Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Nerd List - April/May 2014

Whoa, hold up. How is it already the end of May? It seems like just yesterday I was lying in bed wishing the school year would never have to begin, but now suddenly it’s already two weeks into the second term. That’s crazy.

Anyway, here's my list of "Stuff I've Been Obsessing Over" from April to May (remember I promised a joint list because I would be away in April… and also because I hadn't done anything interesting… oops). 

Books


Books read:

Book of the month

 
The 5th Wave was one of the best alien-apocalypse novels I have ever read. It was raw, exciting and deeply moving, while still containing some of the funniest anecdotes I’ve ever read. I highly recommend reading it.

Character of the month


(I decided to go all ‘gender equality’ on this section of the blog, and changed it from 'Boy of the Month' to 'Character of the Month', seeing as both the women in the two novels that I read were so much more badass than the male protagonists, and actually ended up saving themselves AND THEN the men, rather than playing ‘damsel-in-distress’ and winning the hot guy.)

Cassie, from Rick Yancey’s The Fifth Wave, is one of the most realistic, fantastic teenager-gone-zombie-hunters I have ever come across. She doesn’t pretend to be brave, even though she is. She thinks just like a normal teenager, and doesn’t pretend to be stronger or smarter than she is. She only has one goal in mind, and she is determined to get it. She is selfless, sassy and courageous – I think she’s incredible.

Quote of the month


“Cruelty isn't a personality trait. Cruelty is a habit.”


Moments


Fangirl moment of the month


Oh and how many fangirl moments there were… Interestingly enough, I witnessed some that were not my own that definitely deserved a mention here.

My fangirl moment: Oh there were many – mostly music related, and mostly while I was away on tour. There was the time I ran into a tiny little stall on the side of the road in Florence that sold old band tees, and I spent about an hour squealing and sorting through countless Nirvana, Blink-182, Pink Floyd and Metallica T-shirts until I finally settled on a Green Day ‘American Idiot’ tour shirt that almost got confiscated by my father when I returned home. There was the episode at the Disney store when I found Stitch plush toys, the time I found out Linkin Park would release a new album soon, the time I found out 5 Seconds of Summer would releasing their first album soon, the time I found out 30 Seconds to Mars had moved their tour date, opening up more tickets that I could potentially buy if I found the money, the time I found a Captain America T-shirt in Forever 21… Yup it was definitely an exciting month. And yet, all of my fangirl sessions put together couldn’t compare to the chaos at my school when…

Biggest fangirl moment I have ever witnessed: As all South Africans should know, the ‘biggest boy band in the world’ – i.e. One Direction – is planning a tour to South Africa next year. Of course, I had no idea until I arrived at school one Tuesday morning and there were girls CRYING and SCREAMING in the locker room. You would’ve thought somebody had died. Let’s be honest here, I didn’t even cry and scream that much when I found out that Nickelback were coming to South Africa, and I thought I was a dedicated and slightly overly obsessed fan. This was so, so much worse. But it was still nothing compared to the havoc that went down that Friday when tickets were being sold. Naturally, I had asked my mother to try book me and my sister tickets online (if she could) because it’s a pretty big event, and let’s be honest, what teenage girl wouldn’t want to see five British boys prance around and sing on a massive stage? Anyway, because we all had to be at school, it seemed as though each and every single girl in the entire school – no, country – had asked their mother/father/brother/personal trainer to book them tickets at 9 a.m. In fact, there were girls frantically calling their moms during first period just to check that their mothers had their credit cards at the ready. Break time (at 9:45) was spent again frantically calling parents to check if they had managed to get tickets, which about five percent of the parents had. I swear I have never seen so many devastated, sobbing teenage girls in one place. EVER.

Facepalm moment of the month


So I heard Kim Kardashian and Kanye West got married… And had a wedding party in Versailles. VERSAILLES. That’s like one of the most lavish, prestigious palaces in the entire world. Somebody please tell me where I can acquire that much money to be able to RENT OUT VERSAILLES. Oh, and then fly ALL OF MY GUESTS to Florence for the actual wedding. Seriously. That’s insane.

But that wasn't even the real facepalm moment of the month. The REAL facepalm-worthy moment was that I actually watched their engagement on TV in a fit of boredom while at home sick yesterday, and then had the patience to read an article on their wedding in the paper. Oh, the shame…


Music


Album of the month


I already fangirled about my Beethoven Reloaded CD in my Vienna blog, and it is really good. I really enjoy listening to the remixes of Beethoven’s famous compositions, especially the Fur Elise track. Although the CD gets a bit repetitive if you listen to all the tracks at once, it is still a really cool concept, and great background music for studying or working.


Song of the month


5 Seconds of Summer released their studio version of Good Girls prior to the release of their new album, and I’m absolutely loving it at the moment. It has the great pop-punk-rock-ish sound of All Time Low, and has been played at full volume in my house enough times to get my sister grumbling about how playing the song over and over again won’t make me punk rock, no matter how much I think it does. Whatever. It’s still awesome.

Lyric of the month


“Take off your makeup and put down the camera. Choke on the drama that makes me want to tear up the pictures, the pages you’ve saved, creating a life of trends and make-believe.”
- All Time Low, The Girl's a Straight-Up Hustler

Other


Movie of the month


The only decent movie I’ve watched in the past two months is The Incredibles, and it was just as epic as I remember it being when I was a child. 



Thanks for reading!


Oh, and thanks to all the people who’ve still been reading my blogs even though I haven’t exactly been upholding my side of this relationship (i.e. posting nice, humorous blogs and entertaining book reviews that inspire others to give up their depressing lives and join the club of book nerds who spend all of their free time reading). I’ve also been noticing that my audience has spread to other areas of the world, like the UK and America and Russia – even China! (Yeah to those of you who don’t know, I can actually check how many people are reading my blog and where they’re from… I’M WATCHING YOU.) That’s so amazing, and to all of you reading my blog, no matter where you are, thank you. It means so much to me that people are actually interested in a geeky South African teenager’s perspective on the world. You’re all incredible. Thank you.

Friday, 30 May 2014

A Look Inside the Life of a Procrastinating Teen Reader

Let’s just cut straight to the point: This year has not been a great start to a very good “Reading Year” for me.

Wow. What have I even become? I – Amy Bouwer, literary freak and lover of all written things – have failed at the one thing I thought I could do best. Reading.

Now let’s not get all freaked out here – I’m still reading. I haven’t gone total illiterate-teenager-who-misuses-your-and-you’re. Of course, I’m guessing that stage in my life can’t be that far away, seeing as my ability to read three to four books per month has decreased to the extent where I probably read three quarters of a book per month. And that’s not all – I even watched an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians while at home sick this morning. I’m becoming the horrifying stereotype of a teenage girl. Somebody send me for counseling, and quick.

The problem is this: I can’t seem to finish anything I read.

And I know what you’re thinking. “Silly, na├»ve teenager… Obviously by reading you have to finish a book eventually. It’s common sense, but I wouldn’t expect you to understand because you’re so young and obsessed with Tweeter and television and your cellular device and Face Booker blah blah blah.”

Believe me, I KNOW that if you read you obviously have to finish something, SOMEHOW. SOMEDAY. Unfortunately, that “someday” is taking far too long for my liking.

Let’s just take a look at some statistics, shall we?

Last year, I read about an average of two to three books per month during the school term.

This year, my average is about half a book per month. HALF A BOOK. That’s like one hundred and fifty pages. That’s like the amount of pages I could (metaphorically, if I had no homework etc.) read in a single afternoon.

That is shocking. And for a girl who claims to be a reader… It sickens me just to think of it. So I began to try and logically figure out how on earth I had come to be such a failure at life. Was it because I was (gasp) too busy to read? Was it because I was spending too much time doing other things? Possibly. But eventually, I came to a conclusion.

The problem, my friends, lies not in how fast (or slowly) I am reading, but instead in how much I am reading.

It all makes sense. You see, I have to juggle my English set work, my Advanced Programme English set works, the books my parents want me to read, the books my friends want me to read, the books I want to read… It’s all just too much.

The amount of books I’m currently reading is a bit of a joke, really, but here’s a list:

  • Atonement by Ian McEwan (English set work)
  • Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (Matric English set work)
  • Jane Eyre (AP English set work)
  • Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee (AP English set work)
  • Hamlet (AP English set work)
  • Conquest by John Connoly
  • The Covenant Series by Jennifer L. Armentrout
  • A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin (YES. STILL. I KNOW.)
  • Kurt Cobain by Christopher Sandford
  • Z by Therese Anne Fowler
  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese


This is pure madness. MADNESS. What sane person reads this much at once? It’s horribly perplexing, and I’m finding myself getting confused as to why Jane Eyre isn’t fighting the aliens from Conquest, or preparing for the long winter in A Clash of Kings. I think I’m going crazy.

And the problem is that every time I sit down and think, “Wow I actually have time to read. Cool!” I have to sit will all these books in front of me, and it feels like picking a favourite child. Scratch that – I feel like I’m cheating on my book-boyfriend with ten other men.

Oh my word I really am going crazy.

Anyway, I then begin to try and put off reading so that I don’t have to choose between them. To try and express to you what goes on inside my head during this process, I’ve put together a short one-act play.

'Why I Am a Disgusting Mess' – a One-Act Play by Amy Bouwer

Me: “Hey, I have free time! Why don’t I read?”

Me: “Well if I want to read I’ll need a cup of tea and somewhere quiet, obviously, but the builders are drilling outside so I’ll just have to put it off until they’re done and WOW I actually have Chemistry homework to do so maybe I should start that now except for the fact that I’ve had a long day so I should probably let my brain relax by doing something totally unintellectual like watching YouTube videos but only for like five minutes.

Me: *watches YouTube for hours on end, feeling guilty for not reading*

Me: “Oh, well now it’s getting late so I’ll only read for like twenty minutes.”

Me: *spends twenty minutes picking a book*

Me: *reads one page*

Me: *cries self to sleep*

THE END

Yeah… It’s a sad, sad process.

Anyway I guess the whole point of this blog was to try explain why I’m such a failure, and also to try and tell you all – indirectly of course – not to get your hopes up for the Nerd List that I should probably post tomorrow because it’s going to suck because I’ve read two books in two months okay.

*takes a deep breath*

And also remember that this is a “No Judgment” zone so keep all your judging on your side of the fence because didn’t your mother ever teach you that it’s rude to take your problems onto other people’s territory wow it took me like three tries to try work out how to spell ‘territory’ look the illiteracy is already seeping into my puny little brain oh and I also want to apologise about this blog because I know it was probably really long and boring but yeah I guess I’m kind of hoping some people will relate to it because we’re all human and nobody’s perfect except probably Liam Hemsworth oops did I say that aloud.

I’m sick and I’ve had a lot of medication today so don’t judge me on this post, please. I’ll probably come edit out all these weird bits later.

To any English teachers reading this: I swear I do know how to construct sentences. It’s called “artistic expression” and “poetic license” – look it up. (I’m kidding – please don’t expel me.)


Comment below and tell me whether you’ve ever felt the same way about reading too many books at once, or console me with your own stories about how you, too, are becoming illiterate.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Amy's Adventurous Adventures in Vienna

Europe Arts Tour: Days 7 to 8


Ahh, Vienna… You inspired me to become a better musician… for about two hours until I realised it would require dedication and hard work towards my instruments.

The Blue(ish) Danube
Seriously, though, think about it. Mozart – born in Vienna – performed for the Empress at the age of five – FIVE – and soon began composing his own masterpieces. All it took was a little (a LOT) of practice and dedication to his instrument, and here I am blogging when I could be practicing piano like a madwoman for my exam (which is on Friday the 13th… I doubt it’s a coincidence) in order to become a musical genius who is appreciated for her talent worldwide.

But that would require me to get up… and… practice piano… *shivers*

Anyway, Vienna was truly inspiring and stunning. Not unlike Prague, it has the perfect mixture of modern and ancient architecture and culture – making it a truly disorientating yet fascinating city to observe. Of course, this was where the real “musical” part of our trip began, and we were lucky enough to attend the Philharmonic Orchestra Concert at Schonbrunn Palace. It was phenomenal (obviously).

Original score for 'Der Zauberflote' ('The Magic
Flute') by W. A. Mozart (*cue internal screaming*)
 in Haus der Musik (The Museum of Music)
But that’s not all. To my absolute and utter delight, we visited the Museum of Music (Haus der Musik) the following day. I was in awe. Six floors, filled to the brim with historical artifacts belonging to the great German and Austrian composers, as well as fun activities where you could conduct a virtual orchestra or “compose” your own melody with the throw of a die. Oh, and there was this dark room where you could sit and listen to remixes of classical compositions – where I stayed for about half an hour because it was so incredible.

You think classical music from composers like Mozart and Beethoven is lame? Well, here’s some dub step thrown in with their compositions, a bit of synthesized harmonies and a dance beat to spice it up for you. IT IS EPIC. I then spent a great deal of money on the ‘Beethoven Reloaded’ CD – featuring all of the remixed Beethoven tracks – in the gift shop… Yeah, telling my parents what I spent my ‘gift money’ on earned me the best “YOU-DID-WHAT-NOW?” look from my father and a bit of a lecture on why we should rather buy Taylor Swift CDs off of iTunes – but it was totally worth it.

The shame… Oh, the shame...
Apart from the epic-ness from the musical side of Vienna, I also had an afternoon of free time to spend shopping with my friends, in which we went all-out “Common White Girl” and bought vanilla frappuccinos from Starbucks. And then took pictures of our names on the cups. BUT WAIT – it gets worse: we also went shopping at Forever 21… and Zara… and H&M. I am ashamed. *hangs head and sobs loudly*

I know. I am a failure at life.

I paid for my sins on the train ride to Venice though… Have you ever slept in a train? It’s almost as bad as an airplane, except dirtier and with only slightly more legroom (if you aren’t sharing a cabin-thing with five other teenage girls, which means that you’re sharing a two-meter-by-three-meter space with five teenage girls AND their 35kg bags… Not fun). Oh, and a piece of advice: always, ALWAYS, use the toilet before you get on the train, and then don’t eat, don’t drink, don’t do anything, so that you don’t have to go NEAR that bathroom. It’s disgusting. Thank goodness I took hand sanitizer – although it was almost finished by the time I got off that train. Gross.


Next stop: Venice

(Okay, so just note that this is the point in my travels where I was evidently running on auto-pilot because of lack of sleep, and had gotten extremely lazy in terms of writing in my travel journal. From here on out, my entries consist of sentences like, "We went shopping. I bought this. It was fun," so let's just appreciate that my memory has not faded yet, and I still have countless photographs of meaningless buildings to kind of decipher what I did in each city. So bear with me… things may not be too accurate or detailed depending on whether my past self was conscious enough to be writing actual sentences, or whether she was half asleep and trying not to throw the travel journal out the window at the head of an innocent tourist.)

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Amy's Adventurous Adventures in Prague

Europe Arts Tour: Days 4 to 6

I. Love. Prague.

I can’t even put into words how much I love it, because wow. It’s stunning. Plus, the Czech Krona is weaker than the South African Rand (I had no idea that was even possible, but anyway) so everything there is pretty cheap, considering it’s a European country.

View of Prague from Petrin Gardens

My adventures in Prague officially started on Saturday morning, even though we arrived in the city on Friday evening after an extremely long two-hour flight from Paris. Dinner was Mac Donald’s from the shopping centre across the street from our hotel (it was the only thing open – I’m not usually the type of person who travels halfway across the world just to eat the same things we have at home, but a girl has got to eat, ya feel me?). So anyway, on Saturday morning I wandered downstairs sleepily into the breakfast area, and found myself in Bouwer family heaven.

A note: our family takes breakfast VERY seriously. We don’t care if we don’t eat for the rest of the day, so long as there’s a decent breakfast wherever we are. And our hotel in Prague wins the prize for best breakfasts – hands down. There was everything you could ever possibly want in a breakfast, ranging from cereals to chocolate croissants to bacon to fruit salad to homemade granola. They had SIXTEEN different types of tea to choose from. If we had stayed in Prague any longer, and not have had to endure the extreme amount of walking that we did, you probably would’ve had to roll me home.

The Astronomical Clock
Speaking of walking, there was a LOT of it. We took the tram into the old part of Prague, where all the real tourist attractions are – as opposed to Forever 21 and H&M in the shopping centre right by our hotel, where I’m pretty sure about 90% of our tour group would have preferred to spend the day. But despite the fact that my feet were about to fall off once we had finished the touring part of the day, Prague was enchanting, with its little cobblestone streets and century-old buildings all over the place. The Astronomical Clock and Prague Castle were definitely highlights, and we spent about an hour watching the clock just to, you know, double check that it did really work after hundreds of years and that the tour guide hadn’t been lying to us (you never know these days).

That night was spent running through the torrential rain to the Prague Opera House. The evening’s performance of ‘Swan Lake’ was somewhat dulled by the fact that we were all sitting shivering in our seats due to our soaked – and probably ruined – dresses and expensive shoes. We got several glares at our (apparently horrifying) disheveled appearances that we had spent so long on in the sanctuary of our hotel (obviously before we had known that we had to walk three or so kilometers in the rain to the Opera House). Oh well, it was an experience, even though we didn’t get to act like princesses for the night. (We must’ve resembled Cinderella BEFORE all the spell casting, rather than after she was transformed by the fairy godmother…)


The next day was probably one of my favourites over the course of the whole trip. We began with a meander through the beautiful Petrin Gardens, chatting and laughing and probably disturbing the entire city – thirty teenage girls make a LOT of noise when they aren’t gossiping. Once we’d made it down the hill on which the gardens were situated, we went on a short boat cruise and then visited yet another stunning Art Museum. Of course, what with our feet still aching from the previous day, the last fifteen minutes of the visit were spent sitting on the floor in the foyer, much to the dismay of the receptionist, and hacking into the next-door hotel’s free Wi-Fi. (Over the course of the trip, we became EXTREMELY good at hacking Wi-Fi codes.)

Morning stroll through Petrin Gardens

After a late lunch, we started the five-hour bus trip to Austria, where we had plenty of time to catch up on sleep, or just stare out the windows at the beautiful countryside.


Next stop: Vienna, Austria.