Louisa Parry

Louisa is a container of multitudes. She likes people, places and things.

This blog is mostly used for her "Three Beautiful Things" journal - every night before bed, she records at least three pleasant things that happened during the day. They're not always about her dog/cats. She occasionally writes slightly more substantial stuff too.

Contact: louisa at louisaparry dot co dot uk // @louisa_

08 February 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Review: Soppy by Philippa Rice

Soppy by Philippa Rice is a small collection of illustrations rather than a graphic novel – but boy, I have never known a comic to so accurate be summed up in its title! (This isn’t a bad thing.)

The (biographic) story is really basic – our two characters meet, date, and move in together – and we see cute set pieces from along that path. We see a few of their hobbies/interests, but we’re told very little about their actual characters – and we don’t know why there was a need to buy milkshakes near the end – which makes the scenes both specific and generic enough that every happy couple will see themselves in the figures. (I pointed out the Carcassonne page and the most appropriate set of sleeping positions to John and we were soppy ourselves.)

The artwork is cute – there is no better word for it. Rice makes good use of her three colour (black, white and red) palette and I wasn’t surprised to see that she has an interest in fibre arts because there is such lovely, simple attention to detail on the textiles throughout, which contrasts with the clean, stylised flatness elsewhere. I also liked that she chose to make her avatar a little podgy – zaftig – rather than svelte.

It doesn’t really try to be more than it is – a modern, less-naked ‘Love Is…’ comic. I imagine it’ll be bought a lot this week (given it’s Valentine’s Day on Sunday) and I think it’ll be largely well received. It is soppy but you know, that’s alright once in a while: read it when you’re in the right mood and you’ll find it lovely; read it on a cynical day and you might want to vomit.

It reminded me of “Will You Still Love Me If I Wet The Bed?“, Liz Prince’s comic collection about her then-current relationship: they come from a very different aesthetic position but the charming content is similar. Both will remain on my bookshelf for when I want a drop of sweetness in my life.

30 January 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Review: Gut by Giulia Enders

Gut by Giulia Enders is an excellent, readable book, shedding light on one of the most underrated parts of our body.

The book is divided into three broad sections: first, the physiology from the mouth to the bum (though it actually starts at the bum, since that’s the bit that gets our juvenile attention, then doubles back to the other end); next, anomalies in the system and how it interacts with other bits of us; and finally, the micro-organisms that live with(in) us, where they come from and how we should treat them.

For obvious, self-obsessed reasons, I found the section on the interactions between the gut and the brain (and thus mental health) particularly interesting but wished the section on vomiting had included a section on people who don’t/can’t vomit. I also enjoyed the section of helicobacter pylori – why it’s not all bad – and was inspired to be generally a bit nicer to my microbiome in the future. Over the years, for one reason or another, I’ve picked up a fair bit of the information covered in the book but it was still useful to read it all as a single, integrated narrative.

The style of the book is as noteworthy as the content: it’s written in a friendly, fun manner with cute little pen drawings to illustrate the action of villi or how microbacteria can be caught in the air using iodine crystals. As well as the actual illustrations, Enders illuminates everything with analogies – my favourite perhaps being the parallel between the reason why it’s hard to poo when sat up straight and getting grounded for squirting a sibling in the face with a garden hose. Very occasionally – two or three times at most – these get in the way (they’re either cumbersome or actually confuse the issue) but mostly they serve a useful purpose.

An almost overly confident tone is used throughout, treating everything that isn’t explicitly qualified as solid fact. A few times, I felt that this tone was exploited to present debatable theories as gospel — especially in the chattier bits, she would allude to/reference the common prevailing opinion on the subject for the sake of a joke or neat closing line, when the new research on the subject presents a muddier or contrary position. There is a lengthy reference list at the back of the book but nothing is cited/footnoted directly — and this made it feel like a lighter, less substantiated book than it really is. (I realise this is a common problem with pop science books.)

Overall though, it’s a great book – interesting, informative and a genuine pleasure to read. I’d recommend it to anyone with a gut or the desire to relay the specific texture of their poo.

21 January 2016 ~ 0 Comments

3BT – I ruined it – hurrah/sample, chats, quick

3BT

1. I’ve ruined one of my favourite video games for myself – I set up a map that I thought would produce the ultimate level experience but actually, it turned out quite boring, and not only couldn’t I be bothered to finish that one, the sensation carried over into the next map too. This is a beautiful thing because it made me want to do other things instead, more interesting and productive things. I’ll come back to the game at some point — I always do, I’ve been playing it for 18 years and counting, off and on — but for now, I’ll spend my time in better ways.

1b. The third sample piece of felt is the best – a combination of refining the technique and using less coarse (more easily feltable) fibre. It’s not quite as interesting as I thought it would be but it inspires further ideas – and I can embellish the sample to explore those ideas further.

2. A serious but positive conversation over a cup of tea. Later, a silly chat over Hangouts.

3. A tub of leftover curry from the freezer makes a very quick and very tasty meal.

21 January 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Review: “Er ist wieder da” (“Look Who’s Back”) by Timur Vermes

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes is a German satirical novel about Hitler. (As my German extends as far as noting that the apple is green and the girl’s dress is blue, I read it in translation as “Look Who’s Back” by Jamie Bulloch.)

The story begins with Hitler waking up, dazed and stinking of petrol, on an anonymous patch of parkland – in 2011. He has no memory of what came immediately before (his last memory is seemingly sitting with his wife Eva in the Fuhrerbunker) and no idea where he is or how he got there. In part, it is a standard fish out of water narrative – we laugh at his inaccurate impressions of fashion and technology while being reminded just how ridiculous and fleeting trends are.

But of course, he’s not just any old time traveller – he’s Hitler. His views are not just that of a man out of his time period or even a generic Nazi out of his time period, but … Hitler. Everything is seen from – and often misunderstood because of – his singular view point, which allows for some fun wordplay early on (think the Back to the Future ‘give me a Tab/I can’t give you a tab until you order something’ conversation but about advertising flyers & the Luftwaffe) and more involved political satire later on.

More interestingly, we see how others react to him. While he is clearly recognisable (especially when wearing his military uniform), no one really, truly accepts that he is who he says he is. He’s mistaken as a method actor or a committed comedian doing a bit to satirise the state of Germany in the 2010s, and a stroke of good fortune puts him on the path to becoming a television/YouTube star. He doesn’t try to be funny of course but people laugh anyway: partly at the non-sequiturs, partly out of discomfort and/or surprise that anyone has said such an outrageous thing and partly at the juxtaposition between his views & the reality of life today. The latter is key to his popularity – people assume he’s satirizing contemporary politics while actually he’s trying to regain his former position. In the end (spoilers), he enrages the wrong people (not who you’d think) and ends up in hospital – where he finds himself courted by the full rainbow of political parties in Germany because they each feel there is some overlap between his ideas and their own.

It’s an interesting premise which creates plenty of comedy, but ultimately I was a little disappointed with it. I suspect this is, in a large part, because I’m not intimately familiar with the current political situation in Germany (which is much more complicated than ours in the UK) so missed a lot of the nuance. But the book also let itself down on occasion too: for example, it tiptoes towards some difficult subjects (such as his secretary having Jewish ancestry and her grandmother losing her entire family in the Holocaust) but then at the last minute either backs away again or drops them all together. Hitler is also unnecessarily dumbed down on a few occasions simply to make “world be crazy now” jokes, when there are enough legitimate ones of those already: especially later on in the book, these undermine the developing character and narrative.

Having Hitler as the narrator also makes the book a little hard going. It’s very much Hitler rants, even when he’s

not
orating
on his
television
show

– which gets a little tiresome. I realise criticising Hitler for being a “little too ranty” is an odd complaint but the use of heightened language for long stretches rather interfered with my enjoyment of reading: it was like being bludgeoned with words rather than happily absorbing them. Even with all the ranting though, I felt like the handling of the character was a little too sympathetic – or rather didn’t quite go far enough into the vileness of his beliefs and actions. I don’t think there is any value in simply portraying Hitler as an all-out evil monster (in fact I think that’s incredibly harmful) but I think the ultimate point of the book would be stronger if he was more accurately awful: that he could rise/return to power in spite of his worst ideas because ordinary people can see value in some parts of what he is saying and ignore the rest until it is too late.

20 January 2016 ~ 0 Comments

3BT – change, dogs can look up/adjustments, sauce

3BT

1. The engulfing fogginess gives way to bright sunshine.

2. E-dog looks up at me with a happy face.

2b. Orion slowly appears as I walk down the road as the sky gets darker, my eyes adjust further and I duck out from underneath the streetlights.

3. The sauce is a little sloppy but delightfully rich.

19 January 2016 ~ 0 Comments

3BT – offset, twist, happy burgers, straight edge

3BT

1. The spicy pickled peppers offset everything else.

2. Kaufman mirrors me, twisting his head at an increasingly steep angle until our eyes are vertical rather than horizontal.

3. We’re listening to Queen and the song declares “you’re my best friend”. “You’re my best friend,” says John, you make me very happy.” “You make me burgers,” I reply. We conclude that burgers make me happy so we’re even.

4. I’ve been making crochet blankets for more than a decade but seeing I’ve managed a straight edge still makes me happy.