Friday, 23 April 2010

Bucket List

I could tell a lie and pretend this post was inspired because I had recently watched the film this post title refers to. But I haven't, in fact I've never seen it.

I recently watched the film The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman (what were they thinking?) and it got me wondering what my Bucket List would look like.
  1. Get a Nobel Prize
  2. Visit 100 UNESCO World Heritage Sites (only 78 more to go!)
  3. Publish a novel
  4. Publish an article in a journal/newspaper
  5. Meet one of the Doctors
  6. Live in another country
  7. Run a marathon
  8. Read every major work by Dickens
  9. Read all of Shakespeare's plays
  10. Bungee Jump
  11. Try Casu Marzu
  12. Drink Kopi Luwak
  13. See the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis
  14. Go to every continent in the world (4 to go)
So that's it at the moment. What are your must-do-before-you-die things?

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Book #7: Between the Assassinations

A lot of reviews of Between the Assassinations, by Aravind Adiga, harp on about how it isn't really a novel, but more a collection of short stories. Now, I could go on for ages about the problems of genre, but I wont. Between the Assassinations is not, it has to be admitted, a conventional narrative that follows the adventures of certain individuals, but rather narratives that centre around the city of Kittur, detailing the problems of class, political corruption and the political milieu. Call it a collection of short stories, call it a novel. Really, it doesn't matter.

Adiga portrays different aspects of Indian life—including the caste system, politics, religion, and poverty—with amazing clarity. We have the half Hoyka, half Brahmin school boy who explodes a bomb in his chemistry class, a Muslim boy who insists that he does 'no hanky-panky', and a Communist that realises that he has wasted his life. Adiga flows through these narratives exposing the worst and best aspects of human life.

The narratives all revolve around the beautifully realised city of Kittur, and themes of inequality, corruption, and identity weave in and out of them like a cyclist between automated rickshaws on a busy Umbrella Street.

Book #6: Hector and the Search for Happiness

On my way to the airport I realised that I had neglected to bring any reading material for the journey. So we wound up looking in WH Smith on customs side for cheap reads. I ended up buying Hector and the Search for Happiness.

The book is written in a very simplistic way, like that of a children's book, which lends it a sense of naivety and exploration. The story is a simple premise as well. There is a psychiatrist, Hector, who, noticing all the unexplainable unhappiness in his seemingly well-to-do patients, goes on a round-the-world trip to find the rules of happiness.

Here we go to China, some troubled African country and a wealthy country, presumably the USA. We meet a variety of characters, from prostitutes, wealthy bankers, professors, drug barons and fortune tellers. He finds 23 lessons of happiness (well, 24 if you count the one he crossed out), and shares them with a Einstein-esque expert in Happiness Studies.

The main things I've learnt is that if you want to be irresistible to women, dress like a psychiatrist. If that means having little glasses and a little mustache (like in Hector' case), then so be it. Hector's dabbling in misogyny (the crossed out lesson 18) is not the only disappointing thing in the book.

Like a psychiatrist, the books fails to condemn anything. War-torn nations, affairs, drug dealing, prostitution, governmental corruption, economic exploitation and the criminal underground are all found in this book and are only dealt in terms of whether it makes people happy or not. Despite this, it does not make patronising assumptions that if you are poor then you are not happy, in fact it does quite the reverse.

The wisest lesson in this book that the biggest mistake is to make happiness your goal, because once you do that, you will find it hard to get it.

It is a simple and enjoyable book, and it is not one that is meant to be thought to hard about (although I can't help it, I'm an English graduate after all).

Friday, 16 April 2010

Factual Friday

It's a Friday. So that means that a load of useless facts are on the way to screens near you. In front of you, in fact.

Rachael is down visiting me, so today we went on a drive to some of the places of interest in the New Forest. So that is the theme for today. The New Forest.

It is 571 square kilometres in total, comprising of:
  • 146 km² of broadleaved woodland;
  • 118 km² of heathland and grassland;
  • 33 km² of wet grassland;
  • and 84 km² of tree plantations.
The New Forest was made a royal forest by William I in c. 1079. Two of his sons died in the New Forest, Prince Richard (who was mauled by a stag) and William II. William II was shot by an arrow in a hunting accident and the Rufus Stone apparently marks the spot where he fell. Some say these events were a result of the actions of William I when making the the forest his personal hunting ground.

Other things the New Forest is famous for:
  • Ponies;
  • Ice Cream (particularly Beaulieu Ice Cream);
  • The Beaulieu Motor Museum;
  • Witches.
I've recently finished a book, which I need to review, also I need to talk about my travels to Spain and discuss the new Doctor. So these are all up and coming.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Factual Friday...

Okay, okay, it's a day late. But what'ya gonna do? Today's theme is, of course...Doctor Who. What? You thought I was going to say Easter? Okay, okay, I'll do an Easter one tomorrow.
  1. The first episode was shown on November 23rd, 1963
  2. It originally ran for 26 seasons before it was dropped.
  3. The reason why the TARDIS is stuck as a police box is because the chameleon circuit is broken. Donna Noble, in the episode Journey's End, revealed that the circuit can be fixed (by hotwiring the fragment links with the binary...)
  4. The TARDIS's windows are actually the wrong size for a police box. This is mentioned in the episode Blink.
  5. The Doctor is approximately 906 years old.
  6. The Daleks were introduced in December 1963
  7. The Doctor and his companions were 'responsible' for a lot of works of literature. Donna Noble gave Agatha Christie the idea for Miss Marple and Murder on the Orient Express, and the Doctor gave Shakespeare the name of a (never seen) character in The Tempest, Sycorax, as well as famous lines of his works such as 'The play's a thing'.

It is less than seven hours now until the big moment!