Saturday, December 31, 2016

Birthday musings and end of year thunkings

cause I couldn't not share this
Today is my birthday.
And each birthday I take a moment to reflects on what I've leant that year (yep, it's one of those posts).

That my birthday is also the eve of a new year adds a level of gravitas to the proceeding, while also being a handy marker of time. Some years they are small lessons, with gentle instruction or subtle meaning. Other years, it's a punch in the nuts.

2016 was a punch in the nuts year. After the big year that was 2015, to have another year of big, well, let's just say, I'm looking forward to a year of dull in 2017. If the past two years were a novel, the editor would have told me to cut the number of plot points because damn. Yeah, big. The past few years have been pretty full on, both professionally and personally, but it wasn't all bad. There's been a lot of good this year too. Just big.

So as 2016 comes to a close, and I celebrate another year of existence, here's what I have taken away from the year that was and will take into the year that will be.

    Monday, November 21, 2016

    Aurealis #96

    Over the past two and a half years I've been fortunate to be a book reviewer for Australia's SF literary Aurealis. It's a great gig, allowing me to 1. read, 2. write, 3. publish and 4. work with some awesome editors. Aurealis is filled to the brim with fantastic (and fantastical!) content - editorials, opinion pieces, new fiction, illustrations, and book reviews.

    This year's final edition of Aurealis (#96) is available now for free from Smashwords. Just click on the hyperlink and enter the code LP55Y (not case sensitive).
    Included in this issue is reviewer's picks for the year, that might inspire your Christmas shopping list!!

    Friday, November 18, 2016

    Friday Fix

    It's Friday and time to check-in on the awesome finds discovered during the week.

    The Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly (Pan MacMillan)
    Matthew Reilly has been a big part of the Lindorff library for years. From Ice Station to the more recent The Great Zoo of China, Reilly's books are a fast-paced run at history, mythology, politics, and action, and they are a lot of fun to read. More than that, they were the antidote for a very reluctant reader and a healthy discussion point for a family with very diverse interests. Mixing puzzles with explosions, character with technology, Reilly's books are a shock of adrenaline in words.

    The Four Legendary Kingdoms is Reilly's latest release, book four of the Jack West Jr series. Kidnapped and forced to participate in the very secret Great Games, West finds himself at the centre of an international and intergalactic conspiracy to save the world and learn all the things (that will make much more sense when you read it!!).

    I'm a big fan of this series for the simple, and yes ridiculous, reason that the heroes are an Australian soldier and an Egyptian girl. The beauty of Reilly's characters and stories is that while they are chocka block full of guns and bad guys and explosions it's the characters that keep you hooked, and for the most part the day is saved, not through brawn, but through brains. These are complex and interesting people in complicated and unreal circumstances, and while a large portion of their story involves running and fighting, it also involves problem-solving, bravery and loyalty.

    The Four Legendary Kingdoms may be the slower of the series, but launches a brand new intrigue for Huntsman and his team. A good Christmas read.

    I'll be in conversation with Matthew Reilly as part of the Lord Mayor's Writers in Residence program at Brisbane City Hall, Wednesday 23 November. It's free to attend, but bookings are a must! Click here for more.

    Movie Accent Expert Breaks Down 32 Actors' Accents (Wired)
    Philip Seymour Hoffman as Capote
    gets a big thumbs up.
    You may have gathered that I like movies. Stories, really. I like learning new stuff and seeing how other people live, and a big part of the authenticity of film is the actor's portrayal. Accents are just one component of the role and can honestly make or break a portrayal, particularly make or break that suspension of disbelief. Take Sean Connery for example. I do not watch any of his films for an authentic experience of life as a Russian, primarily because I can not for one second buy his accent (amongst other things).

    This great clip from dialect coach Erik Singer analyses the accents of some big films and big Hollywood names. It's really interesting to discover the level of detail he can discern, and he's able to articulate how it works or doesn't work. And it's funny. Worth a watch.

    What are you loving this week?

    Sunday, November 6, 2016

    Lady Parts Episode 2.03: The Girl on The Train

    A trailer has the capacity to make or break a film. A good trailer entices, it draws you in and makes you want to know more. All trailers are designed to speak to a target market, so are designed around specific emotions and themes.
    Ghostbusters is a really interesting example. Already controversial in its conception (holy shit, female Ghostbusters?! Are you mad?! #childhoodruined) the trailer had a lot of work to do. It needed to appeal to a new audience, an old audience, and a skeptical audience - a tricky balance of nostalgia, action, and comedy.

    Friday, November 4, 2016

    Friday Fix

    It's Friday and time to check-in on the awesome finds discovered during the week.

    The Bachelorette Finale (Network Ten)
    True love?
    Georgia Love and Lee Elliott
    The Bachelorette Finale was on last week, with the lovely Georgia Love choosing Lee Elliott over Matty J in a shocking twist.
    While the finale offered very little but indignation and rage from viewers, it's the commentary that I've been reading this week that I most enjoy. This years' The Bachelorette was decried as a misjustice, viewers questioning the Bachelorette's choice and parallels drawn between this series and the most recent season of The Bachelor, that somehow the hero had chosen the wrong partner. It's an interesting accusation, and the level of outrage really shows that the producers and team of the respective shows are failing the narrative. We should be rooting for the couple, not raging at their preferences. But it does suggest how seemingly unaware the audience still is that the production team are responsible for the fairytale, that what you see, is not the climax of a lovestory, but a heavily edited story with villains, heroes, sidekicks, and, in the past two series particularly, twists. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but a 'love story' should not be generating outright indignation. We should see the ending coming, we should be nodding our heads and wiping away tears because they are just so right for each other and isn't this beautiful? Not decrying the 'hero's choice. It should be a tight competition, both contenders equal in affection and the central question be 'who will she choose', not a bait and switch, that leaves the audience asking 'why?' Dating shows like The Bachelorette sell a myth, but should never sell an outright lie. No-one watches a reality dating show for a bait and switch. Tara Watson beautifully articulates the breakdown in audience trust and questions whether the series needs a reboot over at The Vine.
    I whole-heartedly recommend watching UnReal, the hard-rocking drama based on a dating reality show to gain a little trashy insight into the production of a love story.

    She Bangs Coffee (Albion)
    Caught up with longtime friend for coffee and newborn hangs, and was introduced to She Bangs Coffee at Albion. Home of the all-day breakfast, She Bangs also has a monstrous range of juices and fresh treats. I had a beetroot combo and dear lordy, it was tasty. A non-coffee drinker, I was very impressed with their range of non-caffeinated offerings. I'm incredibly partial to the industrial aesthetic and retro artwork. It's incredibly chilled environment with a huge open dining and counter space, and would be a fantastic space for a party or launch of any kind. Recommend!

    Making (or more specifically, colouring)
    Johanna Basfords's Secret Garden (Laurence King Publishing)

    Work in progress
    This week, I finally cracked an adult colouring book and while I scoffed and mocked the concept, I've surprisingly come to love the idea. There's something intoxicating about the process, about the focus on a singular task, of the creative endeavour. Coming up with colour arrangements and playing with textures have been surprisingly zen. It's really easy to lose yourself in the act.
    Johanna Basford's illustrations are simple in form, but beautifully interwoven to create layered images. Her website is home to a fabulous little gallery where community members can upload their finished pieces, and her blog has tutorials to inspire and educate. Easily my new favourite hobby.

    What are you loving this week?

    Tuesday, November 1, 2016

    Disney Feminist Series

    Disney films feature strongly in my memories of childhood. I can't remember how it started, but the Disney stories, and particularly the soundtracks, are central to my childhood engagement with story. Fantasia's dark themes, and graphics, terrified me, The Little Mermaid was my life on screen (minus the boy obsession and swimming prowess), and The Lion King soundtrack sits in poll position as my favourite movie score of all time.

    Friday, October 28, 2016

    Friday Fix

    It's Friday and time to check-in on the awesome finds discovered during the week.

    Hamilton's America (PBS)
    I've avoided getting into Hamilton: An American Musical, much to the disgust of my musically-inclined friends. I like to experience a musical in context - music, lyrics, staging and story - but it's been hard to avoid the hype. I managed to watch the PBS documentary (don't ask), and I swoon. The doco is a behind-the-scenes look at the development of the musical, the history of the story, and vignettes of the production. It's not fully comprehensive, but does a fantastic job of capturing the spirit and passion of the musical and its team.
    The song pieces are really well handled. Filming stage musicals is a tricky business (Cats, anyone?) Unlike developing a musical for screen, capturing a stage performance is a complex negotiation between viewpoint and ensemble, hampered by staging and choreography - it's a battle between the intimate focus of the camera and the panoramic view of the stage.
    The documentary have done a great job of capturing perspective while maintaining context, and I am really pleased I was able to see Lin-Manuel Miranda perform before his departure from the show. Excuse me while I listen to the soundtrack on loop now. What's your name, man?

    Juno Lace Short (Portmans)
    I recently accepted an invite to Diner en Blanc, the 'global epicurean phenomenon' (read: logistically awkward, large-scale picnic). The big selling points for the event are it's 'secret' location and that everyone must where white.
    I own no white clothing and I am not fashion's target demographic. So I was not looking forward to any portion of clothes shopping, but lo we did discover something awesome. These shorts from Portmans are by and far the best clothing discovery I have made in a long time. They fit like a dream. It's a relaxed cut with a decent leg length and the material is super comfy. The lace detail makes you forget they are just white shorts. I'm digging on these hard and find myself contemplating a second pair because they are so awesome.

    Vegetable Tartlets (Jamie Oliver)

    Along with the buying of pale clothing, Diner en Blanc involves food. Lots of easily transportable and can be eaten cold food. I am an amateur cook in the best sense, willing to try any recipe, but hopelessly messy in technique. So something simple it would need to be.
    Jamie Oliver's vegetable tartlets were perfect - chop, slice, grate, bake. Easy, right? And they were!
    I switched out a few ingredients to reflect my own preferences and to use ingredients I already had: spinach instead of asparagus, fetta instead of mozarella, and added some pinenuts to replace the crunch of asparagus. It was beyond simple to make and they turned out beautifully. Served warm or cold, recommend adding these to your cooking repertoire.

    As an aside, what's the difference between a tart and a tartlet?

    What are you loving this week?