Tag Archives: Humour

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

28 Nov

Eric Idle was always my favourite Python. His quick wit and way with words delighted me since I first watched any Monty Python.

His memoirs, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life: A Sortabiography”, are a delight. Self deprecating in a typically English way, but refreshingly honest and upfront. He doesn’t hide from his mistakes, or blame others, which makes a change from a lot of other celebrity memoirs.

The book is also the history of a song. The wonderful “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” first performed in “Life of Brian”. It has become the number one funeral song in the UK, and if you know the song, it’s easy to understand why. When I was fighting for my own life in hospital earlier this year, some of the words almost became a mantra to me.

I encountered the song before I saw the movie. My first year in high school we had a headmaster who always started the assemblies with a piece of classical music. One day the seventh form decided to sabotage him and swapped out his chosen piece of pompous boredom for “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”. My enduring memory of this occasion is the majority of the other teachers trying not to laugh out loud. Few succeeded.

This is a gloriously delicious book. The best memoir I have read this year.

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Academia Obscura

28 Feb
I first came across “Academia Obscura” by Glen Wright via the Twitter account @AcademiaObscura. This is an account that points out the lighter, sometimes absurb, often downright freaking oddball, aspects of life as an academic.

Now I have several academic friends and I have listened to their tales of woe (and student ignorance) at length. Not to mention the fact that I aspired to the academic life myself, though due to circumstances, was unable to reach it. Hell, my English teacher and I already had the title of my first paper worked out! Watership Down: Rabbits and the Traditional Arthurian Quest Motif. The thing is, after reading this book, that putative paper sounds sane and sensible!

I frequently laughed aloud at the sheer ridiculousness of some of the papers mentioned in the book. The scary thing is that the majority were science papers! Though most of the laughs came from the comfortable style, and quirky comments and footnotes of author Glen Wright.

WARNING: This is one book where you MUST read the footnotes. You will miss too much if you don’t. Hell, the footnotes alone are worth the price of the book.

A must read for anyone who is an academic, knows an academic, aspires to be an academic, or has a twisted sense of humour.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll sit here and give some serious thought to actually writing that paper.

Dwarves in Space 2: Family Matters

10 Jul

First off I’ll let it be known that I was gifted a copy of the book by the author, S. E. Zbasnik, in exchange for an honest review.

Imagine, if you can, a world created by collaboration between Douglas Adams and J. R. R. Tolkien.  If you can manage that, then you’ve at least got a bit of a handle on the Dwarves in Space series.

“Family Matters” is the second book in the series and carries on from the first book.  This one explores Variel’s background a little more when her husband turns up basically demanding money with menaces (or, in this case, lawyers, it all amounts to the same thing).

The plot twists and turns as Variel tries to find a way to bury her past, and this time have it stay buried.

Fast paced, quirky, and at times laugh out loud funny.

Highly recommended.

Furiously Happy

10 Apr

“Furiously Happy” is the second book by Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess dealing with her life coping with mental illness.

I have to say, first off, I really admire Jenny.  She has balls, honesty, frankness, and one of the most twisted senses of humour on the planet.

For a book about someone dealing with mental illness, I was reduced to tears of hysterical laughter far too many times.  So many times that it felt almost wrong to be laughing.

The sections on her trip to Australia, and the voodoo vagina, both left me breathless with laughter.

I cannot recommend “Furiously Happy” highly enough.  It is both entertaining and thought provoking.  If you, or someone in your life, is dealing with mental illness, I suggest you read this.  It will help.  If only to give you a sense of perspective.

And It’s Goodnight From Him…

31 Mar

Feeling a little sad this morning.  I came online to the news that Ronnie Corbett has passed away.

“The Two Ronnies” starring Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett were a huge part of my childhood and teen years.  I quite literally laughed until I cried at their shows. Some of their jokes are still almost catchphrases in my family today.  For years the English morals campaigner, Mrs Mary Whitehouse, was never referred to in our household except by the Two Ronnies spoonerism of Mrs Hairy Whitemouse.

The sketches were hilarious.  Pretty sure anyone who ever watched ‘Fork Handles” laughed themselves silly, but to me the best parts of the show were the serials and the musical numbers.

The adventures of private detectives Charley Farley and Piggy Malone were wonderful.  Such a glorious piss take of Agatha Christie style mysteries.  But my favourites were “The Worm that Turned” about a female dominated dystopia (staring the wonderful Diana Dors as the military dictator of England), and the Spike Milligan penned “The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town”.  Both have stuck in my memory long after the original viewings.

The musical numbers were always a high point for each show.  Never mind that neither of the Ronnies could actually sing that well.  The numbers were colourful, and full of familiar songs with new, and often vaguely naughty, words.  The Aldershot Brass Ensemble is still a massive favourite of mine, as is The Boys in the Ballet – which is set to the music of the Nutcracker Suite.  It will still sometimes find myself singing their lyrics when I hear the music from Nutcracker.

The Two Ronnies supplied a humour that was, at the same time, both naughty and innocent.  Clever words plays, appallingly bad puns, and always, always delivered with warmth and humour by two of England’s greatest treasures.

Rest in Peace, Ronnie Corbett… pretty sure you’re probably having a beer at the heavenly bar with Ronnie Barker tonight… and for goodness sake don’t ask if they’ve got any fork handles.

The Geography of Bliss

27 May

I have to say that “The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World” was one fantastically entertaining book.

Eric Weiner set out to visit the happiest places in the world (excluding Disneyland) with the guidance of scientific research to tell him where to go.

The places he visited were many and varied and not always places one would immediately connect with the concept of happiness, Iceland, for example.

Eric Weiner is given to much personal introspection which adds another dimension to the book.  This is not another facile “Been there; seen that” travelogue.

Usually when I read a travel book, I use it to travel vicariously.  To read about places that sound interesting, but I have no real interest or intention of ever visiting.  This time however, was different.  Eric Weiner’s descriptions of Iceland have left me with a desire to visit this interesting and intriguing country.

Well written, entertaining, and in many places deep and thoughtful, “The Geography Bliss” has much to offer the casual reader, as well as dedicated aficionados of travel writing.  Even those with an interest in psychology will find much of interest in the book.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir

18 May

This book, by Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess,  is what I would call “disturbingly funny”.  It is at times disturbing, at times funny, and very often both at once.

Jenny Lawson is open and frank about her battle with mental illness in this disarming, charming, twisted, and downright weird little book.

At times I laughed until I cried.  You can’t help but laugh at the things that have happened in Jenny’s life, her turn of phrase and obvious wit, but never for one moment think you are laughing at Jenny.

Jenny Lawson is incredibly brave to share her journey and ongoing war with mental illness with the world.  She invites you to laugh with her.  Never at her.  She is so damn brave and forthright, that laughing at her is virtually impossible.  At least, I found it so.

Having spent many of my childhood holidays staying with family members whose decorating choices included dead animals, lots of dead animals, I probably found the stories of Jenny’s taxidermist father funnier than many other people would.

I highly recommend “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir” to anyone who is dealing with mental illness, either their own or someone elses, anyone who appreciates frank and honest memoirs, and those with a deeply twisted sense of humour.

The King’s Blood

21 Apr

Firstly, I will say that I was given a copy of “The King’s Blood” by the author, Sabrina Zbasnik, to read and review.

I really enjoyed “The King’s Blood”. The premise is a fantasy trope of unlikely survivor of a royal massacre attempting to win his throne with the assistance of the usual unlikely allies.

And that is about as usual as the book gets.

“The King’s Blood” happily smashes its way through all the fairytale ideals and fantasy stereotypes like an ogre with a sledgehammer.

Sabrina Zbasnik’s sense of humour is evil in the extreme. Imagine “Lord of the Rings” written by a combination of Douglas Adams and George Carlin and you’ve almost got a handle on “The King’s Blood”.

The main characters of Aldrin and Ciara are well written and well rounded. Even though they are 15 when the book begins, this is not a young adult novel by any stretch of the imagination.

Strong, quirky characterisation sits “The King’s Blood” well above the average range of the current crop of fantasy novels.

Sabrina Zbasnik provides a wonderfully fun read, and in my opinion, her female characters can hold their own with any seen in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Sword and Sorceress” series or Esther Friesner’s “Chicks in Chainmail” series.

I recommend “The King’s Blood” to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy, strong female characters, and has a sense of humour.

Shatner Rules

16 Mar

As a memoir and a humourous one, “Shatner Rules” is a good read.  There are two things that prevent it from being a great read.  The first one is William Shatner’s ego, which brings to mind the line from Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “If there’s anything more important than my ego around here, I want it caught and shot now.”

The second one is the repeated attacks on George Takei.  Yes, I know the two men don’t get on. Yes, I know that in the opinions of many, George started it.  That is beside the point.  The repeated snarking just comes across as petty and pathetic and detracts from the humour of the book.  And, to be frank, makes William Shatner look more like a whining 3 year old than the octogenarian he is.

And the book is humourous.  Absolutely laugh out loud funny in many places.  The book managed to reduce me to helpless giggles on many occasions.

William Shatner also had much to say on the subject of growing old, and most of it is thought provoking and shows the true depths of the man.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to all Star Trek fans, but they’ve probably all ready read it.

The Life of Captain Reilly

20 Jun

One of the joys of the eBook revolution is the sheer volume of new books now available.

Recently I came across a short Kindle book titled “The Life of Captain Reilly” by J. T. O’Neil which purports to be a novel about an English airline captain.

This is probably one of the funniest books I have ever read.  The book follows one day in the life of Captain Reilly as he and his First Officer, Dan, fly an Airbus from Gatwick to Malaga and back.

Interspersed with flight details are wonderful details and explanations of aerodynamics, air craft procedures, and a little aviation history.  These explanations had me nearly hysterical with laughter in many places.  I totally lost it when O’Neil referred to an Airbus as a ’70 tonne Reliant Robin’.  Pity I was on the tram at the time.  Oh well, at least I got lots of space when everyone moved away from me.

J. T. O’Neil has a wonderfully worldly weary style, acidic sense of humour, and a fine line in sarcasm.

O’Neil also has some serious point to make on the devaluation of pilot’s skills and abilities by airlines.  The way both pilots and cabin crew are treated is disgusting. Enough so that I will NEVER fly on a low cost airline.  Money before people is not an ethos I subscribe too.

Cabin Pressure fans will know what I mean when I say this is the sort of book Douglas Richardson would write if the character was so inclined.

What we really need is an audio book version of “The Life of Captain Reilly” read by Roger Allam.  That would be perfect.

I would heartily recommend “The Life of Captain Reilly” to all Cabin Pressure fans (cheese trays get a mention), all aviation geeks, and to anyone with a sense of humour.

I look forward to reading O’Neil’s other books “The Life of Captain Reilly 2 – Descent” and “From Russia with Stuff”.

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