Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review: The Wild Things by Dave Eggers

In 1963, writer and illustrator Maurice Sendak made a splash in the world of children’s literacy with his now famous book Where the Wild Things Are. It spoke of Max, a little boy with a penchant for adventure, and his time as king of the Wild Things. 

The thirty-seven page book, filled with superb illustration, had something special. Recognised as an outstanding work, it won the Caldecott Medal for the Most Distinguished Picture Book of the Year. The simplicity of the metaphors encased in the story; the Wild Things, the island they live on, Max’s long, long journey, mean they require no explanation but provoke deep thought. They allowed Sendak to gently shed some light on the experience of boyhood and childhood, in a way that didn’t conform to the cheerful and expected portrayal of ‘Tom, Dick and Harry’ fooling around with birds’ nests and drinking milk. Max is a "naughty" kid, the kind that cause mothers to tear their hair and fathers to raise their voices, teachers to shake their heads, sigh and wonder what can be done. He is full of energy, insatiably curious, loud and scarily imaginative. He is courageous, but he is also very scared. He is, as his mother shouts, a wild thing. 

Where the Wild Things Are has been dearly loved by children and adults for over fifty years. In 2009 a film adaption was released, much to the terror and excitement of fans worldwide. The film was directed by Spike Jonze, who worked on writing the screenplay with Dave Eggers for five years. Eggers then went on (at the request of Maurice Sendak) to turn the story they had taken and expanded into a novel, and as such the novel The Wild Things was published in 2009.

Trepidation is always present when a much loved story is taken and re-worked, but when it is done with as much care, love and gentleness as Eggers has committed to this book, there is comfort. From the very first page, it is clear that Eggers understands not only what Sendak was trying to achieve with the original picture book, but understands children and how different their world is from adults’. The novel retains the level of simplicity that made the initial story so easily resonant and the metaphors still speak loudly. 

The characters of The Wild Things are beautifully and wholly created, both humans and wild things are endearingly and heartbreakingly realistic. Their character triumphs and flaws, as pointed out through the eyes of a child, are refreshing to read, their intricacies making them utterly believable. 

The star of the show, Max, is a character created with as much depth and understanding as you would find in any great literacy. Eggers knows this boy, it is clear, and empathy with his plight seeps through. It is Max which allows, almost demands, for a re-working of the story to be produced fifty years on, because the story of the struggling, tumbling little boy is becoming increasingly crucial to be told. As the blurb says, “Seven-year-old Max likes to make noise, get dirty, ride his bike without a helmet and how like a wolf. In any other era, he would be considered a boy. In 2007, he is considered wilful and deranged.”

I enjoyed reading The Wild Things more than any other book I’ve read for a long time. I have not yet seen the film, but it is definitely now on my top list of things to watch. What Maurice Sendak, Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze are trying to do for children with this story is important and relevant, and while they’re all great tales for children, it is adults who need to pay attention to the wild things. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On Diarying and Journaling

April 8 2009

"Today I inherited a free hat stand from the theatre. This is awesome. Gonna name it Helga."

When I was a little girl, all I wanted was to be able to keep a secret diary, with a lock and key, and write all my simple little thoughts down on the pages every night. I imagined that I would fill hundreds of little books over my lifetimes with adventures and friendships and family and romances and that one day in the future grown up me would look back and chuckle fondly recalling a wonderful lifetime of memories. As a little girl, I lacked the perspective needed to recognise how time consuming keeping such a diary could be and how humiliating reading one from the past might, in fact, prove. 

During my somewhat still brief life, I’ve failed multiple times at keeping a diary full time. I’ve tried, and sometimes for weeks succeeded, but the discomfort of writing in bed combined with the sleepiness associated with nightly diary time wore me down, and the scrawled recording would cease. I could have chosen to write in the mornings, or at my desk, but in my child-mind’s eye I had always imaged scribbling away in my diary under lamplight, propped up by fluffy pillows and hidden under blankets, and this dream became an all or nothing issue. 

March 14 2009

“Oh. My. God. So I stopped writing to check out Aleisha’s hot guy. She's right. He's hot.” 

Despite my past difficulties with the activity, though, I think that some form of dairying or journaling or scrapbooking is an important and useful activity in life. Having a record of what you were doing or feeling at a specific time in the past can be interesting, if not useful. Being able to recall memories and stories in detail is a precious thing, especially if we want to share these with others. But it’s not all about recording for the future.

It is common knowledge that mediation, prayer or reflection is espoused as a very beneficial practice by almost all religions and spiritual practices. Meditative practices are also becoming a more prominent form of treatment for mental illnesses, stress and fatigue as well as being recommended to aid general health and well being. Diarying or journaling can easily be used as a form of such reflection and meditation. The act of writing down thoughts and memories, listing feelings and asking questions can help allow the mind to empty and the writer to become more centred. 

August 8 2008

“Today I woke up with no pants on and my shirt all twisty. If I was a less vigorous sleeper I’d be concerned. Welcome to August everybody.” 

I once joked with a friend that my diaries are all filled with only accounts of the very good or very bad moments of my life, and for an outsider reading them it would seem that I had lived in some sort of soap opera. I used to think of this as a sort of weakness, that I could only force myself to record the exciting moments of my life, but was less bothered with the ordinary parts. I think, though, that really this was me naturally finding a way to unload my mind when it was too full, too hyped and crowded to see clearly. I remember in both the positive and negative cases always feeling more distant from the events I had recounted on paper, able to go on with a clearer perspective and not get too caught up in life right then. 

January 2 2001

“Dear Diary, I tried to ring Sharmaine today but she wasn’t home. I’ll try again tomorrow. Mum said she can come over. My minds [sic] blank. Lauren.” 

The diary excerpts throughout this post are from diaries of mine from the last couple of years. They’re all pretty innocuous snippets of my life generally as a teenager, but when I came across them when researching they made me laugh. Why had I chosen to record these things? Were these really the big issues of my existence at the time? Probably not (and believe me, there were lots of angsty, ‘big issue’ type entries that I’ve left out) but I’m glad I wrote them down. These little bits of writing make me smile and immediately spark strings of memories that are all my own. They remind me that in a few years everything will be different again, and that I shouldn’t get too caught up in stress and problems.

January 13 2009
"I totally went running this morning. For four minutes. Ouch. My side muscles, of all muscles, are in all kinds of pain. I don’t think I’ll ever run again.” 

I could write all day about this topic, really, I’m just getting started here. But I think I’ll save the rest for another post. For now, my advice on journaling or diarying or whatever you’d like to call it – 

- Don’t force it. Write what you want, when you want. It, like everything else, is not all that matters in life.
- Keep it private. It will be more special that way, and you won’t worry about writing for an audience.
- Practise being honest. Try being honest with yourself, and realise how often you may not be, and see if this practice helps.
- Re-read it, burn it, burying it in a time capsule or do whatever you want with it. I honestly think the most beneficial part of diarying is the writing and getting it all out, but I like to keep mine around to laugh at and use for blog post material. 

October 5 2009

“I have a dilemma…I’m really not sure what to do. I can’t decide which job I should take when I move in November. I got the Santa’s Helper job, that’s definite, but it’s probably going to be very little money would end right after Christmas, and I’ll have rent to pay. And do I really want to be a Santa’s Helper? You don’t even get to be an elf and wear an awesome elf costume, you’re just a helper in a polo shirt. Lame. 

Reading David Sedaris’ Holidays On Ice story about being a Christmas elf does not help at all, either, even though it’s hilarious, it doesn’t make one want to be an elf in the slightest. And anyway, I’m not David Sedaris. I think it would be different being an elf if I was David Sedaris.”

 All the pretty pictures found on We Heart It. Click each for source link. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Things We Love Thursday

Amazing illustrations from Brooke Weeber are also something we love!

Ell-Leigh Loves:

Harry Potter. More on that later.

Seeing Old Friends and being incredibly social all week: since last thursday, I've only had one night that I haven't spent doing something exciting with peeps over at my place or partying and doing exciting things in town.

Lauren Loves: 

Harry Potter - obviously. Very little else has been going on in my head this week except for harrypotterharrypotterharrypotterharrypotterHARRYPOTTER. It's been a particularly productive time.

This photo - from when Sophie and I went iceskating. Even though I was really bad at it and fell and hurt myself, it was such a fun evening. I found the photo on my camera when I was looking at the photos from Harry Potter, and I love how happy and wintery we both look.

This video:
which is ridiculous and makes me laugh. You should watch it after going to a mid-week midnight screening and eating an incredible amount of sugar (everything in this post is connected to Harry Potter, by the way).

Did Something Big Just Happen?

Yesterday morning, at about 2:30am, Ell-Leigh, I and a group of our friends were stopped mid-stumble on the way out of a cinema by a overwhelmingly arrogant and not-so-talented camera man, intent on having us captured in our somehow sleepy yet over-excited states forever.

Ell-Leigh and our friend Jazz had enough wits about them to make tracks fast, the rest of us hung around, gave appalling and hilarious interviews, before wearily heading home. What had us out so late, our feather covered selves drawing the attention of news crews?

Why it was the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 2 premiere of course! Having never gone to one of the midnight screenings in the past, I was determined to attend this year and not miss my final chance to show my loyalty to a brilliant series.

Since booking our tickets a few months ago we have been making plans for costumes, researching butterbeer recipes, re-reading books and losing it over trailers. It felt like we were a part of something big, knowing that so many fans were doing the same across the world, and were comforted know that they shared the bitter-sweet feeling we had about the ending of such a large part of our growing up.

Being friends with a brilliant costume maker has it's benefits, and while I had to fight off a bit of self conciousness (I was...quite extravagently dressed: see photos), I loved the Hedwig costume Sophie (the Hippogriff) put together for me. Together out group consisting of Harry (of course), a Thestral, a Hippogriff, Hedwig, Snape and Luna Lovegood couldn't help but feeling a tiny bit pleased with ourselves as other fans asked to pose with us for photos and cinema staff gave us complete poster sets as prizes.

The movie itself, as you might know, was pretty wonderful. My staying awake throughout the whole thing after midnight is a pretty telling testament to that fact. We saw part 1 at a showing earlier in the night, something I highly reccommend, and I thought the two halves complemented each other perfectly.

After a few tears, a LOT of sugar and caffiene, well deserved cheering and a couple of rounds of 'Snape, Snape, Serverus Snape DUMBLEDOR', we were ready to head home. The crazy journalist, though, had other ideas, demanding our interviews (who could resist such costumes?) which were honestly pretty terrible (the main part which made the news had Sophie delighting in 'seeing Harry Potter naked!' as the best part of the whole movie). If I can find the footage, I'll post it up, though I think we'd all prefer to obliviate that part of our memory for the evening (one and only corny Harry Potter reference COMPLETED).

It was a pretty amazing evening, and as I sit here polishing off the left over lollies, I'm pretty glad I went, even if my sleep patters are ruined.

More on Harry Potter to come tomorrow...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Fun Day.

Things that are awesome:

Art vs Science
On saturday, Lauren, her sister, our friend Jas and I hit the Valley to see Art vs Science. It was an incredible show. Their music is brilliant and fun and live they really created an amazing atmosphere - I literally spent the majority of the gig with a gigantic grin on my face. When we went out to "The Official Afterparty" the DJs played some really great music to dance to and we partied down til the early hours of the morning.

Game of Thrones 
Started watching on saturday. Am watching final episode of the first season now - talk about intense! Such a brilliant tv show, and so many brilliant story twists, so many incredibly crafted characters, so many attractive actors and actresses. Needless to say, to anyone who has seen it, the famous 10min video of Joffery being slapped is entirely necessary viewing right now.

Garlic Na'an Bread
Ah-mazing. I've only recently started to eat Indian take-away, and I have to say, I'm a totally in food-love with garlic na'an, especially when it's warm on a cold winter night!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Just This Week

This Week I’ve Done:

No washing.

Little cleaning.

Lots and lots and lots of work.

New goals.

A little bit of tax (I love doing my tax. It’s so satisfying. Honestly. Hoorah for tax time!).

Some baking: Spinach, Parmesan and Thyme Muffins.

Some arty-ness: Amazing exhibition of Burmese works.



This Week I’ve Eaten:




Many ice creams.


Many Spinach, Parmesan and Thyme Muffins.


This Week I’ve Seen:

Pulp Fiction. Well almost…I slept through the end.

Inglorious Bastards. Well almost…I also slept through the end…

She’s All That – Blast from the past of awesomeness much?



This Week I’ve Learnt That:

The more you need to call someone the higher the chances are that they won’t be at home.

Leaving muffins under the grill and then forgetting them and leaving the room ruins the muffins. Every time.

The harder you work at work the easier it seems to stay at work.

Punctuality isn’t always appreciated, and some people just won’t know what to do with you when you turn up on time.

Ironing is not my strongest point.

This Week I’ve Been:

Pretty hungry.

Pretty sleepy.

Pretty happy.

Pretty stretchy.

This week, I’ve decided to get a bit real, look at where I’m at and decide where I need to be heading. It’s time for perspective and plans.

What have you done this week?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How To Do More Of That Thing You Love

Source: FFFFound (via Sleevelessness)
So you have a passion. You love baking, or photography, or writing, but you never seem to do it. Between your day job, chores, friends and the odd at home facial, there barely seems enough time in the day to do That Thing You Love. You’ve even gotten to the point where although it’s still at the top of your “Interests” list on your Facebook page, you haven’t done this thing in such a long time that you’ve mentally downgraded it from “passion” to “hobby”. It’s just one of those things that you were once exceptionally talented at and loved doing beyond all else that you just don’t do anymore.

Ring a bell? It does here. While caught up in the whirlwind of a new job and working on this website, I hadn’t done any scriptwriting or video work in such a long time that when I did eventually get around to making something, I skipped about my apartment because I’d forgotten how much I’d loved it. Final Cut Express was the old faithful stuffed animal that got shunned for the shiny new toys I’d gotten over Christmas that was suddenly rediscovered and it renewed the elation of playing with it… Well maybe until it crashed and I hadn’t saved in a while... But that’s final cut for you. And, you get the gist.

Source: FFFFound (via Sleevelessness)
So here are some tips I’ve found to help you do more of what you love:

Find a way to make it important. Say you love photography – instead of promising to make time for it and then reneging on that promise frequently, tie it into something that you will actually do. For instance, say your Mum’s birthday was coming up – perhaps you could get your family together to take some great photos to put into a scrapbook as a present. Or you could take some photograph restoration courses and restore some of her favourite photos that have faded or a simply old and tattered. Similarly, if you make writing on your blog a priority, and you love film and editing, make a video for your blog.

Make a habit of it. This is where I like to use my “21 Days to Change a Habit” stationary from Kikki K. Do that thing you love everyday for 21 days, and it’s said that you should have by then made that thing into a daily habit. So, say I wanted to hone in on my writing, I would challenge myself to write every day for a week (yes, even weekends) and when I get to the final day of my week I would reward myself with something, like a trip to Video Ezy or a block of Raw Dark Chocolate. This trick also works if for flossing.

Make Your Passion Easier To Do. You love painting – but every time you do it you have to clean your brushes and pack everything away and sometimes it’s just easier to roll over and die. Yes. It sucks. So perhaps you could try to make it easier for yourself. Instead of getting out your paints, perhaps you could simply sketch, or try using a drawing tablet with a program like Photoshop. You like photography, but hate carrying around your giant expensive camera bag? Perhaps you could experiment with the camera on your phone instead. Trying new mediums can help to broaden your artistic horizons and make your work in your original medium better. And hey, if you don’t like it, just switch back.

Do That Thing You Love With Your Friends. You love baking? Well I bet your friends will love you baking too. Or Snorkelling? Well, I bet you have at least one friend who would jump at the chance to spend a day at the beach with you. Or photography? Throw a picnic and invite your friends to dress up in vintage wear and get snapping. Love baking, snorkelling and photography? Combine all of the previous for a delicious vintage picnic photo shoot at the beach. Involving someone else means that you commit time to That Thing You Love and it’s a lot harder to wriggle your way out of. If your friends are obliging, it can be the quickest way to get out of your Thing-You-Love-less rut and before you know it you’ve fallen back in love with That Thing You Love once again.

Good Luck!
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