Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Wizard of Oz

Book 20 of 2014 is from the BFI Film Classics series and is a review by Salman Rushdie of the movie The Wizard of Oz. I'd call this an essay, more than a book but my only criteria to satisfy something is a book is if it looks like a book and quacks like a book.

In 69 pages, Salman Rushdie reviews the movie The Wizard of Oz in a way that has changed, ruined and enhanced my view of it.

He does this as the first part of a series of essays commissioned for a project by the National Film and Television Archive in the UK. This was before DVDs and IMDB and was a way of deconstructing and reviewing 360 classic movies by great minds of the time. When Rushdie looked through the list, he chose Oz as one of his favourite places as a child and decided to write about this movie.

Like anything you love that is deconstructed and discussed, some of the magic disappears but Rushdie's passion for the film and shared discovered facts compensate greatly.

The thing I did like the most was finding that this essay inspired Gregory Maguire's Wicked. I love the Oz world and Wicked continued for me, as this essay has extended it for me.

At the end of this essay, the author writes a fantastical story about the futuristic auctioning of the famous and obviously magical Ruby Slippers from the movie. There is a great quote that seems quite apt in this time...

"We, the public, are easily, lethally offended. We have come to think of taking offence as a fundamental right. We value very little more highly than our rage, which gives us, in our opinion, the moral high ground. From this high ground we can shoot down at our enemies and inflict heavy fatalities. We take pride in our short fuses. Our anger elevates, transcends. 

Salman Rushdie. At the auction of the ruby slippers. 
In: East, West. Vintage, 1995."

I give this a brain, a heart and some courage out of 5. Yes, that's a 3.5.

Should I read this? Read this if you love The Wizard of Oz movie. It would mean nothing otherwise.
What did I learn? Toto was female and her name was Terry.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

A Room of One's Own

Book 19 of 2014 is Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own.

I've only read a couple of Virginia Woolf books and I love the way she writes. She is a born story teller who paints pictures with words. Now I know that she writes like a "woman-manly." Or was it a "man-womanly"? Either way, it makes her voice unique in a crowd where she is a minority.

This book/essay/speech is one of the most relevant (yes, even now) books that I woman can read.

Of late, life has had me wondering where I belong and what the whole damn point of it is. Belonging is important but it is more than that. The feeling was more about how I belong in a world where I can not see anyone like me. That was my mistake.

There may not be people who look like me everywhere but there are people who think like me, both men and women. This book was like taking a giant sigh after a very long week ends. She said it perfectly.

It is only 112 pages and if you can't do that then at least read the last chapter. She is brilliant. Just that.

I give it 5 revelations without bitterness out of 5.

Should I read this? Women should. Secure men should. Others will not be impressed that someone let her out of the kitchen.
What did I learn? “I need not hate any man; he cannot hurt me. I need not flatter any man; he has nothing to give me.”

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Book 18 of 2014 is one that i have read twice now. It is a favourite and often fits in to certain contexts in my life.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is the Milan Kundera book that you must read.

I most identify with Sabina and have been told she is dysfunctional. Maybe she is but boy does she look hot in a bowler hat.

I give it 4.5 extra-martial affairs out of 5.

Should I read this? Absolutely. A classic that you must consume, at least once.
What did I learn? Love is totally and absolutely unique to who you are. Let no one dictate otherwise.

Building Scalable Web Sites

The 17th book of 2014 is Building Scalable Web Sites by Cal Henderson.

I read this because a developer I really respect at Thoughtworks recommended it. The reviews I read ripped it to pieces with comments like "I already know this" and "well yeah, duh." I still read it.

Once thing that you have to do as a lead is understand concepts so well that you can explain and teach it to other people. The thing I've seen a lot is that people dismiss the small things, the concepts that matter and talk about big ideas while not understanding where it all comes from.

This book is a great way to understand the basic concepts and teach you how to teach others. It talks about where no mainstream software engineering concepts come from in a way that fills all the gaps.

If you want to claim you are a great senior software engineer then read this with a little humility. I will guarantee you learn something. Or at least learn how to teach it.

I'd give it 3.5 checkins out of 5.

Should I read this? Yes. Anyone who intends to lead a software team should read this whether they are technical of not.
What did I learn? Humility and the ability to articulate what is in your giant brain.

A Rightful Place

Book 16 of 2014: A Rightful Place is a Quarterly Essay by Noel Pearson. The Quarterly Essay is a series of four essays a year written by current key Australians.

After reading this, I wrote Noel Pearson an email. It went...

"Hello Mr Pearson,

I have never written to anyone of worth before so forgive any mistakes I make.

I just finished reading your Quarterly Essay. I am not indigenous to this country. In fact, I am half Australian and half Papua New Guinean but I write you all the same. There is something to not belonging that I empathise with when I read what you wrote. Something raw and true.

Having never been a fan of yours, it surprised me how much I understood what you said.

You see, I grew up on Palmerston in the Northern Territory in the mid 80s to 90s. My school was less than a quarter white and that didn't seem odd to me. We used the word budju as a compliment and c*nt as a disgrace. I even still return to my parents house speaking in that manic drawl that is Darwin. There is a part of me that is goanna cooked over a fire and peanut flavoured grubs out of trees.

When I read you essay, I found a way to articulate and (sadly because it is required) defend the people I grew up with. The most amazing and ancient culture we have on earth.

I lost respect for Darwin (again) and Dickens (for the first time) and got teary at your conclusion.

I write this email because I'd like to thank you for saying it so well. For articulating your plight in a way others haven't before or maybe not so well.

You won me over, sir.

I live in Canberra. If I can ever buy you dinner and have a conversation, I would be honoured.

Damana Madden - a black Darwin girl"

I'd give it 4 non-racist remarks out of 5.

Should I read this? If you get a chance, read this. As an Australian, you should.
What did I learn? There is a way to help our first people but it means giving them control over their life and not just participation in the process.