Sunday, 27 April 2014

Sunday Sundries: BRB Just At Harry Potter Land

GUYS. I failed at Sunday Sundries last week (Easter, yo) and I have pretty much failed at blogging this week. It's been one of those things where I haven't even had that much to do, but I've had two evenings when I haven't been home, Monday was a total write off because CHOCOLATE and the rest of my time has been spent watching Harry Potter resentfully so I can toddle off to Harry Potter Land (Ok, actual name The Harry Potter Studio Tour, I think. Right?) and actually know what I'm looking at. Well, that's the plan at least.

I'm writing this on Friday evening to make sure it actually gets done, and I've been off work all day with a bad headache- booooo! The weird thing about doing this, at least this week, is that tomorrow is the 24 hour readathon and I'm still on the fence about doing it because of said Harry Potter Land visit (i.e. definitely no staying up all night reading) so I feel like I should pass comment on it only I can't because it hasn't happened yet and I might not do it and GAH. Basically I should probably not have written this paragraph and SHOULD comment on it on Sunday. Or today. What am I even saying?!
Me, right now.
Anyway. I can't really comment on this weekend, because I technically haven't done it yet, and by technically I mean, I actually haven't. SO let's talk about a different thing that I just read about on the internet last night and am PRETTY ANGRY ABOUT. 

So there's this recent Thought Catalog* list called 6 Things I Don't Understand About The Fat Acceptance Movement. I'm always kind of ashamed at how much I tend to like Thought Catalog lists, just for the one or two things on them that make me go 'THIS IS ME THE WORLD UNDERSTANDS ME AT LAST!' but that's the way it is and I kind of like it. However. This list is fucked up in all kinds of ways, the comments annoy me just as much and I just GAH. Why are people allowed to exist?

So. I heard about this list from a post that was already talking about all the things that were wrong with it, so I was kind of in a place to hate it from the start, but basically its writer doesn't just not understand 6 things that are wrong with fat acceptance, she doesn't understand anything about it. Like, anything. What it intends to do, what the point of it is, who needs it, why it's needed... Nothing. Saying something like 'America encourages fatness! We should be cracking down on it!' is basically like saying that they've never read a magazine, or been in a shop that sells clothes, or have any clue what it's actually like to be a fat person in the world.

Anyway. The point is this. Fat acceptance is not about going 'look at me! I weigh 400lbs and need help to dress myself! I'm awesome! Everyone come and worship me!' It's about, you know, acceptance. Of your physical shape, of the way you look right now. It's acceptance of your body and the things it's able to do, even if it doesn't look the way it's 'supposed' to. It's not about sitting back and going 'oh, it's fine, I can eat whatever I want in huge quantities because there's a movement that supports me now', but it's about feeling confident about doing whatever the hell you want because you should and you can and nobody has the right to shame you about what your body looks like because IT'S YOUR FUCKING BODY.

I'm not really a part of the fat acceptance movement. I don't know all that much about it. But I know enough to know that it's something that's based on acceptance of ALL body shapes (not just one) and on loving yourself no matter what you look like, and just generally living life without giving two shits about what other people think of the way you look. It's about being kind to yourself, being kind to everyone else, and not just blithely accepting what the media says is supposed to be attractive. Jesus Christ, if we took all the time spent obsessing over how our bodies aren't perfect and put it towards making the world less shit, just imagine what we could do! We'd be unstoppable. And we should be.

So, fat acceptance. Or, if you like, body acceptance. Look into it. Think about it. Never write anything as misinformed and ignorant as the Thought Catalog lady. Ok, we're done now.

P.S. This is a really really awesome response to the original post and READ IT READ IT. Ok, now I'm actually done.

*Or Catalogue. That really annoys me. 

Saturday, 26 April 2014

A Half Hearted Readathon

Update 3: 11:22am

Omg, I had such a good sleep, you guys don't even KNOW. (Sorry). I read one short story from Everything's Eventual before sleeping last night (IT WAS HORRIBLE. But not supernaturally scary so I can deal) and then this morning I remembered that I was just over halfway through this GIANT graphic-novel-memoir (giant as in, I think it might be TOO long...) A Drifting Life, and I thought heyyyy... I can read that! And I will get through so many pages! This is how you win things, people. (Obviously I'm a winner here and not actually a loser...)

So. My sister is coming to pick me up in about 15 minutes (hopefully...) to go to Harry Potter Land, so this will be my last update for the readathon, although I'll probably do the wrap up questions thingy later tonight just for, you know, continuity. So HAVE FUN finishing the readathon, I think you're all amazing and keep going!

Books Finished: 2
Books Read From: 4
Pages Read: 174
Cumulative Pages Read: 620
Snacks: This morning, I just had breakfast. Am trying to eat like a sane person again.
Naps: Nah, just, you know, regular sleep.

Update 2: 10:30pm, 9 1/2 Hours Down

Guys! This readathon thing without doing any (or, at least not much) of the social stuff actually works really well! I'm bad at meeting new internet people, and most of my internet people aren't participating, so I've just been reading like a champ and have now finished 2 books. I KNOW. I'm kind of impressed with myself too. Since the last update, I've pretty much just read (natch) eaten a whole pizza (from Lidl, not, like, Dominos or whatever) and changed my bedsheets which badly needed to happen because I cut my ankle shaving like more than two weeks ago and there was blood allll over my sheet and did I change it? I did not.

So. This is my final update before sleepytime. My phone is already off, my ipad will shortly be going to sleep, and I will read for a little bit more before actually sleeping myself. I will probably return in the morning, although actually that'll only be if I read anything... But that sounds likely, right? Either way, I will be rooting for you in my dreams, so keep on going! You're all awesome.

Books Finished: 2
Books Read From: 2
Pages Read: 247
Cumulative Pages Read: 446 (again, I really should have read 4 more!)
Snacks: OMG, so many veggie percy pigs on top of a pizza and a creme egg. Feeling slightly sick, I can't lie.
Naps: Still not any. I don't know why I bother having this category because I don't even nap! Like, ever! Stupid.

But wait, there's more!
Because apparently I can't turn down a selfie, even if this one does kind of make it look like there's something wrong with my face... DAMN FRONT FACING CAMERAS!
Look! I'm with all my PEL books! And I look slightly deranged! Yaaaay!

Update 1: 5:15pm, 4 1/4 Hours Down

I'm still here! Still reading! I've taken a break because either my ipad is ever so slightly hurting my eyes or I just really need a sleep. Either way, I'm tired. POOR ME, FEEL MY PAIN etc.

How is everyone doing? I've had about a million fairly unnecessary snacks for someone who had a hearty lunch, so I'm not only tired, I'm pretty full, too. If you think that's a prime position to be in to have a nap, then you would be absolutely right. Am I about to attempt to nap? Well, that would be telling. Here's what I will tell you- some reading stats!

Books Finished: 0 (booo)
Books Read From: 2 (I started with Life After Life, had to take a break to charge my ipad and went for The Harm In Asking by Sara Barron which is HILARE. Seriously.)
Pages Read: 199 (woaaaah. Also I feel like I should have read ONE MORE PAGE)
Snacks: Numerous, and mostly unhealthy. There was an orange in there somewhere though!
Naps: Ask me in an hour.

The Beginning

Hi, kids! So today is readathon day, and I've been having the kind of issue where you sign up for something and are really excited about it at the time, and then it ends up being sandwiched between a migraine you had yesterday, and an outing you're going on tomorrow, when you really just wanted to dedicate a whole weekend to its excellence. But, nonetheless, I shall read some, go to bed at a sensible hour, and everything will be fine.

To be fair, I've already read a fair bit this morning, so I must be at least two hours in by now. But we'll call this the start, anyway. Updates will, as ever, be on this post, although I'm not sure how many of them there'll be. WE SHALL SEE.

Introductory Stuff

1. What fine part of the world are you reading from today? London, England. Ish. Let's call it London-lite. Or something. Ok, it's basically Twickenham.

2. Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
OK, so I don't really have a stack PER SE (I know, something bad has happened to me- for my first readathon I had a stack of 18 books) but I do have 4 books near me so of them, I'm probably most looking forward to Life After Life, which I'm already halfway through. So THAT'S exciting!

3. Which snack are you most looking forward to?
I'm basically just going to be munching on birthday and easter chocolate. So ALL of that.

4. Tell us a little something about yourself!
Um... I'm a new convert to running and should probably be doing that right now, only my head's still a bit tender so reading it is!

5. If you participated in the last readathon, what's one thing you'll do different today?
LAST readathon I spent most of it talking to my new (at the time) housemates, so I'm going to do less of that today! But also, early night. Important.


Friday, 25 April 2014

Devouring Stephen King (and Peter Straub): Black House

"She's beautiful, but he senses that beauty is one of the least important things about her."

Black House is the sequel to The Talisman that nobody asked for. I'm sorry, let me rephrase that- the sequel to The Talisman that I didn't ask for, and I didn't want. This is an extraordinarily grumpy start to a post, I realise, but good lord did I dislike The Talisman; and so Black House wasn't exactly a Stephen King book I was looking forward to getting to. But, it is here, it is done with, and you know what? It wasn't half bad.

Before we even talk about the book, shall we talk about the title? Black House sounds an awful lot like Bleak House, WHICH I JUST READ (weird!) and I thought this was just a coincidence and nothing would come of it. BUT in this book, two of the characters read Bleak House, and while I think it's still pretty much a coincidence, it's pretty cool that the similarity of the titles is at least acknowledged and mentioned and whatnot. 

Now. The story. We left Jack Sawyer after his really long boring journey and something about some kind of talisman and saving his mother and blah blah blah, as a twelve year old boy on the East Coast. Now living in Wisconsin, Jack is a retired LAPD homicide detective, and in my brain, he is now SMOKING hot. I don't know why, there's definitely nothing to suggest that he's especially the most handsome man in the world, but in my particular world of the story, he's pretty fine. And I would marry him. That's your first indication that I maybe didn't hate this book that much.

So. Jack is retired from police work, but children keep being murdered near him and he's coerced into helping with the investigation into that. OF COURSE it's not just a case of simple child murder, since Jack's all special and there's this whole other world (The Territories) that he hardly remembers but to which he is still important, and both of these things tie in together and make it so that Jack is the only one who can solve the case. On the whole, I BY FAR enjoyed all the police-work-biker-gang-reality stuff more than the fantasy-talking-there has to be a supernatural element to all this cause I say so stuff. Which is fairly rare for me, but the latter stuff reminded me that The Talisman existed, and that just pissed me off.

HOWEVER. The stuff in The Territories in this book related A LOT to The Dark Tower series, and so I was kind of in hog heaven over it. Seriously- I may have mentioned before that I kind of like those books, you know, no big deal, they're just King's magnum opus, whatevs, and so any extra information I can get about that world, I am all over. I'm always impressed with how carefully it's crafted, too- it's just enough about The Dark Tower so you stay interested in it, but not so much that it cuts off any storylines that might be about to happen in that universe. It's very well done, basically, and I'm hugely impressed that King made Straub agree to include those connections. Because hey, it's Straub's book too.*

So there's that. I read quite large chunks of this book in single sittings because it was both well written and compelling, but (but, but, but) just like in The Talisman, there was so much build up (TOO much build up) for the inevitable rushed and disappointing damp squib of an ending. The entire book feels like it's building up for something incredible to happen, but... It doesn't. Not really. STUFF happens, and it's alright, but it's over in about 3 pages and then there's just the explaining what happened to the townsfolk who don't understand the supernatural. You know what I would have liked? More of the supernatural to explain. It definitely did a lot to how I feel about the book as a whole, but there's still a lot I like about it in the end. 

Like, the characters. The characters are so much better than in The Talisman, even Jack is better than in The Talisman, and I cared about each and every one of them. There's the kindly and surprisingly well educated biker gang, Jack's blind but brilliant best friend, the put upon police chief, the extraordinary boy and his equally as extraordinary mother... There are a lot of characters to care about here, and even a few to love, and on the other side, there are just as many who are fun to hate (the bastard newspaper reporter comes to mind here, plus, you know, the child murderer...). It's all good where they're concerned, really.

One final thing though. This is not ok:
"Esther Summerson begins to chirp away in the first person. Our friends decide that the appearance of Esther demands a small libation, if they are to get through much more chirping."

*Although maybe there are connections in it that relate to some of Straub's work too. I dunno, what, do have to read all his books now, too?!

Friday, 18 April 2014

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets: (Almost) Live Blog

I'm sure we all enjoyed last night's post of anger and disappointment so much that we're really excited to do it all over again tonight! Yay? I have heard that HP2 (as we shall call it) isn't much better than HP1, so I'm definitely really looking forward to it. Yes.

21:05- God, I think this ones longer than the last one, even. Never listen to my housemates when they say 'you can just watch one and two back to back'. Only if I've got FIVE HOURS to spare, guys.

21:08- I've just realised that 4 Privet Drive is literally nothing like I imagined. I know, why would it be? But still. Disappointing.

21:10- Dobby's about to get punched. By me. FUCKING DOBBY.

21:13- I hate that Dobby is trying to stop Harry from getting all killed, but then he does something that makes Uncle Vernon likely to murder him. Also I just generally hate Dobby, have I mentioned that?

21:16- Aghhh, The Burrow is excellent! Also, Molly. Yes.

21:19- I'm well impressed with whoever taught the owls to fly with letters in their mouths. Veeeery impressed. Less so with whoever taught the kids to act.

21:22- Knockturn Alley is waaaaay more sinister than in the books. Also a little bit Dickensian London-y. I like it.


21:25- Draco seems very very angry for no real reason! WHERE IS THE DIRECTOR?!

21:27- Oh really? Did Harry just notice Lucius putting the diary in Ginny's cauldron? NOPE.

21:30- Harry could clearly also almost die in the flying car incident (which actually looks pretty cool) . I feel like Dobby reaaaally isn't thinking things through.

21:34- SNAAAAAPE! He's very good at angry, isn't he? *flaps*

21:36- Mandrakes cure those who have been Petrified? It's possible that could be important... Hehehehe

21:39- Ron's face at the Howler! Ridiculous!

21:41- Lockhart's golden suit is wooooonderful. His teaching, not so much. Obviously.

21:44- Nice of Fred and George to show concern for their slug vomming brother! Also, FUCKING MALFOY.

21:45- Aw, we just had a touching anti-discrimination moment! Boooo people who say mudblood.

21:47- Don't worry Harry, no one is going to die... It's only the second film, things haven't gotten that dark yet.

21:50- Dumbledore and McGonagall giving Lockhart the side-eye. Oh hell yes.

21:54- Does McGonagall give such a massive talk about the Chamber in the book? I don't remember that at all, really.

21:57- Ah, Quidditch again. What did I ever do to deserve this?

22:01- Oh nooooo, I forgot about Lockhart fixing Harry's arm. That is preeeetty gross on film. Oh, Lockhart.


22:06- Hogwarts isn't safe! We definitely shouldn't send the kids home! It's really dangerous but whatevs!

22:09- Snape couldn't look more thrilled at being Lockhart's assistant. Oh, Snape.

22:12- I feel like the snake thing could have been done better... Like from two different sides or something? But hey, Harry's a Parselmouth, who knew?!

22:17- Dumbledore's office! Actually I quite like it- especially the assortment of random shit everywhere. (How does Harry not know what a Phoenix is?!)


22:22- But but but the Polyjuice potion is meant to change colour depending on who you put in it!

22:25- "Reading? I didn't know you could read." Yes. Humour.

22:29- Oh Myrtle. You add nothing to anyone's life, man.

22:31- Does Harry PHYSICALLY  have to go into the diary? Wouldn't he be missed? (Ps don't trust anything that thinks when you can't see its brain)

22:35- "HAGRIIIIIIID!" Oh. Wow. And not in a good way.

22:38- The Petrified students look really really creepy. Like horrifying mannequins. HORRIFYING, I tell you.

22:41- Fudge's face is disappointing. In that he doesn't look like that in my brain at all. Damn, why don't they let me cast these things?

22:46- I am the resident spider catcher in my house, but there might be a few too many spiders for me. Also, Aragog. I cannot.

22:49- ARE THEY ON ME? I feel like they're on me. GET THEM OFF.

22:55- MUST Snape encourage Lockhart so? Must he? Why does everyone want Lockhart to die?

22:56- Oh yeah, that's why. Cowardface.

23:00- Oooh, the Chamber opening is pretty cool. I'm down with that.

23:02- "Heart of a lion, this one." Heh.

23:04- Harry has to go on alone then, does he? Must be why this is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

23:07- Ginny! Naughty. Sort of.

23:11- Why would Harry throw the Sorting Hat down and run? That seems incredibly foolish. Like, ridiculous.

23:17- Harry assumes he's dying, and yet he still really wants to get Ginny out and and he's so BRAVE. Oh Harry.

23:21- Oh, Dobby. You've been so useless this whole film. Please go away.

23:23- The first Dumbledore was a very good Dumbledore indeed.

23:26- House Elf magic is STRONG. There must be some kind of research that can go into the suppressing of a race that's stronger than you are...

23:30- Hagrid's standing ovation. Oh hells yeah. Also that's so not how the book ends, but ok.

So. Huh. Definitely not as bad as the first one. But no Christmas? What is even the point?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: (Almost) Live Blog

I'm going to Harry Potter Land (totally not it's actual name) next week, and I have not seen the films. To me, this seems like a problem, and one I'm going to remedy starting tonight by watching The Philosopher's Stone- a film I have seen a couple of times, and which I pretty much ate. So this is going to be fun!

So. FIRSTLY there will be Harry Potter spoilers. So go away now if you've somehow missed out on this cultural phenomenon. Secondly! It's an almost live blog cause I just going to record all my thoughts here and post it once the film's done because the other way is effort. To be clear- this is the only way I'm going to get through the films without killing things. Hold on to me, internet.

21:18- Ah good, it's starting. *tries not to relive bitter 12 year old experience* *fails* That's still bloody good music though.

21:21- "I would trust Hagrid with my life." Awwwwww, yay!

21:22- You don't maybe want to put baby Harry in a basket? Something he won't be able to crawl away from really easily? Nope? Ok then.

21:26- Wow, Dudley's a really terrible actor. BLOODY KIDS.

21:29- Why is Uncle Vernon so anti-Harry going to Hogwarts though? Gets him away from them, and it's surely difficult to deny magic exists when there are zillions of letters zipping down your chimney!

21:33- Ughhhhh, line delivery. So so so bad. WHY CAN'T CHILDREN ACT?!

21:38- KESTER! I mean, Quirrell! We know all about HIM, of course. *knowing face*

21:41- There's no safer place than Gringotts to keep stuff except Hogwarts, huh? That could be important...

21:44- Olivander seems very much like a man who should not be left alone with children.

21:49- A lot of the soundtrack seems fairly unnecessary. Maybe because there's NO SOUNDTRACK IN THE BOOKS.

21:51- Ah, the Weasleys. BUT WAIT- shouldn't Harry have already met Malfoy in Diagon Alley? SHOULDN'T HE?

21:54- Fucking Emma Watson's face and also voice. Why are they all so posh? None of these are even actual accents anyone has.

21:56- Hogwarts does look quite cool though.

21:58- Tiny Malfoy has hella charisma. No wonder I loved him when I was teeny. Also, Neville has a real accent! Of course he does.


22:04- Holy shit, the ghosts are terrible. I would honestly rather they had left them out. Fucking awful.

22:09- I would like to take Alan Rickman's potions class. Oh yes. Mmmmmhmmm.

22:13- "Mount it. And grip it tight. You don't want to be sliding off the end." OOER I thought this was a children's film.

22:15- Good God, the flying is even worse than the ghosts. How OLD is this film now? (Really really old?)

22:19- Even their screams are unconvincing. I wonder if the director would rather have worked with lumps of clay...

22:22- "You catch this Potter, and we win." That is a blatant misunderstanding of the Quidditch rules. BLATANT.

22:24- Why does Seamus keep blowing things up? He isn't Neville!

22:27- I was about to say the bathroom bit was ok, but then Harry literally became an animated character for a minute there. WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!

22:29- Snape and Harry need to stop eye fucking. This is just uncomfortable.

22:31- They literally just acted like they didn't know what was in a broomstick shaped parcel. WHY IS EVERYTHING SO STUPID?

22:33- There's a girl on the Slytherin Quidditch team. This is clearly bullshit. Also, fuck Quidditch.

22:36- Gosh, aren't Slytherin EVIL. Does everyone know how evil Slytherin are? So evil they even talk like villains.

22:38- Quidditch is really boring. Hey, shouldn't we have been to Hagrid's house by now? Hagrid's going to be forgotten a lot by the movies, isn't he?

22:41: It's snowing! That means it must be Christmas! Even though it never snows in the UK at Christmas but NEVER MIND.

22:44- No spells to keep you out of the Restricted section of the library then. Just a lock anyone can open. Ok then.

22:46- Alan Rickman's face, man. Alan Rickman's face.

22:49- The Mirror of Erised makes me feel wet in the eye area. Damn. (Unfortunately James Potter looks about 40 in the mirror when he was about 21 when he died. But, then again, JK is bad at maths...)

22:53- Ah good, a mere 50 minutes to go and our first mention of the Philosopher's Stone. Amazing pacing.

22:57- RON DOESNT EVEN GO ON THE RIDICULOUS FOREST DETENTION. Neville has been so crazy written out of this, when he's actually the best. Sort it out.

23:00- Harry and Draco alone together in the woods must be the stuff of fan fictions (wet) dreams

23:07- Do they even go to McGonagall to ask for help in the book? Cause... That seems unlikely.

23:08- Oh look, Neville! Oh yeah. He's a character.

23:16- Damn iPad went all funky. Never mind. WIZARD CHESS. It's pretty epic. I thought they missed out the keys, but it's possible that they miss out the potions instead. DAMMIT.

23:18- "NO, YOU CAN'T! THERE MUST BE ANOTHER WAY!" Please stop being terrible at acting, Emma. Please.

23:20- Right, so, Ron has to stay behind because, unconscious; and Hermione has to stay behind because... Ron needs a mummy? HERMIONE IS NO ONE'S MUMMY, BITCHES.

23:21- Dammit. No potions. FFS.

23:22- Oh Quirrell. You're pretty hot.

23:24- Ewwwwwwww, Voldiehead. So not pretty. I would have kept the turban on, tbh.

23:26- "There is no good or evil, only power and those too weak to seek it." I like it!

23:27- Voldiedust. Pretty weird. Also Harry has basically just killed his first man?

23:31- Ah, Dumbledore. The perfect blend of sincerity and silliness. 'Alas, earwax', indeed.

23:34- Aw, Neville's little face just hit me right in the feels. NEVILLE WON THE HOUSE CUP, NO ONE ELSE. (Ah, the days when the House Cup mattered...)

23:37- No drama, no suspense, no better than I thought it was going to be... And yet it still tugged at my emotions. Damn me and my damn feelings. Damn everything.

Devouring Books: Running Like A Girl by Alexandra Heminsley

"'It's the most natural thing in the world. We were born to run.'
'You just put on your trainers and head out the door, that's the beauty of it.'
'It's just you, the road and your thoughts.'
These are the things that people say about running. These are lies."

The lovely Charlotte sent me Running Like A Girl for my birthday, and no sooner was it in my hands than I was reading it, no sooner was I reading it than I forgot all other books existed, no sooner did I start it than it was finished. I have bastardised Shakespeare to make this very pressing point- I read this book really quickly, and it was completely awesome. There.

In my review, I've got to make it fairly clear that I'm coming at this book from one specific angle- that is, someone who has really just started running, and who kind of loves it, and who wants to read about it as much as possible and figure out how to be better at it. I don't know if this book would convince anyone to run at all (I hope it would- on the whole it makes running sound REALLY difficult, but even more worth it) so if you're going to ask me 'will it make me want to put my trainers on and run round the park like a loon?' then the honest answer is, I don't know.

As always, all I can tell you is what it did for me. Heminsley has run marathons, and I haven't yet made it to 5k, and yet there's something fairly universal about the experience of running that made me agree emphatically with basically everything in this book. There's the unexplained aches that come with using muscles that haven't had to do anything for years, the sheer terror that comes with your very first run, and allll the anxieties that run through your head when you're about to start running. What if I dehydrate? What if I throw up? What if I faint and people see me and then when I'm ok they all laugh because I'm so unfit that I faint if I try to run? WHAT THEN?

These are all anxieties that I've genuinely had, and they're pretty much the same ones as Heminsley describes. The fact that I'm not the only person to have had them, even now when I'm pretty much like 'oh, it's running day? That's cool, maybe I'll drink some water and then go,' is extremely reassuring. The fact that Heminsley has had them and has ALSO run marathons makes me rather foolishly go 'well, maybe one day I could...' and then I have to stop myself before I even think it because NO. I definitely can't run a marathon and I want you all to remind me of that if I ever even think about doing it.

Which I won't. Because I can't do that. Seriously, stop looking at me like that. I can't. 

BACK TO THE BOOK. Not only does it document Heminsley's running journey, from aborted first run to four completed marathons, it also contains a lot of practical and useful running advice that means it's a real keeper of a book. There's a chapter on injuries, on what to pack when you're running the London Marathon, one on deflecting people who say that running is a waste of time/will fuck up your knees/will ruin your tits, and another on the running gear that you'll actually need. There's even a chapter on the struggles that women have faced even being allowed to run in marathons (The women's marathon wasn't an olympic event until 1984. I mean, COME ON) that, possibly more than anything else in this book will make you so angry that you'll have even more of those terrible thoughts about running a marathon yourself. 1984 IS ONLY 30 YEARS AGO, THAT IS RIDICULOUS.

And, maybe most importantly of all, this book made me cry. Oh yes, a memoir about running made me cry. How is this possible, I hear you ask? Well. Firstly, running has become a bit of an emotional thing for me because of how I never thought I'd be able to do it and now I run three times a week and it's hard and it hurts but I do it and I didn't think I could. So there's that. And watching the London Marathon on Sunday started me off because there are all these people, all doing a thing that they didn't think they could do, only they can and it's awesome. And then I was on the bus, reading this, and it got to a part when Heminsley was doing the marathon and she didn't think she could carry on and then she sees her family and they are AMAZING and it's all just wonderful and I started crying like a baby on the bus. It was a lot, but it was kind of lovely. Emotions, man.

So. This book is pretty awesome if you already are a tiny bit in love with running, or even in love/hate with it. As I said, I'm not sure it would spur you on to run, but how can someone's amazing life achievements NOT make you feel at least a little bit inspired to go out and do something yourself? It doesn't even have to be running, but it has to be something. This book is perfect for making you want to do.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Sunday Sundries: I Am Old Now

Merry Palm Sunday, people!
Naturally I don't really know what I'm talking about when I say this, since I suspect Palm Sunday isn't that merry, only what do I know? Nothing. That's what. The date just occurred to me, is all.

So I had a birthday on Wednesday. In spite of all my trepidation and sad sad prediction that I would probably just cry all day, I actually did ok. It's not like it was my best birthday ever, but I only got teary a few times, and then cried once, which I kind of count as a success at this point. Whether or not I was happy is kind of another question, but I did as well as I could, under the circumstances. I was also reminded of how bloody awesome children are when you're sad, AND how nice they apparently are to you when it's your birthday. Or maybe my cousin's kid is just the best (he definitely is).

Basically, it was what it was. It was a day spent with my family, where I got presents and cake, and it would have been all good if you ignored the gaping, person shaped hole in proceedings. Which was the hardest thing to do.

Shall we talk presents though? Or, more specifically, present because basically, as a well done for my 25th year of being alive, I got a mini iPad!
This is obviously something I really needed because now I have the full set of Apple products- iPod touch, iPhone, MacBook Pro and now this iPad. And... I kind of don't know how to integrate it into my life. I mean... I know I can watch things on it, and I can read on it, and I can do all manner of internet things on it, but it's possible that it's maybe not that necessary. BUT I love it and that's what really matters here, I think.

So, birthday. Yay-ish. I'm sure that other things happened this week... My housemates have all been off work because they're teachers/trainee teachers and it's the school holidays now, and it's both nice to actually see people in the mornings, and REALLY ANNOYING that they get to stay at home and do whatever while I slink off to work. Stupid living with teachers... *mutters angrily*. I skipped my first run ever this week because I didn't really feel well at the start of the week, but I've been getting back on track since then. AND work is still annoying me and yeah. Still really need to do something about that.
But still. The sun has mostly been shining, and life has mostly been ok. I can probably live with that.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Devouring Books: The Giver by Lois Lowry

"I feel sorry for anyone who is in a place where he feels strange and stupid."

My understanding about The Giver is that it's an actual assigned book in a lot of American schools, so you'll excuse me if this post has your childhood education rushing back to you. I've come to it as an adult, so I'll probably have a different take on it than you did when you were, say, 12; but possibly only in that I really have two takes on it, one good, one so irritated. But we'll get to all of that, because first of all it's very important for you to know that I only read this because there's a film coming out this summer (I think) and it stars some really great people: Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, *ahem* Alexander Skarsgard...

But anyway, here's the trailer for that...
I don't even know how I feel about it now that I've read the book, but I'll surely go and see it anyway! Important note: I'm really glad they've changed the way the giver 'gives' the information, because in the book, the twelve year old has to take his shirt off and be rubbed by the old man, so. Yeah. Awkward.

Anyway. The Giver. I have this innate fondness of dystopias that I blame on The Handmaid's Tale and 1984, so I'm always keen to read a new one, even if it has been sliiiightly overdone in YA fiction in recent times*, but The Giver was published in 1993, so... Not exactly recent times. In terms of writing and plotting and things like that, I feel like it's not that well written and the story doesn't exactly develop in the ways I wanted it to, but that's kind of what I expect from YA books, and I can definitely see how it could be a good jumping off point in classrooms for all kinds of discussions, which is really the main point of it. So let's have some of those discussions, shall we?

Firstly. I want to discuss The Giver as an anti-socialist piece of propaganda, which OH MY GOD, it definitely seems like. In The Giver, the characters live in a world where everything is the same, everyone has the same milestones and no hobbies, careers, spouses and children are assigned and everything is just very equal, and safe, and seems to be really dull (only with a core of horridness which is mostly hinted at and only rarely seen). It's basically the kind of world that people who are against socialism would assume would be the end result, in that everyone is kind of the same, all emotions and 'stirrings' (that's sexual feelings, folks) have to be suppressed so that nobody wants to hurt anybody (or do anything else with them for that matter) and everything is very efficient and clean and... boring.

I can't even tell you the number of things wrong with this as an end view of socialism, and it just makes me want to scream about how socialism is actually the best and why can't we distribute wealth more evenly and what the fuck, how would socialism mean that nobody saw colours anymore? Because of things like that, I assume that Lowry wasn't necessarily thinking 'I must take down socialism' when she wrote The Giver, but it definitely feels like she went 'but HOW would a socialist society really work?' and then went insane. 
But. If we get off that point, since it's kind of something that didn't really occur to me until after I'd finished reading and went 'HEY, I like socialism though', we can talk about some other questions that it raises. Like... In order to live in a world without crime, or lying, or poverty, or other bad things like that, would emotion and memory of the past and all forms of entertainment have to be outlawed? And, if you don't know any different, is that really such a high price to pay? In the back of the copy I read, there were discussion questions (because, YA) and one was 'is the world in The Giver a utopia or a dystopia?' And shit, I was so surprised because, yeah, I guess you could see it as a utopia even though, as someone who lives in the land of emotions, it seemed like a grey living nightmare.

How I feel about emotions is, they're kind of everything. As much as they hurt, as much as they can leave you down for days, I'd rather have the highs and lows of life than have nothing at all. I feel like that, of course, because I have them and I have also been in a state where I haven't had them, and I know for a fact which one is better. But if I'd never had them? It's an interesting thought, because shit, sometimes they hurt so much, but we'd also kind of be nothing without them. To not be sad when someone dies, to not even have families that you actually invest in and care about, to be without love? What's the point? But if you've never had them, and you live in a clean and comforting and safe world, AND you don't know what has been given up? I don't know.

What the giver really gives, anyway, is emotions rather than memories, and once they are given, they can't be taken away, can't be forgotten, and they make everything seem pointless, and dull, and much less alive than the world used to be. It's interesting that Jonas (our twelve year old hero who I haven't mentioned like 8 paragraphs in... Whoops!) keeps making justifications for why things aren't the way they used to be anymore ('well... I can see why they got rid of that, it's to keep us safe!') because being raised in a certain way is a very powerful thing. 

So, I don't think this is the greatest book in the world, and the writing and even the story leaves a lot to be desired (soooo much talking...) BUT it did make me think about a lot of things so it's worth it just for that. You've probably read it already anyway, so I don't need to give it a thumbs up or down, but you know. It's alright. I probably wouldn't read it again, but I'm glad I read it this once.

*After I finished this, I started Uglies. It's too soon to tell if it's good or not... Why am I reading so much YA when I know I don't really like it? *shrug*

Monday, 7 April 2014

Devouring Books: Franny and Zooey by JD Salinger

"'I'm sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I could respect...'"

I went into Franny and Zooey knowing only 3 things relating to it:
  1. I really hate The Catcher in the Rye, and sort of, by extension, Salinger.
  2. I had a weird inkling I would like it.
  3. Number three is a myth because those were the only two things I knew.
It wasn't a lot to go on, but I've had this weird fixation on reading it ever since this character in Sex and the City was all like 'Salinger used to get me high' and called her daughters Franny and Zooey someone very important and sophisticated said it was a good book to read so I thought, yes, yes I shall. It took actual YEARS to find a copy in a charity shop, but I finally did (last year...) and now, obviously, I've read it.

There are a few important things to know about Franny and Zooey before we begin. FIRSTLY, it's made up of a short story (Franny) and a novella (Zooey) although the two are connected so you could probably just call it a novella. SECONDLY, Zooey is a boy. This is RIDICULOUS to my brain so I sort of want to deny that it's true and think of him as a girl, but no, Zooey is (apparently) short for Zachary and Zooey Deschanel's mum was just crazy for spelling it like that. Franny and Zooey are both members of Salinger's Glass family, who come up in many of his short stories and novellas, which I'm presenting to you as if I know all about them when really I read up about them on Wikipedia as soon as I'd finished this book. 

So. Franny is the short story and it really leads into Zooey, as it's pretty much the story of Franny meeting up with her boyfriend, who she doesn't seem to like that much, and having what we find out in Zooey are the beginnings of some kind of breakdown. Except... from the way Franny describes things, it's a lot more complicated than just having a breakdown, and seems to have something to do with not being able to find sincerity or meaning in college, or even life. It was interesting to me that the way Franny describes what she's feeling has parallels with Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, except that because she wasn't walking around moaning and calling everyone phonies, I actually gave a shit. 

The deal with Franny and Zooey is this: As the youngest members of their family, and with two much much older brothers by the time they were reading to learn stuff, they were educated by said brothers in a way that has made them unsuitable for the outside world. Unsuitable how? In a way in which they're always striving for something deeper and more meaningful and for some kind of inner peace, while the rest of the world seems to always be striving for, you know, money and things. Which isn't necessarily a wrong way to live*, but it's not really the way for these two, so they don't really fit into it. Nor, really, do they want to.

I'm kind of babbling here. And the reason I'm kind of babbling is that I really really REALLY liked this book and I got a LOT of high-minded and English (and Philosophy, come to think of it) degree-ish thoughts out of a relatively few pages. Small as this book is, there's quite a lot packed into it, and I haven't even said anything about the Franny short story and the ennui of being the same as everyone else and all the other good stuff in those 25 pages. Essentially what I want is to take some kind of American Lit course and then discuss it, OR everyone could just read this and we could discuss it and then I'd be totally happy.

One final note: Franny and Zooey is SO good that it's convinced me to give The Catcher in the Rye one last time. I figure that I can absolutely be that JD Salinger fan who doesn't like Catcher, but having seen more of what I think Salinger is trying to say through Caulfield, I feel like maybe I'll be able to appreciate him a tiny bit more? Or possibly just want to break his face as I have with every other reading of that book. We shall see.

*I'm lying. It's absolutely the wrong way to live, if you only want things. 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sunday Sundries: The Good With The Bad

Oh heeey, so this must be the first Sunday in 2 weeks, huh? Yeaaah... Last Sunday was both Mother's Day and Daylight Savings started, so I was an hour behind anyway and I had to be nice to my mum and had an emotional visit to my nan's grave, and then went and saw my nan in Ascot and yeah. Let's just say the day got away from me.

Kind of sadly, because I was going to tell you about all the awesome things I was going to do with my week off work! But instead, you know, I'll just tell you what I did. Which makes more sense. Because I actually did the stuff. I'm going to do this day by day because that'll make it so much more interesting...

Monday: I met up with my mum around lunchtime and we had lunch and did some food shopping together. It was brief, but nice. Then, in the evening, I went out to dinner with my sister and we went to see Dallas Buyers Club (FINALLY) which was pretty good, but mainly reminded me that I haven't watched a film in a reaaaaaally long time, so my attention span is shot. Probably need to work on that.

Tuesday: Pretty much just chilled out in the house, watched some TV, sent some emails and did some internetty things I've been meaning to do, but most importantly, I went for a run, which means the day wasn't wasted. Which is good!

Wednesday: I took myself up to London. Ostensibly to go to the National Gallery and look at the two versions of Van Gogh's Sunflowers they have hanging next to each other (and to unintentionally think some arty thoughts about them) but I also saw some other paintings and some Van Goghs that I didn't even know existed and it was good. I also ended up walking around Chinatown and going in alllll the oriental supermarkets, and got a few bits and pieces. And then I walked to a million other places. I can't overstate the amount of walking. There was a lot of it.

Thursday: More lunching with my mum! Plus walking around Richmond, plus I bought her cake. A jolly good time was had by all.

Friday: Pretty much another day at home, although I did go to the library to pick up The Giver which I'd reserved, and then I read it in an afternoon. So that was pretty cool. Also, a run. EXHAUSTING.

And that was basically my week! It was pretty nice and relaxing and all the things a week off work should be, even if there have been times where I've been like 'I should be doing MORE THINGS. Or maybe reading more. I DON'T KNOW.' because, you know, I have issues.

But now to the week ahead, which is really where the subtitle comes into play. This Wednesday is my birthday, which is technically a good things because, I assume, there will be presents and also cake and also I have another day off work which is obviously always the best. But. This is going to be the first birthday of my whole life that isn't going to involve my nan, and the thought of that makes me unspeakably sad. I know that this is the first one, so obviously it's going to be the hardest, and obviously it's ok to be, you know, sad and upset, but also it's my birthday and I don't really want to be sad and upset.

So, it's kind of a Catch-22- the fact that it is my birthday is going to upset me, even though I don't want to be upset on my birthday, and it sucks but that's the way it is. I've said a few times 'I don't really want to do my birthday this year...' and I get a bit of 'you know that nanny would want you to have a nice time' and so on, and I know that she would but at the same time I can't. To be honest, I'll consider it a success if the time I spend crying is less than the time I'm not, and hopefully that will be the case.

This grief thing, guys. It's really hard.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Devouring Books: Embroideries by Marjane Satrapi

I got Embroideries out of the library the same time I read Chicken With Plums in one sitting, excitedly expecting another Satrapi book I could cherish and wish I'd bought instead of getting it out of the library. That's... Not exactly what happened, and there are a few reasons for that I can pinpoint. But we'll talk about the book itself first.

Embroideries takes place over the course of one afternoon- after lunch while the men are napping, the women of the household get together over tea and talk. So, even though the whole thing would theoretically take place over a few hours, the book spans years and thousands of miles and the stories of a number of different women, giving one meaning to 'Embroideries'. There is another one, but we're not going to discuss that, in case you want to read this and totally raise your eyebrows a lot when you do.

So. Embroideries is good in the sense that I read it in about an hour (graphic novels, yo) and it held my attention for all that time and all that good stuff. Graphic novel-wise, it's interesting in the sense that it doesn't follow the conventions of having separate boxes on the page, and it's a lot more free-flow. I read a thing that said that that showed confidence and also energy or something, so let's go with that as a good explanation for it. Anyway, I liked the way it looked.

But. My main problem with this book is that it barely passes the Bechdel Test. I mean, the entire thing is women having a conversation, but pretty much all they talk about is men. Their husbands, women they knew who married this guy, vaginas and their state of use/non-use... It all gets to be a little bit tiring. I mean, I get that this is Iran, and so who you marry, and being married is all very important, being 'pure' is even more important, and being a single, independent woman is practically a crime. But... Just one story that involved politics, maybe? Or something about someone's cat or whatever? I don't know, it was just a bit... Jolted my feminist bone a little bit.

I might be overstating this a tiny bit. I don't want to make it sound like the women just sit around talking about men in a fawning, disgusting, subservient way, because it's not like that at all. There are stories about affairs (both pre- and extra-marital), about advising women how to fake virginity, about fighting against forced marriages... These are no angels, and they're not supposed to be angels, and it's refreshing to see Iranian women presented in such a way. But, at the same time, plastic surgery is talked about like it's a necessary evil, and they still basically just talk about men.

So. I don't really know where I end up on this. I enjoyed Embroideries fine while I was reading it, even if it left me a bit hollow afterwards, and it really seems like an accurate depiction of what Iranian women talk about when there are no men around. That doesn't mean I have to like it, but that's the way that is. But still, just... Maybe read Persepolis instead? Yeah, do that.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Devouring Films: Whip It

If you haven't seen Whip It yet, then I really don't know what to do with you. It's one of those films that I was really excited about for a really long time before it came out, and then it was released in about 5 cinemas and so I never saw it until it came out on DVD. Luckily for me, it's usually on TV about once a month or so (it used to be on Netflix, but apparently not anymore...) AND I'm usually watching TV when it's on so I watch parts of it all the time.

This happened the other week, and this time, I had a little bit of an epiphany. Whip It, in case you don't know, is the story of Bliss Cavendar (Ellen Page), a kind of shy, slightly awkward girl from Texas who, once she knows about it, wants to be a roller derby girl more than anything else in the whole world. While it's mostly a film about growing up and finding peace with your mother and being a best friend and being a better person, it's really the whole roller derby thing that's the best thing. And I love it.

My revelation, though, came when I realised that, for Bliss, her extra-curricular activities have the option of taking one of two paths. The choice her mother wants to make for her is that of the beauty queen- she forces encourages her to take part in beauty pageants which really don't fulfil Bliss in any way. The choice she wants to make for herself, of course, is roller derby- a (kinda) death defying sport where women roller skate around a track, trying to overtake each other and getting kind of battered in the process. It. Looks. Awesome. You know, in case that wasn't clear.

So. My thing is this. Other than that it's Bliss's own choice to participate in roller derby, and she's really only going along with the beauty pageant thing to please her mother, it seems to me that roller derby has about a million other advantages over beauty pageants.* I'm not entirely sure what beauty pageants teach young women other than how to be passive, look nice, and compete with other girls over who is the most physically attractive, as if that's how people should be evaluated. It seems to me that roller derby teaches actual lessons- how women should work together, how action is better than passivity, how sport can actually be kind of awesome. AND they manage to do all of this and still look pretty awesome, but that's absolutely a secondary factor.

The thing about this isn't so much that I think roller derby is a better way to spend ones time than beauty pageants, but more that, in terms of this movie, I think this is literally what they're saying. It's not really an important plot point for Bliss's 'other option' to be beauty pageants, but that's what it is, and this film is practically screaming 'THERE IS ANOTHER WAY. Or, in fact, there are probably many other ways but we're going to look at roller derby because LOOK HOW AWESOME IT IS.' So you've kind of got a mini-critique of beauty pageants tied up with all of the other awesome stuff there is to see in this film. OR I've seen it too many times and thought too much about it.

In conclusion: I'd really like to be a roller derby girl. I can make this happen, correct?

*Can you even believe that I don't think beauty pageants are cool? How out of character for me!
Beauty Queen vs Roller derby champ. Discuss.