Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tigers, mountain lions and starting a new sort of job-thing on Monday.

It's funny how, in spite of all previous experience, you keep on believing that doing something new and different will actually change your life.

The things that actually change your life kind of sneak up on you gradually, or pounce unexpectedly like a mountain lion. I have no idea if mountain lions really pounce unexpectedly, but I'm enjoying imagining it happening.

I think the most unexpected and pouncy big cat related event I ever have experienced ( in a non-lazy-metaophor kind of way) was at the Melbourne Zoo during a school excursion. An especially indolent and bored looking tiger sprang *whoosh* at the wire cage while my friend Kylie and I were peacefully standing there looking pretty indolent and bored (because we were fifteen and had been forced to go to the zoo). It taught me two things. One, you really can't use karate or kung fu to fight a gigantic carnivore. Two, you really, really should keep outside those little wooden barriers that they put in front of the wire and not stick your fingers in the cages of gigantic carnivores, just like the signs tell you.

Kylie fell onto her bottom and her mouth opened up. Her teeth were comparatively unimpressive, though.

I expect my new job will be unlike the tigers and mountain lions. And also, I hope, unlike things that skulk around corners. My new job is not zookeeper, or circus animal act. It's exactly like my old job, in an office downstairs from my old job, but it's a different job. It's a public service thing, I guess.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Melbourne, blooming Melbourne

I am jealous of people eating ravioli at Tiamo and generally having fun with their friends and relations.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

What is it with all these sore throats anyway?

I've been stuck at home sick with a sore throat. Again. I have been lying in bed or on the sofa watching bad telly and listlessly paying attention to the world through my laptop.

There are plenty of things I could be doing at work, I can tell you.

When I said to the doctor, 'I'm going to have to get out of Canberra if these respiratory tract infections keep up, ' he got this manic gleam in his eye and said 'go! go now!' I think I left his office feeling more worried about him than me.

Since I've come to Canberra I have had hayfever so bad that I ended up in bed for a week, tonsillitis, divers sinus infections and now this generic sore throaty business. This place is a crazed haven for irritants and germs. You'd think they'd breed more happily in the mild and moisty climes of south-east Queensland, but apparently not. Who decided to build the damn national capital in this trough of illness and despair?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Finished Ballet Shoes, what next?

I am happy to report that Ballet Shoes has been an all round success in the read-aloud stakes from beginning to end. The Noodle was very keen to find out if Gum came back and confident that he would. The wrap up was most satisfying for a young person who is anxious about loose ends.

I think he secretly thought that Posy was the best character, because she was just so confident about herself. It makes me realise how rare confident characters are in literature for children. And when they are confident they are frequently obnoxious. The narrator carefully points out that Posy is not obnoxious, because she is so committed to her dancing - she's just being realistic when she notices that she is a better dancer than the other girls at the Academy. I like that.

Of course, the Noodle spent the entire chapter of Pauline's pride with his head under the pillow, weeping with anxiety. I thought he might expire on the spot when Pauline shouted at the theatre manager. He is a most satisfactory audience.

We are still stuck in the eagles' eyrie in The Hobbit. The Noodle is too afraid to continue. He enjoys the story so much, but he is so afraid for Bilbo all the time that he can't relax. If only we got to the end, and he could see how Bilbo's resourcefulness and tenacity get him through I'm sure the Noodle would feel happier than leaving Bilbo hanging (almost literally from Dori's legs).

Anyone have any suggestions for a good read-aloud that is not filled with incident and horrors?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sandy Fussell's blog

I've linked to it over there in the sidebar - Stories are light.

I love Sandy Fussell's Samurai Kids books. A year or two or so ago I wrote a column about what would happen if Frodo had not been able to jump that huge crack in Moria, if he hadn't been physically able to do it. I had a little rant about how most characters in fantasy novels (for kidlets and adults) are just physically fit and capable, half they time they don't even get tired out.

The Samurai Kids books kind of address this question in my mind, but not in terms of disability or limitations; rather in how working together and recognising your own skills as well as those of the people around you is a great way to success.

The issue of ability is often on my mind, because the Noodle's health situation has some impact on his ability to keep up with other kids. He gets tired out, dangerously so. He can't balance very well, can't jump, can't really run. But his head is filled with risk taking and adventure, just like anyone else. Books fulfil a big part of his need for adventuring. Sandy Fussell's books are some of the ones that make it seem possible for him to really get out there and be a hero.

Plus, they are funny and exciting. That's also cool.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Call and response, or plagiarism as a sport

So I've been reading this book that drop-dead lifts styles and events out of many of my favourite childhood and YA books. Shamelessly. The author of this book clearly really likes the same books as me. At first I felt quite unforgiving, indeed angry and losing my gruntle. It was a bit like someone shamelessly stealing your biscuit at the station cafeteria (see what I did there, geeky fellow readers). But I have come up with a letting-copy-cat-authors-off-the-hook theory.

It's not an homage or a pastiche. It's not plagiarism punishable in a court of law, with the Australian newspaper Scandal Scandal Scandal headlines. It's a response, and engaged, tender, critical and thought-provoking response. So the liddle bitsies that seem All Too Familiar are by way of quotes, by way of fair use, by way of emphasising the critical engagement with the source texts. To do it with at least half a dozen childhood fantasy favourites just shows the breadth of the thesis involved. It's a breathtaking moment of creativity and scholarship, all packaged up in a big fat book with embossed lettering.

What do you all reckon?

It's not Eragon, by the way. There can be no forgiveness for that particular performance.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Work as a quest

Today was a day of much jocularity at work. I am pioneering a post-it note led work practice, so I have no space on my desk. I fear that I will be unable to make the most of my post-it note vision until I have a corner office. So some kind of infinity into the future then. But in the meantime, my co-workers have given full rein* to guffaws, chuckles, giggles and oomphs of astonishment.

What I would really like to do is lie on the floor again with my textas and a couple of sheets of butchers paper. Not in a team building kind of way, just in a I don't want to look at my computer screen ever, ever again kind of way. Or perhaps I could just stay in bed and dictate to a minion over the telephone. There I go with that whole corner office approach again.

But actually what I was thinking this morning is that if I was Frodo I wouldn't be in Mordor. But probably not in Rivendell either. Actually, I am probably not in the Lord of the Rings as such, but maybe a shorter book with less poetry and more measurable outcomes and KPIs. Which lacks narrative focus, but also lacks vast armies of evil orcs rampaging about the place. And I am so depleted on outrageously romantic notions this week that frankly I'd rather take the KPIs**.

Next week I am going to talk to you all about how if only Gandalf had done a decent risk assessment process*** at the time he first became concerned about the nature of Bilbo's ring, they could have strolled to the Cracks of Doom (or more likely entered into some kind of contract arrangment or perhaps an MOU with the Riders of Rohan), and disposed of the ring according to the guidelines. With time for a festive morning tea at Rivendell for Aragorn and Arwen's wedding on the way, in which the Hobbits all bring a plate of home made goodies, but Gimli forgets until the last minute and only brings a packet of tim tams, which get eaten way before the home made chocolate biscuits which probably taste quite nice but look like lumps of poo.

*suddenly have metaphor anxiety, because I don't really know if 'full rein' comes from letting the reins go loose on the horse so that it has full rein to gallop away with you or whatever it feels like (which in my admittedly limited experience is stopping dead and eating grass) or whether it should be 'full reign' such as a monarch might have if it subscribes to the philosophy of the divine right of kings and can therefore do whatever it feels like, including laughing until it spits on yer post-its.

**I don't really know what these are, and please don't tell me because you might ruin the surprise when I get up to that bit in my non-narrative driven story, and because of the lack of suspense in most of it I have to get my surprises and plot-reveals wherever I can get 'em.

***You can find decent examples of risk assessment processes all over the intertubes. Gandalf was a rubbish researcher.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ballet, fashion and wilfull damage wilfully avoided

Have read two chapters of Ballet Shoes to the Noodle. Had no idea that it was so funny and brilliant to read aloud. Feel vaguely ripped off about reading it silently in my head all these years. The Noodle, unexpectedly, finding it hilarious. He nearly fell out of bed with laughing and had tears of mirth. Tears! Is much better than the TV show.

A day of odd happenings. One of the school girls at the bus stop came over to me today and asked if I was a fashion designer. Now, any one who has ever seen me in any circumstances can vouch for the fact that I look as unlike a fashion designer as it is possible to look while still wearing clothes. I look like a person who is not unaware that there is such a concept as 'fashion' but has not spent any time researching it. I am related to fashion in the same way that someone who once watched Catalyst is related to Buzz Aldrin. So I felt chuffed, shall we say. And awfully relieved that someone on the planet thinks I don't look like a public servant.

And then on the way home from work, someone left two tyres in the middle of the road presumably maliciously. They were being cleared away by a car load of young men who looked very like the kind of person you would imagine leaving tyres in the middle of the road, or perhaps blowing up letterboxes with fireworks*. But no, these young men were sputtering indignantly in the manner of a crusty grandfather (possibly one who has just had his letterbox blown up by wayward yoof). I wished that A Current Affair had been there to observe the noble and selfless yoof protecting the good suburban residents from random tyre damage. But no, it was just me.

*Apparently blowing up letterboxes on Queen's Birthday weekend passes for fun for a small but effective portion of the ACT. Luckily, everyone will have sent their birthday cards to the queen some week's ago, so as to allow for shipping time.

Uh-oh. Have turned into knows-nothing-about-apostrophes-woman. I'm leaving it here to shame myself into better proofreading. As if that'll work.

Monday, June 8, 2009


So last night I watched the television program of Ballet Shoes starring the thin woman from Silent Witness and Hermione from Harry Potter. I liked it more than I was expecting to, but not quite as much as I was hoping to. I thought it was a pretty intelligent adaptation, culling bits that didn't add much to the characters or actions and still managing to get the feel across in a quick-and-dirty sort of way. The romance I felt was poorly handled, and also not in the book. I didn't feel all horrors and et alors about that, but I did think that poor old Theo ended up rather shabbily treated and with a highly sketchy backstory to boot.

The moments I liked best were, of course, to do with the auditions. The short moment of Pauline (Hermione) reciting Shakespeare in the black velvet dress was spot on. Pauline acted and looked exactly like I have always imagined her in this scene and very reminiscent of the illustrations in my edition of the book. I was rather bothered, however, by the non-Tenniel like nature of Pauline's Alice dress. Wrong. Also Winifred was not, to my mind, at all selfish and precious in the book - rather she was desperate for cash and kind. Conflating her with the dancer with the big bottom was just plain silly, even as a device to keep Posy's amusing impersonations in the story.

Overall, not enough about clothes or dancing. The organdie dresses did not take nearly enough work, and did not look nice at all. Where are the ruffles, I asked myself, and why would Nana let the girls out dressed in their slips?

I didn't mind, really, the way Garny's story was increased. From an adult perspective it didn't hurt to understand a bit more of the pressure that Garny was under, and how the three children had pretty much sucked up every moment of her adult life. No one ever asked what Garny wanted in the book, as I recall. As a child, I never much wondered either. But as a slightly grouchy 37 year old I wanted to know.

I've also been reading a fantasy novel that has a bit too much of the adaptation for my liking. Oddly, it only hurts me because the author clearly read and loved many of the same fantasy books I did when I was a young gel. The list, I think, in order of influence includes Lord of the Rings, Dragonsong and Dragonsinger and the Earthsea books. With a dash of the Dark is Rising. It's quite horrid reading along, in a perfectly functional fantasy narrative, only to find yourself in a barely disguised Lothlorien crossing a river with a rope, or meeting someone who owes a bit too much to both Aragorn and Gandalf. Or arriving at a music school only to think that Robinton should come striding in any moment. Thankfully, there are no dragons in this book (yet).

The truly irritating thing is that the person obviously can write, and has some perfectly sound ideas of their own. The story and the characters finally found some form towards the end of the book, so I'll give the sequel a go and optimistically hope for the best.

Or otherwise I'll read one of the Noodle's Asterix books. The Noodle's reading list at the moment consists of Asterix, Horrible Histories, a now-lost book on the Periodic Table of the Elements and the Samurai Kids series. Over and over and over again.

He has also announced that he wishes to be a graphic designer when he grows up. He wants to design posters and brochures and he wants to open up a magazine and see his work inside it. Sounds like a plan.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Praise him with great praise

So the husband, who is the most talented husband a person could ever want, is having stories published in Overland and in Heat in the not-too-distants.

A person could not feel more proud and impressed.

Plus, it means I get all the fun of pride and publishing satisfaction without having to go through the agonies of writing and screwing the courage to the envelope-sending place. I love vicarious career satisfaction. It's brilliant.

Also, I forgot to say I was so engrossed in Black Dust Dancing the other night that I nearly missed my bus stop. I think it has the best descriptions of how people feel about themselves and about other people, observed through their actions and opinions, that I have ever read.

I would like to be even more gushy and carried away about both of the above items, but since the whole Michelle de Kretser at the Brisbane Writers Festival incident I try to keep at least some of that kind of thing on the inside.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Black Dust Dancing by Tracey Crisp

As lots of other bloggers have said, it's bloody good. Am in love with the description of nailpolish and its relationship to netball.