Quick reviews

A few quick reviews of things I’ve read or watched recently…

(The DVDs fall into the category of “I’ve been meaning to watch that; I’ll buy that if it’s less than $10. Ooh, there it is!” One book was borrowed, the other I got for Christmas.)

A Hard Day’s Night — got this cheap on Amazon, and thought the kids would enjoy it, which they did. Occasionally the accents are a tad hard to follow, but the antics of the Beatles, together with Paul’s “very clean” grandfather got some laughs. And because it’s based loosely on the real life experiences of The Beatles, it’s also a view into life in 1960s Britain.Thumbs up!

Tron — found this cheap in JB Hifi. It smells a bit of 80s computer-age wonder cash-in, with users having real beings inside the computer who run all their jobs. But it was quite enjoyable, and very interesting graphics for a 1982 film.Thumbs up!

A Nest of Occasionals, Tony Martin — very funny stuff, particularly the tales of writing radio adverts, which had me in stitches at one point. I’m going to have to check out his other book, Lolly Scramble.Thumbs up!

Jasper Jones (by Craig Silvey)– Superb, a real page turner, really enjoyed it. And again, fully intending to get hold of his other novel, Rhubarb.Thumbs up!

(Currently reading Shane Maloney: “Stiff”.)

The mathematics of school textbooks

It’s all easy in primary school. You send the money in, you get a box of goodies. There’s few textbooks, and almost all are kept at and owned by the school.

It gets more complicated and expensive in secondary school.

So here’s the scenario: Two kids, two years apart. The school has a secondhand book scheme.

At the end of the year, books are sold for two-thirds the retail price, with the seller getting three-quarters of that. So basically for cashing in your books, you get half the money back — assuming you bought them new in the first place.

So with two kids going through, I’m trying to work out if it’s worth selling them through the scheme, or holding onto them unused for a year before using them again.

If you bought $100 of books new at the start of year 1, you’d get $50 back for selling them at the end. If you bought them back again for year 3, it’d cost you $66, and you’d sell them again for $50. Total cost $100 – $50 + $66 – $50 = $66.

If you bought them secondhand originally, the cost is $66 – $50 + $66 – $50 = $32.

If you bought them new, and held onto them until the end of year 3, it’s $100 – $50 = $50.

If you bought them secondhand, and held onto them until the end of year 3, it’s $66 – $50 = $16.

The big unknown here is whether or not the school decides to changes the textbooks along the way, as new editions and better texts are published. If they change them before year 1, you can’t buy them secondhand in the first place, but must buy new. If they change them for year 2, you can’t sell them in the first place. If they change them for year 3, and you held onto them, you have to buy new ones anyway, and you missed your opportunity to sell.

I wonder how fast the turnover is. Perhaps it pays to sit down and be selective, holding onto things which are recent editions.

And just when I thought I’d figured out what to do, my sister mentioned she can get publisher discounts through her work.

NASA to prove Herge right?

Tintin and friends landed on the moon in 1952, some 17 years before Apollo 11 got there.

Tintin and friends greet Armstrong

While writing the story, Herge and his team researched what the moon would look like on the surface, and as anybody who’s read the book would know, it’s uncannily accurate.

After Apollo 11 made it to the Moon, it seemed that Herge had got only one thing wrong: in the story, Tintin and Haddock observed stalactites and stalagmites in a lunar cave, and then after falling down a crevice found ice.

…the existence of ice on the moon came about at the insistence of [adviser] Dr Bernard Heuvelmans. Herge had agonised about the question, not at all sure if he agreed with the prevalent scientific evidence that the moon was an icy place, but Heuvelmans’ advice won the day.

– “Tintin — Herge and his creation”, Harry Thompson, p146

Tintin discovers water on the moon

Now NASA have sent a probe to the Moon which may prove Herge (and Heuvelmans) right after all — they’re looking for the presence of water and ice. It seems a rather unsubtle method — crashing the probe into the Moon’s south pole — but the expected debris cloud hasn’t been seen, and it may be a little while until they know if water has been detected or not.

The Example

The Example, by Tom Taylor and Colin Wilson (published by Gestalt Books), might be the first graphic novel to be set entirely within the confines of Flinders Street Station.

The Example - graphic novel cover

It’s a short but thought-provoking read, combining a most-of-Western-world issue — paranoia over terrorism — with a more decidedly local Melbourne issue: the trains.Thumbs up!

Speaking of terrorism and paranoia, the other book I’ve read recently is Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers, which was a terrific, if chilling, account of a man who stayed behind to help after Katrina, and got locked-up for it with no charge, no lawyer, no phone call.Thumbs up!

Some silly things

A fire in Springvale, to which the CFA responds. C’mon, Springvale. What is this, 1960? East of Westall Road isn’t paddocks anymore. Surely it’s time to re-draw the MFB/CFA boundaries?

The metro/country taxi boundaries are similar, aren’t they? Time for an update.

Odd. I found a quarterly magazine that retails for $7, but is $44 per year by subscription?!

What’s with those fake Tintin t-shirts? “Tintin in Vietnam”? They’re not even taking the mickey out of the characters, they’re just making stuff up. Why?

Finally… if you get the opportunity to speak to the world, don’t waste it. Use your canvas wisely. Aim to impart great knowledge. Communicate your ideas to make society better. Say something meaningful.
The intellectuals have been busy