Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Knock me down with a feather

I know what I should be doing, and it's not this. No no no. I should be sorting out the car-crash that is my final piece of coursework for the Masters. But I googled good old Madeleine C and found whoooppeeeee, a nice review of A Perfect Hero.

Look, you can find it here:


Now, really, back to working out how to prepare an evaluation study on Key Stage Literacy policy....sigh. I promise I won't google my alter ego again tonight.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

K9 and jargon

As you can see, K9 landed in Brussels this morning - he did suffer from a touch of cranial droop, but the edible silver spray performed very effectively. Our robotic doggy friend will be joining Hugo's class tomorrow and hopefully, won't come home to afflict the family paunches any further.

Meanwhile, am wincing as I read Joshua Ferris's Then We Came to the End, a book that makes me cringe with its vivid depiction of office life with all associated gossip and essentially meaningless activity. It's been some years since I worked in an office, and I daresay, since I will have to work until I'm at least 100 before a pension can kick in at a reasonable level, will work in one again, but give me teenagers and a classroom any day. At least in the educational world, there is some resistance to the concept that all activity must have a financially measurable output. Sadly, not total resistance, and there are plenty of educational managers out there who have swallowed the jargon pill and spew out drone-speak. And the 11-18 age group are very intolerant of bollocks-speak, and recognise it at 50 paces, which makes for a refreshing environment.

I'm not sure that there's a point to TWCTTE, plot-wise, and at times the continuous we-voice is a little wearing, but overall, it's an impressive tour de force.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Thief

You know how it is, you've been burned often enough before by other people's rave reviews, then eventually, you give in, and it's just as bad as you feared. Well no...

The Thief is short, sharp and elegant. I will try to do no spoilers, but there are twists in this plot which I knew about before I started, and that did not diminish my enjoyment in the slightest. Whalen Turner is a skilled world-builder, and this was a thoroughly enjoyable road story. I preferred the slightly knowing, humorous style of Chabons' Gentlemen of the Road, but Chabon's novel is clever stylistically where Whalen Turner's novel is emotionally clever. I can't wait to read Queen of Attolia and King of Attolia, which are on their way from Amazon as I speak. But first I have a whole heap of thinking to do on knotty issues like education and human rights and social justice, so this is a quick post just to say, The Thief vaut le detour.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Homer Cake and Herodotus

I don't quite think this does justice to the extraordinary vision that was the Homer cake. Inside was a mixture of orange and chocolate sponge, pasted together with chocolate buttercream filling, covered in a layer of marzipan and then coated with royal icing and hand painted.

Me? Make that? hahahahahaha. No. I have a spouse whom no words can quite adequately describe, and this is one of his party tricks. Both minions are little April Arians, with no.1. minion first on the calendar. After last year's Dalek and Tardis cakes, there was some deep decision-making over cake requests for 2008. And this was what No. 1 came up with. Homer. So Homer Simpson was what he got.

In a couple of weeks, Spouse-guy has to ready himself for a K-9 cake. Yup, the metallic robo-dog from Dr Who. Gallons of edible silver paint are being airfreighted from Surbiton Sugarcraft as we speak. Yes, Surbiton. Who would have thought that Surbiton was a cache of edible silver products?

Meanwhile, I've finally managed to read a book this month, in between editing a magazine and sorting out the first draft of the masters, oh yes, and that teaching business, I'd forgotten, and the crashing of computers and collapsing of interactive whiteboards. And the book was worth it.

Travels with Herodotus by the late and deeply lamented Ryszard Kapuscinski was the kind of book I just wanted to carry on and on and on. But it is marked by tight, elegant writing and brevity. Kapuscinski recalls his own first tentative steps as a foreign correspondent in the late 1950s and 1960s, travelling to India, China, Ethiopia and the Congo. On his way from Warsaw to India, he is taken under the wing of a more sophisticated Italian journalist who helps him buy a proper suit so that he looks less like an Eastern Bloc tyro. He seems perpetually short of funds and quite often short of the means of communicating his copy to his masters in Poland. His stay in China is particularly fraught, coming at the abrupt and harsh end of the Hundred Flowers period. His appointment had been made during the blossoming stage, when China was briefly prepared to consider the possibility of a foreign journalist (at least one from an Iron Curtain country) working on a Chinese newspaper, but by the time Kapuscinski arrives, the Anti-Rightist movement is on its way and intellectuals are beginning to be shipped out to the countryside.

Meanwhile, Herodotus keeps Kapuscinski company, a constant quizzical, curious, humane and energetic presence, his own lucid prose and inquiring mind bounding across the millennia to comfort and inspire one of our finest journalists. I can't recommend this book too highly.