Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Quarter-life crisis? No thanks!

Scoping out new blogs to follow, one lazy afternoon, I came accross this article. I read it, and sat before my laptop for a moment. I thought. My hand strayed up to my mouth and a fingernail was pressed between my teeth for a moment, before I reminded myself that biting your nails is a bad, bad habit and it took my father years to get out of it. So instead I shove my cold hands under my thighs. I'll have diamond shapes on my palms later, from the embossed fabric of the chair, but my circulation is a bit poor so the warmth is worth it. I realise I'm totally distracting myself from answering the question that this article poses. But that's exactly what I do if I'm confronting with a question about The Future, or even a question with Where My Life Is Headed Right Now.

Honestly I'm not too sure if I'm doing what I "should" be doing. I mean, yeah, I'm building up knowledge and skills in my chosen industry plus back-up plan (which means I'm doing English, fortified with Media and Journalism), I'm meeting some cool people whose interests and skills complement my own and who have actual contacts in the Aussie entertainment world, and I'm working my little grey cells every day, developing my ideas and exposing myself to new ones. I have a job which pays well, and it's a pleasant environment to work in and it's teaching me about people. Even with all this, I still can't help but feel like I should be doing... more. Saving more money. Eating more healthy food. Excercising more. Volunteering with charities, and doing menial jobs in places I might work in, in the not-too-distant future. Thinking about what suburb I want to live in (my boyfriend asked me that the other day. My response was to 'do a rabbit' for about five seconds before blurting out, "Are you seriously wanting me to answer that? Like, now?!")

As I said to my friend the other day, as we were doing the rounds of comic book shops in the city: "It's weird being twenty. When you're fifteen, or seventeen, even eighteen - twenty is like, this time where you'll be mature, you'll be settled into adulthood, you'll have a plan for your life. People start thinking about marriage, careers and kids at twenty. They put deposits down on houses and engagement rings, they move inter-state for work and education. That's the picture I have of twenty, but I'm twenty now, and I'm not doing any of those things. I'm barely even thinking about any of those things! I don't feel twenty. I'm scared of the thought of applying for insurance, I feel way too immature to be thinking about marriage. I still don't know how long  I'll have a 'day job' for before I can get into media. It's so weird, and actually quite hard to think about."

Maybe being in university is a distraction. I don't know. I do know that I love being there, stretching my own view of the world, and Art, and history. Learning to express myself beyond rambling on Facebook and over coffee. Figuring out exactly how hard it is to be published, to be recognised, to be respected creatively, to be given the resources to create, and realising that my passion and my drive isn't daunted by that harshness, that rough reality check, that realisation. If anything, I was made more determined to tell my stories, to bring out the good in people that they overlook because of the stink bombs life's thrown their way.

I know I have a problem with spending - a lot of it is stuff I feel invested in and passionate about. That's the downside of falling for so many indie projects! I feel bad NOT buying because I'm so invested in the creative process, and the face behind the 'thing'. I relate to them because not so long ago they were Like Me, floundering through ordinary life clutching a hope that one day they'd be able to share their passion. I'm a sucker for all things indie - make-up, jewelry, comics, books, music, webisodes. It's hard to pace myself when it's all clamouring for my intellectual, emotional and financial attention. I know I need to be more disciplined in this area. It's so easy for me to over-indulge because I live at home. I don't have to worry about shit like electricity, water, insurance, rent. I don't even have to worry about petrol and car servicing, because I take public transport and bum rides (not that that's always a picnic either).

Socially, I've always had ups and downs. I've always had betrayals and secret rivalries. I've always had the nagging fear of "are they really interested in me, do they really like me or are they just playing along? Can I trust them or will they spill all my secrets to somebody else?" I have to balance my introverted personality - it's a delicate process. Not enough 'me time' and I become irritable, grumpy and tired. However, if I spend too much time alone I get lethargic, depressed, antisocial and it gets ridiculously hard to leave the house.

At the beginning of this year, I wanted to push myself. "I'll excercise ten minutes every day," I said firmly. "After a few months I'll start doing more." I had creative goals, too - "I'll start submitting things to magazines! Photographs, short stories and articles". I recognised that this would be a harder goal, both with finding a magazine suitable for my work, and making sure I didn't slack off uni assignments to do my creative stuff. "Once a month". That was my benchmark. It's nearly the end of June as I write this. Number of submissions so far: Zero. Bit fat zilch. I got sucked into the university theatre club. It chewed me up and spat me out. I retreated quickly, and nursed my wounds for a bit. I organised JulNoWriMo as an endeavour part creative, part social, and part therapeutic since I've been unable to look my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel in the eye without wanting to puke. I know it was about quantity, not quality, but dear god I can write awfully! I tentatively put my feelers out towards the theatre society of another university, missing theatre far too much to cold turkey quit, after eight years of breathing-eating-sleeping the darn thing. I've promised everyone I know not to go behind the curtain, that's where I fall in over my head. I'm only auditioning for this and if I don't get a part, it'll be a shrug and "oh well, it was a bit of a trip for me anyway".

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that... I'm still growing. I'm still learning about me, I'm still maturing as a person. In this world, things can and do change drastically every day. Why then, should I hold myself to such a rigid standard of "this is what I'll do, this is what I'll be like by then"? I need to learn to be consistent, yes, but I have to retain a good deal more flexibility of the generations before me. I haven't found that balance yet. I get caught up in the currents too much. I see that now, and seeing is the first step.

I'm scared of disappointing people. I'm scared of not being good enough. But it's an excuse, isn't it? An excuse not to try. And excuse to stay on the internet for another hour. To buy yet another comic book to lose myself in. I may not be the 'twenty' I was expecting, all the way back there as a seventeen-year-old, exhilarated and terrifed at the thought of Life After Graduation, that exotic and foreign land with so many rules I'd have to learn, but I can make my own twenty. I can build a vision of twenty-one that is both realistic and challenging. Somewhere that's far enough ahead of where I am now that I have to work for it - not so far that I'll fall desperately short and curse myself for not being good enough, yet again.

For many years of my life, it was "I want to write a book". That was it, that was the dream. Then I got into theatre. It swept me away. Novel-writing is lonely, anyone can tell you that. But writing for stage, for screen, fleshing out these people who will BE flesh in front of your eyes... it's comforting, and I loved it. It confused me, also, because I wasn't sure if the pristine pages of a book were where I wanted to end up. Then I got into non-fiction writing, and journalism, and got even more confused. Was I meant to tell 'real' stories, instead of the ones in my head? Was I supposed to search for external truth, not 'my' truth? I felt as if I had to pick, and soon! "Uni will help," I said. "I'll figure it out before I graduate, at least". But... Rob Kaay, damn him, had to go and write a book which he is podcasting and making a movie out of. Felicia Day's webseries has a comic prequel, and Joss Whedon's jumped on the bandwagon. I truly believe that trans-media is not only more acceptable but so much more possible. Now I don't know if I "have" to choose any more!

Whatever the outcome, I know I need to refine my storytelling skills, and I need to learn the art of 'finishing'. NaNo and JulNo have been wonderful at that. NanNo '08 I finished my first ever written project. After that, I was able to write two stage plays, one of which was performed and I had the dubious privelage of directing. I also need to get better at... life. At being a responsible adult, biting the bullet and sifting through the heinous amounts of paperwork that They have decided are neccessary for our livelihoods, now. Poor trees.

Tl;dr and so personal! If you read anything, read the article I linked.
Shorter posts, and praise of artists already established are incoming.
If you read all that... thank you and I'm sorry!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

IT'S HERE! Concrete Minerals Electric Eye Primer Review!

This post has been in the works for a full month because I absolutely fail at taking photos of my own eye! So how did I finally do it? I figured out that the lamp I was using to provide even lighting that didn't wash out eyeshadow colours actually required a tungsten setting on my camera! All the other settings made the colours go wacky. I found my mini-tripod (in my vintage bowling bag? Huh?), and then shoved my mirror behind the lamp so I could see the display screen. Then I used my non-dominant hand to hold down the shoot button, because my dominant hand kept blocking the light. I utilised the 'continuous shot' function to ensure I didn't move the camera between pictures. Now that I have this figured out, you can expect moar eye pictures!

What I did this morning: I washed my face, applied moisturiser, let that sink in for a few minutes, and then I scooped out a teeny tiny bit, barely a pin-head worth, of Concrete Minerals Electric Eye Primer and smoothed it all over my lids. Sometimes I'll put powder on my eyelids before primer, because my lids get ridiculously oily, but I didn't do that today. I dabbed an even tinier bit of Fyrinnae's Pixie Epoxy on, blended that out and let it set. I decided to do something really simple today, and different from my usual 'work' look (dark shadow as liner, winged out on upper lid, and Nyx Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk on waterline). I swept Concrete Minerals eyeshadow in Detox on my lid, into the crease a little, and put my new Nyx's Jumbo Pencil in Black Bean on my waterline. Ta-da!

After the eyeshadow and liner, I applied some Bourjois Liner Effect Mascara (I love this product because it lengthens, separates and volumises AND on top of that, it's blaaaaack and I have stopped curling my lashes because the awesome two-sided brush does it for me). I wiped any fall-out and general mess off my face with some moisturiser on a cotton pad. I then blotted my face with a tissue and put Joppa Minerals Finishing Silk all over. I have just discovered blush, and I'm working my way through a few Sassy Minerals samples. Today I used Curious, which is a soft, cool (matte) pink. I am doing a Sassy review later because they are also very awesome. Anyway. My lips got some Pawpaw ointment; I generally like to have focus on lips OR eyes, and I don't have any nice nude/natural lip products at the moment.

Ok, back at home,

This primer is really soft and smooth when applying. It's a pale, shimmery beigey-peach color in the jar, and doesn't seem to add much colour to my lids when it's on. It holds shadows nicely and blending on top of it is really easy. As I mentioned before, my lids are supermegaomg oily, so I'm really not surprised there's a bit of fading and general creasing after such a long day. These pics are of my left eye, wihch I have noticed tends to get more oily than the right for some weird reason! Keep in mind that I did use Pixie Epoxy over the top of CM's primer, which probably changed the results a little bit.

Detox isn't a super-sparkly eyeshadow, so I didn't notice any massive fall-out, and it still looked really pretty and shimmery at the end of the day. I would reccommend this primer to anyone who is looking for a good, long-lasting alternative to more expensive products like the usual UDPP or TFSI (which by the way are horrendously expensive in Australia! I refuse to pay $35 for a primer, seriously). You can expect far more long-lasting and vibrant results than I got if you have dry or just slightly less oily lids. Seriously, don't let my swamp'o doom eyelids fool you, this stuff is gold.

Special mention: Detox is the most beautiful green I've ever seen, it's like a deep pastel seafoam mint-y freshness. It's a bit washed out, colour-wise, in my photos here. I am definitely going to buy a full-size of this. Concrete Minerals have just brought back their very generously-sized samples, so definitely give it a go if you haven't got it!

I can't believe that took so long! It's definitely a thorough review since I've been using it for ages, haha.
Hope you enjoy!

P.S. Nyx Jumbo Eye Pencils are the bomb. The soft, buttery, pigmented, perfect-for-your-eyes type, er, bomb. I love them so much, I don't care that they don't quite last all day on me.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Kill Shakespeare issue #2!

My cover (image from Kill Shakespeare's website and all rights belonging to them, obviously):

For those of you whose days of studying Shakespeare are long behind them, and to aid in my own keeping track, I had intended to create a little character list, but the clever boys of Kill Shakespear have already done it! Some of the characters on the page are not in issue 1 or 2, and a few minor characters from each do not appear yet.

I'm not sure if I mentioned the slow start in my review of issue 1. I feel that this series will definitely start picking up momentum in the next few installments, but having already introduced a few 'twists', I'm still keen to find out what happens next. Some of the character profiles have me very excited.

In this issue, Hamlet and King Richard III have begun their search for the mysterious wizard Shakespeare. Hamlet is dubious, both about their quest and chosen method of transport. He asks Richard how it is possible for him to "find a man I've never met, in a land I've never visited?" Richard's handiman Iago steps in, and gently reminds Hamlet that "to find something, one must first be prepared to look".

Richard's attentions are divided by the growing problem that  is Macbeth, whose disobedience threatens Richard's power. (Interestingly, Macbeth doesn't have a character profile up yet, but Lady Macbeth does).

A group of rogues attack the group's camp during the night, and Hamlet is separated from Richard and his men. A messenger arrives to tell Richard that Macbeth has withdrawn his troops from a crucial position. Richard decides to go after Macbeth, and he charges Iago with the task of finding Hamlet and Shakespeare. This turns out to have been not such a good idea...

My opinon of the artwork hasn't changed at all - I am loving the deep colours and varied textures.
Issue 3 will be released on the 10th of July - again, this is the U.S. release date, so us Aussies will have to wait a few weeks to get ahold of it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Supanova, day 2

Day 2:
  • Got my Lorne tribute comic signed my Mark Lutz, had a bit of a chat to him about how Perth is to the rest of Australia kind of like Canada is to America (and Tassie is Alaska, haha).
  • Picked up The Example from the Gestalt booth, chatted to Justin Randall while I was there.
  • Read The Example while waiting for the Marianne de Pierres writing session. LOVED it, and have added it to the "must review" list.
  • Went to the Dichen Lachman session. She was sweet, funny and wonderfully geeky.
I had a bit of disappointment today: because the SupaStar sessions were running late, I had to choose between sitting in on Eliza Dushku's freaking packed session or going along to Marianne's talk about writing. The boyfriend said I would have loved Eliza's session, she talked a lot about feminism and the entertainment industry which I am really interested in, but I don't regret my choice - Marianne has a lot of experience and she's really approachable. I got a lot out of her talk and got to ask her some questions afterwards. Eliza's session was so full, I don't think I would have been able to get out in time to see Marianne! I got most of the highlights from the boyfriend, who stood in line for about an hour so he could get a seat in Eliza's thing. Hopefully she'll return in the not-too-distant future and I'll be able to actually see her.

I really enjoyed Dichen and Mark's sessions, which weren't packed - they should have been, but it was a nicer atmosphere for us anyway. I think a lot of people were deterred by the time. Mark's session was at 10.40am on Saturday, when I think nearly 3/4 of the convention attendees were still in line outside. Dichen's was at 4.10pm on Sunday, when a lot of people had gotten worn out and were going home, or were getting last-minute photographs and autographs (those lines were IN-SANE, especially for Charisma, Summer and Eliza). Hopefully next year the Supanova organisers will plan the space a bit better. They had the wrestling arena next to the food area. Not only did they NOT have enough food vendors, but the lines were totally confused and congested with all the people standing around watching the wrestling. They kept changing which exits we were and weren't allowed to use for the seminars, the space was waaaaay too small (people hand to stand, and some were even turned away during several sessions). The theatre where all the anime/manga, comic and book stuff was happening was ridiculously cold, as well as being far too big for the turnout those had. Hopefully they'll sort out all those kinks next year, now that they know what kind of numbers to expect!

Honestly, I'd love to go to WorldCon in September, but it's just not an option for me at the moment. It's going to be a pretty long time before it's back in Australia, which is sad - the last AussieCon was in 1999, so I'm looking at about a ten-year wait. Sigh. Hopefully I'll win the lotto and be able to take myself and the boyfriend to WorldCon in another country :P

I have my blurb and my title for JulNoWriMo now, I'm pretty darn excited. I'm hoping to be able to get some serious reading done in my last four days of leisure, then it'll be all write, all the time until the end of July!

Hope your weekend was as good as mine ;)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Supanova, day 1

Um, wow.

I had been tossing up whether or not to post anything about my Supanova experience, but I have had the BEST day today. Firstly, I got books signed by Marianne de Pierres (who recognised me from Supanova '08!), Christian Tamblyn, and Rob Kaay (who gave me a free poster). This was my goal for Supanova, really. Forget the big TV stars, writing is my passion, and these three are Australians who have been published, who are inspiring, and who are good at what they do! Marianne went to a university not far from me, a fact I cling to when I hear snide remarks about my arts degree. Christian and Rob both released their books only recently. I will be posting reviews of Rob and Chris' books when I get a chance to enjoy them properly. I grabbed them just in time to read all of Rob'sand most of Christian's, before I got them signed.

I stopped by the Borders booth to 'get my sign on', and I was absolutely privelaged to have a chat with each of my Aussie wricons. Marianne and I talked about the importance of writing regularly, the insanity of Karen Mill's writing pace, Kylie Chan's in-depth knowledge of Japanese mythology, and her awesome new hair. She is such a lovely lady and a regular con-goer. She said I must ask lots of questions in her panel tomorrow :)

Christian, oh wow! I told him I was a bit bummed I hadn't been able to finish his book yet, as I wanted to discuss the whole thing with him. He told me to drop him an email when I finished it, and let him know what I thought! I was stunned! He is currently working on a sequel to Dragon of the Second Moon, which I was very glad to hear. As a very newly-published author, he still has a 'day job' (engineering planes!) so a few people asked him in the panel how he goes about balancing that. I was really happy to hear he liked the cover they'd put on DOTSM, as I have heard horror stories about covers (Jenny Fallon has some funny ones). He was really friendly and chatty, and I enjoyed talking to him.

Rob is... well, he's definitely embraced a trans-media perspective. His book is available as hardcover, paperback and PDF on his website. He is in the middle of releasing a podcast version of his book. He is doing it slowly, bit by bit, because he's taking almost an old-school radio approach to it. Firstly it's HIM reading, not a random actor, and because of his musical background Rob writes music and sound pieces which are underlaid with the book being spoken. The whole effect is really different and it took me a bit of time to get used to it, especially since the music was a bit too loud in the live reading. Rob and I had an awesome chat about what might happen in a sequel, whether or not the book would translate to a movie well (he is actually working on a screenplay version!) and I suggested he look into the idea of making a webseries version. He was really keen to know more, but obviously he was busy doing signings and stuff, so he gave me a poster and said, "I'm really interested, could you shoot me an email?" I friended him on Facebook and basically told him to look into A Very Potter Musical, The Guild and Dr. Horrible. Again, love how open these guys are to feedback, and general conversation from fans!

Being able to talk to these amazing, talented people, not only as people but as artists who are genuinely interested in your perspective on their work was an amazing experience. I came away from that booth in an absolute daze. As an Australian who has a passion for the entertainment industry, it's so comforting to know that national and international attitudes are changing, that I won't have to move away to the US to prosper creatively.

I stopped at a little both labelled "Gestalt Publishing" during one of our non-panel times, and caught the eye of one of the guys there. I said, "Ok, I'm seeing some great artwork here, but I know nothing!" so he told me about Gestalt and their product. Turns out, they're a Perth-based comics and graphic novel publishing company, which I was really excited to hear. They had work from their more prominent artists there, including an anthology showcase called Flinch, containing short comics by twenty different Gestalt artists. I grabbed that right away, and there was this gorgeous, eye-catching volume sitting on the table:
image taken from Gestalt's website.

My boyfriend saw me eyeing it off and before I knew it, he'd grabbed that AND Flinch out of my hands and bought them for me. I even scored the last signed copy of Changing Ways! Justin Randall wrote and drew this beautiful, creepy volume. He lectures at Curtin. I'm seeing a trend here (do I need to transfer?!). I will be reviewing this graphic novel once I can figure out how to describe it. I haven't finished it and already I want everyone I know to read it. It's simply stunning. There was another comic there called The Example which sounded really interesting. I may have to go back for it tomorrow (since I technically didn't spend any money today, haha) and so I can gush over Justin in person. If you think that cover is beautiful, you won't be disappointed by the art inside. The writing absolutely does it justice, too. If this guy isn't an international star in five years, I will be very surprised and disappointed. He's seriously THAT good. The story's like... ah, I'm too tired to describe it. It can wait for a proper review.

We managed to get some pretty impressive celebrity guests in this year, including Mark Lutz, Charisma Carpenter, Summer Glau, Eliza Dushku, and Dichen Lachman. A nice big Whedon-y string. Today was the first three names on my list, and it was pretty good. Mark's turnout was small, which was really sad because he was the most engaging of the lot! He is a very, very funny man! He talked about squirrels, women's deodorant and his love of April Fools. I will be paying for an autograph from him tomorrow, on my Lorne tribute comic. Someone asked him about Andy in the session. Someone who obviously hadn't done their homework, and put it the worst way possible, ugh. Mark retained his composure, very professionally, and continued to be funny after that but I was pretty annoyed on his behalf. Having someone ask you if you were 'close' to your best friend who died a year ago doesn't really make for a fun convention experience.

Summer Glau was so adorable. I think she was a bit overwhelmed at how many people we packed into the too-small panel area. Charisma had already mentioned being 'warned' about how small Perth is and not to 'expect too much'. It was great being able to see/hear the two beautiful "Joss girls" in person, but to be perfectly honest, I enoyed Mark's session more. Because it was a lot smaller I got to ask a few questions, and because I know about his background on and off Angel, at one point he asked me if I'd been talking to his mother! I had to laugh at that. It was mostly because I was asking about his movie Victor, which wasn't aired in Australian cinemas.

There was a lunar eclipse tonight, on top of all that awesomeness. I tried to get a photo but it's freezing outside, and my camera was not behaving. I didn't get any good photos of con stuff today either! Ah, well.

Here's to day 2!

Why 'women in the kitchen' jokes aren't funny.

Welcome to the 1950's!
Dear men, 
Your 'success in' life is dependant on two things: how well you do at your mind-numbing, soul-crushing 9-5 job, and how many children you have.

Dear women,
Everybody knows you're not smart or strong enough to enter the workforce. But that's ok! As long as your house is clean, your children are well-dressed, you're always smiling and made-up, you'll be considered a good woman.

The 1950s had rigid gender roles. A man's life was gruelling and at times unfulfilling, to be sure, but that isn't the point of this post. All the ideas of 'women belong in the kitchen' come from the 50s. These ideas stem from a few main, socially accepted notions of that era:
  • Women are not smart enough to enter the workforce.
  • Women are not strong enough to enter the workforce.
  • Women's only talents lie in cooking, cleaning, and raising children.
  • A woman's sole satisfaction and accomplishments lie in how well she does the above, and how happy she makes her husband.
  • Women's magazines in the 1950s encouraged women to "plan ahead even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time, for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs." To be "a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it". "Remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours". "Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you." "Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will allways exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. you have no right to question him."
Quotes taken from a magazine entitled Housekeeping Monthly, issue of  May 13 1955. Article titled "The Good Wife's Guide".

Welcome back to 2010. Women can vote, work, and be educated. Sure, we're still socially and economically penalised if we want to have children AND a career. We're still paid less for doing the same work a man does. We're still called sluts, cunts, and bitches for doing the same things - sleeping around and being ambitious - that men do. We're still raped, assaulted, prostituted, enslaved and murdered every day in our hundreds, nay, thousands, accross the globe.

This is why I do not find 'women belong in the kitchen' jokes even a little bit funny. The mentality that they stem from has three main tenants:
  • Women don't 'belong' in the work force
  • Women who choose not to have children have something 'wrong' with them
  • Women are intellectually, physically and socially inferior to men
These are tenets I do not agree with, and which we as a society should have outgrown by now. The fact that these jokes, and the aforementioned social/economical problems are still kicking around today tells me that this world of ours still has a way to go before achieving equality in any sense. Within 24 hours of Australia's first female Prime Minister being ballotted into office, I saw this on Facebook. "How can Julia Gillard run all of Australia from the kitchen?"

Hello, glass ceiling. Still there? Yeah, I can see that.

Friday, June 25, 2010


As some of you may already know, I'll be participating in JulNoWriMo this year. It's basically the July version of NaNoWriMo. I will be doing my best to win, i.e write 50,000 words between the 1st and the 31st, and as such I'll be writing minimum 1,667 words a day. This in addition to working, and general life stuff, means I may not have much time or energy left over for proper blogging!

I do have a few posts already written and lined up (a few reviews, articles and bits of fiction), and will disperse them throughout the month, in-between me keeping track of my JulNo efforts, posting updates on my progress and pictures of write-ins. If the latter doesn't interest you, just keep an eye out for any posts with "JulNoWriMo" in the title, as they'll be the ones to avoid.

If this does interest you, I encourage you to join me! The JulNoWriMo forums can be found here, and if this is too short-notice, there are a list of similar events throughout the year here.

More postings soon (including Kill Shakespeare issue 2 review!),

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The day in which I spent money and had an interview

Except I wouldn't call it an interview. It lasted barely ten minutes! She's calling me to organise a trial next week. This whole thing is so odd. I got there a bit early, intending to snoop around the shop. It was a lot smaller than I remembered. There was a customer in there, so I had a minute or two to myself. After said customer left, I introduced myself, mentioning the fact I was early. I gave her my updated resume, and then she just started asking me questions about my availabilities and customer service knowledge. We didn't go out the back room, or sit down, or anything! If/when she calls me back for my trial, I will be asking a lot more questions. I also have to have a chat to the co-manager at my new job, to make sure that if I do start getting shifts at the boutique, it won't clash too much. I have no idea what will happen when I get back to uni... eh, one thing at a time!

Spending money
So after that odd little debacle, I went to Borders, and was stoked to find that they had Rob Kaay AND Christian Tamblyn's books! I bought them both, and picked up a notebook for JulNoWriMo. Isn't it pretty?

It's a hardcover, ring-bind notebook with lined paper. I  have to have lined paper in my notebooks, otherwise my handwriting goes all over the place. This notebook has LOTS of paper in it, and the rings are those big, black plastic-coated ones, so there's plenty of room for my pen to slide in. That reminds me, I need to find the pen I bought last week...

I didn't want to go home too early, so I went to a few shoe shops that were having sales. I have been trying to find a pair of black boots for winter for quite some time now. My old pair were a cowboy style with a pointy toe. I've had them for about 4 years so the inner sole was worn down, the toes were chipped, they didn't look so great and weren't very comfy either. Bring in the replacement!

(Do you like our lounge room rug?)

These cost $65, which is only $5 more than the old pair. I am so stoked, they were pretty much exactly what I wanted. I have been in love with the lace-up, ankle-height granny/military boot since they became popular again. However, Perth's fascination with leather meant that everything I found was $200+, or suede, or studded, or had a ginormous pointy heel. I will probably end up wearing these all weekend for SUPANOVA! And I can get my books signed by Christian, Rob and Marianne. I'm halfway through Silverbirch, started reading it as soon as I left Borders. I will do a proper review of them both when I'm done, but for now I must say: Silverbirch is trippy, and Rob needs a new editor. There were some apostrophes where they most definitely shouldn't have been.

Rounding off this ramble: as some of you may already know, this morning Kevin Rudd stepped down from his position as Prime Minister, and Julia Gillard took his place. That's right, Australia has it's first female PM! My thoughts on the matter (don't worry, there aren't a lot):
  1. It will only be a true milestone in Australia's history if Gillard is re-elected when Australians can actually vote.
  2. Reading about it online, I saw several comments pertaining to Gillard's appearance. To those people I have one thing to say: SHUT UP. Her hair colour has nothing to do with her skills and leanings as a politician. Don't comment on her childlessness either. Sure, we joked about John Howard's eyebrows, and Kevin Rudd's ears, but come on! Don't nitpick about her clothes, or her hair, or her make-up, it's got NOTHING to do with her involvement with the Labour party, her new position or her plans for the mining tax scheme. I don't care if you don't like her, or if you're disgruntled that Rudd was booted. Comment on her press statements, not her pantsuit (or lack thereof), please.
  3. Rudd started out really, really well. I'll forever admiring him for having the guts to say 'sorry' to the Stolen Generation. However, his tax policies... eh. Yes, the mining industry makes a ton of money, but that isn't all going into CEO's pockets. Increasing taxes so soon after the end of the slump was a bad move. A lot of men and women lost work because companies couldn't afford to keep independant contractors, take on apprentices and do as much building and repairs as they normally could. When the boom started, everybody heaved a sigh of relief. Proposing a supertax on a recovering industry? Not too smart.

In summary
Lots and lots of reviews coming up, I will do a post-Supanova... post, and I'll be putting up some bits of my own fiction writing, and some photographs. I was going to go out and do a shoot yesterday (just architecture and nature stuff, nothing fancy) but my plans got completely stuffed around! Also the zoom on my camera has gone a bit bonky. I need to find my receipt and check to see if it's still under warranty. It's more or less use-able, it just... has difficulty zooming out once you've zoomed in! The lens gets stuck and it makes horrible whirring-clicking noises. Poor camera.

More soon,

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


RAOK = random act of kindness.

Today, I stapled a (wrapped) piece of Daim to a scrap of cardboard, wrote "for postie" on it, and stickytaped it to my letterbox. I buy so much stuff online, and I still live at home, so mail is ALWAYS a good thing for me! I felt like spreading the joy a little. I put it out at around 10am, so I might have missed the morning post - there was nothing in the box when I checked. Hopefully it won't get nicked by an unscrupulous passer-by before the afternoon post!

image respectfully borrowed from Candy Addict.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

This should definitely be fiction

Here's what happened: it's 7pm, and I'm in the middle of doing stocktake for my old job - my last ever shift. I've been at the fancy new job for a little over two weeks now. Not only is it waaaaaay better pay, but it's a much better atmosphere, and came in good timing, because my old job is closing on the 2nd of July. Myself, the old assistant manager, and one of the other casuals were all able to find new work pretty quickly. My old manager, poor thing, is still looking.

Back to the weirdness: so I'm scanning, pushing stock around, and my mobile phone rings. I pull it out of my pocket and check the screen. It's a number I don't know, so I hit "busy" and figure I'll look into it later. It starts ringing again. I think, "what the hell?" and I pick it up.

"Hello, this is Jade."
"Um, hi. I have your resume here, are you still looking for a casual job?"
(I'm thinking: huh?)
"Er, I actually accepted a position about three weeks ago."
"Oh... what a shame... missed out..."
"Who is this?"
"Oh, it's mumblemumble*."
"... and where are you calling from?"
"Some Random Boutique**."
(I'm thinking: um, er, come on brain, work... ohhh. I dropped my resume off there before I got my new job. That makes it about three and a half weeks ago. Uh-huh)
"Well, I am on uni holidays at the moment, but after July I'll only be available one day a week, between classes and my current job."
"Oh, well, that would actually work for me."
"What days would you be needing someone?"
"Thursdays, or Saturdays."
"Um, do you want me to come in for an interview?"
"Yeah, that'd be good! When are you free?"

Really, is three weeks an acceptable time lapse for a potential employer making first contact with a potential employee? Isn't that a bit, well, rude? And her phone manner was absolutely awful! If she's that bad on the phone, how does she deal with people in person? What about CUSTOMERS? Won't somebody think of the customers?

Sorry, it's late, and it's a proven fact that my wittiness deteriorates when I'm tired.

My thoughts on this mini-mystery:
  • My resume got 'lost' in a drawer and was just 'found'.
  • They're desperate for staff.
  • They got a new staff member, who turned out to be supremely awful (that happened at my old job, twice) and were consequently fobbed off. Now they're sorting through the other resumes.
  • The manager was sick and the shop has been in chaos for three weeks whilst they ran on minimal staff (that happened at my old job, except it was that the assistant manager quit and head office didn't manage to find a replacement in the two months notice she gave them, and then manager had to take a week off because her family were visiting from overseas).
  • They're really desperate for staff.
  • I probably don't want this job, but I probably won't need to turn it down since I know nothing about the labels they carry (Good Stuff? Jane Peacock? Autonomy for guys? Are these ACTUAL brand names? I think some serious Googling is in order here)
  • ^ that's exactly what I thought about my last interview, and I got the job, and I'm loving it.
  • They're really, REALLY desperate for staff.
Obviously, I'm going in for the interview, which means I'll need to re-print (and update) my resume, iron some respectable-but-not-too-bland clothing, and do some reasearch (who calls a clothing label 'Good Stuff'? I can imagine some hilarious, but confusing conversations coming out of that one, such as, "I love you jacket, what is it?" "Good Stuff!" "...?"). If I do get the job, and it sucks, I figure I'll just ride it out for the remaining month and a half of uni holidays, and then tell them I don't have the time for two jobs during semester. If I like it, I'll figure something out. If I don't get it, problem solvered!

Some actual-proper blog posts all lined up, just thought it was too funny not to share.

* she did say her name, but it was something fairly common like Linda, Caroline or Louise and I can't for the life of me remember. I was a bit distracted at the time!
** not the actual shop name, although that would be funny and kinda cool.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Review: The Guild comic miniseries

General info
The Guild is an internet webseries written by Felicia Day, who also directs and stars in it. Those of you who've read the archives of this blog would know she is one of my icons. I will attempt to keep the gushing to a minimum - suffice to say that Felicia is extremely talented and I admire her greatly. She is an avid convention attendee, and I have my fingers crossed she'll come to Australia next year (she was supposed to be at Supanova this year, but had to pull out due to starting work on The Guild season 4).

Felicia's work, summed up, would read like this:
  • Guest-starred in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a 'potential' named Vi.
  • Has done guest roles on TV shows such as Lie To Me, House, Monk, and of course Dollhouse.
  • Pioneered the internet webseries genre by starting The Guild, now in its fourth season, and currently sponsored by Microsoft to preserve its free viewing status.
  • Furthered the internet webseries genre by co-starring in Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog, and appearing in series such as The Legend of Neil and The Jace Hall Show.
  • Starring in the upcoming SciFi Channel movie Red.
Actual review!
This three-issue miniseries, written from the point of view of Felicia's character Cyd Sherman, is a prequel to the series. It explains Cyd's background, her plethora of neuroses, and explains how and why she got to be the obsessive, addict-type gamer we get to know and love in the webseries. It follows the format of the series, with Cyd interacting 'with' the reader/audience via a webcam, which she uses like a diary. This sequences tie up the episodes' content and give the reader/audience an insight into Cyd's thoughts and feelings. You don't necessarily have to have watched the series before you read the comics, but it does help, and I'm sure there have been a few 'new' fans since the comics' publication.

When the comic starts, Cyd has a boyfriend, a therapist and a job. When the webseries starts, she only has one of these things (which she loses in the first episode). Poor Cyd has a lot of issues, which her faceless therapist (humorously, if a little stereotypically drawn as the back of an enormous leather armchair and a pair of feet) doesn't seem to be helping her through. Cyd's job playing a violin in an orchestra is more or less ok, if a bit dead-end. It's her disgustingly egotistical boyfriend who's causing her the most problems. They met in the orchestra (he plays cello) but he dropped it for a band called 'The Shredders'. Cyd has been conned into writing all the music, taking tickets, putting up fliers, and basically doing all the roadie's jobs, getting zero credit and as much respect from her boyfriend, Trevor. One day, Cyd walks into a gaming shop, entranced by a poster in the window inviting her to "escape into a fantasy". She buys the advertised game, in exchange for being allowed to put up one of the band's fliers. That night, after a gig, her boyfriend abandons her to go out drinking with his bandmates. A dejected Cyd goes home, and loses herself in the game. The comic series trace her progress through the game and the people she meets on it, her rapidly deteriorating relationship with her increasingly manipulative boyfriend, and her own emotional journey as she is tugged between real life and the game world.

Cyd is just as neurotic and down-trodden in the comic as she is in the series. The other in-game characters' somewhat larger-than-life personalities are hinted at in their rather brief appearances. Trevor, Cyd's boyfriend, is also a cartoonish figure - selfish, ungracious, unfaithful and an all-around douchebag. The band-mates have no dialogue at all. In fact, the only other 'new' characters who exceed 1-D status (albeit barely) are the orchestra conductor Gunther and Cyd's fellow violinist Mrs. Bogeman. Their existance is limited entirely to the comics, and Cyd's interpretation of them. Maybe it's because of the short length of the series, or the narrow point of view that first-person affords, but the comic characterisation is a little shallow outside of Cyd herself.

Felicia Day readily admits that she knows the addictive capabilities of gaming firsthand. However, it is not always the negative thing usually portrayed by media. Also, 'nerds' and 'geeks' aren't always the antisocial misfits they're made out to be (Cyd Sherman being a good example of both, notwithstanding). Felicia aimed to show the positive impacts gaming can have on an individual's life, if used in moderation. Cyd demonstrates both the positives and the negatives, in the comics and series. By showing the characters in and out of the games, Felicia establishes and plays with the balance of the two. The comics are about Cyd's world and relationships both in and out of the game, and the firm line between. The series demolishes this line, to hilarious results.

The art in this is brilliant. Jim Rugg certainly showcases his versatility - there are two distinct and very different styles in these comics. One is for 'real life': this has crisp, clean lines and shapes. Shading is minimal, providing depth and dimension only where needed. Otherwise it is comprised of very sharp shapes and colours. This is to contrast with the art 'in-game', which looks like a cross between pencil and watercolour. It's beautiful, with soft lines, rich colours and shading. It is SO different to the 'real life' look, which I appreciate immensely. I like the gritty brashness of the 'real' art, and the 'game' art is really pretty, dreamlike and almost forgiving in comparison. I feel that it really emphasises how Cyd feels about these two areas of her life.

In retrospect, you're probably better off reading this series after you've watched The Guild, otherwise you miss out on a lot of the revelationary aspects, and the unique tones of the characters. This was Felicia's first comic, and as she said, "limitations on how much dialogue you can put into each panel and the idea of visual storytelling was pretty challenging"*. For a first effort, in a style so very different from screen-writing, she gets a big thumbs up from me. I am also very, very stoked by her choice of artist - Rugg did a fantastic job keeping that more-than-real feel of the series, and contrasting it with the 'otherness' of an MMORPG. I also love-love-love the covers, and if I had mone to spare I'd collect the variants for sure. I actually had a lot of trouble getting ahold of these comics - my local store never managed to order enough, and I always had to wait for the second shipment because I was silly and didn't preorder them. If Felicia ever does some more comic adaptations, I'll know better!

Read a great article on The Guild universe, with quotes from an interview with Felicia here at Comic Book Resources.

A preview interview by MTV here: *quote taken from this interview.

Felicia Day's blog.

The Guild official homepage for general information about the webseries, links to episodes, and a store to buy the DVD versions and merch from.

Until next we meet,

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My honesty policy

I can't tell you how many times I've heard or read, somewhere, a female saying that she gets along better with men, or has more male friends, or finds it hard to relate to/get along with/get close to other women. In my early teens I was definitely guilty of this, after having been forcibly ejected from my female social group. And for what? Brutal honesty. One of the girls was being a total bitch to everyone else (as insecure twelve-year-olds with ridiculously turbulent homelives are wont to do) and I called her out on it. Three days later my other friends said, "Yeah, you upset her, we're sort of on her side because you were so mean, even though we agreed with you". As a pre-teen, this lack of a social network caused me extreme amounts of anxiety. I didn't want to go to school in the mornings, something perplexing in the extreme to my parents, as I was a fierce academic. I ended up moving schools a few months later.

Girls are creatures of criminal subtlety. We dance around what we think, what we feel, and what we expect. We do it in our relationships with men, both romantic and platonic, and we do it in our relationships with each other, both romantic and platonic. Is it stupid? Yep. Is it a symptom of social conditioning? Yep!

One major problem, I think, is this: girls, women, ladies are expected to be obtuse, over-polite, and to double-talk, which when negative emotions are involved, leads to being snide and implying not-so-nice things. On the other hand, women who take a more 'male' approach, who are blunt, who say what they think and demand such in return, are regarded with suspicion and bemusement. Words like 'bitch', 'butch', and 'dyke' get thrown around a lot. Why do you have to be masculine, or attracted to women, to be able to be honest?! Shame on society for making 'female' and 'honest' oxymorons!

I'm tired of getting tangled in misunderstandings. Especially those of my own creation. White lies are still lies - yes, there is a difference between being honest and saying truthful, yet nasty things. But you can be truthful and still be diplomatic.

I'm taking a dual-action honesty policy: saying what I mean, and calling out other people when it's obvious that they're not. When did we all start needing to be politicians to function socially? All its doing is harming our relationships with others, something that we as humans rely on. We are social creatures, not going into the balances between introved/extroverted personalities. When spending time with our 'friends' is a minefield of cryptic comments, hiding your emotions and holding grudges, I have to say:
 image taken from the super-awesome site I Can Haz Cheezburger.

Friday, June 18, 2010

I wish it was fiction

The man behind me on the train is chewing gum, and making the most godawful noises. I didn't know it was possible to breathe out of your nose that loudly. His mouth is open - I can hear the spit swirling around his tongue. Why do people find a piece of artificially flavoured resin so appealing? It's one of those things I just don't get.

He's an older man, but as slack-jawed as the shrill valleygirl teens from a bad '90s movie. It's like being at a meal with someone who slurps their soup - not just as a one-off, accidental thing either. I'm talking noisome, concentrated, and continual. Slurp, slurp, sluuuuuurp, spoon clicking against their teeth like the gum clacking in that old man's mouth. It's almost as if he swallowed a drunk and disorderly metronome, and it got stuck in his gullet.

Gullet. Birds have those. Now I'm imagining him with the vacant gaze of a seagull at the beach. To be fair, nearly everyone subjecting themselves to public transport looks like that. I think it's a defense mechanism, especially if you didn't bring something to read. I check my translucent reflection in the window. My hair's gone fuzzy from the rain, but I don't look brain-dead. I'm too bemused my the sounds of gum and spit swishing about between the man's teeth and tongue.

Written on the train, unedited apart from words I scribbled out and re-did. Preparation for JulNoWriMo; I haven't written prose since my Creative Writing course last year!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How-to: be the worst customer ever (retail edition)

Step 1: Pick a store you want to terrorise, and check it's opening and closing times carefully. Depending on your plans for the rest of the day, there are three optimal times for you to strike - when the store first opens (getting there early and waiting with undisguised impatience outside the door is key), during lunch hour (during a rush when some of the staff members have disappeared for lunch is reccommended) or, my personal favourite, five minutes before closing time.

Step 2: When greeted by a salesperson, you have two choices: ignore them completely, or respond with "just looking". Make sure you don't smile.

Step 3: If products in the store have price tags, you must ask a staff member the price of at least three items. Ask if there is a discount or special on each item.

Step 4: Pick an item they are obviously low on stock of. Ask if they have other colours. Then ask if they have other sizes. Ask if they have any more stock. Ask them how long it will be until more stock arrives. Ask them if they're "sure" they don't have the colour and the size you want. Ask them if they can get it in from another store. If they say yes, tell them you'll think about it.

Step 5: If you look at anything, make sure to talk incessantly to any staff member who has crossed your path. Tell them you're not sure about the size. Tell them you don't really like the colour. Read the price tag (or ask them to repeat it) and wince. Ask them to get you the size up. Ask them to get you the size down. Ask them to get you another colour. Ask them to get you the size up in another colour. Ask them to get you another colour, in the size down.

Step 6: If the staff member has to leave you at any time, scatter as many items around the store as possible, or re-hang/box etc. very badly and stash it under a shelf or behind a display.

At the till
Step 1: Drop your loot on the counter and don't say anything. Wander a meter or so away to 'look' at something else. If someone asks you if you are taking or discarding your items, make a noise somewhere in-between a yes and a no.

Step 2: When you eventually find your way back to the counter, do not make eye conact with the tillperson. If you do, don't smile.

Step 3: When they tell you the total, ask them for a discount. If they say no, ask them if they have a 'new' item, i.e not the one you tried on.

Step 4: Throw your cash/card down on the counter, do not hand it to the tillperson. If it is cash, make sure it has lots of fiddly bits of change that they have to count. If it's a card, do not tell them what account it is on. When they ask what account it is on, pause for at least five seconds (count in your head if necessary). Say "on the card". If they ask if that means credit or savings, pause another three seconds. Take your time entering your pin number, or if you're signing, cut them off when they ask you "pin number or sign".

Step 4: Whist your receipt is being printed, wander away again. Wait until they call you back to the till or someone brings your shopping to you.

Step 5: Do not make eye contact or say thankyou. Storm off to the front of the store, then stop, and spend another 5-10 minutes browsing.

Step 6: If you are really dedicated, you have two options. One is long-term and one is short-term.
Short-term: throw away the receipt, and go back a few days later to return or exchange your item. For bonuss points, wait until they've shut the door and are cashing up for the night, then bang on their closed door and tell them that "it's urgent", and if they tell you they can't process anything because they've turned off the computer, say, "Can't you just swap it for me now and put it through the computer in the morning?"
Long-term: keep the receipt and wait at least a week until outside the return/exchange period. Return with the item and attempt to exchange or return it.

On the phone
Step 1: When someone answers the phone (the usual format is "Hello,[shop name] , this is [salesperson's name]") pause until they say 'hello'?

Step 2: Ask, "who is this?" When they repeat their name, ask "is this [store name]?" When they say yes, ask them which suburb they are in and what they sell.

Step 3: Tell them you're looking for an item, but make it something particularly vague, like "a brown belt" or "a red bag". This is especially reccommended if you are calling a specialty store which stocks 1-5 particular brands.

Step 4: If they ask you to clarify anything (such as the material, size or brand) repeat your initial description.

Step 5: If they make a suggestion, such as "were you looking for a brown leather belt for a man?" say "yes" and then stay silent.

Step 6: When they can't figure out what it is you're looking for (meaning you shot down all of their suggestions) ask to talk to someone else.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Baby's first nail-art

Due to the nature of my new job, I knew I needed to keep things somewhat conventional in the nail and make-up department. However, after wearing the gorgeously bright and occasionally UN-conventional selection Mode offers, I couldn't bring myself to do straight nude or red nails (as nice as Racy and Ooh Baby are). So I thought, what better way to be subtly different then to do some nail art, layering Arsonist over Racy?

Only problem with that, besides my complete lack of experience in the nail-art department, was that I do not own anything that you need for that sort of stuff. No Konad, no crystals, no glitter, nothing. So I improvised:

This is canvas tape. It's what artists use on their paintings to make sure they leave enough of a border for a frame. It's like masking tape, except the adhesive is really gentle, so it won't rip off your nail polish. All I did was put on one coat of Racy (red creme) and then, laying the tape diagonally accross my nail, I painted Arsonist (dark red/gold glitter) on the exposed nail. I let it set for a few seconds and then peeled off the tape. Voila!

I really like how this turned out (even though I NEED to put topcoat on my index finger). This tape will be very handy for tips, and I can forsee some stars, polka dots, love-hearts and zig-zags in my future. I may eventually buy a proper Konad or similar, but I think this will keep me entertained for quite a while!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Banana bread!

'Bout bloody time, I know. The first time I sank my teeth into this nummy, and fairly healthy treat was at Sydney airport. Banana bread is tricky - since that first taste, I've tried several different varieties and recipes. This is the best one I've found so far. I think what keeps it moist, rich and sweet is the honey and cinnamon. A few of the other recipes I tried which weren't quite right didn't have honey in them, though a few did have cinammon. I don't cook much, but I am slowly increasing my repotoire of meals and sweets. Included in the method section of the recipe are italicised "kitchen novice tips". These are little things I've picked up along the way which helps make things a bit faster and easier. If you're a ktichen pro you can just skip them :)

This is my grandma's recipe book, which my family have slowly added to over the years:

This is my dreadful handwriting:

And this is the recipe:
100g softened butter
100g soft brown sugar
50ml runny honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp milk
2 large bananas (peeled and mashed)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
225g self-raising flour
2 eggs
1 loaf tin, greased well with butter

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Put butter, sugar and honey in a medium-sized bowl. Beat with a fork until light and fluffy. Kitchen novice tip: if you only have one set of kitchen scales, line the container with baking powder. That way you don't have to wash it in betwen ingredients. Microwave the butter and honey for 10 seconds to make it easier to mix. When measuring honey, I always add about 20ml extra to make up for the stuff that just doesn't want to come out.
Lightly beat eggs (with a whisk or fork) in a seperate, smaller bowl. Add the vanilla extract.
Slowly pour the egg mixture into the medium bowl wih the butter and sugar mix. Stir well until combined.
Mash the bananas and then fold them into the mixture. Kitchen novice tip: you can curtail the post-cooking-dish-washing an use the same bowl you beat the eggs in. Over-ripe or bruised bananas are easier to mash.

Right about now, your mixture should look like this: 

Sieve in the flour and the cinnamon. Kitchen novice tip: sift in a little, mix it in, and then sift in a little more. If you dump in the whole lot and attempt to stir it in, it will be very messy!
Add the milk and give it a final stirring. Looks a bit better now, doesn't it!
Grab a wad of either baking paper of paper towel. Scoob out a nice gob of butter and smear your baking tin with it.

This will prevent the loaf sticking when it's cooked. You could also use a cake tin, or even muffin trays for this recipe, though I haven't personally tried either. Pour the mix into the loaf tin, using a spatula to get it out of the bowl. Kitchen novice tip: if you don't have a spatula... I'm really sorry. You need one. This is going to be nearly impossible without it!

Ready for the oven! (I sprinkled  a bit of cinnamon on top).

Bake for 50-70 minutes. I always check mine at the 50-minute mark, using the skewer test - insert a wooden skewer in the middle of the loaf. If it comes out clean, your banana bread is ready.

Let it cool for about 10 minutes before you pop it out, or it will get quite crumbly.

This recipe is fairly easy, even though the cooking time is frustratingly long, as the heavenly smell will start to fill your kitchen after about half an hour. BUT, an hour's cooking time means that while you're waiting, there's plenty of time to do the dishes ;) this recipe can be very easily doubled if you're cooking for a lot of  people. It's so yummy my house-hold of three, plus my boyfriend, can demolish one 'serving' in about two days.

Hope you enjoy!
Until next we meet,

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fantasy authors: support local!

GENERAL BLOG NOTE: I've made a small but important change to my blog, in that I have moved the post labels (tags) to under the post title, instead of at the bottom near the comments link. That way, those who are more interested in comic/movie reviews won't get halfway into a make-up related post and want to cry. And vice versa ;)

Onto the actual post:
Have you ever been surprised to know that an author, musician or artist used to live in your area? Because of the huge amount of American and English media that Australia gets, I'm always excited when I find something Australian. It's just nice to know that we can get our toes into the global talent pool as well. I especially like finding authors who still live in Australia. It gives me hope that, should I decide to pursue novel writing, I wouldn't have to move countries to succeed professionally. This is almost definitely the case in areas like film and music.

Getting to know (and like) the work of local creative types means you have better chances of meeting your icons in person. Two Australian authors I can always count to be at Perth Supanova are Marianne de Pierres and Jennifer Fallon. I'm a little bit embarassed to say I haven't read Jennifer's work. I have read Marianne's Parrish Plessiss series and was bowled over by the pacing, and the gritty, violent and complex  post-apocalyptic universe she's created. Marianne went to a university in my area, something that always cheers me up when I hear derogatory comments about arts degrees (since I'm doing one alongside my major in media studies, and my minor in journalism). I am still eyeing off her more recent series whenever I pass a bookstore.

After news of another Supanova cancellation reached my ears (rather, eyes, as it was on Facebook) I decided to have a look at the current activity and guest information for Perth. I clicked into the author section and saw two unfamiliar names - Rob Kaay and Christian Tamblyn. These two Aussie guys have very recently published their first novels, and both are science fiction/fantasy, which is pretty much my favourite genre. I went into my local Borders, but they didn't have either in stock, so I'm just going to order them off the authors' websites (linked above). Rob Kaay's book is actually avaible in audio and soft-copy format off his website, but I'm a traditionalist, and I like paper books :)

I'll write up a review of both of these books for the blog, but if I like them (which I'm fairly sure I will) what will be most exciting is meeting these guys in person and (fingers crossed!) getting my book signed. I also hope to attend Jennifer Fallon's World Building class, which I've sadly missed in the last two years of Supanova.

There are a few other Aussie authors I love and would reccommend (I have linked to their offiicial websites so you can check them out):
  • Kylie Chan, author of the incredible Dark Heavens Trilogy and in-the-works Wudang series. These series are rich in Chinese mythology - I shudder to think of the amount of research Kylie had to do, but it certainly adds a wonderful depth and mystery to the books. They may be fantasy, but all the human characters are wonderfully, well, human.
  • K.E. Mills, author of the Rogue Agent series (both of these wonderful women are avid convention attendees, unfortunately neither of them have been to Perth yet). K.E. Mills is actually a pseudonym for Karen Miller, who has written several other successful series under that name. The Rogue Agent series basically takes all the tropes and elements of 'magic'-based fiction and straight crime/detective fiction and turns it on its head. I am re-reading all of the three current books and writing a review which will go up as soon as I finish it.
  • Sophie Masson, author of Cold Iron, an absolutely spellbinding novella inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. I found this in my local library years ago, and borrowed it about twelve times, reading and re-reading constantly until I found it in a secondhand bookstore. It now sits happily on my shelf. I didn't realise until this post that she continued writing and amassed quite a long list of both YA and adult fiction! I will have to hit the library and eBay to play catch-up.
  • Ian Irvine, author of The View From the Mirror series (I'm having a bit of trouble tracking down book 4, which is a pain, because I neeeeeed to know what happens!) it's an adventure story spanning two worlds. Like most epic fantasy, it has a vast amount of characters and locations, but everything is wonderfully lush and 3-D. No 'description swamps', though!
  • Sara Douglass, author of the Axis trilogy, a dark and twisted web of mythology, love, betrayal and politics. Beautiful in parts, disturbing in others. As I said to my boyfriend, "she is certainly not afraid to make a character SUFFER! A LOT!"
These are just what I've read so far! I have many other authors on my Aussie reading list: Jennifer Fallon (of course), Trudi Canavan, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Fiona McIntosh, and Garth Nix are at the top. I have a few other miscellanious bits of fiction knocking around, now that I've finished uni for the semester (yay!). I'm seeking to expand my literary horizons so I'm not just reading fantasy all the time. I'm starting with A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, and the collected works and letters of Emily Dickinson. I'll probably review most of what I read, hoping it will help me not tear through them as fast as I normally do, and keep my brain from turning into slush over the uni break. I haven't got an awful lot of shifts, even with two jobs (I got the one at that upmarket handbag place, by the way! Total freak-out fluke, and now I'm learning to sell brands I've never heard of and could only afford if I saved for a month).
Many more posts coming up! I have 4 drafts at the moment, including the long-ago promised banana bread recipe and the Concrete Minerals primer review. And there will of course be occasional spontaneous discuss-y posts, like my Foundation Day one and this one.

Happy reading!

P.S. if you've met one of your favourite artists or writers, tell me in the comments! Or tell me about someone you found out used to live, work or go to school near you. I'm also very, very open to book reccommendations.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Movie review: Prince of Persia

I haven't played the video game, but my boyfriend has, so I'm at least familiar with the aesthetic and the quirks of this franchise. It was with mixed feelings we went to see the movie. I had already decided that Jake Gyllenhaal was the wrong choice for Dastan. He's got such a baby face, and Dastan is supposed to be this brawny, street-smart thug-with-honor. It just didn't work for me! I nearly cringed whenever I saw a poster advertising the movie.

Well, walking out after the movie, I said "if I had the opportunity, I would apologise to Jake for doubting him". My boyfriend laughed, but I meant it. Gyllenhaal bulked up, grew his hair and a bit of a beard, and the make-up department adorned him with a few choice scars. The overall effect was fantastic in terms of character, and really broke him out of the boyish mold I'd mentally stuck him in. The costumes suited him and the stunt-work was magnificient. I don't know how much of it he did himself, some of it was wire work and a lot of it looked like actual base jumping. He had some really great non-verbal moments - he has a very expressive face, and the director played on it a lot, using face-focused medium close-up shots during action scenes to convey little things that would normally have been communicated to the audience by voiced comments. I personally am not a fan of those - who takes time to talk out loud to themselves when there's something alarming/surprising happening? - so I really appreciated that.

The stunts in this movie were dazzling. The game features a lot of almost-physically-impossible jumping, climbing and feats of ingenuity and physical prowess. As I said, I don't know the game very well, but I do think it delivered. There was some amazing work, mostly done by Dastan, but there were some nice bits done by minor characters as well. There's a knife-throwing scene right near the end of the movie that was awesomely done - mostly CG, but still good. I really loved all the wire-work done by Gyllenhaal, it was really unrealistic but so awesome you just didn't care. The beginning of the movie featured a very, very cool wall-climbing piece.

The sets and costumes were lushly gorgeous. I can't speak the historical accuracy, but it does have a fantasy element to it which lends it some leeway. Really lovely deep colour palette, textured fabrics, great amour and weaponry. I especially liked the design of the dagger which is the focal point of the movie. The blend of CGI and live action, and the skipping between set-work and on-location stuff was seamlessly blended. There were barely any points during the movie where I saw a backdrop or a stunt move and thought "oh, this is CGI". I didn't even find myself evaluating the obiously-CGI-bits (the fantasy elements) like I usually do in movies.

Gemma Arterton had the role of the princess Tamina. I really don't know what to say about her. First of all, the accent was freaking weird. It clashed with all the other plain American ones that are native to Hollywood. Faking a good American accent is pretty much a given, even for Australian actors, isn't it? And then there was the fact that the princess was apparently the sole ruler of her city. Maybe this is game lore I don't know about, but it really didn't fit the time period of the movie. It allowed her to be headstrong and devious, though, which was something this character needed to be able to keep up with Gyllenhaaal. She still kind of annoyed me - and this is no reflection on Arterton. I've seen some of her other stuff and I've always liked her. Tamina didn't feel like a properly fleshed out, rounded character, though. She fell a little flat. As a ruler and priestess with a solemn, sacred duty, she seemed a little too flighty and sarcastic. Maybe it's just me. I like my female characters to be more than flirty arm/eye candy. Again, I don't really know if her character features much in the actual game. It's called Prince of Persia, so her character might have been 'coloured in', so to speak, just for the movie, in which case the director wouldn't have wanted her to steal too much focus from Gyllenhaal. At any rate, her costumes were lovely, she put in a really good performance with all the nuances I know she delivers, and she looked stunning. Very different to what she normally looks like, though - I'd say her appearance was quite heavily altered for the role.

Overall, the storyline was pretty good - not complex, but not overly simple. There were a few twists, and a few 'just-for-lulz' type moments courtesy of the minor characters. It had kind of a cop-out ending. But they set it up so nicely, it's hard to complain. You have a certain margin for the impossible in fantasy genres, and they utilised it. Not everything was perfect, either - without spoiling it, there was a small price to pay for the happy ending.

Between Gyllenhaal's performance, the stunt work and the magnificent CGI, I would absolutey reccommend this movie. For both fans and non-gamers.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Foundation Day, Australia

I've been seeing a lot of posts and sales recently about Memorial Day, an upcoming (or past? not entirely sure) holiday in America. I see this a lot, with Labour Day and Thanksgiving and such. It got me thinking a little - maybe I'm not looking in the right places, but I don't think I've ever seen similar attention by bloggers for Australian holidays. We do have them! In fact, there's one tomorrow - Foundation Day. It's actually an exclusively West Australian holiday: Australian holidays can get a bit confusing because each state was (and still is) quite seperate, and the same holidays will happen on different dates in each state. Foundation Day (info taken from here) "1 June, marks a significant date in the history of Western Australia for on this day in 1829 the State’s first European settlers, men, women and children, completed their long sea journey from Britain to the Swan River Colony.  They arrived on board the Parmelia under the command of Captain James Stirling and had their first view of mainland Western Australia."

Foundation Day actually changes date each year, it is celebrated on the first Monday in June. Thus, this year it takes place on June 6.

Public holidays aren't huge in Australia, not in my circle anyway. I don't ever remember having a big sit-down, here's-the-history in class or anything like that. This got me thinking. Australian history is quite chequered. There has been a huge upsurge of negative feeling towards Australia Day in the last twenty or so years. Australia Day in particular is one of the more 'contraversial' holidays - a bit like Thanksgiving in the U.S., I suppose. Though where you have white Americans and Indian Americans, we have white Australians and Indiginous Australians. Australia day pretty much celebrates the arrival and colonisation of the first white settlers, making Australia into the country that it is today. However, this country has a rather shoved-under-the-rug segment of its past (and sadly, the present also) which involves some truly shocking and inhumane treatment of Indiginous Australians. Slavery, no legal rights whatsoever, and the Stolen Generation, a horrible and racist act by the white Australian government which continues to have repercussions to this day. It was only two years ago that the government made a decisive move considering the utter wrongness of this act and the neglient modern response to it. Primer Minister Kevin Rudd made a public apology, which was recieved with mixed feelings. Sorry Day takes place on May 26, but is still hardly recognised by the public due to the controversy surrounding the whole thing.

Is this the bottom line? That we are too ashamed and confused about our past to be able to really celebrate our country? I don't know what the current state of relations are between American Indians and white Americans, so I can't make any comparisons there.

Another issue which is, I believe, a strongly contributing factor, would certainly have to be the extreme Americanisation of Australian media. I don't know how aware other nations are of this. My small forays into international media culture for my univeristy degree have shown the situation to be quite different from country to country. I'll summarise for you: on Australian TVs, 8/10 of programs are American. Movies? 9/10. Music? Probably closer to 7/10.

We know American culture inside out. We know the names of all your holidays. The average Australian probably knows more about American products than they do about any other country besides their own. Australian culure has become saturated with American terminology and products. It's quite confronting when you think about it. Australian media is making a slow comeback, with movies like commedian Peter Helliar's I Love You Too being released to good opinion, artists like John Butler Trio, and... well, I don't watch an awful lot of TV, so the only Aussie show I can direct you to that isn't an absolutely ridiculous soapie is The Chaser's War On Everything, which I don't think I've actually ever watched. A few of their more extreme stunts were on the news, which is how I know about them. (Please don't even mention the propaganda fest that was the Australia movie. I don't even know why they bothered showing it here, everyone thought it was lame as a one-legged sheep).

The majority of Australians (and probably nearly every television owner on the planet) know who Barack Obama is. How many Americans, U.K-ers, or Canadians, when reading this post, would not have known that Kevin Rudd was the current P.M of Australia? There's another point - Australians know that Canada is not a part of America. Most Americans I know, bless their little hearts, think that New Zealand is a part of Australia. Um, it's not. We may share ANZAC day, but we're neighbors, not roomies.

I'll admit, it does bug me a little when I'm on a forum or blog and the poster wishes everyone a "happy insert-American-holiday here" day. Or someone new posts "is there anyone from the U.K on this board?" I get that, even in English-speaking countries, there is a different culture. There will be things you can only discuss with someone living in the same environment. But it always makes me want to say "Hi, I'm from Australia and I have a brain! THE INTERNET IS INTERNATIONAL!" And sentances like "there has never been in the history of the world a better place for opportunity than here in the US" just make me gag. Sorry (yes, in case you were wondering, that was an actual verbatim quote taken from one of the forums I visit).

I don't mean any offense to Americans by this post. I was genuinely curious about the disparity I see in the view of American and Australian cultures, particularly online, where one might assume that the global nature of the medium would preclude such (arguably) blinkered views. Writing has always helped me think things through, and I thought this subject might interest people, especially since there seem to be so many common misconceptions about Australian culture. Like the New Zealand thing. No matter how many times I hear that, it still makes me laugh.

Until next I write,