Monthly Archives: January, 2008

Fuzzy little yellow balls

or,
When Too Much Tennis just Isn’t Enough

Ah, sport. The two sports I claim to prove that I’m not entirely a bookworm who never comes out of a book are tennis and cricket, on which – it being summer – I have been able to glut recently.

I am, though, not a true fan.

My brother will watch any cricket game he can possibly get close to; probably even U12s. My mother will stay up til the wee smalls to watch tennis. Me, I watch cricket when Australia is playing – impossibly jingoistic, I know, but there you have it (I do at least enjoy the five-day form, and am not simply a 50-over slut). The tennis I primarily watch is what we just had over the last fortnight.*

A few years ago, Mum suddenly realised that I lived in Melbourne, and there’s tennis in Melbourne! So we’ve started a tradition of her coming over for three days of tennis – we get tix to a stadium each day, and decide on the day who we’re going to watch and if we can bothered slumming it with the plebs on the outer courts (answer: yes, if there’s an Aussie who promises to put up a fight, and it doesn’t clash with someone awesome in our stadium). (And when I was in the UK last year, she still came over for the tennis, and had a jolly fine time without me.)

We went for three days in the first week, and saw some pretty good matches. The two that stand out were Dellaqua beating Schnyder – very exciting – and Luczak taking it to Nalbandian; didn’t leave the place until 8pm that evening, because it went to four fairly long sets. We saw a couple of other Aussies, as well as some games where one person was just getting smacked around the place. Didn’t see any doubles at all for the whole Open, which I was a bit sad about – I love watching them up at the net.

As for this past week – I was so glad Federer** beat Tipsarevic, because we saw him playing an Aussie (Siriani) on a show court and he was being really snooty. I was also the only person (out of four) barracking for Djokovic last night; I think he’s pretty cool (saw him beat a poor Italian man, in the second round). Sharapova looked gratifyingly excited and amazed when she won, of which I approve.

And now, I go back to watching basically tennis for the next 11.5 months – not having cable tv – and, today at least, I think of my brother and mother both at the fifth day of the test.

* That said, when I was at college I got up after only a few hours of sleep and watch the Poo and then Rafter in consecutive semis, which they both won – it was the US Open, I think? in 1998. And then went to inter-college rowing all day… ah, fun times.

** I remember the first time I saw Federer on the tv. I misread his name, and thought it said Fedora; ever since then he has been Johnny Fedora to me, thanks to a Golden Book (remember them?) I loved as a kid, about two hats: Johnny Fedora and Alice Blue Bonnet. That story had it all: romance, adventure, tragedy, a happy ending….

The Golden Compass

I took my sister to see this the other day (although I guess she could have taken herself, given she’s 21 years old; guess there are some things it’s up to a big sister to do, though…). We’d both been looking forward to it a lot. It has such a great cast! It should be an amazing movie.

Can you tell where this is going?

The chick who sold us the tix asked if we’d read the book, and when I said I hadn’t, she informed me that it might be hard to understand. I realised as I walked away that actually, I have read the trilogy – just a few years ago, and the details are quite fuzzy. My sister has indeed not read it.

Anyway, there are lots of people who have reviewed the movie, so I won’t bother to go into details of the plot and characters. Suffice to say that I was a bit disappointed. I enjoyed it and all, but I wasn’t utterly overwhelmed, which is what I’d rather hoped. One telling instance might have been that I asked my sister half way through: wasn’t Robert Deniro meant to be in this? She pointed out to me that I was thinking of Stardust, which I haven’t seen. Oops.

The effects were very cool – very cool; I thought Nicole Kidman was good, as was Daniel Craig (what you saw of him); Eva Green seemed stilted, and the girl playing Lyra was a bit odd in places. The story didn’t feel like it went anywhere.

Whenever the sequel/s come out, I imagine I will go see them, for completeness’ sake… but I won’t be gagging for them, like I was LOTR (but that’s a different instance anyway, for me…).

DOA; or, How to Watch Unexpected Movies

Oh. My. Goodness.

When out shopping today, I decided to act on impulse and visit JB to finally buy The Mummy, because I only have this taped off TV. I expected that I would be able to get it as a double with The Mummy Returns, which I was fine with. Turned out that I could only get it as a trilogy, with The Scorpion King. OK, I figured – haven’t seen the latter, I’ll deal with it; it was $4 more than The Mummy by itself. Plus, it was 20% off all DVDs, which was even better. For that reason, we had a look around the store for anything else that caught our eye, which is how we ended up with the Blade trilogy as well. Then, on the way out, my darling saw the stall where they have the multiple-movies-in-one-case. There was one with The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, Scorpion King, Van Helsing (I can’t believe we didn’t already own this!) and The Hulk (meh): back went the trilogy I’d picked up, because this 5-set cost less than it did! And while we were there, we got a second: Doom (not seen… not sure), Pitch Black (love it; love Claudia Black!), Chonicles of Riddick (same; plus Judi Dench in such a cool, out-there role), Serenity (do already have it, but you know – it’s Serenity!)… and DOA.

I’d never heard of DOA: Dead or Alive, and my question is this: did it ever appear in Australian cinemas? Because it’s the sort of thing I certainly would have thought about going to see, although perhaps not busting a gut to get to; but I’d never heard of it before I saw it on this DVD cover. And heck, it has Holly Valance in it! Clearly, it was going to be (as my love says) qualitah.

What it turned out to be was a fairly cool 75 minutes of fun fighting choreography. There is a plot in there – somewhere – but it was fairly transparent, not to mention flimsy, and in many ways was essentially facilitating bikini-clad women fighting either blokes who knew not what hit them, or each other. It really was very cool choreography, though, and there was barely a 5-minute block without a fight scene. And Holly Valance’s opening scene had me in absolute hysterics; never has a woman putting on a bra been quite so hilarious.  I’m not sure I’ll watch it again – except maybe with friends who will appreciate the gloriously insane and kitsch nature of the film – but it’s definitely one to loan out and wait for the reaction from.

Stories I have known, ’07

Following on from the overall list of Great Stories We Enjoyed in 2007, here then is my personal list:

Absolute Favourites:
David D Levine, “Titanium Mike Saves the Day,” F and SF April
Martin Livings, “There was Darkness,” Fantastic Wonder Stories
Eric James Stone, “Tabloid Reporter to the Stars,” Intergalactic Medicine Show February

Honorable Mentions:
Manek Mistry, “Stories of the Alien Invasion,” Abyss and Apex 21
Karen Swanberg, “The Memory of Touch,” Abyss and Apex 21
Ben Burgis, “Three Perspectives on the Role of the Anarchists in the Zombie Apocalypse,” Afterburn SF July
Amy Betchel, “A Time for Lawsuits,” Analog July/August
Kevin Veale, “A Day in Her Lives,” ASIM 29
Charles Stross, “Trunk and Disorderly,” Asimovs January
Kristine Kathryn Rusch, “Recovering Apollo 8,” Asimovs February
Karen Joy Fowler, “Always,” Asimovs April/May
Lucius Shephard, “Dead Money,” Asimovs April/May
Allen M Steele, “The River Horses,” Asimovs April/May
Nancy Kress, “Fountain of Age,” Asimovs July
Darja Malcolm-Clarke, “The Beacon,” Clarkesworld 11
Bud Sparhawk, “Frost,” Darker Matter 1
Cherie Priest, “Our Lady of the Wasteland and the Hallelujah Chorus,” Dreadful Skin
M Rickert, “Memoir of a Deer Woman,” F and SF March
Carrie Vaughn, “Swing Time,” Baen’s Universe June
Grace Dugan, “Knowledge,” Interzone 211
Walter Jon Williams, “Send Them Flowers,” The New Space Opera
Nancy Kress, “The Art of War,” The New Space Opera
Joanne Merriam, “The Harvest,” Strange Horizons March
John Rosenmann, “Going Away,” Space and Time 100
Lee Thomas, “Sweet Fields,” Space and Time 100
PD Cacek, “The Way to a Man’s Heart,” Space and Time 100
Stephen Baxter, “Last Contact,” Solaris Book of New Science Fiction
Rachel Swirsky, “Dispersed by the Sun, Melting in the Wind,” Subterranean Online Summer
Ben Payne, “Inside,” Ticonderoga Online 11
Tansy Roberts, “Bluebell Vengeance,” ASIM 28
Kieran Morgan, “Finding Each Other Again,” ASIM 30
Sue Isle, “The Sun People,” Shiny 1

Things I think influence my thoughts on this:
I’m not an author
Until last year, I had read very few short stories
I’m the youngest
I’m a softie, unlike the other three who are hard-asses…  =D

On women being published and such

So a friend of mine started a ginormous interwebs feud the other day, discussing the lack of women being published in speculative fiction. A lot of people responded; some very well, others (mostly men) extremely poorly. There was mud-flinging and name-calling and misrepresentations… all very interesting.

In response, and to get her own thoughts on the subject very clear and mused-through, the wonderful Tansy has linked to the debates and offered a coherent, sustained, and fascinating take on the whole topic. Sans mud-slinging!

The LSS Recommended Reading List

LSS = the Not if you were the Last Short Story on Earth project.

So here we go. After much deliberating, the four of us have come up with a list of our Recommended Reading, from out of the thousands of stories we’ve read this year. This list represents those stories that a majority, if not all of us, felt were stand-outs and something special. We’ll follow this list with our own personal lists during the week, where we’ll share some of our more personal tastes and our thoughts. For now, though, here is our list of recommendations for 2007:

(note: for reasons of potential bias, I’ve separated those works written or published by a member of LSS from the others. These are listed at the end of the other list. Feel free to take those with a grain of salt.)

Stories we loved:

Maelstrom… Kage Baker (The New Space Opera)
Last Contact… Stephen Baxter (Solaris Books of New Science Fiction)
Paper Cut Scissors… Holly Black (Realms of Fantasy October)
The Coat of Stars… Holly Black (So Fey)
A Reversal of Fortune… Holly Black (The Coyote Road)
Times Winged Chariot… Nicola Caines (Albedo One #32)
The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate… Ted Chiang (Fantasy & Science Fiction Sept)
Domine… Rjurik Davidson (Aurealis #37)
Knowledge… Grace Dugan (Interzone #211)
Chiaroscurist… Hal Duncan (Logorrhea)
Glory… Greg Egan (The New Space Opera)
Family Values… Sara Genge (Cosmos 16)
End Game… Nancy Kress (Asimovs April/May)
Fountain of Age… Nancy Kress (Asimovs June)
Bambi Steaks… Richard A. Lovett (Analog May)
A Complete Refabrication… Bren Macdibble (Orb #7)
Harvest… Joanne Merriam (Strange Horizons)
Stories of the Alien Invasion… Manek Mistry (Abyss & Apex #21)
John Wayne… Ben Peek (Aurealis #37)
Second Law… Alexandra Penn (Zahir #12)
Distant Replay… Mike Resnick (Asimovs)
The Sledge-Maker’s Daughter… Alistair Reynolds (Interzone #209)
Memoir of a Deer Woman… M. Rickert (Fantasy & Science Fiction March)
When We Were Twelve… Heather Shaw (When We Were Six)
Muse of Fire… Dan Simmons (The New Space Opera)
Right to Work… Cat Sparks (The Workers’ Paradise)
The River Horses… Allen M. Steele (Asimovs April/May)
Post Hoc… Leslie What (Interfictions)

Stories we loved with bias!:

The Goats Are Going Places… Tina Connolly (Shiny #2)
The Sun People… Sue Isle (Shiny #1)
Small Change… Trent Jamieson (Shiny #1)
Cracks… Trent Jamieson (Shiny #2)
Inside… Ben Payne (Ticonderoga Online #11)
The Bluebell Vengeance… Tansy Rayner Roberts (ASIM #28)
The Bride Price… Cat Sparks (New Ceres #2)

Cyclones

My bro lives in Darwin. Bad sister that I am, I had no idea that there was a cyclone anywhere near him – as this shows. (Innit cool? I love BOM.) Of course, a cyclone isn’t something that was going to panic him, for numerous reasons – he’s a boy who doesn’t like to show emotion, we lived through one as kids as well as a number of warnings. His unit would have been fine to see it through should it actually have got closer to Darwin, with just one problem – they’re very close to the sea, and hence the flood zone. But it’s Darwin, and there are lots of contingencies: houses are built cyclone-coded, which means most have a suitable shelter, and if you’re really worried there are lots of public places – like schools – you can shelter in.

Anyway – it’s gone south of Darwin, and drenched Adelaide River – which is funny only because Adelaide River is where the panickers generally head when there’s a cyclone alert. It’s now just a low, but the problem will be if it manages to hit the coast again and either turns around or crosses the Qld coast. Not that it can pick up that much strength in such a short stretch of water, but you never know.

Kenny

Oh my.

I’ve only just seen this little Aussie battler – I was dubious when I first saw the trailers, then heard rave reviews from various people, but never got around to it.

It is brilliant.

I can’t begin to describe it properly. If you haven’t seen it, and you’re not embarrassed by poo-talk, you must see it. It captures Australia beautifully. The family relationships in particular are so true that they’re heartbreaking – and they actually are all family! That’s amazing – and that they didn’t kill each other in making it. Kenny himself… well. Quintessentially what we’d like to think Aussie working class blokes are like, but not so stereotyped as to be unbelievable. I think the sheer brilliance of this is that I know Kennys. Quirks, surprises, and sheer bull-headed determination and all.

His insights into Aussie culture – and seeing festivals and the like from behind, as it were – are pointed and exact, and at times quite disturbing because of their truth. Driving past the Calder Raceway every day as I do, the hoons shown there were a bit scary – again, because it’s just so true. And, reflecting the quote from the start, it really does show just how little attention is paid to people who are – for all we like to think we live in a glorious, flat, classless society – treated no better than servants ever were in the hey-day of rigid class division. Those were the bits that made me squirm; not the frank and easy talk of poo (“regular as clockwork, that’s me…”). But Kenny just goes on, and does his job, and enjoys his job, while the people who think they are his betters act like right knobs.

This is The Castle for the 00s. It had better go down as one of the more insightful looks at Aussie culture – as well as being very funny. And the cinematography too – it really does look like a doco; it’s magnificently done.

JJJ Hottest 100

My little sibs take voting in the Triple J Hottest 100 quite seriously. I think my bro, Kim, takes it most seriously – but with very little encouragement the squister, Kat, gets in on the act. And so do I. So we have a little email discussion about who’s voted for what, and perhaps get a bit competitive… my bro is quite smug about having guessed who will be No 1 for the last couple of years. Anyway, for the record:

Kat says –
Cog – What If
Foo Fighters – The Pretender
Birds Of Tokyo – Black Sheets
Butterfly Effect – Reach
Dead Letter Circus – Disconnect And Apply
Kaiser Chiefs – Ruby
Peeping Tom – We’re Not Alone
Mammal – Slaves
Josh Pyke – Sew My Name
Queens Of The Stone Age – 3’s & 7’s

Kim says –
Arcade Fire – Keep the car running
Birds of Tokyo – Wayside
Emilie Simon – Fleur de saison
Kings of Leon – On call
Muscles – Ice Cream
Muse – Knights of Cydonia
The Panics – Cruel guards
Silverchair – Straight lines
Spoon – The underdog
White Stripes – Conquest

I says –
Regina Spektor – Real Love
Beck – Timebomb
Bjork – Earth Intruders
Bumblebeez – Dr Love
Chemical Brothers – The Salmon Dance
Cold War Kids – Hang Me Up To Dry
Foo Fighters – The Pretender
Fratellis – Creepin Up The Backstairs
Jenny Wilson – Summertime (The Roughest Time)
Bluejuice – Vitriol

Note the almost complete non-correspondence. We’re not quite that dissimilar, but we certainly have been drifting apart recently in music. There are still some things that keep up together: Foo Fighters; Wolfmother (more the sis and me); Faith No More (I’m still being convinced of the heavier stuff); and Roy Orbison…

Indiana Jones

Well, to start with I am very excited that the fourth one has actually had a date set for release – mid this year. It’s been a long time coming!! With Cate Blanchett, hopefully it will be good – I really hope it’s realistic about Ford being ancient. One of the things I really enjoyed about Lethal Weapon 4 was Glover and Gibson going on about being too old for this shit. Anyway, I’m excited.

What has sparked this post, though, was a viewing of Last Crusade. Great movie. Great movie. I adore the opening, with young Indy: it is so very nicely set up – I realised that you don’t know whether Indy is a scout or in the cave for quite a long time; the main looter in the cave even looks a bit like Ford, and of course the hat is Indy’s. It made me sad to see River Phoenix – such a pity for him to die so damn young.

And the whole movie is great. Good chases – although the tank/horse scene gets a bit long; good baddies – especially Elsa, of course, and adding in Hitler is brilliant; I love the zeppelin scene; and heck – it’s Connery! “The schlime of humanity” – what a line.