Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Make me smile

I've been scouring the internet looking for videos to cheer me up. Seth Rogen and James Franco nearly pulled it off with their parody of Bound 2, but unfortunately watching that also means listening to the fucking risible Kanye track at the same time and no amount of hairy Rogen back is going to make that worthwhile.

Instead, it's up to Brett and Jemaine to do what's necessary:

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Let's throw in another one for good measure:

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Do you have any suggestions for feel-good videos? Let's have 'em...

Monday, 25 November 2013

(Sort of, but not really) Four Past Midnight

Whenever I sit down to review a book I do it in the company of my cat, Eric, who usually plonks himself firmly on the keyboard in front of me or, more usually, evicts me from the chair entirely so that I’m left attempting to type while kneeling in front of the desk as he stretches out on the chair.

Stephen King has his Constant Reader, and for nearly twelve years now this little dude has been my Constant Companion:

I spend most of the time I’m not working at home, and rather a lot of that time reading. As with everything else, Eric reads with me - by which I mean tries to sit on my book/kindle, before curling up in my lap and letting me cuddle him whenever I’m reading something sad or scary, huffing long-suffering sighs whenever I feel the need to yell at a book (which is surprisingly often) and giving me reminding pats whenever I’ve become so engrossed in something that I’ve forgotten that I’m supposed to be tickling his chin.

As usual, Eric read most of this book with me. Actually four novellas – The Langoliers, Secret Window, Secret Garden, The Library Policeman and The Sun Dog – I think Eric would agree that this book is a solid 3. Each novella has a great premise although some worked more than others in their execution, and I found that King’s endings struggled a little to live up to what had preceded them.

In The Langoliers, a handful of sleeping passengers awake mid-flight to find everyone else (including the pilots) have disappeared, leaving no trace but their bags and wallets, fillings and pacemakers behind (although not their clothes, something which would bug me for the rest of the novella, for some reason). Luckily for them, they happen to have another pilot on board as well as a blind girl with a sixth sense and a mystery writer who constantly explains what’s happening to everybody.

In Secret Window, Secret Garden another writer with a serious sleep habit is visited by a stranger accusing him of plagiarism. Unfortunately this one was marred somewhat by my realising early on that our protagonist was suffering from a case of the Tyler Durden’s, making the twist ending not so twisty.

The Library Policeman starts well as Sam Peebles borrows some books from the library, only to find out what happens when you forget to return your books on time or – worse still – lose them. This one was going brilliantly until Sam had a chat Dirty Dave who then took a giant information dump over the next few chapters, having clearly never heard of the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule.

The last novella, The Sun Dog, sees Kevin Delevan given a Polaroid camera for his 15th birthday. Except every photo the camera takes is of a mean-looking dog, getting slightly closer with each click. This one was easily the most effective for me, which was probably helped by it being a welcome return to Castle Rock.

Immediately after finishing this book we went looking for Eric - it was nearly his tea-time and, unusually, he wasn’t already hanging around waiting for it. We found him in one of his favourite spots - curled up on a pile of his dad's jumpers. He’d sloped off for a kip, but this time there would be no head bumps and slow stretches before demanding his tea. While I’d been reading of the Sun Dog’s entry into Kevin Delevan’s world, our little monkeyface had left ours.

I’ve tried to review this book properly for the past couple of days, if only to distract me, but it’s proven impossible to do anything without thinking of him so instead you’re left with this, and I’m left to miss my little ginger prince.

Friday, 15 November 2013


...my troubles weren't so bloody far away at all. The day started out like this:

And then I was like this:

And I even did a bit of this:

But then, somewhere around lunch-time, the day took a turn towards this:

And by 5pm I was feeling like this:

But today is Friday and now I just feel like this:

Roll on home-time...

Monday, 11 November 2013

Helen of Troy, by Margaret George

1 star

I love Greek mythology and think the fall of Troy is easily one of the most powerful myths around. Prior to reading this I would never have believed that anyone could tell it in such a way as to make it utterly boring, but sadly Margaret George has proved me wrong.

Telling the story of Helen of Troy, the face that started it all, it's clear that Ms George put in rather a lot of research. It's just a shame that, while remembering to add in details like what sort of cups people might have drunk from, she didn't bring any real storytelling talent to the table. A tale that should have been pulsing with passion, instead I felt nothing. Even during the parts that would normally have me weeping like a bereaved child (the death of Hector, and Priam's pleas for his son's body to be returned) or cursing furiously (anything to do with that shit Achilles) I found it all strangely lacking.

As for Helen, considering this is all told through her eyes, it seems that even though she's the main character she's not much more than an insipid, passive nincompoop, hardly the sort of person that thousands of men would give up their lives and bring ruin to kingdoms over, and the 600 odd-pages in her company were a slow torture.

If you're after something that really brings the story of Troy to life you could do much better - I'd recommend David Gemmell'sTroy series instead.

Friday, 8 November 2013

The Freebie 5 - Musical Edition

It's been a little while since our last trawl through my Freebie 5's and so, as it's Friday and the weekend is nearly upon us (woo!), it's time to revisit my list of imaginary boyfriends. This time it's the Musical Edition.

5. Leonard Cohen

I first fell in love with Leonard Cohen long before I’d even set eyes on him. It was in those dark days before the internet, you see, and so instead of gazing at his face I had to content myself with letting his wonderful words wash over me. 

Now edging ever closer to 100 years old and still terrifically twinkly, he makes the list even though I’d be slightly worried that I’d kill him.

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4. Nick Cave

Even though Nick seems intent these days on dressing like a porny Vegas lounge-lizard, it hasn’t diminished his sexiness in the slightest. I imagine that sleeping with him would be very intense…and possibly lead to him imagining murdering me in song.

It won't let me embed him here, so click on the picture to watch him in action.

3. Gruff Rhys

From the first minute I heard Hello Sunshine, my crush on Gruff Rhys was born. He really is so very lovely – and I can’t really put my finger on why. Is it his lovely accent? His lovely music? his lovely jumpers? his lovely beard…? One thing’s for sure – he’s lovely.

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2. Wayne Coyne

Looking better every day that he gets a little more salt in his pepper, Wayne Coyne looks to me like the world’s most charismatic cult leader. It’s a cult I’d very much like to join. 

 *crosses fingers* Please let it be a sex cult.

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1. Prince

In the history of the world there has never been anyone as sexy as Prince, and anyone who doesn’t fancy him clearly has something wrong with their genitals. True story.
In my fantasy freebie 5 scenario he starts by putting my make-up on for me (he’s way better at it than I am) and we try to imagine what silence looks like, before getting bored and spending the rest of the evening acting out International Lover.

Again, this won't let me embed him (fnar!) so click on the picture to watch one of the only videos of his that seems to remain on Youtube...

And the 'if only they weren't dead' bonus:


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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

What A Young Woman Ought To Know, by Mary Wood-Allen

2.5 stars

It will come as no surprise that many things have changed for young women in the years since this book was published at the end of the 19th century. Happily, I wasn't reading this for advice but as a historical curiosity (although i did initially come across it after it was cheekily suggested that it would help temper my chippiness).

If I had been a 19th century girl, a small portion of this would have been rather sensible and illuminating (such as explaining menstruation and the uterus, at least putting right any fear that I was dying upon starting my period) although, thanks to the copious metaphors, I'd have also come away with vague notions of my body being both a piano and a furnace, and my lungs bellows, and convinced that simply being alive was morally degrading and/or physically dangerous. 

I'd have learnt that it's terribly important to breathe, but that my thoughts must be pious and pure or they'd be poisonous and easily detected on my breath. I'd have learnt that eating too much causes not fat, but fits, and that exercise should be approached with caution. I should be forbidden from running up and down stairs, and may be injured by jumping. Dancing is morally objectionable and card-playing, while somehow considered exercise, can cause bloodshed.

I'd have learnt that reading romance novels can cause hysteria and even hasten puberty, and that during my period I shouldn't get my feet wet (although I wouldn't have learnt why). I'd have learnt that my periods should be pain-free and that if they aren't, it's down to my eating/doing/wearing/thinking something wrong. I'd have learnt that exercise was even more dangerous at this time, as it would make my "engorged" uterus sag. 

I'd have learnt never to visit a travelling doctor or to take patent medicines (as they're all booze, and I'd become an unintended drunk), that getting drunk is a "most serious tragedy, with not an element of fun in it" and that by doing so I'd be risking idiocy, insanity and inebriety in my future children, whom I apparently do want even if I think I don't, as avoiding motherhood invites moral peril. 

I'd have learnt that I shouldn't tease boys, that I'm responsible for his moral conduct as well as my own and that so much as letting him squeeze my hand may end in him having to visit a loose woman. I'd have learnt that so much as thinking about my own bits could inflame them, putting myself at risk of the "solitary vice" which "destroys mental power and memory, blotches the complexion, dulls the eye, takes away the strength, and may even cause insanity" and that I should avoid the friendship of girls, as "such friendship may degenerate even into a species of self-abuse that is most deplorable". 

But more than anything else, I'd have learnt that the biggest danger to my life and happiness was tight clothing.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Luminaries, by Eleanor Catton

2.5 stars

Show me a book that clocks in at over 800 pages, has a historical setting along with a vivid sense of character and place, reads like a 19th century novel and stars prostitutes, politicians and prospectors, a thirst for gold and opium and a mystery involving murder, missing fortunes and false identities, and I go all round-eyed in anticipation.

This, then, really ought to have been my kind of book crack as it features all of the above and more, with a cleverly convoluted plot that's revealed to us in flashes over the course of the book as the many people on the periphery put their heads together to get to the bottom of the vanishing of a wealthy man, the apparent attempted suicide of a prostitute and the death of a reclusive drunk (posthumously found to have a hoard of gold in his hovel), to which they all seem to be connected.

Turns out though that this sometimes struggled to keep my attention and that the much talked about cleverness - to do with the astrological charts and whatnots that adorned the beginnings of each chapter and that apparently had a bearing on the text - was entirely lost on me. My knowledge of astrology runs no deeper than knowing I'm a Taurus, and I'm not particularly interested in broadening that knowledge either (as I'm of the mind that it's hokum) and so I'm quite sure that I've missed something in this reading.

Having neither loved nor loathed this, I'm probably not destined to remember much about it either.