Sunday, June 29, 2008

Top 100 Books Of All Time

According to someone anyway! I'm stealing this from my friend Suzy, who got it from someone else. So, copy the list, bold what you've read and italic the ones you love. It's interesting that there are so many 'classic' books that I've always wanted to read but haven't so it's a great way to start buying the ones I don't have.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible (I've 'studied' this in school - I wonder how many people have actually 'read' it as apposed to selective reading of passages?)
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. 1984 - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41. Animal Farm - George Orwell
42. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (How the hell is this in here?)
43. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48. The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50. Atonement - Ian McEwan
51. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52. Dune - Frank Herbert
53. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68. Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding
69. Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72. Dracula - Bram Stoker
73. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75. Ulysses - James Joyce
76. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78. Germinal - Emile Zola
79. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80. Possession - AS Byatt
81. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87. Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94. Watership Down - Richard Adams
95. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98. Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Friday, June 27, 2008

Robert Mugabe: The Victim

That's right folks, Mr Mugabe is a victim. Many people talk about how his dictatorship and brutal regime has ripped Zimbabwe apart and caused countless suffering. While all the world takes a back seat and talks about issuing embargoes and other useless rhetoric and does next to nothing, it's also worth pointing out that Mugabe is also a victim. A fashion victim.

What the hell is up with his choice in clothes? It's like Will Smiths unused wardrobe from Fresh Prince. Knock knock? Who's there? It's 1992, and it wants its crap back.

I know he can get away with anything but someone needs to have a word in his ear if they could get anywhere close without being blinded by the neon colours.

More importantly, what is up with that Hitler 'tache? It wasn't even fashionable when Mr Third Reich sported it and I didn't see too many German soldiers emulate it - and the Germans know their moustaches.

Even when he does his best to move into the 21st century, he pulls out the most boring suit imaginable. Look, even his drones are wearing the same outfit and he has to point it out to the press and guess which henchman is taking the fall for this faux-pas? And doesn't he know it?

So please, next time you think about donating clothes, remember that Zimbabwe needs them. Mugabe needs them.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Orphanage

The Orphanage (El Orfanato) is the newest edition in a series of a great foreign horror films soon to be bastardised and remade into a second-rate Hollywood movie.

It is co-produced and presented by Guillermo del Toro who is responsible for the fantastic Pan's Labyrinth and I'm sure had some sage advice and creative input for first-time feature film debutante Juan Antonio Bayona.

It stars Belén Rueda (The Sea Inside) as a mother who sets up a new home with her husband and adopted son in an old orphanage that she grew up in that is now empty and where they seek to start an orphanage of their own.

As the couple throw themselves into renovating the old building, their son finds solace in making invisible friends for company which the parents see as odd behaviour but normal considering the circumstances as they live in an isolated area and they have been too busy with the house to spend quality time with their son.

Needless to say the basis for this kind of story has been covered before but there is significant depth to the characters and contextual plotlines that develop that raise it above previous efforts that sink into trite scare flicks with no substance.

You wont find a barrage of sudden switch-screen/noise effects thrown in to make you jump or over-the-top gore to 'scare' you. What you will find is a continual build-up of underlying creepiness and an original take on the genre that makes you hide behind the couch in expectations of what may or may not happen.

The direction is first-rate and the pace is excellent with the plot slowly unfolding allowing you to connect with the premise rather than be disassociated through one-dimensional characters and flimsy screen-writing.

Foreign cinema should not be looked on as a resource to make a quick buck in re-hashing and knocking-out mediocre remakes, but as an inspiration to make better movies but sadly I cannot see this changing for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, if you are looking for a great horror movie of 2008, look no further.

I would give The Orphanage 7.2 children out of 10.

If you enjoy this film, look out for 3993 next year which is being produced by del Toro and written by the screen-writer for The Orphanage.


Monday, June 16, 2008

Waipara Valley Wine Tour

It was a fantastic day on Sunday and it was unseasonally warm too - around 19/20C - not bad for winter temperatures! It was all thanks to a Nor' Wester which had been boosting temperatures for the previous few days and we decided not to waste such a fine afternoon.

During the week I had enquired after local wine regions in Canterbury when a colleague in work suggested we try Waipara Valley which is only an hours drive from Christchurch.

After a little research, it turned out there were at least 6 vineyards open on the 'trail' in winter and if we left in the late morning we would have enough time to visit all of them.

The first winery was specifically listed as a 'must visit' by my colleague who recommended their Reislings. As a fan of this style I was looking forward with anticipation.

Peagasus Bay vineyard holds a beautiful restaurant attached to the tasting room which has a plate glass wall looking onto their warehouse full of oak barrels. Outside, they have a natural amphitheatre which is what I would call a dell, that holds a festival (that we missed somehow) that draws over 3000 people.

However, what impressed me about the surroundings was diminished not only by their sub-par Reisling but mainly through the obnoxious and snobby tasting room staff member. He carried a superior air about him that was bordering on offensive and he was very short with us, offering no explanations to each wine more than what it was before shuffling off to talk another staff member. Our servings were also extremely stingy. However, the look on his face when he found out I had been pouring my slop wine into the stainless stell water jar in what I took to be the spitoon made up somewhat for our shoddy treatment.

Next up was Mud House vineyard and they had a delightful tasting area overlooking a busy outside dining area and the service was exceptional. Our host explained each of their wines and we recieved a considerable amount of wine per glass for the paltry $3 fee including two if their most expensive bottles which came to around eight in total. She was very friendly and helpful in every way and I would certainly recommend stopping here.

Our next stop was Torlesse Wines which was reasonably busy for only one man working behind the counter. He didn't spend any time with us as he was rushing around serving others and putting wine through the till. Another off-putting aspect was a swarm of fruit flies buzzing around. Apparently they had dumped their skins nearby and the warm temperatures had caused an explosion of the little mites with some of them finding their way into our glasses. The wine itself, of the two glasses we were served in 20 minutes didn't impress any of us so we left and headed to our next vineyard.

Mount Cass is a relatively small place and was operated on this day by a lovely lady and her black wolfhound type dog that Keith fell to playing with while we got on with sampling the small selection of wines available. We got engaged in a thoughtful and insightful conversation about grape-picking seasonal workers and the work ethic of different nationalities. I always find it interesting when I am offered personal insights about such matters and since I knew nothing about the work ethics of any particular nationality (except perhaps the Germans who have a hard-working reputation) I stuck to sampling the wines of which we bought a delightful Gewurztraminer which is one of those wines coming back into fashion (and deservedly so).

Next up was Waipara Springs, our last stop of the day (as Daniel Schuster's was closed). It is a cosy little place down a gravel road and we were served by someone who reminded me of Imelda Staunton (the British actress). They had a wide selection of top notch wines including a fantastic Merlot which both of us bought a bottle of - quite surprising too as Jenny isn't overly fond of reds.

It was a fantastic day to spend any day, moreso because of the fine weather which harked back to the hazy, lazy summer days and now we have a small selection of great wines to enjoy on a special occasion.

Monday, June 09, 2008


Last weekend we flew up to Wellington to watch Ireland take on the All Blacks at Westpac stadium. Our flight was at noon and on the cusp of a strong SW wind which gave the take-off and levelling a shaky experience and initial turbulence forced the cabin crew back to their seats minutes after the seatbelt lights were turned off. However, the middle of the flight was quite calm under the circumstances and half and hour later we were heading in for a landing which was almost as bad as the take-off. Wellington is known as the windy city because of the Cook Strait and this was no exception!

After meeting Esther at the airport, we took a short bus ride into town and our YHA hostel was only a few minutes from where we were dropped off on Courtenay Place. We were up on the 5th floor and had a fantastic view over the harbour and bay and the street below.

Our next destination was the stadium itself to pick up the tickets and our hour round-trip made us ready for lunch where we met up with Keith and Jenny. Our first choice was a Monteith's Pub but their menu didn't tick anybody's boxes and as we headed up the street for something else we bumped into our cousin Stephen. We all walked up to the Cambridge Hotel bar and were served a huge meal of burger and chips which I just couldn't finish. Sinking a poor pint of Guinness (an obligatory and fruitless chore) we made our way further into town to another Monteith's bar for drinks were it was still pleasant enough to sit outside and watch fans make their way to the stadium where we soon joined them.

As luck would have it, we had only sat down for two minutes before the heavens opened up and the worst weather we have seen in New Zealand descended upon us. You can read all about the game here, suffice to say that a few silly mistakes and a lack of drive in the last 20 minutes cost us the game and we lost 21-11.

Sitting out for an hour and half in storm weather, we were soaked through and the temperatures were at freezing as the rain pounded us from above. Needless to say we made our way quickly back into town to get into a warm pub and holed up for the night in Molly Malone's where a piano player entertained us with cover songs as we consoled ourselves more at being cold and miserable than losing the game.

As we were sitting at our table, we got chatting to a South African lady who seemed to have some connection to the game and gave us a few spare copies of the match programme and returned later to inform us that the Ireland squad would be having a few drinks at the place called Lagerfields only a few streets over. We decided to follow her advice and rather than have a final drink at Molly's, we made our way to Lagerfields which turned proved fruitless as there were no players there, only trendy people looking poncy. Since we were there we stayed for a nightcap before making our way back to the hostel where we happily slipped out of our wet clothes and went to bed.

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