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Blanket

So, my cousin got knocked up.

She’s married.  I didn’t really get her a present for her wedding, although I was a bridesmaid.  I was kind of pissed off about that.  I had to pay for my own dress.  $300-ish for a floor length lilac dress.  I am never going to wear that again.  Then in her thankyou note, she said:

… you, my only female cousin who I see as a sister, made the day all the more special… All my love.

I felt like an arsehole for being irritated by the dress and writing my name on the present my parents gave her.  So when she said she was knocked up, I thought it would be nice to crochet a blanket for her baby girl, who is expected this May.

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I thought I’d start it in January, so I’d have plenty of time to finish it.  Also I didn’t want to be stressing out mid-session at uni – trying to write essays and finish a blanket.

I started making it on the 8th of January.  These were the colours I picked.  My cousin’s favourite colour is aqua – it was hard to find colours that went with that.  But I sent her photo’s of a few options, to see what she thought.  This was her favourite combination.  I was a little concerned about the navy blue.

After I got home, I started crocheting like a demon possessed.  I liked this pattern, it was a join as you go granny pattern.

It grew really quickly.

Then I had to stop for a couple of days to write an essay for summer session.  After that I got back in to crocheting this speedy little speed blanket.

All of a sudden, the majority of the blanket was finished.  All that was left was to edge it and then the horrid task of stitching in all those little loose ends.  WORST PART OF BLANKET MAKING EVER!

But yesterday, in between reading and watching the  BBC’s Pride and Prejudice I finally finished it.  I made an entire blanket in less that a month.  Sometimes I really impress myself.  Like really impress myself.

It might even be the most impressive blanket I have ever made.  It is for a baby girl.  It is not pastel.  It is not pink.  Nobody else has this blanket.  I kind of like how it turned out.  I don’t think it is gender specific and I don’t care what anyone thinks. 

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Christmas is Coming! Humbug.

As usual, I’ve failed to write an awful lot of blogs, again.  Sorry. 

It has been a very busy year though.  Let’s talk about it a little…

First of all, it looks like I wont make my 50 book challenge again, no surprises there.  On the other hand, I did successfully complete my first year of university with a bucketful of credits and distinctions – so failing the 50 book challenge doesn’t feel like such a failure after all.  Woo!

Second, I almost finished making this sweater that I began and re-began many times.

My Nan who died just recently, the day after my final mid year exam to be exact.  The last conversation we had was how glad I was to be finished my first lot of exams.  The next day she was gone.  She was only 65.  Cancer.  She was however extremely impressed with my knitting and crochet skills, a little bit jealous of my tension even.  My Nan left me all her knitting things and a pretty sweet sewing machine, it has a bunny stitch.  Wish I could’ve shown her I finally nailed the above sweater though.  (I still need to knit the waistband though).  I also wish I could tell her I learned how to knit cables recently too.

Then I went New Zealand – It was

AWESOME.  I bungy jumped in Queenstown.  See!!

I am standing on the edge so long because it got quite windy, the man wouldn’t let me jump till it stopped.

While I was in New Zealand the Final Harry Potter film ever was released.  I saw it in Dunedin.  I didn’t pack much of a costume, because we had to lug wintery clothes all around New Zealand, so I wore this…

Not to mention I fell in love with New Zealand.  I want to live there.  Every little piece of it is beautiful.  Coming home was disappointing.

Then I went back to Uni.  My cat and I studied really, really hard.

And it paid off, which I mentioned before.  Credits and Distinctions!

He was one of the best study buddies I had, open to all the ideas I ran past him.  Although he did tend to fall asleep a lot, I guess he though Contemporary Australian Literature was boring.

And then all of a sudden it was the end of the year already and we were all ‘seriously? ‘what the actual f@$!?’  and I started Summer Session, taking a subject called Australian Literature for Young Readers.   Next week it’ll be Christmas.  But I don’t feel very Christmas-y this year.  I have made some snowflake decorations and made a cute little Christmas Stick.  But the joyful excitement has not shown up yet. 

My boyfriend also bought me the coolest bike ever, it is my Christmas present, but we got them in November.

I hope I find the Christmas cheer.  Missing my childhood.

Happy Holidays people of the world.

Dearest People of Earth,

I have been MIA for quite some time.  I wont lie to you and pretend I’ve been too busy to blog.  I have been busy, but truth be told, the reason I have not blogged in so long is the complete lack of motivation.  In other words, I am the laziest person alive.  I have these incredible ideas and aspirations, none of which I follow through.  This time around, I make no promises of a regular, weekly blog as I have aspired to deliver in the past.  This time, let us agree on sporadic entries to this bloggity blog of mine.  This time nobody will be let down. So let us begin again, with no prior expectations.

It is my second semester at university.  I also made a promise to myself, that I’d be more organised, that I’d remain on top of my readings.  I promised to be more like Hermione Granger.  I won the first and second weeks, I really did.  It is now the third and I good citizens of Earth, am not winning.  The unfortunate luck of drawing the shortest straw and having to present the first history presentation has set me very much behind.  This week, I am not on top.  This week, I am swamped, distraught and consumed by panic and nerves.  I need to get on top of this – by Thursday. 

Now for the most important thing that happened today.  This very morning, whilst eating vegemite on toast, on my comfy couch, reading articles about the French Revolution, there was a knock on my front door.  It is highly unusual for there to be a knocking on my door before 9’o’clock in the morning.  So in my pyjamas I trudged to the door, still slightly tired.  I proceeded to open the door and to my astonishment, good citizens of earth, there was nobody there.  My efforts were not in vain, there was a package resting against my screen door.  It was a shiny USPS package.  Which could mean only one thing.  It was at this point that I proceeded to lose my sh*t.  It had finally arrived.  LOOK!

I skimmed through the pages, knowing that I could not fully dive in, to the stories and moments of fellow Harry Potter fans.  Because unfortunately I, attempting to be more like Hermione Granger, was to spend the day studying my head off.  (not very successfully, mind you.)

On to craftier things.  Look what else I got this week!  Guess what these delightful balls of yarn are going to be!!!! 

Also this one below is a sneak peek for Stephanie Pellegrin this is the super top secret pink awesomeness that I am creating for her loveliness.  Crocheted goodness, just like Molly Weasley intended.

Anyway sweethearts, I have to go get ready for work.  TTFN! (Ta Ta For Now)

Looking For Alaska

So I reviewed this a while ago.

*CONTAINS EPIC SPOILERS*

Looking for Alaska a brilliantly thoughtful debut novel by young American author John Green, it is a novel about teenagers; it discusses what they are really thinking and asking. It has been labelled ‘controversial’ by a society in denial, a society that does not want to hear what teens actually think and feel. One of the main recurring themes in the novel is overcoming suffering. In the following paragraphs I will discuss the author’s use of method, structure, tone, characterisation and figurative language.

The story begins One Hundred and Thirty-six Days Before; we meet the protagonist Miles Halter (aka Pudge, it’s funny because he’s skinny) a quirky teen so disconnected from other people that out of “social necessity” he sits with “a ragtag bunch of drama people and English geeks.” After his mother throws him a birthday party and nobody shows up he convinces his parents to let him go to Culver Creek, a boarding school his father attended. Thus begins his journey in search of “A Great Perhaps”.

Miles delivers a thoughtful first person narrative about the lives of teenagers, unlike The Catcher in The Rye’s; Holden Caulfield, Miles Halter is not full of shit and he has a bitter-sweet reflective story to narrate.

‘But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane.’ –pg109

Looking for Alaska is broken into two distinct halves; before and after. The novel being structured this way is very engaging to a reader. These distinct halves revolve entirely around a life altering event toward the end of the book.
The first half of the book is quite light hearted, the main characters Miles, Colonel, Takumi and Lara are all getting to know each other and developing friendships, most of which revolve around larger than life character Alaska; a ‘clever, funny, self-destructive and dead sexy’ girl.
Together they plan massive pranks on the schools headmaster (the Eagle) and generally cause mayhem. They sneak off to smoke a thousand cigarettes, they get drunk, they beat box and get philosophical.
Then that pivotal life changing tragedy occurs and the novel takes a sad, disheartening tone as Pudge & Co. become disconnected amongst themselves as they try to deal with all the feelings heaved upon them.
Pudge withdraws into himself as he is completely overwhelmed. But as he and his friends keep moving and grieving and trying to understand the meaning of certain experiences. Pudge learns to appreciate those who are still with him rather than losing them too.
I believe that the novel ended with a hopeful positive tone, where Pudge gains a deeper understanding of life, love, true friends and self confidence.

‘We met and I held him, my hands balled into tight fists around his shoulders, and he wrapped his short arms around me and squeezed so tight so that I felt the heaves of his chest as we realised over and over again that we were still alive. I realised it in waves and we held on to each other crying and I thought, God we must look so lame, but it doesn’t matter much when you have just now realised, all the time later, that you are still alive.’ – pg254

Another factor, contributing to the success of this novel is the dynamically real cast of characters, which John Green has expertly created. Each character is so realistically quirky and all are from surprisingly different backgrounds. The most amazing thing about these characters is that nothing is unbelievable; they could all be actual people. For example;

Miles ‘Pudge’ Halter is tall, skinny and disconnected from people his age (at the beginning of the novel) ‘I never really excelled at small talk.’ He is fascinated by the last words of famous dead people.
Alaska Young is a wild, mysterious, self destructive girl who has a ridiculously large collection of books called her life library, she is continually adding to the pile in hope of reading them all when she is old and has nothing better to do.
Chip ‘The Colonel’ Martin is Pudge’s roommate, his father was an abusive alcoholic and his mother raised him alone in a trailer. He is a disadvantaged student on a scholarship program. He is obsessed with loyalty and honor.
Takumi Hikohito is a Japanese American who is always rapping with wicked slick rhymes randomly. One of the funniest things involving Takumi is the fox hat.

“What the hell is that?” I laughed.
“It’s my fox hat.”
“Your fox hat?”
“Yeah, Pudge. My fox hat.”
“Why are you wearing your fox hat?” I asked.
“Because no one can catch the motherfucking fox.”

Lara Buterskaya a Romanian student who has a brief stint at being Pudge’s girlfriend. A very memorable ‘blow job’

Looking for Alaska is also filled with figurative language, beautiful metaphors ‘if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane’ and countless literary allusions all interwoven thought out the text. For example the Colonels exclamation‘God I understand whale anatomy. Can we move on now Herman?’
The two most recurring allusions in the novel are Francois Rabelais’- ‘The Great Perhaps’ and Simón Bolívar’s –‘How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?’ Both of these literary allusions make the reader question the motivation of the characters and the meaning of their own lives throughout the book.

Looking for Alaska is an important novel as it deals with many issues youth of today must face. It is an inspired piece about overcoming suffering and grief about friendship and loss and choices we must inevitably make. It is about discovering who we are and who we can become. It is hilariously funny and heartbreakingly sad.

In the words of Pudge ‘After all this time, it still seems to me like straight and fast is the only way out – but I choose the labyrinth. The labyrinth blows, but I choose it.’

Something Different.

I had to write this review for ‘Apocalypse Now’ for class.  I hope you like my observations.

Apocalypse Now

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Francis Ford Coppola’s controversial 1979 psychedelic reverie Apocalypse Now set amidst the horrific jungle of madness – the Vietnam War successfully presents the ‘conflict in every human heart… showing that good does not always triumph.Critics fail to realise that Coppola’s intention was to use the Vietnam War as a backdrop to explore identity and moral corruption. He intended to make ‘a film experience that would give its audience a sense of the horror, the madness, the sensuousness, and the moral dilemma… I wanted to go further, to the moral issues that are behind all wars’ (Hagen 1993, p230) and he has. Apocalypse Now is a surreal nightmare, delving into the hearts of morally conflicted men, a psychotic overload to the senses with a provocative anti-establishmentarian undertone.

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Apocalypse Now begins with an extraordinary juxtaposition, a cinematographically rich montage of explosives and iconic imagery representing the war in Vietnam. A stunning visual cataclysm superimposed over Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) conveying a man at war within himself. Kauffman argues that ‘the film falls short of what it might have been’ (Kauffmann, 2001) because of casting choices. Coppola’s first Willard was to be played by Harvey Keitel but after a few weeks of shooting, Coppola was ‘disappointed by Keitel’s characterisation of Willard, because ‘he found it difficult to play him as a passive onlooker.’ (Kauffmann, 2001)’ Even after firing Keitel and hiring Sheen to play Willard, critics still argue that Coppola’s lead character (Sheen) had a performance that was ‘pallid and flat’. (Kauffmann, 2001) This is a statement hardly credible after witnessing the convincing opening sequence of the film where Willard (Sheen) is a man lost, consumed by darkness and severely intoxicated.

Coppola uses soundtrack brilliantly thought-out the film and here ‘The End’ by The Doors provides and ethereal dark poetic soundscape as Willard drowns himself with alcohol, establishing him as a heavily conflicted character and hinting at the films impending descent into the surreal. ‘Kinder analyses the scene to show its importance in defining important structural elements for the whole film: the subjective point of view, a surrealistic or dream-like war, a dispassionate voice-over narration, a mad ritual of violence, and simultaneous layers of experience that tend to dissolve into obsessive images of heads, helicopters, fire and smoke.’ (Hagen, 1997, p. 233)

After this chaotic scene Willard is visited by two soldiers who escort him to a meeting with General Corman. Willard is played a voice recording of Walter E Kurtz (Marlon Brandon) an officer with a brilliant career who was to be arrested for murder. Willard is assigned a top secret mission to travel up the Do Lung River to Cambodia to assassinate Kurtz. Willard is mesmerised by the voice of Kurtz on the tape, ‘I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That’s my dream. That’s my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight razor, and surviving.’ Willard’s voice over reveals an increasing fascination with Kurtz and this builds tension as it becomes obvious that he is starting to understand and admire him and will be reluctant to complete his mission.

Willard now finds himself aboard The Chief’s (Albert Hall) boat a Navy PBR with a crew of several vital characters who greatly enrich the story of life on the boat, each vividly representing a different stereotype. ‘The crew was mostly just kids, rock and rollers with one foot in their graves’, Jay ‘Chef’ Hicks (Frederic Forrest) a man wrapped to tight for Vietnam, Lance B. Johnson (Sam Bottoms) a famous surfer from the beaches of southern LA and Tyrone ‘Clean, Mr Clean’ Miller (Lawrence Fishburne) a seventeen year old from some ‘South Bronx shithole’. These characters contribute greatly to the success of the film as most of the film is seen through the eyes of Willard and is mostly internal monologue developed though the voice-over.

Hagen Suggests ‘Satirical elements often sit uneasily with the realistic ones due to Coppola’s anti-documentary intent’ ( Hagen, 1993) and this is evident in the Kilgore sequence, as the crew arrives on a beach, with the sound of B-52 strikes in the distance, the sky an orange hazy blur and from the beach the distinct sound of chaos. Willard and the crew disembark and find themselves faced by a legion of fanatical film journalists one of whom is played by Coppola himself, urging them not to look at the cameras and to continue as normal.

Amidst the chaotic scene the infamous Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall) descends from a roiling black mess of clouds in a helicopter with ‘Death From Above’ emblazoned in red on its nose. Kilgore a man in his element then prances about the carnage with a deck of cards almost gleefully dealing them to corpses, acting gallantly toward a Viet Cong holding his guts in with a ‘pot lid’ until he notices Lance Johnson and anything remotely warlike is forgotten as the conversation turns to surfing. A cow is airlifted from the scene and a priest is giving a holy communion are images that convey the surreal nature of the experience.

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After discussing the mission, Kilgore is to escort the crew to Do Lung Delta. Coppola and crew have quite possibly orchestrated one of the most magnificent cinematographic moments in film history. Helicopters in perfect formation resembling a lethal swarm, descend upon what seems to be an innocent village – school children dressed in white, farmers and peasants going about their lives, all to the sounds of Wagner’s ‘Ride Of The Valkyries’ as their village is annihilated by the Americans. This is followed shortly after with Kilgore crouched on the beach and the memorable exclamation “You smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning… Smelled like – victory.’ He then laments ‘Someday this war is gonna end’ Coppola has given us insight in to the mentality of the warmonger.

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Apart from the stunning cinematography and an intensely deep screenplay, the film as Kauffman suggests ‘falls short of what it might have been’ (Kauffman, 2001, p.23). Kauffman thought this largely due to the casting of Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando both of whom he felt were disappointing, but in retrospect it may have been the restraints and pressures put upon Coppola to finish the movie. His film was an incredible fifteen million dollars over budget and he had even mortgaged his own personal property as a guarantee to the films distribution company United Artists, so he could complete the film.

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Despite what some critics say about Apocalypse Now, if Coppola had the available time to fully realise his film it would have been undoubtedly a masterpiece. The film presented is visually stunning and extremely thought provoking, perhaps had it been released in a society where people could see beyond the Vietnam facade, they would see the underlying story of moral corruption in humanity.