Tag Archives: Thoughts

What I’m watching, reading and have viewed: Part 2

What I’m watching: The Fall

The show that follows a serial killer, and the police investigation that’s trying to catch him.

What’s it about? Gillian Anderson is a MET Detective Superintendent sent to Belfast having been assigned to review the investigation into a single high-profile murder, but who ends up heading the hunt for serial killing Jamie Dornan. You see both her investigation, his daily life, but also the things that do happen in a murder case that you don’t usually see on a TV show – the finding of the body, the heartbreaking call to 999, the simple logistics of attending a crime scene (“stepping plates where applicable”).

Why watch it? It is the latter point – the things you don’t usually see – that have drawn me into the The Fall. In most police procedurals, even those about people whose job it is to collect evidence from a crime scene, there isn’t much evidence of the procedure actually happening, it’s all about the mystery. I do like the pragmatic air this show has in that sense. On the other hand, The Fall is insanely creepy – Jamie Dornan has given me nightmares. Don’t watch if you’re going to be sleeping home alone.

What I’m reading: Harry Potter et le Prisonnier d’Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

It’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban … but in French.

What’s it about? If you actually need to ask what Harry Potter is about, I may have to ask where you have been living for the last decade and a half. Even living under a rock wouldn’t excuse you from not knowing about the phenomenon that is J.K. Rowling’s series about the boy wizard. The Prisoner of Azkaban is the third in the series though, really, you should know that already.

Why read it? The PoA is my favourite of the Harry Potter series – I adore this book. Reading it French then was a no brainer for me, as it would help me to know what is actually happening while trying to negotiate French idioms. (Who knew that to ‘pick’ a lock translates into ‘crocheting’ in French? Not me.) It’s also fun to see how the names and places that are so recognisable in English are changed in French – Snape is now Rouge, Hogwarts is Poudlard, and – my favourite – Hufflepuff transforms to Poufsouffle. A lot of fun.

What I’ve viewed: Wadjda

Watch a young girl negotiate the streets, her school and her home in Riyadh.

What’s it about? The first feature length film to come out of Saudi Arabia, this story follows Wadjda who desperately wants a bicycle so she can race her friend Abdullah, and is told by almost everyone that girls don’t ride bikes. She decides to enter the Quran reading competition in order to win the money that will pay for the beloved green bicycle she has set her eye on.

Why see it? This is such a heart warming and sweet film. All the actors are great, even – especially – the kids, and the story is so engrossing. The film is much more than just a sweet story, though, especially on repeat viewings. For example, in a country that seems to be so restrictive for women there are surprisingly few men in the story – three in fact, and and only one is a main character. It is worth seeing the film to watch how women are complicit in restricting themselves: for example, everyone tells Wadjda that women don’t ride bikes, but the shop sells girls bicycles, and Wadjda is desperately worried her chosen green one will sell. This is one example of a plot that is much deeper when you look past the simple story, and forget some of the pre-conceived ‘facts’ of Saudi Arabia.

Also, Abdullah is adorable. Watch just for the scenes between him and Wadjda.

Where I’m travelling: France. In less than two weeks I’ll be working in the Alps -I’m so excited/nervous!

Have you seen any of these? Does The Fall become even creepier? (I have trouble believing that’s possible!) Let me know.

The Mobile Version of WordPress Needs to Die

Or at least be updated. Fast.

While in the United States this summer I didn’t take my laptop. This was a decision that made sense at the time – I didn’t want to be travelling around with not only that extra weight but also that extra worry. Laptops are expensive: I did not want it to get broken or stolen. That meant that apart from the rare time I had access to a computer I was completely reliant on my phone for internet. It was then that I realised WordPress on your phone sucks.

I had managed to cope with this annoyance until, a few weeks ago, I came across this Daily Post article that advocates using the app, and I felt my blood boil. Because I will never recommend this app based on my experiences with it.

It is awful trying to write a story on your phone. I like to put my links in different colours, have pictures, actually edit my work so that it looks nice and presentable. This is so difficult on the WordPress app. It is not impossible, but to change the colour of text I had to get onto the non-mobile friendly version of WordPress and fiddle around with a screen that didn’t want to play along. Adding tags is difficult because the tags you’ve already used don’t come up. Re-sizing pictures is a nightmare (don’t even get me started on inserting Instagram pictures from a URL). And when I changed my blog’s theme it refused to change for the mobile site (why?!)

Now this may seem like little niggles, and I’m making a bit of a fuss over nothing. But it just makes writing a post that actually looks presentable take so long – much longer than it would take when using a laptop or desktop computer – that it encourages you not to blog. This is a blogging app that makes you not want to tell people about your day or your travels because it won’t be worth it: the quality will be worse and it will take twice the time anyway.

This makes no sense. Why doesn’t the mobile version not have some of the simplest functions that the desktop version has? I tried playing around with the app, but no matter what I could not get to grips with it. I have now removed it from my phone, and can’t see it being re-installed in the future.

I would encourage WordPress to look into this, really encouraging them to change it. It put me off blogging, especially on those days when I couldn’t really be bothered (we all have them, right?), and I haven’t really got back into my groove since. Just make it easier, WordPress, for bloggers to create something on the go that they’re not deeply ashamed about. It will go a long way.

Being a Guilty Traveller

I’m not sure if any of you experience this when you travel, but when I’m in a lull, either travelling between cities, before I go to sleep at night, or even planning what I’m going to do that day, I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I am not travelling well enough. Does this sound stupid? Well, I feel stupid when I do it, but it doesn’t stop my worrying.

I worry because I haven’t experienced the ‘real’ Amsterdam. When I was in New Orleans I didn’t go to Algiers – I didn’t ‘experience the day-to-day life of the city’. I worry I’m not travelling ‘authentically’ because I didn’t have a fish curry in Sri Lanka that Lonely Planet told me I just had to try.

I worry I don’t do enough when I travel. I’m a cheap person and I hate spending money, so I didn’t do the Empire State building, deciding to do it when I went back to New York either with my sister or maybe when I have $42 to spare on a lift. I still feel guilty about it. I didn’t do all the unique hikes in Nepal that I was told I just had to do, and judge myself for not doing them. I don’t spend money on tours, and feel bad for missing out on that experience, despite the fact that – and here’s the really stupid part – I don’t even like tours!

I don’t like spending a lot of money. I try what I want to try. I do what I feel comfortable with, and push myself fully outside of my comfort zone only occasionally, because let’s be honest, I’m a young female traveller and I feel it’s natural to be a bit more wary about certain situations. I don’t stay out all hours because I don’t want to be walking back to the hostel alone in the dark, and when people question why I don’t just join a group so I can stay out longer, it’s because I want to do what I want, and see what I want, spend what I want. It is, after all, my travel experience.

Even still, knowing all this, I still feel guilty, and feel stupid for feeling guilty, and then feel guilty for feeling stupid.

I want to do ‘different’ trips, like going to Uzbekistan and doing something crazy and unique, but there are other things that I want to do first. And as a result I feel guilty that Uzbekistan isn’t higher up my list.

I’m part Indian, and part Kenyan, and I feel guilty that I haven’t been to either place, which may be the stupidest thing I feel guilty about. Maybe it’s a mixed race thing, wanting to explore – for want of a better word – my heritage, and feeling a bit like a fraud that I haven’t.

I don’t know what makes be feel guilty, whether it’s all the blogs I love and follow where the authors travel all over the world to such diverse and unusual destinations, or the travel magazines I crazily consume, drinking in all the exotic pictures and incredible description of beautiful places. Or maybe I’m just a perfectionist who wants to travel perfectly, even though I keep telling myself there isn’t really a perfect way to travel.

I hope I can get over feeling guilty soon. Not during, but at the end of a long day out, the nice feeling that comes with exploration is numbed somewhat by the guilt, and that is the worst when I just want to enjoy my time travelling.

Do you feel guilty when you travel? Or is it just me?! Let me know.

Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow was a really good summer blockbuster, and highly recommended,  though I was let down by the end. Spoiler: it was really Hollywood.

SPOILERS ahead.

This film was different from most summer films: about halfway through, I realised I was having a lot of fun. As in, Edge of Tomorrow (or Live, Die, Repeat – what’s happening there?!) was very entertaining and I was enjoying watching it. This may seem like a stupid statement, but with so many summer blockbusters I usually zone out and enjoy them in a sort of passive way. Controversial, but I didn’t enjoy Avengers Assemble nearly as much as I did EoT.

It was in the middle of the sequences where we see Tom Cruise’s Major/Private Cage die over and over again – clips where he’s both hit by and run over by trucks had me giggling more than probably seems reasonable unless you’ve seen the film. They’re so well edited and made to illicit laughs, and they’re fun. And that’s the thing, the laughs aren’t a result of puns or weak jokes (I’m looking at you Avengers), but instead it’s usually through quick editing and visual gags. It was so refreshing.

Credit: Bleeding Cool

Cruise’s Cage is good, going through smarmy, scared, depressed and then true action hero as the film progresses, but for me the film’s true standout was Emily Blunt. It does help that I love Emily Blunt, but her Rita has a lot to do with making the film as fun as it is. Cage is able to be a little more goofy than he would otherwise be able to be if she wasn’t so deadpan and straight. She is also very convincing as an extremely efficient – and scary – soldier, something that more people should have seen coming given her performance in The Devil Wears Prada (a joke, but she was a bit terrifying in that film).

Commendably, the film also manages to make the stakes seem higher than they usually do in Hollywood films. By the end I actually thought (even hoped – more on that later) that each character was going to die, and that maybe, just maybe, they were not going to make it. This is of course a Hollywood film – that doesn’t happen. But it is impressive that I believed that it was just about possible. One major reason for this was the mimics, which were actually a scary enemy for once, given their time-travelling ability and crazy killing skills. Also, there is a sense of the characters’ morality, especially after Cage loses his resetting ability. For the whole film Cruise is not really able to die; after that’s gone, the film manages to feel a bit more claustrophobic and you start wondering just how good Cage really is (and Rita for that matter) – can they actually pull this off? (As an aside, I loved how they filmed the whole sequence where Cruise was underwater, especially the long shot that showed him, the Omega and the Alpha. I was able to appreciate how beautiful it was even as I was waiting for him to die.)

Credit: PetroGX

The ending did irritate me. For once I thought Hollywood was going to do it, let all the main characters die. Or, when they reset, I thought that the mimics wouldn’t have been defeated and they would have to get started all over again on trying to defeat them, maybe in a sequel, or, better still, maybe never to be seen on screen, leaving the fate of Earth ambiguous. Yes, these endings would have been depressing, but they would have also made a nice change to ‘everyone lives, enemy defeated’. Like the Marvel films, no one at all dies, and it’s one of the things that really irritates me about the series. The death of main characters can strike you to the core, and can leave a film truly memorable (or book – for example the Harry Potter series). This instance is not nearly as irritating as Marvel because it’s a one-off and not a series, but even still. I know it’s a Hollywood blockbuster, I know it’s not meant to be heavy entertainment, but it is essentially a war film, not Back to the Future. Imagine Star Wars without the death of Obi-Wan Kenobi; it just wouldn’t have the same emotional punch. I think that if the ending has been a bit more horrifying then I would be rushing to watch this film again. As it is, I really enjoyed it, and would recommend it, but it’s not a classic blockbuster. That’s a shame, because it has so much potential.

Featured image credit: Huffington Post

Have you seen the Edge of Tomorrow? What did you think? Let me know below!

The Mindy Project: An Exercise in Confusion

I began watching The Mindy Project a few days ago after seeing it advertised multiple times on TV and hearing positive things about it around the web. I am now, however, over halfway through the first season, and I honestly don’t know if I like it or not. No idea. I like some of the characters and I enjoy the overall feel of the show. Perhaps most importantly I like Mindy Kaling and her character. It’s enjoyable seeing an Asian woman on TV – there are so few that’s it’s nice to feel like you’re getting some representation – and her attitude to her body is so refreshing in that she wants to lose weight but still feels confident and sexy without doing anything. So far, so good. However, I usually get bored halfway through most episodes, and have a moment where I ask myself: “Why am I still watching this show?”

I hadn’t actually switched off an episode until ‘Pretty Man’. It wasn’t that I wasn’t enjoying the episode, but I had become bored, and that’s partly what makes this show so confusing. I want to keep watching because I care about the characters, but because I usually don’t care about the plot I don’t know how to proceed. This isn’t a show that you binge-watch because you have an essay coming up and procrastination makes anything good, and it isn’t until after the essay is finished you realised the show is bad (hello, Smash). Nor is it difficult to watch (or, more precisely, binge on) because it’s so dark or deep like Hannibal – The Mindy Project will never be accused of being deep. This is a show I am at the same time both invested in and completely don’t care about.

Maybe I’ll just watch until the end of the first season and decide. Or, like I did with Grey’s Anatomy for a while after it became bad, I’ll just watch it because maybe, just maybe, it will get better.

Adios USA: Things I learnt

I am currently writing this in JFK International Airport. Not shockingly, I am waiting to board my flight (home, not to another interesting destination). I have spent 3 months away from home, visited 8 states, have spent almost a week travelling on trains, explored 4 national parks and had one experience with Enterprise Road-Side Assistance following a car crash. It’s been awesome.

As often happens to people following long trips, I have come to certain realisations. I’ll skip the self probing discoveries about myself and instead focus on some broader ones about travelling in general. The most important is one that is said a lot, but which I never really took seriously until my road trip: know who you’re travelling with, and know them well!

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After finishing camp and before taking a two-week train trip spanning the US I spent a fortnight with three former coworkers, on a road trip to different national parks and Las Vegas. I had heard and read about the importance of knowing who you’re going to travel with in the past, but dismissed it. Nonsense, I had thought. I have travelled with other people before – friends, family – and had no problems. I’m no longer going to be so cavalier.

Please don’t misunderstand: I really enjoyed that two week trip. However, travelling with people you’ve known for years, sometimes your whole life, and people who you met 2 months before are two very different experiences. I felt restrained in doing what I wanted, worried about boring them or that I was wasting their time. I realised I needed time alone, not because of them but because that’s just who I am, but felt bad saying no to them when they asked if I wanted to explore Vegas with them. One of the members of our group had a really hard time compromising which could sour the atmosphere. Also, realising on day four that none of them had very much camping experience meant that I had to explain how to put up the tent properly, but I did in in an aggravated way because I was tired.

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Being tired was a major problem. Maybe even bigger, however, was money. When you’re with other people your budget is not your own, and as a budget traveller this was probably my biggest issue. It was especially an issue after the car crash (I hadn’t been in the car) when my friend who had been worst affected needed to sleep in motel beds rather than camping. In a crash that should have killed her this was a very small price to pay but it hit my purse all the same.

My new found wariness about travelling with people even affected me in hostels, where I tried to avoid going anywhere with people. At night I felt better, because there was less I wanted to do at night other than experience the city after dark. But in the day this was now my time, and I didn’t want to have to pay for anything I wasn’t comfortable with.

Our car crash brings me to insurance. Here I am going to be a hypocrite: I am going to recommend insurance, say I am sold on it, and yet have spent this last week travelling the US without health coverage (and am currently hoping JFK’s roof doesn’t fall on my head to teach me a lesson). Let’s say, then, that I am sold for sure on insurance, and despite my protestations in Vegas that I don’t like to gamble, when it could save me money I have a bit of a problem (it is something that should probably be worked on).

Finally I discovered that while some people can just rock up in a city, having bought the ticket for the bus in 5 hours before, simply to wander around to see where they can stay, I am not one of those people. Maybe I could do this in South East Asia, or South America, where everything is cheaper even booking on the day, but in the US – and being on a budget – this was just not an option I considered (this was not true when camping however, but there were 4 of us and we had a car that we could – and did – sleep in when times got tough).

So, in the future, unless I know the other person I’m travelling with extremely well, and we’re on the same budget (I can’t explain how important that is for me) then I will travel alone. Total control over travel is not something trifling or small, and it stops full blown arguments because someone hasn’t helped to cook for the fourth day in a row. I will get travel insurance, and I will continue to book at least the travel in and hostel I’m staying in before I arrive. Honestly, these are things that just make me feel more comfortable as a traveller, and when you are on the road feeling comfortable and safe is so important.

Update: Just so you know guys, the roof of JFK didn’t fall on me. Yay!

Do you have any travel tips? Are you an insurance gambler? Let me know.

Leaving Los Angeles

So. After almost three months I am saying goodbye to sunny California and heading to Chicago (on the train if anyone’s wondering). It was a bit anti-climatic, especially seeing as I had already technically left – I did a two week road trip through Californian national parks, Las Vegas and to the Grand Canyon. After 3 months though, you do definitely get a feel of a place.

Finally (finally!) went to Hollywood. #hollywood #hollywoodland #hollywoodsign #touristy #USA

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Its safe to say that LA wasn’t my favourite city (congrats Berlin) but nor was it my least loved (hello Krakow). Instead it falls into a category that is definitely… middling. I still don’t quite know how I feel about LA. Thinking hard there aren’t honestly that many things that I could say to people that I liked apart from the weather, though that makes it sound awful. It wasn’t.

Naples. No not Italy, but fancy USA. #longbeach #LA #USA #sunset #nofilter #prettypretty

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Perhaps part of the problem was that so many people from LA seemed to detest LA. I had a variety of people tell me they couldn’t wait to leave, that they hated their own city, with one person remarking that, “So many people want to leave, they just don’t have the means”. Dislike for the place that you live is usually feigned – many people may joke about hating where they live, especially in Britain – but there was some real loathing of LA from some of the residents. If everyone hates where they live it makes it difficult to love the place when you’re merely visiting.

There is also, I felt, a lack of character in LA. I had never been somewhere where all the buildings lacked… something. They missed a special element, whether that is a lack of older buildings – a difficult feat for such a new city to have had accomplished – or unusual buildings. Even artwork – in most cities there is street art that gives a city a definitive feature. I love Birmingham but it isn’t the most character filled place on earth (not in a good way, anyway). But even Birmingham has the Bull Ring bull! LA was just so bare. It was depressing.

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I did, however, adore the weather. It’s so nice to be able to plan something weeks in advance and not having to have a contingency plan for if it rains. And I loved In and Out, which may seem like a strange thing to pick out of all the other things LA has to offer, but In and Out was like a camp ritual, and it represents so much more than simply a fast food joint for me.

Camp treasures #secretpal #calilife #mykidsknowmysenseofstylesowell #mufasa #dreamcatches

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I think that’s what I’ll take away from LA more than anything else – all the great memories I have of this place. Despite not liking where they lived, the people I met were incredible. If it wasn’t such a hassle what with visas and flights (and the pay for internationals was better) I would definitely have returned next year. As it is, instead I will be saying bon voyage to LA and California for the foreseeable future. I will remember you fondly (though not as fondly as Berlin).