Monday, 30 July 2012

Diary of an Honours Student, Week One (Second Semester Edition!)

Semester Two has come too soon.  A fortnight ago when I realised that some of my friends who go to Curtin University had already gone back, I couldn't believe it.  Weren't they only on holidays for only three weeks or something?!  Murdoch, on the other hand, has been out of session since May.  That's two months of me being left to my own devices.  (You too if you're a Murdoch student.)

Let's take a moment to appreciate that a lot can happen in two months.  I know personally that I've changed, grown etc.  And now it's time to get down to business, and finish my thesis.

I know that this kind of business time and the kind of business time I mean are separate, but Flight of the Concords make me laugh, and what I'm about to follow up with isn't so funny.

My honours thesis is due on Friday the 9th of November, 2012. And I'm not 100% sure what its central question is at the moment!

That, however is my concern and I am just going to have to knuckle down and figure it out.  The process of refocussing begins with a commitment to discipline: I intend to spend at least two days a week working on campus this semester.  I began this pledge today, when I went in at around 9.30 and astonishingly found myself a functional computer.

If you've ever tried to get a computer in the Murdoch library, you'll know that it's nigh on impossible.  Any and all of the free computers will either be a) broken, b) actually 'reserved' for someone who's gone to the loo and thinks that leaving their bag with their valuables and their assignment up on the screen as security is a good idea or c) not actually connected to a CPU.  The occupied computers will be being used by a few serious students writing scarily bulky amounts of text and about twenty to fifty undergrads who are using their between-class time to catch up on their Facebooking.  God forbid their friend Kate (everyone's got a friend Kate, you know it's true) should update her status without them knowing about it.

Today was no different, but being week one, the common filled up a lot less quickly.  Good thing too, as I took a slight detour to the shops this morning for spot cream!  After some trial and error, I found myself at a functioning machine and managed to do an hour and a half's worth of work.  (The morning's amusement was provided by the string of first years who tried to use the dead machine diagonal from mine, each discovering the same thing: that the machine was a husk.  I eventually took pity on one girl and gave her my machine when I left.)  My conclusions?  Connecting to the University's internet can be a pain in the ass for the uninitiated such as moi but all in all, it's better to bring a laptop.

Seriously, folks, do a good deed for the day.  If you're using a computer in a library, don't procrastinate.  You're not just doing yourself a favour.  Get your work done, finish in a timely manner, and let someone else have a go.  University computers are not just Facebook machines.  That's what your phone is for!

That's pretty much all I have to say in this post, other than I hope that you are all doing well in your studies or whatever adventure you're taking.  I'll be back with more book reviews and make up stuff soon!


Monday, 23 July 2012

West Australian Writing Review: Dirt Music by Tim Winton

I always have to read Tim Winton novels twice to fully take them in.  Cloudstreet, The Riders, Dirt Music; all these are books which are read in a kind of relaxed fugue state.  The nostalgia and the landscapes wash over you.  Later, you think to yourself 'could that possibly have been in the book or did I dream it?'

In her article "Place, Taste and the Making of a Tradition" published in Westerly, 1982, Veronica Brady mentions something she calls the Robinson Crusoe impulse- the desire to make a self and a world- which pervades Western Australian literature.  No novel demonstrates this more than Dirt Music. The protagonist, Georgie Jutland, is searching for a self, making one.  Luther Fox wants to forget his self and his past.  Instead, he makes a world.

The pair live in the fictional coastal town of White Point, populated with fishwives, hippies, ex-cons and racists.  Their day to day lives are put under the microscope through the points of view of the two outsiders, Georgie and Lu, and shown to the reader as being base, disgusting, tragic, but above all, human.  Despite the judgement that they seem to pass on all around them, Georgie and Lu are far from perfect.  Alcoholic, escapist Georgie has lost her verve for life and spends her days living with the Fisherman King, Jim Buckridge simply for lack of anything else to do.  But she cannot shut off her emotions entirely, and the life without love, the shallowness and separateness of her relationship and the precarious, temporariness of her position begin to stifle her.  Georgie does what Georgie knows best and runs.  She is the typical Western Australian character, the traveller.  On the road, her car breaks down and this brings her into the life of Lu Fox.  Lu is a shamateur, a fisherman who 'fishes' from other men's catches.  He gets up early to raid lobster pots and steal from nets.  Georgie knows this, thinks she is the only one.  They connect without really meaning to.  When Lu attracts the attention of the fishermen he has been poaching from, Georgie believes it is her own fault.  The secrets of her town and her friends unfold before her like a map.  And Lu leaves.

Dirt Music is part Defoe, part Shakespeare.  Like Robinson Crusoe, Lu Fox becomes king of his own island, far from civilisation.  Unlike Crusoe, he does this by choice and hides from anyone who might find him out and rescue him.  The novel's ending feels like a beginning- the beginning to The Tempest perhaps, where enemy and lovers alike are thrust together by shipwreck and storm.

Winton's writing is intelligent and lyrical, at times heralding over the average reader its superior insight into life.  For the most part, it is detailed yet simple, poetic yet base.  Dirt Music is a superb novel grounded in familiar places and feelings.  At times, the plot seems almost too tangled; there are two many deaths and nature itself seems to have it in for the Foxes.  Yet the writing and the style make it feel believable, like in the hands of any writer but Winton, it would fail.

Next week I will be seeing Signs of Life, a play which follows on from the novel.

I give Dirt Music four out of five fishing reels.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Aussie Writing Review: All That I Am by Anna Funder

First of all, to the lovely lady who comes to the bookshop I now work in every Sunday, I am so sorry it took me almost a fortnight to finish this book.  

We now return to our regularly scheduled broadcast.

Late last month (or was it early this month?  Time folds in on itself these days...) Anna Funder's All That I Am was named the winner of the 2012 Miles Franklin Literary Award.  The sophomore novel from Funder (whose first novel was Stasiland), All That I Am follows the plight of exiled Jewish Socialists Ruth, Dora, Hans and the writer Ernst Toller during the early 1930s and the beginning of Hitler's regime through the lens of Ruth's remembrances as an old woman in the early 2000s.  A poetic and slightly cynical novel, Funder has created a world of stark insight and through her characters she delivers a number of truisms on love, loss and the nature of human relationships tested by adversity.

It is a stunning novel, and there is no doubt in my mind that it is deserving of many literary platitudes.  (And coincidentally, before winning the Franklin, All That I Am also earned its writer the Barbara Jefferis Award.)  Funder herself is eloquent and intelligent.  To read her Franklin acceptance speech and giggle at the backhanded comments she makes about the loathsome Fifty Shades trilogy, please click here.

What makes All That I Am all the more haunting is its basis in reality.  Dora, Ruth and Ernst Toller were all real people.  The novel has been meticulously researched, and the character of Ruth (as you will read in the acknowledgement) was also a friend of the authors until her death in 2001.  No wonder the pages are tinged with sadness, and the feelings of loss so well-captured.  For any lover of history (or any student of modern history of my generation, for surely we are all still well versed in the curricula on Nazi Germany) the novel slides neatly into established facts.  Sources such as Richard J. Evans supply grounded dates and names which associate Funder's narrative with the 'known' history.

I have to wonder, however, why this novel which recounts events in another country and another time has been the recipient of this particular award, when the Miles Franklin is ostensibly an award to celebrate novels which represent Australians as we are now.  Ruth Becker's early 2000s Sydney could be anywhere bar the few mentioned street names, and her forays into memory make up the majority of the text.  At times, it seems like the portion of the text devoted to Australia is as insignificant to the the novel as it could possibly be. The 2012 shortlist also included such highlights as Favel Parret's Past the Shallows and Frank Moorhouse's Cold Light, both set here.  So why All That I Am?  Does the literary merit of the novel far outweigh its competitors, rendering its geographical fixation irrelevant?  Or is there some other factor at play here?

Perhaps one explanation could lie in the book's very international and inter-time-dimensional outlook itself.  Just a few years ago, there was public outcry over the Miles Franklin's reputation for choosing books by men about men who still live in the outback and farm sheep (or something like that...)- in short, for being too inward in their focus, and too indicative of an isolated Australia view largely representative of what the rest of the world thought of us.  But Australia is a country made up of refugees, immigrants and travellers, all of whom have personal histories and memories to share, like Ruth Becker. Our place in the world is global and historical.  All That I Am is a book which represents this.  

Not insignificantly, it is also a book by a woman, and women dominated the shortlist this year at three to two.  That deserves a little cheer from this camp.

If you are looking for a deep and meaningful read, one which will make you emote (for lack of a word that won't give spoilers) then pick up a copy of All That I Am.  And share it around.  It is a highly accessible, readable book which deserves to be discussed.

Four out of five dossiers from me.

- E 

Friday, 13 July 2012

Literature and Lipstick: July

Hello hello, and welcome to my little foray into the world of beauty blogging.  (For an explanation of why I am trying this, see my previous post.)

Clockwise from left: Body Butter in Strawberry, Aloe Cleansing Toner for Sensitive Skin, Lily Cole Puff On Radiance, Warming Mineral Mask, Spa Wisdom African Ximenia and Salt Scrub, Almond Nail and Cuticle Oil, Tea Tree Concealer, Tea Tree Blemish Gel

I don't think I would be the only person out there willing to profess my undying love for The Body Shop.  For one, they have some great stuff.  Two, it's all cruelty and nasty free.  And three?  The staff there are lovely.  I always end up feeling as if I've made a friend and got great advice all in one.  It's no wonder that lately I've been spending a large chunk of my pay on Body Shop products.  See above!  (And there's more since then!)

Some of the products can be a little on the pricey side and this can be a deterrent for some buyers.  The benefits, however, outweigh the cost for me.  I find it worth doing a little budget shuffle every now and then.

My favourite products in the above selection have to be the Body Scrub and the Radiance Powder.  I got the Body Scrub a while back now as a solution for lumps and bumps associated with shaving.  Simply massage it onto dry skin and then rinse off in the bath or shower to enjoy your silky smooth skin.    This is a great sometimes treat, although with the cold weather here in Perth it can be hard not to just get into the shower and skip the scrub.  As for the Radiance Powder, I got it on Monday.  I simply could not resist the cute, apple-like container and the adorable pink pom-pom.

This is my first make-up purchase from The Body Shop, unless you count the concealer which I don't.  At first, it seemed like a bit of a nothing purchase.  Not quite body glitter and not quite blush, the powder goes on the cheek bones (and according to the sales girl, in the cupid's bow above your lips) to add a boost of shiny loveliness to your complexion.  Err, okay, but why not just use body glitter or blush?  Well.  The Radiance Powder is a lot more subtle than either of those things and can be used as a base for a full face of make up, or on top of mineral foundation or powder for a lazy, pretty day.  I even wore JUST the powder to my yoga class on Wednesday just because I was feeling a tad blah.  The beads come in three different colours and can be crushed individually to use as eyeshadow as well.  Unfortunately the powder is so subtle, I can't even show you in a photograph.  Oh well.  This powder has definitely made the list of my winter must-haves.

Other products I am loving this July include:

* Carmex- The cold weather has really done a number on my lips, but Carmex helps fend off that ugly, itchy 'third lip' which appears with too much licking.

* Cherry Nivea Lip Balm-  Cold lips lose their colour, and this is the answer.  Plus it smells delicious!

* Coloured nail polish in pinks, purples and reds

* White Glo toothpaste in the Coffee and Tea drinker's formula (Have noticed a difference in teeth colouring... have also noticed that the thicker beads in the paste have a tendency to clog the drain in my bathroom unless I wash everything down IMMEDIATELY.  Good value for money too, as each package comes with good quality toothbrush.)

* Moroccanoil (That seems like it is spelt so incredibly wrong...)  My hair is really thin and quite straight but I've recently realised that it needs a bit more attention in winter than in summer and the oil keeps the ends manageable.

Well, my little porcupines, that's all from me for this month!  Next month I will have some empty products to review for you, as  I am beginning to collect them for you all.  There will be some more favourites and another feature.  (So if there is anything else you'd like to see on the blog, let me know in the comments.)  For now, back to the writing and reading!  Don't forget to check out COMET from this Sunday, a new issue starts then.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Literature and Lipstick: An Introduction

So I know that this blog is supposed to be all about me and my writing journey... (it actually feels a little weird to even be sitting here and writing this post)... but I think that one of the ways I can improve as a writer is to write about everything and anything, all the while exploring new areas of life and things I enjoy so that I actually, you know, have fodder for my books.  One thing that I have really gotten into in the last twelve months is make up and beauty products.

I largely think I should blame this fabulous girl here, Jade Carver, who happens to be a friend of mine.  (I say blame, but really that implies that she's hooked me on something negative which is not true.  Jade's mantra in life seems to be about celebrating colour and uniqueness in beauty rather than becoming skinny minny blondey booby fembots.  I should say I owe my inspiration and guidance to.  Sappy, hey?)

Another blogger who has really caught my interest over the last month is the lovely Essie Button.  I love watching her videos.  When I grow up, if I can't be Bernard Black then I might settle for being her.

Last night, it occurred to me in that half-awake place that I spend a lot of time playing with beauty products, I take a lot of care in selecting said products, and as a result I own a fair few more than the average bear, although nowhere near as much as Essie and Jade seem to own.  I then fell asleep and had a dream about shopping at The Body Shop and buying everything that my little heart desired for about $500 (yeowch!) including a tea leaf diffuser with a duck on top.  And those exist, I assure you, although why my brain thought they sold them at The Body Shop, I am not sure.  At first I wrote off the idea of being a beauty blogger.  I had my reasons.

1) I am a book blogger.
2) I am not a make up expert.
3) I might not be any good at it.
4) It's not very original.

But even after thinking through all those things I still wanted to give it a try and so here I am!  (And after all, I don't have to put myself purely into the book blogging pigeon hole, we are all lots of different things at different times; I may not be a make up expert but I am a consumer and I know what I like; I will never know if I am any good at it if I don't try; and if any blog is 100% original these days I will eat my metaphorical hat.)

So, like I said, here I am.  Hello.  Pleasant seeing you again.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

How to Refuse to be Bored

"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." - Zelda Fitzgerald

This is one of my all time favourite quotes, and a while back I mentioned it in a quiz sent to me by Sabrina from Pouffia. She asked how exactly one goes about putting this into action...  Here's what I came up with.

The life of Zelda Fitzgerald, although synonymous with the adventure and glamour of the Jazz Age, was also a very tragic one.  She spent many years hospitalised after a mental breakdown, and prior to this, engaged in reckless acts which put her life in danger.  You can read more about her and her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald here.  Zelda is also portrayed by Alison Pill in the 2011 film, Midnight In Paris.  

What Zelda seems to be saying in this quote is if you believe, you can achieve.  If you think that you are boring, you will become so.  If you think that you are interesting, you are.  Or, to put it the way the song by Harvey Danger does, "If you're bored, then you're boring."

I used to believe that because I got bored a lot, I was therefore, the dullest person alive.  And then I realised that I had been focussing on the wrong part of that quote.  Instead of focussing on how often I was bored, I should have been working on why  thought I was boring, why was acting boring, why I was making myself seem boring to me.  It was around about this time that I discovered the Zelda quote on Goodreads, and it became my favourite.  Here are a few ways that I've said no to boredom since then.


How to Refuse to be Bored

1. Find a Work/ Play balance.
If the things you usually love to do seem tiresome to you, you're probably doing them too much.  I love to read, but lately, I've been reading all the time instead of working on my thesis, and justifying it by reading Western Australian novels, strictly in line with what I am studying.  (Well, mostly)  But the thing is, I end my day feeling like I have accomplished nothing, and the times I would normally enjoy a good read to wind down (before bed, in the bath) I find myself looking for something else to do.  


Doing the things that need to get done doesn't seem  like a very interesting or impulsive thing to do, but will help you appreciate your downtime, give you a feeling of having accomplished something, and reduce stress considerably later.  


Set yourself tasks for the day to be balanced alongside your leisure activities.

2. Try something new.

The powers that be say do something that scares you every day.  Well.  I'm not a fan of horror movies and I'm certainly not in a hurry to read Stephen King's It but I do have a slight fear of the unknown.  When I think about trying new activities, I often manage to find a multitude of reasons not to go.  But on the odd occasion I do get my behind to the new thing, I really enjoy myself.


Learn the difference between genuinely not wanting to do something and being nervous or anxious.  

Force yourself to do the things you want to try despite your uncertainty.  Today I am going to a yoga class.  You could even try going with a friend.

3. Don't be so self-conscious.

Ever not gone to a movie you really wanted to see just because you were worried what other people would think?  As social beings, we let other people dictate what we do and what we think of things far too much.  We also have a tendency to manifest our insecurities as fears of what others will think.  Ashamed of taking Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus out of the library?  Think the librarian is laughing at you behind your back?  She's not.  She doesn't care what you borrow, she's just doing her job.  You are the one who is judging you.  And you should stop that.


Don't let what you think other people are thinking and doing stop you doing what you feel like. (Unless they are thinking "Hey, pal, don't ride your bike off the edge of that cliff into the water, that's really dangerous.")


Assess the situation: Who thinks the activity you have chosen is lame, you or other people?  Then, do it anyway.  

4. Spend some time spoiling yourself.

You are the best friend you are ever going to have.  And I don't mean that in a "nobody likes you" way.  You are the only one who 100% understands what you are going through, you have all the same tastes as yourself, and you know what you need, even if it doesn't seem obvious right away.  You can also be your own worst enemy- and if you are, perhaps you need to focus on some of the things you like about yourself.  Taking time to catch your breath and just take really good care of yourself can be incredibly relaxing.  There are some things you can only do on your own.


Spending time alone can be like spending time with a cherished friend.


Pamper yourself with a bubble bath and a face mask, or buy yourself a present.  Have a night in with you and celebrate your friendship.  Try and make it a regular thing.

5. Let the world in.

When people invite you to do things with them, if you keep saying No, eventually they will stop asking you.  It's a really fast way to spoil a friendship.  When opportunity knocks, you should at least open the door and inspect the parcel.  And if invitations aren't flooding in, maybe you should send them out.  Humans (especially girls) are social creatures, and we can't get everything we need from one person.  Spend time with the people that you care about, even if it's just watching The Vow with your bestie or going for a quick run.  


An enriching social life is achieved when we create a balance of give and take.  


Accept invitations from your friends, and extend some of your own.