From Nutcracker (1816) to poo, because variety is the salt of life.
Poo comes out of (almost) every living creature. Some of them feed it to their ofFrom Nutcracker (1816) to poo, because variety is the salt of life.
Poo comes out of (almost) every living creature. Some of them feed it to their offspring, some use poo to pass messages on. Even princesses need to poo.
Davies's compact and clear overview about the importance of poo is both funny and informative. The topic can of course be disgusting (I wouldn't stick my finger in poo), but despite all the shame surrounding it, poo is an extremely important part of nature (doesn't help you forget the scene in Salò , though). Funny little books like these can also inspire kids to be part of natural sciences or conservation work.
So, what can you learn from this? Among other things, you can learn that poo comes in all sizes and shapes. It helps you get rid of the waste in your body, baby koalas get vital microbs from it by eating it, it can signal the location of prey, and it can also function as building material.
And why were dung beetles important for Australian farmers? You find out, when you read Poo!
(Part of a Finnish project that celebrates Finland's 100th year of ind(Arvio osallistuu Kirjojen Suomi -hankkeen Kirjablogit ja 101 kirjaa -osuuteen.)
(Part of a Finnish project that celebrates Finland's 100th year of independence. 81 bloggers read altogether 101 books, and each book was selected on the basis of how it represents its publication year. I'm reading two, and although I didn't particularly like my first one, the second looks promising.)
Kun aika loppuu on monella tapaa ajaton. Vanhemmuuteen liittyvät tunteet, kuten syyllisyys ja voimattomuus, ovat sekä menneisyyttä, nykyisyyttä että tulevaisuutta. Riitänkö minä? Teenkö tarpeeksi? Arjen pienet onnen hetket voidaan muistaa vasta jälkikäteen. On laskujen maksua, harrastuksiin kiitämistä, töitä ja mitä vielä. Koko ajan rakastetaan, mutta sitä ei välttämättä sanota ääneen. Rakkautta on esimerkiksi sisarusten iltasatuhetki peiton alla vanhempien riidellessä toisessa huoneessa.
Hirvosen romaanistakin huokuu rakkaus, mutta vahvimpana epätoivo sekä epäusko. Lauran ja tämän tyttären näkökulmien vuorottelu tuo romaaniin kerroksellisuutta, ja näin muodostuva kuva muistoista on täynnä ristiriitaisuuksia ja säröjä. Muistot koostuvat pitkälti tunteista, ja faktat voivat sekoittua kuviteltuun. Tai ehkä toiveisiin.
Oma lapsi muistetaan ehkä sellaisena kuin tämän haluaisi olevan, tai millainen tämä on joskus ollut. Ehkä kuviteltua lasta ei olekaan ollut, vaan sisäinen maailma on jotain ihan muuta. Tässä onkin mielestäni yksi romaanin kiehtovimmista ajatuksista: missä määrin toisen ihmisen voi tuntea? Oli kyse sitten omasta lapsesta tai ei, kenenkään pään sisään ei voi täysin päästä. Hyvin usein myös kysytään, että miten kukaan voi antaa lapselleen anteeksi tämän tekemät rikokset. Ehkä tässä taas päästään takaisin alkuun, eli alkukantaiseen vanhemman ja lapsen suhteeseen.
Tarinan kehämäinen ja sirpaleinen rakenne on melkeinpä päällekäyvää. Hirvonen kirjoittaa elegantisti ja koskettavasti, mutta aiheiden runsaus ja tarinan rönsyily ja poukkoilu sinne tänne aiheuttaa väkisin sen, että kaikkeen ei päästä niin syvälle kuin toivoisi. Olisin kaivannut lisää iskevyyttä ja lihaa luiden päälle. Esimerkiksi ilmastonmuutosta käsitellään lähinnä sivujuonteena. Se on läsnä henkilöiden elämässä ja käynnistää tapahtumasarjan, mutta muiden teemojen rinnalla se tuntuu ohuelta. Romaanin keskiössä oleva Aslak antaa myös vaikutelman ohuesta monen asian summasta, eikä stereotyyppinen käsittelytapa paranna asiaa.
Ajattelemaan haastaminen taitaa tässä kuitenkin olla se juttu, mihin lukijat ovat tarttuneet. Vaikka itseäni jäi häiritsemään pinnallisuus ja teemojen polveilu, niin tämä on kuitenkin selvästi ansainnut paikkansa 101 kirjaa -listalla. Se on parhaimmillaan juuri perhesuhteiden ja muistojen kuvauksessa, eikä se taida menettää otettaan myöskään tulevaisuuden lukijoista.
Kun aika loppuu jättää jälkeensä myös erään hyvin olennaisen kaiun, joka voi ehkä olla peräti se kaikkein tärkein anti: toivon kipinä on aina säilytettävä, vaikka se olisi kuinka vaikeaa....more
No can do. Definitely interesting, but I'm not able to give this the time it deserves before the end of a reading challenge next Tuesday, and so manyNo can do. Definitely interesting, but I'm not able to give this the time it deserves before the end of a reading challenge next Tuesday, and so many more compelling books are waiting for their turn....more
As a fan of vintage King, I honestly didn't expect much going in. I knew I'd be entertained and sucked in, but the chance of experiencing that particuAs a fan of vintage King, I honestly didn't expect much going in. I knew I'd be entertained and sucked in, but the chance of experiencing that particular atmosphere spiced with crazy supernatural phenomena didn't cross my mind. There was still "that something" missing, but this was a hell of a ride in any case.
We've seen so much of apocalyptic metropolises, but Peyton Place (1956) showed that a small town where people know each other can be a gateway to hell, dome or not. Small-mindedness and gossiping create snakes out of even the most unwilling of residents, but when a town is shut into its own universe, its when people actually start eating each other alive. This is a dynamic that gives a lot of room for exploring several themes and personality types, and King has definitely succeeded. On the surface, Chester's Mill is an unassuming conservative town, but beneath that deceptively moralistic and Christian surface there's poison brewing.
When disaster strikes, often the villains have the most guts to take charge, whereas most are happy to just follow someone and pretend everything's ok and will be in the future. Big Jim is the most vile character I've come across in a long time. When a man of that level of demented starts calling the shots, we all know it can't end well, especially when very few realize he's not actually interested in anyone but his own ass. He's like the shepherd of a flock of blind sheep, the nurse of terminally ill patients, with a severe case of a Christ complex.
In this, though, lies also the weakness of the novel. King resorts to painting his characters with very broad strokes, making villains behave like they're possessed by the devil and heroes are just all-round cool guys destined for greatness. It detracts from the otherwise realistic situation, where the dome ties into more general political issues. Actually, there isn't a lot of cracking under pressure either, meaning that the small town mentality isn't fully utilized, because only existing traits are heightened and secrets not tied to personalities but outward things are slowly revealed.
At the same time, what really pushed this into another level was the black humour, which I appreciate enormously (even when it's distasteful and disgusting á la The Devils ). Murder is compared to potato chips (as an avid fan of almost all kinds of chips, I completely understand the comparison), a priest with mommy issues is flogging himself in orange bike shorts (which themselves are a horror to behold), a "green burrito" carpet, and a self-professed prophet becomes like a Judas of sorts (only high on meth). Oh, and there's a reference to Breaking Bad (and Jack Reacher, but I don't know him as a character so I'm not able to appreciate it). Even Anderson Cooper and Bill O'Reilly make an appearance (albeit through a television screen).
Besides, anyone who seems to have been completely confident about a giant character gallery like this deserves to be applauded. Usually a large amount of characters disturbs me to no end, but in this case there are only a few important key players, while the rest mostly end up as dog food.
So yeah, I had fun peeping through a magnifying class these ants engaging in various activities in a catastrophic situation (and gasping when that disturbing event at the end struck). Easily my favorite of 21st century King....more
On the outside, the Radleys are a normal middle-class family. Parents Peter and Helen struggle with their marriage that has started to taste like cardOn the outside, the Radleys are a normal middle-class family. Parents Peter and Helen struggle with their marriage that has started to taste like cardboard, and their children Rowan and Clara struggle with teenage problems in a small town community. The kind of small town I personally have experience from: growing older, you start to escape from it in different ways, until you realize buses and internet connections are in danger of diluting your life into a half existence. You can never come and go as you please, because the bus connections are scarce, but you can't spend the rest of your life lying in bed reading books either, and certainly not spending time in town events (if there are any, usually there aren't) with small-minded and gossipy people.
"Drinking wine is just another thing designed to make them feel like normal human beings, when really it only proves the opposite. Helen insists they drink it for the taste, but he’s not even sure he likes the taste."
Behind the ordinary facade, however, Peter and Helen are harbouring a secret. They are vampires, but the children don't know yet. Until a tragedy occurs. The bland existence of the Radleys can never be the same again. Blood is passion, truth, temptation, excitement, and everything what the Radleys are trying to suffocate in themselves. When the urges begin to surface, Peter remembers the old days with Helen and his brother Will. The wild blood red days of night club lights and recklessness. As a contrast, the scene where Peter and Helen dine with their neighbours appears as hilarious. Mark rambles on and on about his job, Lorna's playing footsie with Peter, and Helen is completely off planet Earth. None of them truly happy.
The demented Will is of course a bad influence, but he does manage to break the bubble the Radleys have built for themselves. The masks of quiet respectability have only managed to hide the ripples, and Haig's subtle approach to violence only emphasizes the problems that the characters are facing. I wasn't particularly interested in what was happening with the kids, nor was I that enthusiastic about the love thingy, but the way blood and vampirism were mixed with family life was intriguing and satisfying. For me, the excitement was whether the Radleys would find the balance between living in hiding and being true to themselves. After all, loosening up a bit never hurt anyone, but suppression only makes way for an explosion.
Very different than the gritty vampires I usually prefer, but I'm glad I gave this a chance. Despite being a fairly light read (at least for me), Haig packs a lot of hefty stuff between the lines and never underestimates his readers. If you want to know why I hate self-help books, read The Radleys.
"Confine your imagination. Do not lose yourself to dangerous daydreams. Do not sit and ponder and dwell on a life you are not living. Do something active. Exercise. Work harder. Answer your emails. Fill your diary with harmless social activities. By doing, we stop ourselves imagining. And imagining for us is a fast-moving car heading towards a cliff.
The Abstainer’s Handbook (second edition), p.83"...more
The Princess Bride (1987) is another childhood favorite of mine. Someone recorded it from TV into a VHS tape, so the picture quality was grainy andThe Princess Bride (1987) is another childhood favorite of mine. Someone recorded it from TV into a VHS tape, so the picture quality was grainy and less than ideal, but I tore through it a million times. If it was raining and there was nothing better to do, I watched it. When I felt gloomy, I watched it. When I was home alone, I watched it and acted scenes from it. I fell in love with Wesley and the charming pirate, marvelled the adorable giant rodents, and each time I was scared for the main couple. When I recently watched it again after many years and read the book, I realized how brilliantly the conventions of traditional swashbuckling adventure stories mixed with zany humor and various genres. It's that odd tone, I think, that allows each person to love different aspects of it. It's original and I don't know if there's anything like it.
Naturally, I was overjoyed to find out that Elwes had written a book about the making of the movie. The tone of the book is unabashedly positive and warm, and although I'd normally consider it annoying, I feel so extremely nostalgic about the movie itself that it just doesn't matter. The quotes from the actors are kind of awkwardly positioned, disrupting the narrative at strange places, and there's an entire chapter dedicated to how awesome Robin Wright is, but the positive aspects outweigh the negative ones. I don't feel the need to read this again, but it was nice to dive into my memories for a couple of nights and feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Rob Reiner I have had many encounters with many people from all walks of life who love the movie. But the strangest had to be this one: One night Nora Ephron and her husband, Nick Pileggi, who wrote the screenplay to the movie Goodfellas, wanted to take me to a restaurant in New York where the mobster John Gotti liked to eat. So we went, and sure enough, at the end of dinner in walks Gotti with six wiseguys. After we finished the meal I walk outside and there’s one of these goodfellas standing in front of a huge limo who looked just like Luca Brasi from The Godfather. He looks down at me and he goes, “Hey! You killed my father. Prepare to die!” And I just froze. Then he starts laughing and says: “The Princess Bride! I love that movie!” I almost fell over right in the street!
Based on the illustrations I've seen, Little Hands Clapping is very Edward Gorey-esque in spirit. Not particularly sick, just macabre and definitely nBased on the illustrations I've seen, Little Hands Clapping is very Edward Gorey-esque in spirit. Not particularly sick, just macabre and definitely not something that should be labelled as horror. Dark humour is a tricky thing, but for the most part Rhodes succeeds in making the museum a comical place without it seeming crass or tacky. The ridiculous reason the doctor had for doing what he did somehow made perfect sense in Rhodes's universe, where even the most respectable pillars of a small community can harbour dark secrets (the kind that are more than mere "I had an affair with the plumber" -sort). The premise reminded me of a couple of urban legends, like (view spoiler)[the one where a butcher makes people into minced meat (although it's slightly more disgusting, because at least the doctor ate the meat himself instead of offering it to others) (hide spoiler)].
Some would say Rhodes pushed it a bit too far, some would probably need even more pushing, but I thought it was just enough for a surprisingly light-hearted feat like this. Then again, there were moments of seriousness that didn't exactly give a deadly blow to the story, but at least stunned it. It was like being at a wedding where someone tells you their cat died the day before. Awkard. There were hints that Rhodes wanted to say something profound about death, but the purpose of the novel just wasn't clear enough to say anything for sure.
Which brings me to the main problem I had. There are plenty of characters whose lives are saturated with death, but other than that the threads don't connect to the main story strongly enough, not to mention that the story about the Portuguese lovers is completely uninteresting. The narrative dashes to all kinds of directions and breaks the chronology, making the novel unfocused, bloated, and slightly ADHD. I would have been more than happy if there had been just the storyline with the curator and the doctor. The misinformed view on depression and suicide (cheer up, think happy thoughts, someone always has it worse than you) also bothered me a bit more than is perhaps necessary, because the story obviously relies more on fairy tale morality than reality.
That said, someone needs to make this into a stop-motion film, preferably something in the vein of Mary and Max (2009)....more
To make a zombie war realistic is commendable, and everything that comes with warfare is explored fairly satisfactorily by Brooks. People have varyingTo make a zombie war realistic is commendable, and everything that comes with warfare is explored fairly satisfactorily by Brooks. People have varying degrees of survival skills and each handles the situation differently. Some find unexpected strength, some get disheartened, some act like complete asswipes etc.
As the outbreak starts in China and spreads all over the world, we see the success of governments depending on how seriously they take the threat and how well they have estimated their powers to stop it. Unfortunately for me, Brooks spends a lot of time explaining the political background of the war, the different strategies, and the general global effects.
The parts I found most interesting were the struggles of civilians. When the world looks like it's ending, not even rich celebrities are able to save themselves by splurging money on the newest security technology (that chapter was hilarious by the way).
It all boiled down to personal preference regarding the zombie experience. What I missed in World War Z, I've previously found in The Walking Dead (the tv-series) and Night of the Living Dead (1968). It's the individuals that interest me, although Brooks's characters seem to be the same old cliched stereotypes (the Japanese, wtf?), and therefore the whole book is lacking real cultural insight. The lack of tension was the biggest problem, though. The zombies themselves seemed to be mere background elements in order to take a stance on the modern world and its future. The execution of the interview format didn't help, what with all the infodumping and expositions happening in a supposedly oral history....more