Kar-lol-ogy

514TcTPSlBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“It’s not Karr…it’s Karl…”

In winter 2014, I read the Moaning of Life by Karl Pilkington, which I think is light-hearted and warm as if I am listening to a grumpy but friendly man moaning about life and journey at the pub. I thought he was just a man full of tales about acts of eccentric people and the reflections of their hectic lives resulted from the process of urbanisation. He was a man full of observations that city people often overlook.

Two years passed and I have known so much about Mr. K. Dilkington after listening to the Podcast with features like “Monkey News”, “Karl’s Diary”, “Educating Ricky”, “Rockbusters” etc.. His thoughts, which I find, like a matter of contagion from Ricky Gervais’s hysteric laugh, so ridiculous, so ludicrous, so far-fetched, but imaginative, I’ve never thought of a pointless talking from a human who is considered ignorant could sound so funny and interesting in this way. In the podcast, I especially find it hilarious in Ricky’s response on Karl’s findings like “you’re talking shite again” or “it’s simply ramblings of a madman”. Of course, who would have thought like him that the protagonist of Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton is a man in a wheelchair? And what’s more idiotic than “Alien gives man a beard”? Sometimes his points are interesting and philosophical, which trigger good conversations with Ricky and Steve; for example, in the parody of BBC’s Desert Island Discs, he decides to bring nothing but a dictionary with him so he keeps his brain active, makes his imaginations and thoughts run wild as to have a talk while not being annoyed with himself if gaining better vocabs and language capabilities. In this case, the aspects of thoughts and conceptualisation in the brain turn back to the debate about the unity between mind, body and brain. It is this contrast between a round-headed buffoon with IQ of 85, who only had GCSE history of E grade with two “quick-witted” men who studied literature and political science that make this show interesting.

Karlology is the second book I read by this Manc maniac. I thought he would talk more about his education and childhood. Instead, this is a book which is about him embarking on different trips and sightseeing in London as if based on various subjects in school in order to know better at his age – V&A Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, the Tower of London, the London Aquarium, and so forth – to fill the 200 odd pages. Again, what I find most amusing are his observations of the English eccentricities, his anecdotes about his neighbours and some wild thoughts on evolution of nature.

“The universe is 93 billion light years across”, was the opening line of the Atlas of the Universe…I must have been standing looking at the pictures for a while, and I got so into it that I didn’t hear the old fella who I’d seen earlier come shuffling behind me…I started to look at the other books on the shelf while still holding the universe book in my other hand for him to carry on reading. He didn’t stop mumbling…, passed the universe book to him, and then moved to another aisle. Whenever I heard his breathing close by, I moved on. It was like playing a real-life game of Pac-Man, moving up and down the aisles to get away. It’s amazing that the universe is so, so big and yet I couldn’t get away from the heavy-breathing man.” – (The Day at the Library, Karlology)

This book is funny, but not that amusing compared with him mumbling in his montone voice and dry expressions. However, I would take a break from Karl Pilkington and turn to big chunk of literary reading.

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The Art of Theft in The Little Nugget

953237Perhaps it might sound ridiculous that Wodehouse makes motives of “thefts” sound all the more fun, beautiful  and reasonable! I like a sparkling of camouflage and disguises with a twinge of “fate”, so on an aesthetic level, Wodehouse’s works of contrivances and plots reach full marks on the scale of ten; on the rational ground, except the unintentional cases of Egyptian scarab (Something Fresh) and Beach’s pocket watch (Galahad at Blandings), dealing with the stealing of Empress of Blandings in Summer Lightning and Service with a Smile, or Lady Constance’s necklace in Leave it to Psmith…many of which are all committed for solicitous considerations of Lord Emsworth’s sporadic absent-mindedness, and celebration of human irrationality called “love” that befalls on those exuberant youths.

The Little Nugget is a very satisfactory read, Wodehouse yet again crochets a splendid theft. It is a plot of vengeance and kidnapping of an American brat called Ogden Ford (the only disturbance of this novel is that I fretted and appalled by peals of scream this Little Nugget had caused, and then reminiscing the docility of Empress of Blandings), which stretches in most hospitable roof within and without an English Preparatory school called Sanstead House erected in the suburbs. Normally three characters at most would play crook-in-a-cloak game in his novels; this time there is an affable character pulling off more than one disguises of identities as an adventitious occurrence and ingenious plan! As to the reason of theft, it is altruistic than ever, especially when it is done not by an amateur but in the hands of a professional’s,

  • “In a sense, you might call me a human benefactor. I teach parents to appreciate their children. You know what parents are. Father gets caught short in steel rails one morning. When he reaches home, what does he do? He eases his mind by snapping at little Willie. Mrs Van First-Family forgets to invite mother to her freak-dinner. What happens? Mother takes it out of William. They love him, maybe, but they are too used to him. They do not realize all he is to them. And then, one afternoon, he disappears. The agony! The remorse! (…)”

Apart from the dark deeds and illicit dealings, The Little Nugget teems with wondrous figurative expressions and inimitable depictions of daily circumstances, which I think they resonance so much in mine. Perhaps it is not the best solution to jot them all down in this post, because it definitely will not emulate the beauty of copying them down in my notebook. In this case, I’ll end this post here to leave the others intrigued and resort to get them a copy of The Little Nugget on the shelf. Enjoy! 🙂

Dodger by Terry Pratchett (Fencers, Snakesmen, and Toshers)

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“This is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”

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Reminds me of Pickwick Papers

It is the very first book I read by Terry Pratchett. I might be ashamed of myself having started Dodger rather than Discworld series, but perambulating Victorian London through Dodger’s eyes, it opens my doors of curiosity to embrace the fantastic Discworld. To be frank, I was already deep in thought soon after I read the first line of the dedication page to Henry Mayhew (1812-1887) , “To Henry Mayhew for writing his book” – London Labour and the London Poor – a book which I have longed to read from the first to the last page. “What Dickens did surreptitiously, showing the reality of things via the medium of the novel, Henry Mayhew and his confederates did simply by facts, lots and lots of facts, piling statistics on statistics.” I remember there is a chapter where Mayhew confronts and interviews a little street sweeper, which is indeed overwhelming upon my first glance. In Dodger, Mayhew also appears on pages as one of the major historical characters of Victorian England alongside Mister Charlie Dickens (1812-1870).

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Author’s acknowledgements

“You are so sharp that you might cut yourself.”

Inspired by Dickens’s novel, Oliver Twist, this book focuses on an eponymous character, Dodger, a youthful, prismatic and adventurous seventeen-year-old tosher (sewer scavenger) living near Seven Dials under the rookeries world and the attic roof of Solomon’s, a Jewish watchmaker with a dog of a funny name called “Onan” (Footnote from Pratchett: the name of “Onan”, if not familiarised with The Bible, get some help from Google, or any priest – possibly a slightly embarrassed one – will help you). Dodger’s former careers before coming to a fabulous tosher is better not to be revealed here, but one day something incredulous incident happens which changes his life forever – the act of saving a damsel in distress could be no big deal and re-enacted all the time in Victorian London; however it is the damsel’s identity,  his resourcefulness and swiftness of grating drain covers which add up together and clash into consecutive heroic acts involving skulduggery and dark plots forthwith. The story is adequately seasoned with the help of bountiful famous accomplices, the fateful fog of London, as well as some playful disguise and camouflage.

“Once upon a time, Marie Jo had told him that with his skills, he should be on the stage, as she had been, but since he knew that actors didn’t get paid very much he had always reckoned that the only reason to be on a stage would be to rob it.”

Punch-Judy-Puppet-631.jpg__800x600_q85_cropConcerning those bountiful famous accomplices who work in concert with Dodger, apart from Henry Mayhew as is mentioned above, there is Mister Charlie Dickens, a writer of Morning Chronicle, headquartered in Fleet Street. He acts as a journalist and parliamentary reporter, befriending with spikes on the desks and foggy London.

  • The only monsters in Fleet Street, he had been told, were the printing presses whose thumping made the pavement shake, and which demanded to be fed every day with a diet of politics, ‘orrible murders and death.
  • My answer to you would be that the truth is a fog, in which one man sees the heavenly host and the other one sees a flying elephant. (Dickens)
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Angela Burdett-Coutts

Alongside Dickens, there is the notable philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts (1814-1906), whose roles on charitable acts of supporting Ragged Schools,  encourages Dodger to enroll in it, as well as being a courageous pillar to Dodger’s contrived plots against the enemies, plays an important part of the story. It is amusing that she proposes to Duke of Wellington, and later marries to a 29-year-old secretary, who is 38 years her junior. In her party organised by Lady Coutts, where Dodger and Solomon have the honour to be invited, it is star-studded with George Cayley (1773-1857), Charles Babbage (1791-1871) and Ada Lovelace (1815-1852) (daughter of Lord Byron), Joseph Bazalgette (1819-1891) (whose keen interests lead him to a guided tour of the sewer world), and Sir Robert Peel with the peelers. I could not elaborate more on their distinctions and achievements, so more research need to be done.

Interestingly, a worthy mentioning of names pin-pricked in the story include Sweeney Todd (whose fate leads him to Bedlam Hospital), Mister Tenniel (1820-1914) (the illustrator), and Dick Turpin the highwayman (1705-1739). Places included Lavender Hill Cemetery and Cross Bones Graveyard, Southwark concerning Winchester Geese. Last but not least, with Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort.

Ada Lovelace
Ada Lovelace
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A place I didn’t visit last time in London!

17998922All in all, entertaining as it might be, the most inspiring idea I get is the faith and belief you have in yourself. The Roman Goddess of Sewers, Cloacina, the Lady, is all that toshers worship in the underbelly of London, as opposed to the one on the upper world. However, it is not about that or what, it’s the reincarnation of the true self, and Dodger has found one. It is an impressive novel packed with blaggard and scallywag, waifs and strays, and many Victorian slang like copper, snakesman and flophouse. A perfect read for me in April. I hope to get my next one by Pratchett!

A Fantastic Fear of Everything

“Once upon a time
Not so long ago
There was a hedgehog
Whose name, was Brian…”

MV5BMTYzNjU3NTAwOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTI5MDY5MDE@._V1_SX640_SY720_It was 3 in the morning and I was watching A Fantastic Fear of Everything starred with Simon Pegg yesterday. It is a movie about a children’s literature writer named Jack who decidedly shifts his focus on writing a thriller fiction about serial killers. The more he was deluged with stories of notorious serial killers of the Victorian Britain, the more he gets himself wrecked with the syndromes of pathological paranoia. However it also appears as a crucial moment and an opportune time to face his another phobia of going to a launderette after he is informed to have an appointment with Harvey Humphries, the head of script of the BBC, to talk about the little whim of publishing a stories of “Decades of Death”.

It is an eccentric and wittily funny movie which I don’t often come across with, suffice to say that it never is put on cinemas in Hong Kong. Not only it has some laugh-out-loud moments but by chance; It is the fateful night of a perfect timing to watch this gem when my interests peak on knowing more about Victorian crimes and on reading some Newgate novels! Hendon Orge. Hawley Harvey Crippen. It also deals with the irrational fear and the subconscious shadow of the inner self which exists in every one of us.

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Apart from that, from another interesting perspective, There are some connotations and meanings to the lines and dialogues of the movie itself with the child’s story composed by Jack (and mentioning Paddington Bear as well. Clever trick!).

Overall, I have gained some impressive scalps by watching this movie! (Despite of the prejudiced eyes my family showed to me while I was watching it)

Talking of crimes and media and TV and movie and stuff, I now indulged myself in the first season of Ripper Street. It’s just fun and gripping by the way.

Today’s Quote

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Look at Grumpy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He’s got a reputation for being moody, but of course he’s grumpy, half his colleagues are bleeding useless. If I had to work with Dopey, Sleepy and Sneezy I’d be well pissed off too, especially with Happy standing there acting like everything is fine.

(The Moaning of Life by Karl Pilkington)

The Moaning of Life by Karl Pilkington

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forget the brainy quotes, embrace the Pilking quotes!

I have finished it on Wednesday, but I already got a little rusty talking about this book! Karl Pilkington gave me an impression of a presenter who got unlucky all the time, and that he ranted and ranted all along concerning his unfortunate series of events, and that I had that human nature of schadenfreude laughing at him. That’s what I thought when I listened to a podcast of Greg James’s show on BBC Radio 1 in which he had an 40-minute interview about his life. However the impression was swept away when I had engaged with this book with my train of thoughts. Actually he is just a harmless moaning person, thinking that this world and its people gradually and increasingly bear watching; he is just normal as you and me about things going on here in this planet.

Anyway, he travels around different countries and sees how peoples settle with topics regarding marriage, kids, vocation and money, happiness, and death, thereby knowing whether those experience would change his frame of mind (he has a long-term girlfriend and have been together for 20 years, never wants to get married or has kids). After seeing and getting deep about their cultures and the topics; observing at close quarters he comes up with and adopts what he thinks the best interpretations reflecting overall viewpoints and conclusion on the topics. For example, on “marriage” chapter, he has an insight to combine drive-thru marriage in Las Vegas – considered to be the most convenient yet fragile marriage procedure – with smell (the best and effective method in finding a lifelong partner) , and ditching the long hours Indian bulky marriage ceremony in holding a new way of nuptial do for a couple from the US. Clever idea.

The best stuff to make the travelling thing much more interesting is that he recounts his childhood experience and weird events along the book, which adds a strong humourous revival into the journal. There are some bits that make me LMAO; for instance, on “kids” chapter, he goes to a big fertility festival in Japan where couples get together and seek blessing for new babies. One guy is wearing a pink plastic penis on his head and gets surrounded by huge populace. Karl then recalls:

“I was sure if he was some kind of official at the festival or just a local nutter. There used to be a man on our estate called Mad John who did this sort of thing on the back of the 261 bus into Manchester, and he got put away for it.”

and after that, he attends a party held by a group of middle-aged women, and they all have talking dolls with them representing their phantom kids. He says:

“They’re odd-looking things, sort of like furry Teletubbies with a hint of Wayne Rooney about them.” 

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LOL. I think he hits on the right note!

On serious matters, he ponders some argumentative mindsets. He questions that who would be more tolerable, a grumpy considerate person or a happy selfish person? There is no way you can make all people happy at all times, but you cannot make someone mad just seeing your happy face dishing out selfish acts.

This gets me thinking that people always judge things by their clever misconceptions and experience. For example, I have a sort of mopey look. When I am not smiling, my lips curls upwards and I frown naturally that make me look like a miserable person not contented with this world, which is not advantageous for a woman, and people asks why what is wrong with you? Cheer up! Then they chat to people with happy looks. That’s annoying and as a vicious cycle this makes me an unsociable person and they think I am not sociable and some stay away from me. In this case my personality is naturally molded by them. BUT I am just a peaceful person! And you know the persons who look happy probably think of plotting against you!

At the end of the day, I think he is just a practical and down-to-earth bloke trying to live in a world which he wants to be more moralised, so there is a probability that you will get bored at the end of this journal like eating roughage at lunch time, but it will cheer you up at midnight after all the backlog of daily work, and when you read that in bed, it’s like listening to a pleasant old chap in the pub ranting about this miserable world, whether he is thinking your thing or change your old ways of thinking.