Saturday, December 28, 2013

Photo Exhibition, Zachęta Art Gallery

Earlier in the year, we ducked into the Zachęta Gallery, which is the biggest and National Art Gallery. It has many different and rotating exhibitions. It also used to have a nightclub in the bottom floor! Alas, we weren't there for drinks and dancing.

Instead, we went to see a photo exhibition of what was called "Leisure time in the PRL".

Huh?!


That is right, free time in the PRL (Peoples republic of Poland), and I am a sucker for photography, I am an even bigger sucker for old photographs (therefore b&w), and an even bigger sucker for something that shows me how things were where I am living/have lived in the past. Therefore, for me, it was fantastic. It was also great listening to the older people in the crowd talk about how they remembered certain things that they saw. How, even though many consider it the "dark days" of Poland, they still got a glint in their eyes and a wrinkle in the corner of their mouths that often turned into a smile! Fantastic, I love old people that smile, far better than frowning.

Of course, the photos I took are mine, but they are also not mine at the same time. Confusing, no?


I still don't get it!







At the same time on another floor there was a whole exhibition about jesus/god/religion. It was to be honest, pretty darned spooky.


I just wanted to scream.

Bookshop

Now that is a big paiting.

I love you  too, brain.


As the light changed.
We headed into the sunshine.
Following the long shadows of the day.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Eastwardly

Autumnal times in the Eastern Village. As it gets closer to Chrimbo and a trip out East, I think I should show some photos from mid Autumn when we were last there.





























Friday, December 20, 2013

Books of the year, 2013.

Books for the second half of 2013 (as of the start of December)

As it is getting to the end of the year, I guess it is time to go through the books that I have read this year. I have made a good effort this year, I think, to work through some really different subjects and authors. Of course, all the reviews as purely my thoughts and should any of you be interested in any of the books I didn't like I would still recommend reading them, as reading is really good fun!


Some of this year.

 

 paperback cover
paperback cover
Running with Scissors: Augusten Borroughs (Paperback) 305 pages

Wow, this hurts to read in many ways. Not in bad writing but in what Borroughs had to go through, it is amazing that at the end of it he is able to write or to be blunt even alive. The story tells the tales of his childhood and what a slightly off kilter parent (or actually parents) can do to a childs upbringing. It really is something that you would only think of in movies or a tele-drama. But according to all reports it is factual. Scarily factual. I guess at least he has made some money and fame from his pain and suffering. I think everyone who is thinking of having children should read this to show what might happen should they possibly get divorced or not really feel 100% like being a parent. It can be hard (says this childless man). Also, if you think your life is hard, read this.

7/10

Paperback cover
Paperback cover
The Book Thief: Markus Zusak (Paperback) 550 pages

Interesting book. This is told from the point of view of death. It is a book talking about people growing up in Germany during Nazism and WWII. I tend to shy away from books about the haulocaust, and Jewish lives in Europe at the time. As it is almost always a depressing read and I don't really want to read to be depressed. This includes a touch on Jews during the time of Nazism but it really isn't the main focus. The story tells of a girl who loses her whole family and is brought up by foster parents who were anti-nazi but passive most of the time. An Australian author and was referred to me by a friend and loaned to us by a friend. The first quarter is really not that interesting but after that I enjoyed it.

6/10
Not my cover but paperback cover
Not my cover but paperback cover
The Picture of Dorian Gray: Oscar Wilde (Hardcover) 262 pages

How embarassing. I have never read anything by Oscar Wilde. All I know of the man was that he was possibly one of the funniest one liner writers ever. That is what I thought, but I was wrong. His one liners are actually normally part of long flowing sililoquays. I found the first half of this book fabulous, then in the middle quarter it died off a little and the finale was quite fun, even if predictable to an extent. Either way it was really great fun. All this said, I must provide you with a few fabulous quotes:
"Experience is merely the name men gave to their mistakes.” 
                             “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it.” 
                                                                                    “To define is to limit.”
“Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.” 

and finally the one for people on twitter “I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make modern life mysterious or marvelous to us. The commonest thing is delightful if only one hides it.” 
8/10
Paperback cover
Paperback cover
The Fatal Shore: Robert Hughes (Paperback) 720 pages

If you haven't read this book and you are Australian or English then you really must. It is fascinating. I cannot believe how well researched it is and how it must have been an extraordinary process to write such a thing. I think I read somewhere it was about 12 years or so. It shows, which unfortunately can bog it down in details and information. This said I was able to read it at crazy early times in the mornings on the way to work more than I was some other books. I am really very impressed by this book and think that if you want to understand Australia now, Australia in the past and England this is really going to help you go that way in leaps and bounds. You also have to reward the effort here. A shame that Mr Hughes passed last year.

8/10 (would have been a 9 if it wasn't so heavy at times)
Paperback cover
Paperback cover
Throwim Way Leg: Tim Flannery (Paperback) 326 pages

I have two books by Dr Tim. This one was the first one I have finished, I will get to the other one... eventually. This is a really interesting book about the country closest to Australia which I really know very little about. PNG. It sounds an utterly fabulous place, culturally, and naturally. Tim talks us through the life of a field biologist and how life in the tropics isn't all coconuts and beaches... although there was a little of that. It goes into Geo-politcal topics, conservation, economics and anthropology/ethnography. A good read, but not going to win any awards.

6/10
 Paperback cover
Paperback cover
Toast: Nigel Slater (paperback) 247 pages

This is a really sweet book and I was actually surprised at how much I enjoyed it. It is the story of food as you grow up, so looking at things from a childs perspective. Also, it incorporates the loss of a parent, the next addition to parenting and the possible side effects of that, and how life can be both good and bad and how that balance can effect you as an individual. I really recomment this book if you enjoy food, and unlike me have much memory of childhood, this way you can remember things vicariously. :)

8/10
Paperback cover
Paperback cover
Half Asleep in Frog Pyjamas: Tom Robbons (paperback) 447 pages

Ok, I have to be frank and honest here. When I started this book, I was onto the "dregs" of our book collection. The list of books that is there are the ones I have been delaying reading. This one is from the author of "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues". It is a similar to that in the way that it wants to be philosophical, or maybe metaphysical, and to think there is a "bigger" meaning than the life we see on the ground. This includes frog like space creatures. Of which you can read more in this book. I am glad it was only 447 pages, any more and it wouldn't have been finished.

4/10
Hardcover dustcover
Hardcover dustcover
Gastronaut: Stefan Gates (Hardcover) pages

Hmmmm what to say, what to say..... This book is a halfa. Meaning it is half writing and half cookbook, half fact half fiction and half interesting and half dull. A lot of it is Stefan trying to prove that Stefan is cool and quirky and interesting. When he actually stops doing this, the book becomes more interesting, he is even funny on occasion, his experiment into flatulence will bring out the childish boy in anyone. Let's face it, farts are funny.
It has recipes some seem interesting most not feasible or appetising.

5/10
Hardcover cover
Hardcover cover
My life as a 10 Year old boy: Nancy Cartwright (Hardcover) 271 pages

We all know that Nancy Cartwright is the voice of Bart Simpson, and the fact this book was actually written in 2000 really does show. Some parts are interesting even a little humorous but in general the book was more of a "who I have met because of the work I do" sort of thing. Some stuff was really interesting the how she got to where she was, but once there it was a little "lame" to quote an Americanism. As a fan of the show I had hoped for much much more,

6/10
Not my cover, but it will do
Not my cover, but it will do
Frankenstein: Mary Shelley (hardcover)  250 pages

Frankybaby, I always thought I knew this story, but cartoons and movies lied to me. It was a much less "mad professor" story than I though. It was also written in 1816!!! Crazy, no? It is an interesting, if extremely verbose, story about a man who creates a creature to live and then the on goings of their relationship/lack there of/relationship again, situation. It gets a little tough to read at times because of the wordiness of it and the fact my book had really small print. That said, I think for 1816 it was a pretty darned good scary, for the times of course, story. Have a read if you have the time

7/10
Paperback cover
Paperback cover
The Master and Margarita: Mikhail Bulgakov (paperback) 145 of 563 pages

This book was given to me by a fabulous friend, the problem being I just couldn't get into it at all. I tried on two occasions and was unfortunately only able to make it as far as 1/3 of the way through it. I am really sorry I couldn't get any further as my friend worked hard to find this book. Sorry EL :(

N/A
Dust cover.
Dust cover.
Holy Fools: Joanne Harris (hardcover) 432 pagers

Another pleasant book by Mrs Harris, but realistically she covers the same themes as Chocolat, Gentlemen and Players etc etc. She has an outsider, something to do with magic and a theme of food and a relationship between mother and daughter as the central premise. They are always easy reads and something that won't break your brain early in the morning. To quote one of my students "It was quite pleasant". Just for you Ola K.

6/10

Front cover
Front cover
In Tasmania: Nicholas Shakespeare (softcover) 382pages

A really interesting story about a man who chases his family history. Of course, he was lucky that his forefathers and mothers were good letter writers and some slightly famous people so that there was a large amount of information for him to refer to. That said, it must have been a great amount of work to find all this information, also of course it is difficult to make history interesting and Nicholas has done that here. A great read if you are interested in Tasmanian history.

7/10
Hardcover front cover
Hardcover front cover
Things Fall Apart: Chinua Achebe (hardcover) 192pages

A book written about the "invasion" of white missionaries to Africa and the impact that this had on a race of people who were willing to let these people into the country to practice their religion, not knowing the problems this would cause and the remifications it would have upon traditional ways of life and the structure of communities. A sad story, not overly well written but nice to read something that is different than my normal style.

5/10
Paperback cover
Paperback cover
In America, A Novel: Susan Sontag (paperback) 387pages

A much celebrated author, a topic that could be interesting. Talking about the most famous Polish actress in the 1800s who then proceeds to move away from Russian occupied Poland to start a commune in America, only to realise as a farmer she makes a great Juliet. She returns to the stage and amazes all of America with her skills and talents. A book that is horribly written. If it wasn't about Polish people I would never have made it to the end. When a chapter goes for 27 pages, you know the author is lacking in understanding of the reader.

3/10
Paperback cover
Paperback cover
Saturday: Ian McEwan (Paperback) 279pages

Quite an interesting book that talks about a brain surgeon and his family. Almost sounds like a joke, "have you heard the one about the brain surgeon on Saturday?" but it is interesting story of how events can impact your life short and long term. All in 24 hours. All action.... well kind of.

6/10
Paperback cover
Paperback cover
On Chisel Beach: Ian McEwan (Paperback) 166pages

After reading Saturday by the same author I thought hey why not try another. Well that was a mistake, this book really reads like it is a High school creative writing class, gone wrong. It is all about a young married couple and how they got to each other in the post war period. To be honest I was falling asleep reading this, often.

3/10
Dustcover
Dustcover
The Dig Tree: The Extraordinary story of the ill-fated Burke and Wills Expedition Sarah Murgatroyd (Hardcover) 363pages

The dig tree is down in Australian folklore as is the Burke and Wills expedition, but the fact is I really didn't know that much about it. This book was a great way to learn some more interesting facts and details about not just the trip itself, but the repercussions, associated parallel history and why Adelaide is far better than Melbourne when it comes to producing hardcore heroes. I am presuming people who are proud Victorians would not read this book. A well researched and well written book.

7/10
Paperback cover
Paperback cover
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Millennium I (Paperback) 554pages

Well, here we have an extremely well known book from a "best seller" series. It is not my normaly reading style of material. I tend not to read crime stories, unless they are real crime ones. I can see why this is popular. It is written in such a way that you steam through it and it only took me 4 days on public transport to finish it. The story itself was interesting and you could get a little invovled with it. It wasn't an amazing piece of writing, but for people who don't read often it might be a good way to get back into the habit. A quasi detective story about a man, who lands lots of lovers and solves what he needs to and wins the hearts he doesn't need. Life is easy for a literary character these days.....

6/10


Paperback cover
Paperback cover
White Gold: The Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa's One Million European Slaves (Paperback) 352pages

I have loved all the Giles Milton books I have read previously, and this is no exception. He has a way to make individual stories come alive and really interest the reader. This is the story of Thomas Pellow who was taken slave by the Morrocan Sultan and held captive. It is amazing as the story of white slaves was something I had never heard of, yet there were over a million of them. The story talks about what happened to many, and how it happened, the violence and the depravity. It is shockingly amazing to read. A really interesting book and something very enjoyable to learn about.

7/10

Also, if you didn't see them earlier in the year.....

The books of the first half of 2013.

Paperback cover.
Paperback cover.

Extra Virgin: Amongst the olive groves of Liguria - Annie Hawes. Paperback (339 pages)

A little disappointed with this book. It had such potential. There is a basis of a really great story, but it just seemed to lose its way. While there is some great dialogue to give you an understanding of how things are in a small community in Italy, it seemed not to know really how to show this. Annie forgets to tell us when she is leaving for extended periods, and other details I would like to know about keeping a property like this or how living in an Italian provincial area would be. That said, it is still certainly readable and many would enjoy it. 

5/10

Dust sleeve cover
Dust sleeve cover
Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down - Wifey and Nicey. Hardback (180 pages)

Not a lot of anything really. It is a really sweet idea to write a book about tea and biscuits, the focus however is really the biscuits. The problem is that there is only a touch on the world of biscuits in history or contents of the biscuit. It basically reads as an advert for different biscuits. It was ok, maybe I was just expecting too much. I would have preferred more information about tea, teapots, tea cups history or modern time information. To say something like "everyone likes different tea" as your throw away line it should maybe then just be called "Book of biscuits I like" instead. 4/10

Paperback cover
Paperback cover
Parrot in a Pepper tree - Christ Stewart. Paperback (240 pages)

A follow up to "Driving over Lemons" that I read last year. Early on a lot of the book was stories or linkages to the previous book. While the book was interesting from an ex-pat perspective, it really just waffled along and didn't seem to have any real direction. I enjoyed it, but I am not sure I would recommend it to others to read. Therefore, I think it means it wasn't a great book overall.

5/10

Paperback cover
Paperback cover
In The Land of Oz - Howard Jacobson. Paperback (380 pages)
A story of a Jewish Englishman (not something I would normally need to mention although he does on a continual basis) and his ex-pat Australian wife. They wanted to see the "real" Australia, but it seemed as soon as they were away from "civilization" they fell apart and clamoured for the sights/sounds of a township. Then as soon as they got to a township they proceeded to ask everyone about their views on aboriginal people. Hoping desperately for something racist to note. The majority of this book is whiny and complaining, nothing is like England or similar to a city or a civilized nation. It was interesting that after asking everyone they meet about aboriginals and their views on them as soon as they arrived in Perth the home of Mrs Jacobson they never asked any of her associates their thoughts, but did seem to enjoy a very high lifestyle on yachts, in the theatre and wining and dining.  To be honest, maybe with my patriotic hat on, I would say one of the worst books I have read.

1/10
Paperback cover
Paperback cover

Angela's Ashes - Frank McCourt. Paperback (452pages)
I had heard of the movie, but knew nothing of the book. My wife read this and loved it, so I thought as we are going to visit Ireland this year maybe I should have a look at it. It was a fabulous book. It lets you put life now into context, when people have literally nothing, no real reason to keep going other than family and the chance that things will get better shows the people of today what really is important. Also seeing the church from the perspective of the very poor it is interesting to see how they really treat the poor, a group they are regularly claim to assist. A great read, especially for anyone who has a connection to Ireland, the Catholic church, or just loves a great story.

8/10
Paperback cover.
Paperback cover.

Batavia's Graveyard - Mike Dash. Paperback (422 pages)
Wow, I am really enjoying history of late. This was a story, I probably should have known but didn't. It is a story of the Dutch boat the Batavia. It was shipwrecked on the Western Australia coast and what ensured will just blow your mind open. I can't believe that nobody has yet made this as a movie. An incredible amount of research has been put into this book and it gives a depth I would never have expected. I say, read this just to know a piece of Australian history that never was as well as to hear about how hard decisions can be made by people who could possibly be a little nuts. It will really have you wanting to know what happens.

8/10

Paperback cover.
Paperback cover.

Thirteen Moons: Charles Frazier. Paperback (500 pages)
Last year I read Cold Mountain his first book, and I surprisingly really enjoyed it. This however was a little bit disappointing in comparison, I must emphasis in comparison. It was a good solid book, but didn't reach the quality and interest that Cold Mountain did. It is full of Cherokee history and tales which I thought, in theory, I would really enjoy. The problem being that even though the story had a great deal to offer with some really interesting characters it just was a little bland and at times too verbose to keep it moving smoothly. That said, if you have a chance, it really isn't horrible.....

6/10

Paperback cover.
Paperback cover.

The Conjurer's Bird: Martin Davies. Paperback (309 pages)Overall, the book being a tale of history and taxonomy sounds a little drab, but the book was a nice lightly written story about the history (fictional I should add) of Joseph Banks and his life and the repercussions of it. The story was interesting, I found the actually Joseph Banks section a little slow compared to the more modern parts of the book and, I know this sounds harsh, it was a little amatuer in the writing. It was nice, it was pleasant, but won't win any awards.6/10

Paperback cover.
Paperback cover.

Sweet honey, Bitter Lemons: Matthew Fort. Paperback (337 pages)
A really interesting book about Sicily which is, in some ways, the forgotten island of the Med. Everyone talks a lot about the Greek Isles, Sardinia gets plenty of press, of course the Spanish Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Ibiza) are always popular with travellers, especially the young ravers, and that leaves us with the biggest Sicily. It is considered poor and hopeless by many Italians, and of course gave us the concept of the Mafia. But the history of Sicily was much more diverse than I thought. The book runs through this, but mostly it focuses on something much more interesting, to me, the food. It is a tour of the isle around the coast and across the centre. It also includes recipes. I really enjoyed this and as we are going to Sicily this year, it was a very apt present from my wife.7/10

Hardback sleeve cover
Hardback sleeve cover

Goat Song: A Seasonal Life, A Short History of Herding, and the Art of Making Cheese: Brad Kessler. Hardback. (272 pages)

I really had high hopes for this book, as many people know I have an odd idea that I want to go out some day and raise goats and make goat cheese. So, this being what the author has done, had me very excited. While there is some very interesting information in here, and some great stories and it is well written, I just felt it lacked a little something. And the constant reference to religion did get a little tiring. Overall though, it was a very fun book and get me excited for the future in possibilities.

7/10

Hard cover, cover
Hard cover, cover

Maynard, Secrets of a Bacon Curer: Maynard Davies. Hardback. (170 pages).

This is a very sweet book. From a man who grew up on the fringes of society by being dyslexic and therefore unable to be a scholastic success he entered the world of bacon. The book is written in the way I would prefer more biographies, as if Maynard was sitting by the fire, with a whisky in hand recounting tales. It is not what you would call "well written" but nor does it need to be. If you have ever wanted to read a "real" personal biography and not a celeb that has been ghost written to look intelligent then this is a great one for you. It is short and not for the vegetarians per se, but still a really lovely read.

7/10

Hardcover, dust sleeve
Hardcover, dust sleeve

Mattanza: Love and Death in the Sea of Sicily: Theresa Maggio. Hardback. (288 pages).

A really interesting book, I wasn't sure whether it would be horrid, boring or fascinating. It was more the later than the other two. It tells the tale of tradition, mixed with economics, mixed with a little romance and friendship. Another easy read but still covering something I new nothing about, so, therefore it was a good read.

6/10

(please note all of these photographs in this post were sourced from the net and are not mine, other than the first one)

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