Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas.

So it's Christmas Eve and the "January sales" have started. I'm currently poring over the Irregular Choice website picking all the shoes and bags I'd buy if money were no object. Actually I could probably afford one pair of them, and then no food or nights out. Kidding. But really seriously, there's a lot of nice shoes with money off, and even though they're not the biggest savings in the world, it's not like your usual sale where there's 60% off but it's stuff you'd never buy anyway! There's a good 20% here and there (which makes a nice difference on a one hundred pound pair of boots).

So Santa, for Christmas I'd like a pair of 'Power Struggle' in black, size 6; a pair of 'No Place Like Home', again, black, size 6; the Robot Laptop bag (I know it's not in the sale Santa but I thought I'd throw it out there), and one Bookworm bag, either colour is fine, and that's a nice and cheap one too.

That, on top of my seven-digit balance in my bank account, my new lungs, my size 8 figure, and my degree finished, is all I want for Christmas. Which, when you think about it, isn't really that much to ask for, I mean that kid in A Miracle of 34th Street got a house and a family and a brother. I know she went on to have a pretty hard time with Miss Trunchbull and all that but Miss Honey totally made up for all that. So the house kind of throws the balance all over again. I think I'm owed one, Santa.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Goddamn you, blurbs

'Crime & Punishment' has gotten way more interesting/shocking! I am only a few chapters in and I'm giving it a huge thumbs up! The story is definitely catching me off guard given that I knew absolutely NOTHING about it before I started reading it.

I've taken to not reading anything about a book before I read it just in case it gives too much of the story away, it's like movie adverts that show you all the good bits or just give the story away. Like that film 'The Switch' with Jennifer Aniston and that guy in it: the ad told you the entire story! (I tried to watch that film last night but the feed kept jumping so it didn't happen, I watched Easy A instead, that was really funny. Typical high school movie but really really good fun.)

Went for some more Christmas shopping today with my friends, didn't really get much, was more just there for the sight seeing. Ended up eating the biggest feast of a lunch I've ever seen. I had lasagne with some salad (cleared the plate) and BBQ chicken wings (kinda fatty, still devoured though) and half of my friend's curry (ahem, and her naan bread and mango chutney) and some (read: HUNDREDS OF) chips and gravy, and then some chocolate fudge cake with ice cream. Oh, and there might have been two or three or maybe four alcoholic drinks in there.. Ssshhh!

I think I'm making up for all this lost time of going out and grabbing some food with friends. I'm going stir crazy in this house! So today was good fun.

Oh and then I came home and actually managed to eat some dinner (after a much needed nap on the couch).

I also had some photos printed out of some of the pictures from the last two gigs I went to (Jimmy Eat World and Biffy Clyro) and I bought these little cheapo photo frames (37p each!!) so that I can hang them up on my wall and pretend to be some pretentious photographer. I'd really love to get a proper camera and try and take proper pictures, but my little digital camera will do me fine while I don't have the time to make a real hobby of it!

I miss bookstores

I was in Waterstone's on Monday, I think it's the first time I've been in since last time I went Christmas shopping, it makes me miss just being around books and having time to read whatever I want at my leisure.

Every shelf I looked at I saw books on the 100 list (it's haunting meeee!), and I just wanted to sit there and read them all. Well, I wanted to sit because my lungs were angry at me for taking them out when it was so, so cold, I felt like such a wee old dear, sitting there with my book just looking around the room catching what little breath I had. But it was nice just to stare at books that I don't have to study. I saw Jack Kerouac to my right, Joseph Heller over my left shoulder, and Harper Lee out the bottom corner of my eye. I passed a table that Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling were sitting on and I wandered up and down til I bumped into Oscar Wilde.

It was quite funny cause as I was walking out along the ground floor I passed all these people rummaging through the bestseller tables and one woman showed another a book and was like "You know if this is any good?!" and the other turned round and went "How am I supposed to know! You know I don't read!"

I also found the size of the queue on the ground floor quite funny given that it was so quiet upstairs, and I got to take as long as I wanted to be served by the handsome cashier when I was buying my Christmas presents.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

It's easy to see why Dickens' works are considered classics.

It's difficult to explain just how amazing his writing is. I mean, take something like Harry Potter, for example, or even Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland: little stories, decent writing, imaginative...  Dickens, however. What's the best way to explain this?...

I suppose, I think it's funny to think that other authors write in the same language as he does, because he just uses words so much better. They have the same choice of words that he does, they're utilising the same language, same vocabularies, but somehow, Charles Dickens just creates sentences that set off so many sparks in your head that you need to read them over and over, not because you don't understand it, but because the combination of words is so brilliant and you need to feed it to your brain all over again.

If you've never read any classics then A Christmas Carol is a brilliant place to start. It's a little book, it's a story that most people know (however knowing the story doesn't make the writing predictable), and the writing is just so good from the very start that it draws you in and you can't help loving it.

It was quite funny because I got about two thirds of the way through the book and turned to my mum and asked her if she'd read it, and told her that she absolutely had to read it when she answered that she hadn't already.

Then when she was a few pages in she told my dad that he had to read it too. So the three of us sat in the living room, drinking tea, beer and strawberry cider, all reading A Christmas Carol. Me on my laptop, my mum on her Kindle and my dad on his phone. I find it funny that three people can sit in a room reading the same book and none of them are reading a book. I need to tell my brother to read it, I think he'd appreciate it.


Oh, and that was 18 out of 100.

Spot on.

So you end up a typical Scotsman. Prejudiced, Christian (when it suits you,) well-educated, nostalgic, nationalistic, willing to travel, pro-Irish (well they're in the same boat), aggressive, proud, single-minded, occasionally pissed, occasionally singing, not mean (as a nation we are rather generous, you'll find), willing to accept second place too often, expecting to lose, easily embarrased, passionate and football daft, standing there, thousands of us, in Wembley Stadium at the game. England 5 Scotland 1. A nation mourns - member 'at.

Bill Bryden (1977)

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Darkness is cheap.

So I've had to postpone my exams because I'm sick, which means more time for dissertation work (BORING), more time for resting (BORING) and more time for reading (YAY!)

Crime and Punishment is again, really really long, not as bad as Anna Karenina but it's going to take me a while to get through! So I've decided for the sake of having something to write about I'd start reading some of the short books on the list too!

(I did a really silly thing)

I made a list of all the books, and their lengths and then sorted them by length (CHEERS EXCEL), obviously it's completely inaccurate since the Penguin Classics have smaller print so they have shorter page lengths where some obviously shorter novels have larger print and longer page lengths.

The longest "book" is the Harry Potter series, weighing in at a massive 3407 pages! Thank God I don't need to read that again since I've read them before, but second longest is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, (which I'm relatively confident is longer than the Harry Potter series) which apparently is 2552 (can you tell I'm really really not looking forward to reading it!)

Anyway, first short book that I can get on Kindle for free is A Christmas Carol, which is quite fitting at this time of year! I started reading it yesterday but spent the whole day in bed today, woke up for a few hours for dinner and a couple of episodes of Firefly but apart from that I was out for the count. Even missed the pub with my friends because I felt so lousy. But enough moaning, A Christmas Carol already has me hooked, in the opening pages, the writing is just brilliant, so I think I'm going to enjoy this one, and the rest of the Charles Dickens on the list. I've not read anything of his before, which is actually quite surprising but I've got David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, Bleak House and Great Expectations to get through before this is over so I'm sure I'll have quite had my fill of him in not too short a time.

In other news outside of my own little world. Looks like I'll be among the last generation of normal kids to be able to get to University. And by "normal" I mean "not absolutely loaded private school kid". The Government has won the vote saying that English universities can charge up to £9,000 a year in fees.
This basically amounts to: if you're not rich you can't go to uni. I feel sorry for families, that's an impossible amount of money to find. The UK doesn't have the scholarship system and funding means that the U.S. does. And that's just the fees, that's not even living costs. I don't pay any fees and I'm still going to have a debt of about £13,000!

The violent protests in London don't surprise me. In fact I think they're going to go on for a long time. I only hope that they go on long enough so that by the next election young people are still riled up enough to vote. Not that I think we have any better option but I'd love for this Government to get booted out at the first chance.

Right enough about politics, it's time for sleep. Tomorrow will be Christmas tree-decorating and Dickens-reading!

Monday, 6 December 2010

We can mourn its passing and then bury it in snow...

Words cannot describe how gutted I am at missing Frightened Rabbit play tonight.

The snow has pretty much shut down Scotland: the trains are off, the buses are off, and Strathclyde Police are telling people not to drive.

The main road along from my house is gridlocked with abandoned cars, and it took my dad 7 hours to drive his 45 minute journey home.

Frabbit are probably playing right now, can't fathom why they didn't postpone the gig.
Well, I can, money-grabbing promoters probably.

So for that reason instead of me having a mini-review and some kick-ass pictures of the band and probably a T-shirt, I have nothing but disappointment at having to miss a gig I was looking forward to for quite a while.

Can only hope they'll be back soon!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The 100 Books Challenge

So I've decided I'm definitely going to read everything on The Guardian's list of "100 Books You Can't Live Without".

I have no idea how long this will take, I think a year's too short but I'm just going to start and see how long it takes given that most of these are full blown masterpieces AND the list includes things like 'The Bible' and 'The Complete Works of William Shakespeare', which I wouldn't even consider books, I mean they're libraries of works in themselves! I think once I get fired in I'll be able to judge the time better. I could probably fly through them but I don't want to speed-read them, I genuinely want to be able to say I've (hopefully) enjoyed all these books, not just skimmed them.

I know there'll be a bunch of books on it that I wouldn't touch with a barge pole (The Da Vinci Code, Bridget Jones' Diary) but that'll just be part of the challenge I guess! Every book I read will get some semblance of a review on here, if not, just a brief yay or nay depending on how it went down. 
I'll be on the look out for loans of them, a few are free on Kindle and a lot are quite cheap on there too. I've got the Kindle for Android app on my phone and the Kindle for PC app so I can read on there, but obviously it would be good to get a loan of the actual copies.

The next book on the list that I've started reading is Crime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, which is number 27 and is free on Kindle! Hooray!


The 100 Books are HERE.


Anyone care to join me?


Bookworm, apparently. And challenge?

Today I read The Jungle Book and Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.

One was pleasantly surprising, the other was surprisingly disappointing.

I didn't know anything about Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book apart from what I - and I assume everybody else - had seen in the Disney movie The Jungle Book. But what I discovered was that it's actually a set of short stories, set in and around India.

The first is the story that you think you know, about Mowgli the man-cub and Bagheera and Baloo, but is totally different from the animated movie! Apparently Baloo wasn't the dopey singing friend to Mowgli that Disney would have us think, but he was this really wise teacher who beat the living daylights out of him if he got something wrong. As did Bagheera.

But really, was a good set of stories. It's worth picking up, since it is four short stories you can just pick one since even though they are kind of connected, you don't need to know anything about the others to read one.

So given that that was my pleasantly surprising book, the surprisingly disappointing one has to be Alice In Wonderland.

Definitely expected a lot more from this book, I think I've spoiled myself with good writing in reading Anna Karenina for the past few months (and growing up on Jane Austen) so Alice In Wonderland just seemed like narration to go along with the film adaptations.

I just didn't feel anything for the characters, it was just a couple hundred pages of a little girl complaining and her surroundings changing drastically and nonsensically. "I'm too big, now I'm too little, now my neck's too big, now there's a mouse, now there's a fish, now there's a trial, now- ohp.. I'm awake, oh well."

I know you need to look at it in the context of the time it was written, but it just doesn't contend with the classics. It was and opium-fuelled piece of writing from what I've heard and it comes across. Really, it's like reading an acid trip that the person wrote during the come-down when they really couldn't be bothered.


On a side note, there's THIS LIST, that The Guardian have made, of the UK's best loved books. It's floating around Facebook as a BBC list that you're meant to only have read 6 of but I'm wondering how long it'd take to read every book on that list.

Obviously little books like today's two only take a couple of hours to finish, but something like Anna Karenina took me over two months to read!

I also don't know if I'd set a time on the challenge or not, or if just reading them all is a worthy goal! I know there's a 100 novels in 100 days challenge but that's for a novel of 270 pages (EASY), but the types of books on the list aren't mere novels (The Count of Monte Cristo is about 1800 pages)!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Tolstoy, you dog...

I finished reading Anna Karenina tonight. I started reading it on or around the 15th of September and my little Kindle app clicked over to 100% tonight.

It's one of the longest books I've read, with the possible exception of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and I'm so glad I read it.

The writing really is beautiful, I mean it's no wonder that Tolstoy is as praised as he is. But the actual story of it is just lovely. It makes you so happy and so sad and so curious and so confused and so involved with the characters.

When I was about two thirds of the way through one of my friends asked me what it was about and it was odd because I really couldn't answer him. Spoiling the story wasn't the problem, it was just that it didn't have this obvious template of "main character, side characters, plot, side story..." It's like he keeps you in suspense of what the story really is then only gives the game away at the last minute. He tricks you into thinking it's about something when actually it's not. It was just a pleasure to read though, and because you only really know the story of the book when you finish the last page it's quite impossible to write a blurb or an introduction that does it justice.

Anna Karenina is a character in the story, that's true, but you can't really say it's about her, and you can't really say it's not about her. It's set in Russia, in the late 19th century I think, and it's about different people. It's about love, but not in a "romance novel" kind of way, because it's also about class and society, and reality and jealousy, and aspirations, and family and faith, and work and marriage.

It's a book that everyone should read. I know it's ridiculously long but it's worth its 800-odd pages, and even though it is long and in-depth and detailed, and sometimes you're reading something and you don't know why such great detail has been gone into, but then you turn the page and you find out why what you just read was so important.

It's like when a friend tells you something inane that happened to them when they were little and it makes so much more clear about their personality.

You need it to be such a long book, and I actually kind of want to start over and read it all again, now that I know how it turns out - although I'm probably going to find myself a nice short book to read before I do that!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Sexy Claws Amnesia

It's 3 for two on Maybelline products in Boots the now so I got blusher, mascara and some free nail polish. It's Forever Strong Deep Red Pro with Calcium, Iron and Silica.

I think that means I can kill you with my fingernails, for an extended period of time.

Noticed that I do one of two things when I paint my nails (apart from never take the nail polish off, I always do that). I become forgetful in the stupidest ways. I either:

a) Forget that I've put nail polish on and end up with it all over my hoodie, bedcovers, laptop, phone, coat, pillows, socks and hair; or

b) I forget entirely how to use my fingers for about four hours as my brain has replaced the need to do ANYTHING with the fear that (a) might happen, so I am completely incapacitated. Even though every bottle I buy claims it'll be dry within 1, 2 or 3 minutes, my head still goes, 'ah but remember that time when you were fifteen and you bought that really cheap black nail polish and put on so much you could have laid down and made a nail polish angel in it the next day? STAY AWAY FROM EVERYTHING FOR YEARS'

6 reasons you need a hot water bottle.

Apart from the fact that they are the greatest creation known to humankind.

1. Minimum muscle use = hours of toasty warmth. "I thought both sides of an equation were meant to add up?!?!" I hear you say. Exactly. Intangible benefit my friend.

2. Provide, not only less, but ZERO bum-in-face action, unlike your your average pet cat, who, although warm, will take every opportunity to jump on your lap, turn round and stretch.

3. Whatever you leave it lying on becomes warm. Example you ask? Imagine lying all evening against a soft cushy pillow. Yes one side does become warmer, hence "flip to the cold side of the pillow", but imagine it's about minus 10 outside and you're lying against a hot water bottle which is on your pillow, and you decide you'd like the hot water bottle to heat up your front, OH MY GOD THE PILLOW IS SO WARM! NOW I'M WARM ON BOTH SIDES! See? Better.

4. Unlike Shania Twain's long list of disappointing men, hot water bottles do "keep me warm on the long, cold, lonely nights". Regrettably the don't cuddle you back, unlike that weird half a person-cushion that the Japanese invented, but the immeasurable happiness you obtain from a warm night's sleep nullifies this.That does impress me much. Uhn uhn, aw yeah yeah.

5. Pain relief. Deadly serious benefit now, the soothing effect produced is unbelievable, why waste £16.50 on a heat rub that makes you smell like smoky bacon when you can grab a hold of a hot water bottle?

6. What do dragons, radiators, fire, and acid have in common? All will burn you if you put your face on them. Hot water bottles will warm you up but NEVER BURN YOU. They know where the line lies and never cross it.





This post may or may not be inspired by the fact that the UK looked like this on Thursday: