Classic book review: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Jekyll and Hyde movie poster

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in 1886. It is a short novella (about 70 pages) and often found in a book of collected works. The version I bought included Markheim, The Body Snatcher and Olalla.

The basic plot is so well known I won’t detail it here. It is a bit strange how it is revealed through the book, though. Until the final reveal at the end of the novella the relationship between Jekyll and Hyde is obscured – it is suggested that Hyde is blackmailing Jekyll for some reason.

Reading the book with the knowledge of the plot from such quality remakes as Looney Toons it is a bit frustrating that Dr Jekyll is so rarely in the plot and Mr Hyde is not sinister so much as unaware of his violence.

The book is supposed to be one of the first theories and novelizations of bipolar disorder, but in this case it is self-inflicted. Dr Jekyll has created a potion which allows his suppressed darker side to come out. This split-personality is not only apparent in his actions but also his appearance. As his transformation to Hyde becomes more frequent this darker version of himself grows in stature and power, until eventually the changes start taking place without this need for the potion.

At this point Jekyll becomes scared that he has lost control and attempts to stop traveling down this path. Unfortunately, Hyde has become too strong and the story ends unhappily for pretty much everyone.

The story is really about the conflict between good and evil in man’s nature. Stevenson seems to be suggesting that a carefree life reveling in sin can be a relief from the stress and strain of a life upholding the law and right behaviour. As Christians we know that life is difficult and that the struggle is not for our own purposes but to fulfill God’s will for us.

The ugly side to Stevenson’s idea of this low behaviour is that it is related to or represented by appearance. Hyde is depicted as short, stocky, hairy with a thick forehead – evil. Jekyll is tall, fair, elegant – good. This seems to be paternalism at best and racism at worst – other nations must be less developed than the English due to their lower appearance, cultures and respect for law and justice.

It was good to read this novella to understand the original, not just the modern translations, but I did feel uncomfortable with some of the concepts and the conclusion of the story seemed to be one chapter short – not everything was tied up neatly and explained.

External link: Wikipedia entry for The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Rugby world cup loss

There seems to be a lot of hysteria about after last Saturday’s loss in the rugby world cup (RWC) to England. I was watching the game and the short version is “the better team won on the day.”

Wallabies realising theyve lost

People are looking for scapegoats, saying we did something horribly wrong, but really we were just outplayed. Our players were trying, just not executing well enough. On another day we might have comprehensively outplayed England, but it didn’t happen last week.

It is a shame and disappointing, but life goes on. Probably the most annoying thing is how the road to the final has opened up with New Zealand also losing. England v France taking on the winner of South Africa v Argentina.

I think people need to get some perspective and applaud our team for the fine ambassadors they were for our country and we all need to learn to lose gracefully. Then we can get back to the drawing board and try to do better next time.

Gold class cinema

Priscilla and I went to see Hairspray at the new Greater Union Gold Class cinema at Parramatta last week. A normal Gold Class ticket costs $30 but Priscilla and I were fortunate enough to have some gift vouchers we used.

We were a little surprised by the experience, to tell the truth. We were greeted by a staff member, who explained that they try to act like a good restaurant and sat down in a large lounge or bar to wait for our session to start. We were handed a large menu and advised that we can order food and drinks to be brought into us during the movie and what time we would like it.

Antipasto plate

Priscilla and I were running a bit late as we just wanted to watch the movie, not the ads and weren’t expecting this rigmarole. We quickly selected an ‘olive and cheese platter’ and a couple of drinks, then ushered in to our seats, which we had earlier picked while purchasing the tickets.

The seats are mechanised recliner chairs, set in pods of two with a small table between the two. We figured out how to operate the chairs, then the movie started and a few minutes later our food and drinks arrived. Well, actually, Priscilla’s drink arrived, mine went mysteriously missing but after the movie we saw that the table behind ours had a suspicious looking empty glass. After the movie we told them my drink hadn’t arrived and were handed a refund – $4.40 for a glass of coke! As an aside, the soft drinks are the only item on the whole menu that didn’t have a price next to them, understandable at $4.40 each. This is expensive for a regular soft drink, but about right for the movies, if you think about it.

Gold Class seating

While the experience was good, it didn’t feel that different to our setup at home. Dad has setup a high-definition wide-screen projector, we have two leather recliners, we can server beer or soft drink in glasses with nibblies or even dinner. The whole “Gold Class” experience isn’t that far from a good home theatre setup these days and you don’t have the communal experience that going to the cinema usually gives you.

We enjoyed the movie, by the way, although Priscilla felt uncomfortable with John Travolta and Christopher Walken being affectionate. Lots of colour, lots of fun.

Classic book review: The War of the Worlds

H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds is a much shorted book that the previous ones I have read. This 183 page novella tells the story of one man’s (and in parts, his brother’s) story after Martians land in Surrey, South Eastern England.

War of the Worlds front jacket

From wikipedia: Herbert George Wells (September 21, 1866 – August 13, 1946), better known as H. G. Wells, was an English writer best known for such science fiction novels as The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, The First Men in the Moon and The Island of Doctor Moreau. He [was a prolific writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and produced works in many different genres, including contemporary novels, history, and social commentary. He was also an outspoken socialist. His later works become increasingly political and didactic, and only his early science fiction novels are widely read today. Both Wells and Jules Verne are sometimes referred to as “The Father of Science Fiction”.

The basic plot is that Mars is dying, so the squid-like Martians invade Earth by means of a giant projectile firing gun which shoots capsules across the void. These cylinders arrive on successive nights working their way from Horsell Common in Woking, through Surrey and across the city of London. At first they are a curiosity, but soon turns violent as the technically advanced and emotionless Martians go about extinguishing life on Earth so they might make it their home.

It is an interesting story and has clearly influenced so much science fiction written or filmed since. These days if you were to create a new story regarding any kind of violent encounter between humans and an extraterrestrial race you would touch on themes from this book, even if you’ve never read it. Although the writing isn’t the most coherent or articulate book you have ever read, or even the science particularly accurate, this story does draw you in and makes you wonder how you would react if a similar situation ever arose.

Statue of an Alien fighting machine in Woking, England

The book and subsequent place in popular culture have created great endearment amongst people, from the residents of Woking who have created the above statue of a Martian fighting machine within their town square, to the residents of New Jersey who were considered victims of Orson Wells famous radio broadcast. Well worth a read to understand so many other alien stories.

One thing I found a struggle was the locations mentioned in the novel are not familiar to me. Chobham, Shepparton, the joining of the Thames and Wey rivers -all perhaps make sense to a Londoner but is all a mystery to me. I would have appreciated a map in the book showing locations so I could better visualise the invasion. Or maybe a Google maps mashup that follows the events in the story.

Classic book review: Bram Stokers Dracula

Edvard Munch - The
Vampire

Abraham “Bram” Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897. Bram Stoker was an Irishman working in a London Theatre, the Lyceum, when he wrote this novel. Apparently he wrote other works, but Dracula is the only one commonly read today.

The novel is in the form of journal entries and letters, telling of the vampire Count Dracula and involving hypnotism and other occult interests. The Count, as Bram Stoker envisioned him, is a white-haired military commander type, with a bushy moustache and bat-like cloak.

I must say I found this a cracking read, much more entertaining and involving than the previous two novels I read, Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Gray. The book is very suspenseful, being very discrete with what information it reveals and the nature of the dark forces at work.

The blurb on the back of the book includes:

When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries in his client’s castle. Soon afterwards, disturbing incidents unfold in England: an unmanned ship is wrecked; strange puncture marks appear on a young womans neck; and a lunatic asylum inmate raves about the imminent arrival of his ‘Master’. In the ensuing battle of wits between the Count and a determined group of adversaries, Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing into questions of identity, sanity and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.

As the format of the book contains news articles and diary entries from different characters the plot line is slow to reveal itself, lots of different thoughts and tangents slowly resolving together. Obviously some of Stokers own opinions come through in the opinions of his characters, the place of women and how men value them so, American resourcefulness and English perseverance, superstition and occultism amongst eastern Europeans.

If you come to this book free from too many preconceived ideas from Buffy, Anne Rice or bad black and white movies, you will be taken on a most enjoyable ride.

Homemade Irish Cream

Baileys shot

Mixed up a batch of “Irish Cream” on the weekend as well. Got the recipe off the Internet – hard to pick one amongst the many, but this is the one I went with, modified from the original for quantity purposes.

2 tins condensed milk 2 tins evaporated milk 600ml thickened cream 250g blocks milk chocolate 4 teaspoon vanilla essence 700ml Irish whiskey Optional – 1 teaspoon instant coffee

  • Melt chocolate in a double saucepan. Heat condensed milk and gradually stir into melted chocolate.
  • Mixture will become lumpy, don’t worry, just blend until smooth in an electric blender. Allow to cool.
  • In a very large bowl (I used a punch bowl) mix chocolate with remaining ingredients.
  • Pour into empty, cleaned, scotch bottles and refrigerate at all times.

Makes 3-4 x 750ml bottles

Dad has been drinking it, apparently it is quite delicious, nice and thick.

Classic book review: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray in 1890, it was originally serialised in a magazine and reprinted in novel form the following year.

1945 film version

The basic plot is interesting – a young man desires youth and beauty that he wishes a new portrait of him would age rather than himself. The wish comes true and he spends the next 20 years carrying out every sin known to man, without any care or misfortune coming upon him. After all, how could one so beautiful be so depraved?

The portrait grows old, grows malignant, grows a cruel uplift to the mouth and eyes that appear evil. Dorian keeps the portrait hidden so no one can see how black his soul has become, only his veneer of wholesomeness.

As with much literature of the 19th century I found this a difficult book to read. Not quite Wuthering Heights bad, but up there. The language was flowery and intellectual – art for arts sake is one of the main principles of Wilde, parts of this book seem like writing for writing’s sake. And he is eloquent and beguiling, but the plot moved a little slow for me.

Once the plot is in it’s stride and Dorian is starting to become more interesting the book becomes a little easier, speeding up it’s alarming events as the end draws near. Unusually for us today, the book does not seem to make moral judgments against the actions of the protagonist, merely letting the chips fall where they may. I guess this is a reflection on Wilde and his principles as it is a rejection of any kind of absolute truth.

To read the first 10 pages online, go to this Amazon page.

An interesting book and again something referenced in many places in pop culture, such as a book I read recently named Saigon Express and the graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Amazon seem to recommend the next 3 books I read are Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Robert Louis Stevensen’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

In not so classic book news, my new textbooks for CCNP study arrived yesterday, so it’s back to the grindstone for me.

Classic book review: Mary Shelleys Frankenstein

Frankenstein cover photo

Recently I’ve been trying to read some classic books. Partly to increase my general knowledge, partly out of interest and partly so I can understand all the references to them in popular culture. These books are all available in the Classic Literature section of your local bookshop, usually for $10-15. The first of these books I’ve read is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

My exposure to the Frankenstein story is mainly through popular culture – the Simpsons, It’s a Knockout, Van Helsing. I did know that the title character is the doctor, not the monster, which is apparently a common error, but other than that my imagination is filled with “It’s alive! Alive!!!” moments.

Mary Shelley (30 August 1797 – 1 February 1851) was an English romantic/gothic novelist and was married to the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is an 1818 novel written by Mary Shelley at the age of 19, first published anonymously in London, but more often known by the revised third edition of 1831 under her own name.

A good summary of the plot can be found at My Hideous Progeny so I won’t spoil the plot here, you can follow the link if you want to know. I guess I wanted to express how different the novel was from my expectations.

The author seems to spend very little time or text on the mechanics or science of how the monster was created. Indeed it seemed to me to be almost glossed over the details of obtaining body parts, how the monster looks or how he gave it life.

The monster is quite articulate and agile, in comparison to the lurching, moaning mess we commonly picture. His desires are to be accepted and social, not bloodthirsty and cruel. Perhaps I’ve confused Frankenstein with zombies and my expectations were off.

He is capable of inhuman (or perhaps all too human) cruelty, but only does this when he is rejected by his creator and society.

The novel is very verbose and I found it takes a long time to say anything. In comparison to the brief horror or sci-fi sections, how Victor (our protagonist) is feeling or thinking at any moment is described in excruciating detail. The plot moves very slowly at times, I guess this is why it is a romantic style novel, or perhaps it was just the style of early 19th Century.

Boris Karloff as Frankenstein

So, in conclusion, a longish novel that when finished allows you to fully appreciate and pick holes in common perceptions of Frankenstein, or at least Frankenstein’s monster. The mad scientist, the lurching butler, the Victor in Rocky and Bullwinkle, all have their inspiration from this 1918 novel by an English girl one a long time ago. A story that has such magnificent impact almost 200 years later deserves a read of the original, I believe.

Too much information

While trawling around looking for webcomics, I came across Too Much Information. While the comic itself doesn’t really appeal to me, some of the It’s Me! bits seem really familiar to what I experience on a daily basis a work.

I love my work

You can view the others on the original site:

Install your own car stereo

94 Mitsubishi Magna

My car isn’t great. A 1994 Mitsubishi Magna TS Executive V6 manual, it is better than some and goes pretty good, within reason. But it’s not great. One of the frustrations I had was the lousy sound system.

The Executive is the base model and as a result, the audio system consists of a radio cassette player (FM and AM) connected to two tiny, buzzy, cardboard 4″ speakers in the dashboard. Higher up models had 6″ speakers in the doors and 6×9″ speakers in the rear parcel shelf, along with a CD player if you bought a Verada.

Thanks to platform sharing, all Magnas have the brackets for those better speakers in the car body, hidden by trim, so if you are brave and willing to cut up your car, an instant sound upgrade is yours for the taking. As I had to run wires from the rear of the car to the back of the dash anyway, I decided to replace the stock radio cassette with a much newer unit.

So I went down to Supercheap, found some nice Panasonic 6×9’s going cheap, bought a JVC KD-G425 MP3 CD player/head unit and then had a good hard think about whether I was going to install it. Those speakers probably sat there for about 6 weeks before I got the courage to cut up my parcel shelf.

Panasonic 6x9 speakers

But cut it I did. You have to remove the back seat so you get good access to the parcel shelf. I ended up having to measure, mark, cut, fit the speakers, then do it all over again, then trim the carpet some more, but eventually I got the speakers screwed down securely with a (slightly) jagged edge around them. The speakers came with some cable (7m for each side) so I started feeding that down the cable run down the side of the car. After that I had to go out, so I replaced the back seat and took a big deep breath.

A week later I had composed myself enough to try and finish the job. I bought some spade connectors and crimped them onto all the wires that came out of the new stereo. I then finished running the new speaker cable through to the front of the car – I had to remove all the kick guards from the bottom of the door frames, but not a big deal in the end. Once that was at the front I removed the centre console from the car.

This involved about 10 screws in different places and the only complication came with the boot for the gear lever – it is fixed fast to the gear stick and heavily screwed into the console, but without detaching I could not get the console fully out of the way. With that done, I unscrewed the trim from the centre stack and could finally see the radio. I pulled out the bracket and unplugged the radio from the car – I was at last free of cassette tapes and FM radio that didn’t work which the engine was running.

JVC KD-G425

I had to snip off the plug which led from the car to the radio so I could attach my new cables. Aftermarket car audio manufacturers tend to adhere to a standard ping arrangement and plug type but car manufacturers do not, a Holden has a different plug to a Toyota, to a Hyundai etc, which is why I had to snip the plug. I then crimped the matching spade connectors onto the leads coming from the car (including the new rear speaker cables).

Once that was done, I had to match up the colours of the car leads to the colours of the stereo leads – a bit of a challenge. In Mitsubishi’s wiring diagram, the cables manage to change colour when you look at the speaker end (black/white & white) to when you look at the radio end (green and blue). I had to make a couple of corrections but it was mostly plain sailing.

12V battery – always hot, keeps your radio settings and clock set even when the car is off. 12V ignition – active when ignition is at ACC or ON, provides power to run radio. Earth – completes the circuit, attached to chassis, not battery Antenna – connects to radio antenna. Speakers – positive and negative for each speaker – 4 speakers = 8 wires

Once the cables were connected I mounted the JVC head unit in the bracket, plugged in the cables and replaced all the trim I had removed. Reconnected the battery and turned on the ignition – it worked first time! I had left the old, buzzy speakers in place and set the fade level most of the way to the rear, bass is back and volume is now an option, not to mention I can now play a CD in a car I own for the first time ever.

In the end, it wasn’t as difficult as I feared, but I would still hesitate to recommend installing your own car stereo unless you have a car you are willing to damage, or a desire to have a learning experience about cars and stereo equipment. Let me know if you’ve ever done something similar by leaving a comment below.

One regret I have is that the new 2007 model of the stereo I bought comes with an Auxilary input on the front, something that would be most helpful. Maybe on my next car, hey?

Tekken RX-7