Sunday, 22 April 2012

Round Trip by Ann Jonas

Round Trip was one of my favourite books as a kid, something we borrowed over and over again from the library.  I remember being mesmerised by the moody black and white images within, and it really captured the feeling of sitting in the back of a car on a long journey.  But the most amazing thing about this book was how you could literally turn it upside down once you'd finished and read it back through.  I've never found anything like it since (apart from another similar book by Jonas), and I came across it online the other day so I decided to snap up a paperback copy and see if it was as I remember.

For some reason even back when I was a kid this book looked dated - maybe it was the font used on the front cover - but that didn't mean I liked it any less. In fact, it only seemed to add to its mysteriousness.  And I like how unlike a normal book it is. No space is wasted, as on every page, as well as the front and back covers, there's one of these rotatable pictures on it.  I'll only show a photo of one of the images - if you really want to see the rest of the book I recommend buying a copy for yourself.  It's just over £1 for a new copy on Amazon.

"Then we went to a movie,"

"Then we had dinner in a restaurant,"

The words are minimal - they're simply used as a guide to identify these images, which, as you can imagine, might look a bit vague and ambiguous without any explanation. But that's half of the fun, as your eyes and mind adjust to the picture in front of you and you realise what you're looking at.  It's tempting to scan the whole picture and try and imagine what the journey on the way back will look like, but you can never truly tell until you've actually flipped the book over and are travelling back through these oddly familiar pictures.

It must have taken Jonas a long time to conceptualise, draw and tweak these pictures until they all made sense.  Some are better than others, but the whole book is a fascinating journey. It's still as magical as it was when I read it as a kid, and now I have an artistic and mathematical appreciation for these images which I wouldn't have had before.

The strange feeling of desolateness/loneliness I got from reading the book as a kid is still there, and if you're interested in cool books, magic eye puzzles, optical illusions or anything like that I'd recommend getting a copy.  It makes a great coffee table book.

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Saturday, 14 April 2012

Open mic night and Andrew W.K.

On Thursday me and some mates went to an open mic night at a cafe on Abbeydale Road called The Rude Shipyard.  The evening was organised by someone I met at the poetry slam in Birmingham a few weeks ago. It was really enjoyable, maybe more so than the slam because everyone brought a different style of poetry. It was held in an upstairs room in the cafe and the room was so packed that not everyone could fit in. I'm sure it'll be at a bigger venue next time and I'd be interested in going again.

Then last night me and a mate went to Manchester to see Andrew W.K. at the Manchester Academy. It was a great gig and unlike any I've been to before. It was like going to a giant party with a house band rather than going specifically to see a band, and I've never seen so many people grinning from ear to ear at the end of a show. And knowing how big of an Andrew W.K. fan I am, my mate had bought me this songbook after seeing it in a music shop:

It was a random and unexpected present but I really like it and it'll give me something to play next time I pick up a guitar.  Not that Andrew W.K.'s songs are that hard to master.

Driving back to Sheffield after the gig we passed some places with great names, such as Upperthong and Netherthong. And one surreal part of the evening happened when we were on the Snake Pass. Bearing in mind there were no other cars on the road, it was 1AM and pitch black, up high on a hill to our left we spotted a glowing crucifix. It was also Friday the 13th so I fully expected a group of hooded torchbearers to appear at any time.  All in all, a great night.

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Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Snow in April

March just gone was apparently the third hottest since records began. It was hotter in the UK than in Barcelona and everyone was having a great time.  But this morning I opened my curtains and saw this:

So we've gone from this to this in one week.  I also hear that the weather in Japan has been unusual as of late.  A lot of friends on Facebook were posting about strong winds that have disrupted public transport and even prevented some planes from flying.

The Easter break here started on Friday and I've been playing video games quite a bit.  I recently bought an old Xbox so I've been playing on that.  I've also been watching some great films, as well as some not so great ones.  Great would be TronOnce Upon a Time in America and The Jerk.  Not so great would be a film called Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure.  When I was living in Aomori I picked up a double DVD set of Ewok films that I found in a bargain bin at a PC shop.  I never got round to watching either of them until the other day, but the first was so atrocious I didn't bother watching the second.  George Lucas wrote and produced Caravan of Courage in 1984, only one year after RotJ, and there's such a gap in quality between those two films it's unreal.

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