Monday, December 07, 2009

climate change

Oooh, look how topical I am! Politics, climate change...

I've seen some good articles lately, so I thought I'd put up some links in case anyone is interested.

An article from The Economist about debating climate change. I quite like this, it says that while the magazine believes in climate change, it also believes in scientific debate, and scientists with alternative views should not be silenced to support the orthodox view, because that's not what science is about. Sounds reasonable to me!

An article from the SMH basically arguing that Tony Abbot's stance on climate change is inconsistent and untenable, from an politico-economic perspective. I first came across this argument on Jordan's blog (you can find the link to the relevant blog post here) apparently Malcolm Turnbull has expressed similar views. Once again, sounds like a good argument to me. I wonder what the best solution would be?

On a totally unrelated note, I find it ironic that my blog's spell check doesn't recognise 'blog' as a real word.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

politics

" Mr Abbott said he would work to bring the party together because it's easier to manage a party when they oppose rather than negotiate with the government.
"The best way to unite a political party is to really go after your opponents, which is what I intend to do," he told the Nine Network today."
-Tony Abbott in the SMH

This is the kind of attitude I hate in politics, obstructionist for the sake of it and refusing to co-operate to get anything done. A bad sign for the future?

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

a year in books

I've been composing a blog post in my head about how I don't think Twilight is all that bad for people, even though I agree with most of the criticisms of it, but now that it comes to actually sitting down and writing a blog post I am already bored of my arguments. Feel free to call me out if you disagree with this, and I will outline my thoughts. I was going to include a quote (o.k., more a rough paraphrase) from Fahrenheit 451, which I think is an awesome book, if that helps.

So having said what I won't be talking about, here is what I will be talking about. Seeing as it's December, and 'tis the season, I will be doing a Year in Review- my annual reading list! Since I lost this year's diary and didn't get around to putting up last year's list, this will be the books I read in 2008, but I hope you enjoy all the same.

Great Expectations- Charles Dickens
Mister Pip- Lloyd Jones Kind of appropriate to read next to each other, good books but Mister Pip was fairly harrowing.
White Noise- Don DeLillo Really enjoyed this, have a post about this and Bright Eyes
When the Elephants Dance- Tess UrizeHolthe I chose this book for the whimsical title- it turned out to be about WWII in the Phillipines. Interesting, but again- harrowing.
Halowe'en Party- Agatha Christie Too many harrowing books=a run of Agatha Christie.
Towards Zero- Agatha Christie
Death in the Stocks- Georgette Heyer I was told Georgette Heyer was like Agatha Christie, but in reality nowhere near as good.
They Found Him Dead- Georgette Heyer
Destination Unknown- Agatha Christie
Nemesis- Agatha Christie
Listen- Kate Veitch Did not entirely warm to this...
Independent People- Halldor Laxness Something a little different, the story of Icelandic independence through a small farming family.
On Chesil Beach- Ian McEwan The story of a disastrous wedding night was possibly not the best choice for honeymoon reading, much as I love Ian McEwan's writing.
The Aunt's Story- Patrick White The writing quality of this drew me in and kept me going the whole way.
Arthurian Literature and Society- Stephen Knight Good, at least in the first chapters, but I thought that he undervalued TH White and overvalued 'A Knight in King Arthur's Court'. Made me feel better about not being at uni.
The World According to Clarkson- Jeremy Clarkson
Domina- Paul Doherty
Breath- Tim Winton Disappointing to me, I love a lot of Tim Winton but this did not grab me. Maybe it was too male? I don't know...
The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats- Jeffrey Masson
A Partisan's Daughter- Louis De Berniere This one I liked, although it was so ambiguous.
Persuasion- Jane Austen Very much enjoyed, loved the setting especially.
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd- Agatha Christie Finally read the classic, but guessed the twist.
Murder on the Orient Express- Agatha Christie
Murder in the Mews- Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot's Christmas- Agatha Christie
One Hundred Years of Solitude- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas- Gertrude Stein It was fun to see the artistic world of Paris in the 1920's in this way, an interesting perspective on a life.
The Whole Story and Other Stories- Ali Smith Well-executed collection of short-stories.
Kafka on the Shore- Haruki Marukami Very weird, loved the Japanese folkloric quest story, was bemused by the incestuous undertones.
Exile's return: A Literary Odyssey of the 1920's- Malcolm Cowley Not quite what I expected, inspired by Phryne Fisher and Gertrude Stein.
Striding Folly- Dorothy L. Sayers Dorothy L. Sayers = Love!
The Mystery of the Blue Train- Agatha Christie
When Will There Be Good News?- Kate Atkinson So darn depressing, though this is a good series with some black-ish humour and generally likeable characters.
Nightbirds on Nantucket- Joan Aiken Finally read these books, after reading a lot of Joan Aiken in my childhood. These are great, alternate history children's adventure. In a way reminiscent of the Philip Pullman Sally Lockhart series (mainly for the waif heroine).
The Stolen Lake- Joan Aiken
The Cuckoo Tree- Joan Aiken
The Castle- Franz Kafka In a word: baffling.
The Corrections- Jonathan Franzen This was amazing. I'd avoided it for years, but that just goes to show that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. I found the characters to be so human, if a little larger than life.
Dido and Pa- Joan Aiken
The Unbearable Lightness of Being- Milan Kundera Sad, but in a lovely way.
The Sunday Philosophy Club- Alexander McCall Smith Light as a feather, with philosophy!
The Comforts of Saturdays- Alexander McCall Smith
Romulus My Father- Raimond Gaita Heartbreaking, but also beautiful. More philosophical than the previous.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society- Mary Ann Shaffer Interesting, unlike what I expected, another facet of WWII- there are no end to the interesting stories that came out of that war. I liked it.
The Man with the Dancing Eyes- Sophie Dahl A picture book of love and New York.
Breakfast at Tiffany's- Truman Capote

Monday, November 23, 2009

mawwige

I kind of have a love of weddings... some might call it an obsession, I call it an interest? I love to read the wedding of the week in the SMH, but that's been unreliable lately. Thankfully, Georgia has recommended me a wedding blog to give me wedding eye-candy through the week. I've just started reading it, and it's gorgeous, so if you're interested:
Once Wed: http://www.oncewed.com

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

extracts from my old notebook (part 2)

"Free trip to Blue Mountains with lunch and dinner $99 ($59 without food)
For $99 you get morning tea, lunch and a four course dinner and a free trip to the blue mountains!"
- Sign at Indian restaurant in Surry Hills. Doesn't sound all that free to me...

"You know why? That card's expired- 05/11. Oh, is that the 11th year or the 11th month?"
- Overheard

"Write poetry on property"
- Graffiti on Vintage Cellars

A sandy coastline- Ivan Shishkin
Hot Springs of the Yellowstone- Thomas Moran
The trunks in the grass- Vincent van Gogh
- Paintings

"who are you, little i

(five or six years old)
peering from some high

window, at the gold

of november sunset

(and feeling: that if day
has to become night

this is a beautiful way)

-who are you little i, e.e. cummings

"Totally unfunded blackspot"
- Sign on Princes Highway

"Ye shall find refreshment, thy whose bus is without conditioned air"
- Nestea ad, emphasis mine

"People speak in pentameter, we talk in verse. Prose is the more artificial mode."
- Old English tutor

Monday, November 16, 2009

my old notebook, an extract (part 1)

"He wants me to elope with him to South America... Maybe Central America..."
- Overheard on a bus

"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another"
- Proverbs 27:17

"Above all, what interested me was the inarticulateness of grief, that these are two writers who are supposed to be the best at articulating anything in our society who can't articulate to each other... I don't think anyone can articulate it. It's hard to be tangible with your heart."
- Maria Theodotis? (handwriting illegible) on the play 'Construction of the Human Heart' SMH 28.09.07

"Bingie Bingie is one of the best places to be"

"Rachel, where are you? Met Sunday afternoon on the train. Call Steve on -"
- Poster outside Stanmore station

"I glide in on moonlit air
gaze over dew-jeweled grass
to the glass-still sea.
All beauty lies within
the scope of my eyes.
The play of light in limpid pools
where dark/light intersect
create new patterns in the ghost ornamented landscape.
From the decorates clifftop,
up above the jagged rocks,
the firm pull of the tide."

"Three punks sitting on an awning on Enmore Road."

"They had small dreams, but the water drowned them dreams"
- 'Hope'

Friday, November 13, 2009

writers block

I haven't posted anything so long that it's starting to get daunting, so will just have to write and get over it. While I am fairly sure that most people would regard this as a good technique for getting over writers block, I am generally not able to manage it. Blogs are less daunting than many other forms of writing I guess. For instance, November is 'NaNoWriMo' or 'National Novel Writing Month' (the 'national' is a misnomer, it's a global, internet thing originally I believe). Now there's a daunting project- writing a novel in a month. I would be keen to do this, but I am just overall daunted at the prospect. I'm just a chicken, basically. But I have been thinking about my latent novel idea (c'mon, everyone's got one, right?) and wondering what to do with it. I've thought about rejigging the narrative structure to make it easier to tackle, which seem right, but there are a few obstacles I keep running up against:

  1. My idea for this novel was inspired by a story I heard in a Medieval history lecture in first year uni, about a pope (I think Gregory the Great) leading a procession through Rome against the plague. But when I came to look for this story later, I couldn't find it. Did I imagine it altogether? If I did, will I have to abandon the idea in the name of historical accuracy or should I just include it as a fictional event?
  2. Which leads me to think- how should I approach the historical aspects of this story? It's set in the early Medieval period, it will require some research, but I personally am not a big fan of 'historical fiction' per se- or rather what I perceive as historical fiction, I enjoy some things that are set in the past. I think maybe this is because I would prefer the story to take precedence over the setting, and I feel happy about taking liberties with the accuracy of the setting and focusing on the story. But would that end up being even more annoying?
  3. The idea requires a female heroine, but it's a bit of a juggling act in a Medieval setting- how do I approach the whole issue of women's roles in the past? I don't really want it to be the main issue, but it has to be dealt with one way or the other.
I suppose what I should do at this point is take my own advice and start writing something, but as I said- it's daunting! Anyway, don't expect a novel by the end of November from me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

of blogs and books

Lately I've been looking at lots of blogs, and thinking about the different things I could do with mine... a cooking blog! A fashion blog (THAT was a moment of madness, I can't count the ways in which that is a bad idea)! etc. But I find myself drawn back to my original proposition, a blog which is a patchwork of my life and thoughts, with a focus on reviews. Particularly book reviews. Not that I set out with a mission statement, that's just the way I think of it. But lately I have had nothing but substandard book experiences, and even they have been few and far between:
  • The latest book I read was 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' by Stieg Larsson. I had such a visceral reaction to it that I don't think I can say anything meaningful about it. I keep looking for feminist justifications to dislike it (hey, here's one, all the female characters are either raped, sleep with the main character, or both. Does that count?) but when it comes down to it I just found the events described to be deeply awful. Definitely not one for the squeamish...
  • Before that I read the Sally Lockhart series by Phillip Pullman. Much more enjoyable, but after the first book something niggled at me, hard to put a finger on. Was it pushing the boundaries of historical credibility? Was the characterisation a little thin? I don't know what it was that bugged me about it, and that bugged me even more. The first and last books were my favourite though, the in-betweens not so much.
  • And before that 'I Capture the Castle' by Dodie Smith. I actually really liked this one. It made me cry. But I wasn't too sure about the ending for some reason.
You see how incoherent my opinions about these were? And now I am bookless altogether! So someone please recommend me something, preferably that I will like, and definitely that I can review for you. Once again, I make no promises on this (particularly since the voting process on this blog never seems to come up with any answers, but also because I wish to avoid a repeat of the Dragon Tattoo horror, at least for a little while) but I would like to hear from y'all.

Friday, October 02, 2009

where's cat?


Spot me in this photo!

Taken at a free Powderfinger gig in Martin Place. What an awesome way to spend a lunch break! Made me smile after a long week...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

it's not every day you get a dust storm in sydney

But there was one today and it is certainly something. I woke up to orange light pouring in through the windows, which changed to yellow by the time I got out of bed. Walking along the street to the bus stop had an eerie feel, it was quiet and the air was hazy. All the cars had a thin coating of dust, like a morning frost. The streets seemed empty but the bus was packed, and made it's way into the city through the dust clouds. In the CBD the buildings vanished into the dusty distance as though into fog. There was a thick coating of dust on the concierge's station at the Hilton, a rare sight. The dust has a red tint, I wonder how far it has travelled?

Photo from SMH

Thursday, September 17, 2009

just a bunch of stuff i like

Well that poll was unhelpful, everyone voted for different fonts! So I have had to make the decision myself. I hope you're all happy now.

Recently my favourite webcomic, Scary-go-round, ended. And what's more, the guy who creates it says that he will no longer be drawing a comic featuring my favourite character, the whimsical redhead Shelley Winters. Happily though, he is drawing a new webcomic: Bad Machinery. So while this has been sad, it is also exciting to be at the start of something new. Keep an eye on it, you will not be disappointed.

Another website which I like is the Uniform Project. It's creator has pledged to wear the same dress for a year (with various accessories, mostly second-hand) to raise money for school children in India in a sustainable fashion. On the website she records the various outfits she comes up with. Check it out: it's creative, it looks good and it's for a good cause. What's not to like?

Here are some other things I like: black stockings, reading while eating chocolate, morning playlists that make you enthused for the coming day, dresses, exploration, moments that remind you of the greatness of God, coincidences, yellow umbrellas, baking and my new couch. Just a random selection.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

fonts

Dear readers,

Of my last two posts, which font do you prefer? I think the font in the last post is good, especially in italics (which I am fond of), but scanning through the previous one seems more elegant... Maybe I should just do a complete font change.

So poll, which font is nicer to read?

a) Arial
b) Courier
c) Georgia
d) Times
e) Lucida Grande
f) Trebuchet
g) Verdana

I wasn't going to give so many options, but I really don't know what font the other posts were in... And why do none of those fonts look like what I've used before? Aargh...

Oh well, put in your votes and we can end this madness.

Thanks ever so.

Monday, August 31, 2009

homelessness

I have been thinking a lot about homelessness lately- working in the city it can be quite in your face- and so I thought I would share some things I've come across in the past little while...

My thinking for this post started with a bit of a rant about political correctness. Triggered in turn by a comment on an internet site who created a character who was homeless and mentally ill, of perpetuating stereotypes of homeless people as having mental illnesses and being drug and/or alcohol addicts. Sadly I do not remember exactly what the person said, but it puzzled me somewhat.

The first thought I had was that when I think about people being derogatory toward homeless people is the accusation of laziness and the need for hard work/a job. The second was that a large proportion of homeless people have addictions and/or mental illnesses, and the third was that in a way the remark could in a way be construed as saying that it was right to dismiss people who are mentally ill or addicted, but that there were deserving individuals out there who were homeless for no fault of their own.

To sum up, my response internally was that although I understand that it is a good thing to see people as people and not stereotypes, it is important not to whitewash the problems of homeless people, because they need to be addressed in helping the homeless. After all, mental illness and addiction can adversely affect people's ability to hold down a job or a house, particularly without proper support. Which they should have. And I disliked what I felt was a kind of stigma associated with mental illness implicit in the remark... Maybe I was being overly sensitive.

I guess talking about these things is difficult, I feel the need to clarify- I don't think that everyone with a mental illness is homeless or unable to hold down a job, since I can clearly see that this is not so, and I don't think that everyone who is homeless is mentally ill. Or addicted to drugs or alcohol. I don't think that everyone who is mentally ill takes drugs or drinks, or vice versa. Have I covered all my bases? Have I been offensive? Let me know if I have, I will try to address it.

Alrighty then. According to ABS statistics from 2007 54% of people who have ever been homeless have a mental illness, compared to 20% of all Australians. There could be a few reasons for this high proportion- one is to do with Government reform which left a large number of mentally ill people without proper care or resources. Then there are the effects of living homeless, and the effects of life events that make people homeless. I found it harder to find drug and alcohol stats... But I hear the proportion is high. So what should we do with this information/ We should help the homeless. Provide better mental health and rehab facilities. Homelessness can happen to anyone. Yeah...

Really you should read this blog: Micaiah Sells Out. It really says it all a lot better than I do... It's written by a Christian guy (my friend's little brother actually) with a social work degree and a job at Mission Australia working with homeless people. Which makes him better qualified to talk about homelessness than me.


And I found this story touching- it's about a one-time pop star, now aged, who has experienced mental illness, homelessness and alcoholism... I didn't save the link, but I found it on SMH:

Depression has been a constant companion for Cave. Uncomfortable in the company of strangers, panic attacks have been a regular feature of his life. Even in his heyday, he says, he would get nervous for days before appearing on stage. Tragically, these problems would eventually bring him into the orbit of notorious psychiatrist Dr Harry Bailey, the man at the centre of the Chelmsford Hospital scandal in which many patients died during, or committed suicide after, Bailey's unregulated experimental techniques.
...

Cave blames Chelmsford for much of his physical and mental decline over the next few years. In the 1980s his alcoholism and mental illness accelerated until he found himself sleeping in the toilets opposite the St George Leagues Club in Kogarah.

“If it wasn't for the people at the club, I wouldn't be here. They looked after me, gave me breakfast and kept an eye on me. I'd be dead if it wasn't for their kindness.”



Monday, August 24, 2009

the ugly truth about romantic comedy?

In the last few months I have seen two romantic comedies at the cinema- 'The Proposal' and 'The Ugly Truth'. One of these is about a Canadian editor who proposes marriage to her assistant in order to be able to stay and work in America, one is about a tv producer who is forced to hire a misogynistic presenter whom she instantly dislikes in order to get ratings. One of these movies horrified me with its attitude toward women, one of them pleasantly surprised me, even if it had some cringe-worthy moments. Which is which? Spoilers ahead...

'The Proposal' starts with a self-confident editor, a terrible boss with her life (and those of her subordinates) firmly under her control, being threatened with deportation because she hasn't fulfilled her visa requirements. She then gets her overworked and overlooked assistant to pretend to be her fiance, and agree to marry her, so that she can stay. While she uses her power over him to do this, from then on he has something on her and the tables are turned. He then takes every opportunity to humiliate her- because he is so angry at being coerced into doing this thing he does not agree with. They go to spend the weekend with his family in Alaska.

It gets very weird from here on in, because this is the part where they are meant to fall in love (and of course the audience knows this). But how does this happen? She embarrasses herself in front of his family, falls into the water from a boat and needs to be rescued (since she can't swim), opens up and tells him about herself and in generally is made more vulnerable and likable. As for him... he reveals himself to be a fairly moody character, doesn't talk to anyone much and certainly doesn't respond when she opens up about her past (I will just mention in passing that there seem to be at least 4 nights in this 'weekend').

Skip forward to the point when she is found out and returns to her office to pack for Canada with him following after realising he loves her. He marches into the office, in front of all their co-workers, insists that she marries him and kisses her- at which point a co-worker yells out 'show her who's boss'. Net result of movie: there were fun moments, but after walking out we were increasingly outraged that 1) there was no effective romantic development and 2) the lead female character was basically humiliated and torn down until the male character establised himself as the one in charge. Left with a bad taste in our mouths...

'The Ugly Truth' was a bit of a worry, the male character is introduced as a real misogynist, he's pretty horrible, and so I wondered where the movie was going and what point it wanted to make. But as it increased it improved, and I think it had a major advantage in having better chemistry and romantic development between the two leads- the control-freak tv producer and the obnoxious presenter. He coaches her on how to get the perfect guy, the hot-doctor-next-door, by being everything a guy wants. Which some people find offensive, I will quote:

"Men are not particularly well represented in The Ugly Truth, either, but the onus on changing yourself to be desirable is placed squarely at the feet of women. If Abby wants a boyfriend, she is instructed not to criticise eligible men, to laugh at their jokes - funny or not - and to never talk about her problems because he will not really care."- Emma Young, SMH, 24/08/09

Which would be fair, but that's not the take-home message. She breaks up with the perfect guy because she feels she has not been herself, and she wants a more honest relationship. The presenter falls in love with her and has to confront his demons about love and relationships. They both humiliate themselves on national tv by declaring their true feelings for another (in a hot air balloon no less, in one of the worst CGI scenes of modern times). So I was pleasantly surprised, since I had been worried about what this movie might be trying to say, but in the end both characters came from a more equal setting, both grew, and they met each other somewhere in the middle- both stepping down somewhat from their positions. Moral of the story something fairly Hollywood, along the lines of 'you can't plan love' and 'you have to find someone who loves you for who you are.'

It's not so bad, Emma Young. She even gets to keep her career (and most of her dignity) at the end. Battle of the RomComs: The Ugly Truth:1, The Proposal: 0.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

strong themes

One of the things I wanted to do when I grew up was to catalogue fairy tales. I read a few collections of fairy tales from various countries and noticed that there were notable similarities between folk tales from completely unrelated countries. I decided I would hunt down these similarities, compare them, and find out why this was.

When I grew up, I found this had already been done. Well, fairy tales had been catalogued- centuries ago. There were universally acknowledged and referenced 'types', which you can refer to by number if you know the catalogue well. This was fairly discouraging. I guess I should have seen it coming, what with the collections of comparative folktales and all, but you always hope. They'd even tried to figure out why. This is where Jung's idea of the collective unconscious theory comes in. As far as I understand it, the theory states that human experience is to some extent innately shared between all humanity, without needing to be learned, and this knowledge encompasses a large portion of mythology, and perhaps language to an extent.

I kind of like that theory, it has an implication for the shared humanity of all people, and that everyone has something in common deep down. But I think it's largely discredited, maybe there's some correlation between the preference for nurture over nature in the nature vs. nurture debate. Which has now swung back, at least a bit. Also modern science and psychology doesn't sit well with it. So maybe I will have to give up on it. Another theory involves migration.

Long story short, I find fairy tale comparisons fascinating. So many variations, so similarity. Joseph Campbell tried to condense the comparison even further, by theorising that most tales share one basic structure, involving hero going on a journey. This was famously used by George Lucas as the basis for Star Wars. It's interesting that where fairy tale similarities are seen as a sign of shared humanity, works of popular culture which share similar themes are often seen as derivative. That seems somewhat unfair. So I'm glad to see that they have now catalogued tropes in popular culture in a handy online location- TVTropes. Although, I will warn you that XKCD has classified that site as addictive, so view at your own peril.

I wonder how much overlap there is between folk and fairy tale tropes and popular culture tropes?

Monday, August 10, 2009

ephemera

I had millions of ideas to share with you all on the bus ride home, but once I got here they all went out of my mind completely.

But why is it that my bus always leaves exactly as I reach the bus stop. No matter when I start running, or where the bus is when I begin, or how fast I sprint ('sprint' for a given value of 'wearing work shoes') the moment I can reach out and touch the doors is the moment that they close, and the bus drives off, not heeding my waving arms and exclamations?

On another note, I have often spent time defending Gen Y against the various slights made on them, but maybe there is something in this attention span, instant gratification thing. I say this because I notice myself checking facebook compulsively for new updates, but worse still getting annoyed when there haven't been any new posters put up on the traffic light post near my bus stop for over a week. Where are the new things? I already know I can get beginner piano lessons, I need more news!

Disturbing.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

baking

So I suppose I have given you long enough to finish that long and, if I say so myself, very long-winded blogpost that I wrote last, and now is the time to write something new. Strangely I have spent a long time wanting to write something, but now that I start all my ideas disappear like magic. Or maybe not strangely. Maybe that is just the nature of writing?

So now I will do something a bit unusual and share with you a recipe that I came up with the other day. It's pretty simple, but tasty (and healthy!)

Baked pears

Ingredients:
2 pears
Natural yoghurt
Cinnamon
Nutmeg
Honey

Thinly slice pears, place in a baking tray. Brush with honey, sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Place in preheated oven on low/moderate heat (go for 180 degrees if unsure), bake approx. 15 minutes or until starting to soften.
Serve with scoop of yoghurt and a drizzle of honey.
Serves 2 (vary number of pears for different amounts of people)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

as byatt, art and book reviews

A friend of mine who has spent many years reviewing books recently described book reviewing on her blog as necessarily and at essence a very subjective thing, and something which should be understood as such. So when, in a slightly fangirlish moment, I went looking for AS Byatt reviews and found one that was lukewarm, I had to laugh at myself for getting angry. They were a reviewer, they were communicating their experience, not everyone likes AS Byatt, etc. The review was all about how the reviewer had disliked Byatt but liked Possession, so it was actually quite positive. But since Possession is one of my favourite books I still felt slighted. Especially by the comments. The first one was by a man who was apparently knowledgable about Victorian poetry, and he called her poetry 'inauthentic'. I didn't read the comments for long, becuase they made me upset. Becuase I thought the poetry captured something about Victorian poetry, it's allusiveness particularly. But then again, I haven't read much of it...

But since it makes me sad that people don't like AS Byatt I thought I should try to explain why I do. The difficulty is that I like her books for precisely the same reason some people don't: I like the English academic protagonists and the 'cleverness' and the literary-ness. I also happen to think the characters are great. I feel like the books have a lot of depth, with well-rounded characters, a lot of literary allusions and something to say about scholarship itself and why people do it. I understand this would not appeal if you had no interest in English academia or literature, but I do, and I love it. In fairness (if that is really the right term) to the reviewer I mentioned above, the book that introduced her to her dislike of AS Byatt was Still Life- which is a book I have never read. I have a feeling that it is one of the books I picked up in the library, read the first page of, and put down with a sense of foreboding.

Reading The Children's Book yesterday I was reminded of another side of AS Byatt- the one that has an interest in fairy tales. I've read some of her fairy tales and they are wonderful, while many modern writers have tried to rewrite fairy tales very few of them do it with the same grace and sense of magic and menace that AS Byatt manages. Part of what I like about AS Byatt is to do with this, it is her ability to tell stories and her love of stories. The part of The Children's Book I referred to reminded me strongly of my own childhood, and how I always felt that some day a magic door would open up and I would be transported to another world, and inanimate objects had a life and there were invisble, hidden things. Even when I grew a bit older and knew none of it was true, part of me still felt that a hidden door could open at any moment.

AS Byatt:
"The seen and the unseen world were interlocked and superimposed. You could trip out of one and into the other at any moment."

I haven't finished reading this book yet, by a long shot. And I wasn't sure of it to begin with. But it's drawing me in, and those lines for me hold promise. So far, I think in a way it is a book about art. About art and literature and the magic those things hold. Maybe literature is the wrong word, maybe I should say stories.

It's a sharp contrast to an article I read today about the productivity commission into whether the Australian Government should continue to subsidise the publishing industry by imposing rules on importing new books in order to support Australian writers. I believe the general verdict is 'no', but whether that is the right response I couldn't say. David Marr has written a scathing article on the report (Titled 'Book Report a Jumble of garble). He quotes the report as it tries to quantify the "unpriced externality component of the cultural benefits" of Australian literature:

The commissioners aren't singing psalms to the "externalities" of a vibrant national literature. They see negatives everywhere. We're too prone, for instance, to hog the cultural benefits for ourselves. "Most of the cultural value" generated by "hundreds of thousands of titles purchased and read in Australia each year", they say, will be "internalised" by the readers.

No net gain to the nation.

...


Helpfully, they sketch what beneficial national literature looks like: writing that helps "diffuse social norms" in the interest of more "predictable or trustable" human behaviour. "The reading of books of cultural value may help individuals to feel more connected to, and to be more productive within, particular social groups or the wider society."

That's not how you do it! I don't know how exactly you quantify the value and benefit of a book, and people have been arguing about the value of art for centuries, but I'm pretty sure they're doing it wrong. Books are not there to improve productivity or disseminate the values of the state- they are there to do a wide range of things including (but not limited to)- entertain, enlighten, give insight into human nature, educate on a topic and put across a point of view. It is best to have a wide range of books giving a wide range of viewpoints, homogeneity is not the goal, so how can 'Australian literature' promote ''predictable or trustable' human behaviour'?

But in a way that really reflects my view on the debate, which is basically that art should not have to serve a purpose, it only needs to be beautiful. Or, as Ella Fitzgerald might say, 'Tain't what you say it's the way that you say it. 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty' because beauty has an inherent value, we should create beautiful things. In my English honours year there was a course on literary theory, and I heard the students give speeches at our mid-year seminar on why art/literature should be political, and I thoroughly disagreed. Politics is transitory, art should be transcendent. People don't like Shakespeare because of his politics but because of his words. While the politics add to your appreciation, and are important, they are not what makes literature.

Now that you know my views on art and AS Byatt, you can judge my reviews accordingly.

Friday, July 10, 2009

feeling hot, hot, hot

I'm very excited because there is a new AS Byatt out! It's called The Children's Book, have justed started reading it and will report back later.


In other news, something that I would recommend checking out at the moment is Triple J's Hottest 100 of all time which can be found here in list format, and on the radio over the weekend if you want to listen to them count down. The top 20 are being revealed on Sunday. Hearing the ads for this on the radio, asking listeners to vote, I was incredibly dubious of the idea. How can you create something that tries to be so definitive? Reading the list however, I am sold. Not so much because I think they have actually managed to find the hottest 100 songs of all time, but because I think the execution is pretty impressive.

The concept is designed to celebrate 20 years of Triple J, playing on their annual Hottest 100 countdown. I'm relatively impressed with the range so far- there are quite a few decades represented, and we have punk, metal, grunge, rock and pop, electronica, reggae... But the thing I really like about it is the description of each song- drawing on historical backgrounds, interviews with band members and other information to give a snapshot of the song, it's significance etc. There's also a section on 'History', which gives an overview of musical developments from the 60's, which is quite fun.

I don't really want to rate the list at all, I myself have no idea what I would put into a 'Hottest 100 of all time', and I think that personal taste will play a very large part in what people think should be there- everyone will be quite critical. A few points though, it is very male dominated (someone pointed this out in the comments) with only around 2 female singers, both part of male dominated bands. Very men-in-bands-with guitars, although there are a handful of solo artists (including Jeff Buckley, Bob Dylan and Bob Marley). It also reads to me like a list for my generation- The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Clash feature, but I think these are bands we see as influential. The '90s is very over-represented, and grunge in particular- there's a bunch of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Silverchair features too.

While I think this is a list that will please no-one, it is an interesting concept, and I think they've executed it well, and this is why I think it is worth checking out if you have an interest. And you are welcome to come back here afterwards and complain that they don't have your favourite song/do have a song you hate. But bear in mind that I don't have to agree.
:)

Monday, June 29, 2009

you said it, xkcd

I don't know if I've ever mentioned it to you personally, oh blog reader, although I'm fairly sure that I mentioned it in one of my previous blog posts, but one of my pet hates is people complaining about societal decline. Why? Because people having been complaining about societal decline in much the same terms for centuries, if not millenia. Ancient Roman writers talk about the debauchery of the present generation and the lack of respect of youngsters for their elders (and doubtless also about the increasing costs of groceries). If you would like a British example, read Bede. But people go on just the same, complaining as though they were facing entirely new phenomena. Surely society has changed? Well yes, but one of its constant features has been lamenting the current generation and their idle and disrespectful ways.

Why mention this now? Well, today's xkcd really summed up my feelings (even though I do not know this 'Idiocracy').

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

internet exploration

I'm not very good at running a blog I suppose, because I have no intention to write about anything I was talking about last time. I'm sorry, but there you have it.

Instead, I bring to you the pick of the internet, that I have selflessly picked out for you through hard hours of internet browsing, following random links, reading and viewing:

Alice and Kev
If you didn't know already, Sims 3 was released earlier this month, and this site has used it to make a compelling ongoing blog narrative, about the adventures of her Sims, a homeless girl and her father. The expanded personality features in Sims 3 make this more complex, and the amount of free will means the storyline has plenty of unexpected twists and turns. The writer has also put the story together well, with well chosen pictures and good writing, and gathered plenty of followers in the process.

A warning: this story really shows the possibilities of the game and makes it look appealing, after reading it for a while you may feel the urge to go and buy a copy. You have been warned. But I'm enjoying my copy so far... *cough* Although I don't know if I have enough patience to let the sims go and create their own stories, I have goals for them! And so little time to achieve them... *sigh*


Photochains
You may have seen this in Canon advertising, and it is purely a promotion for Canon cameras, but I think it's also an interesting idea. The point is to make chains of photos, starting with one photo in which something is tagged that inspires the next. There are some good photos out there, and I'll be interested to see where the chains end up.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

long weekends and biographers

What a nice long weekend it was... Now back at work, thankfully it is all less hectic than last week. Last week we were organising an awards dinner for Friday night, and it was all a bit busy. But now the dinner has come and gone, I got to witness bankers dancing to 'I will Survive' (quite an experience) and I see the awards are in the paper today! Well, in a very small article, but they are there, and I was involved with them, so it is a little bit exciting. Other than that, had pretty much a perfect long weekend, I saw some family and friends, was briefly at the Jazz festival in Darling Harbour, saw the art exhibition I wanted to before it closed, and got to watch Twilight and When Harry Met Sally. When Harry Met Sally is pretty much the best movie ever. Twilight is... well... it makes a bit more sense, plot-wise, than the book? Probably?

I would like to rant about the book that I'm currently reading, have also been wanting to write a post about ranting in general, but that can wait. I went to the bookshop the other day, having run out of book, and having no idea what I wanted to read decided it would be interesting to get Agatha Christie's autobiography. By all accounts Agatha Christie had a fairly interesting life, spending some time with her archaeologist husband on digs around the world, and I have an interest in both archaeology and Agatha Christie. Unfortunately, the bookshop did not have the autobiography, but they did have several biographies. At this point I made the mistake of judging a book by its cover, combined with the mistake of looking for the cheapest book.

Now you may think that is silly, but the cheaper book was also much larger, and looked fairly authoritative, and so I fell for it. Some way in I was reminded of Possession and its view of the biography industry, the way that biographers can come to feel they own their subjects. This particular writer has a quirk of telling us what Agatha Christie and her family members would have been thinking at various points. It's a bit grating to me. There is also what seems to be a lack of understanding of the background of the time. For instance, she talks about Agatha Christie's views on women, saying something like this: those views are not very palatable today, but Agatha Christie also had insight and saw that women had power to influence men and thought that this was positive. But if you read literature written around that time, you see those views are not at all unique- for instance they cropped up in Howards End, which I read recently. Also she uses the term 'Victorian' very broadly, without showing much understanding of the Victorian period.

These points bring me to my next issue: she is very judgemental of the figures she is writing about, and judgemental without a lot of regard for prevailing historical attitudes. She is constantly irritated that Agatha Christie had servants and was happy having servants, and that she basically participated in the class system of her day. The author describes Agatha's father thusly: "he was intelligent and charming, but he was a fool" (I have paraphrased, but she does use the word 'fool'). She does not apparently feel the need to justify this remark, but it seems it is because his finances went poorly. He was not backward in spending money, but apparently one of his trustees in America embezzled and one went insane. What a fool to have let that happen?

I will happily rant further if anyone would like to know more. :)

Friday, May 22, 2009

urbanity

Warning: This post may be less witty than the title might lead you to expect.

I have lived in a city for most of my life and I love it. My particular city is Sydney, although I lived for a (very) short time in London and would love to visit New York. Sydney is the city that I know best. Cities have been around for thousands and thousands of years, but I think the concept of what is 'urban' has changed somewhat. Or maybe it would be better to put it this way: cities have changed with developments in technology, the industrial revolution, class changes and so on. The way people relate to cities has also changed.

Graffiti may have been around for thousands of years, but I think maybe there is a shift since the 20th century in how people relate to the cities they live in. Or maybe not. Mainly I wanted to share some cool city related things.

Psychogeography

According to Guy Ernest Debord, apparently the originator of this concept, phsychogeography goes something like this: "the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals." He further goes on to talk about "the evident division of a city into zones of distinct psychic atmospheres." Voila pyschogeography. It gave rise to the situationists and derive (I'm still not sure how to do accents in this blog) who, as I understand it, put the ideas of physcogeography into practise in finding new ways of exploring the city.

I love this idea, this interest in exploring the urban spaces, the implications that the city is different to everyone, that everyone is living in a different city. There's an implicit ownership- that this is my city, that there are things which make it mine. This leads on to...

Urban exploration

Taking this concept of having your own city, of getting to know the city, and applying it to little-known and off-limits areas. Such as stormwater drains and abandoned buildings. This got bad press when a couple of people drowned in a stormwater drain in Sydney after heavy rain, but most urban explorers seemed to think those people didn't know what they were doing. There's a group in Sydney called the 'cave clan' that are involved in this.

I love this idea as well, the idea of discovering unknown parts of the city. Did you know that there is a disused train station under Sydney? Apparently there are organised and legal tours you can take that show you that. Abandoned buildings, especially industrial ones, have an aesthetic appeal for me. I love the idea of exploring these areas. A lot of these explorers take photos. The SMH put up a link to a website for urban explorers in the aftermath of the flash floods, which was fascinating, but now I don't know how to refind it.

Parkour

This take the idea of urban exploration, but applies it more to rooftops than tunnels. Ok, it's not really an exclusively urban pursuit, wikipedia tells me it was invented as a type of martial arts in the early 20th century. As I understand it, it's a way of getting from one place to another as fast as possible, unaided. It using a lot of gymnastic type skill. Some of the things they do are pretty amazing, type 'parkour' into Youtube sometime.

Lately Parkour has come to prominence after featuring in James Bond movie, as well as some other movies and video games. Andrew recently bought one of them, called 'Mirrors Edge', in which you run around rooftops and buildings using athletic skills to deliver packages, evade police and solve crimes. Pretty cool. Even if it's not exclusively urban, I love the way it fits so seamlessly into the urban environment and provides a new way of exploring it.

...

Some of my Sydney is here, also recent discoveries include the David Jones food court and Carriageworks theatre- an amazing place made of an old railway related building.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

fundamentalism and historical fiction

In the media and in public opinion there seems to be a perception that currently we are undergoing a rise of fundamental religion, with particular emphasis on the role of religion in politics and so on. In Christian circles, you will more likely hear that we are going through a rise in secularism (?) and militant atheism. For instance, see Richard Dawkins, and I guess the media portrayal of 'fundamentalists'. In a way I think maybe these could be flip-sides of the same coin, if you see atheists as also leaning towards fundamentalism maybe it all makes sense. Maybe one side is right and the other is wrong. Maybe it is the age old lament, 'society's not what it used to be'.

Whichever, I am coming from the Christian perspective and constantly provoked by media discussion of religion and its ills, particularly when I feel it is defending Reason in an irrational manner. But that is really for another day. Today I am mostly wanting to talk about an article in the Herald about an upcoming film, Agora. It's based on the story of Hypatia, a female philosopher and mathematician in Alexandria in the 4th century (or so) AD.

Alright, I don't know much about this character, so as contrast for the claims made in the review I'm going to use Wikipedia. Anyone who is more knowledgeable, feel free to comment, maybe I will check more later, the Wikipedia article does seem well referenced though. Anyway, let's contrast quotes from this article with some wikipedia:

- On her life

SMH: "Rachel Weisz and director Alejandro Amenabar travelled back to ancient times to tell a modern story about a progressive woman standing against religious dogma and persecution."

Wiki: "According to the Byzantine "Suda", she worked as teacher of philosophy, teaching the works of Plato and Aristotle.[14] It is believed that there were both Christians[15] and foreigners[10] among her students. Although Hypatia was herself a pagan, she was respected by a number of Christians, and later held up by Christian authors as a symbol of virtue."

-On her death

SMH: Forced to flee the city's library, a storehouse of ancient knowledge and manuscripts, Hypatia rescues a handful of irreplaceable texts from a Christian ransacking and continues her theorising on the nature of the universe. Christian leaders eventually label her a witch and make her a martyr to scientific reason.

Wiki: Believed to have been the reason for the strained relationship between the Imperial Prefect Orestes and the Bishop Cyril, Hypatia attracted the ire of a Christian population eager to see the two reconciled. Despite her actual background, authors Soldan and Heppe wrote a text in 1990 arguing that Hypatia may have been the first famous "witch" punished under Christian authority.

And we'll give the director the last word:
"We all can tell that we are going to somewhere else. We don't know exactly what. And since I am an optimist by nature, I don't think we'll go back to something like the Middle Ages, but we can feel that something is not quite fitting right now."

Typical, diss the Middle Ages. There's more on both sides of this debate, so read both articles, they are interesting. Maybe the most annoying thing for me is that when I read that article I feel they're going to do that most irritating of historical fiction things and make a historical situation and character utterly anachronistic in order to moralize at their audience. To be fair I haven't seen this movie yet. Maybe I am just biased, possibly my religious tendencies are handicapping my ability to reason.


...


You know, I would really like to write a light-hearted and whimsical post, but reading the newspaper everyday it's so easy to find things to rant about... Alright, ranting is kind of fun. But maybe this behaviour is bad for my health.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

the budget

I wanted to write a blog post today, and I wanted to not write about the budget, but as I was reading a few articles in the SMH this morning I found it impossible to resist. But I don't want to talk about the budget, really I don't. Think of this more as a blog about journalism. Or subjectivity. Or similar.

The first thing I went to this morning was an article by Ross Gittins, hoping for a good budget summary that would mean I didn't have to wade through too many specifics. Here is an extract:

"Swan is worried about the size of the budget deficit and how long it will take to get the budget back under control.

Hence his plans to cut back middle-class welfare by reducing superannuation perks, means testing the private health insurance rebate, and cracking down on abuse of the Medicare safety net. Not to mention hikes in the Medicare levy surcharge.

The trouble with this is it's all a bit previous, as the Poms say. The recession has hardly got started, we have only the faintest idea of how long and bad it will be, but already we're worrying about what we'll do when it's over.

It's as though we're planning the clean-up after the cyclone, even before the cyclone's hit. Surely battening down the hatches would be a smarter idea at this point."

So the general idea is that the Government is trying to cut back on spending too early and still needs to deal with the recession.

Compare and contrast:

"Make no mistake. It is good policy to increase spending in a recession. A deficit is a good thing in bad times. It softens the blow, providing a countervailing force against the downturn.

But it's only good policy if you cut spending accordingly once a recovery is under way.

The Rudd Government has been commendably bold in boosting spending in the downturn.

But it is now exposed to be woefully timid in its plans for cutting spending in an upswing."

So you're saying that the problem with the budget is that the Government is spending too much, because we are in an economic upswing and we should be cutting back?

I particularly like the way the Government doesn't win either way. On the positive side, both these articles were in the same paper- the SMH- which does make me feel better about its objectivity as a whole, and its ability to present different viewpoints. At any rate, I'm a bit confused now, so I leave you to make your own judgements about this budget.

Friday, March 27, 2009

top five songs

The thing is, it's Friday, it's after 5, and I'm going home. But I wanted to do this, so maybe a sketch now and more later...

The Impression that I Get- Mighty, Mighty Bosstones

Yellow- Coldplay

I Must Belong Somewhere- Bright Eyes

Man, I can't choose... More later
Have a good weekend!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

top five fantasy

I liked writing that so much I'm going to do another one. Maybe I'll do daily top 5 lists. Maybe I won't. You'll just have to wait and see...

I'm not including The Lord of the Rings in this list, you probably all know I love it. I didn't include the Bible in the last list either, but they both loom large.

I know that a lot of people look down on fantasy, but I think that this is unfair and unwarranted. I want to make a list of books that will appeal to a range of people and maybe interest any non-fantasy readers out there.

Top 5 fantasy books you should read (in no particular order):

The Last Unicorn- Peter Beagle
This is an amazing book, it's got everything- it's funny, it's sad, it's bittersweet and moving and the characters stay with you afterwards. Read it and we can discuss together what it means...

The Wizard of Earthsea- Ursula le Guin
Ursula le Guin is pretty great, and so is this trilogy (well, kind of trilogy). These are pretty sad books, and are about power, and balance, and death- all those important things. Writing is spare and elegaic, or so I think.

The Discworld Series- Terry Pratchett
I've read almost all of them at least twice. Fantasy satire on the real world, Terry Pratchett's encyclopedic knowledge never ceases to amaze me. People are put off by the large size of teh series- don't be, all the books stand alone. Some of my favourites: Men At Arms, Wyrd Sisters and Soul Music.

Perdido St. Station- China Mieville
Unlike the books listed above, I've only read this one once. But maybe that's because my family doesn't own it. It's an engrossing world- kind of fantasy, kind of thriller, conducted in an urban industrial dystopia. It's incredibly engaging and the world is so well drawn I'm going to recommend it.

The Once and Future King- T.H. White
I think this has to be my favourite retelling of the Arthurian legend (sorry Mists of Avalon fans)- it's imaginative, the characters are sympthetic, it deals with the uneasy relationship of power and violence, in a way that only becomes irritating in The Prophecies of Merlin. The first book is so child-like, but they kind of grow up with Arthur. Incredibly lovable. And what would a good fantasy list be without something Arthurian?

I feel like this list is a bit arbitrary, because there are some great books that should be on here. I'll just mention a few in passing: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Alan Garner; The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper; Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake; Foxmask, Juliet Marillier; The Plum-Rain Scroll, Ruth Manley (similar, but superior, to Lian Hearn)... Once I start thinking about it, more keep springing to mind. But these are a good place to start.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

influences

At the moment everyone on facebook is making up lists of their 5 top books etc. for different categories, in a manner reminiscent of High Fidelity, but I really feel that a top five deserves a blog post to be dealt with fully. So here are some top 5 lists of mine:

Top 5 most influential books, in chronological order:

-Fairytales
I don't remember which book. All I know is that for the first half of kindergarten I couldn't read at all, but then somehow I started, and the first word I remember reading is "grandmother", I'm assuming this was 'Little Red Riding Hood'. That was such an exciting moment, and the start of a lifelong love of words.

- The Treasures of the Snow, Patricia St. John
Reading this book is the first time that I remember really thinking about what I believe and making a conscious decision that yes, I would like to count myself a follower of Jesus. So pretty important for me...

-The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
This book pretty much sealed my fate as a bookish fantasy nerd, I loved it so much. I read it again every year for years.

- Possession, A.S. Byatt
I read this while taking trains around England after finishing my HSC, it was the perfect combination of book and place, and made me decide that studying English would be a fun and glamorous activity (which may well surprise those who've read it).

- Beowulf, Seamus Heaney translation
I read this just before starting uni, decided that Old English was amazing, also influenced by Possession, switched a course from Archaeology to English so I could do ASNAC in second year, and ended up doing honours in Old English.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

just when i thought that the randomness had gone...

I was reading an article today about posters which have been popping up on lampposts in Melbourne and entertaining the local populace by saying things like:
"I like doing stuff but I always end up doing the same stuff again and again. I'd like to meet up with people who like doing stuff, preferably different stuff to my stuff..."
And signing it 'Craig'
Some think it was an ad for a classifieds website.

But it turns out there was (already?) someone in New York doing the same thing and signing off 'Chris'. You can find out about it here:
http://zoomdoggle.com/2009/03/honorary-doggler-chris-not-craig/
These people believe that the originals were a spoof of the website.

Anyway it's pretty random and the website made me smile, so I felt I should share it. I saw an unusual poster on the corner of Enmore Rd and Stanmore Rd last night, but didn't get a chance to get a proper look. I all can really say is that it was up pretty high, and I think it involved the word "throbbing". More later... Perhaps.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

And onto another year

I thought this would be an appropriate way to herald in a new year of blogging: with a meme stolen from Ronni:



1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?
Got married! Graduated from university. Got a full-time job and held it down for three months. An eventful year really...

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I'm not sure whether I made any... But this year I have. Not too sure that I'll keep it though.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No, although some people I know got pregnant.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No

5. What countries did you visit?
None, I stayed in Australia the whole time.

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?
Organisational skills. A clean house.

7. What date from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
5th April- my wedding day. I hope that it remains etched in my memory because I'll have to remember it for anniversaries and so on.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting married, graduating from uni, getting a job...

9. What was your biggest failure?
I don't know what my biggest failure was, some kind of amalgamation of all my failings?

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Just the usual cold, flu and hayfever.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Concert tickets, a care package, litres of champagne

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Well there are many people that I know who acheived things this year- who got into courses or graduated form them, who got married or got drivers licences or went and did something good for the community or the world. There are people who helped in the running of my wedding, who I very much appreciated. On a more international scale I can't think of anyone whose behaviour was consistently worthy of celebration...

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Well I started reading the news regularly, so there was alot of that in there.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Towards a wedding!

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Getting married! These answers are getting repetetive, I'm sorry....

16. What song will always remind you of 2008?
MGMT Electric Feel, or all MGMT really.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Happier. Possibly.
ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter for sure.
iii. richer or poorer? Richer! Full time job does that for you...

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Reading, travelling, writing, hanging with friends, having random adventures.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
Work. Especially at Oporto.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With family- my parents, grandparents, siblings, husband. Good traditional Christmas with turkey and tree and Church and presents and people.

22. Did you fall in love in 2008?
I was already in love. Fell more in love?

23. Did your heart break in 2008?
No...

24. What was your favourite TV program?
In 2008? Top Gear, Spicks and Specks, Bones maybe? And So You Think You Can Dance. Didn't watch alot of tv though...

25. Where were you when 2008 began?
In the Rocks in Sydney, watching the fireworks, drinking champagne etc.

26. Who were you with?
Uni friends, and Andrew, and Alicia, and thousands of strangers

27. Where will you be when 2008 ends?
At a pool party/BBQ in Beecroft

28. Who will you be with when 2008 ends?
Uni friends, Andrew

29. What was the best book you read?
Probably 'The Corrections'. Will post a more comprehensive list later :) But that was a very good book, that I avoided reading for a long time because I thought it wouldn't be.

30. What was your greatest musical discovery?
MGMT.

31. What did you want and get?
A job.

32. What did you want and not get?
A trip overseas, a reliable internet connection.

33. What was your favourite film of this year?
I think 'Once' was in 2007, so I'll have to go for Juno.

34. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Andrew decorated my flat with balloons while I was out, then Sylvia, Angi, Andrew and Enoh came over to eat dinner and cake, play cards and wear party hats. I turned 22.

35. How many different states did you travel to in 2008?
Three- If you can count NSW. I visited the ACT and Victoria.

36. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?
Eclectic? Confused? A bipolar (or tripolar) collision between the practical, the stylish and the eccentric.

37. What kept you sane?
Sane? All the people who helped at the wedding, Andrew, multiple books.

38. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Barack Obama! Maybe. Not a big fan of celebrities generally...

39. What political issue stirred you the most?
The US elections. The proposed internet filter. The conflict in the Congo, and the political instability of Zimbabwe.

40. How many concerts did you see in 2008?
I can only remember seeing two- Conor Oberst and Cloud Control. Both very different, both very enjoyable. Hoping to see more concerts in the new year.

41. Did you have a favourite concert in 2008?
Loved them both! Really enjoyed Cloud Control as finally got a chance to check out the Hopetoun.

42. Who was the best new person you met?
I don't remember who I met, apart from work people. Oh, and some bible study people. I enjoyed meeting them. Had a fantastic bible study this year.

43. Did you do anything you are ashamed of this year?
Nothing so bad that it immediately springs to mind.

44. What was your most embarrassing moment of 2008?
The only things I can think of are those times I said stupid things or took people literally when they weren't being literal, silly little things like that.

45. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008?
There's so much to do in life, but prioritizing is difficult.

46. What are your plans for 2009?
Keep on doing much the same- work, read books, etc. Would like to go to Japan but don't think that will happen :(

47. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
"What else can we do?
Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute"
-MGMT, 'Time to Pretend'

"I wish I could go back to college"
- Avenue Q