Monday, May 13, 2019


What I've Been Reading

The Arsonist by Chloe Hooper- This is about the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009 and the suspect Brendan Sokaluk. A thrilling and heart wrenching read, Hooper eloquently provides all sides of the story with intrepid research. From the victims, first responders, police, and fire fighters; stories of heroism and sadness, loss and despair. And then there’s the pursuit of who did this terrible act, with the number 1 suspect a strange young fellow, Sokaluk, who is eventually diagnosed as autistic. Hooper writes very much in the style of Helen Garner, and makes an awful story interesting and a page turner. I cannot recommend this enough.

One Hundred Years of Dirt by Rick Morton - I loved this so very much, it is Rick's memoir so far. He grew up on an isolated cattle farm with his parents, older brother, and baby sister. He talks in equal arts love and not so much love of his childhood. He loved the rural landscape and the capers he got up to as a child, but the effect of the hardship of living life on the land with a tough father was the downside. When his brother was burned badly and flown to Brisbane with his Mother and sister, he was left alone with an abusive father who began an affair with his nanny. Things never really got better. His Mum later worked it all out and moved to the city with the kids. A single Mum struggling all her life, he describes their lack of privilege, whilst he began studying and then working in communications, all the while struggling with being gay. Whilst this sounds bleak, and it was, it is Rick's absolutely stunning writing that shines through, and his lovely sense of humour. Rick is a remarkable man, who's strength is shining through currently as he is talking up about his employer, The Australian and the Murdoch way. In years to come Rick will be one of our National Treasures, I am certain of that. Now, go and read his book, you will not be sorry!

I Built No Schools in Kenya by Kirsten Drysdale - this was am interesting travel book. Kirsten got a call from a friend in Africa, she was working for a family in Kenya, and wanted to know if Kirsten would like to join them. They were caring for an elderly man, his daughter and her step mother were at odds about his care, so the daughter employed people to keep an eye on him around the clock as she was sure her step mother was trying to kill him. The pay was good - the family was super rich - and included boarding and food etc. When things seem too good to be true, they usually are, as Kirsten found out working for this eccentric family. It is a strange story, equal parts horrifying and hilarious. 

All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot - I've been listening to this in the car and loving it. It was read by Christopher Timothy who played James in the classic television show. I loved that show as a kid and have read the books, so it was hugely pleasurable to revisit those stories again. Siegfried's stubbornness, Tristan's hijinks, his love for the stoic Helen, and all those animals and their owners. A sheer delight!

My Twenty-Five Years in Provence by Peter Mayle - this was a little best of Peter Mayle over the years, with a bit of reflecting on his time in Provence. I realised at the end of the small book, that Mayle had been dead for well over a year. Unsure how I missed that. It is easy to forget in this overwash of travel stories, that Mayle did it first and was probably the funniest! I must go back and re-read the original books. This is a nice way to dip into his world or reminisce, but the actual books are far better. Vale Peter!!

Mirror Sydney by Vanessa Berry
This was a really interesting account of recent historical and geographical information about Sydney and its suburbs. It goes into detail about quirky places, forgotten shops, lost history, and hidden things that still remain.
Lovely illustrations accompany each section and is a real walk through the recent (60-70 years) past, especially for people who lived in these locations.

To Venice with Love: a midlife adventure by  Philip Gwynne Jones
A middle aged couple quit their jobs and downsize and move to Venice with the hope of teaching ESL. It goes into the organisation it takes to move to a new country, and the trials and tribulations of what happens in a new country.

Ultimately it is uplifting and fun,  but the reality of it is harsh at times. But Venice is always lovely to read about and it was. Also made me very envious

Frida Kahlo: making her self up edited by Claire  Wilcox and Circe Henestrosa- a lovely coffee table style book about Frida and her style, her clothes, why she wore them, her accessories, make up etc. An interesting look into an icon with stunning photos.

Born Lippy: how to do female by Jo Brand - I am a huge fan of Jo Brand and her dry humour. This is part memoir, part self help, part how to be a feminist and it is very funny.

What I've Been Watching

Flack - I really enjoyed this short series with Anna Paquin, as Robin, a publicist for a high ranking firm. Robin is a top problem solver for all the stupid predicaments her high profile clients get themselves into, but yet her personal life isn't so great. This British comedy/drama was loads of fun, I hope there is a second series

Counterpart S2 - I really loved this first series of this show and whilst there were some truly brilliant jaw dropping moments in this second series, it kinda lost things. I think spending less time on JK Simmons' dual characters was its biggest mistake. His characters and their roles were key to how great this show was. The ensemble cast were great and spending more time with them also excellent, but not at the expense of the main character. the last few episodes got a bit nuts and unsurprisingly it has not been renewed. I am disappointed, I would have still watched things, but I suspect they just ran out of steam on a very high concept idea.

Project Blue Book - this is a 50s drama set in the military about UFOs. With Littlefinger from Game of Thrones in the main character as the scientist who believes, it is pretty good. A throw back to the good episodes of The X-Files, Mulder would approve!

Trust Me - Jodie Whittaker (Doctor Who, The Doctor!) stars as a nurse doing it tough, who takes the opportunity to be a doctor, even though she is not. Her new colleagues grow to love her but her past is coming to haunt her. Will she be caught out? This was a good drama/thriller, worth having a look.

Grace and Frankie S2 – this is a good solid comedy, nothing too ground breaking, except for the ages of the leads I guess. I do expect more than I am getting for legends such as Fonda and Tomlin, but I think it is the writing that lets them down. Mostly they are on fire though despite that and I will continue to watch.

War and Peace
Lovely lush new adaptation of the classic novel. Great cast including Adrian Edmondson, Gillian Anderson, Paul Dano, Lily Collins. The war aspects are real and harsh, especially when placed against the more sublime parts of the set design. With 6 one-hour episodes, this is an accessible way to watch this grand Russian tale.

Escape to the Chateau, S3

Sadly only 3 episodes in this great doco series. Dick and Angel moved their young family to France and bought a ramshackle Chateau to do up. Dick puts his ex-army and engineering skills in renovating the huge beast, and Angel, a designer, works on the interiors. They are a fabulous pair, eccentric and fun, with great ideas that seem impossible, but always work. This is such a dream show, they hold events in the castle which helps pay for the next round of renos. I could watch this show forever, it is divine.

Boy Erased – melodrama about a Southern Baptist family that puts their gay son into conversion therapy only to realise that it was not a good idea. This had some solid acting in it, but ultimately left me flat.

First Man - this was a well acted solid film about Neil Armstrong and the moon landing. Beautifully shot, it was missing heart, unsure why and I just couldn't connect with it. Disappointing, as I love the space race and those stories.

The Shootist
Westeren from 1976 starring John Wayne as Brooks, an old gunslinger who is dying. He moves into a boarding house run by Lauren Bacall who is less than impressed with his past. Her son, a young Ron Howard is enamoured. Also starring Harry Morgan (MASH) as the Sheriff and James Stewart at the Doc and an old friend of Brooks, this was a bit of fun, but lagged a bit. Not the best movie, but then not the worst an always a thrill to see these greats doing their thing.

The Midwife - Claire (Catherine Frot) is a midwife, but the job is changing, things in her personal life are dire and nothing is going right. That is when her step-mother, the annoying (to Claire) Beatrice (Catherine Deneuve) returns to tell her she has brain cancer and no one to look after her. Will Claire look after her nemesis, or let her die alone. This sounds like a bit of a melodrama, and it is but the great acting of these two French greats is what lifts the film and makes it one to watch!

Attenborough at 90: behind the lens great documentary about Attenborough over the years and why he is still going strong and working at this late age. Absolutely brilliant!!

I am in the middle of new seasons of Game of Thrones and Killing Eve, but I will save their reviews for the end of the runs. I will say both are exceptional watching, with Game of Thrones delivering - so far - beautifully in this final season, some of the best television (and movie) storytelling I have ever seen, and I worry about how I will feel when it ends forever...

What I've Been Listening To

Songs for Judy By Neil Young
A collection of live recording from the mid 70s with loads of live chatter from Young, something he doesn’t do that much these days. This is a pure delight, the chatter is fun, but the music is Young at his height, absolutely brilliant!

Iggy - as a lead up to the concert (and after) I have been bopping about to Iggy and loving it!

I'm still listening to Unspooled, Chats 10 Looks 3, Clear and Vivid with Alan Alda, and David Tennant does a Podcast with... and loving them all.

I've added WTF with Marc Maron, which I really love too. Marc is a comedian, who I remember from Letterman. He is edgy and has a distinctive voice and his use of one of my favourite words, Fuck, is to be seen...or rather heard! He is also a pop culture guru so his knowledge when interviewing his wide range of guests is truly impressive. And the guests are also impressive.