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Review: On Paris

On Paris by Ernest Hemingway My rating: 4 of 5 stars This very brief work is a collection of Hemingway’s writings as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star. The author’s bright prose lights up what I believe to be the most fantastic city on earth, during the turbulent times of the 1920s. Paris was in a post-Versailles dilemma, the politicians fighting for German reparations and dangerously questing into the Ruhr valley. Hemingway vibrantly details the glamorous life in the French capital. The post-absinthe hedonism, the cafe culture, the nightlife of the Moulin Rouge. He contrasts the French joie de vivre with that of other European capitals and with a flamboyant passion for Paris, he brings to life this exotic city for all his readers. View all my reviews

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Review: The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939

The Battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Antony Beevor My rating: 4 of 5 stars This is a definitive history of the Spanish Civil War. The book has been regarded by the Spanish themselves as one of the best-researched volumes on this dark period of turmoil in their country’s history. The breakdown of democracy saw the split of the nation and a leftist democratically elected government was forced to deal with the rise of a militaristic fascist rising headed by Franco. The precursor to World War 2, this civil war attracted the interests of the rising Fascist movement across Europe with the Caudillo’s forces being supplemented and supported by Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. They got to test out their modern weaponry in the field of action and a lack of international support for the actual government left them with little alternative but to rely on the Soviet Union for their support. This led to the republicans being over-reliant on the Spanish communists who struggled to take over and erode democracy from their own angle, constantly infighting and vying for strength with the other elements of the Spanish left; the Anarchists and the POUM. This history details how all the events unfolded and describes how each of the key battles was won and lost. There was a ferociousness during this conflict which only civil wars attract. The horrors of modern war truly unfolded disasters such as Guernica only emphasised how critical air support had become. The German Condor Legion and their Meschersmitts, backed up by Italian Fiats, consistently demolished the Republican resistance and paved the way for an overall Nationalist victory. Poor military judgement, combined with Stalinist purges of even the more successful Russian generals, left the Republicans constantly making errors in their military tactics. The lack of proper international support (with the exception of the volunteer International Brigades), in particular from Britain led to the inevitable crushing of the elected government and their forces. Appeasement was in the air as Western politicians tried to avoid the inevitable European conflict that was brewing and the Spanish were sacrificed. It was a war of experimentation which left the Spanish people at the mercy of the violent forces which dominated the time. Franco consolidated his own power well and was relentless and unforgiving, not accepting any olive branch of peace when offered and pursuing an ultimate military victory so…

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Surfing The Waves Of Creativity

Teahupo’o (Tahiti)… pronounced ‘cho-pu’, ..  I’ve been asked by my good friend, Johan Flapsandwich, to do a guest blog on his website http://flapsandwich.wordpress.com Flaps and I met 20 odd years ago and have grown up together as DJs and more recently, producers. We often get together for regular chitchats in Cardiff and have worked professionally together at various times in the music industry. In a recent drinking session, where I like to philosophize, Flappy heard me tell him a tale of New Zealand All Black rugby captain, Richie McCaw. McCaw is a flanker (wing-forward) and is widely regarded as one of the finest rugby players in the world today. He is an All Black legend and has amassed more international caps than any New Zealand player in history. The icing on the cake of his glistening career was lifting the Webb Ellis Rugby World Cup trophy on home soil in the 2011 World Cup. The All Blacks, if you are unfamiliar with the sport, are at the cutting edge of rugby – They are to the oval-shaped ball what Brasil are to its round cousin.  They determine the whole pace of the international game and are always innovating new styles. In effect they set the pace. McCaw, as an individual is one of the most highly talented sportsmen in the world. Why, you ask, is this relevant to an anarchic Welsh Music producer, most widely known for releasing the terror that is ‘Sicknote’ http://sicknote.tv onto the world?   I wanted to make a point to Flappy – that to reach the dizzying heights of ultimate success, there tends to be a formula. Those people who truly attain greatness in their chosen profession, have hidden secrets, that can be applied across the board. What is relevant to leading sportsmen, international political leaders, top businessmen, bestselling authors etc. can also apply to the world of music. Sure, we could find plenty of examples of success in the world of music itself… What makes Madonna tick? How do the Rolling Stones never cease to stop rolling? How does Brian Wilson imbibe from his muse? I wanted to keep it simple for Flappy and as I’d just read Richie McCaw’s cracking autobiography it was fresh in my mind.   Flaps probably hasn’t exercised since he left his caribou herd behind in the deepest Scandinavian Arctic and headed over to Wales in the first place….

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Review: Siddhartha

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse My rating: 4 of 5 stars This short work by German / Swiss author and nobel literature prizewinner, Herman Hesse, was a cornerstone of the hippy movement which emerged during the 1960s. The book explores the journey of a young Indian man through an adventurous life, in which his main quest is to achieve enlightenment. He leaves home, becomes an ascetic and then meets the Buddha (Gotama), before rejecting asceticism and turning to the material world, seeking the pleasures of lust, wealth and gambling. He fathers a child with his lover and then departs off to seek pastures new, depressed and fed up of his life in the city. He finds a middle way between the asceticism of his youth and the high life of his merchanting. As a ferryman, next to the river, he lives with a wise old sage who comforts him and allows him to finally achieve the enlightenment he seeks. His son disowns him and his old friend, who becomes a follower of the Buddha, periodically bumps into him and eventually the story concludes with the two old men sharing views on life and what they have learnt, with Siddharta revealing some of the deep philosophies which have shaped him. It’s an exciting and eminently readable tale, full of Buddhist and Eastern mystical titbits that the reader can relate to and indeed be enlightened by. I can see why hippies favoured this novel and it really can be classed as a true twentieth century classic. View all my reviews

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Dietmar Hamann

Dietmar Hamann or Didi was known as ‘The Kaiser’ during his time at the helm of Liverpool’s central midfield. The German international was signed for Liverpool by Gerard Houllier in July 1999 for £8 million from Newcastle United. His seven year career at Liverpool saw him make 191 appearances, scoring 8 goals. He was part of Houllier’s treble winning side of 2001, gaining UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup medals. A defensive midfielder, Hamann was a mainstay for Liverpool and a key player. He is renowned as a big game player, someone who was able to step up to the mark in important fixtures. He is probably most loved by the Kop for his game-changing substitute appearance in the Istanbul Champions League Final of 2005. 3-0 down to AC Milan at half-time and in the midst of the crisis, Rafa Benitez turned to the Kaiser’s experience and brought him on for the flagging Steve Finnan. Immediately, Didi impacted the game, and shored up the midfield area, allowing Steven Gerrard to move on up the pitch and initiate the goals needed for our comeback. He was the catalyst for the turnaround and in a demonstration of bravery, did all this with a broken toe. His experience was called for after the game finished in extra time, a  3-3 draw. With his broken foot he stepped up to take the first penalty and with calm German composure, slotted the ball into the back of the net, to encourage his teammates to go onto victory, which of course they did. A year later, in the FA Cup final in Cardiff, against West Ham, Hamann repeated his final heroics, again coming on in the second half, and again shoring up the midfield to get us into a winnable position. Didi’s big match show-outs perhaps were so impressive due to his international experience. He played for Germany in the 2002 World Cup Final, a game they lost 2-0 to Brazil. He was only the third Liverpool player to have ever graced the World Cup Final (others being Roger Hunt and Karl-Heinz Riedle) Hamann moved on from Liverpool in June 2006, initially signing for Bolton but with a late change of heart instead opting for Manchester City. He played there until his contract expired in 2009. After his playing career ended he had spells in management with Milton Keynes Dons and Stockport County. He has…

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