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zebra

zebra
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Member since: 08.06.2000

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      05.03.2004 20:23
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      I bought the Da Vinci Code (£3.59 from Asda) a couple of days ago and couldn't put it down until I had finished it. Dan Brown has created an exciting and ingenious thriller based upon the plethora of conspiracy theory books dealing with esoteric secret societies that have emerged in recent years. The hero of the story is Robert Langdon an acclaimed American religious symbologist who has just completed what he knows will be a rather controversial work on the symbols of the lost sacred feminine and who becomes involved in the murder of Jacques Sauniere, the eminent curator of the Louvre in Paris. Langdon was due to have a meeting with the curator at the time he was being murdered in the Louvre. The police summon Langdon to the scene of the crime to help with their enquiries and assist with the cryptic message the dying curator has left. The dying man left various clues about him, not least the very position he placed himself in as he died. He had arranged his own body in the position of Da Vinci's Vetruvian Man and drawn a pentacle on his body with his own blood. Langdon recognises the symbols immediately but does not realise that he is the chief suspect in this high profile murder. The heroine of the story is Sophie Neveu she works for the police as a cryptographer and has been involved with deciphering the strange written message which Sauniere also left. However, she also happens to be the estranged granddaughter of the murder victim who had recently tried to contact her to warn her of the danger that she too was facing. Readers who have never heard of the Templars, Holy Grail, the Priory of Sion, the Merovingian dynasty or the Opus Dei may be shocked, perhaps in a similar way that the heroine was shocked when ten years previously she discovered her grandfather participating in an esoteric ritual which was c
      ause of the rift between them. Sophie realises that the message was meant for her and the fact that Robert Langdon is also mentioned brings her to the decision to help him escape from the police and solve the mystery surrounding the death of her grandfather. Although she has been educated by her grandfather and is a highly intelligent cryptographer she, like the majority of readers, is unaware of the secret teachings and Langdon becomes her teacher as together they embark on a fast paced adventure that takes them from Paris to London and Edinburgh, with many twists and turns and narrow escapes from the various enemies they encounter in the all too short 592 pages. For those who are not aware of the esoteric teachings and various conspiracy theories this novel will serve a double whammy. Readers will be amazed by symbolic heretical secrets contained in world famous paintings, awed by the thought of illustrious personalities of history being party to a powerful secret society holding secrets that the 'Church' do not want divulged. Some might be disturbed by the heretical and pagan symbols and secrets to be found in the most holy of places. Those who have read the various conspiracy theory books such as the Templar Revolution and various Books by Baigent and Leigh (most famous of which is Holy Blood Holy Grail which is actually mentioned in the novel) will not find anything new in this novel other than the story setting and even that may seem a bit predictable if one is aware of the various theories many of which seem more like fiction than fact in my mind. However this does not detract from the story which as an adventure remains gripping from start to finish. The disadvantage of having read the background books is that the cryptology of the novel seems far too simple to be worthy of such an erudite and important ch
      ief o f a secret society. However, it may have been part of the author's intention to give such readers a smug sense of being in the loop and although the clues are quite easily solved this doesn't detract from the drama of the story. It would be easy to be over critical of this book and complain that there are stupid errors and crass caricatures of some of the characters. But overall I found this novel to be totally absorbing and exciting and one of the most unputdownable mass market books I have read in quite a long time. I would thoroughly recommend it.

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        15.01.2004 20:54
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        It was the title and lurid cover of The Rebel Angels that first drew my attention. I'm afraid I had not heard of the author Robertson Davies. The back of the book announced it was "A glittering extravaganza of wit, scatology, saturnalia, mysticism and erudite vaudeville." Although, at the time, I didn't actually know what scatology was I was familiar with the other terms and suspected that it might be my kind of book. And it was. Scatology The study of fecal excrement, as in medicine, paleontology, or biology. An obsession with excrement or excretory functions. The psychiatric study of such an obsession. Obscene language or literature, especially that dealing pruriently or humorously with excrement and excretory functions. Origin: scato-+ G. Logos, study Scatological - a new term for me but metaphorically, and in fact literally on occasion, a highly appropriate adjective for this novel. Very early in the book I realised that this was no ordinary novel and was not at all surprised when I later discovered that Robertson Davies was a very highly regarded Canadian author. The story is set in a university in the Gothic college of St John and the Holy Ghost aka Spook. The college is in Canada but could equally be Oxbridge or any similar university college and will be familiar to any reader who has studied in such an establishment. The academy it seems is the academy regardless of its location. The story opens with Maria Magdalene Theotoky trying to overcome the embarrassment of facing her Professor, Clement Hollier, who had at their previous meeting "had me amid a great deal of confusion of clothing, creaking of springs, and periferal anxiety lest somebody should come in." Maria is a research student, highly intelligent and beautiful and desired it seems by all who meet her. Professor Hollier and his colleagues, Urquart McVarish and Rev. Simon Darcourt, aided by Ar
        thur Cornish are executors for the fantastic collection of art recently bequeathed to the college by one Francis Cornish. The collection includes a manuscript by Rennaissance scholar Rabelius which Professor Hollier hopes will become the subject of Maria's PhD thesis. But the manuscript becomes buried in the chaos and dust disturbed as the three Professors catalogue the treasures. Maria hides her embarrassment with the statement that "Parlabane is back." Parlabane is a black sheep of the college. Clothed in the garb of a monk he exudes his evil, corrupting and yet enlightening influence as he meanders through the story - a rebel angel par excellence. Maria also has to cope with the embarrassment of her family background - her mother is a Hungarian Gypsy who, since the death of her husband, has reverted to her true heritage and in spite of being incredibly wealthy prefers to steal food from the stupid gadjo and use other Gypsy wiles to dupe them Her uncle Yerko has recently discovered the beautiful Bebby Jesus. With these characters the author weaves a wondrous tale of intrigue in academia, injecting Gypsy magic into the staid Gothic grandeur, throwing Jungian psychology and alchemy into the melting pot to challenge societies mores and satirise the life that the author, as Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto, knew so well. The Rebel Angels, although complete within itself as a novel, is also the first of the Cornish Trilogy which revolves around the Cornish fortune. What's Bred in the Bone is the "biography" of Francis Cornish and the main focus is on art. The book is narrated by the two invisible spirits who served as Cornish?s guardians on Earth--the only ones who will ever know the whole truth about him. The Lyre of Orpheus, concern the convoluted doings when a young musical genius tries to recreate an unfinished opera about King Arthur by E.T.A. Hoffmann. This one
        is narrated by Hoffman's ghost and is focused on theatre and music. These final two novels are very definitely on my must read list.

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          01.12.2003 19:54
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          The Cherwell Boathouse is located in a picturesque setting in the quiet North Oxford suburbs, a few minutes from the city centre. In summer you can hire a punt from the boathouse and return to a meal at the restaurant which is open all year. One of the things I like about the Cherwell boathouse is that it has a set price 3 course with coffee or tisane menu in the evening £22.50. There is a good selection of nine starters and eight main courses from the main and 'special' menus. It was my own fault that I didn't realise until too late that it was completely mix and match and I had assumed that you had to stick to one or the other. We were shown to a small table for two which was rather cramped. I sat facing a wall which I don't like and my husband was seated at right angles which I don't like either. I looked with envy at the two tables situated outside the open French windows on the patio. I asked if we could sit somewhere else but was told all the other tables were reserved. (At least I will know in future to try and specify a nice table when we book)We were offered still or sparkling water but I said tap water would be fine. Four smallish slices of white bread were served in a basket adding to the claustrophobic feeling of table. It may have been home made but it wasn't very special. It was rather dry and dense textured and I certainly wouldn't have paid £2 for extra bread of that standard. The starters, however, were excellent. I chose home cured gravadlax with coriander and lemon coleslaw. There was only one slice of gravadlax but it was a large slice and was also probably one of the nicest I have ever tasted. It was served on a bed of mixed leaves with a tasty dressing. The coleslaw flavouring was very subtle which was a relief because coriander can be very overpowering. A drizzle of some olive oil round the
          edge of the plate completed a very nice ensemble. This got a clean plate from me. My husband selected a warm salad of boudin blanc with crispy pancetta which he chose because be remembered enoying boudin blanc elsewhere. He said it was even better than before so we were off to a very good start. (If he could be more descriptive I'm sure he would be writing a review for himself) The main course, for me, was disappointing. I would probably have chosen monkfish if I had known that I could mix and match but lured by the tantalising aroma of chargrilled steak that had greeted us outside on arrival I went for sirloin steak with wild mushroom sauce from the specials menu. The main courses were served on what looked like large pasta dishes more akin to bowls than plates and food was of course in heaps. My steak, sitting on top of its vegetable heap which included leeks, potatoes and courgettes did not, I afraid, live up to the tempting smell. The appearance suggested to me that it been battered to tenderise it and the texture when I tasted it told me that this had not really succeeded. There was also a very large lump of fat in addition to the usual gristle found in sirloin. I had to leave quite a lot of it. There was also a rather bitter taste to the sauce and I couldn't quite determine what was responsible for this. So all in all I certainly didn't think it was worth the £1 surcharge. Why is it always me who gets the grotty bit of meat? However, my husband was quite happy with his Breast of duck with roast pear, red cabbage and blackcurrant jus and didn't have any complaints at all. (I'm afraid this doesn't really mean much though - he eats anything and everything put in front of him and never complains). Pudding should be in some respect the highlight of a meal and waited for with anticipation.
          Well I'm sorry not at the Cherwell boathouse it isn't if our selection was typical. There were a total of six desserts on the combined menu: ice cream, raisin and vanilla cheesecake, chocolate and ginger tart, three British cheeses Raspberry & cointreau jelly with creme Anglais, and Apple & blackberry crumble. We had the last two on the list. They were both served in small white ramekin dishes and I thought how much nicer the jelly could have looked if served in a glass dish. I had to play an interesting game of 'how to tackle the jelly' because it was covered almost completely in a large slice of pear and any attempt to dislodge it resulted in bounce back from the jelly underneath and splats of crème Anglais everywhere. I resorted to delving in with my fingers to remove this rather annoying and superfluous decoration. Having finally got to my pudding it was so small that it disappeared all too quickly as did I - to the terrace. As is more and more the case these days the restaurant is non smoking but for me coffee without a cigarette is unthinkable. Luckily it was a warm, balmy summer evening and it was no hardship to sit outside on the attractive terrace to partake of my addiction. I sat admiring the view of swans and cygnets gliding tranquilly on the river with the odd interlude of learner punters crash landing their boats as they returned. It was a wonderfully romantic setting but the problem was that I sat there alone. My husband had remained at the table to order coffee but had not managed to attract a waiter (to be fair the restaurant it was full and busy) and he eventually appeared about fifteen minutes later. Quite soon after his return a rather small amount of coffee was served in large cups and although I did draw attention to this no offer was made to add any more to the half full cups. Although we had to wait along time to order coffee the bill wa
          s very prompt. The total was just over £60 as we had splashed out a bit on a very nice bottle of wine(the name of which escapes me at the moment) but wine is available from a very reasonable £9 per bottle. Although I have been rather critical I think the Cherwell Boathouse offers an interesting menu and good value for money especially considering the very pleasant location which could command far higher prices and we will certainly return there. I know that it occasionally has special offers of the evening meal for £18 if booked through http://www.5pm.co.uk http://www.cherwellboathouse.co.uk/

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            27.11.2003 22:23
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            Sorry to disappoint you but the title refers to the atmosphere in the amazing tropical paradise to be found at Newington Nurseries. Newington is not your average garden centre. In fact it is not a garden centre at all. It does not go in for tacky gifts, books, garden equipment or Christmas decorations it simply focuses on the real stuff which makes a garden ? wonderful plants and inspirational garden design. Newington describes themselves as 'specialists in the unusual'. They sell unusual sub tropical and rain forest plants; unusual huge and exotic specimen plants; unusual pots, and elegant statuary; unusual spectacular display gardens and they also do an unusually good tea. The gardens You enter the nursery through the gardens which are quite superb. The owners are garden designers too, in fact they are Chelsea gold medallists and it really shows. The beauty of having such gardens is not only do you get to see the plants they sell fully established but you can also pick up hints of which flowers look good growing together. I chose a wonderful combination of a new dawn climbing rose and a clematis after seeing it entwined together at Newington. There used to be a lovely rose garden with a romantic arbour positively dripping with pink roses. But this has been replaced with a stunning garden featuring a slate obelisk water feature, lush grass and banana plants. I'm going to try and borrow that idea somewhere I think. Other parts of the garden include an alpine garden, a delightful wildlife pond, herb gardens, a beautiful summerhouse and other delights. Pictures of the gardens are shown on their website at http://www.newington-nurseries.co.uk/ (which is rather amateurish and is not a very good showplace for such a good nursery) ? but do take a peek. The glasshouse Newington are famous for thei
            r tropical plants. They have exhibited at Chelsea and won medals. Real Chelsea fans might remember them for featuring a 'crashed' de Havilland Chipmunk plane buried amongst the spectacular display of exotic subtropical plants one year. In 2000 they created 'Window on the tropics' which featured a waterfall set in lush tropical rainforest. The waterfall is now displayed in the nursery, as are several other dramatic water displays. The glasshouse is full to the brim with the most beautiful exotic plants, tropical fruit dangles temptingly amongst the enormous lush ferns and other amazing flowering plants. There are probably a few man-eating plants tucked in amongst them. I don't own a conservatory so I really do know much about this specialist area but I am sure this nursery would be of interest to people who do. The nursery is apparently home to the National Collection of Alocasias whatever they are. The have an excellent range of specimen plants, huge palms such as Chusan (Trachycorpus fortunei), bamboos and other huge plants are lined up dramatically to give interesting vistas on water features built around the display area. They also sell many Mediterranean plants such as olive trees, lemon and orange trees and vines. Beautiful twisty ancient looking vines cost a fortune but they do have younger affordable ones too. I bought an olive tree this year and got a good sturdy tree for £15. Another unusual item they sell are ready trained espalier fruit trees and I think these are very reasonably priced, at around £30. Teas I don't know about you but I think a visit to a garden centre isn't complete without having tea. In fact I know of people who visit them just for the teas and 'collect' garden centre teashops as a hobby. Well, as far as garden centre teashops go this is a gourmet teashop. <
            br> The teashop is in the glasshouse but there are also tables in the gardens. It is not a very busy nursery and if you time your visit well you will get a choice of delightful areas where you could have a secluded teas in lovely surroundings. Conclusion If you want boring everyday plants, pick and mix sweets, cute stuffed toys and Christmas decorations go to any old garden centre. If you want inspiration, something exotic or deliciously different try Newington.

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            • Prima PGK300G Glass Kettle / Kettle / 0 Readings / 15 Ratings
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              26.11.2003 22:04
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              I was considering buying a stainless steel kettle but sitting on the shelf next to the one I had chosen was the Prima glass kettle. "Take me home," it whispered seductively, "You know you find me attractive." I did - but I wasn't going to admit it to the kettle. "Don't be silly" I replied "You might look nice now but you'll look a total mess in a couple of weeks with the hard water in our area." "But you'll clean me more often to keep me looking good, and I'm on special offer at the moment." I didn't believe it for a second but recklessly gave in to the glamour. "OK I'll give you a go but I bet you end up in the bottom of a cupboard within a few weeks." I felt a bit cheap having given in to the wiles of a wanton kettle. I also felt bad about relegating my trusty Le Creuset hob kettle to just boiling water to de ice the car. For several years I have been using the stove top orange kettle on the gas hob. I had persuaded myself that gas was more energy efficient and previous plastic jug kettles resulted in scummy tea. Over the years, however, I discovered that hob kettles are fine if you are a domestic goddess but while I can boil an egg I seem to run into problems with kettles. The kettle either shrieks at me at inconvenient moments demanding attention or I leave out the whistle and it boils dry. The final straw was the fact that the starlings have started to imitate the whistle and this was beginning to drive me insane. Having justified the purchase I was rather looking forward to trying out my trendy modern appliance. The first thing I noticed was that it was very fast compared to the hob kettle. Secondly, instead of shrieking at me like a demented starling the Prima purred and gave me a most spectacular light show. I was
              in love. I was like a child with a new toy and my son shook his head sadly at his mother's strange new preoccupation muttering something about 'little things'. Little did he know that I had recently started talking to kettles too. As dusk approaches my thoughts turn to my kettle. During the day the kettle bursts into action with huge rumbling bubbles efficiently producing boiling water in seconds. But at night it also magically transforms into churning fiery water light show. It is a truly spectacular effect. But like all new things the novelty soon wears off especially when, as I had predicted, the kettle lost its looks. Water marks were beginning to appear and I knew it wouldn't be long before the shiny glass would all be coated in a rough white coat and instead of seductive bubbles I would see a cloudy mess of limescale flakes struggling to escape into my tea. "I told you this would happen," I moaned :violent: at the kettle as I followed the instructions on a very expensive descaler I was about to use on it, " You're going to cost me a fortune in upkeep." "No I'm not," said the kettle "I'm going to save you money actually." Well I can't say that I believed it but had to admit that I did want to keep it looking good? so it had been correct about that. The kettle quietly explained that already saving money by was using it efficiently. The kettle holds a maximum of 1.5L and has a minimum of 0.5 L and I discovered that the minimum is exactly 2 mugs. Because it is glass it is easier to see if you have overfilled it than with the little viewing windows on many kettles. People tend to use more water than needed which wastes both energy and water and although some kettles allow you to boil just one cup of water more often than not I make two cups. U
              sing the minimum amount has the added advantage that no water is left standing in the kettle and this reduces the limescale build up considerably. "OK I'm using the kettle more efficiently but descaler is quite expensive what about the cost of keeping it clean?" "Ah!" said the kettle " it is well known that not only does regular descaling save electricity being wasted but it also will help the prolong my life. Anyway I think I'm worth spending loads of money on but if you can't afford it you can always use vinegar." It's not that I don't love my kettle enough to spoil it but I perked up my ears at the idea of using vinegar - somehow that seemed a bit safer to use than chemicals. (OK I know vinegar is a chemical but at least it's one I put on my chips). I have found that 100ml 4fl oz of distilled malt vinegar, or spirit vinegar, diluted in 1.5Lt water (maximum mark) left overnight in the kettle leaves it sparkling clean and my purse happy (vinegar is remarkably cheap). You can speed up the process by adding the vinegar to just boiled water. A quick rinse is afterwards all that's needed. As you can imagine talking kettles don't come cheap but for style, glamour, and an amazing light show in the evening I think it's worth it. Prima clear boil kettle in white yellow or green £29.99 or less if on special offer, in chrome £39.99. 3Kw rapid boil concealed element, cordless 360 deg. Base for left or right handed use. Removable washable filter which isn't really necessary because you'll probably want to keep it clean.

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                23.11.2003 20:09
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                I bought this book for my husband who had decided to learn to cook. The results were so good that I soon realised that it was more of a present for myself. In the introduction the authors state "this book sets out to do what sounds like the impossible - to teach cooking as it is taught in a first class chef's college or cookery school, but without a teacher at the learner's elbows to guide their every step." I am pleased to report that it fulfilled its aim - in our house at least. The book is in three sections: the first part is the introduction which covers the basics like storage, traditional dishes, menu planning, and presentation. The main part contains 42 menu lessons, and the last part is on techniques and methods and has all the basic preparation techniques and recipes for stocks etc. As my husband learned to cook I was treated to meals which would not be out of place in a top restaurant. He may have taken longer to produce them than a trained chef but the results were excellent. He had absolutely no experience before he started and he meticulously followed the instructions. I personally would not have the discipline to follow the menu lessons to the letter but I suspect that is why he got such good results. It is not essential to stick to the order of the lessons and maybe not all menus will appeal to everyone (I just don't like the idea of sweetbreads) but to give an example the first menu lesson comprises: Soupe de poissons, Lamb kebabs with yoghurt and mint dressing, Orange and watercress salad, almost creme brulee. Lesson 17 has Avocado pear with stawberry vinaigrette, Duck breasts with green peppercorn sauce, Mache and endive salad, Poached pears with sabayon and sorbet. The final lesson is a complete Christmas dinner with boned turkey stuffed with ham and cannonball christmas pudding with a detailed t
                iming plan. As with every cookery book some of the recipes didn't appeal but on balance this book offers some excellent recipes many of which have become firm favourites in out household. I was rather jealous when my husband produced perfect profiteroles because I have never managed to successfully make choux pastry. But I soon realised that this was not a problem at all as my Prue Leith instructed chef husband now cooks all the posh stuff in our house and I simply sit back and enjoy it. Although it was published quite a while ago it is a classic and I have posted this review because I noticed that the rather gorgeous hardback edition of the book is currently available in the Works for only £8.99 (it is not available at Amazon). This would make a lovely present for any aspiring chef or for as yet unconverted husbands. Leith's Cookery School by Prue Leith and Caroline Waldegrave published in hardback 1985 by Macdonald & co, paperback 1990.

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                  22.11.2003 22:55
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                  Q: When did you join Dooyoo? A: 8th June 2000 I was one of the first I think! ___________________________________________________ Q: How did you discover Dooyoo? A: I was going through my competitions on the internet phase and, as part of their opening promotion, Dooyoo had a huge prize draw which was advertised on a competition site. I think the top prize was a BMW Scooter which I really would have loved to win. Anyway Dooyoo also paid loads of money for opinions and for reading other opinions and it was too good an opportunity to miss. _____________________________________________________ Q:Why did you join? A: To enter the prize draw. However, I thought the idea of Dooyoo was fantastic. I really thought it would be an excellent consumer resource and stayed. I actually enjoy telling people about things I have enjoyed or would recommend and warning them if it was awful. But while I thought it was a brilliant idea I don't think it works as well as a resource as I originally thought because there are too many outdated and poor quality opinions still dominating many categories as 'very useful'. ______________________________________________________ Q: What was your first opinion? A: My first opinion hardly counts as one of those moments I will remember forever. I had to go and look! My first review was about gulet cruises, which are still my favourite type of holiday. It was a very short opinion by today's standards but probably one of the longer opinions around at the time. _______________________________________________________ Q: Did you find it easy to get the hang of Dooyoo? A: Not really! Every one was new to Dooyoo at that time including the many category managers they employed. It seemed like no one really knew exactly what was expected. Someone started a news
                  group to discuss Dooyoo and we used to try and work out what we were supposed to be doing amongst ourselves. There were quite a few clicking cartels and other abuse going on in the early days. If you dared rate some people's opinions less than 'very useful' the chances are they would revenge rate you back or worse. Although I enjoyed Dooyoo I had problems and even got hounded off for a while. With Dooyoo's permission, I wrote under a different name for a while to avoid the abuse. It was quite amusing in a way because the main culprit of the nastiness was so charming to my alter ego. Perhaps I took it all too seriously. In retrospect I wished I had been a serial churner and made some money while it was available. I'm still finding it difficult to get the hang of Dooyoo now. I'm never sure if I have to edit for stray ?????? or not, sometimes they appear other times they don't. I can't seem to log in easily and I regularly get XML error messages. I think it must be very difficult for someone new to have to cope with all this on top of learning how the site works in general. ____________________________________________________ Q: Did you read other opinions before you posted your first one? A: I can't remember but we got paid to read opinions in those days as well as write. ____________________________________________________ Q: Do you write no/some/many comments? A: I write some comments. If I feel moved to comment I will but don't do so as a matter of course or to promote my name. I still tend to consider Dooyoo as a resource rather than a member's club and wonder what a genuine consumer trying to find out about a product would think of some of the comments. This is just my rather daft view of what I thought Dooyoo ought to be and doesn't reflect what it is. T
                  he fact of the matter is that Dooyoo is primarily a member's club and I have no real objection to people who like to write lots of comments. ________________________________________________________ Q: Do you write your opinions in one sitting? A: Sometimes, but more often than not I start writing an opinion, get interrupted and don't finish it. I have loads of half finished opinions. The problem is that if I don't write while I feel strongly about something then the urge to write goes away. __________________________________________________________ Q: How often do you post a new opinion? A: It depends how busy I am elsewhere. I have been deliberately avoiding posting on Dooyoo because of the technical problems. I put some effort into writing and object to seeing an opinion look a mess. However, I'm also cheap so I am easily tempted by double miles and other incentives hence my presence. ___________________________________________________________ Q: When you click on the list of Newest Reviews, do you read your friends' opinions no matter what they're on/according to subject no matter who has written on it/preferably the opinions of new writers? A: I tend to read the people who I know write well in the newest reviews. I don't read everything anyone writes but just what I might be interested in. I sometimes wish the there was a bit more information about the product though. Sometimes I click on an interesting looking title only to discover a review of an obscure computer part or something else that I am not at all interested in. ___________________________________________________________ Q: Do you think you can improve your chances to get a crown if you suck up to a guide? A: How do you suck up to guide? Perhaps that should be a new category or challenge! _
                  ____________________________________________________________ Q: Are you a member of a forum or a chat room? A: I have been a member of forums in the past and really enjoyed Opcom in its heyday. I can't get on with chat rooms at all ? they go too fast for me. I have a Tooyoo Guestbook and read Chatterweb sometimes but haven't joined yet because I'm too busy to get involved with much else at the moment. I think they are both useful and fun though and great if you do have the time. ________________________________________________________________ Q: Does it get to you when members praise or condemn you? A: I'm human and I enjoy compliments. I don't mind if people disagree with me after all this is an opinion site but I was very upset by some comments made about me in the early days of Dooyoo. I don't that sort of thing happens any more though! ________________________________________________________________ Q: What did you do in your spare time before you joined Dooyoo? A: Most of my spare time is and has always been taken up by real life but before I discovered Dooyoo my virtual interest was comping. I won some fabulous prizes including two holidays and netted prizes to the value of £3000 in a year. The trouble was most of the prizes were things I didn't really want. It was just another phase but I enjoyed it and the friends I made online while I did it. ___________________________________________________________________ Q: What do you wish for the future? My wish for Dooyoo is the same as everyone else ? that they sort out their technical problems before their reputation is completely ruined. ____________________________________________________________________ If you want to participate, please add: Please don't take this challenge to ciao without aski
                  ng MALU, she'd rather decide herself what to do with a text she's written, when to take it there or if at all. Thank you.

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                    21.11.2003 16:47
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                    This opinion is very long and some might say, indeed have said, tedious. Therefore I have summarised my conclusions first and then you have the choice to continue through the chapter by chapter review or not. The reason I have been rather harsh in my critique is because this 'field' is rife with misconception and as this is one of the few introductory books available I think it is important to clarify some of the claims made in the book. The back of this book promises "Whether you are setting out on a Pagan path for the first time, or have been committed to one for many years, this insightful and informative book will offer you inroads into expressing your own beliefs and understanding those of others. Pagan Paths also provides a definitive resource for students of comparative religions." But does it deliver? I think that there is a need for a book which introduces the various paths but that this book does not properly fulfil it. His choice of pagan paths is somewhat exclusive and his knowledge of several of them seems very limited or distorted. Overall I think that Jennings has not defined, or addressed, a specific target audience. Sometimes he seems to be addressing people new to paganism but often forgets his audience and either assumes knowledge or preaches to the converted. In treating some traditions he goes into almost ridiculous detail and with others he skimps. One of his prime motives seems to be to portray paganism as a united collective containing many paths. In fact he actually wants to portray paganism as a religion with various denominations and actually draws an analogy between Christianity and its denominations. (8) Now the definition of 'religion' is much debated but typically it is understood to refer to an organized or unified set of spiritual beliefs, doctrines and practices which a c
                    ommunity or society adhere to. Can 'paganism' therefore ever be classed as a religion? A secondary motive is surely to promote the importance of his own Northern tradition. He implies the 'wheel of the year is Anglo Saxon rather than Celtic(31), he casts doubts on the historical accuracy of Celts(18f), draws attention to Seax witchcraft and to Saxon shamanism , perhaps he should invent Saxon druidry to complete the series.. There is much in the book which might in fact scare a newcomer off completely. He assures people in the introduction that only a couple of paths within Paganism sometimes use ritual nudity(18). But in the chapter on Gardnerian, which he says is nearer to being an orthodoxy than any other European Pagan path, he mentions nudity and in the things to do section asks you to consider nudity. Similarly in another chapter you are asked to consider initiation involving sexual intercourse. By various statements he manages to imply that all ceremonial magic involves summoning demons and that Male and Female mystery groups are dominated by homosexuals.. He rather gives the impression that Shamanism is potentially dangerous, someone died in a sweat lodge, and implies the use of drugs and physical pain is a norm. So, at the end of the day, there are not that many paths that an innocent newcomer might want to consider. By far my biggest criticism is that Jennings has not put any emphasis on the spiritual underpinnings of the traditions he describes. So does it deliver? In short no! I don't think the book lives up to the description on the cover. I don't think it is the best of introductions to paganism for a beginner. But I do think the book could be used as a starting point for debate, not to mention some serious arguments, within the pagan community. Jennings does however say at the end of the book
                    "I shall be disappointed if you have agreed with everything I have said!" (169) to which I could reply 'I'm glad that he, at least, won't be disappointed!'. Long chapter by chapter review From the title and back cover one might expect that the book will include a guide to all the different Pagan Paths currently pursued in the UK. In the introduction Pete Jennings explains that because modern paganism is so diverse enquirers find it confusing and that this book addresses this question. He explains that Paganism is a collection of spiritual paths which can include Traditional, Hereditary, Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Seax, Progressive, Eclectic Wicca, Hedgewitches, Druidry, Asutra, and Shamanism, as well as Male and Female Mystery groups. This particular list immediately confused me. I have not heard of some of these paths but I have heard of several others which have not been mentioned. So my first impression is that the book dwells on some traditions and paths to the exclusion of others and in that respect it cannot be described as comprehensive. Jennings next introduces the PF (Pagan Federation), speaks of it as if it is the only and the definitive pagan organisation and implies that PF principles are held by all pagans. This is not the case. Pete Jennings was the president of the Pagan Federation and it seems to me that this book is very much his manifesto for that organisation. If you look at the PF web site you will find exactly the same breakdown of the six major types of paganism as appears in this book; namely, Wicca (witchcraft), Druidry, Asutra, Shamanism and Male and Female mysteries. Throughout the introduction I think Jennings makes too many generalisations: 'Pagans do not believe in Christianity'; 'Pagans tend to be sexually liberated since they have no concept of sin.
                    9; 'Every Witch is a Pagan, but not every Pagan is a Witch.' After the Introduction Chapter one covers Festivals and Rites of Passage and chapter two is about Sacred Sites. The next ten chapters deal with individual traditions but rather unequally. Various forms of witchcraft get 5 chapters, Druidry, Asutra, Shamanism, Male and Female mysteries and eclectic get a chapter each. These are followed by 2 chapters on magic and 2 more on Paganism in general. Each chapter is followed by some questions to consider. The final chapter is a bibliography and list of web sites. The first chapter ? Festivals and rites of Passage This chapter is divided into two sections , rites of passage and seasonal celebrations. The fist part mixes family based rites of passage, baby naming, puberty, handfasting, and funerals with initiation into pagan groups or self initiation. Jennings opens the chapter by explaining that paganism , like other religions has its own rites of passage and launches into a description of 'Wiccaning'. It gives the impression that not only is paganism a 'religion' but also that these rites are common to paganism. The second part covers the eight major festivals celebrated by many pagans. Jennings introduces this by casting doubts about the Celtic origin of the festivals and suggesting that it may have Anglo-Saxon or Germanic origin. He apparently does this to demonstate "that it would seem quite appropriate for non-Celtic paths to use what has always been thought to be a Celtic practice."(31) I'm not quite sure that this is valid reasoning nor even relevant. Chapter 2 is about Sacred sites such as Stonehenge etc. which is self explanatory. Chapter 3 Hereditary and Traditional Witchcraft In this chapter Jennings seems to be raising an issue that is a common debating point among
                    st established pagans. I could not see the relevance of introducing ' hereditary' because by its very nature one could not choose it as a path. In the conclusion to this chapter he informs us that "traditional and hereditary groups are difficult, if not impossible to find'. This made me wonder why he had included this chapter at all let alone made it the longest in the book. Most of the chapter is historical information on the origins of witchcraft including a discussion of the Pickingill Papers and a few other sources. Although it seems well researched I am aware the information on the Wiccan Rede at least is by no means complete. Chapter 4 on Gardnerian witchcraft covers the history and practises, organization of Gardnerian witchcraft but does not mention spiritual beliefs, or the gods and goddesses. The chapter on Alexandrian witchcraft tells briefly of its origins and seems to imply that the main difference is that Alexandrians allowed homosexuals into the coven. In Chapter 6 he introduces Seax witchcraft created in 1973-4 which is a form of Saxon witchcraft drawing on Saxon mythology and here again he concentrates on practice. He mentions progressive witchcraft and American Georgian witchcraft but does not elaborate on these. The Hedgewitch Tradition is covered in chapter 7. Hedgewitches, deriving from the book by Rae Beth (1992) and the writings of Marion Green are solitary. Jennings says"Hedgewitches may align themselves with any one of a number of mythologies,from Celtic and Saxon through to Egyptian and Finnish-Sami, or be completely eclectic."(81) What is glaringly absent from all these descriptions of witchcraft (and in fact the traditions that follow) is any sense or feel for the spirituality of the tradition. Even the PF website manages to do better in this respect. It explains
                    : "It is an initiatory path, a mystery tradition that guides its initiates to a deep communion with the powers of Nature and of the human psyche, leading to a spiritual transformation of the self." Chapter 8 is on Druidry and describes the various forms of Druidry in very general and vague terms saying that 'most Druids draw upon Celtic mythology which is very confusing especially if you are not a native speaker of the Celtic languages'.(86) Chapter 9 Asutra and the Northern Tradition Asutra, also known as heathen, Odinism and other names, is a reconstructed religious tradition which draws on the mythology and sagas of the Scandinavian, Teutonic and Saxon races. This is the author's tradition and he tactfully explains that this tradition sometimes has been seen as aloof from mainstream Paganism not through any sense of elitism but because they have their own system. He briefly touches on the 'Nazi' problem associated with this tradition. I attended a very beautiful Heathen ritual last year and it seemed to me that it is quite different from what I will term 'general paganism' and is very obviously deeply spiritual for its practitioners. In explaining the ritual they contrasted it with paganism in general especially emphasizing that they do not use a circle but a sacred space known as a ve. I know also that there are many in this tradition who find PF principles incompatible with their beliefs. Jennings did not touch on these issues. Chapter 10 Shamanism I found Jennings description of Shamanism very confusing because he does not make it clear whether he is talking about present practice or ancient cultures. Under what is shamanism Jennings explains, "At its most basic level a shaman (male or female) is someone who goes into a trance state to travel psychically within the spirit world. <
                    br>While there, magical action may be attempted with the aid of 'power animals' or spiritual guides." Under the methods Jennings seems to speak about the methods used in other cultures but this is not made clear therefore some people mind find it disturbing to read that "Sometimes the training experience may make the trainee very sick, or even close to death, when they are subjected to hallucinogenic plants and fungi. This is often thought necessary, as a sort of death and rebirth experience."(102) Under trance Jennings says that trance states can be arrived at by various means, dance, drugs, repetitive chanting and drumming, or physical pain. He briefly mentions sweat lodges commenting that at least one British person has died as a result of using one. Chapter 11 Male and Female Mystery Groups and Psychic Questers The male and female mystery groups described in this short chapter are very small hard to find groups. The female mysteries groups often known as Dianics were often started by lesbians or bisexuals (111) they are often radical feminists and political. In the US the male groups were often started by gay men. Jennings devotes one paragraph to Psychic questers who are a sub group on the fringe of paganism who like to solve esoteric mysteries. None of these is really what I would describe as a major path in paganism. Chapter 12 Eclectic Paganism and Foreign Traditions From the space and position given to this topic I got the impression that Jennings does not really approve of eclectic paganism. But to be honest this rather seems to be what most pagans are whether by design or circumstances. He points out that Gardnerian Wicca was itself eclectic in its inception. When I read his piece on foreign traditions I realised why several modern pagan traditions had not been included in this book. Jenning
                    s obviously considers Roman, Greek, Mithraic, Egyptian and Native American etc to be foreign. This rather suggests that Jennings (and the PF?) think pagans should stick to their local (pre Christian?) religions. If this is the case then surely it is debatable whether Asutru should be included (didn't the Saxons and Vikings arrive after the Romans and Christianity?). Shamanism, while obviously practised in many traditions is hardly best known as a British pre Christian tradition and even Wicca is suspect by this rule, especially as it tends to use 'foreign' gods and goddesses. That seems to leave Druidry doesn't it? Chapter 13 Magical Theory and its ethics This chapter opens with a few definitions of magic followed by a very brief mention of high magic and low magic. I felt Jennings should have gone into this just a bit more depth as high magic to a large extent is the spiritual aspect of magic and this plays an important role or should play an important role in the teaching of any path. Under ethics he parried, rather unsuccessfully I think, with the PF principle 'an it harm none', saying "This is an excellent principle, but magic and its usage are so complex that inevitably situations bring about dilemmas. Even walking across a field tramples plants and insects, so the principle taken to its ultimate conclusion would leave us immobile."(122) He also says "even the most benign sounding spells are likely to harm someone." This is precisely why some pagans object and refuse to agree to the principle. After giving some examples he seems to suggest that one should not dabble with magic until you have a good knowledge of your spiritual path and inner self whatever that means. But having said that the next chapter is entitled 'using magic' and at the end of it he suggests "why not try to make
                    your own simple magical spell?"(143) Chapter 14 Using Magic Jennings explains that many paths use several types of magic and he tackles these briefly under several headings including: Imitative or Sympathetic magic, Transference magic, Intuitive or Shamanic magic, Talismanic magic, But under the next heading, Ceremonial Magic the author goes off on a tangent and introduces various occult organisations. Jennings opens the section stating "Not all ceremonial magicians are Pagan, although many are. Some may be Christian or Jewish." I couldn't see the relevance of this as not all Druids are Pagan either and they were given a chapter rather than a mere mention. From its position in the book and the comments made elsewhere one very much gets the impression that the author does not like ceremonial magic much. (For example he earlier mentions ceremonial magicians as using a circle as a protective barrier to keep them from the demonic forces they summoned (50) and alchemist and cabbalist 'commanding' spirits and demons to do their bidding (117). The first thing he suggests that "it is not a cheap method to adopt" mentioning all the expensive paraphernalia necessary. This a strange statement to make as ceremonial magicians use much the same equipment as witches and some traditions have far more 'expensive' requirements because to become a member you have to attend courses and pay for expensive training. I get the feeling that ceremonial magic or the Western Mystery Tradition is distanced from Paganism in his treatment but this is also the case with the PF. The PF does not include ceremonial magic in its examples of major Pagan traditions nor have any links to organisations. Similarly Jennings does not offer any links to UK organisations and the one link on offer is to a very dubious site
                    indeed. Perhaps the 'occult' connotations might be seen to conflict with the view the PF wants to portray. The only other possible explanation I can think of is that modern paganism essentially seems to be an attempt to reconstruct and reinstate historical forms of religion which existed prior to Christianity. Ceremonial magic, on the other hand, was formulated largely within, or on the fringes of the Judeo-Christian tradition and therefore cannot be classed as pagan. The biggest problem with this division is that modern witchcraft is rather too heavily indebted to ceremonial magic to be so easily divorced from it. Most of the description of ceremonial magic comprises a mention of organisations, the OTO and the Golden Dawn and a list of the members. In my understanding this chapter contains some rather misleading information. There follows sections on Thelemic and Chaos Magic and Voodoo, on Dance and Musical magic and a small piece on Cabbala Magic. Again I found his mention of Cabbala rather misleading and dismissive. For example he states: Although condemned by more orthodox Jews' I am currently attending seminars at Oxford University on kabbalah led by an Orthodox Rabbi who very much approves of it (although it is true that some might not) This is followed by 'Divination' which again is misleading because he implies it solely concerns prediction. The second part of this chapter covers the application of magic rather than theory. In this section he covers timing of a ritual, the place, importance of having a clear intention, the form of the ritual, opening and closing a sacred circle, altered states of consciousness, writing a ritual and earthing. Chapter 15 where Do We Go From Here is about life as a pagan. Jennings says,"Paganism should determine your whole lifestyle" and dicusses how this could possibly bring conflict. Chapter 16 is about the future of paganism which again is his own viewpoint and hardly of interest to anyone who is just researching or enquiring. Chapter 17 - Bibliography, References, Websites & Organisations. This is actually quite useful and is helpfully reproduced on his web site and I suggest that you if you follow links to the web sites you will find far more details of the relevant traditions than contained in the book with the exception of magical traditions. http://www.gippeswic.demon.co.uk/ http://www.gippeswic.demon.co.uk/PP%20Chapter%2017%20References.htm

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                      06.08.2003 19:04
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                      Like everyone else on the opinion sites I have heard of Lush. There are so many praises for the products that I longed to try some but was willing to wait until I came across a shop where I could have a sniff for myself. Well the time has now come and Oxford now has its very own little lush shop. I noticed it just before Christmas but it looked a bit busy. But my daughter had already discovered it and one of my presents at Christmas was a Lush bath ballistic called Sugar Plum Fairy. I'm not sure whether my dastardly daughter was having a laugh or not. Luckily I did not dash straight up to the bathroom to try it out otherwise I would have spent the rest of Christmas day covered in pink and gold glitter which would be fine for some occasions but I didn't want to compete with the tree that particular day. I knew that Lush used essential oils and other natural ingredients in their products and was interested to know what was in that one so I checked the web site and it was only then that I discovered it contained glitter. I?m saving that one for a special occasion, but it may be a long wait, us grannies don't get too many occasions when they need to be glittery all over. While I was looking at the web site I checked a few products that I might like to try now we had the shop in town. Too be honest it is quite difficult to choose, some have wonderfully amusing descriptions and all have nice ingredients but I thought I would start with what seemed to be the simplest and most suitable for my dry and sensitive skin the butterball. The butterball is also the smallest and the cheapest bath ballistic priced at only £1.40 compared to many which cost £2. For those who don't know about them bath bombs or ballistics are balls containing various, mostly natural ingredients. You put them into your bath and they fizz and whizz round your bath which is the ballistic bit, leaving your bath filled with essential oils and possibly other stu
                      ff like glitter or paper stars. The butterball contains Sodium bicarbonate, Citric Acid, Cocoa butter, Synthetic musk, Ylang Ylang Oil and Perfume. It is suitable for Veggies and Vegans. I have to confess though that I am no longer a Lush virgin. I have also tried the Lush Blue Skies and Fluffy White Clouds bubble slice which was indeed lush but if I hadn't tried this first I'm not sure that I would be a Lush convert. After the bubble slice experience the butterball was rather disappointing. You know the drill by now. Run a bath and chuck the bomb in then chuck yourself in. Having read other opinions on ballistics I was expecting some excitement. But perhaps because it is only a little bomb it was not very spectacular in that department. And who says size doesn't matter? It fizzed a bit but didn't dash around the bath at speed and it was all over very quickly leaving globules of fat all over the surface of my bath, which was obviously the cocoa butter which does the moisturising thing. This was the biggest disappointment. I love bubbly baths with loads of moisturiser and the butterball just didn?t appeal to all my senses. The scent, ylang ylang and synthetic musk, was quite nice but the appearance was a let down. Personally I don't know why bombs can?t have bubbles too. Well I wasn?t going to waste it now so I got in and it felt as oily as it looked. I could see the oil on my skin. Having dutifully soaked myself for the recommended twenty minutes I didn't feel any more relaxed or any more moisturised than I usually did after having a bath with my regular bubble bath and using Olay moisturising bodywash. In fact my skin felt just a bit tacky for a while afterwards rather than soft and smooth. After a while however my skin did feel very soft and this was particularly noticeable on my hands. The effect of the butterball seems to last far longer than an Olay bath. My verdict is that I don
                      9;t think I would bother with the butterball experience again unless I was going to be in a position where I needed to show off vast quantities, which I have, of soft and smooth skin for several hours. For normal everyday and most special days Olay's moisturisers work fine for me and at under £3 for up to 60 baths or showers at a far better price. When I finally got round to having my sugar plum fairy moment I can't honestly say it was any better. I thought I was being adventurous and brave to even consider chucking this bomb in the bath shortly before going out for the evening with my rather conservative husband. It was our 35th wedding anniversary and he had given me a jade necklace and I thought it might look even better on a pale pink gold and pink glittery skin. So ran the bath and called hubby to watch the expected explosion - but it sort of went phhhhhh and sulkily stayed in the corner of the bath slowly fizzing to itself. Well that wasn?t very exciting! I'm afraid to say neither was the result on me. There were a few silver stars in the water along with pink glitter but for some unknown reason it decided to stay in the bath when I got out. So the end result was plain old zebra and I couldn't present my husband with a Sugar Plum Fairy for the evening after all. So although I was hoping that bath bombs might add a new experience to my life I'm sorry to say I really can't see the attraction and I think I'm going to give up on them now.

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                        29.07.2003 17:37
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                        The Red Tent is a beautifully written novel about Dinah, the daughter of the Biblical Patriarch Jacob. There is only a brief mention of Dinah in the Bible, a traumatic story of rape and vengeance but Anita Diamant has taken this and filled in the gaps. She has carefully woven silk into the rough wool that is the biblical story and created a rich luxurious tapestry of the life of the women. In the prologue Dinah addresses us - the women of today: "And now you come to me - women with hand and feet as soft as a queen's, with more cooking pots than you need, so safe in childbed and so free with your tongues. You come hungry for the story that was lost. You crave words to fill the great silence that swallowed me, and my mothers, and my grandmothers before them." The Red Tent is the place that Jacob's women retreat to once a month at the time of the dark moon. Apparently if living a natural life by the light of the heavens it is natural for women to bleed at the time of the dark moon and ovulate at the full moon. There, in the protective confines of the red tent, sitting on straw the women share their secrets, their stories, their joy and pain and take respite from the hardships of their everyday life. As the only daughter of Jacob Dinah is privileged to share the tent before her proper time and here she learns the stories of her mothers which she in turn tells to us. (Jacob had four wives and Dinah considers them all to be her mothers in some sense). The first part of the book is My Mothers' stories, stories told to Dinah by and about Jacob's wives. These follow but beautifully embellish the biblical stories and take us up to the traumatic birth of Joseph who becomes Dinah's closest companion as a child. The second part 'My Story' again loosely follows the biblical stories but because it is her story the rape of Dinah has a different perspective. In Diamant's version Dinah was n
                        ot raped but was deeply and passionately in love with the Egyptian Prince of Shechem whom her brothers brutally slaughtered while she lay in his arms. In the third part , simply entitled 'Egypt', Dinah, now estranged from her family after cursing them in hatred, goes to Egypt with her mother in law. This part of the story has no link with the biblical stories at all apart from a few loose references. There she discovers she is pregnant. As if she hasn't had enough pain already Dinah suffers even more when her child is taken from her to be raised as a prince. But her story continues and she strives to rebuild her life in a strange land with strange customs. The end of the story is poignant but even in her death Dinah continues to live. The biblical stories and in fact most of history has been written and transmitted by men. This book is a testament from the other side. This is a herstory. The focus is almost entirely on the women the men are almost incidental in a way. Where the men are mentioned I think they have been slightly romanticised but as this is not their story I think Diamant can be forgiven. The women celebrate each month offering worship to the great mother, queen of heaven, who is the mother of all and who gives life. In the US some people objected that the book introduces a 'pagan' element into the bible that was not there. But in my opinion it actually it was there and Diamant's portrayal is quite plausible. Diamant has written several other non fiction books about Jewish life and obviously knows her stuff. In the red tent the women share womanly secrets of childbirth and contraception, herbal lore, despair and death. Birth scenes abound and some are thigh clenchingly graphic. Dinah's first menstruation is celebrated by a strange moving ritual. In Dinah's world, but not in all her contemporaries menstruation is not a curse but something to celebrate, childbirth also takes
                        on a collective joy. Skills are passed from mothers to daughter and Dinah becomes an accomplished midwife. No woman could read this book without being moved, Dinah expresses intimate emotions of a woman through all her ages. From the innocence of childhood, through stirrings of puberty, womanhood, and old age, passionate love, grief and hatred, compassion - nothing is omitted. It is more than a novel it is a celebration of every woman who lived and loved in a patriarchal society I wanted to read this book after reading a review in a magazine mainly because I am interested in biblical stories and thought that it was an unusual subject. Having read it I would cheerfully recommend it to anyone whether they are interested in the Bible or not.(However, although I would recommend it to everyone I'm not sure men would appreciate it as much as women.) The writing is passionate and inspirational; you will be taken into another time and place and be drawn into it. You will smell the herbs, suffer the harsh environment, laugh and cry with the women and you will say to all your friends 'Have you read the Red Tent?'

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                          22.07.2003 14:47
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                          Coffee is a vital part of my morning routine. I do enjoy a cup of tea first thing in the morning but my extended morning routine includes having two cups of freshly brewed coffee along with fresh orange juice. I have got through quite a few coffee makers over the years. They seem to die rather quickly but this one is lasting very well although it does have a problem. The problem with coffee makers is that they all seem to have a problem of one kind or another. When I have to buy a new coffee maker I look for the same features that I have grown to like plus any improvements possible. The main thing I am concerned with is simplicity and ease of use. I only start to function properly after I have had my coffee so I can't possibly be having anything complicated first thing in the morning. ***The Coffee Machine*** The machine looks like the illustration shown on dooyoo except mine is dark brown in colour not yellow(it makes 10 cups not 15). It is quite sleek and unobtrusive looking in the kitchen although I preferred the looks of the pale green Philips one I had previously. There is a water indicator gauge on the front of the machine measured in the usual coffee cups (double up for mugs). The jug is also calibrated which is quite handy if you want larger quantities. Unlike previous jugs the calibration marks have remained clear after many washes in the dishwasher. Filling with water is simple as there is a hinged lid on the top of the machine. The filter container is also very convenient as it is on a hinge and swings out. The permanent goldfilter is handy too because no paper filters are needed. My morning routine is simple; swing out the filter, put 4 heaped scoops of Douwe Egberts in the filter, pour in a pint of water and in a couple of minutes later I have two mugs of piping hot black wake me up stuff. ***The Instruction Book*** The instruction book with the appliance covers four models: P
                          roAroma 309, ProAroma electric stop 306, ProAroma plus 310, and ProAroma Plus Goldtone 311. (If your interested it has instructions in 15 languages including Russian, Arabic, Greek and Hebrew which makes a change - I wonder if anyone has ever tried to learn a language from instructions books) The instructions are clear and comprehensive and include very useful information on cleaning and lime removal. Krups recommend descaling once a year in soft water areas, every three months for medium and monthly for hard water. I have totally ignored these instructions and clean it when it begins to slow up which is about every six months. They also, for ecological and health reasons, recommend using biological agents such as citric acid or tartaric acid available from chemists and give instructions for their use. FEATURES ***Drip Guard*** This is a very useful feature - if you just can't wait for all the water to filter through you can remove the pot and pour a cup without the coffee continuing to come through. I like this and now consider it an essential filter coffee machine feature, on my older machines I always had drippy bits which annoyed me. ***Aroma Setting*** The 310 (and 311) machine has an aroma setting for making 1 - 3 cups of coffee. I think this setting extends the filtering time to ensure that full flavour is achieved even with small quantities. I sometimes use it for making one cup of coffee but I can't say I have noticed any real difference when I forget. So I can't say I?m impressed with this feature. ***Goldtone Filter*** The only difference between 310 and 311 is the type of filter. The 311 has a GoldTone Permanent filter which does not require additional filter papers. This is something I always look for in a coffee machine as I can't be bothered with the hassle of filter papers. I have a confession to make here. The model on display in the shop where I bought the ma
                          chine had a gold filter in it and this was one of the main reasons I bought this model. But when I got it home I found it had a plastic filter in it. My previous coffee maker used a plastic filter without paper filters but the gold filters are more durable. So next time I was in town I mentioned this in the shop and the assistant gave me a Goldtone filter. I now realise that it can be purchased as an optional extra and wasn't supposed to be included with the 310 model I had bought. **The ProAroma bit*** This refers to the special design of the lid on the coffee pot. Once you pour some coffee out the liquid forms a seal making the jug virtually airtight. The intention of this is to reduce evaporation and heat loss and so protect the aroma and freshness of the coffee. Perhaps this feature would work very well but unfortunately the effect is totally spoilt by the fact that the hot plate is too hot. This is the main reason that I don?t drink coffee all day. The coffee stews, tastes awful and gives a rather acrid smell if you leave the coffee maker on longer than about half an hour. ***Conclusion*** I am reasonably happy with the Krups coffee maker. It is easy to use and clean and does a reasonable job first thing in the morning. The biggest problem is the hot plate which is far too hot and spoils the coffee quickly. If I want really good coffee for after dinner I prefer to use my Cona coffee maker which not only makes superb coffee but provides an interesting experience in its own right. *The Krups ProAroma 10 cup coffee machine is very famous in certain circles due to it being the star of the very first web cam set up in 1993 in the Trojan room at Cambridge University. The boffins trained a digital camera on the coffee pot and wired up computers so they could see it from their desks - so they could see whether it was worth going to fill their up cup or not. This famous coffee maker was made even more famous
                          when it was sold on eBay for £3,350.

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                            20.07.2003 17:10
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                            I read a review of this web site recently and as it seemed to be an interesting site I thought I would pay it a visit. But unfortunately I wasn?t quite so impressed as the other reviewer. On the home page is the choice: You, and I, and everyone else have two options: Religious tolerance --to accept the right of other people to freely follow religions that are strange to us, without hindrance, or. To continue living in a world saturated with religious intolerance. We will then experience more religiously-based wars, terrorism, and civil disturbances, as we have seen recently in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cyprus, India, Kosovo, Israel, Macedonia, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan, etc. The ultimate cause of the 9-11 terrorist attacks was religious hatred and intolerance.It's your decision to make. What kind of a world do you want you and your children to live in? Now I think most sane people would agree that if everyone was tolerant the world would be a better place so at first sight this web site seems to be a good thing. However, while its name and stated mission is to promote religious tolerance one rather gets the impression that a very large proportion of the essays are in fact about intolerance and therefore have the potential to cause hatred rather than prevent it The site, established in 1995, is run by Ontaria Consultants on Religious Tolerance which sounds quite impressive but in reality it appears to be run by one person. The site has over 2000 essays the majority of which of which are written by one person, Bruce A. Robinson, who owns and maintains the site. None of the authors have theological degrees. OCRT say 'We feel that a formal theological degree would be counter-productive. It would probably tend to bias our authors' understanding of religious matters in a liberal direction.' As a theologian myself I rather object to that statement. In my
                            experience people who consider theologians to be 'liberal' usually come from a 'conservative' Christian background and I would hazard a guess that the author originally was such and for some reason or another is no longer and is fighting the system he came from - a very normal reaction. Furthermore, I don't think this site could get more liberal if it tried. In an essay on cults Robinson says: One of the opportunities of living in a democracy is that people are free to believe what they wish and to enter into religious associations with other individuals. This sometimes leads to unpleasant experiences; in rare cases, it can cause death. But that is one of the risks of living in a society which has freedoms of religion, association and speech. Opponents have accused the site of actively promoting 'cults' including Scientology and in a way it does - under the banner of freedom. However by the same logical argument the author uses why offer the support for cults which might be a bit iffy and then deny people their right to be fundamentalist in another religion? ***Religions and ethical systems*** The home page suggests that there are essays on all the worlds religious system from Asutra to Zoroastrianism. Some of the religions are mentioned but the majority that are dealt with in any depth are controversial ones such as Wicca, Satanism, Scientology etc. Hinduism, the world's third largest religion is given one page, so too is Sikhism and Judaism although the Judaism section does include several essays on Christian Jewish relations, Nazi holocaust and religious intolerance in Israel. Buddhism is given three brief pages. Wicca on the other hand has about 50 pages. There seems to be a bit of an imbalance here doesn?t there? Satanism has more essays than the major religions and Thelema (the religion founded by Aleister Crowley) has the only two essays I have found on the site written by fol
                            lowers of that religion. I think the site would be much improved if other people from different religions had written the essays. I wondered why only Thelema had been singled out for such special treatment. The information on the religions, where any is given is usually factual and often refers to other sources which is helpful but sometimes the information is useless. For example the 'essay' on The Occult as viewed by occultists is to be honest useless. It lists various forms of divination, has a sentence on Religious and spiritual pursuits and has this to say about Magick: This is a list that includes ceremonial magick and many other schools of practice involving rituals and spells. They are used to change the environment, in order to reach the magician's goals. Now if you had not already guessed by now from some of my other reviews I am reasonably well versed in occult topics and I do not consider this to be a rather useless coverage of what I consider a source of much confusion and intolerance in the world. ***Ethics and Morality*** The dozen most popular essays accessed during the last week of the year 2000 were: Wicca, Naturism/nudism, Religions of the world, Santa Claus, Christianity, spanking children, Abortion, female genital mutilation, masturbation, Buddhism, Islam and physician assisted suicide. Many of the same topics are still the most popular. This is hardly surprising. Out of the dozen topics several might be seen to be 'sex' related and may well have been accessed for the wrong reasons. But why are there essays on spanking children anyway? I looked at the topic and discovered it to be largely about conservative/evangelical Christians who according to this site seem to be the main supporters of spanking. So I looked at nudism and discovered are some very misleading statements in the section on religious aspects of nudism not least the statement 'The earliest known Christian writings (the
                            Gospel of Q) did not refer to either;' Speaking as a theologian I was fascinated to discover that a probably non existent Gospel of Q is here being upheld as 'the earliest known Christian writing' According to Robinson baptism in the early church was conducted naked and Wiccans usually celebrate either skyclad or wearing a simple robe. It was at this point I realised that this website is not quite so trustworthy as I first imagined. The other message I was beginning to get was that much of this website is directed against conservative Christians in one way or another. ***Conclusion*** This site gets a lot of visitors, 5 million hits per week. The author monitors the pages viewed from search engines and I think he provides more information on the popular topics to keep the hits coming. So it is not surprising that there is more information on controversial topics. Some of the information on the site is very well researched and reliable but mixed in with this is some very dubious and misleading information. The bulk of the site deals with intolerance usually by Christians but other Abrahamic religions are also rather subtly attacked too. The question I would ask is if you want to promote religious tolerance is it better to highlight all the intolerances that happen (the daily newspapers are searched for examples of intolerance) or to show the more positive way of examples of how people can get along. I think good factual information on religions provides a good starting point to religious tolerance but on this site it is spoiled by dwelling on the unfortunate facts of history and the intolerances of every day. Many neopagans and Wiccans hate Christians because of the 'so called 'burning times' not realising that the majority, if not all, of so called witches were in fact Christians not pagans. We should not deny the bad things that have been done in the name of religion but try and l
                            earn from them. It is almost impossible to reason with fundamentalists of any persuasion and highlighting the intolerances is more likely to cause even more hatred towards some groups than anything else. Not all conservative Christians beat their children but I?m sure that some people reading the essay will assume that is the case. Similarly, many people assume that everything bad that is mentioned will be typical of all the people of that religion. This is not the case. There is some useful information on this site but read it being aware that the author does have another agenda and in spite of all claims to being impartial there is in fact a great deal of bias on the site.

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                              19.07.2003 17:26
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                              Understanding the dream behind a perfume may help in deciding whether you might like it. This is one of the rare occasions where I think the packaging is important for in Flower it is here the dream finds its visual expression. At the beginning of the dream we find ourselves in a modern cosmopolitan city. Tall, glassy skyscrapers gleam in the sunlight. The various shapes of modern architecture starkly compete for attention against the cloudy sky. The city is full of modern, busy people doing their modern, busy things. Noise and bustle are the order of the day and there is no time to stand and stare and nothing to stare at. Some of these busy people feel a sense of loss - a feeling that something is missing but are unaware of quite what. She sees a single, scarlet poppy emerging from a small crack in the paving. Her heart soars at the simple beauty that the one simple flower can bring to the high tech surroundings. One single flower is all it takes to bring the inspiration and poetry of nature within one's grasp. The perfume bottle is intended to celebrate this feeling, the union of flower and city. The simple sleek line of the bottle is charming. It is a tall, slender curved glass and has a single flower, a poppy, embossed upon it. It is reminiscent of a bud vase but yet not. There are three versions of the bottle, depending on the size and each represents a different stage in the growth of the flower. At present I only have the smallest bottle but I hope to capture them all in the future. It is simple and elegant and a joy to behold. The tall white skyscraper box also shows the different stages of development. I think it is a quite stunning concept. The poppy is a strange choice of emblem for a perfume because it does not have its own scent. Kenzo chose the poppy as a symbol of optimism and poetry in an urban landscape and then had a perfume created for the odourless flower based on its other qualities. Above all in
                              Flo wer is captured the contrast of the delicacy of the papery petals with the strength of survival and optimism that the poppy represents. The dream as a perfume With Flower as its name and a poppy as its emblem you will probably guess that this perfume falls in the floral perfume family. When you first smell Flower you will have no idea of the perfumes that it contains. It is rather a strange scent but it certainly does have hints of, delicacy and strength, ancient and modern, natural and synthetic. The ephemeral top notes include wild hawthorn, cassia and hedione. Wild hawthorn is not a scent you may be familiar with but you will recognise it instinctively embedded within your memory from ages past. Hawthorn blossom has a strange musky perfume which is said to represent female sexuality. Being a top note this will not last long but its raw sensuality is echoed in the base notes. Another top note is hedione which gives in a light yet radiant way a jasmine flavour of the floral delights to come, and cassia gives a hint of cinnamon spice. The middle notes, usually floral or fruity, are the heartbeat of the fragrance and it is these that determine the perfume 'family'. These take up to 20 minutes to fully develop and last for about an hour or so. The middle notes of Flower include two 'old fashioned' scents of Bulgarian rose and Parma violet combined with modern vivacious cyclosal which provides the amplification Like jasmine, Bulgarian rose is a classic of the floral perfume world. It offers the intense power of the European damask roses. Violets are an ideal combination of delicacy and toughness and for this reason well represents the poppy. The perfume is sweet, warm and romantic with the scent of the Parma violet being the sweetest of them all. In traditional lore violets represent humbleness and modesty combined with joy, reminiscence and reflection. With these middle notes Kenzo creates a trans
                              ient medium betwe en past and present. Underpinning the fragrance are the base notes which are the heavier spicy or woody scents which linger for several hours. In Flower these are powdery, opopnax, more commonly known as sweet myrrh, white musk and vanilla. With myrrh and musk underpinnings it is surely a sensual fragrance. I think it is the base notes that let the perfume down a little. They are a bit overpowerful in powderyness. I like the beginning and middle stage of the perfume far more than the end. I think Kenzo probably had young dynamic city dwellers in mind when he created this perfume but I think the result will appeal to women of all ages. I tried it after reading an opinion on it and in spite of having a streaming cold at the time decided to buy some. I have lived with it now for about six months and like it enough to buy some more. No one has ever commented on how nice it smells on me which I regularly get with my usual perfume but I like it. I can't say that I love it but it can have third place on my dressing table after Chanel 19 and Fidgi even if only for the simple elegance of the bottle.

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                                19.07.2003 02:07
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                                I have owned this camera for a year but I'm ashamed to say that I was too scared to use it for most of that time. I was given it for my birthday and after having taken a couple of pictures I decided to explore the camera to see what else it did and basically gave up. I'm a bit of a technophobe, I don't know anything about cameras and didn't understand the terminology or the technology of digital cameras at all. I asked my husband to help but he couldn't understand the instruction books either and so between us we were pretty useless. Instruction books The instruction books were a contributing factor in my fear of this camera. Inside the box were no less than 7 instruction manuals and leaflets and a further 6 in with the software. I found this horribly daunting especially after browsing the thick booklet entitled safety precautions. The manual entitled safety precautions are classified under Danger, Warning and Caution and the first two say scaringly that if the product is used without observing the information given under this symbol serious injury or death may result. Death from a camera!!! This sort of heavy warning does not really give loads of confidence nor help the technophobe - in fact it put this one off completely. The problem was that in my first few attempts of use I obviously had done something wrong and when I switched the camera on it made strange popping noises. The potentially lethal camera went back in the box immediately and stayed there several months in the hope that it might die a peaceful death and not blow the house up or whatever its dastardly plans were. However, recently someone sent me a wonderful, amazing bouquet of flowers and although I described them as gorgeous and the best bouquet I had ever received this wasn't enough. The sender knew that I owned a digital camera and asked me to show him what he had paid for. So I had to come to grips with my
                                fear of all things new and technological and take pictures, download them and send them to him. So I plucked up enough courage to have another look at the instructions. Actually there are only 4 instructions booklets and the others were foreign language versions. The manuals were Safety Precautions, Quick start guide, basic manual and smart media card instructions. Later still I discovered a more comprehensive and useful manual on the CD. Once I had done this I was in a better position to review this camera. The Camedia C-300 Zoom is a 3.0 Megapixel camera with a high resolution 2.8 x zoom lens. I didn't know what this meant so I had to look it up. Digital images are made up of pixels and resolution means how many pixels in an image. This is usually measured in horizontal by vertical e.g. 1280 x 960 or total e.g. 1.2 megapixel. The higher the resolution the sharper the picture and larger the print size possible. As a rough guide 1 million and under is fine for snaps and e-mail, 1 - 2 million gives prints up to 6 x 4, 2- 3 million up to 7 x 5, and 3 million+ will print 10 x8 A4 . Im not sure that I want to print A4 pictures but so far I'm very impressed with the superb clarity of the pictures I've taken. The camera looks like and is the same size and weight as a normal camera. I know that digital cameras can be much smaller but I quite like the weight of this one because it feels right and is easier to hold steady than a tiny thing. The LCD monitor on the back is a good size at 1.8. The camera comes with a strap which I haven't used because it seems to attach to the hinge of the compartment where the card goes and I wondered whether it might pull it open. It also comes with USB cable and a video cable. I wasn't sure what the video cable was for until I discovered the cd manual. Apparently it is used to look at photos on your TV or save them on video. You can also hook the camera up to a TV while you ar
                                e taking pictures and let others see them as they are taken. Also included are alkaline batteries, software and 16Mb Smartmedia card. The camera switches on for shooting pictures by opening the lens cover and the flash also pops up then too. If you simply want to view or edit pictures you have already taken you press the monitor button on the back to switch that on. I haven't used the software or the USB cable because I was also given a card reader which is much easier to use than connecting the camera to the computer. (Delkin eFilm Reader - 14 which was very simple to install and use. You simply take out the card and pop it into the reader and choose which pictures to download.) I already have image editing software installed ( paintshop pro V. 7)so I haven't bothered to install the camedia software. However, I eventually discovered that the cd also includes a much more detailed and useful instruction manual in pdf format and using that I was able to try out many of the other features of the camera. Shooting modes There are seven main shooting modes available, P is the automatic (default setting), portrait gives in focus subject with blurred background, landscape-portrait gives both foreground and background in focus, landscape focuses on distant object, night scene sets a slower shutter speed to take night pictures, self portrait( this doesn't seem to work very well or perhaps it does! Do I really look like that?), and movie (I'm a technophobe give me time). Selecting the mode is simple. There are also lots of advanced features to be creatively adventurous. You can take still pictures using either the optical real image viewfinder or the monitor. The viewfinder is best used for most shots as it doesn't use any power but for close ups i n macro mode using the monitor gives better results. The monitor is not very easy to view in bright conditions outside though. I have found that the monitor i
                                s very useful to help children compose a photo. I now tend to only use the monitor to check through photos to edit or delete. This can be done individually, as a slideshow or in a 4, 9 or 16 index format. Close ups can also be viewed. Image quality and size (record mode) There are 5 modes of quality to choose from. TIFF uncompressed the very highest quality, SHQ - super high quality for large prints, HQ high quality which is best if you intend to edit or print postcard size photos, SQ standard quality which is good for e-mail, web or viewing on computer and 3.2 which enables pictures to be printed at a photo lab without cropping photo. I used the default setting (HQ) to begin with but found SQ perfectly adequate for my use at the moment. Using the 16 mb smartmedia card provided you can store up to 16 TIFF images, 7 SHQ images, 21 HQ images, up to 165 SQ images, up to 24 3.2 images on the card. Other size cards are available. Zoom This camera has 2.8 optical zoom ( equivalent to 36mm - 100mm on a 35mm camera) which is operated by a rocker switch next to the shutter button and a 3.6 digital zoom operated via the camera mode menu. Combining the two gives a magnification of 10x. However although this sounds impressive the digital zoom is not really that useful. All it does is enlarge the image or bit of image. As this can be done with image editing software anyway it seems a bit superfluous. So I haven't bothered using this. Advanced Features Macro mode which has a picture of a flower as its icon allows you to take very good close up shots. This special mode is used between 0.2 - 0.8m/0.7 - 2.6ft and enlarges objects and focuses quicker than in normal mode. This gives very impressive results on wild flower pictures and bees on flowers etc. Sequential shooting This allows you to take a rapid succession of still pictures by pressing the shutter button (up to 13 pictures at 1
                                .9 frames per second in HQ mode) which is good for a moving subject. You can then view the pictures, select the best and erase ones you don't want. Panorama According to the manual (on the CD) you can only use this feature if you use a Olympus Camedia brand Smartmedia card because other brands don?t support it. It lets you combine up to 10 pictures with overlapping edges into as large a panorama scene as you require in either direction. I haven't tried this yet. Other advanced features include a self timer and Two in one pictures which are self explanatory. Exposure compensation +/- 2 EV This is the posh name for varying the brightness of a picture. The auto setting is OK but in snow, bright sandy scenes or backlit conditions adjustment is necessary to avoid too light or too dark pictures. Other adjustments include 'white balance' for different light conditions including sunlight, overcast, tungsten or flurescent, 'sharpness', and 'contrast', and spot metering which is also good for highly backlit subjects. Editing still pictures On the box it mentioned Black and white and Sepia pictures but I couldn't work out how to do these at first. I thought you could choose to take black and white photos but in fact this is something you do in edit mode. You select a picture and then edit - black and white or sepia and the picture is stored as a second picture if you have room in memory. You can also resize and trim pictures in a similar way Unfortunately you can't have black and white or sepia movies but you can also edit them a bit. Batteries I?m still using the original alkaline batteries that came with the camera and they seem to last quite well. I have taken over 100 photos (I have kept over 100 but de leted far more than that I think), played around with editing and generally learnt how things work or don't. Apparently all sorts of variations
                                of batteries are available as optional extras, different types of batteries, rechargeable batteries and adaptors are available. However, I have heard that downloading direct from the camera uses a lot of power and I'm not doing that at all so I'm quite happy with the results using alkaline batteries. Conclusion After the initial disappointment of not understanding my camera and being scared of it my current view is quite different. I?m very impressed with the quality of the pictures and the freedom it allows to experiment. I actually hate having my photo taken but I don't mind my grandchildren taking pictures of me because I know that I can delete them if I don't like them. Actually, some weren't too bad and it?s a bit of a bonus that after years of avoiding cameras I now have some half decent pictures of myself sitting next to a rather spectacular flower display.

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                                  03.04.2003 23:55
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                                  On the frontispiece of this book is a quotation from Picasso, "Art is a lie which makes us realize the truth." The same can be said of fiction. Asher Lev is a great painter and this novel tells his story, and the trials, tribulations and heartbreak on the way. Through the memories of a four year old Asher we are introduced to the very private world of a Jewish Hasidic community in Brooklyn in the 1950's. It is quite a culture shock and certainly a different kind of world, Yiddish words and phrases are used without explanation and a certain knowledge of Jewish traditions and festivals is assumed. It is possible to read the book by accepting that this is simply another world but a little background knowledge does help. Hasidism was a renewal movement in orthodox Judaism in 18th century founded by a rabbi who is now legendary, Baal Shem Tov. He taught that purity of heart and the love of God is superior to study. It is very much a mystical tradition and within the community lays emphasis on joyous songs, prayers and stories. The Hasidim usually study kabbalah and have a slightly different theological approach than some other Jews although they keep the Torah and traditions. Hasidism is not the most well understood branch within Judaism. It has many branches and the most well known are Labavitch (Chasad) and Breslover. The names derive from the area, usually in Eastern Europe where the community started. In the book Asher Lev belongs to a community called Ladover which come from Poland. Each group has a spiritual leader called a Rebbe, not to be confused with Rabbi. Until recently I assumed that Hasidim were an ultra orthodox branch of Judaism, recognisable by strange clothes, beards, sidelocks, hats and an avoidance of any contact with unclean gentiles. I had seen them on the streets of Jerusalem carefully avoiding even the gaze of the tourist let alone any physical contact. But this is a stereotypical viewpoin
                                  t and now I know that not every Jew who dresses this way is a Hasid and not all Hasidim dress like this or indeed avoid mixing with secular world. Asher's father works for the Rebbe helping to get persecuted Ladover Jews out of Russia and is away from home a lot. When Asher is six years old his uncle who also works for the Rebbe is killed in an accident and his mother, utterly devastated by the loss of her brother, enters a deep depression. Asher draws pictures. His talent is recognised by another uncle who compares him to Chagall but Asher replies: "No, my name is Asher Lev." It was then Asher had his first inclination that his father was not too happy about his remarkable gift. His mother gradually recovers and asks permission from the Rebbe to go to college. (It was unusual then and even now for women to study in some Hasidic communities). Asher goes to the local Ladover Yeshiva and stops drawing. His mother asks him why he has stopped and he replies, "I hate it, it's a waste. It's from the sitra achra like Stalin." (The sitra achra, the 'other side' is a Yiddish term expressing that which we see as evil in the world.) Stalin dies and the Rebbe tells Asher?'father to go to Vienna. Asher does not want to go and complains to everyone who will listen. He begins to have vivid dreams of his mythic ancester and begins to draw again. At ten years old Asher discovers he has another way of 'seeing' he not only could see but could 'feel' what he saw. In class one day he finds himself drawing in his Hebrew notebook a picture of Stalin dead in his coffin. On another occasion he causes shock and horror at the Yeshiva by drawing an ugly picture of the Rebbe in a holy book and his father, furious, tells him to stop this foolishness. His father goes to Vienna alone. Asher draws and neglects his studies. Asher discovers paintings in a museum and doesn't u
                                  nderstand them. He takes his mother and asks her to explain. She is embarrassed at the nude paintings and has difficulty explaining the paintings of the crucifixion which had so captured her son's imagination. Asher continues to visit the museum and copies the pictures. When his father discovers them on a visit he is beside himself with rage - ?Did I know how much Jewish blood had been spilled because of that man?? The Rebbe calls Asher and says "A life should be lived for the sake of heaven. One man is not better than another because he is a doctor while the other is a shoemaker. One man is not better than another because he is a lawyer while the other is a painter. A life is measured by how it is lived for the sake of heaven. Do you understand me Asher Lev?" The wise Rebbe realises that Asher cannot be stopped from the path of his gift and even against his father's wishes makes it possible for Asher to study art but remain within the community. He introduces him to one of the greatest artists in New York who is also from the community but no longer practising. Jacob Kahn is passionate about art and warns the young teenager," This is not a toy. This is not a child scrawling on a wall. This is a tradition; it is a religion, Asher Lev. You are entering a religion called painting." He goes further, "Asher Lev, it is a tradition of goyim and pagans. Its values are goyish and pagan. Its concepts are goyish and pagan. In the entire history of European art, there has not been a single religious Jew who was a great painter. Think carefully of what you are doing before you make your decision." Asher studies with Kahn for five years and every moment carries the terrible tension of the two worlds he inhabits. His soul is crying out as it battles between them. He knows his father is angry but that the Rebbe is not and questions Kahn who says:"Do not try to understand. Become a great artist
                                  . That is the only way to justify what you are doing to everyone?s life." Asher reflects on this: "I did not understand what he meant. I did not feel I had to justify anything. I had not wilfully hurt anyone. What did I have to justify? I did not want to paint in order to justify anything; I wanted to paint because I wanted to paint. I wanted to paint the same way my father wanted to travel and work for the Rebbe. My father worked for Torah. I worked for - what? How could I explain it? For beauty? No, Many of the pictures I painted were not beautiful. For what, then? For a truth I did not know how to put in words. For a truth I could only bring to life by means of colour and line and texture and form." He does become a famous artist and his work is exhibited but his family will not come to see it because he has painted nudes. He travels to Europe and lives in Paris for a while returning for another exhibition. There are no nudes in this exhibition so his family go to see it. My name is Asher Lev begins with a confession: "I am a traitor, an apostate, a self-hater, an inflictor of shame upon my family, my friends, my people; also, I am a mocker of ideas sacred to Christians, a blasphemous manipulator of modes and forms revered by Gentiles for two thousand years." What did he do that was so terrible and what were the repercussions? You will have to read it yourself to find out. Chaim Potok was a superb writer and I consider this book to be one of the best novels I have ever read. Something about it touched me deeply. Potok paints with words how one would expect Asher Lev to paint on canvas. There is so much depth of feeling in this novel it does not seem like fiction - - if Potok didn't experience something like this in his own life then he is an even greater novelist. The conflicts in this novel set in a Hasidic community are the more poignant because of it but the ideas t
                                  ranscend that and reach any reader. I think some people might read it differently and get upset by the way Asher seems to be treated but if you can empathically enter their world you will feel for Asher but hopefully you will also feel for his family and community too. There is evidently a sequel to this book and I hope it can live up to this one or I think I will be very disappointed.

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