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Sennheiser CX500 Headphones (White)
I'll start the review by stating that I bought these headphones to replace the stock headphones that came with my iPod Touch. I still go to the effort of buying all my CDs and ripping them onto iTunes myself, in order to hold the audio quality and I figured there was little point in carrying on doing so if the headphones I was using were unable to pass on the benefits of it.
Because I have only ever used the regular headphones, I was apprehensive when it came to the inner ear models. However, so many of the best rated brands use them so I did take the plunge and I'm glad I did. My main concerns prior to buying were mainly to do with the fit - would it be comfortable? Will they actually stay in?
These headphones are amazingly comfortable (and I have been known to suffer from pretty severe ear aches - no irritation from these at all). The medium buds that were on when they arrived were too large and, after switching to the smaller buds, the fit was perfect.
The sound is fantastic. Can't fault it whatsoever. Details you never knew existed on your favourite tracks with stock headphones will be brought to your attention with these. This could be an issue, however, if your music collection isn't well ripped as imperfections are likely to be more obvious. The volume is fantastic, half volume on my iPod seems more than loud enough with these and the added volume control on the cable is great for when you have to listen to someone talking.
Overall I would probably rate these 10 out of 10 for value. You cannot go wrong with these earphones for the price Play are offering.
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I have had The Fountainhead for so long I actually can't remember how I actually came to possess it but until recently, I had never actually read it. I imagine it must have been a gift to me and that I was massively put off by two things: Firstly, the title of "Modern Classic". Unfortunately, I have found that many books bearing such a title rarely live up to the hype they give themselves! And secondly, the fact that the book is, on the version I possess at least, criminally misrepresented by the back cover!
Ok, so if you really analysed The Fountainhead, you could take plenty of Philosophical elements out of it and I'm sure you could learn a lot about Rand's controversial "Objectivism". I'm really not sure that it's what should be pushed about the book, however, as I feel that it's probably scared away a massive potential modern audience, as it had previously to me.
Just because The Fountainhead can be used to express philosophy doesn't mean it has to be, as I feel that the actual story elements of the book are very strong. Rand also writes well, making whole passages seem to flow with ease throughout the book. (It should be mentioned that the book is certainly not small but I did get through it with a pace I had not expected, on opening the first page because I soon found myself wanting to know more about the stories and characters - the mark of any good book.)
Critics often suggested that the weakness of the novel was in the impossible perfection of the "heroes" it presented. Personally, I think that critics should learn to suspend their critical eye for a while --- it is this quality precisely that makes it a good read. Howard Roark is a character that you can sympathise with for his struggles, only because of, rather than despite, his nature.
There is little more to say but I would highly recommend this book - there is plenty in it for everyone - but if you're not sure, then borrow it from a local library; they're sure to have at least one copy!
Look Who it Is!
Alan Carr is a national treasure and I do watch him on TV whenever he's on and very much enjoyed his "Tooth Fairy" Stand Up show. So when a book came out, surely it was an easy decision to buy it? Well, actually no. I did have concerns. A fair amount of the aforementioned show spoke of his childhood and growing up, so understandably I was concerned that what I would be getting for my money was a much longer, less funny version of his stand up show.
I was, however, very wrong.
Yes, if you've seen his show, you'll know things such as his dad's profession, where he grew up etc but the detail wasn't actually that much in the show. Perhaps because it wasn't funny? Well after reading his book, it would seem that that too, was wrong. Perhaps it's in the telling, since the book reads so easily, it's as if you're listening to Alan, but even hearing about family holidays to Great Yarmouth become interesting and funny.
I won't go into any more detail but if you like Alan on the Friday Night Project or from his "Tooth Fairy" show, buy the book - you won't be disappointed.
Radio 1 Live Lounge 3 (2CD)
Various - CD
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The Live Lounge collection has reached it's third incarnation and is as strong as ever. I personally don't ever catch the segment on the radio and as such, have no idea which songs are going to be good when I order these albums. Year after year, there have been stand out tracks but this year, I feel that they've excelled themselves.
Obviously going through the 40 tracks one by one would take a long time and would be boring to read, not to mention, pretty irrelevant since music tastes do vary.
However, whilst you will almost certainly know the originals, it's the cover versions that are unique and, for me, the best cover tracks were:
Foundations, covered by Newton Faulkner --- Such an odd pairing and yet, somehow, it just works.Lovestoned, covered by the Hoosiers --- For some reason, this one just works perfectly.Love in this Club, covered by the Automatic --- Again, despite being an odd matching, it just seems to fit.And lastly, Flourescent Adolescent, covered by Kate Nash --- I don't even rate Kate Nash that highly but this was very good.
So my advice to you, buy the album, safe in the knowledge that there is a very good mix of original and cover versions here and just listen to it through once, you may find that the tracks you least expect are the ones you like most.
All in all, at least a 9/10.
Radio 1 Live Lounge 2 (2CD)
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I disagree with those who've said that this is not as good as the first one, I thought that it was actually a better album. There are loads of great artists here and they don't disappoint.
Instead of rating every track, I'll just say about the best of the bunch.
The Zutons, Calvin Harris, Jose Gonzalez, The Holloways, Maximo Park, Dizzee Rascal and The Editors all recorded exceptional tracks... I really can't emphasise how good these actually are!
The other one that I thought was quite good was 30 Seconds to Mars version of Stronger. It was strange but really quite good...
For the price Play are charging - pick up a copy!
It's Not About the Bike
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You would probably have to have been buried underground for the past 10 years to not have heard of Lance Armstrong. However, you may not really know much about Lance and his incredible story.
I didn't really know much about him, I only knew the basics and that he was a Tour de France champion. However, when in an airport bookshop, I needed something to keep me occupied for the journey ahead. Lance's book was what I found.
The book, as the title would suggest, is not really about cycling and even people completely uninterested in the sport should probably read this book.
It is a detailed retelling of the story of Lance's illness and his battle to recover and ride again. It's gritty and really punches home with it's chilling message that cancer is real and it can affect anybody in any condition. Lance himself describes his recovery as lucky. Clearly aware of the countless thousands who face cancer, battle hard and don't survive.
Lance describes how the illness changed him and how he so nearly gave up on his cycling but then goes on to describe his meeting of his wife and the Tour de France comeback that began his incredible reign of dominance in the world's premier cycling competition.
Truly a great book - no book collection should be without a copy!
OK - so Ian Holloway isn't the biggest manager in football. And maybe he wasn't the best player ever but he was always a hugely popular character.
Ollie has pledged to give his all to get Plymouth Argyle into the Premiership and I, personally, would love to see him get his target. Not because I'm an Argyle fan, in fact, I would say of Ollie's teams, Bristol Rovers would be my favourite, but because I think Ollie is a top bloke who deserves to get rewards for his efforts.
You would be forgiven for assuming that this book would be no different from any other managers story. A traditional football fairy-tale. You would, however, be wrong.
I can't even begin to contemplate the hardships that Ollie has been through. He is a true football hero and a man far more deserving of idolisation than David Beckham or Arsene Wenger. With the possible exception of Jose Mourinho, no manager can even come into the same way with words that Holloway has.
A great read, recommended for football fans and even non-football fans - you will probably all love this book!
Brain Training: Dr Kawashima's How Old Is Your Brain
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I'm sure I'm not the only one who, when they first saw a DS, thought, you can't play a game on there. It just wouldn't be fun.
Now, I'm not absolutely certain that I'm wrong yet. I still haven't seen any bearable games other than the Brain Training series but admitedly, I do not own a DS. However, someone else in my family does and they have this game.
For about a week, I avoided it whilst other members of the family were playing and, in an ultimate attempt to display one-upmanship, claiming their brain was better than the other persons.
So I did eventually pick it up. Shockingly, I was hooked within minutes. I created a profile, which was very easy to do, then moved on to have my brain age tested. Unfortunately, I said I could talk whilst other people were talking in the room and subsequently, I pretty much failed the Stroop test. But I went on to salvage my brain age and got it down to 40 when faced with some calculations, which were actually very fun and a joining up letters and numbers game.
It was then explained to me that if I played daily, I would earn stamps that would contribute to me getting new activities. From that point I was hooked.
The second day, I decided I couldn't speak after my earlier fiasco and I did pretty well and my brain age broke the 30 barrier, coming in at 29. I also unlocked a game called low to high, which I loved.
The next day I suffered a relapse, courtesy of a game called word memory. Unfortunately, my writing is pretty awful in reality and using the stylus didn't make it any better and constantly my H's were called N's and my L's C's. It was a pitiful display.
But, to cut a long story short, I have kept playing, day by day and, so far, the only game I have had an issue with is word memory. And that's because the word hall would become nacc. But if you are willing to overlook potential difficulties of this game, you are likely to immensely enjoy this game and, apparently it's good for you as well!
A win win situation.
Our Earthly Pleasures
Maximo Park - CD
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Maximo Park capture something in their music. Something hard to explain. Somehow the guitars are enchanting and the vocals are mesmerising and yet, still relatively simple and not too heavy. If Maximo Park continue to release albums of this quality, they'll be a big big band.
All of the songs are good but, to me, a few stand out in particular.
The first being "Books From Boxes". It is, without a doubt, my favourite song on this CD. I just love it - I can listen to it in any mood; a sign of a great song.
Then comes "Our Velocity". This showcases the vocal talent in the group and is a very catchy song, though at somepoints, rather heavy on the guitar when perhaps it wasn't necessary.
I also am a big fan of "Nosebleed". I don't know why I like this one so much but I do. It's a great song and I enjoy listening to it very much.
So, if you've got some spare cash and don't have this album, get buying!
The World According to Clarkson
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I'm sure most book readers can picture the scenario: walking around a town, having finished a previous book, and thinking it would be great to get another. This was the scenario I found myself in not too long ago. Pretty soon after I found myself in a book shop, happily browsing away.
Now, I looked at fiction but to be honest, I wasn't in the mood for fiction. So I looked at sports biographies and the like. Nothing that I hadn't already read stuck out to me. Then, as I moved away, in the corner of my eye, this book was just going out of view. I turned around.
I am a big fan of Top Gear. Jeremy, Richard and James are very very funny together and their interaction makes for a good TV show. But I wasn't certain how good they would be in writing. Without each other, I was understandably concerned that this book could be boring. I know that often Clarkson would take time on Top Gear and do a "report" on his own but of course, as a viewer, we can't be sure how much of it is scripted.
But, I still risked buying this book. And I'm glad I did. The first noticeable thing about it is the format. As a collection of newspaper columns, in chronological order, they read quite easily as small chapters. This actually was one of my favourite features of the book. It became easier to read when you could stop at almost any point and then come back to it easily.
And any worries I had that Clarkson wasn't going to be at all humorous were erased in the first few pages. Not only was he humorous but he was a very talented writer. I enjoyed reading through and by the end of Day 1 had read almost half the book, with breaks every 30 or so pages. I was still interested.
The book was also handy to have around at work, especially on slow days but alas, I finished it more quickly than I expected and no matter how much I willed it to, the phone didn't ring and I was left sitting waiting for the time I could leave. Eventually the time came and the first thing I did when I got home was log onto the internet to see if there was a sequel. To my joy, yes, there was.
I await it's delivery! If it's only half as funny and interesting as the first one, it'll still be a great hit in my eyes!