A night with Paul

Posted by Lou. The time is 1.25pm here in London, UK.

Tuesday 22nd December 2009 will be forever tattooed in my memory as the night my dreams came true and I got to see A Beatle perform live.

This alone would be enough, but the two-and-three-quarter hours of magnificence that Paul McCartney delivered was beyond my wildest dreams.

For the geeks, here is some info on the set-list in rough chronological order and with many gaps due to just having jotted it down on the way home. I also have to confess that I am very unfamiliar with Paul's solo and Wings stuff, so there are a few songs I remember but couldn't identify.

I also broke my cardinal rule of not filming things but rather enjoying, however I decided part way through some lasting evidence of the magic will be something I'll enjoy over and over in the future.

Magical Mystery Tour
Drive My Car
Eleanor Rigby
...his brand new Golden Globe nominated one for a de Niro film...
Long and Winding Road
...a love song he wrote for Linda?...
Paperback Writer
...that newish one that is about dancing...
Here Today - this was an extremely emotional one. He led a cheering/ clapping session for John and spoke about the regret of not telling someone you love them and then it being too late.
I've got a Feeling
Band on the Run
Let It Be
Something - he began this on a ukulele that George had given him and sang it to a backdrop of images of George. The band then kicked for the second half. This is where I felt compelled to capture some moments:

A Day in the Life - he did the first two verses then his bit, and then they merged into us all singing the chorus of Give Peace a Chance - the crescendo that you know ends in his bit was pretty fucken awesome
Lady Madonna
Back in the USSR
...that fucken Christmas song that I hate!... (it was quite hilarious though)
Live and Let Die - fireworks! My God! It was awesome!!:

Hey Jude - total tears moment screaming out the naaa-naaa-naaa-na-na-na-naaas.
Get Back

At about this point - I mean, by now we're on a 2nd encore and about two-and-a-half hours in - I thought it couldn't get any better... but then...

Mull of Kintyre - complete with Highland drummers!:

And I was spent. There was nowhere to go. We'd reached the apex... but... but... Paul said "you want to rock some more don't you?" and we screamed "YES!!" and he took us into the best, rockingest, awesomest version ever of:

Helter Skelter

And I knew life would only be downhill from here. I had reached the top. And so he played us out on...

Sgt Pepper exit bit

Project iPod

Posted by Lou. The time is 9.35pm here in London, UK.

On August 12th 2009 I launched Project iPod: the challenge to myself to listen to every single song on my iPod alphabetically by album.

I hadn't thought about one important detail - I have more than 1,750 songs on my iPod. This is less than many people, but it's still about 7 days solid worth of music - around 165 hours, which - when you only listen to about an hour of iPod a day - means you're going to take a really fucken long time to listen to it all. Four months, in fact.

Allow me to share some highlights and lowlights and just-plain-embarrassments:
  • I knew that The Beatles, Radiohead, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers are my favourite bands of all-time. But turns out I still really fucken dig the Violent Femmes. Those dudes had some really awesome stuff back in the day (the weird little album Rock! being a particular surprise).
  • My tastes continue in this mainstream manner, with the other bands that can be totally relied upon to get me singing along and foot-tapping and amped are The Killers, Kings of Leon, The White Stripes, Foo Fighters, The Strokes... you get the idea...
  • On the proper good old rock 'n' roll list I love The Rolling Stones and need to get more than just the 2-disc best of immediately. I also heart my Elvis, my Johnny Cash, my Bowie (though preferably at the Ziggy end), and my Tina Turner.
  • Would like to further explore Marilyn Monroe and Peggy Lee.
  • Why don't I have more of the Pixies? Just four lonely stray songs.
  • Did I mention I kinda previously hadn't realised how fucken awesome Jimmy Hendrix is? My god! He's a legend! His Best of is staying (though undoubtedly I'll forget about it again, listen to it in a year or so, and repeat the sentiment as if it hadn't occurred to be before).
  • Why do I only have one of the Nirvana albums?? Seriously?? What is wrong with me... sheesh...
  • I was getting a bit bored by a few albums towards which I felt indifferent, when The Sex Pistols' The Filth and the Fury came on and rocked my world.
  • I can appreciate the genius of Pink Floyd but, well, I just don't like listening to them. I can see that in the form of CDs to play out loud when chilling they'd be cool, but on an iPod they're just a big no-no for me. Except Wish You Were Here. I love that song.
  • Bands of whom I have albums on there via synching with others' iTunes that I just don't connect with and am deleting as I type are: Placebo, Interpol, The Dandy Warhols, Prince (minus a few of his spectacular songs like Purple Rain and When Doves Cry).
  • A hidden treasure was the long forgotten Fur Patrol EP Starlifter. Man in a Box is a genius piece of subversive girl song-writing.
  • I had some really hideous Celine Dion on there. I don't know how or why, but reserved the right to break the rules and skip it (sort of finding a loophole by quickly connecting to iTunes and deleting it). Her only appearance in my music collection is now in her Josh Groban duet of The Prayer (live). Which I listen to for Josh, obviously.
  • Best voices are undoubtedly: Frank Sinatra (his Moon River is in my top 5 recordings ever - if you don't know it you must immediately listen to it - utterly immaculate... like liquid velvet in a voice...), Josh (oh Josh), and Bic Runga.
  • I don't particularly like Crowded House. I won't delete them, but I don't really listen to them either. I do however love the innovative stuff Neil & co have done via 7 Worlds Collide and Enzso.
  • I just love Liam Finn's I'll Be Lighting. The boy is a genius.
  • A complete dud, one that I also had to break the rules and skip past as it was hurting my ears, is one of my old albums from my teens - Jewel's Spirit. Oh god no.
  • But Alanis Morissette is a big thumbs up. I only have two of her albums and it reminds me I should seek her later stuff to catch up on the last ten years. Interestingly, I actually like Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie more than Jagged Little Pill.
  • I take great pleasure in listening to both Miss Saigon and Les Miserables from start to finish. Note to self: add Chess and Jesus Christ Superstar.
  • I maintain my position that Stereophonics are the best covers band in the world. Particularly of The Beatles' songs.
  • And, lastly... I just can't bring myself to delete Robbie Williams' Sing When You're Winning. I'm sorry, but... I like it.
  • Okay, even worse... I have a Take That song. A cheesy, hideous one at that. A Million Love Songs. I even have it in one of my playlists. Stop judging me - I'm judging myself enough for everyone!

The Woman in White

Posted by Lou. The time is 1.38am here in London, UK.

Nora Ephron made me do it. In her I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora writes of a few books she loves (inspired by "Our Michael"'s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay) and says that Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White is the model for the thriller genre. I was sold, and having read it have to agree that it is a mighty fine thriller. I actually haven't read too many thrillers, so can't speak in more sweeping terms, but this one definitely had me turning the pages.

Generally a classic of this book's era would have me spending months poring over it, longing for something light to fill in the downtimes where I want something to flick through but can't... quite... bring... myself... to... face... a... proper... classic... This classic fulfils its thriller credentials, planting enough plot twists and character revelations to have me desperately turning the pages until the very end. It was also particular of interest to me as it is partially set in London, and - like BrightStar - conjured a time when even a modern-day inner-city suburb such as Hampstead was considered "other" than the City itself. It's fantastic to read something from 150 years ago and know that the well-established streets upon the characters walk are the very same streets you inhabit in what to Wilkie Collins would be unimaginable times.

Another wonderful element of this book is that it is proper Feminist, and I actually just wikipedia'd Wilkie Collins, suspicious that with that far-too-awesome-for-the-mid-19th-century name and feminist credentials that perhaps "he" was another George Elliot, forced by times to adopt a masculine pseudonym. (He actually is a he, though.) The female characters in this novel both fight and accept the roles ascribed to their gender, pride intact whichever way circumstances allow or necessitate.

Basically, I'd say add this to your reading list!

An email to the Taranaki Daily Times

Posted by Lou. The time is 12.04pm here in London, UK.

from Lou
to mike.brewer@dailynews.co.nz,
date Fri, Dec 4, 2009 at 12:02 PM
subject Great work on Paul Perez Coverage!

Hi guys,

Just wanted to congratulate you on the brilliant pun at the start of the item about Paul Perez! Hilarious to say "side-step", really helped maintain the light mood of a domestic violence incident in which a pregnant woman was strangled and punched in the face. I also note your fantastic headline: "No easy let off for Paul Perez". I can't help but agree - hasn't this man suffered enough? I'm sure it really hurt his hands to strangle and punch her so really I can't help but agree that a fine and a conviction is not in any way whatsoever an easy let-off for a domestic abuser. I mean, she probably deserved it right?

I'm also so glad that you went into such depth about how this might hurt his playing career and didn't once mention the welfare of the victim or the possibility that his behaviour caused developmental damage to their unborn child. I'm so sick of people acting like domestic violence is an offence that has effects on other people and isn't all about the poor man who was driven to commit it.

Fantastic reporting Leighton - you should really be nominated for a journalism award for your coverage of this.

Keep up the great work! Hopefully with more news items like this we can up those domestic violence rates and help keep New Zealand women in their place! All power to domestic abusers! They're victims too!

Best wishes,


NZ judiciary characteristically piss-poor, frankly

Posted by Lou. The time is 11.18am here in London, UK.

For all the rhetoric against domestic violence and the advertising campaigns that have prominently featured on NZ screens as long as I can remember, nothing is going to change when the judiciary continue to take a piss-poor and lax attitude towards punishing offenders.

This guy choked his pregnant partner into near unconsciousness and punched her in the face, before preventing her from seeking help by using a knife to cut their phone cord, and later shredding her possessions, all over a pair of shoes, all following on from a history of volatility, and he gets slapped with a $750 fine to go along with some paltry costs and orders to go to an anger management course. Gee, that'll teach him.

How about backing up that rhetoric with some action, hey?

Book review: Love In The Time of Cholera

Posted by Bel. The time is 11:20am here in Wellington, NZ.

This book is a romance of the sort of absurd proportions that it seems only the hot-blooded South Americans can get away with.

Florentino falls forever in love with Fermina and when after a secret engagement, built up through barely a spoken word, she arbitrarily changes her mind, and he cares not. He waits throughout her 50 year marriage to the dashing Urbino and professes on the day of his death that he loves her still and hopes that now they have a chance to be together.

Perhaps it's called Love In The Time of Cholera because it makes the reader feel a bit ill?

Oh, I jest, I jest. But you do have to be in the mood for this kind of novel. And you have to be willing to buy that someone would stake their heart on someone they barely know and who rejected them. Yet this is the tale of undying love - plus of course, of all the action he gets during those intervening years. (Red hot Latin lovers, as I was saying.)

Plot aside, Garcia Marquez's writing is just amazing. Many a pencilled line was drawn under phrases which stopped me in my tracks. (Unfortunately my copy has already been loaned on, otherwise I would be quoting verbatim right now.) His is a style that which you will either love or hate, with long sentences (paragraphs, and chapters) that may well put you off - or you will be swept up and oblivious to the lack of structure in this way.

The focus of the book shifts from character to character, in time and location, with lots of flashbacks and flashforwards, covering a several parallel lifetimes' events in great detail. It's not until more than a third through the book that we see things from Fermina's perspective.

Until then, her dramatic actions seem very arbitrary and hard to comprehend. Her character is just a shallow thing, adored by the men for no good reason other than her beauty (especially as she is loved from afar by Florentino, who doesn't even really know her). But once we get inside her mind, she is easier to admire. Essentially, however, this is more a tale of obsession and of love for love's sake.


Whatever you do, do not, repeat: do not watch the film version of this book. The movie Love In The Time of Cholera may look like it might be good, with its reputable cast and decent director, but it is NOT. It is AWFUL. Even if you think "well, I hate long-winded writing and I'm not much of a novel reader anyways, but I feel like a nice mushy romance - let's get this out of a Sunday afternoon" - STOP! Resist! Do not do this to yourself. Please.

And if there is any chance of you reading the book, I double my pleas. Just avoid the film, at any costs.

That is all.

Love In The Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Sort of recommended.
English translation published 1988. Set in Columbia, late 19th C - 1930s.
#44 from 'The List'

Rapist Polanski granted bail

Posted by Bel. The time is 10:06am here in Wellington, NZ.

Things have been a bit quiet since the initial furore when Roman Polanski (pictured here in January 2009) was taken into custody.

But this morning it was announced that a Swiss court has accepted the convicted child rapist's request for bail - set at $4.5 million, US dollars I assume.

While still currently in jail, it is mostly likely he will be put under house arrest while he continues to fight extradition to the US, where he fled being sentenced for his crimes in 1978, over 30 years and one Oscar ago.

House arrest might be a crap option for you or me, with our bare cupboards and no Sky TV and board games we're already bored of, but for Polanski, it's going to be quite awesome actually.

Because, in Switzerland, he owns a property on one of the world's most expensive ski resorts! It's known as 'The Hand of God' because the locals say that God rested his hand there as he created the world. WOW!

And Polanski's chalet is called 'The Milky Way', probably because it is freekin sweet, like a Milky Way bar. Check it out:

I think the comparison is fitting.

You can read more about it here on The Times, if you wish, they have quotes from the locals about how charming he is, buying fresh bread each day and so on. I guess, what with the electronic ankle alarm and all, he might have to arrange for home delivery from now on and just enjoy the epic view out the window instead. BUMMER!!

More on the bail announcement here:

Swiss court agrees to grant Polanski bail, but he remains behind bars for now [Updated] - LA Times

Polanski wins $4.5M bail, house arrest likely - Yahoo News


Posted by Lou. The time is 5.05pm here in London, UK.

The UK National Lottery has released a list of 50 Unsung British Heroes. Six of them are women - six! - and no women appear in the Top 10 despite friggin' Baldrick - Baldrick! The fictional character from Blackadder! - reaching the #6 spot. Surely when considering unsung heroes those that missed the recognition they deserved because of their gender and/or race would be the first people to investigate?!

Well, I shall focus on one of the heroines - this woman sounds spectacularly interesting! Why is there not a legend? A Hollywood film? Why do we not know about her?

Via BBC online:

It was only when the distinguished doctor James Barry died of dysentery in 1865 that it was discovered "he" was in fact a woman called Mary Ann Bulkley.

According to the Science Museum, Bulkley saw very few career choices as a woman, so she hatched a plan in which she would become James Barry. After graduating from medical school in Edinburgh, she worked at St Thomas' Hospital, London, before joining the Army.

A successful career as a surgeon followed, in India and South Africa, and she eventually rose to the rank of Inspector General in charge of military hospitals.
Her methods of nursing sick and wounded soldiers from the Crimea meant she had the highest recovery rate of the whole war, and she also performed one of the first successful Caesarean sections, in 1826.

Apparently a Dutch filmmaker is making a feature about her - let's hope that and this dumb list combine to give her some of the recognition and attention she (and so many other forgotten heroines) deserve.

[I've chosen not to link to the list so as not to give it the attention it doesn't deserve]

Book review (sort of): Martha Gellhorn, journalist/novellist, kicking ass and taking names.

Posted by Bel. The time is 4:38pm here in Wellington, NZ.

Many fruitless times I have typed The Face of War into the Wellington City Library computer and have had zero results come up. I couldn't just skip a title that is on The List, so I decided I would 'read around' Martha Gellhorn instead.

I found some of her fiction in stack and a travel memoir on the shelves. As I'd managed to figure out that The Face of War was a collection of journalistic essays, I went with Travels With Myself And Another as the next best thing and a good place to start.

And what do ya know, folks, we have not just another instant winner great read, but a bona fide heroine to add to the Bona Fide Heroines list.

Martha Gellhorn reading documentation on how smoking is evil.

Travels With Myself And Another starts off with a funny, dry and decidedly non-PC tone that only gets more funny and less PC as the book goes on.

Gellhorn opens by saying that no one really wants to hear about anyone's travels. The moment you mention the sights you seen, their eyes glaze over. But travel disaster stories are a whole other thing, to be traded and devoured and relived in a thrilling way unimaginable at the time. This book is her collection of "horror journeys", where her indefatigable adventurous spirit lead to disasters in various foreign forms.

Covering various continents and decades of her life, some of the most entertaining anecdotes come from Gellhorn's resolute spirit butting up against, well, against pretty much everyone.

This covers from a camp East African guide who refuses to drive her anywhere when they go on safari, to the terrible travelling companion that her partner of many years Ernest Hemingway was while they traipsed through pre-industrial China.

Gellhorn with a local and "U.C.", short for 'the Unwilling Companion'.

After devouring these well-crafted tales and being filled with wanderlust, I needed to know more about Martha. Her wikipedia page only filled me with awe, as it breezily listed her career which careened from the Spanish Civil War, to being among the first to arrive at Dachau, to covering the conflict in Vietnam and even in her 80s still reporting from the front line. It is no surprise that this determined woman chose to take her own life when her health began to fail in her 90s.

You can imagine my JOY when I stumbled across Caroline Moorehead's definitive biography Gellhorn: A Twenty-First Century Life, in my favourite Wellington secondhand bookstore, Arty Bees.

I am only up to chapter three and already she has met and interviewed Diego Rivera and Sergei Eisenstein - this is aged 21 years, after dropping out of college and moving to Paris, striking up an affair with Colette's stepson.

Her dramatic life may yet make it to the silver screen. Variety reported last year that a biopic was planned, as Gillian Anderson's production company had bought the rights to Caroline Moorehead's biography. With a female writer/director attached, this could be promising - especially considering that Scully won't have to go all Oscar-bait to play the role:

[anything] by[/about] Martha Gellhorn. Highly recommended (durrr).
Published 1934 - 1988. Set in pretty much everywhere.
#43 from 'The List'

The Big One: Wellington's roller derby final

Posted by Bel. The time is 3:25pm here in Wellington, NZ.

Saturday was the Richter City Roller Derby showdown, with Smash Malice and Brutal Pageant facing off for the last time this year. With one win apiece in the earlier bouts, a big night was brewing.

Smash Malice in the leopard print; Brutal Pageant in pink and red, sashes obscured. Click for large.

For those not familiar with how a roller derby works, here are the short and sweet rules of a bout. (It's a bit like quidditch.)

Roller derby is relatively new to New Zealand's shores, but it has been embraced with enthusiasm. You certainly have to be whole-heartedly committed to put your body through the rigours of what is a fast paced, full contact and no-holds-barred sport.

I overheard a conversation in the toilets which echoed my thoughts: "I'd love to do it, I mean, it'd be fun... but oh my god." "I know. Oh my god."

Mid-jam pile up. Looks like it's turning into a brawl, but I'm pretty sure it didn't. Click for large.

It makes for a great spectator sport (and on Saturday there was over 1000 people at the TSB Arena). A friend commented that there is a kind of trashy NASCAR atmosphere - which is so true, and which helps make it so awesome.

You cheer, you boo, you have a few drinks and eat some fried food. You buy a ticket for the raffle and regret not making a sign proclaiming your love for your favourite skater to enter into the half-time competition and generally just wave around and use to get the attention of your mates sitting on the opposite side of the track.

My favourites (on team Smash Malice - I have some friends/coworkers associated. Just as well because I don't think I could have made a decision based solely on the sartorial options) are Punk Pantha, who was a guaranteed super-points-scorer each time she slipped the jammer 'panties' on over her helmet, and Huttbreaker, because she just owned the track. From Brutal Pageant, I love/hate Goldie Scorn, because I knew we were in trouble each time she rolled up.

We left feeling exhilarated and a little bit exhausted. Because each jam lasts two minutes at the longest, the night has a hectic 'perpetual motion' feel to it - I can't imagine how tired the people who actually spent the whole time on their feet (wheels) were feeling!

Skaters go past in a blur while an official looks on. Click for large.
(Note those in 'suicide seats' at back. And someone from Brutal Pageant in the penalty box, har ha!)

Smash Malice came out winners of the final, no doubt thanks in part to my particularly rambunctious cheering. It was a close call at one stage though, when their jammer got sent to the penalty box and Brutal Pageant took the chance to bring the scores within one point of each other. Nerve-wracking!!

I'm looking forward to the release of Whip It later this year, Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, based on a roller girl's memoirs. Starring Ellen Page (and a veritable gang of cool girls, including Zoe Bell and Juliette Lewis (Scientologist though, ugh)), in anyone else's hands I'd be worried they were cashing in on a 'trend' and Hollywooding the girl power of it. But this trailer fills me with joy:

For a much better selection of much better photos from The Big One, check out Jed Sloane's flickr.

Dear President Obama ... (an open letter on Afghanistan)

Posted by Bel. The time is 9:11am here in Wellington, NZ.

From Brian D McLaren's website. Hat tip to the Bartlett for the link, via Google Reader*.

Dear President Obama ... (an open letter on Afghanistan)

I am a loyal supporter of your presidency. I worked hard in the campaign and have never been as proud of my country as I was when we elected you.

I'm writing to ask you to find another way ahead in Afghanistan. I wrote a similar letter to President Bush when he was preparing for war in Iraq.

I believe now, as you and I both did then, that war is not the answer. Violence breeds violence, and as Dr. King said, you can murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder. As the apostle Paul said, evil must be overcome with good, which means that violence and hate must be overcome with justice and love, not more of the same.

Obviously, you know things the rest of us don't know. And you have pressures and responsibilities the rest of us don't have. But we have based our lives on the moral principles that guided leaders like Dr. King, Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela. We share a profound faith in a loving, non-violent God. We share a commitment to live in the way of Jesus the peacemaker. That's why escalation is not a change we can believe in.

I don't argue for leaving Afghanistan high and dry as we've done too often in the past. Evil can't be overcome by passivity or abdication, but only by positive good and creative action. In that spirit, I offer this humble proposal:

1. Take the 65 billion we would have spent there in the coming year and turn it into an aid and development fund. If you want to go farther, you could put a value on the cost of American lives that would be lost there (I have no idea how this inestimable cost could be calculated), and add that sum to the fund. 65 billion could build a lot of peace-oriented schools and hospitals in Afghanistan. It could serve as start-up capital for a lot of new businesses and it could pave a lot of roads. It could train a lot of police officers and it could enhance a lot of social infrastructure. It could give hope to a lot of women and girls who currently don't have much hope, and it could provide a lot of constructive outlets for men and boys who right now don't have many options besides picking up a machine gun and joining a warlord.

2. Other nations might contribute to this fund as well, and the fund could be extended into the future based on the number of years our military would have been engaged in Afghanistan. The fund could be administered by the US, or better (in the spirit of international cooperation), an IAEC-like agency could be created, subsidiary to the United Nations, to monitor progress in Afghanistan.

3. Then a set of benchmarks could be set, and the money could be released for development in Afghanistan as the nation reached appropriate benchmarks. This fund would be an enticement to mobilize public opinion in the direction of peace and justice, as people would know that their lives could be substantially improved if their factionalized leaders would start collaborating nonviolently for the common good.

4. With this kind of approach, the people of Afghanistan (and Pakistan) would have two clear choices. Al Queda and other extremists offer violence and unrest. But the international community would be offering support for order, rebuilding, collaboration, justice, and peace. This choice is a much clearer and better one than the choice between two groups of leaders who both depend on violence to achieve their aims.

5. Conservatives could support this kind of approach because it emphasizes personal choice and responsibility among the Afghan people. It would come alongside them in their own nation-building efforts at their own best pace, rather than trying to impose our own nation-building on them at a pace we determine. Progressives could support this approach because it changes the role of the US in the global neighborhood - from reactive bully or intentional dominator to responsible neighbor and partner for the common good.

Mr. President, you have my respect and my prayers at this important time. I believe you have the intelligence and insight to find a creative way to use a new kind of force in the world ... something far more powerful than bombs, guns, and bullets: the generative force of creativity, of justice, of collaboration, and yes, of hope. Can we find a new and better way to help Afghanistan rise out of chaos and complicity with Al Queda? You know the answer many of us will shout and chant: yes, we can.

With respect and hope,
A citizen

*Any other Google Reader fans out there? I have gotten hooked and it has improved my life dramatically/destroyed my professional productivity.

Away We Go to the cinema (Bel's review)

Posted by Bel. The time is 3:49pm here in Wellington, NZ.

Thanks to Flicks.co.nz, I got a sneak preview of Away We Go, which is due for general release here in New Zealand next week. Directed by Sam Mendes from a script by husband and wife team, Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, this film is a romantic comedy with real laughs and no sickly sweet after taste.

Lou mentioned in her review that some people might be irritated by the film, whereas other would really connect with it. I think the film is enough of a crowd-pleaser that it could be recommended generally - it is in the vein of Little Miss Sunshine, with that same edgy humour and occasional poignancy, not to mention its portrayal of your 'average family' as being pretty much dysfunctional.

Many of my friends and extended family have plunged into the world of parenthood over the last couple of years, not to mention myself. There was more than one cringe of recognition and unintended raucous burst of laughter, I'll tell ya. The host of supporting characters, played to perfection by actors from Jeff Daniels to Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Melanie Lynskey to (love her) Catherine O'Hara, would seem over the top if they didn't bring to mind so quickly... this person... that person...

I'm not familiar with Vida's work, but much of Egger's writing has dealt with themes of abandonment and establishing identity and searching for a sense of propriety while throwing off boundaries. I liked the way this film explored this, and that it was done in the context of a monogamous couple, happy within their relationship.

The film was shot by cinematographer Ellen Kuras, who has collaborated with Spike Lee and Michel Gondry among others, and her work here is subtle but impactful (similar to Lou's feelings regarding Sam Mendes' directing).

To read Lou's review of Away We Go, click here!

And click here to read a great interview with Our Dave, talking about the creation of Away We Go and why Sam Mendes got on board, as well as his screenplay for Where The Wild Things Are, what Toph is up to know, and other things that are just fascinating to know if you care about him as much as we do. Which you should.

The Heart Is a Lonely Handbag

Posted by Bel. The time is 10:41am here in Wellington, NZ.

Carson McCullers' The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter as a clutch handbag by Olympia Le-Tan

Stylish and somewhat practical, I love these beautifully embroidered handbags made by Parisian Olympia Le-Tan.

Handmade in limited runs, Le-Tan chooses the first edition covers of her favourite classics to recreate. She says, "unfortunately the covers of books nowadays are not as nice as they used to be".

And yes, Christmas is coming up - but don't get too excited. I dug around and found that these puppies cost about $1,500 each. I'm not sure if that's US$, pounds or euros - but either way I think I'll have to stick to just putting books inside my boring old bag, the usual way...

Read more with an interview with Olympia Le-Tan at Dazed Digital.

My review of The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter (including ravings about the gorgeousness of the first edition's cover design) can be read here.

Films: something old, something new, something bonkers, nothing blue

Posted by Lou. The time is 12.20pm here in London, UK.

I totally forgot another of my festival outings - French-Senegalese film The Absence. After 15 years in Paris a successful scientist comes back to see his grandmother and hearing- and speech-impaired younger sister in Senegal. His sister is a stranger to him but is desperate for him to learn to communicate with her - he however has no interest and is heading straight back to Paris. Then out that night with a friend he discovers that his sister is working as a prostitute and embroiled in a dark underbelly of the city. She gets in trouble with her pimp lover and goes on the run, and it is up to her brother to find her before the bad guys do.
The sister is treated in an unrelentingly bleak manner - by her brother and the bad guys. I read the film as her being a metaphor for the country itself - desperate for help from the ex-pats who have the education and resources but who aren't interested, and caught in a web of violence and corruption of the criminal underbelly. A noteworthy aspect is that the film was entirely introspective in terms of the state of the country and its future - whilst there were the nature signs of imperialism from the west, it was kept in the background to what is told as essentially a Senegalese story, situation and solution.

I attended a bad film club screening of Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, surprised to find out the film actually exists and isn't just a piss-take fake trailer. Whilst it does certainly exist, it is probably the worst film ever made - but utterly hilarious from start to finish when viewed with the live comedic commentary provided by the two people who run the bad film club. Do not ever watch this film in any other circumstance - it is just awful: the effects suck, the acting is appalling, it is the worst script and plotline of all time, and it is made in an horrifically amateur and gobsmackingly crap manner. Let me tell you the plot to help convey this:

A maverick marine biologist played by Debbie Gibson (yes, the '80s pop-singer) is in a stolen submarine (we don't know why) and comes across a giant iceberg that whales are smashing themselves against because the American military have dropped a charge down there which goes off and shatters the iceberg away into nothing immediately releasing and enlivening a mega shark and a giant octopus that have been frozen for 17 million years. Mysterious things are happening: you know, a giant octopus destroying an oil rig, a mega shark leaping out of the water to take a passenger jet out of the sky, and a giant whale turning up dead with big chunks missing. She meets up with her ridiculously Irish mentor to go "hmmm" whilst looking into microscopes and pouring liquids into each other trying to figure out what killed the whale. But then they are sent a DVD of her submarine trip in which a fuzzy freezeframe reveals the shark and octopus, which she apparently didn't notice at the time. They join up with a Japanese scientist and the navy and in a cardboard set, I mean high-tech US navy sub (coincidentally identical to the big navy ships and the Japanese subs (where they speak English, by the way)), they pour coloured liquids into each other trying to figure out how to get rid of the threat posed by the giant beasts but strangely the coloured liquids just aren't revealing an answer. After our maverick and the Japanese scientist have sex in a broom cupboard (navy subs do have broom cupboards apparently) they realise the key is pheromones. So they decide that naturally they should plant the shark pheromones in San Francisco Bay, and the octopus pheromones in Tokyo Bay (because choosing two of the most populous bays in the world is the obvious thing to do). Things go badly (who'd've thunk) and death and destruction occurs (mostly off-screen) and so they decide to lead the beasts to each other. Somehow they all very quickly get to the original site of their finding (this is merely coincidence) but whilst the mega shark that can travel at the speed of a jet is chasing their submarine they stop to have a gun stand-off between the driver and the captain. Eventually the shark and octopus fight to the death, the end.

Yeah, I know.

I finally got round to seeing the classic tale of Joan Crawford's hideousness as a mother, Mommie Dearest. It's quite interesting to watch now, seeing it as a cult classic, knowing that at the time it was meant to be a serious drama. As a serious drama it is ludicrous, but seen with the perspective of time it's brilliantly over-the-top. And I know what Halloween costume I'm going to have next year. There's only one more thing to say really: No wire hangers!!


Posted by Lou. The time is 1.55pm here in London, UK.

Recently in the UK there have been public outcries over things perceived as being bigoted: a dancer on Strictly Come Dancing received accusations of racism after (in jest) calling his dance partner a "paki", and Danni Minogue found herself at the centre of (incorrect) homophobia accusations after a badly made attempt at repartee with a contestant on X Factor. To a certain extent this is great - there should be an outcry when comments/ attitudes deemed unacceptable by society are broadcast or made by public figures.

So I was left rather surprised when X Factor host Dermot made a blatantly fattist comment to a contestant, leaving me and my flatmate with our mouths literally hanging open in shock, but without even prompting a trickle of controversy. In fact, people seemed to take his "you used to be quite big but now you look really cool" as a perfectly okay thing to say (because people who are even slightly fat are ugly). It once again demonstrated the total double-standard in society that says it's okay to position fat as ugly/ lazy/ bad, whilst frowning upon other forms of bigotry.

Anyway, really I just wanted to highlight this excellent piece about it on BBC today.

The rest of my fest: Precious, Samson and Delilah, At the End of Daybreak

Posted by Lou. The time is 8.10pm here in London, UK.

Precious: Based on the novel by Sapphire is amazing - totally one of those films that comes out of nowhere and stuns people with its power and might. It is the first time I have ever sat in a cinema audience where alongside laughing and crying is actual shrieking. The shrieking is the best way I can convey to you how involved you become, and how real this story seems, as it unfurls onscreen.

But if I tell you what the story is it will seem patronising and cliche - a poor, obese, black 16-y-o with an abusive mother and an absent (except when raping her) father who finds herself pregnant and put into an alternative education school. Yeah, I know... but... the filmmaking is far from patronising (it feels told from 'within'), it is portrayed in a fresh and stylistic way but retaining utter realism, and the casting is fucken genius: newbie Gabourey Sidibe fills her character with pride and sass and humour, and Mo'Nique is absolutely incredible as her mother (a certainty for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, methinks).

Go see this film!!

I saw Samson and Delilah straight after and, as I was feeling horridly ill anyway, it was sort of just a ridiculously depressing and emotive day of cinema. It is the story of two young teenagers from an isolated Aboriginal community who silently bond, and then run off to Alice Springs together to a life on the streets after things turn sour at home. I wasn't sure what to think of the film at the end (it is ambiguous and one of those ones where I need to know the context within which it was made - for that same point of patronising vs from 'within'), but having read more about it since I am retrospectively blown away.

To fill you in: the film is made by a first-time feature filmmaker who is himself Aboriginal and made the film to express things he himself grew up around; the budget was a paltry $Aus1.6m; the two leads are non-actors with personal experience of the issues portrayed; he cast his own older brother - a non-actor with acute alcohol dependency issues for which he was sent to rehab prior to filming - to portray a homeless man with alcohol dependency; he intends the film to ask questions that can't - and haven't been able to - be answered for Australia.

Seen in this light, the film is absolutely stunning.

I was very - very - underwhelmed and quite disappointed in the other of my film fest films, At the End of Daybreak. It's entry in the festival programme talked of it being an illicit Malaysian modern-day film noir - a 23-y-o man faces charges of statutory rape after his girlfriend's parents find out about their relationship: plenty of potential to play with the power dynamics of sexual relationships and add in some thriller elements. Instead we get a dreary and contradictory tale that has the unfortunate collision of one fantastic performance (the mother of the boy) and one extremely bland and meaningless performance (the teenage girl).

Due to the bland portrayal of the relationship and the teenage girl we don't know what he is meant to be being saved from - there is no chemistry to the relationship (in fact, I didn't actually realise they were meant to be shagging), the teenage girl is portrayed in a terribly blank manner so we don't know if she is meant to be complicit in the events or taken advantage of or a robot with human skin on or taking out her frustration towards other factors on the boy or her parents or everything and everyone... Not to mention that I find it quite offensive that they used the genre classification "film noir", one of the calling cards of which is the femme fatale. There was nothing femme fatale about this character or performance, and can a 15-y-o girl be a femme fatale? (Now that question could have provided the basis for an interesting film.) The sympathy gained by the mother can't make up for what seemed to be an unintentional ambiguity of everything and everyone else.