Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Lately I have been asked a couple of times why I love Jane Austen so much and it seems like such a silly question because it's so obvious why - she's just a genius and that's all there is to it!
But I've decided that I should know why I feel the way I do about her writing. I always insist that people know why they believe thing like religions; I hate it when people blurt out that something's wrong or right and they can't explain why. So, I should practice what I preach in other aspects of my life, including my love for Jane Austen's writings. Therefore:
Why I Love Jane Austen
I love that she wrote about strong women who put personal integrity before safety or society's opinions in finding husbands, in a time where not finding a husband was a serious, scary thing. I love that her own life reflects what she wrote - she once accepted the proposal of a man she didn't love, and the next day broke it off when she realised she couldn't marry him. This was a big deal when it meant she would be dependent on her brothers for the rest of her life. Although all her novels finish with marriage, Jane Austen died an old maid. The fact that she could write like she did and be remembered so long as a great author without finding a husband and fulfilling her society's expectations of her inspires me. Therefore, she is not just someone I look up to as an artist but also as a person.
Here is a quote I found a while ago that echoes this. I particularly like it because it mentions C. S. Lewis's opinion of Jane Austen, and he is another person I admire especially: One lesson of deep and enduring significance to my own attitudes came, somewhat unexpectedly, from Lewis. I was reading him one of my essays, in which there was a rather patronising remark about old maids, typical of a hearty, young, Australian male. Lewis stopped me. "You have no right to talk like that about what you call old maids. Why shouldn't such women have a profound knowledge of life, women like Jane Austen and the Brontes?" I continued to read my essay, considerably (and permanently) chastened. -Geoffrey Dutton.
I think her observations of people read like a nine inch nail. She was an astute, intelligent, humourous woman who saw things in everyday people that she managed to make really comical in fictional people while retaining the reality about them. She exposes snobbery at every turn, and it is snobs that she is most merciless to. On the other hand, she will create a funny but nice character like Miss Bates and then turn it all around on you and make you understand how much is too much when Emma insults her. But most of all, I love - I love - that when you read her books, especially when she pokes fun at someone, you can sense her, this voice, a sort of not-quite-known narrator, just behind the scenes, writing it with amusement and a sense of satisfaction. It is when I read her books that she seems most real to me as a human being that actually existed because you can catch glimpses of Jane Austen within the prose she wrote.
Jane Austen is sometimes called a very sarcastic writer but I don't particularly like that. She is absolutely merciless to some characters who deserve it (Sir Walter Elliot, Mrs Norris, Mr Collins, Mrs Elton, etc), but I think another word that could be used to characterise her writing is 'sympathetic'. She creates characters, both in leading and secondary roles, that you learn to understand and to root for. My prime example of this is Anne Elliot, the heroine of my favourite novel, Persuasion. In her earlier work you find this also, with Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice who is not understood by Elizabeth, everyone's favourite heroine, but the author voice in the background has a distinct sympathy for Charlotte's actions and the reality of life and why Charlotte acted as she did - and perhaps, just maybe, a tinge of a challenge to her society: why should a woman have to act in such a way and marry such a man as Mr Collins just to ensure she does not die in poverty and loneliness?
Jane Austen is a clever, clever writer. My favourite example of this is in Emma. Mrs Elton, a vulgar and pretentious woman who moves into the area, has a habit of calling her husband her 'caro sposo' - a term for 'dear husband' which was definitely out-of-date by that time and merely a way to show off her knowledge of Italian. However, every time Mrs Elton uses this, it will be in a different and incorrect way - eg, one time 'cara sposo' or the next 'caro sposa', which is a big error as in Italian the grammatical genders need to agree. So this is a really subtle way of showing how vulgar and unknowledgeable Mrs Elton is, without Jane Austen ever pointing this mistake out to anyone. It's just clever! I love it!
Most of all, Jane Austen taught me that reading is primarily for pleasure and you don't have to be ashamed of that. I am now thoroughly against the idea that when you write you should do it only to make a statement or to improve someone's mind or to be wise and postmodern. To write a book that gives great pleasure to someone is probably one of the greatest gifts you could ever give (at risk of sounding corny), and people who try to demean that are just pleasure-starved and weird. :)
Well, I think that's enough for one night!
Sunday, October 29, 2006
So I've been tagged by Stacy to make a list of five things I wouldn't say at a cocktail party. This took some careful thinking, especially as I have never been to a cocktail party and never even tried a cocktail. But here is what I have come up with.
1) I have a huge moral aversion to rock stars who smash their guitars. I'm sorry to say that I have seen the Edge at least kick his, on the Live at Boston DVD, which made me a little disappointed in him. My current musical theory is that music is not something you do, it's something you learn to... control, in a way. It's not from any especial skill of your own that you make harmonies work and sound waves travel through the air and seem pleasing. If you manage to harness the power of music in any small way that deserves some credit - but to take all the credit for yourself is something I am fiercely opposed to. It seems to me that when rock stars smash their guitars or light pianos on fire in music videos or take part in any other stupid and destructive actions against musical instruments, they are claiming that the guitar would be nothing without them, when really they would be nothing - NOTHING - without the guitar. Musical instruments are sacred.
2) One of my favourite TV shows is the Antiques Roadshow (British version). I love love love it! I love the funny old men with pince-nez who peer excitedly at some seventeenth century teacup as if it's the Holy Grail and I love it when people bring along some priceless Russian painted egg they bought as a bargain for seven hundred pounds that turned out to be made in a Novosibersk factory in 2001. I love it when someone finds out that the painting they have stored behind the washing machine for twenty years is a Rembrandt and how they go "Ooooooh!", especially when they're a little old lady. I love everything about it!
3) I recently wrote to my electoral representative to ask him to vote in parliament to take the drinking age up because I am sick of drunk people ruining their own lives and the lives of the people around them and drunk New Zealanders embarrassing us world over. He had sent every 18-19 year old in the electorate a letter to ask our opinion; without a strong response he would vote for it to stay at age 18, and not increase to 20. I am turning twenty tomorrow so whatever happens it won't affect me but as I can't stand the taste of alcohol except for bitters and kahlua, which you only take in small amounts anyway, it doesn't really matter. So stop drinking those silly cocktails. (Well, no, I'm not anti-alcohol-in-moderation, but I think the world would probably be a better place if it had never existed.)
4) I think board games are the coolest thing. Special favourites are Settlers of Catan, Pictionary, Absolute Balderdash, and Carcassonne, while Guess Who?, Tantrix, and Cluedo deserve special mention. I could spend hours playing board games. However, the only card games I like are Snap (because it allows some animation) and Scum. I hate chess because I can't be bothered learning to understand it, and poker is similarly unintelligible. I love politically incorrect games like (with my mum) playing Happy Families on her beautiful set of cards from the forties, with Mr Dose the doctor and Mr Plod the policeman and so on, or Old Maid, or (with my dad) Crush Adolf.
5) As mentioned a few days ago, I spent some time trying to figure out in which environments an extra syllable is added with the past simple regular suffix. I finally worked out it is when the final consonant of the verb is d or t (alveolar plosives), such as with 'started' and 'landed', as opposed to 'rushed' or 'maimed'. This is because the two consonants would be too phonetically similar to be in such close proximity and is an example of epenthesis (I think). But then I suddenly realised something else! With the present simple regular suffix, this happens also! Eg: 'finishes' or 'loses' or 'botches' or 'bludges' as opposed to 'runs', 'tries', 'loves'! Therefore, in this case, the syllable is added with alveolar and postalveolar fricatives, and postalveolar affricates!!! (I apologise from the bottom of my heart for inflicting this on you. You see, I have just sat a Phonetics and Phonology exam.)
So there you have it. I am a dork. I am unworthy to be at your cocktail party. Shoot me now.
I never realised it until my brother-in-law sent these photos under the subject title 'Ruby's Tuesday' - but my new niece's name is Ruby and she was born on a Tuesday! Snap! Sorry, I know these aren't huge but something went wrong with our computer and they were the best I could manage. We've already tried to pick out likenesses but it's a bit hard. I have to admit all babies do look very much alike. I can't wait to see her in the flesh. My dad is going over to Australia in a couple of weeks, so he'll be able to show me lots more photos when he gets back in December.
I had my last two exams yesterday. I managed to get very stressed out about them but to my surprise they went much better than expected. I guess I had done so much preparation, especially for History, that it would have been very hard to have found them difficult. I now feel luxuriously free and I am reading light fiction voraciously. You will notice on the blog index that under my "currently reading" title I am no longer reading textbooks for History. Yay!
By the way, Stacy, I have not forgotten that I was tagged for the five things I would not say at a cocktail party thing - I am working on it but I need to think a bit more!
Thursday, October 26, 2006
I have a new niece - finally! Before she came, there were six nephews and only two nieces. Yay! The balance is evening out again. Her name is Ruby and I think that is very pretty. Her middle names are Ellen Joy and she was 8 pound something and she was born on the 24th of October - that's all I know so far and I haven't seen any photos yet. I probably won't get to see her until about July next year, as they live in Australia. It's my sister's first baby so it's extra exciting.
Because Ruby was about a week and a half late, my sister Felicity and I have been exchanging impatient text messages saying "when is she going to pop this sprog?!" So a few days ago, I sent Felicity a text saying "You're an aunty eight times!!!!!" Actually she already was an aunty eight times, without Ruby, but I thought I could trick her into thinking the baby had come. Felicity got all excited and rang up Dad to check if it was true... and it wasn't. So to get me back, she told me she was going to hide our U2 tickets, and then she sent me a text saying number 10 was due in May. Obviously I'm a bit too sensible to fall for that - so she told me to check with her husband Mike. Now, Mike is a very nice guy who is very genuine, and to be deceitful wouldn't even occur to him - so when he texted me back saying "yes, she is - it's a bit earlier than expected but we're really happy", I assumed she was telling the truth, and I told Dad, and he told our whole church home group.
The next morning, when Dad rang Felicity to tell her that Ruby really was here, he found out she had stolen Mike's phone, and sent me the text!! She even spelt every word in full so it would look like it was from him! I felt very stupid and gullible, as you may imagine! :)
I am in the middle of exams and finding it very stressful. They are very dense this semester - usually I have them spread out over a couple of weeks at least but I had one on Tuesday and I have two on Saturday. I just can't wait for them to be over; then I have my birthday and two weeks holiday... before I start summer school at uni. Sigh. But they are going to be two good weeks, I promise!
My camera has gone bung. It won't open even though it's fully charged. So I am either going to have to get it fixed or buy a new one, meaning I probably won't be taking photos for a while, which is a pity.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Reasons why life is weird and we are all weird:
1) This morning I found a crop circle in our marmite jar. (Cue spooky Twilight Zone music)
2) I also read on the back of my shampoo bottle: "Many scholars believe that the Pomegranate was the 'forbidden' fruit Eve tasted in the Garden of Eden." Yeah. Sure. The bottle also says "Wildly Exciting Is Our Normal!"
3) The other day someone walked up to me, went "Hiiiiii!", waved in my face as if I was their best buddy they hadn't seen for five years - and I have absolutely no idea who they were! I just kind of squinted at them for a very long five seconds before they realised I was completely bewildered and walked off.
4) I just saw an ad on TV that basically said, if you buy insurance from us, you will have a long, successful and fulfilling life - in words, not just implication! And I realised that basically every ad says this but I hardly ever notice it! Am I deconditioned and blind to manipulative advertising?
5) Before seeing this ad, I spent about ten minutes wondering in what environments does the past simple regular suffix become a whole extra syllable in English. It's driving me mad. I think it's only after a voiceless alveolar plosive... but I'm not sure. I just can't think of enough data. Quick, someone! Rescue me from Linguistics before it's too late! It's too fascinating!
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
I am indulging in list-making tonight, and this is the list of my favourite books, in no particular order other than what came to mind or my line of vision first.
Possession, by A. S. Byatt
The Narnia Chronicles, by C. S. Lewis
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Vanity Fair, by William Thackeray
The Ordinary Princess, by M. M. Kaye
Winter of Fire, by Sherryl Jordan
A Long Way Down, by Nick Hornby
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
White Noise, by Don DeLillo
The Father Brown Stories, by G. K. Chesterton
Persuasion, by Jane Austen
Emma, by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
The Tricksters, by Margaret Mahy
The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
Venetia, by Georgette Heyer
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
Captain Corelli's Mandolin, by Louis de Bernieres
Bridget Jones' Diary, by Helen Fielding
The Halfmen of O, by Maurice Gee
The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis
The short stories of Roald Dahl
The Man in the Brown Suit, by Agatha Christie
That's all I can remember right now but I'm sure in the middle of the night I will come rushing out here to insert a crucial book I have unforgiveably forgotten.
Guess why I waste my time on things like this. Yup - it's study leave. Anything but study works for me.
I seem to find a lot of things funny that other people don't get. Have I got a stupid sense of humour? Please be honest. Here are some examples from the last couple of days:
Today at music I was almost in fits of laughter because our conducter said that someone who was at a music festival he went to was quite a high flyer in the early music world. No one could figure out why I found that so funny. I will therefore explain myself. Early music (eg Renaissance or before) hasn't exactly got a large following like classical or pop music does. The idea that you could have "high flyers" in such an eccentric and tiny world was, to me, irresistably funny.
In church on Sunday, the man who starts the service managed to say:
1) that 'authoterrorism' is springing up all over the world. I still haven't figured out whether he meant authoritarianism or terrorism.
2) that God 'spurns us on'. No one else noticed this. He obviously meant 'spurs us on', but didn't realise that 'spurns us on' would mean God rejects us.
Reading this over, I think I must come across as a very finickity person. I'm not sure I should push the 'publish post' button.
Monday, October 16, 2006
I have just got home from going to the farewell tour (of New Zealand, at least) of the Jacques Loussier Trio. It was one of the best concerts I've ever been to; they were amazing. Sooooooo cool. They play 'crossover' music, as in classical and baroque music played in a jazzy way. It sounds like it could be done very badly but what they do with it is fantastic. It's the perfect summer music to listen to. They're probably most famous for what they've done with Bach's music. Tonight they played Bach, Vivaldi, Satie and Ravel. Jacques Loussier is the pianist while Andre Arpino is the drummer and Benoit Dunoyer de Segonzac is the bassist (yup, they're French). They all did some improvised solos within the music that I know so well from playing it loudly whenever I cook, and that was probably the best bit. The double bassist was incredible, I've never heard anything like it. It was slightly annoying that the town hall wasn't full for it as they are probably one of the best acts ever to come to Christchurch. And the Christchurch crowd have a thing with clapping between movements of one piece and clapping too soon at the end of a piece (okay, so it's not a mortal sin, but the transition between some movements is totally spoiled when people succumb to their enthusiasm). But we gave them a standing ovation at the end and clapped for ages, and even my Dad stood up!
Afterwards, in the foyer, they signed programmes and CDs. I was one of the first people to line up, but soon, people just started shoving in around the table and pushing in. I am sorry to say that most of the pusher-inners were old people! It's like people think, okay, manners are nice and useful and great for creating a civilised society... except when you really want something. It annoys me that I have spent a whole childhood hearing adults talk about how the world's going downhill and how young people have no respect, when I was about the only person in the line who wasn't shoving my elbows into other people's places in the queue. I've grown up being strictly taught that morals and good behaviour are not reserved for when it's easy, but are most important when you really want to go against them. I've read it in books like Jane Eyre and Harry Potter, for goodness' sake. But when it comes to a simple queue to get autographs, people drop all their politeness before you can say "civilisation"? I wonder what would happen if it were something that really mattered. So, to the majority of middle-aged and elderly people who came to the Jacques Loussier Trio concert in the Town Hall at 8pm on 16 October 2006: my respect in you is officially diminished.
Saturday, October 14, 2006
Some boys whitebaiting.
Today I spent the day with my friend Sarah who lives up the coast a bit at Waikuku Beach. It's hot and sunny and beautiful, and I love to be by the sea when it's hot and sunny and beautiful. She also has a very cool dog called Molly who went walking with us. There were quite a few people whitebaiting in the estuary and all in all it felt like it should be December at least, not October. The only difference: the water is still much too cold to go swimming, unless you're crazy. I can't wait for deepest darkest summer when I can go swimming in the sea without freezing to death.
Who else hates whitebait? My dad keeps buying whitebait patties from the fish and chip shop, and I can't stand them. It feels like you're eating little foetuses; you can see them, the little organisms in the patties, and you can see their eyes and you eat them whole. It weirds me out.
Friday, October 13, 2006
I apologise for the attempt at French which I am not certain is correct. Lately I have been wondering what the point of five years of high school French was if I allow myself to forget it all now. So I plan to make an effort to somehow improve/regain my French skills over the next year. I suppose it could be a new year's resolution, but in October.
Today was the last day of the semester - a very weird feeling. I am now 2/3 through my degree, unless I do Honours, which means I am now halfway through. Surprisingly, I am not worried about exams at all. I'm sure it will come. But all three seem to be pretty straightforward and we know almost exactly what to study and in how much depth - a nice change. I have one on the 24th and two on the 28th of October - all over by my birthday, which is always nice. My friend Katie and I celebrated the end of semester by going to the movies. We saw John Tucker Must Die. Honestly, I don't care if it's a no-brainer, predictable chick flick; it was fun and nice.
Photo: this is the first I've attempted that looks anything like this. So although it's not super-successful, I thought I'd put it on here anyway for the sake of posterity.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I have to stop dreaming. Before anyone says, "but Allie! Follow your dreams! Reach for the stars! Believe in yourself!" - I don't mean that I'm going to stop wanting nice things to happen and working hard to make them happen.
What I mean is this: I hate the way I imagine things happening that I think would be so great. Ie, a common dream is dying heroically in some obscure but highly public way and everyone feeling awful for having treated me so badly while I lived. Once this occurs, I will sit in class or lie in bed for ages, dreaming up the exact words people will say at my funeral and trying to think how my tragic death could be possibly made even more guilt-ridden for them. I think everyone (at least, every female) dreams about this at a point, but I am certain I do it more than most people.
Or, I will think of silly little grievances I've stupidly held on to for years and imagine confronting the person and all the things I'd say and how I would look so great and they'd look so terrible. I always exhibit great skill in the way I manage to make it look like I'm a forgiving and humble person while making them feel terrible and look guilty and unfeeling.
Obviously, whenever I have a crush on someone, there is great scope for dreaming up little roleplays for us. But I'm not going to say anything in detail about that because I am aware how pathetic and stupid I would appear if I did. I merely think it would be dishonest to leave that fact out.
These last few days I have become very frustrated with myself over this. Besides dreaming being a time-waster to a very high degree, it is self-indulgent and embarrassing. I could blame it all on books and movies and so on but I don't think that's the case. I think fantasising is so ingrained in my personality that that's the reason I love novels so much. It may not be something that is a terrible sin, like Hitler's racism or any other major emotionally-charged faults. But it may very well be, as in Shakespeare's tragedies, my fatal flaw.
Just noticed - here I go again, comparing myself to Shakespeare's tragic heroes, of all people. Does this prove to you my lack of realism?
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Our church went with two other churches to this camp near the beach about half an hour north of Christchurch today. It was quite nice really; we used to go to this particular camp every year for a whole weekend but we haven't done it for a while. I used to love going on church camp when I was a kid. There are heaps of cool things to do there like archery, a waterslide, trampolines, go-carts, a shooting range, mini-golf, a beach volleyball court, etc etc, and, as already said, it's close to a really nice beach. So we had a church service in the morning and then just spent the rest of the day using the facilities.
I found it slightly annoying, though: my two girl friends there who are the same age as me were totally boring, just sitting down the whole time and talking about how they couldn't wait till they could leave and complaining that there was no cellphone reception. I ended up hanging out with my friends from church who are a bit younger (ie still at high school), and we had a fantastic volleyball game and did some archery and stuff like that; it was great. It's an absolutely beautiful day today and it was so nice just to be outside doing fun stuff. I don't get it. Why do people get too cool or too old to do fun stuff? They were complaining about how boring it was, yet they were just sitting there doing nothing.
If this had happened in the past, I would have started worrying about how uncool I am, but now I've got to the point where I just can't be bothered even trying to enthuse people who don't want to be enthused. I don't want to waste my day sitting watching other people have fun. Am I immature?
Photo: from a while ago now, if you remember the last photos of steam trains.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
I saw him once, then he was gone
We were like dreamers at night
Who meet as in trance and part again
Two phantoms in the shadows of the moon
Can people really fall in love so soon?
He walked alone, he seemed alone like me
Could he have known that moment was my destiny?
I had to run away and it was like a dream
I saw him once, the dream was true
I saw him once, and once will do.
So! I was listening to my ipod on shuffle on the bus home today and this particular song came up, from the musical Les Miserables, sung by Cosette. To say the least, it's not my favourite song from the show but I listened anyway and thought this:
1) Is it actually possible that someone could simply see another person and suddenly be bowled over head over heels in love with them? I don't think it's possible. Where it's lust, perhaps, yes. But how can someone simply look at someone and know they were their "destiny", as the song says? Personally the people I generally form crushes on I dislike at the first meeting. Perhaps that's the Jane Austen-Pride and Prejudice fan coming out in me. Or, I like them right away but it definitely involves some form of speech and the way your personality clicks with someone else. I have to admit I've never been "in love" the way songs talk about it so my experience isn't necessarily relevant. But I just can't see it happening that way.
2) Secondly, let's say (for the purpose of this argument) it is possible that you can fall instantaneously and irrevocably in love with someone at first sight. That you can go away saying things like "that moment was my destiny". (Aside: please shoot me if I ever say something like that.) Well, then, how can you possibly come away saying "I saw him once and once will do"? I beg your pardon, once will definitely not do! Is the songwriter kidding? This is the defining moment of Cosette's life, according to her, yet she's satisfied to let it go without a whimper? How gutless is that!
Of course, it doesn't matter how she feels about it, I suppose, as we all know that for narrative purposes of course she's going to meet Marius again.
Trust the French to overwrite things (the musical of Les Miserables was originally written in French). I love the French language and I love France... but all throughout French lessons in high school, our teacher would make us listen to melancholic, overwrought, chest-heaving French music by artists like Celine Dion about people killing themselves that changed key about seven times each song and made our teacher cry.
Monday, October 02, 2006
These photos are of the annual building-a-bridge competition for second-year engineering students that was held today. It's part of their assessment; they have to build a bridge with limited materials and see how many people they can get on it before it breaks. :) Quite entertaining to watch, as you may imagine, and a friend of mine was in it. In these particular photos, they got three on, which was probably the average. But I saw one group that managed about six or seven, I think. Not too bad really; you can see how flimsy-looking the materials are!
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Sarah at Le Cafe.
I am so full. We have just had our annual White Sunday service at church, which is a Samoan thing where the kids dress up in white and do performances. We happen to have quite a few Samoans at our church so it's become a regular yearly thing. Then there's a huge potluck meal afterwards and I ate so much. Oog.
Photos: I went and met my friend Sarah in town yesterday. We had a picnic in the Botanic Gardens and a coffee at the Art Centre, we went wandering round the museum and then around Whitcoulls (a biggish book shop). It was great!