Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My tribute to Michael Jackson

Like the rest of the world, I've been very melancholy and sad this past week. I always feel this way when I hear of somebody with brilliance and everything at their feet ending up wasting themselves and dying prematurely. He still had far too much to give the world. But when I think about it, how could it be any other way? He was a victim of fame, seeming to prove that no matter how we elevate a person, they are only flesh and blood like all the rest of us.

He never knew a normal lifestyle like most of us. He was in the spotlight from the time he was six years old. I actually don't remember those Jackson 5 days but I've heard some of their music and would have loved to have been around back then. My personal experience of Michael Jackson's music begins in the early 80s with albums such as Thriller. But my point is, how can a person who has known nothing but fame and adulation manage to cope during those times when it looks like popularity is waning and album sales are getting lower? It would be foreign to anything he'd ever imagined and nobody could expect him to.

Another thing, how do you expect a person to come up with more stage theatrics and sensationalism when it looked as if he'd already given his absolute all early on in his career? He'd already thrilled his fans by being shot above the heads of the crowd like a rocket! He took upon the added pressure of trying to keep coming up with enough to keep satisfying the thrill seekers. No wonder he crumpled! No wonder he began making some weird personal lifestyle choices! I sould like a psychologist but it's so easy to understand. I really feel terribly sorry for him because in a way, all his life he has been a victim of other people's whims and fancies.

We watched a special documentary on his life last night and I wanted to cry several times. He looked so stunning and fantastic around the time he was in his early twenties. It's been sad to watch what he's done to himself. I don't know how true it is, but they said on the news last night that the coroner's report found nothing in his stomach but drugs, needle pricks covering his body and he only weighed 50 kilograms. He was a tortured soul and may he rest in peace.

One thing is clear, this proves again that we cannot control our own destinies. I supposed God could have said, "OK Michael, I'll wait until you finish your concert tour," but He didn't. Now ticket sellers have the monumental task of trying to refund purchasers. We humans make many, many plans but times like this show that our control is an illusion.

Perhaps one of the saddest parts of the whole documentary was the recent press conference at the end, when Michael Jackson, already looking gaunt and spent, said, "I'll see you in July!"

Monday, June 22, 2009

Stories and White Space

My husband began reading a new novel last night and commented that the author had used several long words in the first couple of pages. He said it was hard to figure out what was going on because trying to work out all the meanings interrupted the flow of the story. It seems to be a very descriptive historical novel, and the author has proven that she is smart but not that she is a good writer, in his opinion.

It reminds me of similar novels I've tried to read in the past. It's sometime true of books that have won prestigious prizes. The intelluctuals on the judging panels like them but the normal population won't necessarily agree with them. These books are brilliant and clever but not necessarily inviting to read.

Sometimes authors use slabs and slabs of description and imagery when I'd rather just skip all that and find out what's going to happen in the story. It reminds me of the nineteenth century classics I used to study in English lessons at school and Uni. I read once that writers like Charles Dickens needed to provide lots of descriptive slabs because TV was still a thing of the future. For example, you might find that Dickens spent five pages describing the interior of a lawyer's office, but that was because he knew that many of his readers would have no idea what a lawyer's office might contain. We in the 21st century however, have seen enough TV shows to hazard a pretty good guess of what you might find in there, so we can dispense with all the description. To readers in the 1800s it was necessary, but to us it may become tedious.

Somebody once pointed out that we 21st century readers tend to unconsciously search for "white space" when we're perusing books to buy. If a page is filled with blocks of chunky paragraphs, we instinctively get the idea that reading it may become a bit 'heavy' and require lots of concentration. When description is sparse and dialogue is plentiful, there is often lots of white space at the end of lines. Readers only need a glance to get the impression that this story will be fast-moving and easy to read. I've never forgotten that lesson because I immediately knew that it's true in my case.

When it comes to my own novels, I like to write stories that appeal to me. I consider myself to be a fairly typical representative of the population so if I like it, it's not unreasonable to hope that many other normal people will like them too.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Radio Interview!

The week before last, I went down to through the city to the other side of town to have a radio interview on Life FM, Adelaide's Christian based radio station. It was a fantastic experience. My daughter came in with me and we were shown around the radio station after doing the interview. Here are some of the highlights.

1) We were there on a Thursday morning but the interview wasn't broadcasted until the following morning. I was part of the Friday line-up. Jayne, who interviewed me, showed us the schedule, and how songs, interviews and ads are all carefully time-slotted days in advance to give the impromptu impression listening to the radio usually gives.

2) The microphone was so large and I had to put my mouth right next to it. She said there's no way anybody could be too close.

3) This was most disconcerting; I had to put my notes away! Anybody who's seen the sort of public speaker I am would know that I'm usually bound to my notes. I never move away from the podium and I keep looking down to read bits out. I've always been convinced that if I don't do this, I'll miss things that I'm supposed to say. I thought it'd be easy to read off what I came prepared with but Jayne told me that it came across better when I was simply talking naturally, as we had been doing before we started. She said that if I'd written it all down, it was bound to be in my head anyway. I wasn't convinced by this. In my experience, things easily freeze out of my head when I'm on the spot or in a panic, but I was willing to give it a go. Speaking off the cuff without any notes at all is something I've never done before.

4) I didn't even know what questions she would ask me. Jayne Lochert turned out to be a very smooth-flowing, impromptu sort of person herself who told me at the outset that she often doesn't even know what she'll ask a person until they're there with her on the spot.

5) Emma liked the look of the room with all the stacks and stacks of music. I would've liked a look around myself, as I love the music they play.

6) We learned that they never put two Christian songs back to back. In each group of songs they aim for a Christian artist, a song from the nineties and a song from the eighties. Maybe that's why I enjoy listening to Life FM so much.

7) Finally, she offered to email the interview to me to put on our own website. I hadn't been expecting anything like that. We've tried different ways to get it on and finally succeeded. Logan put the two parts of the interview on You Tube and Andrew got in onto our website.

So here's an invitation to you. Would you like to hear it? Just get into my website (from my blog toolbar) click on "Interview with Paula" and at the very bottom of that page you'll find my interview with Jayne Lochert. I'd love to hear what you thought of it. Keep in mind, please be easy on me as I was way out of my comfort zone with no written notes in front of me.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What would you do?

I had terrible problems with a back molar tooth last week.

This is the very back one on the upper right hand side. It's had a deep filling in the past and the dentist has said that it was close to the nerve and might cause future problems. Well, it started doing little twinges a few months ago which I ignored because I knew that would mean the last resort -root canal- which I didn't want to hear.

To cut a long story short, it began throbbing very severely and very suddenly as I lay in bed last Tuesday night. So bad in fact that I couldn't get back to sleep. Taking paracetemol only seemed to take the edge off the problem for a very little while at first and soon seemed to have no effect at all. I might as well have been swallowing lollies.

I tried to get into my local dentist but they were full up. I managed to contact the local dental emergency service at our local hospital. They do nothing unless you're in agony. By then, the intense pain was throbbing right through the tooth, gum and cheekbone so that touching it made me wince, so I managed to give a pretty good description. The lady told me to come to collect an authority for an emergency visit to any dental surgery I could manage to squeeze an appointment with. Just after I picked up the form I felt a sudden crack in that tooth, and found myself holding the old filling in my hand. Then there was a massive hole when I felt it with my tongue but at least the pain had eased somewhat.

I managed to get into a dental chair at about 3.30. At first I thought it might be OK. The dentist started saying, "Perhaps I only need to replace that filling. That'd be your best scenario." But as he started digging around back there, he said, "This doesn't look good at all." I hate it when you're lying flat on your back and dentists start saying that sort of thing! He said, "The nerve has just about worn away. No wonder you've been having trouble. I can give you two options, an extraction or root canal therapy, and I think I can save that tooth so I'd suggest the latter but you'll be looking at $1100. Today I'll just begin the treatment and you'll find the pain will lessen very quickly."

So here's the position I'm in now. The tooth is no longer aching or even twinging. I'm sitting here with the beginning of a root canal in my mouth but find that I can't stand the thought of paying over a thousand dollars on a back tooth! It never sees the light of day even when I smile. At this stage I choose to opt for the extraction. Some people have been saying, "Once it's gone, you'll never have it back." But my sister had a back molar extracted once rather than paying for a root canal and she says she's never missed that tooth. Since my dh has been studying and doing odd jobs rather than working a full-time job money has been very scarce. We've had the household incentive payment from the government so if I really wanted to, we could spend a chunk of that on the tooth, but there are so many other great and sorely-needed things that money could be spent on, including curriculum, clothes and decent shoes for growing feet. Hence my question, what would YOU do?

In fact, does anybody know a bit about dentistry. I'm on a waiting list to have a cheap dental check-up at the local hospital but my name probably won't come up for over 18 months. If I could go around with the start of this root canal in my mouth for that long I would. Do you think this temporary measure would last for a year or more? At the moment, I'm still expecting it'll be the extraction in about a month.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Emma's Baptism

Emma was baptised in church last Sunday. I went into the baptism tank to help lower her. Her grandfather (my father-in-law), a retired pastor, baptised her. I told a bit of Emma's history. Here is my message about her.
Emma's story started before she was even born. In the early to mid 90s I had a history of sudden early miscarriages. Nobody ever worked out why and it's still a mystery.
Back when Logan, our eldest, was about 2 years old we were given several prophetic words by people which we clung to. A visiting pastor prayed for us out the front and asked if we had any children at all. When I replied, "Yes, a little boy," he said, "How would you like a little girl?" We prayed with him, and determined to stand on that promise and believe, but it was another eighteen months before we saw any results.
Another friend, Elva, seemed to have a connection straight to God on the subject. She said, "You're going to have another baby and it's burning my heart to tell you." Then she got anxious herself when nothing happened for so long except more miscarriages. Finally, she woke up one night in early 1998 with a clear thought, "Paula's pregnant!" And I only found out myself two weeks later.
Elva always knew we'd have a girl. On November 11th, when she was born, my parents, who were looking after Logan, received several phone calls from people, including Elva, who just knew that something was happening.

Emma's a real joy and delight with a natural cheerfulness and busyness. When she was just a half hour old she was looking around the hospital room, more curious than I imagined such a new baby could be. And when she was just a few months old she'd sing at church with a really loud baby noise. She's always had a bright smiling face.
She's the sort of person who's an example to all of us because of the joy that bubbles up from inside her. She's satisfied with whatever's going on. When there's no fun happening, she'll make up her own. Her enthusiasm is always good for the more intense people who live with her. She's a lovely splash of femininity in a family of boys.

Another thing about Emma is her love for anything beautiful. Her sense of awe is well developed and it's been wonderful to see her love and appreciation for God grow. I know He must be working a wonderful plan for her and we look forward to seeing it unfold.
Good on you, Emma!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hey, how about the winners?

We all know by now that Susan Boyle didn't win "Britain has Talent." It's spread all through the media. "Susan Boyle comes second! Susan Boyle is runner-up. Unfortunately, Boyle misses title!" But what I thought sadly curious is that the winners received no accolades at all. Not down here, anyway. All I know is they were a dancing troupe but I don't think I even heard or saw their name mentioned on the media. They deserve a bit of a plug too, don't they? The guys just won a national title!!

Susan Boyle is a remarkable lady with an inspirational story and a wonderful voice. We all know that by now. But these dancers obviously put hours and hours of blood, sweat and tears into their act too. I hope they haven't had the gloss rubbed off their victory by the way the world media has brushed them to the side to focus on their rival.

I saw something similar in the Autralian Open Tennis this summer, when Rafael Nadal apologised to the crowd for beating Roger Federer. If I had the chance to have something broadcast, I'd say, "How about a bit of sportsmanship?"