“Don’t you hate when your hand falls asleep and you know it will be up all night?” – Steven Wright

Just a quick attempt at drawing my hand (you should have seen the previous tries, they were seriously anatomically imposible!) Just a simple line drawing here,  I think I’ll try some more with some shading as well, and some different angles too.

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Super Mario Themed Decor

There appears to be a lot of Super Marios fans around the globe (and the internet!) taking their love for their game a step further by decorating their living spaces to look like the game. I am surprised at the number of fans who have chosen to spruce up their rooms like this, as can be seen by the examples below:

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Not quite sure that I’ll be redecorating my house in this style anytime soon, but I do love the work that has gone into these, as most of these are personlised and home-made designs. It could also keep a lot children interested in staying in their room! What do you think of these styles? Anyone seen any other video-game inspired decor?

Room: Love in a Box

I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.
– Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Emma Donoghue’s emotional and profound narrative of ‘Room’, told in the voice of a five year old boy who has lived with his mother in an eleven-foot-by-eleven-foot room his whole life, is no easy reading at times. Jack is shown as a normal child, a curious, happy and loving young boy whose whole world consists of himself, his mother, the shadowy, background character “Old Nick” and the four walls which make up his universe. Plunged into Jack and his Ma’s world from the very first page, the readers quickly discern the bleak reality of their situation, even as the protagonist himself remains blissfully oblivious. This is a brave concept which Donoghue handles sensitively: the innocent narrative revealing the horrific truth of a young woman who has been abducted and raped by her captor for a seven-year period, resulting in a son and a whole new life to cope with.

We are admitted to a very private world, in which we see this unusual situation through the eyes of a child, and how he has created a lively world for himself, giving names and personalities to inanimate objects. Everything around him becomes part of his family: Plant, Door, Rug, Meltedy Spoon and many more, so that at no times does Jack ever appear to be lonely. This subtle process of substitution shows how Jack unconsciously compensates for the lack of society in his world, yet this is done in such a loving way, with their own codes of language and relationships (“Stroke Table’s scratches to make them better”), we are left with an endearing self-involved character which is shown as completely natural for a young child.

Throughout the novel, Donoghue also portrays an almost musical, poetic way of viewing the world, using symbolism and storytelling as a writing technique. The Sun is described as being “God’s face”, and similarly “God’s silver face” (the moon), which could be interpreted as powerful metaphor to show how the characters try to gain control of their lives. The renaming of objects in their world using the poetic, sweet voice of a child almost echoes the primitiveness of their situation, as if they are having to start again. There is a constant stream of storytelling and riddles from Ma, which is incorporated in bring up Jack (“run, run, run like GingerJack), perhaps showing the importance of these stories in their lives, yet also brings a sense of the unreal to their situation.

Jack’s belief that nothing on TV is real, however, shows the shocking reality of how much he has been both hidden away from the outside world, as well as how much has been shield from him. His assertion of many facts such as “dogs are only TV” displays a thought process which has been implemented by his Ma – that the real world is just an elaborate fantasy – shows process of coping with being shut off. Through this ongoing theme of the concept of what is real, the author also successfully highlights their isolation. Jack’s take on various aspects of life such as being “switched off” to signify his consciousness show an innocent and odd mix to adult words and ideas being interpreted by a child. Even ‘Old Nick’ is renamed, their shadowy captor, and is shown as representative of the generic ‘Bogeyman’ that “comes in the night”, showing how the fact that Jack has hardly even seen him makes his existence feel less real.

Despite their dire circumstances, however, it is apparent that Jack is very well looked after by his mother, showing himself to be intelligent, and having advanced literacy and numeracy skills. He is educated by both his mother and the TV, and shows the firm, innocent belief that his mum is seen as the wisest: “Ma knows everything”. We see how Ma’s attempts to create some kind of routine and normality in their lives through her own education, such as “Phys Ed.” and ‘riddles’. However, there are other parts of Jack’s routines, such as “scream time at 3pm” (a ‘game’ in which they scream towards the skylight to attract any attention) which reveal to us his mother’s thoughts and intentions to escape – while Jack sees this as part of life, the readers are able to see the reason behind this. In this way the author cleverly makes the readers feel complicit in their situation, as they read in-between the lines.

It is impossible to show the power of this novel without also mentioning the character’s sense of dislocation soon after their very harrowing, tense scenes of escape (apologies for the spoiler), frantic scenes which in themselves engross the reader in their dramatic urgency. The fact that Jack wants to go back to Room once he is ‘rescued’ but is unable to understand that he cannot, sums up a heartbreaking dilemma which he cannot reconciliate with his mother’s pain. His internal belief that “In room I was safe and Outside was is the scary” only shows a different type of anxiety: that of having to struggle with several different outside forces. The fact that he has to undergo a process of “unlying” in order to make sense of this new world compared to his earlier truths show that Jack tries to follow a logical, albeit still child-like, rules to follow in order to comprehend.

There is a significant recurrence of quotes and comparison to Lewis Carroll’s Alice (from Wonderland) and her questions of ‘self’, which relates to Jack’s changing identity and his own interpretation of the world. There are several layers of questions which force the reader to look at Jack’s own reality and self, as well as his idea of what is real. Prompting philosophical style ideas (“Is Room still there when we’re not?”), Jack shows his struggle between seeing things physically in order to believe them, and following the logic that is given to him by his wise Ma and the outside world.

All in all, it is clear that this novel is heavily influenced by case of Joseph Fritzl and his daughter Elisabeth Fritzl, and this is something that the author has said herself which inspired her for this book. Donoghue is never as arrogant to assume that this novel will help readers to relate to Ma’s pain and suffering, and indeed this is probably why there are not much specific details in reference to her seven-year period. Rather, Donoghue successfully garners the more universal concept of love and friendship in mother and child’s relationship (“I belong to Ma”), thus concluding that it is better to focus on the positive aspects of human nature rather than the horrifying sides of their ordeal. There is still humour in this gripping novel which also helps lighten the tone of the novel (“Princess Diana? Should have worn a seatbelt”), peppering it with Jack’s child-like straightforward voice whch is captured so well. With reference to popular culture ( “book of faces”, “Google”, “Skype”), Donoghue shows an interesting new perspective in this current world of technology and media, without managing to sound patronising. This novel is not just about how the characters have suffered, but rather how they must move on and cope with the immense attention from the outside world. This is a unique and well-written story, and at times has scenes which may be upsetting due to the stifling atmosphere and the depressing content, yet it always continues with a strand of optimism. Just as Jack struggles to integrate in a new world, both he and the readers find hope in the way that he tries to find his own place with his Ma in this same new world, leaving readers with the idea of moving forward into the light, and away from the darkness that is in Room.

Emma Donoghue, Room (Picador: London 2010) pp.322 £12.99

Weekly Wearing Sunscreen Links

Looking forward to a scorching weekend (where I shall no doubt be hiding inside in the shade), but I hope you all enjoy the beautiful snatches of sun before it gets away stolen again, and remember kids – wear sunblock.

Good ole geekiness here, the magic of vedic maths, something interesting to look at to see how you can make big number calculations using interesting methods.

I’m sure many of you have read this before, but here’s a poem composed about “Desi Aunties” to give you a few giggles about typical features of Asian culture.

I love this Russian Doll memory stick, a really cute novelty which disguises the memory stick cleverly (and maybe a good way to stop your USB getting ‘borrowed’ by people who don’t give it back!)

Another comic blog which I’ve stumbled upon, with very, very random ideas. I quite liked this one about the moon.

And lastly, for those of you with a LOT of time of your hands (or eyes) to boggle at pretty, silly and hilarious images, someone has compiled a ‘Best of Tumblr‘ site, there’s something here to appeal to everyone.

Enjoy the weekend all, and also a quick last point that for those of you interested in helping to campaign for Roma Gypsy people and their rights, a few good friends of mine, with the Restless Beings charity, are having a Roaming Trail Day to show their support for their Roma and to break the chain of misrepresentation. It’s happening this Sunday around East London area, and is also a pretty good way to explore the city!

Glueguns & Craftiness: Making Felt Flowers

I’ve been trying some arty/crafty/cutting stuff in the last few days to see where I get…and I’ve found that I’m quite clumsy at it. Initially I was trying to cut out letter shapes in felt to see if I could spell out names, but the finished results just looked embarassing. So I decided to go for simpler shapes to see if that would work. Below is my (simple) process to  get the finished result. Not too sure how usuable this design in (I’m gonna get the kids in my family to judge as well cos they tend to be good and truthfully blunt about their insights), but it’s a start. On to more complicated ideas…heigh ho.

Stickers on the Central Line

I recently saw this sticker cleverly attached to the tube map on a Central line underground tube trains of London, which I nearly almost missed:

So, of course I had to rush home and looked it up, and found this ‘Stickers on the Central Line‘ phenomenon. I love this secret campaign by an anonymous group who have been putting up stickers on random trains to confuse passengers “one sticker at a time.” More stickers are on their blog and facebook group, such as these:

All Pictures belong to ‘Stickers on the Line‘ Group

(I’ve tried not to go too crazy and post the best ones I like…but there’s quite a lot that I find hilarious). The group have even created a ‘Let’s All Stick Some Stickers On The Central Line‘ day which I’m assuming is to ‘improve’ (i.e. vandalise) the central line maps in a joint effort. They’ve also appealed to their fans to design some new ideas (my marker pens are buzzing with potential ideas and inspiration) and submit to them. I’ve been looking out for more of these stickers (no luck so far), but will keep up the vigil – have you managed to see any?

Weekly Crazy Hats Links

After a week of mad hats at Ascot, Facebook scandals and X-men cheering, it’s time to wind down our brains and fill our heads with the littlee useful joys that keep us happy.

Some advice for the dos-and-don’ts of Facebook for those of you out there who aren’t quite sure of where the social boundaries of life lie in the real world, and therefore  choose to test them out on the online cyber-reality first.

Some crazy (or perhaps offensive) fancy dress outfits for those of you looking for something different. Not to mention these costumes of people dressing up as actual Asian food. The mind knows no boundaries, eh.

What gnomes in the gardens probably get up to in the garden when competing with each other about whose kingdom looks better.

One cynic’s dissection on our united snobbery (especially when watching My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding – those huge pink net wedding dresses, goodness) and what we really mean.

And lastly, the ever accurate Oatmeal weighs up the significant way we are unable to function without  smartphones, and why we both love and hate them.

Happy weekend all : )