Archive | February, 2011

Dear Me

25 Feb

Dear Me: A Letter to my Sixteen-Year-Old Self, edited by Joseph Galliano, 2009
Dear Me
What would you say to yourself at 16, if you had the chance now? Would you tell Younger You to be crazier, not be so crazy, to follow your dreams, stay away from that boy, learn the piano, give up your nail biting habit?

“You adore music more than anything in the world… but that doesn’t mean you have to marry the lead singer of every band you ever had a poster of on your bedroom wall.” (Patsy Kensit now, to Patsy Kensit age 16)

The editor of Dear Me: A Letter to my Sixteen-Year-Old Self, asked 64 celebrities to write to their teen selves and share the letters with the world, and the resulting book is just super, super sweet. Sometimes sad (“You’ve run away from home and will be running for a long time”), sometimes funny (“Baton twirling is not a skill you’ll need later in life, trust me”), each letter is tinged with so much affection it can actually hurt your heart.

“You deserve a lot better than the guy you are going to meet next year… just let him pass, like he was a ghost… Everything is not going to be good, but everything will be perfect. The best is coming up.” (Roseanne Cash)

The celebs are mainly UK-based, so I didn’t know them all. Having said that, there are heaps of recognisable people in there – Elton John, Stephen Fry, Jackie Collins, Baz Luhrmann, Annie Lennox, Emma Thompson…

And it’s just so, so sweet. Did I mention that already?

FYI: You can share your own letter at the Dear Me blog, or tweet your #dearme message.

And as it’s my birthday today, I’m indulging myself and sharing part of my own letter…

Dear Literate Chicken at 16,

Life will get better. Some day you’ll get paid to write and even edit other people’s writing (!), you’ll own your very own beautiful cat (!!), and you’ll be living in Sydney on your own(!!!). It may not all go according to plan, but you’ll have amazing friends and an amazing family (yes, you will one day get along with your mother – be nicer to her or you’ll feel bad about it later). In fact, try not to plan so much – just be happy as your life unfolds. It will all be okay.

Also, don’t grow your fringe out.

Love your older, calmer self,
Literate Chicken



24 Feb

With far too many vowels in a seemingly random order, ouevre is a head-scratcher when it comes to pronunciation. It seems French, kind of… so is there some secret French way to say it?

Well, I don’t know about that, but I can tell you the way it’s pronounced in good old Anglais: erv-ra.

And it means: the body of work of a painter, composer, or author.

Bonus fact: have you noticed that oeuvre makes up part of hors d’oeuvre? According to the most trusted of sources (Wikipedia), this is because hors d’oeuvre means “apart from the main work”. How about that.


20 Feb

It’s such a pretty sounding word, ephemeral. It’s all soft and rounded, like an Italian actress from the days of yore (well, it’s probably just because it sounds similar to ‘feminine’, but whatevs).

Anyway, Sophia Loren comparisons aside, what the hell does it mean? I’m glad you asked, ignorant internet user*.

Ephemeral, according to the Oxford dictionary online, means:

lasting a very short time

It comes from the Greek ephemeron, a noun used to describe plants that would last only a day before dying, or insects with a very short lifespan.

From this we also get ephemera, which is, apparently, a noun (plural) used to describe “things that exist or are used or enjoyed for only a short time”, which pretty much encapsulates 95% of the items sold in souvenir shops.

* I am one of these ignorant internet users, as I didn’t know what this word meant and had to look it up when Miss Emma asked me about it. We can all learn together! Let’s not make this website ephemeral, okay?!

Death Scenes

20 Feb

Death Scenes: A Homicide Detective’s Scrapbook, edited by Sean Tejaratchi, 1996

The purpose of this collection of homicide pictures is to show the work of the peace officer and his problems…

Death Scenes: A homocide detective's scrapbookSo begins Jack Huddleston’s introduction to his original scrapbook – but these are no ordinary pictures, and Jack’s problems aren’t your ordinary work woes either. Jack was a police officer working with the LAPD from the 1930s to the 50s, and his scrapbook is a collection of crime scene photos, mugshots and oddities. Death Scenes, a sample of those photos, is really not for the faint-hearted: suicides, car accident victims, murdered children… page after page, image after image, shows that violence was around even when our grandparents were kids – or, as the introduction says, “[This book is] proof that there were no ‘good old days’”.

I know a lot of people who would absolutely hate this book. I know others who would find it fascinating. Yes, there are dead bodies galore, but there are stories behind them, some explained by captions, others left to the imagination. There’s the 1930s party scene with smartly dressed couples passed out all around a lounge room, victims of a carbon monoxide-leaking heater; a good-looking young guy who shot himself, captioned with “caused by a broken home and a broken heart”; an 83-year-old woman who killed her 91-year-old husband in a jealous rage after she saw him talking to a female neighbour.

But it’s not all death and bloodshed – Jack was clearly very curious about hermaphrodites, so there are a few pictures of these too. There’s also a photo of a kitten peeing into a large teacup, a few shrunken heads, and a cat with eight legs. Random.

Still, this book really is about its death scenes. For me, the photo that lingers is from a car accident – the driver was decapitated, and his head was found sitting neatly on the road 20m from the car. Some things never change.

Read it if you like real-life crime stories. Definitely don’t read it if you’re easily distressed or freaked out by death.


18 Feb

Smithereens by Shaun Micallef, Penguin Books, 2004 (re-released in 2011, but original version reviewed here)

smithereens by shaun micallef. Mwah!The mayor’s wife was on the verandah to meet me in sensible shoes offset by an insensible hat. She also had a décolletage that not only demanded to be looked at but leapt out and ran across the lawn to slap your face for doing so. A complicated woman.

Oh, Shaun Micallef. How I love you so.

[At a dinner party] before dessert is served, the table should be completely cleared of all dishes from the previous courses, and these should then be washed loudly in the kitchen with lots of audible sighing.

Shaun Micallef (aka My Future Husband {If He Wasn’t Already Happily Married with Children, Living in Another City, Pretty Much Out of My Age Range and Entirely Out of My League}) is a freaking genius. We all know him from his sketch, talk, (mock) news and quiz shows, but you should really get to know him as an author, too.

Smithereens is a collection of short stories and plays by this now 48-year-old. Many are just two pages long – the longest is 12 pages – but each one is so jam-packed with absurd humour that I found myself taking ages to read each chapter, as I had to pause to think about the clever wording and hilarious set-ups all the freaking time. It’s actually for that reason that I needed to space out my Smithereens reading sessions – I didn’t want to just get in the ‘ha, that’s funny’, skimming-to-the-next-page mindset. This is a book to be savoured.

The plotlines vary wildly. There’s the death of Pope John Paul I, an imagined meeting with the then Govenor General Peter Hollingworth, a tale of a small-town GP who tells a depressed woman that she’s depressed because she’s actually a bloody awful person… they’re all here, and lots more, wrapped in crazy, sometimes acidic, always imaginative prose. But it’s not the stories themselves that are so awesome – it’s Shaun’s clever, clever words. Having said that, my favourite would have to be ‘Visiting Rites (A Play)’, a dark, bittersweet and perhaps pretty accurate tale of a son visiting his dad in a nursing home. Happy times.

Read it when you want to enter a place where anything is possible. It will also help if you do it when you don’t mind having to think – or laugh, loudly and often – while you read.

Open bracket woes

15 Feb

I hate it when things like this happen. comes up with the goods, as usual.

Chicken on the run…

8 Feb

“The bird didn’t look scared, just indignant. It had a look on its face like it was thinking ‘I’m just trying to walk across the car park, what’s your problem? Why are you chasing me?'”

This article is a bit out of the realm of what this blog will usually cover, but it is chicken related. And who could resist reposting that classic quote above?

I want to see someone taking their chicken for a walk, then have it get away and create a hilarious chase scene. You just know that everyone watching would have Benny Hill music playing in their heads…