Digital Photography 1

I took a class this last semester in photography. It was very interesting. I learned a lot about the basics of photography (aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance,…). We had to hand in a final portfolio of 12 pictures, 3 each on the themes of people, light, rhythm and landscape.

This picture is my favorite. It is a picture of Brussel-Centraal, a train station where I spent a lot of time waiting for my train to Kortrijk.

Brussel Centraal

Pentatonix – Live at Trix

I love Pentatonix. I am always impressed by the ability of these 5 people to turn any song into an a capella song. A GOOD a capella song. I saw them last November in London and was blown away. I knew they were good from their YouTube covers, but what I heard live was even more impressive. When they announced another European tour this year I knew I had to go see them again, no matter what. But they made it easy for me. They came to Belgium.

Last Sunday (27 April) they performed at Trix in Antwerp. I went to see them. They were even better than last time. They included some new songs that I love (Daft Punk medley, Say Something) and excluded some songs from last time I wasn’t too fond of (Hey Momma, As Long As You Love Me). The only song I truly missed was Love Lockdown. It has been one of my favorites ever since they first performed it on The Sing-Off.

One thing that also made me love this concert more than the last one was that I was allowed to bring my camera with me. I had gotten permission beforehand to take photos but that turned out to be unnecessary. There was no bag check.

You can see more photos from the concert on Flickr.

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My Books of 2013 – Part 5: Non-fiction

Previously: Part 4 – Classics

For me to read a non-fiction book there has to be a really good reason. I don’t really know why, but I read a lot more fiction than non-fiction. Because the threshold for a non-fiction book is a lot higher I tend to love those I do read more often.

Self-Inflicted Wounds – Aisha Tyler

16248207On the hit comedy podcast Girl on Guy, comedian and actress Aisha Tyler talks with actors, artists, musicians, athletes and iconoclasts about their path to personal and professional success, in forthcoming and sometimes shocking conversation. The coda of the show is Self-Inflicted Wounds-where Aisha’s guests recount something they’ve done that was ill-conceived, dangerous, or just plain dumb-with hilarious or poignant ends. In her book Self-Inflicted Wounds Aisha turns the lens on herself, recounting spectacularly comedic mistakes and stories of crushing personal humiliation, along with what she’s learned. Riotous, revealing, and wonderfully relatable, Self-Inflicted Wounds showcases a sharp comedic voice on the rise.

While I was staying with Andrea in NYC this summer, she suggested I check out Aisha Tyler’s podcast, Girl On Guy. Aisha is the new host of Whose Line Is It Anyway, a show I love and Andrea thought I would like the podcast. She was right, I liked it. A lot, actually. The 2-hour interviews are great, funny and interesting and sometimes painful. While I was in NYC, Aisha did a book signing for the launch of her new book, Self-Inflicted Wounds. I went along with Andrea, bought the book, got it signed and got my picture with Aisha. It was all very fun. As part of Girl On Guy, each guest tells a Self-Inflicted Wound. These are stories, usually funny, of how choices you made caused damage to yourself. In Self-Inflicted Wounds Aisha tells her own stories. She has a very funny voice and it was a fun read.

July 14 – July 29

The Reason I Jump – Naoki Higashida

18168324You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.

I picked up this book after it was recommended on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart was very convincing in saying everyone should read it, and I have to agree with him. This book is not a normal read. It was written by a thirteen-year-old boy with autism, a boy who has a very hard time communicating with the outside world. In this book he describes how he sees the world, and how he thinks this differs with those who don’t have autism. It offers a fascinating insight into a world most people don’t understand.

Oct. 7 – Oct. 8

The Fry Chronicles – Stephen Fry

8649656Stephen Fry is not just a multi-award-winning comedian and actor, but also an author, director and presenter. He is one of the most influential cultural forces in the country. This title details some of the most turbulent and least well known years of his life.

I love Stephen Fry. I think he is smart, funny and he has an amazing way with words. Yet it took me an incredibly long time to get started with this book. Not because I didn’t want to read it, but because I got it as an audiobook (narrated by the man himself!). I’m not in the habit of listening to audiobooks, I have enough podcasts to listen to. Yet once I started with this book it was hard to listen to anything else. Stephen is a very good storyteller and he has lived a fascinating life. If you like Stephen Fry you should really read (or listen to) this book.

Dec. 5 – Dec. 10

Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin

2199The life and times of Abraham Lincoln have been analyzed and dissected in countless books. Do we need another Lincoln biography? In Team of Rivals, esteemed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin proves that we do. Though she can’t help but cover some familiar territory, her perspective is focused enough to offer fresh insights into Lincoln’s leadership style and his deep understanding of human behavior and motivation. Goodwin makes the case for Lincoln’s political genius by examining his relationships with three men he selected for his cabinet, all of whom were opponents for the Republican nomination in 1860: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates.

I went to see Lincoln (the movie) because Lee Pace had a role in it and I had heard it was good. I loved the movie and decided that I wanted to learn more about this period in American history. I knew the general storyline (civil war over the issue of slavery, Lincoln gets assassinated) but apart from that I knew very little. This book was a great read. Not an easy read as you can see by the time it took me to finish it (10 months) but I learned a lot from reading this one. I’d definitely recommend it, but beware that it’s really long at 900+ pages.

Feb. 21 – Dec. 30

My Books of 2013 – Part 4: Classics

Previously: Part 3 – Fiction

I try to read a couple of “classics” (or old books) each year, to broaden my literary knowledge and maybe boast a bit?

The Valley of Fear (Sherlock Holmes #7) – Arthur Conan Doyle

736130Holmes and faithful Dr. Watson are summoned to a country house by a coded message. They arrive too late to save a life, but pursue the trail to unmasking the murderer.

I like reading the Sherlock Holmes stories. They are good mysteries and feel like the basis of what modern murder-mystery stories are based on. The one thing I like less about these is that it is very hard to figure out the mystery for yourself because you are never given all the same clues as Sherlock.

Aug. 13

Little Women (Little Women #1) – Louisa May Alcott

6252154Little Women is the heartwarming story of the March family that has thrilled generations of readers. It is the story of four sisters–Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth– and of the courage, humor and ingenuity they display to survive poverty and the absence of their father during the Civil War.

I liked this book. It is a nice story about a family sticking together through tough times and always trying to do right. Sometimes it felt a little too moralizing. I think that is both a sign of the times and the author.

Oct. 8 – Oct. 12

Good Wives (Little Women #1.5) – Louisa May Alcott

78960Amy looked relieved, but naughty Jo took her at her word, for during the first call she sat with every limb gracefully composed, every fold correctly draped, calm as a summer sea, cool as a snowbank, and as silent as the sphinx. In vain Mrs. Chester alluded to her ‘charming novel’, and the Misses Chester introduced parties, picnics, the opera, and the fashions. Each and all were answered by a smile, a bow, and a demure “Yes” or “No” with the chill on.

I did not realize when I started Little Women that the story is sometimes split into two (Little Women and Good Wives). I felt like I had to read Good Wives as well now that I’d read Little Women. Like the first book, it exudes decency. The girls make mistakes, remember the lessons their mom told them and fix their mistakes. Nothing in real life is ever that easy (at least not to me).

Oct. 13 – Oct. 20

The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

6519719The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when, The New York Times remarked, “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s that resonates with the power of myth.

I read this book now because of the new film version released this year. I haven’t seen the film but I did really enjoy the book. I found Gatsby intriguing and liked that the story was told from the point of view of a “normal” person, someone we could identify with.

Oct. 21 – Oct. 24

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain

11323701Impish, daring young Tom Sawyer is a hero to his friends and a torment to his relations. For wherever there is mischief or adventure, Tom is at the heart of it. During one hot summer, Tom witnesses a murder, runs away to be a pirate, attends his own funeral, rescues an innocent man from the gallows, searches for treasure in a haunted house, foils a devilish plot and discovers a box of gold. But can he escape his nemesis, the villainous Injun Joe?

This was much more readable than I had expected for such an old book (it was first published in 1876). It was an enjoyable story, although clearly from a different time. Children these days wouldn’t get away with all that Tom Sawyer gets away with.

Oct. 31 – Nov. 6

Next: Part 5 – Non-fiction

My Books of 2013 – Part 3: Fiction

Earlier: Part 2 – Young Adult Fantasy

This is a list of assorted books that don’t fit in one of the other lists of books I’ve read this year. There’s a thriller, a comedy,…

Someday, Someway, Maybe – Lauren Graham

17406658Someday, Someday, Maybe is a story about hopes and dreams, being young in a city, and wanting something deeply, madly, desperately. It’s about finding love, finding yourself, and perhaps most difficult of all in New York City, finding an acting job.

I love Lauren Graham as an actress. I finally got around to watching Gilmore Girls (loved it) and she is equally amazing on Parenthood. I was curious to see what she would be like as a writer. I was happy to find out that her voice is as funny and witty as she comes across in her roles. This book was a joy to read.

June 26 – July 1

Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

13261812On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer?

I had heard many great things about this book. It was a Goodreads Awards winner in 2012. It had been on my to-read list for quite a while. I finally got around to it this summer. This is a dark story but a very good read. I found it hard to put down.

July 27 – Aug. 7

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

8120173Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This book has just been turned into a movie, if that tells you anything about its popularity. I read this on the train to Amsterdam and back. I was crying (still on the train) by the end. This is an amazing story and, in my humble opinion, a must-read.

Sept. 3 – Sept. 7

Not Quite The Classics – Colin Mochrie

15792001Colin Mochrie, a man known worldwide for working without a script, has penned a collection of stories destined to make its own mark in the literary community. Borrowing from a well-known improve game, Mochrie takes the first and last lines from familiar classics and reimagines everything in between. With the same engaging humour he exhibits on stage, television, and film, he takes the reader in bizarre and hilarious new directions, using the original writer’s words as a launch and landing point. Imagine A Tale of Two Cities in which Wile E. Coyote gets his revenge on the Road Runner, Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat with zombies, or The Night Before Christmas with a time travelling twist. Imagine Sherlock Holmes devising a foolproof method for eliciting laughter and then taking the stage at a Victorian comedy club in Old London.

I love Colin Mochrie. He is a very funny guy, amazing at improv comedy. I was looking forward to reading this book, hoping it would be as funny. This was a disappointment. It didn’t have any laugh-out-loud moments, more little twists that were clever. It’s a clever concept (using the first and last lines from a famous book to start a story) but it fell flat for me.

Oct. 13 – Oct. 16

Next: Part 4 – Classics