Book promos are all the rage.
Why this should be escapes me. I suppose it is a moving-picture aid for those who choose to judge a book by its cover. I suspect Book Promos are not employed by those who judge a book by, you know, the words inside of it. The ‘Look Inside’ feature of Amazon et al mean that we should all now be able to judge whether we want to read a book by reading a sample of it.
So why have I made my own book promo? I don’t know. To see if it will increase sales, I suppose. And because I’m looking for reasons to put off getting back down to my Lebanon Bookette.
The New York Times has an interesting article on book promos and a link to a very humorous book promo, or anti-promo, which also lampoons all of the other things writers are expected to do nowadays beyond actually writing.
Finding myself in Le Defense last night, for reasons of I shall not go into, Mrs Blogosophy and I decided, on impulse, to go to the cinema. Having reached a certain age, and being of a certain temperament, we don’t often do things on impulse, but last night we did.
Unable to find our way to the Cineplex through the shopping centre, we had to get our bearings by venturing out into the ‘outside’.
Is it just me or does anyone else find shopping malls harder to navigate than the thickest jungle? There are no landmarks, nowhere to get your bearings — just shop after shop and all with nothing of interest in them. Shops, shops everywhere, and not a thing to buy. As always, these temples to conspicuous consumption robbed me my magnetic north and left me running, rat like, in frenetic and ever-decreasing circles.
I briefly considered asking directions, but these malls are inhabited by interlopers from another planet, the ubiquitous mall rats. They are easily spotted, attired to resemble gang members from Los Angeles, and their non-human status can be seen in the spasmodic movements of their flailing limbs, which my grandmother would have called ‘throwing shapes’. Even if they had spoken English, I would never have approached one, and with my poor command of gutter French, I judged such an encounter to be unwise.
So, to return, more or less, to the point, we went outside to look for the cinema. I remembered that it was near a large concrete tennis ball that is called a planetarium, but looks more like a mini nuclear reactor. Le Defense, I should point out to those of you who have mistook me for a war correspondent, is the futuristic Bladerunneresque part of Paris . It’s was what the future was meant to look like in the seventies, but rather than describe it, I’ll simply offer you a diversional hyperlink detour to a video I made of it a couple of years ago.
Anyway, to cut a long story shortish, we found the Cineplex and made our way to a snaky queue full of snaky people. They were young people, and worse than that, young people at the weekend. Fortunately, my grey hair confers on me the power of invisibility, and the youth left me in peace. I laboured in the queue for forty days and nights, or at least it felt as such, and I passed the time artfully reminding my long-suffering wife of how much I hated queuing.
This queuing experience was filled with added suspense this dark and rainy night. It was a twisting queue with a twist; a queuer’s queue. The film we wanted to see, Alice in Wonderland, only had 13 places left when we joined the line, and as the numbers slowly decreased and we shuffled along the mortal coil, we wondered if we would be one of the lucky ones to gain admittance. To pass the time, I regaled to wife to a witty allusion to the Pearly Gates, and the tragic-comedy of what might happen if Heaven had only a specific number of places for each day. It stunned her into silence, as so many of my witty allusions do.
Those who know my life, and the pathos that surrounds it, will not be surprised to find that I was turned away from the inn of Tim Buton, and the Alice did not wish to see me. The Wonderland was not going to grant me admittance.
Acting on impulse, in the spirit of the night, I bought two tickets for the film that was starting next. It was the nearest I’ve ever come to fulfilling a fantasy of mine of walking into a train station and buying a ticket for the next departing train and spending a year of my life in whatever destination it brought me to; and at the end of that year, repeating the same process; and so on and so on; so that my life would be spent as a homage to randomness.
But who has the balls for that kind of thing? Pas moi, that’s for sure. I was surprised I had bought tickets for a film I knew nothing about. Not so much as a poster had I seen, and the only information I had was the mysterious title, ‘Dear John’.
That should have been enough. I really should have known. Why did my brain switch itself off at that precise moment? My brain seems to do that a lot, actually, and I think it’s out to get me. Either that or it has a suppressed desire to wade through the worst kind of romantic comedy, slushy as the Moscow snows in April.
Thankfully the better parts of my mind would not allow the travesty of a chick flick to debase me and it sent me to the suicide of sleep at frequent intervals. I died eight times in that movie and would have missed it entirely but Mrs Blogosophy kept nudging me awake and warning me that I was snoring. This is unusual, because I normally don’t snore, but perhaps my larynx was trying to make as much noise as possible to block out the dialogue.
The plot, if such a word is appropriate, was the ubiquitous boy-meets-girl, problem arises, obstacle is overcome, happy ending. How many times can they make this movie? I knew from five minutes in what was going to happen and had to repress the desire to turn around and address the audience, like a movie messiah, hollering that this film was a repeat, that the ending was proscribed, that we should immediately demand they change the reels and offer us Alice in Wonderland instead.
However, in the insane world we live in, this kind of free speech is not considered appropriate, and instead I sat in silence, nodding in and out of the movie hell. Satre only believed that Hell was other people because he hadn’t kept waking up in this movie. Like a bear hibernating through its first zoo winter, I wondered if I would ever be free of it.
The protagonist, antagonist to my sleep, is the incongruously named Channing Tatum. I would make a joke about that name, but it’s funny enough in itself: Channing Tatum. What kind of drugs were his parents on? He is what I believe the average teenage girl would describe as a hunk and this is presumably why he was chosen for the role. It certainly could not be for his taciturn delivery and expressionless face.
And let’s face it, he looks good in a uniform — a real Action Man physique. Channing, or the ‘John’ of the title, is in the Special Forces, and travels the world’s hotspots giving candy to children and shooting their parents. His squad have equally large necks and broad shoulders, and he is torn between his loyalty to them and his love for the female lead.
Of course, that’s a no-contest win for the girl, so then 9-11 is thrown in, and we have love of one’s country versus the girl, and if that country is America, then the all-American hero just has to sign up for another two-year term, and deliver what to me was the only funny line in the film, “I’m going to extend.”
The actions of the plastercine beau, needless to say, peeves the female lead, Savannah, played by the woman with largest eyes in the world, Amanda Seyfried. Suffering the pangs of disprized love, she marries someone else, but we are later informed that this was only because he had cancer and his son was autistic –isn’t that always the way?
Tying this overcooked spaghetti together was the motif of epistolary love. After an initial two-week summer romance, the distant lovers commune through hundreds of heartfelt hand-written letters, since the American Special Forces don’t have internet and it hasn’t occurred to Amanda that she could write it on Word and then press print.
The film could have inadvertently raised an important issue here though. I mean, could the Americans current military problems be due in part to their lack of a satellite broadband connection? It could help them with the jihadists and as well as eliminate time lags for these star-crossed lovers.
However, it was nice to see the epistolary form rising from its eighteenth century ashes, and perhaps this bodes well for my latest moribund child, Letters from the Ministry, and its missive-writing protagonist, S Fox, who also eschews more modern forms of communication.
Plugs aside, this was a truly awful movie, and I needed several pints to help me forget it, which I shall be billing to Messers Tatum and Seyfriend.
“Dear John, I love you”: Dear God, please help me.
Seditious Six Ride Out on Quest to Promote P. Donnelly
Cadging his way back to greatness
Falling on hard times in the economic meltdown of 2008, Hobo Phil, former Merchant Banker Smyth, is reduced to absolute poverty and vagrancy, and conducts weekly ranting sessions against the great and the good in his role as head of the Banking Bum Corporation.
Fighting action, wherever he finds it
Inaction Man, a 21′st century Superhero, lives as a bum on the streets of Paris, defending humanity against the Forces of Evil and the Dark Lords who control them. He possesses the gift of Sight, allowing him to see things that don’t exist, and superhuman powers of inaction, enabling him to do nothing for a very long time.
Together with his assistant, The Symbol, and the world’s second great superhero, The Illogical Woman, he will battle the dark pan-dimensional forces that surround us but go unseen by we mere mortals; lost and ossified as we are, in the fatal fog of routine.
Homo Sapien Expose Specialist
Finding himself marooned on Earth, a would-be alien journalist tries in vain to find an interesting story about humans to sell to a travel magazine to earn enough money to charter a flight to a more interesting planet.
The Journalist will trawl the surface of our planet offering his unique alien perspective on the ills that humanity suffers from, all the while attempting to earn a quick buck and make enough money to buy a one-way ticket to another world, to a better world.
Ugliest woman: sexiest gadgets
The world’s ugliest woman, Vivacious Drizzlybum first rose to fame as the inventor of the I-SAD, the Intelligent Sexual Attraction Device, encased in an I-Phone. However, troubled by her conscience, she destroyed the device and instead wanders the back streets of Dublin’s northside, looking for love in the strangest of places, always armed with the latest in technological gadgetry.
The Screen and A Man Called V
He sees the truth, so you don’t have to
The alter ego of a confused civil servant in Ireland’s Ministry of the Environment, V is convinced that aliens are taking over the planet in order to complete their mysterious Dictionary Plan. However, only he can see the horror that is unfolding around him.
Traveller’s Tales and E.F. Misanthrope
The Misanthrope’s Misanthrope
The more EF travels, the more he dislikes what he sees. He goes beyond world-weary and wearies the world; moaning his way across countries the size of continents, specialising in India and China. Occasionally insightful, frequently spiteful, he is always delightful.
Please leave comment and financial largesse to your favourite denizen of the Dark Site.
As a vegetarian of twenty years standing, and yes, I’m still standing, and as someone who currently lives in Paris, but has also lived and dined in Barcelona, China, Germany, Moscow, and Bangkok, not to mention Ireland and the UK, I feel eminently well qualified to pontificate on the perils and pitfalls of being a vegetarian traveller, and to rate the various nations of the world in terms of their ‘Vegetarianaphilia’, a new word I’ve just coined and am hoping will catch on.
Let’s begin with my current home, Paris. The ‘City of Light’ it may be, but it is not shining any beacons in the vegetarian world. However, France is not, as is sometimes claimed, a stygian vegetarian hell. (Please see the Woman in Black blog entry for a counter-claim. ). Although dining out can be difficult here, and you may be reduced to two or three items on a menu of fifty indecipherable flesh products, there are worse places in the world than France for those who have conquered the carnivorous bloodlust of the meat eater within.
Spain, for example, regards vegetarianism as a personal affront to the quality of Spanish meat products, and I lost count of the waiters who tried to make me repent my vegetarianism with assurances that there were no mad British cows in their bloody carcasses. In Spain, where vegetarians had better learn to cook at home or face famine a la mancha. Even salads routinely come dressed with little pieces of bacon or other fleshy titbits; fish and even chicken are not considered to be meat.
If you will permit me an aside, and a sideward swipe at pescaterians who masquerade as vegetarians, sullying our good name, just what exactly is a fish, if not an animal? Is it a rock that floats near the bottom of the sea? Is it an animate vegetable? And as for those who don’t eat red meat and attempt to wear the vegetarian halo, well, let’s just say there’s a special place in hell for that level of hypocrisy.
But to return to my gourmet world tour, let’s take a snapshot of the Middle Kingdom, where Buddhist monks brought vegetarian cooking to new heights of excellence, which thankfully survived the massive Mao cull of 67. However, China is a land of extremes, and unthinkable ‘meat crimes’ are common there too. Indeed, the Chinese, at least in the Guangdong province I lived in, will eat anything that moves. And I do mean anything! Dogs, cats, snakes, testicles of creatures great and small: there is no limit!
I recall one evening in Guangzhou when I stopped to look through a shop window, wondering why a pet store was open in the middle of the night, but of course, it was, in reality, a restaurant, and the Siberian Husky in the tiny cage wagging his tail at me was destined not for the garden, but for the plate.
But to be fair, in China, delicious vegetarian options are almost always available. All you need to do is tell them you’re a vegetable, with the zombiesque phrase-’waugh chew sue’.
Russia, as you might imagine, is not the easiest country in the world for a vegetarian to eat out in, or for a meat eater, for that matter. It is interesting to note that in the Soviet era, ex-prisoners were frequently given jobs as waiters, which shows the high esteem restaurants held in by the Party. And even today, eating out is not an altogether pleasant experience, and one is slightly relieved when asking for the bill at the end of the night, but always somewhat unnerved by the violent translation of ‘bill please’ (‘shot pa-shah-lust-ah’).
Moving west, like the wermacht and the commissars in 45, leaving a vegetarian scorched earth in their wake, Germany is another vegetarian desert, and if it wasn’t for the milka chocolate and the beer, I might have starved to death there.
So, where should a vegetarian dine? India, of course! In that fabled vegetarian paradise, at least half and sometimes the entire menu will be vegetarian. For once in my life, I could go into a restaurant and be faced with what carnivores are always faced with — a real choice.
If you want to know more about my travels in India and China, free downloadable books are available, and there are some YouTube videos too. All I ask in return is a kind comment.
Another Sunday afternoon in Paris, and throwing off its grey winter mantle, the city of light has allowed the sun to shine in honour of the coming of spring. I decided to do likewise and resisted the call of the laptop for an afternoon, and instead ensconced myself in a park.
Actually I had just come from the swimming pool and needed to relax a little after the stress of dealing with the madness that ensues when children come into contact with large bodies of water. I don’t know what upsets me most: their jerky spasmodic movements, like tadpoles with attitude; their insane desire to swim in every direction except up and down, as Neptune intended; their dive bombing homicidal jumps from the edge of the pool, oblivious to my life-long desire not to end up paraplegic; their inhuman screams and wails.
Back to the park. My local park is not just any old park, you know. It is none other than the Jardins des Plants, the world’s oldest park, dating from 1640, and a former royal palace. It is, as the name suggests, full of plants, over four and a half thousand of them, in fact. It also contains the world’s second oldest zoo, founded in 1795, but I left the aged animals in peace today–zoos being full of children on Sundays and therefore to be avoided at all costs.
Unfortunately, half the city seemed to have decided that it was a perfect day to visit my park, and as I sit here on a bench, Paris is promenading itself in front of me. Gurgling babies lie prostrate in perfumed prams, pushed up and down the park by ostentatiously proud parents; doting and ancient grandparents try to control sugar-crazed toddlers; the young are entwined in one anothers arms and all that. Most wear the bourgeoisie smile of content, pasted across their manicured faces, acquired on a thousand Sundays, just like this one.
Falling on hard times, the Journalist is forced to write daily summaries of Bureaucrat Big Brother, a reality show in which elite Grade X shufflers and fakers of lower upper senior middle management compete against each other to see who can be the most bureaucratic manager of them all. At the end of each episode, civil servants, whose voting rights are determined by their shades of greyness, their Greyness Gradient, vote on line to see who will be-The Bureaucratâ€™s Bureaucrat.
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