[Book Review] Breath: A Novel

A Novelby Tim Winton

rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe I had too high expectations, and to be fair not many books will leave me feeling the same way as I did after I finished Cloudstreet. The style was similar for the most part — the almost melancholic nostalgia, but the ending lwft me hollow. After the wonderful parts about Pikelet’s adolecence, the South West surfie culture, the amazing descriptions of the sea and the weather… it all fell a little flat.
View all my reviews.

[Happy Post] The beginning

It has been brought to my attention that all my posts seem to involve me whinging/bitching etc, and I have been asked to maybe sometimes post a “happy post” once in a while.

So I will not mention that this morning I overwrote my USB stick and lost all the effing work I did yesterday any bad stuff and just post about what makes me happy today.

Like this picture:

And the fact that Morgan Freeman is ok and that it is my birthday tomorrow and rather than get all stressy tonight making cupcakes I might order them from Cupcakecreations.net.au instead.

Cupcakes: aw schucks, it doesn’t get better than that. Unless it’s this, which includes this:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04RZrf3-Mgo]

Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!

on the University of Notre Dame Australia and academic disappointment

UPDATE: apparently some people @ ND are ticked off at me for writing this post.  In a perfect world, they would stop Googling themselves (with disparaging search terms, no less) or writing patronising emails and get back to supporting students and academic staff. But whatevs. That’s just my opinion, and no-one listens to me. (Anyone who is listening to me: um… may I suggest therapy?) I have made one change, and one change only to this post, and kudos will be awarded to the first person to pick what it is (hint: nothing in the text of the post, other than this update, has been changed). xoxo SG

So I am applying for this Thing (no specifics; that way, when I don’t get it I don’t have to admit to my rejection) and I need super-dooper undergrad grades, which I have, but I worry that the Thing-chooser people will look at my Notre Dame transcript and snort with derisory laughter before throwing my application out the window.

I hear the new VC is getting inaugurated this evening, and I totally hope she has lots of plans for making the place less of a joke.  When I started there, way back when, people who didn’t know me looked at me with a horrible mix of sympathy and disgust upon finding out I was going there.  The people who knew me to be generally intelligent, of course, looked at me with abject confusion:

“Why the HELL is she going there? Surely she got the grades for UWA law?”

Yeah. I did. But I thought ND would get better, cause there were all these cool lecturers there and, you know, I like being little different.

So what happened?

FAIL.

All the staff members who I was impressed by as a curious Year 12 leaver have since vanished into thin air (or, more accurately, better institutions) and I graduated with two lots of first class honours yet feeling like a complete tool.

I was googling my Arts honours supervisor (cause he’s flown the ND coop and I needed his new contact details to ask for a reference for aforementioned Thing) and I discovered that he’s recently co-authored a book on terrorism. It looks like a good one, too:

Responding to Terrorism

Political, Philosophical and Legal Perspectives

Robert Imre, University of Newcastle, Australia, T. Brian Mooney, Singapore Management University, Singapore and Benjamin Clarke, University of Notre Dame, Australia

This volume, which focuses on Australian perspectives on terrorism, provides significant new dimensions. Four main areas are treated in this intriguing analysis: responses to uses of torture, legal approaches, terrorism as a consequence of globalisation and counter-terrorism. There is a nice blend of the heterodox, theoretical and concrete cases. Without doubt this is a challenging, perceptive and useful book that must be essential reading in the sometimes hyper-ventilated field of terrorism studies.
Alan O’Day, Greyfriars Hall, University of Oxford, UK

Terror does not respect disciplinary boundaries. In confronting the global reality of terror from philosophical, political and legal perspectives, Imre, Mooney and Clarke, open the way for deeper and more considered responses to our age. Their message is one of totality, of the need to consider terrorism as a crisis of ideas, of politics and of laws. In this they offer a wealth of insights to both researchers and policymakers.
Kieran Tranter, Griffith University, Australia

The co-authors were also lecturers of mine. The three of them were right up there among the best academics ND had to offer.

Ben Clarke lectured me in Crim, International Law and Human Rights Law, and while he kinda needed to work on his over-reliance on PowerPoint at the time, he’s totally bloody interesting and committed and passionate about the international public law field and I will always admire him.

Brian Mooney was part of the reason I decided to go to Notre Dame.  He gave a talk to us in Year 12 Religion & Philosophy (by the way, I am still so effing impressed SHAGS implemented that. So impressed) and I was blown away by him.  He was hilarious, he was interesting, and he was bloody thought-provoking.  The thought of going to a uni with lecturers like that was highly desirable, so I did some research, went to the open days, signed up and then I got the scholarship and it was a done deal.

Rob Imre, what can a say… What a bloody legend. The man reminded us that we were there to THINK, not just hand in some arbitrary assessment to get an arbitrary grade to get an arbitrary qualification to get an arbitrary job. It would piss off the idiots to no end when they would ask him a question, expecting the answers to the exam, and he would reply, “Well, what do you think?”

Which makes perfect sense considering that thinking, if I may ever-so-lightly generalise, is the whole fricking point of a university education.  But he was treated like shit and off he went.

For those who know a bit about ND, you may or may not be surprised to know only one of those co-authors are still staff members at Notre Dame.

The other two have moved on, and frankly, left a giant effing vacuum.

For an institution so obsessed with the image they present to the outside world (I totally speak from experience here), you’d think the Media office is pretty darn pissed off they can’t claim all three authors as their own.

But they really messed up.

The thing is, right, I *did* enjoy most of my academic career there, and I learned lots of new skills (eg, How to Deal with Morons), and made some great connections that I will have with me for life (Hi, Matthew, darling) but that place… urgh, what a horrible fucking excuse for an institution of tertiary education.  And yup. I even didn’t change it to ‘effing’. It is THAT BAD.

The place was run by high school administrators AS a high school. I remember at one stage they tried to ban chocolate on campus cause it wasn’t healthy. And do NOT get me started on their attitude to mentioning any sort of reasoned discussion or debate on anything even slightly related to the s-word.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, they seemed to have no conception of the fact that a university is there to educate students and that to educate students you need good staff.  Because, oh Mary Almighty, they sure as burning hell did not act like they knew they need good staff. Or knew that to keep good staff you have to treat them like human beings, and respect them for being bloody intelligent ones at that.

Instead, the University seemed to see academic staff as workers in a degree factory who only need to shove random bits of information into students so that people can pay their fees, get their unnecessarily large-and-expensive-to-frame bits of paper and go work in some schmucky job.

Or, at least that was what it was like in Law and when I did Arts.  I hear that this year they made an HONOURS STUDENT change her topic AFTER it had ALREADY BEEN ‘APPROVED’ because apparently a discussion of why Muslim women living in Western Australia choose to or not to wear a hijab is “too controversial” inappropriate for a politics/sociology honours thesis.

Oh yeah, and scholarship students were expected to serve food at university functions for free as a means of “giving back” to the university community.  Because it’s not at all like they NEEDED scholarship students to  contribute anything to the academic reputation of a student population consisting mostly of air-headed daddy’s-girls/boys and bored stockbrokers’ wives . Nuh-uh. Yeah, the university is doing the scholarship students a favour.

Urgh.

Who knows, it might be better in other schools. But I saw nothing but shitness, I just really, really hope it gets better in the future under new leadership.

From the way things went while I was there, it seemed like some of the best staff members (including, arguably, the best ever) got fed up, then packed up and left, and I hear from good authority that the floodgates are still open.

What a bloody waste.

When I enrolled there in 2002 there was so much talk of growth and development — visions of the uni growing into a great place staff, students and alumni could be proud of.  I ignored people’s pitiful looks when I told them I was going to Notre Dame because I was sure it would eventually shrug that reputation.

Sure, it grew alright; in a hurried and horribly-planned manner that may be rather familiar to people trying to rent a house or squish onto a bus in Perth. But has it made us proud?

Not yet.

Please Celia, please fix this mess.