Friday, June 3, 2022


What I've Been Reading

I will not be erased: our stories about growing up as people of colour by Various - these were powerful stories, dramatic, sad and sometimes funny from mostly women of colour from all over the world. A really interesting collection to listen to on talking book.

All About Me: my remarkable life in show business by Mel Brooks - I do not know where to start with this memoir, it was exceptional and a hilarious read, as you would expect from the genius and International Treasure that is Mel Brooks. It is easily one of the best memoirs I have read in a while. Huge chapters devoted to each period of his working life. 

I love Get Smart and the chapter on that was so hugely satisfying and wonderful and funny that I was beside myself. He writes so lovingly about the cast, you can only smile, you know they were good people, or rather you hoped they were and he confirmed it. He said he started with the shoe phone, he was at a show at The Met and he thought it would be funny if a phone rang in the audience (this is way way before the thought of mobiles mind you) and he thought to himself how could he make this funnier, and he just imagined someone taking off their shoe and answering it like a phone, then he thought it was very 007. and so Max's spy phone arrived and Get Smart not long after. 

It starts with his childhood but doesn't delve very far into much of his personal life, which was disappointing but it does say it was about his life in show business. It does cover all of his work in detail, and that is a gift in and of itself. At 95 he has many tales to tell. If you love his work, you will love this.

This Much is True by Miriam Margolyes - So you might know Miriam from Harry Potter – she was Professor Sprout. Or Blackadder – she was Infanta Maria Escalosa of Spain and Lady Blackadder in Blackadder II. Aunt Prudence in Miss Fisher and Mother Mildred in Call the Midwife. Or from her naughty stories on Graham Norton.

Maybe you saw her open the Newcastle Writers Festival some years back.

But there is soooo much more to Miriam, she has packed it all into her 80 years and she tells it all! This is a great book, and Miriam writes as eloquently as she enunciates.

Whilst Miriam loves a bawdy tale, it is not all that. We get stories of her growing up as an only child of doting but strict parents, her school life, her university life.

Her love of acting begun at Cambridge in the Footlights theatre, she was the only girl at the time and was not treated well by the boys. The boys being John Cleese, graham Chapman, and Bill Oddie.

She has been with her partner Heather for 53 years, lives in Australia, and is quite the house flipper, buying, doing up and selling houses all over the world and sounds like she is quite good at it.

And then there is her voiceover work which is lengthy and remarkable. 

Of course there is loads of Dickens, her great love.

Whilst she may be brutally honest  - which is rather refreshing - she is also amazingly kind, people love her. This is a cracking read, get to it!

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver - Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favourite writers. Her diverse subject matter is always fascinating. Unsheltered has a dual storyline revolving around an old house. The modern story follows a family on the verge of breakdown, nothing is going right but they have each other and this rambling old house. Willa is a journalist and decides that their old house may the the way to resolve their ill fortune. As she explores it's history, the second storyline unfolds with the story behind the history she is exposing. Unsheltered is a family saga with a difference, real heart and fascinating history based on real fact. 

Love and Virtue by Diana Reid - I struggled with this story about sexual politics at a University. I found the characters vacuous and annoying and the plots frustrating. 

Under a Venice Moon by Margaret Cameron - I was really disappointed in this travel memoir. Margaret visited Venice for a couple of days on a European tour and falls in love the book is about many visits. But it isn't well written and it more a we did this next, we did that next kind of thing rather than painting a picture of an outstanding and magical city. I persevered, but probably shouldn't have.

Toni Morrison: the last interview and other conversations - lovely little book that details some interviews and conversations in the last few years of her life. It gives a fascinating insight into her life and writing.

Perfect Pitch: 100 pieces of classical music to bring joy, tears, solace, empathy, inspiration (and everything in between) by Tim Bouverie  - a great volume of classical music. 100 pieces in fact, with a page or two for each piece. Very easily devoured but best read with the pieces being played while you do so. It brought some long forgotten favourites to mind and made me check out other pieces I was not as familiar with.

Drop Bear by Evelyn Araluen - this was a wonderful book of poetry by Indigenous author, Araluen. This year I decided to read more poetry, contemporary poetry and this was remarkable. It has since won The Stella Prize and deservedly so.

United we are unstoppable: 60 young people saving our world in their own worlds edited by Akshat Rathi - a lovely compilation to warm the cockles of your heart. 60 young people around the world and the activism they are stiring up, it gives you faith for the progression of the world.

Turns Out, I'm Fine by Judith Lucy - I have heard a lot of what was in this memoir in podcasts and on television before. It is about turning 50 and the breakdown of her relationship and how she got through it all. It is funny and clever and bizarre as only Judith Lucy can be, just a let down as I pretty much knew it all.

Fry's Ties: the life and times of a tie collection by Stephen Fry - this is a quirky book that showcases some of Stephen Fry's favourite ties. Not only does it tell the story of each tie, why he bought them and where he wore them, but it gives a padded history of the style and brand. It is niche for sure, but I found it rather entertaining.

The details: on love, death and reading by Tegan Bennett Daylight - essay style memoir on reading including riffs on Helen Garner, George Saunders, and Georgia Blain amongst others. I found it interesting and at times really fascinating but ultimately disappointing.

The Psychic Test: an adventure in the world of believers and sceptics by Gary Nunn - I loved this book. Gary was a sceptic when it came to all things psychic, but his sister was not and when their father died, he decided to investigate all things psychic and work it out for himself. He got friends to go to psychics, he even went to them himself. He researched famous ones and told their stories. I am not a huge believer, but I am drawn to such things...with a grain of salt. He really unearthed some bad stuff, where people drew on the innocent and mourning. I won't say any more, but if this field interests you, in that you love it or you are not a fan, I am certain you will enjoy the book.

Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto - this was a beautiful coffee table book about Chanel that accompanied the fabulous display (that I only saw part of online) at the NGV earlier this year. Filled with information and stories and loads of fashion photography. Totally swoon worthy

Books That Made Us by Carl Reinecke - with a forward by Claudia Karvan, this is the companion piece to the TV show. All the books reviewed and mentioned in the show and written about in much more detail, including the links to each other where appropriate. Was a good read, but concentrated more on the older titles than newer titles. I wanted more about the new.

Renegades: Born in the USA - Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen - this was another cool coffee table book. Featuring conversations between these great but unlikely mates from their podcast. Heaps of cool photography and fascinating insights.

Call Us What We carry: poems by Amanda Gorman - Amanda was the Poet Laurette for Joe Biden, she was amazing on that day. This is a book of her poems and they are extraordinary. On race, history, feminism, war, covid and much more, they really showcase her outstanding intellect and way with words.

Mudlarking: lost and found on the River Thames by Lara Maiklem  - Lara is a mudlarker! They delve into the Thames at lowtide and see what they can find. The Thames has been a dumping ground for many centuries and there is still an abundance of history to be found. Roman hair pins, medieval buckles, tudor buttons, Georgian clay pipes, Victorian toys and much more. The serious mudlarkers - like Lara - work with the V & A museum and take their finds their first to be assessed. Sometimes the museum will take the artefacts for their collections, sometimes the mudlarkers can keep their finds. Other things found are bones, animals and humans, and often new bones or partial skeletons from murders etc. It was a really fascinating read.

What I've Been Watching   

KISStory - this was a really bloody brilliant doco - a 2 parter - on KISS! I really love KISS but I was never part of the KISS Army or anything. It interviews mostly Gene and Paul now and it is an eye opener. What you may think about them is far far from the truth. Fascinating guys and the age old story of what happens to bands when the fame gets all too much. Loads of footage, songs, stories. Fans will just eat this up, but I think anyone would find this great viewing.

Devolution: a Devo Theory - Devo were always about their De-evolution theory and listening to them talk about it all these decades later is remarkable. Very insightful and intelligent men, WAY ahead of their time. This is a potted history on Devo within the story of their theories. We were entranced. Plus also, all that great music !

The Story of Late Night - I loved this detailed history of American Late Night talk shows. It went through all the biggies, Carson, Letterman, and those that came before and in between. Fascinating stuff, I do love a good tonight show.

NYC Epicentres 9/11-2021 -  This is a huge Spike Lee Documentary series about NYC from 9/11 until COVID. Oh boy, I have been watching it for many months, as it is very full on and you need breaks. But it delves into so much that I had no idea about and interviews SOOOO many people involved. It is simply remarkable. I had no idea how many people were evacuated off the island via boat on 9/11 and how that was done. It is quite the story. There are heart breaking stories but also many uplifting ones. But you need a lot of resolve and strength to get you through it.

Classic Literature and Cinema - a three part doco about the great literature cannon, including some modern classics and how they have been made in to films. It was really excellent, but I wanted more, it could have been longer and taken in more. But def worth checking out.

Painter and the Thief - this was a really peculiar documentary about a Norweigan painter, Barbara Kysilkova. A couple of her paintings were stolen from a gallery. One of the thieves was caught and placed in jail. On his return to society, Barbara strikes up a 'friendship' with him. At first you think she is trying to get to the bottom of where her painting are. He was high and says he cannot remember even being at the gallery - security footage shows otherwise. Things get tense and it is almost like viewing something that you should not. This film has me hanging on every twist and turn. Every time you think you know where it is going, it does not. It shows that truth is stranger than fiction.

French Exit - I really wanted to love this film, about an eccentric mother and son who escape NY for Paris. They collect a bunch of odd bods and live in a large apartment. Towards the end of the film some oddly unexpected things happen. It left me unsure about it all. Michelle Pfeiffer was great, she needs to be in more things.

For Your Consideration- we have been working our way through all the Christopher Guest films, this one is about film and one of my faves. Three actors on a film that hasn't even finished filming get Oscar buzz about their performance. Each reacts differently and hilariously as only you can expect from these mockumentary films. Huge amazing cast with some special cameos.

Jungle Cruise - this was fun and ok. I love Jack Whitehall and he was perfect as the snivelling Englishman. I thought Emily Blunt was a little wasted, and The Rock as The Rock. 

Apollo 10 1/2: a space age childhood - the latest masterpiece from Richard Linklater  - this man can do no wrong. It is a fictional story based on aspects of Linklater's life at of the space race and leading up to landing on the moon. It is an animated film with parts shot in live action and made animated, similar to his other films, A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life. A mostly unknown cast with narration from Jack Black, it is a whimsical film that takes you back to the late 60s and 70s and how kids viewed the whole space thing. The soundtrack is divine, and some of the memories, cartoons, tv shows, etc are so fabulous. He wanted the film to have the feel of cartoons from that time and he nailed it. This has slid under the radar with COVID and all, but do not miss it. It is one of those perfect films you could watch over and over again.

Emily in Paris S1 - look this is as excruciating as everyone says! It is one note and kinda irritating in some ways. BUT it is Paris, and a lot of Paris, so you know nothing wrong with watching less realised stories for Paris porn lol. Will I watch S2, you better believe it.

Only Murders in the Building - this was bloody outstanding, what a great trio Steve Martin, Martin Short and, umm, Selena Gomez. Someone is murdered in their building so they decide to investigate and make a podcast of it. Funny, suspenseful, and keeps you guessing until the end. Bring on S2, and if you have not watched it, you really must. Also some great cameos, but spoilers!

And then there were the OSCAR MOVIES

What I've Been Listening to

Songs of Love and Hate by Leonard Cohen  - one of Leonard's earlier albums re-released on vinyl, young and virile, he sounds amazing.

Greatest Hits - The Angels - huge fan from way back, Doc commanded an audience like only very few could. Without him The Angels no longer exist, but this album brought everything back to me. Was a ripping listen.

Why do Birds Sing - Violent Femmes - I haven't listened to this in years and when a second hand copy popped up I was thrilled to score it. What a bloody great album this is. I adore The Femmes, lost count how many times I have seen them live. They are better live than on record, but boy the record is pretty amazing!

30 - Adele - Adele never misses a beat. Her songs are powerful and momentous. Instantly likeable and singable and just wonderful. 30 is all that and more, she has never sounded better.

All the best - Smokie - Andrew wasn't sure he knew Smokie, so I pulled this out and let him have a listen. I understand their stuff can be hit and miss, but I am unashamedly a fan!

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