Saturday, January 31, 2009

Maximum Impact

Just finished this one, originally the author posted it as an e-book and it got such a good reception, it was then published. It starts off with a look at 9/11 and then gets very geeky, which is good for me. A well written thriller, fast paced and easy to read.
Not exactly high brow stuff, but good escapism if you like nerdy stuff and conspiracy ideas.

Monday, January 26, 2009


Just finished this and it is not the normally a book I would have picked up but someone passed it to me, so I gave it a go. It is very well constructed and kept me interested throughout. It is the story of The Wicked Witch of the West (as in Wizard of Oz) told more or less from her perspective, and follows her story from her birth until her encounter with Dorothy. Well worth a read.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Still alive

After chatting to a friend, I have decided to reactivate this blog which I have not updated in ages. I will be posting some reviews of books as I read them, and also writing about events in the literature world.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

No regular updates

Having changed country and job, I have not found the time to work on his blog as often as I did previously. Hopefully when I get myself more established here, I will get to post some more stuff.

I am still reading and making notes on books, so I will try to upload those another day.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Internet connection problems

I have been having serious internet connection issues, and so have not been posting as much recently as I did a while ago. I will try to update this blog more regularly over the next few weeks.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle dies at age of 88

Madeleine L'Engle, the author of A Wrinkle in Time has died. I have not read any of her stuff, but will have a look for this book as the name keeps popping up and sounds quite interesting.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Summer reviews

Below is a summary of my summer reading - it is very bitty and does not read well, as it was written over a period of time.


Just finished The Tempest by William Shakespeare (my absolute favouritest Shakespeare play), as part of a Shakespeare challenge I joined ages ago.

It is set on an island where Prospero the Duke of Milan, who was overthrown by his brother and courtiers and then set adrift on the high seas with his baby daughter. He has been living on the island with his daughter, Miranda and a nasty piece of work, Caliban, who has been their servant for about 12 years. There is also Ariel, a fairy, who helps Prospero. It reminds me in some ways of A MidSummer Night's Dream, but it is as if Prospero is an older Oberon and Ariel is an older Puck.

At the start of the play there is a shipwreck created by Ariel at Prospero's orders and on the ship are Alonso, Gonzalo, Ferdinand etc - all of them are from Milan, and most of them Prospero's enemies. All the main characters are shipwrecked, as a result of the storm caused by Ariel at Prospero's bidding, but are safe as the latter has plans for them. They are scattered around the island in small groups and are unaware that there are any other survivors - remind you of Lost?

Eventually they all come together when Prospero wants them to and all's well that ends well (but that's another story).


Currently I am in France where I am working in the house (10 years after buying it), I am now doing lots of decoration and maintenance work. Today I prepared the bedroom wall for a coat of special paint tomorrow, fitted a shower spray, WD40'd the shutters and the car doors, took down a few light fittings and cleaned the year of dust from them, in short, lots of little jobs, each of which takes 30-40 minutes.. On Monday (25th June) I am off to the second house we have just bought, to see what needs to be done there.

Reading Mother Tongue, The English Language by Bill Bryson which is absolutely fascinating. It deals with the arrival of language in prehistoric times and the reasons behind the success of English as a global language - in spite of its many linguistic quirks and foibles. It is very much in the style of Bill Bryson, but is erudite nonetheless, and very entertaining. It is packed full of useful pieces of information as well as being very entertaining too.

It is one of those books I hate as it is so funny you want to share his wit with those around you, so I constantly stop reading to read out his witticisms to my better half, much to her annoyance. If you have read any BB before and have any interest in the origins of the English language, but do not want a dry academic tome, then this is one for you - it is one of those books I wish I had 20 copies of so that I could pass them to people I know would like it, as I like to share.


Reading The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare - one of his less well known plays, but one I read years and years ago and really enjoyed. I am reading this as part of a Shakespeare challenge I signed up for on someone's blog ages ago, but unfortunately I am unable to get online to check who. The play is a bit slow at the beginning but from what I remember of it, the main part of the story is really enjoyable. Have now finished it and the play was just as good as I remembered - not one of his most popular plays and not often dramatised, but it is one of the plays I prefer. I tend to prefer the plays he wrote when he was older as they have more depth to them, unfortunately they tend to be the plays that people do not read or see performed as they are not considered "classics". The play has standard themes, but is usual that the middle of the play we are introduced to a whole new set f characters 16 years later and then the end ties everything together.

Here I have a dial up connection and for the last two days the phone line has been out - hence no connection, and even when there is a phone line it is so slow that I cannot do much online. Even when I have a phone conversation, the line is dropped on average 2 or 3 times, and the call gets disconnected, so imagine the frustration trying to surf t'interweb for any length of time! So although I am writing these things to post in the blog, they may not be online for ages. This is one of the problems of living in the mountains - but there is wi-fi in the village but as I am not here most of the year, it is not worth signing up for an annual subscription, so I put up with the crappy modem service. I will investigate the wi-fi option when I get back in a week or so and see if it is possible to sign up on a shorter contract, but I doubt it will be possible.

Just watched Death pf a President whch was very good. It was very well made and in my opinion was a major development of the mashups done about Dubya several years ago, eg his State of the Union speech. It worked really well and the cutups were very slick - they have been done in other movies before such as Zelig, by Woody Allen and Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid with Steve Martin (before his career went down the pan, IMHO)

It is a fictionalised account/documentary about President Bush being assassinated. It uses real footage of GW Bush so that the lines between reality and fiction are very blurred - at times you feel as if you are watching CNN, or a news story on TV, instead of watching a DVD. A very clever movie - two thumbs up. I particularly like it as it uses cut up techniques that I have been enjoying in the last years by such guys as Eclectic Method, Osymyso etc for political video mashups - check out some on my other site here. Video mashup is the logical extension of bastard pop, and

I have also just returned from the new house which needs more work than I thought, so I knocked out 4 walls and opened up a beautiful original wooden staircase which had been boxed in, and will return in about a week or so to do some more work on it with some other guys - there will be a paying guest there on the 11th August, so it will have to be ready for that. Kitchen, floor sofas and beds have been ordered, and will be delivered around the middle of July, but before then we have to get the plastering, rewiring of electrics and loads of other stuff done.


03-08-07 The stuff has all arrived and I am now going t be back there in a few days and will see what progress the guys have made. I will try to post from there as the connection here has been atrocious and I have not even thought about uploading as the speed is so slow.

Current reads

Notes from a Small Island - Bill Bryson
Life of Pi - Yann Martel
Andy Mc Nabb - Dark Winter

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Back online

Here I am now in Kazakhstan, and online again. I will post some reviews and thoughts what I typed up over the summer, maybe tomorrow.

I will also try to update the site and finish the changes I planned before the summer.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bookstore owner burns books in protest

I saw this story on CNN, and it made me feel so sad, then angry:

"Bookstore owner burns books in protest
May 28, 2007

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) -- Tom Wayne has amassed thousands of books in a warehouse during the 10 years he has run his used book store, Prospero's Books.

His collection ranges from best sellers, such as Tom Clancy's "The Hunt for Red October" and Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities," to obscure titles, like a bound report from the Fourth Pan-American Conference held in Buenos Aires in 1910. But when he wanted to thin out the collection, he found he couldn't even give away books to libraries or thrift shops; they said they were full.

So on Sunday, Wayne began burning his books in protest of what he sees as society's diminishing support for the printed word.

"This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today," Wayne told spectators outside his bookstore as he lit the first batch of books.

The fire blazed for about 50 minutes before the Kansas City Fire Department put it out because Wayne didn't have a permit for burning.

Wayne said next time he will get a permit. He said he envisions monthly bonfires until his supply -- estimated at 20,000 books -- is exhausted.

"After slogging through the tens of thousands of books we've slogged through, and to accumulate that many and to have people turn you away when you take them somewhere, it's just kind of a knee-jerk reaction," he said. "And it's a good excuse for fun."

Wayne said he has seen fewer customers in recent years as people more often get their information from television or the Internet. He pointed to a 2002 study by the National Endowment for the Arts, that found that less than half of adult respondents reported reading for pleasure, down from almost 57 percent in 1982.

Kansas City has seen the number of used bookstores decline in recent years, and there are few independent bookstores left in town, said Will Leathem, a co-owner of Prospero's Books.

"There are segments of this city where you go to an estate sale and find five TVs and three books," Leathem said.

The idea of burning the books horrified Marcia Trayford, who paid $20 Sunday to carry away an armload of tomes on art, education and music.

"I've been trying to adopt as many books as I could," she said.

Dozens of other people took advantage of the book-burning, searching through the books waiting to go into the flames for last-minute bargains."

Shades of Fahrenheit 451, but a book lover forced to start the fires - even more sad. I love the image of someone adopting books, and I agree with the blame being on TV.

Check out these lyrics: from Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy - Television, Drug of a Nation, at least the bold section about book reading, although all the lyrics are worth reading:

" one nation
under God
has turned into
one nation under the influence
of one drug

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

T.V., it
satellite links
our United States of Unconsciousness
Apathetic therapeutic and extremely addictive
The methadone metronome pumping out
150 channels 24 hours a day
you can flip through all of them
and still there's nothing worth watching
T.V. is the reason why less than 10 per cent of our
Nation reads books daily
Why most people think Central Amerika
means Kansas
Socialism means unamerican
and Apartheid is a new headache remedy

absorbed in it's world it's so hard to find us
It shapes our mind the most
maybe the mother of our Nation
should remind us
that we're sitting too close to...

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

T.V. is
the stomping ground for political candidates
Where bears in the woods
are chased by Grecian Formula'd
bald eagles
T.V. is mechanized politic's
remote control over the masses
co-sponsored by environmentally safe gases
watch for the PBS special
It's the perpetuation of the two party system
where image takes precedence over wisdom
Where sound bite politics are served to
the fastfood culture
Where straight teeth in your mouth
are more important than the words
that come out of it
Race baiting is the way to get selected
Willie Horton or
Will he not get elected on...

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

T.V., is it the reflector or the director?
Does it imitate us
or do we imitate it
because a child watches 1500 murders before he's
twelve years old and we wonder why we've created
a Jason generation that learns to laugh
rather than to abhor the horror
T.V. is the place where
armchair generals and quarterbacks can
experience first hand
the excitement of warfare
as the theme song is sung in the background
Sugar sweet sitcoms
that leave us with a bad actor taste while
pop stars metamorphosize into soda pop stars
You saw the video
You heard the soundtrack
Well now go buy the soft drink
Well, the onla cola that I support
would be a union C.O.L.A.(Cost Of Living Allowance)
On television

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

Back again, "New and improved"
We return to our irregularly programmed schedule
hidden cleverly between heavy breasted
beer and car commercials
Where oxymoronic language like
"virtually spotless", "fresh frozen"
"light yet filling" and "military intelligence"
have become standard
T.V. is the place where phrases are redefined
like "recession" to "necessary downturn"
"Crude oil" on a beach to "mousse"
"Civilian death" to "collateral damages"
and being killed by your own Army
is now called "friendly fire"
T.V. is the place where the pursuit
of happiness has become the pursuit of
Where toothpaste and cars have become
sex objects
Where imagination is sucked out of children
by a cathode ray nipple
T.V. is the only wet nurse
that would create a cripple

Television, the drug of the Nation
Breeding ignorance and feeding radiation

Let me know if you want a video link for this track.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Blog is under redevelopment

Please come back later when I have added all the links again as I have decided to have a change of blog style. Comments welcome - the all white seems too clinical to me, I might mess around with different colours later.

I will try to add all the links again over the next few days.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Harry Potter theme park

Just found this story on CNN - apparently they are creating a Harry Potter theme park in the States. I hope it is a success as far as I am concerned, anything that gets kids reading is great news.

It should be interesting to see how that turns out over the first few years of its opening.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Borat travel guide

According to CNN, Borat is to go into print. He is writing a travel book about travel tips for both USA and also Kazakhstan ("Borat: Touristic Guidings to Minor Nation of U.S. and A." and "Borat: Touristic Guidings to Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.")

It is to be released in hardback, but there was no release date mentioned.

I am sure that this will create a few more upsets when it is published, in the same way that the movie did.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Harry Potter gets posted

In UK there has been a decision to release a special series of stamps showing the covers of all seven books. Apparently the books in the series have sold a total of 325 milion copies worldwide - that is a lot of books!

It looks like Potter mania is going to hit UK again this summer.


"Britain's Royal Mail is issuing a series of seven stamps depicting the covers of the best-selling "Harry Potter" books just before the final volume goes on sale.

Millions of the stamps will be issued on July 17 as part of the post office's tradition of celebrating "social themes and important occasions central to our way of life," said Julietta Edgar, who is in charge of special stamps at Royal Mail.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" goes on sale July 21.

"There's no doubt that J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels, published in dozens of languages worldwide, have made a phenomenal impact on our reading habits," Edgar said. "

I also found this interesting article from the Economic Times of India, and although it is a bit old, the ideas are fascinating.

It looks at the globalisation and marketing of HP, and is well worth a look.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Radio 4

I have been listening to BBC Radio 4 a lot on the MacBook and have just listened to their Classic serial (Tom Jones), followed by Open book.

Great stuff, but it means that I am not reading as much. I had forgotten how good Radio 4 was. And I never realised how easy it was to set it up on the Mac, a few clicks and it was running.

Very cool.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Apologies and moving on

Just a short post to say that I am still alive, but I think that posts here will become ever more erratic as I am moving on from UAE and so am in the middle of packing up my whole life into boxes.

I hate this time of year, and the stage I am at here with moving on, saying farewell to friends etc.

It is a very sad time, but also quite liberating as you can make a fresh start.

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