Friday, 31 October 2014

Blogs of the Month: October

Carlyn: The blog I’d like to highlight for September is Design Sponge. Design Sponge is a blog about interior design which features interviews from creative people who design textiles, interiors, homewares, as well as cooks and foodies. Design Sponge also has tutorials on how to decorate and make things which range in difficulty level and price.

The blog is run by a team of people so there’s always a daily post or two. I like to read the posts about home renovations as I love seeing the before and after shots. 

Jon Bear: What I really like about Tastefully Offensive is the randomness and variety of the funny clips that are posted.  Who doesn't like to laugh?  And Tastefully Offensive has lots of enjoyable clips from television and the internet that make me laugh out loud.  I always find it to be a nice pick me up when I am having a bit of a bad day.  The blog is frequently updated too, without too much commentary which is nice, because humor is what it is and you either get it and love it or you don't get it or do get it and don't love it, so explanations are not necessary.  

I like the blog title too because a lot of the humor is cute type humor that is not convoluted, difficult to understand or outrageous to the point where it's really offensive.   So most of it is the type of humor that you can share with a variety of age groups and varying sentimentalities without having to worry that someone might take offense. 

Of course people can flit around youtube and find funny clips, but I like when I find a site that I can rely on to sort out the funny stuff for me so I don't waste my time on things that I don't really think are all that funny.   Tastefully Offensive does a good job of coming up with posts that jive for the most part with my tastes in humor.  So while it may not be for everybody I think the site has a rather broad appeal and most people looking for a laugh will like visiting it.  

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer -Review by Carlyn

*contains spoilers

Eclipse is the third book from the Twilight series written by Stephanie Meyer. This is the Twilight book where the love triangle between Bella, Edward Cullen and Jacob Black build up and Bella needs to make a choice. Bella needs to decide on whether she loves Edward, the vampire or Jacob the werewolf.  The mythical beings are mortal enemies with only the love of Bella stopping them from destroying each other. In the meantime, Bella also has to finish high school and worry over a vampire army coming to kill her.
Jacob, Bella and Edward (l-r)
I kinda regret watching the Twilight movies because I’m sure that the books would be more thrilling if I didn’t know what was going to happen. In the book, there’s a series of murders happening in Seattle and people believe it’s the work of a serial killer. However, it’s actually the work of a vampire who is killing people to make a vampire army. Eventually, Bella and the Cullens realize that the vampire army was created to take them down. Bella and the other characters even joke about how every year, someone tries to kill Bella.
vampire army 
It is Bella’s impending death threat that brings an alliance between the Cullens and the werewolf clan. Both sides take it turns to guard Bella and train in preparation of the battle with the vampire army. Bella is distraught over the possibility that people she knows and loves could die in the battle but everyone else is convinced of a victory.

I found it admirable that Bella wasn’t really concerned over her own death but I was annoyed by the numerous times she had to be comforted.  There are many instances in the book where Edward places his palms on her face, looks intently into her eyes and tells her everything will be fine. The other characters all comfort her throughout the book too while Bella holds back tears. When she does cry, she cries for hours.
Sometimes I wonder what attracts Edward and Jacob to Bella.  I think that the boys have qualities which are admirable and it’s easy to see why Bella loves them. Edward is protective, attentive, kind, and selfless and Jacob is friendly, brave, easy going and kind. I find Bella bland because she doesn’t have much interest in life. Bella is a passive person who has no other interest in life except being with Edward and becoming a vampire.  I can see why Edward was reluctant about granting her wish to be a vampire. I agree with Edward’s sentiments that she needs to experience more of life.

Despite my criticisms of Bella as a heroine, I still like reading the Twilight series. It’s a fun read because of the romance and action. I look forward to reading the final book.  

Monday, 27 October 2014

Entertainment Monday: Paloma Faith (Monday 27 October, 2014)

I love Paloma Faith’s song Only Love Can Hurt Like This. The song went to number one in the Australian charts and the top ten in the UK. I think some of its success was due to it being featured in a promo for Winners & Losers which is an Australian soap opera. It was how I was acquainted with the song and I wasn’t surprised that it came to number one in the charts.
Besides the tv promotion, I think the song is popular because it is relatable. The song is about realizing how much you love someone until it’s too late and missing that person.  I think Paloma sung so passionately; she captures the anguish and regret that can come from loving someone.
"Only Love Can Hurt Like This"

I'd tell myself you don't mean a thing,
But what we got, got no hold on me
But when you're not there I just crumble
I tell myself I don't care that much,
But I feel like I die 'til I feel your touch,

The song was written by Diane Warren, who has also written songs for many famous musicians. One of my favourite songs she has written was Aerosmith’s ‘Don’t want to miss a thing’. I think she always writes beautiful well written songs.

Say I wouldn't care if you walked away,
But every time you're there I'm begging you to stay,
When you come close I just tremble
And every time, every time you go,
It's like a knife that cuts right through my soul

JustOnly love, only love can hurt like this
Only love can hurt like this,
Must have been a deadly kiss,
Only love can hurt like this,
Only love can hurt like this

Paloma’s sultry voice and the simple horns and drums accompaniment gives off a 60s vibe. If I had not known, I would have thought that it was a genuine song from that era.
Just wanted to warn you that it contains some passionate kissing scenes for those that are uncomfortable with that.

 Here is one that contains only the lyrics

Sunday, 26 October 2014

When the World Gets a Little Smaller

I find it kind of funny how the often times bizarre coincidences that bring people from our past or connections from our past into the present are explained away with the phrase, "It's a small world".  As if we are bound to reconnect with people and our past because we live in a world limited by size.

Perhaps the saying is spot on and that is all there is to the explanation of such events.  I wonder though if there is more then coincidence at work?  Is our past calling out to us when these seemingly random quirky acts occur?  Is there a cosmic or universal message to be deciphered from the bizarre? Or perhaps that is just the musings of a wistful middle aged man reflecting on his youth?

As I might have mentioned here before I work at the Customer Service Desk as a supervisor and book keeper for a Grocery Store in Upstate New York.  I grew up on Long Island in a little town called Mastic along the South Shore of the Island during the 1980s and into the early 2000s.  On occasion when I try to make small talk with our guests I will ask them about their accents and where they come from.  I am particularly aware of Long Island accents having lived there for over 26 years of my life.  So it is not uncommon for me to pick up on a Long Island accent and inquire as to where someone came from on the Island.

Such a case took place this past week when I asked an Asian woman at our guest service desk if she grew up on the Island.  She mentioned that she had, and that a lot of people find it surprising to meet an Asian woman with a Long Island, New York accent.  When I asked her where she was from she said, "I grew up in Mineola in Nassau County".  I told her I grew up in Suffolk County.  Now that is typically where my conversation would end and the customer and I would wish each other a nice day.

As it turned out though, on this day my Customer Service Manager, whom I've been working with for a few months now, walked past the desk and happened to catch part of our conversation.  She said to the Asian woman, "You grew up on Long Island? Where did you grow up, I'm from the Island too?"  She repeated the answer she had given me.  Then Victoria my service manager said, "I grew up in Mastic".  At this point the poor guest who I had been chatting with got shunted out of the conversation when I butted in and said, "I grew up in Mastic!". 

Victoria: "So did you go to William Floyd High School". 

Jon: "Absolutely.  I graduated from William Floyd in 1994."


Jon: "No you didn't, You couldn't have!"  (but of course she had no reason to lie to me, I just found it that hard to believe).

William Floyd High School


So as it turns out, Victoria, my customer service manager at my work place and I, who grew up 225 miles away from Clifton Park (where we both now work), were classmates and members of the same graduating class at William Floyd High School back in 1994, even though we did not know each other back then.

We had a lot of fun reminiscing about places near the school and classmates and teachers who we both knew this past week even though we did not know one another back then.  I have lost contact with pretty much all my high school friends over the two decades since I graduated.  More through distance in time and space then because of any falling out between us. 

So I just feel that maybe this bizarre coincidence happened for a reason and it might be an opportunity to reconnect to some of the wonderful people I knew and was friends with in High School.  Perhaps there is something in their lives or something in my life right now that could use that reconnection to the past? 

Or maybe it's just a small world after all.

I know that many people have similar stories of these seemingly bizarre reconnections to past people or places, some that probably defy logic far more than my recent example.  It's not all too far fetched to think that two people who were in the same place 20 years ago end up in the same place 20 years later.  225 miles is far, but we're not talking about oceans apart here either.  I would love if our readers might share any of their stories relative to an unusual reconnection to their pasts.  Did those instances lead to a deeper more meaningful reconnection to places and people or were they just blips in time that brought out a laugh or a fond memory? 

No matter what my recent reconnection leads to whether it be good friends from long ago or just a dead end, it has certainly been a fun trip down memory lane this past week.  I believe Victoria experienced that too.  The novelty of that might wear off and nothing may come of it, but maybe, just maybe something is telling me I should reach out to some of the people in my past? 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Kevin and I in India by Frank Kusy by Carlyn

I won Kevin and I in India in a goodreads giveaway.  Frank Kusy is a travel writer who has written about  many Asian countries including, Malaysia, Burma, Thailand and Singapore.  Kevin and I in India is Frank’s journal of his time in India with fellow traveler Kevin Bloice. The two spend their time backpacking around India, visiting temples, villages, trying to avoid being swindled by con men and trying to survive public transport and questionable food.
 The book was first published in 1986 so I was eager to see what travel was like in the 80s. Most of the diary entries centered on temples, public transport, the hostels and local people. I don’t remember all the temples that the two men visited as it seemed all the same after reading the diary entries. Frank’s journal is very detailed that I can imagine being present during his holiday. I particularly thought his descriptions of the hostels he stayed at were quite vivid. I could picture thread bare mattresses and the horde of cockroaches and appreciate the cleaner rooms that had good pillows and air conditioning.

 There was also a good deal mentioned about the chaotic transport in India which is still the same in the present time. I liked reading the descriptions of being squished into buses and trains, riding on the roof and surviving near collisions.  I also learnt that buying a ticket for a train or bus can be a tricky thing in some circumstances. It can involve lining up in a queue to get a ticket which can take a few hours and then having to line up again to get it stamped. After that process, the bus/train could already be gone or not show up. However, I am an optimist and believe that transport must have improved at least a bit during the years.

The two men also seemed to encounter a lot of people who tried to swindle them. There were always people promising them better deals to accommodation, food and travel and sometimes they lived up to their promises and other times they didn’t. They also met a lot of good local people as well who helped them and told them interesting stories about their lives.

The part of the book that I liked the most was when Frank wasn’t in India. It wasn’t because I didn’t enjoy reading his experiences in India, it was just that life was a bit more calmer. Frank spent a short time in Nepal during the last leg of his travels. I liked reading about the villages, the mountain air and the peacefulness. He still experienced hardships such as a tortuous account of diarrhoea on an hours long bus ride and no toilet paper and perilous forays into the countryside.

I would have liked if he had included pictures of his adventures but there is a map and about two pictures in the book. While reading the book, I thought about the technology in the 80s compared to what we have now. There was no Google Maps, Facebook and Instagram.  When people go on holiday in the present day, they can instantly upload their pictures and videos onto social media so that they can brag and loved ones can see that they are safe.  In the past, people had to use to post letters or they would wait until they got home to share stories about their adventures.

In the author’s notes, it says that Frank goes back to India and has been several times. I think it’s nice he gets to reminisce about his Indian adventure and he gets to learn new things about the country.  Although I have never been to India, I think of it as a place that always gets better and forever changing. I would love to go to India but not as a backpacker. After a long day of adventuring, I’d rather a nice place to sleep and a good shower. 

Monday, 20 October 2014

Entertainment Monday: Broods (Monday October 20, 2014)

Broods is a brother/sister music group from New Zealand.  Georgia Nott is the lead singer and her older brother Caleb Nott does instrumentals and back up singing.  I think they have a nice sound.  I like Georgia's voice, but mostly I like the group for their lyrics as much as their sound. 
I think it's interesting that they come from a family of musicians and have other siblings and yet have achieved success as a duo separate from their other family members.  So often it seems when you hear about a successful music family the entire family is somehow involved with the music or linked to fame in some way.  Especially when all are musically inclined, as Georgia and Caleb's siblings are.  I most often think of the Jackson 5 and Nelson (even though sister Tracey who was an actress was not part of that band) and Hansen when I think of family bands that have attained fame for their musical exploits.  As far as the Jacksons and Nelsons were concerned, several other family members were famous either prior to or after those bands achieved fame.

I have heard Georgia in an interview on a radio station before and she seems very down to earth and easy going.  It's hard to really "know" anyone from small snippets of an interview, but I got the impression that early fame has not gotten to her or her brothers heads.  Hopefully they'll be able to enjoy continued success and keep that same down to earth and humble nature. 

One of Broods first songs to get radio play here on Alternative radio in the United States is Bridges

Another of their songs which I enjoy listening to very much is Mother and Father.  I have a soft spot for songs that are about family, and Mother and Father relates nicely to the difficulties many of us face when we leave the safety and comfort of our family and try to make a life away from them.

As Broods is still a very new group it will be interesting to follow their path.  Will they have sustained success?  Will their spotlight be brief?  I certainly believe Caleb and Georgia possess the talent to have a long successful career with a devoted following.  I have not yet heard a song where Caleb's vocals are featured, and I think it would be cool if they choose to do that at some point.  I always like when bands push the envelope a little on their "sound" and try new things.  Those experiments sometimes alienate loyal fans, but I think that mostly happens when a band has already been around a long time and wants to explore a new sound. Broods is still new enough to dabble in that without hurting their burgeoning fan base I think?  Even though I suppose when a group is just beginning to have success they might want to stick with what they know works for a bit before changing things up.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Shakespeare in the park: Much Ado about Nothing

One of the perks about being a teacher is the school vacation times. Some teachers get offended when people joke that holidays are the reason for them becoming a teacher. They think that it belittles their dedication for education as most teachers are hard workers.  Anyway, I love it when it’s the school holidays because I get a break from teaching. I don’t have to think about planning lessons and waking up early. Most full time teachers don’t get much of a vacation and some return to work early as they have to prepare for the new term. I’m a relief (substitute) teacher so I don’t have to worry about school planning.
During the holidays, I went to see an outdoor production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. It was a performance from my old school, the University of Southern Queensland Artworx. I thought the play was very good. It was my first time seeing Much Ado About Nothing. Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy centering on courtship, mistaken identity and misunderstandings.  The story takes place in the 15th century in Messina, Italy and is about the courtship between the fair lady Hero and the young Lord Claudio. The friends and family of the two help and hinder them through the process and there is also a secondary love story between two supporting characters.
USQ Artworx Production of Much Ado About Nothing
Antonia, Leonata and Don Pedro (L-R)
I was a bit worried about whether I could follow the story but it was easy enough. I had a two second delay as I translated Shakespearean to what I thought they meant when I watched the play.   USQ set Much Ado About Nothing in modern times with contemporary clothing and 80s music. I thought the performance was sexy and I thought it was a little inappropriate as there were some young children in the audience.  Fortunately, I think most of the children didn't understand any of the play but all the gyrations and risqué dancing was a sight they probably shouldn't have seen.
I thought the performance was very good. The cast were all well rehearsed and made no slips in their speeches. I liked the way the cast expressed their words and their gestures which helped me to identify what was going on in the story so when I missed some of the context, I could see that it was a funny moment or sad moment etc.

Have you watched any Shakespearean plays? Do you have a favourite? Or have you studied or read Shakespeare?