- Premium reviews
- Express reviews
- Reviews rated
- Ratings received
I work 12 hour night shifts, alone for the most part in a small furnace room. As you can imagine, these shifts can seem an eternity. However, in 2008 I upgraded my iPod Nano to the iPod Classic 160g and it was the best decision I ever made. In the 3 years that I have owned it, I have used it, on average, around 14 hours a day, sometimes more. I have had no problems with it whatsoever despite this extensive use. I also work in a dirty environment but the purchase of a simple case counters any damage the dirt may have otherwise caused.The battery life is extremely impressive. A whole shift can sometimes drain less than half of it's longevity, although shuffle will use the battery more quickly than simple play through.
Putting music/video onto the iPod is extremely easy with iTunes and easy to organise into playlists etc with artwork, perfect for the more obsessive listeners. The video screen, whilst quite small (though bigger than the nano) is of a good quality and works well. One of it's most enduring features is that with a few simple clicks on iTunes, I can get podcasts that I'm interested in synced to my iPod.
I have hundreds of albums, including classic country albums that are difficult to obtain in physical form (and more expensive) but I've yet to get near to filling its memory.
The iPod Classic isn't as small, light or flashy as some of the newer models such as the touch but I wouldn't dream of upgrading. Not only has it been extremely reliable for the last 3 years, it has been an essential companion and an old, dear friend on those lonely work nights.
A long time passed between 1995's Moment of Forever and 2006's This Old Road. But it was a wait that was made worthwhile with this album of original material. Besides the title track and Burden of Freedom, all songs here are new and reflect the thoughts of a legend turning 70.
The first thing that strikes you is the frailty in his voice. Kristofferson would be the first to admit that he doesn't necessarily have the strongest voice anyway, but here the gentle ageing adds to the experience. It suggests a vulnerability that is impossible to feign.
Although the writer is in reflective mood throughout the album, he also shares his thought on current (2006) issues, including anti Bush sentiments (In The News). Such thoughts are welcome as Kristofferson is a man whose views are valid.
This Old Road has sparse production, making for a personal experience. It is simply an old man, sitting down before you and pondering his position in the world. The songs are catchy and clever, whilst poignant and moving. Few albums are made like this and if you don't listen to it, you are missing out.
A good horror film can be hard to find these days. Some many recent efforts fail to scare me in the slightest, with only one or two exceptions. I can honestly say that, at times, Paranormal Activity provided genuine scares.
The movie presents itself as 'found footage', we are made to believe that everything we see is genuine. Therefore, it is shot in a camcorder style, but works better than movies such as The Blair Witch Project and is less likely to induce motion sickness. This 'amateur look' makes it scarier in my opinion.
I won't spoil the plot here but I'll attempt to describe the style of horror. Although there are a few jump out of your skin moments, it's the intensity between these moments in which you are watching and waiting for something to happen that are the most effective.
The cast is unknown actors which is for the best as household names would ruin the nature of the movie.
If you are looking for a scary night in, rent or purchase this film and you will not be disappointed.
Bill Bryson loves the English language. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Made in America, his tale of how American English developed and then rushed out to get this. Mother Tongue does the same for British English, with typical Bryson wit and humour.
The tale of the English language begins with peasants around 1500 years ago and tracks its development to the language we speak today, including slang and profanity. What makes this potentially mundane subject so interesting to casual readers is Bryson's enthusiasm that shines throughout. Through it, we become encouraged to learn more ourselves.
And learn you certainly will. One of my favourite topics is the truth behind what we consider to be Americanisms, with words such as 'Fall' for Autumn and 'Trash' for rubbish actually originating in Britain.
One criticism of the book is that not all the 'facts' are necessarily fact. on several occasions, Bryson makes the mistake of presenting myths as fact, incorrectly.
However, this is entertaining nonetheless and after reading, you'll have been amused, surprised and educated. Perfect for casual reading on a topic that may not always appeal.
As a child, Bret Hart was a hero of mine. Every week, I would watch him wrestle and cheer. I waited with much anticipation when I heard that he was releasing his autobiography. I wanted to relive those days and experience my memories flooding back to me. I couldn't have expected what I actually experienced however.
Bret Hart has hard a troubled life. From his 2 divorces and the break down of the famous Hart family (due to untimely deaths and bitter disputes), to what he deems as personal injustices. Then his career ending concussion and crippling stroke.
Make no mistake about it, this is not happy reading. I found that a lot of my happy childhood memories were repainted with a gloomy gloss. Mr Hart most certainly has an ego and this shines through throughout. He is quick to tell you how good he was and how much better he was than others. This attitude can be criticised but others will say that all Bret does is give you shameless honesty and perhaps that should actually be applauded.
This book is almost certainly not ghostwritten and what you get is a lifestory that is full of drama and pulls no punches. Bret may be quick to blow his own trumpet but he is also quick to admit to his drug use and extramarital affairs.
This is a long book and was apparently cut down and edited to get it down to 592 pages.
To summise, this is a brilliant book. It's a great inside look into the world of professional wrestling. However, do not expect it to be a happy tale of a successful career. It is very heavy at times and can be depressing. There are definite highlights though. The Owen Hart section is worth the money alone. Go ahead and buy it but prepare to be shocked.
The Lost Cosmonaut follows the adventures of Daniel Kalder, a self acclaimed 'anti-tourist.' Here, he travels to ethnic republics in Russia, the more obscure the better. He develops an obsession with states that are Europe, but unlike the rest of Europe. As a result, he ends up visiting Tartastan, Kalmykia, Mari El and Udmurtia. Don't worry, I hadn't heard of these places either. But that is the point of this journey. A lot of the places in which he ends up are wastelands or 'black holes'. The interest for me comes in the form of the folks he meets along the way, including the director of a mail-order bride company (I checked their website afterwards and it's all real....) and a pagan high priest who takes him to a sacred grove with painful results.
Kalder writes in a style that takes a little while to warm to but when you are accustomed to him, there is a dark humour that may not be to everybody's liking. He can be flippant at times but you get the sense that he has a passion for his journey.
After reading this, you won't immediately want to rush out and visit these places for yourself but you'll enjoy the fact that somebody else has.
I would definitely recommend it!
This book is not your typical Bryson offering. Usually, a Bryson book involves several days of hysterical laughter and deep insight. Here, the hysterical laughter and deep insight (perhaps a little less deep) can be read in a couple of hours. This does not devalue the experience, although you can't help but wish it was longer than its 60 pages.
It's difficult to find fault however when you discover that this book is a charity effort, with all proceeds and royalties going to CARE International.
But what does the book actually cover?
It covers Bryson's trip to Kenya, an invitation from CARE and details the problems encountered by the Kenyan population, especially AIDS, helping to make you more aware of issues that you possibly wouldn't think of normally.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Bryson manages to inject some of his trademark humour whenever he deems it appropriate.
Overall, this is far from an epic. It isn't Bryson at his best. But it does manage to show a different side of Bryson. His narrative is touching and even it is brief, you will have your eyes opened. Plus you will have helped the situation as a result of purchasing the book.
I regularly visited Bristol Zoo as a child as it isn't too far from Wales. Getting there is easy for everybody however. After taking a train to Bristol Temple Meads, you can take a bus from outside the station to Clifton. The drivers are helpful if you're not sure which bus to take.
The zoo itself isn't that large and is easily seen in a day. The thing that struck me was how well organised it is. The zoo is split into several definitive areas such as the Seal and Penguin coast, the Reptile House and Zona Brazil.
You won't find too many large animals at Bristol Zoo. They were phased out over the last 20 years. Exceptions to this rule are the 2 Asiatic lions and the gorillas. Both appeared to have suitable enclosures however. I'm a big fan of themed areas in zoos and all the rainforest enclosures are superb here, really creating a natural enviroment. The reptile house is extremely impressive, with a large variety of species.
There is a lot of educational material here on a variety of earth issues, such as global warming and recycling.
There are several places to get a little snack and one main restaurant/cafe where things are a little expensive. The gift shop is also pricey.
Bring your children here and you'll be guaranteed a great day out for the whole family.
2010 prices Prices with and without voluntary donation
Adults £11.81 £13
Child (3-14) £7.27 £8
Child (under 3) Free Free
2 adults & 2 children £34.54 £38
Concession: 15-18 yrs / student / senior citizen / disabled adult £10.45 £11.50
Disabled child £5.63 £6.20
Carer for disabled adult (if required) Free Free
Open daily from 9am to 5.30pm in peak season from 26 March 2010, closing at 5.00pm off-peak (as of 26th October 2010).
Times and prices taken from official website.
The Merlin Entertainments London Eye was built in 1999 and is the largest Ferris Wheel in Europe. We decided to try it out because I was interested in the view of London it would offer. We booked our tickets online at the hotel before we went and saved 20% on the usual ticket price, details of which I'll list below.
It's fairly to easy to get to London Eye. It is a 5 minute walk from Waterloo Station and is well signposted. Follow signs for South Bank when you leave the station. The ticket office can be found inside the County Hall.
Having arrived at the Eye, we were both very excited. We were told that the 'flight' (ride) was around 30 mins long. We wondered if this would be long enough to see everything. We queued for abut 25 mins and I'm told this was good for a Sunday.
Before we actually rode, we enjoyed the 4D Experience. I don't want to spoil anything for you but it was almost as good as the flight itself. It was unique to say the least.
The views from the pod were exceptional. For the whole 30 mins, we tried to pick out various landmarks and generally stared in awe.
The prices are, to me, the major negative. For a 30 minute standard flight, the prices are quite extortionate.
Latest prices taken from official website
On the Day Online Price Save
Adults (16 Plus) £17.88 £14.30 20%
Child (4-15 years) £9.50 £7.60 20%
Child (Under 4) FREE FREE -
Senior (60 Plus) £14.30 £11.40 20%
Disabled £14.30 - -
Family of Four** £49.28 £39.44 20%
For other kinds of tickets such as champagne flights or fast track, you can expect to pay even more.
For information of Disability access, visit http://www.londoneye.co.uk/VisitorInformation/DisabledGuests/Default.aspx
Would I recommend it? Maybe. The view is very good but the prices may just put you off.
Before Bill Bryson moved back to America after 20 years of living in Britain, he wanted to take one last tour of this small island to properly say goodbye.
Travelling mainly on foot and public transport, Bryson spends a lot of time in coastal towns which inspired my recent trip to Weston-super-Mare. The enjoyment of that trip alone is reason to recommend this book but I digress.
The magic of Bryson's writing is that he converses with so many locals and really paints a picture. One of his greatest traits is his ability to be informative yet casual, often taking tangents that are brilliantly entertaining. And of course, he is hilarious.
The comedy starts early on with his description of Dover and the regulars in the guesthouse in which he stays. I'm not going to spoil it for you but it's very funny.
The thing that strikes you the whole way through is that although this is technically travel writing, this book actually serves a method of portrayal of British people, their quirks and eccentricities.
This is a much recommended book but I would not recommend it as an introduction to Bryson.
Paperback: 282 pages
I've never really liked London so recently my wife and I took a sightseeing trip to try to change my mind (it worked considerably). One of the stops on my trip was Londond Dungeon.
London Dungeon can be found on Tooley Street, near London Bridge Railway Station. As it's owned and operated by Merlin Entertainments, try to get their special offers which also incorporates attractions such as Madame Tussards and Alton Towers. We benefited from a 2 for 1 offer.
The queue was long, which seems to be a recent curse of mine (check out my Empire State Building review). After waiting about 45 mins, we finally entered and the fun could begin. And fun it was. All the actors were convincing in their portrayal of the characters and you could really buy into the atmosphere. They helped provide a few scares too.
There are history lessons to be learnt but none are taken too seriously and it all retains a lighthearted yet morbid feel. Having no idea what to expect, the 2 rides came as a surprise to me but I was impressed with both. The drop ride especially was terrifying!
The whole experience took around 2 hours (after the queue). The cost was £22.50 per person but you shouldn't have too much trouble finding a 2 for 1 voucher as they are offered regularly from various sources.
All in all, I think London Dungeon is a good way to spend a couple of hours and is different to other attractions in London. It may not be suitable for younger children however.
We stayed at Hotel Golf on our first visit to Prague. I believe the best word to describe it is 'adequate'. Officially a 3 star hotel, the rooms have a television and a phone but no minibar. The rooms are comfortable enough but very basic. Still, this isn't overly important as when you're in a city with the beauty and charm of Prague, the room is only used for sleeping and eating breakfast.
Breakfast is your traditional affair, with breads and cold meats served buffet style in a little dining room. Again, this is adequate but a hot option would be nice.
The bathrooms are somewhat dated (there's a definite Communist era feel about the whole hotel) and the toilets are interesting to say the least, with a shelf...... I won't say any more.
The location is a little far from the centre but there are two tram stops outside the hotel, one helpfully named Hotel Golf. Take tram number 9. The journey to the centre takes around 15/20 minutes. There is very little in the way of amenities in the are immediately surrounding the hotel.
Overall, this is a decent choice if you are really on a budget but I would recommend staying somewhere a little better from a little extra. Shop around for good prices if you're determined to stay here.
Prague Zoo was built in 1931 in the Troja region of Prague. Within the 45 hectares, you'll find around 4600 animals. What you see also represents a miracle of human endeavour. When the Vtlava burst its banks in 2001, Prague faced the worst floods it has ever faced. The zoo was near enough decimated and the damage suffered was immense, with many animals unfortunately paying the ultimate price. As well as this, a lot of the enclosures were destroyed. Photos are on display and I recommend taking some time out to view them and to consider both how devastating the flood was and how much effort has gone into restoring it. Without these photos, you'd be unable to guess that such a tragedy had ever occurred.
You should plan to spend the better part of a day here. We were there for around 6 hours and we didn't see everything! The variety of species on display is quite immense (around 630). Despite its grand scale, everything is well mapped and easy to find.
I like visits to attractions to provide me with something I've never seen before and this certainly happened when we viewed an elephant making and then throwing snowballs with its trunk. This was an amazing sight that I'll probably never see again!
The animals seem content here. Some zoos can seem a little depressing but even in the snow and negative temperatures, they all seemed happy, especially the polar bears!
Getting to the zoo is easy enough. The bus costs 26CZK each way (just under a pound) but a multi day travel pass will cover this journey. A travel pass, incidentally, is the best purchase you'll make whilst in Prague. Buy it at the airport to cover your bus trip to your hotel too. It's bus 112 and it drops you off at the gates.
Entry costs 150CZK for adults and 100CZK for children (around £5 and £3.50). A family pass can also be bought covering 2 adults and 2 children for 450CZK (around £15). As you can see, this represents excellent value for money! Children aged 3 or less can enter for free.
Opening hours: March: 9.00 - 17.00
April, May, September, October: 9.00 - 18.00
June, July, August: 9.00 - 19.00
November, December, January, February: 9.00 - 16.00
There are also a few cafes and places to get drinks and snacks, all at very reasonable prices.
Prague Zoo is probably the best zoo I have ever visited. You'll be guaranteed a great day out!
King Kong was very wise to climb up the outside of the Empire State Building. In doing so, he managed to avoid the long queues that he would have faced if he had chosen the indoors route. Yes sir, there are queues aplenty in store for anybody who wishes to make their way to the top. However, patience is duly rewarded and anybody who makes it will have a treat in store.
One of the main reasons for these long lines is security which is understandably strict and checks are thorough. As frustrating as that can be, this is unfortunately the way of the world now. After the security queue, you face the ticket queue. After that, it's the elevator queue. Then another elevator queue. You can see why patience is necessary.
For those who make it to the top (one visitor I spoke to said that had queued 2.5 hours), the observation deck awaits. This is a lot of smaller than I expected and can get pretty crowded. The views are worth it though, both at day and night.
I wouldn't recommend taking small children because I can't imagine them having the desire to stand around for hours in a hot building.
Prices: (At time of writing) Standard tickets cost $20. This will get you as far as the 86th floor.
To get to the 102nd floor will cost an extra $15 per person but it isn't really worth it.
An express pass which allows you to skip the queues costs an extra $45 per person.
Superbi was the ninth and final album released by The Beautiful South. Musically speaking, it's the closest to a full blown country album that they ever came. This is obvious from the opening track, The Rose of My Cologne, with its steel guitar and banjo. The lyrics defy the jauntiness of the melody and tell a bleak tale of a prostitute who is sick of being used.
This is a regular trick of Paul Heaton. He writes lyrics of political anger or romantic/domestic despair and sets them to a catchy tune, as though trying to hide true feelings. And despair is more than forthcoming on this album.
Manchester tells of the rain and sodden atmosphere of the eponymous city, to which Heaton moved just before writing the album. The Cat Loves The Mouse is a bitter duet with a duelling couple.
Every song on this album makes you think and allows you to pick out examples of situations you have found yourself in. My personal favourite track is the closing one, Tears. It tells of the struggle of men to deal with their emotions and is beautifully sung.
The sound of the album is grand yet bleak, with mariachi bands (The Last Verse) and the barnstorming Never Lost A Chicken To A Fox.
Whilst this is far from the best Beautiful South album available, you won't be sorry you bought it!