Onomastics = the study of proper names and their origins.
Something new I learnt today.
We all do it and I don't believe there's anything wrong with it. The look and feel of a book are all part of the experience. Once in a while it's nice to chance a discovery based on nothing more than visual attraction.
Publishers know that covers matter. I recently took part in an online survey on the matter for Harper Collins. As a researcher I love taking part in the few surveys I'm not excluded from, but I'm not really sure I approve of this use of research. I want to think of the cover as an integral part of the creation I own and interact with.
This is why I love some of the stuff Penguin are up to. Giving old words new life by repackaging classics in innovative ways that add to and alter the experience.
They have teamed classic fiction with world-class designers and architects to produce their Designer Classics (NB: only War & Peace designed by Fuel is still available to buy).
And, they have - taking a leaf from Beck's proverbial book - developed My Penguin a range of books with blank covers made of high quality art paper. White space. Waiting for the reader to explore their interpretations of the book.
Although it's a little limited at the moment, I love the idea of an online gallery. It would be really interesting to look at a big collection of visual interpretations of a book that I know & love. It reminded me of this collection of William Burroughs book covers. I Stumbled Upon it a while ago and keep going back to look again and again.
If you follow the links, there are similar collections of some other beat/cult (I never know the right terms) authors. Yet these don't captivate me in the same way. Perhaps that's because I am more familiar with Burrough's work? Or maybe with Burrough's books it's difficult to shy away from confronting the edgy content and this makes them more interesting?
Thanks to Jessica at The Book Bar for bringing the Penguin books and blog to my attention.
I feel a little unsure about posting about this. I want to, but I'm internally cringing at the idea of foisting my holiday snaps on people. I've reconciled myself by remembering that most of my posts are plain self indulgent, and it's not as if I'm forcing anyone to read...
We LOVED Hanoi. It's a perfect place to feel comfortably disoriented in. It hustles and bustles and assaults all your senses - the word cacophony is irrisistable - yet we felt instantly relaxed and immersed in it. We kept getting lucky in Hanoi. We'd step into places that didn't look promising from the outside, only to find somewhere that delighted us one way or another. In hindsight this has little to do with luck, Hanoi is just that kind of place.
Walking around Sapa
Breathtaking in every sense. This area had good fit my preconceived mental image of Vietnam - paddy fields, misty hills, colourful village life. We organised this trip through Handspan and were really happy with it. The walking was moderately challenging (though had it been wet, it would have been tough), and we were given just the right amount of looking after by our guide and homestay hosts. We managed to get far enough away from the tourist hordes without feeling like we were intruding in places where we had no right to be. This is a tension I often feel very uneasy about - one of the reasons I'm rubbish at travel - so it was satisfying to get it right for a change.
Kayaking around Halong Bay
Another trip organised with Handspan, and another fantastic experience. Halong Bay has a landscape that seems more fantastical than real. Yet the floating houses populated by people subsisting on fishing makes the reality unforgettable. Kayaking is a great way to get around the bay, the pace and perspective are perfect.
Or Ho Chi Min City, if you prefer. We didn't spend long here, and didn't manage to get much of a feel for it. We stayed in a smart area with an anonymous 'big city' feel. We walked to the backpacking area, which had a full-on backpacking feel. In between we saw snippets of the real city, where people worked and lived, but didn't enough time to linger.
Boats and Bikes in the Mekong Delta
The Mekong Delta was a different world from everywhere else we saw in Vietnam. Low, lush and wet, drowned in muddy orange water. This was the first 'great' river I've seen, and the vastness of the mighty Mekong overwhelmed me. We were a little disappointed with our trip (organised with Sinhbalo) as we felt rushed, particularly while biking.
Our friends Jeff & Ingrid tipped us off about this island. The perfect place to relax at the end of a busy trip. We feel very lucky to have got to see it when we did. It's on the cusp of becoming somewhere very different. An international airport is planned for 2010, and there are a number of swanky resorts being developed.
The wonderful Tropicana is a place that has got the right things right. The drinks weren't free, but the beach was idylic and we adored our comfortably shabby bungalow with its rocking chairs and frogs. Friendliness was promised and delivered in spades.
We re-met American artists Joe and Mary here. We had initially bumped into in Halong Bay. Joe's going to be in the country for a while and is keeping a blog, Waterland Diaries about his travels and contemporary art in Vietnam. Two weeks was too short for me to get a satisfactory understanding of the people and the place, so I will be reading Joe's blog with interest.
It's probably obvious, but I've really enjoyed my little foray into board games. There's quite a few more that I would like to post about, but I've wasted more than enough time on this already. To finish off, here are a few nice links I've found along the way.
The Board Game Company would be a nice place to visit should you find yourself in Newport Pagnell. I bet the people who run it and work there are really nice. They do a great line of vintage games, like these:
As Yehuda passionately points out, there's a whole world of modern games waiting to be found at boardgamegeek. Yehuda's blogroll attests to the fact that there are a lot of people out there blogging about board games.
Finally, there's the International Society for Board Games Studies, a multi-disciplinary group dedicated to the study of these matters. I haven't had much time to look at the work, but I like the fact it exists.
Pictures from boardgamegeek
From memory, The Game Of Life was a bit rubbish. My motivation for posting is that for many years, my only half-decent scar story was my claim that I'd been scarred by the church in the game of life. In a moment of over-excitement I'd brought my wrist down on the plastic steeple. In later versions of the game the church has a tower so perhaps I wasn't the only child who was injured.
The aim of the game was to drive through life ticking off milestones and accumulating money, until you reached the end. Not death, but a (hopefully wealthy) retirement.
It's interesting to look at how the game has evolved from its 1861 start point as The Checkered Game Of Life, to the latest version, last updated in the 1990's. In summary, the game has become more complex over time. Wikipedia has a load of detail on this evolution, but I think the different names given to retirement options give a nice feel for it.
1860's: Happy Old Age
1960's: Millionnaire Acres or The Poor Farm
1980's: Millionnaire or Bankrupt
1990's: Millionnaire Estates or Countryside Acres
I've just realised that this is the first of my 'board games' that actually includes a board. Apologies if I've inadvertently bothered anyone's pedant sensibilities. Hopefully this fab double-sided board will help make amends.
The Great Game Of Britain is a lesser known gem in the sphere of board games. The basic idea is to race around the British rail network, visiting six destinations (3 x near, 3 x far) before returning to London. Of course racing around the British rail network isn't straightforward, so whenever you change lines, travel across London or need to switch to a ferry (for instance, to get to the Isle of Wight) you pick up a hazard. You also encounter signal failures - in the game you know, rather than suspect, that these are the work of malevolent forces hell-bent on frustrating you.
Other than selecting your route, and deciding how evil you want to be (trapping someone in Cornwall is generally a good ploy), there's not a lot of strategy involved. Most of the game depends on the luck of the draw and the roll of the dice - if you have to visit both Penzance and Stornoway you're most likely stuffed. But this makes it a good game to play as or with kids.
It's educational too. My geography leaves a lot to be desired, yet thanks to this game the location of certain UK towns and cities is indelibly imprinted in my mind. Each of the location cards provides a snippet of tourist info - just in case you were dubious of the value of visiting Peterborough for example.
The loveliest thing about this game is the double-sided board. You can choose whether to play on modern tracks or to go back to an age of steam. As children we shunned the charm of yesteryear, preferring the clean lines and recognisable counties of the modern board. In hindsight, it strikes me that this was great preparation for a career in qualitative research.
Sadly, I haven't managed to uncover any trivia on this one. It doesn't even rate a listing on wikipedia. All the great photos in this post have been taken from this ebay listing.