Weekly New Shoooees Links

Hello sunny readers, it’s been an interestingly noisy day (I woke to the sound of dhol players banging away down the road, and crazed women on a buying spree at Marks & Sparkle sales). And I even managed to get a new pair of shoes *on sale!* that just lured me in by sparkling and winking at me : )

The problem with ‘no results found’ pages

And how cute are these?! Although I’m not too convinced by the suggestion that ‘control-alt-delete’ are our favourite keys…(personally mine is the ever useful ‘printscreen’)

Me and my lego, yep! Here’s a Harry Potter advert made entirely of lego. Rather well done, I think.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the Annoying Orange video-mania that’s been circulating, here’s one about Pacman that made me chuckle. If you’re not a fan, skip to the next link.

Anyone who is a geeky fan of comic books, costumes and sci-fi will know that the annual San Diego Comic-Con is a haven for all of these and more. Anyone lucky enough to go? The effort people have put into their costumes this year is just marvellous, I’d love to be able to go one year!

And finally, I’ve heard good things about the Hunger Games books (soon to be made into a film), set in post-Apocalyptic North America in true sci-fi style. Review to come up I think! Anyone read this?

I’m off to binge-eat on cheesecake and crisps while I stare at my *pretty new shoooess*. I’m pretty sure I now consist of 72% sugar (the liquidy rest of me is coke). Eat healthy kids.

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Books To Look Out For #1: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

‘Its a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. Never was this truth more plain than during the recent attacks at Netherfield Park, in which a household of eighteen was slaughtered and consumed by a horde of the living dead.’

Darcy fans and nineteenth century literature fans can look forward to a new genre of classics: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, in which Austen’s classic has been re-written and jazzed up by author Seth Graham-Smith (although he credits a large part of it to our good woman Jane Austen). Apparently this is a big hit on the other side of the Atlantic, a tale similarly full of propriety angsts about how to present oneself while handling a musket to kill zombies, and its own brand of gory romance, all while the undead roam the country alongside sheep, and the Bennett girls being fully trained in the martial arts to fight off the “sorry stricken”. Have a look for it the next time you stop to get your book fix: it’s worth a flick through just to giggle at silly remarks like:

“My sisters and I cannot spend any substantial time searching for Wickham, as we are each commanded by His Majesty to defend Hertfordshire from all enemies until such time as we are dead, rendered lame, or married.”

You might also want to look out for the same author’s other work, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, for his slant on the life of the famous president and his previously unheard lifestyle. From the looks of it, there’s a whole world we don’t know about going on there. It may not appeal to everyone (I’m sure there’s Austen fans out there swooning in horror at the prospect of a zombie-hunting hero), but it’s something that shouldn’t be taken too seriously. And for those of you who do like it, there’s more good news: talks of a film release are in play! Yikes.

Yup, this is the front cover (you can’t see the gleefully-curious-mixed-with-look-of-horror on my face as I picked it up, but trust me it was there), let me know your thoughts!

Musical London at Denmark Street, the “British Tin Pan Alley”

“I wish they’d had electric guitars in cotton fields back in the good old days. A whole lot of things would’ve been straightened out.” – Jimi Hendrix

Denmark Street at the heart of London is famous for its musical shops, and boasts many historic moments there (with artists such as Jimi Hendrix and  The Rolling Stones recording their first records there). On my recent visit to the Denmark Street, I felt as if it is still buzzing with potential history to be made: it may be just a short alleyway tucked away (unless you know where to go), but it’s still a fairly populated spot, with patrons of all ages, races and nationalities. I met an Australian riffing on the guitars that he was meant to be selling, and European students tapping their feet along to “Under the Bridge”, while only a few doors down the saxphone shop owner proudly and carefully polished his wares to their shining glory. From weathered vintage instruments to brand sparkling new dreams just waiting to happen, this is a place to visit whether you are a music lover or not.


Weekly Museum Hopping Links

It’s that time of the year again, school holidays for all the lucky scallywags in schools (pupils and teachers both!), so the streets will be packed with people going off to their holiday destinations to pretend the recession doesn’t exist. Those of you who have been left behind in this grim existence of dodgy London transport and hormonal weather, can enjoy these lovely links.

First up is the the ever wise Oatmeal and his observations about life, have a little giggle at these.

I love my mascara, but this blogger has made me rethink the whole ‘filmed with lash inserts’ look with her outlook of long, falsey-type eyelashes. Eyelashes looking like drunken spiders come to mind.

One romantic bean decides to declare his love for his other half and propose…with an online website. Read this cute proposal, starting with the beginnings of their love story and onwards : )

Think you got problems? You don’t have White People Problems though, nuh-uh, and there’s a whole shopping list of ’em here. Although I think the problem may having too many stupid cells than white coloured ones. Have a look and laugh your way through them.

I’m off to do some museum-hopping and get all snap happy, hopefully the weather doesn’t leave me looking like a drowned meerkat! Wish me luck as I try to dodge all the crowds of yowling children wailing for ice-creams and whatnot (you can tell I don’t have children, can’t you?)
What are your plans for the weekend?

The Blanks come to London

I went to see acapello group The Blanks a while ago (most of you will probably know them as Ted and His Band from tv series ‘Scrubs’), and was happily entertained by their amazing voices, short sketches and general all round good humour. My favourite song was their rendition of ‘Over the Rainbow‘, which sounded really beautiful and really made my night 🙂

You can check out their shows and their other tracks,sketches, weird gimmicks with toys (yep, and some of them are really weird) on their website. Hope you find them as entertainment as I did, and here’s a pic of them performing when I went (I tried to zoom in more folks, but thats as far as I could get!)

Art Geek’s ‘Night Park’ by Leonid Afremov

My painting by Leonid Afremov arrived last week (*eek* yaaayy!!) and I’m mighty pleased with what I received. And it’s big as well, not one of those tiddly A4 sizes, but a nice big size (around A1) and on a good thick canvas. You can officially call me cultured now. Okay maybe not quite yet. Here’s some pictures of what it looks like, hope you enjoy the vivid colours as much as I do.

Discrimination and Hope in a Sci-Fi Dystopian Future

“The ways of the world were very puzzling…” – ‘The Chrysalids’, John Wyndham

Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go, recently made into a well-received film, shows a strange intrigue in the routines of life, and the mysteries of being human. Set in what appears to be a shadowy future of an alternatively-set England, in which the country’s turmoil is hidden from the central characters of the novel, we see how relationships are defined and tested, and how the idea of having an identity and future ambitions are constantly complicated by a larger force which the protagonists are unaware of. Although this is described as a type of sci-fi novel, seen in the sense of unreal and in the obscure references to the hidden outside threats, this novel is also a novel about coming of age, and dealing with emotions. Governed by unspoken rules and boundaries, and following uniform routines which they do not fully understand, the readers follow Kathy and her friends Tommy and Ruth as they struggle to understand their own identities, as well as their relationships with each other. What seems to be an English boarding school for the children never feels as innocent as it purports, adding sinister undertones throughout the novel as they children begin to wake up to the world around them.

Throughout the novel, there is always a sense of wonder and awe at ordinary things in world, suggesting that the children do not have access to the norms of life, and illustrating just how sheltered they are. The scene, for example, in which the characters come across a glass-windowed office with its office workers, shows how this sense of normality has been removed for the children, this is life from which they are exempt and therefore revere because they cannot have it. This, coupled with the continuous assertions that these children are “special” quickly reveals the feeling that the children have been reserved for an agenda which they are not fully aware of. Throughout the novel the children’s true identity and future purpose are revealed to them, and rather than giving showing, dramatic revelations, Ishiguro lets this in through drip by drip, in quiet and subtle ways so that even as the truth is given, it is vague and feels half-hidden, leaving the readers as confused as the characters do about reality of circumstances. The children and their peers are never given a limelight moment in which their emotions take over and dramatically respond to these ‘truths’, rather this is taken in calmly and passively, as if it is something they were aware of all along, even as they do not understand their reality.

Memory then, and personal interpretation, becomes a very significant plot device here, as the narrative of the story relies on an older Kathy retelling her earlier life, which is always tinged with a sad hindsight, diffusing the narrative even as she shows a bright, young innocent Kathy who is still finding herself in the world. There is always a suggestion that Kathy herself is not always sure of her truth, which is shown in her lack of confidence in remembering some scenes, as well as the ways some of her memories do not correspond with the recollections of others. Throughout the novel, Kathy picks out certain conversations and scenes, seemingly innocent when taken as themselves, and yet she is able to dig out meanings and hidden theories to make sense of their restrictions and confused lives, rather than continue meandering through their lives blindly.

Each character undergoes their own personal struggle and attempt to create their niche in the world, from Tommy’s ‘temper tantrums’ and his goal to become peaceful, Ruth’s longings to impress her peers and attain popularity, and Kathy’s own goal to understand herself and her destiny, as well as to come to terms with it. Yet this sense of establishing individuality is always undermined by the sense of suspense and mystery which follows the novel, even as it feels that the truth as has been given. What we are left with however, is their sense of affiliation and their bonds with each other, even as they try to push each other away, we see how the characters seek refuge in each other in the realisation of their own powerlessness.

Features such as ‘the Gallery’, in which the children of the school religiously and rigidly submit their art and creations to every year, for reasons that they are unable to discern or question, becomes significant in their lives, as it creates goal to aspire to, and shows how the school has become a microcosm with its own rules and occupations that seem far removed from the outside world. As one character asserts the reason could be, the creativity and paintings serves to reveal “what is inside our souls” suggesting that this has been questioned, emphasising the ‘special’ nature of the children. Also implicit is the ‘ Madame’ who represents the people of the outside world:, her inability to engage with and relate to the children highlights their invisible differences, and begins to reveal the alienation that the children will feel increasingly as they become older. Similarly, the way that the children’s teachers struggle to maintain their own version of normality inside the school, as well as their own conflicts in telling them the truth of their lives, or choosing to shield them, only serves to demonstrate the background debates which is occurring on how to treat the children. Always then, do we get the impression of adults being in control, of the their routines and fate, and of the truth, while the main characters are kept in childish ignorance, unable to fully comprehend the importance of the routine checks in their physical health, their ‘creativity’ and the importance of their ‘training’.

While Kathy epitomises their lack of reaction and passivity in dealing with her ultimate fate and purpose, even this acceptance feels detached and muted, rather than becoming a spectacle. Without revealing too much of the story, it is clear that the children accept their fate despite not fully understanding it, a sad conclusion to their friendship and their close bonds. This is not, however, the ultimate end result of Kathy’s memories, and this is not to say that their struggles to avoid their mysterious fate is what presides. Instead, what endures in this novel is the sense of love and friendship which quietly builds up throughout – the message from the author resonates long after you have read it, making us remember what it is to be human. Always there is a sense of beauty in the narrative, and the events and characters of the novel seep into our minds more effectively due to how well-crafted they are, and how they quietly yet profoundly affect our sense of humanity and individuality.

What is left with the reader is the impact of the characters struggles, making us want to make the most of our freedom and our unrestricted lives to prove our humanity and vitality As one reviewer aptly summed up “The impression I get, however, is that Ishiguro is less interested in the sci-fi aspect of this than in using it as an allegory for us all, the stunted limitations of many of our lives, and our blithe acceptance of our ultimate fate.” This is a read which may not appeal to all, its lingering, wistful tone which may feel frustrating, especially with a bittersweet conclusion which may not feel satisfying. However, while there are heartbreaking scenes, mostly depicted through strained, almost-silent interactions and a feeling of powerlessness, there is a stronger sense of emotions being evoked in ourselves and in the background of the novel, urging us to hold onto love, friendship and our ambitions, and leading us to question our perceptions on what it is to have a ‘soul’.

Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go (Faber & Faber: Windsor, 2005) pp.272 £12.99