Monday, December 2, 2019


What I've Been Reading

A Handmaid’sTale AND The Testaments by Margaret Atwood - I’ve owned a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale for a long time but it has sat on my shelf unread, I am a bad Librarian and bad Feminist. I have watched the tv show and found it harrowing but also scary, in the fact you can see how easy Gilead could be today. For those living under a rock, the story is about a world – our world in the future in fact – that has turned women into second rate citizens, well more like no rate citizens. Men have the power, women have none, except the few that can still have babies. Some women of privilege are married, most are varying shades of slaves. They have no voice or any of their real names. The book is the story of a Handmaid who supposedly escaped and her life in the world called Gilead. June or Offred (of Fred) as she is named is gutsy and powerful and amazing. There are places in the world where things are relatively normal, Canada being one of them. She is constantly trying to escape there, or helps others to. The first season of the tv show follows the book pretty well. Then it goes off into unchartered territory. The Testaments takes place many years after the tele series, presumably giving the series much license to meet up with the second book at some stage. It is told from various points of view, a Martha, an Aunt, and children who grew up within Gilead. Their stories are testimonials from after the fall of Gilead. At first you do not know these characters, but as the story reveals, some of the characters become familiar. Atwood builds on her previous book and incorporates the television series beautifully. It is written very much in the same style as the first and the last 100 pages or so are breathtakingly brilliant. Both should be recommended reading for every person on the planet!

Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch - This is easily one of the best memoirs I've read, and I've read a lot. It's more a hybrid self-help (but in the best possible way) memoir and it rips at your heart and soul. I've always really admired Clare, but this, wow this is just something else. It follows her as a child, her family, a shocking loss, what remains, and how she recovers. It is about loving your self, body image, finding your flock, moving through hardship, and I had absolutely no idea about any of it going in. Whilst she does touch on her musical life it is not really about that. It's rough going at times, it made me cry a lot but it was just so very beautiful and honest, I didn't care. I found it helpful and comforting. It's also very funny and highly entertaining. 

Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko - Kerry arrives home after a long absence, her girlfriend is in jail and she isn’t far from it herself. Her grandfather is dying and she wants to pay her respects, but also hide out from her real life. But coming home is never simple, not for her family nor for her particularly as her mouth tends to get her in trouble. She also appears to be falling in love with Steve, which causes even more issues. Too Much Lip is funny and sad, harrowing and heart warming. It tells the tale of family life in a country town, where everyone knows your business. It tells the tale of how difficult it is to be indigenous in a country town. It tells the tale of family secrets and how they fester. Lucashenko has weaved all these factors into a remarkable story, worthy of every award flung its way.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life : a sortabiography – written and read by Eric Idle – I absolutely loved this book, or rather, talking book. I love The Pythons, but Idle was always my least favourite. It didn’t mean that I didn’t like him, I did. I just found him a little too much and full of himself. But this book changed all that, and I am rather enamoured of him now. The sortabiography covers all the interesting things about his life, Python and beyond without covering ground others have covered before. This makes it a fresh and  fascinating read/listen. Things that really captured my imagination was his deep and close friendship with George Harrison. He spends a lot of time on George’s attack and death. He is also close to Brian Cox, Billy Connolly, Robin Williams , and a few other superstars. The story of writing Always Look Look on the Bright Side of Life shows utter genius. There is behind the scenes Python and Spamalot, adventures with the rich and famous and his conversation tour with John Cleese. All read – if you get the talking book – in his cheery tone. What an utter delight, I cannot recommend highly enough.

Dear Fatty by Dawn French - I tried to read this years ago and struggled, it is written in letters and I am really just not a fan of that style of writing. I decided to give the audio book a go, hoping it would be read by the fabulous lady herself but it is not. However it is read by a friend who sounds very much, but not quite, like Dawn. She grew on me and with the right tone the book is thoroughly enjoyable and amusing. But there are dark parts, the reason she couldn't read it herself (she does the introduction to tell us so). The letters to her father - who committed suicide when she was 19 - are harrowing and very very upsetting. They describe what happened and then list seemingly hundreds (i didn't count, there were a lot!) of questions to him about what he did. I swear, if you were ever thinking of doing such a sad thing, and read or listened to that, it would stop you in your tracks. 

State of the Union by Nick Hornby – This is a little novella based on the short web based series. I saw the series as a 100 minutes movie and was not fussed by it. The novella is no better, simply a word for word description of the series/movie. About a couple who are separated and they meet for 10 minutes each week before going into therapy. It is clever in how it showcases the intimacy a couple has and how they gently discuss and sometimes argue about their issues. But ultimately it lacks the real humour and brilliance of his previous works.

Mr Guilfoyle’s Honeymoon: the gardens of Europe and Great Britain edited by Diana Evelyn Hill and Edmee Helen Cudmore – this is the diary and notebooks of Mr Guilfoyle who was the architect of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Melbourne. He goes on the Grand Tour for his honeymoon in 1890, collecting ideas to bring back to Australia. These, including the beautiful illustrations, were published on his return. Having been to some of the European gardens he visits, a lot has not changed. It is a lovely, slow and beautiful showcase of these beautiful gardens.

Stoned: photographs and treasures from life with the Rolling Stones by Jo Wood – this is a great coffee table style book filled with intimate memories from the wife of Ronnie Wood. She’s been there through the long haul. Ronnie bought her a camera very early on when they were dating and she just took casual pics. She went on tour and did similar. She always saved up the rolls and would take 100s at a time to be printed, as she says, at places she knew would be discreet as there were often interesting images captured. Throughout the book are also notes, drawings, scribbles and all things Rolling Stones, including these very casual pics. It is a great walk down memory lane and a really interesting insight into behind the scenes. This was loads of fun.

What I've Been Watching

Who is America – this is the ‘documentary’ series by Sasha Baron Cohen. Oh my! I am unsure how to explain this or even to recommend it. It is certainly not for everyone. Cohen appears as varying offensive character interviewing Americans about politics and similar topics. The people are usually right wing idiots and his style sets them up to look even more stupid. He is incredibly gifted and clever at this, and really lucky he was not caught out . Some don’t fall for it, but most do and he has them doing the most ridiculous things showing their racism, misogynism, sexism etc. At times it was incredibly funny, and at times incredibly painful to watch. I’ll leave this one up to you, I’m still thinking about it, so that is something.

Escape to the Chateau DIY S2 - second season hosted by Dick (and Angel) from Escape to the Chateau. This about all the various Brits who have bought Chateaus and are doing them up throughout France. It is a look into another world, dreamy, beautiful and everything in between. 

The Affair S5 finale - this final season was fascinating and difficult to explain without giving away many great spoilers. I always found this series like a car crash, awful but you just cannot help but watch. Awful, in that, most of the characters are just not nice people. But sometimes you DO find yourself rooting for them. And just as they become almost redeemable, they do something stupid. S5 plays with time, and it is interesting and gives us a fulfilling ending. it was worth hanging in there for the entire show.

Mr Inbetween S2 - This show is something else, Australian, about a hitman who toggle his 'job' and his homelife. Created, written, and starring Scott Ryan as Ray the hitman, this is edgy, tight, and thoroughly entertaining tele. S2 Ray still looks after his young daughter from time to time, is getting cosy with his girlfriend and has his ill brother living with him. That's a lot for anyone, but add in his job as a gun for hire. Things escalate in this series and a lot goes wrong for Ray, will he let his two lives collide. This is dark but also very funny. If you've missed this, you've really missed something!

Total Control - Another Australian gem, Rachel Griffiths is the PM and things are tough. Deborah Mailman makes the news are stopping a gunman in her hometown. She is offered a spot in the Senate. This divides people, especially the indigenous community. This is a tight edged political thriller/drama and Griffiths and Mailman are outstanding. Especially Mailman, this is her first real lead character and she just knocks it out the park. Everything she does, she shines, she's easily out best actress, and bear in mind how young she is, and how much more she has to give, woah! Totally a National Treasure, and that smile  - although she does not smile much in this - should be bottled. There are many minor crossing storylines, themes and characters in this show. But really it is all about Mailman. Give her all the awards now.

Will and Grace S2 – this reboot has been fabulous, it is like no time has passed and the fab four are still bringing their A game. Karen divorces, Jack gets married, Grace faces her demons, and Will looks for love.

World on Fire - British mini-series set to the backdrop on WWII, a little melodramatic in parts, but well acted with an impressive cast and worth watching.

Toy Story 4 - I’m not a huge fan of animation, but I do love the Toy Story franchise. It’s that great mix of heart and humour that Pixar get perfectly right, and Toy Story 4 is no exception. It starts with a  flashback to the night Bo Peep leaves the group of Toys. Then moves to present day with Bonnie, the new owner of the toys (following straight on from TS3). It is Bonnie’s first day of kindergarten and she is upset about attending, Woody smuggles himself in her backpack to ensure she is ok. She makes a character out of a Spork, called Forky  (Tony Hale), and she is super attached to him. Being a ‘young toy’ he has a mind of his own, mostly trying to jump back in any bin he sees, thinking it is his home and keeps Woody on his toes continuing to rescue him. Things heighten when the family go on an RV trip. The usual madness and mayhem ensue as they run into unlikely friends and foes from the toy world. This was loads of fun, and you get swept along in the fun and the dramatic moments. All the animals are great, the news ones, especially Keanu Reeves’ Duke, great.

Hotel Mumbai – this is based on the terrorist attacks in 2008 and it was absolutely brilliant. Utterly terrifying and had me on the edge of my seat the entire movie. It follows the point of view of varying hotel staff and tourists trying o hide or escape from the terror. It was absolutely gripping, and tight and well written (adapted) and acted. 

Tolkien – this is about the young life of Tolkien, at school, making friends, and ultimately his time during WW1. These experiences will be inspiration for writing Lord of the Rings. There is a lot of fantasy imagery within the war scenes, and you can see the origin or Mordor and dragons and so forth. This does drag, and needed an edit, but is worthwhile, especially for fans.

Capharnaum – this is the award winning latest film from Nadine Labaki. It starts with Zain, a 12 year old in court being charged for a violent crime. It then backtracks to follow Zain to see how her got to this point. One of many children to a young couple living in squalor in Lebanon. The children are used to help with their drug business and mistreated. When is appears Zaina’s younger sister is to be sold to a man for marriage, he hatches a plan for them to escape. This backfires, but he manages to get out and lives on the street until he comes across, Rahil, a young Mum from Ethiopia. He gets work looking after her baby in exchange for food and bed. He experiences love for the first time, but then Rahil disappears, leaving him with the baby. This is absolutely heart breaking to watch, and yet compelling. You can see why it has won so many awards.

What I've Been Listening To

Podcasts - been listening to a short podcast from the MOMA, with various personalities picking their favourite piece of art and talking about it. Another The Ringer about Quentin Tarantino was also really good. As always the usual suspects, WTF, Here's the Thing, Conversations, Chats 10, Clear and Vivid, Unspooled. 

Nirvana unplugged - got the remaster and it is glorious.

Lizzo - cuz I love you - the groundbreaking new Lizzo is everything you've heard and more!

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