I, Claudius – Robert Graves

Despised for his weakness and regarded by his family as little more than a stammering fool, the nobleman Claudius quietly survives the intrigues, bloody purges and mounting cruelty of the imperial Roman dynasties. In I, Claudius he watches from the sidelines to record the reigns of its emperors: from the wise Augustus and his villainous wife Livia to the sadistic Tiberius and the insane excesses of Caligula. Written in the form of Claudius’ autobiography, this is the first part of Robert Graves’s brilliant account of the madness and debauchery of ancient Rome, and stands as one of the most celebrated, gripping historical novels ever written.

Sometimes, reflecting on the literature that you like is disturbing, especially with a novel such as this which is full of violence – although surprisingly less detailed gore than one would imagine for the era – and debauchery .  It is a pleasure to report that I unashamedly loved this book in all its blood soaked storytelling.

This novel and its sequel Claudius the God were written in a hurry and only due to pressing financial needs Graves claimed, which makes it an astonishing feat for the impressive quality of the work on offer.  Whilst it has some gross distortions of history and the featured personalities, it is wonderfully entertaining and highly readable as a fictional autobiography should be.  You don’t need to be familiar with the era, part of the charm of the work is to research as you go and see what is correct, contentious and what is pure propaganda on Claudius’ part.

Claudius is a likeable narrator, his observant nature makes for a considered historian – his chosen profession – largely ignored because of his disabilities and perceived lack of intelligence, this allowed him to avoid the jealousies (and untimely fates) of his power seeking contemporaries.  Watching from the sidelines as our narrator does, the reader is given the impression of happy accidents or small triumphs that are attributed to Claudius yet with what we know from history, this adds another unreliable slant to the narration which is pleasantly and sometimes endearingly human.

The plot is a seething mass of machinations from the off and curiously, for an autobiography, begins before the birth of Claudius.  The sheer volume of scheming and drama put all modern soap operas to shame and the amount of detail – fictitious or otherwise – shows why this is considered to be a modern classic in the historical fiction genre.  Although it seems convoluted, and it is in a good way, everything is made clear and the reader is never swamped with too much information at one time.

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Posted by on 02/03/2018 in Autobiography, Fiction


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And Out the Other Side

To the final post from this wonderful museum and more variety and intriguing works were to be seen,

and to kick things off, there is nothing like a bit of a nod to Europe to start, even it is of the dark days…

I love this painting for really showing not only the imagination of the artist but the crazy ideas we all possess that are waiting to get out.

This one was about an exploding woman made of cheese, if memory serves me correctly.  I prefer the idea of the mainstream traditional media having egg all over themselves thanks to their increasingly questionable news reporting. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 27/02/2018 in Art, Photography, The Philippines, Travel


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Further inside the Pintô Art Museum

Continuing the tour through various galleries of the Pintô Art Museum and the diverse work of Filipino artists took a slightly more whimsical, wooden direction this time.

I am rubbish at filters so sorry if these are again poor quality, it is partly that and also the lack of light which is a constant struggle to someone clueless when it comes to such things.

I like the wooden, framed effects of this artwork.  Overall this was my favourite gallery for consistency in theme. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 26/02/2018 in Art, Photography, The Philippines, Travel


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Intraterrestrial – Nicholas Conley

Adam Helios is a bully magnet without many friends. When he starts hearing a voice that claims to come from the stars, he fears he’s losing his mind, so he withdraws even further. On the way home from a meeting at the school, he and his parents are involved in a horrible car crash. With his skull cracked open, Adam’s consciousness is abducted by the alien who has been speaking to him for months.

After surviving the wreck with only minor scratches, Camille Helios must deal with her guilt over the accident that left her husband badly injured and her son in a coma. When the doctor suggests letting Adam go, Camille refuses to stop fighting for her son’s life.

Lost among galaxies, Adam must use his imagination to forge a path home before his body dies on the operating table. But even if he does return to Earth, he may end up locked inside a damaged brain forever.

Inveterate coffee drinking author and fellow blogger Nicholas Conley is back again with another fine offering which treads the fine line between what is real and what may not be.  He also comes up with such prose as this, which makes me happy:

The coffee was too hot and too grainy.  The fiery grounds jabbed at Camille’s tongue like a tattoo gun.

Conley’s fourth novel is yet again a very good piece of writing and just like his other novel Pale Highway, draws on his experiences working in the understaffed healthcare system to reinforce the plight of Adam and family with solidly realistic emotional reactions.  The strong start brings in the challenging themes straight from the off:  Bullying, being orphaned, belonging, puberty, guilt, and family problems, all before the main story of a terrible and all too easy to imagine car accident really kicks off.

I’m glad that the decision to focus on both Adam and his parents separately was chosen, this help balance out the physical and psychological effects of the real world whilst making room for the retention of the feeling of tangible and unfettered imagination in Adam’s story.  Both parts work well together, allowing the realistic edge of the hospital to give way to the extravagance of imagination, ensuring for an easier but no less challenging read. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 23/02/2018 in Fiction, Sci-Fi


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Inside the Pintô Art Museum

First of all, apologies for my poor photograph taking, hopefully some will do justice to the pieces and also  for not being able to tell you what artist did what. Due to the short nature of battery life over here, it’s take as many photos as you can and hope you get everything you want.  With that out of the way, welcome to eclectic creations of Filipino artists.

After yesterday’s post about exterior shots, it was time to enter the building.  Pintô means door in Tagalog, which is a fitting name for this place. As everything is subjective to the viewer’s perspective, it could mean a whole host of things both in the philosophical and artistic sense.

There are six spacious galleries – and assorted outside art pieces which are dedicated to showing off the talents and direction of Philippine art and it is a fascinating study.  It was well worth the hours we spent there, especially seeing the enthusiasm of our fellow explorers. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 22/02/2018 in Art, Photography, The Philippines, Travel


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Pintô Art Museum, Exterior

I love a good museum, especially one that is housed in a lovely building. On a Sunday living up to its name Crissy and I, took advantage of an offer from cousin-in-law (if that is the right term) Jerrold and girlfriend Kim to explore the Pinto Art Museum.

What a find it was! Entering through a small gated archway, I could have been mistaken for thinking I’d ended up in the Mediterranean countries.  The greenery and the whitewashed buildings were a world away from the glass and steel buildings of the everyday.  The addition of a little chapel near the entrance was a nice juxtaposition of historical art, leading as it would, to modern art.

I could find no information about the actual buildings but I think that adds to the aura of the place.  The relaxing atmosphere leaves the adventurer free to explore and stumble upon the pieces as haphazardly as one wishes. I imagine sitting for a time at the mini amphitheatre watching a play in the dusk breeze would be amazing.

With chairs and beds placed around, as well as some statues and sculptures to keep one satiated between galleries this is a truly wonderful place to seek out and appreciate nature as well as art. Read the rest of this entry »


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The Trial of Henry Kissinger – Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens goes straight for the Jugular in The Trial of Henry Kissinger. Under his fearsome gaze, the former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor is accused of being a war criminal whose reckless actions and heinous disregard for international law have led to torture, kidnapping and murder.

This book is a polemical masterpiece by a man who, for over forty years, was the Anglosphere’s pre-eminent man of letters.  In The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Hitchens’ verve, style and firebrand wit are on show at the height of their potency. 

The Trial of Henry Kissinger is certainly an eye-opening read and a devastating attack on both his character and many of his actions – which had a significant impact on thousands of lives around the world – showing him (with supporting documents) to be a morally bankrupt man.  As the quote on the back cover of the book from the Literary Review says:

‘This book is so stupidly defamatory that if Kissinger values his reputation, he really must sue’

The silence on this matter, from the Nobel Peace Prize winner himself really does speak volumes.

Chronicling the different events Kissinger was a part of – a litany of manufactured, supported and prolonged wars,  and sabotaged peace talks, all a tale of so many lives ruined and lost needlessly, – it is frightening to see how he moved through successive U.S. governments with his power intact.   Hitchens is clearly no lover of the man but as ever, his arguments are reasoned, razor-sharp and not afraid to court controversy.  There is a term ‘Hitchslap’ that does the rounds that is often used for his most incisive commentary and this is certainly a good example of the term.

One of the most telling pieces of information is that Kissinger’s papers (the ones he classified as personal, when it is suspected many are incriminating) are under lock and key at the Library of Congress and can only be opened after Kissinger dies thanks to the agreement beforehand.  Of course being in the public interest a subpoena would most likely open it up (and a huge can of worms) but there in lies the issue. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 19/02/2018 in Essays, History, Journalism


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