Thursday, February 28, 2008
Of course, it's now that the grinning Masters students choose to tell us that it was the worst year of their life.
Must! Look! On! The! Bright! Side!
- No exams.
- An honours room with own desk and swivelly chair, tea/coffee/fridge, photocopier and own key for all hours of the day.
Aaaand, that's about all I can manage.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Today, however, my opinion of the Press has been drastically altered when I saw the front page article: "Who stole this blind boy's bike?"
The article starts, "A near-blind Christchurch albino boy is appealing to thieves to return his bike, which was stolen the first time he took it to school." This article, plus a huge picture of the little boy, takes up about half the front page.
There is something about these type of articles that makes me want to throw up. Yes, it's unfortunate, but hello? It's a bike! And he left it unlocked! As sad as it may be for him to lose it, I think page three or four at best, with maybe a small photo, would be sufficient. It's shameless use of someone's personal problems to generate media points and to sell a newspaper by pity. If that makes sense. It's almost as bad as the Australian current affairs show I saw which featured a "special guest invalid".
Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, rioters in Serbia have just set fire to the American Embassy, inflation in Zimbabwe has risen to over 100,580% and floods and landslides in Indonesia have killed eleven and displaced 3500. And a boy in Christchurch who happens to be partially blind has lost his bike.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
This week, though... my boss asked me to take on another couple of hours on Thursdays, and before I heard anything about it, I agreed - then found out it would be with two small children, aged five or six, who only speak very simple English and can't really read or write yet. *screeeeeech* As you can probably tell from my blog, I find it hard to say things simply. I love teaching English from a technical point of view, but I have to be able to explain stuff, and mostly I've taught kids who are aged ten and up. In this lesson I will have to somehow fill two hours with "Cat. Caaaaaaatttttt. C. A. T. Cat." Okay, so my boss has given me a few more ideas than that, and a few resources to help me with this, and I am also armed with a game of Memory in case I really lose it. But I am so nervous. I told my boss I'd prefer to go into this on the understanding that if I really couldn't handle it I could pull out after a couple of weeks. But I'd rather not look wimpy and incompetent. Wish me luck!
UPDATE (22 Feb): So I've done it. And it was difficult. I won't be so terrified about it in future, but I think the two hours I spend with these kids every week is going to be hard work. Their spoken English is worse than I thought it would be so it makes it very hard to communicate certain things to them. They're both rather bouncy, as indeed most five or six year olds are, but the little boy is just a little too bouncy to stay tuned for two whole hours, even one. Oh well. Some of the teachers at school have to have about eight kids at once. I'm lucky. And the nice thing is that another teacher takes them on Tuesdays, so I can chat to him about what works or doesn't work with them.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Over the last year I'm sure I've put on weight. Not heaps, luckily. But since I broke my heel, I have been restricted from all normal exercise, and have been feeling just a bit worse than usual about it. I've been trying to cut out less healthy food while I can't do much exercise - but here's some advice: if you must have that sort of injury which restricts you from exercise, try not to do it just before Christmas. So basically Allie has been a little bit depressed about body image recently.
It feels strange then, that after seeing these "perfect" specimens of humanity onscreen, I suddenly feel like this weight has been lifted off my shoulders. These people, with all their imperfections observed, identified, marked on with a Sharpie, and treated - these people look abnormal, even bizarre, or at best unnatural. They have lost their natural contour, their identifying features. They are still unhappy with themselves; although they say they're not, they still think they just need a bit of a touch-up in future. Right now (I'm sure it won't last but I want to document this) I feel almost delirious with joy that I am a very, very normal person, that I have a lot of external imperfections, and that I am aware of the person inside me who is independent of what people see. And that I don't live in Beverly Hills.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
1) I want to challenge myself and become a better, more interesting person by forcing myself to be outgoing and adventurous. However, the moment I get the chance to do so, I freak out entirely and the same old same old seems so much safer. Example: I recently came to the agonising decision that I wanted to look for a new church. Decision made, now is the time for action. Have I acted? N. O.
2) I want to travel everywhere but I love my home and I miss it and crave it whenever I go away for a significant period of time. Example: by the time I came to the end of my stay in Perth, I couldn't wait to get home and almost disliked Perth. Flies, ridiculous heat, no rain, not fitting in with all the Peroxide Barbie inhabitants. Now I'm home, and I have been for a couple of months, and I've started thinking about some of the nicer things in Perth that I will miss. Gelato ice cream at Cottesloe Beach, the Swan river, the Cottesloe tea shop, the great church I attended there, not least my niece Ruby.
3) I want to travel here (Iceland):
just as much as I want to travel here (Dead Vlei, Namibia):
Friday, February 15, 2008
Persuasion is my favourite Jane Austen novel and so it was always going to be difficult to find the perfect film adaptation. I thought the actress who played Anne Elliot was quite a strange choice (although Captain Wentworth was dreamy), and I really disliked how they tried to use both endings - a bit inelegant really. (Jane Austen wrote one ending to this novel, scrapped it and wrote a second one, which is much better.) Still, overall I thought it was lovely. Some of the characters were very well cast, especially Sir Walter Elliot and Captain Wentworth. It was beautifully filmed. A lot of adaptations of this book have been a bit awkward because the book includes a lot of inner thoughts which are difficult to show on film, but this adaptation dealt with them very well. By the end of the movie I was thoroughly enjoying myself. :)
Northanger Abbey is high up there in my favourite Austen stories too. And this adaptation was almost perfect. I watched about half an hour of it and then started all over again because I just loved it so much and wanted to savour it! JJ Feild as Henry Tilney almost lived up to his character, who is in my opinion the most attractive Austen hero. Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland was almost exactly as I imagine her, very naive, very charming, very sweet. My one problem with it moved a bit too quickly through a few scenes at the abbey which are some of my favourites in the book. But with limited time, et cetera, I can understand why they chose those parts to shorten. All in all, it is a very pretty and lighthearted movie, which is SO good to see at this point of time when all these Austen movies are coming out full of heaving bosoms and melancholy music, which is just not how they are written, in my opinion.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
It's pretty obvious I love Jane Austen. Sometimes I'm not sure why; as Virginia Woolf said, 'Of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness'. All I know is that I enjoy her writing more and more with every reading. It's the package. It's generally not something you can pick out and show people which can be very annoying when you meet someone, usually male, who grunts out some inadequate criticism like "Jane Austen, why would you want to read her? Everyone knows they're going to get married at the end of the book!"
But today I want to share a few of my favourite funny moments from Jane Austen writings. (My very favourite passage isn't a humourous scene and is also the climax of Persuasion, so I don't want to share it with you and ruin the book for you, if you haven't read it.)
One is a recent discovery, from what is called her Juvenilia. She wrote a very short novel as a teenager called Love and Freindship [sic], which is a parody of some of the very OTT and unrealistic novels of the time. I love this moment, when Edward, who has just married someone imprudently, is being asked by his sister Augusta to reunite with his father for the sake of support and money.
“Never, never Augusta, will I so demean myself,” (said Edward). “Support! What Support will Laura want which she can receive from him?”
“Only those very insignificant ones of Victuals and Drink,” (answered she.)…
“And did you then never feel the pleasing Pangs of Love, Augusta?” (replied my Edward). “Does it appear impossible to your vile and corrupted Palate, to exist on Love? Can you not conceive the Luxury of living in every Distress that Poverty can inflict, with the object of your tenderest Affection?”
Silly but hilarious.
Another favourite moment is from Sense and Sensibility. The two sister heroines, Elinor and Marianne, are waiting in a shop for a long time because a young man is spending a ridiculous amount of time choosing a toothpick case. Finally...
At last the affair was decided. The ivory, the gold, and the pearls, all received their appointment; and the gentleman having named the last day on which his existence could be continued without the possession of the toothpick-case, drew on his gloves with leisurely care, and ... walked off with a happy air of real conceit and affected indifference.
Another is from Persuasion, involving the ridiculously vain Sir Walter Elliot.
‘He had never walked anywhere arm in arm with Colonel Wallis, (who was a fine military figure, though sandy-haired) without observing that every woman’s eye was upon him; every woman’s eye was sure to be upon Colonel Wallis.’ Modest Sir Walter! He was not allowed to escape, however. His daughter and Mrs Clay united in hinting that Sir Wallis’s companion might have just as good a figure as Colonel Wallis, and certainly was not sandy-haired.
‘How is Mary looking?’ said Sir Walter, in the height of his good humour.
And finally, here's one from Pride and Prejudice, with Mr and Mrs Bennet:
“Mr Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves.”
“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”
So - there you go. I'm off to watch my new Northanger Abbey DVD which I very extravagantly ordered from Amazon and which arrived with Persuasion and Jane Eyre the other day. Hooray!
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Jane Doe herself - this photo makes her look nervous but she was actually scarily calm until about half an hour before the wedding!
Moi. When looking at this photo please consider that I had not had time at that point to utilise my Hollywood Fashion Tape, bought expressly for the occasion.
I didn't really get any photos of me in my full length dress so I've included this one to show the dress on Cat, the maid of honour. It was SUCH a pretty dress and we all felt great. Got so many compliments! :)
Being a bridesmaid prevented me from getting any photos of the service and following events up until the reception, but the basics are:
They got married.
It was a lovely service. I'm not just saying that. One of the nicest I've been to.
Great speeches, great afternoon tea.
Fun photos but it was... er... an experience hobbling around the Botanic Gardens in high heels.
After photos, we had a space of about an hour until the reception, so we went round to the newlyweds' new flat. This is Mr and Mrs Jane Doe on the threshold of their new home.
Mr and Mrs Jane Doe at the reception dinner - which was very, very nice. It was only family and the bridal party, so most of the speeches were made at the afternoon tea which came after the service.
Congratulations, Mr and Mrs Jane Doe!
Oh - and by the way - this is my 400th U2 vs Jane Austen blog post. Wow.
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Monday, February 04, 2008
1) Most Inane Hymn Verse:
God holds the key of all unknown, and I am glad,
If other hands should hold the key,
Or if he trusted it to me,
I might be sad (I might be sad).
We sung this at church last night and really! What a pointless verse! What is it trying to say? Absolutely nothing! It seems to me that those elderly people who complain about modern church music lacking thoughtfulness have forgotten about the existence of hymns like this. Besides that, the rhyming is dreadful.
2) Most Beautiful Bride:
Grace Kelly wedding Prince Rainier of Monaco. I was flicking through a book about this couple today at the library, saw a couple of photos of their wedding, and decided that if I looked one sixteenth as good as Princess Grace looked on my wedding day, I would be ecstatic.
3) Most Ridiculous Place Name:
This is a New Zealand one (wait for it...):
How's that for a tongue twister!
It means: "The hilltop where Tamatea, with big knees, conqueror of mountains, eater of land, traveller over land and sea, played his Koauau (Maori flute) to his beloved".
4) Most Liked Objects in my Bedroom (clockwise from top left):
- Palm tree coat hanger which my sister Viv gave me for Christmas. I have a very small room so I've never had space for my numerous bags (Allie's favourite accessories) except on the floor. Now, problem solved! I love it!
- Bookcase. There's nothing special about the actual bookcase, but it's tall and imposing, full to bursting of my favourite books, and has a pretty paper chain I made hanging down the side.
- My lantern, which my sister Rachel gave me for Christmas. This is made out of scrap metal and came with a collection of different coloured tealights to go inside.
- My U2 concert ticket from 2006, framed. :)
- A watercolour painting of Penang, from when I went to Malaysia last year. This time I went I decided I'd like to bring home something durable and attractive, instead of just pirated DVDs and fake label clothing. When I got home I framed it, and I love it!
- Posters. One is a photo of Edvard Grieg, my favourite composer - I found it at a second hand bookshop and intend to frame it eventually. The other is the front cover of my programme from a Jacques Loussier Trio concert, with their autographs.
I did a course at university last year called "Resistance and Conformity in Nazi Germany". Our lecturer showed us this photo, a crowd of workers doing the Nazi salute. You may need to click on it to get a larger version, but there is one man in the crowd (circled) standing with his arms folded. For all we know he may just have been scratching his elbow or something, but it looks very much as if he was making a stand. Brave, brave person. I keep this photo stuck up on my wardrobe door because if there's one thing I learnt in this course, it would be very, very easy and likely for me to be everyone else in the photo, and I would much rather be that man.
6) Most Disliked Habits of Other People:
Pressing books on me to borrow that I don't want to read. Anecdote competitions, where someone has to one-up every other person on interesting anecdotes. When driving, indicating for corners far too early (- Dad). Eating too fast or too noisily. And so on. All of which I occasionally succumb to.
As I have mentioned before, my friend Jane Doe is getting married this Saturday, and it has been decided that the bridesmaids will wear silver jewellery - of which I lack anything nice. So today I went shopping at a proper jeweller's instead of my usual cheapo not-quite-so-good-quality shops. The result was this necklace; only a silver chain and silver cross, but so nice, and I loved the atmosphere of the shop with the realness and expensiveness all around me. Mmm... I think I've been hooked...
8) Most Successfully Eccentric Song:
Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. I lurve this song.
Mount Cook National Park. There's something about staring at the mountain over the crystal blue waters of Lake Pukaki. And then driving round the lake to the mountains; everything's so BIG, bewitching.
However, stiff competition is put up by the place pictured below, Bealey Valley (in Arthur's Pass National Park). Evenings like this one, in 2006, are not easily forgotten.
Playing with photo software on my computer. This is supposed to be a charcoal version of me and Jane Doe. It's fun but really quite pointless.
This isn't precisely a meme as I made it up entirely by myself, but I tag anyone who wants to create their own random list of the mostest!
Saturday, February 02, 2008
1) Having a worldwide standard written English is a BIG bonus, especially as English becomes more and more global. It is worth preserving. Second language learners, although they may not believe it, are benefited by this, not crippled by the idiosyncrasies of the language.
2) There is no such thing as a standard spoken English. There never has been and there never will be. We all speak dialects - even the Queen. :) So - if everyone decided English is silly the way it is and decided to create a new universal spelling, it's more than likely that spelling changes would be dominated by American or British dialects. So where does that leave me? I don't speak English the same way people in the States speak it. People from the south of England itself speak a totally different dialect to people from the north. In the end I'd still be spelling English in a way that is a little or a lot different to how I speak it - not so "sensible" an option, really, is it? The only other option is that every dialect group has their own standard English - and that is totally impractical in the global village. It's already annoying enough having the few spelling differences between American English and everyone else's.
3) Sensible spelling advocates trot out phonetic pronunciation as the ideal thing. What they don't realise is that their concept of spelling is so ingrained that even when they pretend to spell "sensibly" they hold onto non-phonetic techniques of spelling. For example - unless you're from Scotland or somewhere similar, you don't actually pronounce the "r" in hurt. But "sensible spellers" leave it in because they don't know how to write that sound phonetically; it would look strange to them if they tried.
4) English has a huge amount of vowel sounds compared to other languages. When doing Linguistics I was taught about fifteen basic vowel sounds that appear in English. But there are only five vowel letters, or symbols, in written English - so how can we simplify English spelling but still maintain these differences? As in the last point, the presence of the silent "r" in some words is really important, or we would read hurt as hut, or burn as bun. Even silent "e"s are important, or how else could we tell the difference between, for example, bate and bat? They seem to be a pet peeve of sensible spellers but actually perform an important function.
5) People who write in "sensible" spelling as an example of the better way to do it, like I saw in today's newspaper, think they've done it in the most obvious and reasonable way. In fact their writing is littered with inconsistencies in spelling. Every single person says things in a slightly different way, however tiny the difference, and it would be incredibly annoying to have to decipher everything you read according to someone else's dialectal oddities.
6) Every seemingly random thing about English spelling actually came about for a very good reason. For example: words like money and love are spelt with 'o' instead of 'u' because it was seen in the early modern period that with cursive writing, letters like m u n are difficult to read in a row. The English language has a fascinating and rich history; why should we drop that? I don't want a plastic committee-created language that has a "sensible" reason for everything. Besides, with so many borrowed words, it is incredibly useful when learning other languages like French or German to be able to easily recognise brother-words, or guess at their spelling.
7) It is actually a very practical and important thing in the modern world to have to spell things correctly and in one particular way. If you spell someone's email address wrong, or type in a URL incorrectly - you're not going to get to the right destination.
8) Finally - it just looks MESSY and is LAZY. I make spelling mistakes now and then and I'm certainly not going to scoff at genuine mistakes or typos, especially in a non-professional environment. Neither do I mind if English undergoes natural change; that's the mark of a healthy and living language. But! Laziness is not an adequate reason to change the entire language just to suit you. Because if you got exactly what you wanted, you can depend upon it that it wouldn't suit anyone else.
Okay. I've worn myself out. Sorry about all the quotation marks around the word "sensible". I'll be impressed if you've read all this. For a reward, I direct you to a slightly more funny response to the sensible spelling debate, which is here.