Posts Tagged ‘book’

Hypersensitive

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015

A book about running has just made me cry.

For my birthday, my cousin (and fellow marathoner) Kate gave me the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. She had been telling me to read it for months as it discusses the art of running in its most natural form.

In very basic terms, the book is written by an American sports writer who goes in search of the ultimate runners – the Tarahumara Indians, a tribe in central America who run everywhere. It looks at what it takes to be a long distance runner and to be able to push your body through ridiculous physical feats such as ultra marathons and 100 mile trail runs.

This morning I finished one of the final chapters where they have just completed an obscenely difficult race through the heart of the Copper Canyons in Mexico and it brought tears to my eyes. Absolutely ridiculous – why on earth am I crying about running? Probably for the same reason that I get a bit teary when I finish a marathon – the feeling of completion, of having pushed your mind and body across a threshold that you’re not sure you can reach and the community spirit of people cheering you on as you do so.

I have been thinking a lot about my running style lately and have been trying to incorporate some of the physical and mental techniques mentioned in the book, and maybe it is just coincidental but I have cut my morning run time by 2 minutes. I had thought that three marathons would be enough, but I now know I have to sign up for another. Anyone want to join me?

A Touch of Poetry

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

I have never been a huge reader of poetry, mostly due to the overbearing nature in which poems were forced upon me at High School. Plus I often find the use of language in poetry to be over the top and trying too be more impressive than it really is. I feel I should read more poetry because that’s what literary people do but every time I try I give up quickly. Unless they are Spike Milligan nonsense poems which I can devour en masse.

So imagine my surprise and pleasure at the fact that I have just spent part of my evening curled up on my couch reading poems written by young West Australian poet, Zoe Taylor. I met Zoe at Curtin University when, as a graduate, I agreed to be her ‘mentor’ as she was studying the degree that I had completed. I wasn’t much of a mentor and mostly encouraged Zoe to just have fun and consider travelling. But I do like to feel somewhat responsible for the fact that she is now a far more accomplished writer than me and that her name is on a published book.

Stroke by Zoe Taylor

Stroke by Zoe Taylor

Ok it isn’t me at all – Zoe has a natural talent for writing and her poems are short bursts of youthful insight into life, love and death. The overall maturity of her writing solidifies her punchy and engaging voice, each poem drawing you into the story. I felt my skin react to the horrifying outcome of a son finding his father dead in Stroke, fell in love with the lustful romance between Abel and Ruth, and felt a strong connection with the failed affair of Y = X. What amazed me most was how engaged I felt with each of Zoe’s poems and my desire to read on further. I was always going to read them, but I was overwhelmingly impressed at how beautiful Zoe’s writing is.

Zoe was selected to be part of the New Voices mentorship program and you can purchase her book, Stroke, from Express Media and I believe some bookshops.

Thank Goodness That’s Over

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

On the 14 April of this year, I set myself 108 challenges. I never really completed all of them – in fact, I didn’t even think of enough challenges to reach the 108. However, one of the challenges that I did set myself was to read Anna Karenina. Over recent years I have been trying to read some of the ‘classics’ that get thrown into intellectual conversations and that I feel I should know about. Anna Karenina was one of those and the sheer size of the tome just added another impressive aspect to the challenge.  So one day in April, I started reading it.

THE BOOK.

THE BOOK.

At 1am this morning as I tried to read myself to sleep, I finished it. The sheer happiness of having finally read the last words of Tolstoy’s book almost made me jump out of bed and head out into Manchester to celebrate. I wish I could say that I was profoundly moved by the ending and that I feel like I have learnt from the literary expertise of the great Russian writer. But I would be lying. I thoroughly enjoyed the first third of the book – it was like a soap opera with characters having affairs, falling in and out of love and bitching about each other. But then it turned into a long story about Russian farming practices and aristocracy. New characters randomly appeared (or perhaps they had been mentioned before but their very similar names made them hard to distinguish) and the general flow of the book changed from being a little bit racy to just plain dull. I’m probably not supposed to say that about this book. I am supposed to say that it was profound and skilful and I wish I could write like that. But the one thing that I did learn from reading it was: Less is more.

I have a strangely vivid memory of watching an episode of Oprah during my university years and Anna Karenina was the book for that month’s Oprah’s BookClub. Oprah openly admitted that she hadn’t been able to finish it. Hence my determination to at least read the book to the last page. Oprah may be richer and more popular than me, but I read Anna Karenina to the end and she didn’t. WIN.

Published Again!

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

About six months ago, I responded to a call out from Chronicle Books to submit Instagram photographs for a book they were publishing. I didn’t expect anything from it but decided to take the “Be in it to win it” attitude. I hadn’t received any sort of confirmation from the publishers so presumed I hadn’t been accepted.

At the time of submission, I was about to move from Paris to Manchester and had no fixed address so I gave them my brother’s bakery address. So neither of us were really expecting a parcel addressed to me to arrive at his shop. Inside the mysterious package were two copies of This Is Happening, featuring one of my photographs.

Now I'm a published photographer!

Now I’m a published photographer!

I am particularly thrilled to have my photograph printed in a book produced by one of my favourite publishing companies. Now I wonder if they would like my book about Paris…

World Book Night

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Yesterday was World Book Night – an event coinciding with the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death where throughout the US, UK and Ireland people hand out free books to be read and shared. I was sitting at the café at the Cornerhouse yesterday afternoon, attempting to write, when two girls came up and asked if I would like a book. But of course! The book was Jackie Kay’s Red Dust Road and I was instructed that I should read it and pass it on to someone else. There is a tracking code within the book so I can watch its movements.

Hooray for World Book Night!

Hooray for World Book Night!

It was a delightful surprise as I had heard murmurs of this event via various social media throughout the day but wasn’t really sure what it was. Being suddenly part of it was fantastic and I look forward to reading my book. I just have to get through Anna Karenina first.

The Next Challenge

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Ok, I’ve done a marathon. Tick. Now I need to publish a book. That is significantly more daunting than running 42 kilometres and so today I came up with a genius idea which is either stupid and will just die out or brilliant and will actually work. I am hoping for the latter.

I am going to think of 108 ‘challenges’ or ‘tasks’ that I need to complete over the next 108 days, one of which is “Finish writing my book.” So on 31 July, I will have a final draft that will have been sent to publishers for their perusal. The other challenges will be smaller (although one is to go on holiday to somewhere sunny which is hardly small) and I am still working on the list. Currently it includes learning Dutch, working with an artist in their studio and reading Anna Karenina. I will write about each challenge as I complete it on my new website, 108 in 108, that I quickly threw together today using WordPress templates. The design isn’t mine but I love the balloons! So much fun.

So please follow along, support me and push me. I really struggle with the lack of motivation to finish so would appreciate all kicking up the butt. Go find those steel-capped boots! I am one stubborn mule.

Percival the Pig

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

My friend, sewing-and-cooking inspiration, and ex-boss, Claire, recommended I read a book she had recently read with her children. Yes, at the wee-ages of two and four they are slightly younger than me but I feel we have similar interests when it comes to well-written and beautiful illustrated children’s books. The ABC Menagerie by M.H. Clark and Elena V. Targioni is a book for everyone – it is so beautiful, funny and heartwarming that even robots would feel emotions while reading it.

ABC Menagerie

ABC Menagerie - image from LiveInspired

Each page of the book introduces a new animal and their particular habits and the rhyming text is accompanied by a photograph of a felt/material version of the creature. Similar to my sock creatures, these guys are slightly odd and always have something ‘different’ about them. There are many amazing personalities and the creatures themselves are so wonderfully crafted that you feel like you could reach into the page and pat them.

abc menagerie

Jesenia the Jaguar – image from LiveInspired

I thought I would share the text from one of the pages as I currently feel like this animal. Last night I went for dinner with friends at Le Jardin D’en Face and ate far too much and therefore wish I had the same release mechanisms as this guy:

Percival the Pig

Percival’s dinners are rich and gourmet,
with plenty of chocolate éclairs.
Whenever he’s had one too many that day,
his safety valves let out the air.

Buy and read this book. No matter what age you are, it will make you smile. Thanks for the recommendation, Claire.

Maths and Mouse Brains Equal Sunday Fun

Monday, November 7th, 2011

What a great day! I woke up fairly late this morning due to a long and very enjoyable evening entertaining our friends, Sonia and Guibril, last night. After breakfast, I met up with some other friends, Becky and Vivien, and we headed off to the Fondation Cartier – a gallery space owned by the Cartier corporation which houses some very interesting exhibitions. The current exhibition is an exploration of mathematics, and presents an interesting mix of maths and arts in a single space. It is the first Sunday of the month, meaning most galleries in Paris are open for free. Not this one it seems. No matter – we paid our entrance fees and went in.

Fondation Cartier

The Fondation Cartier is in a really nice glass building surrounded by a very pretty garden

The exhibition consisted of seven or so large exhibits, usually requiring you to stand and watch for a fair length of time. The exhibits explored various concepts around mathematics and included robots that are able to learn; a large sphere that had images of mathematical problems projected on it; and descriptions of the mathematics involved in the Hadron Collider. For most of these, I stood back and watched the pretty pictures and said, “WOW!” a lot as completely foreign concepts were thrown at me. I have never been a particularly maths and science person, however I have always wished I was, purely for the stability and ‘factual’ nature of it all. Cultural theory is far too open ended and ‘there is no answer’-ish.

My favourite part of the exhibition was a series of films where mathematicians spoke for about three minutes on what mathematics means to them. Words that were mentioned and that struck a cord with me included creativity, exploration and expression. Obviously the films were made with the topic of mathematics and art in mind, however these mathematicians were passionate about how mathematics provided them with creative outlets and how it was beautiful, magnificent and amazing. A few of the mathematicians admitted their love for the physical shape of lines within equations or geometric forms. A mathematician by the name of Sir Michael Atiyah said that he felt maths to be a more creative way of expressing yourself and that the written word was archaic. I would require further explanation before I could agree with this statement but I found the concept fascinating. My whole concept of mathematics as a dry and quantitative thing was completely refuted by these mathematicians. They were all very passionate about their work and the affect the field has on the way in which the world functions. It was very inspirational.

After the exhibition, we went and ate galettes (yum.) before Becky and Vivien invited me to their laboratory. They are both neuroscientists who are studying (together) the way in which a part of the brain (the hippocampus) affects memory. At least, I think that’s what they’re studying. Anyway, they showed me their lab which is full of very, very cool machinery and instruments which they use to dissect mouse brains into teeny tiny pieces and then study them under microscopes. FASCINATING. They were kind enough to explain everything to me and I got to look in a microscope and then on a large screen I saw the neurones inside a mouse brain. So cool.

Microscope

It's a giant microscope!

I have recently been reading a grant proposal they are working on, hopefully providing them with helpful advice about where to place commas, and I am completely in love with what they are studying. It amazes me to learn what other people do all day and how there are people in the world who are working towards solving problems and finding answers to how humans function and how we can make the world a better place. I makes me feel like what I do all day, every day (ie. nothing) isn’t really having a great impact on the larger picture. That said, I’m not sure I have the brain capacity or the inclination to study for that long in order to do so. So instead I will write about how great Becky and Vivien are and stay out of their way to ensure they can continue to do amazing things.

Becky and Vivien's view

Not only do they have cool machines, they have a great view from their lab, too!

Somewhat connected, yet also not, I am currently reading Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which makes me wonder about all of these science experiments and the desire for human improvement. Hopefully all science students are forced to read that book to ensure the world doesn’t follow Huxley’s concepts.

GREATEST DISCOVERY EVER!

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

I’m very excited. On Monday afternoon I wanted to go and sit in a cafe with a book and a good coffee. Most parts of this equation are easy to fulfil – I had myself, a book and there are lots of cafes in Paris to choose from. The biggest hurdle was the GOOD coffee. Generally speaking, coffee in France is bad. Luckily for me, I am a black coffee drinker so I don’t have the difficulties of trying to order a coffee with milk or froth or chocolate dust. Despite this, the coffee is usually too bitter or basically just instant coffee. No grinding of beans here!

I wanted to explore new territory – I am currently reading about Napoleon Bonaparte in my book and if anyone inspires exploration, it is him. I checked a few Paris blogs to see if anyone could suggest a good cafe and found Hip Paris’s article about the best coffee in Paris. Yes please.

One of the suggested cafes isn’t far from my place and Tom and I had walked past a few months ago, laughed at the name  and saunted off with a ‘we’re too cool for that because we’re Australian and know that’s not how you spell Kookaburra’ kind of a swagger. Turns out “Kooka Boora” was too cool for us.

Kooka Boora Cafe

Kooka Boora Cafe

When I arrived at the cafe, I almost fainted as I read the menu and saw two words – ‘Long’ and ‘Black’. I have dreamed of these words since I left Perth and seeing them brought tears to my eyes and I almost saluted. I then almost died when I drank it as it wasn’t a long black that had been “France-ified” and made bad – it was REAL. And it was GOOD.

Long black coffee

Perfect size, perfect colour, perfect consistency = delicious coffee

To celebrate the fact that I had discovered a trendy cafe with comfy couches, big windows with views of Sacre Coeur, and oh-so-delicious coffee, I ordered a brownie. In no other country in the world would a brownie turn into molten chocolate when ‘zapped’ – it was awesome. Ridiculously sweet and I had a chocolate headache by the end of it, but my Monday afternoon was pure heaven.

Brownie

Look at it oozing...

It was so good I couldn’t concentrate on my book. I was too busy eavesdropping on the mostly english speaking, yet very culturally mixed crowd who came through the cafe to grab a takeaway or to sit with their laptops and do work. I wanted to introduce myself to everyone and ask if they needed writers. I also nearly applied for a job at the cafe – it’s that cool.

View from Kooka Boora Cafe

You can't get a more 'French' view than that – an old lady and lovers on benches.

Le Bon Chocolat

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Good news everyone! I have discovered a new hot chocolate to add to my “World’s Best Hot Chocolate” list! This doesn’t happen very often so this is a momentous occasion. Recently I have been going to a café in the Marais district called Le Caféotheque that sells a wide variety of pure, organic coffees. It is a lovely casual environment with couches, a bar and a few tables where people sit and chat for hours.

Today I went there after visiting a free exhibition at the Hotel de Ville about Impressionism in Paris (very enjoyable and once again enlightening with my new found knowledge of Paris’s history.) I had previously sampled their ice coffee which was particularly delicious and this time ordered a hot chocolate because I spotted a very pretty word on the menu – Valrhona. For those innocent people who are unaware of what this word means, it basically translates into “one of the best chocolates in the world. Ever.” And when transformed into a warming drink, it maintains this deliciousness in its molten form.

hot chocolate

Hot chocolate love

It was delicious – rich, creamy and addictive. Perhaps a little sweet but I also put that down to my lack of hot chocolate consumption recently. It was served with a piece of chocolate which I stupidly left until the end and it was actually quite awful – someone had inserted some sort of dried fruit in it. Yuck. But still. Free chocolate. I’m very excited to have discovered a new café to hang out at. I spent an hour or so reading my book and drinking a hot chocolate. What luxury.

Book and hot chocolate

Jealous?