I was to Seville two weekends ago. There’s this square at María Luisa Park called Plaza de las Palomas, crowded with doves. When I was there they freaked out for apparently no reason. All at once, they took flight and kept flying low for some seconds just to end up landing on the same ground. Luckily I was right in the “eye of the hurricane” and could take some blurry, unrepeatable pictures :)
Modern Phobias, the art of identifying with the reader
One of my pieces of homework from my translation class was to translate a pair of “episodes” from Modern Phobias, a humorous book by Tim Lihoreau about fears everybody has experimented at least once. I enjoyed the task so much, it gave me the impression that the rest of the book would be worth reading. Such was the case, I found a second-hand copy in good conditions for less than 6 € in Amazon and, being my first purchase there, I didn’t think it twice!
So I finished it last week, and at the end I felt a little disappointed. Probably the best “episodes” where the ones in my assignment. Don’t misinterpret me –it certainly makes you smile, but not laugh.
I’ve been marking episodes with quotes because they’re not really episodes but sort of entries, each dedicated to a different phobia, as in a dictionary. Each entry consists of the name of the phobia, the meaning, a paragraph or two talking about its supposed history, offshoots, cures, etcetera, and etymological notes at the end.
As you can imagine, the more you see yourself depicted in the pages, the harder you will laugh. Me, I felt that with very little of them, like genviaphobia (fear of street pollsters) or visulibophobia (fear of seeing the film of a book). Most of them were either very trite or totally strange to me. And it’s not just about the choice of the so-called phobias but the development of some of them, which had much more to give than the author has taken advantage of. Sometimes I felt I or any of my friends could make better and longer jokes about these particular habits of the modern times.
Also, it didn’t help I had to get through a lot of cultural references I didn’t fully understand, as they require knowing a lot about the United Kingdom. But I hope to re-read it in the future when I know some more and feel the whole experience :)
On the other hand, one thing I enjoyed were the names in latin. Knowing a little latin will definitely make you appreciate more the book, because some words that appear in this language remain untranslated and that fact was actually quite funny.
Guns, germs and steel: more like Plants, animals and axes
I first heard about this book in my sophomore year in university, when our Linguistics professor recommended it because of its chapter about language and explained a little what was the rest of the book about. I inmediately felt the urge to read it but remember, I was at university, meaning a lot more classes and mandatory readings.
Later, in a trip to my in-law’s home town, I was very impressed by one of my boyfriend’s aunt, who liked travelling very much, and told me how much she liked the book, too. So, as one of my latest birthdays gift, I got it and now have just finished it after maybe a year since I started it (yes, I read very, very slowly, and besides, I keep several readings at a time).
In Guns, germs and steel, Jared Diamond tries to answer the question of why some nations are the ones with “goods” and others don’t have any. It seems like a simple question, but Diamond decided to look for the ultimate causes and ended writing a book about the last 13 000 years of human history in general lines.
The result is a great food for thought. I’m sure even History students will find something in it they didn’t know. It’s a summary of relevant, concisely written data and logic assumptions that doesn’t treat the reader as a fool. The main transmited idea is that peoples aren’t rich, poor, powerful or weak because of their genes but more likely because of geography. That’s why I think the title should be Plants, animals and axes, since these causes are previous to the guns, the germs and the steel.
I would recommend it to everyone, even to whom doesn’t considerate him/herself interested in History, because this book can change that. It only takes time and an open mind to understand it, and in exchange you’ll learn valuable lessons and it can make your way of thinking completely turn around.
I reviewed the Spanish subtitles for this talk some weeks ago. In it, David MacKay tries to help people understand better renewable energies, since the subject of climate change is full of fluff and greenwash. In fact, the leap to renewables is not as easy as people may think. That’s why he makes some back-of-envelope calculations, which aren’t accurate but can help illustrate the problems.
I think the greatest difficulties reviewing these subtitles were understanding the content itself. Something I had to do was watching the whole talk first and then pay attention to the translated script. Also, there is a big load of visual information I had to look at all the time. But, as usual, it was worth it :)
Energy crops deliver half a watt per square meter in European climates (…) and we consume 1.25 watts per square meter. What this means is, even if you covered the whole of the United Kingdom with energy crops, you couldn’t match today’s energy consumption.
I’m not saying [renewables] are a bad idea. We just need to understand the numbers. I’m absolutely not anti-renewables. I love renewables. But I’m also pro-arithmetic.
Can we make something a hundred times better [than the average European car] by applying those physics principles I just listed? Yes. Here it is. It’s the bicycle. It’s 80 times better in energy consumption, and it’s powered by biofuel, by Weetabix.
Cockneys vs. Zombies: Killing zombies with grandpa
Last Sunday I went to the 10ª Muestra de Cine Fantástico organised by the Syfy TV channel and watched the movie Cockneys vs. Zombies. The movie itself is thought for fans of the zombie genre and attempts to be like Shaun of the dead without achieving it, but it’s not bad. It is about two brothers and their friends robing a bank and how they have to escape from a zombie virus that sprouts just at the same time. They hide in their grandparents’ nursing home, which leads to the most hilarious moments in the movie. Also the characters make a great use of weapons so it’s a bit gore, resulting basically in the concept of adding grandpa to the typical zombie killing.
But what most attracted my attention was the movie’s local nature. The whole plot takes place at the East End, in London, and the protagonists are Cockneys, the people who live in that neighbourhood and who have a distinctive accent and dialect, and occasionally use rhyming slang. Well, as you can suppose, the Cockney accent is widely reflected along the movie, but there’s even a moment where an elder shows an (exaggerated) example of this rhyming slang, during which the Spanish subtitles went almost blank because, I can imagine, the joke was nearly untranslateble. I personally went ‘Whaaat?’ and had to look for all of this later in the Wikipedia.
As I couldn’t help but post in its IMDb’s board, a long time ago I thought I was fascinated by the English accent, but then I found out there are actually a lot of very different ones even just inside the United Kingdom -so the broader the accent, the more appealing for me :)
Chronicle: What would you do if you had the power of telekinesis?
Chronicle tells the story of three teenagers who acquire telekynesia powers from a mysterious rock, which appears at the beginning of the movie and no more. The issue is not where the power comes from but what humans do with it.
The protagonists are Andrew, Matt and Steve. Andrew is very shy and has problems at home: her mother is sick, his father has no job and beats him. Matt –Andrew’s cousin, in fact his only friend– is always talking about philosophy and likes a girl. They meet Steve, a very popular, charming and confident boy who wants to be a politician by the time they get their powers.
What I most liked about the film is the very realistic way in which it shows the steps the teenagers take while discovering their powers and becoming very good friends. Then, because of their personalities and problems, the situation goes out of their control, but I won’t tell more! :)
Another feature of the film is that it is shot with the technique of the subjective camera that is very well performed and brings more humanity to the story. To sum up, an interesting film.
This is one of my favourite scenes in Community, if not my all-time favourite. I suppose it’s because, belonging to only the sixth episode of the first season, it was the first time I laughed out loud with the series. There have been some other awesome moments afterwards, but this is the very first and it’s special because it made me realise I was watching a highly promising new TV series :)