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Jim Vaughan

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Fantastic! But the original radio version (Primary Phase) is better.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-05-20

HHGG is a fantastically funny Sci-Fi satire. If you’ve ever wondered what the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything is.. it’s 42. Hence the Earth was created as the ultimate supercomputer to try and find out the original question... all well and good!

However, this recording is from the vinyl version, which is an abridged and modified version of the better and more complete original BBC radio series (also available on Audible as HHGG “Primary Phase”). Do take a listen at that on Audible, before deciding whether to get this.

Bringing Roman History to Life

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 14-09-19

Riveting dramatisation of the Robert Graves book. Derek Jacobi is fabulous as Claudius. I have already downloaded the sequel “Claudius the God” audiobook. I just wish Audible did the full unabridged version of it.

Fascinating... and Deeply Disturbing

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-09-19

I really enjoyed this book, yet it has left me deeply disturbed. Most of us have an impression of the Law based on tabloid headlines and American legal dramas. Hence, I found it fascinating to hear how the Justice system has evolved in the U.K. over 1000 years to its present form, which in theory is about as good as human justice can get.

Yet, it was also deeply disturbing how dysfunctional the Law has become as successive governments seek to make cuts that they know the tabloids will not protest. Crucial evidence is not passed on, forensic evidence is omitted to save costs, innocent people are bankrupted, wrongly convicted prisoners routinely are refused compensation, yet the guilty game the system and go free, while innocent lives are ruined.

The book is very well narrated by Jack Hawkins too. If you don’t feel indignation at the callousness of the tabloids and the cynicism of successive politicians, its probably because you think you could never been a victim of crime or of the injustices of our broken system of justice. Just hope you are right.

Even better than the first book!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-09-19

This second fascinating collection of accounts of the D-Day landings from the German perspective contains many of the accounts previously rejected from book 1 as being too controversial. IMO they are therefore even more interesting. They include accounts of betrayal by pro-Nazi informants, murder of German officers by French Resistance, alleged atrocities by allied troops, the vile effects of modern weapons and how a German thermobaric super-bomb which could have stopped the Allied break out altogether was thwarted by Chance.

The imaginative range of accents and personalities evoked by the narrator gives the feel of listening to the original interviews. Great book!

Infinite Being, Infinite Ego

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 28-08-19

Martin Ball is clearly a smart dude. As well as writing Being Infinite, he composed and performed all the music which ends each chapter. I found his autobiographical oddessy strangely compelling too, as he not only studied with Native American Shamans, but seems to have experienced a huge array of naturally occurring entheogen, including Psilocybin, Ayahuasca, Salvia divinorum, DMT, Peyote and culminating in 5-MeO DMT in his desire to awake to his own divinity.

Having said that, God evidently has a massive ego problem, as the closer Martin gets to realising he is God, and “overcoming ego”, the more dismissive and contemptuous he becomes of all other egos ie. anyone who does not agree with him. Being God means you KNOW reality, and thus any one else’s perspective is obviously just “ego projection”. Even the Buddha, it is revealed, is ‘holding on’ to his ego projections because he sits in the lotus position!

This for me is the central flaw in the book. For ‘Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly’. While Terence McKenna, chief among those accused of “ego projection” is (IMHO) delightfully mischievous, imaginative, humorous, and often self effacing ie. non-egocentric, in “Being Infinite”, Martin Ball seems obsessed with his own messianic status, which lends a tiresome heaviness to the book. There is little room for light, humour, or creativity here. When God speaks through him, it is to pronounce platitudes in a deep ponderous voice, dripping with gravitas. Yet, it never seems to have occurred to Ball to question whether this “God” might be his very own ‘ego projection’.

There is much to find interesting in “Being Infinite” - including the realisation, through use of entheogens, the we are divine, that “We are One Being”. This is what people like Alan Watts were saying 50 years ago. However, for me, Martin’s “God is Energy” comes too close to “God is Power”, rather than “God is Love”. The realisation which more properly leads to looking for the divine in the face of the Other - (eg. friends, enemies, strangers, animals) is consequently left almost unexplored in the book.

Exciting, Challenging and Controversial.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-01-19

Challenging (but important) book this, both in terms of the sophisticated Physics discussed, but also the controversial thesis at its heart!

Sabine Hossenfelder is a working physicist, prepared to blow the whistle on the chronic lack of progress for the past 50 years: the failure of the LHC to find any evidence of Supersymmetry, the lack of progress in String Theory, the failure to identify Dark Matter, resolve the contradictions between Quantum Mechanics and Relativity or develop a fundamental explanation beyond the Standard Model. Meanwhile, physicists continue to churn out untestable hypotheses and hypothetical new particles with curious names. Why? The attraction to beautiful theories, and elegant maths is seductive, but may be misleading us... Beauty may not necessarily be “Truth”, but may, like music, be culturally inculcated ie. in the eye of the beholder. Hossenfelder raises the alarm that we may be drifting towards ‘post empirical science’ where rather than being led by empirical discovery, a theory’s “beauty” defined as simplicity, naturalness and elegance become the dominant criteria used to decide where to invest in research. We may be looking in the wrong places.

Throughout the book, ideas and explanations are interwoven with sometimes confrontational interviews with the likes of Stephen Weinberg (who abruptly walks out on her), Frank Wilczek, George F.R. Ellis, Nima Arkani-Hamed and Joe Polchinski among others. She asks intriguing questions such as how, in a Multiverse of all possibilities, we can know which phenomena demand explanation, and what are just brute fact. Do we need a meta theory to determine the probabilities? Naturalness confounds simplicity.

This is an important book. If you are interested in Physics, and have a fair understanding of M-Theory, SUSY, QM, Relativity and the Standard Model, you should find it interesting, even if you disagree. It is narrated clearly and enjoyably. “Lost in Math” feels like the realisation of Horgan’s “The End of Science” at a time when Science, and especially Physics has never been more popular, or more widely perceived as successful.

1 person found this helpful

Powerful, Challenging and Inspiring

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-11-18

I predict you will either love or hate this book. If Materialism and Idealism are alternative frames through which to define reality, this book is a powerful and brilliantly argued case against the predominant orthodoxy of materialism, and in favour of the primary nature of consciousness as the foundation of all reality. Much of the book is a reexamination of PSI research, using quotes from scientists, researchers, statisticians and reviewers involved in academic and government research into parapsychology, and should cause one to look again at these phenomena, but for me, the best chapters were kept to last.

In these final chapters Mark Gober looks at the implications of the “consciousness first” paradigm, and the universal nature of the “I” with which all sentient beings identify. As many of our greatest minds, (eg. Schrödinger and Mach) believed, the implications are that we are One Being, living multiple diverse existences, and it is the illusion of separation and alienation of ourselves from ourselves that plagues us.

Even if you dont agree with the central premise (Im still agnostic), this book is well worth reading, if only as a challenge, and well argued alternative to the central materialist dogma of our time.

2 people found this helpful

Magic!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 22-10-17

Great series of interviews, and this one with Derren Brown is no exception. The thinking persons "David Blaine", he talks candidly about finding meaning in life, in particular in Stoicism - and his opposition to Self Help books like "The Secret", which promote 'think rich, get rich' type pseudo-psychology. I share his interest in Greek ideas on 'Eudaemonia', (the good life) and the varied philosophies of the Stoics, Epicureans, Cynics, Platonists, Aristotelians and all. This combined with his pragmatic knowledge of human psychology promises to make his new book "Happy" a good listen. I find his voice easy to listen to. Interesting interview! I shall get the book.

A Brief History of Trump - Short but Classic Ronson

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-09-17

I love Jon Ronson's quirky, seeming innocent reporting of really disturbing phenomena, and TEITR is no exception. Penned before the US election, it ends on an upbeat note, imagining the impossibility of a Trump victory, and the confidence that the innate multiculturalism of young Americans would prevail and reject the mad racist rhetoric of the Trump campaign.

As always, Ronson explores the weird and bizarre like the "fake news" conspiracy theories spread by the people behind Trump, in particular the radio show campaigner Alex Jones and sinister Trump advisor Roger Stone. The virulence of the lies they spread, and the fact that the latter previously acted as lobbyist for several blood thirsty dictators, along with Trumps campaign manager makes for disturbing listening.

This is a very short book, and I took advantage of Audibles 40% sale to get it for a few quid, however I would have felt cheated at the full price, though it is an enjoyable listen. It confirmed my every prejudice, about the dangerous fictions of the far right, which is always satisfying, and is made even better because Jon Ronson reads it himself in his own inimical style. I recommend it but buy it at sale prices.

2 people found this helpful

Neurotheology from an Eminent Leader in the Field

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-09-17

Prof. Newberg is one of the great names in the research of brain states and religion. His seminal work with D'Aquila on brain changes during meditation is fascinating and original and he starts the course describing his work and findings.

The course of 24 lectures goes on to examine the various functions, such as the holistic function, spacial and temporal orientation, identity functions, morality functions etc. and the brain areas responsible, which contribute to our human religious and mystical experiences, beliefs and concepts.

Whether religion can be reduced explanatorily to these brain states, or whether they point to the perception of a transcendent reality is an enjoyable philosophical thread that runs through the whole course, without ever being resolved.

The course was recorded some time ago, and advances have been made since. I would have liked more specifics eg. names for the brain areas concerned with the various functions, many of which tended to be around the parietal and temporal lobes. Specifics on the mode of action of drugs which mimic mystical states like DMT or LSD, and more illustrative cases from brain injury and neurological patients, as well as reference to the various psychological biases we have as humans, and which play a role in religious belief, would have made this a truly fantastic lecture course.

However, if you are interested in religion, whether as an atheist, agnostic or believer, and wish to understand better the neuronal correlates of the experiences, practices and beliefs of religion, taught by one of the most eminent researchers in the field, I thoroughly recommend this course.