Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Anime Granny

I rediscovered this video today

(click here to watch on Youtube)
and I realized that I do not own Ghost in the Shell or Akira on DVD. That's criminal. And then my brain went off on a tangent and I wondered, will I still love that stuff when I'm 64? Or 75? And if not, what kind of movies will I like?

I have that mental image of me as a tiny white-haired granny who pops the Watchmen or Ghost in the Shell DVD into her antique player. I'll probably go sentimental over Nightmare on Elm Street because it will remind me of my youth (I saw it first when I was 13). And I'll probably have the same crush on Johnny Depp my own grandmother had on Cary Grant.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Artworks I'd Steal: Carl Larsson

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I came across this one in a book full of self-portraits by different artists and it made me laugh out loud. The look on the face of the clown is priceless, but the deadpan expression of Larsson makes it even better.
Larsson and his wife are pretty much the designers of what we now consider the Swedish look when it comes to interior design. He painted countless watercolour pictures of his family and home, although he himself considered his frescos more important.
Here's the website of the Carl Larsson Museum, situated at Lilla Hyttnäs, Carl and Karin Larsson's house.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book of Choice: Blacksad 4 - Silence of Hell

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The Silence of Hell is the fourth part of the amazing Blacksad series by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido, one of the best graphic novels I know. Don't let the fact that all persons are animals here deter you. The animal always fit the character perfectly and are beautifully drawn. It's also very definitely not for children, with very adult themes.

The drawings of the fourth novel are less detailed than the others and the story isn't quite as tightly woven. Of the four books, this is the weakest - but even so, it's well worth buying. There are magnificent pages that you can loose yourself in and it's a beautiful hommage to New Orleans and its music.

If you love graphic novels and hardboiled/noir detective stories, then go ahead and buy Blacksad. I promise you that you will buy all of them, never mind what I wrote here. Even a weak Blacksad novel is way above much of what is published in the comic genre and the first three books are very strong indeed.
I mean, come on, you know you want it:
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(from the first Blacksad novel, by all means click for much bigger version)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Support Your Local Library Challenge

That is a challenge I cannot withstand: Support your local library hosted by Jamie at The Book Junkie's Bookshelf. Here are the rules:

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate. Just create a post for the challenge and link to your challenge post in the linky below.


--Non-Bloggers: Post your list of books in the comment section of the wrap-up post.

2. There are four levels to this challenge...Pick your poison:


--The Mini – Check out and read 30 library books.

--"Fun" Size – Check out and read 40 library books.

--Jumbo Size – Check out and read 50 library books.

--Mega Size – Check out and read 51+ library books.
(Aim high. As long as you read 30 by the end of 2011, you are a winner.)

3. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Young Reader – basically any book counts just as long as it is checked out from the library. Books MUST be checked out like with a library card, books purchased at a library DO NOT count.

4. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

5. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.

6. Challenge begins January 1st 2011 and goes thru December 31 2011.


Edit (August 9th 2011): well, another challenge that seems to be no longer supported. Sigh.

I should easily be able to meet the goal of this challenge and of course anything supporting libraries has my support!
I will add links to the posts about the books I have read here after the break.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Doctor Who: Leela and Science

So I'm watching the Tom Baker years of Doctor Who. I very much enjoyed Sarah Jane as a companion and I was a bit sceptical of Leela at first, but she's won me over. I like it that she doesn't need to be saved all the time and that she's capable of defending herself. It's true that she is quite violent at times, but after all she grew up in a violent society and even travelling with the Doctor won't change that overnight.

I just watched "The Horror of Fang Rock" and Leela dismisses talk about an astrologer, saying that she used to believe in that kind of stuff, but the Doctor taught her about science and "it's better to believe in science" instead. On the one hand, I love this, astrology can never be dismissed enough. But on the other hand: science doesn't need believe - that's what it's about. If you need to believe in it, it's not science.

Animated Movies

A list of every animated movie. Well, pretty much. Feel free to add if you can think of more.
Once again, I got this one from Jaquandor. I love animated movies, but I'm seriously behind on the old Disney movies.

The Rules:

- X what you saw
- O what you haven't finished/seen or saw sizable portions
- Bold what you loved
- Italicize what you disliked/hated
- Leave unchanged if neutral

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SciFi Challenge and Book of Choice: The Difference Engine

The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling is the first book I read as part of the Science Fiction challenge and it was a great way to start this challenge. I love steampunk and I love alternate histories and so The Difference Engine was hugely enjoyable for me.

At first I was a bit confused when the main character (or so I thought) of the story suddenly changed. If you expect a book to have one continuous story, then this book is not for you. It's more a series of interwoven short stories that all come together in the end to create a very different version of history.

Ada Lovelace has fascinated me ever since I saw the movie Conceiving Ada and she's a pivotal character here. I'm also fascinated by difference and analytical engines and the thought of a world that relies on them is intriguing to me. I do wonder how history would have developed if the analytical engine in particular would have been fully functional - it may have been slow, but it would have been very advanced.

Don't expect a straight story from this book, don't even expect all the mysteries to be solved. There are red herrings aplenty here, characters just drop out of the story and in the end you won't know everything. Imagine yourself as a historian instead, piecing together the events from eyewitness accounts, documents and old photos you found and in the process discovering a world long dead. If you think you would enjoy that, then I recommend the Difference Engine to you.

On a last note, I really need to read Benjamin Disraeli's "Sybil" now.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dice Superstitions

If you know someone who's into pen and paper role-playing and you want to see them freak out, touch their dice. It's guaranteed to work in at least 95% of all cases. You may get punched or have the friendship cancelled, though. Gamers can be a little special about their dice.

I have a set of d10 (ten-sided dice) that I never let anyone borrow or even touch. Those were the first dice I ever bought and they have rolled awesome results over the last decade. Most gamers I know have dice no-one is allowed to touch, but because dice accumulate over the years, most of us also have dice that we will let people borrow. Some gamers pride themselves of their ability to ruin any die that they touch.
Rule number 1: Never let anyone touch your dice.

I used to have a d20 that rolled only abysmal results for me, I gave it to a friend and he loves it.
Rule number 2: Some dice are out to kill you

Mr. Book Scorpion had a set of dice that he threatened to throw into the North Sea. They started to behave much better for the rest of the vacation there (it didn't last and he threw them out of the window).
Rule number 3: Dice have at least some intelligence and awareness.

A good friend had dice that almost never rolled anything usable and often got him into trouble, we used to make fun of him because of that - the dice really were reliably bad. I chose a set of new dice for him and they work a lot better. Same story with Mr. Book Scorpion's dice he got after throwing them out of the window, a female friend chose them and they work great.
Rule number 4: Dice should be chosen by a woman. It is unknown if dice for a female player should be chosen by a male.

The friend with the bad dice still has the old dice. He keeps the two sets apart and when he brings them both, they are carried in different pockets and must never be on the table at the same time.
Rule number 5: Bad dice are contagious. The virus may be airborne.

People have different dice for different desired results. If the gamemaster ask them to role a die, in 99% of all cases, the player will ask "High or low?" and choose a die according to the answer. Some people even have a special die in case the answer is "Just ROLL the goddamn die!"
Rule number 6: Dice specialize. Know your dice

Some point are controversial. Some people like to roll their dice a few times to get them warmed up. Others never do that so that they don't use up all the good results.
Some people put their dice with the highest number up (when playing a system that requires high numbers to succeed), some do it the other way around. The people who put the highest number on top do have a (vaguely) scientific explanation: due to gravity, the atoms in the die are pulled down, thus making it heavier at the bottom and it's more likely that the highest number is rolled.
The Rule of all Rules: If it sounds good, people will start to adopt it as their own. Have fun.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Ireland Reading Challenge

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I loved Ireland and I had been planning to re-read The Hounds of the Morrigan, so I decided to sign up for the Ireland Reading Challenge hosted by Carrie at Books and Movies. Click the badge to read the terms of the challenge and to join.

If I can get my hands on a decent edition (not the super-abridged one), "The Lair of the White Worm" by Bram Stoker will probably be my second book. I saw the movie ages ago and I still remember it vividly.

Links up for the Challenge book reviews is here!

1. The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer
2. The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea
3. Gulliver's Travels by Joanthan Swift
4. Dracula's Guest by Bram Stoker

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Quiz

Again, this quiz was shamelessly stolen from Jaquandor

Worst Books Ever, or Five Hours of My Life I’ll Never Get Back
Pope Joan - I don't like historical fiction in general, with a few exceptions, and Pope Joan has everything that makes me want to throw a book out of the window. And people actually believe that they are reading facts...I think that's what annoys me most of all. I had the same problem with Dan Brown's books.

Books I Have Lied About Reading
None, I think. I even read all the books I was supposed to read in school. I read very fast, even faster when I only skim a text, so I got lucky there.

Books I Have Lied About Liking
um, none. Not even books I was given as a gift - I can't remember a single book gift I didn't like.

Book-to-Movie Adaptations Where, Frankly, the Movie Was Better
Angels and Demons and DaVinci Code. The books are awful, but I had a lot of fun with the movies. The story is still stupid (antimatter, Priory of Sion..) but I don't have to put up with Brown's lack of writing skill and I can switch my brain off and enjoy the pretty pictures (plus, Ewan McGregor in a cassock is seriously droolworthy).

Books I Used to Love, of Which I Am Now Ashamed
I'm not ashamed of anything and I can see why I liked them even with books I now find unreadable. I used to love the Dolly series, which I now find way too girly.

Best Book Titles of All Time
Skullduggery Pleasant - that just sounds awesome
Thud! - best Discworld title ever
Der satanarchäolügenialalkohöllische Wunschpunsch by Michael Ende - try saying that three times in a row (no, it doesn't get much easier when you actually speak German). It's called the Night of Wishes in English.
I Shall Wear Midnight - all the Tiffany Aching novels have great titles, but I like this one best


Books That I Expected to Be Dirtier
Hm. I've been waylaid by some books that I didn't expect to involve sex (or so much sex or sex in that particular form), but so far not the other way around.

My Real Guilty-Pleasure Reads, and Not the Decoys I Talk About Openly
I read fan fiction. I can't say that I feel guilty about it, though.

Books You Must Read Before You Die, but Would Rather Die Than Read
Der Zauberberg by Thomas Mann. Thomas Mann had amazing talent and wrote the most elegant German - but I still can't get past the first two hundred pages or so of the Zauberberg (or his other books). It's weird, I can admire his style and I certainly agree that he's one of the best German authors ever, but I still can't finish his books.

Books I Refused to Read for a Long Time Because too Many (or the Wrong) People Recommended Them
Harry Potter. I was so annoyed by the hype and by the constant "you must read this" that I refused. I caved with the third book and then read all three in one weekend. I've loved the series ever since and I never again refused to read something for that reason.

Books I Read Only After Seeing the Movie
So many. Planet of the Apes, The Fly (highly recommended!), Welcome to Wellville, I read Neuromancer after seeing Johnny Mnemonic, I started reading Shakespeare after seeing Peter Greenaway's The Tempest ect. I often discover good books and authors through movies (and the other way around).

Books I Most Often Try to Persuade Other People to Read
The Demon-Hunted World - Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan ... critical thinking is important and I know no better book about it.
The Anno Dracula series by Kim Newman - the best vampire novels I know, except for Dracula of course and it's such a lot of fun to try and identify all the historical and fictional characters that appear in the books.
And lately Little Brother.


Authors I Wish Had Written More Books Already
Carl Sagan. You can never have too much Carl Sagan. William Somerset Maugham should have written even more short stories.

Overused Plot Points That Drive Me Nuts
The oh so emancipated woman who goes all housewifey over a man at the end of a book. Especially when used by female authors who wanted to create strong female characters.

Books in Which I Liked the Secondary Characters Better Than the Main Character, or Books in Which I Wanted to Beat the Main Character Senseless with a Tire Iron
Homo Faber by Max Frisch. The main character got on my nerves so much. Oh, and Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane.

Books I Lied About Reading and Then Wrote an A+ Term Paper On
Like I said, I read all the books I was supposed to read.

Books I Lied About Reading/Liking Solely to Look Smart/Pretentious
None. I AM that smart, sorry . Seriously, whenever I talk with people about books, I get the feeling that I'm something of a freak, either because of the sheer number of book I read or because I actually read classic literature or because I read about WWII (as a woman...gasp). I like that.

Books I Wish I Hadn’t Finished, or Worst. Ending. Ever.
nothing comes to mind, actually

Books I Read after Oprah Recommended Them
I will replace Oprah with Marcel Reich-Ranicki here, he's Germany's most influential critic. But I still don't read books just because he recommend them or because he hates them ... which is most of the time, the man really knows how to hate a book with style and aplomb. I just don't like book critics.

Books I Will Never Read Precisely Because Oprah Recommends Them
see above

Literary Characters I’ve Developed Crushes On
Charles Beauregard from the Anno Dracula series

Books I Only Read to Impress Other People
none

Best Books Not to Read from Start to Finish, or Best Bathroom Books
I tend to read non-fiction books like that if possible. I have a book about the First Ladies that I love to re-read because I can just pick a single chapter. Or a book on diseases called "Kulturgeschichte der Seuchen"...it's over 1000 pages long and while it can be read from start to finish, it's also great just to choose one particular disease. Not good for bathroom reading, though, it's a bit heavy. But I don't read in the bathroom anyway.

Books I Shouldn’t Admit Made Me Cry Like a Baby
And why exactly shouldn't I admit this? Astrid Lindgren can make me cry any time. The Brothers Lionheart is the book that makes me cry every time, but Ronja Robber's Daughter and Mio my Son are books I shouldn't read without having tissues handy. I also cry when Dumbledore dies, every fucking time (usually I make it to the funeral scene and then I loose it). When the Wind Blows is the only graphic novel that has ever made me cry, when Jim tries to phone his son and doesn't even notice that the phone has melted. Oh and Calvin and Hobbes has a storyline with a baby raccoon that dies in the end which makes me cry.

Books I Only Read for the Title
I can't think of an example now, but a good title is a great way to get me to at least take a closer look at a book. But when I don't like the style or the story, even the best title can't safe you

Books I Re-Read When I Have Nothing Else to Read
all the Discworld novels, Walter Moers Zamonia series, everything Tad Williams has ever written and of course The Lord of the Rings

Books People Keep Recommending That, Frankly, Sucked Ass
Twilight. I love vampires, but these vampires are even worse than Anne Rice's vampires. And most of those Scandinavian crime novels.

Books My Teacher Made Me Read That I Really, Really Liked
Lord of the Flies. I had to read a lot of Dürrenmatt in school and I took a solemn vow never to touch the books again. I broke that vow when I switched to a different teacher who actually knew how to make them interesting and these days, he's one of my favourite authors.

Books My Teacher Made Me read That Made Me Question the Value of My Education
Effi Briest. Oh, and ETA Hofmann's Mademoiselle de Scudéri. Hoffmann has written a ton of awesome books (try The Devil's Elixiers) and we had to read the most boring piece of fiction he ever created.

Books That Made Me Want to Have Sex with at Least One Character
Anno Dracula

Books I Actually Read but Got a Poorer Grade on the Paper I Wrote on the Subject Than My Best Friend Who Did Not Read the Book
none, I think. I remember a guy in my class getting an A on a paper on a novel he freely admitted he had never read. He just listened to some parts of the audio book

Books I Read Because the Author Looked Hot
Now that's a way to choose books that hadn't crossed my mind before. I have a slight crush on Neil Gaiman, but that developed only after I had read several of his books and seen him live at a reading.

Books I’ve Read Aloud
I've read to the two daughters of my ex, usually fairy tales (in the original, bloodthirsty version!) and re-tellings of classic legends (if you ever want a challenge, try reading Finnish legends from the Kalevala aloud...Väinämöinen will be the least of your problems). I also try to get my boyfriend to read the Zamonia series aloud and I've read books aloud to myself in parts (Discworld, Anansi Boys, Harry Potter, Osten Ard Saga ect.)

Books I Love Even Though the Last Twenty Pages Made No Damn Sense
If I can think of one, I'll let you know

Books I Have Written a Prequel/Sequel to in My Own Head
none that I can think of. But I often wish that the author hadn't written sequels/prequels to novels I like

Books I Keep Meaning to Read, but Then I See Something Shiny
just about anything Emile Zola and Gustave Flaubert have ever written. And Marcel Proust - somethign about French writers, I guess

Books I Will Go to the Mattresses for, Even Though I Hate the Writer
There are a few authors I recognize as excellent writers, but whose books I just can't read. I already mentioned Thomas Mann. Charles Dickens is another one.

Books You Must Read Because You Must Mock
I don't read books with the intention of making fun of them, but Twilight comes to mind.

Worst How-To Books Ever
Not really a how-to book, but almost all guides to keeping small animals that I know and that are older than two years or so are so full of factual mistakes, myths and bad advice that they are painful to read.

Books That Were on the ‘To Be Read’ List the Longest
too many, I guess

Books I Hated Having to Read in School, But Love Now
anything by Dürrenmatt

Books Whose References Have Worked Their Way into My Household Lexicon
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the Zamonia series.

Books I’ve Read Because I Liked Their Cover Design/Font
"Thirteen Reasons Why" - the German cover is red as blood with green tally markings (although the German title doesn't mention the thirteen reasons at all). It caught my eye and I loved the book. I bought it for my school library and the kids love it, too. The Septimus Heap series also has wonderful cover designs that drew me to the first book in the series.

Books Which, When It Comes Right Down to It, I Would Have No Problem Burning
There's this hilarious scene in one of Terry Prachett's Tiffany Aching novels where the travelling librarians (like tinkerers, only with books) are freezing to death and someone asks them why they haven't burned all those books and they just look at the person in total incomprehension. I'm like that. If I really were freezing to death in a library, I would burn the loose-leaf collections first, then books on esoterica and pseudo-science, self-help books and historical fiction. I would start with the furniture, though...something that has amused me to no end in The Day After Tomorrow: why burn books when there are all those wooden tables and chairs around?
I wouldn't burn a book because I don't like it, I can barely bring myself to throw it away. I prefer giving them away. With the possible exception of pseudo-science.


Books Which I Read Only for the Sex Scenes
None. If I want sex scenes, I read porn.

Books I Pretend to Like So People Won’t Think I’m a Snob, or Books I Pretend to Like So I Won’t Hurt Your Feelings
None.

Books with Covers So Embarrassing You Can’t Read Them in Public
I like John Sinclair, a German horror pulp fiction series that has truly awful covers - 50s SciFi movies have nothing on those covers. But who cares, I read them in public anyway. I was highly amused when I found out that there are actually versions of the Harry Potter books with different covers for adults (they are more expensive,too).

Books You Are Sorry You Didn’t Read Decades Ago
I think I would have like to read "Catcher in the Rye" when I was a teenager. I read it a few years ago and I guess I was just too old.

Science Fiction Challenge

I've been meaning to read more Science Fiction for a while now, after doing this SciFi book meme. So when I came across the Science Fiction Challenge, it was THE opportunity to finally go ahead with the plan. I will need to check the library to see what I can find there, but I think I want to start with William Gibson.
1. book: The Difference Engine
2. book: The Robot's Tales
3. book: The Risen Empire
4. book: Earth Abides
5. book: Metro 2033
6. book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
7. In the Presence of Mine Enemies by Harry Turtledove

Update: the challenge seems pretty much dead, so I challenge myself to read at least 10 Science Fiction book this year.

Anachronistic fruit

I came across this interesting article a while ago while I was researching Osage-Oranges:
Anachronistic Fruit PDF

It's about fruit and their relation to animals, in particular when it comes to seed dispersal. Osage-Oranges for example may have relied on Giant Sloths or mammoths to eat their fruit or on an extinct horse species - these days, horses and mules will sometimes eat the fruit, too.
It seems that the Osage-Orange hasn't relied too much on those animals, so it's still around, but other plants are completely dependent on animals, like Yucca and Yucca moths. I find the relationships between plants and animals (including humans) fascinating and the article made a very interesting read.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Artworks I'd Steal: Félicien Rops

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:F%C3%A9licien_Rops_-_La_tentation_de_Saint_Antoine.jpg
source: Wikipedia
A while ago the Bucerius Kunst Forum, a small museum in Hamburg, hosted an exhibition about Anthony the Great and how artists have depicted him, in particular the temptation of Anthony. It was an amazing exhibition, with art from the Middle Ages to modern times and I fell in love with quite a few pieces (the one by Bosch for example or by Max Ernst). But Félicien Rops' work made my jaw drop. Usually, Anthony is shown tormented by monsters, but Rops didn't bother with metaphors and considering how hostile towards sexuality the church is, I'd say he has nailed it.

It was painted in 1878 and I can only imagine how shocked people were at the time. I spend some time watching the visitors at the exhibition and the painting almost always got a visible reaction, whether it was a shocked laugh, a frown or some sign of approval.
I love all the little details, like the pig (often associated with Anthony) that looks at the whole scene like it has seen it all or the skeleton putti. Anthony has been reading about Joseph and in the book illustration, Joseph is fleeing from Potiphar's wife. Everything in the picture is well within the tradition of depictions of Anthony's temptations, but I don't think anyone has ever been so direct about it and so tongue-in-cheek.

Rops certainly was unconcerned with morals and acceptable behaviour - he lived with two lovers (two sisters) for over thirty years, some of his works were censored due to a "breach of morality" and he illustrated many "decadent" artists such as Verlaine and Baudelaire. Despite all the scandal, he was a successful artists and even received the medal of the French Légion d'honneur. You can find more about him on the homepage of the Rops Museum and this website has an online collection of many of his paintings.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Book of Choice: The SS-State

"The SS-State – The System of the German Concentration Camp" by Eugen Kordon was first published in 1946 and it definitely was an inconvenient book for many Germans at that time - which makes it even more important. To this day, it's one of the most informative books on the SS and the concentration camps. Kordon was imprisoned in Buchenwald for six years and he was able to use the testimony of many other prisoners to write his book.

The book shows how the SS quickly grew into a state within a state and gives a very detailed view of life in a concentration camp. At times it's hard to read. Dying in horrible and random ways was always a possibilty, even if you knew all the unwritten rules. Kogon also shows how the prisoners were able to organize themselves and save lifes by sabotage, "losing" written orders and many other methods. Both the best and the worst side of human nature are visible here.

If you only read three books on the Third Reich, I recommend this one, Sebastian Haffner's "The Meaning of Hitler" and "The Yellow Star" by Gerhard Schoenberner.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Artworks I'd Steal: Carl Spitzweg

Source: http://de.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Datei:Carl_Spitzweg_033.jpg&filetimestamp=20050521062321
Source: Wikipedia, the original can be found at the Museum of the State of Hessen.

Romanticism goes Gary Larson.
Carl Spitzweg is well known for his paintings that depict the bourgeois in his natural habitat as well as romantic landscapes and many people dismiss his work as kitsch. But if you look closely, you'll find that he was a keen observer of humans and their little follies and weaknesses. He had a way of painting them that makes his pictures idyllic at first glance, but he's very gently poking fun at the things he's showing without ever being rude or cruel about it.

As a librarian, I like his Bookworm of course, but Der Schmetterlingsjäger (The Butterfly Hunter) is my favourite. I just love the expression on the man's face - those butterflies would clearly be a gem in his collection. But I bet that in a second he will look at his tiny little net, realize that he will never catch them and that no-one will ever believe him (the butterflies are really enormous, it's not a matter of perspective). It's a scene that just screams for a Gary Larson-ish subtitle. "Gottlieb had a sneaking suspicion that he should have brought the shotgun".

Monday, November 22, 2010

100 SF books

Books I've read in italics. List shamelessly stolen from Jaquandor

The Postman – David Brin
The Uplift War – David Brin
Neuromancer – William Gibson - oooh, yes. I've always loved the concept of cyberpunk, so Neuromancer is a must for me.
Foundation – Isaac Asimov
Foundation and Empire – Isaac Asimov
Second Foundation – Isaac Asimov
I, Robot – Isaac Asimov - I love short stories, they are my favourite literary form and I, Robot contains some of the best stories I've ever read
The Long Tomorrow – Leigh Brackett
Rogue Moon – Algis Budrys
The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury - I've read some in other collections of short stories, but for some reason never all of them
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury - this book speaks to my soul. Do yourself a favour and don't watch the movie.
Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury - I didn't finish it, I just didn't like it much

Childhood’s End – Arthur C. Clarke
The City and the Stars – Arthur C. Clarke
2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clarke - I read it after seeing the movie. I still didn't get it. But it's still a cool book.
Armor – John Steakley
Imperial Stars – E. E. Smith
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley - a classic and I've read it many times. The first time after seeing Gothic, which I can only recommend.
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card
Dune – Frank Herbert - only the first book, which was cool, but I was bored by the time I had read about 1/3 of the second book
The Dosadi Experiment – Frank Herbert
Journey Beyond Tomorrow – Robert Sheckley
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams - *waves towel*
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick- Blade Runner is one of my favourite movies ever and I tried to read the book after seeing it for the first time, but I didn't like it. I suspect that this was the fault of the German translation, though, I should give it another try
Valis – Philip K. Dick
A Scanner Darkly – Philip K. Dick
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch – Philip K. Dick

1984 – George Orwell- my favourite dystopian novel
Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut - this wasn't what I expected and I had so much fun reading it. For some reason. all the (short) reviews I had read concentrated on the WWII part and I had no idea that the story would involve aliens and so much weird stuff.
Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut
The War of the Worlds – H. G. Wells -
The Time Machine – H. G. Wells
The Island of Doctor Moreau – H. G. Wells
The Invisible Man – H. G. Wells hm, I didn't realize I had read so much by Wells. The Invisible Man is my favourite - see The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for more of this fascinating character...the graphic novel, not the movie (it's fun, but for once I can understand Alan Moore's fit of rage). Take a look at the unintentionally hilarious Doctor Moreau movie, just for shits and giggles, but only AFTER reading the book.

A Canticle for Leibowitz – Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Alas, Babylon – Pat Frank
A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess - I actually liked the movie better
A Journey to the Center of the Earth – Jules Verne
From the Earth to the Moon – Jules Verne
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne - Jules Verne rules!
Old Man’s War – John Scalzi

Nova Express – William S. Burroughs - I've read Naked Lunch, which was ... an experience (weird, but good)
Ringworld – Larry Niven
The Mote in God’s Eye – Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
The Unreasoning Mask – Philip Jose Farmer
To Your Scattered Bodies Go – Philip Jose Farmer
Eon – Greg Bear
Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton - that was before Crichton started to really piss me off with his anti-science stuff
The Andromeda Strain – Michael Crichton
Lightning – Dean Koontz
The Stainless Steel Rat – Harry Harrison
The Fifth Head of Cerebus – Gene Wolfe
Nightside of the Long Sun – Gene Wolfe
A Princess of Mars – Edgar Rice Burroughs

Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson - this is embarassing, but no. I've been meanign to buy it for ages, I can't get the English version at any library
Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
The Stars My Destination – Alfred Bester
Solaris – Stanislaw Lem - not my favourite Lem novel, but still worth reading
Doomsday Book – Connie Wills
Beserker – Fred Saberhagen
Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

The Word for World is Forest – Ursula K. LeGuin
The Dispossessed – Ursula K. LeGuin
Babel-17 – Samuel R. Delany
Dhalgren – Samuel R. Delany
Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes
The Forever War – Joe Haldeman
Star King – Jack Vance
The Killing Machine – Jack Vance
Trullion: Alastor 2262 – Jack Vance

Hyperion – Dan Simmons
Starship Troopers – Robert A. Heinlein - so awesome.
Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert A. Heinlein
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle
More Than Human – Theodore Sturgeon
A Time of Changes – Robert Silverberg
Gateway – Frederick Pohl
Man Plus - Frederick Pohl

The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
Mission of Gravity – Hal Clement
The Execution Channel – Ken Macleod
Last and First Men – W. Olaf Stapledon
Slan – A. E. van Vogt
Out of the Silent Planet – C. S. Lewis
They Shall Have Stars – James Blish
Marooned in Realtime – Vernor Vinge
A Fire Upon the Deep – Vernor Vinge

The People Maker – Damon Knight
The Giver – Lois Lowry
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Contact – Carl Sagan - Sagan is one of the most inspirational writers I know and although I like his science books better, I still enjoyed Contact very much
Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
Battlefield Earth – L. Ron Hubbard
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court – Mark Twain ages ago, i need to re-read this
Little Brother – Cory Doctorow - Little Brother rocks. Read it. Go ahead, I'll wait. you can download it for free here It's one of the best books I've read in the last few years.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Jack Finney
Planet of the Apes – Pierre Boulle - that was actually much more enjoyable than the movies!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Artworks I'd Steal: William Blake

Photobucket
Source: Wikipedia, the original is at Tate Britain.

The body of Abel is discovered by Adam and Eve, Cain is fleeing from what he has done. Full of extreme poses and raw emotion, I find this the most touching depiction of the first murder I have ever seen. It's not mentioned in the Bible, but it must have happened. Imagine how horrible it must be not only to loose your child, but to loose it at the hands of your other child. Would Adam have killed Cain, if God hadn't intervened? Would Eve have wanted revenge? Cain is horror-struck by what he has done - he tried to bury Abel's body to hide it, but now all he can do is run. The painting makes them all come alive to me.

Like many of Blake's works, it's a watercolour and it's small, only 12 3/4 x 17 inches. He also made engravings, relief etchings and he was a poet, illustrating his own works and that of others (Dante's Divine Comedy for example). Blake was a deeply religious man, although he did not agree with many of the religious viewpoints of his time and in fact he created his own Christian mythology - which is why he was considered a rebel or even mad in his own time.
I first came across his work when I read Thomas Harris' "Red Dragon" in which one of his paintings plays an important role. As a starting point for learning more about his life, I would recommend Peter Ackroyd's biography. Some of Blake's literary works can be found at Project Gutenberg. My favourite is this one:

A POISON TREE

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears
Night and morning with my tears,
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright,
And my foe beheld it shine,
and he knew that it was mine,—

And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole;
In the morning, glad, I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Artwork I'd steal: The Screaming Pope

Whenever I go to a museum or an art gallery, I make a list of the three artworks I would steal if I were so inclined. When I go with a friend, I usually ask them to do the same - it's interesting to compare lists when we're done.

Photobucket
source: Wikipedia
I still remember seeing this painting for the first time, I sat staring at it for five minutes at least - and that was on my computer screen. A few years later, the Kunsthalle in Hamburg hosted a Francis Bacon exhibition and luckily, the Screaming Pope was part of it. It's big, 60x46 inches, and even more powerful in real life. I can't decide whether the pope is screaming in fear or anger, but I'm sure he would try to take you down with him if you came too close.

It's not actually called the Screaming Pope of course, the real title is Study after Velázquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X. Here's the original. I always thought that it was just as disturbing as the Bacon version, but on a different level. When I look at it I see an intelligent, powerful and ruthless man who is absolutely not afraid to use his powers and he's comfortable in the knowledge that we are aware of it.

Bacon has led a fascinating life. There are tons of books about him, I would recommend Anatomy of an Enigma as a starting point. If you should ever find yourself in Dublin, you can visit Bacon's immensely chaotic study that has been moved from London to Dublin and was painstakingly reconstructed.
The Artchive has more images of his work, it's a great resource for all things art, by the way.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Book of Choice: The Lady of Bayreuth

There are two families I can't get enough of: the Manns and the Wagners. There are just so many stories, intrigues and drama. "The Lady of Bayreuth" by Oliver Hilmes follows Cosima Wagner's live: daughter of Franz Liszt, wife of Richard Wagner and after his death, the personification of the Wagner cult.

Hilmes lets the people in his book really come alive and what a life it is. The Hans von Bülow-Cosima-Richard Wagner affair alone would be worth a book, but there's a lot more. We see how the Bayreuth festival is established, with many problems and financial troubles, and we're introduced to the connections of the festival to the German Nationalist movements and later to the Nazi party. Anti-Semitism was rampant in Bayreuth and Cosima was no exception, despite the fact that Jewish artists were employed - the relationship of Cosima and Herrmann Levi is explored in the book and gives a good example of the anti-Semitic climate.

Hilmes has had full access to the Bayreuth archives and he has made good use of this amazing source that had been only grudgingly opened to researchers before. The book also contains many photographs, something I very much enjoy when reading a biography. Whether you are interested in Wagner's music or not, I highly recommend this book to you if you like biographies and from what I've read, the English translation is excellent. The story of the Bayreuth festival is continued in the equally well-written "Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Heart of Hitler's Bayreuth" by Brigitte Hamann.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Killer Clam

I'm watching the old Doctor Who episodes at the moment, Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor to be exact. The first five minutes of the first episode I was thinking "gosh, it looks like it's 50 years old..." but then the story had me and it hasn't let go yet.
And speaking of not letting go: the killer clam in Genesis of the Daleks made me laugh out loud. I mean, who goes ahead and suggests that in a cave filled with unspeakable monsters, our heroes encounter ... a killer clam? It's so adorable, I can't think of a more inoffensive monster. Watch
I love how it waddles back into the shadow to wait for the next humanoid to stumble into it. Probably with a shellache after being wacked with that huge rock. Poor thing.

And because they are amazing creatures, take a look at this video of a real giant clam. And yes, they really are that big, but totally harmless. They don't snap shut and many big ones can't even close their shell completely.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Information Literacy

Sometimes students come into my library and brag about how many books they have read. That would be cool if it weren't for the fact that whoever has read the fewest books wins.
I would be less concerned about them not reading books if I knew that they at least were able to find whatever information they needed online. But many students are information illiterate. They don't know how to efficiently use a search engine, how to find other resources and most worrying of all, they don't know how to evaluate the sources they find. Often, they just choose the first Google hit and copy whatever's written there. Part of that is of course because it's the easy way out, but with some, I know that they really think that this is how finding good information online works.

No-one has taught them how to research things properly and no-one has taught them how to find out if a source is reliable. I dearly love Wikipedia and I don't see a problem with students using it, but please: check the sources, read the links and definitely read the Discussion site (the link is right at the top of every article - it can be very informative). Entering the exact question the teacher gave is not how you use Google or any other search engine. Come up with the most relevant phrase for what you search and use the Advanced Search, it's a great tool and you don't even need to know about Boolean operators.

And don't trust books, either. It's not true just because it's printed. People make mistakes, they copy things other authors have written and sometimes the author neglected his fact-checking. Often you can follow a mistake all the way through several books, articles ect. to it's original source. Do some research on the author. Or you may end up thinking that everything David Irving has written about Hitler is true. Peer-reviewing is not just something a bunch of geeky scientists do. Just because many journalists obviously don't bother with doing research it doesn't mean that it's not necessary. In short, look things up. I don't know of a better way to learn things.

Living in a sea of information is great, but you need to learn how to swim or better, learn hot to breathe underwater.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

99 book meme

- Bold the ones you’ve read
- Italicize the ones you want to read
- Leave unaltered the ones that you aren’t interested in or haven’t heard of

1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown) - yawn. And why, oh why is that top of the list?
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) - although I have to admit I'm not that much into Jane Austen
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) - one of my favouite books ever. It's amazing.
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell) - well, at least half of it, then I got bored. I enjoy the movie, though.
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (JRR Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (JRR Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (JRR Tolkien)
- I have read the LotR 34 times. I never get bored by it.
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) - historical fiction gives me hives.
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (JK Rowling) I've read the whole series multiple times
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown) - I read it against my better judgement (one a trip, it was the only book left) and I was amazed that nobody spotted that he had written the same book twice.
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (JK Rowling) see 11
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving) I've read The World According to Garp and I tried other Irving novels, but it's just not my thing
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (JK Rowling) see 11
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King) - oh yes, love that book. Gary Sinise will always be Stu Redman for me, despite all the failings the movie had.
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (JK Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) I started it, but couldn't finish because the language was too difficult for me at the time
21. The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien) - of course. But I must admit that I don't like it as much as Lord of the Rings.
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) - I think I was already too old for that book. It should be read before you're 18 or 20 at the most, I think.
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) - I like the parts with uneven numbers much better for some reason. Anyway, it's genius.
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) - another book I gave up on because of the language. I may try again sometime, it's been years since I've read it.
28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis) - read it, but I don't like the Narnia series at all. It just doesn't have the same magic for me as Lord of the Rings or the Prydain chronicles.
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert) - I've read the first book, but I'm usually bored by book series and Dune was no exception
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) - I've been meaning to read this for ages, ever since I read Matt Ruff's Public Works Trilogy
34. 1984 (George Orwell) - a classic. Along with Fahrenheit 451 it's my favourite dystopian novel
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley) - I wish I hadn't and I didn't complete the book. So boring and so much pseudo-feministic crap.
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett) - one of the few historic novels I've read and liked.
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) - everyone is enthusing over Coelho, but I just don't get it.
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. The Bible - yes, actually. Not the whole book and not all in one go, but I've read it. As someone who lives in a mostly Christian country, with a history and culture so heavily influenced by Christianity, not knowing the Bible is ignoring something that's an important key to understand that history. Whether you believe in God or not (which I don't)
46. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens) - I haven't finished it, though.
55. The Great Gatsby (F Scott Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (JK Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice) - such a great book. Then Anne Rice went on and made all vampires into pussies. Yawn. But at least they didn't glitter.
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
68. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo) - Javert is such a cool character.
69. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) - I've read and liked it, but I'm still annoyed by people who quote it all the time. Usually without having read it.
70. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
71. Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) - a weird book, but I liked it.
72. Shogun (James Clavell) - definitely on my reading list
73. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
74. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
75. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
76. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
77. The World According to Garp (John Irving) - read it, wasn't that impressed by it
78. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
79. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
80. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
81. Of Mice And Men (John Steinbeck) - so sad.
82. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier) - one of the best opening sentences ever.
83. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
84. Emma (Jane Austen)
85. Watership Down (Richard Adams) - I saw the movie as a kid and then read the book, years later. I love both.
86. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) - I don't know, that book didn't really work for me
87. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
88. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
89. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
90. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
91. Lord of the Flies (Golding) - once in school and several times since
92. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
93. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
94. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
95. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
96. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
97. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
98. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
99. Ulysses (James Joyce) - not an easy read and I prefer Virginia Woolf

Obviously, I'm not that much into popular contemporary literature. I can live with that.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Walking Dead - here be spoilers

I got around to watching the pilot for The Walking Dead yesterday and I loved every minute. As a rule, I don't like zombie movies much, with the exception of Night of the Living Dead and of course Shaun of the Dead, but this is different. I like horror movies to tell a good story and The Walking Dead does just that.
There's more than enough guts and gore and it’s very well done, but this is the first time I ever found zombies frightening - because it was very clear that they used to be people, loved ones. The scene where Morgan Jones tries to shoot his wife who turned into a zombie had me squirming and I admit close to tears.
Lennie James seems to pop up on a lot of stuff I watch (Human Target, Lie to Me, State Within) and I always enjoy it, he's a fabulous actor.
The whole episode that an air of suspense, I kept thinking watch your back, watch your back every time Rick went out into the open. The scene with the huge zombie crowd at the end was powerful, precisely because of that.
I loved the comics (although I'm not up to date on it) and it the series will keep what the pilot promised, it will be just as awesome.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Meet the library

I just did a library introduction for some of the 11th graders in my Tuesday school. When I began working here, the library was a mess of books that had been bought decades ago or had apparently just wandered in and decided to stay. There were very few books more recent than let's say 1980. I threw out a ton of books and managed to acquire a decent budget for the library. Over the course of the year I bought a lot of study guides and other books the students will find useful (I hope) during the sixth form/twelfth grade.
Until now, many students weren't even aware that the school has a library and I asked all the 11th grade class teachers to stop by with their students for a library introduction to change that. It was a weird feeling, a bit like showing someone a painting or a poem for the first time - I invested a lot of time and passion into this and I really hope it will pay off.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Rest is Noise

I'm not too familiar with 20th century music. I know all the names: Schoenberg, Stravinski, Cage, Britten, Stockhausen, Copland ect. - I read a lot. But I never listened much to any of the music, with the exception of Stockhausen (weird stuff, but cool).
Then I picked up The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross just because the library I work at had just bought it and I needed something to read for the ride home. It has been an amazing trip through the music of the last century and I have learned so many things, something I really love when reading a non-fiction book. It's a story not just about music, but also about culture and history and you get to know all the great composers, their quirks and personality. It also made me curious about all the music I had never listened to until now. There are recommendations at the end of the book and the author's website has music samples you can listen to - once again, I enjoy living in the Information Age.
The book has spawned a very long list of other books Ross mentions that I want to read and of people who's biography I need to read as well. This is how I love to find new books, through another book, a kind of literary six degrees of separation.

Fluffy Bunnies


Shrieking Rabbits by ~tinfinger on deviantART

A while ago this piece caught my eye on deviantArt. It's an illustration for a short story by Julio Cortázar, with whom I wasn't familiar at all. I found the story online and it's way beyond creepy. A slow, gentle spiral into insanity. With fluffy bunnies.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

55 Questions about Books

55 Questions about books
Stolen from Ramblin' With Roger

1. Favorite childhood book?
That's a hard question. The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander - I remember getting them for Christmas and I did nothing but read for the rest of the holidays (I actually finished the whole series in four days).
Dracula - I read it when I was about 10 years old and I loved it right from the start.

the Dolly series by Enid Blyton...one of the few girly things I ever did was read them and I still know them by heart.

Deutsche Heldensagen - Tales of German Heroes...a re-telling of the Nibelungenlied and related stories. I still have the book and it's pretty close to the original Nibelungenlied. I loved reading those again and again, despite all the bloodshed, tragedy and sadness. My favourite character was Hagen of Tronje because he was so loyal and he never pretended and because I myself didn't like Siegfried all that much.

Don Camillo and Pepone - the book had little illustrations by the author, showing the characters as angel and devil and I think that is what drew me to the book. I couldn't even read myself then, but I instited that my mom read the stories to me. It would be years until I grasped the political context of the stories, but that didn't matter, I still enjoyed the priest and the mayor feuding and being friends after all. My favourite story is The 13th Century Angel and Bioanco - be warned, I can't read Bianco without crying.

2. What are you reading right now?
"The Rest is Noise" by Alex Ross, which is one of the best books I have read lately. It spawned a huge list of books I want to read, either because they are quoted in The Rest is Noise or because I want to know more about the person (I like biographies).
"Thud" by Terry Pratchett - with "Nightwatch", those are my two favourite Discworld novels. Fantasy only plays a small part here, it's just the setting, and the story told is of things important for our own world.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
Just one at the moment, Lingua tertii imperii by Victor Klemperer, a book about language and how it changed in the Third Reich I've been meaning to read for ages.

4. Bad book habit?
I love to eat while I read or read while I eat, which may result in unfortunate accidents. I don't do it with books that are not my own, though.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Oh, looong list. I'm a librarian and I find books I'm interested in almost every day. I don't feel like getting up to check the stack of books right now, so off the top of my head:
several Maigret novels (really amazing books)
a Donna Leon, Doctored Evidence
The Rest is Noise
a book about deGaulle, Schukow, Montgomery and Patton
a few picture books, for example by Axel Scheffler (who wrote the Gruffalo - he's awesome)
a few cookbooks
a book about Joseph Goebbels
a book about what would have happened if the Nazi had won the war by Ralph Giordano
a biography of Cosima Wagner (the Wagners and the Manns are fascinating families!)
Under the Dome by Stephen King
The Inner Circle by T.C. Boyle

6. Do you have an e-reader?
No and I don't think I'm ging to get one anytime soon.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
Look at the list of books above. Take a guess.
Seriously, I read five books at a time usually.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
Not really.

9. Least favorite book you read this year?
Veronica decides to die. I was just so bored by it and Veronica got on my nerve.

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?
The Rest is Noise.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
My comfort zone is incredily broad, so it really takes work to get out of it. But I won't reject a book because "I don't read that kind of stuff". I also tend to re-read books that I didn't like the first time after a few years (although not all, I highly doubt I will re-read Twilight or much of the Scandinavian crime authors other people love so much).

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Let's make things easier and I'll tell you what isn't. As a rule, I don't like book series, especially since the recent trilogy-trend resulted in so many sequels that shouldn't have been written. But there are many exceptions (the Discworld series, for example). I also don't read crime novels much, but again, there are quite a few exceptions.

13. Can you read on the bus?
I read everywhere. I commute by subway and bus and I would go crazy without a book. I used to get sick when reading in the car as a child, but these days I can do that, too.

14. Favorite place to read?
Home, in bed. With some chocolate or cookies.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
Only to people I see on a regular basis so that I can pester them when I want the book back.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Never. And I smooth out dogears people make into library books.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
No. No and no. I hate checking a book out of the library and discover that someone couldn't read without a pencil. Underlining things is the worst because the voice that reads in my head reads those words louder, I can't help it.

18. Not even with text books?
Not really, I prefer making notes.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
I only speak two, German and English, and I love to read in both. I won't read translations of English books, though, because usually they are horrible, especially in the last decade. Sometimes I really suspect that the translator didn't own a dictionary and(or had only a passing knowledge of the language.

20. What makes you love a book?
Characters I can relate to. I don't need to like them, but I want to be able to understand them.
Non-fiction shouldn't be dry and definitely not a mere list of facts and numbers. I love history books and biographies and I want to get to know the persons I read about.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
I usually only recommend boks when I'm asked to and even then I may have a hard time with it. Books I have recommended multiple times are the Anno Dracula series by Kim Newman (if you like vampires and history/literature form Victorian times to about the 1950s, go read it!) and "The Demon-Haunted World" by Carl Sagan because it's beautifully written and because Sagan clearly loves what he is writing about, which makes the book inspiring.
By the way, "recommend a good book to me" is a question I hate from library patrons because it's almost impossible to do unless you know the person fairly well.

22. Favorite genre?
Um. I don't think I have one. I read a fair amount of fantasy (Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Tad Williams), but I hate so much that is written in that genre.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)
Science Fiction. I really need to read more of it and I have a whole list of books than I want to read. I just need to get them in English, which probably means buying them and that won't be cheap.

24. Favorite biography?
Richard Ellmann's biography of Oscar Wilde
Simon Sebag-Montefiore's books on Potjemkin and Stalin
Ian Kershaw's Hitler biography (don't let the sheer amount of pages keep you from reading it, it's fascinating)
Brigitte Hamann's Hitler's Vienna and The Reluctant Empress: A Biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria
Lytton Strachey's biography of Queen Victoria

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
I just read a book for survivors of sexual abuse. I'm not a victim of abuse, but I still found it an interesting read.

26. Favorite cookbook?
the old, huge one I took with me when I moved out - there's everythin in there from how to cook and egg to how to set a table for a five-course dinner for twelve people.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or nonfiction)?
I re-read Sciene as a Candle in the Dark.

28. Favorite reading snack?
Chocolate.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
The hype delayed my enjoyment of Harry Potter for a few years. But once I started, I read all three books that had been published in one weekend and I love the whole series. I don't pay much attention to book-hypes and I don't expect book to be particularly well-written because of it, but I also learned my lesson and will read hyped books right away when I'm interested.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
I don't know because I don't read critics.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
If I loathe a book, I may write a bad review or bitch about it to friends. Live with it.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?
Spanish, I think.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read?
Intimidating may not be the right word, but The Canterbury Tales were too much for me the first time around a few years ago. I had to look up a ton of words and it got frustrating. I think I'll try again soon, I even got a very nice annotated edition at a library book sale.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin?
Not too nervous, but I've been wanting to read Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu for ages. It's just that every time I look at all those volumes, I find myself grabbing a shorter book (on the other hand: I manage to read Lord of the Rings in a week).

35. Favorite poet?
William Blake and Christian Morgenstern

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
Between 20 and 50

37. How often have you returned book to the library unread?
Often, but it always annoys me. I usually check the book out again and then I read it.

38. Favorite fictional character?
Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird
Samuel Vimes from the Discworld novels

39. Favorite fictional villain?
Richard III
Dracula, both in Bram Stoker's and Kim Newman's version

40. Books I’m most likely to bring on vacation?
Lord of the Rings and Tad Williams' Osten Ard Saga - they will keep me occupied for a couple of weeks. Plus I usually bring a Discworld novel and one or two (or three or four) other books. There's this short story by William Somerset Maugham where he talks about travelling with books and how he always takes a kitbag full of books with him. I can absolutely understand that.

41. The longest I’ve gone without reading.
Um, a few hours?

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.
Veronica decides to die. Yawn. And if I had a choice, I wouldn't have finished Max Fisch's Homo Faber. Like Veronica, the main character annoyed me a lot. But it was a book I had to read in school.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Not much.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?
The Shawshank Redemption, Watership Down, To Kill a Mockingbird

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Lord of the Rings - I refused to watch it for years and when I did, I saw a ton of things I hated. I still like the movies (in the extended version) because a lot of things are beautifully made and they are awesome fantasy movies. But as a Lord of the Rings-adaption I find too many things missing, added (most scenes with Arwen...boooring) or just plain ridiculous like almost anything Gimli does. Please let the dwarfs be less of a laughing stock in the Hobbit.

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?
150 Euros and that was with a discount because I was working there at the time. It was for two huge coffee table books of animal photography by Frans Lanting, the newest Blacksad graphic novel and a couple of novels

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
I often read a couply of paragraphs to find out if the style agrees with me when I pick up a book from an author I haven't read so far.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book half-way through?
Annoying characters.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
I keep my textbooks roughly organized according to topic and the novels get alphabetized. But I tend to pile up books around my bed.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?
When I buy books, I keep them. I also re-read books a lot.

51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?
Not really.

52. Name a book that made you angry.
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman - I had to stop after each chapter because I got so angry at humanity's thoughtlessness. The only good thing is that in geological terms, much of what we are doing doesn't really matter. But I would still prefer a world that doesn't get abused all the time.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?
"Mistress of the Art of Death" by Diana Norman - I hate historic novels with a passion and usually with good reason. This one was surprisingly entertaining and not too full of factual errors. Although it had one of the most stupid translation errors I've encountered in a while. The English shellfish got translated with the German Schellfisch, which sounds alike, but means haddock. Sine the conversation was about kosher food, it didn't really make a lot of sense. I read that book with a book club, so I didn't bother to get the original version.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?
Eragon. I was bored out of my mind after about a third of the book. I switched to Lord of the Rings to read once again how it's really done.

55. Favorite guilt-free, pleasure reading?
Stephen King. I love his books and the man knows how to write. He knows how to pull of even the most ridiculous stories, like The Mangler for example. I think that one of the reasons I like his stuff so much is that his characters are so alive. I feel at home right away and he does scare me often.
A slightly guilty pleasure of mine would be fan fiction (there are some amazing writers out there who do fan fiction, believe it or not) and the wonderfully trashy John Sinclair novels - horror pulp fiction at it's best. Or worst. But I love it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Star Trek: The Royale and The Defector

I'm sick and I have way too much time on my hands...

So, The Royale
Fermat's Last Theorem. Nice example of how quickly SciFi gets outdated by reality. It was proven only six years after the episode aired. But it's still a nice scene.

And speaking of nice scenes, the whole sequence with Data in full crap shooting-mode is hilarious. As is the scene with Worf on the telephone with room service. "NO!" And Troi's look of catatonia when she and Picard are listening to the audio version of the book

The Defector
Aah, Romulans. They are always good for a great story. Especially when they are played by such an actor as Andreas Katsulas. In the scene where Picards asks him "Do you expect me to accept such an offer?", I really waited for "No, Captain Picard, I expect you to die!" Oh, well.
James Sloyan as Alidar Jarok creates another memorable character, it's so nice when enemies are actually believable.
I enjoy the Henry V references and of course the scene at the beginning. Is it just me or does the music remind anyone else of Patrick Doyle's awesome score for Branagh's Henry V?
This for example:

And just because it's so awesome and because it makes me bawl every single time I watch that movie:

Star Trek: Where Silence has Lease

Where Silcence has Lease is one of my favourite STNG episodes. The whole atmosphere is creepy and Nagilum really freaked me out when I was a kid. He still does a bit.
The music is very cool, especially during the scenes when the crew is not yet quite sure what they have encountered. The scene with the beacon is very eerie (which may be because it reminds me of submarine movies and the waiting while the enemy is trying to find the submarine with sonar).
A redshirt scene - yay. At least he has some lines, but come on, as soon as he sit there in his red shirt, we know he's toast.
At the beginning of the episode, Worf and Riker work out in a Tekken goes Predator scenario. Firstly, they do this in their uniforms. Ew. I hope they have time to change. Secondly, the guy in the yellow skull always makes me LOL. I mean, he looks like Skeletor for heaven's sake.

Monday, September 27, 2010

STNG: Booby Trap

I'm rewatching Star Trek The Next Generation, in no apparent order other than "hey, I want to see that episode right now". I'm not going to do any episode recaps or full reviews because a ton of other people have done that. For example Wil Wheaton and it doesn't get any more hilarious than his Memories of the Future reviews.
So, just some things that I particularly enjoyed or found amusing or whatever - this time in episode 3x06 Booby trap

If your date sucked and even the android comments Uh-oh on you being back early, the you know you're in trouble. Hint: falling in love with a simulation is not the solution. I really wonder why that doesn't happen much more often, though.

Picard's frustration that no-one seems to built ships in bottles anymore. O'Brien comes to the rescue and tells him that he did - which earns him a "no-one likes an ass kisser"-look from Riker once the Captain has beamed over to the other ship. Which he is so enthusiastic over that it's cute. Troi agrees with me here (she just phrases it more carefully with "pleasant surprise").

The music is really cool, especially in the scene when they discover that the Enterprise is marooned. Not so cool during the scene where Leah Brahms appears, but I guess I have to live with a few sappy string nstruments there.

And as a total non-sequitur, just because I came across it when looking up why it's called a booby trap:

Right-click and choose "Watch on YouTube" if it doesn't work.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Roleplaying and Reality

I do a lot of roleplaying (pen and paper) and sometimes I'm bugged by the disregard for common sense and reality. That may sound a bit weird since roleplaying after all serves the purpose of saying goodbye to reality at least for a while, but still. Especially when it comes to RPG systems that are designed to take place in a realistic world, like Vampire or Cthulhu.
So I very much enjoyed the essay "On Thud and Blunder" by Poul Anderson. He takes up a lot of things that I tend to groan about and suggests better, more realistic solutions. While he's writing more for fantasy writers, everything in there goes for rolelpaying as well. I don't need to observe every rule of reality, especially when it would destroy a greats scene, but sometimes it would make things a lot more fun. More complicated, true, but more fun.

My favourite part is the one about horses. It looks so easy in movies, doesn't it? And people always say "My character has that huge, black stallion and he obeys every word" Yeah, right. I'm not much of a horseman, but even I know that stallions are not what you would call reliable or easy to control. And let me tell you, mules rock. If you want to travel far, over rough terrain and with heavy luggage, go for a mule. Forget the horse. There may be an advantage in speed (although depending on the parents, there are fast mules), but that's about it.

But I still like the totally unrealistic badass shotguns that the Cthulhu RPG has. It's hard enough to stay alive in that system, let alone sane. Okay, shotguns won't help with staying sane, but at least you can blast away the things that made you cazy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I need to vent

So I have a few foster mice at the moment looking for a new home. I get a mail by someone who is interested. Great, I say, I'd like to bring you the mice to see how they will live, if it's okay I'd like you to pay a part of the neutering cost and can you send me a picture of the cage?
Next mail by her says: I live *insert adress* and will you come tomorrow at 11 a.m. to bring the mice? No cage photo.
11 a.m.? I do have a job, you know. But who cares, so I suggest a new date and asked for a description of the cage and ask again if it's okay if we share the cost for neutering (she agreed to that in passing, I overread that).
Next mail I get says that she doubts I'm serious about the whole thing because I want to see pictures of the cage even though I will bring her the mice. And that the whole thing with finding new homes for mice is just a ruse to get people's adresses. Oh, and she already had a new offer, so if I didnät reply her by tomorrow at the latest, she would take those mice instead,

What the fuck? I had to re-read that twice, I couldn't believe it. Hello, I won't drive the mice all over the city just to find out that the person has a ridiculously small cage or something. And posting a picture of the cage can't be that much work.
Needless to say that I have no plans of giving her the mice.

If you want to meet really weird people, go volunteer at an animal rescue. On the other hand, you meet a lot of wonderful people and you get to do some good, so seriously, go voluneer at an animal rescue.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fiel Trip Friday: Best Icecream

I ate the best icecream ever on Sardinia. I stayed there a good 15 years ago with my parents in a house not far from the beach and the water was the clearest I had ever seen in the Mediterranean.
The ice was pistacchio and one scoop was easy as big as my fist (and my hands are not all that small). It was delicious, with pistacchio pieces and sweet, but not overly so. I got my passion for pistacchio icecream on that day, but no ice ever was that good.

Share you icecream with us at Field trip Friday :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

30 Day Blog Journal: Old Photo

30 Day Blog Journal Day 10: a photo taken of me over ten years ago

Hm. I'll skip over this one and the next one because I don't have any old photos and I don't want to post a recent one.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

30 Day Blog Journal: A Photo I Took

30 Day Blog Journal Day 9: a photo I took

Here's one I took with my Canon PowerShot, I like that one very much
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and these I took with my Canon Eos 450D
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the port of Hamburg
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a Shama at the Burger's Zoo in the Netherlands

I'm on deviantArt with more of my photos

Friday, June 18, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Top Five Dream Destinations

1. Great Britain and London in particular
My parents gave me a trip to London when I was 17 and a year later I visited again with my English class. That was the beginning of a love affair between me and everything British. I've been to London now ten times at least and I loved every minute of it, it's a great city and my second favourite place anywhere. I'd love to spend a few weeks there, with one week at least just for the British Museum.

2. Yellowstone
I've been once, for four days, and I fell in love. It's an amazing place with really breathtaking nature and so much wildlife. I also love places with volcanic activity and Yellowstone has lots of that.
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3. Madagascar
I better make that dream come true quick or there will be nothing left or the gorgeous nature in Madagascar - the speed of the desctruction is frightening. But in the parts of the rainforest still left intact, you can see animals that are found nowhere else. The Aye-aye for example or the Fossa, not to mention a huge number of invertebrates and birds - Madagascar is home to 5% of all known species of plants and animals wordwide!

4. Białowieski Park Narodowy
It's a national park in Poland and the last primal forest in Europe. The wisent or European bison is still at home there, the last place to see it in the wild.

5. Australia
I want to see it all, from the Great Barrier Reef to Uluru to the Outback. I love reptiles and marsupials - koalas in particular. I always had a koala, never a teddy bear. So one day I would love to see them in the wild. Oh, and wombats.

You may have gathered that I'm a nature lover ;)
Where do YOU want to go? Share with us over at Field Trip Friday

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Woodpecker

Today I found a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Picoides minor) in the schoolyard. It had flown against a window and I thought it was dead, so I picked it up to bury it somewhere. I nearly jumped out of my skin when it grabbed my fingers with his feet - it had a strong grip and sharp claws. It seemed dazed and was content to sit on my hand. I decided to put it up in a tree in a meadow behind the school where the students don't go, after it had drunk some water. I checked on it about an hour later and it had fallen asleep, his head buried in its feathers. I don't know if it will make it, it probably has a concussion, but I hope for the best. I thought about seeing a vet with it, but there's not much a vet could have done and the nearest avian vet would have been a two hour drive away.
Despite the sad circumstances, it was neat to see a woodpecker that close. I got a good look at the weird tongue, and the gorgeous colouring and at the stiff tail feathers that allow it to sit on a tree trunk and lean way back to hammer on the bark.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Fiel Trip Friday: Travel Pet Peeves

1. People who talk in their own language in the believe that no-one will understand them anyway and so they feel secure to bad-mouth everything. Surprise, guys, people learn foreign languages and CAN understand you.

2. Tourists without respect for the culture they encounter and who think that because they paid for their holiday they are entitled to behave like a bull in a china shop.

3. Tourists who are careless about nature and animals. No, you don't get to take home corals from the Great Barrier Reef and no, it's not a good idea to pet the baby bison. Oh, and we've invented this thing called trashcans. Try it sometime. Also in this category: the illiterate tourist. Obviously can't read any signs, like keep to the trail or don't pick flowers. In serious cases, the illiterate tourist is also not able to understand pictograms.

4. Museums who don't allow taking photos (with the possible exception of galleries). I can understand not wanting people to use the flash, but no photos? Come on, it's advertising for free, especially when people put it online. No-one's going to say: oh, I saw the photos, no need to visit the museum.

5. Travelling with people who think they are running a race. It's a vacation, so take your time. enjoy things. Look at the little things.

Share your travel pet peeves at Field Trip friday

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Musical Monday: Lady in Black


Video doesn't work - click here

I've loved this song for ages, I don't even remember when I first heard it. I do remember that it was among the first songs I understood the lyrics of (The Police's message in the Bottle was the first).

Here's Ensiferum's cover version. It's a great song to sing along to (lyrics - come on, I know you want to!) no matter what version.

broken video link

What's moving you on Musical Monday?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Musical Monday: Summer in the City


Here's the direct link in case the video doesn't work.
Summer in the City by Lovin' Spoonful - I just watched Die Hard With a Vengeance and this song rocks, especially the intro.
What's moving you on Musical Monday

You're banned!

Earphone Guy has been banned from the library. He had been aggressive towards both librarians and library assistants and once he refused to leave when we were closing up. Every once in a while he still tries to come in, but backs out as soon as he sees one of the librarians. I've seen him in another library, researching who knows what and I wonder how long he will be welcome there.