Monday, June 12, 2006

world cup!

As those of you who have not been living under rocks will realise, the Football World Cup is on again. Started on Friday. And I have been hanging around whining because of my lack of SBS reception. Well today I caved and bought a digital set top box, the only problem being that the decent cheap ones were all sold out (apparently) because of the World Cup, and I felt I could only justify buying a dodgy cheap one. Which, alas, turned out to be incapable of picking up SBS. I'll have to return it tomorrow. Anyway, my hopes were all dashed, and were dashed even further when someone at church said that if I had no SBS reception at all (which I don't) a digital box won't fix the problem. I'm not sure if it's true, but if so then it is very, very sad.
On the plus side, I managed to see most of the Serbia and Montenegro vs. Netherlands match tonight, by dint of being out with a group of people from church. It was in an RSL club, there were many tv screens, and some people were telling others about the racing, and someone was raving about Federa in the tennis, and basically it was very distracting. But enjoyable nonetheless. Not sure what to say about it, because while watching it became clear to me that my football knowledge (such as it is) is rather rusty. Netherlands deserved their win, they had more possession I believe and more coherence, but Serbia and Montenegro certainly fought it pretty hard. Ended up 1-0.
Tomorrow (or today technically, I guess) is Australia vs. Japan, which is bound to be exciting, no matter what the game is like, because we're in it. Sadly I'm finishing work at 10:30, so will have to rush madly to get to my friends' house in Randwick by 11 for the game. I looked up the timetables, and I can make it to the bus stop near their house at exactly 11 (assuming the bus is on time), so am pysched up. Stupid work has rostered me for 10 the next morning, which will make life interesting.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

review: espresso tales

The sequel to '44 Scotland Street' by Alexander McCall Smith (author of the well-known 'No. 1 Ladie's Detective Agency' series). It is really a collection of stories based around a collection of characters, set in Edinburgh and centering on 44 Scotland St.
They were both enjoyable books, nothing particularly momentous happens, relationships change, small but life-changing things occur, it is lightly humourous and mildly philosophical. Some of the characters, such as the central character, Pat, the gallery owner Matt, the coffee shop owner Big Lou and Bertie, a six year old boy, are quite likeable. Others, such as the narcisistic Bruce and pushy mother Irene are much less so. It's an effective mix. But there are problems. The sage Domenica, neighbour and friend to Pat, began to really irritate me about halfway through the book, through always being 'right', or apparently so, but since I didn't always agree with her it grated. Also she didn't let anyone else get a word in edgewise. And she dismissed one character as being 'weak', and I dislike that. It's not the single characteristic of a personality.
Maybe the most irritating thing about it was the philosophy. The author is a philosopher, so I suppose he felt compelled to add it. Nothing wrong with that, except in the way he did it. Philosophy is not presented in a discussion, just handed down from the mouths of 'good' characters as a "this is the right way to think" sort of thing. At least this is the impression I got. It seemed somewhat incongruous, when occasionally people would sit down and just start explaining philosophy. Also the writing style is somewhat, hmm, terse? Maybe that's the wrong word, but it has a simplicity that works well with witty remarks, but just makes more reflective moments sound didactic. It worked better with 'No. 1 Detective Agency' because that was more plot driven, and it worked as a reflection of the main character, who was I think not so highly educated but intelligent nonetheless. At least, that's how I remember it, and if it's not so then you can see that that is the impression the writing style gave to me. Put in the context of a bunch of educated Edinburgh types, who are often pretty pretentious, it doesn't seem to work as well. Also, as I said before, nothing much happens, so the plot does not carry the style as much. A simple and clipped style can be very effective in a crowded plot, but a crowded plot is not in evidence here. The structure has a similar effect: it is made up of lots of short chapters centering on different characters and storylines. This would be because the book was previously published in serial form in a newspaper, but it adds to the overall impression of clipped shortness and simplicity.
Overall it is a fairly inconsequential book. It makes for a light and enjoyable read, with some interesting characters and developments, amusement and some interesting thoughts. But overall it left me feeling slightly unsatisfied, as though it was missing something. I guess it falls into the category of books-that-could-really-work-but-somehow-don't-quite. By all means read it, the Times review is quoted as saying that it is "as warm as cocoa, as cosy as thermal underwear, and just what the doctor ordered for cold winter evenings", so now would be the time. But just don't expect too much.

Monday, June 05, 2006

feeling the same way all over again

So I'm sitting here in the library, and it's rainy and cold outside but soon I'll have to leave and go to work, and I have Norah Jones stuck in my head (hence the title of this post).
But I am happy, because I have a new yellow umbrella! I love yellow umbrellas, they cheer me up when it is grey and wet outside. Also I saw friends today, which is always nice. On the downside, I have to work tonight. Yeah, it's pretty darn tragic I know.
Nice weekend, with new pyjamas and Bollywood movies and library visiting.
I'm reading 'Espresso Tales' now, the sequel to '44 Scotland Street' by Alexander McCall Smith, which is kind of nice and kind of annoying, but I'll try to write a review of that when I finish.