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    • Mahabharat (DVD) / DVD / 14 Readings / 13 Ratings
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      23.12.2010 08:16
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      Excellent viewing for anyone who enjoys Mahabharat

      The televised serial Mahabharat is probably still the most highly rated and successful Indian serial ever. This release contains 5 discs featuring a condensed fifteen hour version of the sixty plus hours of episodes that appeared on BBC 2 from 1988-1990. Directed by Ravi Chopra and B.R Chopra Mahabharat was immensely popular when it was aired and had over five million viewers tuning in. And I was one of them, in fact I loved it so much I used to record it on video tapes (remember them? Talk about old skool...)

      THE MAHABHARAT EPIC

      The serial is based on the Sage Vyasa's epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and related Vedic philosophical and devotional topics. Estimated to be around 5,000 years old the Mahabharata also includes the important Bhagavad Gita (words spoken by Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield) possibly the most sacred scripture for Hindus. Just to explain how mammoth the task of reading Mahabharata is- it is roughly a hundred thousand verses and over a million words in total. Mahabharat translates as "great India or dynasty of king Bharat", scholars seem to conflict slightly on which meaning applies to the epic of Mahabharat.

      The stories are incredibly interesting and a lot of the characters are referred to even now by Hindus. For example big, strong men with huge appetites are likened to Bhima- one of the Pandava brothers. The key story in the Mahabharat revolves around the Pandavas - five heroic brothers who were destined to rule Hastinapur as rightful heirs of the throne. Cheated out of their land and exiled by their envious cousin Duryodhana a religious war begins. Included in the Mahabharat epic are stories about Vedic philosophy, karma, reincarnation and yoga featuring member of the Bharat dynasty, demigods, sages, warrior kings as well as the Supreme Personality of Godhead Lord Krishna, the "pivotal character of Mahabharat" as described on the back of the DVD. Though I am uncertain whether character is an appropriate definition for Krishna who is worshipped by millions of worldwide devotees.

      THE DVD BOX SET

      I was incredibly excited when my box set arrived. It is beautifully presented with Mahabharat a picture of Krishna and Arjuna on a chariot fighting on the battlefield. This edited version of the aired episodes is digitally re-mastered and includes an eight-page booklet containing a glossary of the characters and overview of the series by Professor Fitzgerald of the University of Tennessee.

      On first sight the booklet looks very attractive for an insert, however on closer inspection they have printed black text on top of a red sky background image. Though very pretty it is not easy to read and a bit of a mistake on part of the design team. The actual written content is quite good but written in a way that comes across as overly academic (and pompous in part). Here is an example when Fitzgerald discusses the Bhagavad Gita:

      "Several of the important ethical and theological themes of the Mahabharata are tied in this sermon, and this "Song of the Blessed One" has exerted much the same sort of powerful and far-reaching influence in Indian Civilization that the New Testament has in Christendom."

      The Bhagavad Gita is a philosophical dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, and it is contradictory to say it is a sermon and have "Song of the Blessed One" when that isn't even what it translates as (Bhagavad actually means related to God). The booklet is an essay and is likely to be too complicated for people whose first language isn't English (it is a Hindi serial so this may happen more often than not). I like how the overview explains how the names are pronounced yet it looks clumsy within the essay and would fit better in the glossary where the cast list is. I think it would be a better idea to have a simple summary and the essay as an extra. The cast list is incomplete which is rather annoying!

      The dialogue is in Hindi with English subtitles - cheekily the box says the DVD "contains the Bhagavad Gita," and that just refers to the scene where Krishna speaks the words to Arjuna not as a text extra (as you'd assume). In fact there are no extras with the DVD which is disappointing but understandable as it was filmed a long time ago. Yet it would have been fantastic if we had a few interviews from the main actors, I would love to know more about how it was for them working on such an unusual programme.

      DISC SUMMARY

      Mahabharat begins with time introducing himself and this is done with a space themed background showing lots of stars and planets as well as random shadows and outline images of deities (all with incense being blown across the screen). Yes it sounds cheesy and I suppose it is but it was pretty cool in the eighties. The way our narrator Time reviews the stories works really well breaking down a complex epic into manageable chunks of interesting viewing.
      The first disc kicks off with our invisible narrator Time (voiced by Harish Bhimani) explaining that Mahabharat is about a battle of good versus evil and every era has to go through this conflict. The story begins in the opulent palace of King Bharat who has nine sons and yet is unsure about how to select an heir to the throne. Bharat explains to the whole royal assembly that a king has three main responsibilities: one is to defend his people, second to impart justice and third to nominate a good successor. After some soul searching Bharat decides that his sons haven't demonstrated qualities to undertake these duties and as such will adopt Bhumanya, the son of Bhardwaj. From this point the story begins and we learn about King Shantanu, his son Bhishma (a key person throughout the Mahabharat).

      Editing is done well so far and also I am struck at how much effort has been put into the costumes and sets. The director has done a brilliant job showing the characters at different ages, and even the child actors have been chosen with care.

      The second disc begins with pregnant Devaki in prison and worrying that her brother will eventually kill her baby once she gives birth. Rohini (Vasudeva's other wife tells her to relax as she has come to take her unborn child) which is shown in a mystical manner with her taking a flame away. I am currently reading Srimad Bhagavatam (scripture detailing God's incarnations on earth and especially Krishna's time on earth- also written by Sage Vyasa) many thousands of years ago. It appears that this is the first of many inaccuracies in the programme. Rohini did not take the unborn child it was actually Krishna's energy- yoga maya who placed the embryo in Rohini's womb (on Krishna's command). I will not mention any more inaccuracies in the serial and I can appreciate ancient legends are not simple, but a lot of things in this serial have been adapted for the screen and overall it is not the best way to learn about Vedic history. I may sound like a purist but if you are going to make a religious drama it really should be accurate, and even though it is just a handful of things that aren't quite right they do spoil the overall quality of the serial. The rest of this disc shows a selection of Krishna's bal leela (divine pastimes) and also introduce us to the Pandavas.


      The third disc is my favourite and tells the popular story of Krishna and Princess Rukhmini eloping. It is done beautifully and you can tell the director has paid special attention to these scenes and songs. From Rukhmini's shy glance and Krishna offering her his hand and them leaving on the chariot- it's a joy to watch. The first two songs are wonderful too and I am pleased that they weren't edited out. The rest of the disc revolves around the Pandava's adventures including their marriage to Draupadi and fallout with the Kaurava's.


      The fourth disc is where the main events unfold beginning with Duryodhan inviting the Pandava's for a game of dice and cheating them out of their kingdom, wife and even their own lives. This is also where there is an attempt by Duryodhon's brother to disrobe Draupadi, but luckily she is saved by her devotion to Krishna. These scenes are rather depressing yet integral to the whole story of Mahabharat. I confess I usually skip them. Krishna acts as an ambassador going to Duryodhon with a peace treaty but war is inevitable. The disc ends with Arjuna and Krishna on the battlefield.


      The final disc has Krishna speaking the Bhagavad Gita guiding Arjuna on his duty and explaining the ultimate goal of human life. The war scenes have been edited to the point where some parts don't quite make sense, however the main parts of the story are all there.

      THE CHARACTERS

      The cast is huge so I will just mention the notable performances that make the DVD worth watching. Krishna is played by Nitish Bharadwaj who puts in a brilliant performance as the Supreme playing the role of a human. It is no mean feat playing Lord Krishna who is deemed as the most beautiful, intelligent and famous being, and Bharadwaj does a wonderful job of capturing the vibrant and strong personality of Krishna. I love the way Krishna and Balaram's relationship is depicted onscreen and both actors fit their role well. Krishna speaks the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna on the battlefield and is the most scriptures to Hindus -described as the essence of the Vedas. Anyone who is interested in the Bhagavad Gita and wants to get the gist of it before reading can watch the final DVD to see this famous conversation that discusses universal truths still relevant today.

      Another powerful performance comes from Mukesh Khanna as Bhishma and he does a commendable job becoming a firm favourite with the masses when the serial was aired on television. I saw an interview many years ago where he said he was getting polite fan letters in Hindi addressing him and Grand-sire and it bemused him as he was only in his late twenties. I was gobsmacked as his acting is so polished that you assume he is much older. Mukesh Khanna has a mesmorising speaking voice and was a perfect choice as Bhishma.

      The third actor who deserves a mention is Duryodhon played by Puneet Issar. He really does a brilliant job of depicting the hot-tempered jealous cousin to the Pandava's, and his scenes with his manipulative Uncle Shakuni are very engaging. There is no doubt that some of the characters come across as two-dimensional due to the many characters and fast paced plot. However it doesn't really matter and the main roles are acted with real conviction.

      THE EDITING

      As you may have guessed editing is a real issue with this DVD box set. It appears many subplots are not included and it does make the complexity of character interrelationships difficult to grasp. And some of the stories don't even make sense de to the overzealous editing. Fortunately, the main storylines are clear, even to westerners not familiar with the Mahabharat due to the simple storytelling from Time.

      SPECIAL EFFECTS

      Costume designs are bright and colourful, and pretty impressive most of the time. Despite the obviously fake pearls, the attention to fabrics, elaborate turbans and crowns is mind-boggling. It is a feast of colours with golds, silvers, reds and greens. Some (if not all) of the special effects are incredibly dated, and at one point I couldn't understand why they had an obviously fake paper mache bird in a tree when they could have filmed a real one!

      Mahabharat was originally shot on videotape, and the DVD proudly claims that it has been digitally remastered - though I have reservations about the quality of remastering. It is the Time scenes that are most obvious with the subtle lines aliasing to distraction. Despite the poor side effects Mahabharat is definitely watchable. Surprisingly the sound is fine, clear and balanced apart from an annoying sound when Shantanu first meets Ganga.

      THE LOWDOWN

      I read an amusing quote by The Independent about Mahabharat: "...More bling than P Diddy's bedside table, more yoga than one of Madonna's weekends away, more sibling rivalry than a week's worth of EASTENDERS..."

      I love how they skirt around saying whether they enjoyed it or not. Mahabharat is not going to be everyone's cup of tea, and especially for people not interested in the spiritual Vedic philosophy. As this is part of my culture I had more than a passing interest and therefore more patience with some of the storylines.

      Whilst I really enjoyed watching Mahabharat on DVD I can't help but feel disappointed with the editing process. More than forty hours are missing and this includes some of my favourite stories. I adored one scene where Krishna talks Duryodhon into covering up when seeing his mother who gave him strict orders to visit her naked (I know it sounds dodgy but she was going to remove a long-tied bandage from her eyes and bless him with divine strength). Not only does editing this bit out remove an integral part of the story- the final fight between Bhima and Duryodhon makes no sense and we don't know why he shows so much strength.

      Overall the actors are brilliant and do well with such a large cast. The acting makes up for the negatives (dated special effects, editing) and I had trouble imagining that they are actors and not living in the time of the Mahabharata. I actually met the actor who plays Dhritarastra and he looked bizarre in a suit. The producers have mostly stayed true to the story and captured the spirit of the epic and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the Mahabharat and has patience with the negative aspects I mentioned. I have watched this series many times and still enjoy it. The story and acting makes it watchable despite the cheap and dated special effects. One thing I do like is how complex scenes are ended with a few sung summary verses accompanied with music so you stay with the flow. The same tune is used and it can be likened to an Indian version of the Eastenders theme tune (with singing though...lol). I know it sounds surreal but you get used to it after the first few hours of viewing.

      Review also on Ciao!

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    • My Name is Khan (DVD) / DVD / 21 Readings / 20 Ratings
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      11.10.2010 08:53
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      Best for Shah Rukh and Karan Johar fans

      My Name is Khan is the latest hit film starring Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan. He seems to have the Midas touch when it comes to hit films. This film is quite controversial for India as it features a story revolving around the US homeland security, terrorism and a lead character with Asperger's syndrome.

      BACKGROUND

      My Name is Khan is directed by Karan Johar (possibly the most successful and talented young filmmaker in Bollywood). Since his directorial debut Kuch Kuch Hota Hai he has gone from strength to strength and his last film Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna being the highest grossing overseas film of all time (well until the recent release of My Name is Khan of course). My Name is Khan is currently the highest-grossing Bollywood film in the UK.

      All of his films prior to my Name is Khan have began with the letter "K"- possibly due to it being considered lucky. Fortunately this step away from superstition has not changed the quality of his direction in My Name is Khan. The screenplay is by Shibani Bathija and is fantastic and accompanied by Ravi K. Chandran's cinematography makes awe-inspiring viewing. I love that the film only has six songs tailored for the movie. It is one of my pet peeves when songs jump out of nowhere in Bollywood films.

      THE PLOT

      SRK plays Rizwan Khan a middle class Muslim growing up in the Borivali area of Mumbai. Rizwan shows an aptitude for practical tasks at an early age and is tutored personally by an eccentric scholar and gets extra attention from his mother that leads to sibling jealousy from his brother Zakir, who leaves home for a life in America. Rizwan's world changes when his mother dies and his brother sponsors him to go stay with him in San Francisco.

      Fortunately Zakir's wife, Haseena figures out that Rizwan has Asperger's syndrome. Rizwan also begins to work for Zakir selling herbal cosmetics and that's when he meets Mandira (Kajol) a Hindu single mother. They fall in love, got married and settled in Banville, America. The rest of the plot deals with how September 11 changed the Khan's idyllic existence and also demonstrates Rizwan's effort to win Mandira back. The result is a rather heartwarming and inspiring journey across the United States.

      THE CHARACTERS

      Shah Rukh Khan has been incredibly successful as an actor and this is for several reasons. First of all he is a good actor (though I would say he does overdo it at times), second he has excellent ties with talented directors such as Johar, third he works incredibly hard - look at his recently developed muscular physique and finally he has a diehard hoard of fans. As Rizvan, Shah Rukh turns the role into someone who we root for throughout the whole film.
      Kajol plays Mandira and reunites with Shah Rukh after Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. Mandira is a slightly two-dimensional character as the emphasis appears to be on Rizwan. I am afraid Kajol does not deserve an award for the acting in this film. She is either annoyingly shrill and happy or wretchedly miserable. The big loss in this is I didn't really identify with her. In fact if Rizwan found someone else on his travels I would have been happy for him. Their former chemistry from the 2001 Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham appears lost. Even her flirting appears fake, she doesn't come across as very genuine in the film.

      The role of Rizwan's mother is played by Zarina Wahab and makes a memorable impression in her brief appearance. Jimmy Shergill does a pretty good job as the younger brother who gets over his sibling jealousy after making it on his own in America. Amusingly my mum told me that Shah Rukh Khan's son plays the young boy in the film - and I believed this for many months until I did a little research about the actors. Sameer (Mandira's son and Rizvan's stepson) is actually played by Yuvaan Makaar and is excellent. The kid who plays Sameer's best friend also does an excellent job, and is far more believable than Kajol as Mandira.

      THEMES

      My Name Is Khan encapsulates the turbulent times in the States. Yes the film appears to have the message that not all Muslims are terrorists. Yet it doesn't really create a villain, but exposes the danger of hate and bullying. The subject of terrorism isn't easy to tackle- even if it is just part of the story as with My Name is Khan. The film is more about the impact of terrorism on humanity. Through Rizwan the viewer is shown how people can rise above terrible circumstances by seeing all people equally. I love a certain scene in a mosque where Rizwan confronts a rabble-rouser who tries to use religion to get people to attack others.

      The other obvious theme in the film is Asperger's Syndrome- a condition similar to autism. This is shown sensitively and it is obvious they have done their homework to make it look genuine onscreen. Rizwan is awkward in social situations, has an odd habit in rolling pebbles in his hands, dislikes yellow, doesn't always make eye contact and has obsessive interests about San Francisco. When Mandira screeches at Rizwan to tell every person in the world what his name is and that he is not a terrorist he takes it literally and goes on a journey to meet the President of the United States! Comparisons to Dustin Hoffman's performance in Rainman are not relevant as Hoffman plays a highly gifted character while Khan is just a man with a good heart and some eccentric quirks. If comparisons must be made to Hollywood then Forrest Gump is possibly more accurate and they are both lovable characters. But this film is an original and Johar strays from most other directors in that he doesn't copy the plot from existing Hollywood films.

      Another important theme in this film is demonstrating the power of the media. It is in fact through a local Indian language news station that Khan gets media coverage and it is fascinating seeing what happens due the actions of one man. Khan even ends up as an unusual celebrity which is made clear when the President recognises Rizwan after seeing him on TV.
      Of course as a Bollywood film there is the love story between Mandira and Rizwan. This is no typical love though and it is evident that Mandira is first and foremost a mother and then Khan's wife. Khan does a brilliant job demonstrating love for Mandira though her acting needs a little work.

      THE SOUNDTRACK

      As mentioned earlier the music is tailor-made for the film and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy composed the soundtrack who also did the music for Kal Ho Naa Ho and Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Shankar Mahadevan is one of India's top singers and can be likened to the Snoop Dogg of Bollywood with numerous collaborations in his many years in music. Ehsaan Noorani specializes in rock-and-blues and Loy Mendonsa is a jazz pianist. The team like to experiment with different genres and have great chemistry with Johar's complex non-traditional offering.Karan Johar is clear on how important the music is, "Even when I'm shooting a sequence, I always have background music playing in my head."

      The beautiful lyrics are by Niranjan Iyengar. The soundtrack includes a fabulous instrumental entitled 'Khan Theme' and is composed by Indrajit Sharma. Johar takes the bold step of having no lip-sync tracks which makes the film feel more genuine and saves me from cringing (anyone who has seen Kal Ho Naa Ho's "It's The Time To Disco" will know what I mean. The songs are breathtakingly beautiful and have received global critical acclaim. My favourite is Tere Naina Re with Shafqat Amanat Ali providing the vocals. Noor-e-Khuda is another notable number with a unique fusion of Sufi, Hindustani and western techno sounds.

      THE LOWDOWN

      One of my favourite parts of the film is when Rizwan as a boy, is taught by his mother that people in this world are either good or bad. Her method of showing drawn stick figures and explaining that religion is irrelevant to whether a person is good or not. The scene is incredibly endearing and the young Rizwan is excellent.

      My Name Is Khan is a film that draws strong reactions- you will most likely shed a few tears and burst out laughing at some point. The film makes an excellent point for non-Muslims like myself who may not understand how hard it is for them to live in a society angry at them for something that they did not do.

      Things that annoyed me a little in the film include a scene where Khan is in a church in Southern America and is speaking Hindi to them. Oddly enough they sit with full attention sharing his pain (though they don't have a clue what he is talking about). Why didn't they just show him speaking in English? The way that Mandira agrees to marry Rizwan in the first place is also questionable. She clearly loves her son immensely and her saying yes to Khan without a believable tug of priorities is unrealistic. The person who plays the President doesn't bear much of a resemblance to Obama which is a minor disappointment but he is there for merely a few minutes so this does not detract from the film.

      Highlights for me include Khan's relationship with Sam and prior to that his attempts to woo Mandira. This is shown tenderly and the soundtrack accompanies the film beautifully. I loved seeing Rizwan's simple dancing and the comedy after they get married (such as when he asks Mandira for sex in a very straightforward and non romantic manner).

      Be warned this film is rather long, though seasoned Bollywood fans will be used to this. I would recommend this film to anyone interested in seeing a film and doesn't mind a hard-hitting story with fewer laughs than the average Bollywood film. Personally if I had to choose a Johar film starring Shah Rukh Khan I would prefer Kal Ho Naa Ho as it is amusing and I like all the characters in it.

      LINKS
      www.mynameiskhanthefilm.com

      Also published on Ciao, UK

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    • More +
      06.10.2010 18:34
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      A good find for those with very oily skin

      This facial scrub is Lush's newest paste style facial scrub that is aimed at oily skin types. Though Dark Angels often compared to Angels on Bare Skin (Lush's other squidgy cleanser) it is actually similar in ingredients to my favourite solid facial bar Coalface.

      Lush describe the scrub as suitable for 'young, dark and oily skin' and claim that: "Nutritious avocado oil softens your skin, glycerine keeps the moisture in and black sugar softly scrubs; rhassoul mud is anti-microbial and cleanses deeply, while sandalwood and rosewood essential oils are soothing, giving you a feeling of smooth, clean freshness that is difficult to beat." Well with such confident claims who wouldn't want to give it a go?

      THE SCRUB

      The facial scrub comes in 100g black tubs made from 100% recycled plastic. It basically looks like a black paste and on close inspection it is rather powdery in comparison to Angels on Bare Skin. A deep sniff of the scrub reveals the same scent as my beloved Coalface (liquorice and sandalwood). My nose can detect more of the sandalwood and I quite like this, it tempers the liquorice well and creates a pretty inoffensive scent.

      HOW TO USE

      Break off a small piece the size of a big pea, gently wet your face with hot water. Rub the scrub in circles around your face. Look in the mirror and laugh at how you look and then massage the scrub into your skin. Rinse carefully to make sure all of the charcoal is washed off. Be warned this stuff makes a mess! After washing off the scrub the scent of the facial scrub is soft and inoffensive and I can hardly smell the licorice.

      Make sure you wash under your fingernails carefully- the scrub does tend to get everywhere. Dark Angels is brilliant used at the sides of your nose to prevent black heads and dry skin. Don't scrub too hard though otherwise you will end up with red skin. After using this scrub every week my skin is very clean and smooth. Unfortunately it is far messier than Coalface in use and I actually find it is better to use at the sink than in the shower. The scrub has a tendency to stick to glass and is a pain to clean.

      RESULTS

      Dark Angels is suitable for oily skin and maybe too harsh on skins that are already dry. I think it is a scrub version of Coalface, and as my skin isn't very oily I only use it once a week. Currently I alternate Ultrabland cleanser with Coalface every few weeks if my skin gets dry. Dark Angels is used on a Sunday or when skin feels oily.

      I have combination skin, with an oily T zone and cheeks that can dry out. From my teens I suffered from odd stubborn spots -probably due to my hormones. Since using Coalface spots are a rarity and they heal up so fast I barely notice them. Dark Angels is like a deeper treatment and the exfoliation it offers is excellent at evening out my T Zone - especially the skin around the sides of my nose. I'm not sure I would recommend this to sensitive skin types as it is quite gritty.

      VALUE

      This is where Dark Angels doesn't match Coalface. The 100g tub costs £5.25 and has an expiry date of approximately three months. If you have oily skin and will use it everyday it may get used up in time; providing better value. However as I am only using it once a week there is likely to be about half a tub left by the time it expires. In comparison a 100g bar of Coalface will last me a year, which at £4.15 is a good deal.

      To get the most value out of Dark Angels I will use it on my neck too. Closer to the date of expiry I will also use it on my feet and legs as it exfoliates really well. I would not purchase Dark Angels again purely because of the short expiration date. It is a shame it does not come in smaller pots - a 50g tub would provide far better value.

      Adapted from my article on www.the-green-diva.com

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      • Lush Ultrabland / Skin Care / 19 Readings / 18 Ratings
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        12.08.2010 10:25
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        A wonderful gentle but effective way to remove makeup

        Ultrabland is one of those products that I didn't try until quite recently. I overlooked it as it didn't seem as interesting as other facial cleansers such as Angels on Bare Skin or Coalface. After reading continuous rave reviews in the Lush Times from the staff as well as Lush users I finally got round to testing it out last year.

        The Cleanser

        Ultrabland comes in the standard Lush small black tubs with the logo and ingredients. Minimal packaging made from 100% recycled material and you can take back to the store to be recycled again. Take back 5 black tubs and you are rewarded with a free face mask so keep your tubs!
        On opening the pot, I couldn't smell anything (shocking for a Lush product), I was pleased as I didn't really want to smell like peanut oil which is one of the main ingredients. Ultrabland is a yellowish coloured, very thick and oily cream with tiny granules.

        This product contains rose water and rose absolute which are wonderful for dry skin. Combined with honey, beeswax and glycerine this is a real treat for everyone. The cream is made from natural ingredients, with a few preservatives added to stop it from going off. Though Ultrabland is suitable for all skin types, people with peanut allergies should avoid it as it does contain peanut oil.

        How to Use

        I tend to apply a pea-sized amount of Ultrabland to my fingers and dot it over my face and then massage around for a few minutes. I enjoy melting the tiny granules into my skin. Less is definitely more with this product.

        I remove it by dampening a facial cloth with hot water and then rub off Ultrabland carefully. This method is easy and I am never left with greasy skin. Ultrabland has multiple uses- I use it to tame my eyebrows, as an emergency lip balm, to define curls and even on my cuticles. It is even more versatile than Vaseline (and far more animal friendly).
        Results

        Afterwards my skin feel soft, and extremely clean. My skin type is normal/combination depending on the weather; I can get a shiny nose but annoying dry bits around my lips. Since using Ultrabland my skin has looked a lot healthier and I have noticed less spots than in the past.

        All makeup comes off easily with this, though I don't wear much makeup so this part of the test wasn't too hard to pass. I am a little lazy when it comes to having a wash/tone/moisturise routine so I just use Ultrabland at night instead. It only takes five minutes to make my skin feel absolutely amazing.
        Value

        Ultrabland costs £5.66 for the small 45g tub, and though it may seem like it is extremely expensive I know it will last me about 8-12 months. I was given a tiny amount as a sample and it lasted me two months (used every night). I was hooked and had to purchase a tub. Overall this cleanser is so effective that you don't need a separate eye make-up remover so it is worth the extra pennies. I would definitely buy this again as it has become my decadent nightly ritual.

        Also posted on Ciao

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        • More +
          31.07.2010 10:31
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          Excellent for very short stays and convenient location

          Nottingham has always been close to my heart as I went to University there, so my best mate and I often return there to create havoc and reminisce about the 'good old days'. We chose to stay at the Premier Travel Inn on Goldsmith Street in Nottingham City centre as it is in a good central location close to the Victoria Shopping centre and the nightclubs.

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          LOCATION
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          Goldsmith Street is in a wonderful location, it is right near the Nottingham Trent city campus. Everything from the UGC cinema, numerous restaurants, pubs and bars are all within walking distance. This suits me as I don't take my car when staying in Nottingham (our stay involves drinking a fair amount of alcohol). Whether you are going to the Theatre or Rock City this hotel is in a brilliant location.

          Right next to the hotel there is a late-night newsagent called Chaucer Late. This is an invaluable place to buy munchies, alcohol and anything that you forget to pack if your memory is anything like mine! There is an HSBC cashpoint two minutes away from the hotel outside Nottingham Student Union which is very convenient. But even though the hotel is close to where all the action is it is still in a relatively quiet location. This is a good thing for light sleepers.

          If you are taking your car you should be aware there is now a tram system in place in Nottingham so parking can be a bit of a nightmare. However parking is available on Talbot St car park. Alternatively you can park at the Premier Travel Inn who offer a valet service. There is a tram line on Goldsmith St so just be careful, you don't want to end up inches away from the tram like my mate did one time.


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          THE HOTEL
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          Premier Lodge and Travel Inn have joined together to create the Premier Travel Inn. And they are the leading UK company when it comes to budget value hotels. Premier Travel Inn Nottingham has 160 bedrooms, including 42 doubles, 48 twin rooms, 9 disabled rooms and 62 family rooms which can accommodate up to two adults and two children. This means there is a room to suit most people's needs, if you need a cot in your room be sure to let them know when booking the room.

          They have a pleasant looking restaurant called 'Slice', where you can get a full or continental breakfast (£6.95/ £5.25). It looks like a peaceful place to have a meal or a drink, but I've not been there to eat myself. The toilets are nice and clean though, so that is an excellent sign. I like the fact there is seating in the lobby so if there's a wait for the reception desk you can take a seat. They also have a snacks machine in the lobby which is good for late night munchies, when you feel too lazy to go out and buy something.

          """""""""""""""""""
          CHECKING IN
          """""""""""""""""""

          You can check in from 2.00pm. It is a simple procedure (I booked the room online), on arriving at the hotel you give them the name under which the booking was made. You will be given a simple form to fill in and will be asked to pay. Once you have paid you are given a card key and given the reception number in case you need anything. The lady at reception was very polite and apologised for me having to wait, which I didn't mind as it was only five minutes (and she was the only person at the desk).

          It only took five minutes to check in and everything went smoothly, especially as the booking was made by my friend online. It is slightly annoying that I had to pay in full to get into the room- as we go Dutch when paying for the room. But we sorted that out later- useful cashpoint nearby remember! ;o)


          """""""""""""""""""
          THE ROOM
          """""""""""""""""""

          We booked a twin room which annoyingly doesn't have two single beds. You get a double bed and a small kiddie-style single bed which turned out to be surprisingly comfortable. In the room you get a chair, a desk/table type thing, a mirror, a standard picture on the wall, mirror behind desk/table, bedside tables, bedside lamps, a very cheap open door style wardrobe (but the hangers were appreciated!), a Bible (I still think its weird that hotels provide this), a hairdryer, a television with some satellite channels, and a radio alarm. A nice touch is the kettle and tea/coffee making items you get. We also got a small pack of biscuits. Having a kettle is useful as we bought some Pot Noodles and soup packets in case we got peckish after clubbing.

          You also get an ensuite bathroom, with extra toilet rolls and towels. I am pleased they got rid of the awful purple shower gel they did in those tiny bottles (they probably got nicked all the time). Now they have Lux shower gel attached to the wall. The shower is good quality, and the shower curtain stopped any overspray which is always good.

          One negative thing about the bathroom is that it has a slight musty smell because there are no windows. The extractor fan in there may have not been up to the job. You also get two extra pillows on top of the wardrobe which is a nice touch. You will be pleased to note that high speed internet access is available by WiFi- but I didn't test it out as I didn't take a laptop. Another thing that bugged me about the room was the lighting- it really was inadequate. When putting on makeup in the actual room I ended up putting all the lights on. I ended up doing it in the bathroom as I hate to put on an excessive amount of slap.

          The beds were both in good shape, firm and clean. I would've appreciated some extra blankets as I got a bit cold in the night, but apart from that it was fine. The décor is definitely on the budget side, so don't expect anything chic or modern and you won't be disappointed. However everything is clean which is important to me.

          You do have a thermostatic heater which is attached to the wall and was adequate for the mild weather. I could see it being a bit chilly if it was colder though. In the room there was also a restaurant menu, and you can order a pizza in the hotel. However they struck me as being a tad overpriced and I preferred to walk down to Pizza Hut for something that I know I'd like.Check-out was incredibly swift and just involved returning the key really. I guess this is normal as we'd already paid them!

          """"""""""""""""""""""""
          FINAL VERDICT

          """"""""""""""""""""""""
          The room is perfectly sufficient for a long clubbing weekend stay, although to be fair I wouldn't choose it for a romantic weekend with a partner. The shower was good, though we messed up the tap and couldn't turn it off. A quick call to reception and ten minutes later someone came and fixed it immediately. I was incredibly impressed with the swift response. You can borrow an iron from reception which requires a five pound deposit (you will get that back when you return the iron). If you take a bottle of wine with you I'd remember to pack a corkscrew. We had to take our bottle down to the bar to get it opened and we felt a little silly, and the bar staff weren't exactly friendly. I love the card key as it fits easily into wallets and is easy to take out with you.

          Overall I'd recommend this hotel if it is budget accommodation you want. It is a safe, clean place and pretty good service too- but the best thing about it is the location. I wouldn't hesitate to stay there again.

          """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
          PRICES AND HOTEL INFORMATION

          """""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""""
          Nottingham City Centre Premier Travel Inn (Goldsmith St)
          Goldsmith Street
          Nottingham
          NG1 5LT
          We booked our room online, and booked a double room for one night. The prices for this hotel are:

          £43 - 57 per room per night (there are now £29 rooms on offer as non-flexible bookings so check dates to grab cheap rooms!)

          Check-in time: 2.00 pm
          Check-out time: 12.00 pm

          """""""""""""""""""
          LINKS
          """""""""""""""""""
          www.premiertravelinn.com

          Posted originally on Ciao

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        • More +
          24.07.2010 07:28
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          A must-read!

          I've only recently discovered this gem of a book by Orwell, which is quite strange as 1984 is among my favourite "classic" books. After reading it numerous times- I often have these reading binges where my brain gets hungry for new information and ideas. Oh dear I am digressing, back to the book...

          GEORGE ORWELL
          """"""""""""""""""""
          George Orwell (born Eric Arthur Blair) is most famous for his books "1984" and "Animal Farm". In 1936 Orwell fought for the Republicans in the Spanish civil war, and was injured. During World War II, Orwell served in the British Home Guard, and later worked for the BBC Eastern Service.

          THE STORY
          """"""""""""""""""""
          Orwell describes "Animal Farm" as a "fairy story" however the subject of Animal Farm is actually aimed at the adult reader. The story is told in the third person narrative. Inspired by the Russian Revolution 'Animal Farm' is a story following the unique life of farm animals who revolt against their farmer after being overworked and underfed.

          What strikes me about the novel is the characters; we first are introduced to the oldest pig on the farm- Old Major. Old Major brings together all the animals to a secret meeting (all you cynics thinking this makes no sense- open your mind, it's a story- go with it). He inspires the animals into rebelling against farmer Mr Jones. Stating that "all animals are equal", Old Major speaks of wonderful visions of self-sufficiency and ripe profits (useless humans don't bring anything to a farm, do they?). As Old Major says "Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals". Three days later Old Major dies, but he leaves behind his ideas and the song 'Beast of England' which the gives the animals a new outlook on life. Surprisingly enough the revolution comes earlier than expected in the novel.
          After Old Major dies we are introduced to three pigs- Napoleon, Snowball and Squealer. Snowball is an excellent dramatic speaker with a lot of ideas. Although Napoleon isn't a good speaker, he is big and is assertive- and with his well-spoken sidekick Squealer they create "Animalism" a set of rules for the animals to stick by. The rebellion begins when Mr Jones comes home drunk and forgets to feed the overworked animals. Mr Jones attempts to go for his shotgun, but it is too late. The animals overpower him and drive him off the farm. The animals celebrate their amazing feat with an extra ration of food. The (three little) pigs make up seven commandments based on Old Major's ideals which are for all the animals. These are written above the barn:
          1. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
          2. What goes upon four legs, or has wings is a friend.
          3. No animal shall wear clothes.
          4. No animal shall sleep in a bed.
          5. No animal shall drink alcohol.
          6. No animal shall kill any another animal.
          7. All animals are equal

          At first there is an atmosphere of contentment and calm. The rebellion is successful, however the loss of Old Major means there is a need of a leader (doesn't make much sense when all animals are supposed to be equal). Hence begins a beginning of the cracks in 'animalism', the ending is particularly poignant. As I don't want to spoil the book for anyone who hasn't read it yet (shame on you!) I'll stop there with the plot.

          CHARACTERS
          """"""""""""""""""""
          Mr Jones is the original 'villain' at the beginning of the novel. Mr Jones is said to represent Czar Nicholas II, the Russian leader prior to Stalin. Jones is losing control of the farm and is drinking far too much.

          Old Major is a kind, paternal type character. I think Old Major stands for German philosopher Karl Marx- he reminds me of Marxist theories about the bourgeoisie and proletariat. It is ironic to see neither Old Major nor Marx made an attempt to bring Communism into reality. Old Major inspires the rebellion among the animals, and sets an ideal of a peaceful life without humans.
          The pig Napoleon is the real villain in Animal Farm. An appropriate name as the original French dictator was thought of in terms of the devil. As a central character on the farm, Napoleon represents the negative aspects that can (sometimes inevitably) arise of any revolution. In the beginning Napoleon seems to be a good leader (though the violent manner in which he usurps power suggests otherwise). The turning point is when the pigs decide to keep the apples and milk for themselves; thus being taken over by greed. Stalin became power crazy too, forgetting the principals of socialism, and living in luxury while the working class suffered. The negative side of Napoleon is apparent when he slaughters animals for plotting against him (the breaking of the 'no animal shall kill another animal' and 'all animals are equal' commandments).
          The end of the book shows Napoleon for what he really is. But as this is a 'non-spoiler' review- you will have to read the book to find out what I mean...

          Squealer is described as a shrill and whining pig with highly persuasive skills; "He could turn black into white." I'm told Squealer symbolises the Pravda (the 1930's Russian newspaper). Always flattering Napoleon, Squealer paints his portrait on the barn, and uses poems, songs and celebratory ceremonies to encourage adulation of their leader. Squealer imparts Napoleon's actions and guidelines to the other animals- often coating them with barefaced lies to put them in a positive light. Squealer uses many methods to persuade the other animals into agreeing to Napoleon's policies- from implying superior intelligence, charm to threatening violence.
          "He repeated a number of times, 'Tactics, comrades, tactics!' skipping round and whisking his tail with a merry laugh. The animals were not certain what the word meant, but Squealer spoke so persuasively, and the three dogs who happened to be with him growled so threateningly, that they accepted his explanation without further questions"

          Squealer is skilled at twisting things and manipulating things to get his point across. For anything that goes wrong Snowball is blamed, and the threat of the return of Jones is used to suppress any conflict - "Surely none of you wishes to see Jones back?". Squealer is very smart- he is clever enough to join with Napoleon and Snowball; yet shrewd enough not to oppose Napoleon. Squealer hides the true aims of the pigs, so they don't face any resistance and can continue capitalising on the other animals.

          At first Snowball seems similar to Napoleon, both pigs are fighting to become a leader. This is paradoxical to their self-championed system of equality. Their shared interest results in many conflicts: "These two disagreed at every point disagreement was possible." Snowball represents Leo Dawidowitsch Trotsky; and the similarities of their situation are not a coincidence. Trotsky was also exiled (to Mexico) and spoke eloquently (it is pointed out several times how Snowball speaks well in debates in the novel).

          A little research tells me the name Boxer is used as a metaphor for the Boxer Rebellion in China in the twentieth century. This rebellion spirals the start of communism in the country. Boxer and the other animals represent the proletariat (working class) in the story. They believe in Napoleon because it appears as if they will benefit from his ideas.

          Mollie is a small character, but represents those people who don't care much about politics. Mollie just wants to eat sugar and put pretty ribbons in her hair. These human actions go against the rules of 'animalism' and the other animals are annoyed when she is seen being petted by a human.

          Old Benjamin, the donkey is described as unaffected by the rebellion. Benjamin represents the older critical generation. He still acts and works the same way, not swayed by the Napoleon's promises. Having an excellent memory; "Only old Benjamin professed to remember every detail of his long life and to know that things never had been, nor ever could be much better or much worse; hunger, hardship, and disappointment being, so he said, the unalterable law of life." It seems Old Benjamin is the most intelligent non-pig animal on the farm after all.

          The dogs in Animal Farm symbolise the KGB and are a powerful force of Napoleon. Stalin also had a special police force to eradicate his rivals (most famously this is how Trotsky was disposed of).

          CONCLUSION
          """"""""""""""""""""
          The writing style is simple and easy to read. It is reminiscent of a child's story book, using uncomplicated sometimes matter of fact language. Overall I'd describe this novel as a bittersweet story, with many different levels. In fact rereading the simple story will open up many new meanings and symbols. The characters are the biggest reason of my enjoyment of Animal Farm, you end up identifying with them (I know it sounds strange). Orwell makes almost all the characters have a personality.
          Orwell himself says "I meant the moral to be that revolutions only effect a radical improvement when the masses are alert and know how to chuck out their leaders as soon as the latter have done their job".
          It's fascinating how Orwell uses animals to make a point about communism and society. Sixty years on, Animal Farm is still up to date. Many of the issues in the novel such as discrimination, power struggles, and social class structure are still disturbingly relevant.

          I would recommend this book to everyone, it really opened my eyes to Communism in a way that I can't describe (I didn't learn this much when studying Sociology at college... many moons ago). So go on- go read it!

          Thanks for reading!

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          • More +
            16.06.2010 12:57
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            Best album by 50 Cent to date.

            50 Cent is the most talked about rapper (in the mainstream) since his debut album on the Shady/ Aftermath label was released in 2003. He has the most muscly, tattooed beefed up physique that I've seen in yonks. Anyway his recent appearance in the UK for the Brit awards has reminded me that I've been listening to his album for months now and still haven't reviewed it! Well that has to be amended ;-)

            So who is 50 Cent?

            Well 50 a.k.a Curtis Jackson was born in 1975 in the infamous Queens drug dynasty. Raised without a father, 50 lost his crack dealer mother when only eight in mysterious circumstances. The orphaned child was taken in by his grandparents, who brought him up. Unlike most rappers 50 has lived and breathed a gangsta' lifestyle involving drugs, crime, several imprisonments (he followed his mothers footsteps in dealing crack until the mid-90s when he turned toward rap), stabbings, and of course the legendary near-fatal shooting in April 2000.

            If you like me wondered when and where he was shot I'll satisfy your curiosity; he was shot nine times, including a bullet to the face, One shot penetrated his hand, and the others in his legs and thighs. A spooky coincidence is that it happened near where Jam Master Jay was killed two years later. He spent the next few months in recovery while he was dropped from his label. All of this and he still doesn't give up. He released track after track, without any backing with his mate Sha Money XL. The duo created a buzz, and 50 released some solo work on the brilliant underground album "Guess Who's Back?". Inevitably 50 caught the eye of Eminem and Dr Dre and was quickly signed up on the Shady/Aftermath record label. And then 'Get Rich or Die Tryin' was born.

            ~~~~~~~
            TRACKS
            ~~~~~~~

            1. Intro
            ********
            The intro is a nice touch with deceptively gentle sound of a 50 cent piece being spun round and then falling on the floor. Then there's the ominous sound of a gun being loaded.

            2. What Up Gangsta
            ******************

            'What up, blood? (What)
            What up, cuz? (What)
            What up, blood? (What)
            What up, Gangstaaa?'

            Undeniably the best way to kick off the album. I particularly enjoyed the lines:
            'They say I walk around like got an "S" on my chest/ Nah, that's a semi-auto, and a vest on my chest'. Many will think he has an ego the size of Jupiter and I wouldn't exactly disagree but it's all part of the unusual 50 Cent charm. 'What Up Gangsta' is a very catchy opener indeed.

            3. Patiently Waiting - feat.Eminem
            ******************************
            Without a doubt my favourite track on the album. A sinister, often bleak, ominous number. It has the stamp of Eminem on it, it is also produced by him and the quality of his recent work is fantastic. Great to see an effective collaboration like this, it has some class lyrics:
            'Sh*t I aint even got to try to shine
            God's a seamstress who tailor-fitted my pain
            I got scriptures in my brain
            I can spit at your thang'

            I have to admit I love the bit when Eminem's rap kicks in because it raises the menacing atmosphere to whole new level. It is a shame that it opens with 50 declaring 'Em you know you my favourite white boy...'. Some things are better left unsaid, especially on an otherwise fantastically moody track like this.

            4. Many Men
            ************
            'Many men' uses a very familiar sample of Eminem at the beginning. The track has a melodious beat which accompanies the vocals faultlessly. The chorus is remarkably catchy: 'Many men, many many many men, wish death upon me...' A very accurate statement considering 50's history.

            5. In Da Club
            *************
            Here is the first single slickly produced by Dr. Dre. A track that has been blasted on dance floors everywhere. I have rarely been out and not heard this in the past eleven months. The bass heavy beat is effortlessly catchy and work with the lyrics perfectly. Also the winning addition of the lyrics 'Hey Shorty/ It's your Birthday' means many will adopt it as a birthday track and so it is requested a lot.

            I suspect it is the effortless and simple beat that is the real secret to the success. It's instantly recognisable and perfect for bootleggers, which led to them bringing the album release date forward. Coupled with the catchy sing-along lyrics it was bound to be a runaway success.

            6 High All The Time
            *******************
            'High all the time' is the obligatory track about drugs and its not exactly one of the best on the album but not a complete turkey. I'd give it 6/10, not one you'd jump up to skip on your CD Player.

            7. Heat
            ********
            This track opens with a talking intro with 50 and a friend on there way to a drive-by. I spent weeks skipping it as I thought it was just an intro! The continuous and unceasing loading of the clip and shots gets a tad wearisome. Apart from that it is a standard gangsta' track with the subject matter.

            8. If I Can't
            **********
            Currently being played to death by Radio One and other stations too. I'm disappointed that they haven't released the vastly superior 'Patiently Waiting' instead. Ah well at least it'll stop me from hating it due to overplay. Anyway I do quite like 'If I Can't' though I wouldn't have placed it as a potential single compared to the rest of the tracks on the album.

            9 Blood Hound - feat. Young Buck
            *******************************
            A surprisingly upbeat 'woofy'number featuring. Young Buck of G Unit. It seems to be inspired by DMX's style and I feel it would have benefited from an appearance from the original rapper himself. No one else can get the rumbling threatening bark off pat like DMX really. It does work well though on its own, I like the vocals Of Young Buck and hope to hear more from this guy in the future.

            10 Back Down
            **************
            This track amuses me, in a good way of course. The prime culprit of bringing humour into the track is the lyrics:

            'It's easy to see when you look at me
            If you look closely, 50 don't BACK DOWN
            Everywhere I go both coasts wit toast
            Eastside, Westside, I hold that MACK DOWN'

            The track centres on 50's continuing gripe with Ja Rule. There is a bit of a story brought into the track which I have a penchant for (think 'Stan' that kind of thing). Though this is in no way in the same league as 'Stan', it is a decent track. The best bit is Ja Rule being made to come across as the cookie monster. The end of the track is very funny, nice to get some sarcastic humour laced with derision, cynicism and disdain. Just my kind of wit.

            11 P.I.M.P.
            ***********
            This track has also been a hit single, and I must admit I vastly prefer the album version to the one featuring Snoop. P.I.M.P is all about being in the 'bling bling' world of whores and pimps. I'm not too keen on the thought of rappers glorifying the concept of pimps- makes me feel pretty uncomfortable to be honest. The lyrics are very catchy and flow well:

            'Now shorty, she in the club, she dancing for dollars
            She got a thing for that Gucci, that Fendi, that Prada
            That BCBG, Burberry, Dolce and Gabbana
            She feed them foolish fantasies, they pay her cause they wanna
            I spit a little G man, and my game got her
            A hour later, have that ass up in the Ramada..'

            Who is 50 kidding with this bit: 'She like my style, she like my smile, she like the way I talk She from the country, think she like me cause I'm from New York...'
            She likes your smile? Cos it reminds her of a horse? Sorry couldn't help it!

            12 Like My Style - feat. Tony Yayo of G Unit
            ***************************************
            I like this track, it makes me laugh because of the 'Uh huh' bits. :
            '(Uh huh) I know you like my style
            (Uh huh) You like how I break it down
            (Uh huh) I know you like style
            (Uh huh) You like how I break it down'

            Even though Tony Yayo only appears on the track for about ten seconds he's pretty good:
            'You're not really, really ready (ready)
            The drama will have ya ass in trauma BOY!
            You're not really, really ready (ready)
            My knife flip open and then I gets to pokin
            You're not really, really ready (ready)... '

            I really hope the lyrics are tongue-in-cheek because I interpret this song as being a bit sarcastic and poking fun at the gangsta' lifestyle that rappers adopt.
            13 Poor Lil Rich
            ***************
            A funky, catchy upbeat track from the outset. 'Poor lil Rich' explores the novel concept of how his jewellery talks for him.
            Kicks off with the funniest lyrics:

            'I let my watch talk for me, my whip talk for me
            My gat talk for me, BOW! What up homie
            My watch saying 'hi shorty we can be friends'
            My whip saying quit playing bitch get in '
            Catchy but can be offensive due to overuse of the word 'n*gga'.

            14 21 Questions - feat. Nate Dogg
            *******************************
            '21 Questions' is the most underrated track on the album. The guitar gives the track a more laidback feel. The basic gist of the track is 50 asking his girl if he lost his riches if she would still love him. Who else would use a line like "I love you like a fat kid love cake". Nate Dogg's is a brilliant choice as his cool vocals complement 50's really well. He also adds to the calm mood of the song, every time I hear this guys voice I think of 'Regulate'. Definitely a chilled track.

            15. Don't Push Me - feat. Lloyd Banks and Eminem
            ********************************************
            The second track produced and featuring Eminem. The theme is all in the title, and delves into subjects like suspicion, jealousy, anger and murder. The chorus is straight to the point and highly effective in creating an angry ambience:
            'Right now I'm on the edge
            So don't push me
            I aim straight for your head
            So don't push me
            Fill your ass up with lead
            So don't push me
            I got something for your ass, keep thinking I'm p*ssy'

            Lloyd Banks (from G Unit) is also excellent on this track. As usual Eminem adds the extra 'oomph' to the track. My favourite Eminem bit has to be:
            'Man these teenie boppers see me on these magazine covers
            In these beanies and these rags, living fantasies
            Fronting like it's all fun and games
            Till they shoot 'em up bang'

            16 Gotta Make It To Heaven
            **************************
            'Gotta Make It To Heaven' has some ambiguity as though it could have been a dark track, the instrumental is pretty upbeat and downright lively. I actually like this apparent contradiction, the chorus is incredibly catchy 'I gotta make it to heaven/ I'm going through hell'.
            The track also discusses the fickleness of fame and the music industry: 'Some say I'm paranoid I say I'm careful how I choose my friends/ Been to ICU once I ain't going again '.

            17 W*nksta
            **************
            This track actually debuted on the exceptional 8 Mile soundtrack. It has been appreciated by the masses, I've even spotted the video on Channel U some time ago. I assume the American audiences don't really understand the contempt laden in this track. The track discusses the scorn and derision 50 feels for the wannabe gangsters who don't have the balls to shoot anyone. Definitely a cut above similar tracks. It has an infectious flow which will really appeal to urban music fans.

            18. Not like me
            ***************
            A standard rap track with references to N.Y.P.D and snitches with a good heavy dose of swearing. Nothing special, I tend to skip it.
            19 Your Life's on the Line
            ************************
            I'm reliably informed this is a pre-getting-shot-in-the-face track. So 50 sounds a bit different, it's interesting to judge the difference for yourself. I personally don't think there is such a huge change- he's just a bit more mumbly now.

            I like this track and the way the tempo is upped at certain points. The lyrics are quite catchy and its worth a listen just to see the difference in voice for yourself.

            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            CONCLUSION
            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
            On the whole this is an excellent 'debut' with Shady/ Aftermath, and Fifty has with this effort outsold all the competition in 2003. I got this nugget of knowledge from the Brit Awards, though it was a disappointing performance from 50 Cent. There was a very fake news video where 50 is interrogated by British cops and escapes.

            As with Rappers of Dre and Eminem's calibre the production is slick and flawless. Guest appearances are excellent with no one outshining 50, and yet adding that extra something to the album. Names like Kon Artis, Nate Dogg, Tony Yayo, Young Buck, Lloyd Banks and of course Eminem pop up on the album. It is far too early to compare him to the likes of Biggie and Tupac at this stage of his career. Lets see what we think of his work once his third album is out, he's not proved his versatility yet with his music.

            Even if the subject matters (I.e murder/ jealousy/ hate/ drugs/ guns) may not be completely unique, there is something innovative about the way the album is packaged. The cynical side of me wonders if 50 will be able to keep and surpass this level of quality without Dre and Eminem holding his hand. There is a definite danger of his work becoming repetitive, I mean we all KNOW you were shot nine times and you are a big hard man- but what is new?! Hopefully the next album will explore other subjects, after all '21 questions' is often overlooked because of the rest of the more aggressive tracks (personally I would love to see him collaborate with Missy Elliott, and with British acts like Jamelia and Mis-Teeq). Also '21 Questions' can be misinterpreted to be the 'token love song' with the amazingly difference between it and the rest of the listing. On it's own 'Get Rich or Die Tryin' is an album which for me will retain its listening longevity as it has a good range of tracks that I love.

            First posted on Ciao a while ago!

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            • Lush Rehab Shampoo / Hair Care / 21 Readings / 21 Ratings
              More +
              26.05.2010 19:48
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              Lush's shampoo for dry, frizzy and damaged hair

              Lush have some wonderful hair care products and this shampoo is the first I ever tried. Aimed at dry and damaged hair this is a little rich for my hair now but if I overdo the straightening then it is just perfect!

              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
              THE SHAMPOO
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
              Rehab is a liquid shampoo which comes in a clear plastic bottle. The lid is a flip top one- so its easy to open in the shower. As I prefer the smaller bottles I chose the 100g one which cost £4.50. There is a black label bearing the Lush logo around the bottle, here on closer inspection you have the all-important ingredients and description of the product. The most important instructions on the label are 'shake me then use me'. A circular label has a cartoon image of a guy who made my shampoo. The text around the label has the use-by date and the shampoo has a life span of fourteen months. Because of all the fresh ingredients I was worried it may have a short shelf life so I'm happy it'll last for more than a year.

              Flip open the lid and your nostrils are greeted with the scent of a fruity minty concoction. There are so many smells involved in this shampoo that everyone will describe it differently. If you like Lush products you'll like this shampoo. I'm not going to list all the ingredients but the most prominent ones are- fresh papaya juice, pineapple juice, kiwi juice and mango juice. Sounds like a delicious drink! In addition the shampoo contains essential oils such as Jojoba, Peppermint, Rosemary, Juniper berry, Lavender and more. The peppermint does jump out when you smell the shampoo first.
              The colour and texture of the shampoo resembles very runny honey. Now onto actually using the shampoo...

              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
              PRODUCT IN ACTION
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
              Lush claim that Rehab has "a revolutionary, organic enzymic base". Not sure what this means or even if "enzymic" is a real word!

              Remember to give the bottle a good shake to mix all the oils in with the shampoo. Squeeze out a small blob about the size of a 10p. Surprisingly the shampoo lathers really well (I suspect that may be the ammonium lauryl sulfate). However there are no harmful chemicals, and I have researched into ammonium lauryl sulfate and have discovered that minute amounts will cause no problems.

              I tend to have very hot showers and it is usually pretty steamy, which opens up your hair cuticles. Now I massage my scalp very gently, in smooth round movements. If you suffer from a greasy scalp I would choose a shampoo geared towards that- not Rehab. Make sure you wash out all of the shampoo using warm NOT hot water- takes about 3 minutes to do this properly. I do use Lush Retread on the ends, and finish with a shot of cold water to leave hair extra shiny by sealing the hair cuticles.

              Now my hair is naturally very thick and curly, the bane of my life. I do straighten in regularly so it is prone to drying. I am guilty of previously coating it with all kinds of oils in an effort of taming it.
              After the first wash my hair felt squeaky clean but dry. I was hoping for it to feel nice and smooth. I was horrified to see little flakes on my scalp. It's given me dandruff! Nooooooo

              Not one to give up easily, I continue to use this shampoo. After the third wash using both Lush Rehab and Retread my hair is so shiny and soft, and the flaky scalp has balanced out. People are giving me compliments, and touching my hair.

              ~~~~~~~~~
              VALUE
              ~~~~~~~~~
              Rehab shampoo comes in three sizes: 100g - £4.50, 250g - £8.95, 500g - £14.50

              I know the 100g bottle works out as more expensive but I can see it lasting at least 6-9 months. As the shampoo has a use-by date I would rather buy a fresh one once this runs out. I don't mind paying this much as I'm saving money on hair products. I feel good spending at Lush as they don't test on animals. If you, like me, don't have a Lush near you- don't despair, they have a website (www.lush.co.uk). I do like to check it out now and then to keep up to date with their products.

              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
              CONCLUSION
              ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
              Without a doubt the best shampoo I have ever tried. Lush products do take some time getting used to, as I found. I'm glad I persevered as it has worked so well. Another thing I'm happy about is that the smell doesn't linger in your hair for days. I'm not too keen on smelling fruity. My hair is soft, smooth and so strokeable.

              I have tried so many different shampoos for my dry hair, and wish I'd turned to Lush earlier. Better late than never I guess. The fantastic thing about Rehab is it actually fixes hair, instead of using chemicals to coat the hair. If you hate the sticky feeling of waxes and serums I would advise trying out this shampoo.

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              • Nissan Micra 1.0L / Car / 12 Readings / 10 Ratings
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                15.05.2010 08:02
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                Perfect first car!

                I have been the proud owner of a second hand used Micra 1.0 (five door) for the past six months. It was regularly serviced by a main Nissan dealership by the previous owner. The exterior was in marvellous condition for its age, and even with little upkeep it is still is in excellent condition. Most who know me are more than aware of how much I love my car, I like nothing better than to go for a zoom down country roads in this car. Unlike most Micras mine is most comfortable when purring along at motorway speeds. I will go into the pros and cons of the Micra later on, initially lets get the fairly technical bits out of the way.

                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                BACKGROUND
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                In 1993 the second generation Micra arrived. The improvements on the older boxier models were plentiful and impressive back in the day. Main changes include more space, superior modification and additional functions. And significantly the post-1993 Micra was built to far higher standards than previously in the UK.
                British-built Micra's have 16-valve engines for fantastic performance with greater refinement than most small cars. The revolutionary 16 valve engines, improved things radically back in the day.

                My Micra has a one litre (998cc) engine with a manual gear box. I have done well in excess of 5,000 miles in this car and now am familiar with the workings of this minute yet life-enhancing machine (LOL!).
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                THE EXTERIOR
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                The Micra has had a fair amount of enhancements on the exterior including mouldings, revamped bumpers, and my favourite improvement has to be the restyled front grille and new front and rear headlights. I was lucky enough to get a colour coded bumper which does not come as standard apparently. The Micra is available in both metallic and matt finishes, I prefer the metallic colours and mine is a bright blue colour!

                In my opinion my Micra is the best shape compared to the earlier boxier shape, and the new third generation Micra which looks okay from the front but I'm not keen on the shape of the rear.
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                THE INTERIOR
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                On the inside we have the standard instruments and controls such as the all-important speedometer/ odometer, fuel indicator and coolant temperature gauge. Perplexingly my Micra lacks a tachometer (rev-counter). Bizarre as it is often difficult to distinguish whether the car is idling, and annoying as my car has a tendency to quietly cutout on me now and then with no warning. It would help if I could keep an eye on the revs to see what is going on. My mechanic can find no fault with the car and tuned the engine to make sure everything is fine. Anyone with any advice on this- please leave a comment!


                Other important controls include the windscreen wiper and washer switch (mine also has a rear one), headlight beam selector, power door lock, and a lever that can open the bonnet and petrol filler lid. As with most cars there is a useful glovebox on the passenger side. Other sources of storage are the shelves attached to the front inside doors. Perfect for cans/ glass wipes/ tissues etc. Boot space is sufficient for a single female like myself though families/ people going on holiday may find it a bit of a squeeze.
                Its high body makes sensible use of interior space. As the car doesn't have air conditioning, it also has an essential sunroof which is simple to use. The upholstery is nothing to write home about- is grey and matches the grey dashboard (urghhhh - who designed that?). Though on the bright side it camouflages the dust that has started to collect recently ;-)

                The standard Nissan stereo that comes with the Micra isn't really that wonderful though does the job and is better than NO stereo. Within a few months my passenger side speaker started crackling and I am going to replace it soon. Am waiting for an excuse to justify the expense. I do spend a fair bit of my time driving, and no music would send me to auto-pilot mode which is a highly dangerous situation to be in. (Tongue firmly in cheek)
                Security-wise the Micra has an immobiliser and coded radio so that's good as it'll save money on insurance. The lack of safety features is worrying, no airbags at all in my car and that is a serious concern.

                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                ROAD TEST
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                As it is essential to adhere to the relevant speed limit at all times; my Micra is ideal for this purpose. I still remember the first time I test drove my Micra, I went in heavy handed like I did n my Dad's big car. The car shot down the street even though I had applied the tiniest bit of pressure on the accelerator. I did have to change my driving habits, became smoother with the controls and began to fall in love with my car. The clutch is Even though it is a tiny car I do beat 90% of cars at the lights (agreeing that they may not be aware of the competition, but still!). Yes first and second gears are faultless. However getting to 60mph takes too long, I'm estimating 14/15 seconds and I guess that's the downside to having a small engine.
                The car has power steering which is good, though I have to admit it took a lot of getting used to. My bulging muscles (heehee- really) have disappeared after my time driving the Micra so that is a slight personal disadvantage I suppose!

                With a small light body, this car is a boon to drive around busy cities, though you may find it annoyingly slow getting up to motorway speeds.
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                ADVANTAGES
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                I do around 180 miles a week and I've not forked out more than £20 on petrol for the week. It is amazingly economical. Also the insurance is cheap, mine was around £600 and seeing as its my first car that's not bad at all. Road Tax is £110 for the year which is low-priced due to the small engine size.
                Driving around congested traffic is easier when you are in a nippy little car, weaving in and out of small spaces makes journeys quicker. Parking is also a lot simpler, which I really appreciate!

                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                DISADVANTAGES
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                If you want your car to impress all your mates then maybe a Micra is not for you. A sports car it ain't, and thankfully it doesn't pretend to be anything else. It is often associated with Learners and the elderly bless them. This doesn't bother me in the slightest- in fact I enjoy the double take other drivers give me when I'm overtaking them/ beating them at the lights/ parking in 0.5 seconds...

                I've found that getting into the car is a nightmare in below freezing conditions. The key should be heated and De-Icer should be sprayed around edges of doors to get the damn things open. Also I'm told the door handles can become brittle and fall off, though thankfully that's not happened to me yet. The best precaution to guard against this is to get the handles sprayed the same colour as your pantwork.

                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                CONCLUSION
                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                Personally I have found performance to be better than most suggest. Regular servicing (every 9,000 miles) is a must with this car and will hopefully stop any major problems from occurring.

                The plentiful number of Micras available has brought prices down, adding to the appeal of the humble Micra. However if you are buying a Micra take a close look at the previous owner history. If used by Driving Schools I would avoid like the plague. I remember my own Learner days, I am amazed the car lasted all the revving and stalling. It doesn't do a car any good in the long run.
                Overall I am more than happy with my Micra. Even if I won the Lottery tomorrow I'd probably just upgrade to a newer one with all the mod-cons like electric windows, air-conditioning, flash stereo etc.

                LINKS
                http://fish4.co.uk/cars/
                www.nissan-micra.co.uk

                Review is also on Ciao.

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                • More +
                  03.05.2010 14:17
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                  Interesting to see what Naveen Andrews did prior to Lost.

                  The 'Kama Sutra' is an ancient Indian text of Vatsayana's which translates as 'Lessons of Love'. It has become a legend and has become a well known name worldwide. It is about the spiritual and physical pleasures of love and sex.

                  A close friend of mine got this on DVD, he lent it to me (he actually forced me to borrow it, he reckons 'he'd get a kick out of knowing that I'd sat down and watched it'). Intrigued I thought I'd find out what all the fuss was about. Well here is my two-pence worth on the film:
                  ~~~~~~
                  PLOT
                  ~~~~~~

                  The film is set in 16th Century India and the story revolves around the central characters Maya and Tara. The film begins by introducing them as young girls both raised together. Tara (played by Sarita Choudhury) is a princess destined to marry a Raj and become Queen. Maya (played by Indira Varma) is a maid as well as friend of Tara.
                  Once they grow up there is an element of rivalry between the two women. Maya is incensed in her lowly position, receiving Tara's hand-me-downs. This culminates in Maya's decision to seduce Tara's husband-to-be King, Raj Singh (played by Naveen Andrews). Although he isn't exactly fighting her off. As Tara is leaving her family after the wedding Maya tells Tara that it is she who now has a cast off from Maya.

                  Once Tara leaves with her husband, Maya's betrayal is exposed to all by Tara's hunchbacked brother (who looks old enough to be her father) who is consumed with jealousy as he wanted Maya for himself. Maya is thrown out of the house by Tara's family.
                  After leaving the house Maya meets Jai Kumar (played by Ramon Tikaram), a sculptor (and a Courtesan's lovechild) of Raj Singh's royal household. There is an instant chemistry between them, Jai introduces Maya to Rasa Devi (played by Rekha), a former Courtesan who teaches the ways of the Kama Sutra in a school for courtesans. Maya joins the commune and learns about the text of the Kama Sutra.

                  This is all I am willing to give away about the plot. The rest of the film explores the complex relationships of the four main characters.
                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  BEHIND THE SCENES
                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                  Mira Nair, director of masterpieces "Salaam Bombay" and "Mississippi Masala" and the hugely successful "Monsoon Wedding" has become well-respected in her field . Unfortunately in comparison Kama Sutra falls flat on its face. The problem is the structure and inherent contradictions which I'll discuss later.
                  Cinematographer Declan Quinn brings some dazzling and luscious backgrounds to please they eye. The colours you see are good enough to eat, burnt oranges, golds, and yellows dilate your pupils and make the scenery look more authentic.

                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  CHARACTERS
                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  Indira Varma- this is actually her screen debut. This amazed me due to the confidence she has and her role has full frontal nudity which is not the typical debut role for an Asian actress. She is excellent as the captivating Maya, with a provocative sensuality that has a modern appeal too. I really don't think it was an accident that she is lighter-skinned than Tara, the casting just perpetrates the myth in Indian culture that fairer skin is more attractive. Realistically it would be the other way round.

                  Sarita Choudhury- was in "Mississippi Masala" . She is brilliant as the slightly spoiled princess. Her expression is just right when she is eaten up with jealousy.
                  Rekha- the fantastic dusky Bollywood actress. Even though she is given awful one-liner dialogues such as "Since when are women helpless?" she doesn't lose her dignity. I think she is a faultless actress and it is a huge shame she was not given a better role to really sink her teeth into.

                  Naveen Andrews- he is okay in his role, I guess it's not his fault the character is annoying. The spoiled King who falls into Opium oblivion, unfortunately none of us care what happens to him.
                  Ramon Tikaram- I'm sorry but whenever I see this man all I remember is him in a compromising position with a ginger bloke in 'This Life'. I don't think he is attractive, and I can't help but think he is gay after watching him in 'This Life'.

                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  SOUNDTRACK
                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  'Kama Sutra' has an a brilliant soundtrack that works with the film well. Mychael Danna has brought together names such as Ustad Vilayat Khan, Aruna Narayan Kalle, Shubha Mudgal, L. Subramaniam and Iqbal Bano. There is good combination of Indian classical music and more contemporary rhythm and percussion which accompanies the beautiful scenery in the film perfectly.
                  My personal favourites have to be "The Toona Song" which is written by Madan Gopal Singh, and "Merging" which is written and performed by Ustad Vilayat H. Khan.

                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  OVERALL OPINION
                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  On the positive side the cinematography and landscape were stunning and magnificent throughout the film. The way Mira Nair shows the uniqueness of India is wonderful. From the vivid colours, splendid costumes and jewellery, the exquisite palace and backgrounds are worth watching the film for if you appreciate such things.
                  Now the pitfalls- 'Kama Sutra' is an English-language production, trust me this makes the whole film seem like a sham. All the effort of creating the authentic 16th Century India goes down the drain. This is a film that needed to be in Hindi, the logic behind it being made in English makes no sense whatsoever. I am guessing that this film is aimed at English and American audiences and so they went with the English script. What they failed to understand is that it doesn't work for the plot, how many Indians spoke in English in 16th Century India? It sounds too modern for the time it is too be set in.

                  Here the contradictions come in. The producers want to cash in on the Kama Sutra concept, they know it will attract a lot of attention and interest. However they don't see the idea through. It should have been made as authentic as possible, comprehensive and exhaustive research should have been undertaken about the Kama Sutra. Instead they weave a weak soap opera plot into the film. All the characters are two-dimensional, though part of this can be due to the fact that the English dialogues don't work at all.
                  The sex scenes in the film though explicit have the touches of a female eye. There is the focus on the feet, and the strong back of Jai. However the sex scenes seem to lack passion, it is really difficult to explain why. You tend to get the impression that the male characters in question would shag any woman at that moment- they don't seem to be that interested in Maya outside the bedroom. Also as we the audience don't know anything about Maya (what makes her tick etc) therefore we don't understand the obsession the blokes develop for her. Notably the King who can have his pick of any Courtesan in the Harem, why go so nutty over Maya? Ooops sorry I forgot it's the soap opera plot again.

                  There does seem moments where the director has made feeble attempts of bringing feminist ideals into the film. For example when Rasa Devi is teaching the Courtesans how to keep the power by being sexually assertive. Maybe Nair was trying to show a strong female sexuality, but the character is just a muddle.
                  Overall Kama Sutra is an artificial and unconvincing story. The idea seems to be leave your brain at home and just enjoy the cinematography. My mate admits to watching it with the sound down- I guess it's just a posh soft-porn film. Not recommended by me, unless you're a bloke and fancy the women in it.

                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  DVD SPECIAL FEATURES
                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  * Featurette trailer
                  * Behind the scenes Documentary
                  * Interviews with Cast members and Director

                  Length of film: 109mins

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                • More +
                  30.04.2010 11:31
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                  Pretty good if you're a Nelly fan

                  I'm now going to share my inexplicable obsession with Mr Cornell Haynes a.k.a Nelly. I am amazed that this is my first review about anything Nelly-related. I had started to write one about both Nellyville and Country Grammar but I found it impossible to be unbiased. I'm confident that I'm able to be honest about my thoughts about the latest offering from the talented St. Louis rapper. Most people are aware that Nelly was first a member of the St. Lunatics, and made is the first rapper to make it as a solo star.

                  Da Derrty Versions (The Reinvention) is more than a mere remix album. It is the first that I've actually gone out and bought, and am happy to keep! Being a Nelly fan from the 'EI' days I loved his songs in their original states, however Nelly (with some help from some friends) practically recreates his popular hits. Part of the reason of the success of these remixes is that each song is given a different approach. Some have revolutionary vocals, some have the beats played with, often both. Da Derrty Versions is a breath of fresh air for all Nelly fans
                  .
                  TRACK LISTING
                  1. Country Grammar (Featuring E-40)(Remixed by Jason "Jay E" Epperson)
                  Really catchy beats and a brilliant start to the album. It still has the freshness of the original, and you can still sing along- even if you're hearing it for the first time. The song is refers to his St Louis roots.

                  2. Iz U
                  'She said "Iz u iz, or iz u ain't?"
                  "Iz u iz, or iz u ain't?"
                  Iz that you in a Lamborghini
                  Iz that your car parked outside?'

                  As this is Nelly's new single and not a previous hit- it's difficult to judge like the rest of the album. However it is definitely in my top 5 off the album, it works well and is very catchy.
                  It is all about a girl that is interested in Nelly because of his car and his money.
                  3. E.I. (Remixed by David Banner)

                  "Undelay, undelay, mommy E-I E-I, UH OH, what's poppin' tonight?"
                  Remember which track it is now?
                  Now the remix also has:

                  'It must be your ass, 'cos it ain't your face...'
                  Dubious lyrics? Maybe but it DOES work. It is a fun track that you can get down to on the dance floor. I'm hoping I hear it out soon!

                  By this point I am delirious with excitement of listening to Nelly. The order of tracks is faultless so far, and one of my ultimate fave Nelly songs is next...
                  4. Ride Wit Me (Remixed by Jason "Jay E" Epperson)

                  It starts off sounding not too dissimilar to the original. Then the music kicks in and the vocals are slower whilst the beats are stronger. The result is a nice laid-back song, it makes me think of a summery day. Personally I wouldn't put it in my top 5 favourite tracks.
                  5. Batter Up (Remixed by Jason "Jay E" Epperson)

                  Even better than the original- it's the vocals that make this version work so well
                  6. If (Produced by The Neptunes)

                  'If I couldn't take you around the world,
                  Would you still be my girl?'
                  I think this is Nelly's take on 'Girlfriend' and thankfully he has had the sense to keep Nsync well away from it.
                  I like this as it doesn't sound whiney, the tone is more questioning. It could quite easily have sounded needy- like Kevin Lyttle but Nelly has more style.

                  7. Hot In Herre (Remixed by The Neptunes)
                  'It's getting hot in herre,
                  So take off all your clothes'

                  It's difficult to touch a massive hit like 'Hot in Herre' and not have people be critical. I've chosen to judge it as a stand alone track, and it is a good dance record. The vocals are practically the same so you can still sing along which helps the track work. The main changes are that there are extra rhythmic beats but the whole song isn't speeded up or anything.
                  8. Dilemma (Remixed by Jermaine Dupri)

                  'Nelly, I love you.... and I need youuuuu..'
                  This version is way better than the original. I think it benefits from the new stronger beats and it just sounds sexier and less cheesy. Anyone else would be tempted to just speed it up and turn it into a dance number but thankfully they didn't!
                  I like the rap in it, a particular genius remix.

                  9. Kings Highway (Remixed by Jason "Jay E" Epperson)
                  To be honest I wasn't a big fan of the original. This remix is fine, it doesn't spoil it or anything.
                  10. Groovin' Tonight

                  The first time I was listening to the album I didn't have much time and I skipped this as the first few seconds sounded really cheesy:
                  'Tonights the night, tonights the night...
                  When you lookin sooo fine...'

                  However when I heard it kick in I was pleasantly surprised, it is a nice 'end of the night' kind of track. It isn't a rap track, and yet I like it a lot.
                  11. Air Force Ones
                  Much 'dirtier' but it works. It's really different sound to the original.

                  "If the shoe is on the shelf you should have some man, you can't sit up and tell me you that you have none, man, you may not have three or four but you got one..."
                  Air Force Ones is about Nelly's affection for the Nike Air Force brand and if you listen carefully to the lyrics you'll see that is is quite an amusing number.


                  12. Work It (Remixed by Scott Storch)
                  The vocals are similar, the rhythm is funked up. And there is a lot more Nelly and less Timberlake- bonus! The difference is mainly in the rhythm, a few extra beats are added.

                  However it is a remix which is easily forgettable.
                  13. #1 (Remixed by Wally)

                  I like songs which sound like they've been recorded live, and this one starts off like that. I do think it sounds pretty similar to the original. To tell the truth I tend to skip it after I hear the rap in the middle.
                  14. Pimp Juice (Remixed by Jason "Jay E" Epperson)

                  It begins with a mechanical sounding female voice saying something like 'This is too too Pimp Juice'. Thankfully after a quick cringe the song immediately redeems itself. This is so different with the saxophone and it's slowed down and more mellow. It is not a rap track by any standard. The only problem is the order doesn't work very well and I tend to skip to the next track because it's brilliant.
                  15. E.I. (Tipdrill Remix Remixed by David Banner)

                  This bears little resemblance to the original, it is not so much a reinvention as a remake.
                  'It must be your money 'cos it ain't your face'

                  The female vocals come in for a moment on this version. It works really well. I like it when the male vocals come together in the fourth minute it sounds spontaneous and evocative of a night out. I like the attitude and vibe that you get from this song. Yes the lyrics aren't exactly flattering, but it's still sexy and good to dance to.

                  16. Splurge (Remix)
                  This song is about how Nelly feels he is at a point where he deserves to 'splurge a little' since he has worked damn hard to get where he is today and he is right.

                  I'm sure the 'remix!' shout in the beginning and middle is Missy Elliott. I think this could have been a genius track with Missy's input. Unfortunately it sounds a little amateurish with the small changes to the beat and little alteration to the vocals. There are also some god awful 'futuristic' twinkly beats popping up at one point. It would have been good to have Splurge remixed into a dancey track but it hasn't been twiddled with enough in terms of the tempo and rhythm.
                  A shame to end an otherwise excellent album with this track. I would have switched EI and Splurge around in the listing.

                  The only real moan I have about this album is where is 'Shake Your Tailfeather'? That could have been an amazing remix and it could have finished off the album with a blast!
                  I would recommend this album to any Rap, Hip hop and R'n'B fan and it is a must for all Nelly fans. Although it is a remix album most of them still retain a hiphop and rap vibe (apart from Pimp Juice).

                  Let me know what you think if you've heard it!
                  LINKS

                  www. Nelly.net

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                    22.08.2002 20:38
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                    This is one of my favourite dance compilation CD’s which shows that it has lasted a long time. I may be biased as I am a huge fan of 90’s music, especially dance and hardcore. At first sight the cover and design of the album is quite sophisticated, and I really like the purple and silver cover. CD1 Track listing~ 1- Chemical Brothers 'Hey Boy Hey Girl' 2- Onephatdeeva 'In and out of my Life' 3- Fatboy slim 'Right Here Right Now' 4- Moloko 'Sing it Back' boris dlugosch musical mix 5- Powerhouse 'what you need' full intention power mix 6- Triple X 'Feel The Same' 7- Eclipse 'Makes Me Love You' 8- Big Time Charlie 'On the Run' 9- Pete Heller's Big Love 'Big Love' 10- Studio 45 'Freak It' 11- Cevin Fisher feat. Loleatta Holloway 'Burnin' Up' 12- Bob Marley 'Sun is Shining' 13- Chili Hi Fly 'Is it Love' 14- Armand Van Heldon 'You Don't Know Me' 15- MAW presents India 'To Be In Love' 16- Phats & Small 'Turn Around' 17- Mario Piu 'Communication' mas mix 18- HiGtae 'Pitchin'' 19- Lost Witness 'Happiness Happening' lange mix 20- York 'The Awakening' 21- System F 'Out of the Blue' 22- ATB '9PM(Till I Come) 23- DJ Jurgen presents Alice Deejay 'Better Off Alone' CD2 Track listing~ 1- Basement Jaxx 'Rendez-vu' 2- Soulsearcher 'Can't Get Enough' 3- Ashram 'Drop The Bass' 4- Paul Johnson 'Get Get Down' choo choo's digital pimp mix 5- Shaft '(Mucho Mambo) Sway' johan's toxic club mix 6- Dave Aude 'Push that Thing' 7- Planet Perfecto 'Bullet In The Gun' 8- Tall Paul 'Be There' tormentor mix 9- Underworld 'King of Snake' 10- Starfighter 'Apa
                    che' 11- Agnelli & Nelson 'Everyday' 12- Matt Darey presents Mash Up 'Liberation' ferry corsten mix 13- Yomanda 'Synth and strings' 14- DJ Jean 'The Launch' yomanda mix 15- ATB 'Don't Stop' quake mix 16- Fragma 'Toca Me' 17- Camisra 'Feel The Beat' Tall Paul remix 18- Binary Finary '1999' gouryella mix 19- Dejure 'Sanctuary' 20- Blockster 'Grooveline' matt darey mix It is a double CD album and the first CD is mixed by Judge Jules. The album kicks off with the excellent ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’ by The Chemical Brothers. The Judge has an excellent balance on his CD of commercial House and Trance. My favourite tracks have to be Moloko’s ‘Sing It Back’, Armand Van Helden’s ‘You Don’t Know Me’ and the fabulous ‘9PM (Till I Come)’ by ATB. However I do feel that the order of the tracks could’ve been more effective. It seems strange to have DJ Jurgen’s ‘Better Off Alone’ as the last track. I do feel something by Chicane or Lost Witness would be nice to finish off the CD. Even if York’s ‘The Awakening’ was moved to the last track it would’ve been more satisfactory. I do also think the annoying ‘Communication’ by Mario Piu could’ve been left out of the listing. By the time you get to the eleventh track your blood will be pumping and with Cevin Fisher and Bob Marley vs. Funkster de luxe remix you’ll be dancing without a doubt. Tall Paul mixes the second CD, and I’m surprised at some of his choices. Again the music is of the House and Trance variety. This CD starts off with the excellent Basement Jaxx and ‘Rendez-vu’ and then we have Soulsearcher’s ‘Can’t Get Enough’. It’s unusual in that the tracks are largely better than the first CD, but the mix
                    ing and order on CD 2 is a little erratic at times. I think Shaft and ATB’s ‘Don’t Stop’ are out of place on the compilation and could’ve been replaced with something better (maybe a bit of Sasha and Digweed?). Planet Perfecto, Underworld and DJ Jean crop up on the CD as well. This CD has quite an Ibiza feel, especially the first five tracks. My favourite track on this CD is Fragma’s ‘Toca’s Miracle’, it reminds me of the summer and sounds fresh years after its release. Watch out for the inevitably cheesy dance moves to certain tracks, prime culprits are Moloko, Phats & Small, Paul Johnson and Planet Perfecto. Some songs get you 'acting out the words', smoooooooth (NOT!) The reason that this album has lasted so well is that it is definitely a grower. You may find yourself skipping the odd song depending on your preference between Trance and House. This is one of the better quality compilations of the late 90’s and there will certainly be a few tracks that’ll take you back in time. Overall an album that’s worth a listen if you are a dance fan.

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                    • Reverence - Faithless / Music Album / 7 Readings / 22 Ratings
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                      29.07.2002 02:50
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                      Reverence is my second favourite Faithless album (Outrospective being the first!). In case you don’t know Faithless are made up of Maxi Jazz, Jamie Catto, Sister Bliss and Rollo. This foursome have had a huge amount of success, and still seem to have their feet on the ground. I am a huge fan so forgive me if I seem biased. Anyway this album starts brilliantly with the title track, and it is the deadpan tones of Maxi Jazz which make it work so well. My favourite lyrics have to be: ‘The mistake is to take without givin’, from within, so take a pace back, face facts- you don’t need eye’s to see you need vision’ Next comes ‘Don’t leave’ a very sickly love song, and I’m not at all sure about Catto’s vocals. This song doesn’t have the ‘Faithless’ touch (maybe it’s due to the fact that it is written without Maxi Jazz’s input?). Overall a very forgettable track. Things perk up with ‘Salva Mea’, it begins with Dido’s haunting backing vocals, and the keyboards really kick in- the blood starts pumping. And Maxi Jazz takes over: ‘I wanna take a look at the world behind these eyes…’ This is an excellent track and definitely one of the best on the album. Unfortunately this album seems to have a ‘great track, bad track, great track, indifferent track’ order in the listing. ‘If Lovin' You Is Wrong’ is a bit on the sweet side, for the dark and thoughtful Jazz. But it’s not a track that I’d particularly hate. "Baseball Cap" later on. Fifth track is ‘Angeline’ another weak track (and unsuprisingly written without Jazz and sung by Catto). On the positive side the song is very short and here comes the track we’ve been waiting for: ‘Insomnia’. This is without doubt one of the best songs by Faithless. It star
                      ts of with the Westminister chimes and the annoying ticking of clocks drifts in and out. Maxi Jazz and co have created a masterpiece here. Credit goes to Sister Bliss and Rollo for the slick production. I just love the lyrics: ‘I can’t sleep, something’s all over me. Greasy insomnia please release me and let me dream about making mad love on the heath, tearing off tights with my teeth but there’s no relief…I CAN’T GET NO SLEEP!’ There’s no doubt that the combination of Maxi Jazz and the wonderful keyboards is at it’s best here. The melody is so catchy, you’ll find yourself humming it hours after hearing it. Unfortunately here’s the bad track ‘Dirty Ol’ Man’ – well maybe I’m a bit harsh. But ‘He’s a dirty ol’ man, a dirty ol’ man and a friend of mine’ please! It seems like a blasphemy for this track to follow the hypnotic ‘Insomnia’. Eighth track is ‘Flowerstand Man’ written by brother and sister Rollo and Dido (how sweet!). I am not one for romantic songs and although Dido has a fantastic voice, this is one I skip without hesitation. The next track is ‘Baseball Cap’ which I do quite like, and at this point you are wishing for Maxi Jazz’s vocals to return and fast! I do feel the backing vocals by Catto, Sister Bliss and Dido don’t work that well with the song. It gives the song an almost Shampoo-like feel (remember the group who had the one hit called ‘Uh- oh we’re in trouble!). Thankfully the album ends well with ‘Drifting away’ which is perfect for any chillout compilation that you may want to create (like there’s none around!). I do really like this track. There is a ‘bonus CD’ with this album called ‘Irreverence’ where there’s mixes to all the songs on the album apart from
                      ‘If Lovin’ you is wrong’ and ‘Dirty Ol’ Man’. There’s also a track called ‘Soundtrack Jam’ which is a slightly above average song. My favourite mixes on this CD are Salva Mea (Way Out West remix) and Insomnia (Moody Mix). One thing that I must also give credit to is the personal touch added to the CD booklet of this album. Thee’s a lot of information about who wrote, programmed, produced (etc) on the tracks. The members of the group also have a page each about them, giving a little history. Here I discover that Maxi Jazz’s other great love apart from his faith and music is his Ford Escort Mk 2 RS 2000. Flash! Other interesting facts are that Jamie Catto has been ‘arrested in nearly every European city for possession of cannabis’. Also Sister Bliss built a shrine to Jim Morrison out of onion peel and stale bread (?!). Let’s not forget Rollo who was expelled for the scouts (but it doesn’t say why!) and can write upside down. ‘Reverence’ is an album that will be in the CD collection of any die-hard Faithless fan. It has some great tracks but the weak one’s let the whole album down. Thank god for the skip button!

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                      • Minority Report (DVD) / DVD / 3 Readings / 15 Ratings
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                        19.07.2002 17:45
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                        Minority Report is set in the year 2054. The film starts straightaway with Tom Cruise being introduced as Detective John Anderton. It’s the 6th year of trials for the ‘Pre-Crime Division’. The Pre-Crime Division is an agency devoted to arresting future criminals before the murder actually takes place. This is a complex affair involving three psychics (called the pre-cogs) who give visions of crimes that are about to occur, this information is used to stop the murder from taking place. There’s a lot of cool gadgets used in the film, like when a murder is predicted by the pre-cogs the names of both murderer and victim are engraved onto wooden balls. Another interesting invention is the electronic glove contraption which allows Anderton to manipulate and look closer at the precogs visions – rather like a remote-control. The three psychics don’t seem like human beings and lie in a shallow pool 24 hours a day, with their heads connected to a computer which allows the pre-cops to see what the psychics are seeing. Anderton comes across as an excellent pre-cop but a closer look shows he’s dependent on dope since the death of his son and is still grieving. Discussing the plot without spoiling the film is a little difficult so I won’t go further than saying Anderton accidentally discovers a flaw in the system and finds himself caught up in a conspiracy. Criticisms I have of the film are mostly about the plot. The worst scenes include the one where Cruise chases his own eyes (which look about as real as the sweets you get in Woolworths) and the gross one where he accidentally eats rotten food which didn’t go with the seriousness of the rest of the film. I don’t think these parts were at all successful at keeping the younger audience interested anyway. I do think that parts of the plot were extremely predictable, and I was also unhappy with the ending which seemed like a bit of a
                        cop out. I do feel that Spielberg should leave you guessing at certain points, but instead he opts to make every little scene make sense (making it maddeningly corny and predictable at times). Apart from these little niggles Minority Report is a film that Spielberg has a right to be proud of. He successfully creates a world and draws us into it, from the futuristic technology to the problems created by it. I did like the idea of people being traced through eye scans, and targeted advertising through them. The metal-spiders which scan your eyes (used by the Pre-crime Division to find criminals on the run) were rather creepy little things- but I loved the idea of them. Performances were good all round, but the film works because Tom Cruise is brilliant throughout the film. He looks comfortable in all the action sequences and is a joy to watch. Overall I did really enjoy this film, especially the action sequences and just for the reason that I hadn’t seen a Tom Cruise film in years. I would recommend this film to all, especially Spielberg fans who were disappointed by the dismal A.I- this is a film that’ll restore faith in Spielberg’s abilities.

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                        • Homework - Daft Punk / Music Album / 1 Reading / 11 Ratings
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                          16.07.2002 22:14
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                          This debut album from the fantastic French duo Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo is essential for any dance, electronic and/or Daft Punk fans. Most are aware of the hugely successful album Discovery by Daft Punk, but 'Homework' is just as good in quality if a little less commercial. The music in this album has a French sound- almost disco-like! The reason that Daft Punk have been so successful is that they manage to produce original, new and innovative music whilst still keeping their own 'sound'. There's always a distinctive Daft Punk feel in their songs, this undoubtedly is due to the fact that they've both written and produced all the tracks on the album. Even Pete Tong has listed Homework in his top twenty essential dance albums of all time. He describes the album as: 'Cloaking pure jacking house with an array of kitch, pop culture imagery, this debut from two pretty-boy Parisians has a rawness and yet a sophistication that lifts it far beyond the realms of pure club soundtrack, while the roll-call of house greats on 'Teachers' shows Daft Punk know their roots'. Tong definitely has his own way with words, but you can't help but agree with his opinion. The 'House greats' on 'Teachers' include Luke Slater, DJ Hell, Jeff Mills, Tomka, and Pierre, although I'd categorise them as being more on the Techno side than House. The real beauty of this album is the fact that it works as a whole. Unlike a lot of albums it doesn't rely on two or three songs to sell the album to you. I personally have a different favourite Daft Punk every week. Last week was the brilliant 'Da funk', but today I have the wonderful 'Revolution 909' on repeat. There's a timeless feel to the album and I'm sure many dance fans will agree with me. 'Homework' begins with 'Daftendirekt&# 8217'; which was actually recorded live at
                          a Fuse Party in Gent. This is amazing as you?d never guess this by listening to the track! It is a perfect song to start off the album with its infectious beat. 'Rollin' & Scratchin? is a good (though underrated) track with a hard and jerky feel. It is a little on the long side though and I feel it would be better edited down to 6 minutes or less. The song actually sets my Mum's teeth on edge when it's played loud and I don't think she shares my enthusiasm for it! ;-) 'Oh Yeah' is another attitude-filled catchy track which I love. It introduces special guests DJ Deelat and DJ Crabbe, with the vocals being shouted by Daft Punk. Although it's only 2 minutes long I still think it?s worth mentioning. The album ends with 'Funk Ad' a 50-second instrumental, which I feel, would have worked better to finish off the album if it was a bit longer. Apart this the order and selection of the songs on this album is faultless. Overall I think this is a brilliant album which I'll never stop listening to. A few songs that deserve a mention include 'Around The World', 'Rock?n Roll' and 'Alive'. I'd definitely recommend this album to anyone who likes dance and/or electronic music, as well as any current Daft Punk fans who've only heard 'Discovery'.

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