SMSs from Vanuatu

[The following SMSs were sent by Kathleen to Aimee from Vanuatu, for the delight of her faithful blog-readers.]

1 June: Am here. Spent Saturday in market, swam. Met Ben A.’s brother. On quest to eat fruitbat but no luck yet.

23 June: Painting poles, now sewing curtains. SIL headquarters basic but island beautiful. Making damper tonight. Have eaten young coconut, tuluk, kumara and enchiladas. Still no flying fox.

28 June: Went on a trail ride, saw most beautiful paddock. Have had bat soup described to me but not tasted. On 2nd set of curtains. Pondering volcano.

[Aimee says: Apologies for being late with the posts – end of school term is hectic!]


Things that should have been occupying my mind:

  • Drafting all leases before I leave*
  • Leaving useful memos for colleagues**
  • Remembering my passports***
  • Paying bills
  • Not forgetting to take malaria medication
  • That my doctor’s surgery can’t diagnose heart attacks and has to call the ambulance in and the ambulance people teased their victim all the way out about how the mask looked on her
  • Whether the malaria medication will have horrible side effects****
  • Packing^
  • Inexplicable absence of board shorts from Queensland stores
  • Making sure I have my towel^^

Things that have been occupying my mind:

  • What size sketchbook to take^^^
  • What street the Dursleys lived on^^^^


*four down, two to go


***while in shower this morning

****what is the perfect medicine for a tropical island paradise? Oh, how about one that makes you sensitive to sunlight? People have asked if it is having that effect already and I point out we haven’t actually had any sunlight here this week.

^I can’t do light yet, but I’m getting good at compact!

^^all is right with the world.

^^^I decided on a large sketchbook and will show the results when I get back. In the meantime, I have been uploading my other sketchbooks, if you are interested in these things:

^^^^Emily and I had to check last night: it’s Privet Drive, and ‘privet’ in German is “Liguster” so “Ligusterweg” makes perfect sense after all^^^^^

^^^^^I’m reading Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen which, along with lumberjack cake, was a fortunate discovery of my lunch with Rachel T at the American Bookstore & Cafe this week.

Illustration Friday: Punchline

I bought a new packet of six Pitt Artist Pens last week (brush tip markers) and celebrated by trying a marker illustration for this week’s Illustration Friday topic.


Every week I have a fairly broad concept that I would like to play with, and every week the topic cannot by any stretch of the imagination be dragged to fit it. But the robots happened along fairly early (probably as a result of reading about the making of Lots of Bots and looking at the preview images for Harvest is When I Need You The Most) and now I have a few pages of robot ideas to play with should the urge strike. Also a thumbnail of someone having a bad dream about a Punch & Judy show.

Comments and critiques are always welcome.

I’m going to be in Vanuatu for the next three weeks’ topics, but hope to be back in action after that! (I am planning on drawing while I’m there, but am devoting too much brainpower to working out which size sketchbook I want to use).


I’m leaving for Vanuatu on Friday. Yes, it is now Sunday and I did have vague intentions of mentioning the trip before now, but that is the problem with vague intentions.

I thought I’d better mention the planned absence in case anyone was bothered by three weeks of radio silence.

On Friday evening I fly out to Port Vila to make myself useful with Wycliffe Associates for three weeks, repairing verandas at the translation headquarters, among other things. I was told I need to be willing to swing a hammer, and I confirmed I was willing but couldn’t guarantee I would hit what I was aiming at.

Whenever I say this, people joke about me hitting my thumbs, and I realise that maybe I am the only person who holds the nail in place with pliers. It’s a brilliant technique and I don’t intend to change because of peer pressure.

I still have to buy more full, below the knee skirts (and I intend to feel very Isabella-Bird, working and exploring in skirts). I confess it took me a moment to remember not to be bothered by the thought of wearing skirts and sneakers together. I am also diverting unnecessary brainpower to the question of what size sketchbook to take: pocket or large?

The following is from the Tourism Vanuatu website and I have pretty much learned it off by heart:

There are no public transport systems in Vanuatu. Privately owned mini buses are common and run unspecified routes through the municipal areas. You need only board one heading in approximately the right direction and tell the driver where you wish to stop and you will get there, albeit by a circuitous route! Taxis are also plentiful and relatively inexpensive. To get to other parts of Efate, utilities are licensed to carry passengers and can be found at the Markets.

May Short Movie Reviews

I’ve linked to some other reviews of interest which I came across in the last month – I don’t always agree with everything the reviewers say but they raise some good points.

Iron Man: Twice. Not unflawed, but the best superhero comic book movie I have seen. It managed to avoid many of the sillinesses common to the genre, or at least smooth them into obscurity. I still think the real superpower belonged to Pepper, and her ability to run over metal gratings in high heels. Jennifer Fallon agrees in her review, and lists most of the reasons this movie shouldn’t have worked. Considered apart from its genre it was a very enjoyable, watchable, big screen movie and I recommend it. Some discussion (favourable) on Pepper Potts’ role at the Hathor Legacy, less unambiguously positive here on what makes a movie misogynist. Then this review critiques its approach to race and raises some interesting discussions – I didn’t actually see some of the things they saw as happening in that way. I’ll have to watch a third time :) My favourite part was the development of the suits – from the almost steampunk aesthetic of the Mark 1, through the variations and additions and decorations of the later suits, the balletic awkwardness of learning to fly – and it has been justifiably called “Top Gear for robotic attack suits”. It was an excellent origin movie and I like those best – also, do stay to the end of the credits.

Twelve Angry Men: I know it’s a classic. I had never seen it – not the movie, not the series. Then for this year’s Law Week the Queensland Young Lawyers put on a rehearsed reading of the play in the Banco Court of the Queensland Supreme Court, starring a stellar cast of judges (including the Chief Justice as “the old man”), barristers, lawyers, civil libertarians and local actors. It is a brilliant piece of theatre, the acting was often genuinely good and the “rehearsed reading” format removed any weight of expectation from the acting – if you ever get the chance to see a rehearsed reading, do. And afterwards they let us go back into the real jury rooms which were very small and instead of “break glass and press button in case of fire” there was a box by the door where the glass could be broken to get the key to open the room from the inside.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: This felt laboured at times and lacked a lightness. But the story is charming and Frances McDormand and Ciaran Hinds lifted the movie above the everyday. I really liked the theme of the older characters who remembered the last war while the younger set carry on their bright brittle round of entertainments, and it had a gentler deeper feel than most such movies.

Indiana Jones: Twice. Oh, did we have any right to expect anything more than a B-grade movie with an A-grade budget? It was a lot of fun and silliness. From the previews I did not expect to like Mutt’s character but he and (of course) Marion Ravenwood were brilliant and the highlight of the film. I am trying to erase the monkeys from my memory (not the first Indiana Jones movie that has made this necessary) but the giant ants were fabulous. I heard some criticism of Indiana Jones’ graverobbing ways, but nothing has changed in this regard, and after all it wasn’t he who dealt with the city in the end. Nothing like tidy aliens, I always say. Heroine Content reviewed the movie from their perspective, while Screen Rant did a lovely piece on what the movies meant to their contributors growing up.

Moliere: An unexpected delight and unfairly compared to Shakespeare in Love – a fictional account of the playwright’s life, full of hidden identities, illicit romances, thwarted young love, betrayal, greed, foolishness, ridiculous conflicts and inspiration. Beautiful constumes, characters and surprisingly restrained in the more European aspects of the film :). A light touch, never too ridiculous, never too serious.

And here is a review of There Will Be Blood which is much more entertaining, accurate and, well, visual than mine (the whited-out lines just add to it).

Illustration Friday: Forgotten


I would have liked to try this idea in scratchboard, but time did not permit and it is too cold to work at the large desk in the annex this time of year, this late at night. So this is a pencil sketch interfered with in Inkscape then coloured in Photoshop. I don’t like the roughness of the lines – I would prefer a cleaner, black and white image with hands that look less like an anteater’s claws.

I didn’t want to do something too maudlin or brooding or sentimental, so I decided to go with the idea of sleepers who are always lying around forgotten in old stories – waiting until they are needed or remembered. Arthur and Wenceslas and sleeping armies and ladies and castles and, on occasion, countries.

The line of poetry is from Walter de la Mare’s “All that’s past”:

Very old are the woods;
And the buds that break
Out of the brier’s boughs,
When March winds wake,
So old with their beauty are–
Oh, no man knows
Through what wild centuries
Roves back the rose.

Very old are the brooks;
And the rills that rise
Where snow sleeps cold beneath
The azure skies
Sing such a history
Of come and gone,
Their every drop is as wise
As Solomon.

Very old are we men;
Our dreams are tales
Told in dim Eden
By Eve’s nightingales;
We wake and whisper awhile,
But, the day gone by,
Silence and sleep like fields
Of amaranth lie.

So I may not have succeeded in being unsentimental :) I wasn’t thinking of the first verse when I drew this, but it may have been in the back of my mind along with certain lines from Prince Caspian.

Walt Bistline’s "Sleeping Knight" photograph used as reference.

May Short Book Reviews

Homelands: Fables Volume 6 – Willingham, et al. Have I mentioned before how much I am enjoying this series?  This volume isconcerned primarily with the departure from New York (in typically flamboyant fashion) of Jack of the tales, and with Boy Blue’s journey into the homelands to rescue his long lost love. Neither course of action goes quite as planned. In spite of confirmation of the identity of the Adversary and mechanics of his rule, this wasn’t the highlight volume for me, probably because of the narrower range of characters. But I enjoyed the adventures of the Black Knight, Boy Blue’s fanatic indefeasibility, and the surprise of seeing the Adversary’s land not as the Mordor-like wasteland I expected but a functioning and corrupt empire and the ending was typically complex – goals achieved but not in the way expected, friends reunited but seeing each other differently. The characters are not bounded by immutable fairytales, but grow and shift and change.

The Orphan’s Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice – Valente. The second half of The Orphan’s Tales and I enjoyed this one just as much as the first volume. It captures the feeling of old tales read for the first time, and in spite of the desert- djinn- and spice-laden character of this volume, the book reminded me of those northern European fairytales that begin as a riff on Cinderella and go east of the sun and west of the moon and into the arctic and change into bears and fall in love with the King of Arabia’s daughter and meander on and on. In the case, the stories go inward, looping around and in on themselves and gradually coming together, repeating names and stories from themselves, and the first volume, changing and shifting perspectives until the goal is revealed. The ending was not earthshattering, and could perhaps have been stronger, but this story was never about the end. Go. Read. Preferably one after the other so you don’t lose the paper-thin subtelty of the connections.

Batman: Black and White – Miller, Gaiman, Lee, Kubert et al. I wandered into Borders and found this on a discount rack and it was good. I said last month that I couldn’t review Batman. This was something else. This was brilliant – an anthology of 8-pagers by different artists and writers, in differing styles. Classic, tight, sketchy, surreal, comedic, metatextual, hilarious, poignant, hard-bitten, bitter. Facets of an iconic character, of a man, of an idea, of a city (“We are Batman” was my favourite line). I recommend this very highly – for the art, for the tales, for the feeling of being let into a world of minds which have been influenced by this story.

Arabian Nights (and Days): Fables Volume 7 – Willingham, et al. Back to New York and the politics of the Woodlands. Still not nearly enough of Snow and Rose Red and Bigby, but they are there – or their influence is – and the old Mayor is put to a new purpose (it took me a while, but I like King Cole). And crawling out from under that influence come the new generation of the government in exile – Charming as much of a cad and a bounder as ever, but realising abruptly what the title he has won means; Beauty and the Beast getting their feet under them and realising that they can’t do their jobs the way Snow and Bigby did, but they just might be able to do them their own way. The main problem I found was the Arabian delegation and I can’t work out whether its treatment could have been different. They are Arabian characters from the Arabian Nights as told in Europe and come with all those ideas and notions and I’m not sure if those will be or are examined. Particularly the women of the harem. But I will wait and see, because so far the series is doing a strong job of developing stock characters into strong individuals, and for all the cardboard villainous viziers, there was Sinbad, who showed promise. Like Baghdad of the two worlds, there may be more than meets the eye.

Batman: Black and White volume 2 – Dini, Ellis, Claremont, Azzarello et al.:Not as deep or multifaceted as the first (although it has received higher reviews on Amazon) but not as bad as I feared it was going to be from my first glimpse. It seemed much lighter and more comic-traditional in feel and I did enjoy it. And I can’t get the story of Batsman (the one that put me off to start with) out of my head. I keep laughing over his cape adorned with flocks of tiny bats. But it didn’t have the extra information about the writers and artists and the pages of sketches and script that the first did. I liked those.


Also: Isaiah; 1,2 and 3 John in German and English; Jude; Philemon in German and English. I am cultivating a low appreciation for paraphrasing and dynamic equivalents, particularly when one parallel translation is just so obviously much worse than the other.