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Get caught in this web


FILMS BASED on comics are not always successful. But this summer's blockbuster, Spider-Man, is not at all bad. The original comic superheroes were Superman and Batman. Their adventures in the 1940s laid down rules that dominated the industry for the next 20 years.

Gripping read of a besieged city


THE SIEGE, by Helen Dunmore, is a novel set in the winter-long blockade of Leningrad in Russia by Nazi forces during the Second World War. It has just come out in paperback. It follows the story of a young woman, Anna. Her mother died in childbirth. Now Anna works in a nursery, and cares for her five year old brother and ageing father.

Healing relations in stormy Deep South


THE MEDIA claimed racism was over in Hollywood when Halle Berry won the Oscar for best actress for her role in Monster's Ball. But, just as in the film, the story isn't that simple. Monster's Ball is set in America's Deep South. It is presented as a film about racism. It sets out to portray racism, violence and also how the spiral of violence can be broken.

Behind the conflict


INDIA AND Pakistan teeter on the brink of all-out nuclear warfare. New Nukes by Praful Bidwai and Achin Vanaik charts the way Western governments poured arms and nuclear technology into the region. The book also explains how the governments of India and Pakistan squandered resources on warfare to the detriment of the mass of people. Kashmir is the flashpoint for this crisis.

It's no nonsense


WHEN I saw The No-Nonsense Guide to Class, Caste and Hierarchies I was excited about reading a book on class in the 21st century. However, this book disappoints.

Poverty US style


"OURS IS a world of pain. I don't know how my co-workers survive on their wages or what they make of our hellish conditions. I do know about their back pains, cramps and arthritic attacks."

Less books equals less library users


"LIBRARIES GAVE us power." The first line in the Manic Street Preachers' song "A Design For Life" expresses how important libraries have been to working class people over the decades. But a new report by the Audit Commission has revealed the desperate state of Britain's library services.

Feeding the world?


ARE THE interests of ordinary people at the heart of big business and government schemes? Are advances in science always good? Those are the key questions at the heart of the new BBC conspiracy thriller Fields of Gold, co-written by Ronan Bennett and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger.

The Scar by China Miéville


There are a number of short stories and novels that shouldn't just be regarded as exceptional fantasy and science fiction, but should be considered amongst the best modern literature we have.

Linda Smith - a Brief History of Timewasting


The second series of comedian Linda Smith's radio show A Brief History of Timewasting starts next week. It is a sitcom that takes a wry view of everyday life in London's East End.

Tinseltown and the show trials


THE MAJESTIC is about a Hollywood screenwriter who is blacklisted as part of an anti-Communist witch-hunt. It is set during the period of McCarthyism which gripped the US at the start of the Cold War.

Star Wars out


GEORGE BUSH's plan to start a new nuclear arms race came a step closer last week. He and Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, did a deal that would allow the "Son of Star Wars" weapons system to be set up. This unity won't mean a more peaceful world.

Exposing new world disorder


THE NEW Rulers of the World is the powerful new book from investigative journalist and documentary film-maker John Pilger. Pilger has always written and spoken out against war, oppression, poverty and racism. He has been one of the most prominent figures in the anti-war movement in Britain.

Catch these two plays


TWO interesting Latin American fact-based dramas are scheduled for radio this weekend. Tango Sensations is a play based on the kidnapping of Victoria Mendez during Argentina's "Dirty War" in 1976. Mendez was a career diplomat murdered by the regime she loyally served. Years later an Argentinian woman investigates Mendez's murder.

An Indian journey


THE WARRIOR is a surprise hit movie. It is a low budget independent film directed by Hackney-born Asif Kapadia, and was filmed in India with an international crew and a few professional actors. It is set in the past somewhere in India.

Watchdog with the deadly bite


ONE OF the best accounts of the nature of the state of Israel is now back in print. It is available for a new generation of people angered by Israel's massacre of the Palestinians. Socialist Worker's pamphlet Israel: The Hijack State by Jewish socialist John Rose was first published in 1986.

Dance music that's full of discontent


THE MULTIRACIAL band Cornershop have returned with a brilliant new album, Handcream for a Generation. Cornershop are known to a wider audience for their huge hit single "Brimful of Asha". They chose the name Cornershop to subvert the stereotype of Asians only running newsagents and grocers, not performing in indie bands.

Sell-off story


THE FILM The Navigators by socialist film director Ken Loach has just been released on video. It was written by a former rail worker, and exposes the impact of privatisation on the lives of rail workers. Some workers take a gamble by opting for redundancy money and life as casual workers.

The Forsyte Saga — brutality behind perfect manners


IT SEEMS we can't get enough of costume dramas on TV. The new ITV adaptation of John Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga is proving to be a big hit with critics and audiences alike. Some 40 percent of the audience for terrestrial TV tuned in to watch the first episode last Sunday.

Sounds which stick a finger up at Blair


THE STREETS' Original Pirate Material is the amazing debut album of Mike Skinner, a West Midlands UK garage MC. Original Pirate Material has been getting all the headlines in the music press. It is hailed as the bright new hope that will save the music industry.

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