Thursday, 29 October 2009

Ruminating about reading...

Have you read The Reader by Bernhard Schlink? I saw a copy in Gertrude and Alice’s the other day and bought it on a whim. I haven’t seen the film adaptation, but I do remember hearing how controversial it was, that it humanised the perpertrators of the Holocaust and that Kate Winslet had won an Oscar for her role as Hanna, former SS guard at Auschwitz and the main antagonist of the book. I thought I’d give it a go.

I finished reading it last night just after I hopped off the train. Even though I only ever read it in blocks of 10 or 20 minutes whilst on the bus, train, or walking home, it easily captured my attention and despite the lack of thrilling plotline, (It’s no Millenium Trilogy) the emotional ‘thrill’ (for want of a better word) had me turning the pages at great speed. Then, unexpectedly, tears were pouring down my face, mixing with the snot dribbling from my nose (I have a cold!) and I had to turn on my windscreen wipers (also known as hands and sleeves) super fast in order to finish the last few pages. I must have looked pretty strange.

“A flash flood of emotion was reported to have hit Oxford Street mall in Bondi Junction yesterday evening at approximately 5.47pm. Witnesses claim to have seen a small, pre-loved copy of Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader floating at the top of the foam and flotsam. The Weather Bureau states it had no way of predicting this downpour of salty discharge but warn that the phenomenon is not uncommon and many sightings have been reported in the Eastern Suburbs area.”

Schlink describes feelings of shame, confusion and unrequited love in a way that reached deep into my subconscious and wrenched out buried memories from my teenage years. Sure, I have nothing in common with Michael Berg, the story’s protagonist who at 15 begins a love affair with 36 year old Hanna Schmidt, the tram operator with a secret past. Sure, I haven’t experienced the Holocaust and it’s devastating consequences in the way that entire countries and races and subsequent generations have. In fact, that whole part of the story remained strangely detached in my mind. Too lazy to enter the moral discussion? Perhaps I am. But whatever your moral veiwpoint, there's no denying that the way Schlink writes about shame, guilt, confusion and love is powerful and impressive.  

Click here to read a review of The Reader published by The New York Times. I don’t exactly agree with everything written, but it’s an interesting review.
Click here to read an interesting article about the author Bernhard Schlink on The Guardian.

What gripped me as a reader, or ‘the reader’ even, was Hanna’s illiteracy and it’s devastating impact. Now, that’s not giving anything away, I haven’t spoilt the ending for you and perhaps you’ve seen the film anyway or read about the book anyway. If not, go ahead and give it a go. I'd love to know what you think.

Can you imagine not being able to read? I don’t think I can. I don’t think I want to. I can’t imagine what life would be like without books. Hanna’s life, and therefore everyone she comes in contact with during the course of her life, are deeply affected by her illiteracy and her consequent shame. What would her life have been like had she learnt to read as a child? I can’t imagine who I would be without the books I have read. I know I had an imagination before I could read, and was curious about the world, but being able to travel all around the universe in the safety and privacy of your own bedroom is something every child should experience.

Would I have a love of adventure, a never ending urge to travel, be as curious and inquisitive had I never read these books as a child?
The Growing Summer by Noel Streatfield
The Adventure Series by Enid Blyton
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis

Would I be as mischievous, bossy, confident, impetuous, bold and opinionated had I never read these books as a child? (Some might argue these traits are not complimentary to a lady, I argue otherwise!)
The Ramona series by Beverly Cleary.
The Eloise Books by Kay Thompson
The Naughtiest Girl in School series by Enid Blyton
The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl
The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

Would I strive to be as brave and compassionate if I’d never read these books?
The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren
The BFG by Roald Dahl

Would I have survived puberty without every book written by Judy Bloom?!

And that’s just a handful of books I read as a child. I think I’d need a whole new post for books that influenced me as a teenager and as an adult!

I’m not saying that just because Hanna is illiterate that she’s somehow not responsible for her actions in The Reader, not at all. Just that it’s awfully sad.

What books changed you as a child? Tell me about them and I’ll try to read them. I’ve still got loads of growing up to do!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

My Place & Yours: Bedsides - The stuff dreams are made next to...

The ever caring and sharing Pip from Meet Me At Mikes is always coming up with nifty ways to inspire people into action. 'My Place and Yours' is a weekly activity where you can share a slice of your life with the internets. A specific, themed slice of course. We crave discipline. This weeks tasty treat is bedsides. Who wants to see my bedside table?! I dusted it just for you.

(Be honest, who doesn't enjoy a little bit of snooping inside someone elses abode? You can join in too, there's almost 100 others signed up for this weeks theme!)

 The view from the top

My bedside treasures came from all over the world just to sit gathering dust in my room. 
There's my 'read' necklace by Brookadelphia in the 'glasses' necklace from Little Shop Of in Melbourne... a bronze kitty my best friend Grant brought me back from Greece... a wee rabbit I bought in a craft museum in Kyoto... a Princess Diana commemorative plate that was an IRONIC birthday present, made in England of course... bluebird and heart locket jewelley from my old job at Victoria Spring Designs in Sydney... peridot rings I've collected in Barcelona, Dublin and Penrith (yes, Penrith)... marbles I got at the cinema after seeing the film Amelie in the Blue Mountains... a compass my mother-in-law gave me from who knows where... a blue bunny fan I bought in a 100 yen store in Osaka...  and a lovely embroidered doily which was another, less ironic birthday present and came from the Cat Protection Society in Newtown. 

Phew. That's a lot of worldly treasure, don't you think?!

Close up of my favourite mug, bought in a 300 Yen store in Tokyo. (That's 3 dollars!) It says awesome things like - 'What kind of book do you like?' 'Good Choice' and 'It was Lovely'. 
Tea always tastes better in that mug.

OOh! What's round the corner you say? A bookcase, because a bedside table just isn't enough!

The first (but not the last!) Ashley G I bought. Bless that lovely lady, she got me hooked on Etsy. There's also a lovely red ball of Peruvian wool bought on ebay, but it's too scratchy to knit into a scarf. And whooooo's hiding in the corner? An owl stuffie made by Craftpaca.

A lovely eco friendly soy wax candle my clever neighbour Steph made. It smells delish - lily and ginger. Mmmm. 
You can find her at Bondi Markets too, when she's not making candles in the flat above mine.

 And last but not least, the view from my pillow, complete with alarm clock, my reading 'to do' list, my latest silly ebay purchase (a strawberry that unfolds into a shopping bag, way cooler than those green coles/woolworths bags eh?!) and a much treasured yet seldom worn kimono that my lovely mum gave me for my birthday almost 10 years ago. We were sold when the salesman told us it was 2nd hand, worn by real Geisha's in Kyoto!

So that's it. That's my what's at my bedside. Post dusting of course. Can't believe you made it this far through the past. Well done you. Hope I didn't disappoint. Many thanks again to Pip for inspiring me to dust and the delightful Pilgrim Lee for reminding me of the task! Hopefully next week's theme is bathrooms because the mold in mine sure could do with removing. Or spare rooms, because mine is piled high with junk. Or the condiments shelf in your fridge because mine is full of expired, long forgotten food stuffs. But it most likely won't be. Either way, I'm sure it'll be inspiring!

Did you share your bedside?
Send me a link and I'm come nosey around!

Edit - just found this old post from 2 years ago - it's my bedside table from Aug 07! Interesting to see what's lasted the test of time!

Saturday, 24 October 2009

please please, wait a minute mr postman

Do you ever feel like the only mail you get is bills?

I do. Aside from the odd postcard here and there and a yearly birthday card from my nana, bills and junkmail seem to be the only things filling up my letterbox.

So I'm determined to start sending cards and letters and lil love notes to my nearest and dearest. Like what we used to do before Facebook was invented. If you'd like a happy hello to smile at you amongst your local thai restaurant menus, carpet cleaning adverts, bills, bills, bills and pest removal flyers, tell me your address and I'll reciprocate, snail mail style.

In the mean while, here's how I turn my stressful, depressing bills into happy, peaceful moments. I cut open the envelopes and turn the pretty blue security patterns into paper cranes.

Now I've just got to think of a way to put these paper cranes to work and then all my money troubles are solved...

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

An ode to The Decemberists

Even though it's only October and their concert isn't until January, I thought I'd share some of my favourite Decemberists posters and clips to celebrate their first tour to Australia. YAY!

Do you know The Decemberists? They're awesome. Think pirates, sea shanties, barn dances, sing-a-longs. We like to listen to The Decemberists in the car and sing along loudly at the top of our voices. It's the best place for a sing-a-long, the car, don't you think?!

Are you coming to their shows in Sydney and Melbourne? We've got our tickets!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

How I learnt to crochet

I've always been a knitter. And not a very competent one at that. But it was something that my nana taught me when I was 8, and my mum was always there to remind me how to cast on or cast off or fix rows of lost stitches. I love to knit long thick scarves that wrap and wrap and wrap around my neck like a dear friend hugging me but still trail near my feet, tickling my toes. I can only knit in a straight line and I can't follow a pattern, but I am happy within my limitations.

Crochet was always something that seemed like too much maths for a simple girl like me. And to be honest, garish acrylic granny square blankets really turn me off. Colour means a lot to me and the haphazard, clashing mix of bright colours and black edging seems like such a thoughtless waste to me. Waste of wool, waste of aesthetic potential. It's disrespectful. That's not to say that all bright colours clash, just that the "use up all your wool leftovers" granny square philosphophy just doesn't sit well with my inner colour palette tuning. I like to carefully select my colour palette. Savour it. Sip it slowly, let it warm my whole body like a good hot chocolate. I just didn't see any crochet that warmed me like a good hot chocolate.

But over the last few years a revolution has slowly been building inside me. I've been inspired by various crafty women all over the world thanks to the internet, and finally, just last weekend, I jumped on the crochet bandwagon and mastered a few stitches. I even learnt how to make my very own granny square. This does not mean my love for colour has been compromised, dear reader. I have my principles. But I now know that the potential in a granny square is much more than the sum of it's colours.

This post is kind of like a thank you, I guess. To all you lovely women, who whether you know it or not, gave me the encouragement and inspiration I needed to push myself and learn a new skill.

Here's my very first crochet project. It's a giant granny square that I want to turn into a cushion cover. Who knew that crocheting is so relaxing? When I pick up that hook I just want to keep crocheting, in bigger and bigger concentric layers and never stop. Like Forrest Gump when he started running. Look at me go!

What's next? I want to cover a chair in crochet. And then I'm going to master amigurumi and give everyone I know cute little crocheted animals. Will I learn in time for Christmas? We'll see!

Would you like to learn to crochet? Here's a list of lovely people who can help you or at the very least inspire you. They sure inspired me!

* Pip from MEET ME AT MIKES is a lovely Melbourne lass who loves to crochet, amongst other fun crafty things. She wrote a great post on How to make a Granny Square too.

*New York store Purl has a blog called THE PURL BEE and it's an amazingly inspirational site, not just for crochet but knitting and sewing too. I LOVE their colour coordination, everything they feature is so pleasing to my eye.

*I fell in love with ANA PAULA'S AMIGURUMI PATTERNS and even bought some off her Etsy site. I am yet to master them, but it will be done!

*Jessica Polka of WONDERKAMMER makes amazing crocheted objects and lovely collections of curiously crocheted things. I love her ocean animals.

*Australian SARAH LONDON makes inspirational crocheted items and I love her blankets. She'll even teach you how to make things week by week over the internet. She's amazing!

*Youtube contains a wealth of information about crocheting. You can learn different ways to hold the yarn, different stitches, different patterns. Very useful if you're stuck at home with no-one to show you!

*If you live in Sydney, I can highly recommend the class I took at Morris and Sons, a craft store on York St in the city. The class was only 4 hours long but I felt so confident about making a granny square when I left that is was well worth the $40 it cost. Classes for 2009 have finished but will start up again in Feb 2010.

*Have you asked your mum? Mum's are wonderful in many ways, and you never know, yours might be a whizz at crochet. Mine is!

So if you haven't learnt to crochet, I highly recommend trying it. It's not only relaxing but it feels so good to use something you made yourself or give a handmade gift. And you never know, you might make some wonderful new friends in the process. I have and they're lovely kindred spirits.

And if you do crochet, you've found a new friend. Thanks for sharing!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

I thought I'd share some of the shots I took on my recent holiday to Europe. These ones are from the Natural History Museum in London.

I am fascinated by Natural History museums. Have you ever been to one?

I love animals but am kinda afraid of the wild. Lame, I know. There's a morbid attraction to the power of man over nature in these museums, and at the same time I am overwhelmed with sadness that these beautiful animals were hunted and shot for no good reason. But on the flip side, now that most of the animals are extinct, it's the only chance you'll get to see one. Vicious cycle! I might note here that there was a sign at this museum saying they did not support the hunting of animals for fur.

I also like to imagine that I am Holden Caulfield in New York City, seeking solace in a world that never changes, then realising that it does change, and that you have to adapt. (I do love J.D Salinger. People might hate A Catcher in the Rye, or Holden for being so self centered but I can relate. I was a terribly angst ridden teen!)

I have a rather active imagination. I often imagine that I'm in a movie. Or wonder what my 'character' would do if this were a movie. Or wish that time would skip forward to speed up the narrative. At the museum, I like to imagine that all of a sudden all the animals could come alive again, like in 'Jumanji' or something. How terrifying! How exciting! (It would NOT be like 'Night at The Museum' though okay? Ben Stiller really let us down with that pathetic excuse for a movie.)

Monday, 12 October 2009

books + art = love

I'm not good at maths but I do believe that this equation is correct.

books + art = love.

how could you not love this amazing book sculpture?

(found via some lovely peeps on twitter such as @PenguinBooksAus and @HelenOBrien, which led me to this weheartit page and eventually I just googled the artist)

Who made this? Mike Stilkey. Check out his website for more amazing book art. I especially heart Elephant Relaxing. Lovely stuff.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

makin' wishes

That's my brother's girlfriend. She's pretty awesome. I sure do wish she didn't (or I didn't) live on the other side of the world.

I'm not sure what's she wishing for, whilst blowing on that dandelion, but I know what I am!

What are you wishing for today internets?

And this - this song reminds me of my brother. I think he (and you!) might like it.

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