Sunday, August 29, 2010

Student Conferences

I'm a great fan of student conferences and we've had lots of involvement from students in the two small conferences I've helped to run (one on Harry Potter back in 2007 and one on vampires in 2008). So, this video, "How to get a lecture hall full of people to make Chewbacca sounds" ignited that enthusiasm once again. We are thinking of running a conference on female superheroes, but we still have some assessing to do of plans.

I went to see Joss Whedon's keynote at the Melbourne Writers Festival on Friday night and it was brilliant. There were Jayne hats in the audience, which always makes me glad, and a general buzz of enthusiasm and goodwill and Joss Whedon is a terrific speaker. I did like his advice to those who want a writing career: "Write." Best advice in the world. He also spoke to Buffy, Firefly, Dollhouse etc - of course - and mentioned in passing the possibility of writing a novel. I want Joss Whedon to write a novel. He was introduced as god, but did add that he didn't believe in himself.

Leading on from the Melbourne Writers Festival is AussieCon 4. It's a busy couple of weeks. Which may account for the especially illegible writing I've been committing lately on graded essays.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fairy Tale window shopping

When I spotted this cute, red vintage suitcase, I just hoped the little girl wasn't going to meet a wolf.

Friday, August 20, 2010

International Read Comics in Public day - August 28

This is the kind of day I can get behind! If only the new Fables volume was out in time.

And if you're still looking for things to mark your spot in a book with, here's some great printable bookmarks from Wild Olive (via You'll note there's even a bacon bookmark! Now, what were we saying about not leaving bacon and eggs in your books?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Misuse of the English Language

I wasn't taught grammar and spelling at school - well, other than the basics. I did learn about verbs and nouns and I participated in spelling tests. However, because I read a great deal, I developed strong writing skills and so, when the teacher would gather the class for an intensive session on grammar, I'd be sent to the back of the room with a good book. I was perceived as possessing good skills already. There was no need to meddle with that.

Not that I always employ good grammar. (Shhhhh.)

However, I am always amused by the insistence on right and wrong ways to use the English language. The history of the English language seems to suggest that right and wrong ways are always changing, always evolving, making any certainty uncertain at best.

I wish I was in London to catch the 'Evolving English' exhibition at the British Library. Mark Brown at the Guardian picked up on one of the great exhibits: "If u really r annoyed by the vocabulary of the text generation, then a new exhibition at the British Library should calm you down. It turns out they were doing it in the 19th century – only then they called it emblematic poetry, and it was considered terribly clever." I hesitate to provide this information to students in English Lit. Think of the potential chaos if they all start using text language on exams and insist they're really just being super clever and using 'emblematic poetry'.

I'm not even smiling a bit as I write that. (There is more to emblematic poetry than its similarity to a text message, in any case.)

I always find Jasper Fforde to be my favourite go-to-person for grammar and spelling related issues - I like the idea of Verbisoids, Noun Fish and Converiblators.

In the end, though, it is important to get the language right according to current standards. It's something we all learn as we pursue careers in English Literature. Understanding how language works and is utilised is part of our business.

Gratuitous Shoe Blog

I was admiring someone else's gratuitous shoe photo in my Twitter stream today and they were nice enough to direct me to the Rivers online shop to get myself a pair. Don't they look like fairy tale shoes?

And they're red, which, as anyone knows, is the key colour of fairy tale footwear. Many have pondered the significance of the red. Is it aristocratic? It's often associated with the nobility - Louis XIV delighted in high red heels. Is it sexual? It's often associated with female sexuality, in particular, and carries many a Freudian Slip-per (sorry, I groaned at that too). Or is it simply that there is something enticing about red shoes? Many friends confirm that wearing red shoes makes you happy and confident. And how many have read Andersen's 'The Red Shoes,' and yet come away wanting red shoes? Despite the fate of the red-shoe-loving heroine?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What Authors Write In Their Books

I just found a blog post about the selling of David Markson's library. Markson recently passed away and his collection of - often heavily notated - books was given to a bookstore to sell. As Alex Abramovich notes, this was a"shock, in part, because Markson’s work relied so heavily on other books". Needless to say, then, the notes he makes in those books provide potentially valuable insights into his own fiction. Now they're being sold rather randomly and scholarship may lose potential insights into his writer's mind altogether.

I discovered the blog post thanks to a Guardian blog by Sam Jordison. Once again, it goes to the topic of what happens now since you can't leave things in eBooks, but I liked the response of 'freepoland': "It is important to leave things in books [...] I leave bus tickets, cinema tickets, invitations, letters, ideas notes and all sorts; that way your book collection becomes a diary or set of random aide memoires. [...] I do draw the line at leaving a fried egg or bacon as bookmarks." I agree, egg and bacon may not be quite the things you should leave in books, although I think the odd pasta sauce stain can be found in some people's books. I'm not naming names.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fashion and Literature

I loved this slideshow of the best dressed in literature - although, seriously, how could they leave out Jane Austen's heroes and heroines? Or better yet, Georgette Heyer's nonesuches and nonpareils? Or, best by far, D'Aulnoy's Finette Cendron, who can reduce a Prince to a pining wreck of a man over her red velvet slipper embroidered in pearls?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Books that Animate

Last post I mentioned again the Alice App. This morning on boing boing, video from the Smithsonian of The Animated Circus Book.

I'd love to see more of these. In fact, there is a project in old books with movable parts and how readily they lend themselves to contemporary technology. After all, the movable parts aimed at imitating life, the very cornerstone of animation, which is what we see on film and now on applications like Alice. The medias are not in competition. They're striving for the same kind of effects.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Marking your place

After seeing a selection of fantastic bookmarks with noses and hound dogs (you can download a template here) via, I got to thinking about how we mark our place in a book.

This week , I took my iPad with the Alice App (which is brilliant - I'm particularly fond of the floating cupcake page) to Honours class. Since I was taking the iPad and felt a little lazy about also taking my well-thumbed copy of Through the Looking-Glass, I downloaded the free eBook and took that instead (the use of eBooks will be tricky in terms of citation and reference, though I have to admit that finding early editions of Jane Austen on Google Books is exciting and may alter how we consider scholarly editions). However, there was one catch. Each time there was something I wanted to refer to, I had no worn page, no aging post-it note, no penciled scribbling to go by. I was without the marks of my previous readings.

Apps on iPads and Kindles etc are catching up. There are apps so that you can highlight and notate pdf documents. There are bookmarks in iBook. Yet, how often do we find our favourite place in a book by feel - by touch, in effect? There will be spots along the spine where the construction of the book itself has become accustomed to being opened and has consequently adjusted itself. Or has simply fallen apart. I have a copy of Georgette Heyer's These Old Shades that has finally given up and reverted to a pile of loose pages and tattered cardboard covers. Yet, I won't give that copy up. It contains my first reading experience of Heyer. It's wrapped up in ribbon and still read.

Will the iPad contain our first reading experiences so well? Even with electronic bookmarks and highlighted passages?

I do enjoy the iPad, despite the splash a recent survey caused. It's easy to use, it makes it easier to read lots of pdf articles and to search through Google Books (incidentally, if you do need a page from a Google Book, you can always screen cap. and then print that image), and it's suitable for quick typing and watching downloaded videos. I'm a fan. I'm currently debating whether to download Chuck on the iPad for weekend viewing.

On a final note, the academic programme for AussieCon 4 is coming together and there are quite a few Monash names associated. It should be good!