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Bali Days 3-5: ‘Your Husband is a Very Bad Man’

Today – being day 3 – Crissy, Crissy’s mum (AKA Mamabear) and I, have a new driver and to get the ball rolling he took us to an ‘artist’s village’ that we didn’t ask to go to.  Being that he’s a local we took a punt and decided to explore as he must know the best places to go.  What we got was a silver shop in which pieces are mass-produced, put on sale at a high price to which, had we paid our driver would have gotten a commission. Again the same hard sell, follow you around pushing the ‘bargain’ pricing, bordering on desperation.  We held firm, being cheap and having principles and left nonplussed as I suspect was everyone else involved.

Next we went to a great art gallery which was the same sort of set up, admittedly it did have some really good paintings and local feeling, and I did enjoy browsing. Noticing that many had been certified as original one offs, I decided to ask if I could take some photos for the blog and share the local artists but no photos are allowed.  Its hard not to be cynical at this point about the reasons why but I can’t help speculating that these originals were just a selection of a long line of just such works.

We foolishly mentioned our hiking intentions for the next day which our driver overheard and – lacking any sort of tact professionalism and courtesy – proceeded to repeatedly mention that his friend who could get us a better deal (this before we even mentioned the price we were paying) and even kindly – and unexpectedly – drove us to said friend without telling us that was his intention.  Eager for a bargain, we listened and he gave us a price more expensive than we were paying, and then dropped it to what we were already paying, rendering the trip pointless.  In the end we managed to get a better deal from our original arrangement, it’s worth noting that everything can pretty much be bartered down to 50% or more off if you bargain hard, such is the mark up put on prices for tourists.

As you can tell by my tone, I was already jaded by the way we were seen as cash cows to be milked but it didn’t end there.  As soon as we got to our hotel, we were accosted for a massage by the locals, it’s a terrible, desperate advert for any place but here it is par for the course.  The scenery was great however and the air clean, and we looked forward to our 4am hike.  Winding down in the evening, we decided to turn on the TV and take in some Indonesian TV.  There was one channel of what looked like a serious drama but with a laughter track.  There was also a lock on both the inside and outside of the bathroom door, and a mosquito net liberally coated with bug spray which made for a less than pleasant sleep. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on 18/06/2018 in Bali, Travel

 

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Working with Penguin Random House

A while back, I hinted at some good news that I had to share, and now that it has all been confirmed and no jinxes can put a stop to it, I can finally, and with certainty, reveal said news.

The wonderful folks at the Chinese arm of International publisher, Penguin Random House – you may have heard of them – recently reached out to me, concerning my review for Proust’s Days of Reading. Having first expressed an interest, they have since acquired the non-exclusive rights to the review, which I have been reworking into an introduction for the Chinese language version (translated by somebody else) of this entry into Penguin Great Ideas series.

It feels really good to be getting paid for something I love doing and with possible future jobs being hinted at it, there has been much raising of confidence and spirits (as its rainy season in Ph and we are experiencing our sixth straight day of almost constant rain).  I have been working on this blog for years, and working is the right term as well, although it started out as just a hobby to simply chat with bookish folk around the world, it has become so much more than that.  Partly, it is through my own drive to pick up more challenging books, to attempt to read into obscurer subjects, and widen my reading circle.  More than that though, it is because of the standard of writers whom I come across daily and not only provide thought-provoking interaction but also source of inspiration as well as a standard with which to measure myself and keep me on my toes.  This allows me to constantly add to my writing style with new techniques and perspectives, so thank you!  My next iced Americano will emphatically be raised to you!

 

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Bali, Days 1-2: We Care About Your Money

LuAnn said in one of her posts the locals you meet during your travels leave the greatest impression, as with everything on Bali, this was decidedly a mixed bag.  I have spent a long time thinking about our experiences and my views on this ‘island paradise’, and the desperate and ugly, overly aggressive commercialism – which is a challenge to persevere with – and sadly the culture is, for the most part, is seemingly in tatters.  With tour guides hell-bent on making a profit, skin colour being a real issue, a brush with a scam and another bracing hike, it was certainly an eventful eight days to remember.

The first impressions of Bali are pleasing, right hand drive (the nostalgia!), trees and cut grass everywhere and roads where the traffic flows well. I should point out we went when out of season so there were less crowds and for this I am grateful. There is a feeling of vitality and it all made for a pleasant first trip.  It was good to see different architecture and plenty of big statues of Hindu Gods. Our first homestay in Ubud was built around the family temple (there are over 20,000 on Bali) which made us feel like we were getting some personal culture straight away, as well as being invited into an intimate family space.

Learning the traffic system is always a joyous necessity in any country, scooters are indiscriminate at times but we made it to the Monkey Forest, which is a pleasant place to walk once you get away from the crowds who take photos constantly without thought for people trying to get past.  The excited talk about filters was beyond me but the monkeys were benign and the area was being constantly cleaned, it was nice to see pride being taken by the locals and parts of it looked like something out of Tomb Raider (a seed up version of Tomb Raider 3 on the PS1 to be precise) which was an added bonus.  Later, a good meal and a glimpse of the Local Parts butcher, both of which pleased me and we retired to bed happy with our first day.

The next day, a tour of the local area started off in the best way possible, with a cup of Luwak coffee, AKA a cat-poo-chino.  The Asian Palm Civet loves eating coffee cherries, they are only partially digested and when they exit the critter, they are collected, washed and roasted. After swilling it around my mouth, the taste is both bitter and sweet, although fairly weak.  It is a good novelty purchase and coupled with 14 other free tasters of teas and coffees, it’s worth taking a tour around one these coffee plantations for a sample.  What was a bit awkward was having our coffee tour guide accompany us to the gift shop afterwards and proceed to follow us round telling us the prices of everything, it was an unashamed hard sell, and that was a theme for the rest of our time in Bali. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 11/06/2018 in Bali, Travel

 

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Stocking Up

Recently, I went into Booksale, a second-hand bookshop that always makes browsing a challenge.  Not only do you have to uncomfortably squeeze past people in the narrow aisles, which stops you from taking in the books on show but worse than that is the way they are laid out.  Piles of books on the floor mean moving the stacks should your chosen book be at the bottom, which is bad enough when people want to get by but there is nowhere to put the books so it becomes a big game of Jenga.

Another setting out issue is that books are placed spine up and then other books stacked front facing on top – again with no real room for moving – so it becomes an actively horrible and awkward place within which to spend time.  I did manage to pick up a couple of books though, amidst much shuffling and mumbled apologies for being in the way, and generally just existing in the place.

On a positive note though, it was good to pick up some cheap books and a nice mix as well.  Winter in Madrid, recommended to me yonks ago by Alastair when I was enjoying exploring the both the Civil War and WWII eras of Spain.  The Lunar Men, which I have just started is about the famous Lunar Society, a group of exceptional individuals who helped kickstart the Industrial Revolution.  Twenty Five pages in and so far it is oozing facts and passion, and promises to be an absorbing read.  I shall keep you updated.

 
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Posted by on 07/06/2018 in Lists/Ephemera, Travel

 

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Music to Write By #3 – Assume the Position/(Don’t Worry) If There’s A Hell Below, We’re All Going To Go

Writing in the last week has had a different sort of soundtrack, there hasn’t been much in the way of music coming through my speakers, as I have been following all manner of different paths from; film analysis, to the situation with the Italian government, and the bad news of the EU trying to pass Article 13, scientific testing of free will, and the wacky world of Flat Earthers.  Forcing myself back onto the music front, the gold started flowing pretty much instantly with this gem:

I first came across this funky tune thanks to its brief appearance on The Wire.  Then it was featured more prominently on the closing credits of The Deuce, another David Simon (together with George Pelecanos) created show which documents the legalisation and rise of the porn industry in New York, as well as the accompanying drugs, real estate booms, police corruption and the connected violence.  The first season admittedly feels like a – quality – prequel but I expect big things from season two.  Watching this as it came out was great, the whole of last year was exceptional for quality television and nothing beat grabbing a few beers and having a TV night with Tom, catching up on whatever had previously come out over the weekend, in the US.

The tune took me back to a totally different time and place – only eight months ago – but so much has changed.  Thinking back to that period now, it was such a good time and discussing the show as the end credits theme rolled, it was always interesting to get an alternate take on what we just saw.  Discussion was made more insightful by a few beers, of course, but I don’t think I have been challenged in such a sustained way by myself, my peers, or film and TV before or since. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 05/06/2018 in Music, TV

 

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The Singularity Wheel – Michael S. Fedison

A quick mention to avoid the blurb if you haven’t read the first book The Eye-Dancers, it is best to start there, if you carry on you may pick up minor spoilers that could potentially ruin the full enjoyment of your reading experience.

Five years ago, Monica Tisdale, the “ghost girl,” invaded their dreams and led them through the void. Now she is back, more desperate and more powerful than ever.

For Mitchell Brant, Joe Marma, Ryan Swinton, and Marc Kuslanski, the intervening five years have seen them advance to the cusp of their senior year in high school. They have girlfriend troubles, job stresses, future careers to consider. They don’t have the time, or the inclination, to be whisked away to Monica’s world again.

But when Monica calls on them to leap into the abyss and bridge the gap between dimensions, she will not take no for an answer. She has tapped into the deepest pools of her mysterious powers, leading to consequences as unforeseen as they are disastrous. For Monica, the multiverse, the concept of a limitless number of parallel selves and parallel worlds, has become all too real. And all too terrifying.

Through it all, she knows that Mitchell and his friends are the only ones who can save her.

If she doesn’t kill them first.

This cover is one of the most eye-catching of the year, that I have come across to date. Everything from the font, to the space spade symbol is really classy, not that a book should be judged by its cover.  It’s been all change in the intervening five years since the children returned home, and having grown into teenagers with all the associated problems, this new story takes on a more mature aspect.  As you would expect with more grown up protagonists, the peril stakes have also risen, which is always a good thing.

After a few chapters, reminding us of the characters and bringing them up to date with their lives, the story really gets going.  This time around there is less detail focussing on the world which is to be expected to avoid repetition, although the reader still feels that nostalgic, comfortable connection. I do like those little details, and exploring the town of Colbyville was one of the highlights of The Eye-Dancers, for me. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 31/05/2018 in Children's Literature, Fiction

 

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Thought and Sport

Recently I have been making an attempt to widen my reading even more and so want to get back into reading Philosophy again.  In my researching for things to make this post interesting, it quickly and unsurprisingly descended into just watching Monty Python videos.  And from that, this post now exists…or does it, really?

Philosophy is something that could drive a person to the drink but thankfully the lighter side distracted me before the decision to finally plump for Soren Kierkegaard and John Stuart Mill to join the reading pile.  All I need now is the right sort of drinking frame of mind to really get the most out of them.

 
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Posted by on 29/05/2018 in Humour, Philosophy

 

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