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Plodding on. March 31, 2013

Posted by phoenixaeon in E301, Give up but don't give up, Holy heck my head's exploding!, OU, The Principessa Files, TMA05.
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Urgh! TMA05 kicked my bum! That was one evil essay, being almost double the length and double-weighted in terms of how it affects the overall course result. I reckon I’ve botched it, but don’t I always? But this time, I truly believe it. Only time (and cliches) will tell…


So the last few months have been about sticking with things, for Princi and for me. Princi insisted that we give something up for Lent, so we agreed that crisps and fast food would be it. There were a few tantrums from Princi when she moaned about wanting to quit, but she stuck with it, making yesterday’s crisps and fast food day worth it for her – and Tazcat, who happily shared a packet of salt and vinegar crisps with her. For me, the whole experience was about breaking out of a habit. I was forever falling for the quick option and eating far too many crisps and the once a week fast food habit was doing me no good. My moment of yay-ness appeared on Tuesday night when I stood on the scales for the first time in six weeks and discovered I’d lost a stone. Woohoo! I’ve sworn off the crisps and fast food for good now that the habit is broken. Next habit to conquer – chocolate!


Princi has also had to deal with finishing a term of after-school gymnastics. She got to the point where she wanted to quit that too, but I’ve told her that once she makes a decision to do something, she must stick with it until it’s completed. It’s advice I’ve had to take, as I so have wanted to quit this damned OU course. It doesn’t seem to make much sense to me, but I’m struggling on with it as it’s my last course to complete the degree. I’m quite proud of my stubbornness not to quit, to tell the truth. And just to prove I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ve started filling out the application for the children’s lit MA. I might as well take a running jump at it. *Fingers crossed* I will get onto the course and spend another three years panicking about essay results!


And that is that. I’m off to give the dog a cuddle before Princi gets back from her trip with Uncle Gaz. They’ve gone to the museum to see the animatronic dinosaurs and to have lunch at Yo! Sushi, as Princi has decided that avocado sushi is her new favourite food.



It’s been ages… February 20, 2013

Posted by phoenixaeon in E301, General rubbish, OU, reading, Reading with Principessa, The Principessa Files, TMA05.

Neglectful of the blog? Moi? Yes, I admit it. The evidence stands up for itself, really. But, you know. Life.

Traversing the wall.

Traversing the wall.

The last month has been doctor’s visits followed by hospital appointments, followed by unrelated hospital appointments and joining a gym, only for the gym to be neglected due to being knackered from all the hospital appointments. And then interwoven through this is the constant read/write routine for the OU studies, the read/write with Princi for her reading diary, and the read/write of permission slips for school clubs and activities. I’m kind of thankful that it’s half term right now, and thankful for Uncle Gaz and Grandand, as they have been taking Princi rock climbing and swimming (she had her first ever taste of swimming today).

Engrossed... Or maybe just sleeping.

Engrossed… Or maybe just sleeping.

The studying. Princi is doing fabulously. I finally made some snarky remark in Princi’s reading diary about the rubbish books that she was being forced to read, books that were at the level she was reading three years ago, and the teacher finally gave her a book that was more her level. It’s driving me up the wall, this school lark. Princi is so bored because they keep repeating the same things over and over – I mean, she’s still being sent home with maths homework that asks her to add and subtract in twos. When she gets given something new and challenging to do while in school she thrives, yet this seems to piddle off the teacher no end because she can’t keep up with Princi, as Princi forces the teacher to have to provide her with harder and harder questions because she rattles off the work so fast. Two years ago I wouldn’t have needed to complain, as the teacher she had then was so happy to have a kid who wanted to learn that she wanted to challenge her. The teacher that she has now doesn’t really want to be bothered. It really irks me something chronic. So during the half term Princi and I have been working on her comprehension and times tables. And just as an example, Princi started rattling off the twelve times table the other night out of nowhere, something I nor the school (who now only teach up to the ten times table) have not gone through with her, as she’s finally understood how to work the patterns. She really does make me proud every day!



As for me… Well. I think I may need some rubber wall paper soon. I am just not getting this course at all! Don’t get me wrong, my essay results have been good – not distinctly good, just good – but I don’t feel like I’m retaining or even understanding anything! Despite my fascination with words it seems that linguistics is not for me. I would definitely rather play with them than study them. Still. Only three more essays to write, at the grand total of 8,500 words, and my studying with the OU is complete. I can hardly believe that I’m almost done. I really am going to miss it. But as it is, I should be getting back to the reading for TMA05. I just have to choose an excerpt of narrative fiction now so that I can fully prepare for the essay. I’m currently deciding between an excerpt from Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, or The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. If only I could find my copy of Spares by Michael Marshall Smith, I think my decision might have been made already!

And then there was one. April 13, 2012

Posted by phoenixaeon in A330, ECA, My poor brain, Mythology, Oh £$%* I've fallen again, OU, TMA05.
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Well. The final TMA for the mythology course Tronned its way through the matrix this morning. So glad! It was an evil bugger, and the guidance notes that accompanied the question related to the question for last year’s intake. That was a stumbling block, I can tell you. But I’ve managed to scribble some rubbish, and as long as I get 55% on it I should still be hitting in the distinction range for the OCAS (overall course assessment score, or something like that!), so I can’t complain there . 😀 That just leaves the 3,000 words owing for the end of module assignment: ‘Analyse the different representations of death or love in classical mythology.’

I have chosen love. Death is too easy. There is a shed-load of primary and secondary sources in the course materials for death. What challenge is there in that? No, I must make it difficult, I must find my own secondary sources, I must have the opportunity to let my brain focus on something that it enjoys. Yes, I am my brain’s bitch! So, with that in mind, and with deciding that I would push it into the boundaries of reception studies, I have decided upon a long-winded title – that will hopefully get the go ahead from my tutor:

Pandora, Pygmalion, Echo and Narcissus: Filial Pietas and Self-love in Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse.

Now, don’t ask me to explain what I’m going to do. I have some ideas – obviously, or I wouldn’t have the title – but there will be some representations of family love and sacrifice alongside representations of selfish love, based on the reception of the mythological characters mentioned. But that is for next week, as I am planning to use the weekend to recover from the mental abuse of the last TMA and the painful bruises on my noggin and bottom, the results from my hips choosing to wimbaway without permission and therefore causing a nasty fall on Wednesday.

Although… Maybe now is a good time to start deconstructing the mythology to keep my mind off the pain…


***EDIT*** (14/05/12)

The title and idea was somewhat given the go-ahead by my tutor, with the compromise of cutting it down a bit. So I ditched Dollhouse and Echo. So now I have about a week and a bit to get the essay finished. It currently stands at 1,500 words down, 1,500 words to go. So I best get back to Narcissus and homosexuality in Ancient Rome, before tackling the Buffy section and conclusion. Wahey!


Oh, and TMA05 came back with a cracking mark, leaving me cacking my pants with expectation and stress at getting the 85% and up result for the EMA (end of module assessment. Why they had to change it from end of course assessment – ECA – I have no idea. All a bit Constantinople to me!). Please let me do a good job of it!

Lurgified! March 28, 2012

Posted by phoenixaeon in A330, Art, OU, Sick again, The Principessa Files, TMA04, TMA05.
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Ugh. Struck down by illness again. I hate being sick.

Over the last week I’ve been feeling so eugh. Sore throat, stuffed up nose, hackity-mcyackity cough, and just generally washed out. Which means I haven’t been able to properly celebrate another fab result for the mythology course or get down to writing the next essay. OK, the next essay – “Does classical mythology reflect a disposition to explore the realities of the world or a desire to escape from them?” –  isn’t due in until April 20-something or other, but I wanted it done by Friday as that is when Princi breaks for Easter. I have got to hope I can tease 1,600 words into a stylish ‘do in two days whilst my sinuses feel like a full nappy! *Sob* But try I will.

Talking of Easter, today was Princi’s Easter Bonnet parade, so we have spent the last two afternoons constructing a monster bonnet:


The crazy, monster Easter bonnet.

Princi did a lot of the work on this herself – all I really did was build the skullcap base (made from half an old football and a piece of card) and attach the basket. Princi made the flowers, sewed the bunny, spelled out and threaded the ‘Happy Easter’ bead banners, and stuck the eggs and chicks on. Nanny kindly made the pompom chick for her. And to top it all off, she won ‘Best Bonnet’ in her class too! Rock on, Principessa!

Anyway, I poured my creative brain into helping Princi with her bonnet, so I apologise for the rather dull post. Hopefully, next time I’m here, it’ll be a bit more exciting.

And breathe…. March 10, 2012

Posted by phoenixaeon in A330, Art, iPhone, OU, Principessa art, Proud Mummy, reading, The Principessa Files, TMA04, TMA05.

Well. After the rigmarole of last week, this week has been a steady, squeaky parp of air from a slowly let down balloon. The essay finally ripped its way from my brain and was submitted to the cyber-sewage works on Monday. It also saw Princi and I reunited with our favourite technologies – DVD and computer for Princi, iPhone for me. Yay! And there endeth the good times.

Wednesday brought the news that the NSPCC had decided they didn’t want to use Princi in their advert. And there is where the deflation of said balloon increased as it screamed around the room and flopped to the floor in a mass of flaccid finality. (Yeah, I used a few f words…) How would I tell Princi? She was so excited about it. I even thought about not telling her and hoping that she’d just forget about it. But that would be wrong, so when she got in from school I called her for a hug and told her the bad news. I needn’t have been worried. She gave me a wide-O shocked face, then shrugged, jumped out of the hug, and went to do some drawing and watch Dexter’s Laboratory. Whereas my disappointment for Princi sent me moping, it didn’t phase her at all. That is one quality that I really hope she keeps.


The Garden of Dexter.

On an up point, I’ve only two more essays to complete and that’s another course towards the degree finished. I can’t believe that this time next year I’ll be nearly done with the last course and the degree. I’m almost excited about it! Though what I’ll do afterwards is still a burning question. I’m still thinking about the MA in children’s literature, but I’m worried about making a fool of myself. At the same time, I’m hankering for the addiction that was sparked during the kidlit course. Sometimes, I hate being indecisive.

Anyways, time to bog off and read some more on muthos and logos, and the beginnings of Ancient Greek cosmology. Oh, to be a foetus living inside a fish-like creature, living on an earth made up of moisture surrounded by thorny bark

But here is evolution of a different kind:


Evolution of a Cybergirl.

If I only had a brain… March 22, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, Dave McKean, EA300, Neil Gaiman, OU, The Wolves In The Walls, TMA05.

I think I’m finally breaking free of my Scarecrow brainlessness. ‘Twas TMA morning, and all through the net, results – they were looming, are they good? What’s your bet?

Well, as always, I tentatively opened up the course homepage. Screwing up my eyes, I crossed my fingers, repeated ‘85%’ like a mantra (even though I didn’t think I’d get anywhere near that. Still, doesn’t hurt to hope!), then clicked on the link to the results. Eeps! I allowed a quick glance before staring wide-eyed at the screen. That couldn’t be right!

Blow me down with a cat’s whisker! Never, ever did I think I’d reach that! Let’s just say, it was better than the last two results I achieved. I have no idea how I can keep up the standard in the next essay. No idea at all! I don’t even have a starting place (at least I have a beginning for the ECA, not that that’ll help me with TMA06), but this result has buoyed me a little. OK, it’s buoyed me a lot!

Anyways. Enough of my celebrations. I need to carry on studying. And I need to discover the opening for the next essay.

There are no more wolves at my door. March 9, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, EA300, Neil Gaiman, OU, The Wolves In The Walls, TMA05.

Until Princi’s bedtime that is (in 15 minutes), when she’ll be asking for Wolves in the Walls!

I am finished writing my essay. Woohoo! I’m not sure if I like Wolves in the Walls much anymore, though. Hmph! Trying to understand what my brain wanted me to write in any coherent structure was like taking woodchip off the walls. Argh! Sapped my soul! But it is done. Done, done, done! And dusted. It’s been sent off and is now waiting to be marked. And as per my usual mantra, I’m not expecting anything good to come of it. I kind of had secret hopes that the last essay was good enough for the 90%, and it was thankfully, but I have no doubts in knowing that this essay will not reach such a grand result. Sigh. I tried.

Onto block 6, and reading Mortal Engines, Coram Boy, Junk, and The Other Side Of Truth. After a nice day off, that is!

See you on the other side.


Argh! Now I’ve had an hour or two to allow my brain to wind down, I have reailised I have missed the point about destabilisation created by the open ending. Butt nuggets!

I may actually be crying bloody tears! March 4, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Children's Literature, EA300, OU, TMA05.

My brain is melting and oozing from my ears like a flood of overcooked puy lentil mush. My eyes have exploded into a gooey mess of strawberry jam ectoplasm. My inspiration has evaporated like the Invisible Man, sans bandages. Yep, naked inspiration, that’s my problem. It definitely needs some embellishment.

What is causing this demolition site of me? TMA05. Seemples.

Sigh. I had been looking forward to this essay, but so far it has sapped me dry and has given up very few words. This means I am probably going at it from the wrong angle. Maybe I need to fight dirty and sneak attack it. Problem is, it’d probably hear my thoughts crashing through the enchanted forest, breaking every dry twig in its wake. I am at a loss as to what to do, short of calling in Dahl’s Little Red Riding Hood and a hip-mounted M214 minigun. Oh, the Freudian psychoanalysts would be frothing at the mouths!

I think I have confused myself with an overabundance of information – including an hour tonight trawling reviews for Wolves in the Walls from 2003. OK, so I know that reviews have nothing to do with the analysis I am meant to be doing as such, but I was looking for some general pointers that I could then get my claws into and jam up the essay with. But I think I have burnt myself out! Yikes!

Add to that the utter indecision about which pictures to use, and you have one very thoroughly dejected me. I feel it may be time to leave any hopes of studying tonight and come back to it tomorrow and look at it from a different perspective. Maybe even start to write anything and see if it blooms into life. Hopefully that will point me in the direction of which pics to choose for ease of evidencing my points.

Sigh. Fingers crossed.

Decoding picture books. February 23, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Bloody books, Charlie and Lola, Children's Literature, Dave McKean, EA300, I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato, Neil Gaiman, OU, reading, The Savage, The Wolves In The Walls, TMA05, Wolves.

Phew! Who knew reading picture books could be such hard work and so taxing on the poor gray matter? I didn’t, that’s for sure.

I am now gearing up to write TMA05. This essay is an analysis of a couple of pages from a picture book. Now, while this may seem simple enough, it has so far been nothing short of a befuddlement.

Problem number one: What picture book to use? The two set books for this block are Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and Anthony Browne’s Voices in the Park. OK, so I’ve become slightly addicted to Browne’s books since starting this course, his use of intertextuality is fabulous, but as the book was a set book I felt too much will have been covered by the course materials. Ditto Peter Rabbit – besides, I’m not a fan of Potter. I don’t quite know why, but I don’t like her style. There’s no questioning that she was a clever writer, illustrator and designer of children’s books, they just don’t appeal to me. So a new choice had to be made so I am able explore my understanding of the subject. I have narrowed my choices down to:

  1. The Wolves in the Walls

    The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean. I have been desperate to fit some Gaiman into the course somehow, and this seems the logical point. I also love McKean’s illustrations, so this appears to be a double whammy. But I am now struggling with the decisions regarding which pages to use!

  2. The SavageThe Savage by David Almond, illustrated by Dave McKean. Yep, more McKean. What can I say? I love his illustrations! But this is a good story, dealing with the subject of death and loss. It made me cry! The illustrations show the wildness of the savage, which in turn explain the feelings of the main character, Blue. There  are plenty of areas of analysis – graphically, textually, and semantically. A strong contender. Oh, and if you haven’t read it, then I recommend it.
  3. WolvesWolves by Emily Gravett. I discovered this book after reading a critical essay. I had a look around, found some of the illustrations, loved it! The idea of a rabbit borrowing a book about wolves from the library and the wolves then stalking the rabbit was too good to pass up. It’s on order and I can’t wait to read it, it looks so interesting and funny, and there appears to be a lot there that would be worth analysing.
  4. I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato by Lauren Child. There had to be some Charlie and Lola in the list. They’re Princi’s favourite and best! And c’mon, there is so much in there to get your teeth into! There is one image in this that always sticks in my head. When Charlie is giving the alternative description of mashed potato, the shape of the text fits the image, if you know what I mean? He describes it as ‘cloud fluff from the top of Mount Fuji,’ and the words are shaped into the roof of a Japanese building. Just fab!

Problem number two: Understanding a whole new set of terminology. Again. This time the codes of picture books. I didn’t even know there was a code! More fool, me. I am working my way through an excerpt of an article by William Moebius called ‘Introduction to Picturebook Codes.‘ (Not all of it is included here, but you get the gist.) For me, it’s interesting reading even if I’m having a hard time retaining all the info. But another read through should sort me out. Then it’s applying this new knowledge to the pages I choose to analyse. Looking forward to it! All that’s left to do then is attack the post-modernist angle, which means another crash course. I think I may end up with concussion from all of the crashing I am doing!

So that is my current predicament. I think I am probably more or less settled upon Gaiman/McKean unless it twists my brain too much and becomes too wolfish for me. One thing is for certain, though. I am looking forward to writing this essay. And that’s not something you hear me say very often!

This week I will mostly be doing… February 16, 2010

Posted by phoenixaeon in Biathlon, Bog Child, books, Children's Literature, EA300, Illustrations, Olympics, OU, reading, Ski jumping, TMA05.
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With Princi off school this week there is no time for any real study. So I have decided to get some reading done – which means a little of catching up AND getting ahead. Catching up in the sense of reading Mildred D. Taylor’s Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, the book I missed during the last block (I missed Peter Pan in the block before, and I probably won’t get around to going back to read it, so didn’t want to miss something else), and reading Siobhan Dowd’s Bog Child in preparation for the ECA.

Well, I finished Bog Child last night. It’s a fabulous book. Set against the backdrop of the 1981 hunger strikes, the main protagonist – Fergus – finds the body of a child whilst digging for peat with his Uncle. This discovery leads to strange dreams and first love, while battling against the reality of Northern Ireland during the Troubles. The story draws you in from the start, the opposition of politics vs religion glaring apparent throughout the novel. The shadowing of the contemporary Troubles against a Pagan tribe from 2000 years ago provides a sense of – in the terms of BSG – all of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.

To say I enjoyed the story would be an understatement. I’m looking forward to a second, and possibly a third, read through closer to the date of the ECA. For now, though, I’ll just let the story percolate in my brain.

That leaves me with Roll of Thunder to read over the next few days, and maybe one or two of the critical essays during the evening when Princi is sleeping. I can definitely see some contrasts and comparisons that could be made between the two books, which means I am already formulating arguments. Woohoo! I’ve just got to make sure I don’t get too far ahead of myself, as I have two more essays to do before the ECA.

Oh, which reminds me. The next essay is on illustrated children’s books. While having a little trawl on the net last night, I found this: illustrated envelopes. How cool would it be to receive a letter with an envelope like these? I want one!

Envelope illustrated by Axel Scheffler.


As well as all the reading, there is also the lure of the Winter Olympics over the next couple of weeks. I’m already staying up way past my bedtime so I can watch (some of) the ice skating. I’m glad that the biathlon and ski jumping is on earlier in the day – or evening as is the case. The first biathlons have provided some of the best, and most shock, results. I wonder if the two pursuits on today will also prove as uncallable in terms of predicting the winner? I’m just upset that I missed the snowboarder cross last night, it sounds as if it was extremely exciting!

Anyhoos, time to get back to the reading while Princi is distracted.