Archive | November 2010

Jasper Jones

My book club’s final novel for the year is Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvey.

His first novel was Rhubarb, published in 2004. For that he won the Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Novelist award.  Jasper Jones, his second novel, won the Indie Book of the Year Award in 2009, and was listed for a swag of others, including being on the shortlist for the Miles Franklin Award in 2010.

And so it was with high expectations that I commenced reading.

I loved Silvey’s writing style which was packed with imagery and almost poetic at times.

And I believe if it were anyone else, I would choose to step back and turn away right now. I would never bow my head and push through that wattle, and its golden orbs would never shake loose and nestle in my hair like confetti.

I loved the characters too. The main character, 13 year old Charlie, and his best friend, Jeffrey are well drawn. The banter between the boys is very entertaining.

There were moments when, viewing the world through Charlie’s eyes, I remembered with a pang of nostalgia what my own childhood was like. How big, exciting and full of possibility the world seemed and how mysterious and exciting the night was. Somewhere along the way, I lost that sense of wonder. I enjoyed remembering when, roaming the streets of my neighbourhood with friends after dark that I felt like Charlie did:

… there is something emboldening about being awake when the rest of the world is sleeping. Like I know something they don’t.

The novel is described as a coming of age story, and reading it, it did seem targeted at an adolescent audience. There was a certain simplicity to the characters – while I found myself caring for them all, they seemed to lack some complexity.  The various threads of the story all resolved themselves a little too neatly as well. Having read other reviews, I know that bothered some readers, but I didn’t mind. It was enjoyable to read a novel where things ended the way you wanted them to end. The characters were likeable enough and it was satisfying to see them overcome their various adversities.

There were various threads to the story. The central plot concerning Charlie and Jasper’s discovery of a body and their attempts to discover the murderer. This particular storyline was a little hard to believe. Charlie’s actions seemed very out of character for me. Nevertheless, I found the mystery intriguing, and wanted to keep reading to find out what had happened.

It was the other story lines that really kept me interested. There was the gradually revealed story of Jasper Jones,half Aboriginal and viewed as a delinquent by the local community. He was an outcast who had suffered many cruel injustices. There was the story of Charlie’s talented, cricket mad friend, Jeffrey Lu who persisted in following his dreams in spite of the racist cricket coach and team, who would not let him play. There was also the story of Jeffrey’s family, from Vietnam, and the humiliations they would suffer at the hands of locals, angry about the Vietnam War. And then there was Charlie’s own dysfunctional family – his gentle father and his frustrated mother.

Every story line seemed to be about revelation. Just as the pristine surface of the dam hid the dead body of Laura Wishart that Charlie encountered in the first chapter, the quiet and respectable town characters hid many crimes.

In some ways it was all too contrived. Each character who was initially painted as dark or dangerous was revealed as good, but misunderstood. The weak characters were revealed as strong, and the respectable, of course, hid dark secrets.

Yet I found I could easily forgive this. Real life isn’t neat and tidy, the good don’t always win and bad folks get away with things. It’s nice to read a novel where everything works out the way it should.

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My iPad love affair continues

My iPad and I are celebrating our 2 month anniversary. Just after I purchased it, I blogged about my initial delight with it, and after 2 months, I am happy to say, the love affair is continuing. I’m starting to integrate it into my life more and more.

Work
Sadly, I have not found it to be of much assistance at work. If I could find a good database app that could somehow sync with Access, however, I would have a few more possibilities. As one of the few touch typists in my organization, I frequently take the minutes at our meetings and distribute them to staff. Our staffroom set up means I have my back to the meeting when I type at the computer. lately I’ve been enjoying sitting facing the meeting, rather than off in the corner while recording minutes using Pages. The iPad is light and doesn’t heat up like a laptop, so it’s easy to keep on my lap. I then email the minutes to work.

Occasionally I use Safari to check work emails, and of course I continue to use productivity apps like Evernote and Todo to help keep me organised, but apart from that, I haven’t found any uses for the iPad at work that couldn’t be achieved more easily using our desktop pcs.

Home

I’ve been keeping a journal for years, but my hand gets sore if I write too much, so I prefer typing. Journalling is not an activity I like to do on the computer. Its a reflective process which I like to do at a cafe, on the couch or in bed. I’ve been using Chapters, which allows me to keep more than one journal and is password protected.

The Stream To Me app, combined with RDesktop have made my recent sick days much more enjoyable. Using Stream To Me, I was able to watch several episodes of Mad Men, and then the movie “Dead Man” which I blogged about recently. When I ran out of things to watch, I could remotely contact my pc using RDesktop and download more video to its hard drive. I was quite pleased by Stream To Me’s ability to play .avi files. I’d heard it was unreliable, but they played very smoothly for me.

Borders continues to be my favourite e-reading app, mainly due to the greater variety of books accessible to Australian readers.

Finally, Movies by Flixter. This app requires wireless or 3G but it really is excellent. It provides a list of all the movies showing in your local area, the different cinemas and session times, as well as reviews from Rotten Tomatoes.

They do look similar in this hat

It’s hardly surprising that my current fixation on Jack White should lead me back to my recurring fascination with the work of Johnny Depp. I think they look quite similar in this hat.

The second picture is from “Dead Man”, directed by Jim Jarmusch with a haunting soundtrack from Neil Young. It’s one of my favourite films, but its not for everyone. The couple I first saw it with walked out.

The story is set in the 1870s. Johnny Depp plays accountant, William Blake, who travels to the frontier town of Machine to take up a position in the local metalworking factory. He arrives a month too late and discovers the position has already been filled. With no money, and no where to go he inadvertently becomes involved in a shootout which leaves him injured, but also responsible for shooting Charlie, the son of the metal working factory proprietor. He flees into the wilderness where he meets Nobody, a Native American, who guides him on a journey, both spiritual and physical.

Like all good journey movies, Depp’s character is transformed. He begins as a timid, weak character who is awkward and out of place in the cruel and unforgiving world of Machine. Life is unfair to him, but his protestations seem weak and futile. Nobody believes him to be the reincarnation of the poet, William Blake, and the authorities believe him to be a  murderer. By the end of his journey, having embraced his destiny, he has truly become both of these.

The movie is sad, inspiring, humourous and brutal. Its one that I keep returning to.

The soundtrack was apparently improvised by Neil Young as he watched the film alone in a recording studio. You can hear it on the trailer here.

You Don’t Understand Me

This is You Don’t Understand Me by the Raconteurs. Its a beautiful song, and very different from the last two  videos I posted featuring Jack White. I think it was this song that kick started my current obsession with his music. But that’s enough of Jack White – back to other topics next time.

Treat Me Like Your Mother

Yesterday I posted a video of The Raconteurs playing ‘Bang Bang’. I think that might be my favourite footage of a live performance by Jack White. My favourite video at the moment is from his band, The Dead Weather. The song is called ‘Treat Me Like Your Mother’. I love how gritty this track is and the video is just brilliant.

Obsessing about Jack White

With only 4 weeks remaining of the school year, its a busy time at work. As well as the usual daily work of planning, preparing, delivering, assessing and evaluating learning tasks, there are all the end of year issues. Student reports are the big one, but there are also a lot of other tasks for assistant principals, such as counting the enrolments for the coming year, forming new classes, planning for staffing in the new year. The list goes on. It also seems to be the time of year for putting out fires (all metaphorical so far).  Students start acting out, teachers start stressing out. Suffice it to say, that with all the little fires I’ve been putting out lately, I’ve had little time to attend to my important, but not urgent tasks, such as this weekend’s of writing student reports.

And so, of course instead of getting on with it, I procrastinate. My way of procrastinating is to obsess about something. Its a different obsession each time and this year’s is: Jack White (White Stripes, Raconteurs, The Dead Weather).

I’ve loved his music for a long time. I really enjoy the raw sound of it. What amazes me about Jack White is his diversity. I first became aware of him through his band The White Stripes, then earlier this year I went to see him perform with his current band, The Dead Weather. The man exudes rock star charisma. It was interesting to see. He simply walked onto the stage and sat down at the drum kit, and that was enough. He just had the most incredible presence and was utterly cool. It wasn’t as if he was trying, either. He just was so, so cool.

I’ve been spending my spare moments trawling through YouTube videos, discovering more of his work. Here is one of my favourites. Its with his band, The Raconteurs (in Australia they are marketed as The Saboteurs). Its a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang’ and he does it so brilliantly.

*Sigh* I wish I had just an ounce of that talent!

The Charlatans @The Metro 11/11/10

We went to see The Charlatans play at The Metro Theatre in Sydney on Thursday night. I didn’t really know what to expect from the gig, but it turned out to be excellent. Tim Burgess (vocals) is an engaging and charismatic performer who it was hard to look away from. He poured so much energy into his performance, and interacted well with the crowd. Every now and then he would pick someone out, make eye contact with them and grin madly as if he was truly happy to see them. It was a total contrast to the rather surly Ian McCulloch of Echo and The Bunnymen. When we saw them earlier in the year at the same venue, he insisted on performing in almost total darkness and on various occasions hurled abuse at the audience – though it was hard to work out exactly what he was saying due to his thick, Liverpuddlian accent.

 

About half way through the Charlatans gig, a huge mosh pit broke out around me, and I spent much of the remainder of the concert being squashed against unknown men, as the crowd pushed against me from behind. On the bright side, that brought me closer to the stage, enabling me to be on the receiving end, of one of Tim Burgess’s previously mentioned winning smiles. He must have sung to me for at least 5 seconds.

I also managed to souvenir a play list:

 

 1. Then

2. Weirdo

3. Can’t Get Out of Bed

4. Black ‘n Blue Eyes

5. Smash the System

6. You’re so Pretty

7. One to Another

8. Your Pure Soul

9. Tellin’ Stories

10. My Beautiful Friend

11. Oh Vanity

12. My Foolish Pride

13. Inasanity

14. Misbegotten

15. The Only One I Know

16. Northern Country Boy

18. This is the End