Book Review: Angels & Demons, by Dan Brown

A quick review here, just so I have a record of the books I’ve read and it motivates me to keep reading instead of playing video games (which is what I’ve been doing for the last 3 days).

Angels and Demons takes place in the same world as The Da Vinci Code, with the same main character, Robert Langdon. I think that Dan Brown is secretly in love with his fictional character, and loves the name “Robert Langdon.” He always writes about Langdon’s deep manly voice and awesome tweed jacket. And instead of using pronouns, it’s “Robert Langdon touched the pope’s hat, because it was shiny and Robert Langdon liked shiny things. Robert Langdon communicated Robert Langdon’s intense appreciation for the church in that single touch.”

This also demonstrates how badly written Angels and Demons is. If you’ve read The Da Vinci Code and cringed, Angels and Demons is even more simply written. With all this said, it doesn’t really get in the way of keeping you reading and interested. The book takes place in real-time, never jumping forward or backward in time (except for flashbacks), so it’s as intense as an episode of 24.

The historical “facts” are obviously not facts. While you may feel like you’re learning something while reading this book, it’s actually making you dumber. For example, a critical plot point is that nobody could figure out how to make words read the same whether they are upside down or right side up (ambigrams). Yet…Dan Brown and Friends were able to come up with a whole bunch for this book (and the awesome cover for it pictured here). It’s really cool to see these ambigrams in the book, but I doubt that a fiction author is the first person in history to create them.

Still, if you go in expecting an intense novel that’s more science fiction than art history textbook, it’s a very entertaining read.

On a side note, I hear that Brown is being sued over The Da Vinci Code. A non-fiction book was written a while before Da Vinci which dealt with the same topic, and the author of that book is angry that Brown stole the idea. Brown admits to using it as a source. Now, last time I checked, fiction authors were allowed to use non-fiction sources to check their facts, and that’s not plagarism. If I write an erotic story about squirrel sex, The Discovery Channel isn’t going to sue me because I saw squirrels boinking on TV. And this is (supposedly) fact…if Brown hadn’t even read this book and had done his own research, he (supposedly) would have come to the same conclusion. Since facts are, arguably, objective.

Whatever. I’m just looking forward to the Smart Car chase in the movie version of The Da Vinci Code. Yay Smart Cars!


How To Stop Time

I found this groovy little illusion:  How to Stop Time.  It involves looking at a the second hand of a clock out of the corner of your eye, and it appears to stop moving.  

The site gets cheesiness points for trying to convince people that they are actually stopping time.  I do wonder what the actual explanation is, though.  I’ve read about people with brain damage who are blind to movement:  when pouring liquid out of a glass, they see it frozen in mid-pour, then the glass is suddenly empty.  Perhaps this illusion is related to that, allowing normal people to experience change blindness without ramming a pole through their brain.

The Cuba Trip (Part 1)

V and I spent our slack week doing what the week was made for: slacking. We figured slacking would be more efficient in a warm place, so we went to Cuba. Here are some pictures and stories documenting the trip.

The plane ride there was a blast. The Cuban airline isn’t as nice and fancy as Air Canada. I couldn’t understand what the hell the stewardess was saying over the intercom, even when she switched to English. She could have been telling us that our time on this earth is over…say bye to your loved ones…but all I heard was Spanglish babbling. The seat in front of me had a substance on it that resembled bloody snot, and even though I knew it would make me lose my appetite, I couldn’t stop looking at it as I ate. That was probably a good thing though, since the “beef” they served for lunch was covered in a shiny rainbow film, like it was covered in oil. Probably good that I didn’t eat it.

The airport had people in military outfits all over the place, which is a little alarming at first. We found the guy who was supposed to guide us to the resort, but he said our bus was full. He told us to get on another random bus. Whatever. Luckily it did take us to the right place…Brisas Del Caribe, which looks like this from the outside:

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The lobby of the resort was full of drunk people. That’s because there are two bars in the lobby alone. Nice. Further exploration revealed that there were approximately three thousand bars at the place, all serving unlimited booze. The bartenders there don’t bother with little things we care about here…such as “measuring” and “not spilling rum all over the bar”. Every drink was at least a double. Plus they’re never the same twice. You can order a “Brisas” one day, and it will be a blue fruity vodka drink. The next day it will be a pink rum drink. It’s a surprise every time. My new favourite drink is the Mojito, which has tonic water, mint leaves, a bunch of sugar, and a whole lot of rum.

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Yum. I also rediscovered the Grasshopper (chocolate liqueur, mint liqueur, cream). It’s not unique to Cuba or anything, but damn it’s good. I was mildly drunk the entire week, but never really DRUNK drunk. I guess your body gets used to alcohol when it’s all you drink. And yes, my shirt does say “Western Drinking Team.”

While the drinks were good, the food was … questionable. They seem to love ham and cheese there. You can get ham and cheese on its own, ham and cheese on a piece of toast, deep fried ham/cheese paste, or ham and cheese stuffed into a chicken (“Gordon Blue”, as the menu called it). The rest of the buffet was average at best…and unidentifiable at worst. V mostly stuck to bread, but I enjoyed some of the weird mystery food.

Our room smelled funny (as did most of the country), but it was good enough for sleeping. The bathroom, like the food, was full of mysteries.

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Like, what the hell is this? It looks like a sink that’s a foot off the ground. At first we thought it was a urinal, but what’s the point, with a toilet right beside it? Then I thought maybe it’s for washing feet and babies. Some dude we met insisted it was a bidet…a fancy European thing that you shit in, then spray water onto your ass and balls to clean off. Just the fact that people think you should shit in the thing makes me sorry I ever washed my feet in it.

Whoa…ok…I looked it up in Wikipedia (Bidet). It probably was a bidet…which is for washing your junk off (but not shitting in), and washing babies. Um…yuck. Poor babies.

Speaking of washing and genitals, the maids would make fun sculptures with the towels they brought to the room. Here is one of them:

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What is it? My guess is vagina. I suppose it could be a flower or shrimp thing, though. Who knows.

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The bathroom also held this friendly reminder that the world cannot survive without water. Also, we cannot live without water. Don’t misspendit…pitchin.

OK, enough dumb stuff. The whole point of Cuba was to be in warm weather on a nice beach, and there was plenty of that. The weather was beautiful the whole time we were there, and the beach really is gorgeous. We spent the majority of our time just sitting on the beach or by the pool reading in the sun (though, strangely, neither of us got a dark tan). Here are some random pictures of the beautifulness:

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I could write more, but I’ll save it for later. What I still need to cover: Lizards, The River Cruise, Communism/Anti-Americanism, The Rock Star, and CSI: Cuba. Stay tuned.