Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Wizard of Oz



Book 20 of 2014 is from the BFI Film Classics series and is a review by Salman Rushdie of the movie The Wizard of Oz. I'd call this an essay, more than a book but my only criteria to satisfy something is a book is if it looks like a book and quacks like a book.

In 69 pages, Salman Rushdie reviews the movie The Wizard of Oz in a way that has changed, ruined and enhanced my view of it.

He does this as the first part of a series of essays commissioned for a project by the National Film and Television Archive in the UK. This was before DVDs and IMDB and was a way of deconstructing and reviewing 360 classic movies by great minds of the time. When Rushdie looked through the list, he chose Oz as one of his favourite places as a child and decided to write about this movie.

Like anything you love that is deconstructed and discussed, some of the magic disappears but Rushdie's passion for the film and shared discovered facts compensate greatly.

The thing I did like the most was finding that this essay inspired Gregory Maguire's Wicked. I love the Oz world and Wicked continued for me, as this essay has extended it for me.

At the end of this essay, the author writes a fantastical story about the futuristic auctioning of the famous and obviously magical Ruby Slippers from the movie. There is a great quote that seems quite apt in this time...

"We, the public, are easily, lethally offended. We have come to think of taking offence as a fundamental right. We value very little more highly than our rage, which gives us, in our opinion, the moral high ground. From this high ground we can shoot down at our enemies and inflict heavy fatalities. We take pride in our short fuses. Our anger elevates, transcends. 

Salman Rushdie. At the auction of the ruby slippers. 
In: East, West. Vintage, 1995."

I give this a brain, a heart and some courage out of 5. Yes, that's a 3.5.

Should I read this? Read this if you love The Wizard of Oz movie. It would mean nothing otherwise.
What did I learn? Toto was female and her name was Terry.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

A Room of One's Own



Book 19 of 2014 is Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own.

I've only read a couple of Virginia Woolf books and I love the way she writes. She is a born story teller who paints pictures with words. Now I know that she writes like a "woman-manly." Or was it a "man-womanly"? Either way, it makes her voice unique in a crowd where she is a minority.

This book/essay/speech is one of the most relevant (yes, even now) books that I woman can read.

Of late, life has had me wondering where I belong and what the whole damn point of it is. Belonging is important but it is more than that. The feeling was more about how I belong in a world where I can not see anyone like me. That was my mistake.

There may not be people who look like me everywhere but there are people who think like me, both men and women. This book was like taking a giant sigh after a very long week ends. She said it perfectly.

It is only 112 pages and if you can't do that then at least read the last chapter. She is brilliant. Just that.

I give it 5 revelations without bitterness out of 5.

Should I read this? Women should. Secure men should. Others will not be impressed that someone let her out of the kitchen.
What did I learn? “I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me.”

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Unbearable Lightness of Being



Book 18 of 2014 is one that i have read twice now. It is a favourite and often fits in to certain contexts in my life.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is the Milan Kundera book that you must read.

I most identify with Sabina and have been told she is dysfunctional. Maybe she is but boy does she look hot in a bowler hat.

I give it 4.5 extra-martial affairs out of 5.

Should I read this? Absolutely. A classic that you must consume, at least once.
What did I learn? Love is totally and absolutely unique to who you are. Let no one dictate otherwise.

Building Scalable Web Sites



The 17th book of 2014 is Building Scalable Web Sites by Cal Henderson.

I read this because a developer I really respect at Thoughtworks recommended it. The reviews I read ripped it to pieces with comments like "I already know this" and "well yeah, duh." I still read it.

Once thing that you have to do as a lead is understand concepts so well that you can explain and teach it to other people. The thing I've seen a lot is that people dismiss the small things, the concepts that matter and talk about big ideas while not understanding where it all comes from.

This book is a great way to understand the basic concepts and teach you how to teach others. It talks about where no mainstream software engineering concepts come from in a way that fills all the gaps.

If you want to claim you are a great senior software engineer then read this with a little humility. I will guarantee you learn something. Or at least learn how to teach it.

I'd give it 3.5 checkins out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. Anyone who intends to lead a software team should read this whether they are technical of not.
What did I learn? Humility and the ability to articulate what is in your giant brain.

A Rightful Place




Book 16 of 2014: A Rightful Place is a Quarterly Essay by Noel Pearson. The Quarterly Essay is a series of four essays a year written by current key Australians.

After reading this, I wrote Noel Pearson an email. It went...

"Hello Mr Pearson,

I have never written to anyone of worth before so forgive any mistakes I make.

I just finished reading your Quarterly Essay. I am not indigenous to this country. In fact, I am half Australian and half Papua New Guinean but I write you all the same. There is something to not belonging that I empathise with when I read what you wrote. Something raw and true.

Having never been a fan of yours, it surprised me how much I understood what you said.

You see, I grew up on Palmerston in the Northern Territory in the mid 80s to 90s. My school was less than a quarter white and that didn't seem odd to me. We used the word budju as a compliment and c*nt as a disgrace. I even still return to my parents house speaking in that manic drawl that is Darwin. There is a part of me that is goanna cooked over a fire and peanut flavoured grubs out of trees.

When I read you essay, I found a way to articulate and (sadly because it is required) defend the people I grew up with. The most amazing and ancient culture we have on earth.

I lost respect for Darwin (again) and Dickens (for the first time) and got teary at your conclusion.

I write this email because I'd like to thank you for saying it so well. For articulating your plight in a way others haven't before or maybe not so well.

You won me over, sir.

I live in Canberra. If I can ever buy you dinner and have a conversation, I would be honoured.

Damana Madden - a black Darwin girl"

I'd give it 4 non-racist remarks out of 5.

Should I read this? If you get a chance, read this. As an Australian, you should.
What did I learn? There is a way to help our first people but it means giving them control over their life and not just participation in the process.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Leave it better than when you found it

I will always post too many quotes, too many pictures of cats doing cat things, too many shots of food as I make people wait to eat, too many posts of shoes and possibly too many photos of myself. You will hear my happiness most of the time but sometimes my sadness, my contemplation, my exasperation and my wonder. There will be inane questions and tipsy checkins. Maybe shallow ponderings and epics revelations. Some days I will make you cringe and other days I will make you smile.

Either way, this is me. We do this once. Just once. Really, only once. I shall do it my way. If you can live with that then... good. If not, so be it. I gave up on cool when I was 12 years old and have been happy ever since. Now, I just want to be kind to myself and those I care about. Let everything be what it is and be ok with that. Own my choices and their consequences. Live the best life I can while treading carefully.

That is me.

The Imagination of Readers

From a book I adore...

“After all, reading is arguably a far more creative and imaginative process than writing; when the reader creates emotion in their head, or the colors of the sky during the setting sun, or the smell of a warm summer’s breeze on their face, they should reserve as much praise for themselves as they do for the writer - perhaps more.”

- Jasper Fforde, The Well of Lost Plots

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Being Born a Woman

“Being born a woman is an awful tragedy. Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars—to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night.”

Sylvia Plath

Something Broke

At the beginning of August, I was mugged. Violently and viciously.

I sat on a cold hospital emergency department bed for six hours trying to stay awake as they observed my concussion. As a kid, I remember having a concussion but that isn't what I remember. It happened when I high-sided on a push bike. There was this almost eternal moment as my body flew over the handle bars and in to the concrete, face first. That's what I remember. Not the details of the concussion but the details of the accident that caused it.

The whole mugging thing was very different to that childhood bike accident. It is remembered the other way around.

Since the mugger ran up behind me, I had no idea that it was coming. There was no anticipation and the associated fear flashbacks that come with that. It happened so fast that even as he pushed me to my knees and slammed my face in to the ground, I didn't have time to put my hands out to stop myself. 

One second I was standing. The next I was wiping blood out of my eyes.

In the 20-30 seconds it took the first person to come to my aid, my emotions ran from shock to terror and then to anger. Not anger as I thought I had known once or twice in my life but an irrational overwhelming anger that made me scream, swear like  a potty mouth and attack my attacker.

I hope to never feel that level of anger ever again in my life. It was accompanied by thoughts including telling myself that if he was going to rape me that he would have to knock me unconscious and I would fight him until he knocked me out. Luckily, it didn't come to that.

Fighting him was not a rational or aware thought. It was fight or flight and I couldn't get up off the ground with him standing on my stomach and pulling at my bag. In my normal mind, I would have let him take it but in this case I used his holding the bag as leverage to kick the hell out of him.

The oddest part of all of this is that I feel mortal. I always have but now I feel a raw kind of mortal. And I don't want to die because someone else decides it or because I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time or because of some disease. I want to die when I choose to.

I have never felt more sure of anything before. No one chooses how I live and no one chooses how I die.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Divergent - Insurgent - Allegiant


Books 13, 14 and 15 of 2014 are the Divergent trilogy.

The first book is Divergent, which has recently been made in to a movie. The movie is a shallow interpretation of the book. The first book is both good and bad. It is not the original tale that everyone claims it is but more a mix of Hunger Games and Harry Potter.

It is however easy to read and very entertaining.

Unlike Katniss Everdeen, Tris (the main protagonist) is a little too caught up in teenage love and self absorbtion for me. She does improve rapidly in the second and third books though so it is worth persisting.

The second book of the trilogy, Insurgent is less about action and more about character development. I actually wish they'd taken the time for that in the first book. It worries me that people will not continue on through the whole story because the first book is a little shallow. The second book makes it worth it. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the middle book more than the first and last. I've only ever felt that with Lord of the Rings. Think Helm's Deep.

Then the third in the series, Allegiant made me sad and happy. Finally, a story that ends in a non-Hollywood way and concretes this as a possible stayer for years to come.

Without giving too much away, I will say that this series is worth reading. It is dystopian, aimed at teenagers and therefore easy to consume and a gripping plot to keep you engaged.

I'd give it 3.5 punches in the face out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. it is good fiction and entertaining.
What did I learn? "Since I was young, I have always known this: Life damages us, every one. We can't escape that damage. But now, I am also learning this: We can be mended. We mend each other."

Thursday, 28 August 2014

When Depressed, Don't Be Strong For Others



I was mugged at 10:30pm-ish on a Tuesday night. An ambulance took me to hospital. I spent 6 hours sitting on a bed being observed for concussion. Not allowed to sleep. Not up for bothering anyone to tell them I was there. Not overly fussed about anything other than my iPhone going flat. Gawd, it got boring.

At 4:30am, I was allowed to leave. Still an outpatient in ED meant that I didn't even need to sign any paperwork. Just called a taxi and went home.

When I arrived home just before 5am, I facebooked that I had been violently mugged and had only now returned home. Then I crashed. Exhausted, I fell in to a deep sleep fully unaware of how many people were panicking. 100+ missed called and 212 text messages greeted me when I awoke on Wednesday morning.

As I scrolled through the plethora of contact, the phone rang. I hit ignore. Another person called, I ignored that too. Then my sister called. A single thought ran through my mind... "she won't make this about her. I won't have to make her feel better about this having happened to me."

That summed up the entire morning. I didn't have the energy to make other people feel ok about me being mugged. I'm sure they were calling because they cared but they were also calling for themselves.

I didn't have the strength to tell them how ok I was. To tell them how I'd be ok. To not cry or let them hear the waver in my voice. I just couldn't give that at the time.

It reminded me of something. When you are going through things, some people will come to you to find out if you are ok but they want you to say yes you are. They want to hear that it will all be ok and mostly for themselves. They aren't selfish or mean. They just can't see passed what they feel to what you are going through.

When this happens, you have every right to choose not to give them anything. You are within your rights to not give them the little you have left to let them know you are ok. Don't answer the phone to everyone. Answer to at least one person who won't make it about them. They are a valuable friend because they won't take from you.

It is ok to give that energy you have to yourself.