Monday, February 26, 2007

strange things for today

Today was the first day back at uni for semester one. There were several strange things about it, which are as follows:

1) When I was doing what is referred to as "summer" school, the weather was mediocre and comfortable. (I'm not a hot weather person.) Now that summer is over and everyone is back at uni, we are suddenly getting weather in the early thirties celsius - that's over ninety degrees fahrenheit. It's very very dry, and IT'S TOO HOT!!!

2) A few friends and I were sitting in the shade, melting, when we saw someone walking past carrying a tuba. Yes, a tuba. No case or anything. It was very odd.

3) In the lecture I had today, on nineteenth and twentieth century drama, all the lights in the lecture theatre suddenly turned off halfway through. Our lecturer couldn't fix them and neither could anyone else, and so we all had to leave early. Does this bode well for the rest of the semester? Are the metaphorical "light bulbs" of my imagination and reason going to be "turned off" in this course?

Friday, February 23, 2007

six random things about Me!

I've been tagged by Jenkneebee to post six random and/or strange facts about myself - that you don't already know. So... here goes!

1) When I was a kid, I loved playing with things like paper dolls or playmobil (0f which we had a large collection, especially as I'm the youngest of six). But actually I wasn't at all into the "normal" type of playing, where a kid narrates a story and makes up a dialogue or something. I liked to organise all my little people for special events, such as going on camp, or celebrating Christmas. I would build the necessary buildings, or dress them suitably, and give them all names, and make sure everything was organised ready for them to take part in the special event... and then I would get bored and start over.

2) The only thing I remember from Calculus in Year 13 at high school was the formula for working out how long a corpse has been dead, judging from the temperature of the body and the temperature of the air around it. (This was when I was in the middle of an obsession with CSI.)

3) In high school, and even at one point in primary school, I had a habit of forming melodramatic and long-lasting crushes on teachers. This is so embarrassing. I didn't tell my friends about it (hi Sarah, and no, I'm not telling you which ones). I simply suffered in silence. Is there a psychoanalytical way to explain this?

4) My biggest fear is going deaf.

5) You may know this already, but I play the recorder, and I love it. I really think it is one of the most beautiful and versatile instruments - obviously, when played well. I love it when I tell people what I play and I get that little look of "what, are you nine?" because I thrive on a sense of persecution, however misplaced. It makes me feel individual.

6) When my mum died, the thing that tore me up the most - or, at least, produced the strongest reaction - was when a friend from university didn't come to the funeral. Go figure.

I tag... Sarah!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


I'm not sure if this is just me, or if it is a worldwide Girl Thing - does anyone else only burst into tears whenever it's inappropriate or completely weird timing? Searching for a random, fictional example... so you've broken up with a long-time partner, a close relative has died, and you've been diagnosed with gonorrhea or something icky like that - you stay strong, keeping that tough upper lip for weeks, until suddenly, you lose your favourite pencil, and you have a major breakdown. Why is that?!

Yesterday I was lining up with hundreds of other students, putting the final touches on my enrolment for the first semester at uni. It's very hot weather and it was the first day I hadn't hidden at home with (prescription) drugs and hot lemon drinks after spending the week before in bed. I've also been studying basically constantly since February last year, and am not going to get a break of more than two weeks up until June - let's just say it's becoming a little overwhelming. When I finally got to the cashiers, they told me that some of my course fees have gone on my student loan by mistake, and I'll have to pay the money to the student loan people instead - minor, minor problem. But what do I do? Burst into tears!! Very, very embarrassing. They all started trying to comfort me and assure me it wasn't actually that big a deal, while I stood in front of about a hundred curious and impatient students, and I was like, "I know! I know! I'm sorry!" Why?!?!?! I feel like I'm pregnant or something... or is that a post-pregnancy thing?

This isn't one isolated incident, either. I can remember dozens of times this has happened to me. It immediately generates all this sympathy, but it's very unwelcome when you just look like a mad woman who cries for no reason. Example: on my sister Felicity's wedding day, we had been debating whether we should wash our hair in the morning or if it was better not to, so as to avoid frizz. I came downstairs, and asked Felicity, "should I wash my hair?" Another of my sisters said, "For goodness' sake, Allie, of course you should wash your hair!" I burst into floods of tears and stormed off. :) Funny to remember, now. Weird at the time. I suppose given it was the sort of day that is fraught with emotional tension and high expectations, it's not totally peculiar to flake out. But shouldn't that be the bride's job? Not mine?? And all because I was being told to wash my hair???

It's always this way - but whenever anything happens to me that would merit floods of tears, I don't say a word about it, and get annoyed because people expect me to be sobbing with anguish. Does this happen to anyone else?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

advice on fanfiction

I do not pretend to be a perfect fanfiction-writer. I haven't written any for quite a while, actually, and I hardly ever read them, but I find writing Jane Austen fanfiction great fun, and publishing it on almost as much fun. I also really enjoy reading fanfiction that is fun and well written, but unfortunately that is so scarce that I don't really search for it that often. However, today I went onto the Jane Austen section on Fanfiction, and was so moved by what I found there that I was inspired to write the following list, which I beg you to follow:

When writing fanfiction...

1) Think very, very carefully before writing a modern retelling of a Jane Austen story. Half the stories in the Jane Austen section are modern retellings, and I don't think I have read a single one yet that wasn't terrible. Example: I saw one today entitled One Drunken Night in Vegas. Imagine! A story dedicated to Elizabeth and Darcy marrying at the Little White Chapel after drunken revelling and a drunken proposal! How very Britney Spears, and how very classy. Just don't do it! So there have been modern retellings of Jane Austen stories that have worked; witness the greatness of movies like Clueless or Bride and Prejudice. On the other hand, these do not involve drunkenness or a feisty "Liz" meeting old-money "Will" at law school - which seems to be the gist of most of these stories.

2) Please, please, don't make the characters behave completely differently to how they would act in the original text. This is just too depressing to cope with. I remember a Harry Potter fanfiction once that described Ron as "bashful", and this just seemed so wrong to me that it actually stuck with me and ruined my next reading of a Harry Potter book. Another time some abandoned wannabe Jane Austen wrote a fanfiction in which Mr Darcy had seven mistresses and lots of illegitimate children. Avoid smutfics. For a fantastic example of this, see this amusing parody of a smutfic on Tilneys and Trapdoors.

3) Likewise, don't make horrible, terrible things happen to the characters of what is supposed to be light fiction. Example: I read a sequel to Pride and Prejudice once that killed off Jane Bennet with leukaemia six months after her wedding, and had Elizabeth refuse Mr Darcy's proposal, to end up a poverty-stricken old maid, looking back with regret. How pointless is that?! I don't want to read it! No one wants to read it! Don't do it!

4) Don't, when you find some of your subject matter overlapping, simply repeat whole passages of the author's original text! Don't!!!! It is not yours to use! Added to that, it also doesn't fit in with your writing, for however much you feel you have stayed in tone with Jane Austen or J. K. Rowling or whoever, you have your own style and it cannot help but feel like an unwelcome blip in it. The reader doesn't want to read whole pages of things they have already read. Be original! It's worth it! Try writing from a different perspective, or summing the whole scene up in two sentences - anything but using the author's own text.

5) Choose names wisely. Real people are not called Luciforia Maelonia Wcjkslzski. Or if they are, you could bet a large amount of money that the people surrounding them have names like Jane and Bert. So if you have an entire family or society of people with outlandish names (especially if they are set in nineteenth century England), it just comes across as if you particularly like those names, and realise that you can't call your own children that - not that the characters suit the names.

Now, on writing reviews:

One of the nice things about the Fanfiction website is that people can review your stories and give you suggestions and feedback. Once or twice I've had some really helpful ideas for a story. But on the other hand, if you write me a review, please:

1) Don't assume that because you have seen the Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice movie, you know everything there is to know about Jane Austen.

2) Don't come out with silly myths that you have learnt from other fanfic writers, such as "in those days, they didn't say didn't, but did not" - you are only displaying your ignorance.(Explanation: just because Jane Austen didn't write with contractions doesn't mean she didn't speak with them.) Likewise, with social conventions of the day, don't willy-nilly puff off your imagined intelligence by saying "that would never have happened", because more often than not, you're wrong.

3) Don't accuse me of plagiarising another fanfic. This happened once and annoyed me no end. Likewise, don't tell me I'm "bitter" because I indulged in some satire that you evidently couldn't understand. (Again, real life story.)

4) Don't post a review every three days whining about how I'm not writing updates fast enough. While this is initially flattering, it soon becomes tiring, and only makes me decide never to update again, ever.

Friday, February 16, 2007

week from hell

Right, so, here's what happened. Last Friday I had an essay due, and then there was only a week to study until the exam for my 3rd year History class on Gandhi. I thought that would be okay and I'd get study done fine if I was disciplined. I took Saturday off after handing in the essay, as I thought I deserved some time to do whatever I wanted, and I'd still have five days to study. However, I got sick on Sunday. It's something in between a flu and a cold. I've slept about half of what I normally sleep and have had to lie down all day for the last six days if I don't want to get migraines or blow my nose so often it falls off. Obviously, not the best of conditions to study for an exam in. And yet I have tried. It's probably the trying and stressing that means I still haven't kicked the flu away.

I'm at university now. I've just done the exam, which was hellish. I hate that it was the type that could have gone really well if I wasn't feeling sick but I just wanted to flop down on the floor the whole way through it. Now I have to wait until 1:30pm to see the doctor on campus and get a medical certificate in case I want to apply for an aegrotat. Ugh. If you'll excuse me, I need to go cough up my innards.

Now, this weekend, I'm supposed to be going on a camp for the start-up of the uni Christian group I'm in. Doesn't look likely. Especially as I got a text from the leader saying 'please bring swimming togs and old clothes' - nooooooo!!!! I want to go home and climb under a pile of blankets.

Sorry. This is a very boring and, again, Mrs Bennet-like blog post. I just feel that I've earned the right to complain today.

Monday, February 12, 2007

childhood sweethearts

Well, Sarakastic has made such a wonderful list of past loves that there's no competing with it, but all the same, it inspired me to share the males who made my childhood and adolescence ... special. I suppose a few of my celebrity crushes are still slightly odd, but I think I can safely say these are odder. These are not in any particular order except for a vague sort of chronological one.

1) Julian, from the Famous Five. For those unfortunate enough not to have heard of this, it was a series of children's books by the English author Enid Blyton. They were full of adventures and 'gee whiz' and 'jolly good' and 'I say'. Adults were unintelligent, and children could go off on their own and have adventures whenever they pleased. Enid Blyton affected my writing for years, and, as my bio on Halfway Down the Stairs says, she was the first author I wanted to be like. Julian was the virtuous, patriarchal and blonde elder brother of Dick and Anne, and the cousin of George. My falling for him was inevitable.

2) The second fictional character I had a crush on was Logan Bruno, from Ann M. Martin's Babysitters Club. Logan had blonde wavy hair and a Kentucky accent and liked Mary Anne. I still have no idea what a Kentucky accent sounds like, but it seemed very attractive on the page. I can't quite remember why I had such a big crush on him, but it was very real at the time. I had 64 Babysitters Club books, and I sold them all last year on TradeMe, the New Zealand eBay, to a little girl who I hope will enjoy them as much as I did!

3) Christopher Plummer. He was just so handsome in The Sound of Music! That scene where they dance - I could have swooned - although the scene where they kiss always made me laugh. I never realised that he was probably in his sixties or seventies while I was into him, but I'm not sure it would have put me off! He was dashing.

4) Dick van Dyke. How sad is that?! This was because of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins, mainly. The first especially. I loved that he was so clever, and I thought Truly Scrumptious was basically the ideal woman. I wanted to grow up and be like her. Then, in Mary Poppins he sung cool songs and did little dances and had a very weird not-quite-there Cockney accent. Although he did push the goofy thing a bit far at times in that movie.

5) Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker. My brother and sister introduced me to Star Wars when I was about nine, and besides thinking Princess Leia's hair was the prettiest I'd ever seen, I found Mark Hamill rather attractive. I'm a little grossed out by this now, of course, but I cannot deny it! He had cool robot friends, he hung out with ewoks, and he battled evil who was often his own father. Come to think of it, I sometimes had a crush on Darth Vader too. That I cannot understand now. Maybe it was the feeling sorry for him and hoping he had a heart?? Apparently girls like reforming bad men, so that could be it.

6) Jason Behr, from Roswell. My friends and I were totally into him when we were thirteen or so, and every morning at school after an episode of Roswell, we would dissect it together as soon as we saw each other. He was so studly with his black hair and chiseled features and troubled past. We were so into him that on one youth group camp my friend brought along a big poster of him so we wouldn't have to go without seeing him for three whole days.

7) Fez from That 70s Show, played by Wilmer Valderrama. This is the one I am most weirded out by. I actually thought the whole Fez thing was hot - not funny, just hot. The tight shirts and the funny accent and everything - I took it completely seriously. Thank goodness I didn't tell many people about it; I just had a big poster of him on my wall, rather like this photo. I even thought of writing him fan mail.

Well, that's about it, although there were a few more small crushes. I'm worried that the having a crush on a fictional person thing is quite weird, but I suppose that it's because we didn't have a TV until I was about thirteen or fourteen - anyway, that's my excuse!

Sunday, February 11, 2007


I have been so tired and gross-feeling the last few days, and imagining myself with millions of illnesses. Because I am in a grumpy mood, I have therefore decided to educate you - because of course I can't feel sick because of anything normal, like the flu or the mumps. That would be too common. If you are not in a mood to be bored, skip this blog entry right now.

1) M.E. (myalgic encephalomyelitis) - otherwise known as chronic fatigue syndrome, my sister had this for two years in her teens. This website defines it as "a serious and complex illness characterised by incapacitating fatigue (experienced as profound exhaustion and extremely poor stamina), neurological problems and certain other symptoms." It's difficult to diagnose, so as well as feeling horrible, you have to put up with doctors telling you that it's all in your head. It was a really crap experience for her and she still has poor health, probably in a large part because of the illness. Apparently there's some genetic reason for it somewhere, so whenever I get tired I tend to jump to conclusions. Luckily I think there's about a one in a billion likelihood of me having M.E. (no pun intended).

2) Coeliacs Disease - according to this website, it is "an inflammatory disease of the upper small intestine and results from gluten ingestion in genetically susceptible individuals". Another sister and a niece have this, and my father thinks his mother probably died of it, although the doctors told her she had stomach ulcers. It is fatal if undiscovered, but basically if it's discovered, you simply stop eating food with gluten in it, and you'll be okay, although it can lead to other medical problems like rheumatoid arthritis. Since it is in the family, I have a higher chance of getting it, so I have a little panic every now and then, whenever I have a sore tummy, that I'll never be able to eat bread again.

Oh, no. I just realised that I'm turning into Mrs Bennet (for the heathen among you, she's from Pride and Prejudice and is a bit of a hypochondriac). I'm going to stop right here.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

passports and Lisa Nowak

Firstly, Stacy is intrigued by my final comment on my last post, that my new passport photo makes me look like a terrorist. I was thinking about how best to explain this when I saw a photo in our newspaper of Lisa Nowak, NASA-astronaut-gone-weird. The Lisa Nowak of NASA versus the Lisa Nowak of police photography seemed to be a good way to describe the difference between my passport photo, and, hopefully, me. I say hopefully because I don't want anyone to tell me I actually do look like my passport photo. I was not allowed to smile (does anyone else also want to burst into laughter whenever someone tells you you can't?) and I had to look directly at the camera at an exactly straight angle, so I've ended up looking aggressive and grumpy and regimental.

Secondly, speaking of Lisa Nowak, does anyone else find the whole situation bizarre and sad? My guess is you'd have to be a pretty successful type of person to get as far as becoming an astronaut. What would make you suddenly attack another person for something as inane as a love triangle and think that it wouldn't ruin your life?

Friday, February 09, 2007

Top 5 Actresses

As I made a list of Top 5 Actors in December, I thought it was time to make a list of Top 5 Actresses as well!

1) Maggie Smith. She's just so classy! So there is a certain type of character she plays - but I don't really get tired of it. Does anyone? I think my favourite film of hers would be A Room With A View, from 1986. It's actually old enough to be me, but it's such a fantastic movie, and she adds so much to it. In fact, it's the only movie I've ever seen that made me appreciate the book more. I think that's quite an achievement. Honourable mention goes also to Tea with Mussolini, Gosford Park, Sister Act and Ladies in Lavender.
2) Aishwarya Rai. I've actually only seen two of her movies - Bride and Prejudice and Mistress of Spices - but she is fantastic. She is one of the most genuinely stunning women in the world but she is no stick insect or bimbo. I think she has a lot of style. She basically outshines anyone else on the screen, with no difficulty whatsoever.

3) Kate Winslet. I hated Titanic, but other than that little blip, I've loved almost anything I've seen with Kate Winslet in it. Sense and Sensibility - she is exactly like Marianne Dashwood and she doesn't go too far. Finding Neverland - perfect. Heavenly Creatures - perfect. I could go on and on. She just has class. Again, classy without being a stick insect. Hooray!

4) Audrey Tautou. Like Aishwarya Rai, I've only seen a few of her movies, but Amelie was just so good that it earns her the number four spot on the list. She is so wackily charismatic in that film; you can't help but love her. A Very Long Engagement was good too, and she was the best thing about The Da Vinci Code.

5) Julie Andrews. The Sound of Music. Mary Poppins. Need I say more? If anyone acted that way these days, I would shake my head and groan, but I will happily sing along with The Sound of Music and I have a secret fantasy of running through the hills of Austria one day singing, 'The hills are alive...' or walking down the aisle on my hypothetical wedding-day to the strains of 'How do you solve a problem like Maria...' One of the coolest things I've ever done was go to a sing-along Sound of Music at the theatre. Everyone dressed up and we all sang along and shouted 'Maria, the curtains! Look behind you!' in the scene just after 'My Favourite Things' and let off party poppers when they kissed.

Special mention goes to: Helena Bonham-Carter (for A Room With A View especially), Reese Witherspoon, Emma Thompson, Jennifer Ehle, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Judy Dench.

In other news, I just got my passport photo taken. I look like a terrorist.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


I am going to live in Western Australia for an entire semester, come July, and I have only just realised that July is not far away. It's a little bit exhilarating! A complete change of scene. I get to do different things for six months (I'm getting a little sick of essay-writing although it has, surprisingly, grown on me). At the moment the plan is to nanny for my sister who is going back to work part-time after the birth of my little niece Ruby last October. I will also possibly be doing a course on early church history at their local Bible college, which I have always wanted to do but have never found the time for, and I might even do some volunteer English tutoring for the refugee children my sister works with (she's a paediatrician). Besides being in another country. Albeit a country whose culture isn't actually that different from mine and whose accent seems to me like a parody of mine.
It's really quite strange thinking it's only one more semester and then I'm off.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

random information...

... because I can't think of anything that would justify an entire blog post to itself.

1) My camera's flash is broken. Hence the graininess of this photo (which I actually quite like but I won't mention that in the lawsuit), after I fiddled with the exposure on my computer. I took the camera back a few weeks ago, as luckily it's still under guarantee. But then they rang up and said they couldn't repair it here and would have to send it to the factory, which will take 4-6 weeks!!!!! Where is this factory - Outer Siberia? How frustrating! I live in a fast food culture and it is my capitalistic right for instant and illogical gratification.

2) I have decided that the coolest job ever (or at least, one of them) would be playing the saxophone on The Simpsons, in that part of the opening sequence where Lisa always plays a different improvisation for every episode and annoys her school band conductor.

3) Last night I started reading Faro's Daughter by Georgette Heyer. After about three pages I knew how the entire plot was going to pan out. I've read enough Georgette Heyer books to know this instinctively. Sometimes I can even figure it out from the cover illustrations. However, for some reason I couldn't put it down, and I continued reading right up until I finished the book at 2:30am. (I'm a fast reader.) Bad idea. Today at church I hid behind the piano and drank strong coffee from a thermos.

4) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is coming out July 21st!!! Yippee! Already I've started thinking up theories that are, no doubt, entirely unoriginal. The Big Debate is, will J. K. Rowling kill Harry? My theory regarding this is: no. I think she doesn't want people to get too complacent and set in their ideas about how everything is going to turn out, because obviously Voldemort has to die. So, by refusing to say if he dies, and giving little hints that it's possible, I think she is actually just playing with our emotions and trying to make sure we are nervous and not-quite-sure right up until the last page. In my head I am convinced Harry will live. But I still have irrational fears. Thank goodness for my next Harry Potter fix! Ever since the U2 concert was over I've been lacking just a little of that Must-Not-Be-Run-Over-Tragically-Before-A-Certain-Date zing and now, I'm cured. It is bittersweet, though, knowing this is my last Harry Potter fix ever. Oh well. There's always fanfiction to fall back on!

5) I think I'm developing several phobias. The last few nights I have lain in bed unable to get to sleep for at least half an hour because every time I hear the tiniest noise I think: "It's a mouse!" I refuse to leave my door open because there is no way I am offering mice or spiders easy passage into my room. You may remember my mouse drama last year (if not, click here and here). I also experienced several mice scampering round my room at my old house, and on holiday at Christmas when I was feeling sick, and tried to sleep by the fire in the lounge at the scary Eco Lodge, I heard rats in the pantry. *SCREAM* Soon I'm going to live in Australia for a semester, and they have huge spiders and poisonous snakes there. I'm going to lose my mind. I know I'm a wimp.

Friday, February 02, 2007


I was tagged by Stacy, so....
1. YOUR REAL NAME: Alison... or should I go for Allie?
2. YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (first three letters of your name, plus izzle) Aliizzle. That's gangsta fo sho. Phonetically unpronounceable under rules of the English language. Great.
3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME: (first initial of first name, first three of your last) Aste. Yeah, I can see that being fly... but possibly fly guy? Moving on.
4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (fav color and fav animal) Green Elephant. It's not a very stealthy or sly sounding name, though, is it?
5. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, Street you live on): Grace Brittan. Not bad, I'd say. I'd definitely be the nice girl who's just moved to the city from Oklahoma and who wants to be an assistant at a fashion magazine.
6. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first name, first 3 letters of mom’s maiden name) Steal Bar. How amusing. My Star Wars name is actually made up of real words, and makes me sound like a criminal who is made of rods of iron.
7. SUPERHERO NAME: (favorite color, favorite drink) Green V. Hey! That's styly! I like very much. That's a good superhero name.
8. YOUR IRAQI NAME: (2nd letter of your first name, 3rd letter of your last name, any letter of your middle name, 2nd letter of your moms maiden name, 3rd letter of your dad’s middle name, 1st letter of a sibling’s first name, last letter of your moms middle name) Leragf. Looks slightly more French/Orc to me.
9. YOUR STRIPPER NAME: (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/body spray) Green Tea. No, I don't think I'll be using that. My sister would be 'Safari' though; that's not too bad, is it?
10. YOUR WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother & father’s middle name) Mary Ingle. My mother didn't have a middle name so I've put her Christian name. It definitely seems normal, innocent and far removed from any sort of event pertaining to crime, for a name.
I tag JenKneeBee, Sarah and Layling!


Above is today's cartoon on my Far Side Off-the-wall calendar. Besides being a great cartoon, it made me think: who else has a consuming fear of screwing up?
I just can't handle the thought of doing something terribly wrong at work that everyone was counting on me to do correctly. It's the sort of thing I have nightmares about. I hate being told off when I can't actually whine that it wasn't my fault because it actually was. This fear of screwing up in some big way means that I will probably never leave university, and instead collect PhD after PhD simply because I am too scared to go into the workforce. I will accumulate a gigantic student loan and end a shriveled old maid sitting in my office with the curtains drawn. Sounds quite tempting, actually.
Ugly Betty has just come out in New Zealand, and I could hardly sit through one of the episodes because it made me feel so uncomfortable, when she loses The Book that is crucial to the magazine or whatever it was. That is my nightmare scenario. Is it just me?