Monday, November 29, 2010
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Cheap and cheerful right?
Somehow I think these lush images will still pepper my dreams.
Friday, November 26, 2010
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
The most dire social faux pas possible may well and truly be a lull in conversation. Awkward silences don’t just prejudice newly acquainted persons; it may pop up in friendships fostered since childhood. Nothing stings more than a steady drip of silence, it is enough to drive anyone insane or suddenly develop an expert grasp of Meteorology.
To save face at your next social outing, read “Mother Tongue”. The man with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, Mr. Bill Bryson examines “how a second-rate, mongrel tongue came to be the undisputed language of the globe.”
Bryson has a brilliant talent of imparting information. He broaches topics in a relaxed, chatty manner that makes you feel if you were to run into him on the street you wouldn’t be at risk of shouldering a stony silence. However even with all his wit and enthusiasm, it’s “the endless versatility of English is what makes our rules of grammar so perplexing” and at times a trying read. So just like you won’t drink a bottle of straight cordial, I found that I had to take frequent breaks from “Mother Tongue”, diluting the overwhelming bombardment of facts with healthy doses of fiction.
Since reading the book, I’ve been regurgitating facts left, right and centre. Sure most are probably inaccurate, frankensteinian versions of the original statements – but gosh darn they add fuel to the fire. Like did you know that the Bell Telephone Laboratories detected that there are “more than ninety separate sounds just for the letter T” – heck I didn’t even know that such a laboratory existed.
With travel a topic never far from Bryson’s thoughts, the chapter on “Names” dovetails nicely into a delightful exploration of the historical context of English pub names. Some old pubs took the traditional approach of adopting a name influenced by the ruling monarch – such as “White Hart” (indicated loyalty to Richard II) or “Royal Oak” (commemorated Charles II). However when the crown changed hands (or heads) the name would have to be changed. So to avoid the expense, some public houses used popular catchphrases or puns such as “Romping Donkey” or “Ram Jam Inn”. While other names appear more obscure and may be because they have deviated from their original titles – “The Goat and Compasses” might have come from “God Encompasseth Us” and “The Elephant and Castle” may have been derived from “Infanta de Castille”.
From this cheerful recount of pub names, Bryson neatly jumps onto the topic of surnames. Bryson is the master of the seamless segway, managing to leap from descriptions of Norman scribes to American Spelling reforms. It is with this superior dexterity of language that Bryson manages to cover the origins to the future of English within a mere 244 pages.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Oh and a life lesson just learnt:
Won’t it just be safer and wiser to avoid contemporary events all together? Just zip lock your novel with timeless references to avoid becoming an irrelevant pile of paper. For debut author, Steve Totlz, there is no safe option. Toltz grabs the reader by the scruff of the neck, pulls them into a hotted up car and drives full pelt into modern Australia.
However it was 2008 when the novel hit the shelves with great aplomb, would it still be “devastatingly funny” when read today?
The short answer is – hells yeah it’s funny.
Essentially a story about a Father raising his son. While the Father takes his role as an educator very seriously, his advice and childrearing techniques aren’t quite run of the mill. With the family motto “there’s safety in looking crazy”. These bizarre thoughts flow forth from the “My Father the philosopher – he couldn’t even give a simple haircut without reflecting on it”.
The father and son relationship is more reminiscent of “Dad and Dave” than the Mr. Brady and Greg. Full of inappropriate jokes and naff notions “Most of my life I never worked out whether to pity, ignore, adore, judge or murder my Father.” The characters are so well fleshed out they have everything but a pulse.
Between all the bombastic, batty thoughts and tangents, there are some real gems of insight “there seems to be no passion for life, only for lifestyle.” Yet for all the navel gazing and bar stool philosophizing, the story has an unrelenting pace.
The novel is brimming with ideas, pulsating with energy, without feeling like we’re furrowing through the dregs of every last creative writing task Toltz has ever attempted.
In fact Toltz is a tidy writer - reining the plot with more skill than a cowboy born and breed in Wyomy, when it could have easily veered off the cliff into a sea of crashing absurdity (much like this metaphor of Toltz being a cowboy cum pirate).
Totlz captures contemporary Australia without resorting to cheap sucker-punch of stereotypes of a homogenous Home and Away society of surfer bums lounging at the local corner store.
And of course Catch 22, which has hidden itself somewhere in my bookcase...
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Starting off with a visit to the Sweets Workshop, I broke a sweat just taking a mental stock-take of all the gorgeous art I wanted to buy. My heart (and future pay packet) was robbed by Kate Banazi’s series of Victorian Gents.
As I was on my way Bourke Street Bakery, I passed a place that my sister and I have been calling the ambiance café. With a pair of antique winged-back chairs upholstered in lime green velvet sitting on the sidewalk – we’ve been meaning to check it out for months now.
Already savoring the thought of richly bitter coffee and buttery pastry awaiting me, I suddenly decided that I needed to mix things up. Turning the car around, I headed back.
I still don’t know it’s actual name – so I’ll continue to call it the ambiance café. But it wasn’t the industrial meets granny chic setting that justified its namesake – it was the super friendly staff. Booty shaking to Beyonce and experimenting with tangy fruit juice concoctions, they bubbled with chatter.
Even though I was stuffed from a Portuguese Chicken burger, like any practiced lady of leisure I had enough stamina for a spot of afternoon tea.
A soundtrack of Kanye West and The Kinks reminds me that I’m still in Redfern and not at a CWA meeting.
It felt like I was performing highway robbery when I was charged only $6 for two enormous homemade scones, served with generous dollops of jam, lashings of freshly whipped cream and washed down with a massive pot of Chai.
It felt delightfully decadent to sip from china cups...and so worth the painfully stuffed belly ache that followed.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Monday, November 15, 2010
My sister is still galavanting overseas - this week she's hitting up Berlin, before bouncing back to London to check out We are Scientists, then jetting off to Ireland.
It'll take some super spy skills to keep up with her, looks like Tom "Selling it" Selleck is the only one up to the task with his whiz-bang phone.