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Archive for the ‘Language and Literature’ Category

This is neat.

Scott Wade is an American artist who wanders around supermarket car parks looking for dirty cars.

What he finds is dust. These are samples of what he leaves:

Mona Lisa from Dust

Car Dust Art

I really enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy, starting with ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,’ and I really enjoyed the Swedish film version. It was well acted, perfectly paced, and captured the atmosphere of the book brilliantly.

So news that Hollywood is planning on remaking the three films does not thrill me with anticipation. Rooney Mara is too prettty, but make-up can do wonders.

But Daniel Craig (in my view the best Bond ever) as Mikael Blomkvist is definitely off, a Hollywoodish choice. Craig is tough, a charismatic and manly action figure. Blomkvist is not particularly physical, a plodding and doubt-filled investigative journalist.

Sigh. Of course, I will go to see it, or at least rent it from the video store.

Occasionally Hollywood does do a remake better than the original. The Ring films, for example. The Hollywood versions were scarier and more atmospheric, with a more coherent storyline.

But the Millenium trilogy? I am not hopeful.

In honour of former vice-president Gore, Qohel is pleased to announce a new literary form, the goresicle.

The goresicle is a short poem of ten lines or less. It has lines that do not scan, and rhymes that do not rhyme. It contains factual errors. It expresses concern about a non-existent crisis.

An example.

The Last Penguin
A penguin circles slowly overhead.
It is the last of its kind.
Below, a polar bear cannot lift its head.
The blinding sun has made it blind.
Despair weighs heavy on its brow.
It cannot look up even now.
It cannot jump to catch the penguin.
The cloying warmth has sapped the engine
of its soul.

Worthy of the Vogons, I think, if not of the miraculously bad Mr Gore himself.

Please add further examples in comments. A prize of $20 worth of karma offsets to the best. Worst. Whatever.

via Australian Conservative.

During the years of the Howard government, the funding of left-wing magazines like Meanjin and Overland was never reduced.

The Literature Board of the Australia Council has just reduced Quadrant’s grant (which is used entirely to fund literary content) from $50,000 to $35,000 per annum.

Quadrant publishes ten times per year. Meanjin and Overland, which publish quarterly, receive annual grants of $50,000 and $60,000.

Have a look at the list of journals supported by the Literature Board, and judge for yourself whether literature expressive of the whole spectrum of Australian political thought is funded on an equal basis.

The Board’s view seems to be that whatever its literary merit, a magazine which publishes short stories, reviews and poetry which are not consistent with the Board’s opinions is not deserving of the same level of funding.

Why not email the Board, and let them know you think justice and transperency in grant administration are important for their credibility, and for the future of Australian literature?

Or if you like, preese not feed fishes with your private.

The Courier-Mail, not quite as dismal a rag as many Australian dailies, has an article about Shanghai’s ongoing crackdown on Chringrish.

The article links to a blog, Mad About Shanghai, which has loads of amusing examples, including a rest room instruction to fall down carefully, and a warning that you should not random through the streets.

I can see why authorities would be embarassed, but I think Chingrish is part of the charm of the place.

Ha, ha.

I don’t know who invented this word, noted here by Michalle Malkin, but it describes some of the mainstream media perfectly.

Except prostitutes only sell their bodies to make a living. Many journalists seem to sell their minds and hearts.

Prostitution harms those who do it, their clients and their families. Presstitution harms the truth, and with it, families, policies, communities and nations.

It is no wonder daily papers have lost huge numbers of readers. Mot ordinary people are sensible enough to work out when they are being screwed.

Frank Devine, Christian and journalist, is dead at age 77. Frank was born in New Zealand (as I was) but was a genuine Australian.

Like his adopted country, he was dry, beautiful (for his character and his writing), harsh (sometimes) and big of heart.

I looked always forward to reading his next column, and will miss them, and his warmth, honesty and intelligence. I am grateful, too, for his unashamed expresssions of love for his wife Jacqueline, and his championing, from his own experiences, of the value of marriage and of faith.

A heart-felt tribute here from Peter Coleman. Andrew Bolt records a similar expression of thanks and regret from former Prime Minister John Howard.

He was a man of faith and integrity. May God grant him rest with the saints, and joy everlasting.

In this case, marriage.

Inevitable disclaimer: I like some gay people, OK?

I like about the same proportion of  gay people I know as straight people I know. My brother is gay. My brother in law is gay. The best man at my wedding, my best friend at the time, was gay.

I absolutely believe homosexual men and women should be protected by the law from any form of discrimination on the basis of their sexuality. I believe the law has no place in people’s bedrooms, provided what happens there is between consenting adults. I think homosexual domestic partnerships should be recognised and given some protection, for example in matters of life insurance and superannuation.

However, I do not approve of homosexual behaviour. I believe it is harmful for those who indulge in it. Accepting that it happens, loving some people who do it, does not mean I have to believe it is a good thing.

States should not be pressured into calling homosexual domestic partnerships ‘marriages.’ They are not marriages.

Some non-religious reasons for this view are discussed on Secular Right.

That the meaning of words should not be arbitrarily stretched to the point of emptiness for political purposes is just one reason. Here’s an excerpt:

There really is a slippery slope here. Once marriage has been redefined to include homosexual pairings, what grounds will there be to oppose futher redefinition — to encompass people who want to marry their ponies, their sisters, or their soccer team? Are all private contractual relations for cohabitation to be rendered equal, or are some to be privileged over others, as has been customary in all times and places? If the latter, what is wrong with heterosexual pairing as the privileged status, sanctified as it is by custom and popular feeling?

World Wide Words defines a snollygoster as ‘a shrewd, unprincipled person, especially a politician.’ 

Snollygoster has not been heard much for the last sixty years.

President Truman used it in 1952, and defined it, either in ignorance or impishness, as “a man born out of wedlock”.

Many people put him right, some quoting this definition from the Columbus Dispatch of October 1895, with its splendid last phrase in the spirit of the original: “A Georgia editor kindly explains that ‘a snollygoster is a fellow who wants office, regardless of party, platform or principles, and who, whenever he wins, gets there by the sheer force of monumental talknophical assumnacy’.

Remind you of anyone? It’s been used of Arlen Specter (well, by me, anyway), but I was thinking of someone else.

It’s no surprise that snollygoster is making a come-back.

Angus and Robertson in Melbourne installed one of the 1.5 model of these brilliant machines in September last year.

Now Blackwell’s in London have installed one of  the new EBM 2.0 models.

The Espresso Book Machine can print a paperback book, trim and bind it, in anywhere from five to ten minutes.

They have access to over 500,000 titles, including many formerly out of print. The list is growing. You simply run through an on-screen catalogue, pick the book you want,  and ten minutes later it is yours – same size, cover and layout as the original.

The Espresso Book Machine is worth about $150,000 Australian dollars.


According to the Man Booker Prize website, ‘The Man Booker International Prize recognises one writer for their achievement in fiction.’  Arrgh!

Bizarre that such a horrible gramatical blunder should be sticking out on the front page of a website for a prize dedicated to quality in writing.

One writer cannot be ‘their’. ‘Their’ is plural.

It is an increasingly common error. I suspect because people want to avoid appearing to be sexist, as they would if they wrote ‘one writer for his achievement.’ And quite right – there are as many brilliant female writers as male.

So write ‘for his or her.’ It’s not rocket science.

I saw something similar recently in a newsletter from an expensive Queensland private boys’ school. ‘Your son must wear their hat…’ Not even the wanting to avoid sexism excuse applied in that case. A son could not be ‘her’ by definition. ‘Your son must wear his hat…’ could not have offended anyone.

But back to Peter Carey. He has already won twice – for Oscar and Lucinda, and True History of the Kelly Gang.

The only other two time winner is also a Australian – J.M. Coetzee, who was born in South Africa but lives in Adelaide.

Carey is the bookies’ favourite this year. If chosen, he will be the first three-time winner. On ya mate!

But this could be better. An app to enable you to read e-books on your smartphone.

The positives are that if you have a smartphone you don’t need another device – saving space in your pocket as well as money.

Not quite as many launch titles as the Kindle, but the list still looks pretty good. It doesn’t have some of the advanced features of the Kindle, and obviously the screen is smaller – but that’s the trade-off for the fact that a smartphone fits easily in your pocket.

This may the motivating factor to move up to a PDA type phone. I will watch the titles list with interest.

I am a native New Zealander myself. Coming back to NZ this time I was struck by the difficulty I was having in understanding ordinary speech.

New Zealanders are inclined to drop the fina consonan of wors.

But more confusingly, every vowel sound (with the exception of the eu dipthong – as in duel – and the long a – as in way) collapses into a neutral ‘uh’ sound.

Thus muns yuh und up wuth suntunsus thut sund luk thus.

Let’s hope they do a better job than Disney did with Prince Caspian.

Disney cited ‘budgetary issues’ as one of their reasons for not continuing the series. Prince Caspian earned $420 million, compared with $745 million for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. No wonder. Prince Caspian was a dog of a film.

Some Hollywood directors seem not to have the slightest understanding of their target audience, or even of the fundamental workings of drama. The prime audience for any of the Narnia series are people who have read and loved the books. Drama works when people care about the characters.

So why include in the first ten minutes scenes which are not in the book, which serve no positive purpose, and which make the audience dislike or distrust the characters who drive the story? These were the scenes of Peter and Edmund fighting in the railway station, and Susan lying to a boy who wanted to befriend her. These scenes made the key characters look violent, self-important, selfish, dishonest and shallow. This impression was confirmed by their behaviour through the film. It is impossible to care what happens to characters like this, so it was impossible to care what happened in the film.

Some teenagers (and some adults) are like this. But the characters in Lewis’ books are not. They are fallible, sometimes weak, always human. But they are also courageous, caring, even noble. The exception in the film was Lucy, who was delightful. But she could not carry the film on her own.

And then there was the idiotic attempt to suggest sexual tension between Caspian and Susan, which culminated in a passionate kiss. Pathetic.

I remember watching an episode of the US made version of Dr Who, originally a BBC programme I had loved for years. The special effects were brilliant, the Tardis looked better than ever. Then the Dr kissed his assistant. Instant reach for the remote.

You can make your own cirque de so lame programmes with kissing in them. Well, some of them aren’t so lame. But put kissing in Dr Who, and you have crossed a line, my friend.

Likewise with the Narnia stories. You can make films about shallow teenagers finding themselves, and maybe some of them aren’t so bad (though I’m struggling to think of one).

But don’t make a film that twists into dullness the characters I love from the books, that leaves out all the themes that were Lewis’ reasons for writing the book – honesty, courage, dignity, forgiveness, the balance between trusting God and taking responsibility – and then tell me that’s Narnia, and expect me to pay to see it.

… and when the rubber hits the road, cliches should be avoided like the plague