Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Elephant and the Balloon

So I did that Facebook list thing - 15 books that have been the most influential in my life, without thinking too hard. It took far longer than it perhaps should have, as I went blank, then later remembered a whole heap of others. Here's my original list:

1. Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons)
2. Lord of the Rings (Tolkein)
3. Bible (God)
4. Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)
6. The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak)
7. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
8. Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen)
9. Time Traveller's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
10. Famous Five (Enid Blyton)
11. Almost any Terry Pratchett
12. Dracula (Bram Stoker)
13. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
14. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
15. The Horse and his Boy (CS Lewis)

Followed by the extras I would have added if I could have had a few more spots (or even replaced some of the above with):

The Dark is Rising Sequence (Susan Cooper)
Two Caravans (Marina Lewyecka)
Dune (Frank Herbert)
Empyrion (Stephen Lawhead)
Obernewtyn (Isabelle Carmody)
Cloudstreet (Tim Winton)
In the Hall of the Dragon King (Stephen Lawhead)
Tom's Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce)
The Elijah Bailey books (Isaac Asimov)
1984 (George Orwell)
Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare)

What were my criteria? To tell the truth, there weren't really any specifics. Some people looked at books they reread a lot, others at books they felt they had to read, and I just looked at books I always remember. A lot of these books have just one or two scenes that have stuck with me, such as the final scenes of Brave New World, or when Shasta and Bree are travelling along the cliff edge at night, with Aslan protecting them from falling, in The Horse and His Boy.

Some of the others I re-read regularly for the story, like The Secret Garden, Empyrion and Terry Pratchetts. Empyrion (especially the first) plays like a movie in my head as I read it, and even now I recall large chunks of narrative in movie form, although I haven't read them for a few years. Some I listed for the way they made me think about the world, 1984 being the slightly stereo-typical one of them, but also Things Fall Apart and The Book Thief, which gave me new perspectives to mull over.

And then others I listed because they are books of my childhood, read over and over, and yet still loved (and still read). Famous Five (yes I still re-read these occasionally) Dark is Rising Sequence and In the Hall of the Dragon King are some of them.

Of course not all fit into one of these categories, some are books I studied at school or uni (Cloudstreet, Things Fall Apart, Northanger Abbey). To some studying a book ruins it, but I find that I often like the book far more after, because of the intimate knowledge I have of it. I can appreciated the humour more knowing who the author aimed it at, I can see the lessons being taught. Of course it doesn't always work. There are some books I plan on never ever ever picking up again, but that's more related to the fact I didn't like the book in the first place, and couldn't care less about learning anything about it.

Lastly, I would like to thank my parents for raising me with books. To my Dad for reading me Lord of the Rings every night when I was seven, to Mum for taking me to the library, or collecting me after school when I'd taken out too many books to carry. For Sunday afternoon trips to Book City (the smell of which still transports me back 15 years). For letting me read anything, with nothing more than a warning that 'this book might be a bit complicated, but give it a go'. For all the times I've stood in our lounge room staring at the bookshelves, being advised by Mum or Dad on what to read next. For letting me (or perhaps even expecting me) just sit quietly in the corner with a book at dinner parties, afternoon teas, lunches, before church, in the car, on the plane, in front of the fire, on buses, while for parental meetings to finish, at restaurants or almost anywhere else.* For teaching me the necessity of being able to just sit quietly and amuse oneself, and how easy that is with a book. That is one invaluable lesson I will be passing on to my children.**

*please note that this may make me sound like a very anti-social child. I wasn't really. The partner lesson to being able to read anywhere, is learning to tell the difference between when you should and when you shouldn't. I think sometimes my teachers wished I was a little more anti-social sometimes, if my reports are anything to go by.

** I think I'll try to accompany that with a love of reading non-fiction and textbooks though. Haven't quite grasped those yet. Usually I find just sitting and staring at the clouds preferable. That's a problem.

Where it's all at.

I got exciting news yesterday. My first pref uni wants me to apply for exchange with them. I'm in the process of filling out forms with details about me, my course, my major/minor (umm, two majors?), my passports (although my aussie one is about to expire, so will have to update those details sometime) and my subject choices. I have to get utas faculty approval for the subjects I would like to credit towards my majors, which means getting hold of lots more information about the 'modules' than is in the module guides. Which means waiting until lecturers and people come off summer holidays and check their emails.

It's all very exciting! Currently I'm still looking into options for filling my summer break, but there's one place that's really caught my eye. It's a place called Iona, mainly in the Inner Hebrides, and they take volunteers to do various stuff. History nerds may recognise the name of the island, as it's where Columcille (Saint Columba) settled, and perhaps where the Book of Kells was partially created. My brother volunteered there ten years ago, and has (I think, it was via email) enthusiastically endorsed my interest in going there.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

2 posts in 1 year? Amazing!

I'm trying to work out the best look for the blog. Does anyone else have trouble reading the white on grey, or is it just that I don't have my glasses on? I like the appearance, but perhaps not for practicality?

Also, can someone please tell me how to make my heading picture fliexible in size? I'm on a widescreen computer, so it looks all good to me, but I suspect it will just make smaller screens scroll sideways, rather than fitting itself.

Anyway, read my slightly more intersting post below now! :)

It's time.

There seem to be blogs popping up everywhere at the moment, and they reminded me of all the midnight inspiration I never wrote down. Just for the record, you'll note I've had this blog for many years, since 2004 in fact, when blogs were a relatively new thing. So I'm not ACTUALLY following a trend, I've merely been remotivated to share the minutae of my life with the wider world, while trying to look intelligent (or at least interesting/funny).

So, next year I'm hoping to head off to England on exchange. Yep, another exchange (check my 2005 posts for previous exchange adventures). I had a great time in Austria, but this is going to be so much better. For one, I won't be blogging as much. I blogged a RIDICULOUS amount back then! But if you look down the list at number of posts per month, you can tell when I changed host families....

But I will blog a little, to keep you all up to date on what I'm seeing and doing, as well as to record my memories for posterity. And so I should get into practice. From this day forth I shall blog about the trivial and the vital. But for those of you who are new to my writing style, here are a few tips:
  1. turn off your logic control when you read. I generally write as my brain goes, and while the connections may make sense to me, I can't guarantee they will to you. Just go with the flow.
  2. ask questions (while I'm away, well no, anytime, but while I'm away I reckon you'll actually have questions). Give me direction for my posts. Trust me. It's worth it. I've just reread some of my old posts, and boy am I a good waffler.
  3. be prepared for the absurd to be juxtapositioned with the average. I make strange connections and say things in weird ways. Imagine it in my voice and it might make sense. I write blogs like I'm having a conversation.
  4. Ummm. Nup, that's it.
So anyway, since everyone keeps asking, I'll explain the whole exchange thing.

England. Well, I shall be looking out for rastafarians and moustached flat capped men. But I'll also be visiting my brother, sister-in-law and niece. And gawking at all the medieval history in the place.

I am studying Arts Law, and doing a double arts major in history and german. Because of the way I've organised all my subjects, at this point in time I've got 2 history units and 2 german units left before my majors are complete. So next year I'm going to take a year off law, and go to the University of East Anglia (hopefully, provided they like my application) for a year. Currently I have been approved by utas to go on exchange, and now just have to wait for uea to approve utas to nominate me... or something. May be a while before I know. I've put in an application to get a loan that will go onto my hecs debt (pah, what's another 10 grand when I'm going to be a rich lawyer. ha.), and am preparing to enter battle with centrelink to convince them I deserve youth allowance.

There's some confusion involved in the whole process, largely because utas is occasionally administratively challenged, so I've been told about 4 different things about applying for scholarships. I think I shall contact the scholarships office directly.

I plan to fly out just after Christmas. Flights seem to go up about $800 on the 1st of Jan, so it'll be before then. I'll stay over there for a year, and come back after Christmas 2010. This is all hypothetical and dependant on many many things, but we'll see what happens.

I'm currently working out what to do in the summer holidays. They seem to be about 17 weeks, and I'd like to work/volunteer somewhere for some of that time. I'm looking around to see what's on offer, somewhere that provide bed and board would be great. So if you have any ideas, let me know. I like to be part of a community, rather than outside it like a tourist. It's so much more interesting to be on the inside, working behind the scenes, and I know I have skills I can use to help somewhere.

So there you have it. My plan. Who knows how it will turn out. Maybe I'll be rejected and will finish law next year. Maybe I'll end up at my 3rd preference of Leipzig. But stay tuned here, and you'll be the first to know. After me of course.

Oh by the way. Did anyone see my photo on ABC weather on Friday? That makes it three submitted, and three used. I really am an old lady stuck in a young person's body.

Terribly sorry about the slightly boring return to the blogoquad, but I'm now off to reflect on God's intentions when he decided to give flies loud wings in quiet bedrooms. And how to kill said flies with the least effort.