Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Book meme No. Umptyfive.

May have done this, maybe not... but on the balance of probabilities, I think not (hopefully). So what if I'm happy to do endless numbers of book tags? At least it gets me posting and keeps this blog alive!

1. Favorite childhood book?
The Water Babies, by Charles Kingsley

2. What are you reading right now?
The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou

3. Bad book habit?
Reading while on the phone with someone and not concentrating on the conversation.

4. Do you have an e-reader?

5. Do you prefer to read one book at a time or several at once?
Several at once.

6. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Not really, other than including lots of blogs in my reading.

7. Least favorite book you read this year (so far)?
The Finkler Question, by Howard Jacobson

8. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
The Knife of Never Letting Go, by Patrick Ness. It’s supposedly teen fiction but oh boy, was it a riveting read or what! It’s actually the first of a trilogy (didn’t know that till I’d finished the book) so now I’m desperate to know how the story ends! Gotta get the other two…

9. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Reasonably often, especially with recommendations.

10. What is your reading comfort zone?
Fiction (bar M&B/Harlequin type romances and most chick-lit), some non-fiction (autobiographies, travel writing, biographies, etc)

11. Can you read on the bus?
Anywhere, any time.

12. Favorite place to read?
Anywhere, any time but best of all, curled up on the sofa at home.

13. What is your policy on book lending?

14. Do you ever dog-ear books?

15. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?

16. Not even with text books?

17. What is your favorite language to read in?
English is the only language I read in. Unless you include very slow German (and slow AND poorly comprehended) Hindi and Tamil.

18. What makes you love a book?
Plot, humour, writing style.

19. What inspires you to recommend a book?
When it’s so good that I regret finishing it.

20. Favorite genre?
Humourous fantasy (I’m thinking of you, Sir Terry…)

21. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Hard-core science fiction.

22. Favorite biography?
Keeping Mum, by Brian Thompson

23. Have you ever read a self-help book?

24. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Push, by Sapphire (made into the movie “Precious”, which I haven’t seen nor very likely to see).

25. Favorite reading snack?
Indian snacks (spicy, crunchy, savoury).

26. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience
A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth. Hype plus the fact that it was written with the West in mind.

27. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
Depends on whether or not they agree with my opinion. :)

28. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
Regretful, but firm. If it’s bad, it’s bad.

29. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
Japanese. WHAT an achievement that would be!

30. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
A Brief History of Time, by Stephen Hawking.

31. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Not nervous, exactly, just unwilling – Why Evolution is True, by Jerry Coyne.

32. Favorite poet?
John Keats.

33. Favorite fictional character?
Nanny Ogg.

34. Favorite fictional villain?

35. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Anything that I would normally read.

36. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
I dunno… a few hours, perhaps.

37. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
War & Peace – Leo Tolstoy

38. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Easily? Nothing. With difficulty – people yelling at me to stop and get some work done.

39. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
I guess it would have to be Gone With The Wind, now that I’ve finally kinda sorta come to terms with Rhett Butler played by that jug-eared chap.

40. Most disappointing film adaptation?
To Kill a Mockingbird, but only because it left out such large chunks of the book. No complaints at all whatsoever against Gregory Peck playing Atticus Finch. He was perfect.

41. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
Ack. Don’t want to think about it.

42. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
I skim books before borrowing them from the library.

43. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Bad writing. It would probably stop me after a few pages, though. I doubt I would get as far as halfway.  

44. Do you like to keep your books organized?
I’d LIKE to, but my organizational skills are somewhat pathetic.

45. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
Keep ‘em, mostly, especially those I buy new. Once in a while I cull the trashy ones (bought at charity shops) and donate them back to where they came from.

46. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
Nothing in particular within the genres I normally read.

47. Name a book that made you angry.
Push, by Sapphire.

48. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
(Years and years ago when I was 12 or something) – Kim, by Rudyard Kipling

49. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
The Imperial Agent, by Timeri Murari. He’s a good enough writer (going by his newspaper columns) but nowhere near Kipling by light years.

50. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
All my reading is guilt-free and done for pleasure.

(Umm Oviya, you are tagged!)

Anybody else interested in doing the meme, please feel free to hijack it!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Don't count on me when it comes to Italian numbers

I’ve got to counting in Italian now, and I can’t really imagine ever wanting to say numbers over 100 in Italian - or write them out in words, for that matter. There’s a very good reason for this reluctance – they become super-long goods-trainish compound words that you can’t break up because them’s the Italian rules, miei amici (my friends)! (I hope!)

A random three-digit number, say, 555 – cinquecentocinquantacinque (phonetic pronunciation - "chinkweh-chento chinkwanta chinkweh".

A random 4-digit number – 3257 – tremiladuecentocinquantasette ("thray-meela dooeh-chento chinkwanta-setteh")

I derive a childish satisfaction out of saying the numbers out loud, simply because it's fun to do so - as long as I'm never verbally tested on them without due warning. I'd hate to take dictation on these, I can tell you! If I was learning Italian in a proper classroom, I have no doubt that I’d be blinking like an owl if I was ever asked to translate random numbers out loud without writing them down first.  

I’ve no idea what 10,000 is in Italian (maybe diecimila? literally ten-thousand, but I'm not sure), and I’m not certain I want to find out. But I guess I will, eventually, like it or not.

And they think German has long compound words...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Can anyone explain a mac?

What is the point of a mac (short for macintosh)? I mean the garment, not the computer. I understand it is something like a raincoat but more formal looking, single or double-breasted, usually with a belt. It might be "shower proof", but if the mac doesnt have a hood to keep the rain off one's head, what is the point in wearing it at all? A hood-free mac will not do much to keep clothes dry, because the rain will most certainly drip down your hair and face and neck and wet whatever you're wearing. So why bother with a mac? Is it just a meaningless fashion statement? Or is it some kind of a British tradition, for who knows what arcane reason?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Io amo la lingua italiana

There is something about the cadence and flow of the Italian language - the "feel" of the words on my tongue when I speak, the musicality of the words that I hear, the rrrrrrolling of the rrrrs that is so much fun - that pleases my heart and soul and vocal cords...

For loving or for fighting, Italian is so very much sweeter than that supposedly "most romantic" language, French.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Here's to the Johnny Knoxville and the Jackasses!

Saw “Jackass - 3D” yesterday and I can’t remember the last time I laughed hard enough for my stomach to hurt. That said, while I had to fight off cramps caused by laughing, there were also moments when I got the dry-heaves at the thought of what was happening on screen. (I couldn’t watch – I would definitely have yarked up dinner if I’d so much as peeked.)

For those of you who (sensibly?) have never seen Jackass the TV series and don’t know what it’s about - basically, it’s a bunch of guys (including a dwarf and a grossly overweight man) behaving like... well, like jackasses. There’s no storyline at all, either to the TV show or to the “movies” – it’s just a series of ridiculous, horrifying, stomach-churning, gut-wrenchingly OTT pranks and practical jokes. So much of it is about testing the limits of physical pain and endurance, not to mention taking bad taste to unprecedented depths (sometimes literally). There are no women in this show, but that’s no surprise if you ask me. I cannot imagine any woman subjecting herself willingly to such pointless physical pain and tomfoolery.

I say pointless, but there IS a point – entertainment. While the show is all that I’ve described and more in the way of nauseating antics, it’s also hilarious. Sometimes I find myself wanting not to laugh, but I end up laughing anyway, from sheer shock. Why is it funny to watch men deliberately put themselves in the way of pain and bruises? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the fact that most of the time they choose to do what they do despite knowing that they’ll end up hurt. Sometimes they don’t know what hits them (literally), sometimes they know what’s coming.

There’s a lot of laddish yuckiness – farting, vomiting, pissing, violence which involves being hit in the privates, testing the boundaries of the most revolting things one can experience (being covered in dog shit, anybody?) and so on. But 99% of the time, whether they’ve been ambushed by the others, or been through the wringer by choice, the Jackasses end up laughing – no matter how painful the experience they’ve just been through. If they can laugh at themselves and see the joke in pretty much everything, why should we not laugh at them?

I must confess that I did not think I had it in myself to enjoy Jackass. It's so diametrically opposite to good taste and cultured pursuits. I would have considered it beneath my dignity, thought it compromising of my good taste, and other such prissy sentiments. It’s really not like me to enjoy such crude humour as Jackass provides. At least, that is what I would have said, had I been able to do so without knowing myself for a hypocrite. The fact is, I DO like it; therefore, it stands to reason that crude humour MUST be like me. My only saving grace is that subtle, witty, intelligent humour is also very much to my taste.

There is one other major reason I like Jackass – the lead Jackass, Johnny Knoxville. He’s good looking the way Jim Carrey is good looking. (I’m a big fan of Jim Carrey.) And oh man, is he in superb physical shape or what. Then again, he has to be fit to withstand the sort of physical trauma he puts himself through.

Note: Click on the link in the first paragraph to read the Guardian interview with Johnny Knoxville.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

And the correct answer is...?

I have a small problem when people greet me with a perfunctory “You orright?” (or just “Orright?”) - I don't know what to say. "You orright" does not really give me a chance to enquire after them, instead forcing me to merely smile or reply with an inane “Yes thanks”.

How DO you respond to “Orright” (suggestions pls)?

Also: How do YOU respond to “Orright” (answers pls) - assuming you get asked the question. It probably doesn't happen outside of the UK.

*Orright = “all right” spelt phonetically

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Drifting eyes (and empty sockets?)

Is it just me, or is the sentence "Her eyes drifted slowly to my pocket" touched with just the teensiest shade of the macabre? Personally - and this is just my opinion - I'd much have preferred her gaze to drift, rather than her eyes. (Were the scene set in Zero Gravity circumstances, my preference would still remain the same.)

Just sayin'...

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Sunday Scribblings – “Intense”

Ever since I mentioned to Pete that I wanted to visit the US around mid-to-late October - preferably the New England states - to see the Fall colours because they’re more beautiful there, he’s been on a personal mission to convert me to the glories of autumn in the UK. Basically, every time we pass a tree with any hint of colour other than brown, he makes sure to point it out to me. Mostly, he does it to annoy me (it works) because he knows perfectly well that he’s preaching to the converted on this issue. I love autumn in the UK, because I think the countryside – especially in Shropshire - looks beautiful this time of year. The autumn colours have been especially pretty this year, the colours more intense and a bit more varied than I remember from last year or the year before that.

That said, my mind has been set on seeing the Fall colours in the States ever since I laid eyes on the spectacular photographs that my sister sent when she first moved to the USA. The trees were absolutely glowing with jewel-coloured leaves and the ground was carpeted in them too - red, pink, orange, yellow, scarlet, rust, brown and every variation on those hues.

Apart from the glorious colours, the sheer novelty of trees clad in such intense colours was stunning, because I’d only ever seen trees in the tropics (all variations of green, and in Madras, all variations of green with an overcoat of dingy brown dust) at that point.

In the UK, as my mother-in-law pointed out recently, the different varieties of trees in the countryside mean that they do not turn colour uniformly or at the same time. Also, there are lots more evergreens (at least in Shropshire) which don't turn any sort of colour. (In spring, though, the dark green older branches are tipped with the most tenderly bright green new leaves - how I love that!)

The predominant colour in the trees here is yellow. They range from mustard to golden to lemon with shades of brown - all lovely, I admit. There are of course some trees (but never in concentrated numbers) which sport glorious shades of orange, rust and red. Pete NEVER tires of pointing them out and saying "See? We too have trees that turn red and orange".

And me, I never tire of saying to him "Yes, I see a single tree and yes it is gorgeous. Now show me a hillside or a wood full of trees just like this and I will concede that the Fall colours US trip is unnecessary."

He hasn't been able to, yet.