Tintin: first trailer!

Tintin is part of Belgian heritage when it comes to comic books. I’ve read all of them as a kid. (In Dutch we call him Kuifje.) The cartoons on television weren’t bad either.

But I am a bit sceptical on the movie though. Even with names like Spielberg and Jackson… as long as they capture his spirit. That’s what’s important. Very curious about it.

Terry Pratchett “Shaking Hands With Death” – 34th annual Dimbleby Lecture (BBC 1)

Yesterday BBC One broadcast the 34th annual Richard Dimbleby Lecture. I had never watched it before, but it caught my attention this time because Sir Terry Pratchett was to give a lecture called “Shaking Hands With Death”.
Terry Pratchett, as you will now if you have seen my rantings on his novels, is the writer of the bestselling series Discworld (http://www.terrypratchettbooks.com/). In 2007 he publically shared that he was diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease called Posterior cortical atrophy (or Benson’s syndrome), which is a visual variant of Alzheimer’s. It causes shrinkage of the back part of the brain and progressively disrupts complex visual processing. E.g. having difficulties buttoning up a shirt, forgetting where to have put your keys (while having them in front of you), seeing a cup of tea on the table but the brain not registering it is there – and then suddenly the tea-cup pops up like magic in his sight.
 
I had seen the documentary he had made with BBC Two, called “Living with Alzheimer”, where he shared how he has to battle the disease daily and how it creeps up in subtle ways. He explored how medical science is working on battling the disease, met up with other patients and visited American nursing homes with last stage patients.
 
In his Dimbleby Lecture, “Shaking Hands With Death”, he give his personal view on how our society deals with death; on how, say, in Victorian times assisted dying seemed more the practice to have people go in dignity. Pratchett wasn’t there to advocate assisted dying for all, but stood up for his own, private right to choose how he wants to spend his end of life, because Alzheimer’s disease is not a curable one. It is an ongoing, deteriorating illness, which results in many having a far lesser quality of life. In his lecture he spoke up about his right to be free to choose how he wants to go; with dignity and having something remaining of the Terry Pratchett he is. Not a shadow of his former self.

The Big Sleep (1946)

Sometimes, you need to get back to the classics. And what is more classic than Humphrey Bogart along Lauren Bacall in a ‘film noir’? The answer is: nothing. (Possibly another film noir.)

I’m very into film noir. It is a genre that intrigues me, and has for purpose to intrigue, so I’m right on track with that.

The Big Sleep is originally a novel by Raymond Chandler. It’s only after seeing the movie I noticed I had it on my bookshelf. I had once bought a second-hand book at university to support a charity cause, with the intent to read it and I never did. (A real shame, cause every book deserves to be read, because that is its purpose of existence.) The book contained 3 novels by Chandler, and the first one is The Big Sleep.

The movie stars Bogart and Bacall in their second movie together, directed by Howard Hawks. Continue reading “The Big Sleep (1946)”

Terry Pratchett: the battle is on

There is no need to say it again, but I will. I am an avid fan of Terry Pratchett novels.

Picture left: from The Times, January 30 2009

I still haven’t read all of them, but about 20 or more novels. I tend to go for the ones with the characters I like the most. Going Postal is still a favorite of mine (Faberadatch review-link), as is any novel with Nanny Ogg, Death, Susan (Death’s granddaughter) or Rincewind (the wizzard who can’t even spell that properly).

So when last Wednesday there was a programme with Terry called “Living with Alzheimer’s”, which he has been diagnosed with a year ago, I wanted very much to see that.

He is only in the early stages and it’s a specific kind of Alzheimer’s he has: posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) or Benson’s disease, a rare form that affects the part of the brain that has to do with your vision. Because it can be different to different people, not all symptoms are the same to anyone.

Pratchett sounded very eloquent and coherent. It’s not because you hear that he’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it’s necessarily the beginning of the end. Not at all. But it will be a difficult road ahead for him. And that’s why he wants to understand what is ahead and how it can be dealt with. As I can imagine anyone would.

During this first year, Pratchett let a BBC-camera crew follow him all year round. In the programme, he said that he used to be a fast typist and laughed at spelling checkers – yet now he finds it more difficult to type fluently and he has to rely more and more on his spelling checker when working.

He is now searching to find something to treat it or slow it down, and has donated money to find a treatment.

I understand him completely, when he says that this kind of throws a shadow over his already 25th year of the Discworld series. Almost 36 books later, and still writing, now people tend to talk about the Alzheimer’s instead of his new book.

If you wish to read more on this you can read an article on Telegraph.co.uk “Sir Terry Pratchett documents Alzheimer’s battle in BBC film“.

I do wish him well and hope that he will find what will ease it for him in the years to come. Keep fighting, Terry.

Dian Fossey

A while ago, my boyfriend and I had watched a BBC documentary on mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Nothing on tv (again) we stayed and watched.

It was specifically on the longest reign any male silverback gorilla had done, by any gorilla group observed. The silverback was called Titus and in the documentary, the scientists just observed a transition in power from Titus to his second in command, a young and upcoming silverback whose name I forgot. It turned out to be Titus’s son, fathered when he was 11! Although gorillas are active early, this is very early. (Quite a saga, those gorilla stories!).

But learning that this group was one that was once observed by Dian Fossey, writer of Gorillas in the Mist, later adapted on-screen with Sigourney Weaver as Dian, it got my curiosity going again.
Especially because of the mysterious circumstances she died in 1985.

So I took a visit to the site The Dian Fossey gorilla Fund International to learn a bit about the project, the gorillas, the history of the camp site, about Fossey…

Wat intreaged me was that she studied the animals for such a long time. She changed her life entirely to devote it to the observation. Seems to me she was quite a woman.

Hogfather (2006)

I am still in the process of writing and tweaking this post, but wanted to put this already, so you might not think I am not posting anything anymore. It’s just that I’ve had little time with my job and all… and the fact that after a day’s work I have an aversion to pc’s… small inconvenience … I will post the last version am shortly. Consider this a sneak preview or intro…

Hogfather is a television adaptation of one of Terry Pratchett’s novels by the same title. For the unknown, he is the writer of the Discworld novels – for the known: sorry for the repetition. So the genre is fantasy, while Pratchett mocks or dares ridicule that particular genre in his novels. I am not going to give an exposé on Pratchett – if you wish to know why I like reading him, simply read this.

PLOT:

Hogfather is a book I read years ago. It’s about the Discworld’s equivalent of Santa Clause, the Hogfather. A boar-like man who on Hogwatchnight brings toys and treats to kids who have been good. But a contract was made with the Assassins Guild, to rid of the Hogfather… for a start. When Death notices that suddenly a lot of hourglass’ – even in the metaphysical section of his mansion – seem to empty themselves and bodies appear sporadically, he cannot but investigate. Soon he finds himself dressing up and going HO HO HO himself… or there will simply be no tomorrow, anywhere.

OPINION:

Although not the most exiting book of the Discworld series, I can see why it was chosen for the adaptation. In most ways it is appealing even to those who are not familiar with Pratchett’s work. And in my opinion, any novel with Death as the main character – his curiosity towards humanity – is a good novel. And here they did a really good job, visually and storywise. And his helper Albert, played by David Jason (Only Fools and Horses, A Touch of Frost) is a delight to watch.

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

Several times I’ve said on this blog I’ll post something on the book I was reading. Again and again I didn’t do it. Today is your lucky day then. Here goes.

This book was written in Japanese in 1982 by Haruki Murakami . And even though he is a translator as well as a writer, it was Alfred Birnbaum who wrote the English version in 1989.

PLOT:

Ok, in the plot part it’s the story that should be unfolded just a bit. But I just have to mention what I found striking: the characters in this book have no names. Seriously. It’s the oddest thing. The I-character never tells us his, nor is he addressed with his name in any way. His best friend and partner in business is ‘partner’, his girlfriend whose beautiful ears (when uncovered) improve sex to no limit is just ‘girlfriend’, his ex …. you guessed it. Only the Rat is called Rat, but not even the I-character knows why that is. Maybe I should have mentioned the writer is a surrealist?

so plot: the narrator just divorced his wife he married when 21. He and his best friend have a small but successful publishing agency who publish several brochures and magazines. It’s through this way he met his new girlfriend, because he needed pictures of ears for a promotional campaign. The girl has 3 occupations: proof reader by day, call girl by night and occasional ear model. She is plain and just nice looking when she lets her hair cover her ears. But oh my when she puts her hair back in a tail! She becomes the most attractive girl alive.

He has a friend, the Rat, who took off some years ago and lives a nomadic existence, occasionally writhing him. He send him a picture of some sheep once, and told the narrator to publish the picture in one of his magazines – any reason was good, as long as it just got published. The narrator did so. Not long afterwards he is visited by a man working for the Boss, a person the narrator knows nothing about. Apparently, the Boss is an underground influence and bad guy who pulls the strings in right-winged politics in Japan. This man gives the narrator an impossible task. Either he finds within a month the object of the Boss’s wish – from among the picture of sheep – or he will destroy his publishing company leaving him with nothing…

OPINION:

It’s a great novel. Why? It is humorous, really absurd at times, a bit like a detective novel but only slightly, and curiosity is around every corner. It is so fluent to read, you only notice half way though the book that you actually know no character names (oh I spoiled that for you already). You are taken by the narrator, who is very likeable. You sympathise with him, and just like him, you sometimes go ‘come on? really? that can’t be?’ when reading the strange situations he finds himself into.

I don’t know if this writing of mine incites anyone to read the novel. I have thought and tried to write about this book, but found it hard. Not that it is so difficult a book, but to do it justice was my main concern. Anyway, I invite anyone to take a leap of faith and read it. I for one am curious about his other novels already.

I would like to just say to the one who gave this incredible book that they are amazingly good in guessing what kind of reading I like! Precious.

Reaction to a valid question on Pratchett

To the earlier post, a comment was made which I started to answer – but got too carried away with it. I figured I can as well make a post of it. Because I do tend to go on raving about this author while many even can’t seem to go through the first book (I’m ashamed to say – I didn’t even finish the first book – gosh!). So here is the question:
 
Fab, I want to ask a question, and I mean no offense. What is it about Pratchett that is appealing to you? I haven’t read his books, although I’ve been tempted. I did read “Good Omens”, which was drop dead funny and brilliant, but I’ve never been sure how much was Pratchett and how much was Gaiman.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007 9:21:00 PM
 
No offence in the question what so ever. What appeals to me is how he seems to have such an insight in the human soul, the human condition and how a person’s identity can be limiting in their dealing with things. He writes with humour and pokes fun at genres (fantasy as well), but in a way that makes you question actions/reactions. Every time I read his books (and I confess I don’t like them all – but most), I find myself thinking that behaviour can seem so conditioned. I mean, his characters are odd and ok it has wizards and witches – but they are a sorry lot the bunch of them. They never seem to get things right, let alone done – and they are so focused on their ego’s and misplaced certainties, they become like the everyman you know. You – or either – I sometimes forget it is a fantasy, because the fantastic suddenly becomes “everyday”.

He puts the stories in a pre-industrialized society: no electricity, no cars, … yet introduces elements that refer to the known modern objects of today. Also he plays with social standards and ethnicity in subtle ways, as in Equal Rites (no, no type fault!).

But he plays also with deception and corruption in the stories, politics of power, personal gain and trust issues. all very recognizable things but written with a twist to it. There are suspense elements, thriller elements and sometimes plain ol’ slapstick. And you can find a one liner on almost every page.
It is mostly the characters you fall for. I mean how Death tries to lead a normal life with a butler, tries to crack jokes but unsuccessfully because everything is literal to him. How Death’s adopted granddaughter, Susan, just wants to be an au-pair but gets sucked into doing his handiwork when everything goes pear shaped again…
 
I do think when reading Good Omens, co-written by Pratchett and Gaiman, you can definitely recognize who wrote which part or character. But it takes a certain amount of recognition skills through reading their separate work. Gaiman is very dark at times, black humour – when to me, Pratchett puts the characters “being” to use. Exploits who they are throughout the story to lead you somewhere.

I must admit you don’t go about reading Pratchett books over night – but once you do – once you’ve read the novel out of the lot that strikes you somehow (for me that was Wyrd Sisters and Small Gods where the god of hangovers envies the god of wine – for the obvious reasons), it is easy to get sucked in.

And FYI, I do read others beside him. But they don’t publish the amount of books he has – so he kind of is in my face all the time at the book store. That’s why.
 
See links in right side column for authors’ official sites.
And my opinion on the Bourne Ultimatum will follow soon.

Working girl

It’s been busy for me so blogging has not been a priority of mine this past week.

I started a new (my first) job this week, which has been an overload of information and emotions, I can tell you. But I am glad I’ve got so well received. Everyone is very nice and helpful, and I do hope it will stay that way. Working takes the large part of our lives, about 8 hours a day you spent at work, with colleagues – so making it work at work is very important. Otherwise, it’s very depressing, isn’t it?

But working 9 to 5 (how Dolly Parton!) has been something to adapt to. I’m feeling like a working girl already! (But not in the Melanie Griffith-movie kind of way…).

Currently:
I’m still reading American Gods by Neill Gaiman, and I must say it is a strange book. I’d hoped to be much further through it. When reading Anansi Boys and Neverwhere, I hardly spent a week reading. I know he set out to write an odd book, so I can’t say I hadn’t been warned.

In the meantime, I got Stardust by him, a much slimmer book but maybe a storyline a bit more likeable. I want to read it before the movie comes out here.

Television-wise:
I’m so glad the fall has started again on tv. Fellow couch potatoes, I salute you!
New episodes of Bones, My Name Is Earl … I’ve chosen not to follow Lost anymore. I just cannot put up the effort anymore. Sorry. As much as I liked the first season, the second didn’t leave me hungry for more and the third couldn’t get me bothered. (How Catherine Tate!)
I’m sad that Veronica Mars and How I Met Your Mother will end soon here, but it’s been fun watching these shows this summer.

Musically:
I recently bought the latest album by French singer Vanessa Paradis, ‘Divinidylle’ (Can’t always be rock/indie music!). I like it a lot, except the ballad called ‘Junior Suit’. I feel the album could have done without it. But over all a poppy, rocky, French album.

Movie:
I’m dying to see the new Jason Bourne movie!

On a different note:
I’m trying to decide wether or not to go on with this blog. A lot of time to spent on the blogosphere will be limited from now on. Having things to post, ideas or subjects is not been fruitful these past weeks. So I find myself with a dilemma. Although I like to visit other blogs very much and will continue to do so, I’m not sure to keep this one going. As a fellow blogger once said, without a great hook or original approach a blog hasn’t got a long life on the net. I will keep you informed on my decision and any comment will be gratefully read and pondered on.

Harry Potter: finally after all that waiting

I’m almost through my Harry Potter. I should have finished long ago, but I think that I’m stalling … because then it will be finished. Done. No more. Silly really. It’s just a book. But I like books. It takes you to all kind of places. You feel for the characters, their struggles, their pain. Every time I finish a book I’m a bit sad. I’ve stuck trough all the Potters. Letting go isn’t easy. That’s why I like Pratchett so much I think. You can almost be certain that next year a new book will be out.

I do feel like there are parts in the book (so far) where Rowling could have skimmed a little. I know Harry is angry and annoyed at things, but overstressing it is not good. My opinion anyway. But knowing her, she will keep the fast paced action for the very end. So I’m going to keep up and be patient till then.

Before I go I would like to thank Sqt once more for the nice award she bestowed me with. It’s lovely of her and a lovely surprise as well.

“De Japanse tuin” by Pieter Aspe

Dutch translation below – no literal transcription!!

Pieter Aspe is a famous crime novelist in Flanders (Belgium). His novel series with Deputy Commissioner Pieter Van In, in the setting of Bruges received several awards. In 2001 he won the Hercule Poirot Award for his novel Sweet Sacrifice (Zoenoffer).

Unfortunately, the novels are not translated into English. A pity actually, because next to the Colin Dexter’s (Inspector Morse) and Grisham’s of the world, Pieter Aspe is right up there.

There is even a television series called Aspe with actor Herbert Flack in the lead role, shot entirely in Bruges. I haven’t read all his books, just a couple. De Japanse tuin or The Japanese Garden is one of two short novels he wrote besides the known series with Van In, only 128 pages – very short considering his other work. This detective thriller is set in Hasselt, another major city in Flanders.

PLOT:
Hasselt. Outside a nightclub a young girl finds the body of a young man in the water. Chief Inspector Lies Rutten and her collegue Rudi Nelissen, lead the investigation. Their only clue to the boy’s identity is his library card. But when this takes them to a squatted building, they find a whole other story to what goes on in the city of Hasselt.

OPINION:
It reads easily and you can get through it in less than an afternoon. The characters aren’t flawless: Lies made some mistakes in the past that haunt her and Rudi tries to kick the bottle sinds his son was found dead. The story itself is exiting, but I feel that if Aspe would have written a longer version, he could have tied some loose ends. And halfway the story, I got the feeling something didn’t add up in continuation. Although the main story concluded, the side stories could have closed in an other way. nevertheless, good read.
—————————————————————
Wie in Vlaanderen kent misdaadschrijver Pieter Aspe niet? Ik durf het niet te vragen – hoewel ik het net deed.
Ik heb onlangs De Japanse tuin gelezen, één van Aspe’s twee korte novellen naast de gekende Van In serie. Het telt slechts 128 pagina’s, wat in vergelijking met zijn ander werk toch kort is. Deze triller situeert zich in Hasselt. (wiki-link)

PLOT:
Hasselt. Buiten een discotheek vindt een meisje het lichaam van een jongen in het water. Hoofdinspecteur Lies Rutten en haar collega Rudi Nelissen krijgen de leiding over het onderzoek. Op het lichaam van de jongen vinden ze enkel een Hasseltse bibliotheekkaart, het enige spoor naar zijn identiteit. Wanneer dit spoor hen leidt naar een kraakpand, vinden ze er het lichaam van zijn vriendin, een junky. Wat volgt werpt een ander licht op het leven en praktijken in de Hasseltse stad.

MENING:
Het leest zo vlot dat je op minder dan een namiddag het boek uit hebt. De personages zijn niet zonder fouten: Lies wordt geconfronteerd met enkele misstappen uit haar verleden en Rudi vecht tegen zijn drankproblemen sinds de dood van zijn zoon.
Het verhaal is spannend, maar toch heb ik het gevoel dat enkele zaken onverklaard bleven. Wat misschien niet het geval had geweest indien Aspe een langere versie zou hebben geschreven. Verder had ik het gevoel dat er iets niet klopte, maar ik kan er mijn vinger niet op leggen wat.
Hoewel het hoofdverhaal mooi werd afgerond, had hij de secundaire verhaallijnen beter kunnen uitdiepen. Toch een goed boekje.

Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett

PLOT:

Murder happened in Anhk-Morpork. Nothing unusual. Except this time, the Assasins’ Guild was not involved. Commander Vimes of the City Watch is left with several clues: arsenic and clay. And an attempt on the life of the Patrician has Vimes puzzled, but not for long. And is there a conspiracy among the golems? How can there be, seeing they aren’t alive and mechanical beings? He’s got his work cut out for him.

WHY READ IT?

Very recognizable characters with all the traits of human nature: recovering alcoholics, politicians, racism (anti-werewolf comments are expressed), feminism (one dwarf at least tries to stand up for his – sorry, her right to wear lipstick) and a possible coup d’état.

A who-dunnit with suspence, manipultation, humour and at least one vampire!

New technologies such as the yellow wagon clamp (Anhk-Morporkian law states that loading or unloading a wagon should be limited to ten minutes)…

It’s only logical to read it if you’ve read the previous ones.

You don’t need to have read the previous ones to read this one.

OPINION:

A good read. The story never skipps a beat. You get to know the characters, how they relate to each other and how difficult it is to trust your differences with others.

My favourite scenes are when Commander Vimes has to work his medieval version of a Blueberry, which consists of a little box with a little imp inside. The imp always addresses Vimes as “Goodmoning, Please Insert Name Here, you had an appoinment yesteday at 2”. Vimes doesn’t think the damn thing is of any use. Vimes never bothered to read the manual of the thing. It was a present of his wife.

An excerpt can be found here. More on Pratchett, as usual on the official website.

The master storyteller’s debut novel

Although I’m still reading ‘Dead Famous’ by Ben Elton, I’m also reading ‘Feet of Clay’ by Pratchett at the same time. But in all honesty … I thing ‘Feet… ‘ will be finished sooner.

Anyway, going through my bookshelves, I got hold of this thin little book which is an amazing story about a civilization on the edge of destruction … living in a carpet!

The Carpet is home to several tribes, kingdoms, violent and murderous creatures and a strange phenomenon which occurs without warning, cause of destruction and disappearances!

The Carpet People was published in 1971 for the first time. Pratchett wrote the book at age 17. It didn’t have that much success. But when the Discworld novels began their successful life of their own, Carpet People became interesting again. Pratchett revised and rewrote the book again in 1991, which makes the book I read a joint effort by Pratchett aged 17 and Pratchett aged 43.

What I liked about it, was the strange setting in which the story and the battles took place. Seeing the title on the cover gives you an idea of what’s in store, yet in the book the carpet is only referred to, but never really mentioned. You get clues along the way.

If you enjoy a humorous read and like a different imaginary world, go on and read it. It’s not even 200 pages! I convinced a friend of mine to read it, even though she hadn’t read much fantasy or many English novels, and she had a blast.

The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

This is my 23rd novel by Terry Pratchett and it was a kick!

PLOT:

Commander Vimes of the Anhk-Morpork City Watch is appointed Ambassador to attend a coronation in Uberwald. Reluctantly he goes, but as was to be expected, crime followed him closely. A theft, several murders, dwarfs, vampires, werewolves and even a talking dog … and then there’s the legend of the Fifth Elephant to consider.

This novel has suspense and a lot of humor. Maybe not ‘laugh out loud’, but you will surely be grinning a lot. Especially when Vimes tries a hand at diplomacy. The characters are a lot of fun.

Even though his novels with the City Watch as lead aren’t my favorites (I prefer Nanny Ogg and Granny Weatherwax), this was real fun. I know I haven’t given you a lot to go on to get you interested, but it’s up to you to discover. Some of Pratchett’s novels read easier than others (I just can’t get through Monstrous Regiment, and that is a n°1 classic!).

You want to know more? Go to TerryPratchettbooks.com or to: http://www.harpercollins.com/features/pratchettBooks/description.aspx?isbn=9780061020407