Monday, June 30, 2008

A giant flying titanic

What to make of the Dr Who Christmas special last night on the ABC? Well firstly, wouldn't be nice to watch a Christmas special actually at Christmas?! - instead of in June. The resonances with the references to christmas just weren't the same I'm afraid. David Tennant was the usually intensely batty Dr with some witty lines combined with baffling scientific explanations for saving the day. The relationship between the Dr and Kylie was all a little forced and contrived - although it was nice they didn't live happily ever after. This would have been just too twee altogether. There were moments however when it seemed that the scriptwriters struggled to get the tone just right - like when the Dr assured Kylie ("Astrid") that he would definitely save her. We strayed into jarring Bold and the Beautiful territory here. Also, having sat through the Fellowship of the Ring on the weekend I was perhaps a little sci-fied out. The perilous journey across the great chasm was all too resonant of a similar scene in LOTR where they have to get across the wobbly stone staircase and Gandalf falls into the fire. Anyway, that's quibbling. I guess there is only so much science fiction iconography available and these various films and programs have to use it the best they can. I did laugh when the Queen thanked the Dr for saving Buckingham Palace from the giant flying Titanic. And the final scene had a lovely poignancy as the Dr, once again alone, stepped into the Tardis for further adventures.
Having been regularly freaked out as a young person by the clunky old Tom Baker era of Dr Who, I now enjoy being able to enjoy the Dr's adventures. And who can resist that swirly, thumping theme tune? It's one of the best tv theme tunes ever written I reckon!

NB. the very astute Lorraine has emailed noting the similarity between this episode and the poseidon adventure...good call Lorraine!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

the people in your neighbourhood

A little sadness over the weekend with my wonderful neighbours putting their house up for sale. Hidden away in the corner of the cul-de-sac, this swiss couple are the epitome of good neighbours. Over the past few years they have generously shared their homegrown produce with me - everything including lettuce, celery, tomato, corn, mandarins, lemons and more. I was also treated to homemade bread, eggs as easter time, and sometimes a share of their evening meal. They looked after my mail when I was away, and earlier this year when my house was uninhabitable for a few days they looked after my family and I with endless cups of coffee and cake. Their hospitality was always genuine and without expectations and when they move I am sure it won't just be me, but the whole street, who will miss them.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"I am drama"

Well the excitement was high last night at the theatre for Oklahoma auditions. I sat quietly at the keyboard and did what was needed while everyone else did their dramatic stuff. I always enjoy watching the process of audition and rehearsal. There was a big turnout for the chorus and quite a number of guys which is always a bonus as they are difficult to come by for local musicals. Great stuff. Like all Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals Oklahoma has a fantastic score - it's really a highlight from that classic period of the American musical. Although after about 15 versions of "I'm just a girl who cain't say no" I was really over that one!

Looking forward to rehearsals starting in earnest next week.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

a stroll on the sand

one of the wonderful things about living in a regional centre is that we are so close to the beach. It's barely 15 minutes from from my front door to the ocean. to take advantage of my holiday week, and in an effort to rid myself of the last of the revolting cold, i took a trip to the beach this morning to get some fresh air and sunshine.

as you can see it was a perfect winter's day - clear sky, little breeze and very few people about.

after a little stroll on the sand, it was back into bargara for coffee and toast.

Monday, June 23, 2008

choralography - who knew?

A rare Monday evening at home tonight with choir now on a break for a couple of weeks, following our weekend of concerts. All went well, although I did have a delightfully roaring headcold which made everything sound much further away than it was. Needless to say this is a little disconcerting for an accompanist. Still I think it was okay.

Last night I gave Battle of the Choirs a second chance. It was marginally improved although the extremely awkward term "choralography" was continually bandied about between the judges. Wondering just what on earth this was all about I googled today - and discovered it is a word for describing choral song and movement (when they occur together). Who knew??

I then stayed tuned for Mansfield Park on the ABC, where Billie Piper seemed strangely cast as Fanny Price. For me this was not the Fanny Price of the book -far too spirited and colourful.
As far as it went it was entertaining, but I believe Austen is far more suited to serial television form (rather than 90 minute film). So much has to be left out. The characterisation of Edmund Bertram and Mary Crawford was okay, but Henry Crawford just didn't seem dashing enough. And Lady Bertram seemed far too healthy and together. I did like the nuances Douglas Hodge brought to Sir Thomas though.
Anyway, quibbles aside, it was still enjoyable, if not for me always recognisably Austen

Friday, June 20, 2008

Doctor Who on Channel 2

oooh....I'm very excited to see doctor who coming up saturday week on the abc. this is the kylie minogue guest star episode - titanic themed by the look of it. Here's a link with a little description (although I'm sure you could ruin it for yourself by googling!- I shall refrain i think.).

(i'm sure there's a better way to do these links but i'm fairly technologically inept so don't know what it is...)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

the "boot motif"

Well it was certainly a lively discussion yesterday evening at bookclub. All Quiet on the Western Front was praised all round for its matter of fact description of war, the way it was able to clearly portray the difficulties of daily life at the front line, as well as the way in which war was eventually normalised for the soldiers - where army life became comfortable while leave at home with family was disturbing. And while Remarque was German, we agreed (i think!) that the experiences and themes he wrote about seemed universal. We were delighted to have the "boot motif" pointed out - a pair of boots that makes its way from one dying soldier to another throughout the book. And a few of us wondered about the final paragraph - was it absolutely necessary to include the death of the narrator. While it was powerful - it could also have worked if we weren't made aware of his fate. From here the conversation ranged from other wars to the filmic and televisual depictions of them (Gone with the Wind (!), Catch-22, Ken Burns' documentary The Civil War, World War 2, Vietnam, as well as conflicts in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan).

Opinions were a little more mixed on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It seemed to be that to fully appreciate this movie a knowledge of the trilogy up until now was needed. Some of us in the room were fans - others not so much! I agree - it's difficult to understand the attraction of this film if you had not seen any of the others. Those of us who had enjoyed the direct reference of the opening to the conclusion of Raiders of the Lost Ark, as well as the in jokes with Indy's snake phobia, and the allusions to previous characters (Sean Connery as his Dad in the Last Crusade). We also agreed that, as always, Cate Blanchett was great. And the consensus was that she acts rings around Nicole Kidman in whatever she does. Having been treated to the previews of Baz Luhrman's Australia when going to see Indiana Jones, there was a fair amount of skepticism in the room as to whether Nicole was going to add anything to that project. Thoughts were also divided about Hugh Jackman - some strongly for, and some strongly against!

All this, plus yummy wine and cheese followed by brownies and tea made for a good night.
We didn't even get to the question of the stereotypical representation of Russian villains which had made a little stir in the media, or whether Shia LeBoeuf (?) actually has any star quality.....
any more thoughts people...?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

does this qualify as a media room?

Well as you can see I'm not a great photographer, but this week saw me spend a ridiculous amount of money on a flatscreen digital TV. I've been resisting this purchase for some time but was finally won over by the lure of digital channels and the sharp and glossy picture quality. The amazing thing is that this is one of the small ones. I truly can't imagine having anything bigger in my modestly sized lounge room. With the entry of this TV into the house though my residence is transformed into a mcmansion complete with the obligatory "media room". If indeed an oversized tv is what defines a media room.

Anyway, I justified it by telling myself that television is the object of my research so I better have a nice one.

Shallow? Gullible?


Nice big picture though....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

the corn is as high as an elephant's eye

I agreed to play for the local production of oklahoma today. it goes on september.
auditions are next wednesday and then it's most likely three rehearsals a week.
start humming those showtunes people!

small acts of cunning

The Bundaberg chapter of the Foucault reading group convened yesterday.

Actually it's less of a chapter and more just two of us working our way through Discipline and Punish (quite slowly). I've read it previously during the crazy years of my thesis, but my fellow reader is delving into the big wide world of french theory for the first time.

We were doing quite well meeting very regularly until the term started in March and teaching took over. So, after a break of a few months we found ourselves beginning again yesterday with Part three "Docile bodies".

It seems like here Foucault really starts to get into the guts of what he wants to say, beginning by elaborating on the type of body the new social operations of discipline requires and produces. We noted how disciplinary power entails a shift from explicit operations on the body (corporal) to more subtle coercions. I loved Foucault's description of these "small acts of cunning"(139) - so evocative. We found interesting his contrast of the "natural body" of discipline with the previously "mechanical body" - wondering in just what sense he was using the term natural. What we decided was that the natural/ docile body is one that is open to various uses, it can respond and adapt to a multitude of operations of force and power. Furthermore what came out of this for us was that the docile body was one that was controlled through procedures of analysis, classification, definitions and temporalisation. Foucault's archival descriptions of the beginnings of the timetable resonated with contemporary values of productivity. We were both a little freaked by how apt his descriptions were, particularly when we think of the multitasking that is expected of workers in the discourses of contemporary management.

So in the interesting of "exhausting" (rather than just "using" our time) (see (154) we are meeting again thursday afternoon to continue through the next section: The means of correct training.

Monday, June 16, 2008

kylie minogue is all very well in her place

I spent some of the day trying to work out just where Channel 7's Battle of the Choirs went wrong. The answers I came up with were as follows:
  • David Koch as host - his inoffensive, accountant chic works well at breakfast time, but he certainly lacks the bumbling charm of daryl somers. even bert newton would have been better here - a bit of tv pizazz and glitter please!
  • The girl from the kids band on the panel - vacuous is an understatement - give me strength!
  • No scoring - part of the drama of dancing with the stars is the revealing of the various judges scores. And even with no scoring, on australian idol the judges are given more of a chance to state their case and establish their personalities - which adds to the overall narrative. this didn't happen here. all that was established was that jonathan welch's job is to be the "emotional" one - which didn't really work either.
  • The songs were too short - a choir can simply not establish mood, build tension and musical line in a minute or less.
  • stupid song choice - kylie minogue is all very well in her place- but puh-leeze - not for choral singing people
  • the whole "battle" metaphor - too resonant of iron chef (and not as entertaining as that little gem)
  • they tried to establish the choirs' personalities through focussing on a few characters - but the whole idea of choral singing is that no-one is the star - so to focus on a few individuals was tokenistic at best. and this is the reason why choral singing on television is problematic - because unlike idol, dancing and other talent shows it is going to be difficult to establish character quickly - so necessary for television.

All in all, it reminded me that tv chemistry is a mysteriously quality that no grab bag of previously successful formulas can be guaranteed to repeat.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

don't mention the war

With bookclub approaching on Wednesday I decided I better begin All Quiet on the Western Front. It's not long, and I thought I would be able to knock it over today. But the clarity of its descriptions of the horror of WW1 meant I made it two thirds through and needed a break. It reminded me of when I went to see Black Hawk Down - which I found to be a relentless filmic assault on the senses. If I hadn't been on a date (n.b. very bad date movie!) I would have walked out. Sure, it's an impressive piece of film making, but I just don't need to see it.
The book is powerful conveying the banal ironies of the war and army life, together with the effect this has on the individuals involved - particularly because of its matter of fact style. So, I guess while I'm appreciating this, it's not something I'd recommend for a little light reading.
Looking forward to the discussion which juxtaposes this book with Indiana Jones!!
I'll make myself finish it tomorrow.

Friday, June 13, 2008

p and p

jimmy smits is probably my favourite screen based american president (closely followed by martin sheen and then michael douglas) so it was a shame to see him utilising very little of his acting ability in the jane austen bookclub.
I love jane austen as much as the next girl with an undergrad degree in english, but really - haven't we had enough adaptions, inspirations etc on film and tv.
the jane austen book club was very lightweight - sure it was nice when they got together and chatted about the books, but the connecting stories were virtually non-existent. i'm just not sure what the point was here. still it was marginally better than the dreadful becoming jane - where the cliche of austen's novels being autobiographical was on show.
I'll be interested to watch northanger abbey on sunday evening and see what they make of it - this being my least favourite and only read once (unlike p and p and s and s). the kate beckinsale emma a couple of sundays ago was less than lovely - my knightley came across as a right pain - he always seemed to be shouting. what's attractive about this i really don't know!
the bbc colin firth version of pride and prejudice is still the standout (in spite of those kitschy monologues when elizabeth imagines mr darcy talking to her in the mirror etc). and alan rickman's colonel brandon is pretty good too in emma thompson's sense and sensibility. one of the best things about that film is the soundtrack...beautiful songs.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

finally...a research day

At the beginning of the year I very optimistically opened my outlook calendar and marked off every thursday as a recurring appointment called "research day". Today was the first day I actually managed to keep this appointment. Every other week during the term the persistent little reminder would keep popping up until I gave in and dismissed it by about Friday lunchtime. Up until this week, research has been squeezed around all other tasks throughout the term. But today, blissfully, I had the luxury of a whole day to fill with whatever I wanted.
So naturally, I didn't know where to begin.
I spent the day on those twiddling kind of jobs that are necessary but not really all that fulfilling in terms of visible progress.
I updated my cv/research profile for an application that I wanted to get in today. I found a conference that looks worth attending, and then started jotting some ideas and searching online for relevant background reading, in preparation for sending a proposal.
And I finished refereeing a paper, submitting my comments online.
So it was at least a start.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

the revolution is just a t-shirt away

Passing the time on the drive to and from Brisbane with my ipod I rediscovered the joy of a few great songs from my youth (or should that be "yesteryear"?)
The first was Billy Bragg's Waiting for the Great Leap Forward (although strictly speaking this is before my "yoof"). In spite of my lately found suspicion of Billy's sincerity through the bad blood that obviously simmers from the Woody Guthrie/ Wilco collaboration, this is a rollicking good singalong tune - with or without the politics. (Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is one of my all time favourites. I suspect there's a country singer inside here somewhere that's trying to escape).
And then there was Sparky's Dream from Teenage Fanclub. Sadly I'm old enough to remember when this was all over the radio when it was released. Still, it stands the test of time and has inspired me to go back to the album. There are just not enough Scottish pop bands around these days.
And delving back a little further in time (or should that be "out of time" - hilarious!) - REM's Losing my Religion. I can't get enough of that mandolin, even though this is from the moment when they got all popular and commercial. Although their best album is still Automatic for the People which came after. After that, it's all downhill. Tip for the day - don't listen to this one if you're already feeling a little melancholy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

been there, done that, bought the fridge magnets

Before leaving brisbane yesterday I queued up with the crowds to see the picasso exhibition at goma (that's one ugly acronym for an art gallery). I hadn't been to this fine newish institution and enjoyed the building and space of the gallery. The actual exhibition was fine but as with a lot of art I found myself fairly unmoved. I preferred the sketches to the paintings. Still it was interesting to see what sort of art picasso had in his own collection and for the fairly uninitiated (like myself) there was a logic to the progression of the exhibition as we made our way around and into the shop.

Sadly, the shopper in me always finds the buying of knick knacks most rewarding.

I got the cute little cube you can see above.

and yes, I am now the proud owner of some picasso fridge magnets. Aint consumerism grand....perhaps andy warhol would be more my style.

uses of literacy

In Brisbane for four days over the long weekend I was delighted to find a secondhand bookshop in south brisbane where I picked up a copy of Richard Hoggart's Uses of Literacy. I have been keen to read this ever since John Hartley published his Uses of Television inspired by Hoggart. Quaint cover....

Thursday, June 5, 2008

1 "L" or 2?

"hmmmm"...i thought to myself this afternoon.... "I have titled my blog after one of my favourite tmbg songs...perhaps i should dig out ye olde tmbg cd and listen to aforementioned song".

the gods were conspiring against me.

well really it was less gods and more my laziness in never tidying out my car.

once upon a time a young lady bought a new cd called factory showroom. she played it over and over in the car until she tired of its hooky melodies and singalong choruses. sadly, it seemed she could singalong no more. but, this lazy girl neglected to carry the cd out of the car and into the house. so the case melted and warped and something went very wrong (in a heat-related, scratched fashion) to various tracks - including, you guessed it - the spiralling shape.
so this afternoon she had to log into itunes and buy it.
and what's more - there were two versions - one "spiralling" and the other "spiraling".
the lazy girl, who resolved to never leave unplayed cds in the hot sun again chose..."spiralling".

the gruen transfer...blah blah blah

I tried wil anderson's new show "the gruen transfer" last wednesday. I lasted about 10 minutes before switching channels.
There are many reasons for me to dislike this program (which debuted with disappointingly high ratings). The main one is also the reason I so disliked the glass house - the host's glibness, smugness, and all round "lightweightness". Crudity is not a substitude for comedy in my book. (I'm aware that this makes me sound like me grandmother)

But really, any student of english, media studies, cultural studies etc spends their life these days deconstructing the power of advertising. For me, the fact that the gruen transfer is based on doing this makes it extremely tedious viewing. If I want to be exposed to explanations on the power of advertising I'll go back and read some of my undergraduate essays. Sure they weren't very (intentionally) funny. But then neither was what I saw of the gruen transfer.
And really, haven't we got enough of these panel shows where the host sets a little topic in motion and the job of the rest of the guests is to keep the ball in play, back and forth blah blah blah.
Surely the ABC can come up with something more interesting than this for local content.
(And Bed of Roses - you're no better in terms of local content - recycled poor cousin to the far more entertaining Seachange)

is this winter?

It's unpleasantly hot today for the 5th day of winter. Not that we really get a true winter here in sunny Queensland.

Only half a day of work today which was a treat. I spent most of the time continuing through my thesis. It's quite a challenge trying to conceive of how it could be different - in both structure and tone. And it's also difficult to stand back with a real critical eye as I'm reading. I guess when you spend something like 6 years constructing it as "thesis" - it can't be dismantled and rebuilt overnight. So I am trying to enjoy the process of going through the chapters with a fine tooth comb. It's a luxury really - to have the opportunity to change it without the pressure that came initially with the prospect of the phd examination. And sometimes there are even moments to treasure - as I'm reading along and think "that's actually okay!"

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Flying too close to the sun

Driving into town for coffee today I was reminded that there are many advantages to living in a regional town - but parking spaces in the cbd isn't one of them. It's crazy trying to get a park at lunchtime. Immediately I entered the main street I sailed on by a 1 hour park as stupidly I thought I could hold out for a prime 2 hour space. On my third lap around the block I observed that I had "flown too close to the sun", admitted defeat and had to settle for one of the ridiculous new 30minute parks. (it's my belief these are specifically designed to generate revenue in fines). I commented on this very fact to my friend in the car with me. I think she thought I was a little nutty. Hailing as she does from the land of the free and the home of the brave, (or is that the land of the brave and the home of the free?) she nicely inquired as to whether this curious turn of phrase was an Australianism she had not yet encountered.
I have no idea...I don't think I've ever said it before...but it just seemed an apt description for the thwarted ambition of trying to find a prime park in the neverending quest for the perfect coffee.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Last book club

Jennifer Byrne eat your heart out. Every month or so a group of women get together on a Wednesday in my little town for a scintillating discussion of a book and/or film. Last meeting it was Tim Winton's masterful Cloudstreet. Next meeting is All quiet on the western front AND the new Indiana Jones.

Opinions were varied on Cloudstreet. At least two of us had read it previously (including myself). I remember the first time I started it about four years ago I couldn't put it down, mesmerised by the language in which Winton painted the stories of the two families. This time I was less rapt but still keen to get to the end. What had stuck in my mind was the wife in the tent in the backyard - and second time round I still found this a striking image that he threaded through the story. We were unsure how skilfully he wove in the supernatural elements - and whether this in fact was necessary or added anything to the overall effect. But we all agreed his descriptions of Perth were both idiosyncratic and amazingly evocative. For me it's a book about a time and an era - as much as it is about the individual characters.

As well our lively discussion what's also good about this bookclub is that quite often there's also cake.

how many tshirts does one girl need?

threadless are having a sale. can i really justify buying more tshirts when my wardrobe already overfloweth?

I blog therefore....

Well I've started this whole blogging caper. Only about a decade later than everyone else in the big wide world of the web - but you know what they say - better late than never. (Actually i hate it when I find myself saying that).
I've been checking out various blogs - academic and otherwise lately. The key seems to be - opinions, opinions, opinions - some well thought out and some not.
Sure I've got plenty of opinions - whether they're worth recording on a blog is another question entirely.
For the moment I will observe that my lightbulb in my bedroom has blown AGAIN. My cat seems to be shedding quite the mountain of hair over the last few days. Work was dull today (hence the blog reading during work hours - very bad)
And I have some real reservations about the whole performativity of blogging practice (in addition to a squirming embarrassment about the word "blog" more generally - I blog, I have blogged, she blogs, yesterday we all blogged).
Nevertheless, I see advantages in making myself write regularly as that is something that happens less and less in the day job.
So here I go....