Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Stylish Blogger Awards – I Gots Me One!

Hooray! Margo from Urban Psychopomp gave me a Stylish Blogger Award! Thanks, Margo!

Also, she gave me some good links to some great blogs to follow: check out her blog!




So, this is what I have to do:

Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award 
*  List seven things about yourself
*  Pass the award on to 15 recently discovered bloggers

Okay, here are my seven things. Hmm, have I got seven things I haven’t yet shared? I’ll give it a go.

 1. My favourite place in the world is an island in Vanuatu called Tanna. You should all go there. The sand is black from the volcano, and the volcano is awesome! I’ve already shared that here, so I’ll add this: I love fresh coconut milk.
2. I still have a scar on my knee from when a dog bit me when I was five. The dog was called Oplika Spot. 
3. Vodka. The answer is usually vodka.
4. I have never told my mother I almost got sent home from a school geography camp for doing drugs. I was not actually doing drugs. Apparently stupidity and drug use look the same to some teachers.
5. I cannot cull my book collection. Not even the ones I don’t really like, because I may need to read them again one day.
6. I spend too much money on iTunes.
7. I have a fetish for old, weird medical books. My favourite is “Embalming in Theory and Practice”. Is it wrong that the title alone makes me laugh?

And here are the blogs I have recently discovered:

Learning to Read - Ben Carroll picks some great books to discuss! 

Literature to Learn By  - This is a great blog. And I am learning, I promise! 

Also, you should visit Misty at Nothing Cannot Happen Today

And while you're roaming, stop by and say hello to Josin at My Bloggish Blog Thing

Need a zombie fix? Share the love with Mia at My Literary Jam and Toast.

And I am in awe of Madeline from Capricious Existence, because I sure as heck didn't have her drive when I was that age! 

And check out One Writer's Harrowing Journey (With Pictures!). I don't love Cacy's blog just because she's a fan of Invader Zim, but it doesn't hurt! 

And I also like to visit Caroline at Caroline Wilson Writes, because she's a history junkie as well. 

Sommer Leigh at Tell Great Stories: because she does, you know! 

Apparently Jade Hears Voices, but that's okay, because they always tell her fun stuff to say. 

And Michael from SLC Kismet always has something interesting to say! Even if I might not agree with him about Captain America. 

Claudie A. is always interesting and informative. 

Visit Lesser Apricots – because Perri loves monkeys as well!

And have a look at The Public Query Slushpile. Rick does a great job of posting people's queries, and then everyone gets to offer their input. It's friendly, encouraging, and everyone is lovely there! 

Friday, March 25, 2011

I will not buy this product.

So, watching TV at work tonight, I saw this ad:



And this ad does not work for me. Not at all. 

I don't care if this guy has dandruff. He has a freaking monkey! 

I would marry him for that alone. 

And then I would divorce him, and take the monkey in the settlement. 

I want a monkey! 


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Seven Types of Plot - and Roger

There are, apparently, only seven types of plot in the world. I’m taking Answers.com’s word for it, because with a busy lifestyle like mine I just haven’t got time to read everything ever written in the history of the world. Anyway, here they are:


The Quest

We all know this one. The hero has a goal, and on his way to accomplish it he must overcome obstacles. And just because the Q-word has you thinking of Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, don’t be fooled. The Quest may be as simple as Roger from Accounting going to order a sandwich on his lunchbreak, and having to use the stairs because the elevator is broken. It’s still a quest. Not an interesting one, but we don’t all have the intestinal fortitude to walk into Mordor.

Roger. An Accountant. 


Voyage and Return
This is sort of the same as the Quest, except the hero goes to another world, learns some important lessons, and comes to a deeper understanding of himself and the world around him. Again, don’t just think fantasy. Maybe Roger, on his way to find a sandwich, accidentally walks into a strip club and afterwards realises what a mistake it was. Accidentally, yeah, right.

Rebirth

Ah, now it gets interesting. In Rebirth, the protagonist is usually in a dark place, and is seeking, or is pushed into, redemption. Usually, the hero’s liberation can only be achieved through the redemptive power of love or faith, or through self-realisation, and involves the protagonist wrestling with his own psyche. You can think Scrooge from A Christmas Carol if you want. You can think Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. You can even think Roger, if you like, who has maxed out his credit cards at the strip club, lost his family and home in the divorce, and then books into a dive of a motel with the intention of killing himself but reads a passage in a Gideon’s Bible and decides to become a Benedictine monk instead.
Comedy

Comedy doesn’t always mean funny. Anyone who has the Comedy Channel knows this. Comedy, Aristotle said, was showing people to be worse than they are. So, Reality TV maybe. The characters are thrown into a state of confusion and bewilderment, and the resolution only comes when these constricting factors have been played out to their extremes. The best definition of comedy in this sense would probably be “farce”.
Brother Roger, living in a hermitage in the wooded estates of the evil Archbishop-Elect of Salzburg, one night rescues a young man from the clutches of a Sound of Music tour group. The young man, Casmir, is the illegitimate son of the Archbishop-Elect and a six-fingered cheese merchant from Český Krumlov. Casmir is in love with Mathilde, the daughter of the Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Brussels but has been separated from her due to her father’s machinations. Roger, anxious to help the lovers reunite, sets out with Casmir armed with only his faith and a Eurorail pass, and disguised as a nomadic IT worker.

It is at this point that Roger loses his right ear, his left leg, and an indeterminate testicle due to the ravages of cholera. He also loses Casmir.

Meanwhile, the evil Archbishop-Elect imprisons Casmir in the Festung Hohensalzburger. At the same time Maximillian Crowe, hero of the siege of Moldavia, and indebted to the crippled stranger who saved his life one night on the Paris-Brussels express, goes in search of his half-sister Mathilde, who has fallen on hard times in a Istanbul kebab shop.

Our story begins in a lonely roadside inn, where Maximillian finally catches up with Roger and orders cabbage stew from one of the Illuminati disguised as a waiter with a patch over his eye.

Tragedy

A person of great status brings on their own downfall. Think Oedipus or Macbeth. Don’t think Roger here. Roger isn’t important enough to bring on his own downfall. Really, there are invertebrate species with more scope for Tragedy with a big T than Roger. Roger doesn’t challenge the gods with his hubris. Ever since he began a monk, he’s become very humble. Ironically, he’s quite proud of how humble he’s become.


Overcoming the Monster

This doesn’t need much explanation. Dracula, anyone? The Silence of the Lambs? Or Roger, thrown out of the Benedictine monastery after his inappropriate adventures and increasingly proud manner, who has taken up with the Jesuits where he is training to be an exorcist. Much hilarity ensues. And then much bloodshed.
Roger. Saving the world when nobody expects it.  

Rags to Riches

Little Orphan Annie, Dick Whittington, and dare I say it, Mariah Carey’s Glitter? And possibly Roger as well, who after defeating the Beast and averting the Apocalypse, wins American Idol with his pop-synth version of the Gregorian Chant, moves to Hollywood, and becomes a star. 




So while there might be only seven plots in the world, those seven plots have infinite varieties…Which have you chosen? 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Grammar. Who needs it?

That was a rhetorical question. Because we all need it.

I don’t remember learning much grammar at school. A verb was a Doing Word, a noun was a Naming Word, there was something about Subjects and Objects, and the rest is kind of a blank. My point is, if you want to write professionally, you need to understand grammar instinctively. You need to be able to look at a sentence, see the problem and fix it. You might not be able to say that the problem is the dangling participle, but you should be able to see that it doesn’t read as well as it could. Please note that I’m using the dangling participle as an example only. I often leave participles dangling. See?

I studied Old and Middle English at university. And boy, was that a shock! Suddenly I had to know what dative and genitive were. I’d never even come across these terms before, but those old Anglo-Saxons had whole damn word endings based on them. And don’t ask me now what they are. I jettisoned that part of my brain at graduation.

I also studied French at uni. I know, sucker for punishment, right? I learned how to conjugate French verbs, when I don’t ever remember doing the same for English verbs. I go. You go. He goes. She goes. They go. And that’s just in present tense. I don’t remember the French now, but my ability to conjugate the verb “to go” in English is unparalleled. And then you get to tense, and things get complicated. What the hell is future pluperfect anyway, and why should I care?

They don’t teach grammar much any more, and while part of me thinks that’s a real shame, part of me acknowledges that that we should all be grateful. The best way to learn grammar, after all, is through use. Read a lot. Write a lot. Make it work.  Break as many rules as you like, as long as you know you’re doing it.

The most memorable thing I’ve ever read about grammar can be found in Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe:

One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of becoming your own father or mother. There is no problem in becoming your own father or mother that a broad-minded and well-adjusted family can't cope with. There is no problem with changing the course of history—the course of history does not change because it all fits together like a jigsaw. All the important changes have happened before the things they were supposed to change and it all sorts itself out in the end.
The major problem is simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr. Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveler's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you, for instance, how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be descibed differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is futher complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations while you are actually traveling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own mother or father.
Most readers get as far as the Future Semiconditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up; and in fact in later aditions of the book all pages beyond this point have been left blank to save on printing costs.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy skips lightly over this tangle of academic abstraction, pausing only to note that the term "Future Perfect" has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be.
To resume:
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe is one of the most extraordinary ventures in the history of catering.
It is built on the fragmented remains of an eventually ruined planet which is (wioll haven be) enclosed in a vast time bubble and projected forward in time to the precise moment of the End of the Universe.
This is, many would say, impossible.
In it, guests take (willan on-take) their places at table and eat (willan on-eat) sumptous meals while watching (willing watchen) the whole of creation explode around them.
This, many would say, is equally impossible.
You can arrive (mayan arrivan on-when) for any sitting you like without prior (late fore-when) reservation because you can book retrospectively, as it were, when you return to your own time (you can have on-book haventa forewhen presooning returningwenta retrohome).
This is, many would not insist, absolutely impossible.
At the restaurant you can meet and dine with (mayan meetan con with dinan on when) a fascinating cross-section of the entire population of space and time.
This, it can be explained patiently, is also impossible.
You can visit it as many times as you like (mayan on-visit re-onvisiting... and so on - for further tense correction consult Dr. Streetmentioner's book) and be sure of never meeting yourself, because of the embarrassment this usually causes.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The first book you loved? (Don't lie to me!)

What is the first book you loved?

Someone brought this up at work today, and it’s always an interesting topic to explore. What struck me though was the number of people who lie to try and impress others. They’ll always go straight to the Important Books, like:

Catcher in the Rye

Oh, I really related to the themes of um, ah, you know, just…didn’t the guy who shot John Lennon have a copy in his pocket?

Slaughterhouse Five

It’s cool, right? This book is cool? It’s about this guy, and the war, and then some aliens and a teapot and stuff. Well, the edition I’ve got has a very cool cover.

A Tale of Two Cities

Dickens is classic, yeah? So if I say I’ve read this, you’ll all think I’m educated, right? Oh, and it was the best of times and the worst of times. I think one of the cities was probably London.


But today when someone brought it up, I took this question seriously. I’ve loved a lot of books in my time. In fact, I love all three of the Important Books I mentioned. But the first book I loved was this:



It has everything. It has dogs. It has dogs in hats. It has dogs in cars. It has dogs in hats and cars. It even has conflict: Will those two dogs who keep saying “hello” and “goodbye” and disagreeing over hats ever be friends in the end? And it has a massive party in a tree house at the end. Best. Ending. Ever.

This was the first book I loved because it was the first book I could read by myself, and because there was so much to discover in every illustration. This may even be the book that made me want to create my own stories. I read this book until it fell apart. I’ve since been through two other copies. I read it when I was four, and there is a copy on my bedside table now. And even though I'm an adult with no children, I'm not ashamed. Know why? Because reading this book still makes me happy. Sure, it’s not a complex journey in the psychological mindset of alienated youth, but it has dogs in cars. And sometimes that’s all you need.

You can buy the awesome Go, Dog. Go! by PD Eastman here at Amazon.

So, tell the truth now, what’s the first book you loved? 
And, if you're in the mood to share, why? 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Possum Post 11: The Nightmare Continues

I was going to write an awesome post about the creative process this week, but I can't. I can't, because I am being psychologically tortured by possums. Oh yes, they're back.

I thought we were past this. I thought I’d evicted them and they were happy to stay evicted. We’d reached an understanding. As long as I agreed to leave bread outside on the bins every night, the possums agreed not to break into my house and help themselves.

A possum, aka thieving little bastard. 
Cyclone Yasi has changed that. The possums can’t get around like they did. They used to go from my neighbours’ fence to my carport, through the traveller’s palm, across my roof, into my tree, onto my other fence, and then, presumably, cavort drunkenly through the entire neighbourhood until dawn. Now, because my tree was one of the casualties of the cyclone, the possums make it as far as my roof and can’t get any further. So they stand on my roof and vent their frustration by screaming at the remains of the tree, the universe, and whatever freakish pagan god they believe is their guardian. This can happen anywhere between 9pm and 5am, and I’ve learned it is impossible to sleep with a screaming possum fifteen feet above your head.

A typical Townsville Street, post-Yasi. 
The possums are now raiding my recycling. I wouldn’t mind so much, except they are raiding it messily, noisily, and in the middle of the night. I’m getting sick of having to pick it up every morning. And really, the last thing the possums need is to get a caffeine buzz from snuffling around an empty Pepsi Max bottle. They’re strung highly enough as it is.

Did you know possums can open kitchen cupboards? I am so, so tired of having to hide my bread and bananas in the microwave. I am even more tired of wiping grubby possum footprints off my bench every morning. And it doesn't matter if I close my windows or not - they are squeezing through the wooden shutters. 

And the worst part is, I’m less worried about their criminality than I am about their welfare. A diet of white bread and the occasional stolen banana can’t be healthy for a native animal. Maybe if I set up a proper possum feeding post for them, they’ll stop standing on my roof and screaming. God. I can already tell how this is going to end. Check back in six months and they’ll be curled up on my couch watching TV. All twenty-seven of them. 

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