Saturday, August 1, 2020


What I've Been Reading

The Loudness of Unsaid Things by Hilde Hinton – this is Hilde’s debut novel and it is a gem. Hilde is the older sister of Samuel Johnson, and knowing their family story I suspect some of it is semi-autobiographical. It is about a young girl, Susie living with her Dad and her Mum is in the 'Mind Hospital'. It delves into the deep and disturbed mind of Susie, riding her beloved second-hand bike through her neighbourhood rating houses out of 10. Hinton writes such an evocative world, that you can see it clearly in your mind’s eye. The story follows Susie as she meanders through life in the most clumsiest of ways. Her mistakes, her failures, and the odd triumph. What will become of Susie? This is so beautifully written, funny and melancholy. I loved entering this world, and I cannot wait to see what Hilde writes next.

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld – I have been sitting on this book of short stories for a couple of years after it was recommended to me. But with her new novel coming out, everyone was jumping on the bandwagon (grrr, I hate that). So I finally delved into it, and was so impressed. Her writing is great, sharp and observational of modern behaviour. It is inclusive, feminist and political. I laughed out loud a lot, many of the stories were satire, and I knew a lot of the people she was writing about. Her characters are really honest and interesting and insightful. I cannot wait for Rodham!

After Australia edited by Michael Mohammed Ahmad – this is a great compilation of short stories and poetry from a range of indigenous and poc Australian writers. They imagine an alternative Australia in terms of race and other issues. The stories stop and make you think, they make you smile and they make you frown. They are beautifully written, mostly by up and coming authors too. Really worth a look at.

Born-again Blakfella by Jack Charles with Namila Benson – This was a fascinating and honest read. It tells the tragic story of Jack’s upbringing, he was a stolen child. His time in and out of jail and how he got into acting. His like is full of great luck and extremely bad luck, and is utterly enchanting.

Going Back by Munjed Al Muderis with Patrick Weaver – this is the follow up for Munjed’s first memoir, Walking Free. This time he goes into more depth about the people he helps walk again with his amazing T2 technology and prosthetics. Munjed actually operated on and did the prosthetic for my brother-in-law and is a hero in our family, a remarkable and kind man. The stories within the book are heart-breaking but uplifting. He also returns to Iraq to work with soldiers and others who have lost limbs due to war. He finds himself up against the government over there and once again shows what a fierce, determined, and brave man he is! 

Broken Open by Craig Hamilton with Neil Jameson – after ‘working’ with Craig Hamilton on air the other month, I thought it was timely to revisit his memoir from 2004. It is the memoir of his life so far, but it is really about his breakdown in 2000, what led up to it, and how he has dealt with it since. This is a really honest account of a very confronting time and it is an important read, especially for men. Men often ignore their mental health, so this is a great read to show what can happen and that it is ok and you can resolve things. In these Covid times, when everyone is experiencing some kind of change, this is a timely read for everyone.

Notre-Dame de Paris: history, art, and revival from 1163 to tomorrow by Antonia Felix – this is a lovely coffee table book full of stunning photography from over the years. It covers the history of the Notre-Dame, the art within, what is has been and is used for and the recent fire. There are also little stories, and references to movies and songs and other arts that feature the cathedral.

The Body: a guide for occupants by Bill Bryson - I love Bill, I love his dry sense of humour and his interest in the minutiae. I love listening to him read his books even more. So I was very excited to get his latest on talking book, but I had to abandon it halfway. He was Bill, it was dry and it was interesting, but The Body is a challenging subject, and a lot of the information was dire, especially in these Covid times. I simply found it too depressing to listen to. I will pick it up another time for sure. It was interesting and full of amazing detail, but it was just too much.

Growing up Gay in Australia, edited by Benjamin Law - a great compilation of hilarious, and heart breaking in equal measures. Short stories, edited by Benjamin Law, and featuring a wonderful list of famous and not so famous writers. I listened the the talking book and didn't want it to end, highly recommend.

What I've Been Watching

Curb Your Enthusiasm S10 - my love for Larry knows no bounds, and this feels like the best season yet. So much to laugh out loud at, and that is rare generally but especially in recent times. At that beginning Larry - the original social distancer - realises wearing a Make America Great Again cap ensures people stay clear from him and hilarity ensues. There are a lot of cameos this season from a hilarious turn by Clive Owens (Possibly the best episode of the bunch), to Isla Fisher, Sean Penn, Chris Martin, Fred Armisen, Laverne Cox and Jane Krakowski. Jon Ham researching Larry to play a Larry type showed us a buddy comedy we didn't know we needed, and Alan Tudyk's mad German inventor with a dog called Adolph was shades of Dr Strangelove. The supporting cast, as always brilliant. I love that this show is going from strengths to strengths all these years on.

Outnumbered S1-5 – I’ve been bingeing this great UK comedy. It is about a decade old now and one I missed, probably as it is about a suburban family and that isn’t really my thing. But clips of it kept popping up on my FB feed and it always made me laugh so when the boxset came through at work I had to give it a go. It is a simple story of a Mum and Dad struggling with work and 3 children. The eldest, Jake, about 11 when the show starts is probably the most intelligent of the entire family, he is quiet and interested in school and music and just starting to recognise girls. The middle child, Ben, is about 6 and a curly headed, science-mad tornado. Always running about, doing inappropriate things, being cheeky, and absolutely hilarious. But the star of the show is the youngest, Karen, about 4 or 5 and highly intelligent in a kinda bad way, very argumentative and also hilarious. She is a completely unique character, and just steals every single scene. She has a LOT of dialogue and is constantly catching her parents and siblings out, leaving them speechless. 

What I found out about the show, as if it wasn’t funny and clever enough, is a lot of the dialogue is improvised and mostly by the kids. The creators wanted the show to be a realistic portrayal of kids, and that – I think – it is. The adults are given a basic outline of a script with dialogue to learn. The kids are given ideas and what each scene is to be about just before filming, there are some lines they need to land on, but other than that it is up to them what to come up with. The adults also improvise in their reactions to what the kids say. This gives the show it’s realistic feel. It is glorious to watch the kids stump the adults, and sometimes vice versa and see how each of them wrangle themselves verbally out of the situation. 

The first 4 seasons are solid gold, but the final season – which came after a gap of a few years – not so much. The kids had grown up, and no longer really suited the style of the show. Jake was a typical teen, but he had always been a quieter character. Ben had grown really big, tall and hulking, but was still a bit cute with the curls and a deep deep voice, his storyline of playing Spartacus in Spartacus the musical pretty much kept the season going. It is worth it for that! But the most disappointing is Karen, 12 and turning into a sulking dark haired misfit teen. Her argumentative ways going against her in high school and landing her in trouble with no friends. I thought this was such a shame that such a brilliant character ended up this way. I am unsure whether it was the actress changing or the writing, but it was a lost opportunity I think. Either way, I cannot recommend this highly enough. It is a rare show that makes you laugh out loud, but this does in abundance.

The Trouble with Maggie Cole - I really wanted to love this mini series starring Dawn French. I did enjoy it, but I didn’t love it. Set in a small town, Dawn’s character works as a local historian of sorts and is married to the local school principal. Her son is grown up and married. She is interviewed by a neighbouring radio for a fluff piece but the interviewer gets her drunk and she blabbers a lot of the towns secrets (true and not so much) which gets aired much to the town’s disgust. The fact she holds a large party with all the people she spoke about to listen to the interview didn’t help. She becomes the most hated person in the town and desperately tries to make up for it to no avail. But in time all her gossip forces a lot of change – some for the better – for people so maybe it is not so bad after all…or is it! French is a delight, as are a lot of the characters, but the story felt strung out and forced, especially some of the minor storylines.  For French fans only.

Bad Education – made for tele movie with Hugh Jackman, Ray Romano, and Allison Janney, about a large school embezzlement. The most remarkable story, showing that truth is stranger than fiction. The story was broken by a student reporter, writing a story about a ‘skywalk’ the school was building, and she uncovers more than she bargained for. This was really great, totally sucks you in, amazing ensemble cast, and just a fascinating story.

Quiz – this was a fascinating look into what happened in the UK scandal of cheating on the show, Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. It follows a family hell bent on winning the million and going to every length to achieve that. But ultimately getting caught. It has great behind the scenes of the show and some marvellous performances. Michael Sheen as Chris Tarrant is remarkable.

Trip to Greece –  I love Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon and together in this brilliant series they are perfection. Greece is supposedly the final in the series, I guess we shall see. I really loved this as I have the others, though I think this is probably the weakest link in the series. That doesn’t mean it is bad, far from it, just not quite as good. Maybe it is the absence of…spoilers…Michael Caine. But the lush landscapes and history of Greece are there, the food, the comradery, the laughter, and the pathos and melancholy. I love it best when they are riffing off each other, trying to make each other laugh. Such a nice escape, especially when travel seems light years away.

Dumbo  - I struggled with this, the animation of the elephants felt wrong. I cannot say why, but it was a little off. I love Tim Burton and his vision and world and this was presented well in terms of the world around the circus and the elephants. Things definitely improved when Eva Green turned up, there is something luminous about her on screen. And whilst I made it through the movie and didn’t mind it, I didn’t love it and wonder why it needed to be remade.

Kalifornia - this did not hold up too well, it feels too aware of itself. The story of a man obsessed with murder, who takes a road trip to some murder sites so he can write a book. He takes 2 locals, an odd couple (Brad Pitt and Juliet Lewis) with him (Duchovny) and his girlfriend, to help pay for petrol etc. They begin to realise the couple have some serious issues and one of them is possibly a murderer. 

Hairdresser’s Husband - rewatched this modern French classic thanks to SBS World Movies. Written and directed by the great Patrice Leconte with Jean Rochefort as the older Antoine. As a child Antonie falls in love with his hairdresser and that is his only wish in life and at 50 he meets Mathilde, a hairdresser, and they embark on a love affair. But all is not as rosy in Leconte’s world. This is a gorgeous, melancholy film with a  twist that haunts…much like many of his films. I have not seen this film in years and it holds up beautifully.

Country Music - this was a long form documentary but the master, Ken Burns, and it was extraordinary, from the very beginning to the mid 90s and everything in between. Lots of appropriate country artists talking about each other and the music, the glorious music. This is for lovers of music, and if you don't like classic country, you will be the end.

Top Ten Treasures of Pompeii – this was one of the best documentaries on Pompeii I have seen. It's number one is people and they show the devastating casts and actual bodies they were made from. It took me straight back to that hot day almost 8 years ago when I visited Pompeii, and was in tears. It is difficult to explain how upsetting seeing those figure was. The doco uses VR goggle to bring the streets to life quite marvelously and the presenter is flown above the city in a heicopter so you got to see the city from above and down into the crater of Vesuvius. The helicopter pilot says I come Napoli, this is my city and - referring to Vesuvius - this is my boss. E very day I need to respect it, my boss!         

Wendy Sharpe: the imagined life – great little documentary about Wendy and her remarkable art. It follows her at home and in the studio, looking at her unique style. Her partner (in life and art – they share a studio space) Bernard is also interviewed. It follows her to Venice and what she paints there, and also a 2013 Archibald entry.

Australia’s Lost Impressionist: John Russell – this was an excellent documentary about the Australian impressionist, John Russell. I have heard of him and when they started to show some of his beautiful works, I had seen them in galleries. It tells his remarkable story with interviews from relatives and art critics and still photography and of course his work. He moved to France and worked mostly there, befriending Monet, Van Gogh, and others. He was prolific and his work as good as his famous contemporaries and yet, sadly, his name isn’t as well known as them, here in Australia or elsewhere. This was a great insight into the man and his work.

Jeffery Smart: master of stillness – this is a short documentary around the 2012 retrospective of his work (just before he died). It talks to those that knew him and features interviews with the man himself. It was a good solid little doco, but could have been much more.

The Leunig Fragments – this is a perplexing documentary, it is obviously trying to get to the bottom of Michael Leunig, but doesn’t quite get there. I don’t think anyone ever will. A thoroughly unique talent and National Treasure, Leunig has challenged thinking all of his life, but particularly so in recent years. So much so, he has really torn apart a lot of the love he has created. I find this difficult to articulate. His recent controversies, and cartoons are definitely upsetting to me, but part within character, part not so much. A man who is estranged from most of his family, and yet seems very hurt and upset about it, but never says why. I think as an Idealist, he lives a vicarious and difficult life. And I think he has given me so much joy, a few brain farts won’t push me away. And I say brain farts, as these controversies happened just before serious brain disease, a tumour found on his brain that needed operating. I am not creating excuses, but maybe, just maybe this was causing mental issues for the controversies to appear. Life is complex, he has annoyed me absolutely with some recent cartoons but he has held my hand, comforted me, and made me smile far more.

The Gospel According to Andre: a film about Andre Leon Talley – Andre is the extraordinary and larger-than-life Fashion Director/Editor/Commentator/Icon for Vogue. Growing up in the South, it tells his childhood and how he got into Fashion and became a superstar. Loads of interviews with fashion insiders, and with the great man himself. This is fun and interesting, and full of delightful design and beauty. Also worth it to see him and Maureen Dowd live tweeting Trump’s inauguration.

PJ Harvey: a dog called money – this is an ‘interesting’ documentary about the process of recording her 2016 album, The Hope Six Demolitian Project. A lot of the songs are political and taken from her travels. The intent and desire is there, and the songs are quire wonderful but there is something empty about the whole process. The footage of Harvey in these countries, mostly third world and middle eastern, doesn’t really show her connecting with anyone despite being there and taking copious notes. She is never really interviewed in why she has written what she has, possibly thinking the songs will speak for themselves. In some ways they do, in others not so much. Her musicians/band do not even seem to be connecting with her, saying on a previous album they were getting close to a tour and hadn’t heard a single song and were getting worried, and she turns up with a  fully made album, leaves them the CD to play, makes a cuppa tea and leaves them alone. I guess this is telling to her personality. It was fascinating to watch, and the music varied and sublime, but there was too much distance.

Camino Skies – this is a documentary about some people walking The Camino, a pilgrimage between France and Spain. These kind of walks really fascinate me and I have watched and read a lot about them. This wasn’t the best example of walking The Camino, and whilst the people were inspiring and interesting, the editing was too choppy and montagey to really show anything of substance.

What I've Been Listening To

Respect All Lifeforms By Custard – this is such a return to form for Custard and possibly their best album yet. Thrasy, funky, poppy, Irreverent, they sound tight and great. Their first single, Funky Again, pretty much sums up the album.

Chromatica  by Lady GaGa – I am not a huge GaGa fan, but I don’t mind her singing, especially when she sings properly – she has a lovely operatic voice. The new album was good, poppy and a good groove, not too over produced.

Love is here to stay by Tony Bennett and Diana Krall – stunning album of standards from the masters. Their voices sound sublime together and then there is Diana’s unique piano playing. Jazz at its best.

I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This by Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra – another fine outing from Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra. Featuring an eclectic mix on female vocals including Fiona Apple, Miley Cyrus, Sharon Van Etten and Gregory Porter. This album is more fusion jazz and out there than the last but still brilliant!

Ultimate Collection by Katie Melua – a brilliant double album chock full of beauty and all her hits. That voice, like butter and honey mixed, will always bring a tear to my eye. She adds in some lovely covers to round it all out. You really cannot go wrong with Katie. 

Coming Home by Leon Bridges – Bridges takes you back to 60s soul with his debut album and gorgeous  voice. His songs are other wordly, and feel immediately familiar. Some have a gospel feel. This is a great album, but he’s young, so there should be even greater to come.

At Least For Now by Benjamin Clementine – Benjamin was discovered busking on the Paris Metro. He is a mix of soul and blues and jazz and classical with a melancholy feel but cites his influences as Antony Hegarty and Rufus Wainwright which makes sense. His voice is exceptional, this is a great album

Gon’ Boogaloo by C.W. Stoneking – CW is an Australian blues singer in his mid 40s, born in the Northern Territory, but if you listened to him you’d think he was a swampy blues singer from the South in the US in the  30s or 40s. He is remarkable and his voice is so unique and unusual. I could listen to him all day, just a delight.

Alice Cooper’s Vintage Vault – this is a newish ‘podcast’ from Alice. He has had a late night radio show for years, delving into his favourite music and interviewing musicians. This is a pastiche of his faves with interviews and added asides or background information by Alice on the artist. They were all great but stand outs were Debbie Harry, Paul McCartney (Alice worships Paul), Dave Grohl, Suzi Quatro. Added bonus in this world of Podcast overload, they range in time from 15-40 minutes!

The Plot Thickens – this is a new podcast about movies and the people who make them. It is affiliated with TCM, which gives it some cudos. Season 1 is about Peter Bogdanovich and is based on a series of interviews between Peter and TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz, and yes Ben is related to those Mankiewiczs’. It follows Peter through his career, the ups and downs, and delves into his relationships with other directors, particularly Orson Welles. This is a film buffs dream and it doesn’t drag on. Each episode is between 30-40 minutes with no fluff. I thoroughly enjoyed this, with a lot of finite detail and information I did not know presented.

WTF with Marc Maron and Helen Mirren - Marc is still mourning his girlfriend, he is freaked out about Covid, and his long dying cat is still with him. I worry about him, but boy he has been churning out some solid podcasts and this one with Helen Mirren is wonderful. She was generous and warm and funny, as you would expect. You could feel him just heal in talking to her, and maybe even flirt a little. They had an immediate rapport and chewed the fat with ease, they covered a wide range of subject matter and it is totally worth a listen. 

He also interview Jim Carrey, after trying to get him for years, and it also was stunning. Jim also aligns to the melancholy and it was definitely a meeting of the minds. Another one worth listening to.

Julia and Hilary - I am loving Julia Gillard's podcast, she interviews a whole range of fascinating women but her interview with Hilary Clinton was the female partnership I didn't know I needed. Absolutely brilliant, go and listen to it now!

Unspooled Finale - Casablanca and recap -  I have been listening to this podcast for about 2 years now. The premise was to take the AFI (American Film Industry) Top 100, rewatch each film randomly and then review them. Amy and Paul are young, and in the film industry as reviewers and participants. I loved it when they loved films I loved, and got cranky when they got stuck into films I really liked. They looked at things from today;s perspective and they made decisions on whether each film was worthy of being on the list, what they would replace it with and so on. I also loved it when they reviewed a film they had never seen before, especially if they loved it, it almost was like re-discovering old friends. Often they interviewed people involved in the films. and they always looked to The Simpsons for a recreation, lol!  The final film was Casablanca and what a fitting end, my all time favourite film. I have not watched it for a long time and I was actually in tears through a lot of their chatter, they loved it so much. And I was sad to see the end, the very last podcast was a recap on their findings which was also fascinating. If you love classic film, or want to know more about it, this is THE podcast to listen too. They are returning with a new season, looking at the films they would add into the top 100, so that will be fun I am sure. Cannot wait.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020


What I've Been Reading

The Love That Remains by Susan Francis – I saw Susan at the Newcastle Writer’s Festival online this year talk about her memoir and was mesmerised by her story and very keen to read the book. In the meantime I also stumbled across her Conversations podcast. I finally got a chance to read it and devoured it in one sitting. It is the story of a recent time in her life where she is tracking her birth parents and also meets the love of her life. Both stories are remarkable and a good example of truth is stranger than fiction. It is difficult to talk about this memoir without spoilers. Susan marries her great love and they move to live in Spain for a year but life can be strange and twisted. This is where the story gets intense and can pack quite a punch. But it is told so well and with such fierce beauty, you just want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next. Susan lives in Newcastle and should be so proud of this book, it is an incredibly brave thing to put your life our there as she has. I cannot recommend this one highly enough.

Here We Are by Graham Swift - this is a three-way love story set in the 1950s in Brighton. Jack and Ronnie are friends. Jack is the MC of a vauldeville show at Brighton Pier. Ronnie is a magician. Jack persuades Ronnie to find a partner for his show. He finds Evie. They get engaged and yet Evie ends up married to Jack. The story skips around what happened and indeed Ronnie's show until the end. It is beautifully written and has you turning the page with interest. Whilst it is a love story it is more about Ronnie and his removal as a child from The Blitz and London - as many children were - and how he survived. This was such an enchanting novel, I really loved it.

Where’d you go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – I really wanted to like this book, but I struggled with it. I didn’t hate it but it really just wasn’t for me. I am not a fan of books filled with letters or emails etc as this is. I disrupts the flow of the prose and makes it disjointed and annoying to read. I didn’t really like many of the characters ‘reporting’ on Bernadette and found the premise overblown. I get there was a lot of gossip about the main character for her differences, and it may seem like a clever way to record that, but it just annoyed me. The plot is Bernadette was a famous architect (now this part of the plot I LOVED, and wanted more, but they glossed over it, sigh) who peaked early and then had a breakdown, hidden away in suburbia, she decides to flee her life after a long set of convoluted circumstances. You know she flees because there was a lot of media hype (usually a sign a book is not going to be for me) about it.  This doesn’t happen until way into the book, by this stage I could not have cared less.  Sorry to those that loved this, it is just not my type of book.

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner - to me, this was almost the same book as Bernadette. Given I read them back to back, this didn't make me love Fleishman anymore than I did Bernadette. This needed a solid edit, it dragged on a bit, and similarly to Bernadette the main female character was the most interesting part but they didn't feature that much. These kind of family melodramas or airporty novels just are not my cup of tea.

Generation Friends: an inside look at the show that defined a television era by Saul Austerlitz – I would never call myself a fan of Friends, but I realised reading this book I would have watched almost every episode and enjoyed many of them. Many also irritated me. The book didn’t tell me anything that new, but if you are a fan and you want a walk down memory lane this is for you.

What is it All but Luminated: notes from an undergound man - Art Garfunkel - this is a memoir unlike I have ever experienced. Beautifully arranged, out of order and including stunning poetry, lists of music and book and things. And of course stories of his life, personal and as a musician and actor. Presented in short snippets, it is an easy read and a delight to read.

Songs by Don Walker – His words are ingrained in many of us. Their beauty, their rhythm, enrichening and delving into our soul. This is a collection of his stunning lyrics with his thoughts added here and there. I may have sung some of them out loud.

Mother, Sister, Husband, Dog by Delia Ephron - this was a selection of essays by Delia, sister of Nora. Delia is an accomplished writer and essay writer, not quite in the stratosphere, but still worthy of a read. It opens with a stunning tribute to Nora, which will make you laugh and cry. High recommend.

Booked: a traveler’s guide to literary locations around the world by Richard Kreitner – this was a travel guide to all the places your favourite books are set in. Divided by country it features a fascinating range of books, including Harper Lee, Stephen King, Maya Angelou, Jack Kerouac, Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Proust, Stieg Larsson, Tolstoy, Haruki Murakami, and Alexander McCall Smith.

Biblio-Style: how we live at home with books by Nina Freudenberger – this is the most stunning coffee table type book about personal libraries. The photography is exquisite and orgasmic! I was utterly swooning reading this book. Each library had words about the people who own it and why they collected the titles they did, arranged them etc. There were some small actual libraries but it was mostly personal libraries and my goodness, I was very smitten.

The Trouble with Women Artists: reframing the history of art by Laure Adler and Camille Vieville – this was quite an eye opener. I can probably count the female artists I know on my hands and this was a lovely coffee table book with a couple of pages on about 60 amazing artists. Quite a lot of early artists too, amazing. I particularly loved Eva Gonzales who studied with Manet and Mary Beale who was the first female portrait painter in England (mid 1600s). Sonia Delaunay was a Fauvist with Picasso. It was lovely to read about these trailblazers.

Women in Design: From Aino Aalto to Eva Zeisel by Charlotte Fiell and Clementine Fiell  - I knew a lot more than I thought I would here, mostly fashion designers. There was a lot of amazing furniture designers too, some architects and ceramics etc. Again, this was a lovely coffee table style book that was lovely to look through and read about these remarkable women

Love is strong as death: poems chosen by Paul Kelly – this was a huge tome I dipped in and out of and chock full of wonderful poetry. It features then usual suspects; Shakespeare, Keats, Homer, Thomas, Donne, Cummings, Blake, Eliot, Plath, Milton, Shelley, Whitman, Byron, and Rossetti. Loads of Australian; Dawe, Murray, Paterson, Wright, Slessor, Harwood, and Larkin. Indigenous poetry, lyrics by Archie Roach and Kev Carmondy. And much, much more. If you love poetry, you’ll love this collection, if you are unsure about poetry this is a great place to start.

When Life is Not Peachy: real-life lessons in recovery from heartache, loss and tough times by Pip Lincolne – sometimes you need to have a refresher on some of these important life skills. Not to be so tough on yourself, and to remember whilst bad happens, a lot of good does too. To refresh all the tools in your mental health and happiness tool box, to add a few more. To remember you are loved and appreciated and to look for the small moments of joy in life. I’ve been ok, but it has been a tough year, so this was a good and timely read.

Planet Earth: inspirations and thoughts from a planet warrior by Bob Brown – this is a lovely book of quotes and thoughts and words about our Planet Earth from the beautiful Bob Brown. It is eloquent and soulful and feels like a warm hug.

Havana: A subtropical delirium by Mark Kurlansky - a fascinating read on the history of Havana, Cuba. It's dark days of slavery and constant civil unrest through to Castro. It is also a social history, including movies and books and music. A travelogue, as the writer has visited there many times and includes recipes and drawings and snippets from other books. Quite a mis-mash of information much like the country and city itself.

The Art of Flaneuring: how to wander with intention and discover a better life by Erika Owen – I have been a Flaneur – or  Flaneuse – for as long as I can remember, before I realised there was a term for it. When I realised there was a word for it, and a French one at that, as a Francophile I was super chuffed! So a flaneur wanders with no real direction in terms of destination but takes in what they see. It could be historical references, nature, architecture, people, the clouds, things you see. Yes, it is still walking and exercise but it has a more interesting purpose. I love Flaneuring in a big city, wandering, looking at the architecture, finding little hidden gems, outdoor art, coloured doors, interesting people and so one. I can walk for hours doing that. This book delves in to the basics of being a Flaneur, nothing I didn’t know but it made me smile to know other like souls are out there doing similar things.

I know this to be True: on sincerity, compassion, and integrity by Waleed Aly - this is a lovely and fascinating insight into Aly's mind. He answers a whole range of questions on his life, morals, religion, politics etc. It was so very well answered and thought out. What an amazing man.

What I've Been Watching

Ride Like A Girl  - we all know the story, the first female to win the Melbourne Cup. I do have issues with horse racing these days. I grew up with it as my grandfather was a SP bookie in his day and we always followed races. Even after he passed, I would still think of him and place a bet but I have not done this for a few years now. This film tells the story of Michelle Payne and her family, a family of horse lovers, racers, strappers etc. Her Mother died when she was a baby and her father brought up her and her other 9 siblings which is rather remarkable. I didn’t know she had had a terrible accident in a race a few years prior to the big race. This is a lovely little biopic, well directed by Rachel Griffiths and it builds the tension nicely. I watched this and just really got involved and very emotional. We all love an underdog story. This is also a great family film and one for young girls to show we can do anything!

Addams Family – I am a huge fan of the original television show and always brace myself when there is a remake. This is an animated version and it is great. Has the right feel and looks wonderful. And creepy and spooky.

Charlie’s Angels – this was a bit of fun, not brilliant but ok.

Knives Out – ooh this was good, not exactly the sort of movie I thought it was. You know who the killer is fairly early on (as such) and it weaves in and out while the detectives catch up. The cast were amazing, but mostly not used well enough. Still I enjoyed this.

Downton Abbey – really this was just an extended version of the tv series, yes the Royal Family visited, but nothing too special plot wise. But oh so lovely to revisit those characters and take in the art and costume design.

Top End Wedding - I loved this great film by Miranda Tapsell, she is such a joy to watch on screen and this lovely romantic comedy about a wedding and family. Stunningly shot in the Territory and outback. A true joy.

Dead Don't Die - I wanted to adore this Jim Jarmusch Zombie film with an all star cast. It was really good, but not great, sadly. But still worth watching for the cast!

Everybody Knows - this is a Spanish film about a kidnapping. Starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. It does drag a bit and at over 2 hrs, could have been a more together 90 minutes films. Twists and turns ensue, but ultimately easy to work out well before the film does.

Glorious 39 - a Stephen Poliakof film set at the beginning of WWII. As a bunch of her male friends and family start to commit suicide, Anne - adopted daughter of a well-to-do family - starts to wonder what is happening. The film moves about in times, but shows the horrifying aspects of war at it's very beginning. 

Inland Empire - this is one of Lynch's more difficult films. Difficult to watch and difficult to understand, but it was my second or third viewing and things started to make a little more sense. I don't really know what to say about this without giving away what very little I know, lol! For super fans only.

Precious - this is a movie that passed me by I am ashamed to say. Wow, what a powerful and beautifully acted film. Precious is a bit of a no-hoper, mostly due to her destructive mother. When she falls pregnant for the second time, her teachers get involved and remove her from her situation and try and set her up with a better life. Devastating and uplifting, this was more than worthy of the attention it got when it came out.

Pride - I loved rewatching this lovely little uplifting gem about a group of gays and lesbians raising money for striking Welsh miners in the mid 80s during Thatcher's regime. Based on a true story, with a great cast, a bond of 2 underdogs is formed. I rewatched it for a lift and to have a look at a young Andrew Scott (The Hot Priest from Fleabag)  who plays one of the older gays (adorably of course) in the film. It was more powerful than I remembered, and solidifying the film is a great performance from Bill Nighy.

Avatar - Ok, I have never seen this film. I am not a fan of James Cameron and when it came out it felt irritated by it all. Anyway, I watched it and really liked it, but I didn't love it. I can see what it was trying to do in terms of race and environment. I loved the characters but found the production tinny and clunky. I am aware it was mostly green screen filmed and I think the movie is poorer for it. But I do think I would have liked it more had I seen it on a big screen.

Greenberg - this was a lovely re-watch. I prefer Ben Stiller in his melancholy state as in this movie. He is house sitting for his more together brother's family house after a stint in a mental institution. He falls in love with the family's nanny, played by the wonderful Greta Gerwig. It is a typical Noah Baumbach film, with interesting characters and a meandering storyline. Love it!

Mapplethorpe – starring Matt Smith at Robert Mapplethorpe this was a very basic movie of his life. I quite enjoyed it and thought Smith didn’t do too bad a job, but it definitely could have been a harsher and more authentic movie than what it was.

Suzi Q – this is a great documentary about Suzi Quattro and I was super impressed. I have always loved her from Countdown and Happy Days and recently saw her live and was pretty blown away by her performance. It tracks her early years singing with her sisters in a 60s style girl band but with that Detroit edge. And then follows her rise, independent and unique and hell bent on making it big, she was remarkable. This is a gritty tale of one determined gal and I loved it. Loads of interviews with girl rockers and guy rockers of the era. This is worth your time.

Run – I was keen to check this one out as I love the main actors, Merritt Weaver and Domhnall Gleeson. I wasn’t sure they would have chemistry but they do. They play ex-lovers who have not been together for many years. When they were together they had a pact that if they were not happy in their life one would text the other run and if the other felt similarly they would respond with Run and meet at Grand Central Station and catch a train across America. And that is how this started, both leaving awkward lives, but do they want to throw it all in for each other. And so the journey begins, and a lot happens on that train ride. It has a real Hitchcock feel, very North by Northwest. Weaver and Gleeson are brilliant and note perfect  and the supporting cast remarkable and great. It is very funny and very dramatic and has a couple of twists to keep things fresh. This is must see tv for sure!

Killing Eve S3 – S2 was nowhere near as good as S1 but still good and I found this season very much hit and miss in parts. There was a great episode where you met Villanelle’s family which was key to her character and her series. It is hard to explain the good and the bad of S3 without spoilers, except to say if you love this show you will still watch it and enjoy it. It is still better than a lot of the dirge out there.

High Fidelity - I love this so very much. I was worried, I will admit. Zoe Kravitz is equal parts cool and equal parts clumsy. i get her so very much it is scary. I always said Rob - as we knew him - was the male version of me and barring the smoking and tatts female Rob kinda is me, shitty relationships and hooked on music all the way. The first season - for the most part - follows the book/film carefully but updated. all the main characters are superb and Rob's 'love' interest perfect. The music - goes without saying - soooo perfect! I sit there and drool, I just want to be in that show, hanging and listening to the music and making up Top 5s. Also huge shoutout to Debbie Harry for guest starring as Rob's muse (Springsteen featured in the book/film). I cannot wait for more.

Insecure S4- this show - it just gets better and better. I adore Issa Rae's Issa so very much. The vibe of the show is so great, it makes me want to go to LA (previously uninterested. There are some amazing tracking shots over the suburbs (a pool in every backyard) and dusk shots of the streets and bars. It is highly romantic in its atmosphere. It is about Issa, her life, her work, her friends and her love life; most of which is usually in flux. This season it appears that Issa is getting her shit together, but her relationship with her best friend Molly is not in good shape. This story arc is so beautifully executed, it is really fascinating to watch. Everything is so clever and smart in this show, I just love it.

Stateless - wow, this was exceptional viewing, Australian Drama at its best. About a fictional refugee camp and the people held within and the staff working there. Very emotional to watch and anger inducing. The treatment of these poor people, who are only escaping untenable situations, is rotten to the core. This was a rough watch but worthwhile.

Deadwater Fell - in a small, peaceful Scottish Village a fire breaks out in a house and a mother and three young children perish. The devastated father is left in hospital after trying to rescue them. It appears the whole family were drugged, who in this little village wanted them all dead. David Tennant stars as the bereaved father. This is a small 4 parter that keeps you hanging on with every twist and turn.

Miriam Margolyes, Almost Australian - Miriam goes Grey Nomad and drives around the country to get to the bottom of what it is to be Australian. Miriam is always entertaining in her very abrupt and honest way. This was great to see, at times cringe worthy - cringe worthy in some of the people she came across - but ultimately very interesting.

What I've Been Listening To

Thanks for the Dance by Leonard Cohen – this is the final album, released posthumously, with many musicians helping Leonard’s son complete the album. It is a very gentle and soothing album, and quite emotional to listen to.

Tell Me Why by Archie Roach -  Stunning double album of reworked classics, some favourites, some new work and just so lovely to listen to his beautiful, haunting voice. This was released to go with his memoir, which I am yet to read. 

Australian Halloween by Youth Group – I really enjoyed their new album, it had a Belle and Sebastian feel to some of the tracks, very bouncy pop!

Womad 2020 – includes a range of acts I saw at Womad, Blind Boys of Alabama, Laura Marling, Ifiqiyya Electrique etc. Nice memories.

Everything is A-OK – Violent Soho  - I haven’t heard much of these guys, but they are thrashy and a bit grungy and I quite enjoyed bopping along to this.

Future Nostalgia – Duo Lipa – I really like this chick, sassy and cool, great pop, funky and jazzy in parts. Well worth a listen.

American Standard - James Taylor – this is a lovely album of standards, show tunes etc and they work really well in Taylor’s folk stylings. Lazy Sunday afternoon listening at it’s best.

The Sweetest Taboo – Katie Noonan – this is really gorgeous and soulful and operatic as you can only expect from Katie. She covers a range of favourite tunes, including True Colours, Don’t Dream It’s Over, Take On me and many more. I really really loved this one.

The Dangerous Age – this is a collaboration between Kate Ceberano and Steve Kilbey, with Sean Sennett and it is utterly divine. Definitely the best thing either have done in a long while. Beautifully produced and has a real golden and lush sound and feel.


Julia Gillard and Kathy Lette are great friends, who would have known!? and thus a great, fun chat on her podcast.

Clear and Vivid with Alan Alda - did a special Covid catch up with Lorette Swit and Mike Farrell and it is everything you would think it would be. Utterly delightful chatter between very good and close friends. These guys have been close since the show - most of the cast have - and you can hear it in their voices. They spoke about the real heroes in hospitals and as pretend heroes on hospitals felt they needed to help in whatever way they could. Brilliant!

Michael Moore and Roger Waters from Pink Floyd are great friends and had a long chat on Moore's podcast about politics and music and everything in between. Utter brilliance.

Strong Songs  did God Only Knows, one of the most perfect songs you can hear and it was brilliant to listen to.

Unspooled  has been podcasting about the top 100 AFI Films and are up to the last 5. They did one of my favourite films, Chaplin's Modern Times and I was in heaven hearing 90 minutes on Chaplin and silent film. It is a film that still, sadly, holds up today. They also did an outstanding review of Streetcar Named Desire. Both are just brilliant, perfect films and our podcasters agreed.

Saturday, June 6, 2020


What I've Been Reading

I'm A Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson - the third in the talking book format I have been listening to, read by the author himself. This time Bill has returned to the US after living in the UK for 20 years. Returning to his home country, he found a lot had changed, and a lot had not. This is his discoveries, it is astute and very funny and delivered in his lovely wry wit.

Greek to Me: adventures of the comma queen by Mary Norris - this is Mary's second memoir. The first was about her brilliant job at The New Yorker as a copy editor. This one is about her love of the Greek language and Greece. It is a glorious mix of language, history and travel, along with interesting antecdotes from her life. I really enjoyed this.

The Constant Hum by Alice Bishop - this is a newish book of short stories based on the aftermath the Black Saturday fires in Victoria in 2009. The range in size from a few lines to a few pages, and offer subject matter from the mundane to the upsetting. This is very readable without being too traumatic.

On Tyranny - twenty lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder, On Fairness - Sally McManus, On Us - Mark Scott, On Hate -Tim Soutphommasane - been working through a lot of these little essay titles by well known people in the media on varying subjects. Fascinating and easy to whip through.

The Innocent Reader: reflections on reading and writing by Debra Adelaide  - book of essays on reading, writing and everything in between. I enjoyed this book but wanted more. There are a lot of these books about and as much as they are enjoyable I always finish them wanting more. I have ideas, maybe I need to work on my own. 

What I've Been Watching

Better Things S4 - this show, it is one of my favourites. I have a lot of stuff I call favourites, but this, this is up there!!! It is so beautifully written and presented. If you haven't watched it, try and find it. Sam Fox - played beautifully by the utterly brilliant Pamela Adlon, is an actress and single Mum to 3 daughters. Her ageing mother lives next door. Nothing happens and yet everything happens, cause the show is about life. It is about the interactions between the main family of characters and their friends. It is inclusive and full of love. It is essentially a comedy with dramatic moments. The acting in it - especially the 5 female leads - is exceptional. Watching the 3 girls grow up over the series in phenomenal, I love Frankie, the middle daughter, incredibly special actress. This season has a few minor arcs, one is a documentary series Sam is making about women, and it is thing of beauty. This show is such a feminist show, so many amazing women in it. It is a difficult one to explain, but it is thoroughly worthwhile and just been renewed for S5! Yes!

Breeders - This irritated me at first, but I hung in there 'cause Martin Freeman. it is about a couple with 2 young children, a realistic look at parenting and being a family. A black comedy. Freeman's character struggles with parenting. I didn't really get into this until twist 1 (there are 2) which totally turned the show on it's head. The twists are very very dark - so be warned. I really don't know what to think about this show. I don't know how to explain it without giving away the plot.

Run/High Fidelity/Insecure - been watching and LOVING these, but still in the middle of them all, reviews next month!

Crikey! It's The Irwins - Ok, I was a huge Steve Irwin fan and was totally devastated when he died. I know he wasn't everyone's cuppa tea, however I love passion. I love people who have a passion and follow it and shine. He was all that and more. Plus, animals! I love animals. His philosophies, despite a bit of madness within, were sound. I've been aware of this show for a little while and finally succumbed to watching it. And it is freakin' awesome!! 

It is basically a behind the scenes at a zoo show, but Australia Zoo is unlike any zoo. It is quite a remarkable place. Conservation and breeding of disappearing animals. It is taking Steve's philosophies and love of animals and conservation and just knocking it out the park. I am not a huge fan of zoos, however there are some zoos around the world that - for the most part - have similar ideologies. I do find some aspects of zoos confronting but I am willing to let that go if they are mostly saving and breeding animals and putting them back out into the wild and Australia Zoo does that. 

The show is also about the Irwin family and there is a lot to love there too. AND the star is young Robert. At 16 years of age he is his father's son and then some, which is really saying something. He has maturity way beyond his years and yet is still your average teenage boy. He is less 'crazy' than his Dad but definitely has his passion. His way with animals is something to be seen. This kid is pure magic. He was so young when his father died, and boy, he has me in tears watching him sometimes. He's very wise beyond his years and talks about his Dad a lot. Watching with any animal, he is at one and in heaven. Wes, Steve's best friend, pretty much runs the zoo and mentors Robert and that is also a thing of beauty. In fact all the employees at the zoo work with Robert (and Bindi and Terri) and they all have this reverence that is lovely.

I binged all 2 series this month and they were a real source of comfort to me when the world felt like it was all too much. I saw many babies born, other animals put to sleep, animals being saved and put back into the wild and Bindi being married. It is a great family show, and one that is easy to watch and love. 

Zoos/snakes -
following on from The Irwins, I have found a few other zoo shows which I have also enjoyed. These are my feel good shows. And Snakes in the City which if you know me is a weird one. I am terrified of snakes yet oddly drawn to this crazy show. Set in Joburg, it follows a couple who capture snakes who have made their way into people's homes or business and release them back to the wild. Mostly highly dangerous snakes, they are a little bit nuts but love their job. I found the tenseness of this show loosens the tension I have being out and about in the world and then got hooked, so whilst I don't feel as tense out and about I am still watching the show...go figure!

Flash Gordon - I have never watched this and it was a hoot. IT reminded me a lot of old Doctor Who, with dodgy sets and bad acting. The music, mostly Queen, was brilliant of course. I had a lot of fun watching this.

What We Do In The Shadows movie - with S2 coming very soon, I had a re-watch of the original movie. It is so good and so funny. I do think the TV series is better though. For those who do not know, you are really missing out, it is a modern day mockumentary about vampires house sharing in Wellington. It is from Taika Waititi and Jermaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) and they both play 2 of the vampires. If you are a fan of Wellington Paranormal you will see characters from that show in this film too. It is very clever and presented so very well, and it is hilarious. 

Toni Erdman - this is a long but fabulous German movie about a man who is released from a stint in jail trying to make good with his daughter. She is very uptight and working tirelessly for a company. He is loose and funny and wreckless and has no filter. He follows her to Bulgaria on a business trip and they are struggling to get on. He leaves but misses his plane so decides to take on the persona of Toni Erdman, with a wig and false teeth etc, and starts turning up wherever she is. She goes along with it despite being quite angry with him and they start to connect. This was such a lovely film, very funny and really really odd!

Nigella Lawson in conversation with Meave Mara  - this was a live recording from the Sydney Opera House and delightful. Nigella talking all things Nigella - get me the smelling salts!

Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind interesting documentary produced by her family, it traces Natalie's career as a child actress into a leading lady. Her love life and life off camera and of course, her untimely events. Loads of interviews with key people and it is lovely but ultimately doesn't answer any of the questions or it hard hitting.

Quilty: painting the shadows - I am such a fan of Ben Quilty and this documentary follows his rise and shows his unique painting style. With interviews from family, friends, and contemporaries, we get a lovely insight into his world. 

Tim Rogers and Rhys Muldoon - I stumbled across an instrgram post from Rhys, who I have followed for years, and found out he had been hosting a late night talk show and that particular night it was Tim Rogers. They are both close friends, which i did not know, and a delightful chat was showcased. They talked about music, writing, melancholy vs depression, books, and all things of beauty. I was in awe and happy, I love stuff like this.

Love in Lockdown - cute little 6 part online romcom. Each episode is about 7mins and about a couple who meet over an online ukulele lessons. Absolutely worth your time, on youtube, so go and check it out!!!

What I've Been Listening To

The Cure - Been listening to my older Cure albums on vinyl, loving it and forget how brilliant they are.

WTF with Marc Maron  - oh vey, Marc is a depressive character and I have been worried about him during Covid as his cat has been unwell but when his new girlfriend dropped dead unexpectedly I was super worried. He is doing ok, but listening to him talk about his grief on his podcast was too much, but beautiful.

Strong Songs - I am still getting into this great podcast, stand outs were Think by Aretha Franklin and Like A Prayer by Madonna. Kirk knows his stuff and unpicks great songs musically. You always learn something and it is great to really break down favourite songs.

Pineapple Project with Jan Fran on death The Pineapple Project has been taken over by the fabulous Jan Fran, and the topic was death. It was really fascinating and enlightening.

A Podcast of one's own with Julia Gillard - how did I not know this!?! Julia has her own podcast, and the title is a riff on Virginia Woolf as she works in the Virginia Woolf building at King's College in London. I cannot tell you how much I loved typing that sentence!!!!!!! I have only listened to a couple and they are everything. About women and feminism and are super intelligent and also lovely and funny and easy to listen to. I cannot wait to listen to more.

Televisionaries- this is another new podcast, and Australia led one about television and it is really good. they tackle one new show and one classic plus snippets of tele news and a quiz in between.

Rumble - Mother's day- Rumble is Michael Moore's podcast and is very political as you can imagine. But this episode for Mother's Day focuses on his own Mother and his upbringing and it was utterly beautiful!!!

Helen Garner's Diaries from Sydney - recorded in Angel Place last November ( I had been thinking of heading down but it was too difficult so late in the year). This is a lovely chat about Helen's new book and full of delightful stories from Helen. I could listen to my favourite author talk all day and this was just perfect.

Sunday, May 17, 2020


What I've Been Reading

On the Road by Jack Kerouac - I cannot believe I have never read this book. It took about 20 pages to get into the swing of it, and from there it was a page turner and I loved it. The rhythm of the writing, poetic as it was, felt like the jazz it refers to throughout the book. Syncopated and stylish and just when you get into it it changes and it sharp and off beat, just like jazz! The characters were looking for fun in this new era, and it was all about booze, drugs, and women. Some will need to remember the context of the times, but these things didn't bother me. It was about the writing and the writing was exceptional. Sure, some of the characters aren't that likeable, Dean Moriarty was awful, but he was interesting. This, whilst fiction, was based on the exploits of the beats at that time. Nothing really happens, it is just life and movement, but it is fascinating. The descriptive nature of the prose meant, for me, I could imagine every scene, every character in my head and I loved it so very much.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson - this is my second or third read of this modern classic, based on a real life adventure by the wonderful Hunter S Thompson. I grew up reading his pieces in Rolling Stone magazine. His anarchy and humour delighted me. His style, the gonzo style, I was immediately a fan of. This is a romping tale, of drugs, sex, drugs, booze, fast cars, drugs, guns, women, Las Vegas, drugs, motorcycles, drugs, and drugs. You get the picture, it's a little hazy and filled with flying rays and such. There really is no way to review this book. It is hilarious, funny, crazy, and fun. You don't dip you toe in, you belly flop right into the action and just go with the tides. You're welcome!

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer: a novella by Fredrik Backman - this is a very short and easy to read little gem. Backman also wrote A Man Called Ove which I loved. This is the story of a grandfather and grandson, sitting and reminiscing. The grandfather is struggling to remember his life and his grandson prompts his stories. He remembers his wife and how they met and so on. It is humourous and moving. 

La Passione: how Italy Seduced the World by Dianne Hales - this is a great book about all the 'passions' of Italy. Starting with history, war, the gods. It is part travel, part history, easy to read and fascinating. With chapters on art, architecture, food, opera, cars, film and much more you will escape into all things Italy. Milan, Venice, Romeo and Juliet, Ferrari, The Sistine Chapel, Puccini, Fellini, and so on. If you love anything remotely Italian, you will love this.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby - this is a fabulous book of feminist essays about Samantha's life. They are funny and clever, witty and real. Focusing mostly on relationships, but also family, friends, work, and other life things. I loved her essay on weight and 'dieting' called Fuck it, bitch, Stay Fat. 

The Beautiful Ones by Prince - absolutely brilliant book 'written' by Prince. He had started a memoir before he died, and this contains that, plus other pieces of writing, scribbled notes, photos and so forth. It focuses a lot on his upbringing and teen years leading up to his first album which is incredibly insightful and fascinating. There is much from his popular period too. Musically it is interesting, but it also delves into his persona as Prince and his fashion and appearance. It is definitely a book for fans and also for those who want to know more about behind the scenes and why Prince is so revered. It is also aesthetically beautiful in it's production, lots of purple and gold with photos and such presented beautifully.

Wham! George and Me by Andrew Ridgeley - this was a lovely biography about a lovely friendship. Andrew tells the story of their lives since becoming friends at school when they were young. How they put together Wham, remained friends, that fame and the aftermath. No real gossip and such, just a genuinely lovely story.

Dear Dad edited by Samuel Johnson - this is another small gift books full of letters from the Love Your Sister team, headed by Samuel Johnson. Full of celebs and regular people writing letters to their Dads. They range from sad to funny to surprising. I found out Joel Creasey's Dad was The Solo Man - that was super impressive!

The Nobel Lecture by Bob Dylan  - I've had this little gem for a while. It was a quick read but an outstanding one. If you do not understand why he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, all you have to do is read this and you'll work it out. (Or maybe just read his lyrics as poems and stories!) He references 3 books he read when he was young that helped shaped his storytelling: Moby Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front and The Odyssey. Reading his descriptions of these novels - that I have not read - made me feel like I had indeed read them! A musical genius and a World Treasure!

Scratch edited by Manjula Martin - authors and writers writing about writing, publishing, how to make money, bookstores and so on. Including Cheryl Strayed, Susan Orlean, Roxanne Gay etc. It was an easy dip in and dip out read and enjoyable.

The Australian Face: essays from the Sydney Review of Books edited by James Ley and Catriona Menzies-Pike - this was a great read on books I have read and some I have not...but want to. Including Anna Funder's All that I Am, Michelle de Krester's Questions of Travel, Christos Tsiolkas' Barracuda, and This House of Grief by Helen Garner. 4 books I have read and enjoyed.

What I've Been Watching

The New Pope - I really enjoyed The Young Pope when it came out 4 years ago. It starred Jude Law, was incredibly sexy and very subversive. It ended with Law's Pope having a heart incident. The season picks up 9 months later, Law is in a coma and they need a new pope until (if) he comes out of it. A pope is anointed but it becomes clear he was not a good choice. This is the first episode, and it so incredibly funny and clever. It sets the tone for the series, the first was funny and subversive but this lifts it up quite a few notches. Malkovich becomes the New Pope, after some co-ercing. It becomes quite meta and that adds to the humour and sexiness of the show. These sounds like spoilers, but they all happen early on and were in the trailer. Malkovich is superb, and Law appears in dream sequences. And you are just hanging for Law's pope to wake up and meet with Malkovich's pope. But it is so much more than that, it is a wide open exploration of what is bad about the Catholic Church. Paolo Sorrentino is a wonderful auteur, and his vision is always spectacular. They were not allowed to shoot inside in The Vatican, so some parts were remade from scratch including The Sistine Chapel where a lot of scenes were shot. Remarkable art design. Some outside scenes were shot on location. Every shot is beautiful and awe inspiring. The music is perfect, the full cast are great, especially the fabulous Cecile de France. Look out for cameos by Marilyn Manson and Sharon Stone. Sharon in particular steals the show, outstanding acting and she looks remarkable. I could go on all day, this is a spectacular show!

Will and Grace S3 - l love Will and Grace, always have, and it is just what we need right now. Funny light comedy that can pack a punch every now and then. The cast are great, their comedic chops separately impressive, but put them together and it is just everything. I think Debra Messing is such an underrated Comedienne, and the I Love Lucy homage lets her shine. It was a more fitting finale this time, simple but it worked. It made me laugh and cry. This reboot was only 3 seasons and I will miss it, but I'm thankful it did come back.

Philharmonic - this was an intriguing French thriller/murder set in Paris in and around a Philharmonic orchestra. Helene is the new challenging conductor after the previous conductor dies. She has been in New York and known as difficult. No one is keen to have her, not least the French Horn player who is having an affair with Helene's husband. Helene's mother is in hospital with a bad mental health disease that will ultimately kill her and Helene could have the same gene but is keeping her distance. She sees herself in a young violinist and replaces the aging 1st violinist with her and that creates many cracks in the orchestra. When a young player she has been picking on mysteriously dies, it seems something far more sinister is at play, and Helene seems to be behind it. Or is she? This was a fascinating thriller, but add in the brilliant classical music and scenes around Paris lifts it to another episode. Definitely worth checking out.

Devs - this started out as a fascinating look at time travel. A young IT guy in a large company gets moved into Devs, a super secret section. What he sees there blows his mind and he tries to escape, but is murdered instead. His death is altered to look like a suicide, his girlfriend - who also works for the company - doesn't buy the suicide and enlists an ex boyfriend to help her work out what is going on. Obviously, there is much more to the show than that, and it is quite remarkable, but it took a long time to get to the twist. I liked this a lot, but the story telling was long and slow.

Year of the Rabbit - heard about this little gem from a conversation on Twitter with Dave Graney. Rabbit is Inspector Rabbit, played by the brilliant Matt Berry, and set in Victorian times. Great cast starring Keeley Hawes and Sally Phillips, obviously a comedy and totally worth watching the 6 short episodes.

Escape to the Chateau - I love this show so much. It is all my dreams come true, a castle in France! Dick and Angel are unique and glorious humans, I know we'd be firm friends. It is about 4 years in now and they have done sooo much to the Chateau and it's grounds. The kids are growing up and utter delights. The only issue I have is Fox is no longer playing the show, it is on a commercial channel and I missed this as I don't watch those channels. and it seems to be playing both S5 and S6 simultaneously and I am catching up online and have holes in the viewing. Preferably I'd watch S5 in order, then S6. Sigh. Anyway, this show is truly an escape, one I'd love to indulge in myself.

Gogglebox - this is one of my favourite shows full stop. I guess it is a reality show, and I am so not a fan of them. But it is more than that, it shows a cross-section of humanity. You come to love and adore all the people watching tele and making commentary on it. It is my feel good show and wish it was on every week. 

You Can't Ask That - this is one of the best shows on tele. Such a simple premise, people taking questions about something that isn't usually spoken about, eg Nudists, Murder, HIV, Autism etc. There is so much beautiful humanity within this show and you always learn something. Those that are featured are heroic and beautiful.

The Amazing Race
 - I have come back to The Amazing Race after a long break. I love the mix of travel and challenges, I usually don't love the people on it, but often there are one or two couples you root for.

The Great British Bake Off - this is another 'guilty' pleasure. I am not usually a fan of cooking shows, I would rather just eat the food, and they are usually full of idiots and in-fighting and stuff that makes me feel my IQ disappearing rapidly. This is very British and lovely and baking, eg cakes and yummy things, and has Noel Fielding as a host and Paul Hollywood who is rather swoonworthy. This season had an astonishing baker who was easily going to be a winner, but things went haywire in the finale and things didn't go according to plan!

The Art of France - This was a short 3 episode documentary about French Art. The host not only showed up the actual art and explained it, he took us to places throughout France where the artist worked or the art was made. Fabulous!

Opera Legends - thoroughly enjoying this great series that features a great opera singer each episode. It is extensive and remarkable, and the music and their voices a thing of beauty.

The Sleeping Beauty - Australian Ballet Company - This is an exceptionally stunning version of the ballet classic. My goodness, to have seen it in person, it would have been stunning. The costumes and set design are out of this world. A few years ago I was lucky to have a backstage tour of the Victorian Arts Centre when they were leading up to this ballet and we got to see some of the costumes and head pieces being worked on and we were blown away. This was pure perfect to watch.

The Sleeping Beauty: behind the curtain - this is the documentary behind the ballet, the training, the dancing, the casting, the music, the costumes, and on and on. A true treat if I ever saw one and totally enhancing the ballet itself.

The Australian Dream - finally got around to watching Stan Grant's powerful documentary about Adam Goodes and race relations in Australia. Every Australian should be made to watch it, but those that need to probably will not. It made me cranky and embarrassed. Never let anyone tell you we are not a racist country, because we are...deeply...but I already knew that! I suspect anyone who says that is actually racist themselves. It is up to us to call that behaviour out.

Margaret Atwood: a word is power - fabulous documentary about the great writer with footage going back to her start in the industry right up until her most recent author tour surrounding her sequel, The Testaments, to The Handmaid's Tale. Total fan girl stuff here, and really worth checking out.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Hunter S Thompson said he liked the film and felt it was a good depiction of his book. I prefer the book infinitely above the film, but the film does do a great job in displaying visually what is within such a dreamlike, drug addled book. Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro do a great job as Raoul and Gonzo. Some of the scenes translate beautifully from the book, the car scenes especially. There are loads of cameos, including Thompson himself.

Searching For Bobby Fischer - This is a great little indie film about chess. A child prodigy is headed for Bobby Fischer style stardom, but his family refuses to let him lose his childhood. What's really interesting about this film is the cast, a huge all star cast, most of which were on the cusp of stardom when the film was released. Laura Linney, Joan Allen, Lawrence Fishburne, William H, Macy, Dan Hedeya and so on. The only big name was Ben Kingsley. 

The Straight Story - one of the more simpler David Lynch films. Alvin, Richard Farnsworth, is elderly and has lost his drivers license, but he can still drive his tractor. When his older estranged brother falls ill, he decides to drive across multiple US states to see him...on his tractor. This is a road movie unlike no other. Stunningly shot, with heart and drama.

What I've Been Listening To

Stand out Podcasts this month are:
Clear and Vivid with Alan Alda and guest, Paul McCartney - wow, and interesting conversation with Alda bringing out things I have not heard my Paulie talk about before. An absolute gift!

Chats 10 Live - Salesy and Crabb bring us our podcast live form their homes, more hilarity ensues!!!

Robbie Williams Corona Karaoke - this has been hilarious. I don't mind Robbie but I wouldn't call myself a fan. He has been in lockdown since arriving home from Australia and took to singing his songs over youtube clips to whoever wanted to listen and this moved to any songs. He patters them with humour, his 'art', and philosophies on life and remaining happy. It's all pretty simple stuff but it is kinds fun and comforting. Him singing along to I'm A Believer or Come On Eileen, fluffing words and notes and not giving a shit is great.