Rodrigo! Rodrigo! Save me!

I make a point of reading everyday, and sometimes on weekends when I don’t want to read a book I associate with bus travel and coffee in McDonalds, I pick up odd volumes at home – Labyrinth manga, histories of King John and bound volumes of Windsor Magazine. As a result of which I am left cold by internal inconsistencies, fascinated and frustrated by introductions to books that keep sinking down in the pile of Books to Read and calling friends and saying “Oh. My. Word!”

Oh. My. Word.
This last is because the story I read this weekend was just the sort of story that Anne Shirley and Katy Carr and The Story Girl and Jo March and their friends-and-relations read and wrote and swooned over and learned through the trials of life not to write anymore. Exactly.

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January short movie reviews

Below are last month’s reviews. The book reviews are here.

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The Interesting Things Basket*

If I found any of these links through your blog and haven’t credited you, I apologise. I’m keeping track of referrers in future.

AWAITED

  1. Australian Speculative Fiction Carnival: Battle Penguins are Go! Among other things. (And I’m doing May, so please make interesting – or remarkably silly – posts about Australian SF between April 16 and May 15 and let me know).
  2. 20th Carnival of Feminist SF: Impenetrable undergarments and what almost happened to the Skywalkers.
  3. An answer to a LOLCats proposal (don’t read the comments unless you’ve got a strong tolerance for loosely invented dialects : ).

LANGUAGE & WRITING

  1. Signal to Noise: I really like the idea of enforced originality in forums. Or generally, at least as an intriguing linguistic experiment. And it might stop annoying calendar quotations.
  2. The same people are unable to resist spoiling their favourite word game.
  3. Can we write characters from other cultures? How can we do it? Should we try? Tobias Buckell on Writing us, not ‘The Other’
  4. Attack patterns in written language (via making light).

ILLUSTRATION & ART

  1. I’d like this article on Socar Myles’ silly/sombre bird people for just this line: “Cameras always lie. Had I known that, I’d have bought one ages ago.” But the rest is pretty good too.
  2. And of course there’s a Narnia dial. Found on Flickr – a good example of street art making the streets better.
  3. A comparison (with pictures) of differing styles in British and American cover art.
  4. Curious Art’s altered stamp – I really like this idea especially how she’s made the cat in the same style as the stamp.

BUSINESS AND POLITICS

  1. A selection of blog posts on the apology (via Gillian – my post is here).
  2. Cedric Hohnstadt’s Basic Business Tips for Illustrators, which are pretty good tips for anyone self employed or working from home.

DESIRED

  1. I trust life will emulate art in respect of XKCD’s What Would Escher Do wristband.
  2. If you can convince me it would be at all seemly for me to wear this ThinkGeek shirt, I would totally buy it and wear it anywhere I could. And huge tracts of land aren’t as rude as the “nice melons” shirts we almost had to wear that time I was packing rockmelons, are they?

VALENTINES

As I said on /Karen/’s blog, I wonder whether Valentine’s Day is perhaps a test of love more than the evidence of it. Like poetry in P&P: “But if it be only a slight, thin sort of inclination, I am convinced that one good sonnet will starve it entirely away.” There’s got to be something up with a day which so many people dislike that the anti-valentines (complete with anatomically correct, bloodied hearts) start to get trite. Here, however, are a few that caught my notice:

  1. And if you went to the Lolcats proposal at the start of this list, a few posts behind it you will find the worst valentine (baboonentine? baboonbehind?) ever, from which I am protecting you by not linking to it. My eyes, they bleed.

*I’ll tell you about this some day.

Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples 13 February 2008

Yesterday morning I went to work early (9am AEDT is 8am in Queensland), cornered the practice manager and we went up to the partners’ bar and watched The Speech. I then spent most of the rest of the day talking about it on and off – to solicitors and friends and family and housemates and taxi drivers. This is a Frankensteinian cobbling-together of some of the contents of my emails and conversations thereon:

  1. It needed to be done. It’s difficult to fix something if you can’t acknowledge something’s wrong, and we were always going to get hung up on this issue.
  2. It needed to be done by the Government. This wasn’t about individual guilt for another individual’s actions. Not about asking you and I to apologise for what happened at Hornet Bank, for instance. And it wasn’t asking the Government to apologise for the actions of rogue citizens or for something that happened in the mists of time. Rudd was right – it was recent. But more than that, these were actions of and condoned by a single entity which is still in existence – Australia, represented by its Government which represents its citizens. That entity is being asked to apologise for its own actions. And if you accept that what happened was wrong – however good or misguided the intentions may or may not have been – then an apology is in order. It is the decent thing to do and it should be given by the entity responsible – Australia. As citizens, whether before or after the events in question, or whether we or our parents arrived after or we chose to become citizens, we are a part of that entity, and we elect representatives to do things on our behalf. The country did something for which there is a very strong argument that it is wrong. We aren’t individually guilty of that. But we are jointly responsible for making sure we don’t condone it.
  3. Even if I thought something was legitimate at the time, I should still be big enough to apologise when I realise it wasn’t. And if there are grey areas in some respects, there are issues of racism, discrimination and genocide to more than balance out that equation.
  4. Guillard and Bishop were caught in the corners of the screen as Rudd and Nelson talked, so we got a good look at their faces. When Nelson started his response, I thought Bishop was going to jump up and interrupt a few times :). This was a highlight.
  5. Rudd got in a line about the complexities of post-reformation theology.
  6. Yes, it’s meant to be a debate but Nelson did not do himself or his argument any favours. I wanted to rewrite his speech for him. People have said it wasn’t the place to say what he did. I agree with my mother that there should be political debate. He just did it really badly and insensitively and sort of missed the general point of compensation. I had an overall impression of faulty reasoning and tangents, but when I read the transcript it wasn’t quite as bad as I thought (that just means that it came across worse live). (Read this noting that I find I get less agitated if I critique someone’s writing than their ideas – it’s the only way I get through the Opinion pieces in the Courier Mail).
  7. This is our government and ultimately they are responsible to the people who elected them. I don’t want my government to ask, “How can we avoid liability for what we did?”. I want them to ask, “Are we liable for what we did?” and then fix it to the best of their ability.
  8. This doesn’t fix anything. But it means we can start to try. Not the drought-break, but maybe the watershed.
  9. This doesn’t fix everything. It has snowballed over the decades into such a huge thing, but it isn’t an apology to everyone for everything that has ever been done. It was about specific policies and actions and the people trampled by them. And some people were less hurt by it than others. Some people don’t care. Many do.
  10. This does not create a situation of inequality. It is acknowledging the inequality that has been there all along.
  11. No, this can’t be dealt with in the criminal courts. For the most part, it was legal at the time. Not right, but legal.
  12. No, this isn’t the same thing as Germany. For one thing, the German government was comprehensively dismantled and replaced after WWII so it isn’t a continuous entity.
  13. No, it doesn’t automatically create an entitlement to ‘handouts’ or compensation. But if it does, why are we complaining if it is the Right Thing? Obviously, there are many possible answers to that, but it won’t hurt to examine them.
  14. You can’t have a “one-size fits all” solution if you’ve just deliberately lopped limbs off a group of people. I really like the cartoon A Concise History of Black-White Relations in the U.S.A. and have found it useful for explaining a number of things. But it’s a very different situation than this (maybe relations with Native Americans  – is that the preferred name? I’m open to correction – would be more analogous?). The Straight Ablebodied Rich White Man’s Burden might be closer to what seems (broadly) to be going on in Australia, only imagine that the speaker put the better part of those other bags there. 
  15. Please to define “a better life”.
  16. What did you think?

[Edited 16/2/08 to change “Fraser” to “Nelson” : )]

Mortality

  1. Heath Ledger. My first thoughts on hearing of a death do not always reflect creditably on me. When I was on the bus to work my sister sent me an SMS with the news Heath Ledger had died. It was a shock, and my first thoughts were “Oh no!” which is rather better than I managed when Robert Jordan died. I suppose there is that disconnect when I only know of someone and relate to them through their work – it is easier to feel cheated of what they produce than to feel on more than an intellectual level that a person has died. Not right, but easier. And I had just been thinking the week before (after seeing the previews for Batman) that Heath Ledger seemed to be really coming into his own as an actor – that he’d ceased to be a fill-in-the-blank pretty face and was becoming an individual and a force to be reckoned with, that he was reminding me a little bit of Jack Nicholson and Tommy Lee Jones, and I was sorry for all the films he’d never make and I wouldn’t get to see.
  2. The Bulletin. I have mixed feelings on the folding of this magazine because it is not something I have much immediate emotional connection to. Like a house being torn down – not one I’ve lived in but one I’ve grown used to passing on my way to the corner shop. It was a very old publication, with some less than glorious moments (Australia for the White Man, etc), but it was… there. And now it’s only of historical importance.
  3. My cousin. Actually, he didn’t die. Concussion and some interesting scars are getting off pretty lightly when you’ve been shot in the head and arm during a home invasion.
  4. Not death, but with an appreciation for the beauty in decay and good manners in all things: Lady of the Manners and the Gothic Charm School.
  5. Honorary unsubscribes. I subscribe to This is True and the best and most fascinating part of the newsletter is the Honorary Unsubscribe, created to “recognize the Unknown, the Forgotten and the Obscure People who had an impact on our lives”, fully listed here, by – upon their death – honorarily unsubscribing them from the newsletter.

In Which I Make a List

Two activities which regularly reduce me to tears and which in consequence I try to avoid are shoe shopping and listening to country music. If I feel I need a thoroughly cathartic experience, I will do both in one evening. I had completed the first last Friday night and, prior to committing the second, made this list (I have since recovered somewhat but maintain my stance on the cupcake issue):

DON’T LIKE

  1. Shoe stores
  2. Crowds
  3. People who stand in front of elevators
  4. Shops which are happy enough for you to buy but won’t actively try to sell you anything.
  5. Shops which actively try to sell you things.
  6. Decisions.
  7. Lack of choice.
  8. Retail blackmail.
  9. Kebab shops which run out of felafels.
  10. Shops which advertise “it’s cupcake season” but don’t actually have any cupcakes for sale.
  11. Extra sugar.
  12. Communal dining tables in food courts.
  13. The price difference between fresh fruit and veges and refined starch.
  14. Rent showing through in food prices.
  15. My feet.
  16. Everyone else’s feet.
  17. Expensive Christmas cards.
  18. Cheap Christmas cards.
  19. GST on stamps.
  20. Waiting for public transport.
  21. Crying in public.
  22. Inertia.
  23. Being a lawyer.
  24. Corporations law.
  25. Order times.
  26. Executive chairs.

LIKE

  1. Rule of law.
  2. Democracy.
  3. The little plastic pots with resealable flip-tops that East-West Food serves its sauces in.

My brain hurts

Foot study

Life drawing is hard. Mentally painful and exhausting, in the way that completing an obstacle course when you’re very unfit is hard. Not impossible, but it wrings you out and leaves you exhausted and seeing little lights. Or, in my case, seeing everyone I pass as a tangle of planes and shades and tendons.

In the case of life drawing (and an obstacle course, for that matter), I am very unfit. I’m throwing myself in the deep end, and hope it will pay off, but at the beginning of every pose I sit, shaking my pencil-hand and thinking, “I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” And then I draw a shape into which the pose sits, or only draw the shadows, or concentrate on the negative space, or simply unfocus my eyes and draw big loopy lines, and then focus and work down to the detail. And I hope that repeating, and repeating, will make better, if not perfect.

Tonight we had a male model, which adds another level of difficulty for me, because I am not used to breaking the male body down into proportions and I am fundamentally unfamiliar with it. With female models, I have the advantage of having a female body with me 24/7, so I understand a little more about how it works. And the female body – even underweight – is composed of curves and roundness and sinuous lines. I suspect this is why the female nude figures so much in decoration – there is something about its lines which is decorative (in the sense of it functions on an ornamental level as well as representational – much like the lines and patterns of arabesques). The male body is far more a study in musculature and bone structure, all angles and unexpected shadows and lines and places where the ribs or spine or collarbone play a much less subtle role in the overall shape.

Navel gazing

Further, life drawing is bad for public speaking. When told to picture the audience in their underwear, you will not feel less embarrassed. You will feel like you should be drawing that overwhelming array of shadows, sinews, solar plexxi and lines of balance.

——

The animation society is folding at the end of the year, so I will have to find a new session to attend after the next fortnight. It’s a shame. I prefer to walk in Woolloongabba alone at night than in the Valley.

Well, this should be interesting

After voting on Tuesday (and being charmed to find that the voting booths at City Hall were located near a display of embroidery), occasionally forgetting I had voted, attending the Toogoolawa Camel Races, driving to Gatton, catching up with Aimee, breaking my car, waiting for the RACQ, finding the breaking-of-the-car was not my fault, being driven home by Aimee and engaging in consumption of baked cheesecake, I find that Howard has formally conceded defeat to Rudd.

Although not obvious from the above, I’ve been wrestling with whether I am willing to trade economic stability for social security.

 I guess I’ll find out.

Five Hotels

  1. The Eddison, New York – Slightly decaying art deco hotel in the Times Square District. Comfortable, well-appointed and beautiful, and the things that might have been shabby instead were attractive – the worn carpets had lovely old designs, and the grilles and pipes in the bathrooms were covered with punched tin lace and the lift doors were etched with patterns. Even the door knobs in the old wooden doors were impressive and moulded with the hotel initials. We sat in bed and drank hot chocolate and ate Madeleines. Also, when Genevieve and I were back in NY and trying to find a bathroom near Times Square one night, they let us use theirs.
  2. Country Comfort, Erie – An airport motel, and being a motel and in Erie, cheap. Also spacious, comfortable and with a very large bathroom. No kettle of course, so I could not use the tea bags I had liberated from the At Home the night before. I had to get up early the next morning to catch the airport shuttle which was to leave at the same time breakfast started. But the breakfast buffet was already out (everything from omelettes to doughnuts) and a flight crew and the bus driver were eating and watching the fires in LA.
  3. The Embassy Suites, Conference Centre, Washington – Washington hotels aren’t cheap. And because I did not book this until the day before and didn’t know my way around Washington and it was only one night, I went for the really expensive one. And it showed – a room with an enormous double bed and a bathroom and a sitting room with sofas and table and chairs. The sort of luxury that makes it a shame to not be spending much time there, so definitely a business hotel more than a tourist one (at least for tourists who are trying to see the whole city in a day and a half) .The concierge booked my night tour for me and they had glass urns of water with lemon and of fresh lemonade in the foyer (a highlight). Breakfast was alright as hotel breakfasts go, though they had Tazo tea (which brings me pleasant memories of packages of crafts from America). Room service stopped at 11, which would not be a plus because I really wanted hotel room service, just once and this seemed the hotel to do it at, and because it was late and cold and I’d been out on the night tour in the rain and my stockings were soggy. The vending machine on our floor only had soft drinks and all the cafes nearby were closed. I called reception to ask where I could get food, and they said the vending machines on level 3 had snacks. I put on my coat and shoes over my pajamas and descended, but the machine was full and wouldn’t take any money and I was tired and cold and hungry and called reception again to ask if there was anywhere at all I could get food, and the night manager brought me up a whole box of Pepperridge biscuits (like an Arnotts selection, but thin and buttery and fancy).
  4. Hotel 31, NY – Small. Clean. Not for people with large suitcases, because when I say small, I do mean that. The street frontage is small (although conveniently located across from a non-self-service laundry), though attractive, with carved stone and eagles and so forth. The foyer is small – it gets crowded with three guests. The elevator was the kind where you swing the door open towards you and pull the brass grille aside and can see (and if you wanted, touch) the hotel as it moves past the diamonds of the grille. One person and luggage was about the limit – we took the stairs a lot, but never had any actual trouble with the lift. It was just disconcerting. The room had two single beds, a basin, a hanging rack over the radiator and a desk which was mostly occupied by a television set. It had basically no room for luggage or anything except sleeping, and although it was cleaned everyday we only ever received one set of towel, handtowel and washer between the two of us and had to ring down every night for someone to bring us up another set, at which point they (after a time) would usually bring us three. All the rooms had different wallpaper. Ours had two sorts – one pale cream floral brocade and the other cream and pastel stripes. Another down the hall had a large, dark tartan. There were two bathrooms on the floor, and sometimes there was a queue, but not a very long one. Not a business hotel – but an excellent base of operations when you don’t plan to spend much time in your hotel room. Sort of a luggage locker with benefits. So no complaints, but it was character building and had actual ceiling lights, which was novel.
  5. The New York Helmsley – my mother didn’t want to share a bathroom with other guests once she joined us, so we changed hotels on the last night. Genevieve thought it was very luxurious and I agreed at first, but mostly because we’d just left Hotel 31 which would, frankly, would have fit in the foyer. It was more modern than the Eddison, but the beds were doubles instead of queens (and this mattered because I was sharing with my mother) and the lighting was dim (no ceiling lights) and the view, though respectable, was not as spectacular as Hotel 31’s vista of roof-gardens, chimneys, fire-escapes and the Empire State Building. They did, however, have friendly staff and check us in very early when we showed up on their doorstep and store our bags while we wandered on our last day, something I doubt Hotel 31 would have had the capacity for. They even had a port cochere.

Tea and sympathy

We have been talking a lot. In Australia, this would normally be accompanied by much tea. In America, it is accompanied by food. My mother lost her voice for several days, so she would say “…” and I would have to interpret. This was an excellent system until she started expecting me to interpret while she was in the front seat of the car and I was behind her with a mouth full of chocolate chip cookie.

Things I have learned run in my family:

  1. winking
  2. carrying babies in unconventional receptacles
  3. navigating/cooking/planning by committee
  4. travelling in circles
  5. a need to talk

Things I have learned about my family:

  1. my grandmother once made a gooseberry pie and didn’t take the stems out
  2. while my great-grandmother was on the way to the hospital to give birth to my great-aunt, my great-grandfather overturned the sleigh
  3. a great-relative was probably murdered by her husband but no-one had proof
  4. my grandfather would arrange the containers that cream servings (for coffee) come in into daisies and give them to waitresses
  5. an uncle, returning from a visit to our property in Australia, told people it was like visiting the set of Little House on the Prairie

Things about Americans and tea (I try to do as the romans do but I do like some tea when I can get it – it aids the digestive process and as when we are not talking we are eating, I like this):

  1. you cannot find Twinings for love or money and they just don’t quite manage scones
  2. the tea Americans drink is either Liptons or endlessly fancy (just plain tea, please?)
  3. the smallest section in Wallmart is the tea section
  4. all the kettles we have seen are the sort you put on the stove (I am pleased to report we are ahead of America in the technology stakes in this respect) and one aunt puts a teapot in the microwave
  5. they don’t boil the kettle – they warm the water and say, ‘the water should be warm enough by now’ instead of letting the kettle boil and whistle and THEREBY FULFILL ITS FUNCTION but it would be rude to say so