The Maxims

reviewed by Rob Mason on 13 November 2017

"The cure for jealousy is to know for certain what one has hitherto feared; it is a cruel remedy, yet it is kinder than doubt and suspicion."

" We are all strong enough to bear the misfortunes of others."

"Familiarity is a relaxation of almost all the rules which govern civilised life; it has been introduced into society by the libertines with the intention of making us feel what they call more "comfortable."  It is a product of that self-love which would adjust all to our own weaknesses by making us no longer subject to…Read


Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 25 October 2017

Essayist Stephen Miller pursues a lifelong interest in conversation by taking an historical and philosophical view of the subject. He chronicles the art of conversation in Western civilization from its beginnings in ancient Greece to its apex in eighteenth-century Britain.

Stephen Miller now brings the art of conversation into the light, revealing why good conversation matters and why it is in decline

 One authority writes that "Conversation is the kind of speech that happens informally, symmetrically, and for the purposes of establishing and maintaining social ties."…Read

Philosophy as a way of life

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 9 October 2017

 By encouraging concentration on the miniscule present moment, which, in its exiguity, is always bearable and controllable, attention increases our vigilance . Finally, attention to the present moment allows us to accede to cosmic consciousness, by making us attentive to the infinite value of each instant , and causing us to accept each moment of existence from the viewpoint of the universal law of the cosmos.

Life ebbs as I write: so seize each day, and grant the next no credit;  carp diem, Horace For the Epicureans, in the last analysis, pleasure is a spiritual exercise. Not…Read

The Overcoat

film reviewed by Rob Mason on 28 August 2017

The story narrates the life and death of titular councillor Akaky Akakievich an impoverished government clerk and copyist in the Russian capital of St. Petersburg. Akaky is dedicated to his job, though little recognized in his department for his hard work. Instead, the younger clerks tease him and attempt to distract him whenever they can. His threadbare overcoat is often the butt of their jokes. Akaky decides it is necessary to have the coat repaired, so he takes it to his tailor, Petrovich, who declares the coat irreparable, telling Akaky he must buy a new overcoat. Russian author Nikolai…Read

Hidden Attraction

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 31 July 2017

When primitive human beings attempted to account for mysterious natural phenomena, their initial explanations could only be invented, usually through liberal applications of fantasy and imagination.  There was no way to come up with an answer, at least not until the invention of clever measuring devices extended human senses.


The Gay Science

Bookfilm reviewed by Rob Mason on 25 July 2017

 The things people call love

 -- Avarice and Love-- what different feelings these two terms evoke! Nevertheless, it could be the same instinct that has two names-- once depreciated by those who have, in whom the instinct has calmed down to some extent, and who are afraid for their “possessions,” and the other time seen from the point of view of those who are not satisfied but still thirsty and who therefore glorify the instinct as “good.” The love of our neighbour--is not a lust for new possessions?  And likewise,…Read

The Strangest Man

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 3 July 2017

Paul Dirac is an enigma. Unquestionably the greatest British theoretical physicist of this century, a Nobel Laureate at the age of 31, he ranks alongside Newton and Maxwell.

In 2009, Graham Farmelo published ‘The Strangest Man’, which won the 2009 Costa Prize for Biography and the 2009 'Los Angeles Times Science and Technology Book Prize'. The book was chosen by Physics World as the physics book of the year in 2009, when it was selected as one of Nature’s books of the year.

"I found the best ideas usually came, not when one was actively…Read

West Side Story

film reviewed by Rob Mason on 25 June 2017

Today (Sunday) I went to see the musical, “West Side Story” playing at the Civic Theatre.  My reaction was that it was intensely emotional.  This was attributable to the wonderful music of Leonard Bernstein and with expressive lyrics by Stephen Sondheim’s, and breath-taking choreography by Jerome Robbins.

West Side Story is an award-winning musical adaptation of the classic romantic tragedy, "Romeo and Juliet". The feuding families become two warring New York City gangs, the white Jets led by Riff and the Puerto Rican Sharks, led by Bernardo. The two gangs…Read

Philosophy of Physics

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 20 June 2017

Does the future exist already? What is space? Are time machines physically possible? What is quantum mechanical reality like? Are there many universes? Is there a ‘true’ geometry of the universe?


Reality is not what it Seems

reviewed by Rob Mason on 19 June 2017

“A living organism is a system which continually re-forms itself in order to remain itself, interacting ceaselessly with the external world.  Of such organisms, only those continue to exist which are more efficient at doing so and, therefore, living organisms manifest properties which have suited them for survival. For this reason, they are interpretable, and we interpret them, in terms of intentionality, of purpose. The finalistic aspects of the biological world are therefore the result of the selection of complex forms effective in persisting. But the effective way of continuing to exist in a changing world is…Read


Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 5 June 2017

Steppenwolf; by Hermann Hesse is about one man's spiritual journey towards self-knowledge. Nearly 90 years on, its message to readers retains a religious intensity: we must explore ourselves and keep doing so. If we don't, then our lives become living deaths.

In writing Steppenwolf, Hesse drew on his own spiritual crisis. After leaving his wife in the mid-1920s, Hesse lived an isolated life in Basel, reaching suicidal depths of despair. This might explain Harry's painfully accurate descriptions of depression, which have perhaps been matched since only by William Styron's Darkness Visible.<…Read

The First Scientist

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 24 May 2017

Carlo Rovelli uses the work of Anaximander to tell us what science is, and where it comes from. He goes on to explain that : ”the reliability of science is not based on the fact that its answers are certain. It is based on the fact that its answers are the best available ones. They are the best available ones because science is a way of thinking in which nothing is considered certain and therefore remains open to adopt better answers. If better ones become available.  In other words, science is the discovery that the secret of knowledge…Read

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 21 May 2017

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli

When we talk about the Big Bang or the fabric of space, what we are doing is not a continuation of the free and fantastic stories which humans have told nightly around campfires for hundreds of thousands of years. It is the continuation of something else; of the gaze of those same men in the first light of day looking at tracks left by antelope in the dust of the savannah – scrutinizing and deducting from the details of reality in order to pursue something which we can&rsquo…Read

A Hedonist Manifesto - The Power to Exist

reviewed by Rob Mason on 25 April 2017

Hedonism is the ethical theory that pleasure (in the sense of the satisfaction of desires) is the highest good and proper aim of human life.  Michel Onfray constructs a positive, hedonistic ethics that enlarges on the work of the New Atheists to promote a joy-ful approach to our lives in this, our only world.

A Dialectic of Politeness

Michel Onfray explains that, “ethics or the moral principles that govern a person's behaviour are a matter of everyday life and of subtle appearances that arise in the complex fabric of human…Read

Key Largo

film reviewed by Rob Mason on 11 April 2017

The story of two strong men who come face to face in a hotel, shut down for the summer, on a sweaty Florida key. One is a hard-bitten fellow, ex-Army and ex-idealist, who is visiting the wife and father of a buddy killed in the war. The other is an old-time gangster, run out of the country years ago, who is set upon making a comeback with the old cruelty and arrogance. John Huston, the director has obtained stinging performances out of most of his cast—notably out of Mr. Robinson, who plays the last of the red-hot…Read

Storm in a Teacup

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 4 April 2017

Helen Czerski’s engaging debut book seeks to demystify physics in everyday life, so whether you know your refraction from your reflection, or find the entire subject incomprehensible, this should be an invaluable primer. Dealing with the everyday – such as what really happens when you spill a few drops of coffee, or how magnetism really works – is a winning ploy. In an age of string theory, fluid dynamics and biophysics, it can seem as if the science of our world is only for specialists and academics. Not so, insists Helen Czerski – and in her new…Read


Music reviewed by Rob Mason on 21 March 2017

Filmed at his home, in Greece, Yehudi Menuhin tells the story of his life, which is the musical history of the century.

To leaf through Yehudi Menuhin's photo album is to cover the musical history of an entire century. He tells us about his life, "commenting" about himself based on the documents we show him: the departure from Israel for the United States, his birth in 1916, his dear pianist sister Hephzibah, his teachers Louis Persinger (first violin of the San Francisco Orchestra) then Georges Enesco and Adolf Busch, the first time he played with the…Read


film reviewed by Rob Mason on 13 March 2017

The story of Django Reinhardt, famous guitarist and composer, and his flight from German-occupied Paris in 1943.

Director: Etienne Comar

Django Reinhardt documentary



The End of Discovery

Book reviewed by Rob Mason on 7 March 2017

We have been born into a world where science progresses.

It is generally thought that science, by its very nature, must always progress. But this is not so. One day, fundamental science will come to an end. Not when we have discovered everything, but when we have discovered whatever is open to us to understand - which is not the same thing. Limitations as to what the human brain can comprehend, together with practical considerations to do with the need for ever more elaborate and expensive equipment, are likely to ensure that our knowledge will remain for…Read


film reviewed by Rob Mason on 2 March 2017

Moonlight is a serious film about a boy (Chiron) aged 10 who lives with his mother on a Miami housing project.  The film reveals how other boys at his school tend to influence the identity of Chiron by bullying him.  He displays a shy demeanour and does not mix well.  However, he is befriended by Juan (Mahershala Ali) the local drug dealer who acts as a father figure to Chiron.  He teaches him to swim and improve his posture when sitting in a chair.  The underlying reason for his lack of integration with other boys…Read

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