Monday, April 26, 2010


What's a no-buy?

This is a term I have only recently been exposed to, through my exploration of the various online communities devoted to mineral makeup, indie jewellry and other such handicrafts that can be found braving their way through the global waters of Etsy, or set up on their own spiffy website.

Buying online has its pros and cons. A few of mine (because I love making lists!):
  • Convenience: anytime and anywhere you have internet, you can shop. You don't have to 'make a day of it' like you have to in order to visit physical shops.
  • Instant comparisons: you can check out similar products, and find reviews, in a way you can't (that fast, anyway) in the 'real world'.
  • Hassle-free browsing: you can spent as long as you like pouring over a web-site. You can even do it whilst doing homework (not reccomended). Going 'out' shopping is a little more time-consuming, and there's a lot more pressure to buy when you're surrounded by sales assistants.
  • Sometimes it's a little too easy and you lose track of all the money you've spent!
  • Delayed gratification: this can be a good thing, but sometimes (especially if you're ordering internationally) you'll have to wait WEEKS to get your goodies. So if you're ordering  for a particular event, especially a birthday, you need to think way ahead.
  • Intangibility: not being able to try stuff out/on like you can in a physical store.
 A no-buy is a self-imposed ban (often encouraged by loved ones, however) for a set amount of time, dictating that you won't buy non-essentials. Make-up, clothing, books, jewellry, CDs and DVDs all fall into the non-essential category. A super-strict no-buy may include cutting down one's consumption of outside food - buying less coffee, not eating out as often, packing lunch etc.

No-buys serve two main purposes:
  1. The obvious: saving money! Whether you're saving up for something big, or just trying to curtail your expenses, a no-buy will make you really think about how much you want that necklace, or whether or not you might as well nip down to the library and borrow that book, instead of buying it.
  2. The side-benefit: making use of the 'stuff' you already have. Getting your money's worth out of things, so to speak. Thoroughly 'using' your new CD, hat, lipstick and really working it into your life, rather than shoving it to the back of the proverbial wardrobe once the novelty has worn off. That's one of the problems I find I have with buying sprees: I get almost overwhelmed by all the 'new things' and I forget I have half of the stuff. I can't appreciate it properly. If it's not getting used, what was the point of buying it in the first place?
I am on a no-buy at the moment. I have ordered from several makeup companies, bought some absolutely beautiful boots for winter (they cost a lot more than I usually spend on anything, let alone shoes, but I did think about it for a few weeks to determine whether it'd be 'worth it'. I've worn them 3 times in the 7 days I've had them, so I think I made the right call :P) and I'm saving up for tickets to Supanova in June. No-buys for me usually accompany making lunch a lot, but I'm so busy I've relaxed that particular demand. This has probably led to me drinking more coffee than is healthy, though.

Until next we meet,

P.S. sorry for the somewhat sporadic updates lately, I ran out of pre-planned posts and I'm in the middle of a production for uni, plus assignments, plus my part-time job! It's been a little crazy. I'm trying to stick to a 'post every 2-3 days' schedule but it might not happen that way this week. I have an assignment due tomorrow (practically finished!) and then dress rehearsal in 3 days. Gulp.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


Waiting for...

The bus.
The kettle to boil.
Nail polish to dry.
The washing machine to finish a cycle.
The cat to wake up and move out of the doorway.
My phone to ring.
Packages in the mail.
My number to be called at the cafe.
The comic shop to tell me my order's in.
A cut to heal.

We spend a lot of our lives waiting. Do we ever learn to do it well?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Customer Service

Retail. Hospitality. Supermarkets.

Wherever you work, wherever you shop and whatever you shop for, you have to deal with people (if you do have a job that doesn't require you to deal with people, please let me know where to drop off my resume). So eventually you're going to encounter that often terrible, sometimes wonderful creature: CUSTOMER SERVICE *dun dun duuuuun!*

Now, I work in retail. I also shop, both online and offline, for different things. Thus I have encountered both sides of the proverbial fence: experiencing crappy customer service with unhelpful/oblivious staff and having to put up with horrendously rude customers.

Inspired by the day I had at work, here's a list of my Top Five Things Not To Do whilst shopping (employee and customer versions). It's a bit retail-biased, but there are some pretty universal points:

If you are a customer:
1. Don't bring food or drink into the store. Most shops actually have a sign that mentions this - mine does. But you still get people wandering in with the odd ice-cream or coffee. Now it's not that we don't want you eating or drinking in the store - it's when you make a mess that we have to clean up that it gets not-fun. Especially when it's already busy in the store, we're having to clean up after merchandise that customers have left lying around, and when you risk damaging or dirtying merchandise that we then have to explain to the manager. Eating and drinking are for cafes.

2. DON'T ask for a discount or a freebie. I cannot stress this enough. We are lectured by our managers to tell customers about sales and promotions. It's a part of our job to tell you about these things in the hopes that you will buy more things. Most of the workers you encounter in shops are grunts - as in we have no authority and/or influence and we get the short end of the proverbial stick. Asking us for free stuff, or discounts, is just annoying. We feel bad when we have to turn you down, it's irritating because it feels like you think we aren't doing our jobs properly, and when you KEEP asking even though we've made it clear that we actually cannot physically do anything for you... it's just plain rude.

3. Please, be polite and don't walk in on the phone, or with your earphones in/on. Seriously. Whilst I understand that some people are skilled at 'walk-and-talk', and that some shops play craptastic music... C'mon. Let us do our job and at least say hello to you when you walk in!

4. Check store opening and closing times. A pet peeve of mine is when people come into the store 5-10 minutes before closing time TO BROWSE. Yeah, some people work 9-5 and don't have much time to shop. I really don't mind if you have to run in on your way home to make a purchase. But if you're shopping recreationally, DON'T walk in at 5:20pm when we close at 5:30 and meander around aimlessly until some poor employee with the short straw has to tell you they're closing in one minute and please, sir/ma'am just leave so we can clean up, close up and go home!!!!

5. Actually listen to what staff say. Asking me the same question 5 different times, albeit with slightly different wording, will not produce a different answer. I ain't made o' magic, I can't pull stock out of my- anything, ok?

If you are an employee:
1. Smile. I know what it's like to be having a terrible day, to be exhausted or upset, or to just plain not want to be at work. But you're getting paid to be there. At least you could muster enough energy to move a few facial muscles so I don't feel like I somehow offended you by walking into your store.

2. If you don't know, find someone who does, or explain to me why you don't know or aren't sure. Yeah, sometimes managers aren't the most communicative bunch, but I only know what you tell me. Being new is also a good excuse.

3. Make eye contact. If you're busy with another customer, or a task, that's fine. It's polite to acknowledge that there's another person in the room by at least looking at them (again hopefully with a smile. Being glared at is unpleasant).

4. Do be careful when processing sales so that you don't make a mistake and over-charge a customer.

5. Try not to eat and/or drink at the sales counter (most shops, especially in retail, frown on this), and if you absolutely must, be discreet. It's a bit off-putting to see someone chomping away over the till! This includes gum. I might be biased because I think it's gross (I make an exception for bubble gum) but it's just not necessary to be chewing gum 24/7. Save it for after work, please.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lost Genuis

Among my collection of CDs (some are pretty old, like late '90s old [Gwen Stefani, anyone?] and some more recent, like The Editors) site something a little different. The cover is black, and features an older man next to a piano. The man's name is Victor Borge, and he was one of the greatest musical comedians of the Western world.

Born in 1909 and emigrated to the U.S of A at age 31, Victor was to be one of the enormous and unforgettable talents of the '50s. The CD that I have is a recording of one of his performances, which I never tire of listening to, though I can recite many of the jokes. Not content to be 'just' a musician, or 'just' a comedian, Borge combined the two and charmed audiences throughout America. His own unique brand of stand-up (and sit-down) was a rich mixture of skilled piano playing, witticisms and familial anecdotes. Borge performed with many other stars, including Dean Martin, Ed Sullivan and renowned Opera singer Marilyn Mulvey.

Borge was an absolute master of music and language – even though English was not his native tongue. He used both in his performance escapades, once using an entire orchestra for a sketch! One of his more famous 'inventions' was called Phonetic Punctuation, in which he assigned punctuation marks noises, so that we could use them in speech to 'understand each other better'! He read a short chapter from a storybook to demonstrate his idea. My CD – a recording of his 1953 performance in Boston has long been my only record of this wonderful man's existence. He died in 2000, so I was unable to see him perform. On a whim, I put his name into a YouTube search. Lo and behold! Seems I'm not the only person with internet access who appreciates Borge's seemingly neglected genius. While I haven't been able to find the clip that corresponds to the performance I have on CD, these are all exceptionally brilliant and funny excerpts.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


The internet has become a rich repository of art, as well as information and news (some of it useful, a good portion of it somewhat useless). Many budding artists who would have previously been at the mercy of jaded, unsympathetic and greedy managers and publishers can now skip over the traditional arduous process of gaining an audience. They can instead go straight to the masses.

One art form that I think has particularly benefitted from this 'soft' medium of publishing, is comic books. The word 'webcomic', meaning a comic that is published primarily online, has become an accepted part of vocabulary (much like 'blog' and 'Google!) The best part about webcomics (for the viewer) is undoubtedly the convenience and accessibility. Traditionally, comics cost between $4-9 (in Australia). Webcomics are free. The majority of comic stores are in Perth city, meaning a trip by train or an expensive car ride. Webcomics only require you to have a computer with internet access. Hardcover comics in a continuing series are published, printed and distributed once a month on average. Webcomic series are updated everywhere from once a week to once a day.

The internet, when it first began, was a primarily free medium. Now, if the artist (I am speaking specifically about comics here, but this applies to other web-based arts as well) wants to maintain his or her creative independence (and stay on the web, free) but make the comic a full-time, paying endeavor, there are several options. S/he can choose to produce hard-copy comics, with exclusive artwork or extra panels. A lot of webcomics offer t-shirts through web-based producers like cafepress or Jinx. Original art pieces, or desktop backgrounds are often offered for people to support their favourite artists and writers. Several artists have established Paypal donation accounts in order to (successfully!) raise money for convention visits. Many popular comic artists/writers have been known to make appearances at small(er) conventions, taking with them merchandise and offering signings to fans. This usually only happens in America – we Aussies don't get a lot of conventions, unfortunately.

If you like comics, but haven't been able to find any online, these are my top 5:

1.Ctrl+Alt+Del. It's about 3 gamers (2 guys, 1 girl) who share a house, and the antics they get up to in-game and out. Mostly out. Updated every 2-3 days.
2.Girls With Slingshots. The tagline of this comic is “two girls and a talking cactus”. It's about best friends navigating life in general. It's very humorous and at times silly, as the duo encounter strange characters and deal with their other friends' general weirdness. Updated daily, except on Sundays.
3.Head Trip. I'm really honestly not sure what the premise behind this comic is. I stumbled across it because a friend sent me a link to their hilarious anti-Twilight comic on deviantart. It has since moved to its own site. Updated irregularly.
4.Looking for Group. This comic is based on the traditional MMORPG format. It's a group of characters, including but not limited to an elf, a healer and a necromancer. Lots of jokes and an interesting, if somewhat convoluted storyline. Updated a few times a week (I think).
5.Exiern. Very traditional art style, which is strange, since the main character is a woman called Tiffany, who actually used to be a MALE barbarian warrior, but was cursed into, er, 'her' current form'. A very interesting read. Updated irregularly, probably because of the huge amount of detail in each panel.

A good, if somewhat mainstream one to watch for is Dark Horse presents, an anthology of one-shots and miniseries created by a group of more well-known artists and writers. It's free to view on MySpace and can also be purchased in hard-copy from most comic stores or online. My favourite from there would have to be Sugar Shock, a slightly absurd one-shot written by Joss Whedon. It's about a band. Very over-the-top, but I quite liked it.

Comics are becoming a hugely popular story-telling medium – more mainstream and popularised than in previous years. Stories that began as movies, TV shows and even web series are being continued and/or added to in comic form – Buffy, Angel, The Guild, Firefly, Dr. Horrible, Farscape and probably a whole lot more that I don't know about. Many of the movies created in the last 5+ years have been based on comic characters and stories – X-men, Spiderman, Batman, The Watchmen, just to name a few. Even Stardust was originally a graphic novel.

My own comic repertoire is unfortunately a bit limited, but a recent find I would most definitely recommended is a series called Chew. It's a little weird and quite gruesome, but really quirky and intriguing. I purchased the newly-published TPB, which collects issues 1-5. I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of it, I want to know what happens! I really like the style of Chew – it's angular, a little bit cartoony but in a good way. The characters are all very interesting and varied. The storyline is quite fast-paced, so if you do pick it up, take your time with it.

One of my other favourites was introduced to me by a friend of mine – Deadpool. I've been collecting the latest series, Merc With A Mouth. Deadpool seriously cracks me up. He's a loon. The only thing I don't like about Deadpool is the female characters. I get that 15-30 years ago, comics were pretty much aimed at boys/men only, but that's not the case any more. It seems like nearly every comic I pick up, the women have huge tits, tiny waists and are wearing hardly anything. Now, while I can dubiously accept the fact that unrealistic body proportions are a traditional part of comic art (most of the main male characters are pretty muscular. That's why I like the main character of Chew, he's really scrawny) but where are all the involved, capable female characters? Sure, Dr. Betty in Deadpool is smart and can handle a gun quite professionally. But she's a really peripheral character.

I know I'm probably generalising based on a really small sampling of comic-dom, but even when I browse the covers in-store, I either see guys, or boobs. But if you would like to recommend a comic , whether online or hard-copy, please leave a comment.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Review: Dragonfly by Frederic S. Durbin

Never underestimate the value of being frugal. Don't worry, this isn't a review of a non-fiction, self-help type book about budgeting or how to op-shop – for one thing, the title would be weird. But I did stumble across this book in the $10 bin at Angus and Robertson in the city. I have discovered several gems ('diamonds in the rough', one could say if they didn't mind being cheesy) marked down quite heavily in various bookstores. This book definitely didn't deserve to be there, but I might not have seen it otherwise. Also if you haven't yet tried one of the Popular Penguin series (the ones with the bright orange covers) I recommend them.

Dragonfly is a little shorter than what I normally read, especially when it comes to fantasy and science fiction, a genre where people seem to be striving to keep up with such prolific authors such as Eddings, Tolkein, and Rowling. At 325 pages, Dragonfly still manages to be rife with rich scenery, complex characters and mythic undertones. For those who aren't into scifi and fantasy, a word – it's not all about monsters and rocket-ships (though those are cool). Because the created world in this story is tied in with the 'real' world, there's some great social commentary on the relationship between children and parents, as seen with the main characters and some of the minor ones as well.

The book is titled after its main character, a young girl living with her grandfather. Her real name is Bridget, but nobody calls her that except for her parents. They are the epitome of the busy modern couple – too career-oriented to be there for Dragonfly, which is why she lives with her grand-dad. The story is told from her point of view, but with observations from her older self – essentially she is reliving the experience with the reader. As the story begins, there are strange creatures living in their basement, and Dragonfly's grandfather calls a 'friend' to investigate. Overcome with curiosity about the creatures, Dragonfly follows this friend (named Mothkin) and they become trapped in the basement, which has been transformed into a cavernous Hallowe'en world. The book details their journey through this synthetic underworld and their encounters with its creators, who have nefarious plans for the world on the 'surface.'

Whilst the main character is a child, this is definitely not a children's book. It is undoubtedly more suited to older audiences. The author has a blog which is also a good read.

Until we meet again,

Friday, April 9, 2010

This started as a how-to, and turned into a rant

This starts as a "How-To: wear dark lipstick" and turns into something rather different further on!

First of all, you're gonna need lipstick. It may be the traditional black, or it could be espresso, burgundy-red, grey, deep purple, or even navy blue. Exfoliating your lips helps the lippie to apply smoothly. You can buy lip scrubs from The Body Shop, or hit up some places online. Alternately, gently rub an old toothbrush or the edge of a towel over your lips. This will get rid of all the dead skin flakes. Apply lip balm, let it sink in for a minute or two – some highly pigmented lipsticks can be rather drying. Blot your lips with a tissue to remove excess balm.

Lipliner stops lipsticks from bleeding, giving you a messy mouth. Use a clear, nude, or coordinating color and carefully outline your lips. Apply the lipstick, straight from the tube, or using a lip brush for mega precision. Any mistakes can be fixed up with some makeup remover, or plain facial moisturiser on a cotton bud.

Now put on a cheeky smile and stride out that door!

I'm not giving you outfit tips, or suggestions on places and events that are 'appropriate' for dark-colored lipstick. This is because to me, my face is a canvas that I delight in using unusual colors, textures and shapes to express myself with. Of course, I don't always have the time or energy to spend hours in the morning blending and shading intricate and extravagant looks. Instead, I rely on quality products in unique shades to get that out-there, left-of-field effect.

I think that boys and men should be allowed to experiment with makeup without being ridiculed. I think that women and girls should wear blue lipstick and red eye-shadow (not necessarily together!) on the streets more often. I relish the stares that I get when I wear purple or navy lipstick out, or lime green, neon purple or sparkly yellow eye-shadow.

I don't think that make-up should be used to cover up 'flaws'. Everyone deserves to be comfortable in our own skin. Every girl and woman should be able to leave the house barefaced without feeling 'naked'. We should not be constrained by the clothing in mainstream shops and fashion magazines. We should not be defined by notions of 'beauty', 'talent' and 'success' shoved into our faces by the media.

I hope that one day it can be just nurses, not 'male nurse', police officers, not 'female policeman', and that there will be no further use for the terms sexist, misogynist and misandrist.

Just a crazy dream from a girl in royal blue lipstick.

 Until next we meet,

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Where's the ____________ gone?

Any excuse for a Pirates of the Carribean reference! Never mind the really bad eggs, I have really bad ENDS right now.

My hair is combination – my scalp gets oily 2-3 days after being washes, but my ends get really dry and damaged. This causes my already riotously curly hair to frizz and frazzle. I have managed to find a fantastic (and ridiculously cheap) hairdresser, which is literally within walking distance from me, with wonderfully friendly and talented staff. There is really no reason why I shouldn't be able to go in for a trim every 6 weeks like it's recommended... but somehow it always ends up being 4-6 months between visits. Why?

Well, one possible explanation may have to do with the fact that I'm growing my hair out, and thus am reluctant to lose even a centimeter of hard-won length. But we all know that healthy hair grows faster, so whatever length I lose in a trim will be quickly regained, as my hair stops wasting effort on trying to repair split ends.

Time-wise? Calling and making an appointment, then the getting there, and the waiting to get it done... realistically, all of this together, even including the length of the actual appointment once I'm in the chair would barely even amount to 45 minutes taken out of my week.

So what is my problem?
Hold onto your socks, (non-existant) readers, I'm about to make a wild leap into cyber-space with a very eccentric analogy here... is my seeming apathy, and extended procrastination about my hair at all similar to the socio-political apathy and inactivity that plagues the Western world? Let me explain. We all know that our society is far from perfect. It only takes a few minutes' discussion to pinpoint some of the major issues in policy and convention. So if nobody's really happy with the way things are... why haven't they been changed yet?

Humans are creatures of habit. One of the biggest barriers to quitting smoking (besides combating the addiction to nicotine) is breaking the habits, and changing the behaviours that made smoking a part of your daily routine (or something you relied on in times of stress).

The longer I leave my hair untrimmed, the more damaged it gets, and the more I end up having to get chopped off when I finally go to the hairdresser. The socio-politic equivalent of this is sadly, millions of dollars being spend on new buildings, laws and programs bent on patching up the mess we've made. Homeless shelters, prisons, hospitals – these institutions are just a few of the areas that bear the brunt of our shortcomings. The longer we leave things as they are, the worse it gets. Even in such privileged countries as Australia suffer from high unemployment, national debt, hospital overcrowding, high suicide rates, sexism and racism in the workforce. What are we doing to change this?

Most people don't like change, even when they know it's going to be a 'good' change. They like the familiar, the known – things that are predictable. Change means uncertainty. Adapting. Learning, and sometimes forgetting things we learned before. It's uncomfortable. However change, like haircuts, is/are good for us. It's progress, growth and development, which should be encouraged.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to call my hairdresser...

Monday, April 5, 2010


A vital part of every morning routine – unless you prefer tea. If you're one of 'those' people who don't drink hot beverages at all.... you have my sympathies.

Remember when coffee was cheap? Wasn't that great? It was about $5 for one of those mega-enormous-you'll-be-up-all-night cups, and $2-something for a little cup of one-shot. Nowadays it costs around $5 for a SMALL coffee! This is, however, the part where I get to be happy about a uni student – coffee on my campus is wonderfully cheap. Cost aside, buying coffee in 2010 is so much of a risk, it just about qualifies for insurance.

There's the Line Factor: how many people are waiting to order? How many people waiting for their coffee to be made? There's a nifty method that involves adding these two numbers, divided by the number of staff on the till and coffee machine, which has to be multiplied by a factor of three when that woman in the funny hat pays with two handfuls of loose change, which allows you to estimate the number of minutes you'll be waiting, but who actually wants to do maths before they've had coffee? (Crazy people and engineers, that's who.)

Then there's the Oops Factor, depending on how complicated your order is (and how busy the barista is). 'Large flat white' doesn't usually cause any problems, unless the cafe is out of milk or something wacky like that. 'Not-too-hot half-pump caramel quarter-pump vanilla foamy latte with skim'? Good luck with that! Do you know how many coffees the average barista turns out in a day? Trust me when I say 'a lot'. If your chosen cafe does iced coffees, milkshakes or frappes, those recipes are taking up room in the poor staffs' brains as well.

Tied in with the Opps Factor is the Yeuch Factor. Coffee making is most assuredly an Art. Getting it perfect every time in an atmosphere as hurried, noisy, hot and messy as the area around a coffee machine is (speaking from experience here) is quite complicated. A great cup of coffee depends on such factors as:
  • Bean origin
  • Age of the beans
  • How long the beans were roasted for
  • How long ago the beans were ground
  • How finely the beans were ground
  • Length of drip time
  • Cleanliness of the coffee machine
  • Water temperature in the machine
  • Length of time the coffee shot is sitting
  • Milk temperature
  • Milk steaming technique
  • Additive quantity and quality (whether you use sugar, syrup or sweetener)
So in all fairness to baristas, turning out a bad cuppa isn't always totally their fault. There are many factors involved in making coffee that are simply out of their control. That being said, it really sucks to be let down by that long-anticipated first sip.

The Ow Factor: those flimsy paper cups only have to last for a single usage, then they go straight into the bin (hopefully the recycling bin). If your milk has been accidentally over-steamed and is too hot, it's not so pleasant for your fingers. Solution? Be wimpy and ask for 'not-too-hot' coffee, or get a reusable thermos. Coffee thermoses or flasks come in a variety of shapes, materials and colors. The most common travel mugs are usually made of a mixture of stainless steel or plastic and have a handy handle and has a lid which swivels closed when you aren't drinking, to prevent from spilling your coffee. If you're not keen on the idea of lugging said thermos around with you all day, you could opt for a coffee cosy (or 'cozy' is the American spelling). These are little knitted, felt or silicone sleeves that sit around your coffee cup, keeping the heat in the beverage and off your fingers. You can find them online, anywhere from $2-20 in price, in plain colors or with cutesy designs like bunnies, unicorns, or not-so-cute designs like Mario's face. Not that I don't think Mario's cute, he's just not quite as cute as bunnies.

The Fair Trade Factor: many industries source labor and parts from poorer overseas locations to get a better profit margin. This is all well and good(ish) until said companies actively start exploiting people because they're greedy. Coffee is a product which has, thankfully, delved head-first into the betterment of its practises, when it comes to its sourcing and production. The Fair Trade Coffee program focuses on giving fair pay and suitable working conditions to the often 3rd world countries which grow, harvest and roast their coffee beans.

Fair Trade Australia-NZ directory can be found here.

Until next we meet,

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Snow Wimp

Why is it that all the Disney-fied fairy tales we were subjected to when we were children (and sheepishly revisited when we were quite a bit older) contained only two types of female characters – the innocent, doe-eyed damsel-in-distress, or the evil, vain villainess? Every story it's the prince, or the brave goat-herder who saves the princess from the fate she has been condemned to. The girls don't ever seem to show any initiative. Don't despair, dear readers! I have, with the aid of Google and my personal fairy tale collection (some of the older books are just gorgeous) found some pretty cool 'self-rescuing princesses'.

As you're probably aware, thanks to Disney, the Brothers Grimm, Hollywood and half a dozen other sources, there are a lot of versions of the same story in existence. Some of the differences are minor, like whether or not Snow White's wicked step-mother foisted a poisoned comb off on the girl or not. But others are pretty extreme. Many fairy tales were supremely gruesome, even before the Grimm boys got to them. In fact, the Grimms were the first step in a long process of watering-down. Of course, some tales simply could not be watered down. Ever heard of The Little Match-Girl? It's a Danish fairy tale, short and incredibly sad.

I digress. If you're after a bit of swash-buckling girly action, here's where you might start – and I'm listing a whole bunch of different mediums, from books to movies to plays. These girls step out and face up to the 'big bads' for love, for family and for justice.

Arabian Nights, the Hallmark version, directed by Steve Barron and released to TV in 2000. The DVD isn't too hard to get. Stories within stories, our heroine is named Scheherezade (try saying that five times fast). This beautiful, clever woman chooses to marry the Sultan, her childhood friend, who has gone mad after his first wife tries to kill him on their wedding night (she ends up dying instead). Through stories, courage and love, Scheherezade cures him and restores the kingdom (having a mad king isn't so good for international relations). The movie also features a version of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, in which Morgiana the beautiful slave-girl saves her master's life not once, but twice.

Sweet Vassillissa or sometimes known as Beautiful Vassillissa is a Russian tale about a beautiful girl with a cruel stepmother and two stepsisters – yeah, sounds Cinderella-ish but the similarities end there. She is sent to the house of the local witch, in hopes she will be killed, but through her solid work ethic, faith in her departed mother's blessing and her kind nature she ends the tale happily married to a kind King.

Molly Whuppie is sort of like a female Jack-and-the-Beanstalk. Which is totally cool with me, I mean, she saves her sisters from being eaten by an ogre.

Into the Woods is a mad, twisted fairy-tale-musical in two acts, a collaboration between revered playwrights Steven Sondheim and James Lapine. It's quite funny and manages to mash up things like Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella with an original (I think) tale about a Baker and his wife. Well worth seeing, doing (lots of fun) or even reading if you're into reading plays. I actually did this play for high school drama. Because it was high school, we didn't have a lot of guys in the class, and as a wacky twist, both of the princes in the production were played by girls, dressed as guys. Said girls got wigs, stuffed their pants, and one even put on a fake mustache. Good times.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon is an older fairy-tale, found in a book edited by Andrew Lang around the late 1800s. I quite like it, not only has it got beautiful imagery but it's a fun bit of role reversal – it's the Prince who's trapped this time and his beloved, a beautiful 'husbandsman's daughter' who must rescue him.

So indulge in something a bit different! Find some old fairy tales, or dig into the roots of some nursery rhymes if you're keen. They're not just for kids, and thankfully, are not all about wimpy girls with no common sense either.

Until next we meet,

Friday, April 2, 2010


I am so very stoked right now!

Fact: I live in Perth, Australia. The big smoke of WA, we are really not a tourist capital. There's not an awful lot to see, or do. You either live here, or you're... not here. Holiday location, it ain't.

That is why firstly I was excited 2 years ago when Supanova, Australia's biggest science fiction and pop culture convention, annouced that they were coming to Perth! Previously you'd have had to truck all the way over to Melbourne, Brisbane or Sydney to attend, which can cost a surprising amount. The first Perth Supanova was flooded with eager participants, and they didn't disappoint us with guests, either. Jewel Staite (best known from Firefly, Serenity and Stargate Atlantis! I got my Serenity comic signed) came! To everyone's great joy, Supanova announced that because of the great fan reception, they'd be returning every year. Last year I was away and much to my chagrin, didn't get to go. This year I was greatly saddened to hear that James Marsters (Buffy, Angel, Torchwood, Ghost of the Robot and solo artist) was only making an appearance at Brisbane and Melborne AND was holding a concert there as well! I'd just started complaining (on Facebook) that Perth never gets anything good, when I clicked on the Perth/Sydney guest list, and there she was.


If you don't know Felicia... well, I suppose that's understandable. She hasn't made too much of a splash on TV or in the movies. She guest-starred on Buffy, House, and Lie to Me and according to online rumours, she's just finished shooting a movie, Red (I say 'online rumours' because she's been posting about it on Facebook, but there isn't any info on IMDB right now). How I know of Felicia is from her internet-based creative endeavors.

Felicia not only wrote the supremely popular and critically acclaimed webseries The Guild, but she directs and stars in it as well! The initially very low-budget series gained attention rapidly, eventually partnering with Microsoft, and spawned t-shirts, DVD versions and a recent comic series, written of course by Felicia. I hope to get my hands on it soon, but I'm not sure if it's come over to Aus yet.

Fans of cult-hit director Joss Whedon will know Felicia from another internet hit: Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, in which she play's the main character's love interest. Dr. Horrible also has a DVD version, a stand-alone comic, and a promised sequel (which is taking SO LONG to do... all of the main characters are busy with other shows, but C'MON Joss!)

I just think Felicia is amazing: brilliant writer, fantastic actress, great singing voice. All-around creative genius! She absolutely inspires me with the staggering range she has, the fact that what was basically a side-hobby spawned an entire career, and she's still so down-to-earth and likes normal things, like gaming and coffee and animals.

She's proof that talent and determination can still get you places in life, despite this "it's not what you know, but who you know" mantra that the media industry (and society, really) has going at the moment. I mean, yes, her connections with the guys in The Guild and with Joss Whedon from Buffy have helped her in the industry, but they are also really cool, professional people. Skills, work ethics and a desire to reach people still have meaning, and I find that really encouraging.

Off to figure out how to make a Captain Hammer-type groupie shirt with Felicia's face on it.
Until next we meet,

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Review: On Writing by Stephen King

I searched high and low for this book, for months and months and could not find it anywhere! An enterprising (and wonderful) friend tracked it down a copy and gave it to me for my birthday.

Part autobiography and part guide-book (or as the blurb proclaims, "part memoir, part master-class"), this novel delivers up 297 pages of greatness for fans and, er, non-fans alike. I myself do not harbour much affection for the thriller genre, in book or in movie form. I simply cannot stand the suspense – and I'll freely admit I'm a bit of a wuss. The primary reason I wanted this book so badly was because I'm fascinated with books about writing, especially when they're by successful authors. I own David Eddings' Rivan Codex for this reason, which I also highly recommend if you're a fan of him, or fantasy novels in general. Eddings' book focuses more on the process and 'behind the scenes' (so to speak) of his series, The Belgariad, than on the practicalities of writing in general.

King's novel traces his own career, through accidental journalistic liasons, finding his voice in short fiction which he got published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, into the development of his very first novel, Carrie. As an aspiring writer, I found King's novel both inspiring and practical, as he details the process that he went through getting work into magazines, and explains the impact it had on him both personally and professionally, both at the time and then when he started approaching companies to get his novel published.

Infused with a potent mixture of wit and raw honesty, this non-fiction piece does not disappoint. It can be found with relative ease on eBay or Amazon, if you manage to not lose every single eBay auction (like I did). Alternately, it was published in 2000, so you miiiight still be able to get it special-ordered into your local bookstore. Even more alternately, if you can find your library card (my mother borrowed mine, and promptly lost it. Lucky for me, my university library has a rich fiction section!), you can borrow it.

Until next we meet,