Time flies by, pretty quick, huh? One moment, you’re looking at the snow (IN APRIL) and really wishing winter would hurry up and leave already – the next you are nursing a nice sunburn. (This probably has more to do with my natural deathly milk white paleness English Rose complexion.)
I’ve been living in Canada for the better part of a year now, and boy oh boy, do I miss my books. (Oh. And my family. Them too.)
MY GOSH YOU’VE BEEN POSTING SO MUCH RECENTLY /s
Okay. Fine. I haven’t. I’ve drafted lots and lots of blog posts (probably five. or four. or three) – rants and ravings about winter and loathing coats and wonderful things like that, but – much like my ability to sprout wings and fly and boil eggs and that sort of thing – they never happened.
I am alive though. Even though I seem to try very hard not to be; I still sometimes look the wrong way when crossing the road. Bad idea. Very bad idea.
SO WHAT *HAVE* YOU BEEN UP TO?
This year has been like one giant working holiday. (With emphasis on the working.) I work pretty much full-time, harass colleagues with Very Bad And Punny Jokes, harass everyone with Very Bad And Punny Jokes, have a weekend adventure or two, sing, go for long romantic side-walk walks for one, visit the library, hang out with friends, speak Very Bad French, spend money wisely, and occasionally put my big girl socks on and write.
Okay. So the walk has happened twice, one of my friends deserted me for England, and I don’t visit the library all the time. Pfft. (I just get a shelf load of books out and stare at them lovingly.)
I do think that buying an expensive top which pictures a cat riding a unicorn to be a good investment. Think about it; the top is clothing. Clothing stops you from being naked. BOOM. It’s vital.
SO YOU HAVE SOME PRETTY BIG NEWS?
Yes!!!! I do. I do.
(But, not in a marriage sense.)
I – she of the pen name Ness Kingsley – am going to a gym tomorrow. Yes. I know. WHAAAATTTT?!!!!!! How exciting. And very, very all-the-world-does-it-or-has-a-membership-they-don’t-use of you. I’ve never set a toe in a proper one before. I fully expect to develop abs on my thighs by mere osmosis. It’ll totally happen!
WHAT THE HECK HAPPENED TO YOUR EYES?!!!
Okay. Gather round, friends – time for a quick life lesson in the form of two quotes from me:
Gee! Let me use this used make-up with its used make-up brushes! Why golly gosh! Nothing bad will happen!
me – tuesday evening
me – wednesday morning
Infection. That’s what happens. (Infection or an allergic reaction, but probably most likely an infection.)
Infection and red, red demon eyes that look like you’ve:
just murdered someone
cried buckets and buckets of soul tears because of Infinity Wars
Don’t be me, kids. Don’t use used make-up brushes or make-up. Yes, the war face you made was EPIC, but was it worth it? Was it really worth it?
*** warning: my recountings are of books with quite horrific subject matter. If you have a delicate stomach perhaps don’t read ***
So I’m sure you have many pressing questions for me (WHERE DID YOU GO AGAIN? DID YOU GET BITTEN BY A RADIOACTIVE CATERPILLAR? CAN YOU SPELL YET? WHY DO YOU DISLIKE CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM?) that you probably spending a large portion of your days simply agonizing over.
Also – why on earth did you shill out for a laptop and then … not use it? (Ah, yes. My good life decisions. I make so many of them.)
I’ve been reading, living, and finding out that Mt. Royal isn’t actually where I thought it was. (How can a mole hill mountain move? you ask. I DON’T KNOW EITHER.)
THE OPIUM WARS:
THE ADDICTION OF ONE EMPIRE AND THE CORRUPTION OF ANOTHER
[aka wut teh british empire was pretty rubbish huh]
I‘m not sure how much I knew about the Opium Wars before I cracked open this book. But what I found here was awful – if I get the details right …
we were buying a heck of a lot of tea from China
China weren’t buying a lot of things from us
basically, this was kind of uneconomical and so instead of … doing better market research, for instance, we forced them not to ban our opium from India [The ‘Just Say No’ slogan ran more in the ‘Say Yes Right Now’ direction]
and destroyed the Summer Palace
and the British Drug Lords were horrible
Lots and lots of egos on both sides were involved
and a horrifying number of people in China were addicted to opium (I believe the book mentions that at one point 90% of the Chinese army were addicted)
and lots of time was spent in trying to work out how the British officials could bow to the Chinese high ups without actually bowing to them.
and the Emperor only heard what his advisors thought he’d like to hear. Which wasn’t the best thing when trying to run a war. And led to quite a few bad decisions.
It’s fascinating stuff – the book is well researched and contains excerpts from documents on both sides. It’s also rather depressing and made me take sidelong glances at my cup of tea.
Also, depressing subjects seem to be a common theme in my latest factual reads. Yay.
THE SECRET HISTORY OF ROME’S WARRIOR SLAVES
[aka … that’s just not right]
I wrote an extensive review after finishing this book [Actually, it was a page BUT THE WRITING WAS SMALL] and then I found out that Dan Carlin of Hardcore History had released a podcast on the same sort of subject ‘Painfotainment’ … which I haven’t listened to fully yet – but my point is (YOU HAVE ONE?) that this book affected me and I didn’t like it and I decided that I was quite right in loathing some of the Roman Emperors. Seriously. They were jerks.
My problem with this book didn’t lie in the actual history it was recounting – history, is after all, history. You can get mad at it and rave at it but you can’t change it. No, my issues lie in one of the chapters – the crowning chapter of the entire book – in which it describes how a slave is raped and then commits suicide to avoid the games. And this is fictional. To use the story medium as an illustration for how life was back then. A sort of ‘How We Lived and How It Stank’.
Cool. But no. When I read history, I want to read history. When I want to read historical fiction, I pick up a book of historical fiction.
History is bad in plenty of places; give me the facts but by golly, don’t wallow in it. I don’t want to read fictional gratuitous violence in my history book.
And, yes, I did get upset about that chapter, and yes, you’d be right in thinking me absolutely off my rocker for picking up this next book – but there is a difference – one was fiction, and this one? This one is horrible, brutal reality.
THE RAPE OF NANKING
by Iris Chang
In December 1937, the Japanese army invaded the ancient city of Nanking, systematically raping, torturing, and murdering more than 300,000 Chinese civilians.
This book tells the story from three perspectives: of the Japanese soldiers who performed it, of the Chinese civilians who endured it, and of a group of Europeans and Americans who refused to abandon the city and were able to create a safety zone that saved many.
This was an awful read. I don’t believe in avoiding the worst points of the world’s history; you can’t understand humankind if you glance at their achievements and virtues. Darkness shows how bright the light can be. But at the same time … what horrors people have done and are capable of …
I think it’s when you look at your fellow man and think of them as less – less than human. Less than nothing. When you forget your humanity, or forget theirs, and then well, you can do anything to them, can’t you? Most of us will think nothing of squishing a bug and there’s nothing wrong with stamping on dirt, is there?
It’s hard reading. I had to put the book down for a while, just for a break. But I finished it and I was glad I did.
Ultranationalists denied that the Rape happened, and for a long time, this atrocity against humanity was a mere lukewarm line or two in Japanese history books. But this book puts the truth out there. It’s terrible and it’s horrid and it’s brutal and awful. But it shouldn’t be ignored or forgotten.
As the Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel warned years ago, to forget a holocaust is to kill twice
The more I learn about history, the more I realise that the answer of humanity does not – nay, cannot – lie within ourselves.
Also, my next factual book after I finish The Candy Machine: How Cocaine Took Over The World is going to be about fish.
Well. So much for posting twice a week. I do have a reason for my absence; my laptop (or rather, the laptop belonging to my brother) decided to retreat behind an eternally black screen. I was not overwhelmingly happy with this decision.
PANIC LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW
You know, like ‘party like there’s no-‘ fine. my blogging skills are rusty.
It is a second of extreme crisis – that moment when you realize that technology has Failed You. History fans out before your very eyes. (Interestingly, history is mostly represented by Mongols). How on earth did they survive without a laptop, you demand of Wikipedia.
(Oh. Wait. You can’t look up anything on Wikipedia. Your laptop is as responsive as a stone.)
ACCEPT YOUR FATE
After brief moments of panic in which the future is hopeless and your life void of joy, you realize that … you can survive this. The Mongols did. The Vikings did. Robin Hood didn’t need twitter or, or a blog to have his valiant adventures.
(Actually. He didn’t exist. Probably. Except in your head. Diverted, a moment of quiet, sad reflection is spent on this thought.)
You can survive this absence of technology.
You can use your iPad, kindle, and phone.
You can cope.
EXIST. LIVE- NAY. THRIVE!!
Suddenly you find that you aren’t wasting time, whiling away the hours surfing the web. (You are versatile – you find other ways to waste time.)
Instead of being distracted by your blog, you write Greenwood unintelligibly by hand, your letters formed with grace and skill that a drunken chicken would be proud of.
You write twelve pages.
And then, you snap. You’ve had enough. Why?
You have to edit a project
It just … is a different experience, writing without a laptop (You like it. to an extent. but not to a very large extent. And certainly not for an entire six months)
You are never – in a million years – going to be able to reread your handwriting
TO HECK WITH IT. BUY ANOTHER LAPTOP
It doesn’t have to be flashy. It just has to have Word, a (working) screen, and a keyboard. (Definitely a keyboard.)
Yes. It will cost money, and yes, Dickens and Austen authored books without the aid of computers (and yes, that makes you feel like a second-rate writer, but … pfft. Time travel. They could have time traveled.Hypothetically speaking.) but you know what’ll it save you?
Squinting at your own handwriting.
So, I have a new laptop. His name is Ivanhoe. He is fast in the way of glaciers, with more memory than a gnat. But he has Word, a screen, and a keyboard. And so life is good. Nay. Life is beautiful.
I love so-bad-they’re-good movies. It’s fun to yell at the screen, give a loud, dramatic gasp when oh my gosh I never saw THAT coming! or rant at the characters for making stupid decisions.
I enjoy it. With a bad movie, there is no pretence. It’s just plain old bad. It’s like a form of catharsis. But then, a friend of mine introduced me to the The Test. And, in The Test, I met my match.
The Test is the story of Nathan who puts his fiancée, Julia, through a series of increasingly bizarre ‘stress tests’ in order to see if she is worthy of marrying him.
There are five steps that a movie viewer goes through when watching The Test. I am here to guide you through them. You are welcome.
When you start watching The Test the feeling is akin to that of being slapped in the face with a decaying fish. You look at a scene with disbelief:
He’s not actually hired an actor to test her fidelity, has he? you ask in horror. He’s not peering through the glass of the restaurant to spy on her responses, is he?
Yes. Yes, he is.
This second stage is the worst, and I’d suggest getting over it as quickly as possibly. Nathan pretends he’s been fired from his job due to accusations of insider trading.
“You’re lying to her now, to see if she’ll believe you when you do tell the truth to her about not being dishonest?”
(Logic. It’s a beautiful thing.)
Yes, he does arrange for his fiancée to be fake fired from her job (If she is completely desolate will she still love him?). But you know what? To quote the movie:
It’s not crazy. It’s love.
For reasons only apparent to the script-writer, Julia still believes his innocence and is willing to be homeless on a Hawaiian beach with him.
BUT DON’T WORRY! He ‘gets his job back’ and it doesn’t matter about her job (which she still has, but doesn’t know she has) because “she’ll be his wife”.
Despite the fact that we’ve no evidence as to why they love each other (and therefore, no evidence for why they shouldn’t love each other) Julia is prepared to stand by him. BUT THEN TWIST. SHE HAS HER JOB BACK!!
Honestly, that Nathan! Such a catch!
Okay. So he’s a bit … emotionally unintelligent and a touch dim and he is definitely narcissistic, you say. But, like, it can’t get any worse. Surely.
By this time, Nathan is enjoying the experiment. ‘Would she die for me?’ he asks with pathos that surely belong to Hamlet.
“I’d take the bullet for her.”
“That’s very chivalrous.”
“I’m just that kind of guy.”
It’s important to know if your partner would die for you. Dreadfully so. In fact, I’m almost certain that it is probably included in any number of pre-marriage counselling sessions.
Nathan knows this. But pre-marriage counselling sessions are beneath him. He is so dedicated to the cause of proving Julia is worthy of him that he arranges a home invasion.
What a guy!
It takes some nagging but Julia declares:
“Okay. I’m willing to die for you. Now will you just DROP IT!!!”
For some reason, Nathan doesn’t feel that her response is good enough, and that she wouldn’t be prepared to die for him.
The first time, I watched this movie the whole way through. The second time, I had to stop the movie. It was too hard to go on. Life had lost its meaning. I would have cheerfully stomped barefoot in a room full of Legos or – as one review puts it ‘licked a brick wall’ rather than to have continued.
But one must push through.
… which Nathan does too! He thinks that Julia’s ‘B-‘ is a bit rubbish. He won’t settle for anything less than an ‘A’. He needs one.
So he comes up with the genius plan of faking a coma.
It’s not crazy. It’s love.
Now, I did have some screenshots to share with you. But my computer decided to make them all grey and as:
I refuse to spend money on this movie for the third time
Nope. It’s just that. I. Refuse.
Please imagine Nathan on a hospital bed, faking a coma whilst his hysterical fiancée is mourning him for reasons that completely escape me at this point.
And then of course, he ‘wakes up’ (after his buddy threatens ‘I’m pulling the plug. No pun intended’ thereby ruining all puns for me forever more. You monster) and pretends to have amnesia.
Don’t worry! He ‘remembers’ Julia – just in the nick of time too! It’s a scene with emotion – similar to one from a Shakespearean play or a Nicholas Spark movie, in that all three have people saying lines.
At this point, you are beyond outrage. Beyond everything. This movie exists and you are watching it. Watching as Julia discovers Nathan’s ‘stress tests’ on her wedding day. Watching as she calls him out. Watching as Nathan does the adult thing and blames his friend. Watching as … as… Watching as the truly spectacularly hysterical and completely beyond any rhyme or reason ending happens.
In the end, we have no idea why Nathan and Julia are in love. They tell us they are. The movie says they are. And, so they must be.
This movie transcends all such things as ‘acting’ ‘comedy’ ‘writing’ ‘cinematography’ ‘production’ ‘screenplay’ ‘character growth’ ‘chemistry between actors’ ‘editing’ etc. One must look past these mortal coils and peer far, far, far, far, far beyond them – to where the movie’s heart lies.
And at its heart – deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep down – are the ambiguous messages of trust, fidelity, commitment and above all, love.
It’s true: the movie handles them with the skill of a dizzy toddler performing open heart surgery, the gentle subtlety of a sledgehammer, and the clarity of muddied stream brimming with dead rodents … but I think, to finish this guide to The Test, I will leave you with a quote from Nathan, that is in no way, shape, or form, an excuse for doing terrible things to the person you love:
Love makes you crazy
(As will this movie if you attempt to watch it and review it. You will regret everything. EVERYTHING!!!!) (ALSO I’M SORRY BUT THIS MOVIE RUINS PUNS!!! HOW CAN A MOVIE RUIN PUNS YOU ASK?!! IT SIMPLY DOES AND I’M BOGGLED) (Also, Nathan’s friends keep on saying how brilliant these tests are. like they’ve discovered the secret to the fountain of douche or something. WELL GUESS WHAT THESE TESTS ARE NOT BRILLIANT YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT BRILLIANT MEANS. CLEARLY.)
Glorious news! I can now spell ‘prejudice’ without the help of spell check. It – and this will blow your mind – doesn’t have two d’s.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND
I can’t read Alice In Wonderland right now – the artwork in my library edition is off-putting.
It’s just not pretty and my books must have:
epic dragon illustrations
… but I’m going to push through. Probably. Or I’ll put it on my kindle and read it without any drawings whatsoever.
Once upon a time, I read Wintersong. The front cover was pretty. The sequel has just landed in my kindle because I rather thought that though I disliked the first quite intensely, it made me think about validation and where we draw it from.
Perhaps this sequel would give me an issue to ponder, was my line of thinking. But then I read the introduction and it had a trigger warning for suicide ideation, and said that this book was the author dealing with her monsters.
It’s not that I have anything against authors fighting their demons through the written word, it’s just that I never think ‘well, gee, let me read about someone fighting their demons in a book duology that I liked just as much as I like liver and onions.’
LADY JANE GREY: NINE DAY QUEEN OF ENGLAND
Fun fact: I once saw the back of the author’s head. (It was, I rush to assure you, attached to the rest of her body.)
Now, I have a reread of My Lady Jane planned for this year, but it is comparatively flippant to the actual reality. (Flippant, but hysterically funny.)
I rather hoped the ending would change, but apparently history is set in stone and you can’t change it.
Lady Jane’s letter to her sister had a quote that quite struck me:
‘Live still to die … and trust not that the tenderness of your age shall lengthen your life; for as soon (if God call) goeth the young as the old: and labour always to learn to die …
She was sixteen years old, and that letter was the last she ever wrote.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice before. Yes, yes – I’ve watched the movies, the T.V shows … all of that jazz, but I’ve never read the actual book.
But it has now been consumed, and it is with great astonishment that I discovered that it was quite wonderful. Just as good as everyone said it was. I am now eating enormous quantities of humble pie.
Behold, my pride – it has toppled! My years of prejudice have taken a bruising fall! And yes, I shall admit it: Mr. Darcy is very romantic.
(Is it better than Georgette Heyer’s books though? Hmm …)