Friday, November 23, 2007

Holiday Blogging: Book Meme

All of the swing dancers are asleep at dogpossum's house at the moment.  They went out to some crazy hour of the morning to do Lindy Hop at the Spiegeltent, while I stayed back to play Scrabulous, eat BBQ left-overs, watch DVDs and drink red wine.  I also spent some of my time browsing dogpossum's bookshelves, something I've been doing the last few days before retiring after days jam-packed with visiting a good selection of Melbourne's food places, from supermarkets to restaurants and bakeries.  On one such outing I also found myself in Readings on Lygon Street where I bought a cd and a book for myself, and a few bits and bobs for other people.  

(If you're reading this blog on an RSS feed, none of this holiday-in-Melbourne talk will necessarily make sense to you, but if you want a quick update then click through to view the micro-blogging Twitter updates in the side-bar).

Anyway, all of this book browsing put me in mind that I'd been tagged for a book meme. I've had the first question in my head for some time, because, well, I didn't really know the answer but, it's slowly come to me, so I'll have a go at answering the rest too.   

1. Hardcover or Paperback, and Why?

Hardback.  I think this is because I'm a bit of a book fetishist. I love them as objects, in and of themselves.  The answer to this question first began to dawn on me when I saw Maggie's Harvest in a bookshop.  If you don't know, it's a collection of recipes by Maggie Beer, a celebrated Australian cook and food writer.  She also co-presents The Cook and the Chef on ABC Television with Simon Bryant.  It's simply beautiful. It has a padded, embroidered cover and two ribbon bookmarkers, two!  It occurs to me that I also like it when books have ribbon markers; these are especially handy in cook books, but I'll take them in any genre of book.

I have a small collection of hardcover books that are all food-related.  I do like them a lot.  In this context I think I prefer the hardcover because they are for keeping.

2. If I were to own a bookshop, I would call it...

There's a bookshop in Brisbane called Bottom Books, which I've  always thought would be an excellent name for a British television comedy, sort of a cross between Bottom and Black Books.  Here, I think my preference for stories told on television is rearing its less acceptable head.  

If  I were to own a bookshop it would likely stock books about television and food. There'd be comics and graphic novels too.  I'd be right at home with the trend towards selling DVDs and CDs in such establishments.  I still like the traditional novel though, but maybe I'd only sell hardbacks or those that passed the sensibilities of my aesthetic radar. (No-one said this bookshop had to make a profit!)

How does 'Beautiful Words' strike you?

3. My favourite quote from a book (mention the title) is...

Hmmm.  I don't have my books with me, so I might have to defer on the actual quote.  Perhaps, for the moment, I can just muse on books whose sense of language has stayed with me.  

When I read Trainspotting, I began to speak with a Scottish accent: 'Ah dinnae ken'.

Surely, I'll want to nominate something from the works of Roddy Doyle? 'Paddy Clarke has no da!'

When I read Milan Kundera and Paul Auster,  I'm always struck by the way their prose triggers my thought processes.

The quote by Dostoyevsky, that's the raison d'etre of this blog, continues to strike a chord in me.  It's about the imperative of remaining uncertain, and that succinctly expresses my life philosophy.

(I'm really aware that all of those authors are European or North American men. I don't think that can be good?)

There are more questions, so this is to be continued...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Howl Whimper

Speaking of comics, I really like Mandy Ord's work too. She once had a gig in the-paper-whose -name-I-will-never-speak-again, in a short lived youth supplement in the late 90s.

Anyway, I feel a lot like the sentiment expressed in this panel at the moment:

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Segue: Life Is One Big Segue

As I said to Oanh, when she suggested that I might do the book meme she tagged me with as part of this segue series, 'My life feels like a constant segue at the moment'. By which I mean I never seem to be doing the very thing that should be my life's purpose aka the thesis.

I had a meeting with my supervisor yesterday, and he thinks I can finish the confirmation document before I leave for Melbourne on the weekend for a two week catch up with friends, colleagues, people I've never met, and family.

Was it wrong of me not to mention the 90 0r so assignments I was yet to mark at that point? I did rapid calculations in my head and thought, 'hmmm, an hour or two a day, tidying up and rewording, adding a bit of information that I'm all over... I can do it!' Well now I have to.

But what do I do? I start to blog. In my defence, this comes after 5 solid hours of marking and adding up. I'm trying to be efficient in my resting; best not to move too far away from the desk and computer.

Anyway, as is requisite in computer procrastination circles these days, I checked Facebook and saw the latest PhD Comics by Jorge Cham. I subscribe to PhD Comics, and every time I read one, I'm struck anew by just how perfectly Cham captures the lot of the post-graduate student, covering every anxiety from advisory meetings, future employment, teaching and more.

For instance this was me at one point:
I get a whole lot less vengeful now.

I dedicate this one to dogpossum:

DP is so not like Mike, the eternal grad student. She completed her PhD thesis and was passed with no corrections!! But still she finds herself in a Mike-like plight. Somebody give her an ongoing academic job. You won't regret it.

I don't want this post to go on for too long, because, like, I'm supposed to be doing more marking, but I wanted to put the comics up for two reasons. The first is just me taking the opportunity to boast that I saw Cham talk when he visited Brisbane. He spoke about the power of procrastination, and of course that resonated with a lecture theatre jam-packed full of post-graduates. He asked the most pertinent question posed in all of physics. The true question is not really about the inspiration that struck Isaac Newton re: gravity when the apple fell on his head, but, 'What was Newton doing sitting, daydreaming under the apple tree in the first place?' Hmmm? Procrastinating, that's what, procrastinating. Don't let me hear a word against it henceforth.

The second reason was inspired by Cham's comic about the impact of his research vs his brilliant comics:

It reminded me--there are at least six stages of thought process between first sighting 'Impact Factor' and the point I want to share--that I really wanted to plug a new blog call Comic Artist Rehab, where some independent comics artists that I encountered while doing my thesis on zines, have organised to support one another to get back to creating comics as they once did, before life and such took them in other directions.

The strips are wonderful and I especially like reading the comments they make on each other's work, because then I look at the comics again and appreciate them even more. Enjoy!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Segue: O Father Where Art Thou?

I first had the thought to do this segue series as I was finishing the ‘Immobile’ post. During the writing of the last sentence I recalled a moment of the day I’d spent with Hannah at the Science Centre, movies and playground. As I was taking her shoes off before she went off to play, or perhaps putting them on after I’d dragged her from the water, I can’t remember, she asked me the most momentous question. It was such a big question I couldn’t deal with it easily in a few sentences at the end of that post, which I’d wanted to be light-hearted. It was a question that I didn’t know how to answer, such that when I attempted to evade doing so, Hannah repeated the question, demanding in a tone that brooked no argument:

‘What happened to your Daddy?!’

At the time, I was conscious of many things at once. The first was the presence of a woman, a stranger, sitting on the bench in the playground next to Hannah. The second was that it probably wasn’t an ideal time in Hannah’s young life to be telling her the details of what happened to my father and why she has never, and will never, meet him. I thought that I wouldn’t like her to draw any similarity between my absent father and her father, newly separated from her mother and, so, not living with her at the moment, or indeed perhaps anymore.

I asked her: ‘What has your Mummy told you about our Daddy?’

‘She said he died. She said when she was little her family didn’t know about Jesus—’.

Hannah may have said something else, I don’t know, but I stopped hearing as I withstood the shock of learning that my sister had told her daughter a blatant lie.

It took me several days to realise that F’s answer might have been as good as true, but initially I’d had to confer with my other sister and we’d agreed that we didn’t agree with lying to Hannah. ‘Ohhh’, V had said when I’d told her about mine and Hannah’s conversation. ‘Ohhh’.

I don’t know if my father is dead, but, yes, I suppose he might well be; he might as well be.

He left without saying goodbye about four years after my parents divorced. My sister V went to visit him at work and Mr Yin Foo, whose family we had shared many barbecues with, was presented with the task of telling her that my father had been fired. That weekend I waited in the car with my brother while my mother went and looked through the windows of my father’s house. She returned to report that it was empty.

It would be difficult to explain that to a five year old, I guess.