Monthly Archives: December, 2008

Books I’ve read recently

Ines of my Soul, by Isabel Allende. I don’t usually read historical fiction – at least, not such recent historical fiction! My mum raves about Allende; most of her other work is contemporary literature, so I’m unlikely to read it. This one, though, is about Ines Suarez, a real Spanish woman who heads off to South America in the 1500s, following her husband. She ends up going to Chile with the conquistadors, when they conquer and settle there. It’s written as though it’s a memoir – old Ines interrupts the story of young Ines at various points, and she speaks directly to her daughter at a number of points. It’s a really fascinating story on a number of levels. There is, apparently, very little info about Ines, so this is very definitely a fiction, but I understand that Allende did a huge amount of research beforehand, so the conditions she describes (at the very least) will be based on fact. Then, old Ines reflects a lot on the whole idea of memory and writing autobiographies, throwing doubt on her own memories at various points, so that’s an intriguing philosophical line. And the writing – well, I read this in a couple of days, which I often do, but her prose is simple delightful to read.

Flood, by Stephen Baxter. Not my favourite Baxter, but still pretty good. The world is flooding… and no, it’s not a global warming polemic. Time span is 2016 to 1052. Some good characters, and interesting social and political reflections.

Chaos Space, by Marianne de Pierres. The sequel to Dark Space, this follows a number of characters – some of whom have finally met up, so their stories start meshing, which makes it all a bit easier to keep straight. There is a lot of weird stuff going on in this universe, and a lot in the background which is only just being revealed in this, the second book. It’s a fairly awesome space opera, although some of the characters tick me off. Still one of the most intriguing aspects is that her main character is Latina; it made me realise just how Anglo a lot of the future is projected to be (at least in the stuff I’ve mostly read; maybe that’s just a reflection of me).

twenty-six lies/one truth, by Ben Peek. About the weirdest book I’ve read in a long time. 26 chapters, each with ten or so entries; each chapter has entries starting with the same letter. It’s roughly “autobiographical” – although like Ines, Peek has a lot to say about the unreliability of memory, and when you pair that with his many entries on fraudsters and hoaxes of the literary world, it’s clear he’s sending up the whole idea of autobiographical ‘truth’. It also reminded me of Eddie Burrup, the male Aboriginal artist who sold a lot of paintings and was then revealed to be the female, white Elizabeth Durack; she’s a distant relative. Anyway, twenty-six lies is confronting, absorbing, and disturbing – mostly in a good way. I read it in a few hours. Half way through I realised it doesn’t have to be read in a linear fashion, but I’m stuck in my ways so I just kept turning the pages. And, at the end, I realised that in fact it does work linearly – there are revelations towards the end that change the way you think about the rest of it. You could read it haphazardly, it would just change your reception of some of the things Peek reveals, although it wouldn’t spoil the story as it would your bog-standard narrative. I also like the cover – typewrite art by Andy Macrae, and the art by Anna Brown, which I recognised from the Nowhere Near Savannah webcomic Peek and Brown collaborated on.

At the moment… Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light, by Mort Rosenblum. I had thought this would be more about the history of chocolate, and it does have some of that, but it’s actually more about chocolate today – the chocolate masters, the chocolate producers, the scandals, the individuals, different perspectives around the world. It’s made me realise that I am in no way a chocolate connoisseur, and probably never will be – living in Australia, and not having the money to spend on it! It’s brilliantly written… and I think I will go back to it right now.

Summer in Australia…

when there’s cricket on the radio.

And now I have a good radio with which to listen to the cricket! It’s my Christmas present: a Tivoli One, that’s got a cream front, unlike this one. I have an old clock radio in the bathroom, but haven’t had a radio in the kitchen at any time. It’s so very very pretty.

Now, if only the cricket were worth listening to at the moment… but at least I don’t have to listen to bloody Greig or Benaud any more. And I will be able to listen to the JJJ Hottest 100 (and breakfast, and… other stuff) easily.

Thanks to my love for a lovely present.

When a franchise just doesn’t know when to die

AvP: Requiem.

Aliens hunt humans. Predator hunts aliens. Lots of humans die.

I was not expecting big things, don’t worry. I was hoping for a straightforward action shoot ’em up. I had hoped for it to make sense, in the alien/predator universe.

Well… it’s a weird movie when the predator is the hero. But there were absolutely no humans that I cared about enough to see them as the hero; not even the pseudo-Ripley figure was particularly engaging. I guess it’s fun to meet new types of aliens (although surely, in five movies, we would have met them all?), and it is always (like, the one time it’s happened before) to see what happens when humans realise the predator is worth keeping on their side.

Seriously though? Not a movie I would receommend even if you are seriously in need of veging. AvP 1, yes; so insanely over the top that I really quite enjoyed it. This one? Being set in a town makes it too cluttered; there are way too many characters to encourage caring about any of them; and there is no reason for most of what happens, except Kill! KILL!!

And I haven’t even finished watching it yet…

Hottest 100 voting

I love voting in the Hottest 100. There’s always songs I forget the name of, but nonetheless I manage to find 10 songs I liked and would want to hear on Hottest 100 Day (aka Australia Day). My sibs also have this fascination, but this they are both overseas and may not have the internet access that will allow them to vote! Ha ha!

Anyway, this is my list for 2008:

Birds of Tokyo – White Witch
Fratellis – Mistress Mabel
Goldfrapp – Happiness
John Steel Singers – Evolution
Josh Pyke – Make you happy
Lyrics Born – Hott 2 Deff
My Morning Jacket – Highly suspicious
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Dig Lazarus Dig!!
Presets – Talk like that
Ting Tings – Great DJ

My sister hates the Ting Tings. And I think Lyrics Born may get me kicked out of the family.

Thoughts on Harry Potter #1

Fairly random thoughts, really:

The book was quite similar to the film, in that there was only one section that I remembered being a lot different from the movie (and that might anyway be my memory): the opening. I don’t recall so much detail about Harry-getting-to-Dursleys, which didn’t surprise me and which I quite enjoyed.

It felt very much a first novel; there were some aspects of her writing style that had me wincing. That said, it was certainly readable. Obviously…

It is hard for me to say whether I would have been hooked on this had I read it sans-hype, and before seeing the movie. Possibly? Certainly the omnipresent threat of Voldemort, and the rather neat ‘one school year in a book’ timeline, makes a series seem attractive enough.

There weren’t that many characters in this book, and I think most of them made it into the movie. I know a friend of mine has a thing for Pansy, and I don’t remember her from the movie; there might have been one or two profs who didn’t make it into the movie either. Other than that, a good concordance I think? Also, I had forgotten how genuinely obnoxious Hermione was early on, and how little Harry and Ron like her at first.

This is probably one of the books where for me, having seen the movie was actually quite useful. I love Maggie Smith, so seeing her as Prof McG worked immensely well for me; ditto Robbie Coltraine as Hagrid. The banquet scenes etc probably also worked better for my limited imagination with something to remember.

Characterisation? Not that great. Plot? Not overwhelmingly original. Descriptive? Quite. Do I understand Tansy’s mania for fanfic? Not yet.

Discoveries

I am in the ‘want to give useful presents’ zone. So today, I went to my discovered-forgotten-rediscovered love, Basfoods. Ah, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern, I love you. Especially in bulk.

I intended to buy some puy lentils for some people outside the city, who would struggle to find those little gems, and see what other nuggets I might unearth. Consequently I am sitting here taste-testing and finding new favourites:

double roasted chickpeas: I’d heard of people eating these like popcorn… oh yes.
sugar-coated almonds: OK, so not a new discovery, but… yum!
sugar-coated pistachios: Drool.
sugar-coated chocolate sesame: !!
sugar-coated coriander: Wow.
sugar-coriander: apparently people eat these like after-dinner mints. Me, I could probably eat them by the handful.

I might be in love.

i also bought 150g of cinnamon quills for not much, which I’ll split up; and sumac; and curry powder.

I’m feeling really quite smug.

It has begun

Yesterday was extremely productive. I had to do something that required my presence but no action – physical or mental – on my part. So I read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Yes, the whole thing. In about three hours. Yes, for the first time. Also the first two chapters of Chamber of Secrets.

As predicted, I enjoyed it. I’ve been putting this off for a while – first off I refused to read it because it seemed like a tawdry rip-off of many of my favourites; then later because one of the things I hate most is waiting for the next book in the series (I’m looking at you, Garth Nix; get on with Lord Sunday already.) Also, when they first came out I was not in a YA frame of mind. And finally, I am a mule sometimes: so many people told me to read them that I got stubborn.

Aaaaaanyway… now I’m going to read them. Good thing I have plenty of friends who can hook me up with the set on demand.

I have *the* most awesome friends

So, I’m nearly done at work – am taking next year off to start my MA.

As a first-year teacher, I got assigned a mentor. Julie is wonderful: competent, enthusiastic, no-nonsense and endlessly encouraging. And she is fond of pointing out that before I knew her, I was dumb as dogsh*t.

Today I got to my desk, and there was a present – wrapped in handmade paper, with Matilda of Flanders (the subject of my thesis) printed on it. Inside was a blue tshirt, which she had had screenprinted: “Eleventh Century Queens Rule.”

I am stoked, and wore it all day. Such a lovely gift!

This video is full of awesomeness

Of course, you will have to have a passing appreciation of both Star Wars and Star Trek to get the awesomeness… but it’s still remarkably clever editing, even if you don’t!

Star Wars vs Star Trek

The Other Boleyn Girl

I wonder if Anne really was as scheming and conniving as this movie makes out… I’m not sure which I think is more believable.

And George?? Seems to me that that’s taking the slander and propaganda put out at the time a little bit too seriously. I find it very difficult to believe that there was any suggestion of incest. It was simply too taboo, surely. (The actor, though – Jude from Across the Universe! – lovely.)

Poor Mary Boleyn. How horrid to be dealt with like that… and to have history all but ignore you, too, after all of that! She is the most interesting of them all, I think, from this portrayal: George is weak; Anne is something of a bitch; Mary is simply too good for her own safety. Natalie Portman is surprisingly good in this role, as is Scarlett Johanssen.

Their mother – whom I can only ever regard as Duckface, thanks to Four Weddings and a Funeral – is magnificent in this movie. Eric Bana… usually I’m a big fan, but he wasn’t wonderful for me here. Maybe because he has quite a bit part, focusing as it does on the women; maybe because filling the shoes of Henry VIII is a big ask, and he’s just not quite up to it – or the script isn’t.

I also hadn’t realised that the gap between Anne and Jane was quite so short as the movie implies, but I guess it makes sense since one of the reasons for getting rid of Anne was the overwhelming desire for a male heir, and Jane seemed like a good option (as, of course, she was. Poor Jane).

Sad: no mention of the allegation that Anne ordered a French sword for the execution because it would be sharper and therefore swifter.

The costumes are simply delightful; I enjoyed the music, too, and the sets.