Monday, March 22, 2010

You might wanna check that

An old friend of mine travelled to China once and brought back an ergonomically-unfriendly backpack stuffed with cheap market-bought goods.

It was a veritable goldmine of all that is craptastic, that backpack, and we spent hours pulling out all sorts of marvellous plastic treasures, from miniature stethoscopes to Zhu Zhu pets (perhaps better known as Go Go Hamsters, of course).

And while the cheap plastic novelty items gave us several minutes of entertainment, it was the cheap CDs I really wanted to get to. Ah China, before MP3 players and downloadable music changed the face of piracy forever, you were the motherland of knock-off CDs.

With great anticipation I took the first CD from the pile: Pink Floyd's The Wall, a two-disc set. Sure there was some separation of colours on the CD cover, and sure this particular set had two copies of disc one (but two copies is better than one, right?) but I still believed. I still believed that in the moments following the closing of the slot and the first fine spin of the disc (either one of the disc ones) I would hear, in all its Pink Floyd glory, track 1, 'In the Flesh?'.

Disc in.

Initial spin.


Track 1. "Oh my God what is this? Seriously what is this shit? Oh God don't tell me, no no no please don't be. Oh bloody hell! It is! Shit! This isn't Pink Floyd; it's the freakin' Beach Boys!"

There's nothing quite as disappointing as expecting something good and getting something shit. Pink Floyd = good; Beach Boys = shit.

Similarly, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde = good; The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, as retold by Jill Nevile (abridged) = shit.

This is all by long way of saying I grabbed what I thought was Wilde's Dorian Gray off the library shelf on Saturday but, failing to look at it properly managed to pick up Jill Nevile Does Dorian Gray instead.

And because I like to share, I thought I'd pass on a little something of both Wilde's and Nevile's work. First, Wilde:

The studio was filled with the rich odour of roses, and when the light summer wind stirred amidst the trees of the garden, there came through the open door the heavy scent of the lilac, or the more delicate perfume of the pink-flowering thorn.

From the corner of the divan of Persian saddle-bags on which he was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum, whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flamelike as theirs; and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore-silk curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of momentary Japanese effect, and making him think of those pallid, jade-faced painters of Tokyo who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. The sullen murmur of the bees shouldering their way through the long unmown grass, or circling with monotonous insistence round the dusty gilt horns of the straggling woodbine, seemed to make the stillness more oppressive. The dim roar of London was like the bourdon note of a distant organ.

Now, if you'll bear with me, the same passage under Nevile's reductive eye (it won't take long, trust me):
Through the open windows of the room came the rich scent of summer flowers. Lord Henry Wotton lay back in his chair and smoked his cigarette. Beyond the soft sounds of the garden he could just hear the noise of London.
The only good thing about this kind of pared down re-writing is that it only took me 23 minutes to read the whole 'novel'. Thank you, Ms Nevile; you left me with enough time on Saturday to listen to the whole Beach Boys Do Pink Floyd album. Fan-freakin'-tastic.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Well hello there

[I've got some thing-bits to do at the moment; sorry it's been so boring here (unless you just come by to read the comments, in which case we may all be in luck! Over to you, MCL, Ramon and Squibelline).

I'll be back next week, most likely Thursday, with a whole load of twaddle just ripe for twaddling. See you then.]

Monday, March 1, 2010

By any other name

Many a year ago I travelled around Europe with a friend. She was fond of expectations and had many; I was not fond of expectations and had none. While my responses to most places we visited ranged from mildly ambivalent to ecstatic, hers ranged from deeply, personally disappointed to reasonably satisfied.

I maintained during our long journey that it was better not to have expectations because being expectation-less left you free to experience something for how it appeared to you in the moment. She maintained the wrong, oops, I mean the opposite view. This made for many interesting hours in our very-tiny-close-proximity-oh-my-God-I-can-see-your-nose-hairs 1.2 litre Renault Clio (not to mention in our two-person tent).

The Renault Clio, seen here in relation to the equally minute and irascible common house fly, or Musca domestica.

So I've always thought I was foot-loose and expectation-free but I've started to realise, to my horror, that I do indeed have expectations and they're rather easily upset.

And how have these hideous expectations revealed themselves to me? Why through an innocuous little misnomer.

I recently bought a book for my son: The Dangerous Book for Boys. I expected practical suggestions for jail breaks and jewellery heists (or, more usefully, jewellery heists followed by jail breaks), for how to escape a grizzly bear by sawing off your leg then using said leg to hit said bear, and surviving in a post-apocalyptic (i.e. Liberal/Coalition) world. So dangerous + a pile of folios folded, assembled and glued + son (fun for).

What did I get when I opened The Dangerous Book for Boys (so newly purchased and so erroneously titled)? 'The Greatest Paper Plane in the World,' 'Understanding Grammar - Parts One, Two and Three,' and my favourite, 'Five Pen and Paper Games'. So lame + lame + lame.

I expected something good and realised I'd paid top clams for, well, 'Some Australian Trees' and 'Growing Sunflowers'.

So what did I learn from this foray into the world of expectations? That it really is better to be perennially mildly ambivalent than deeply, personally disappointed.