Apr 17, 2011

Book appreciation blog post

It is in my opinion that print will never die. It may be talked down and forced to sit in the corner, but it will not disappear. I was talking with my friend Alyssa about her fancy robo-book (it's called a kindle or something but I prefer robo-book). I can totally see the awesome in having one of these robo-books. While they are expensive the books you download on it are cheaper than the real deal and are yours instantaneously. As someone who once had to go on eBay to buy a certain book and wait for several weeks for it to arrive, I can appreciate how handy it would be.

I am pretty keen to get one of these, but I would still only use it to buy books that I can't find in book shops or at the library. Because there is just something about legitimate print that can't be let go of. There are so many things about books that are amazing that have nothing to do with their contents. The classy look of leather covered hard backed novels on a book shelf in a fancy office, making you wonder if they had ever been open or if they were just there to look pretty. A book with creases in the spine, folded corners in the pages, filled with paper so soft you can tell it has been loved by many. I would never fold over the corners of pages though. It bugs me.

I have a great appreciation for books. I need a bigger book shelf in my room. It's not a matter of greed, but of necessity. I have piles neatly stacked in front of my full book shelf because they don't have anywhere else to go. I used to pile them next to my desk but the pile got too big and kept falling over. On my desk now is a cardboard cut out of a pile of books similar to this one. . . .

That's my friend Bek and I being read-aholic nerds. My pile of books is a little different to hers but still the same amount of awesome.

You know you're addicted to books when you have an overstuffed bookshelf, a card board cut out of a pile of books, a cardboard cut out of a character from a series of books that is doubling as a hat rack, and William Goldman's abridgement of The Princess Bride by S. Morgenstern sitting beside you as you compile this list.

Being an avid reader is when you stay up all night to finish a book, when you remember as a kid hiding under your blanket with a torch just to finish a chapter, when you quote classic lines from classic tales without referring back to the source . . . or Googling the source. Stories are food for the imagination, books are an imagination's meal. A series of books is an imagination's feast.

So I say to you, dear book lovers, never be ashamed of reading. Continue to dream of a house with book shelves on every wall, keep imagining your favourite characters' adventures long after the final page is turned. Try not to plot your revenge openly if someone wrecks your book when they borrow it, and remember . . .

Book lovers never go to bed alone.


Apr 10, 2011

English research task that I enjoyed muchly. Thought I'd share it.

When asked what comes to mind when you think about Australia there are many thoughts one would naturally conjure. Vegemite, kangaroos, barbeques, sunburn. . . There are also some famous Australian names that would jump into thought. Steve Irwin, Hugh Jackman, Ned Kelly. . . When people not from Australia think up these names in reference, they are thinking up someone who made Australia world known, or someone who started the Australian stereotypes. Would Americans constantly say ‘Crikey’ when imitating Australian accents if Steve Irwin hadn’t done so when capturing crocodiles?

When given this assignment to study the life of a significant Australian figure and to research how they had affected the culture of Australia, naturally I thought of Steve Irwin and Ned Kelly. Thanks to fifth grade studies on the two, I didn’t really feel inspired to research them. Why research someone I already know so much about? I tried brain storming different iconic Australians. Every one that I thought of seemed to give Australia the same image; the image of a land raised, bush roughing tough guy that doesn’t stand for the phrase ‘it can’t be done’.

This is a great image for Australia, I thought to myself, but isn’t there any iconic Australian that tells a different story? About this time while I was sifting through my head for the labels of Australian famous people, the CD I was listening to moved on to a cover of ‘You’re the one that I want’ from the movie Grease. The song is covered by Angus and Julia Stone and they completely changed the feel of the song. It is slowed down and sweetened to the point that it has lost the selfish lust heard in the original. As the song reached its last note, I decided to look up Angus and Julia Stone in the great library of our generation, Google.

Since I first heard the opening violin and piano chords of ‘Hold on’, the first track on Angus and Julia Stone’s award winning album ‘Down the Way’, I have been hooked on their music. I listened to the first minute and a half of ‘Hold on’ in the music store then the next time I went there, I bought the album. I am not exaggerating when I say I own almost every CD they have released, and I am not just trying to suck up when I say I enjoyed doing this assignment. While you may argue that they are not iconic Australian figures, I might argue that they could be well on their way to becoming some.

In the Northern Beaches of Sydney, little as six years ago, Julia Stone dragged her younger brother down to local bars and clubs to perform at open mic nights where they backed up each other in performances and sold their separate CD’s afterwards. In an interview Julia admitted that her brother, two years younger than her, always sold more. The pair had grown up in an extremely musical family, a different instrument lying in every room of the house at all times, so they were raised with calloused hands and a song on their lips.

Eventually they turned their two separate acts into a duo and made an EP (extended play) called ‘chocolate and cigarettes’. Soon after, as they toured Australia and then the UK, they made a second EP called ‘heart full of wine’. They lived in London for about a year, touring, writing and recording more music. Half of their first full length album ‘a book like this’ was recorded in their friend’s living room on vintage guitars and microphones. The other half was recorded in their mother’s living room. This is the album that was released in 2007, sold over 80,000 copies worldwide and earned them six Aria nominations.

Their career was moving so fast they still didn’t seem like famous musicians, more like average people that really like music. I am judging this from the interviews I have read:

“Interviewer: How did your parents react when you told them that you both want to be professional musicians under “one label”?

Angus Stone: I don’t know. What did they say?

Julia Stone: It didn’t ever happen that we were telling them that we were going out selling music.

Angus Stone: We still haven’t told them!

Julia Stone: They still don’t know what we are doing! (Laughs)”

In 2009 the brother and sister had some time apart. They spent the time writing more music. Angus came out with a single called ‘smoking gun’ under the name ‘Lady of the Sunshine’. Julia also made a solo album called ‘the memory machine’. They truly do live and breathe music, because when they got back together after their break each one had a whole set of songs ready to record. These songs made up their 2010 album ‘Down the way’.

They went from being an unknown pair in 2005, singing their songs at bars and clubs, selling their home recorded CDs after shows, to winning Aria album of the year in 2010 with ‘Down the way’, which sold over 140,000 copies, and single of the year with ‘big jet plane’. Their music has reached all over the world and has connected with individuals everywhere with songs about love and heart break that seem to be related to by everyone.

I didn’t just choose Angus and Julia Stone for this assignment because I love their music. I chose them because when I searched through the ever helpful Google I found interviews with them that told a story that was not often heard about Steve Irwin or Ned Kelly. It told the story of two individuals who are famous worldwide and can’t believe it is happening. It told the story of young musicians who are affecting not only their home country with their music, but countries all over the world, and they are still in wonderment at the fact other people want to pay to see them perform.

“I think it’s strange that people anywhere want to come and watch us play. I think it’s strange that people from where we’re from want to come and see us. As much as we enjoy playing music - and we love to do it whether we are onstage or at home - you wonder why people would want to pay money out of their hard-earned salaries to come and watch us. It’s unusual that it happens at home and it’s unusual that it happens here. It’s altogether unusual,” said Julia in an interview in 2007 around the time of their first full length album ‘A book like this’ was released.

When people think of Ned Kelly they don’t ever think of a guy who might have thought for a moment that he was in over his head. When Steve Irwin comes to mind no one ever thinks of a young man looking at a crocodile for the first time and wondering how on earth he was supposed to face that thing. When people who know of them think of Angus and Julia Stone, they think of the love and longing in ‘Big Jet Plane’, the raw passion and anger in ‘Draw your Swords’. Or maybe they think of a couple of hippies from Sydney who have some awesome tunes.

From reading the interviews I have deduced that while Australia will always be home to them, they feel like everywhere else in the world is not so different. They believe in equality and a unity among people worldwide. Everyone is connected by music, so how many differences can there really be?

“. . . Cultural boundaries are no longer identified through geographic borders. Australia isn’t so different from England which isn’t so different from America . . . . You just play music and, whether you are German, Polynesian or American, you can enjoy it. The world is down to people’s human emotions and what they are going through rather than where they’re from.” said Julia Stone in another interview.

With the Australian stereotype of racism settled into the world this is an invaluable view for influential and popular people to have, especially with Angus and Julia’s growing world wide popularity. So I ask if Steve Irwin can have the world believing Australia to be filled with crazy crocodile hunters, why not have Angus and Julia Stone bring the world to believe Australia is filled with accepting people with soul? While they are not Australian icons, they look like they are well on their way to becoming some.

My point is when Steve Irwin was just starting no one knew he would be such an icon to Australia. Yet he reached out to the world and had a catchphrase that is always at the heart of Australian mockery and imitation. If that man could make such an impact doing something not a lot of people can relate to, how much of an impact can the Stone siblings make with people who relate to their music? How much of an impact have they made already?


Apr 3, 2011

English assignment: Australian cult Fandom

Throughout this assignment I have had to see Australia through the eyes of someone who wasn’t born and raised here. I have had to look at this country as a foreigner and wonder about the stereotypes, the clich├ęs and the overall view of Australia’s appearance, attitudes and lifestyles. It’s like I am a substitute teacher at a school being told which kids to watch out for. “Yeah that Australia is a bit of work. You might want to keep an eye on that one, what with its laziness, racism, alcoholism and its annoying habit of joking about drop bears, which are a serious thing.” Come on teachers don’t pretend you never warn the subs about us.

When you love something enough, you can be made oblivious to its flaws, or you just tolerate them a little more than those who don’t love it like you do. For example, the Star Trek fandom is impossibly huge despite the fact that the acting is corny, the fight scenes are terrible [Example of terrible fight scene] the special effects are a different kind of special and the stories seem like they took the first script, put it in a blender, took it out, put it back together and gave the planet in the episode a different name. I know it’s easy to insult a show that was made so long ago but I honestly don’t understand how its fandom can still grow when it has the graphics of Avatar, the camera work of Inception, the fight scene choreographers of Pirates of the Caribbean and the writing of Sherlock Holmes to compete with.

Before I go completely off track allow me to put an obscure segway here that relates Star Trek to the moral and ethical issues of Australia. . . . I look at Star Trek fans and think “Do you like it because someone has to like the ugly kid in the family?” while there would be some people looking at me and think “So you’re alright with underage drinking, planned racist gang attacks, and pushing away every refugee that knocks on the door?” in reference to the country I love. Are these ethical issues like the bad graphics and terrible fight scenes of Star Trek? Have I just been raised into it for so long that the flaws are covered with the rug and a good old Aussie ‘She’ll be right’ attitude?

When I was told to write and critique moral and ethical issues in Australia, I got started and I realised that the fact that Australians are mostly OK with their moral and ethical issues is a deadly issue in itself. I’m not trying to insult my country or diminish it’s -for want of a more impressively literate word- awesomeness. I am trying to say that the cloud of awesome is drifting to cover quite a few ugly things.

Australia has never had a war on its home land yet Australians have participated in so many. How can a country that’s never been host to a war be at the centre of such terrors as the Cronulla riots? Lebanese Muslims so much as set foot on the sandy beaches of Cronulla and they could be beaten to death. I hate writing harsh truths that put Australia in a light so bad you can’t even see the positive but sometimes we have to ask the hard questions. Is this beautiful country full of such friendly neighbours really this bad for foreigners? Is this haven of mateship and brotherly bondage a fantasy to those who are different? If appreciation of differences is too far fetched then can we at least settle for acceptance?

Even someone who has never picked up a bible could probably recite the old “Love your neighbour as yourself” reference. We are all human we all have family, friends, problems, emotions, pasts, futures . . . . We aren’t all that different. How long will it be before all Australians can see the world as equal? How long will it be before everyone can see the Australia I see? If it is digitally remastered, given a new writer, new actors and a good fight scene choreographer, can we come out with a better Australia remake than the Star Trek one?


Note: I haven’t actually seen the Star Trek movie, and I’ve only seen one or two episodes of the original but I was enjoying the comparative metaphor with Star Trek and Australia so I brought it back for the conclusion. Hope you appreciated it.

Apr 2, 2011

Swings swings swings swings SWINGS!

One thing I re-discovered at Wee Waa is that swings are flipping awesome. Everything about them is awesome:

-When you reach the peak of height and can see nothing but your feet against the sky,

-When you turn in a circle over and over, twisting the chains while you're on the seat so you spin REALLY fast in the other direction once you pick your feet up,

-When you tilt your head backwards and watch the ground pass under you,

-When you get to that point in the air where you lift from the seat a tiny bit, enough to make you feel like you're floating for a second,

-When you close your eyes while you swing so that, for just one moment, it feels like you can fly.

When you go on a camp for this long . . . . with people you have never spent this much time with previously . . . and it is so far from home . . . and there are no beaches for hundreds of kilometres . . . . . and your sister is away in England. . . . It is nice to have something like a set of swings to help relax, chill out and just let go. On every trip away you need that one spot or moment that feels a little like home. Any childhood spent at a place without even the possibility of playing on a set of swings is a deprived one, in my opinion.

That is the last Wee Waa post you are getting. It's now been a week since Wee Waa and my memory is terrible so I won't be able to conjure anything else I don't think.