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Week 33: “I hope all your children have very small dicks! And that includes the girls!!”

(August 13 – August 19)

This week was mostly about the slow, ponderous return to full health after my illness last week. Although I was up and about, and going to work, and generally passing for human, I was still feeling pretty shabby. It wasn’t until Thursday that I finally felt the bonds of illness slipping from my shoulders and began to feel like myself again.

I suppose that’s one of the benefits of a minor sickness: you get to see your everyday self in sharp relief to your ensickened self. You get to realise that it’s quite nice being able to do things, even if it’s just boring, everyday things like cooking dinner—and being able to cook dinner without it feeling like a marathon effort.

Talking of dinner, I also got my new stovetop installed this week. Which was nice.

Watching

Following a random mention on twitter this week, I felt compelled to end my working week by watching The Tall Guy. This is one of those films I used to watch regularly in my late teens and it was a delight revisiting it now. In fact, I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to remind myself why I used to love it so much. Perhaps a fear—ultimately and definitively unfounded—that it wouldn’t match up to my memories.

I believe this was Richard Curtis’s first film as screenwriter, and there are plenty of his tropes already on display. I won’t pick through them here, but it’s certainly fun seeing this almost-forgotten comedy showing off many of the things that would eventually make it into his subsequent blockbusters.

Of course, one thing you get with a debut screenplay, including a low budget, is the sense that Curtis hasn’t quite yet worked out what he’s doing yet. Consequently, he’s willing to take a few more risks here, to throw jokes at the screen instead of whittling them down to perfection. As a result, one of the [many] charms of The Tall Guy are the random gags and one liners that bring a wealth of colour and characterisation to this otherwise tiny tale of people caught in the swell of London life.

One surprise on rewatching the film was how much of a role the music plays. In truth, this shouldn’t be a surprise at all, given that I found myself humming along note for note to almost every music cue—and remembered the music far better, as it happens, than the dialogue (which was more in the realm of comfortably familiar). In concert with some fine editing choices, the music absolutely builds the mood of the film throughout, adding a rich emotional depth to what is, basically, a silly movie about two people falling in love. When the characters do fall for each other, we really feel it; when they’re maudlin and reflective, so are we; and when we get to the (spoiler) happy ending, the music doesn’t overplay things; instead it lets us enjoy the moment.

Also; try not falling in love with Emma Thompson in this movie. I dare you.

Reading

In audiobook world I finally finished Redshirts, which was pretty great. I had a small selection of purchases to choose for my next listen and eventually—and ambitiously—opted for Dune. It’s something like a 17 hour listen, which will be interesting with my 40 minutes of so of listening time each day. I read the book many years ago, and have revisited it once or twice since then. I’ve been meaning to give it a fresh read for a few years now, so the audiobook seemed like a good opportunity.

So far I’m gripped. The narrator (Simon Vance) is excellent, and there are some full cast dramatised sections which I’m also enjoying. I’m finding, perhaps, that I’m following the detail of the story more easily with the audiobook.

I also started reading The Haunting Of Hill House, which has been on my Kindle wish list for some time, and conveniently went on sale this week. The Haunting (Robert Wise’s adaptation) is one of my favourite films and so far the book and film are very close. As vivid as Shirley Jackson’s prose is, I’ll admit I’m finding the ‘old fashionedness’ of it a little hard to wade through at times. It’s fascinating the way that prose styles change over the decades and centuries, and how our ‘reader brains’ get used to one style over another.

unikitties

Week 32: Sick

(August 6 – August 12)

This week I have mostly been sick. Not quite bedridden sick, but definitely incompatible-with-work sick. Meanwhile, the other big story of the week—well, in social media land at least—is Twitter’s Jack Dorsey deciding not to boot Alex Jones (curator of horrible lies about Sandy Hook and, well, almost everything else) off his platform. This is after Facebook, and YouTube, and I’m sure some others, have all already shown him the door. Naturally this has attracted the ire of many Twitter users. And, oddly enough, there’s a connecting theme to me being sick.
You see, when I’m sick I avoid going into the office in order to avoid passing my sickness to other people and making them sick. Because that’s how sickness works. Me not being in the office prevents the office from becoming an infectious—or toxic, if you will—environment.
Twitter has famously been overrun with manbabies, toxic fanbois, racists, literal Nazis and all manner of other abusers in the last few years. It’s transformed the platform from being a place where random people from different corners of the world could talk about breakfast foods, into a place where celebrities routinely quit due to abuse, and women have to maintain and share block lists to protect themselves from the abuse they receive from simply sharing an opinion.
This is not unlike a sickness. One or two unpleasant characters can’t usually do much on their own, but they empower and embolden other unpleasant characters. One person freely and shamelessly giving voice to their racist views encourages the impressionable person, or the one who hides their racism, to speak out about their own noxious opinions. If left uncontrolled, this spreads across the platform. It’s the equivalent of going into an office while sick: that virus is going to spread, the office environment is going to become toxic, and sooner or later all the otherwise healthy people are going to be affected by it.
The obvious answer is to remove those peoples’ access to the platform, and thus make it safer for those who are not actually using the platform to abuse others. While some may say there’s a [highly tangential] free speech argument that makes banning people from twitter a [not really] uncomfortable prospect, there’s ultimately no argument at all. For one, free speech basically means that you won’t get arrested for airing your views. Twitter is a business, and has the right to ban anyone who doesn’t conform to their terms of service (which should damn well include not abusing or causing harm to other users). They don’t have the right to throw you in prison.
On that note, free speech is not design to protect you if your intent is to cause harm to others. If you cause harm to people by abusing your free speech, then other laws come into play—laws against hate speech, for example.
Finally, because it needs to be said before some squawking bigots asks: “but isn’t banning people like Alex Jones from twitter just like refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple?” No, it’s not. Because it’s not discrimination. It’s not a case of banning someone because they’re a conservative, or because they’re a white man, or because of any one of the reasons that outraged right-whingers would have you believe. It’s banning a specific person because their specific actions have caused harm to other people.
And twitter should just fucking get over itself and ban him.

Watching

My viewing choices in the early part of this week were determined by my need to either lie on the sofa or in my bed, and watch relatively undemanding fare. On the plus side I was able to enjoy some classic Doctor Who, but also made the mistake of watching the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still. Now, I’ve been interested in watching this for a long time, but was naturally put off by the scathing reviews.
Now that I’ve watched the movie I understand those reviews. On the surface, this film is relatively inoffensive—in fact, it starts off as quite an intriguing reimagining of the classic movie. Then it ends, and you realise that not only has the story gone nowhere, but it’s also managed to subvert the intended message. In the original film, humanity is left with a choice: become better, or be destroyed. In this remake, humanity (represented, of course, by the US military) ignores Klaatu’s warnings and is in the process of being destroyed, but he decides to save them anyway. Wha…?
Anyway, for Fridate Horror we watched Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula—a much delayed follow up to us watching the Hammer version several months ago. It’s a vibrant and dynamic retelling that takes delight in throwing all sorts of classic cinema trickery at the screen. However, I can never decide if it’s a good film or not. On the one hand you have the extreme hamming of Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins, but then you have the starched woodiness of Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder (neither of whom are truly terrible, but neither are playing to their strengths here). Part of the film wants to be a fun romp, but part of it wants to be an epic love story. Despite this, I came away with the same impression that I did the first time I saw the movie: the love story, the one major (possibly sacrilegious) element that was added to the story, was one of the most successful parts—it gives the film a much needed emotional backbone, without which it would probably just be two hours of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Reading

I started a new book this week, but because I’m the World’s Worst Reader I almost immediately abandoned it. In my defence, I was sick and wasn’t reading much of anything once I got to bed each day: opting, instead, for the far more tempting option of instant sleep.
During my convalescence, I did browse through the comic library on my iPad and decided to revisit Paper Girls. I picked up the first volume after reading an article (“things you might enjoy if you enjoyed Stranger Things”) and loved it. A month or two ago I was able to get the next two volumes cheap and have been looking for an excuse to read it again.
It’s got everything I love about comic books: simple art, but not so stylised that it takes you out of the story; rounded characters that I enjoy spending time with; and a story that I still can’t quite figure out where it’s going.
Let’s see if I make it through more than the first volume this time.

The Shape Of Water on TV

Week 31: Communication (let me down …)

(July 30 – August 5)

This week I had the privilege of going to vote in my local by-election—only the second time I’ve been able to vote since becoming an Australian citizen. Because of this, there’s been a lot of political messaging flying about lately. The government, however, didn’t even run a candidate (which is a shame, as it deprived me of the opportunity to put them last), leaving the opposition candidate to steal the show with flyers, posters and the like everywhere. In a surprise to no one, he won.

This week has also seen continuing discussion about getting the Nazis off twitter. While twitter management appear to be doing very little in that area, it does turn out that they’ve enabled banning of Nazis in Germany and Poland—where Nazism is [rightfully] outlawed.

So, in one instance, we have a right-wing party who have decided not to contest an election, and consequently spend no money on communications of any kind. On the other hand, we have fascists continuing to have access to a free communications platform that enables them to spread their repugnant views.

In an odd way, it reminds me of Coke. Bear with me.

When I was growing up I was always puzzled why Coke would continue to advertise: everyone knew what Coke was, and the little red cans were everywhere, virtually advertising themselves. Turns out that brand awareness is an important thing: if we’re not continually reminded that Coke is a spectacular lifestyle choice then we might realise that it’s nothing more than sugar and water and stop drinking it. The veil may slip once the lack of advertising gives us space to think for ourselves.

It’s no different with politics. Don’t run a candidate, and people will vote for the other person. Stop giving the Nazis a platform to broadcast and share their messages on Twitter (and other platforms) and people will (hopefully) move onto the next thing.

In the US, Australia and UK the right wing has become a huge political force largely due to the wrangling of the Murdoch press. Take that messaging away—that bullhorn voice that shouts in the public’s ear and stops them considering the alternatives—and I suspect that we’d be living in a much nicer society right now.

Watching

Two more episodes, this week, of Mark Kermode’s excellent Secrets Of Cinema. This time covering heist movies and coming of age movies. And someone out there really needs to produce a list of all the movies that Kermode covers, so I can remember which ones I need to watch.

Friday’s horror movie was Brian de Palma’s Sisters, a fun horror movie that manages to be a slasher movie, detective thriller and psychedelic chiller all in one. It features an excellent performance, in one of the leading roles, by Margot Kidder. Seeing her here makes a bit sad that her career ended up getting completely subsumed by the Superman movies, and makes me wonder how many other fascinating and excellent performances that we ended up losing.

I finally caught up with The Shape Of Water, which was absolutely lovely. It’s a film steeped entirely in the language of cinema; that exists purely in reference to and reflection of other movies. I’ve been very critical of Guillermo del Toro’s storytelling limitations in the past, but you can see that this is one of those films where everything clicks perfectly right from the start—music, light, mood, performance, story: it’s all there. I’m not surprised that this film, as oddball as it is, scored the Oscar wins (and nominations) that it did.

Over the weekend I also had sufficient time to wrap up my Dirty Harry marathon with Sudden Impact and The Dead Pool. By far the most disappointing part of this entire process was coming up with the perfect hashtag—#Harrython—as I was watching the final movie in the series. I guess I’m all set if I decide to watch all the Harry Potter movies again.

However, both films were highly underwhelming. Sudden Impact was a serviceable enough thriller, but was let down by Harry acting out of character (basically, acting like a gentleman towards the leading lady, who happened to be Eastwood’s girlfriend at the time, so of course their characters are going to have a thing) and by moving the location mostly away from San Francisco. It was a perfectly serviceable thriller, and a story I could see it working well with the late seventies Dirty Harry aesthetic, but this one just didn’t feel much like a Dirty Harry movie.

The Dead Pool fared slightly better, though still suffered from the late eighties traditional thriller dilemma. This was a year when a lot of traditional movie genres were struggling to find their place in front of audiences whose tastes were rapidly changing. The biggest hits of the year were typically movies that offered something unique or different (Rain Man, Big, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Twins) and had a strong leaning towards comedy. Meanwhile, the biggest thriller of the year was Die Hard—a film which could almost have worked as a Dirty Harry movie, except that it firmly injected the action component into the genre and showed up the fact that an aging Clint Eastwood wasn’t really the actor to carry that type of movie any more. It’s possibly no coincidence that Eastwood released Unforgiven a few years later: an excellent movie that partly works because it provides a rumination on Eastwood’s aging (and reformed) gunfighter dealing with the sordid victories of his past.

Reading

I finally wrapped up From a Certain Point Of View this week, with a set of stories set around the Death Star battle and its aftermath. While there’s only so much that a writer can do on the fringes of those particular scenes, I’m once again impressed at the different perspectives that this book offers. We have a story about the ill-fated Biggs; a story about a pilot left behind, unable to join the fight because there simply aren’t enough X-Wings; and a story about a ground crew member watching silently as her friends and colleagues are killed by TIE Fighters.

I’m also very, very close to wrapping up my audiobook of Redshirts.

pasties in the oven

Week 30: Privac’est la vie

(July 23 – July 29)

On my mind this week is a post I recently read over at Wil Wheaton’s blog. I have a lot of admiration for Wil Wheaton: he’s had a lot of crap to deal with, and he’s very open and honest about all of that as well as his efforts to improve himself and his life. However, since he’s on the internet, and is generally compassionate and wants everyone in society to be treated fairly and equally, he typically cops a lot of abuse. In this latest post he’s outlined how the internet, and particularly Twitter, has changed over the last several years and why he’s not going to sharing his life so openly across social media anymore.

I can’t blame him, and it’s prompted me to think about why I do these posts. Obviously I’m not even remotely in the same boat as Wheaton; for one thing most of my stuff barely gets noticed, which is a safety net in itself. I do, nevertheless, exercise certain precautions. For example, I avoid naming my children. It a near certainty that anyone who actually reads this blog already knows their names, but that doesn’t mean I want to broadcast my family to all and sundry. I also generally avoid naming other people that I mention: this is because their right to privacy belongs to them, not to me, and it’s not my place to breach that on my blog.

None of that, of course, answers the question of why I do these posts. My conclusion for a long time has been that I do them for myself. I’m happy for other people to read them, and there is something about sharing all of this that appeals to me (perhaps it’s my latent egomania, or some deep-buried extrovertism). However, after a year and a half of doing this there are two reasons that are fairly clear to me:

One is that journaling is good therapy: I find it useful to reflect on my life. If nothing else it helps me realise that I have things fairly good, and it’s certainly helped when things weren’t quite so good last year.

Secondly it’s just a good excuse to write. I get up most mornings to write stories. Sometimes the writing’s easy, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the writing is in my own voice, sometimes I have to find someone else’s voice to write with. When it comes to these diary post I can basically write whatever I want as flippantly or as seriously as I want to.

And if any of you end up reading it; well, that’s a bonus 🙂

Watching

This week I started watching a French series called The Forest on Netflix. I was hoping it would be more like another Dark, and less like another Requiem. In the end it was more of a Broadchurch type affair. It was perfectly good, but not really different enough to keep me watching beyond the third episode.

Friday’s horror film was our third entry in the Final Destination series, colloquially known as “Final Destination 3: you know, the one with the roller coaster”. It was possibly the goriest instalment so far, and the first to be almost exclusively populated by characters whose deaths I was genuinely happy to be witnessing. That said, it was still good fun. The writers didn’t take quite as much relish playing with audience expectations and crafting elaborate death scenes as the writers of Final Destination 2 managed, but there was still a decent level of morbid creativity on display.

For our Saturday family movie, we finally caught up with Coco. It was good—very, very good, albeit not quite at Moana or Inside Out levels of greatness. The Elderbeast seemed to connect with it, however: he spent a lot of Sunday listening to the songs on Spotify, and then picked up the novelisation to read.

My final item of viewing for this week was Extinction (another Netflix special) on Sunday night. As regular readers of this blog (*tumbleweeds*) will know, Sunday night is ‘hidden gems’ night, where I’ll endeavour to watch something new and interesting—ideally something a little thought-provoking, often in the sci-fi genre—that might have otherwise escaped my attention. Extinction doesn’t really fit the ‘hidden gem’ bill, given that Netflix is promoting the kahooey out of it, but it’s definitely got the sci-fi part going on. I can’t give too much away, suffice to say that there’s a great twist about halfway through, but it’s definitely not the failure some reviewers would have you believe (although you can clearly see how it ended up in the Netflix movie graveyard).

Reading

This week I’ve continued to listen to Redshirts, and have continued to enjoy the experience very much. I’m also still making my way through From A Certain Point Of View (the book of short stories set around the periphery of A New Hope). After what felt like an eternity on Tatooine, we’ve now made it to the Death Star—with a couple of brief Alderaan related interludes.

Standouts this week included a story by Wil Wheaton (yay, Wil!) with a twist that will rip your heart out and grind it into jam on the sidewalk while you sit there sobbing feebly to yourself.

My favourite, was a story that follows the mouse droid (you know, that tiny beeping box on wheels that Chewbacca roars at in one scene) around the Death Star. We get to know his owner, intrude on what might (hilariously) be a passionate and secret love affair between himself and Tarkin. Then, things take a tragic turn. Suffice to say that the droid’s owner is not one of the characters who ends up on the right side of Han Solo’s blaster. Meanwhile the mouse droid, traumatised by its encounter with Chewbacca, does not make it off the Death Star before the story’s fiery climax.

Cheerful stuff.

black and white cat

Week 29: Too much, too soon

(July 16 – July 22)

It’s back to school for the Kinderbesten this week, which means back to the school routine for me. Namely: getting the beasts ready in the morning; making lunches in the evening; and enforcing a reasonable bedtime.

In the end, it turned out that I was so worried about mornings becoming hell again that I massively overcompensated. Lunches were made, clothes laid out, breakfast things left ready the night before. Consequently, we were a full ten minutes early to school on the first day. This over-efficiency mostly continued through the week too (helped, I have to say, by the Kinderbesten being pretty damn good at getting ready).

It made me realise that being too organised, that following a routine too aggressively, had partly de-anchored me from that very routine. Sure, we were all ready on time, which was a pretty big success—but we also ended up with a big chunk of time spent standing around in the cold waiting for school to open. Being too early for something is still, technically, poor scheduling.

Watching

After a few lengthy hiatuses, the Elderbeast and I finished watching Lost In Space (the new Netflix version) on Monday. It was really good and I’m definitely ready for more. I enjoyed that the show introduced a compelling family dynamic while avoiding the now-cliched dysfunctional family route: the Robinsons in this version are a highly functional family, albeit one with a few wounds to heal. Equally, giving both the robot and Doctor Smith a new spin allowed the writers an extra few layers of intrigue and threat, while including a number of other colonists gave this first series a much broader canvas series to play out against.

Of course, the downside of finishing (and enjoying) a series is that I, typically, haven’t felt like starting anything else new (TV-wise) this week. So I didn’t.

For Friday Horror this week we watched Train To Busan, which was astonishingly good. A zombie movie with all the thrills and a whole bunch of emotions thrown in for good measure. It reminded me at times of the classic 1970s disaster movies, particularly The Cassandra Crossing, but also struck me how well it could work as a 28 Days Later prequel. It’s a tad slow to get going, but once it gets down to business it’s truly relentless and doesn’t stop to give you a break until a closing scene that will have you weeping gently into whatever snack or beverage you’ve chosen to accompany the movie with.

Later in the weekend I continued my Dirty Harry marathon with the third instalment: The Enforcer (a.k.a The One With The Hippy Terrorists). It’s a perfectly decent movie, but definitely began to feel less like a Dirty Harry movie than the first two.

I was struck by two things on this viewing. Firstly, how much like a late seventies TV production it looks. Watching this film is almost like settling down for an episode of The A Team, obviously with added violence, gore, language, etc. I know we’re at a point now where TV and movie production values can pretty much pass for each other, but when I was growing up there was typically a much more profound difference: you only need compare the original Battlestar Galactica TV series and, say, The Empire Strikes Back to see it.

The second thing—which probably should have struck me years ago—occurred as I was once again trying to rationalise my appreciation for the Dirty Harry movies, their obvious right wing politics, and the softening of Harry Callahan’s character through these first three instalments. I realised that Eastwood almost always plays the outsider in his movies: a renegade (Dirty Harry); a rebel on the wrong side of a corrupt system (The Outlaw Josey Wales); a near-mythical figure who exists on the fringes, or beyond, of conventional society (Unforgiven, High Plains Drifter). Even when he’s unambiguously the hero (In The Line Of Fire) he’s still presented as someone out of his time.

The potential message here is that, whoever or whatever the antagonist in these movies might be, the real enemy—the real ‘other’—is, in fact, the rest of the world.

Reading

I’m continuing to read From A Certain Point Of View, the book of Star Wars short stories. I’ve been progressing in fits and starts, so I’m still at the point of the narrative where the characters are in Mos Eisley (remember, this book plays around the outskirts of the plot for A New Hope; or Star Wars, if you’re a purist).

The standout tale for me this week has been a caper following four or five barely glimpsed aliens from the cantina scene. They may not have been given names in the movie, but a quick look at Wookiepedia reveals that they not only have names, but remarkably detailed backstories as well. And we should all take a moment to remember those who gave up their time so that this could come to pass.

Anyway, this particular tale brings several of these characters to rich life, and depicts how the events that transpired in the cantina that day—specifically those revolving around Luke, Ben and Han—end up having a huge impact on those lives. I’m a big fan of coincidence when used well as a narrative tool (think: the butterfly effect) so that’s probably why this one was a big winner for me.

I’ve also started listening to Redshirts, by John Scalzi, on Audible. It’s mostly a delight: the story is hilarious; the narration by Wil Wheaton is spot-on (especially the bits that are definitely not in Klingon because that’s probably trademarked). The only thing that lets it down (slightly) are scenes like the below:

“Bla bla bla,” character said.

“Bla bla bla,” other character said.

“Bla bla bla,” character said.

“Bla bla bla,” other character said.

Basically there’s an excess of dialogue tags. Now, every bit of writing advice you’ll ever read will tell you to only use ‘said’ or ‘asked’ when writing speech because it’s distracting to the reader if you get too creative with that sort of thing. While reading, your brain is programmed to automatically skip through dialogue tags (which is why it becomes distracting if a writer does something different). However, the audio version really highlights the repetition because your brain can’t ignore the rhythm and repetition of spoken words quite so easily. It’s only a couple of scenes, but it’s almost comedic when it happens and I have to wonder how Wheaton managed it without rolling his eyes.

(Funnily enough, a short while after this, I saw John Scalzi tweeting about much the same thing. Turns out several of his novels were released before audiobooks became a big thing in his career. It was only after listening to the audio versions that he realised how jarring it could be, and now makes a conscious effort to write for listeners as much as for readers).

backyard toad

Week 28: Do Nothing

(July 9 – July 15)

This week slid settled naturally into the eternal conflict between doing nothing and the need to get things done. It began on Monday morning, as the week typically does, when I woke up with a thumping headache. It was so bad it pretty much forced me back into bed until the later afternoon.

Now, I normally like sick days—I like the excuse to sit on the sofa, wrap up warm, and allow myself to do nothing. This, however, was not one of those sick days. This was one of those days when retreating to bed and attempting to sleep was the only answer. Naturally, I kept thinking of all the things I could have been getting done with a full day off work.

It’s the paradox of doing nothing: when we’re busy, we work towards the moment when we get to sit down and do nothing; when we have time to do nothing, we inevitably crave filling that time by doing things.

I had a peculiar echo of this later in the week: a day without meetings. This is always welcome: it’s a day where you finally have all the time you need to catch up on the things you’ve been too busy to do all week. Of course, you’re also faced with the mighty struggle against the inertia of not having to leave your desk and do something else in twenty minutes or so. It’s a challenge to structure your work around days that have no structure, and to maintain motivation when movement is at a minimal.

Watching

I finished the very excellent Killing Eve this week, which presented me with the dilemma of what to watch next. After much consideration, I eventually decided on: nothing. This was after continuing to be underwhelmed by a second episode of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. It’s weird: an eccentric, alt-history period tale about magic in Victorian times produced by the BBC is something I should love, but I’ve watched the first two episodes now and it just isn’t working for me. Oh well.

Over the weekend I had an urge to revisit the Dirty Harry films. I found enough time in my schedule to watch Dirty Harry (a.k.a The One With Dirty Harry) and Magnum Force (a.k.a The One With The Vigilante Cops; or The One With David Soul if you prefer; or The One With Starsky Or Hutch, I Can Never Remember Which, if you’re like me and can’t be bothered to use IMDB). I remember both films fondly from my formative years, and totally enjoyed revisiting both.

It did strike me, however, that these are both very right-wing movies, which is not something I would normally enjoy, and yet I don’t find them objectionable. I think it’s because the first movie, at least, posits such extremes (a terrifyingly insane serial killer, a ruthless cop, and a legal system that isn’t equipped to deal with either) that you really have very few qualms about siding with Harry. It’s a Spielbergian masterclass in audience manipulation. Of course, it also helps that the film is extremely well made and easily earns its Cinema Icon badge of merit.

The second movie, if anything, confuses matters even further by having a group of vigilante cops who could almost have been inspired by Harry’s actions in the first films. And yet, here we have Harry rejecting the judge, jury and executioner methodology and siding with the system—even though his solution, of course, is to kill off the bad guys rather than put them through that same legal system.

I shall have to catch up with The Enforcer (a.k.a The One With Cagney Or Lacey, I Can Never Remember Which) next week.

Reading

I was looking for an easy read this week and picked up From A Certain Point Of View, a collection of Star Wars short stories that caught my eye some months ago. I knew, going in, that it featured stories about various background characters from Star Wars (or A New Hope, if you want to be annoying). What I didn’t realise is that the stories also follow the chronology of that movie and gradually, piece by piece, fill in all the things that were happening just off-screen to characters that we glimpsed (or, in some cases, simply heard) throughout the movie. I’m mostly loving it so far, and the stories are just short enough that I keep falling into that “just one more” trap.

Yes. It’s a trap.

I also listened to another Audible freebie: The Despatcher, written by John Scalzi and read/performed by Zachary Quinto. It’s another damn good listen. Short enough and good enough that I wished it was longer once it was over!

fallen easel

Week 27: A break from the old routine

(July 2 – July 8)

It’s the second half of the year–already!–which means it’s time for a slight change of format on this blog. As usual, I haven’t quite decided what that new format will be yet, but my current plan for the rest of this year is to try and find one theme to focus on for each week. Or possibly to find a way of linking some disparate observation from my week into a single overarching narrative.

Or not.

Either way, if you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll already have a pretty good idea of the minutiae of my daily/weekly routine, so there’s no need keep on prattling about that any longer. Which brings me nicely to this week’s topic.

This is not only the middle of the year–and, most pertinently, the dawn of a bold new age on this blog–it is also the start of the school holidays. For many parents this brings a deep sigh of dread; heralding two weeks of having to find fresh ways to keep the kids entertained; two weeks of arranging and/or paying for daycare so you can continue going to work and pretending to be a productive member of society; two weeks of bored kids who have not had their energy reserves drained by a day at school.

For me, however, it means two weeks of not having to get three humans (including myself) out of the house to a strict deadline five days a week. It’s two weeks of not having to make lunches. It’s two weeks of waaaay less traffic on the roads. It’s two weeks in which I can take an extra half hour each morning to do writing if I want to.

It’s two weeks of awesome! Bring it!

Update: I’ve also, randomly, decided that each of my posts for the rest of the year shall be accompanied by an entirely context-free photo that I’ve taken during that week. For the first such example, see above.

Watching

This week I started watching Killing Eve, and loved it immediately—literally within the first two minutes. I’d been holding off watching it for a some time, mostly in case it didn’t prove to be as good as I was expecting. In the end it was every bit as wonderful as everyone had made out; way better, in fact, than I expected or even deserved it to be. A real treat.

The week was also capped off by a weekend of watching films with the Elderbeast, starting with Fridate horror (for which the Elderbeast was the guest of honour). This week we watched Final Destination 2 which was, if anything, even more fun than the first one. It had all the smarts of the first one, but with a knowing wink and a nod, and everything turned up to 11. Enormous fun.

On Saturday we watched Star Trek: Beyond. As I may have written previously, this was a movie that I had originally dismissed due to the marketing but am now thinking that it might be my favourite of the new Trek movies. It’s got the fun and action, it’s got the classic Star Trek values, and it’s kinda pissy that Paramount got themselves a perfectly good Trek film and then cocked up the marketing. Anyway …

On Sunday morning we went out to catch Ant Man And The Wasp, which was awesome and eminently delivered on the promise of the first movie. I’m already looking forward to the third entry.

Reading

I’m sort of in between books at the moment, having drifted away from Endurance (by Scott Kelly) after being irresponsibly distracted by Buffy Season 8 comics. I nearly started reading The Only Harmless Great Thing, the new novella by Bo Bolander (who wrote one of my favourite short stories of the last few years) but I opted at almost the last minute to continue with Buffy Season 8. Yes, I am weak. In my defence, I enjoyed the first half of season 8 so much that I decided it was best to continue riding that wave, safe in the knowledge that Bo would be waiting for me on the other side.

I’ve also been continuing an unplanned voyage of discovery into the world of audio books, thanks to a recent Audible promotion. My latest listen has been a dramatisation of Les Liaisons Dangereuses which, unbelievably, was absolutely free. It’s an abridged reading performed by the cast of a recent theatre adaptation and has immeasurably enlivened the drive to and from work over the course of this week. High point is absolutely Janet McTeer’s reading, dripping with haughty scorn as the deliciously wicked Madame de Merteuil (the role played by Glenn Close in the movie adaptation). I’m now keen to revisit the films (yes, films) all over again. Eventually …

Week 26: Halfway there!

(Jun 25 – Jul 1)

It’s midway through the year, and typically at this point I’d reflect on how the year has gone, what I’ve learned, where I am, why that drifter I’ve shut in the cupboard is still making gurgling noises, and so on. But, it’s been a fairly steady year so far. There have been some down weeks, but no terrible ones. Most of the time life has been pretty good. For now I’m content for things to just carry on as they have been, which is why this week’s diary is about a week just like any other.

Monday

It’s my TV night, but I can’t decide what to watch. I have many, many TV shows that I need to catch up on, but I can’t convince myself to start any of them. It comes down to a choice between A David Bowie doco on Netflix, or a rewatch of The Trip (since I enjoyed The Trip To Italy so much over the weekend).

I eventually settle for the Bowie doc, but it turns out to be pretty ordinary so I abandon it after 10 minutes and decide to watch The Trip instead. I endure frequent interruptions from the Kinderbesten, which are numbed somewhat by the particularly large glass of wine in my company (I had to finish off the bottle, you see). I finish the wine, but don’t end up finishing the movie.

Tuesday

I spend much time bidding on vintage ports on my New Favourite Auction website. I try out for one dated 1939, without much optimism, and also bid on a 1982 ‘vintage’. The idea of something from 1982 being vintage still tickles me, because 1982 definitely can’t be more than a few years ago. Right …?

My work done, and my fingers crossed, I retreat to bed to watch the rest of The Trip.

Wednesday

There is much rain today. So much rain. So very much. A real writer might even be inspired to write some words about the downpour.

In other news, with the end of term 2 approaching, the school reports arrive for the Kinderbesten. They’re much as I expect them to be. The Elderbeast doing competently, but not putting as much effort in as he should. The Kinderbeast doing well, but not listening as well as he should be. Much like at home, really.

Thursday

Tonight we had pie for dinner. It was a good night.

Friday

For the second Friday in a row I don’t open a bottle of wine. This is mostly because I’m out tomorrow night, and don’t want a fresh bottle of wine going to waste. But also because I didn’t actually mind not having wine last Friday, and I didn’t mind even more not waking up with a headache (only an occupational hazard, but still one worth avoiding). This is in danger of becoming a habit.

Saturday

As I’m heading out tonight, I decide to have a Day Of Doing Nothing (once I’ve gotten the food shopping out of the way). It’s a most excellent choice. I spend my time drinking coffee, eating waffles, watching a particularly long classic Doctor Who, and then head out.

Sunday

To make up for my previous Day Of Doing Nothing, today is a Day of Busy. One of the jobs hanging over me is reframing a few posters. While I’ve not felt the urge to put up any pictures on my recently painted walls, I do have some posters that either need to be put into frames, or need to be put into new frames. I work on three of them, and decide that’s enough for one day. I then get dinner in the slow cooker and do some baking ready for a colleague’s morning tea tomorrow.

Once that’s all done I finally decide I’ve earned some rest and settle on the sofa to watch Death Proof before the Kinderbesten return. It’s the final Tarantino movie I have left to watch in order to complete the set. It’s definitely not my favourite—it’s long-winded and takes too much time to get to the point (which seems to be a persistent Tarantino hallmark now) but it’s worth it for the last 15 minutes.

For the evening I get back into watching my ‘Netflix hidden gems’ (of which I will blog about shortly) and check out Orbiter 9. It’s not the movie I expected, but it’s a mostly rewarding watch.

Watched

Monday The Trip
Tuesday n/a
Wednesday n/a
Thursday n/a
Friday Hellbound: Hellraiser II
Saturday Doctor Who: Inferno
Sunday Death Proof
Orbiter 9

Read

A week or so ago I, a little indulgently, took advantage of a Comixology sale (as I often do) and bought a shedload of Buffy comics, including all of season 8 and 9. I read season 8 when it first came out, but revisiting it again this week has been a delight. I know the story goes a bit off the rails eventually, but I love how the wit and characterisation was captured perfectly in this first continuation of the series.

Eaten

Monday Freezer chicken & veg
Tuesday Cauliflower curry
Wednesday Lasagne
Thursday Pie and potatoes
Friday daal
Saturday Pizza
Sunday Roast Chicken

Week 25: Spring is in my step

(Jun 18 – Jun 24)

This week, in an effort to continue writing about mostly positive stuff, I will be writing about those things that put a spring in my step. This may be things I do every day, or every week, or it might just be something random that happened during my day to make that day shine a little brighter.

Monday

Monday is never the funnest day, but there are a few things that help me get out of bed. First is my ‘morning shift’, that bit of time I carve out for myself, in between getting up and getting ready, for my writing. Today I’m rewriting a story I wrote about a year ago, but could never quite get right. I’ve been editing it again of late and now have a good feeling about where it might have gone wrong, and how to fix it.

The next thing that gets me going is—surprise, surprise—coffee. We have an exceptionally good coffee vendor on campus. It’s about a five minute walk from the office, but the distance helps turn the mundane process of getting a coffee into something more of a pilgrimage. We typically walk down in a group and use the time to chat and catch up. It makes for very pleasant way to start the working day. Best part of all: it always ends with coffee.

Tuesday

Today I have no meetings. Not a single one. Not even a catch-up or one-on-one with my team. While my calendar isn’t typically booked out with meetings day to day, having absolutely no meetings at all is a rare occasion and absolutely one worth celebrating.

That said, it’s a slightly mixed benefit. No meetings means an entire day sitting at my desk with nothing to break up the trudgery except occasionally going to off to make a cup of tea, or going for a walk. On the other hand, no meetings at all is a rare enough break from the usual routine to be worth celebrating. And, as much as I appreciate routine, I appreciate even more the opportunities we get to break free of it.

In a slightly less fortunate, but unexpectedly comedic turn of personal ineptitude, I open up my lunch box later in the day to find … the Kinderbeast’s lunch waiting inside–a single vegemite sandwich and a baby bel. This is a shame as I was really looking forward to the leftover meatballs that I’d packed for myself, and which will now be going to waste in the Kinderbeast’s bag (along with a perfectly ripe avocado). I double check and, sure enough, have the correct lunchbox, I’ve just put the wrong food inside it.

Later, I find that I’ve engineered an even greater disaster than previously suspected. My lunch ended up in the Elderbeast’s lunchbox, while the Kinderbeast ended up with the Elderbeast’s lunch. Impressive. On the upside, the Elderbeast, albeit slightly baffled, did at least eat the avocado, while the Kinderbeast was far more amenable to eating the cheese and vegemite sandwich that he would have found in his own bag than the meatballs I thought I’d lumbered him with.

Wednesday

I wake up and the house is shrouded in fog. It’s awesome! Fog is perhaps my favourite weather phenomenon. Despite having had many fog warnings of late, it’s typically dissipated by the time I get up, let alone when I make it out of the house. This morning, however, the fog is persistent. I get a photo of the end of our road, everything white and hidden, then make time to stop at Bibra Lake on my way to work. The lake looks spectacular: the fog turns the trees into ghosts, and the lake into a scene out of a winter wonderland. My photos barely do it justice, but I’m glad I got to at least see it.

When I get home I have a long awaited package from Amazon awaiting me. It contains the fruits of the birthday voucher I got some months ago. It doesn’t contain actual fruit. It contains some UK release blu-rays of awesome films which are superior in every way to the Australian release equivalents, as well as some nicely priced Doctor Who DVDs to help bulk up my collection.

Thursday

So one of thing things I haven’t written much about is that I have a working oven again, which is hugely exciting. So far this week I’ve made a cottage pie and a cauliflower cheese, and have confirmed that the oven is behaving exactly as one would expect an oven to behave. It please me greatly to have access to these basic facilities (and, let’s not forget, these are privileges) of a domestic life.

Tonight I am using said oven to make chips, eggs and beans (only the chips are going into the oven). It’s my grandmother-in-law’s favourite dinner, and it’s a chance for me, in a way, to say thanks for everything she does for me and the boys each and every week.

Friday

It’s the first half of a double #chidlfree weekend—which is a complicated way of saying I’m #childfree both this weekend and next weekend. While I typically look forward to opening a fresh bottle of wine on a Friday night, I spend much of the day feeling headachy and potentially grim. I wonder if I’m finally coming down with one of the various diseases that has been afflicting the office. I start to feel better later in the afternoon, but I decide not to tempt fate and hold off on opening the wine, opting for tea instead. Which, of course, is the perfect accompaniment for tonight’s chosen viewing of Hellraiser.

Hellraiser is one of the blu-rays I recently bought from Amazon UK, partly because it’s a classic and came with an excellent selection of extras, but also largely because it has a lovely sleeve design. It’s a film I’d seen before, but until I rewatched it tonight I’d forgotten quite how many times I’d seen it. There were frequent lines, moments, even simple character actions that I was surprised to realise were seared into my memory. It’s another one of those films that I grew up on, but get to enjoy all over again decades later.

Saturday

I get up with a beautifully unfuzzy head (thanks, no wine) and head off to do the shopping. For the most part it’s a classic #childfree Saturday of cleaning, tidying, drinking coffee and watching classic Doctor Who. I’m also treated to a visit from a friend for the afternoon—we’ve been planning to complete our somewhat accidental, much delayed viewing of Kill Bill today with the long-awaited part 2. It proves to be every bit as good as part 1 and, once again, I could almost sit down and watch it all over again. We follow up our screening with some dinner, and I’m then left to my own devices with enough time to watch another film before bed. I opt, somewhat randomly, for The Trip To Italy (I loved it’s predecessor and had all but forgotten there was a follow up waiting to be watched). It proves an excellent end to an excellent day.

Sunday

It’s Pathfinder day, which is as much fun as usual, although our numbers are somewhat depleted—due to both real life absences and in-game death.

I realise as I go to bed that I’ve had a weekend completely free of headaches. They’re not a thing I have to endure often, but the combination of cold weather, heating, wine and late nights often means I’ll have a mild headache to tackle at some point over the weekend.

Watched

Monday Jonathan Strange 1×01
Tuesday n/a
Wednesday n/a
Thursday n/a
Friday Hellraiser
Saturday Doctor Who: Carnival Of Monsters
Kill Bill Volume 2
The Trip To Italy
Sunday Fahrenheit 451

Read

Still going with Endurance.

Eaten

Well, what can I say. Another week where I failed to take adequate note of my dinners. Gutted, right?

Week 24: Writing week

(Jun 11 – Jun 17)

One of the things I do almost every day–other than sleep, eat, drink coffee, and generally decide that this is a perfectly acceptable way to pass most days–is write. I get up almost every morning (I take Saturdays off) and write for around 30-45 minutes. I log my writing progress in these sessions (what I’ve been writing, how many words, etc), and have been doing so for the last few years. However, I’ve not done much writing about my writing in these diary posts, so this week I’ve decided to focus largely on my writing endeavours for the next seven days.

Monday

The Elderbeast climbs into my bed during the night and spends the rest of it sleeping blissfully, all while routinely kicking me in the back. As such I am barely in a fit state to get out of bed when the alarm goes off, much less to sit down and write. Nevertheless, I don’t like to start the day without writing something, so I take half an hour to catch up on my diary posts (which I am more or less keeping up with, but really need to dedicate some solid weekly blocks of time to if they’re going to ever make it onto the blog).

Later in the evening I make up for things a bit by attempting a read-through of the first few chapters of my sci-fi novella. I’ve been working on this one for a month or two now, and the story and tone are shaping up nicely. Where I want to get to now is having a fairly solid first few chapters, so I know exactly what I’m building the rest of the book onto.

The read-through turns into a line edit of the first couple of pages, which is no bad thing, but doesn’t progress me as far as I’d hoped. On the plus side, I’m keen to sit down tomorrow morning and carry on with the edit.

Tuesday

I wake up at 5am and lie awake for a bit. Or maybe I don’t. I tell myself I’ll get up early and get in some extra writing time if I’m still awake after half an hour. It doesn’t feel like I get any more sleep, but the next time I check my clock it’s 6:20–ten minutes before my alarm goes off.

I take the ten minutes, then dutifully get out of bed when the time comes. I start to write but am continually distracted by the Elderbeast playing Fortnite in the room next door. The game itself is silent, courtesy of headphones. Unfortunately, the Elderbeast’s mouth has no such protection.

I do get some decent writing in, but unsurprisingly my concentration falters throughout…

Wednesday

I wake up earlyish again, long before my alarm, but somehow still manage to get out at bed when the alarm eventually goes off. I manage a bumper editing session (over 1,000 words) which pleases me greatly. Still on the first chapter of the sci-fi novella. Might even have something readable before too much longer.

Thursday

I accidentally turn my alarm off instead of hitting snooze (I smart, me), and wake up half an hour later than planned. Nevertheless, I still manage to wrap up the edit of chapter one. Decent. Ish.

Friday

Writing progress today is steady, but not mind blowing. I begin a rewrite of the third chapter of the novella with a 762 word chunk edited before I have to get ready for work.

Saturday

Saturday is my regular day off. I’ve found that the daily writing becomes a burden when I do it Every Single Day, so I long ago decided that I would reserve Saturday for a lie in–or, at the very least, to have one day in the week where I didn’t have to force myself to get up early. However, in latter months, Saturday morning has become my preferred time for food shopping. I like to get in there as close to 9am as I can manage, before things get too busy.

And, while it may not be writing related, the rest of the day was pretty awesome. I had a friend come round for the afternoon with her dog, and the Kinderbesten had an absolute blast. As did I, if we’re being honest here. Then, I had totally another friend come over for the evening to eat burgers, drink whisky, and watch Aliens.

You don’t typically get a better Saturday than that.

Sunday

I did not write today either on account of being sociable (my friend from last night having slept over).

The rest of the day was, once again, pretty awesome. We had the opportunity to visit some friends at their very first market stall, selling homemade treats for pets. Naturally I took the opportunity to buy several bags of tasty goodness.

After that I took the Elderbeast to buy some soccer boots, which was mostly exciting because it’s cool to see him getting into something that isn’t Fortnite, but also because the shop was having a sale and we got a sweet discount on some boots that the Elderbeast was very happy with.

Then, later in the the afternoon, some (qualified electrician) friends came over to install my oven. Yes–I now, once more, have a fully functioning oven! And it is SHINY!

So, not much writing, but a top weekend otherwise.

Watched

You’ll observe that I’ve gotten out of the habit of watching things during the week. I do, however, have my other weekly traditions. Friday remains horror movie night. Saturday is, as often as possible, Awesome Movie Night. Meanwhile, Sunday is reserved for ‘hidden gems’; typically Netflix movies that have missed the cinema (or me, up until now) and have gotten good word of mouth across the internet. Tonight, by request of the Elderbeast, we enjoyed a repeat screening of Carrie Pilby.

Monday n/a
Tuesday n/a
Wednesday n/a
Thursday n/a
Friday Tales of Terror
Saturday Aliens
Sunday Carrie Pilby

Read

Still reading Endurance by Scott Kelly. And, yes, still enjoying it.

Eaten

This week I completely I failed at my note taking in this department, so now we’ll never know what I ate.

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