Friday, 27 April 2012

Five for Friday no. 16

Fictional character birthdays: find out who you share your birthday with. I am seriously unhappy that I share mine with a lousy Desperate Housewives character while Chuck gets Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne!!!

Tenthings that made 90s TV show Sabrina the Teenage Witch cool. Relevant because there is a movie in the pipeline.

Disney poster re-imagined in a simple grphic-designer-loving manner. Am I the only person who sees something suspicious in the Wizard Of Oz poster? 

In Style Magazine's 50 best fashion tips of all time.

If you're like me and you have a big of a girl crush on Zooey Deschanel and secretly wish you had hair like hers ... sigh ... you might enjoy this 'style evolution' slideshow. The early 2000's were not a good time it seems.


Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Book review: The Churchills by Mary S. Lovell

While in Maleny over the Easter weekend I wandered into Rosetta Bookshop and as per usual I bought a few books, including The Churchills by Mary S. Lovell.

I bought the book not from any great desire to read about the Churchills but because I have read and enjoyed almost all of Lovell's previous biographies. Choosing slightly off-centre but nevertheless fascinating subjects, Lovell tells the personal sagas eruditely, striking just the right balance between private detail and drama and insight into the world in which they lived and shaped.

When I first picked up the book I thought it would span a greater number of generations than it does. Though starting with John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough and builder of the family seat Blenheim Palace (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the action then skips a century or two to the grandfather of Winston Churchill, around whom the majority of the story revolves. 

The family pile: Blenheim Palace. 

Not that there isn't enough going on in the three generations centred around Winston. His mother was the first of the 'dollar princesses' – the flood of wealthy American heiresses who married into the British aristocracy in the 19thC, bringing dowries to prop up the money-poor Barons, Dukes and Earls in exchange for a title and respectability they could never find back home. In just four generations we learn of innumerable affairs, divorces, illnesses and of course, the huge personality of Winston Churchill and the incredibly journey of his life. 

 'Sunny' Marlborough, 9th Duke and his Duchess, Consuelo Vanderbilt, the most famous of the 'Dollar Princesses' whose money saved Blenheim Palace.

This is not a political biography, it is not a war biography. Lovell's focus from page 1 is the private lives of these tumultuous people. Aside from Winston, people who really stood out for me were his mother Jennie, beautiful and charismatic, who made a rare happy marriage and who moved at the epi-centre of British Society for decades and also Winston's son Randolph, intensely unlike-able on the page despite the author's assurances that he could have great person charm in life.

Winston and Clementine Churchill.

Sitting on my bookshelves right now are biographies on The Mitford Girls – six sisters who exemplified the political spectrum of the 20thC from Nazism, Fascism, Communism to the very peak of the British aristocracy; Beryl Markham, pioneering aviatrix, racing horse trainer, explosive personality and the first person to fly from England to America; Jane Digby, 19thC aristocratic wife who ended her life as the wife of a Bedouin Sheikh in the sands of Syria; and finally Bess of Hardwick, independent landowner and the first Duchess of Devonshire who built Chatworth and was the second most powerful woman in Tudor England aside from Queen Elizabeth. I recommend all of these biographies because they are well researched yet easy to read and genuinely fascinating. 

The Churchills is a great read and a intriguing look into a history-making family. 

Monday, 23 April 2012

Monday infographic: the world as a village of 100

We're all pretty familiar with these 'If the world had 100 people' diagrams. What makes this one a little different is that it is a) beautifully designed and b) a little more detailed.

Done by Toby Ng Design, they are an international design-award winning set of graphics, now being turned into posters, postcards and a book.

Some of the stats are unsurprising,such as those relating to nationality and gender. These were a little more left-field and surprising to me at least:

And some are just plain clever.

This is Toby Ng Design's webpage, with all 20 graphics. You should take the time to check them out.

All images are the property of Toby Ng, taken from his website. No copyright or reporduction infringement intended.

May I have your attention please?

In more US election vids, here's a fairly hilarious one. (Well, it's interesting if you know anything about Mitt Romney, I guess...)  Amazing editing job, too.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Great time-wasting games on the internet

We all know how super-excellent the internet is at wasting time. Really, how did we waste time before the net came along? Talking? Staring at space? Pff! But now we have the internet, and we have so many more creative, mind-sapping ways to kill 10 minutes.

However, this is not a blog-ode to the near infinite ways to waste time online. Rather, I am merely intended to pay homage to a few online games – innocent, easy, free – that have given me so many wonderful pointless hours.

Firstly, a classic, from my high school days: Smite Thee! Protect your believers and smite al non-believers in your other life as Zeus, mightiest of all the gods!

Lunchtimers: 'magnetic' fridge letters. What is great about this one is that you are battling all other online players for possession of the letters.

Free Rice: This is a bit of cheat because playing this game does have a point. Does the rice end up where it is supposed to be? I don't know. But I love the word trivia!

And finally, my latest fun game that inspired this blog: Where is the Pixel?

Friday, 20 April 2012

Five for Friday no. 15

So have we all heard of Ridiculously Photogenic Guy? No. Now you have. He's the latest internet sensation, and no surprise - he's good to look at!

Ok, additional explanation: he was snapped during a 10km run in his home town somewhere in the US. A photo was taken of him and within 24 hours it was EVERYWHERE. Now, if you've ever done sporty activities or more especially, if you've ever been photographed while you are doing those sporty activities, you will no that it is impossible to look good. No one does. You're usually red and sweaty and pulling a really unfortunate face. But RPG looks, well, ridiculously photogenic, and happy and it's ridiculous!

So here's the news report.

Here is a tumblr gif set of him being interviewed on Good Morning America (I think).

And here is his meme list.

Interactive Pasta sauce suggestions - so cute! So interactive!

Lego street art around the world.

How to eat dinner - an etiquette guide. I am falling behind and feel I should introduce some Standards.

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki: how to fold a piece of paper in half 12 times.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Revelling at the Margaret River Wine Festival 2012

This weekend just past I disappeared for a long weekend. A friend of mine who I met on international travel adventures invited me over for the Margaret River Wine Festival. He informed me it would be the fourth and final time he ever went, so with that as mu inventive, I impulse purchase airline tickets and got on a red-eye flight out of Brisbane for my first ever trip to W.A.

I can give no comment on Perth except to say that it is probably a really lovely city. I landed midnight on Thursday and was whisked away 7:30am Friday before I even finished my coffee to collect a few more festival buddies for the drive down the coast.

The Margaret River region, as opposed to the Margaret River township all of itself, is a 2.5 – 3 hour drive south of Perth. Having never been to W.A. and not really thought about it, I was surprised at how dry the land looked. Which isn't to say it wasn't beautiful; sparse red-earthed farm country dotted with beautiful old eucalyptus.

Deep Woods Vineyards.

The main festival was on Saturday, so on Friday our host-with-the-most had decided on a day of cellar door visits (six in total) followed by lunch at his favourite winery in the region – Hay Shed Hill. As you can probably tell from the photos, it was a glorious afternoon.

At Hay Shed Hill Winery.

The lunchtime crew, come from all over the country to enjoy the wine.

Venison chorizo pizza and Sangiovese.

The vines and scenes at Hay Shed Hill.

Our afternoon of deliciousness was finished off with a trip to The Pour House (haha) in Dunsborough, just around the corner from our rented beach house, and a sampling of some of the wines we'd all purchased that day.

All in all there were 10 of us, most of whom had never met but we had a friend of a friend. What we did have in common was that with the exception of our hosts, we had all flown across the country to attend this festival. Brisbane, Sydney and Canberra were represented. Later in the afternoon we were joined by three new friends, a couple of guys from Bunbury and a new friend from Adelaide. So our full festival team numbered 13.

Walking along the Dunsborough foreshore on Saturday morning.

Saturday was the official FESTIVAL DAY! Yes, we were so excited it warrants CAPS. The festival itself had been re-located from Margaret River to a winery close to the centre of Dunsborough – Palmers Winery. Our full team caught the shuttle bus in from town and arrived at the dot of 11:03, three minutes after open time.

There were some 38 vineyards with over 300 wines to taste, plus an assortment of art sellers, food stalls and of course, live jazzy music. I'll gloss over the day itself, because between 11 and 5:30 when I got back on the bus I made new friends, I learned to love my 24-hour-old friends and I drank a lot of wine. Before lunchtime was devoted to whites, then careful lining of the stomach and then the reds; my luscious, luscious favourites – the reds. Margaret River is known for it's Sauvignon Blanc Semillions and Chardonnays, neither of which I particularly enjoy, and its Cabernet doubles – Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz – which I cannot get enough of.

Inside the main tent at the start of the day.

I was very strong and refrained from purchasing any wine, having reached my carry-on luggage limit the day before. Some of my friends were not so sensible and the next morning there was some confusion as we tried to figure out who had bought that bottle and why on earth had someone bought the $75 Cabernet Shiraz – good as it was, why?!

With friends old and new.

Sometime around 2:20 while I was sunning myself with a new friend discussing Estonia, our host ran past yelling “4 minute warning, this is your 4 minute warning!” 4 minute warning for The Rose Challenge. The Rose Challenge is apparently a tradition stretching back years. One does the white circuit, then the red – so as not to ruin the palate and then when we're all nice and toasty, you get on to the rose. The only rule is that the sellers cannot know that you are doing The Rose Challenge and the winner ... is never quite decided, really. My Rose buddy Tim and I definitely won though. We even got someone to mix a new Rose for us. Beat that! We did however get sidetracked by a nice looking 2004 Cab Sav that we hadn't tried yet.

The full team of 13.

I had expected the Festival to be a big event, drawing a bit of a tourist, but it was mostly locals who were stunned to hear we'd come so far. If you ever had the chance to go along I would leap at it. It is a beautiful part of the country and there is so much to see and do. The Festival is just a great excuse to visit.

Some fellow festival-goers.

Sunday was quiet as we finished off our touring with a short visit to the beautiful Bunker Bay and famous Busselton Jetty.

It sounds like a long way to go just for a long weekend, and it was - it was also worth every flight-delayed minute. Good friends and good wine are all you need to have a spectacular time.

Bunker Bay.

The famous Busselton Jetty.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Five for Friday no.14

The Audi German Film Festival starts soon, held at Palace Centro. I'm going to to go as many films as possible this year, and you should too. See the Goethe Institute site for the best info on the film selection playing in Brisbane and film times.

Scathingly witty insults by famous people.

Beyonce has a tumblr.

Because it's kind of on-topic for a lot of my wonderful friends at the moment: an orange wedding dress. It looks a lot more fabulous than you might think.

I want to eat ALL OF THESE!

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Dangerous Glitter

If you're at all interested in music writing, like I am, Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell: The Dangerous Glitter of David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, by Dave Thompson, is a must-read. It's a three-way biography; a recounting of the intertwining lives of Bowie, Reed and Pop in the 1970s, discussing their ups and downs, their friendships and fallings out, collaborations, hangers on, and most importantly, their influences on each other as well as the rest of the music world.

The book begins in the prologue with Nico's first meeting with Andy Warhol, but the first chapter begins with Lou Reed's days in Detroit in 1975. It traces the three of them fairly evenly, devoting equal weight to the Velvet Underground and Lou Reed's later solo career, to David Bowie's albums and mammoth US tours, and also to Iggy and The Stooges. The whole book is essentially chronological, a deceptively simple re-telling of what happened, who was there, and what the fallout was. I say deceptively, because it's clear that Thompson would have had an enormous amount of material to work with, and the fact that he created a book so measured and concise is impressive.

The whole thing is very well-written, actually, with just the right mix of interesting facts, engaging descriptions of the people involved, and gossipy melodrama. Bowie, Pop and Reed are given equal treatment - roughly the same amount of "screen time" - without any visible bias or preferential treatment of one over the other. There's no sugar-coating of their behaviour, but also no judgement of the things they did or the way they treated themselves and others. There is some discussion of the legendary partying, drug addiction and debauchery that these three are famous for, but it never seems to overshadow the impact and importance of their music and their effect on their fans.

In fact, I found there was less drug talk than I was expecting. Thompson really only talks about the partying when it influenced the music, or when it became a definite problem, like Bowie's slide into cocaine-fuelled crazy, or Iggy and Reed's respective heroin addictions and the effect they had on their ability to produce music.

One criticism of this book might be its brevity. At only 300 pages, it's a swift read, and Thompson certainly packs a lot in. Do three artists of this calibre deserve a longer study? Maybe. However, while more serious and dedicated fans might want more detail, I was pretty happy with the length and depth available in this book. I felt Thompson had encapsulated the up and down relationships between these three men, and the up and down flow of the rock and roll industry of the era, remarkably well, without getting bogged down in the minutiae.

Overall verdict: easy to read, deeply interesting, no sugar-coating or hyperbole. Two thumbs up from me!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Five for Friday no.13

Brisbane has our own 100% local online shoe store. I'm so proud!

Zombies, Run! There is an app you can buy that makes running … fun … shudder … by making it an interactive game in which as soon as you step out of your door you're running from the zombies and fighting for your life. Sounds cool but it's not enough to convert me: I don't run.

Who doesn't love a good bookshelf or beautiful library website? I know I do, even though they fill me with bitter seething envy. So, bookshelf site!

A short history of the Calendar. For those of you who weren't in the know.

Slow motion ballet. Two dancers from the Staatsballett Berlin slowed to 1000 frames per second accompanied by Radiohead's Everything in Its Right Place.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

R.I.P Qld Premier's Literary Awards

I am adding my voice to the many in uproar today over Campbell Newman's decision to take an axe to the Queensland Premiere's Literary Awards.

This was not an election promise, just a first step in Newman's budget-preservation strategy, that also includes announcements of potential redundancies at certain government departments (heard on 612ABC Brisbane radio this morning).

Not that axing the awards is going to save a whole lot of moolah - a total of $250,000 in the year. In governmental terms, that's pocket-change. The sort of money they might spend on paperclips and staples per annum.

Even Federal Minister for the Arts Simon Crean came out on twitter, stating:

@SimonCrean_MP: Disappointed the @TheQldPremier has cut the Literary Awards, especially in the National Year of Reading. Short sighted! Reconsider Premier.

Despite the uproar that I have been aware of today, most of the State won't care, which is why the Premier can get away with it. Who cares now? The arts community, who probably didn't vote LNP anyway. He knows that and knows that this is an easy storm to weather. But it shouldn't be. Brisbane does not exactly have the most glowing reputation as a cultural destination and this is leap backwards. We voted in a Premier who doesn't care about writing, books or the promotion of literacy. Go Campbell.

Did I mention it is also the National Year of Reading?

I do not need to write a full blog post about this, because so many talented Brisbane writers have put fingers to keyboards today and turned their minds to the reasons and the stupidity.

Stuart Glover - founder of the Brisbane Writers Festival

Andrew Stafford, author of Pig City

Nick Earls, author of Zigzag Street

Josh Donellen – up and coming writer and Rave magazine’s music reviewer. 'Inaugural Premier's Obituary Award'

The Queensland Writers Centre’s official response on their facebook page (like them while you’re visiting).

Sign the official petition to reverse the decision.

Official website of the (former) Queensland Premiers Literary Awards.

The Courier Mail's wrap-up and their 'overwhelming' reader response as former arts MP Matt Foley calls the decision "a squalid, ugly start to the business of government".

Monday, 2 April 2012

Carrie and the 80s

As some of you may know, a new 'Sex and the City ' series is in production. 'The Carrie diaries' traces the young Carrie's life in New York prior to the writing, Big, and the manolos. Or not really.

I belong to a generation of women who loved Sex and the City. I remember spending a significant number of my grade 12 Chemistry lessons discussing the latest episode of the show. It was and is a great show, no matter what its many detractors think of it. Sure, it might have given me some unrealistic ideas about fashion and New York city but that was made up for by a little realistic relationship representation on screen.

Ironically, the fashion that helped make the series famous and fabulous was also its downfall. There is no way Carrie could have afforded her wardrobe, not on her salary – even post-Vogue. I remember reading in a mag the financial breakdown of Carrie's wardrobe and this outfit alone cost in the ten of thousands of dollars:

on 2 columns? I don't think so. (Love the outfit though)

Which brings me to my first of many beefs about 'The Carrie Diaries'. First off, stop flogging the dead horse. The first movie was pretty terrible, the second was dismal. Now another series? Just let the poor franchise rest. Anyway, main beef: the first snaps have emerged of the young Carrie strutting around New York and it strikes me that high school Carrie, or high-school Carrie's Mum could never have afforded this outfit:

There was never any suggestion that Carrie came from a well-to-do family. I always believed her to be totally average in that sense, maybe even worse off than others because her father ran off when she was young and there were surely few single mothers in the 1980s who could afford a whole lot of excess.

I'd wear this now, for heaven's sake. NOT 80s enough.

I know that SATC is famous for the fashion and 'Carrie Bradshaw' has a reputation to create, but I would have loved to see a genuinely inventive wardrobe on her, not an attempt at adult-Carrie-but-20-years-younger. In the first season, she didn't even display a quirky dress sense. What happened to scouring TV wardrobes and the amazing NYC vintage scene for genuine 80's pieces? What about a bit of fashion originality from the young Carrie? I can see her experimenting with DIY, denim and neon. The 80s were classy for no one, but they were loud and crazy. I want to see stone-wash-denim Carrie and scrunch-socks Carrie. You know she would have gone there.

I won't even get started on the other inaccuracies in the series, I will only say that 'The Carrie Diaries' in still in the early stages of production in the US. It has a SATC writer and is being produced by a couple of Gossip Girl producers, so even though I'm a little annoyed at it I'm sure it's going to be good mindless, pretty television.

If you want to read a more bitter take on adult Carrie's wardrobe, read this.

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