The January Reading Review

The January Reading Review

As I’ve taken up the challenge to read 50 books (or more!) in 2011, I thought it would be a good idea to share my thoughts about the books I’ve finished reading every month.

If you work out the challenge, the goal is to read a book a week, give or take two weeks; thus I’m pretty pleased with myself to have finished six books so far with two still on the go. I haven’t yet finished the monster book of stories by Hans Christian Andersen yet with which I began the year (should I count it as more than one book?). However, I’m really enjoying the challenge so far.

Read on…

The Quotes of the Week IV

Sunday 23rd

“We have found that most other planets and solar systems are wildly different from our own. They are very hostile to life as we know it. The new information we are getting suggests we could effectively be alone in the universe. There are very few solar systems or planets like ours. It means it is highly unlikely there are any planets with intelligent life close enough for us to make contact.”

Dr Howard Smith, senior astrophysicist at Harvard University, who has claimed that contact with ‘little green men’ will never happen and we are totally alone in the universe

Read on…

The One I Left Behind

The One I Left Behind

I just gave in to temptation; I bought an album which I have had my eyes upon ever since first I heard it a year ago, courtesy of a rather excellent post from The Basement Rug in March 2010. It was the so-good-it’s-euphoric Hadestown, written by American folk artist Anaïs Mitchell. It cost me £7.49 and was worth. Every. Single. Penny.

And then some.

Why We Build the Wall (featuring Greg Brown)

Hadestown is a folk opera; a 2010 collaboration between Mitchell and several other obscenely talented musicians, such as the renowned Ani DiFranco. As the title might suggest, the story is a reworking of the classical Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, whom he brings back from the underworld only to lose her again, tragically, at the gates of hell.

Read on…

The Dōbutsuen: Neko

The Dōbutsuen: Neko

Japan’s native religion, Shinto, has far more than one deity. In fact, the Japanese believe that just about everything in nature has a spirit or kami [神] to protect it. As we’ve seen before with such animals as the kitsune [狐] and the tanuki [狸], living creatures are themselves considered sacred and have strong connotations of luck and good fortune.

Neko [猫]

You can’t go far in Japan without seeing one of its most popular good luck charms, the maneki neko [招き猫] or ‘lucky cat’. Maneki neko are so well-known that they have become national symbols for Japan and are widely recognised throughout the world.

Read on…

The Storm Shelter

The Storm Shelter

It’s so dark in here;
the light is fading.

I can see the storm approaching through the window above me,
soon the rain will come down.

‘Hier drinnen ist es trocken,’ I say, and it is;
packed in like sardines, but at least we’re dry.

I share an awkward smile with the man next to me –
no, hardly a man, more a boy.
There’s barely any hair on his lip.

In the darkness it’s hard to tell,
which is comforting, in a way.
Difference is hidden by darkness.

But I’m close enough to see
that he has a blemish, in the shape of a star.

Read on…

The Epic of the Ainu (part three)

The Epic of the Ainu (part three)

“Silence had fallen in the great hall, and she spoke.

“My brothers, listen to me. The gods came to assail us from the sea and I drove them back with my breath, to the very corners of the sea. But now the gods have come down from the mountain and I am unable to assuage them.

Battle is coming. I foretell by my witchcraft that none will be able to face this enemy that now comes; save the man who is named Shinutápka; our little brother and the heir of this castle. He alone will live. But even I cannot see whether this battle will go well; for on the sword our godlike brother Otópush wears the jewels do not shine. I do not know whether he will live or die.”

Read on…

The Gym Playlist In Progress

The Gym Playlist In Progress

So, I’m back at the gym (after quite a few more months off than I really should have taken). I am definitely the last person for whom you’d use the term ‘gym bunny’. I’m not stick thin (that’s why I’m there) and posers make me giggle.

I won’t bore you with tales of depleted energy and inevitable aches in muscles I didn’t even knew I had following my recent return to heavy exercise. After all, my resolution this year is to be more positive, right? So instead, I want to share one of my secret weapons, my most important survival tip for the gym.

Read on…