Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Links

 *Happy Halloween!! Enjoy this collection of babies and little kids in awesome halloween costumes!

*Not a fan of babies in costumes? How about pets in literary themed costumes. Warning, these border on the slightly deranged!

*Read this interesting article in the New York Times about the very interesting Haruki Murakami, you won't regret it.

*This story had me in tears. A couple married 72 years died within hours of each other, holding hands. Beautiful.

*Stephen Fry is in my town! Tom and I are heading in to see him and Alan Davies in one of their QI Live shows tonight! But I'm hoping to stumble across him in person so if you guys see any hints on his twitter let me know!

*The Sydney Morning Herald did a write up for the release of Terry Pratchett's new novel Snuff, looking back at the life he's had, his goddess Narrativia, and his challenges with Alzheimers. A great read.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Follow Friday: Party Planning

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkie and Alison can read (sorry about the outdated button but my blogger is being temperamental and it just wasn't going to happen).

Each week a myriad of bloggers answer a question that helps their readers know a little bit more about themselves. This week the question is:

If you could have dinner with your favorite book character, who would you eat with and what would you serve?

Hmmmm, this is a difficult one, just one book character at dinner? Couldn't I please, please, please have a Madhatter-esque tea party? What's that you say, this isn't actually going to happen so why the hell not manipulate the question to meet my desire to combine literary figures, teacups and tasty cakes? OK, fine. I will.

If you could have dinner a tea party with your favorite book character(s), who would you eat with and what would you serve?

Well, being a tea party I'd obviously serve the requisite tea, of all flavours (my favourite being strawberries and cream!), along with a dentist's nightmare in the shape of hundreds of cupcakes, macaroons, finger sandwiches, fairy bread and mango sorbet. We'd all be sat around a ridiculously long table that's adorned with mismatching teapots and teacups, that's actually very low to the ground so instead of chairs we sit on soft and fluffy cushions (I always have trouble finding enough chairs). Oh, and we're outside, and it's night, in a grassy clearing in a forest with big bushy trees and bushes surrounding us, adorned with fairly lights and lanterns.

Well that's the setting and the food in order, what about the guests?
It wouldn't be a tea party without the Madhatter making an appearance, so obviously he'll be here (and if the hare and the doormouse feel like stopping by they're most welcome) but along with him I'd absolutely, positively love for the following characters to make an appearance at my humble little party.

*Dumbledore - because he'd be amazing to talk to, and fun to be around.
*Luna Lovegood - because this party was designed with her in mind (can you tell?)!
*Merry and Pippin - because you know fun isn't far away with these two!
*Willy Wonka - because I think he'd get along splendidly with the Madhatter and would be great at starting party games.
*Crowley and Aziraphale - Because watching them constantly argue and pretend they're nothing alike would keep me entertained for hours.
*Jon Snow - To show him life doesn't have to be so damn serious all the time.
*Mr Wednesday - Because he's fascinating.
*Mike McGill - To show him a less seedy, but equally enjoyable side of society.

I've had to construct this list without the help of my bookshelves (I'm on holiday back up at my family's place) and I'm too lazy to google and find more book characters to add, but these all sprang to mind immediately and I think they'd make a wonderfully diverse, interesting, potentially dangerous guest list!

Who did you invite?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Australian's note on the Occupy protests

Occupy Oakland*
I haven't been following the protests on the news, or through regular internet channels, all of my knowledge and information has come straight out of tumblr and twitter. As a result I probably don't know much about the who, what, when, where, why and how but what I do get is the raw passion, emotion and determination that is surrounding most of these protests in the US. Speaking as an Australian who has never been to the States, and knows only a handful of you guys in the flesh, one of the problems in recent years is that all that seemed to come out of the US, (on the tv, in the news etc) was endless greed, stupidity, consumerism, hate and every kind of ism you could imagine. I'm not saying the whole country is that way, of course it isn't, but thanks to your last president, the majority of news coverage showed a massive world power who seemed like a two year old on a sugar rush. I've read a few news articles where people have called the protesters "hippies" (seriously, still?) or "bored trust-fund kids," but twitter and tumblr show a different story. Instead I see men and women, old and young, straight and gay, liberal and conservative, people of all races and and education levels and backgrounds standing up and demanding the right for a voice in a country which has been drowned out for far too long by a minority of people who believe they're the only ones who deserve the right to speak, or to act. Historically, America was always the country that refused to take it lying down. The most inspiring Americans are those who stood up for what they believed in, the Rosa Parks and Martin Luther Kings, it's in your blood to fight for your rights, and to fight for equality. It's a beautiful thing to see that coming back after so many years of almost zombie-like apathy, to see you all unified, emotional and believing in something. I've spent hours on Tumblr utterly inspired by the pictures and quotes coming out of the Occupy movements. Keep it up America, you're amazing my pants off right now.

*Navyman, copy of the US constitution in hand, stands and faces riot police after they fire tear gas.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Good Omens
By Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Published in: 1990

Synopsis (via Goodreads): there was a bit of a mix-up when the Antichrist was born, due in part to the machinations of Crowley, who did not so much fall as saunter downwards, and in part to the mysterious ways as manifested in the form of a part-time rare book dealer, an angel named Aziraphale. Like top agents everywhere, they've long had more in common with each other than the sides they represent, or the conflict they are nominally engaged in. The only person who knows how it will all end is Agnes Nutter, a witch whose prophecies all come true, if one can only manage to decipher them. 

OK, so that synopsis is pretty broad. I think a better summation comes from one of the authors himself, Mr Neil Gaiman, who said that Good Omens is "a funny book about the end of the world and how we're all going to die".  Of course, there's a little more to it than that but essentially you get the idea. Adam Young, leader of the Them and resident of Lower Tadfield is the antichrist. However, because of a mix-up in the hospital (three babies are always more complicated than two) Adam, the real antichrist, went home with ordinary parents, while an ordinary child went home to be watched and, shall we say, encouraged, by various members of Hell's eternal fan club. Fast forward 11 years and the apocalypse is due to occur within days, but as the demon Crowley realises, the antichrist isn't the actual antichrist, and along with his angel pal Aziraphale, realise that perhaps the apocalypse isn't all it's cracked up to be and maybe, just maybe, they could find a way to stop it from happening.

Anyway! I've heard people rave about this book for a very, very long time but it's just remained one of those books that was put back on the shelf when my arms were too full of books and I had to cut back. However, I was in the city and forgot to bring a book in with me and I wanted something to read over lunch so I ducked in to the bookstore and picked up a copy thinking it's about time I actually sat down and got an idea what all the fuss was about. Well, I've got an idea now! This book is fantastic, I really, really enjoyed reading it and I couldn't help thinking all the way through, "yep, can totally see how Gaiman ended up writing American Gods!"

For those of you who have read American Gods but not Good Omens, they're very similar. Well, no they're not, but kind of (ha!). In the way that American Gods took well-known (and not so well-known) characters from mythology, Good Omen takes characters from Christianity, and much of the premise, and delivers them in a fresh, funny and engaging way. Famine (one of the Horsemen of the apocalypse) is making a living selling "diet" books to people who desperately want to be thin and beautiful, War is a beautiful war correspondent who seems to arrive before the war even begins, and Pestilence has retired and been replaced by Pollution. They also ride motorbikes now and wear leather jackets with "Hell's Angels" embroidered on the back.

The book doesn't make fun of or try to diminish Christianity, in fact, if anything it's parodying the films like The Omen which were such hits a couple of decades ago. That being said, it did make some rather poignant comments about religion and the absurdity of trying to box people as either good or bad, and of promoting this fantastic afterlife rather than encouraging people to give a damn about what they're doing to the planet. One of my favourite scenes takes place during the preliminary apocalypse craziness when a space ship crashes on the road in front of one the minor characters, Witchfinder Newton Pulsifer, and out jumps two aliens who berate Newt in the same fashion a cop would berate a speeding driver

>Morning, sir or madam or neuter" the thing said.
This your planet, is it?
Well Yes, I suppose so," he said.
The toad stared thoughtfully at the skyline.
"Had it long have we sir?" it said.
"Er. Not personally. I mean as a species, about half a million years. I think."
The Alien exchanged glances with its colleague.
"Been letting the old acid rain build up, haven't we, sir?" it said. "Been letting outselves go a bit with the old hydrocarbons, perhaps?"
"I'm sorry?"
"Could you tell me your planet's albedo, sir?" said the toad, still staring levelly at the horizon as though it was doing something interesting.
"Er. No."
"Well, I'm sorry to have to tell you, sir, that your polar icecraps are below regulation size for a planet of this category, sir"

And it continues on for a while after that. I thought the integration of social commentary into the story was very neatly done and with a great deal of humour so it was never over the top or didactic, but it means after you come to the last page and close the back cover you're left with a little more than just a funny and interesting story. In fact, considering the book is over 20 years old, the comments about the environment are oh-so spot on for the way things are going right now. The only time it felt a little thick was in the climax, where it just got a little speechy and preachy and I probably would have been good with a couple of pages less.

However, overall, it impressed me immensely and I'm so glad I finally caved and bought a copy! I was also really amazed at the flawless way the two authors melded their work together, this is my first Terry Pratchett book also (at least as far as I can recall), but I've read a lot of Gaiman and I didn't feel like I was reading Gaiman, and then reading someone else, and then reading Gaiman again. Whether their authorial voices are very similar I don't know (although I'm definitely going to be kicking off into Pratchett's world of sci-fi/fantasy very soon!) but I never felt a disconnection or a separation in the text. It seems like they either worked very hard to achieve this, or they're simply such similar minds that it simply flowed beautifully between them.

So, definitely a good book to get me back into reading after my brief break and definitely a good book if you enjoy Neil Gaiman and, I'm going to going out on a limb here and assume, Terry Pratchett. Also, if you liked the Kevin Smith film Dogma, I think you'll get a kick out of this decidedly English book.

My Rating: 4/5

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Posts

*This week's video is an amazing stop motion film that animates some of the most iconic and unforgettable literary first lines.

*The ever amazing Lemony Snicket has written up 13 observations he made while watching the Occupy Wall Street protests.

*While there why not check out the entire site The sheer number of writers who've added their name on the front page is quite inspiring.

*Yesterday was the Brisbane Zombie walk, which raises money to support the Brain Foundation of Australia (of course!) and involves hundreds of people dressed up to their zombie 9's. Check out some pictures, some of the costumes are unbelievable!

*For all you Americans who enjoy Neil Gaiman, this link is for you! A fan is auctioning off a series of tickets to the Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer Benefit gigs, which include a meet and greet with the fantabulous couple. There are four tickets up for grabs in different locations and all the proceeds go to charity. If you're interested, go here for the full details.

*This isn't a link, but it's something that popped up as I was searching the interwebs for this week's links and I feel I need to state how fucked up I think it is. I'm talking about the video circulating of Muammar Gaddafi dying. Granted, he was a horrible human being, but how sick do you have to be to watch the video of anyone as they die, especially by such violent means? I haven't watched the video and I don't plan on ever watching it, or seeing stills from it, the man is dead do we really need to bask in the imagery of it?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I'm Back!

Guys I did it! My thesis is printed and bound and sitting awaiting my 9am submission! I get to offload the thousands of library books I currently have cluttering my house and then I'm coming home to pick up a book and I'm not putting it down until I'm caught back up!

I didn't do a monthly wrap up last month, and I probably won't have one this month (considering I spent 3/4 of it far away from my books) so to let you know what my reading horizons look like I thought I'd list a few of my next few reads.

*LA Confdential by James Ellroy (Book to movie challenge)
*My Sweet Saga by Brett Sills (Author requested review)
*God of Speed by Luke Davies (Books I should have read challenge)
*Happy Slapped by a Jellyfish by Karl Pilkington (first dig at my massive birthday present pile!)

And that should keep me busy for a week or so! I'm spending a week back home in sunny, tropical Cairns (seriously, google that shit and feel the jealousy rise that I live in such a beautiful place!!) so I'm sure I'll get a bunch of reading and writing done up there. Once I get back I'll be starting up my new job as a research assistant in the film department at my university, huzzah for steps in the right direction for my adult career path!! Oh, and I applied for my Phd (and Masters as a backup) last week, so here's hoping that I'll get the thumbs up in December, not only to get into the course but to get the sweet, sweet scholarship!

So that's me for the moment, I'll be back with some bookish news soon. Hopefully there are still some of you out there keeping an eye on the blog!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Monday Links

*This week's clip is from an art exhibit called 'The House of Books that has No Windows' by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller.

*The sad state of libraries and why they need to get rid of 1000s of books.

*Nominations are open for the Independant Literary Awards so get going!

And that's all for this week, my thesis is due this Friday so I'm currently operating on minimal sleep, copious amounts of caffeine and have a lack of time to spend mining for links BUT the next time I post I'll be finished with my thesis and able to write a long, thoughful and articulate post...or at least I'll try!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Links

Only two weeks until I can start reading again and write some proper posts for you guys! I've missed reading and posting so much over the last month or so and I can't wait until I can launch into some of the books I received as birthday presents (a whopping 8!) and that have finally entered our collection from their old home at Tom's old house. With that in mind let's get back to the post at hand, Monday links!!

*A Literary themed wedding! I'm a little love/wedding obsessed and anytime I see something like this I tuck it away into the wedding compartment of my brain to keep in mind when I finally have to plan a wedding.

*The Forgotten Pleasure of Reading. A blog post by a busy working parent who rediscovers the magic of reading while sick at home.

*I was sent to this Bloggess post via Neil Gaiman's Twitter and it gave me a good giggle. When PR pitches go terribly, terribly wrong!

*Regardless of your particular thoughts on Apple or Steve Jobs no one can deny that his death last Thursday was anything less than globally devastating. Uproxx collated a few of the prevalent tweets, art works and other tributes that sprouted across the internet last Thursday.

*Yay! Gabe of Gabriel Reads is back to semi-blogging! It's been a loooong month or so without his fantastic reviews but the wait is now over!

*Flavorwire have posted a list of 10 best-selling novels that were originally rejected by publishers.  I'm really glad some of these authors persevered and ignored the publishers because otherwise we'd be missing out on some truly incredible books.

*A rather useless but unbelievably cute literary link for you all. A series of pictures of some of the world's greatest authors as babies and little kids. Makes you go awww. (James Joyce is pimpin'!)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Links

*Stephen King has written a sequel to The Shining!

*One of my favourite Aussie publishers, Text, has started up a blog. Check out all their interesting posts and whatnot!

*The top 10 challenged or banned books of 2010.

*In addition to his fantastic blog Neil Gaiman now has a tumblr!

*And so does Salman Rushdie! (He's also on Twitter now too)

*DC is getting some flak for their 'reboots' of some female characters. Read a seven year old's crazy insightful reasons why they suck balls.


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