When I Own a Coffee Shop

I resolve that: Continue reading

Pet Peeves

  1. Beds: unmade, double and low.
  2. Dishes: unrinsed and left in the sink.
  3. KFC: the one at Indooroopilly.
  4. Houses: without books.
  5. Story: absence of.

February Short Book Reviews

Return to Labyrinth, vol. 1. No, no, no, no, no. This isn’t Labyrinth. The Labyrinth is there, and the fantastic creatures, but it has had its heart cut out. The movie had its flaws, but it was wonderful and powerful, and if the main character was spoiled she was also lively and active and if she made mistakes she also made progress and friends. Volume 1 of Return to Labyrinth had none of that. For a moment there was a glimpse of grown-up Sarah, which was like seeing a glimpse of an old friend – heartbreaking because her life now appears to revolve around Toby (who seems to have grown very much into Nick from Deep Secret, but without any of the charm). I enjoyed the creatures and places, some known, some new, some developed (the forest of hat-birds! loved it). But it is, so far, a story of a spoiled and discontented child being led (not enough emotion to be ‘dragged’) against his will into a life of fantasy and privilege, which isn’t the same thing as a spoiled and self-centred child on the point of making a terrible mistake and jumping in feet-first to fix it and travelling through dangers unnumbered and hardships uncounted and loyal friendships and seductive promises and finally growing up. I will read another volume if it comes my way, just to see if the story becomes a deeper story, but it left me cold and sad and wondering if anyone ever can return to Labyrinth. Someone once, long ago, began a fanfiction novel which I found and read unfinished, and it promised so much more than this. On the art: this was my first manga and I do not think, from art I have seen around, that I should judge all manga by the quality of the artwork in this which was sometimes inconsistent to the point of distraction.

The Orphan Tales: In the Night Garden – Catherynne Valente. Fabulous. A filigreed nesting-box of wonderful stories. A thousand-and-one stories each part of the other. A genealogy of delight. The assistant editor at Bantam Dell whose card you can’t quite see on this page of my journal recommended it to me at a function at the Australian Consulate in New York. I could not find it in the days left to us in New York. It subsequently won the World Fantasy award and when I came home I ordered it at Pulp Fiction and – eventually – it arrived. It deserved the award. Now, when I started the book I was not sure whether it would leave me cold, and the first story, the upper layer, the framing story is on its surface a small tale and unfolds only at great intervals across the book. But the tales the girl with all the stories written across her eyelids told were luminous and strange, rendolent of Arabian nights and Norse legends and European maerchen, yet never retellings or rephrasings – always fresh and new and surprising and lovely and shocking and heartbreaking. Lovely monsters and terrible fates, wars and treachery, ambition, love, gold and starlight and foxes and otters, bears and phoenixes and Beasts, creatures of the stars that burn the grass they tread on, creatures of the moon which inhabit and discard cratered bodies, cities of rose domes, of spice, of towers built of ships and bones. And gradually each story feeds into the others, loops back, is threaded through, brushes against the others and builds a world of beauty and dark secrets. And if there were no further book I would be happy in the story – but now I do know and care about the upper layers and am very glad there is a second half, which is on order and I will report back on as soon as possible.

The Fantasy Artist’s Reference File – Peter Evans. I said I might review this. It was – oh, it’s the illustrated version of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland without the self-awareness or deliberate humour. (I think. There were a couple sections where I thought the author must be having a dig at his audience). It is a volume of photo-references of figures poses and costumes, complete with CD of images. The production values are high, the models appear very healthy and there are some unexpected inclusions. And I can’t not laugh. On a pay-per-read it may be one of the cheapest books I’ve bought. It includes poses, costume details, figure reference, facial expressions, ‘classic poses’ and suggestions for illustrating the following: Barbarian Warrior, Warrior Woman, Elven Warrior, Elven Queen, Fairy, Princess, Wicked Sorceress, Warrior Prince, Wizard, Evil Sorcerer, Warrior Dwarf, Cleric, Peasant Boy, Peasant Girl, Norseman and Goblin. And oh the cliches, they burn! And the intricate back stories and descriptions for barely related photographs (did you know: “Elves’ eyesight is far better than that of humans. They have a greater color spectrum and can see in the near dark”)! And the sight of a bearded, wise wizard in his underwear! What is seen cannot be unseen… Some noteable pose titles include: Death to the Dragon! Come forth, my paladins. Get back hordes of chaos. Dragon bait. Midnight abduction (two of these). I will rend your soul. Aaarrghhhh! No, that is not the way to do it. I had it when we left. Notable costume elements: Baggy hose (seriously, if they had not pointed it out I would not have noticed and now I cannot look away!). Puffy gold-lame wristlets. Skullband (as in, a headband on a skull).

I also read several short stories including ‘Tongue before Sword’ which received a longer review here, and Matthew.

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.

Continue reading

January short movie reviews

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

Continue reading

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” : )]