Thursday, 31 March 2011

Curse of the Pogo Stick

by Colin Cotterill

If anyone needed another proof that it’s perfectly acceptable to judge a book on the basis of its name, here’s the one. I saw this book in the library and thought it may be good. (With chapter titles like “Non-practicing atheists” and “Coitus interruptus”, it must be.) It turned out to be exceptionally good. I don’t read much crime fiction but this one is something else. Guaranteed to make you smile all the way till the reasonably happy end.
Some people just die. Siri had come to that conclusion after many years of careful observation. They don’t necessarily die of anything, they just get old, everything gives up, and they pass away. It’s as simple as that. There are those who describe it as dying of old age but that puts old age in the same category as bubonic plague and the Black Death. There really is nothing dangerous about old age and there's no reason to be afraid of it. It certainly hadn’t done Dr. Siri any harm. He’d been passing through its hallowed halls for some years and it hadn’t killed him.

Comrade Singsai had passed away in his sleep during an excruciatingly long speech discussing the allocation of cattle. It was rather sad that his last memory on earth might have been how to encourage bulls to increase their semen count. But he was old and he’d endured a full life. He hadn’t been able to summon the energy to pull himself out of a pleasant dream and back into that never-ending conference. Who could blame him? Siri was sorely tempted to write ‘He just died’ on the death certificate but he knew that wouldn’t satisfy anyone.

Curse of the Pogo Stick (Dr. Siri Paiboun)

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Van der Graaf Generator @ The Junction

Did I mention already that there are no venues in Cambridge suitable for rock concerts? If not, then this is the moment to reiterate: there are none. Unless the audience is less than a hundred people, that is. I went to see Van der Graaf Generator yesterday at The Junction 1. Man it was crowded. Well, maybe it only was couple of hundred people, but that’s exactly my point: even that is more than enough to block your vision. There are no seats except for a few bar stools to perch upon. And beer is expensive too.

There was no support band and VdGG started just as advertised, precisely at 20:30, and were playing non-stop till 22:15. In its current incarnation, VdGG consists of Peter Hammill (piano, guitar, vocal), Hugh Banton (organ) and Guy Evans (drums). I always fancied the idea of rock trio with an awesome drummer and two keyboard wizards sitting there outwizarding each other, and that was how the show started. (Evans’s drumming was consistently magnificent throughout the whole evening.) Wonderfully dark, mysterious, full of odd time signatures... I would love it if not for singing. No, I did not like Hammill’s vocal (whether meant or not, singing out of tune irritates me) and, on rare occasions when I was able to discern the lyrics, I did not enjoy the lyrics either.

If I was in a position to hand out any stars, this is how I would do it: musicianship, four and a half stars (out of five); singing: two stars; venue, two stars.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Raiders of the Lost Ark

a film by Steven Spielberg

What a film! Han Solo with his sidekick Gimli and a heavy-drinking old flame against Professor Moriarty and quite a lot of Nazis. It became an instant classic when first released; 30 years later, it is still a classic. It may have been perfect if Spielberg & Co. spared us the rather embarrassing part where the supernatural powers of the Ark are unleashed. Still, great entertainment for all the family. The iconic gun vs sword scene is imaginatively re-created in the LEGO version of this epic (5:45 to 6:00).

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Ball of Whacks

by Roger von Oech

Arriving to Boston Airport two hours early was a mistake. Apart from shopping, there is precious little to do, and shopping at the Terminal E is dismal. Finally, I wandered into Brookstone’s where I was able to get rid of some of my traveller’s cheques (another mistake, acquired some nine years ago and still not quite spent) to get Ball of Whacks® for Timur, another magnetic toy for Yuri and a universal power adaptor for Tamara’s new camera.

This little spot of retail therapy cheered me up. Timur enjoys playing with his rhombic triacontahedron and from time to time insists on us taking pictures of the models.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Red Dwarf Anniversary Edition

by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor

All right, dudes. Believe it or not, but I have managed to spend 16 (sixteen) years in this country without ever watching a single episode of Red Dwarf. How is that? And then, having run out of funny stuff to watch, I’ve ordered this DVD box. It didn’t disappoint.

The presentation: all eight series on ten discs in a A4-sized “photoalbum” complete with Polaroid-style photos. There are no extras, just the original shows. If you are looking for a perfect gift for a British comedy lover, look no further.

The show itself: man, it is fantastic. There’ll be time for explanations later, but now, if you did not see it yet, start watching.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Black & White

by Нино Катамадзе & Insight

Now I know: Suliko is a bossa nova. Why didn’t I think about that myself?

My brother sent me these CDs last month as a gift. Until that, I never heard (about) the Georgian jazz-rock singer Nino Katamadze. On White, she is accompanied by Gocha Kacheishvili (guitar) and Ucha Gugunava (bass). On Black, they are joined by David Abuladze (drums and percussion). Both albums were recorded in 2006; the difference between the two records is striking. White is soft, chill-outey electronica. Black is hard, aggressive rock. (Compare the “black” and “white” versions of I Came, I Will Come As a Snow and Olei and you’ll see what I mean.) That’s why they complement each other perfectly.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Blue Dragon

by Timur Kulikov

Paper, felt-tip pens.

Friday, 18 March 2011

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

by Monique Roffey

In 1956, the young couple arrives to Trinidad from England. He falls in love with the island. She hates it. His secrets are outdoors. Her secrets are inside.

I like the premise and I loved the book. It could have been great, perfect even. But I found a few things quite irritating. The (chronologically) last part comes first, the beginning and the rest of the story later. Although these are arguably the better read (no doubt, because of the first-person narrative), one may wonder what’s the point of reading when we know how it all ends. (Tragic, that’s how.) Perhaps the structure makes it easier to gloss over the 36-year gap between the last and the first parts?

Also, the word “steupsed” is used far too often. I reckon by its third appearance in the book the reader should get that Trinidadians do it a lot.
‘How old are, you, Venus?’
Five years younger than me. But she could have been any age. Eighteen, thirty-five.
‘Do you live far?’
‘Just up so, in Paramin. I walk there. I does like to tek a walk. It good fuh de blood system. Good to keep slim.’
‘I ride my bicycle.’
‘I see you, Miss. Everybody know you already.’
‘Everybody. I tell dem I go fine a job with de white lady on de green bicycle. Nobody believe meh. But is true. I see you ride pas’ every day. With de basket in front.’
I blushed.
‘You is famus, Miss.’
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle: A Novel

Wednesday, 16 March 2011


by Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden

Unhurried. Hardly ground-breaking. No pretence. No showing off. Almost none of that (in)famous Keith Jarrett Moaning™. Just two friends playing a few standards. And, for a change, a jazz album which has true soul in every tune.


Monday, 14 March 2011

The Men Who Stare at Goats

a film by Grant Heslov

Could there even be such a thing as a light-hearted Iraq War film? Well, here’s the one. Fantastic acting from George Clooney as Lyn Cassady (finally, a drop-dead gorgeous Jedi Warrior); better still, Jeff Bridges as his New-Agey mentor, Bill Django. All we are saying is give LSD a chance.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Orgasms for Two: The Joy of Partnersex

by Betty Dodson

Betty Dodson is a sex-positive feminist. Instead of focusing on gender equality, she embraces sex diversity. She’s got her Ph.D. in sexology for research that she modestly calls “working in the field” (as opposed to questionnaire-based “research” media presents us every day). She left behind romantic heterosexual love, a failed marriage, group sex, adventures in lesbian and bisexual SM community only to embark, at the grand young age of sixty-nine, on a sizzling love affair with a boy in his twenties. But what about masturbation, I hear you asking. Fear not, it is not forgotten. Quite the reverse: Ms Dodson shows us the many ways of incorporating it into, or rather, making it central in the experience of partnersex — absolutely guilt-free. Separate chapters are devoted to sex toys, anal eroticism and sex for older lovers.

Not exactly sequel to Sex for One but a self-sufficient book. True, it does repeat the relevant bits of the former. But it is because they are worth reiterating. Unlike Sex for One, it features pen and ink drawings. Just like Sex for One, it is a fun and often hilarious read.

This is not a book about how to get a man, how to keep him, or how to get rid of him or kill him after the relationship is over.
⚤ ⚢ ⚣
Towards the end of the last year we were married he came home one night and announced he was taking up golf. I blurted out: “That’s good, because I’m taking up sex.”
⚤ ⚢ ⚣
Freud and Reich never got to read the Kinsey report, which put America’s national average time of thrusting with full erection after penetration at two and half minutes. That’s barely enough time to get me interested in sex, let alone have an orgasm.
⚤ ⚢ ⚣
Most young women today are getting their sex misinformation from women’s magazines, in articles written by young, sexually inexperienced writers who get their information from experts who are basically talking about what they have read in books or tested with a Ph.D. thesis that relied on a questionnaire.
⚤ ⚢ ⚣
Just when I thought the clitoris had been reinstated, men and women started digging around inside vaginas searching for some magic spot.
⚤ ⚢ ⚣
Kim has a marvelous sense of humor. She can squirt anywhere, anytime, and loves doing it. While I badger her about peeing on my rug, she laughs and tells me I’m jealous.
⚤ ⚢ ⚣
Group sex could easily take a whole chapter, but I’m saving all those delectable details for my memoir.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Crianza 2006

Could it be that I’ve finally found an agreeable Rioja? Last week, I had a dinner at Waikiki just before the late night performance of de lo Flamenco. It was a chilly evening calling for a red wine. I’ve ordered a half-bottle of this wine and was not disappointed. The end.

More photos of red wine @ Shutterstock.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


by Tatiana Solomatina

Why should I care about a young and attractive woman psychologist who leaves her boring husband, acquires two equally boring New Russian lovers neither of whom she loves, then finds another man with whom she falls in love? No reason whatsoever. But here I was, finishing this book in a transatlantic flight (Boston—London), worrying about its hapless heroine instead of having a well-deserved nap.

Not bad, not bad at all. I like the style. Not perfect though. If the author reads this, here’s my free and completely unsolicited advice: next time, lose the poetry.

I came across just one typo in a whole novel — for a post-Soviet book, a small miracle!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

So long, just some words

As I wrote somewhere else, last year I started yet another blog called just some words. You see, I wanted to have a non-Blogger blog. But why Maneno? First, Maneno is multi-lingual, and I want to have an option to publish in more than one language. Second, Maneno is African.

It allows those with limited or narrow-bandwidth internet to use a system that is lightweight and straightforward in functionality.
I thought, I will need this when I move to Africa! Last but not least: “maneno” means “words” in Swahili, and just some words is all about words. From different languages.

To my big disappointment, Maneno stopped hosting blogs. Fair enough, they gave an advance warning last Summer. And this very morning, I received an XML dump of justsomewords. I was able to recreate it at sólo algunas palabras ( was already taken). So much for getting away from a major blogging platform.