One suggestion that's been sitting in my suggestion box for quite some time is that I write an entry on America. Now, this was such a broad suggestion, so I never really knew what to write, but I've decided now to simply make an entry about all American things that I like.
Firstly, my internet friends! I have three internet friends who live in America: Riley Barlow, Devna Desai and Iris Martinez. I always enjoy chatting to the three of them because, well, they're nice people! Furthermore, since they are all roughly the same age as me, I'm able to get nice insights into how things would be different if I lived in America as opposed to England. Admittedly, I don't speak with them all that often, but I still value them highly!
Secondly, there are several TV shows which I really like which all originate in America. There's The Waltons which is, potentially, my favourite TV show and is about a family living through the 1930s and 1940s, and during the first five years focuses on the family's attractive, intelligent, kind, endearing, agreeable eldest son John-Boy and his attempts as an amateur writer. There's also Friends, a sit-com which, I'm pretty sure everybody will be rather familiar with! I also rather enjoy Futurama (about a regular guy named Phillip Fry finding himself in the future), it is by far my favourite animated comedy series due to the fact that, rather than being silly all the time, it occasionally takes the time to be serious. Recently I've also started watching The Big Bang Theory and it too is quickly becoming one of my favourite shows, mostly due to Sheldon Cooper! There's also House (how couldn't I like something based on Sherlock Holmes?) and I've already mentioned my thoughts on Star Trek.
Finally, I'd also like to mention a couple of American authors I like. First, Earl Hamner (I've reviewed some of his books before) whose novels are what led to the creation of The Waltons (which he also played a significant role in, behind the scenes)! I'm also a pretty big fan of H. P. Lovecraft and the ideas behind his stories: basically his stories are set in a very unhappy universe were humans are utterly insignificant and could be casually wiped out by the squabbles between ancient alien beings at any time.
But yes, those are my favourite American things! Oh, plus, it's quite nice that Coca Cola with Vanilla is still available in the USA. I decided against mentioning films or music because most films are American made so there'd be too many, and music-wise I don't usually tend to like specific artists a lot, it tends more to be a few songs from a variety of people. But anyway, that's my American entry done!
While writing an English Literature essay the other day, I realise there are quite a few parallels between Oscar Wilde's play The Importance of Being Earnest and Robert Lewis Stephenson's book Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
In The Importance of Being Earnest, the character John Worthing creates a false identity for himself known as Earnest. While John is dishonest and deceitful when he is Earnest he is good (or at least has a better reputation). As Earnest, he gets engaged to a woman and he decided to tell her he is actually John Worthing and stop the whole charade. However, before John makes any confession, his fiancé tells him that she is in love with him mainly because his first name is 'Earnest' which, of course, causes problems for him. At the end, he decides to become Earnest wholly, giving up the bad things he does in his life and realises the importance of being Earnest (both the person, and the quality. Get it? It's very punny!).
Meanwhile, in Jekyll and Hyde, Henry Jekyll begins to feel troubled by inner turmoil, or, more specifically, bad inclinations and good inclinations. As such, Henry creates a potion which he hopes will supress his badness. Unfortunately, the potion brings into existence Mr Hyde, a wholly evil person. Hyde begins to become the dominant persona and Jekyll struggles to 'come back' after Hyde has taken over. In the end, he either kills himself/both of them or becomes wholly Hyde.
So look at the two stories like this: In Earnest, a bad man creates a good persona for himself and in the end decides it would be best to be solely him and gives up his bad life. In Jekyll and Hyde, a good man (or, at least, an average man) creates a bad persona for himself (inadvertently) by a potion. In the end, the new person takes over and he becomes only Hyde. In both cases, the original person is gone and the new persona becomes dominant, and in both cases, it seems to be the bad person making the decision at the end. It just seems that each story is the reverse of the other. I thought that was a little interesting.
In his Poetics, Aristotle decides to describe just what is is that make humans appreciate works of art (particularly fiction) and what it is that makes a good story. These writings may be thousands of years old, but it's still very understandable and enjoyable. Many of his ideas are very clever and give rather satisfactory explanations for people's desire to write and read. The idea of art as imitation, mimesis, stems from here. Furthermore, this gives several arguments into the 'value of art' side of philosophy, and it's always interesting to gain more philosophic knowledge. I also think that anybody who likes to write stories recreationally will really enjoy this book because of his explanations of how to structure good plots and may give some inspiration.
However, one downside to this useful little book is that, it having been written thousands of years ago, all of the references to fiction which Aristotle makes to back up his points are from Ancient Greek plays which, today, are somewhat obscure meaning that these references will be lost on a lot of modern readers. Furthermore, this book is very short indeed (only fifty pages, not including all the 'special features' which are included in the Penguin Classics range) so you might not feel it's worth the cost of a full book.
Still, on the whole, an interesting little book: 8.1/10
(buy it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Poetics-Penguin-Classics-Aristotle/dp/0140446362/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329140975&sr=8-1)
In a recent English Literature seminar that I had, we were talking about emotions in fiction and it made me think about just why we like certain things. Why, for example, do we enjoy a story which is really sad? Or one which is very frightening? My conclusion was, that human beings feel pleasure from every single emotion that they feel, even the bad ones.
It's quite easy to demonstrate that humans get pleasure out of feeling some emotions (like happiness) but it becomes a little difficult to say that about others (like sadness). My theory is that, even feeling sadness, paradoxically, gives us pleasure, I believe humans get pleasure from all emotions, but usually the feeling of sadness happens at the same time as something bad so we don't get a chance to enjoy it, so we like the feeling of sadness, we just don't like the lost friend (or whatever it is that's making us sad) and it outweighs that pleasure of emotion so much that we don't realise it at all.
My seminar teacher summed up my theory quite well by saying "so art is life with a safety net?" and that is pretty much exactly my point. Art allows us to feel sad, but without actually doing something which affects our lives at the same time and so allowing us to enjoy the feeling.
_ Today, for the first non-Christmas entry I've decided to write another book review. Although, a little bit ironically, the book is a Christmas short story anthology which I've read over the last month, making this entry slightly Christmassy too. This book, Doctor Who- Short Trips: A Christmas Treasury, has quite a nice mixture of stories, ranging from very serious ones to very silly ones, all of them, of course, using characters from Doctor Who (which just happens to be one of my favourite TV series!) I'll write a brief little something about every story in this collection now:
Last Christmas by Simon Guerrier: 8/10
The Seventh Doctor visits an old friend of his every Christmas... It's quite a gloomy story really, but still, quite an interesting one. A nice start to the anthology.
UNIT Christmas Parties: First Christmas by Nick Wallace: 8.2/10
The next story is a slightly better one. This one is definitely more Christmassy feeling than the first one too. In this one The Third Doctor spends his first Christmas day on Earth after being trapped there and, well, I think it's quite nice, especially the ending.
In the TARDIS: Christmas Day by Val Douglas: 8.1/10
This is a fun little poem about how Christmas day is spent on the TARDIS with The Fifth Doctor and his companions. It's quite amusing really, and a parody of the famous 'In the workhouse: Christmas Day' poem.
Water's Edge by Peter Adamson: 6.4/10
The Sixth Doctor is involved with the real life Tangiwai train crash of Christmas 1953. It's not really Christmassy at all, and very grim really. It's not bad, but it's not overly fun either.
A Yuletide Tale: Part One by Dave Stone: 6/10
As story about a cat named Tom in he appears to be trying to survive in Victorian London during an alien invasion. It's not bad, but a little boring. The TARDIS appears at the very end and this story is continued in part two.
Spookasm by Peter Anghelides: 4/10
This is the only story in the whole anthology that I would call bad. The story is about a little girl visiting a theme park and The Seventh Doctor makes a few small appearances. Some alien or something is planning on using the girl or something and... Well, it just isn't very good, and it doesn't really need to be in a Christmas anthology either, the only link to the festive season is that the girl's birthday is 25th December.
Christmas Special by Marc Platt: 8/10
This is a rather meta and bizarre story featuring The Sixth Doctor entering the world of television and learning that his show might be cancelled. There are lots of references to the real life factors in Doctor Who's cancellation, which are fun to spot if you know them, and the strangeness of the story makes it rather fun to read.
Never Seen Cairo by Darren Sellers: 8.5/10
This is another rather sad story: The Fifth Doctor visits the football playing truce of World War 1 and makes a new friend. This is a very good story though, and one of the best 'serious' stories in this anthology.
The Man Who (Nearly) Killed Christmas by Mark Michalowski: 9.2/10
This story was my favourite one in the anthology! Favourite story that is, there's a poem later on that's better than it. The Second Doctor has a little adventure with Santa Claus and, well, it's just a wonderfully written piece of festive fun!
Last Minute Shopping by Neil Perryman: 8.9/10
This one is another jolly yuletide story, The Fifth Doctor and his companions decide to do some Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve, with some rather humorous results. The funniest parts of this story are the bits that show Turlough and The Doctor failing to fit into normal society due to their being so otherworldly.
Every Day by Stephen Fewell: 8.5/10
The First Doctor and his companions land in a house where it really is Christmas every day... It's quite an interesting story really, and all the characters are presented perfectly. Plus, it gets a good mixture of comedy and drama.
The Eight Doctors of Christmas by Matthew Griffiths: 8/10
A parody of the poem The Twelve Days of Christmas (in case it wasn't obvious from the title). It's quite fun to read, though a couple of the lines seem to me as if they don't quite fit.
The Little Things by Paul Beardsley: 8/10
Back when the TARDIS could transform to fit into its surroundings, a woman accidentally posted a Christmas card into it when it looked like a post box, years later The Fourth Doctor and Romana find this letter and decide to deliver it. This story is quite funny, a jolly Christmas romp. Plus, this story is the first of several crazy Fourth Doctor and Romana adventures, so you have more of these to look forward to afterward.
Beep the Meep's Grundian Egg Nog, The Brig's Brandy Butter, The Game of Rassilon, Animus, Zarbi and Menoptra, Camilla's O-Negative Mulled Wine and Mrs Baddeley's Mini Christmas Pudding Truffles 7/10
These are all separate things in the book, and none of them are stories. Each of them is a Doctor Who related recipe or game. Animus, Zarbi and Menoptra seems to be the most fun of all of them.
UNIT Christmas Parties: Christmas Truce by Terrance Dicks: 9/10
Another story set while The Third Doctor was trapped on Earth, this story also has The Master in it! I won't spoil what happens, but it's a very good, very sweet story! One of the best in the book.
The Clanging Chimes of Doom by Jonathan Morris: 8/10
This one seems to me like it's a sequel to The Little Things. Another funny story about The Fourth Doctor and Romana. The Doctor decides to start collecting autographs, and so he visits the recording of 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' it's not a particularly Christmassy story, but a good one nonetheless.
On Being Five by Jo Fletcher: 7/10
A nice little nostalgic poem about the writer's experience of watching Doctor Who as a young child. Not too bad.
Perfect Present by Andy Campbell: 8.5/10
Somewhat creepy story about The Seventh Doctor ridding an old house of ghosts in the early 1900s. The story has a rather nice twist to it as well... Plus, it's a race against time too; he needs to get it all done before the next day: Christmas!
Present Tense by Ian Potter 9/10
This is the best Fourth Doctor and Romana story. The two of them exchange gifts on Christmas day, unfortunately, The Doctor’s outlandish gift causes some kind of damage by being pulled out of time. This one’s funny and nice at the same time.
Goodwill Toward Men by J. Shaun Lyon: 8.5/10
Another great story about The Second Doctor. He has his companions Jamie and Zoe with him this time too. It isn't quite as good as the earlier Second Doctor story, but it's still very enjoyable. Here he visits a homeless shelter on Christmas Eve to do some charitable work, and one of his companions learns a valuable lesson!
It's a Lovely Day Tomorrow by Martin Day: 8/10
The Fourth Doctor and Leela inadvertently interfere with The Homeguard’s training during Christmas time. Quite an enjoyable read, and a more serious story for the Fourth Doctor after the other three more jokey ones.
All Our Christmases by Steve Lyons: 9/10
This is a very good story dealing with how people would use time travel if they had access to it. The Doctor plays a fairly small part in this story, and I'm not entirely sure which one it's supposed to be, but I think it's The First Doctor. This story is also extremely meta as well, as a large part of the story has a character describing Doctor Who to The Doctor!
Lily by Jackie Marshall: 7.9/10
The Fifth Doctor visits Sarah Jane Smith, at a much later point in her life, around Christmas time. While there, he meets her granddaughter Lily. Nothing much really happens, but I like it for being very relatably Christmassy. Plus, I do quite like the character Lily, I wonder if she's in anything else?
A Yuletide Tale: Part 2 by Dave Stone: 7/10
The conclusion to A Yuletide Tale. It's better than the first part, and has The Seventh Doctor and Ace in it. It's better than part one, and fairly funny too.
...Be Forgot by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright: 8.9/10
The Eighth Doctor visits Bernice Summerfield at Christmas time. Now, I don't know very much about Bernice Summerfield, but this story wants me to read some of the spin-off books about her; it's a very good story.
The Feast of Seven, Eight (and Nine) by Vanessa Bishop: 10/10
A hilarious poem about all of the Doctors having a Christmas party together. I was laughing all the way through! It's the best thing in the book, in my opinion, which is why I have given it a 10/10, but anybody unfamiliar with Doctor Who would get no joy from this poem at all.
UNIT Christmas Parties: Ships That Pass by Karen Dunn: 9/10
Another more serious Fourth Doctor story, and it's mainly about his companions Sarah and Harry. The two of them are in an explosion and think they're likely to die and, well, the little conversations they have to comfort each other are very well written. Overall a very good story.
Evergreen by Stephen Cole 5/10
I didn't get this story. I gave it a 5/10 because I don't know what was going on in it. There are so many Doctor Who books and characters and everything, it's probably dealing with a section of the Whoniverse I'm unfamiliar with... So it must be very obscure. Not all that entertaining either.
The average score of this book seems quite low to me though, as I enjoyed it more than that! My only problem with the story is that each of The Doctors didn't seem to be equally used... But it was a fun and enjoyable read nonetheless, especially around the Christmas season.
(buy it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-Treasury-Doctor-Who-Short/dp/1844351122/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325527242&sr=8-1)
Oh my goodness, this might be my longest entry! Short story anthologies take a while to review I guess.
As mentioned in both of the two previous posts, today's entry will be a follow up to my review of A Clockwork Orange. Specifically, today's entry will be two original theories of mine about the Nadsat language used in it.
My first theory is that the Nadsat language is not actually a mainstream thing and that the only person who speaks it is Alex; I think this, in a way, makes him more likeable. If Alex really were so insane that he talks in some gibberish language that he invented, then really it'd be quite clear that he isn't fully responsible for his crimes and that he just did it out of insanity. For all we know from the book, we can't be certain that this isn't true, Alex narrates the whole thing in this language, he's known to be unreliable and he's also the only source we have that says Nadsat is commonly spoken.
Now for my second theory: the world of A Clockwork Orange is set in an alternate timeline where America surrendered to Russia in the Cold War (for some reason) and then this takes place about a hundred years later. Now, the evidence for this is that the Nadsat language includes many Russian words and variations on Russian words, but nonetheless is recognisably English. This novel was written during the 1960s, a high point in the Cold War, so maybe the dystopia that the story is set in is a reflection of what could happen if Russia were to win...
And so that's my two theories. I hope they were interesting and that they did not ruin any of the events of the novel for those who have not read it.
As I'm sure you know, there are some people who takes the Bible 100% literally, which, while not a bad thing on its own, can lead homophobic hate crime and other disagreeable things. So, for today’s entry. So to criticise this point of view, I am going to use The Bible (and no other sources) to create an argument that the word of God, should you believe it exists, cannot be found through the Bible.
Let me quickly explain the start of Genesis for those of you not wholly familiar with it: God makes the world, then he's kind enough to take one of Adam's ribs and turn it into a woman (Eve). Adam and Eve have fun in the Garden of Eden, but then an evil serpent (some say it was supposed to be the devil... I think that that is a bit unlikely) persuades Eve to eat from the one tree God told her not to eat from and then she persuades Adam to do the same. God feels sad about this so he banishes them from the garden and puts them out into an imperfect world. God also makes Adam and Eve imperfect, they don't like being naked and will one day die. One crucial thing, though, is that Adam and Eve still speak the perfect Original Language.
A couple of years down the line some humans decide to build a tower so tall that it goes all the way to the heavens. God gets upset about this, so he decides to curse humanity so that different groups people have different languages. With the creation of the different languages the Original Language was lost forever, and that would have been the only perfect language, and therefore the only way that facts and information can be truly and properly conveyed.
Now, if the only way to properly convey things infallibly is with the Original Language and the Bible is NOT written in that perfect language then surely The Bible is fallible? So maybe the Ancient Hebrews, when the time came to write The Bible, found that they had no way to explain what actually happened in their own language and so, instead of writing divine truth, filled it with all kinds of violence and injustices that were common in that historical context? I hope this argument hasn't offended anybody, I have tried to argue using only The Bible as a source in the hope that I will not stray in my argument.
So, as I've told you before on this blog, reading is cool. Unfortunately, it seems to me that barely anybody actually does much reading, especially of anything written over a hundred years ago. As such, I'll use this entry to try and encourage more reading from people.
Pretty much every famous author in history sneaks at least one silly and hilarious joke into their work, and for my first example I'm going to use one of my favourite authors- Arthur Conan Doyle. As I'm sure you know, Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes (one of my favourite fictional characters). I'm sure you must think that they're those serious dramatic detective stories from the 19th century don't you? Well you'd be wrong if you did. These stories often have moments in them that're very funny, but to keep this entry short I'll give only one example. In the Sherlock Holmes short story 'The Adventure of the Red Headed League' a ginger man comes to visit Holmes to tell him about a crime that seems to be linked to a gang of ginger headed people (The Red Headed League) who supposedly come together for no reason other than that they're all ginger. When this ginger man finishes telling Holmes and Watson about this little ginger gang, all they can do is laugh in his face about how silly the whole thing is...
But I suppose Sherlock Holmes is at least moderately recent, how about something from Shakespeare? I'm sure you think that any humour in this is completely lost due to the fact that the language used in it is now so antiquated. Well you're wrong again. In 'Richard III' Richard is confronted by a woman for his murderous ways and all he can do is flirt with her, making totally unsubtle suggestions that she should just be quite and come and have sex with him (and when I say unsubtle, I really mean it. Sexual innuendos usually go completely over my head, but even I noticed them here...).
To go even further back in time, and to show that there's fun things even in books that aren't fictional, for example The Republic by Plato. The Republic is supposed to be a hypothetical debate between Plato's dead best friend Socrates and several other philosophers, covering subjects such as politics, morality, the nature of existence and other very serious subjects... Until they all stop to imagine naked old ladies working out at the gym, they find it quite hilarious as it happens.
To give another non-fictional example, I'll use The Bible (I know some people would like to argue that The Bible belongs purely in the fictional section, but I'd class it as a history wrapped in poetry and mythology, with a highly controversial label of 'divine inspiration' sitting in the maybe pile). Now, I'm not 100% sure if this example is something that was intended to be funny, but it is anyway, so I'll include it. Basically, an enemy tribe is preparing to attack to Israelites... Luckily for them, God sneakily kills them all in the night to protect them, and after he's killed them all, it says this "And sure enough, when they awoke the following morning, they were but corpses" make of that what you will.
These are just three small examples, but really people shouldn't have such a negative and boring perception of books, especially those which were written long ago. I'm sure that no writer has ever lived who resisted the temptation of putting silly jokes into their work.
Before reading this book, I'd read a lot of complaints about it saying that Richard Dawkins writes in an arrogant and offensive kind of way. In fact, after seeing a couple of documentaries by him, I kind of expected the same thing. But I have to say that I really don't think this is true, despite the fact that he even seems to think that it is, as he often seems to be apologising (though not overtly) in case people get offended, and justifying everything that he says. So if you've heard that this is a rather arrogant preachy book, you've heard wrong, and you should give this a chance.
While the title of the book is 'The God Delusion' Dawkins doesn't actually argue against the existence of God all that much, he uses the 'But who made God?" argument a few times, but generally he seems to be arguing against religions, rather than God. Indeed, he actually only says that there is 'almost certainly' no God, and never makes arrogant claims that suggest he actually knows.
But what he does argue against a lot is both religion and creationism. He argues, quite well in my opinion, that religious thinking is very bad for science as it stops people question and keeps them content with faith, and also things it immoral that children are indoctrinated into the same religion as their parents when, he says, a child cannot really understand religions and should be allowed to make the decision at an older point in their life (which is also very convincing). He also talks about the extent to which atheists are prejudiced in America, which is actually pretty surprising once you read it. Plus, as a kind of little bonus, he goes into the crazy world of quantum mechanics at the end.
So, on the whole, this book is fairly argued and well written. There are several funny little jokes and anecdotes that he slips in every now and then and he makes several pop culture references which make it a little more enjoyable. The downside is that, as Richard Dawkins is a biologist, the tone becomes a little too scientific and hard to understand when he is talking about evolution, and, as I said before, the book does not really fully fulfil its task; he seems to argue well against religion and creationism but not so well against the idea of God itself. So on the whole, I'd rate this book as an 8/10.
(You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/God-Delusion-Richard-Dawkins/dp/055277331X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1312215559&sr=8-1)
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