Journal Your Ramadan – Day #4: Currently Reading

I’m a big reader, which means I have piles of books in my room, several hundred ebooks on my laptop, book reader and mobile, and about three or four pages of lists of ‘To Read’ books to collect. I also have quite a bad habit of reading more than one book at the same time so that I’ll have about three or four different storylines in my head which I pick up again when I’m reading a book.

Here’s what I’m reading at the moment, a novel about a Slovakian Gypsy in World War Two, Zoli; a book on my eReader called The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which I’m really enjoying, a graphic novel called Superman True Brit, which I’ve mentioned a few times before, and which I’m trying to re-read so I can post a review/re-cap of the best bits on my blog; and lastly a book given to me by my sister called The Four Agreements, which is more of a philosophical self-awareness book (which I’m not usually into, but it comes very well recommended and I’ve heard good things!)

Over the years, I’ve had less and less time to read (and I’m sure you can all relate) as I get more commitments, more things to do at home and work, and less time to myself, so it’s nice when I do get to sit down and read. I’m always in a ‘cycle’ when it comes to reading too, sometimes I’ll feel like reading a lot of fantasy, sometimes it will be a lot of murder mystery, and then this could be followed by a lot of dystopic sci-fi. At the moment I’m leaning towards historical and epic novels (and Batman comics), although previously I was reading a few novels by Charlaine Harris which were all based in The South (of US) which was interesting!

Ramadan is the best time to read the holy Quran during thee month, but there are other things to read too, to improve your day-to-day life or to reach inner-peace –  with some talks, some stories of the Prophet, or even just a few verses of prayer which can be read with prayer beads. It’s easy to forget to do this in this time, we’re tired, hot and not always able to concentrate, but time and time again I’m reminded of the value of praying and reading so that we can reap the rewards.

Also on the subject of reading, here are a few Ramadan Links to read for those of your who want food ideas, kids activity ideas or just lectures and talks to listen to – have a browse!

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Pics & Tricks: Light Blue Trees

I thought I’d show how a different range of colours on the same image can have a completely different effect, as well as different highlights and shadows the same photo can have. I edited this tree picture with various shades of blue and focus of light, and I actually do like most of these, although a couple are a little too garish. My favourite is probably the dusky blue version (top row, third), though, because it reminds me of something in the 70s. I dunno, maybe I’m just making things up here.

But I’d recommend you try it out, it’s surprising what results you end up with, and also which hidden things in a picture may get highlighted. Plus it’s always fun playing around with images on my mobile’s photo apps. )

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“Physician steal thyself” – A Doctor Disappears

Richard T. Kelly’s ‘The Possessions of Doctor Forrest‘ implies, at first, a straightforwardly ordinary, although puzzling tale. The novel’s central character is a Scottish cosmetic surgeon, who, from its very opening, has gone missing – much to the concern of two of his closest friends. And the clues he has left behind are sparse, leaving not much insight into his lifestyle, the people he loved, or the possible reasons for his disappearance. But this is a horror story, and one which creeps up on you slowly, and Kelly creates a eerie atmosphere which leaves both the readers and the doctor’s friends unsure about what has happened, but very aware that something is very wrong. drforrest

Always throughout this nove, is some form of reference to an Other, a supernatural influence in the story, which the grounded best friends are unable to accept with their sceptical minds, yet they are unable to ignore that fact there are surreal acts at play which cannot simply be explained away. As they begin to delve into their old friend Doctor Forrest’s life, they begin to realise how his personality is but a mere mask for his real feelings and intentions, and hides a persona they never knew.

And of course, as with these revelations come the Faustian motif – as life, youth and eternity which are constantly being examined are valued, so is emphasised the price that needs to be paid – a theme of life and death which are always inevitably coupled. Doctor Forrest’s secrets and his thirst for more in life are slowly unravelled, layers of which lie with the various encounters he has with people and with relationships he has with not only them, but with the journeys he takes to reach his ambitions.

And of course, as with these revelations come the Faustian motif – as life, youth and eternity which are constantly being examined are valued, so is emphasised the price that needs to be paid – a theme of life and death which are always inevitably coupled. Doctor Forrest’s secrets and his thirst for more in life are slowly unravelled, layers of which lie with the various encounters he has with people and with relationships he has with not only them, but with the journeys he takes to reach his ambitions.

Without giving too much away, suffice to say that Doctor Forrest and his companions are slowly drawn into the world of mystique, darkness and the supernatural. And just as the disappearance of the doctor is not explained away simply, nor is his descent into his final destination any less complex. There are familiar gothic literary devices peppered throughout, the use of landscape to create an eerie atmosphere, the symbolism of blood, the theme of isolation throughout the novel, and so on.

The Possessions of Doctor Forrest is not a novel which rushes, it builds up tension gradually, reflected through the prisms of each narrator’s concerns, as family-men, career-men and as spiritualists. While the settings are of a modern landscape, that of present-day Scotland and London, the behaviours of the characters and the feelings which are emanated feel classic and timeless – that of the idea of sin, of wanting to live forever, of love and of what it means to be man. This novel harks back to the styles of classic novels, that of Dorian Gray, Dracula and Frankenstein, where the quest to be something greater is bound up with not only the spooky supernatural, but the premise of man’s fallacy and the inevitability of choices which must be made.

Or, as one blogger summed up:

 “The Possessions of Doctor Forrest” wears its learning lightly, and creates something dark, modern and terrifying from it. Brilliant.”

Edward Scissorhands: The First Snow

Among other things, Edward Scissorhands is a very romantic film, don’t you think? The secret love of our hero, the damsel in distress, the bullying villain, the restrained lover…this is all starting to sound a little Mills and Boons now, but you get what I mean.

Artist Brittney Lee has captured the most iconic moment of the movie with her scene made entirely from intricately cut paper, which I absolutely adore. I love romantique style art like this, it really is one of those pieces of arts which captures something which words can’t.

Image belongs to Brittney Lee

Edward Scissorhands: Cute Dinosaur Hedges

I’m a huge fan of Tim Burton’s films, and his earlier films are way more kooky than his later films, my favourite being Edward Scissorhands. There’s quite a big cult following for this film, spawning all kinds of art, spin-off movies, toys, and merchandise you’d  never think of, with fans from all over the world of all ages. It’s pretty amazing that the film is now over 20 years old, and still as popular today, which is why it’s no surprise there is are several artists who have now contributed to ‘Scissorhands 20th’ legacy, that is, interpreting the film in their own way and drawing scenes of the film.

I love this piece by artist Alex Leighton, showing a cute, bug-eyed Edward making dinosaur-shaped hedges which looks cute enough to be a cartoon series in itself. I’d watch it anyways.

Image belongs to Alex Leighton

It was a dark, dark night…

…I loved those Funnybone books (and cartoons) as a kid!

Here’s a weirdly shaped tree I saw a while back (yes, I know, me and my obssession with trees), and some arty-farty tricks I did with the picture (i.e. with Instagram!) to make it look like something from a horror film.
I’m quite pleased with it actually, it’s almost Tim Burton-y!

Perhaps this is something which can start a story off, I’m thinking something along the line of evil trees that come to life and kidnap small things? No? Okay, a bit too Snow White-ish then!

Fairy Tales & Long Tails: The Top 10 Vampires List

I’ve always liked vampires in literature (and films), until Tweelight and the Sparkly RPatz gang kinda ruined it for me. I share the sentiments of this genius lady’s ranting on that point.

Anyhoo, I thought I’d compile a list of Top Ten vampires which are either the most notorious or just super-cool vampyres. They’ve been there through the years, from the stories of Hungarian duchesses drinking blood of young virgins for eternal youth, to films of today, including Johnny Depp’s recent ‘Dark Shadows’ (which I have yet to see!)

10. RPatz aka. Edward CullenTwilight
I didn’t really want to include this vampy, but thought he needed a mention because of how famous he’s become. Set in Ess Meyer’s Twilight trilogy, this vampire is the ultimate romantic gentleman, he’s watches you while you sleep, controls himself from sipping on your sweet, sweet blood and generally promoting all things education, abstinence and not chomping on weak humans. And oh, his tortured soul which sparkles his very innocence and his pure love. Or something.

9. Dr Acula – J.D., Scrubs
Okay, not really a renowned vampire. Or a very successful one. But it still makes me giggle. This undercover vampire who screens as a doctor by day is the brainchild of J.D. from Scrubs – although for some reason, never got made into that biopic he envisioned. I have no idea why. He’s a doctor AND a vampire!

8. LestatThe Vampire Chronicles: Interview with a Vampire, Queen of the Dead
Lestat is the vampire most recognisable as Tom Cruise, the long-haired sissy turned blood-sucker who philosophies, dallies around and turns Brad Pitt into a vampire who disappoints him by bleeding chickens dry. Perhaps not really a hero, Lestat is nevertheless an interesting character who is hard to kill, charismatic and diverse – at one point he even becomes a rock star!

7. Vlad the Drac Vlad the Drac series, Ann Jungman
Just because I remember reading these books this as a teeny tot. Vlad is the ultimate (and tiny) vegetarian vampire who blesses the reluctant Stone family with his presence by choosing to stay with them, and getting up to all sorts of naughtiness. With a diet of household liquids (washing up liquid, shoe polish, soap) and hiding his vegetarianism from his traditional family, Vlad covers his identity with a bottle of ketchup and tall tales of eating the milk-man. Great fun : )

6. Count von Count Sesame Street
The Count who taught us how to count, in a very slow, breathy way and with Romany music. No signs of blood-sucking, hiding from the sun or sleeping in coffins for this vamp, so that us kids were protected from the traumas of vampirism and instead exposed to him counting EVERYTHING. “When I’m alone, I count myself. One count!” Ah ha ha ha…

5. VampiraMaila Nurmi, Plan 9 from Outer Space
This is the only female vampire in the list (probably because vampires are usually seen in the male role who attack the weak helpless women) – yet she is quite an iconic figure. With one seriously thin waistline to rival Dita von Teese, and pale skin to fit the list, Vampira is sexy, disturbing and weird all in one. Although I’m sure that Maila Nurmi probably never even played a vampire, her career was based on the image of one, and it was pretty much spent mocking the gothic roles, and was made famous by director Ed Wood’s flop film ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space‘.

4. BladeWesley Snipes, Marvel Comics
Quite possible the most kick-ass vampire of them all, Blade is the mixed-race vamp who can walk in daylight and still drink blood of us puny humans. He’s like the Chuck Norris of vampires – the hero who becomes a vampire hunter just by beating the living daylights out of them. And he’ll give you a smart-ass comment before he kills you too.

3. AngelDavid Boreanaz, created by Joss Wheden
Our favourite vampire romance, featuring Buffy and her boy Angel, this is a man of few words and fewer facial expressions. While he battles for good and has a human soul, he’ll break the habit every now and then to go evil and get his vamp on. But fear not, he’ll become commercialised and gets his very own corporate business to run happily ever after, with his own team of evil-slayers.

2. DraculaBram Stoker
The original vampire in fiction, this is a timeless character which has been depicted time and time again by many actors, cartoons, puppets and even text-based role-playing games (yes I had one. It was awful). With a name that’s become synonymous with the word ‘vampire’, the original story behind Dracula is a lot less gory and a little more spooky, involving a hero called Jonathan Harker in a chase to defeat the mysterious Dracula who has employed him. Perhaps most famously played by Bela Lugosi, this character really is a bit scary, with a death scare that could only be matched by my mother

1. NosferatuCount Orlock/Count Dracula
Although Dracula was more notorious, ever since Nosferatu scared the living crap out of me as a child, it’s stuck in my mind as the creepiest (and most geriatric) vampire of them all. Technically, Nosferatu is just a rip-off of Dracula, where the directors of the original were unable to get permission to use the names in ‘Dracula’ but as a result, this vampire has become just as famous as the original, and just as creepy. Although I did like the Willem Dafoe version.

There’s always going to be something to add to this list of vampires, whether it the newer interpretations, real-life history cases or just a random squidgy vampire from Spongebob Squarepants. Vampires can be creepy or alternative just good entertainment (think Buffy the movie), they may not be to everyone’s taste but I can guarantee you this – everytime you now type in ‘vampire’ on the internetz, you’ll be sure to find a Twilight sparkle reference 😀