Monday, 31 December 2007

Books 2007

I don't read as much these days as I used to, but in 2007 I read at least 42 books for the first time, and reread at least 47 books.

Books read for the first time included three autobiographies (Rudyard Kipling, Stephen Fry, C.S. Forester), fifteen novels by Elizabeth Peters, five by Terry Pratchett, two by Poul Anderson, two by Peter Tremayne, and further books by Rudyard Kipling, Michael Kurland, Alexander McCall Smith, Lindsey Davis, Thorne Smith, Christopher Anvil, Frank Muir, J.K. Rowling, L. Sprague de Camp, C.S. Forester, Margery Allingham, and Larry Niven & Edward M. Lerner.

Reread books included eighteen by Terry Pratchett, three by Colin Kapp, three by Larry Niven, two by Douglas Adams, two by Caryl Brahms & S.J. Simon, two by C.S. Forester, two by Elizabeth Peters, two by Clifford Simak, two by J.R.R. Tolkien, and further books by Jasper Fforde, S.M. Stirling, Michael Kurland, Randall Garrett, J.K. Rowling, Rick Cook, Poul Anderson, H. Beam Piper, Jack Vance, and Keith Laumer.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Ballet Shoes?

My mother's response to the recent TV version of Ballet Shoes, the 1936 book by Noel Streatfeild:

They'd crammed the whole book into less than 90 minutes and so the opening events, although reasonably authentic, were whizzed through bewilderingly quickly. From then on it got silly. For some reason they hadn't seen fit to engage a double cast of the 3 heroines, so we saw them arriving one by one as orphan babies and the next minute they're strapping teenagers, attending for the first time the theatrical academy which, in the book, was when they were small children. A ballet class was briefly shown, with a load of girls in ridiculous net skirts jumping up and down in the most unballetic fashion. The youngest heroine, Posy, who goes on to be a famous ballerina (ergo the book's title) had obviously never had a ballet lesson in her life and in this drama school there wasn't a single boy to be seen. I lasted till a non-heroine was giving a professional audition, with her teacher saying proudly in the background that she was the most talented girl in the school, and there she was singing excruciatingly and staggering about en pointe like a lame heron. I switched off and went to bed. Incidentally the comedienne Victoria Wood played the girls' nanny, rather well, but they'd given her an enveloping grey wig and one reviewer, who'd seen a preview, commented that she looked like Worzel Gummidge.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Teddy Muhammad

As you probably know, an English teacher was recently arrested and imprisoned in the Sudan for allowing her schoolchildren to name a teddy bear Muhammad (it was the children's choice). Some Sudanese protesters called for her execution.

This sort of thing illustrates a simple fact that all travellers should bear in mind: some countries are relatively safe to live in and some are not. Considering the dismal history of the Sudan ever since independence, and how things are there now, why would any sane person decide to go and live there?

If you go and sit in a lion's cage, it may be horrific when you get eaten by the lion, but it shouldn't be surprising.

In this case the lady was allowed to escape without being eaten by the lion. She was lucky. Some reckless travellers have worse experiences.


John Lennon's song Imagine seems to have lasting popularity, and I heard it lovingly performed by someone else on Spanish television just recently. It has a nice tune. But, considering the lyrics, its popularity has always puzzled me.

He imagined a world without religions, without countries, and without possessions, and invited us to admire it. This is a highly revolutionary manifesto that I'd expect virtually everyone in the world to disagree with in one respect or another; and yet large numbers of people seem attracted by it. Are they actually listening to the words, I wonder?

Myself, I'd welcome a world without religions, but it obviously isn't going to happen any time soon. A world without countries is vaguely attractive in principle, though perhaps unworkable in practice. A world without possessions doesn't strike me as attractive even in principle; I'm a libertarian, not a communist.