by writing about subjects that interest you. Like all opinion sites, plagairism is against the rules, though copying doesn't seem to be rife on the site. Other rules include never putting your name in articles ...

Memoirs of a Geisha DVD 14/02/2007


Memoirs of a Geisha DVD I bought both the book and the film at the same time and decided that I would read the book first. However, having read it, cover to cover, found it hard to try and imagine how a film could better the achievement of the book itself, since the pictures conjured up by the written word in this edition were astoundingly detailed, and left the reader with set ideas about the landscape, the characters, and the era covered in the original story by Arthur Golden. I was unsure of how the adaptation by Robin Swicord would work, since the original writer left nothing out. The picture that he painted of the history of a Geisha in the city of Gion was so detailed that before I even started to watch the film, I had preconceptions about both the characters and the backdrop that made the story so complete. The writer didn't use superfluous description. Every word that he wrote added to the picture and it was indeed a complete one, and I had doubts about whether a film could adequately deal with the complex nature of the subject matter. The story follows the life of Chiyo, a young girl taken away from her home in the fishing village of Yoroido at the age of 8. Here, I was disappointed with the film, and although the opening sequences showing the scene of where Chiyo lived as a child were so accurate to the book, what was missing was to me an important part of the story, in that in the book, the thought patterns of the young Chiyo made crystal clear the growing process of the child, whereas ...

Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden 08/02/2007


Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden I had never read Arthur Golden before, although I was tempted to read this book through recommendation. Thus I had no pre-conceptions of the writing style of the author. Neither had I seen the film, and although I bought the film, was glad that I decided to read the book first, since the film pales in comparison. The story tells of Chiyo, a young girl (aged 8), living in the fishing village of Yoroido in 1929, with her mother, father and sister, Satsu, and the road which takes her from the simple life she is leading to being a successful Geisha. From the moment I started to read the book, I was captivated by the writing style, though more than this the picture that it wove. Many authors succeed in describing characters, though few that I have read can conjure up the atmosphere to the extent that this book did. Whereas with other books, you are tempted sometimes to miss the odd paragraph and jump ahead of yourself, what I found was that I loved every word of the book, and that the words were not wasted. Instead, they were like the tiny pixels of a photograph and each had its place, and without them would not have portrayed the picture so well. It's amazingly interesting, cleverly put together and a very readable book indeed. When Chiyo and Satsu are taken away from their parents to the City of Gion, neither are aware of why they are taken, and here the naivety of the girls is explained very well indeed, as they make their new homes, in separate communities called Okiyos, ...

The Devil Wears Prada (DVD) 02/02/2007


The Devil Wears Prada (DVD) Film only review. Imagine you are fresh out of college, and want a career in Journalism. You see an advertisement of a job most fashion conscious writers would kill for, although to you it is just a way in to that final aim of becoming a journalist. This is the situation that Andrea, (Anne Hathaway), finds herself in, although the job she had in mind is very different to the opportunity which presents itself as Assistant to the Editor in Chief of Runway magazine. At the beginning of the film, we see her going for her interview, and the interview being interrupted by the entrance of the boss, Miranda Priestley (played by Meryl Street), which should have given poor Andrea some idea of what she could expect working for a tyrant who literally scared most of the staff that work for her into a chaotic arrangement of seeming calm whenever Miranda appeared on the scene. She is the Editor in Chief of Runway Magazine, and a career magnate. Telling you where the story goes would be a shame, as you need to discover this for yourself, although it does have morals to tell, and the introduction of many characters along the way. The film is an award winning combination of skill nominated for costume design, Leading Role, Best Edited Feature Film (and here the work was amazing), and won a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in Motion Picture, and really did merit it. So what is all about ? More important than the story line itself is the weaving of characters to ...

Vanishing Acts - Jodi Picoult 30/01/2007


Vanishing Acts - Jodi Picoult Jodi Picoult is particularly good at making readers ask themselves questions about morality. It's her hallmark, and one that she is very gifted at, exploring situations that others writers shy away from, or fail miserably at. She is amazing. When you read her books, you get to feel that apart from researching her subjects well, she has an uncanny knack of understanding human nature to the extent that the characters roll of the page as real people. Having read her more popular books that touched on subjects such as an infant being found dead in an Amish Barn and the moral questions that followed the event (Plain Truth), and a book about a young girl who was conceived for the purpose of supplying her sister with the necessary bone marrow to keep her alive (My Sisters Keeper), I was astounded at this writers' gift for tackling the difficult and make it seemingly effortless and natural. The third book that I read was The Pact, where she dealt with adolescents, and the deep rooted and problematic background that lead to a very sad conclusion. It was because of my experience of Picoult that I bought this book, and expected it to follow in the footsteps of other books by the same author. The premise of the story showed promise, and a little phrase on the cover got me pulled back into the world of Jodi Picoult, with a huge tug of anticipation. It stated that it takes two people to make a lie work, the person that tells it, and the one who believes it. Vanishing Acts is the ...

Butterfly Escape (PC) 22/01/2007


Butterfly Escape (PC) I love games like Luxor and having completed Luxor and its follow up game, Amun Rising, was keen to find another game which gave me as much joy. If I am going to buy a game at a price of 13.99 GBP, which seems to be a standard price for these downloadable games, I wanted one in the same ilk. The idea is that you have a chain of balls which make their way around the screen, and that you shoot balls from the bottom of the screen to create rows of three or more, to eliminate those balls from the gameplay, with the objective of getting rid of all the balls in the chain before they reach a tunnel at the other end of the track they take. It's a pretty easy formula and one that works rather well with Luxor, as they seem to have focused their attention on gameplay rather than clever graphics, and by goodness it shows. The difficulty levels really do stretch the player, and that was the main reason that I was looking for a game in a similar ilk. Butterfly escape promised every bit as much fun as Luxor, and went one step further with graphics, in that instead of solid coloured balls that look like Christmas decorations and don't distract the eye, Butterfly Escale decided that the balls should ressemble bubbles, and their opacity really is clever and cunning. Place these on a backdrop that is really pretty, with flowers and plants, and the overall look of the game impressed me enough to part with my money. The game is downloadable from many sites, though the one that I use is ...

The Pact - Jodi Picoult 21/01/2007


The Pact - Jodi Picoult Jodi Picoult has a lot to answer for. Her books are eating into my life, and the reason for this is that she really does have the knack of telling a good story. Having read a couple of her books, which dealt with questions of morality, and relationships between parents and children, I wanted to read something that dealt again with morality, though this time with the relationship between parent and adolescent, and this book seemed to be offering exactly what I was looking for. The story that is presented here tells of two couples, living in a relatively exclusive area, and being neighbours since the birth of their youngsters, right through to the present day, when their children are respectively sixteen and seventeen. The relationship between the main characters of the book, Emily Gold and Chris Harte, is the central focus of the story, which culminates in Emily being found dead of a gunshot wound. This doesn't give anything of the story away, because the scenario is sketched out on the cover, though what the cover doesn't tell you is the intensity of the relationship, and the whys and wherefores that lead to this startlingly drastic event. The portrayal of the characters that make up this story is astoundingly believeable and as a reader you really do get pulled into asking moral questions about yourself sometimes. You see little familiar traits, and Jodi Picoult is very clever in her writing, in that even at the end of a story, the reader is left with questions, not as ...

Download One-click CD/DVD Writer 1.2.1 21/01/2007


Download One-click CD/DVD Writer 1.2.1 With the multi media age offering so much more to users these days, and having acquired a computer with a media centre that receives television programs, I wanted to look into my choice of what I do with these programs once they arrive and I have recorded programs. It's not always convenient to watch television programs on the computer screen and what I was looking for was a neat, easy way of transferring data onto a DVD rom. There are so many options out there, and a lot of them were too complex for me. I am simple. I like to tell a program to do something, and get an instant response, and with many DVD copy programs, there is too much choice, and sometimes a user like me has no idea which choices to make, since our ability is limited. It's the same with creating a CD of files. I have grown accustomed to many straightforward packages, although the bonus of this package as opposed to others is indeed the fact that one click does whatever you want to do, and it really is easy for someone that doesn't do 'complex'. Life is complicated enough without adding complexity to it, and as the program was offered on a trial basis, giving the user 10 uses of it to decide whether it suited them, I had nothing to lose. I downloaded the program, watched the video on the site that showed me how to use it, and did just that. It's a light program, doesn't take up much space, but what the designers did was take the difficulty out of copying files onto disc, hid all the stuff that ...

L'Oreal Excellence Revitalising Crème Colourant 20/01/2007


L'Oreal Excellence Revitalising Crème Colourant The makers of products that act against the ageing process are really cashing in on vanity, and my contribution to their coffers isn't an exceptional thing, though when you add up the amount of women that feel the need to colour their hair, and the amount that each one of us spends in an effort to hold off the signs of old age, it is a big deal. Many are inflating the price of their products, and advertising is rife, competition being complicated and difficult for the likes of me, their average consumer. For the last 25 years, I have tried many makes of hair dye, and dying my hair every six weeks or so means that I spend a fortune and it really isn't a case of choosing one that we like and sticking to it, since the range of products available is for ever changing, and we all want to try something new and exciting. On the supermarket shelves, there are literally hundreds to choose from, and what stood out about this product against the others was that the price seemed reasonable, it didn't seem to making false claims about mysterious ingredients that no one has ever heard of, but more than that, the swatches of coloured hair available for each make showed me that the L'Oreal range were actually more natural than the competition, who in the fight for the beauty market have come up with colours that nature never intended. I am having my hair streaked next week, with all different shades of auburn, but in order to have the main colour put on my hair at the hairdresser, I ...

Ravensburger Puzzleball - Historic World Map 19/01/2007


Ravensburger Puzzleball - Historic World Map Bored with Jigsaws ? Think they are old hat, old fashioned or just for the elderly ? Well, you got it wrong. I am not keen on the traditional jigsaw puzzles because they are frankly boring, but I do like a challenge. When I saw the Puzzleball a few years ago in the shop, I knocked huge hints for Christmas but they fell on deaf ears. It's quite costly at approximately 19 GBP, but when you see what you get for money, it's hardly surprising, and is indeed very good value, if you compare with the kind of computer games that are for sale around the same price. If you want to get the kids off the computer, and doing something absorbing, intelligent and time consuming that will keep them quiet for hours, then this really is a good option. The puzzleball comes boxed in a good quality box. Why is the quality of the box important ? Well, believe me, after using this puzzle, you will understand that the sorting out of pieces becomes an art, and having a good quality box helps me enormously with the task. The pieces are made of cardboard, but the makers were clever, and put a plastic backing on each of the pieces. Mine is a 540 piece puzzleball of the historical world. It has neat Latin writing around the top and the bottom, and instead of using this as a guideline as to whether I was getting the pieces in the right place, I impatiently ploughed through putting the first part of the puzzle together from guesswork, and guess what ? I got it wrong. They also supply a cunning ...

DVD Shrink 19/01/2007


DVD Shrink Have you ever tried getting a two litre jug and trying to ram it full with 3 litres of liquid ? What happens isn't that successful, though when it comes to making DVD's inexperienced users try to do just that, though with content rather than liquid. The content of a DVD is often enormous and cannot be written to an average size writeable DVD. When you try to do this with standard re-write software, although some offer limited shrinking of files, like the Microsoft Media Centre, often that little bit of squashing of the file results in bad copies, or isn't sufficient to shrink the file sufficiently to copy it. Believe me, I tried everything to get a back up copy of one film without the use of this program, and before I even knew that it existed, and ultimately failed. I was trying to squash things, without really knowing what I was doing. So how can you squash a file, make it work efficiently, and fit a standard DVD Rom ? This is where DVD shrink comes in, and believe me, it works. When you open a DVD with the DVD shrink program, what the program shows you on the left hand side of a very easy screen is the list of files that make up the DVD that you wish to back up. It takes a little while for the program to sort out all the files but it really is worth waiting for. When they are sorted, there is a neat list and what this shows you are the many things that you can delete to make the file manageable. For example, do you really want all the language options that are ...

Evelyn - Evelyn Doyle 19/01/2007


Evelyn - Evelyn Doyle I was tempted to read this book on the recommendation of a friend, and was glad that I did. The story, which is a true story, tells of the plight of Desmond Doyle, who in 1953 lives in Dublin with his wife and six children. When his wife leaves him, Desmond is advised to place his children into care whilst he finds the means to support them. He subsequently finds out that in fact the rights to his children are to be denied him until they reach the age of 16, although this was never made clear at the outset. The story is told by Evelyn, and follows what happened from when she was 9 years old. What the outcome is is for the reader to discover, and it really is the journey through the book that I am more interested in reviewing and the manner in which the book was written. In Ireland in those days, the care of children in care was undertaken in single sex Industrial Schools, run by nuns or 'brothers', and what Evelyn didn't do makes the book outstanding in its field. What she didn't do was dwell on making readers see her as the victim. Her writing is very clear and almost unbiased, although when writing your own history, there are always feelings and these come over in the written work particularly well. Some of the thoughts that this child had were so real that they in fact took me back to a time when I was in care myself. The bonds that are formed between children in difficult circumstances were well explained. The loyalties that kids feel for each other were almost like ...

Myst V: End of Ages (PC) 18/01/2007


Myst V: End of Ages (PC) CONCEPTION. This game was conceived by the team at Ubisoft as a finale to the Myst series of games, which show beautifully detailed backdrops, puzzles varying in difficulty, and characters that explain little gems of information to help you through the Ages of Myst to decide the fate of civilization. Compared with the presentation of the last Myst, this one actually is flawed, in that they tried to conceive an idea which was cleverer than its predecessor, without summising that 'If it aint broke, don't mend it'. The characters that were designed for this game are animated characters and less realistic than those in Revelation, and I believe this is one of the downfalls of the game. The backdrops of the different worlds of course are wonderfully colourful and innovative, and I think Ubisoft got complacent, and forgot what good value for money they gave folks with the game of Revelation, the last in the series. The characters in that game were video likenesses to human beings and very real in their interaction with you as a player. They also changed the amount of things that you, as a player, were left to puzzle out, and the manner in which you do it. In revelation, you really can do an amazing amount of snooping around on your own, and discovering what the different buttons and knobs are about, though in this game, you feel instructed by the characters of Yeesha and Esher. Instead of the Girl next door image that Yeesha had in the last game, here we are faced with an ...

Ikea 12/01/2007

Opening minds to possibilities.

Ikea I was never sure how the concept which is Ikea would cotton on in France. The French are traditionalists, love their old furniture, passed down from generation to generation, and I thought that Ikea would have difficulty breaking down the defences and establishing a market in rural parts of France. The Ikea that I visited was in Nantes, and approaching it, it was not surprising that there was a lot of traffic. This is a major town, although Ikea had the sense to have their store easily accessible from the ring road, so that people didn't easily get lost in the centre of the town trying to find it. The parking was strange, and most of it was away from the Ikea building, which forms the end of a shopping arcade. The difficulty of this is that for those people who are making bulky purchases is that they have a fair distance to walk to load their vehicles. Ikea itself was a bit of shock to my system, and I took the whole tour, because little arrows on the floor neatly take visitors from one section to the other, and it is difficult in fact to give any given area a miss. I suppose this works well, because it means that customers will pass through areas they would not have thought of passing through, and in fact increases passing trade. Their layout is quite well thought out, giving rooms displaying how their furniture fits in, and here Ikea got the right idea, because they actually dressed the areas adding personal effects to make each scene look like a real home that ...

My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult 07/01/2007


My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult Jodi Picoult is an incredible writer, though I am not sure I would want to be one of her characters, since the situations they are placed in are ones that are difficult psychologically, and ones that no-one would imagine would ever happen to them, though in fact, they do. People have criticised the covers chosen for these books, pastel shades with pictures of loveable characters, although I actually like them very much and they do tempt me to read them more than hearts and flower covers do. My sisters keeper tells the story of a family, though a family with difficult situations both caused by their handling of life as a family unit, and by circumstance, the two facets coupled nicely together in a manner which questions the correctness of all of the characters who combine to make the picture a whole one. Kate is a child who suffers Leukaemia from a very early age. Her parents decide to have a baby that would genetically be the perfect match for Kate, in order to do the best that they can to lengthen Kate's life, though in fact the ethics of the situation are not as clear cut as one would hope, culminating in Anna, the child who was born for this purpose, taking her parents to court for the rights to her own body, at the age of 13. The foundation of the book is a splendid one, and poses questions about the character of all the players, seeking to find a just answer to the dilemma that Anna finds herself in. Brian and Sara Fitzgerald are the parents of three children. ...
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