Is it really Therapy?

I know the term retail therapy is supposed to evoke visions of shoppers almost in a zen calm after weilding their credit cards, but really ithas notbeen my experience, especially today.  If anything, going shopping today is enough to send you to therapy.

All I want in this little shopping trip is one pair of shoes for a specific purpose.  They are for my upcoming trip overseas so they must be multipurpose shoes.  They must be cool, because I am travelling into summer.  They must be sturdy because I will be doing a lot of walking.  They must be pretty, because they will be doubling up as evening shoes.  And they must be reasonably priced, because I am a tightarse.

That’s not too much to ask is it?

But finding this wonderful pair of shoes is proving to be a challenge that I am not sure I am up to.  I cannot spend too much time searching as there are other constraints on my time but I have a limited time to get them.  I hate crowds but all the good shops are full of people.  I like personal service but the cheaper shops are all about help yourself.

I thought I had found the answer today with a factory outlet for Rockport Shoes which are very expensive normally but some of the best shoes around.  There was a big sale on and they had many sandles that might fit my requirements, but sadlyI must report yet another shopping failure.  All the shoes are tied together with plastic tags so there is no way to try themboth on without help from an assistant.  Try as I might those assistants ignored me.  Surely it wasn`t because I was looking in the super specials area?  I don’t want to even go there but needless to say there was bno therapy involved in today`s excursion.  In fact I think I wil fall back on the most proven therapy of all, chocolate

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A salute to bloggers – Feed by Mira Grant

If ever there was a book to make a blogger feel good about themselves, that they can make a difference, it is this book by Mira Grant.  Feed is a post Zombie Apocalypse story with a twist, and the main characters Georgia and Sean Mason are bloggers who get chosen to follow a presidential candidate on his journey to get elected during the ongoing zombie apocalypse, where your best friend could soon be your worst nightmare. It is obvious Grant has thought hard about the psychological effects of a worldwide outbreak but rather than go the total dissolution of society like most, she has gone for probably a more realistic approach, where life goes on, you just deal.

Zombies have affected the way people cope with large crowds, and the popularity of bloggers has soared due to the mistakes made by regular news during the initial crisis. The Kellis Amberley (not sure of spelling as I listened to this) virus has caused all these problems and everybody in the world is infected. What that means is that although you will never get a cold or cancer again, at any moment you might go into spontaneous amplification and become a zombie. Puts a new spin on life doesn’t it?

Our heroine Georgia, is a newsie, and her brother Sean is an Irwin (one of the cutest things I’ve seen – naming a risk taker after Steve Irwin), and their third blogger in the group is Buffy, a fictional. Together they are following the campaign of the Republican delegate race.

There is a lot of interesting stuff in this book. It has an interesting twist which I kind of saw coming but it still shocked me. I heartily recommend this book to others and the main reason I read it was because book 2 is a Hugo nominee and I wanted to read it with some sort of context. The fact that they have both been nominees says a lot about the quality of these books and I have no reservations recommending it.

Technological breakdown

Aargh, even though I have a lot of modern technology in my house I still find it frustrating to set things up.  Struggling with things that should be automatic and not figuring out how they work makes me feel dumb when I should be concentrating on other things.  Just wasted almost an hour trying to get this stupid WordPress App to show up on my homepage.  Still haven’t managed it 😦

The perfect shopping moment

I have been browsing the shops lately in search of the perfect handbag to take on my trip overseas later in the year.  Today I ran around to the DFO in Essendon, just to see what was there and I found it!!  It was on sale too which was an even better bonus 🙂  So now I have everything I need for my trip.  The months ahead will be dedicated to saving money, exercising and planning all the fun things I will be doing on my trip.  Can’t wait!

What is it about The Voice?

My current obsession is the TV show The Voice.  All the versions are playing concurrently, the US, the UK and the Aussie version are all on TV at the moment.  If I watch every episode, that is 8 hours of reality TV in one week that I am absorbing, and it is all quality tv.  I am a sucker for a reality talent show but there is something special about The Voice.  I love how the mentors cannot see their choices until they turn around and how if more than one of them turn the choice is with the talent.

Tha battle rounds are a very different story though.  My theory, and from my choices corresponding with the judges’ 80% of the time I think it is pretty true, is that the judges pair their favourites with someone they think can be cut with no issues and that it would have to be a pretty rare performance to change their already made up minds.  Even though I have this opinion, I love the fact that this show is all about positive reinforcement.  No comments about looks in this show, it is all about the voice here.  Who cares if they come on stage with bare feet?  Who cares if they are blind?

This show has become extremely popular and as someone who jumped on the bandwagon last year for the first season of the American series, I am totally glad I can finally come into work the day after and have at least five other people ready to compare their thoughts on the show with me.  Love it!

Outland – an interview with creator John Richards

This interview will also be appearing in the next issue of Ethel the Aardvark, but I thought I would post it here as well in case you don’t read that before the air date of next Wednesday 9.30pm on ABC1

 

Outland is premiering on the ABC on February 8th.  Tell us a bit about the premise of the show.

It’s about a gay and lesbian science fiction fan club. They’ve just split from a larger club and are forced to hold meetings in their homes, revealing secrets the members would rather keep hidden. Each episode is set during one meeting in one location, and it’s more an English-style comedy, similar perhaps to Spaced or The Book Group. The five members of the group all come from different worlds so the science fiction is the only thing they really have in common. Oh, and it’s funny. And it looks great.

The characters in Outland are quite unique for Australian TV.  Are they based on real life people?

They’ve definitely got elements of real people in them! I always approached Max as being me – he’s nervous, he worries about other people, he over thinks everything… and Andy was the person I’d like to be. He may be a sex-crazed leather man, but he’s also the most balanced member of the group and he has a good job. Andy’s the one you’d go to in a crisis. Or Rae. I short-hand Rae as “Monash academic” and she’s like a lot of women I know, and I’d never seen a lesbian character like her shown on telly before. Fab is obviously a version of Adam’s “performance persona” so he came in fully formed – Adam said the other day that Fab is just him when he’s drunk. Toby’s probably the least like someone I know, although some of his dialogue I took verbatim from real life.

Adam and I worked on the characters together, and then they were further developed with Princess Pictures, but Max came first. Actually, even his name is a weird geeky joke – he’s the average guy, the “everygay” so he’s named Max after Max Normal, a character from Judge Dredd.

There are several geek/nerd references in the first two episodes that resonated particularly with me, did you automatically know these or did you have to research geek culture to come up with them?

Everything came off the top of my head except the Stargate references – we decided Toby was a fan of Stargate and I took all the names off Wikipedia. This meant when it came to filming no-one knew how to pronounce them correctly and we’d have to call Narrelle M Harris. She was our “Stargate pronunciation consultant”. But all the Doctor Who stuff was from me and Adam, it was all just there. And the crew joined in as well. In episode 2 you can freeze-frame the open suitcase to see a copy of Narrelle’s book “The Opposite Of Life” and a copy of “Horn” by Peter M Ball, and in episode 1 the cinematographer made sure the real street sign for nearby “Lytton St” was properly lit so there was another subtle Dalek reference. Everyone wanted to make sure the fan elements were constant throughout the series.

How much of the story lines in Outland are based on your own experiences?  Have you personally felt embarrassed about being a science fiction fan?

Absolutely. In the first episode Max is one a date with a not-we and he’s “de-geeked” his house (this moment is also a parody of a gay film cliché in which a gay character removes all his gay paraphernalia because his Nan or similar is coming over – honestly, this series is a teetering tower of references). His date makes a joke about Daleks going up stairs and Max is momentarily frozen by an internal argument about whether he should correct this – Daleks have been going up stairs since Remembrance Of The Daleks – or to let it go. That moment came from real life, I was at a party and that exact thing happened. And the fannish and non-fannish parts of my brain had a fight about whether we wanted to be right or whether to let it go. As fans I think we like to be right.

And I think the gay world was quite dismissive of science fiction for a while, but then the gay world can be quite dismissive of all sorts of things. It seems to have changed now. Weirdly, the gays got on board the same time Doctor Who went heterosexual. It’s a mixed-up world.

Do you have a favourite character in the series?

I love them all, and the actors are all so brilliant. It’s a real ensemble piece so I wouldn’t want to play favourites. Although I’m extremely proud we found Ben Gerrard – he’s an exceptional performer and I like the fact that we’ll be able to say “we found him!” long after we can’t afford to use him anymore.

Outland is based on your original short film.  What inspired you to make the film in the first place?

The short film was made as a pilot, really. The ABC had turned Outland down in script form, but I thought if we made a film and put it into festivals we could come back to them saying “look! People like this!” I was following in the footsteps of SBS’s Wilfred, which was also a short film originally. So I directed it and shot in my lounge room for $500, with a really impressive cast. I think that’s what you need to do now if you want to get a show up.

On a more basic level, with Outland I wanted to put gay characters on screen that weren’t just one-note clichés and I wanted to put fans on screen without them being figures of ridicule. Gays and geeks have always been the butt of the joke; I wanted to make them the heroes.

Will there be a second series?

 I hope so. I’ve got ideas for one, I think we’ll have to see how it rates and how it’s reviewed, I guess. So watch it! And watch it again on iView! And send letters to the Green Guide, and leave comments on the ABC website, and tweet and facebook and shout about it randomly in the street! Actually, don’t do that last bit, that sounds mad.

You co-wrote the series with Adam Richard, who also stars in the show.  Were you tempted to put yourself in the show as well?  How was the collaboration?

In the show? Good lord, no. There was a two-line taxi-driver part I had my eye on but that went – more logically – to an Indian actor (and a very handsome gent, too).

The writing collaboration with Adam changed several times over the series – at first we worked on the pilot script together, emailing it back and forth. Then when we started at Princess we had more people involved so it ended up bouncing around a lot more. Then as the show got nearer – and time was shorter – I took over completely. So episodes 4 through 6 are written solely by me, but Adam would read them and make notes. Then when shooting started it was more important that Adam was learning lines than writing them, so I took over the rewrites as we went along. It was all very organic. And in the read-throughs – and on the set – Adam and the cast would sometimes change lines or come up with alternatives.

It has been a long time between the series being finished and finally being aired on the ABC.  How frustrating has the wait been?

The whole process has been somewhat… um… leisurely. Although I was reading yesterday that Life On Mars took one year longer than we did to go from concept to screen and that was brilliant, so that’s reassuring. The only truly frustrating bit was that the show was finally edited mid-2011 and there just wasn’t room on the ABC schedule to show it! The ABC has really pumped up it’s output of comedy and drama in the last few years, which is brilliant, but it meant there wasn’t any room at the inn for Outland. The truth is only a tiny number of shows get made in Australia ever, so the fact that our show got made at all is a reason to rejoice. It’s also very good, in my humble opinion, so that’s nice too.

Do you have any other projects in the works we can get excited about?

Yes, I have projects in the works you would get excited about but no, I can’t tell you what they are. There’s no point getting you all worked up over something that might never happen, but hopefully one of them might get some development soon. There are two SF-tinged dramas that would be amazing to make, so fingers crossed. Keep watching the skies! Or your television. WATCH OUTLAND!

In the meantime you can always catch me on the television-discussion podcast Boxcutters – http://boxcutters.net/ – or speaking at events like Live In The Studio at ACMI – http://www.acmi.net.au/lis_sex_lies_television_screens.aspx

Note from me – I have seen a sneak preview of the first two episodes and they are absolutely hilarious.  Can’t wait for them to be on tv 🙂

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood – Review for #AWW2012

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood is the first in a very long series of books (I think they are up to number 19 now) about the fabulous Phryne (pron frynee) Fisher, lady detective.  Phryne was orginally born in Australia but moved to England as a girl when her father became heir to a title and a fortune.  She has spent her formative years as a wealthy socialite, learning to dance the tango in Paris with a gigolo, learning to drive from a race car driver and learning to fly planes.  She is certainly accomplished and handles every situation with aplomb.

When we start this book, Phryne solves a mystery of missing jewelry almost without getting up from her dinner table and when he witnesses this, another guest engages her to find out if his daughter’s husband is poisoning her.  To do this she must head off to Melbourne.

When Phryne arrives she settles in at the Windsor hotel, engages a maid and settles in to solve crime and socialise, all in the best of frocks.  She also finds time to fraternise with a Russian dancer, solve an international drug ring and make the police look stupid for not being able to find an illegal abortionist.

In fact Phryne is a little too perfect.  But she is wonderful all the same.  I fell in love with her wittiness, her dry sense of humour and her willingness to chip in and help out those of lower class than her.  She was a fun character to listen to.  But I think what I loved the most about this book was the descriptions of Melbourne in the 20’s.  As a Melbournite, I love my city, and to hear it so lovingly described made me want to go back there, to experience it for myself.  Greenwood obviously did a lot of research about Melbourne in the 20’s to sound so convincing, and it is obvious she loves this city as well.

I am glad I got to experience this book before the television series starts on the ABC this year.  I think I am definitely going to enjoy it.

I read this book for the AWW2012 Challenge.  You can find the challenge at the following link http://www.australianwomenwriters.com/p/australian-women-writers-book-challenge_25.html 2 down – 8 to go 🙂

The Reformed Vampires Support Group by Catherine Jinks

Before I say anything about this book, let me just say this, what a cool title for a book.  This was what originally attracted me to this series, although I must be honest, the cover of the original one I saw was much sexier than this one, which was the cover of the audiobook that I listened to.

When I first tried to read this, about a year ago, the book didn’t really appeal to me.  As a great fan of vampire romances, the idea of sickly vampires, who didn’t really do much of anything and whinged and complained a lot, really didn’t appeal to me.  So I put it back on the TBR pile where it languished for months (don’t worry, some books languish there for years).

The other cover really made the vampires seem way cooler than they really were

I rest my case.  To me this cover was quite misleading, this cover says to me the heroine is a kickass vampire with an attitude that no-one is going to diss.  In reality Nina, the aforementioned heroine, is in fact, a sickly, weak reformed vampire who has been living in her mother’s basement since 1973 when she was turned at the age of 15.  She is a skinny pale girl with a bad haircut and a can’t do attitude.  Does this cover portray that at all?  Whereas the cover of the audiobook accurately portrays the whimsical nature of this book.  Anyway, enough about the covers, what did I think of this book.  In a word (or two), I liked it, but didn’t love it.

There is something quite special about this book (indeed the sequel The Abused Werewolves Rescue Group has a similar quality to it as well).  I did enjoy the originality of the premise, that Vampirism is a disease and that Vampires are basically very unwell forever.  They talk in terms of science rather than the supernatural, they scoff at the vampire legends, they laugh about the super strength, and they vomit a lot.  Plus I liked the Australian setting as well, you don’t get many vampire/werewolf tales set in the outback or Sydney (unless you read Keri Arthur but if you like her you won’t be reading this I don’t think – not enough sex – none in fact)

The support group to which the title of the book refers, is where the vampires meet every Tuesday night to bitch and moan about life as a vampire and what it entails.  This is where we meet out intrepid heroine Nina, who is about to head off to yet another interminable meeting when they find out that one of their number has been staked by a slayer.

What ensues is definitely a comedy of errors and misunderstandings as the usually apathetic (I can relate) vampires must motivate themselves to save the group from discovery and a young werewolf from slavery.

I found it to be an almost uplifting story, that the most unlikely of people can be heroes, but there were a few things that annoyed me about the story.

One – the author’s use of ‘never the less’ and ‘needless to say’ were by far too prevalent throughout the book.  It may have been because I was listening to it, but I found it to be quite annoying.  This is also the case in the sequel, even more so.

Two – the lack of romance.  Although this is not a vampire romance per se, I still felt a bit cheated.  Even though Nina does find someone (I won’t say who but it is obvious from the very start) we don’t even get to listen in on a kiss or a cuddle at all.  I understand this is written as a diary perspective but the main character is in her fifties for god’s sake, surely there could have been some nookie?

Three – the first person point of view.  I normally quite like a first person point of view but considering that this first person is unconscious for all the daylight hours I felt this could have been better with third person.  Again, I realise this was supposed to be a diary format kind of book but sometimes first person gets my goat, and way too many YA books are written in first person.

Aside from these few things, I did quite enjoy this book, I thought it was better than the sequel, easier to relate to a sickly vampire than a stupid 13 year old werewolf.  I recommend it for lovers of the out of the ordinary and teens.

This is my first book review for the AWW2012 challenge – http://www.australianwomenwriters.com/p/australian-women-writers-book-challenge_25.html which I will post there as well.

The Iron Lady – A review of the movie

Biopics are the darlings of the Oscars.  Never is it more a sure thing when an actor plays a real life character, because everybody knows what they were really like and if the actor can get even close, they are up for an Oscar.  I think Meryl Streep has this in the bag!

The best thing about this movie is the acting and the make-up.  Don’t get me wrong, it was certainly an interesting movie and depicted an interesting woman, but Meryl got that accent perfect, she embodied the Baroness Margaret Thatcher both in her prime and as a doddering old lady reflecting back on her life, missing her deceased husband.

The movie starts off with a withered old lady buying a pint of milk and complaining about the price.  Just like we all do.  Then when she gets back to her home we realise she has snuck out and escaped her detail and that she has become quite the frail old lady.  I think that was the saddest part about this movie is that, we all remember Margaret Thatcher as the, well, Iron Lady, love her or hate her, who changed the face of English politics with her no nonsense policies of getting rid of all the things dragging the government down, whether that was good for England or not was a matter of debate but she certainly made her mark.  What she is now though is a completely different thing and I think the start of this movie demonstrated that in a very poignant way.

Nobody recognised her, nobody cared.  Aside from the occasional mixer with dignitaries, Margaret Thatcher is more in the news when she goes to the doctors for a checkup than for any other reason.  I liked the flashback style of the movie.  It was fitting with the overall feel of an old woman looking back on her life.  She certainly had a lot to look back on, although with the way she was talking to dead Dennis at the start I thought they might even make it a love story but they didn’t.  It was an extrememely personal view of the Thatcher years obviously and it did indeed gloss over several things, I think the IRA bombings certainly didn’t get much of a look in except for where they affected Margaret personally.

This mostly hit home for me because when I was living in England I was looking after a little old lady with dementia.  She had been a prominent member for her local parliament and had been a strong proponent of women in the workforce in her time.  She had been reduded to babbling about the old times and it was extremely sad to see her like this, and I wasn’t even her family.  I think that seeing Margaret Thatcher reduced to someone so impotent after all her power was very sad, I can see why tyrants grip on until their last breath.

All in all it was a good movie, not too political, more about the personal journey of a very strong minded woman, making it in the world of men.  A lot of the visual images were showing that very strongly.  There were a couple that stuck out.  One was of all the members filing into parliament, there was a sea of black suits and one colourful blue suit which was Margaret, and then there was the shot of all the mens shoes sitting in the commons and one single pair of heels.

Whatever you say or think about Thatcher, she was a game changer for women’s rights, she was a proponent of doing it for yourself and she had no patience for slackers and whingers.  It would be interesting to see how long she would stay in government in today’s society.  Certainly not 10 years I don’t think.

The Almighty Johnsons – why can’t Australia produce TV like this?

Earlier this year at a panel at Continuum, there was a discussion about why Australia doesn’t produce much, if any, SF or fantasy television that isn’t for children.  The consensus was that we have very shortsighted tv execs as both the children’s shows and others have done very well overseas.

So we who love all things speculative must turn to other countries for the type of television we like to watch.  It is usually the United States we turn to, but I recently watched a series produced by our next door neighbours, NZ, called ‘The Almighty Johnsons’.

The premise of the show is the Johnson family, four brothers Mike, Anders, Ty and Axl, are descended from the Norse Gods, who emigrated to NZ a couple of hundred years ago to escape persecution.  Their powers, which appear to them on their 21st birthday, are diluted and only the return of Odin will herald the return of their Glory.

The series begins with Axl’s 21st, where he discovers his god identity as Odin and his quest to find Frig, his goddess, and that when they ‘join together’ all the god’s powers will return and they will ascend to rule again in Asgard.

It sounds really heavy but this is actually a light hearted comedy with very typical Antipodean humour.  I noticed it is currently screening on Australian free to air so I urge everybody to check it out.

There are a couple of really great scenes and the scene where Mike convinces Axl of his godhood by playing paper rock scissors is a classic

The titles are a no nonsense listing of the boy’s names and who plays each character but it is kind of cool.  There is also a bittersweet love story there as well.  Everything a nerdy girl could want, cool Norse god powers, cute guys (did they hire every cute actor in NZ?) and a love story, as well as Nemesis goddesses.  I absolutely loved it and cannot wait for season 2.