I love to shop…but do the shops love me?

I bought the October issue of Australian Vogue on Monday. It has a beautiful cover featuring a beautiful model called Arizona. But this post isn’t about Vogue..well, I guess it starts with Vogue, but is more about fashion, and shopping in particular. After reading the mag, and being inspired by some of the shoots and clothes featured, I was compelled to head into the GPO in Melbourne. The GPO is my favourite place to shop in Melbourne. Karen Millen, Veronkia Maine, Gorman, (Pandora)…seriously its on my list, Fat, Alpha60, Zimmerman, Sass and Bide, The Dressing Room.

Look at that list! And all in the same building..which on a side note is a beautiful old Melbourne building (used to be the old General Post Office). Worth a visit just to bask in the splendour.

Perhaps what I love the most about the GPO though, is the experience you receive shopping there. Despite the fact that it is a shopping complex…kind of like a mall (lots of different shops in one building), it feels more like a boutique shopping experience. I think its the layout. And every time I have bought something there, I have had a fantastic sales person assisting me, and I have left on that ‘new purchase’ high that for me, only comes when I have had a good tactile, human experience (on top of the experience my bank card has with the eftpos machine).

I’m sure this post had a narrative thread.

Ah, it’s coming back…so I was at the GPO, reveling in the tactile humanness of it all and wanting to try on a stunning orange maxi dress from Veronika Maine. Unfortunately, the GPO store did not have any of the dresses in, and so directed me to their David Jones store. My heart sunk. I’m not a fan of department stores. They are impersonal and overwhelming. You can never find the person who is manning the stand and when you do you basically have to jump up and down, waving your hands and ‘accidentaly’ standing on their feet to get any service. I just don’t get the lovely experience that shopping can provide from a department store. (Here, I must digress and say that the shop attendant who served me at Veronkia Maine David Jones was an absolute babe – definitely the exception rather than the rule).

So, the question I am posing (see how nicely I’m wrapping this up) is..

In this time of retail slump and economic depression, we consumers are spending less and wanting more when we do spend. There is a shift to the small stores with big personality. I want to make friends with the sales assistant (I know she is after my money but I’m like a rich old man with a young hot model as a girlfriend. I know what she is after but it feels so good I don’t really care). I want to come out feeling like I got more than just what is in the bag for my money. So…how are the department stores going to respond to this? And I’m sure it’s not just me who feels like this. This is a developing trend in consumer behaviour.

To wrap this up, I didn’t buy the Veronika Maine dress. It was beautiful. But not quite right, especially on my student budget (sigh..)

 

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Students reading for fun

Last summer I read a fantastic little book written by a professor at Otago University (where I studied as an under-graduate).

The Torchlight List: Around the World in 200 Books by Jim Flynn

In this short book, Jim Flynn lists 200 books which he urges us to read in order to learn about the world around us. The books listed include Classics, History books, Science books, modern novels, and much more.

What I took away from this book of books was that reading is one of the most effective ways of learning that we have access to. And it won’t cost as much as a university degree (trust me…damn you study link). Think about it, a lot of uni papers (and here I am coming from an Arts perspective) involve a whole lot of reading about which you write a few essays and then sit an exam at the end of semester. Would you learn any less if you just bought the set texts and read them?

Another point Flynn made was that students at university tend to read only within their subject area…the old ‘learning more and more about less and less’ syndrome. He urges his readers to read widely and read outside of our discipline.

At the time of reading this, I wholeheartedly agreed. I ran straight to the book shop and bought a book on science…which I read and felt extremely multi-disciplinary in doing so.

And then I went back to uni. This year I have been studying the MTeach secondary at Melbourne Uni. And it is rather busy. 3 semesters work compressed into 2, on top of school placements. And I truly do not have time to read much more than 5 mins at night in bed before I fall asleep with the book in my hands. I want to broaden my mind and read more than just educational pedagogy (as you might be able to imagine) but I have such little time to do it in.

So the tousle between what I would like to be doing and the lack of hours in a day continues…

Regardless of my feelings on this point, one thing is for certain. The Torchlight list is a great place to get inspired for your next read. On the most basic level, it is a list of fantastic books.

The Torchlight List: Around the World in 200 Books New Zealand: Awa Press, 2010. ISBN 9780958291699

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Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘The Poisonwood Bible’

First Published: Harper Collins (1998)

ISBN: 978 0 571 20175 4

The Poisonwood Bible confronts it’s readers with a sadness that nestles into your heart and is hard to shake. Nathan Price, an evangelical Baptist from Georgia, ruins the lives of his wife, Orleanna, and four daughters, Rachel, Leah, Adah and Ruth-May, when he takes them into the Congo on a missionary trip. To the detriment of his family and himself, all he takes is a large pair of blinkers and his faith. The Poisonwood Bible tells us, through the alternating perspectives of the 5 females, how they cope with the years in the Congo and how they rebuild their lives afterwards. Some are more successful than others. All women suffer at the hands, words and decisions of Nathan Price. It is heartbreaking when you find out who will never leave the Congo at all. 

Each daughter has a very different personality and attitude and vastly divergent relationships with their father. It is a highlight of the stylistic techniques employed in the novel to see just how believable and real each of these perspectives come across. 

I think The Poisonwood Bible makes such an impact because, while being set in the Congo and dealing most obviously with the theme of missionaries, the novel is actually a discussion of many more issues. A theme the novel touches on which I think is closely tied to that of missionaries is colonisation. The Prices, especially Nathan, embody the ideals and approach taken by settlers and invaders of the many colonised countries throughout the world. He arrives in the Congo thinking he can transplant the Baptist religion directly into the chest cavity that is Congolese culture. This unadaptable mind set never really leaves Nathan Price and ultimately leads to his downfall. This is despite many setbacks along the way which, to the reader, point out the devestatingly erroneous methods Nathan Price employs. Painfully, the baptist preacher seems to be the only ignorant one. An example of this comes on page 312:

‘ “Tata Jesus is Bangala!” declares the Reverend every Sunday at the end of his sermon. More and more, mistrusting his interpreters, he tries to speak Kikongo. He throws back his head and shouts these words to the sky, while his lambs sit scratching themselves in wonder. Bangala means something precious and dear. But the way he pronounces it, it means the poisonwood tree. praise the Lord, hallelujah, my friends! for Jesus will make you itch like nobody’s business.’

The Poisonwood Bible is a fantastic read. It will stay with you long after you finish. Kingsolver  makes you feel devastating sadness and guilt about the follies and injuries caused by our predescessors. From the point of view of a New Zealander living in Australia, I was particularly led to contemplate the history of colonisation in both countries and the status of both the Maori and Aboriginal people today. A discussion of this is not something I want to go into in this blog post, I merely wanted to point out the far reaching significance of the ideas expressed in The Poisonwood Bible

This novel truly is a modern classics, and one I feel I will go back to time and time again. 

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The ABC’s ‘Rake’

If you are tired of the sickening goodness of Packed to the Rafters, or the endless barrage of reality TV shows all pining for Masterchef’s recipe for success, despair no more. ABC1 regularly shows interesting and humorous Australian shows, and their latest offering ‘Rake’ is a ripper. 

The show centers around the out of control, fastpaced, completely politically incorrect life of barrister Cleaver Greene, played by Richard Roxburgh. We love to love a villian and Cleaver Greene is the ultimate badboy. Mostly drunk, a local at the brothel, itinerant father to one son, Cleaver deals with a new case each week in an unorthodox and controversial way. He defends criminals who others would write off as lost causes. The first week it was a cannibal, played by Hugo Weaving. Last week, a bigamist who turns out to be a trigamist. His conduct and approach infuriate his colleagues, and sometimes his clients, but makes him popular with the general public, and the odd young babe in the jury. And of course, us viewers at home on the couch. 

The screenplay is so clever and funny. I am in stiches each week watching it. Cleaver’s many one-liners are absolute gold* and his nonchalant intelligence and wit make it hard not to like him…despite the fact that he sleeps with his best friend’s wife, and beats other lawyers to a pulp in elevators to protect his friend (an ex-prostitute)’s name. Perhaps it is his tendency to quote shakespeare or his rugged, sexual confidence that draws you in. Whatever it is, I am delighted to see an intelligent, hilarious, Australian made show on TV. 

Watch it. Thursday nights. 8.30pm

* some examples:

“some sort of fantastical Jane Austen bullshit haze”  

 in response to a woman’s support of marrying your highschool sweetheart

“bigamy, trigamy…bugger me!”

– this one is pretty self explanatory

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Allan Campion and Michele Curtis’ ‘In The Kitchen’

I wanted a recipe book that had everything. A book that would be applicable every night and with any ingredient. The obvious first stop was Books for Cooks on Gertrude St in Fitzroy. I went in veering towards the Stephanie Alexander and Margaret Fulton offerings as they are so famous and renowned in Australia. However, the shop assistant steered me towards another tome. By Melbourne couple Allan Campion and Michelle Curtis…In The Kitchen. I am so glad I took the advice, as this book is a modern Melbourne version of The Cook’s Companion, and much more suited to someone of my age and kitchen antics. 

This 837 page recipe book contains dishes that you would expect to come out of the kitchen at Proud Mary or De Clieu… it embraces and interprets the Melbourne cafe culture for home use. It is perfectly suited to my generation, one that has grown up in cafes.  Every recipe I have tried from the book has been a success first time. In almost every instance, the recipes are easy but the results are very impressive and always delicious. Perhaps this is a reflection of Gen Y’s lifestyle of immediate gratification. With less preparation and effort we can get the same tasty and impressive results that more difficult recipes produce. 

This does not mean that it is unsuitable for other generations though. On my Mum’s most recent trip over from NZ she cooked out of In The Kitchen a few times and loved it so much that she ended up buying a copy to take home. 

So perhaps my assumptions that it appeals mainly to Gen Y are incorrect. In the Kitchen has the potential to reach a wide audience. Perhaps this is a sign that all ages of people are becoming used to things happening fast but still being of a high quality.

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Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’

I decided to read Eat, Pray, Love because of all the hype which has surrounded it. A friend of mine insisted it was “amaaaaazing”, it was being turned into a movie, and my boyfriend’s Mum took it on holiday after being convinced that it was essential travel reading. 

Eat, Pray, Love is a biography of New Yorker Elizabeth Gilbert’s year of travel and self discovery after a drawn out divorce and resulting depression. She wanted to visit 3 countries in 12 months, spending 4 months in each. First stop was Italy where she was on the quest for pleasure derived from good food. Second stop was India where the journey took a noticeably more prayerful and less indulgent turn. Finally, she journeyed to Indonesia in the search balance and love through other people and her relationships with them. 

I was so disappointed with this book. It is a self indulgent account of an event which isn’t exactly novel or (in my opinion) worthy of the crisis status it was given. Ok, so I have not been through a divorce myself so I am perhaps not the best point of reference, but in the grand scheme of life’s hardships being suffered around the world it rates pretty low. 

The India third of the book was particularly hard to read. The whole thing seemed like page after page describing her different experiences while praying and chanting. She glosses over any real explanations of the religion she is tapping into. She makes it seem as though spiritual enlightenment is a frivolous and easily achieved state. It is the most self indulgent and tedious section of the novel. 

The book does have it’s positives however. The times when she does write of the countries she is visiting are well written and interesting. She has a good knowledge of the history of these places and includes a number of interesting stories and facts about her surroundings. She inspired me to learn Italian and to go on the hunt for some authentic Italian food. Her travel writing does the countries she visited justice. 

Another positive I took from the book was it’s structure. The three sections which correlate to the three countries are each divided into an equal number of parts. All the divisions and numbers have spiritual importance to the author which had no real meaning for me, but created a nicely balanced book. 

I’m disappointed that this book has been taken as a self help book by so many women around the world. It offers no help but merely tells of one persons experience and what worked for her. It is a sickening example of modern society’s desperation for something to jump on to explain Gilbert needs to focus more on her travel writing and leave out the intense spirituality and self centerd rambling. 

I feel like I must end this review with a quote, not something I usually do, but something I feel is very appropriate in this instance.

In the words of Frances O’Brien from ABC’s ‘The Librarians’ when faced with a meditating real estate agent, 

“That woman who wrote Eat, Pray, Love has got a lot to answer for.”

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Casio Kids ‘Finn Bikkjen!’

Today I was driving along and listening to Triple R. The sun was shining, and Triple R was playing some very rad music, as they tend to do. One song came on as I was driving into Lorne that caused the anticipation building, beverage calling, coursing through my body excitement that only a truly fantastic song can bring about. I wanted so badly to find out what it was called, but being mid song I was getting nothing from the DJ. At this stage stress levels were building, until I remembered Shazam. The iPhone app which listens to a song and tells you what it is, who it is by and provides a link to iTunes so you can download. A million thank yous to the creator/s of Shazam…and technology in general.

This is what it told me. This song is the highlight of my day. Perhaps it will be yours too.

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