Rachel's Blog

Tue, 31 Jan 2006
Mind your manners, potty mouth
Prime Minister John Howard has backed calls by NSW Chief Justice James Spigelman for Australians to improve their manners.
"I think we have seen a marked deterioration in good manners," Mr Howard told reporters.

Next he'll be telling us to take our elbows off the table, wear gloves while dancing, and respect our elders.

"There is language used now on television that some people find offensive ..."

One of the most offensive phrases currently in use on television, and elsewhere, is "Prime Minister John Howard".

Mon, 30 Jan 2006
Recommended Reading: 2005 or 100

Locus Magazine have announced their recommended reading list of 2005, which should keep us busy for the next couple of years at least.

If that's too much of a commitment, try this list of 100 best first lines complied by American Book Review. All the usual suspects are there, but some seem to be more exercises in punctuation or breath-holding than anything. My favourite is number 47.
(via Coode Street and docbrite)

Sun, 29 Jan 2006

You may have noticed a few changes to the look of this blog. Please be assured that it's not done yet, but I have a headache and have to go away for a little while. I'll let you know when to start telling me it's broken. At the moment please assume that I know.

Thu, 26 Jan 2006
Australia: State of Fear - John Bell

I'd like to give Howard credit for successfully stirring up debate by declaring the debate over, but I'll bet he didn't mean to.

I believe we shall never achieve a uniqueness, a sense of self, until our head of state, the person recognised internationally as our chief representative, is one of us.

Edit to add: I just noticed the Freakish possibilities. Anyone up for giving John Howard a makeover? "One of us! One of us!" (That will absolutely not make sense if you haven't seen the cult-horror film Freaks, but you should.)

Thu, 26 Jan 2006
Explain Australia in Ten Films

There's a meme going around filmic circles (and there's another rant - the idea of tagging people to complete memes, how exclusive is that? Exclusive from the verb to exclude. But the beauty of the internet is that I can steal such ideas and deliberately not credit them. Moving on then...) asking for ten films to explain America to someone from somewhere else.

What you're trying to do is give them a sense of who we are - your take on our dreams, our attitudes, our idioms, what we think we are, what we are afraid we are, what we really might be.

Which is an interesting exercise. Because of the sheer number of American movies, there is an infinite (or close to) number of combinations that can be drawn in order to give quite a specific definition of America according to one's personal experiences and opinions.

Not so with Australian films. There are relative few to choose from, and they seem to cover the same themes, or even the same stories, over and over. As this collection of comments explores, Australian films don't tell many universal tales. It's as if by taking on the task of writing an Australian film, filmmakers are also burdening themselves with the task of defining Australia, instead of concentrating on telling a good story (sorry, that should be yarn).

But I gave it a go anyway. Once I ruled out all the Australian films that I don't actually like, don't fit with my experience of what it is to be Australian, or am sick of, (war, hero-criminals, queerness, quirkiness, and films directed by Baz Luhrmann), I only came up with nine anyway. So here it is. My explanation of Australia, to a non-resident, in nine films.

  • Look Both Ways
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock
  • Wolf Creek
  • The Dish
  • Rabbit Proof Fence
  • The Cars that Ate Paris
  • Malcolm
  • Love and Other Catastrophes
  • The Rage in Placid Lake

It seems my Australia is one where the land is large and fearful; people are insecure in themselves (but will have a happy ending); homebrew technology is central, fun, although sometimes deadly; and people are cruel, and persistence against them doesn't always help.

What should number ten be? Which crucial film has slipped my mind?

Wed, 25 Jan 2006
Ooh, pretty!

Image based linkarama for your midweek viewing pleasure.

This page of images of the Guilin area of China is a lesson in landscape photography, and bathing beauties.
(via Making Light)

Kazu Kibuishi has generously documented his online comic creation with this step-by-step of a Copper comic.
(via Drawn)

Never suffer the sight of coffee mug stains on your artwork again with the floral designs of Stamp Mugs.
(via Complications Ensue)

Sun, 22 Jan 2006
Games of Etiquette

The Musée McCord (or McCord Museum) has a page of Flash games to test your history skillz. Monty Python stylings and funny voices make the Victorian Period etiquette game especially fun (make sure you get some of the answers wrong). All some of these need is a narrative to make them more addictive.
(via Rebecca's Pocket)

Wed, 18 Jan 2006
Cut and Assemble New York

You could cut out and assemble this diorama of New York Harbour, circa 1998, then use the World Trade Center as target practice for your paper planes. (Am I trying to get onto a terrorist watch list?)

I was a little disappointed to see the cut & assemble Victorian Painted Lady is not actually, you know, a fallen woman, but a bright pink and aqua house.

Also featured in Dover's Winter Sale is this set of Kate Greenaway Paper Dolls which I had as a kid. (Not the same set - you'll have to cut them out yourself.) It feels kinda cheap that I could recreate a bit of my childhood for only $3.57.
(via Neil Gaiman)

Tue, 17 Jan 2006
Child-care debate roundup

There's more in The Age today on the child-care funding debate. By "debate", I mean a bunch of women across the political spectrum are clamouring for sweeping changes to the way childcare works to boost the flexibility, access and affordability of child care. With which I have no argument at all. Although some policies or strategies for change might be nice to read.

Victorian Liberal senator Judith Troeth said better child-care access should be a priority. ... "If the Government is serious about higher levels of productivity and getting and keeping women in the workforce, we should make child-care funding a higher priority."

That's an oxymoron, given the current government's Victorian-era atitudes. Howard wants both a productive economy, which necessitates as many people in the workforce as possible right now, but he wants women to a) have more kids to bolster workforce numbers in the future and b) stay at home to raise them.

For the record, what I want in child-care is a subsidised place in a high quality facility with loads of highly trained, well compensated staff and an onsite museum (while wishes are horses). Abbey would go for two or three half days a week and we'd both gain enormously from it. I'd get the time I need to work on building up my skills and career, Abbey would get valuable social interaction.

But we're not going to get anything even remotely close to that until Abbey turns three and can attend kindergarten (for which we have applied, have no guarantee of a place and for which we have to pay for in full). Until then we'll try not to get on each other's nerves too much as I balance my sanity against the amount of television Abbey watches.

Barrie Elvish has a lot more to say on the subject at The Courier Mail - well worth reading.
Vicki Dunne wants to extend subsidies to parents who stay at home - hear, hear!
Bronwyn Bishop recommends subsidies include nannies and other private care, which sounds elitist until you remember that health care and emergency services run on shifts, so who else would care for their kids overnight?
This transcript of the 7.30 Report's report includes some nasty numbers:

Australian mothers now have one of the lowest employment rates among OECD countries.
In the year to September 2005, the price of child care jumped 9.1%. That's more than three times the official inflation rate. Only the price of pork and petrol rose more than child care.

Ceridwen Spark's quality opinion piece in The Age last week.

Costello's a moron. It's easy to see where the government's attitudes lie (somewhere in the 1950s) when increased child-care to him means after-school care. Stay home while they're young, but once your kids are in school get back into the 9-5 workforce, slackers! And if he's so concerned about "bad television habits" and that "younger kids are getting chubbier, no doubt about that", why isn't eliminating junk food advertising on television during children's programming on the agenda? (Or all advertising for that matter. Or all television. Yeah, that's it. No need for television when we have the almighty Internet. But the internet is for porn.* Oh, I give up.)

*Yes, that is a very worksafe link, unless your workplace has no sense of humour. (I'm shocked that you would think otherwise, coming from me.)

Mon, 16 Jan 2006
Supernatural - not so super.

(Yah, I spent forever thinking up that title.)
I just watched the first episode of channel ten's "best show of 2006", which was great, because now I've seen the best they have to offer I can safely leave channel ten alone for the rest of the year.
For a horror show it wasn't very - well, no. Some of the dialogue was pretty horrifying. I'll give it that.

It's been a while since I watched a show with ads included, and it proved to be one of the most tedious exercises of my life. No more commercial tv for me.

I also noticed that while channel ten has plenty of time to show lame programs like Supernatural (the first episode is screening again this week, sorry that would be an Encore Presentation), channel nine is having trouble with their plethora of quality programs and has to screen the highly acclaimed (for "highly acclaimed", you can also read "cancelled by the Fox Network") Wonderfalls at 4.30 pm on Saturdays.

And they wonder why downloading tv from teh intawebs is so appealing?

The Chronicles of Ennui
Sat, 14 Jan 2006
Warren Ellis' Fell

You can download issue 1 here. While you're there you can also see an example of the typical crap that demonstrates the comic industry's continuing hostility to women (the sidebar ad for Silver Bullet Comics - just try to ignore it).

Tue, 10 Jan 2006
Spam or not spam?

I may have made a mistake regarding comment spam. If I have deleted a comment of yours I am sorry. All I ask of commenters is that you at least try to sound like a human being. If comments appear that look like ad copy or have been lifted wholesale from advertisements, I reserve the right to be rid of them. After all if I wanted to supply adspace I would like some $$ in return.
I'm always happy (delighted, even) to receive film or other recommendations, but tell me why you like them, not what the imdb says.
In my defence, Richard thought they were spam comments too. Again, I apologise.

Tue, 10 Jan 2006
A new form of torture

A new form of torture was discovered today when the physiotherapist said, "Now just lie there for 15 minutes with this hot pack on your back and relax." But then left the two-year-old running loose in the room.
Feet tickled, hair re-styled, contents of bag emptied and powerless to stop it...

Sat, 07 Jan 2006
Lion, Witch and Wardrobe Lack Self-Confidence.

If I learnt nothing else tonight, avoid the movie sessions that everyone else goes too. Yes, I really paid $15 to hear you give a running commentary on the film to your elderly mother.

Spoilers. Loads of Spoilers. Spoilerific. You have been Warned.

But I did manage to catch some of the onscreen action, and my conclusion is that The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe has a self-esteem issue. Firstly the positives: on the whole it was well cast; the script was solid and where it strayed from Lewis' text it was only for the sake of the stupid people in the audience, I mean it was for the sake of the story; and the props were gorgeous thanks to the Weta Workshop.

Three of the child actors were exceptionally well cast. One was not. I won't say which, because I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. Keep an eye on, Skandar Keynes though. Edmund is a hard enough character to get your head around while reading the book, but he did an amazing job, turning on a dime as it were. For the first half of the film I had the strong impression that the casting director would really rather have had Cate Blanchett than Tilda Swinton, but once she started swinging swords around, I wanted Tilda in my army. Liam Neeson was not quite the right voice for Aslan - his voice is very distinctive and I found it distracting.

Setting the era up was pretty pointless. It could have been done in a few sentences as they boarded the train. This set up was also for the sake of Edmund's character, but even that didn't quite work. His first scene with the White Witch is too rushed as it's supposed to establish his motives for the next act. You're left with the opinion that he has a peculiar fascination with Turkish Delight, rather than the anticipation of taking Peter down a peg or two. A lot was cut from the Beavers' story, but not quite enough. Mrs Beaver had packed all that food, but they never ate it. I was left thinking they'd seriously missed out when she did not receive her sewing machine from Santa.

While the fine details were as good as anything in LOTR (except Tilda's dress. Who came up with that monster?) the large scale scenery and digital compositing did not cut it. The lighting seemed to be off in a number of shots which gave an air of early seventies bluescreening. The sets lacked weight. They looked like the painted plywood they probably were. I kept thinking Cair Paravel was going to wobble off the cliff. Was anyone else reminded of another throne room scene?

On the whole I think the film was rushed. The filmmakers knew they had to get it into cinemas quickly before audiences forgot how much they had enjoyed Lord of the Rings: Return of the Sith (or whatever it was called.) The direction was unimaginative and the score baffling. While it is so carefully set up as the 1940s, only once were the Andrews Sisters used. At other times the soundtrack is quite modern. Alanis Morrisette and Tim Finn (over the closing credits) do not sit well together.

If I had seen this film on TV I would have been impressed and perhaps regretted not seeing it at the cinema. As it is, I can only say, "Ummm, errr, almost..."

The Chronic-what?-cles of Narnia is more consistent. And funnier.

Sat, 07 Jan 2006
Imagine a Weblog Entry

Imagine a long and detailed post about Realist artists of the 19th century, including a quip about my brain resembling Joseph Cornell (not a Realist artist, nor of the 19th century) shadow boxes. Because that's what I just accidently deleted.

Thu, 05 Jan 2006
New Contacts

Got myself some contact lenses today - an early birthday present. Hopefully early enough that in a month's time I will have forgotten they were supposed to be a birthday present and get something else too.
So far, so weird. I no longer have a deflector shield between my eyes and hair, so now I know I need a haircut. There's an extra layer over my eyeballs so I keep blinking to try and brush this foreign object out and my brain keeps telling me that I'll have a headache soon because I'm not wearing my glasses.
I'm sure it will all come together soon. After all, I look good now, right?

Tue, 03 Jan 2006
A Clockwork Orange

My first film of the year, and one I hadn't seen before. (I know what have I been doing?) A typically belaboured, for Kubrick, first act, but otherwise a really smart film. Great use of music too. Although I never realised before what uniformly large breasts the women of 1971 had.

Fee Fi Fo Fum!

There is nothing as heart warming as a two-year-old girl stomping around the house bellowing
Fee Fi Fo Fum!
I smell the blood of a Eng liss man!

and knowing that you're related to her.

Mon, 02 Jan 2006
Calamari New Fish

I feel like 2006 has lept upon me unawares as Cthulumas celebrations stretched over to January 1st (my family is famous for leaving things to the last minute, and then some...) and I went to bed at the usual time on New Year's Eve with a headache. I had planned to stay up and watch A Clockwork Orange which I had hired especially, but I'm getting old or something. (I turn thirty this year!)

On Reflection:
2005 was a mish mash. Nothing awful happened, but nothing over-the-moon exciting either (Y'know, apart from Serenity.) I did gain truckloads of focus from somewhere and threw out a whole lot of ideas that weren't working for me.
I also threw out a lot of physical stuff - just not quite enough yet.
I read 71 books in 2005.
I completed about 40% of my Uberlist.

In Anticipation:
I'm aiming to read 100 books this year, with a greater emphasis on Australian SF, and some Shakespeare.
I'm not doing an Uberlist this year. I found it restrictive - as the format does not encourage revision as you go - and haphazard with all goals or tasks weighted equally. Instead I am concentrating on some more substantial goals and will review them as the year progresses; putting my new found focus to work. (More on those goals later.)

I wish you much calamari in 2006 (unless you're allergic or something) and anything else your heart desires. Here's to a marked reduction in the number of stupid politicians and their one-eyed policies this year.

The chalk drawing represents the sum total of my seasonal decorating efforts this/last year.