Monthly Archives: October, 2008


If you have a commute, or otherwise do things that don’t require a lot of brain power and you’d rather be reading, and you have a music device, you should totally get hooked up with Librivox. Books that are our of copyright get read by volunteers and are available to download for free! How cool is that?

So far, I’ve listened to two H. Rider Haggard stories (written in the 1890s, Brits travelling in Deepest Darkest Africa and having adventures; be warned about the casual racism) – both well done; and HG Wells’ The Invisible Man, which was totally not what I expected: much more social drama, much less SF, but enthralling nonetheless. I downloaded Wells’ Time Machine too, but… well, it’s done by volunteers. And I simply could not, could not listen to the reader’s voice another minute. Drove me batty. *sigh* Still to go, I have more H. Rider Haggard (Allan Quartermain), I have The Island of Dr Moreau, and I have The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, which I’ve never read! So hopefully the readers of those will be approachable. (I must say that the reader of The Invisible Man is utterly swoon-worthy… I recommend listening to anything he’s read!)

She Who Must be Obeyed

So for those of you about my age or older, who had parents who liked the non-commercial side of TV, that saying surely only has one connotation: Rumpole of the Bailey, discussing his Missus.

I have recently discovered, to my delight, that Leo McKern/Horace Rumpole is not, actually, the originator of that saying. Instead, it is the full title of the titular character in She, by H. Rider Haggard.

I’d heard of the book in passing, and had recently listened to King Solomon’s Mines (more on that in a bit), so I was delighted to find it at Librivox. I got seriously hours of entertainment from listening to She. It’s a glorious adventure tale – very obviously of its time; one of the few difficulties is getting past the “he was a good fellow… for a savage” comments that abound – with handsome young men, ugly old stalwarts, servants who know their place, cannibals, and a supremely beautiful yet terribly flawed woman. I couldn’t figure why I’d never heard of it as a movie – there are some scenes that just seem to have been written for the screen – but I’ve discovered there have actually been two movies. One b&w number from the 1930s, which from IMDb stays faithful, and one starring Ursula Andress as She and Christopher Lee as one of the ‘savages’ (boot polish, anyone??) (and Bernard Cribbins as the servant – that’s Donna Noble’s grandpa!) from the 1960s that is… less so. I don’t think I’ll bother.

Anyway, it’s great. All sorts of interesting questions are raised: are men simply zombified by love? Are all women expected to wait 2000 years for their true love to return after they kill them the first time (oops, slight spoiler)? Are all savages either utterly corrupt or utterly noble? Can hair really go from grey to golden?

Speaking of poo…

And I’m sure someone, somewhere was (probably with a four-year-old), this article about sanitation, toilets and differences therein around the world is fascinating. It’s an interview with a woman who’s written a whole book on the topic.


Voting in America… or not

I teach a bit about the issue of suffrage, and the efforts that people in the past have gone to in order obtain said the right to vote. It’s a right that’s listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Today, I read this article about the hi-jinks and general skulduggery of stopping people from voting in that supposed bastion of democracy.

Perhaps some aspects are exaggerated, perhaps some of the people ought to have been purged… BUT:
a) wouldn’t you have thought people should be told before they turn up to vote, that they’ve been purged? Maybe give them a chance to object?
b) those numbers are pretty huge… and the proportions of African-Americans and Hispanics affected seems disproportionate, to say the least.

My shreds of hope and optimism are being worn away.



Jason Statham is an awesome action actor. He’s such a straightman, but delivers comedic lines gloriously. I believe he does lots of his own stunts – and frankly, the only reason to watch most (all?) of his movies is for the stunts.

This movie… well. Action? Tick. Dialogue? Not so much. Care factor of said balance? Not so much. Cos the action is So Cool.

Not the sort of film to watch if you want actual substance – but really, who does? I quite liked the quirky ending, though. And there’s no pretense at credibility, which I appreciated; it was designed and executed as exploding-chasing-gratuitousness, and that’s exactly what you get.

(See how I’m not even bothering to pretend at a plot description? It would be pointless. It’s not why you’d watch it.)

Balance some rocks: I dare you

Balancing rocks

Seriously, this is so cool!

Eagle Eye

We saw it today. It was a lot better than I expected, to be honest.

Shia is pretty crap. The chick was ok. Billy Bob Thornton is great.

I love the plane-in-the-tunnel trick.

I really wasn’t expecting what this turned out to be, but it made sense (you know, in context, where “making sense” is associated with “utter suspension of belief”).

Lots of explosions! And car chases! And scenes where I couldn’t really follow who was where!

I enjoyed it a lot.

Le Chocolat

So last night I went out with my dear uni friends A and K. The night involved chocolate, singing, and dancing; the only way this was different from normal was that someone else was doing the last two (ha! boom boom).

I made a resolution this year that I would go to more Melbourne stuff. I have lived here for many years and have been to almost nothing! So I made my love come with me to the Great Debate, as part of the Melbourne Comedy Festival, earlier in the year. And A and K came with me to see “Le Chocolat,” as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

It was great. It was awesome. It was basically a play about flatmates talking about chocolate, break-ups, chocolate… and more chocolate. It was done at Trades Hall, in a little room, so there was about 30 of us in the audience. As K feared, there was indeed some audience interaction… but fortunately they were looking for a boy, to demonstrate how to teach boys about the joys of chocolate.

(Interesting point on that: on the programme, the bio includes favourite chocolate… the boys say things like Twix, and Timeout. How do they count as chocolate?)

The band was cool: violin, guitar, and drums – blokes who were allegedly from different countries, making a few rude comments – and the bass player, Musical Director and Translator for the other boys. Interaction there was funny and well scripted.

It was billed as a cabaret, and it really was. It was basically a series of vignettes, connected by the threads of being housemates and experiencing break-ups and chocolate. There were only a few songs I didn’t recognise; some were ‘as-written’, some had words changed to make them appropriately chocolate-y. The words to “Candy Man” still make me a bit embarrassed ;] There was also a bit of tap-dancing, which was fun.

Juliet and Vivienne (Carla Conlin and Diana Scalzi) were both very good. They clearly have a good rapport, and worked off each other – one a bit skinnier than the other, playing off that (“she works hard for the money chocolate…”), as well as the standard housemate bickering.

At any rate, it was a highly enjoyable hour or more of entertainment. Melbourne folk – for $16, it’s a fun night out!

The Contractor

Barely redeemed by the presence of Wesley Snipes. Rather disappointing. Some okay action sequences, an interesting enough if not exactly original story, and a silly final scene. In fact, it gets sillier in retrospect.

*sigh* I seem not to be doing very well in my adventures to try movies I’ve not heard of, recently. Perhaps there’s a reason I haven’t heard of them.

Music… so much music

We went record-shopping yesterday, on Brunswick St. (And yes, I do mean LPs.)

At Polyester Records, we scored:
LOVE – the Beatles – yeh, that one George Martin and his son re-mixed for the circus act. It’s pretty cool; a bit more than simply a best-of, although it has that aspect too.
The White Album – the Beatles – I’m not actually a huge fan, but I like them well enough that this looked like a very cool album I should own.
Taj Mahal (self-titled) – I’ve heard about Taj Mahal in discussions of blues and funk, so I decided to go out on a limb. Gotta say, I love it!
I’m Not There – soundtrack to the movie – brilliant!! I’m not a big Dylan connoisseur, so most of the songs on the album (4 LPs!) are unfamiliar to me, but it’s the best of both worlds: Dylan’s poetry and music, but done by people who can, like, sing!

Then, we went to Dixon’s, and bought second-hand:
Best of Janis Joplin
Urban Renewal – Tower of Power – apparently this is quite rare, because my love nearly went apoplectic when he saw it
couple of Rickie Lee Jones albums (because sometimes my love is a bit of a sap, and I have to admit that I quite enjoy her too)
Diesel and Dust – Midnight Oil
10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – Midnight Oil
Blue Sky Mining – Midnight Oil
Graceland – Paul Simon – mine!

I did not buy the Grease soundtrack. I’m not entirely sure why. It might have been that it was very cheap and therefore very bad quality…

Quite the haul, really; we had a lovely afternoon listening to half of them!