Category Archives: In Review: Books & Entertainment

Magical Music At The Palais With Sarah Blasko, 2010

Dear Audy,

Hurrah! I finally have the internet again and can enjoy feeling connected again. It has definitely been strange to be unable to log on each day and enjoy reading blogs, staring at inspiring things and chatting to lovely people. Really makes me appreciate that I live in a time when we have the ability to do this at all! Unfortunately, I have been rather flared up for the past few days. I am resting as best I can, using all the tricks that I’ve learnt to try and settle the beast and waiting for my mind to return from being scattered all haphazardly around the place. Fortunately, just before this flare got its cogs turning, I was able to enjoy an excellent night out with a friend.

Going to see Sarah Blasko has been something that I have been looking forward to for months and I was not disappointed. I have only seen her once before, at A Day On The Green, in a paddock with a picturesque view, on the evening of a 40 degree (Celsius) day, amongst a bunch of people who had been drinking in the sun for hours, as we all waited for it to set. Do you know what happens to people who have been doing that? They go feral, that’s what. T-shirts were being worn as hats. The thonged, mud-covered feet of intoxicated and dancing bogans stained picnic blankets, already covered with spilt beer and not necessarily the property of the IB (intoxicated bogan) in question. Yet, in spite of all this going on around me (and, let’s face it, I was very far from sober myself, caring not that I was on crutches), I still remember how amazing Sarah sounded as her hauntingly beautiful voice rang out into the night and distracted me completely from the mayhem of sitting in some sort of drunk-human-pig-sty.

She is stunning. Some musicians create using musical notes, others use musical magic. Sarah falls into the latter category.

I could not wait to see her in one of my favourite Melbourne music venues, The Palais! No sun, no drinking, and pretty good seats to boot. Not to mention good acoustics and pretty lighting. The seats aren’t kind to bottoms, but I can deal with that when it means sitting in a gorgeous little piece of history.

Sarah’s talent is undeniable, her sound unique and her demeanour adorable. The thing that impressed me almost as much about this performance was the indulgence taken to perfect the costumes and staging as an enhancing element of the show. The band wore white dress shirts, you would not believe how impressed I was by this. Boys playing instruments well, whilst dressed well? You don’t get that often. The effect of these shirts, along with some white-with-the-ability-to-turn-awesome-colours balls suspended from the ceiling and the amazing white-dress that Sarah wore was a visual delight to match the beauty of the music.

(click for image source)

I have no idea who designed Sarah’s costume, but I would like to tip my hat to them. What first appeared to be a simple white frock, quickly revealed itself as a work of fabric genius. Sitting perfectly on the figure of this quirky songstress, it moved and flowed with her body as though the very music she was creating was physically dancing around her in delight. The fabric draped from her arms as she raised them, transforming her silhouette into some kind of remarkable snow angel. Every stitch served a purpose, every pleat, every angle, every fold. I was transfixed, as the music flowed through me, so did design wonder and awe.

The colourful beads adorning Sarah’s chest and head added brightness and life to the costume. More than a simple necklace or headpiece, they worked marvelously to tie the whole aesthetic of the stage together by simplistically matching the balls on the ceiling, those draped from Sarah’s microphone, and, in theory, the bubbles that she told us she had planned, before being let down by a dodgy bubble machine. Ah, the joy I take when an artist (of any kind) pays such attention to the details of every aspect of the way their work is presented. There is much beauty in that kind of passion, along with the wonderful result of taking such time and care. Subtly adding red gloves to add depth and drama to a single track? Detailing genius. Not to mention…I want those gloves.

I have trouble understanding why more musicians don’t treat their stage as an opportunity for costume design and creativity. It’s nice to look lovely in a pretty dress, but how many opportunities do you get to show off the fabulousness of costuming? Don’t let Lady Gaga put you off, costuming can be done with taste, class, and, you know, fabric.

The most memorable moment from the performance is Sarah’s bashful giggle as she forgot the lyrics during her cover of Flame Trees, after building it up with a heart-felt introduction about how the track would be farewelled from her set-list after her current tour. I love pretty much every cover I’ve ever heard her sing, but this one is quite spectacular. It gives new feeling and a sensitivity to an old Aussie classic. Unpatriotically, I have never enjoyed Cold Chisel, other than that sense of group nostalgia and camaraderie that is invoked by this iconic music at home parties, late at night, probably when someone’s parents are out of town and the drinks are potent…however, I do enjoy Sarah’s version immensely!

Before shutting up, I would also like to tip my metaphorical hat to Sarah’s enthusiastic pianist. Dude was so into it, I was concerned for his neck. That’s what I like to see!

Never heard of Sarah Blasko before? Enjoy this little piece of beautifully complex simplicity, before buying yourself copy of each of her albums!

Love & Beautiful Melodies,

P.S. If you are at a show and need to yell out from the audience, something like “I love you” during a pause in the show, it is completely uncool to need your friends to yell in sync with you. But also, very funny when I am close enough to hear your countdown…for the synchronicity and everything…of course.

P.P.S. Thanks to all for the lovely birthday wishes and hurrah for the variety of mediums these arrived via! I am yet to enjoy and reply to those left on Facebook, but very grateful to everyone who took the time to write to me. I shall reply ASAP.


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  • In Review: The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

    Dear Audy,

    Silly virus and its silly making me coughy and grouchy! I have done nothing of interest this week, unless you count laying on the couch and look pathetic. Rather than blog about the crappiness of illness, I thought I’d try my hand at a book review, having gotten a taste for writing down my review-like thoughts after seeing Tomorrow When The War Began. It’s fun to write about the stories that have been inspiring me!

    Oh, how I love a good story! For a long time, I felt that, as an adult, I should be reading adult books. The truth is, however, that I’ve never really gotten over my love of children’s and young adult novels. There is just a certain magic and simplicity in these texts that doesn’t quite make it into most works aimed at adults.

    I have just finished reading The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke. Although critically acclaimed, I had never heard of this book until I read the Inkheart trilogy and fell in love with the author. If I remember correctly, I was looking for something that would entertain and enthrall as Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story does, so naturally I was looking at other German fantasy authors. I’m really not sure if that is racist or clever (is it still racism when you are being complementary?), but it worked!

    The Thief Lord is set in Venice – a super attractive setting for the inner romantic. Two young brothers, Prosper and Bo have been orphaned in Hamburg. Their fairy-taley standard nasty aunt only wants to adopt Bo, she has been unable to have her own children and only wants the younger boy, content to split the boys up and leave Prosper to the fate of an orphanage. Prosper isn’t having a bar of that. He gathers his younger brother and they steal away to Venice, a city their mother had long told them tales about being filled with magic and wonder.

    On the run from their aunt and her hired detective, the boys befriend a young girl on the streets of Venice, named Hornet, and find shelter with a gang of homeless children, who are living in an abandoned cinema and surviving on profits obtained by their mysterious, often masked “Thief Lord”. A modern day Robin Hood, the Thief Lord steals from the rich and pawns his takings to earn money for his friends in poverty.

    Victor, the detective hired by Prosper and Bo’s aunt, gets very close to catching the boys and in doing so, throws the lives of the homeless children into chaos, exposes secrets about their mysterious leader and has them running scared through the City of Canals. This uprooting leads to an adventure of the wonderful kind; intriguing, scary, exciting and most pleasantly, magical.

    The Thief Lord manages to be both simplistic and highly entertaining. Funke uses a lot of fairytale cliches, orphaned children, nasty adults, a little bit of magic and a fable-like warning or two. The characters are hardly original: a proper and responsible boy; a recklessly ignorant young child; a tomboy with a flair for the dramatic; a couple of kids roughened by years on the streets; a loner, slightly dodgy detective and even an eccentric old lady, thrown in to bring about explanation and inspiration for the magical events that control the plot in the second half of the story.

    In spite of the cliches that Funke uses to tell this tale, she weaves a beautifully original story that surprises right up until the last page. The cliches almost serve as a means to build up the element of surprise as the final chapters take the story to places beyond the usual ‘return to happy normal’ of a children’s story. I was so amazed at some of the aspects of this that I was almost horrified and then slowly impressed with how Funke eased this feeling into an ending that I could smile about. Had the story simply followed Prosper and Bo through a standard running away and attempting to avoid capture, it would have fallen into boringdom, however Funke prevents this by weaving in a supernatural, secondary plot that would just about make a story on its own. I am currently having a love affair with her imagination, next up on my Funke pile is Dragon Rider, although I should possibly finish the other two books that I am half way through before I get excited about the next one!

    Ah, the pile. What reader doesn’t have a pile of ‘to be read’ books that always seems to grow more quickly than they can be consumed? Funke is about to release a new, collaborative series, I’m pretty sure this will end up right on that pile long before the pile starts to look puny!

    Love & Magic,

    P.S. This was fun! Reviewing what I’ve just finished reading is a good chance to sit and ponder it in greater depth than I would be otherwise likely to do. Personal blogging is the best, I can just decide to write on a new topic and away I go…thanks, internet!

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  • A Helluva Lot Of Ella

    Dear Audy,

    Thanks so much for all the fabulous feedback about Loretta! I am so very proud of her, I can’t wait to get started on the next one!!

    Not today, though. Today I am sick. I have picked up one of those cold and flu bugs that like to infect people. Lots of fun!

    So, what am I doing, apart from sitting in a haze on the couch? Why, downloading 134 of the 254 songs that I purchased on iTunes yesterday, of course! No, I didn’t win a bunch of iTunes credits, the lottery, or find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In fact, I didn’t spend up big at all, the entire loot only cost me $14.99!

    You see, yesterday, I was also sick. I decided that a nice relaxing bath would help me to feel better. I also decided that I felt like something new to listen to whilst I was soaking. Something jazzy, pretty and stress-relieving. I have recently been enjoying the sultry sounds of Etta James and so I searched iTunes to see what other artists people who had purchased Etta were into. I don’t really have a lot of music history ingrained in this brain of mine and searching iTunes recommendations has proven a great way for me to find more music that I like!

    What I came across was Ella Fitzgerald. A name that I was familiar with, but not so much who she was or her work. I had a quick listen to some previews of this album and liked what I heard!

    It was only $14.99, which I thought was strange as the opening line in the album’s description is “This admittedly pricey…”. I didn’t really think it was pricey at all, not for 15 tracks, that’s only $1 a track!

    After purchasing, I got rather a shock when iTunes told me it was downloading 254 items. In fact, my eyeballs just about hit the wall on the opposite side of the room! Surely, it was a mistake! I headed back to the iTunes store to find out…

    No, no mistake. There it is in fine print at the bottom. There is the ability to scroll down, I just didn’t notice it the first time around. Uh oh, I thought, $14.99 can’t be right, I’d better see how much I’ve actually spent….But, there it is! Correct after all. It turns out I actually paid 0.06 cents a track. How insane is that?

    I realise that this music is over 50 years old, but still, I kind of feel like I’ve ripped off Ella! Even though she’s, sadly but naturally, no longer with us. Have I just bought someone’s entire life’s work for $14.99?! Holy guacamole. Many are songs that I’ve heard before by other artists, but the majority is all new to me!

    I did end up in that nice, relaxing bath that I had planned. Where I soaked and soaked and listened to 47 tracks of my new collection and enjoyed it thoroughly. Listening to Ella feels like being in an old movie, all pretty, nostalgic and slightly magical. I am currently in love with vintage fashion and it appears this love is spreading into vintage music. How wonderful! I love listening to people who can really, really sing and real instruments and lots of them and no auto-tune…the artists of old really put our pop industry to shame. Not that there aren’t a helluva lot of amazing musicians with us in 2010, but they do struggle to get the attention they deserve amongst all the commercially generated crap that plagues the modern music scene.

    Love & Nice Surprises,

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  • In Review: Tomorrow When The War Began (2010)

    Dear Audy,

    In spite of recent jaw troubles, I have continued to get out and about lately, which is exhausting but exciting! On Saturday afternoon, I went along to see a preview screening of Tomorrow When The War Began. This story follows the lives of 7 rural teenagers, centering on our journaling heroine Ellie, who return from a camping trip to discover that Australia has been invaded by an unknown military enemy and their entire town is being held hostage in fictional small town Wirrawee’s showgrounds. John Marsden’s thrilling Tomorrow series have long been cherished friends of mine, a relationship that has been revisited in recent years through Marsden’s related series The Ellie Chronicles. I can pretty much sum up the experience of watching this movie in one word: effingawesome.

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    (click for source)

    It’s hard to imagine that Tomorrow When The War Began, the movie, could have been more jaw-clenching and breath-stopping than it was. This storyline has long resonated with me as one of the scariest situations imaginable. I am lucky enough to live in a country that isn’t tortured by war and the idea of such lawless and horrifying things happening around me makes my heart beat like a running mouse’s and the air seem to stiffen in my lungs. What on Earth would I do, if I were Ellie? I like to imagine that I would fight with cleverness and courage as she does, but honestly, it’s impossible to know how I’d react in a situation so foreign to anything that I have experienced. Watching these scenes play out in familiar settings, further facilitated my fear, much in the manner of Wolf Creek. I’ve seen a billion war movies set overseas, but that, there on the screen is my country, that’s familiar, that’s here. Whilst I felt a huge identification with the setting, I did think the film failed a little in conveying the sense of community that exists in a small town. In the books, it is quite clear that when Ellie and Co. get a view of their families and friends being held prisoner, they know just about everybody there. There is a critical scene in which the horror of the situation is brought to life for Ellie and I can’t help thinking that were it clear that she would have personally known just about everyone being imprisoned, that particular scene would have been more powerful.

    When I first heard that TWTWB was being made into a film, I was fairly dubious as to whether or not this could be pulled off. The casting of Caitlin Stasey, of Neighbours fame, as the protagonist, Ellie furthered my trepidation – Ellie was a strawberry blonde, tomboyish, country chick and Caitlin just didn’t fit with my image of her. I was pleasantly surprised, however, and her portrayal of this beloved character was fitting, believable, engaging and endearing – far more than I would have expected from a former soapie starlet. Ellie’s strength, her determination and her confusion were all present in Caitlin’s performance. It was easy to put aside my predetermined beliefs about Ellie’s appearance as I watched her coming to life on the screen in the body of this talented, young actress.

    I have read quite a lot of criticism regarding the attractive cast of this movie, especially in regards to their associations with iconic Aussie soaps Neighbours and Home & Away. Frankly, I think these critics are grabbing at fault straws here. TWTWB is an action movie. Let’s look at the second part of that first, ‘movie’: How is anyone surprised at discovering good looking people cast in a movie? A book has the liberty of introducing characters slowly, allowing us to enjoy them as we envision them, a movie doesn’t have that freedom. A movie needs its audience to become attached to its characters quickly and being attractive helps this, no matter how much we like to believe that finding pretty humans attractive solely because of their pretty is pretty shallow of us. Bringing in the first part of the action movie equation further enforces the need to get things moving along quickly. This story has 7 main characters, that is a lot to introduce to viewers, who might not have had the pleasure of reading the book beforehand. The film falls back on cliche’s to accomplish these introductions and I would have to say, effectively so. By the time Ellie and her friends begin their journey up Tailor’s Spit and into Hell, the audience has a pretty good idea of which character is standing up for which teenaged stereotype.

    Overall, I think they cast the characters well. This is with the exception of Phoebe Tonkin as townie chick, Fi. From my memories of the book, Fi wasn’t a valley-girlish, make up clad, pretty princess. She was prissy, uptight and not as accustomed to getting dirty as her friends, however I don’t think that a passing decade should translate this character into a pampered teenage, Paris Hilton wannabe. Providing little help to my acceptance of her character was Phoebe’s performance, which was by far the weakest of the group.

    In pleasant contrast to my preconceptions was the casting of Ashleigh Cummings as Robyn. Robyn is the town minister’s daughter. Religious, down-to-earth and sensible, she is every parent’s dream. In the books, Robyn came across as having quite a rough, self-empowered edge to her and I found this lacking in the initial characterisation in the film. Ashleigh seemed much more mousey, timid and naive than the Robyn of the books. I can understand the choice to write and direct her differently in the film, Robyn takes some huge metaphorical steps and overcomes her internal struggles to come through for her friends in a time of great need. This moment is heightened in the film by the more extreme portrayal of Robyn’s good girl traits at the beginning. Without the time to investigate her character thoroughly, the film successfully shows her to us through a stereotype that can build into the hard-assed Robyn that we know and love.

    As for the boys: Deniz Akdeniz is hilarious as Greek descended, bad boy larrikin, Homer. His moments of humour provide some well needed tension release breaks amongst the explosive and heart-racing scenario of the film. Lincoln Lewis gave a believable, if not quite as convincing portrayal of the group’s jock/coward, Kevin. Kevin didn’t get a lot of screen time, however I think they did well to convey his cowardice in a critical scene during the film that causes us to question the integrity of his character thereafter. I have read a bit of criticism of Christopher Pang’s performance as quiet, artistic and Ellie-loving Lee. I actually thought he did well to carry off what he was given. The film did little to show us why Lee was there, as a part of this group, instead focusing on his differentness and having him come across as almost autistic. I can also understand this characterisation decision, in the context of this being an action movie, there wasn’t a lot of room to indulge in the complexities of the personalities and relationships amongst the teens.

    That’s not to say we weren’t given a bit of teenage love story. A rather stunning actress, Rachel Hurd-Wood, was cast as Corrie, a character who might bring a tear to the eye of any long time reader as they realise they had just about forgotten her and her role at the beginning of this series. Corrie and Kevin’s relationship gave us a bit of kissy kissy, there was also a hinting at the long-time, maybe-one-day, Dawson & Joey like feelings between Ellie and Homer. The film focused more on the development of Ellie’s feelings toward Lee, rather than honing in on the inherent love triangle, which I felt to be a wise decision. It was much more interesting to watch more things blow up than to focus on the awkwardly standard teenager emotional confusion.

    As a film adaptation of a well loved book, I have to say, this is one of the better that I have seen. Sure, there are some corny lines here and there, but that’s because it’s an action movie. Sure, there are some odd sounding Aussie accents in the bunch, but let’s all remember for a second that the Australian accent is usually a kind of butchering of the English language. So much so that when we do hear people speaking who have been coached to pronounce things like ‘t’ not as a ‘d’, or perhaps to verbally acknowledge the ‘al’ in ‘Australia’, they can sound, to the average Aussie, as though they are speaking strangely. TWTWB is designed to have international appeal, that means that any effort that can be made to ensure that other English speaking nations are able to understand us needs to be made. I know, correct pronunciation isn’t quite cool in this country, but let’s give these actors a break and quit ragging on them for using their tongues properly when talking.

    In regards to the unknown enemy being presented as Asian, I can understand yet not entirely agree with the decision. In reading the books, I always imagined the invaders to be from a middle-eastern nation, so it clashed a little with my own personal interpretation. I would have loved to have seen the film take on the challenge of not showing the faces of these soldiers through masks and shadows. It might not have been easy, but it would have made for more fascinating viewing.

    I love that this film embraced its action movie qualities. Explosions are exciting! Car chases, bullets and bombings are enthralling! I would advise putting aside any literary snobbery when sitting down to enjoy TWTWB on the big screen. It does a brilliant job of telling Marsden’s tale without tearing it to shreds, unlike many book to movie adaptations. The movie itself asks this of its audience in the much laughed at, corn-filled scene in which Ellie and Fi comment that books are usually better than movies. The film builds tension brilliantly and delivers when things are ready to boil over, I don’t think there’s much more to be asked of an action film. Realism? Nope, action film. Go along and enjoy these characters in a new medium, embrace the differences from the book and get caught up in the excitement as the film has presented it, I did and I had a fabulous time!

    Love & Peace,

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  • The Hills/The City: Fake Reality, I GET It Now.

    Dear Audy,

    I have a confession to make, I have gotten hooked on fake reality. Well, not in the drop acid and wander around in a fantasyland way, but in the staring mindlessly at the screen and into the deliciously plastic worlds of The Hills and The City.

    The Hills debuted in 2006 and ever since then and a couple of months ago, I have thought it sounded like a stupid show to watch. I didn’t understand the fake reality thing. Was I supposed to pretend it was real life when it was clearly scripted? I didn’t understaaand…but now I do.

    Lauren, Heidi, Audrina and Whitney are (fake) living the lives that my teenage self dreamed about. There they are, in L.A., the home of Hollywood, rampant gangs and ludicrously luxurious living. Ok, so the gangs don’t exactly make an appearance, that would be a blot on the beauty of the (fake) world we’re looking into, right? Don’t want that. Oh no, because in The (fake) Hills, life is sunshine, lollipops and lipstick! That is exactly how it wormed its way through my (fake) high brow snobbery defense system. That, and the weakening of said brow battalion that occurs when I am sore and dopey.

    The Hills follows four (fake) successful, beauties, making their way in the world after high school.

    Firstly, we have Lauren. Lauren is our central, girl-next-doorish, generally nice, unwittingly super self righteous, yet somehow rather relatable heroine. Next up is her best friend, Heidi, seemingly fresh-faced, funny and friendly, but a little forlorn at the idea of actually working for a living. As the show progresses, so does Heidi. From sweet country girl to self important, Spencer schmoozing, plastic-morph barbie. It’s hard not to pity her whilst watching her transform – plastic surgery in young people always seems to me like they’re almost cementing their insecurities, which is likely the opposite of what they’re trying to achieve. The stars don’t mention her transformation on the show at all, which is just weird. Have her (fake) friends not noticed that she’s starting to resemble Cher?

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    Lauren Conrad & Heidi Montag (click for source)

    Thrown in to the (fake) friendship mix, is Audrina, an icon for grungey wannabes everywhere. Audrina is a completely different personality type to Lauren and Heidi, I mean, if this isn’t obvious enough by the fact that she is brunette, whereas they are blonde (huge difference, duh), then there is always her icky biker kinda boyfriend, Justin Bobby, to nail home just how alternative she is. Audrina wears a lot of black (so baaad), eyeliner and slightly hurt expressions. Like Heidi (face it, like a lot of girls), Audrina has trouble navigating her (fake) love life, suffers from ‘never been in love before’ naivety and entertains greatly by becoming increasingly more daft as her bra size goes (mysteriously) up.

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    Audrina Patridge (click for source)

    Rounding out our group of hot, young, ladies is Lauren’s co-worker at Teen Vogue (dream job, anyone’s inner teenage self?) is Whitney. Whitney is our sweet, dignified, understatedly coquettish Cali-girl with a heart of gold and the figure of a supermodel. She’s there so that Lauren has someone to bitch to about her other (fake) friends and for us to envy as she goes about her life being charming and successful, despite any obviously apparent actual talent. Whitney is so charming in fact, that she went off to New York and got her very own (fake) reality show, The City, which I am currently enjoying immensely.

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    Whitney Port (click for source)

    Working in the fashion industry has Whitney showing off a lot of pretty clothes and accessories, it’s kind of like sitting on the couch and watching an issue of Cosmopolitan. All pretty colours, consumption and distractingly bright, bright, bright. Even Whitney’s new (fake) nemesis, Olivia, is pretty, in spite of her strange tendency to colour her cheeks in orange, it’s always interesting to see what she’s wearing and to watch her acting like a fantastical bitch to everyone she meets. The City seems to have embraced its position of fictional construct in the disguise of reality and this also makes me happy. The ‘that would never really happen’ scenarios that they string together make me smile. Why care if it’s not really real life? It’s still easy to tune out and pretend for a while that it could be, the stars assist with this using their drawled out speech patterns and the producers help with some snappy editing and an irritatingly addictive indie pop soundtrack.

    Watching these lucky young ladies living dream lives is a bit like curling up with a Dolly Fiction novel (Do they still have Dolly Fiction?). It can be fun to pretend that my real problems don’t exist for a while and to fantasise about fighting the fictitious issues that Lauren, Whitney and their (fake) friendship crowds face. Oh, to have my biggest worry be what to wear! Oh, to behave so shallow and inconsiderately of everyone else and yet have them play along! Oh, to sun-bake and take beach trips, to go shopping and wear a new dress every day! Oh, to generally get around without pain! Is it starting to sound like fun yet?

    I have only seen the first four seasons of The Hills. Season 5 looks hilarious as Lauren walks away to write fictional novels based on her fictional television life (L.A. Candy) and the producers shove ex-Laguna Beach power bitch Kristin into the protagonist role. I think I shall enjoy watching her annoy everyone and how she is just suddenly in Lauren’s post high school friendship group from many angles, even hooking up with Audrina’s ex-oil rag, the ever-stoned Justin Bobby. Funny, funny, funny.

    I shall also be giggling along with Whitney, Roxy and their contrived lives in New York. I’m about up to where Whit is going to design her own clothing line, can’t wait to see what she (or whoever) comes up with! I don’t really like the poncey nature of the fashion industry, however I do like pretty clothes…a lot. I also like watching how they wear their hair and makeup, with these big screen TVs, you get quite a lot of detail and I find it interesting to be able to see close up how they have created the look that you get from a couple of feet away. Makeup can be banged on as a necessity or treated like an art medium and I far prefer the latter. If I’m going to bother putting makeup on, I want to have a little fun with it!

    So there you have it, Audy. Fake reality can be a bit of fun sometimes! Especially when one needs a break from real reality. I had a little jaw mishap whilst brushing my teeth a few nights ago and the result is a lot of neck, shoulder and generalised pain to deal with. I am attempting to Feldy it out, however I need a lot of breaks and that’s where the need for zoning out comes in. I have another wedding to attend in a few weeks and am about to begin Operation Sew A Pretty Dress, the second…might even spend my afternoon choosing a pattern and fabric! I am gaining some nice inspiration from my slightly shameful television crack problem, but mostly I just know that I would like it to be blue…that’s a start!

    Love & Escapism,

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  • Waiting For Godot With Ian McKellen…Absurdist Theatre At Its Best.

    Dear Audy,

    Wow, it’s hard to believe that the past week has gone by and that it was really a week long! Parts of last weekend feel like they were hours ago, other parts, decades. I’m not surprised that I am even conflicted about how long I perceived the days to pass, anxiety has been running me ragged lately. Thank you so much for the comments on my last post, I shall muster up some replies as my energy returns!

    I did do something superbly marvelous last weekend. My prince and I headed into town, collected our central, third row tickets and saw Ian McKellen performing in Waiting For Godot at The Comedy Theatre.


    I must pause and give them props for merchandising. I have never before seen a merchandise stall selling prints of paintings of the actors in character. Autographed prints, no less. It took me about three seconds to decide that yes, I would be taking home Gandalf’s signature. Had I been rich, I would have bought the set of characters, I liked the play that much!

    20100523 Waiting For Godot Print

    I had heard a little about Waiting For Godot (a Samuel Beckett play) during my brief foray into theatre studies, however, I had never read it nor seen it performed. I loved it. I feel privileged to have had my first experience with a text that I will, no doubt, revisit to ponder over in the future, performed by such masters of the acting craft.

    Waiting For Godot is an abstractly existentialist play. It belongs amongst a movement that took place around the 1940s and 1950s that has been termed the Theatre of the Absurd. I have had a penchant for absurdist theatre since I first saw a production of The Chairs by Eugene Ionesco as a high school student. Years later, I directed a production of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros through the Monash Student Theatre and of all the creative adventures I have taken, I must say, directing the play was the most rewarding. You can see pics from my production here. Exploring the text with some amazing actors through workshopping and discussion helped to reveal its ingeniously woven ambiguities and we were able to bring these out in the staging of the piece. Rhinoceros makes huge comments on the restrictions placed on people in society and the suppression of many aspects of our true natures, it also serves to highlight mankind’s lemming-like propensity to do things simply because others are, even if it means losing one’s own identity. My favourite thing about absurdist theatre is that it is like a painting, it can be seen from many angles and interpreted in different ways.

    In Waiting For Godot, two old tramps, Vladimir and Estragon are filling their time as they wait for the mysterious and never to arrive, Godot. Their conversations leads the audience to believe that they were once successful men and are now down and out, with nothing left to do but wait. Vladimir (played by Roger Rees in the Melbourne production) is the seemingly brighter of the two, he is passionate that Godot will arrive soon and that if he doesn’t, they will simply return the next day and continue to wait until he does. Estragon (played by Ian McKellen) is far less passionate, in fact, he struggles constantly to remember why they are there, why they are waiting and repeatedly tries to leave, much to the frustration of Vladimir who must constantly remind him that they are waiting for Godot.

    The most obvious interpretation of this play, and the way that I viewed it, is that ‘Godot’ in fact represents God and the characters each play a part in a commentary on religion and mankind’s perpetual efforts to uncover why we are here. Vladimir is the faithful, he doesn’t know who Godot is anymore than Estragon does, but he’s convinced that he must wait and nothing will sway his conviction. Whilst it seemed to take a while for him to settle into the part, Rees portrayed this character rather well, giving the audience a rich combination of eagerness, desperation and suppressed despair. Estragon could be seen to represent the common man, the flock, so to say. He cannot remember what day it is or whether they were there yesterday and is only waiting for Godot because Vladimir has told him that’s what they must do. McKellen was outstanding. I have seen very few performances that would even come close to what he gave. He rose a notch above the rest of the cast, despite the high calibre of performers in the other roles. Estragon seemed to be simultaneously an old man, suffering dementia and nearing the end of his life and also a young child, filled with wonderment at everything, innocently questioning the obvious and worrying mostly about his immediate needs such as hunger and the pain in his feet.

    The other two characters who appear in the play are Pozzo, a large, pompous and self important man who is leading another man, Lucky, by a lead from his neck. In keeping with the religious interpretation of the text, Pozzo appeared to be a kind of false god, perhaps he elevated himself to that status, perhaps others did it for him. In any case, he was quite certain he was more valuable than other men. The man on the lead, Lucky, seemed to be a representation of the people following a false god. I found his character fascinating.

    Lucky is burdened by Pozzo’s luggage and stands holding it, rather than setting it down as his master/friend (it is not stated) converses with the two tramps. In one scene, Estragon is repeatedly questioning why Lucky doesn’t set the bags down, why he doesn’t talk and just stands staring, at one point he gets too close and Lucky lashes out like a chained animal, kicking Estragon in the shin. Pozzo claims that Lucky holds the bags because he wants to, simply that, nothing more, nothing less. He then asserts his power by commanding Lucky to put the bags down and dance for their entertainment, which the silent underling does without complaint or enjoyment. Next, Pozzo tells Lucky to ‘think’. I found this incredibly fascinating. On command, Lucky puts down the heavy burdens that he chooses to carry and begins to think out loud. His thoughts pile on top of one another, circling in nonsense until the man becomes visibly distressed and distraught by the pressure of thought and with permission from Pozzo, he returns to his stoicism and burdens (the bags).

    I thought this gave a rather clever example of how thoughts cause anxiety and seem to be ever so important to the thinkee, but are really just zaps of energy zipping between synapses. Rather than battle with these thoughts, or, more importantly, accept their unimportance, Lucky chooses to busy himself with his burdens. To me, this seemed to show the way in which people fill their lives with activities and often put themselves through excessive stress because they feel that what they are doing is of great importance, even if it doesn’t make them happy. Lucky was happy to serve Pozzo, happy to reinforce the larger man’s delusions of grandeur because it was easier than thinking his own thoughts. Plenty of people do this, whether they care to acknowledge it or not, be it following religious leaders or the trends of the latest Hollywood starlets.

    In the program, Simon Callow has written that “The play has been haunted by a remark by one of the play’s first admirers: ‘In Waiting For Godot, nothing happens, twice.’” This is both true and untrue, in terms of story it is accurate, nothing much happens at all. However in terms of character exploration, theme and symbolism, an awful lot happens. I have found my thoughts returning to the play all week, remembering spectacular moments in the performances and also pondering the thoughts behind the text. A week’s worth of consideration? I don’t think I could ask much more of a theatrical production.

    On a personal note, it has taken me two weeks to recover from a filling and during that time I misplaced my prescription for amantadine, thought it wouldn’t be too bad as I’m not so sure it’s helping anymore, subsequently went nuts, couldn’t sleep and had a couple of days of anxiety attacks…finally ending with my prince and I searching the house like crazy until we found the prescription in the ‘safe place that I wouldn’t forget’. I’ve been able to sleep and a one on one Feldenkrais session on Friday helped to relieve a lot of my tension, but I am still battling with anxious thoughts that want to bounce around my brain until they make no sense at all. I guess you can see why I related so much to Lucky…

    I have about a gazillion appointments this week, in fact, Monday is the only day that I am not seeing a doctor or practitioner of some sort. Raise your glasses and let us toast to a productively busy week ahead…because my goodness, I have had quite enough of fretting about it. I feel calmer today than yesterday, which was calmer than the day before, so I can pretty safely assume the increase in anxiety was largely med related, however it’s still taking me a lot of effort to calm down this twitchy body! Effort that is well vested, anxiety does nobody any good at all.

    Love & Theatrical Marvels,

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  • Regina Spektor: A Reverie Of Radical

    Dear Audy,

    CRPS can be exceptionally crippling, both physically and emotionally. One of the most important things that any pain patient can remember is that having fun and things to look forward to is just as important as doctor appointments, rehab exercises and medication dosages. Music can be a wonderful escape and a brilliant emotional outlet and going to see live music is about the most enjoyable thing I can think of.

    The moment I let my CRPS stop me from planning my life, I lose. What I must keep trying to do is incorporate my pain into my life in a way that still allows me to function so that I can return to work or study. I go through periods when flares cause me to cancel on a lot of social engagements, usually followed by a period of me refusing to make any further social engagements so that I don’t have to go through the stress and disappointment of canceling them. Doing this from time to time can be a good thing, because it gives me time to rest and recover. Taking time out can be a valuable part of my rehabilitation, however, an even more valuable part is the time I spend being involved.

    Wherever possible, I try to adapt going out to have fun so that I can enjoy it with minimal pain. I love going to see live music and, whilst the vibration of the performances (you mean you’ve never noticed that musical performances vibrate? Think about it for a second…what is sound?), usually leaves me buzzing afterward, so does the thrill of the show. Depending on where the musician or band is performing, I have to consider whether the shows will be physically possible for me. If something is playing in an arena, for example, I need to book disabled tickets and go in a wheelchair. I have learnt that regardless of whether I am flaring or not on the day, I cannot survive a) the walking (from car to seat can be kilometres), b) standing during the show (if it’s that type of show) and c) being bumped around in the crowd. If I go in a wheelchair, I almost eliminate the threat of all three and can enjoy myself. A, B and C also apply to going to a pub gig, these don’t always have good disabled access (hello, grotty yet ever popular Corner Hotel) but I have leant that most venues will provide a seat on request. How well you can see from that seat depends on the kindness and understanding of the staff on duty that night (FYI Melbourne, Northcote Social Club is awesome at being accommodating!).

    My favourite type of gigs are the ones played in theatres. Theatres usually have good disabled access, closer parking so that I don’t need the wheelie and are less likely to attract acts that draw rowdy crowds. On Friday night, I was lucky enough to go and see Regina Spektor play at The Palais in St Kilda. I love The Palais – sure, it’s a little run down but it smells and looks like old and pretty and even the back seats all have a pretty good view. The last time Regina came to Melbourne, I saw her at The Regent Theatre, which is by far my favourite with those big comfy seats. I love that an artist whom I absolutely adore has only played venues that I can attend in relative comfort!

    20100430 Regina Spektor at The Palais
    (click photo for source)

    Regina Spektor live is amazing. The only artist I have had the privilege of seeing live who compares in pure talent is Tori Amos (and if you’ve ever watched Tori singing whilst playing the piano with one hand and the organ with the other, you know that’s pretty a pretty big call). Regina is adorable. Her voice is magical, her humour insightful and her demeanour refreshingly shy. It was fantastic to see her playing with a band, a very different experience to the intimacy of seeing her alone with her piano. The solo moments were still there though, along with cute little numbers never heard in her recordings – an aspect that a lot of performers don’t seem to realise can improve their show by gazillions. In this age where we can watch anything on youtube, it’s a treat to see something new. I loved the track she played called ‘The Ballad Of A Politician’ (if memory serves correctly) and a sweet little ditty about hearing the neighbours getting down and dirty to one of her songs. Yep, Regina can even make crude things sweet. She must have candy insides.

    In the spirit of making plans and things to look forward to, I have been on a ticket buying frenzy in the last few days! Luckily for me, both the fun spirit and opportunity have been working together here. I now have amazing, third row seats to see Ian McKellen in Waiting For Godot in less than two weeks. I was shocked that I could get such good tickets so late in the game, but I guess not all of Melbourne is as theatre nerdy as me (in my life before CRPS, I dreamed of running my own theatre company). The idea of watching such an amazing actor, live, right in front of me is as exciting as a visit from Justin Beiber would be to a 12 year old girl. I’m pretty sure, for the entire show, part of me will have to hold back another part of me from screaming “It’s MAGNETO!” but I shall do my best.

    I’ve also managed to score some pretty good seats to see Sarah Blasko at The Palais in October. That’s a lot of time to look forward to it and I like looking forward to things! I missed her last tour and was rather sad, the only time I have seen her live was at A Day On The Green and she was stunning, even across a paddock. Can’t wait to see her indoors!!

    Today was for resting and recuperating, my body is still adjusting to my having attended an inspiring Feldenkrais workshop on Saturday. I learnt oodles, but things take a while to physically settle with my system. I shall write more about it next post, for now I am going to continue to revel in the sweet memories of Regina and bubble with excitement for my upcoming outings.

    Love & Music,

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  • Beating The Pain With An Escape To Beverly Hills

    Dear Audy,

    What an exciting weekend!! So far, I have spent the entire time on the couch. I feel like I have been in flare forever and a little like I’m start to lose touch with reality. I don’t exactly see that as a bad thing, reality is so painful and so very real. I have been dealing with full body burning for long enough that I think I have earned a break. I can’t take a physical break, so I’ve been mind vacationing in Beverly Hills with some physically healthy, if imaginary, young friends.

    20100207 90210 girls eating icecream

    (click photo for source)

    Flares can be really confusing. All of a sudden, I can’t do even the small tasks that get me through the day and rehab activities become too excessive when laid upon household chores. I gave hydrotherapy a go on Friday, I figured I was in so much pain anyway that it couldn’t hurt. That was stupid thinking, of course it could hurt. The actually movement felt good, however a few hours later the pain skyrocketed once more and I felt set further back than where I started. It’s been hard to handle this because, along with maintaining general health, improving CRPS through physical therapy is based on the idea that the body can desensitise to the pain of activity if we can find our physical limit and increase it ever so slightly. The trick is finding my pain limit, but not exceeding it. The catch is that I don’t know at the time of activity that I have exceeded the limit, I don’t know until the flare strikes later and then it’s ever so confusing to try and back track my movements to find the trigger. The second catch is that I have CRPS – there isn’t always a trigger, sometimes the pain just is.

    I am so tired of being bored. I’m certain now that the mirtazapine is helpful for controlling my anxiety because I don’t feel irrational and angry about the pain…I’m just bored. I’m tired of the cycle, I’m tired of the pain spreading, I’m tired of fighting the negative thoughts (even though I’m still winning, mostly) and I’m tired of having no control over my life. Chronic pain exists in many forms at different levels, for me it is strong enough to incapacitate me to the point at which I can’t even stand to make toast. I have never known such a feeling of helplessness as not being able to care for myself within my own home. I’m tired of asking for help. There aren’t enough Zs in the alphabet for me to express just how tired I am.

    Anyhoo, what am I going to do? There’s nothing to be done but Hope, Endure, Fight. HEF – a fitting acronym, considering putting up with CRPS is a Hell of a lot of Heffort (could not resist). I’m still trying to move. I’m not giving up on the pool, although I think I’ll arrange a driver next time, and I have been distracting my brain in one of the best ways I know how – TV show marathon.

    There’s nothing I like quite so much as engrossing myself in a television world, vicariously partaking in the characters lives and filling up my brain with thoughts of their problems, rather that my own pain. TV show marathons are easy, light entertainment. You meet the characters and the world at the start, after that the brain really doesn’t have to do much to keep up and follow along. It’s easier to follow the new adventures of an old character than to be introduced to new ones. Kind of like it’s easier to read a book after the first couple of chapters, once the style and setting has been firmly established with the imagination’s eye.

    I have spent these past couple of days in pain on the couch, however my mind has been wandering shamelessly around Beverly Hills with the second generation of 90210 brats. Sometimes I get a little sad, when my thoughts become a desire to move about freely like those people on the screen, however mostly it’s just a nice way to chew through the hours when neither my body nor brain care to function. 90210 shows me so many characters to relate to parts of, so many bright colours, so many pretty clothes. Annie’s dresses are sometimes awfully cute, but Adrianna’s preppy meets pretty style is my fave.

    20100207 90210 Adrianna Smiling blue cardi
    (click photo for source)

    The sad news is that I’m out of 90210 and feel the need to do something else for a while. My options are limited, but I need to keep fighting, I need to try to get chores done even if it’s only a dish or two at a time. I need to keep my focus because this is the time when it’s hardest to, this down part of the pain cycle when everything feels compacted and exaggerated at the same time. I need to keep my head Audy, so that I can bounce back, or climb back – the verb isn’t important. What’s important is not losing my mind to the negative and keeping my focus on doing all that I can to get better.

    Love & A Little Escape,

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