Thursday, August 11, 2011

Coffee Table Books, Serco, Other Worlds, and Maybanke

1. Finished reading Cloudstreet.

I was sad to have it end. I had an urge to shout out to the Pickles and the Lambs, No, don't leave me behind. Please!
I'm happy with myself for giving the book a second change. And I feel smart for understanding it enough to love it. I don't think it's a light and easy book. Maybe if I was more brainy I'd feel differently. But I'm not. It was a struggle at times. I had to really pay attention and sometimes I'd have to reread things.

It was totally worth it, though.   

My next book will be light reading probably. It's a kid's book by Liane Moriarty called Nicola Berry Earthling Ambassador. I've read two of Moriarty's adult novels, and I think I've read all of her sister's books.

2. Excited to see that Liane Moriarty has a new novel out; What Alice Forgot. The plot sounds very much like an episode of Medium.

3. Excited to see that the other Moriarty sister is coming out with a new book too! Actually, it's a trilogy. That's so cool.

I hope I like it.

It's nice to get all this Moriarty news. It makes me feel less sad about saying good-bye to the Pickles and Lambs.

4. Wondered if I'd want there to be a sequel to Cloudstreet.

A part of me wants it; but it would probably be a bad idea.

I don't think it's ever going to happen.

5. Watched a video about Cloudstreet. It features music from the miniseries, and scenes from it.

6. Read article about the Cloudstreet miniseries. Tim Winton was in his 20's when he wrote the book. That's amazing. He's totally brilliant.

I shouldn't be surprised, though. I've encountered a lot of brilliant young writers in the last few months.

The article says that America owned the screen rights to the book. That's disturbing. I guess they gave it up eventually?

7. Lost our internet connection so now I'm writing on text edit. Hopefully it will be fixed soon.  Then I shall copy and paste.  

8. Read the first three chapters of Nicola Berry Earthling Ambassador. So far, I'm not loving it. It's too cutesy.

I'm not sure if this is a valid judgement.

It could be that I'm not in kid's book mode because I so recently finished reading Cloudstreet.

I just get this sense of an author who's used to writing for adults; and now she's thinking, I better make this very fun and cute because kids are going to read it. It seems slightly condescending.

It's likely just my mood right now.

9. Figured it probably is my mood that's making me dislike Nicola Berry. I used to read the Junie B Jones books with Jack. Those are very cutesy, and I loved them.

10. Went to read a page of June B. Jones. I didn't mind it. It's cute, but in a way that's much more tolerable to me.

11. Learned about pearls in the book Cousteau's Australia Journey. The book says that peals are made by oysters when a piece of coral or sand grit gets inside their shell. The oyster coats the irritant with a secretion called nacre. Then this creates a pearl.

It's rare though. The book says about 1/1000 make a pearl. Does this mean it's rare for grit to find its way into the oyster shell; or that not all oysters do the nacre thing?

People have figured out a way to force the process on the oyster, so then pearls don't have to be so rare.

I would think it also makes it less special.

12. Looked at the Cousteau book with Jack.

13. Started to feel slightly entertained by the Nicola Berry book. There's been a few amusing scenes. They're not funny enough to make me laugh aloud, but I enjoyed them.

14. Tried to find Australian novels for Tim to read. He finished reading the Evil Genius series. I don't know if he'll like the other books I have.

15. Looked at an Australian coffee table book with Tim.

16. Noticed that it's very windy outside. It looks like a huge storm is brewing. That's exciting because it hasn't rained here for weeks.

17. Went outside and looked at another Australian coffee book. I waited for the storm to begin. There was a lot of wind and then I heard thunder. I went inside. I don't know if there's been any rain yet. I haven't seen any. I hope it's not one of those false alarm storms.

18. Had a few minutes of rain.  It was a bit anticlimactic. 

19. Finished reading the Nicola Berry book. I ended up liking it. It was overly cute and silly at times. But it was interesting, and I liked the message of the book.

20. Took Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock off my bookshelf. I've heard good things about his one. Hopefully, I shall like it.

21. Got back on the internet.

But we're still having problems.

22. Saw article about the detention centers.  There's been some scathing reports by an entity called Comcare. They're the government's workplace safety agency.  

Basically the centers have undertrained staff. They're not trained to deal with people in such a stressful environment.

The centers are overcrowded; and there's no attention given to the fact that certain ethnic groups in the center hate each other. Sometimes enemies are chosen to be roomies. 

Well, that worked out okay for the twins in Parent Trap. They hated each other.  Then they were locked in a room together and they became friends.

Maybe it only works in Disney movies.   

23. Hoped the report by Comcare will lead to action.

The company that runs the detention centers is called Serco.   Maybe the government needs to find a new company.

24. Looked at Serco's website. They have a page about the detention centers.   They call them Immigration Removal Centers   Removal? Why removal? That's creepy.

I thought the purpose of these centers was to house people while they're waiting for the government to decide if they can stay or not. 

Removal sounds so horribly negative.  

25. Learned that Serco is a British company.  

26. Consulted Lord Wiki about Serco.   He says it started in 1929 as the British division of RCA, the American electronics company. Initially it provided services to the cinema industry. Wow.  Who would ever imagine something from the movie business would be later working in the detention center business. Maybe that's why they're sticking enemies in the same room.   They're thinking like filmmakers.


We see two men glaring at each other across the room.   In their old countries, they were enemies.   Now they're forced together.  Man 1 reaches into his pocket to take out a knife.   He remembers he doesn't have one here. All he has is an old candy bar.  Man 2 takes a step forward with menace in his eyes.   Man 1 is scared.  Out of desperation he tries to hand Man 2 the candy bar. Man 2 shouts in his native tongue.   He's diabetic.  He thinks Man 1 is trying to kill him.   Man 1 has no idea what's going on because they don't speak the same language.


Later we'd learn the truth.   Man 1 and Man 2 are brothers—twins.   They were separated at birth and raised in communities that hated each other.  They become friends and come up with a plan.   They'll switch places and work on a way to bring peace upon their communities.  

27. Had doubts I'd like Finnikin of the Rock.   I haven't started to read it, but I looked at the first few pages.   It has maps of a mythical pretend world. I don't like books set in mythical worlds UNLESS they have some connection to our world.

Does that make me ethnocentric?


It can be on a planet far from earth.  It can be in the way past or the way future. It can be in an alternate universe. But I want to know how the setting relates to earth.

I sound very picky. I know.

I may be wrong about the book.   It might have earth connections.   If it doesn't?  Well, I'm going to follow my rule of trying out the first two chapters.   I might quit.   I might like it.   I'll definitely give it a chance.

28. Read the prologue of Finikkin of the Rock.  It's okay so far.   I never like prologues, least not in the beginning.  They're usually much more interesting after I've read most of the book.   Cloudstreet is a prime example of that.   

Before reading the Finnikin prologue, I started thinking maybe I have liked stories that take place in a mythical land (without any real connection to earth).  Would Shrek count?

I guess any fairy tale might count.  Sort of.

What about Eragon?  Was that supposed to be earth, or somewhere else?   I didn't love it, but I didn't really dislike it.   

29. Learned from Lord Wiki that the type of fantasy books I don't like are called high fantasy.

No wait.  I got that wrong.  He says high fantasy is a book that is set mostly in an alternative (fictional) world. But there are three categories.  In one of them, our world doesn't exist. THIS is what I don't like.

In another subtype our world exists and the characters access the other world through some type of portal.  Narnia and the Dark Tower series are examples of that. I often like these types of books.

Then the third subtype is a world (or community) within our own world. Harry Potter is an example of that. 

30. Loved the photos on Amy Almost's blog.   Her photos here, and on Facebook, often have a 1970's look.  I love that. I prefer that type of photo to the over-saturated photos I often see these days.  

31. Amazed by Fruitcake's brilliance.   She just says these amazing things that I have never thought of before.

Here's the one for today.   She talks about the welfare cheats. Who are the people that take advantage of the system?   We usually think of the lazy ones who refuse to work.   They sit around getting drunk while watching talk shows.  They hang out in gangs. They don't contribute to society.   Blah, blah, blah, blah.

Fruitcake says, Is someone who works 100 hours a week, pays taxes and then drink-drives a potential welfare cheat? 

What if something happens to the person and they can't work anymore? By knowingly putting themselves in a dangerous situation, did they take advantage of the system?


Then there's the question I often have. What's worse—the guy who begs on the street for his living, the woman who lives on welfare, or the man who works for a company that dumps carcinogenic pollutants in the water.

Our society puts so much value in employment.   You're a good person if you're employed. You're a lazy bad person if you're unemployed. Sometimes people are employed in jobs that are bad for the community.  Sometimes people are unemployed and do good for the community.  Or at least they refrain from doing bad things.

Then there's people who have jobs and aren't really working.   In NYC, I worked for a temp agency for a few months.  At one placement I was paid to press a button to let people into the office. It was extremely easy and I spent most of the time reading my books.    

32. Went to Tallygarunga.

Today I'm going to read the continuation of A Serendipitous Sprawl.   It's the story thread with the two first years; Ella Glenn and Thatcher Hyland.   It looks like a lot has been added since the last time I read it.

33. Tried to figure out which was the last post I read. I think it's #5, so I'll start with #6.

Thatcher sees Ella's books and tells her he likes to read too. He likes adventurous heroic stories.   That's fitting because Thatcher wishes to be a hero.

Ella is very excited to see that she's found a fellow bookworm.

34. Liked Ella's line here.  

I’ve read the story of Arthur at least ten times. I think it’s like that a lot of the time in real life – the people who we think won’t be heroes, because they look so ordinary, really are. ‘Cause things aren’t always what they seem to be. Like I always thought magic wasn’t real. 

What would it be like for a lover of fantasy to learn a magical world truly did exist?   As far as I can remember, that's not addressed in any of the Harry Potter books.   Harry Potter himself doesn't seem to be a fantasy fan.  Hermione is a book worm, but she seems to be more into nonfiction than fiction.

35. Disagreed with Thatcher here. 

Of course, he was too old now to make up adventures, so they would have to find real ones.

I'm almost 40 and I still make up adventures.

This week I've been amused with myself for playing stuffed animals with Jack. Then tonight we started watching The Muppet Movie. I realized what Jack and I have been doing is similar to puppeteering. 

It's fun.  

Pretend play ends for some in childhood.  But for many of us it continues.   We play on role-playing sites.  We write novels.  We write screenplays. We make up stories for our children. Sometimes we just make up stories in our head.

36. Saw that Ella's Muggle family is like the family in my fictional blog. They're excited about the whole magical world.   Her brother wants to Ella to write to him and tell him about Tallygarunga.   That's very much like Alex in my story.  She loved fantasy and all that—was thrilled to learn that magic was real.

Ella is very different from my witch though.  She likes fantasy. Julia had absolutely no interest in it; nor was she pleased about being at Hogwarts.

37. Decided Ella reminds me of Jack and myself.  She has philosophical monologues.   I do it all the time.  Anyone who has read this blog can see that.  Jack does it too.  We even call them "monologues".  Sometimes his will be about some kind of philosophical psychological thing.  Other times, he has a movie, book, or game idea.  He'll explain it in detail.     

Sometimes I'll have Jack do a monologue while I'm exercising.  It makes exercising a bit less boring.   Sometimes he'll start a monologue when I'm stressed or busy.  I tell him to hold off a bit and tell me later. He's usually good at waiting.  

38. Started to read the biography of Ella Glenn

She was born in Sydney.

She has brown hair, brown eyes, and some freckles.

She doesn't like pink.

She likes to wear layers of clothes because she's often cold.

39. Learned that Ella is shy and very sensitive

I was shy and very sensitive when I was a child.

I'm still very sensitive, but not very shy anymore. 

40. Found more things about Ella that remind me of me.  She love to read and write.  And she reads fast.

I'm a pretty fast reader too.

Ella loves to run.  That's something we do NOT have in common.  Well, I don't hate running.  But I'm not good at it.  I'm very slow.

41. Started to read Ella's history.

Both her parents are authors. They're not super famous, but they make enough money from their writing to pay the bills.

42. Confused about Ella's dislike of summer.  Her least favorite season is summer because her snobby cousin spends her (American) summer vacations with them.  Then that would be Ella's winter.   So I think maybe that's a slight mistake?   Or I could be misreading it.  It should probably say that Ella dislikes winter. Or she could hate the American summer?  

43. Learned that my Australian of the day is Maybanke Susannah Anderson.  She was a feminist.

Despite having the surname Anderson, she was not born in Scotland.

Maybanke was born in Surrey England. Are they affected by the riots there?

When Maybanke was about ten, her family moved to Sydney.

44. Learned that Maybanke became a teacher.

45. Looked at a map of the riots.  It looks like Surrey hadn't been attacked yet.

46. Learned that Maybanke got married and moved to Marrickville.

Later her husband abandoned her.

Maybanke ended up opening her own school.   Wow.  That was pretty brave of her.  
47. Saw that there is a Maybanke Youth Centre in Sydney.   I'm betting it was named after Maybanke Anderson.  

48. Consulted Lord Wiki about Maybanke Anderson.

Lord Wiki says Maybanke ran the Maybanke school in her home.   It's purpose was to prepare girls for the University of Sydney's entrance examination.   At first I was thinking Lord Wiki mean that it was more of a class/seminar than a school.   I pictured it as one of those places you go after school to practice for the test.  Here in America we have something called Sylvan.   It's a place to get various types of tutoring.

But I think what Lord Wiki means is Maybanke was a college prep type school.   Well, that's what we call it in America.   In Australia, would it be uni-prep?  Or maybe university-prep?  

49. Learned that Maybanke was involved in the suffrage movement.

She also helped start the first free kindergarten in Australia.  It was in Woolloomooloo. 

50. Went to Mousie's Aussie music database. The next song for me is "Buy Now Pay Later" by The Whitlams.   

It's a pretty song. 

I like it a lot. 

51. Read article about victory parade for Cadel Evans.   It's going to be in Melbourne on St. Kilda Road. Then there's going to be a celebration at Federation Square. 

I guess it's today?  It's 1 pm in Australia right now.   Maybe it's already happened.

I'm all confused. 

52. Started to look at page 11 of Frans de Wit's Australia album.  

Here's some kangaroos at Lake Entrance.  

Like most Americans, I like seeing kangaroos in Australia.

I did become a bit jaded when we went in 2009.   I was all excited when I saw my first wild kangaroo in Canberra.  Then, by the time we saw them at a natural park, I was sort of over the whole thing.  

But now, two years later, seeing wild kangaroos seems exciting again.   

52.  Wondered if this was Frans.  Or maybe it's his friend.

I'm wondering if Frans is the type who'd hand his camera to someone and say, Can you take a picture of me?

53. Listened to a song about Australian geography. It's very cute...and educational.  

54. Thought this pelican picture was pretty cool. 

They're cute in this picture too.   

55. Saw pictures of flooding.

I wonder if it was a bad flood.  

The photographs say they're from Foster, Victoria. They were taken in October 2009. 

I can't find anything about 2009 floods.  Maybe it wasn't anything major.  

56. Thought of Andrew when I saw these train photos.   He likes trains.