The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This is a book I read at college but I didn’t like it. It was shocking and terrifying. I also didn’t like the way the book was constructed but I don’t think it could be done in any other way. It was meant to illustrate the power that such a revolution would have on you and it certainly did that for me. I was confused as to how such a thing could take place but so is Offred and everyone else. That is why they fight to overcome the system. Offred is very strong and resistant to the new regime but sensible enough to know that you have to act a certain way to survive. I don’t want to give the game away to any of you who haven’t read it or seen the TV series. I expect the follow up The Testaments is where the material for later series comes from.

Have you found any unexpected novels that you persevered with and later understood them much better?

Infinite Monkey podcast, Primates and Pokemon

Today I was listening to Brian Cox on the BBC Sounds App and the title of the episode was called Fire. There was a lot of interesting information like the practical information about fire in this universe and whether it could exist elsewhere but the thing that was most interesting was the “Did fire or life come first debate?” Life came first as it created the oxygen required for fire. This lead onto the fact that creatures other than humans (birds) can deliberately create and use fire as a tool just like some primates do. I think it’s amazing that the Aboriginal Australians knew that the fire bird was capable of doing this thousands of years ago as it’s in there traditional dream festivities. It’s also possibly the origin of the Phoenix and almost certainly connected to the legendary fire bird Pokemon Moltres. It does however mean that the story from Greek Mythology about Prometheus stealing fire from the Gods is almost certainly wrong. It’s an eye opening discussion to have with a Buddhist which I did a while ago now. Sometimes things are so strange that they have to be true or at least based on an established fact that has now been forgotten to have lasted for so long. My memory is a strange thing with what it forget and then later on pulls out of its memory bank.

Later on I was watching Primates on BBC narrated by Chris Packham who is a famous autistic naturalist and it showed that in 2017 they discovered a new type of Orangutan. It’s simply stunning that we are still finding new animals in our world but also extremely worrying that they immediately go to the top of the endangered animals list since there are so few. Yes there is also a Pokemon – Orangu and the librarian in the Discworld is a wizard who refused to become human again as life was much simpler as an Orangutan. These are some of the strange thoughts that flit across my brain while watching tv or painting but wait in a holding bay until I decide to write them out on here later on. If I don’t let them out to play they cause trouble by withering in potency after they have prevented other thoughts from emerging. Then I become blank and boring to be around since I’m lifeless having nothing to comment on or communicate to others. This is a state to be avoided at all costs.

What is dead may never die

I think this Game of Thrones motto taken from the words of the Greyjoy family from the Iron Islands is very appropriate to describe Covid 19.

I was reading in the Times today that the reason that Covid 19 is so effective is because it is a virus and therefore already dead. It reminded me of several sci fi parallels as it’s just bits of protein replicating like mad.

The first thing that struck me was that we are essentially fighting a vampire. It demands a blood sacrifice on a regular basis and it’s definitely getting its fill. A good reason to catch up on all that supernatural material as preparation. I recommend Buffy the Vampire Slayer as my personal favourite but you can’t go wrong with Johnathan Rhys Meyers as Dracula either. Even though these are desperate times I still would never recommend partaking in Twilight even to keep the kids amused.

It also turns you into a zombie when you have it so my husband has been preparing by killing as many as possible in his computer game which he completed with flying colours recently. He is on to his next target now which is preventing a chemical weapon from getting out into the open which is also extremely appropriate for right now since today he went for his Covid 19 test. Having recently turned into the WeekendI can’t feel my face when I’m with you” it was a good idea since he also has leukaemia. I don’t want to crown his suffering by making him into a mother fking starboy if he does happen to have Corona Virus.

Then my thoughts turned technical as I got to thinking about what Dolores said on the latest series of WestWorld. We have tried so much to improve ourselves but we have given control of our lives over to technology and if sufficiently pushed they will eventually be our downfall.

It’s also like the insecurity virus in Ralph Breaks the Internet as it finds a weakness and copies it infinitely until the system shuts down to reboot itself. However, we have no anti virus yet to try to fix the situation that we have created for ourselves.

Another reminder came in the form of the Borg from Star Trek who just seek to make everything like themselves as we have been trying to do in recent years. This has been happening with a whole homogenisation of global culture.

To push the destructive technology point further recall the replicators in Star Gate SG1 whose quest for world domination knows no end like our vast sprawl of commercialisation across the planet, the Skynet in the Terminator movies which uses hindsight to stop our own stupidity and arrogance, the Matrix movies where we have finally pushed it too far and live underground or Battlestar Galactica where we carry our entire DNA with us to try to find a new planet to colonise.

To really drive the point across as by this point I’m getting quite anxious hence reciting every relevant sci fi program I can think of. I even went as far to imagine the Daleks who wish to exterminate all life unlike there own. This is where it gets a bit controversial suggesting this is possibly like the Chinese if the rumours of Covid 19 being a manufactured virus are to be believed. You shouldn’t trust Trump though after his bleach comments.

As you can see I have indulged in many programs over the years so I should be the best prepared but really this just makes me write lists of everything in the cupboards, fridge, freezer, clean, do laundry and organize my clothes when not watching more tv!!!

Painting is my antidote when I try to relax from the end of the world as we know it but the weather has stopped me from doing this over the past week hence I’m starting to feel a little overwhelmed by this again.

Ólafur Eliasson and Bjarke Ingels

Olafur Eliasson is a very famous Danish installation artist. He looks at things with a different viewpoint to most. He examines the basics and some how comes up with something new continually. Its like he continues the ideas of the Bauhaus but in that Nordic way which we all know so well from Ikea furniture. Its cut down but evocative as it has the essence of good design distilled into them.

It must be a Scandinavian thing because as well as catching him on The Art of Architecture on Sky Arts, Abstract Design on Netflix and in a Tate Britain exhibition; his friend fellow Dane Bjarke Ingels designs tower blocks that are affordable but look more like a village. They look good as they are full of abstract design. They are unique in modular design as they all have gardens, are full of light and air while maximising the space available to create something that looks pleasing to the eye.

Bjarke has also partnered with Thomas Heatherwick British architect on previous projects as they have the same kind of mindset when it comes to designing innovative architecture.

They both focus on light, space, geometry, nature, perception and our reaction to it all. It also encompasses the elements of Meteorology with rain, sun, fog, ice and climate change.

Athens by Dr Michael Scott on This is Greece

This is part 2 of a five part series on PBS. Part 1 is Northern and Central Greece, Part 3 The Peloponnesus, Part 4 is the Cyclades Islands and Part 5 is the The Dodecanese Islands .

I have been to Athens and I wrote about it previously when I visited at New Year. I haven’t been back since as it took some getting used to.

I must not having been paying attention when this was on in September and just recently during the week and on at the weekend. As it’s an American show I can’t stream it and I can’t find it anywhere else but I have written about The Parthenon which is a major part of the history of Athens.

Best wishes

Angela

Cyclades Islands by Dr Michael Scott on This is Greece

This is part 4 of the series with him previously visiting North and Central Greece before moving on to Athens, The Peloponnesus area, and now The Cycladic (Circular) Islands in the Aegean Sea.

The Cyclades encompasses sacred Delos which is the centre, Syros which houses the capital Ermoupoli, tourist hotspots like Naxos, Mykonos and Santorini for the magnificent sunset, historic Milos and Tinos, religious Paros and out of the way places like peaceful Folegandros and Sifnos known for its many churches.

Our guide for these islands are 2 different Greek ladies, Cassandra and Sylvia as tourism is more prevalent here than history. Santorini is well known for producing the best wines in the area due to its volcanic soil. I personally know this having attended a wine tasting involving their wines. I’ve probably written about this years ago too.

The famous Venus de Milo statue was found on Milos.

He visits Tinos to talk about the islands dedication to Poseidon and to see the many dovecotes on the island. There is also the famous church where pilgrims crawl on their knees from the port to the entrance which is 700 metres. This is an island that is part Catholic due to its Venetian heritage and part Greek Orthodox.

For the last episode he visits the The Dodecanese Islands or 12 islands.

Best wishes

Angela

The Dodecanese Islands by Dr Michael Scott on This is Greece

This is the final part of This is Greece with Dr Michael Scott having first visited Northern and Central Greece, Athens, The Peloponnesus area of Greece, and, Cyclades Islands.

The Dodecanese (12) Islands contain Rhodes which is a fantastic historical island especially for someone like me who has an interest in the Durell family as Laurence lived there writing a book about the island which I’m yet to read. That one was called Reflections of a Marine Venus. You can visit his house Villa Kleobolus while your there too.

Rhodes was subject to many invasions over the years so it’s been fortified accordingly. It has been ruled by first the Romans then the British as part of the Crusades and the famous knights of St John or the knights hosiptaller, the Venetians spent some time here, it was owned by the Ottomans but they kept the locals ruling and it was later passed on to the Italians before finally gaining there independence.

Leros is the next stop on the tour but our guide is now an Athenian lady Elenor. There is Byzantine, medieval, Ottoman, Venetian and Italian history here just like Rhodes. Sunsets are of course a big selling point along with churches dating from the knights of St John. If your a film buff you will want to visit the island as it’s the inspiration for the film Guns of Navarone.

He also travels to Patmos famous for being the place where the biblical book of Revelations was written by St John with many churches dedicated to him, a monastery as well as its many windmills.

Symi turns up too. St Michael is the patron saint here with a magnificent church dedicated to himself as he is also patron saint of sailors in the Dodecanese.

As usual with American programs the first and the last are the most interesting with the ones in the middle being mainly composed on second grade material. He even gets other people to do tour guides for you!

Best wishes

Angela

The Wonders of the Universe by Brian Cox

This is a 4 part series on BBC 4 where he uses information gained from previous series of his like The Planets, The Wonders of Life or Forces of Nature, to explore in ever increasing detail how and when our world came to be formed.

The first part Destiny talks about how entropy was discovered by accident using the 2nd law of thermodynamics. This is a given for those that like trains, maths or physics which is usually the same people but it explains how time travels in one direction only and therefore we can see the difference between the past and the future. Cause and effect means you can define your place in time by looking at the state of decay of your surroundings. The Arrow of Time indicates the passage of time which we are all subject to even the stars although their timescale is much, much greater than our own.

Part 2 is about Stardust. Here he analyses the fact that everything in the universe is made of the same 92 elements. We can discover that we are in fact the same as stars by looking at the reactions of those chemical compounds. It turns out that to create all of the elements necessary for life stars have to die. The bigger the star, the more elements are created due to the energy given off from the heat that is created from its destruction.

The 3rd part deals with gravity and is entitled Falling (No Alicia Keys here;)) Falling as it turns out is an essential way to explain how gravity works using Einstein’s theory of relativity as our guide. Newton’s laws of physics can only take us so far and in fact they are not sufficient to explain things like the odd elliptical orbit of Mercury. When talking about gravity you have to mention black holes from which nothing not even light can escape.

Part 4 is on Messengers. This is about the different forms light can take from straight forward white sunlight to a rainbow to infra red and even radio waves. Heat itself is just another form of light only on a different wavelength. Here he talks about the age of the universe and how while it was relatively easy to break the sound barrier it was much more difficult to break the speed of light. For much of history even didn’t even know that light had a speed until it was discovered that the speed of the orbit of Io one of Jupiter’s moon seemed to differ depending on what time of year it was. The orbit in fact never changed just our position in relation to it. As we got further away light took longer to reach us therefore we thought it was changing rather than ourselves. The speed of light is now what is termed a light year and this is used to measure how far away distant stellar objects are.

To compare methods I also watched a program on the Discovery Science channel done by Stephen Hawking about whether “God did create the universe or not.”

It is his belief that a divine creator could not possibly have had time to create anything because of the quantum laws of physics. This is how the universe could be created out of nothing utilising Einstein’s theory of relativity – E = MC2. As time didn’t exist before matter/energy and space was created by the Big Bang; nobody else did either.

Best wishes

Angela

Thomas Heatherwick British architect

He Thomas Heatherwick, creates architectural works of art. His buildings that are more like installation art than anything else. He likes using the symmetry of nature along with art, structure, line , form, colour, and material as you would expect from an architect. The Art of Architecture on Sky Arts ran a program on him creating the Vessel which is how I came across his work. They are unique in there design and he has made buildings all over the world.

Since I like to celebrate the unusual I thought I would showcase some of the things that inspire me. I spend a lot of time alone with my thoughts but it is nice to connect with others. I’m not good at communicating my thoughts to others in a way that they can understand so I’m trying to improve that. One way is by sharing what I have been interested in lately so that others can possibly find common interests and start up a dialogue about these things.

Best wishes

Angela

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire ruled Greece from when the Byzantines finished in the 14th century until the end of the First World War. This was a considerable amount of time. There was a program on BBC 4 about this last year by Rageh Omar. It was titled The Ottoman Empire – Europe’s Muslim rulers. There is now also a Netflix program about the rise of the Ottoman Empire which I’m going to write about as well.

I found it a fascinating insight into a period of history that isn’t covered much in the UK. It’s a crucially important part of Europe’s history but since we seem to be so anti European it gets missed out of the history books. I think this is a grave error and I’m almost working on filling in the gaps of my knowledge.

I want to visit Agia Sofia in Istanbul to see the magnificent shrine that was built by Sulliman the second. I want to see the Blue Palace and the Topkapi Palace as well as all the other delights that a city on the Bosphorus can offer. The Grand Bazaar is one of a kind.

Best wishes

Angela

Forces of Nature with Brian Cox

This is a four part show on BBC 4 showcasing what he has learnt about the natural world through his studies in physics. The fourth part which I was watching today was about colours role in terms of sunlight interacting with water to create moon bows and the famous Northern Lights. He also explains those childhood favourites of why the sky is blue, plants are green and things underwater appear different colours.

I was also thinking about how the forces of nature have ruled my life so far in terms of hormones. It’s astonishing how much they control your life and you don’t really get much of a say in it. The sex drive is one of our most basic urges and it’s so strong it’s phenomenal. What’s equally impressive is when it’s not there because it hasn’t been awakened or it’s been dulled by medication. I’ve experienced both for myself and in my husband due to his leukaemia. It’s been a wild ride so far but it’s going to continue as hormones are essential to life. I hope I’m better prepared now that I know I have little to no control over things like that happening yet you can control your desire. You can turn it on and off but it doesn’t work like a tap, more like a central heating system I find as it’s gradual.

The Parthenon

I was astonished recently when watching a program on an American television channel about how well the Parthenon was constructed. They understood so many things to construct the perfect temple. What’s more is they did it without a plan and in 9 years. The current renovation which the program covers has taken at least 30 because they had to correct previous fixes which were done incorrectly. They also had to figure out how they built it in the first place because there is very little records bar other temples.

Each piece of the temple is unique so it’s like a giant jigsaw puzzle. Each piece can only fit in one place. Slotting it all together is a big task for anyone to complete. The team decided to put the temple back into order as it stands without trying to restore it to a previous era as that would destroy its beauty and make it look unbalanced.

Do you have any wonders if the world near you?

Best wishes

Angela

The Greek Islands with Julia Bradbury

Since I like to keep up with all things Greek while I’m not there I decided to watch this show. This is a series created so that Julia, who is half Greek on her mothers side from the island of Chios can explore the bounty contained on many Greek islands like Crete, Spinalonga and Corfu ending up in Chios. If you have ever watched her on antiques and art show you would have never guessed this in a million years. I in fact did not know myself until I watched the first episode. It’s nice watching her progress with the Greek language but I wonder why she didn’t take advantage of it in early life.

It’s good to discover your heritage though whatever it is which is why in 2 months time I’m going to India which is where my mother is from. Being English and part of the army she didn’t learn any foreign languages but I think this has more to do with her dyslexia. My dad was also part of the army and learned German but not any other language despite his varied postings. This probably explains my love of travel and culture. Also the fact I don’t stay in one place very long so I never really put down roots or get settled. I was just starting to do that last year and then I had to leave. As usually happens with me.

Do you feel that your life is sometimes so stop/start you struggle to achieve what you think you need out of life?

Best wishes

Angela

My Progress in Spanish, Greek and Russian

Recently I have been watching Greek Tedx talks and pop videos on YouTube with the subtitles on but the catch here is that the subtitles are in Greek also. It’s amazing the progress I have made by being able to understand more of what they are talking about than just pure listening. Greek pop videos are usually easy to figure out but going from a gist to understanding the idea behind it purely by seeing more than a 10 second countdown clip and reading the words is pretty cool. Pop music repeats the same simple lyrics so there good for learning but the con is that they don’t use proper language so it’s more slang which still can be helpful.

The Tedx talks are for when I want to step it up although that’s several levels up and I’m not quite ready for understanding these yet. I think maybe I have a 50% comprehension level here.

I’m debating how to progress with my Spanish and Russian studies. I like Latin American Spanish far more than European Spanish which is rather problematic for me considering where I live. I’m hoping extensive use of Netflix and maybe Amazon Prime/YouTube will assist here?

I don’t know enough Spanish to be able to watch purely with native subtitles but the American accents are so off putting when they speak in English. I have very sensitive ears and hearing so the stereotypical high pitched whiny American accent really gets to me. They speak their native language so beautifully but then when it’s dubbed into American English OMG!!!!!

I’m the kind of person that gets bored quite easily if I don’t understand things so I’m basically making a rod for my own back as the saying goes. I’m complaining about something while knowing that this is actually the best way to learn a language. A first world problem as it’s now called.

As to the Russian language this can surprisingly sound beautiful if spoken by the right people. If they sound so mellifluous (honeyed from Greek ;)) then I don’t mind the English subtitles. However, I watched a dual English/Russian pop song today and it was horrific. His voice was bad and the translation showed that while the voice matched the words, the song seemed to be in 2 halves like a he said, she said argument. Why?

This was post was inspired by the fact that I watched a video (another yes I know) and this was about the tricks that polyglots used to learn languages. In it the author said the best way to learn was to talk and to make mistakes. I’m deathly afraid of this but that is the subject for another article as this is getting long as is the subject of reading which I’m again addressing.

Best wishes

Angela

The Durells

This is good Sunday night television as it’s relaxing and idyllic. It’s set on Corfu in the 1930s. It features Greek conversation between the natives but also Lesley Durrell.

Sometimes you just need something that isn’t intellectual to practice on. The speech isn’t very distinct but there are subtitles to help. Normal speech tends to be quick and you only catch the most accented words. This can be problematic so going with the gist can be useful since this is only for enjoyment. However, the problem comes when you need to put this into real life. I will hopefully get better this year but as I’ve learnt this isn’t something you can rush. It happens at its own pace.

Do you have any tips that you use to increase your foreign language learning abilities?

Αντιο

Αγγελικα

The philosophy of WestWorld

This tv show is the philosophical successor to the Matrix. This show is so amazing in how it captures your attention and makes you think so deeply about what is real and what is worthy of your attention. It strips away all artifice and lays bare who you really are at your core. I dare you to watch this show and not be transformed after viewing it. It’s a good way to analyse your own psyche without having to under go hypnosis, meditation or even go as as far as visiting a retreat or taking transcendental drugs.

To examine what is real and what is not is a very Buddhist way of thinking. Becoming one with yourself and seeking the true path to enlightenment is quite some task. This is what religion has tried to inspire in us over the millennia to varying degrees of success. Since it is so difficult to achieve and none is ever sure how to do it or what happens when it has been achieved. Numerous books have been written on the subject with their own version of attaining self actualisation. I believe we all try to attain this state at some point in our lives. We just differ in our methods of attempting this process.

I believe my way of entering this trance state is every time I watch a programme that commands my entire attention. This is rare that I enter this flow state but it is beautiful. I feel reborn and that I am connected to everything in the universe. I know that everything is going to be fine because I am at peace with the world. The state of catharsis is the most blissful feeling you can have. It is the absence of feeling but also a complete and utter fulfilment. So you are full of the most magnificent cleanliness. It is difficult to describe the fullness and emptiness at the same time.

This is however when we are at our most free and at our most creative. When we connect to ourselves and our very being it is a marvellous thing to behold. We need to hold on to this higher state of being for as long as possible as we all want to reach nirvana one day and to remain for as long as possible if not for eternity.

Since we are currently in both catholic and orthodox Lent, it is fortuitous that I am currently feeling that way and it’s only just begun. The whole purpose of this time is to get to get closer to the most pure version of ourselves. When we purify through lack of stimulants both external and internal; we open our minds and bodies to the possibility of greatness. When we stop all the different versions of ourselves that we need for our daily lives and become the one that is the crux of our being; then we can rise above everything and be the very best version of ourselves. In doing so we can help all those around in their personal quests too. For a healthy community nourishes the land, life and everything.

Have you ever thought you would be able to achieve such a state of peace?

Wishing you all well,

Angela