Cloud Appreciation

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Just another day, just outside my window

I can remember the first (and only) time I heard someone describe a cloud as something more than just the warning of precipitation — actually, I remember reading it. My friend had gotten an English correspondent off some band’s forum online and she’d sent him a carefully folded letter that involved a thorough description of her most favorite type of clouds — cumulus nimbus clouds.

At the time, I was about 13, he was about 15 and we both had only heard “Nimbus” from Harry Potter’s Nimbus 2000. Thank God for Wikipedia. We looked them up, picked our favorites (pretty much any cumulus cloud), and that was that. Never heard anyone talking about them clouds in non metereological ways again.

That is, until last week, when I somehow ended up watching a documentary on clouds, cloud spotting and how a professor who needed a catchy name for a speech on clouds ended up with the “Inaugural Speech for the Cloud Appreciation Society” — and found followers. He even created an app (Mac/Android) so you can take a picture and figure out what kind of cloud you’re looking at.

And I’m actually very tempted to pay the R$6,23 to use it, except my phone (for all the good qualities that it embeds, such as not breaking when I repeatedly drop it) does not have a decent camera.

But I’ve found myself looking up at the sky more. And finding numerous different clouds everywhere.

And you know when you’re watching a movie or seeing an ad and you think to yourself “Well, that ain’t real”? Unless I’m in some sort of Truman Show my brain is playing tricks with me, ’cause those clouds up there? They were in my backyard. I was closing my window and I was just “Wow… that can’t be real”. But it was. And I can’t even tell how many sights like these I’ve missed because I was indoors or not looking up.

Also, apparently “Cloud Study” is a thing, and has been a thing way before meteorologists were called meteorologists. There was a guy called John Constable in the early 19th century who did a hundred studies of cloud formations —

Cloud Study 400

John Constable

And apparently they (meteorologists) are taking a closer look at these paitings, now with a cientific purpose, since Constable was very faithful to reality. You can see more of his paintings by clicking on the picture bellow and going into the Tate Museum’s website, and more on his life and work clicking here.

“Cloud Study”, 1822. John Constable

Constable, however, was not the only one to like clouds. It’s just a bit unusual to portray reality. Dutch Jacob van Ruisdael, for instance, created his own clouds to make up dramatic scenes.

“A Landscape with a Ruined Castle and a Church”, 1665-70, Jacob van Ruisdael

As well as (Joseph Mallord) William Turner — who was the only painter whose name got stuck in my head because his paintings were denoted “J.M. William Turner”.

“Raby Castle, the Seat of the Earl of Darlington”, J.M. William Turner

But anyways, all that to tell you I like clouds.

Do you like clouds?

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Crappy hotel, fantastic view

Lucky number seven

OK. Let me just start with: I don’t DO new year’s resolutions. I mean, really.

They’re doomed to fail.

January is month of extremely high hopes, whereas the ensuing months are… not energetic enough to keep up. Setting up goals in January is like asking a tiny kid what he wants to be when he grows up, after he’s rocked at kart racing for the first time. Of course he’s going to be a Formula 1 winner.

HOWEVER, after reading Ms Inkeri’s post I’ve decided to write Things I Aspire To For 2014. But I’ll call it LN7 and copy her number seven. But in my defense: I was born on the 7th, the week has 7 days,  7 is a prime number (and I like prime numbers), and according to Chinese medicine, life is divided in 7 year chunks. Tadaaa!

In 2014 it would be very nice to:

1 – Exercise regularly

Which I have. At least for every weekday since January 2nd. I’m the opposite of fit and my classes are all the way up 4 flights of stairs. Gasping for air ain’t attractive.

Also, found peace with dance classes. More specifically, zumba. I hate running around like a hamster and Zumba actually feels more demanding than running track — and it’s loads more fun.

2 – Keeping up with uni

It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s not that I’m not organized. I’m just… poorly motivated to fully dedicate myself to uni. I’ve got two years left, hopefully including an exchange program, and I am going to do my best, and show people what I’m capable of.

And, you know, not drive myself insane when things begin sounding cryptic.

3 – Not feel guilty about which books I’m reading

Ever since I entered college, I’ve been reading very dense books. I mean, seriously. They are from the 1970s. They’ve got loads of equations. They’ve got examples. Usually not fun examples. And even if I didn’t tire my brain out with those stuff, why should anyone feel guilty going to the bookstore and picking up a Sophie Kinsella book, or whatever chick lit I’ve found? It’s still one book more than the average person in my country reads. Per year.

Entertainment is a valid choice. Ignore the judgemental eyes of the hipster salesperson.

4 –  Stay calm. There’s plenty of time.

Well, there might not be. But the things I usually stress about are things not worth stressing about. It’s done. Things will fall where they may. Be zen about it. Try learning to french braid your own hair. Maybe Inkeri can help.

Just don’t fret about all that planning and all that nothingness. About your age. About the years going by. About people. About liiife… just HUSH.

Also, this was the item I’d saved for my reading goals this year. But it’s not worth it. I don’t want to start demanding myself to read. I like reading. Let’s keep it that way. I read about ten books this year, but I also found three new favorite authors (Danny, Jenny, John) – actually, four, if I was entirely honest. I read books that enticed me, that made me laugh, that made me cry, that made me think, but most importantly: that kept me in cozy company. I really loved some of the books I read this year, even found a top favorite. And I’m pretty sure my being extremely picky had something to do with it, so I’ll trust my gut.

Though I probably should consider taking a closer look at the books I currently own, as my bookshelf situation is a growing nightmare. No. More. Bookstores.

5 – Improve my French to B2 level

And I mean B2. I have studied it on and off for 2,5 years, but I feel in no way confident about it. This holiday I have been on Duolingo quite often (you can even check that here). Duolingo is a really, really great memorizing tool for learning new languages. If you are looking into German, French, Spanish or Portuguese I invite you to take a look.

But I still need to do some deeper reading/writing. For that, of course, I’ve bought some books (Le Petit Nicolas, and a book by G. Musso) I’m too scared to read yet, and I’m trying to find a penpal (email or otherwise). Suggestions on either?

6 – Go and get that exchange program

I want to study abroad. I want to learn how other people live. I want to go somewhere cold! And I won’t rest until I do! Hehe. Seriously. On-going procedures. Fingers crossed.

I just need to work on not sabotaging myself.

But I think first and foremost, after this year that’s gone by, I’d like to be able to say that I’ve managed this:

7 – Stay true to myself

I know it’s corny. I really do. But I honestly feel I wasn’t true to myself this year. And that caused me a lot of unnecessary pain. Not to get too dramatic here, but to put it simply: I let people treat me poorly and didn’t stand up for myself. I let myself be carried away and forgot that the one person who knows what makes me happy or not is really me. I thought my sense of self-worth and my values were bigger than whatever petty remark could turn me into, and I was disappointed in myself.

But this year being happy will be a goal, not pleasing others. I am important. What I feel matters.

And that will be my motto for this year. Life’s too short to spend it dreading mornings. And I think that’s the first thing I’ll do: start sleeping early and waking up well rested and looking forward to a brand new day.

Have I mentioned it’s 2h25 in the morning here?

I’ll start tomorrow :P

Otherwise, I pl— No, I won’t plan, I’ll intend to write a little bit. Either here, either privately, try to keep my head in order. But most definitely share fantastic books I’ve come across (maybe even the embarrassing ones), including some from last year which I shamefully neglected to review, and anything nice that comes my way — and hopefully I’ll read about your’s too :)

Happy New Year!

Forgetfulness — and then old friends resurface

Beware: memories come up and take over.

Have you ever felt scared that you were forgetting your life? The childhood stories your mother doesn’t insist on re-telling at every family gathering, the secrets you shared with your friends, those simple little things that meant so much to you?

Or even more recent stories, things you lived in college, parties you went to, awesome people you talked to that one time and never saw again, stuff that made you feel every there. Like this isn’t a trial, this isn’t a movie, this is your life, and these are your stories?

I’m twenty years old, and I’ve held some sort of diary (which I liked to call “journal”, so I’d feel all grown up and British) ever since I was 11. I have a trunkful of all my older journals, with all the little dramas, and all those hidden messages we’d send to one another during class, all the sketches from my “I’m-such-an-artist” fase, several comments on whatever reading I’d been doing at the time… It’s A LOT. I mean, REALLY.

But if you ask me right now to tell you a story about that time, I can only think of the ones that bugged me. You know. That time, in Drama Class, that I got the nameless part and teacher was personally offended I didn’t want to jump up and down in utter joy. Or that other time that I was going to go to the city’s Public Library with my best friend, but my mother got a migrain and couldn’t take me, and she told me “Well, you had to learn disappointment somehow” and I think I might have felt the mental equivalent of “¬¬” for the first time. Or that time my friend started reading the first Harry Potter, and I was on The Prisoner of Azkaban, and accidentally told her about Hogwarts and she did the funniest and scariest face I’d ever seen.

OK. Maybe a few happy ones too.

But it’s weird. Everyone remembers something different. The other day I ran into (ok, it was on facebook) a friend from the “Before I was 10” fase and I remember so clearly the time her mother took me to see her for a surprise, and I hid on the backseat and jumped out when she showed up. She remembers a letter I wrote to her in glitter. I have no recollection of that.

I also remember that once, literally on the playground, a new group of girls came up to me and started saying “you” a lot. Don’t remember what they were saying. But my friend – my best friend – came up and said, as angry as a kid can get, “HER NAME IS M.!” And I was so confused. I didn’t really get conflict.

Not long after that, we got to different classrooms, different periods (I started going to school on mornings), finally different schools, and now different cities. (Actually, for a while there, different countries too, I now found out.)

And it’s so strange to wonder what might had happened if we’d stayed close friends. She’s as confident and fierceless as she was when she was a child. She’s driven. A bit impulsive too, but I think it suits her.

See? That’s what happens when I try to remember stuff about my past: I get overjoyed when I drag something out of the black hole that my memory is, and immediately feel the need to record everything I’ve remembered. Why?

So I don’t lose it? But it’s happened already.

Why should it matter?

But anyways. Sorry about the trippyness, I’m just getting that itch to write stuff.

Here‘s a lovely French movie that shows how we can completely forget how we were when we were kids. But in a less cliché way.

 

-M.

 

Sophie Kinsella and the whole girly issue

So I’m starting to believe that it’s not that I’m all grown up and/or have surpassed my girly fase, it’s just that The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight was a bad book with a great title. I was wandering through a bookstore (you know, minding my own business, fully aware that I have too many unread books at home) when I bump into a Sophie Kinsella book I still haven’t read.

It was not my fault! It practically jumped off its shelf onto my lap!

And, well, finding an unread Sophie Kinsella book is a hard thing to do…

So I got it.

It was I’ve got your number. And it did not disappoint.

12033455A while ago, a friend had sent me an article comparing Sophie Kinsella books and Nicholas Sparks books, and commenting on how they wrote pretty much the same thing over and over again. They concluded that at least SK frequently throws in very witty, humourous and/or insightful phrases. Not just extremely mellow clichés. And I agree with them.

Yeah, it’s chick lit. Yeah, it’s not going to be life changing. It’s an indulgence, like one of the blurbs say. Something to make you happy and all romantic-y. And that was just what I needed.

The story is all about Poppy and how she’s desperately looking for her emerald engagement ring, which she lost at a hotel event, then loses her phone and fishes out a discarded one in the bin of the hotel – and that phone happens to be from the now ex-PA of some consulting executive. And he lets her keep it as long as she forwards all his emails. You can pretty much guess how the story goes after that. It has some twists, some drama. SK always handles her drama so well, so delicate. So un-cliché-d. I really like that. People underestimate her abilities.

I had a great time reading this book. If you ever come across it, and just want to be distracted, pick it up and you won’t be sorry.

Should I tolerate it as normal male behavior, like when he gets a cold and starts Googling nose cancer symptoms discharge nostrils?

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What is it about magic?

I know, I know. I’ve neglected this blog for way too long. But now at least I have something to write about. I think.

Yesterday I finished reading “The Magicians’ Guild” by Trudi Canavan, which I’d got from BetterWorldBooks at Tanya‘s suggestion, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

It took me a while to get the courage to start it, to tell you the truth. Though pretty much all my favourite books are set in fantasy worlds, I get quite spooked with covers such as these:

There’s something about half-photoshopped pictures in covers that freaks me out. And as I’ve mentioned, I judge a book by its cover.

But if someone who loves Neil Gaiman as much as I do loved this, it must be good, right? So I picked it up and had a bit of a struggle letting go to study for my pre-midterms. It’s GOOD. The characters are interesting, the story moves along at a quickening pace, and you just can’t wait to read more about this world, this magical society – their buildings, their classes, even their door knobs. Everything is interesting, everything is engaging.

I did take a step back more towards the end of it, though. I had the eerie sensation that this was going to be one of those annoying series with no proper ending ’till the very end at the last book – you’ve read at least one of those, right? But sure enough, it quickly patched things up and though there’s a big hook linking it to the next book (which I’ve already ordered at BWB), the plot of this book was pretty much concluded. Nicely, too.

There were bits that were a bit annoying, particularly whom she chose to trust and distrust, and I wanted to yell at her, but thankfully there’s reason soon enough. There are also bits I didn’t really think matched the character’s previous behaviour – and perhaps that was meant to illustrate personal growth? I don’t know, it still made for pretty witty, fun characters to get to know.

But that was not the thing that I wanted to write about — At the university, a friend came up to me when I was reading this book, looked at the cover and honestly uttered the question “But it’s fiction, it’s fake! How do you bear to read it?”. I was shocked. I’m used to being appalled by their not reading Hitchhikers’ Guide or Harry Potter, and understand that at the moment it is a bit tricky to squeeze in some books not related to our classes, but COME ON.

The most coherent thought I could come up with was “Because it’s FUN”. But that shouldn’t be all of it, should it? There must be a reason for it to be fun. And it’s something that has been tormenting me for days.

Is it about escaping into this other world we know nothing about and discover it bit by bit? I hear that one quite often – stories as a distraction, an escape from reality. And sure, that must be it. But there’s something else too, isn’t there? Something that captures our attention and turns us into little children again.

I think it’s magic.

By reading something someone else wrote we’re giving them the power to construct whatever characters, whatever plots and whatever worlds the author wants. They are masters of the universe for the length of those pages. It feels a bit like magic, doesn’t it? The way twists and fixes spring about. Entire cities created, complex societies described. Creativity flows and we’re drawn to it.

I’ve got this book I got at the airport, it’s called “What are you optimistic about?” and in it there are several little articles by different people saying – you’ve guessed it – what they are optimistic about. One of these is about the world population. The author (whose name I cannot for the life of me find) said he was optimistic about the extra billion people that are expected (and dreaded, for the most part). He says something like “That’s an extra billion creative minds, thinking up solutions”. I’d never heard anyone see it like that.

And I think books can support that view — aren’t they the biggest proof of all the creativity running around?

Through that, I believe reading books somehow gives us power too, in some level. We’re given one of the best presents we could get — hope. That perhaps we’re not as helpless as we’d think. Perhaps all we need is a good idea, a good magician.

What do you think? Was I too high on caffeine and lack of sleep when I thought about this?

And what on earth should I tell No-Fiction Guy?

Nick & Norah

The other day I ended up rewatching this movie called “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist”, which is one of those movies set in one crazy night in New York City. I love this movie. Everytime I watch it, I end up rewatching it the following night. Which is why I refrain from it, actually.

Yeah, it’s Cera and that girl from 2Broke Girls. Still good.

Everything just works so well together — the characters are fun, the pace is fast, the set is seductively urban, the soundtrack is friggin’ fantastic, and I always have a great time watching this eventful night. Probably because I’m not really the sort of girl who’d have this kind of night. You know, wander around the city in the early morning with friends (or really new acquaintances) looking for a band/drunk friend.

Looking for Caroline.

Two years ago, when I first watched the movie, I bought the book it was based on (same title, by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan) — I’m one of those annoying people who go “BUT THE BOOK IS SO MUCH BETTER!” in the movies, so every time I find a movie that I really like that’s based on a book I assume the book must be awesome.

This is not the case.

Just look at it, so tiny and helpless…

I have fun reading it, because it’s too short to resist, and it’s fast enough to keep you through it, but oh-my, is the movie better. Since I’ve never been there, or hung around NYC types, I don’t know if it’s either the movie or the book that better portrays American city kids, but that’s A LOT of “fuck”s. I mean, there are more “fuck”s in this book than “phony”s in Catcher in the Rye. YEAH.

Every time I read it I wonder if people actually talk like that somewhere.

(Here’s the trailer, if you’re a trailer person.)