Saturday, 27 August 2011

B re-reads Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Christ I love this book. I know I said that Order of the Phoenix wasn’t as bad as I remember it being, but then I re-read Half-Blood Prince and it is so freakin’ fantastic that book 5 is once again ordinary.

I’m not at all ashamed to say that I cried when Dumbledore dies. Looking back at it, you see the slow build towards it but as a reader, Harry's shock is your shock. How can Dumbledore die? It's DUMBLEDORE! This is why you should read the books when they come out and before watching films. I’m so glad I was one of the tens of millions of Harry Potter fans who read the books immediately and so was not spoiled by the internet spoilers ‘Snape kills Dumbledore’. I read it and was full of:

It's still so emotional.

All of the scenes where Harry and Dumbledore dive into the penseive are fascinating. So much more so when reading the books back to back because you are more amazed than. Rowling showing us young Riddle, making us understand where he comes from and why he is the 1/7-of-a-man that he is, is just a brilliant storytelling technique.

Creepy evil child.

The denouement comes a little earlier in this book. Because Dumbledore can't explain everything at the end … because he's DEAD!

Don't stand near edges. Or people with evil-sounding names and animated tattoos.

The revealment of the challenge facing Harry (and Ron and Hermione) in the destruction of Voldemort's horcruxes is so daunting, even to the reader. It's like a window into the seventh book, where we know exactly what the next installment will be about and we're desperate to go there.

Slughorn is a great character and I think brilliantly protrayed in the movie by Jim Broadbent.

Painful memories are painful to extract.

Then of course there is this moment:


Image not by me, by an artist calling herself Kama, from here.

Like all Harry Potter fans I wish there was SO much more of this!

I just love book 6. There seem to be fewer of the signals than the earlier books but it's reaching the end. The smug re-reading in this book comes from the recognition of horcruxes, understnading the background to Snape and in the crazily obvious Ron / Hermione sexual tension. Side note: Lavender Brown sounds like such a scary girlfriend, we would not be friends. All the 'romance' in HBP is supremely entertaining and so accurately high school.

Bullies wear black. And have emo tendencies.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Loyal readers, we are leaving you...

B and I are going to Vietnam!!

We leave tonight, and we will be back very early in the morning on Sunday September 18. We will blog some time after that, probably with photos and hilarious anecdotes about our trip.

Just so you know (and can be suitably envious), we arrive in Ho Chi Minh City this Sunday, after a short stop in Bangkok. We plan to travel from there to Da Lat, then up the coast to Hue and Hoi An. After some fantastic food and also tailoring, we will go north to Hanoi. We plan to see Ha Long Bay, and also Sa Pa and nearby mountains.

So, you know, be jealous.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Dress Memory project

Freelance writer and editor Lorelei Vashti is an avid collector of vintage clothes, on indeed, clothes. She began this project when she realised she couldn’t clear out her over-stuffed wardrobes because the clothes in them were too full of memories that would be discarded along with the dresses.

This project or website is all about her reliving those memories and sharing the stories.
As we all know, clothes can be so evocative and full of memories. Whether they are the obvious associations that come with a piece of clothing or jewellery handed down to us from a parent or grandparent, the wonderful find you bought at an op shop and had a great night in, or the cheap t-shirts you bought online and wore for 6 months of travelling. Clothes gather stories and associations as much as the next thing and this is one woman sharing her clothing memories in a sweet and funny way.

There are going to be a total of 24 dresses and stories, shared out over 6 months. This is dress 13, the most recent one. If you want to look at it yourself, go to Dress Memory.

You'll have to go to the website to read the story.

Photograph by Lee Sandwith and taken from the Dress Memory website.

Monday, 22 August 2011

B re-reads Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix

I won't lie – this is my least favourite HP book. In fact, it's the only episode I prefer the movie over the book. Because the book is short and well-edited, unlike the book.

Re-reading it now, I find I'm not as pissed off at Harry as I remember being. He is still an annoying, selfish overly-dramatic snot who can't manage his temper or his testosterone. But somehow, it doesn't last for as long as I thought. The irritation I feel at the book is annoyance at Harry for the first third of the book and then anger at Bitch-Features Dolores Umbridge for the rest. With intermittent Harry-anger as well.


However, all that annoyance-whingeing aside there is so much to love about this book. I adore everything to do with the DA. The Harry / Cho story I'm not keen on, however it's kind of important as character development for Harry and the progression of the romantic story lines, which feed and bounce off each other for four novels.

Luna is just fantastic. How can you not love Luna? I think she's brilliantly portrayed in the movie – just as I imagined her to be. Different and dreamy and wise beyond her years.

Don't mess with Luna.

Then of course this is a starring book for the Weasley Twins. The novel is full of their Weesley Wizard Weezes, their glorious fireworks – which allow the teachers to rebel against Umbridge (bitch features) – and then when they leave so dramatically – it's fan-freaking-tastic!

And then there's ... foreshadowing!

“De - men – tors,” said Harry slowly and clearly. “Two of them.”
“And what the ruddy hell are Dementors?”
“They guard the wizard prison, Azkaban,” said Aunt Petunia.

“How d'you know that?" He asked her, astonished.
Aunt Petunia glanced Uncle Vernon in fearful appology, then lowered her hand slightly to reveal her horsy teeth.

“I heard – that awful boy – telling her about them years ago,” she said jerkily.

She means James. NO she doesn't. 'That awful boy' is the young Severus Snape. But we won't know that for another 1,000 page.

When they walk into the Hogs Head for their first DA meeting:

The barman sidled towards then out of a back room, He was a grumpy-looking old man with a great deal of long grey hair and beard. He was tall and thin and looked vaguely familiar to Harry.

Because he's Dumbledore's brother! And we won't find that out for another 1,000 pages either!

The scenes in the Ministry are horrifying, because they're ALL HARRY'S FAULT! So dark and full-on. Then … when Sirius … dies ... oh wait, give me a minute ... re-reading it, I still cried.

Don't mess with Dumbledore. He's a total bad-ass.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

B re-reads Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The book opens with 'The villagers of Little Haggleton still called it the Riddle House...' and I was completely non-plussed for a moment until I remembered how awesomely this book opens! Not with Dursleys and Harry being treated badly – that doesn't come around until chapter 2. No, the start of GoF is intense!

This is such a good episode in the series. There are some really glorious scenes, such as when the Weasleys come to pick Harry up for the World Cup, the World Cup itself, dress robes, dance lessons ... anything that features the suddenly cool and hot Ginny. (I'm a total Ginny fan girl)

The scenes where Harry and Ron are struggling to ask out a couple of girls to the Yule Ball are just so accurately written you can't help but smile the whole way though. Ron's a bit of a tosser, only wanting to take the prettiest girl possible and J.K. Rowling also gives us the first hints in the series of Ron and Hermione and their upcoming emotional tug-of-war in Ron's petty anger and jealousy of Viktor Krum and Hermione's unhappiness at Ron's shallowness and bitterness.

I have bad memories of the horror and embarrassment that went along with having to ask boys to dance practise and eventually graduation in primary school. High school dances were easier – that asking to dance was just a tap on the shoulder, and shrug of acceptance and then some uncomfortable grinding and ass-grabbing.

The dance lessons scenes in the movie don't exist in the book, but I forgive the movie makers, just for this:

Goblet of Fire also has my favourite little moment in the series and it goes something like this:

Moody swept the dead spider off his desk and onto the floor.“Not nice,” he said calmly. “Not pleasant. And there's no counter-curse. There's no blocking it. Only one known person has ever survived it, and he's sitting right in front of me."

Thrills me very time. Shivers down the spine sort of stuff.

It's in GoF that we first learn of Snape's Death Eater past and the absolute faith Dumbledore has put in him and his conversion to the right side. Harry sees all this in the Penseive and when he asks Dumbledore why he trusts that Snape stopped supporting Lord Voldemort;
“Harry, that is a matter between Professor Snape and myself”.


Then of course, there are final scenes where Voldemort comes back. There is no way anyone could have been expecting that at the start of the book. These books tend to have whole block of chapters at the end where you can't put the book down! That starts here somewhere around the beginning of the third task somewhere around page 540 and doesn't stop until page 636.

The thin man stepped out of the cauldron, staring at Harry...and Harry stared back into the face that had haunted his nightmares for three years. Whiter than a skull, with wide, livid scarlet eyes, and a nose that was as flat as a snake's, with slits for nostrils …

Lord Voldemort had risen again.

Shit is getting REAL!

Missoni for Target

There has been a trend over the last few years for designer collections for lower-cost fashion outlets. H&M have had innumerable collections – Karl Lagerfeld, Lanvin, Stella McCartney, Roberto Cavelli, Jimmy Choo, Matthew Williamson and Versace. Stella McCartney gets around because last year she did Target.
Now the most recent collection is Missoni for Target. It isn't just clothes, it's vases, pillows, kid's outfits, a laptop bag and even a bicycle! I kind of want some of it. If it makes it to Australia.
I might almost ride this bicycle!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Peter Jackson and Sherlock Holmes: a theory

The Evidence
1. Peter Jackson is making The Hobbit
2. He's cast Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins (in my opinion, he's going to be really good in the role)
3. He's cast Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of the dragon (and as the necromancer, but I can't remember who that is in the story)
4. As I've mentioned, these two are John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in the super-awesome BBC series of Sherlock. (Peter Jackson's actually organised filming of the Hobbit so Martin Freeman can still go off and do Sherlock.)
5. He's also cast Stephen Fry in the Hobbit, as the Master of Laketown
6. While this absolutely makes sense because Stephen Fry is pure awesome, it's also interesting because Stephen Fry is going to play Mycroft Holmes in the upcoming movie version, opposite Robert Downey Jr as Sherlock.

Arthur Conan Doyle and JRR Tolkein are inextricably linked, who would have thought?
OR Peter Jackson likes British actors, who often coincidentally happen to be attached to Sherlock projects,
OR I am really, really super excited about seeing the Hobbit! (And way more excited about the Sherlock Holmes movie now that I know Stephen Fry will be in it.)

In semi-related news, they've been filming the new season of Sherlock, and the episodes are called 'A Scandal in Belgravia', 'The Hounds of Baskerville', and 'The Reichenbach Fall'! I don't know about you, but I'm excited!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

dogs and cats and dogs and cats

The winner of Tropfest 2011 - Animal Beatbox, directed by Damon Gameau.

"What is the true call of the wild? Here we travel down a very special river and are introduced to a wide variety of the animal kingdom who all contribute their name for the sake of music."

I think the part with the llamas is my favourite.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Conde Elevator

This twitter feed posts genuine snippets of conversations overheard in the Conde Nast elevator. It's my new favourite. On twitter? Follow it.

Monday, 8 August 2011

The lost love of letters

I love letters. I love the romance of them, that personal touch and the thrill of receiving something through the post. I have a box of letters and postcards that I've kept so I can get them out and re-read them over the years of my life.

Emails just aren't the same. It is still thrilling when you get a much-anticipated email – say the first few from the boy / girl you've just been on a successful first date with. But in most cases they're dull and uninteresting and blah and always tinged with the aura of work and the 362 emails you have in your inbox after a holiday.

As much as we love our new technology and the latest, fastest niftiest of everything, I am not alone in lusting after the old-fashioned. You only have to look at the craze for vintage clothes that has gripped fashion and the high street in recent years to see that. Old cameras are back, old clothes are back and old forms of communication are back.

Some clever-clogs in America, also fed up with emails have started a 'community art project' Snail Mail Your Email. You send them an email and they will hand-write it, address the envelope and post it for you to anywhere in the world. With stamps and everything. I adore this idea. The idea is to spread warm-fuzzies around the world and re-ignite an appreciation for the lost art of letter writing.

Brain Jam

Cool packaging sells.

This idea behind the packaging makes me slightly nauseous, but it sells itself so well, I want to order these ridiculously expensive overseas products.
Photos courtesy of Hoxton Street Monster Supplies.

Only in The Netherlands

Well this is the coolest thing I'll see all week, if not all month. I want this is be a part of my daily commute. Immediately.

It's a slide. Into the Utrecht subway.

Friday, 5 August 2011

B re-reads Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

OMG, I wish I could have sat down one morning and read this book cover to cover because that is just what I wanted to do! I took to reading it in the morning before going to work and it kept making me late! SO GOOD!

Prisoner of Azkaban was one of my favourite Harry Potter books, along with Half-Blood Prince (which I cannot WAIT to re-read). I’m not sure quite why I loved it above all others for so long. It contains just as much unpleasantness and evil. Ron is a complete prat to Hermione for most of the book. Poor Hermione. Yet somehow then this book feels different from the others. You get a sense of the characters maturing into young adults with all the issues that entails (Cho Chang fore-shadowing).

The story also feels more acceptable. The school year progresses relatively normally. There are lessons and Quidditch, and the students actually have exams. I enjoy the exams scenes. There are no monsters or mysterious cursed objects or overly-grand adventures. Events which characters have been working towards for the duration of the book occur, then the protagonists go back in time to fix them. Simple.

The final revelation scenes and then the do-over is still exciting, but somehow more tension laden because you know it’s all going to go wrong and you want to leap in and interject and stop it all going bad! Hurry up with the explanations! Don’t go out into the moonlight! Keep rats in cages, not pockets! My heart bleeds for Sirius and Harry at the end of it all.

Things I like about Prisoner of Azkaban:

1. That Voldemort doesn’t make an appearance and that Harry doesn’t have to battle him…again.
2. The dementors – which in my head look exactly like the ghost of christmas past from the Muppet’s Christmas Carol – are so vile and such fantastic creations. You can imagine them existing in our every-day world.
3. That we get to see the students sit exams.
4. Lupin!
5. Sirius!

Things I don’t like about Prisoner of Azkaban:

1. Ron being a dick.
2. The idea of carrying around a full-grown wizard for years as a pet. Eurgh.

Also, can I say? Sirius in the book – SO NOT SEXY. Sirius in the movies – hell yeah.

Sex symbol. Siriusly.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Ring Cycle

For those not in the know, Wagner’s The Ring Cycle is one of the most famous operas ever written. It tells the tales of German and Scandinavian legends – of Gods and Rhine maidens and magical rings and features the famous ride of the Valkyries.

It is arguably the biggest Opera ever conceived. It is certainly the longest. In its entirety, the full cycle – made up of 4 separate ‘operas’ - takes 15 hours to perform over 4 nights.

It is a hugely expensive production and is very rarely performed. Opera lovers will plan over seas travel to see it. Opera companies staging a production need additional millions to put it on and start promotion at least 18 months out. If you need to find enough Opera buffs who are keen to put themselves through 15 hours of intense Wagnerian Opera, paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars on the tickets to attend – let alone get to the host city – you need a start asap!

As far as I can tell, The Ring Cycle has only been performed in Australia three times. In Melbourne in 1913, in Adelaide in 2004 and now again in Melbourne in 2013!

Opera Australia are staging the full 15 hours in November / December 2013. Tickets go on sale in late 2011 and I am pre-registering because I am super-keen to see this magnificent work in its entirety once in my life. It is sure to be spectacular.

These are some of the stats from the Opera Australia website:
  • Rehearsals will begin a year in advance.
  • The orchestra will include more than 100 players.
  • 350 singers, dancers, designers, costume-makers and backstage staff will be involved
  • The Ring Cycle features 34 principal roles.
  • The set is expected to take 14 months to build.
For a look at what The Ring Cycle is like, check out my favourite Looney Tunes cartoon of all time.

Dear Harry Potter

Dear Harry Potter,

I'm only on page 13 of the 5th volume of your selective biography and already you are pissing me off.

Please stop being an annoying tosser and help me to enjoy the book in a way I failed to the first time around.


Our amazing world

This is just a really cool info graphic. I can’t post the image itself in this blog because it’s just too damn long. This charts the Earth’s highest to lowest point with various human-made and natural markers in between. Some of them really surprised me; like just how high up some cities are, how deep a sperm whale swims and how deep the Deepwater Horizon drill penetrates. All sounds obvious, but somehow the graphic really hit it home.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

I watched Labyrinth the other night!

David Bowie's pants are, as ever, completely amazing. In a terrifying way.

Seriously, this movie. I saw it for the first time when I was 10 or 12, and I desperately wanted the princess-dress the main character gets to wear. I also didn't understand why she turns the Goblin King down at the end. Who wouldn't want to live in a magical kingdom where you presumably get to dress like an 80s cross between a RenFaire addict and a glamour model, and everyone breaks out into saxophone-riddled musical numbers at any available opportunity?

Now that I'm older, I appreciate it slightly differently; Jennifer Connelly was only 14 when the movie was filmed, so watching a 39-year-old David Bowie confessing his undying love to her adds a whole extra layer to the whole thing...

Whatever, though. The movie's still rad, and my DVD has an absolutely amazing "Behind the Scenes" thing about all the sets and puppets that's almost as intriguing as the film itself!

I wish I was avant-garde enough for this.

It's a chandelier made out of the guts of a piano.

But I'm not and I probably never will be.

And I just have to live with that.

Photo courtesy of Lost in E Minor.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

B re-reads Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I started reading this book on a weekend away in Melbourne. For more details, see Chuck’s tumblr.

I almost didn’t take the book with me. After all, I had da little bit of Philosopher’s Stone left over and I wasn’t planning on doing too much reading over the weekend. Thank god I did take it because I devoured it!

Chamber of Secrets is one of my least favourite HP books. My levels of love for the HP books goes something like this:

Adore: Prisoner of Azkaban / Half-blood Prince
Love: Deathly Hallows
Have a crush: Goblet of Fire
Date: Philosopher’s Stone
If you asked me out I’d be really mean about saying no: Chamber of Secrets / Order of the Phoenix

So I was only really reading Chamber of Secrets because it’s part of the series but it was so much more than that! In my head, issues like the school being horrible to Harry run through the whole novel like a bad analogy, ruining it for me. However, it’s all drama, drama, drama and so exciting! The Harry-hating actually isn’t too bad. I must have been feeling very sensitive the first time I read it. The giants spiders are terrifying, the basilisk is super-scary and Fawkes is a Legend.

When I read the books, in my head the characters are not replaced by their movie counter-parts. Harry is still my imagining of Harry, not Daniel Radcliffe as Harry. Same with Hermione, Hagrid, Dumbledore – almost all of them. Some pick up characteristics. Snape sounds like Alan Rickman because I want him to and Professor McGonagall looks more like Dame Maggie Smith than she did before. However, Professor Gilderoy Lockhart has completely morphed into Kenneth Branagh. The hair, the smile, the creepiness – it’s all there in my head now, winking at me unpleasantly.

On the topic of the movies, it is delightful to be re-reading the books and seeing how faithful the early movies were. Any changes made were done for the purposes of movie-making and do not impede on the story telling at all. So very rare in a movie adaptation.

Chamber of Secrets was so much better than I was expecting it to be and I am so happy to have re-read it now and enjoyed every minute. Time to read: 3 days

Monday, 1 August 2011

The trustworthiness of beards

Another sweet info-graphic (because who doesn’t love info graphics), this time on the trustworthiness of beards. I’m not sure I agree with all of it but I think it is pretty accurate. Especially the placing of the neck beard in ‘threatening’, because neck beards are manky and indicative of certain laziness and lack of self-care.

If you have a bearded man in your life or you are thinking of inviting one in, please take a look at this helpful chart to gauge just how trustworthy they are and perhaps take the necessary precautions.

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