Sunday, 29 November 2009

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Return to the Hundred Acre Wood

Ok, so its time for another book review, faithful readers. This time the subject of my review will be "Return to the Hundred Acre Wood" by David Benedictus. Anybody who has had any sort of decent childhood will pick up on two things about this book straight away - firstly, that the Hundred Acre Wood is the setting for all of the Winnie the Pooh adventures and secondly, that the Winnie the Pooh books were written by A.A. Milne rather than by some random guy called David Benedictus.

I was given a copy of "Return to the Hundred Acre Wood" for my birthday only a few weeks after it was published. The world of Winnie the Pooh fans had apparently been waiting with baited breath for the first ever Winnie the Pooh sequel to be approved by the estate of A.A. Milne - I was not waiting with baited breath. I was blissfully unaware that there was such a book coming. Fortunately for me (and for you as you now get to read this delightful book review) my brother was not so ignorant.

I would like to say firstly that the amazing genius of A.A. Milne is an extremely hard act to follow and any man that is willing to put himself up for that kind of scrutiny is either very brave or an egotistical maniac. I am not sure with category David Benedictus belongs in.

It doesn't really matter. What matters is that, for me at any rate, he did not stand up to that scrutiny. Its like when you put Orlando Bloom with Johnny Depp in the Pirates movies. Yes, Orlando is reasonably good looking, yes he gets a couple of good lines, yes he gets an interesting character, but put him on a screen with Johnny Depp and no one is looking at the girly-boy eunuch (sorry Captain Sparrow added that last bit, not me). Its really not fair on poor old Orlando, or in this case Benedictus.

I'm going to break it down into 3 vital parts of a Winnie the Pooh adventures for you:
1. Characters.
Benedictus did manage to keep the charm of the original characters, BUT then he did the absolutely unthinkable - he added a NEW character. A NEW character! Now, this isn't without precedent as Gopher (a regular in the Disney Winnie the Pooh) is not in the original books, but just because someone else has committed the sacrilege too, doesn't mean that it is right. I actually quite like both Gopher and Lottie (the Benedictus character), but they are rather unnecessary and, when it comes to my A.A. Milne, I am a purist.


2. Storylines.
Again, here Benedictus falls short of my exacting standards. Roughly half the book had quite good storylines (each chapter is a separate story) and the other half didn't.
3. Hums and Poems.
An absolutely vital part of the works by A.A. Milne are the poems and hums that Pooh writes and hums at unsuspecting visitors (usually Piglet, but often also Eeyore). I will give you a sample of one of the least brilliant of A.A. Milne's hums followed by the best of Benedictus' hums and you can see for yourself.
It's very, very funny,

'Cos I know I had some honey :

'Cos it had a label on, Saying HUNNY,
A goloptious full-up pot too,

And I don't know where it's got to,

No, I don't know where it's gone--

Well, it's funny.
- A.A. Milne.

Counting Honey
If you want to count your honey,
You must put it in a row,
In the sun if it is sunny,
If it’s snowy in the snow.

And you’ll know when you have counted
How much honey you have got.
Yes, you’ll know what the amount is
- David Benedictus

Now for comparison, see one of AA Milne's better hums

An Anxious Pooh Song
3 Cheers for Pooh!
(For who?)
For Pooh -
(Why, what did he do?)
I thought you knew;
He saved his friend from a wetting!
3 Cheers for Bear!
(For where?)
For Bear -
He couldn't swim,
But he rescued him!
(He rescued who?)
Oh, listen, do!
I am talking of Pooh!
(Of who?)
Of Pooh!
(I'm sorry, I keep forgetting).
Well, Pooh was a Bear of Enormous Brain
(Just say it again!)
Of enormous brain -
(Of enormous what?)
Well, he ate a lot,
And I don't know if he could swim or not,
But he managed to float
On a sort of boat
(On a sort of what?)
Well, a sort of pot -
So now let's give three hearty cheers!
(So now let's give him three hearty whiches?)
And hope he'll be with us for years and years,
And grow in health and wisdom and riches!
3 Cheers for Pooh!
(For who?)
For Pooh -
3 Cheers for Bear
(For where?)
For Bear -
3 Cheers for the wonderful Winnie-the-Pooh!
(Just tell me, somebody - WHAT DID HE DO?)
See the difference?

Now a note on the illustrations.
In the original Pooh adventures, the illustrations were handled by E.H. Shepard and looked like this:
In "Return to the Hundred Acre Wood" Mark Burgess did the illustrations. I have no problem with the new illustrations and think he did a good job. They look like this:

Now, to wrap it all up there are a couple of things I need to say.
Firstly, thank-you, Rob, for giving me the book (check out the comma usage in the first half of that sentences - pretty spectacular). Being harsh on the book does not mean that I don't appreciate it - I'm quite glad that I got the chance to pick it apart like this.

Secondly, I would like to mention the fact that I read the book with a positive attitude - rather than starting with a dim view of the book and only finding proof that I was right, I was actually quite predisposed to like the book and it caught me a bit by surprise when I found that I didn't.

Thirdly, should you read the book? Yes, of course you should. Just because I am a picky purist with Pooh stories (lovely alliteration) doesn't mean that you should be guided by my feelings towards the book and decide to not read it on principle. BUT before you do read it (or at least straight afterwards) get your hands on a copy of the A.A. Milne works and refresh your memory of what a real Pooh adventure is like. Don't forget that the very best way to read Winnie the Pooh is chapter by chapter as a bedtime story out loud (you can read out loud to yourself, but it is probably more fun if you are reading to someone else. I personally have issues with reading Winnie the Pooh out loud because there are a couple of points in the books where I LOL and occasionally even ROFL so whoever I'm reading to has to patiently wait for me to regain my composure and continue with the story.)

All in all, the book gets three stars ***
- an extra one just because it is a Winnie the Pooh. It only really deserved two.

oh my stars...

So, I dont know why, but I have been feeling more than a little out of sorts for the last couple of days. Not at all like myself really, and very hard to describe whats wrong with me. Usually when I'm feeling this out of sorts there is a definable reason for it - looming exams, some niggling little concern thats been eating away at me, or something I'm feeling guilty over, but this time I cant find anything.

Well, my mood today hasnt been at all helped by having a song that I had only heard once a couple of nights ago stuck in my head. I had the tv on in the other room (lounge room, kitchen type area) while I was at my desk on Monday night half-listening to the season final of Good News Week. I tend to only watch small amounts of GNW at a time because its usually hilariously funny, but also quite unnecessarily crude. Anyway, on Monday night Paul McDermott sang this amazingly beautiful song about (if I'm interpreting the lyrics correctly) "boat people" and it got itself seriously wedged in my brain and hasnt stopped looping through my internal soundtrack since. I was more than a little pleased to find that the song, 'Oh my stars!', had the same effect on a large proportion of GNW viewers that night and, therefore, was all over the net and quite easy to download. I have now listened to it 5 times in a row so it should be out of my system soon ready to lay unplayed and forgotten in the dark corners of my mp3 files until I get bored of my usual selection of tunes and re-discover it.

Here's the video of the song on GNW for anyone that is too sensible to watch it. By the way, I was quite surprised that Paul sang a song so sympathetic (wow, look at that accidental alliteration) to the "boat people" after spending a decent amount of the show bagging them, but apparently he is quite capable of viciously bagging someone in one breath and singing this kind of ballad about them in the next. Enjoy.

Friday, 20 November 2009

The Twits

Illustration of the Twits by Quentin Blake

The Twits is a classic children's book written by Roald Dahl in 1980. In true Dahl style, epic grossness is employed to keep his audience interested. In this particular book, however, the grossness serves a dual purpose: to entertain the kiddies, but also as a means of having a bit of a rant about one of his pet peeves - beards. Tiani and I were reading Fantastic Mr Fox and The Twits to each other last night and I thought that this particular excerpt was worth putting up on the blog. There is more, of course, but if you want more you should just read the book.

"What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays.

When a man grows hair all over his face it is impossible to tell what he really looks like.

Perhaps that’s why he does it. He’d rather you didn’t know.

Then there’s the problem of washing.

When the very hairy ones wash their faces, it must be a big a job as when you and I wash the hair on our heads.

So what I want to know is this. How often do all these hairy-faced men wash their faces? Is it only once a week, like us, on Sunday nights? And do they shampoo it? Do they use a hairdryer? Do they rub hair-tonic in to stop their faces from going bald? Do they go to a barber to have their hairy faces cut and trimmed or do they do it themselves in front of the bathroom mirror with nail-scissors?

I don’t know. But next time you see a man with a hairy face (which will probably be as soon as you step out on to the street) maybe you will look at him more closely and start wondering about some of these things.

Mr Twit was one of these very hairy-faced men. The whole of his face except for his forehead, his eyes and his nose was covered with thick hair. The stuff even sprouted in revolting tufts out of his nostrils and ear-holes.

Mr Twit felt that this hairiness made him look terrifically wise and grand. But in truth he was neither of these things. Mr Twit was a twit. He was born a twit. And now at the age of sixty, he was a bigger twit than ever.

The hair on Mr Twit’s face didn’t grow smooth and matted as it does on most hairy-faced men. It grew in spikes that stuck out straight like the bristles of a nailbrush.

And how often did Mr Twit wash this bristly nailbrushy face of his?

The answer is NEVER, not even on Sundays.

He hadn’t washed it for years.

As you know, an ordinary unhairy face like yours or mine simply gets a bit smudgy if it is not washed often enough, and there’s nothing so awful about that.

But a hairy face is a very different matter. Things cling to hairs, especially food. Things like gravy go right in among the hairs and stay there. You and I can wipe out smooth faces with a flannel and we quickly look more or less alright again, but the hairy man cannot do that.

We can also, if we are careful, eat our meals without spreading food all over our faces. But not so the hairy man. Watch carefully next time you see a hairy man eating his lunch and you will notice that even if he opens his mouth very wide, it is impossible for him to get a spoonful of beef-stew or ice-cream and chocolate sauce into it without leaving some of it on the hairs..."

Then the grossness begins as Dahl begins to describe the foulness of Mr Twit's beard, but this post is already a bit long, so if you want to find out what was in Mr Twit's beard you need to read it for yourself.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

3 weeks of birthdays

My actual birthday was not really a social event (the most exciting things that happened on the day were meeting up with one of my friends for coffee and stubbing my toe on my couch), but I made the most of the fact that neither my friends (who had exams) nor my family (who had to work) could celebrate with me for my actual birthday and dragged it out for as long as possible, celebrating both before the day and after it. - wow, that was a long sentence - I think I have finally finished my birthday (now time to start Christmas, I guess) so I'll tell you about what I actually did.

Firstly, I celebrated with my family by heading north for the weekend closest to my birthday and claiming the Monday (it was a long weekend in Northern Tas) to be my birthday. I hung out with my family, was sung to, had cake, and opened presents. I got awesome presents. Especially, a particularly exquisite Murano glass fish to add to my collection (yes, three counts as a collection) and a new watch which I love and adore. Tuesday morning on my way back to Hobart, my birthday was extended by a shopping spree in Launceston with Mum to find a dress to wear to Government House last week (yes, I went to Government House again. If you want to know about that ask me in the comments and I will tell you about it).

On Tuesday night, I got a phonecall from Bec, Mike, and Gabi to wish me happy birthday because Gabi would be away at camp the next day.

The Wednesday was my birthday. I was still in bed contemplating getting up and waiting for the snoozed alarm clock to go off again (somewhere between 7:00 and 7:30) when Grandma called to wish me happy birthday. I got a couple of messages during the day and some cards in the mail. Two of my friends that I actually talked to during the day (one I saw face to face and the other I talked to on the net) both forgot it was my birthday. I forgave them both as one was in the middle of exams and the other one was leaving the country that evening and were both understandably distracted. I did, however, get to meet up with one friend that remembered it was my birthday and gave me a gigantic box of chocolates. And then I stubbed my toe on my couch.

On Thursday I got a phonecall from my Mt Isa relations and had a lovely gossip to Aunty Liz.

On Sunday I got a birthday cake at the Pilgrims and my birthday present from my brother which he had sent down with a friend that was traveling from his end of the state to mine. As I opened the huge box, the group of people standing around me got bigger as everyone wanted to see what was going to come out of the box next and read the notes that went with it (if you dont already know what was in the box and you want to find out, ask me in the comments and I might get around to telling you).

Then, the real main event came on Saturday, ten days after my birthday, when I had two birthday parties. I wanted to play another "How to Host a Murder" because I love them so much, but I also wanted to hang out and mess around with a wider group of my friends and play volley ball so I decided to do both. After a few mishaps in the beginining stages of party planning, everything got sorted out and we had a BBQ at wentworth park at lunch time and the murder in the evening. I dont have any photos of the BBQ yet because my trusty photographers have yet to share them with me. But I'll put them up in a seperate post when I get them. A decent percentage of my friends couldnt come in the end, but the those of us that were there had a really great time (well, I did anyway, and nobody has said that they didnt). We were having so much fun that we didnt leave the BBQ until 4:00 and then had to get ourselves (the 8 of us that were involved) organised for the murder.

The murder we played this time was "The class of '54" and we were 8 graduates from Roley City High on our 5th High School reunion (yes, it was set in 1959). I wont tell you too much about the plot so as not to spoil it incase you ever play it, but suffice to say it was a lot of fun and I recommend playing it. We all did a magnificent job of our costumes, without actually going to much trouble at all and dont we look wonderful?
Click on the photo to enlarge it
Back Row: The Certified Genius (Andrew), the Seducer (Tiani), the Heiress (me), the Business man (Rob), the Rock & Roller (Rob)
Front Row: The Cheerleader (Joy), the Academic (Hannah), and the Athlete (Moose)

Anyhow, thats about enough for now, I think. As I said, I'll put some photos up when I get them.

Happy Birthday to me, and many happy returns!

Thursday, 5 November 2009


I love todays Google!!!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Old fashioned lolly shops...

Who doesn't like walking into an old fashioned lolly shop and surveying the gleaming jars filled with acid drops, chocolate frogs, and multi-coloured candies of every sort? As far as I am concerned, the more old-fashioned the candy shop, the better.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to listen the audio book I had chosen for my latest trip back down the midlands after visiting my family and instead decided to listen to an old favourite by James Herriot. Those of you who do not know the joys of reading (or listen to someone else read) James Herriot have had very deprived upbringings and should rectify the situation immediately. Especially if you are interested in animals. Anyway, Dr Herriot, like myself, has a fondness for old-fashioned lolly shops, and as I was driving down the northern part of the midlands and into Campbell Town I was listening to him describe one such shop in Darrowby (and the cat that resided there). I couldnt resist taking a break from driving in Campbell Town to stop at the old-fashioned lolly shop and survey the gleaming lolly jars. Unfortunately they didnt have any Edinburgh rock (or a resident feline), so I got a small bag of 'fizzoes' and happily continued on my drive.