a little east of reality

Sunday, February 25, 2007

when there's a drought on...

...nothing can rain on your parade. In fact, here in Canberra, we're likely to have a parade in honour of the rain and specifically pray that it gets rained on. So you can imagine my delight to see this:

What's that you ask? It's the forecast for the next week for Canberra. AND we've just HAD four (five?) days straight where it rained every day. We even had two (nice, non-destructive) storms this week!
Bring it on, Rain Gods! We'll take it all and dance in the puddles!

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

18 seconds

A whole yahoo group completely devoted to getting the people of the world to change their light bulbs ~ fantastic!

Check them out! I'm not planning to join the group, but their introduction alone is inspiring. In fact, here it is:

"Would you believe you can change the world in just 18 seconds? In the time it takes to fix a cup of coffee or tie your shoe laces, you can change a light bulb and have a profound impact on the environment.

Put simply, change a light bulb, change everything. If every American replaced just one light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL), together we'd save $8 billion in electricity costs and enough energy to light more than 1.5 million homes for an entire year. We’d also be preventing the greenhouse gas equivalent of nearly 2 million cars worth of emissions!"

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love and other near-death experiences

Long ago Roofshadow asked what I wanted for Christmas and I directed her to my Amazon wish list. Very handy things they are ~ I'd ordered off hers in the past and it's fun to send something you know a person will like for sure. I had no idea which item she'd sent and basically forgot about the whole thing...

until last week when one of Mil Millington's novels arrived in the post. Meeeeerrry Christmas! I've wanted to read Mil's novels, having been a fan of his website (and newsletter) Things my girlfriend and I have argued about for a long time. From what I've read his first two novels are funnier than this one. All I can say is that they must be pretty funny, because this has me laughing out loud. I'm about halfway through and in no rush to finish because I'm enjoying it too much.

The premise is actually quite interesting. Rob (the main character) is supposed to meet a jazz musician for an interview. His fiance insists that he take back some crappy towels that he bought on special, and he makes the seemingly unimportant decision to do it on the way to the interview instead of on the way back. As a result he gets caught in traffic and isn't there when an oil tanker ploughs into the hotel and kills everyone, including the guy he was to meet. From there he becomes mentally paralysed every time it comes to making seemingly inconsequential decisions (one of the funniest scenes in the book so far is one where he is trying to decide whether to use a blue pen or a black pen to fill in a form). Because a minor decision had such a huge impact (saving his life) he now feels like any minor decision could mean the difference between life and death, but because the decision is by definition minor, he has no way of judging which decision would be best.

The book is so visual, I can see it all as I read it. it makes me wonder how long it's going to be before someone decides to make one of his novels into a movie.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

chosha's upcoming blockbuster feature film

I signed up for a course on writing comedy. I knew the teacher was a scriptwriter, but the course didn't necessarily seem to be about writing comedy for screenplays, but more for comedic writing in general.

How wrong I was.

And I wasn't the only one. Of the twelve people there last night, probably three were actually writing a screenplay, one other had written a TV series pilot, and the rest of us were generalists who didn't feel like the course info had been clear enough, because we had been firmly tossed into the deep end. In spite of the lack of screenwriters in the group and the clear indication that we had no idea that's what we had signed up for, the teacher simply ploughed ahead with her original plans as if we had all turned up and confessed that our one and only New Year's resolution had been to complete a comedic script in 2007.

In the end I thought, what the hell. It's something new, a way to stretch myself, and it might end up being fun, even if the script is an amateurish first attempt. Consequently, I now have homework: a synopsis and the first ten pages of my script. By next Thursday.

Scripts are double-spaced, right?


Thursday, February 22, 2007

mr genki

New boarder arrived last night and he's adorable. For the non-Japanophiles reading, genki means energetic, in a loose 'how are you?' 'I'm good. I'm genki. Let's go!' kind of way.

Mr genki is 20, plays bass guitar in an indies band in Nagoya and is here for three weeks to study English. He has a very sweet enthusiam about him and has already asked a hundred questions.

He even brought me the coolest omiage (technical souvenirs, but actually more in the line of a 'thanks for having me stay' present). I wanted to show you, but I can't find the cable that connects my camera (well technically my mum's camera, mine died) to the computer. I might post the photo later. There was a calendar, a keitai (mobile) strap, a pretty pink hanky and his mother sent me two little dolls for hinamatsuri, which is the first week of March. But I have to put them away before March 4 ends, or tradition has it that I won't get married before the next hinamatsuri. And we can't have that.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

honk if you can read this

I just did two days of training into public sector writing. Good course, great teacher. By far the most interesting thing we did was a section on readability. The public service tends to be a hierarchical place when it comes to...well, everything. Getting a submission into the hands of decision makers means getting it approved by (in my case, usually) four people: my supervisor, section leader, branch manager and division head.

The problem comes when one (or all) of these people decides to make changes to the document and send it back down the line. This can go on forever and is very frustrating. So it's no surprise really that most people write for their bosses. They know what style they like and they know what they will or won't agree with and they write accordingly. The problem is that some of the documents we create go out to the public, and in pleasing our boss, we can create documents that are way too formal, full of jargon and far too difficult for the people who will use them.

At the course we learned about the Flesch Reading Ease scale. It's not perfect ~ one of its criteria for readability is shorter sentences, and dialogue is usually a series of short sentences, so on its scale of 0 (almost impossible to read) to 100 (can easily be read by a fifth grade student) most of Shakespeare's plays (almost 100% dialogue) comes in around 70. 70 is 'plain English'. But generally speaking, it's fairly accurate. For comparison, this blog entry scores a 62.5 (leaving that super-hard paragraph out).

We tested some examples he had of government brochures. The one I got was an information brochure explaining to health care card holders (unemployed, people on disability pensions, etc) how to claim benefits for prescription medications. Not everyone on a health care card has a low level of literacy or education, but there are a large number in that group who do. Lack of education is a factor in unemployment. This brochure had a readability score of 26 ~ a level that indicates that someone would need 15 years of formal education to read it without trouble.

One of the hardest things we did was to take a paragraph that scored a 0 and try to write a couple of paragraphs that had the same meaning and message, but with a readability of at least 50. My first attempt scored a 29, but my next a 58! The original? Here it is. [Actually I'll edit this in tomorrow when I'm at work.] See what you can make of it. I'll post my easier version in the comments soon.

Here's the rub. I went back to the office today and ran a readability test on the public discussion paper I'm writing...29.7. Hmmm. I have some work ahead of me. I told my workmate, who did the course with me, and she said, 'but that's why we did the course! so we can come back and write better papers.' So true. So my official-sounding jargony public discussion paper is going to get a serious makeover.

The question is, once I make it lovely and readable, am I going to be able to get it past those four bosses, or are they going to tell me that it's too 'simple-sounding'? Only time will tell, and I'll report back in the blog.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

movie review: ghost rider

If you are looking for a thoughtful storyline about the world we live in and the complexity of human relationships...stop! This isn't that kind of movie.

Sure, there's a story, but it's 'Kal-el comes to Earth and discovers he's faster than a speeding bullet, etc: must decide what to do with his awesome powers'. It's "Peter Parker bitten by spider: must decide what to do with his awesome new powers.' Are we seeing a pattern yet? Granted, 'boy is tricked by devil into making pact and becomes Ghost Rider: must decide what to do with his awesome new powers' offers a little more scope for originality, but truly the thing that most stayed with me is just how damn cool the movie is.

1. His bike is AWESOME. Fierce, gleaming, metal beast. I won't go on...look for yourself.

2. The chain. He carries a length of chain that he uses like a whip...kudos to the comic book writer for that one ~ so much more raw and cool than a whip cliche.

3. Nic Cage. The man likes comic books (he named his child Kal-el...I rest my case) and this is a very good thing, because he really can act, and it's nice to have someone with real skills (and some serious screen presence) in a movie some actors would have considered too frivalous.

4. The cinematography. A well-drawn graphic novel lends itself to the screen. Some of the cinematography in this film was so beautiful, so artfully constructed, that I would have bet money that it came straight from the art of the illustrator of the original comic. For those who have seen it, some of the scenes I'm thinking of are:
  • the tree, the purple flowers, the vast fields beyond
  • ghost rider on the bike, surrounded by the broken up road and pavement he has just thudded into from above
  • the trail of flame as he rides down the curved road through the cemetary, seen from above
Apologies ~ I couldn't find a single one of these available as screenshots.

5. The villains. Not to be confused with an imaginary 50s band of the same name, Blackheart and the Elements (water, earth, air) are quite scary and wonderful to behold. I wasn't sure if Blackheart himself was supposed to represent Fire, or if they simply left that out to contrast the Elements against Ghost Rider's fire. I do wish a little more had been made of the individual Elements, as I'm sure was in the original.

Alas, Ghost Rider was not without its (apparent) plot holes, or at least one big one for which I would like an answer. Sadly if I explain what it is it will constitutes the biggest of big, fat spoilers and therefore I won't. I will however let you know if I find a satisfactory answer.

Final verdict: 3 flaming skulls out of 5, and I'm looking forward to a sequel with a meatier story

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Friday, February 16, 2007

my new favourite song

The Biggest Loser Australia's theme song is so cool, I love it, and that's saying something because I'm not so much of a Shannon Noll fan. Now every time I hear the song start I feel more buzzy and ready to go.


I know you're hurting
Feels like you're learning
'Bout life the hard way
And it ain't working

Seems like forever
That you've been falling
It's time to move on
You're life is calling, yeah

This was never meant to be the end
Close the book and start again

Cause I know how hard it can get
But you gotta lift
You gotta lift
And sometimes that's how it is
But I know you're stronger
Stronger than this
You gotta lift
You gotta lift

When you can feel your
Whole body's aching
What's left of your heart
It won't stop breaking

You gotta let go
You took a hit
Time to pick up now
Move on from this

This was never meant to be the end
Close the book and start again

Cause I know how hard it can get
But you gotta lift
You gotta lift
And sometimes that's how it is
But I know you're stronger
Stronger than this
You gotta

Lift yourself up above all the hurt
Don't give in
Wipe your eyes and remember
You're better than this
Let them know
That they took their best shot
And missed
C'mon and lift

This was never meant to be the end
Close the book and start again

Cause I know how hard it can get
But you gotta lift
You gotta lift
And sometimes that's how it is
But I know you're stronger
Stronger than this
You gotta lift
You gotta lift

Pick up now...
Pick up now...

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Danny Bhoy

Bendy (friend from Adelaide who now lives in Canberra) and I went to dinner tonight and then on to see a Scottish comedian, Danny Bhoy. He was great ~ funny and sweet. The first half was regular stand-up, but after the interval he told us a story. The story itself was kind of serious and introspective and interesting, but the tangents he kept going off on were hilarious. I came out of wishing I could meet his best friend Craig...he sounds like a hoot.
He told us about this email he got. It was an idea for a practical joke, probably the best practical joke ever imagined, and also the least likely to happen. But it would be SOOOO FUNNNY if it did. The idea started when it was announced that Dennis Tito would become the first tourist in space (I think he eventually went up in 2001). The suggestion was that on the day he was due to return, that everyone on Earth should dress up in a monkey suit! And of course that's not going to happen, but how awesomely funny would it be?!

(If you haven't seen Planet of the Apes, don't even try to get the joke.)

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

boy oh boy oh boy oh boy!

Something so cool happened this week! *gleeful clapping*

Unfortunately it's a secret so I can't tell you. ^_^

But don't despair! All will be revealed in a week or so.


Sunday, February 11, 2007


Today I made an executive decision.

I like celery.

Forget the fact that I've always hated celery. Hey I used to hate avocado, too, and then I tried it with this Russian dressing and eventually I liked it by itself and now I think it's totally delicious.

So why can't I acquire a taste for celery?

Celery has negative calories - that is, it takes more calories to digest celery than the celery has in it. It's also a green vegetable, so immediately you're getting iron, which is great! So I've decided that I like celery. And now I'm going to eat it as often as possible until my taste buds agree with me.

My strategy is simple. Either it gets cooked in with a dish so full of garlic and herbs and pepper that I can't really taste the celery flavour, or if it's raw it will be soaked a little in balsamic dressing (only 4 calories per 20ml, excellent!) to take the edge off the flavour. And each time, just before I eat it, I'll say:
"Mmm, celery. I love celery!"
Hey, it could work! It could!

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

a small box of deep despair

...was waiting in my mailbox when I got back to Canberra today.

Now don't get me wrong. I will be reading The Rape of Nanking and Sex Slaves: The Trafficking of Women in Asia. I just won't be reading them in the same week...lest I off myself.

I'm guessing these are not the books Bob Thiele and George David Weiss were reading the week they penned:
I see skies of blue..... clouds of white
Bright blessed days....dark sacred nights
And I think to myself .....what a wonderful world
but I may need to listen to that song afterwards just to remind myself that there is also beauty in the world.

Edit: Okay help me out people. I just had such a vivid flashback of that line, "there is also beauty in the world." Can anyone tell me which movie I'm deja vu-ing? Google is being uncooperative.

PS...thanks for the books jojo. ^_~

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

the biggest loser australia ~ series 2

The second series of The Biggest Loser Australia started tonight. I promise not to write about it as much as Oz Idol, but I do love this show. It's one of the few reality TV shows that I find inspiring. I've never watched a whole TBL series (US or Oz) from the beginning, so I'm looking forward to watching their whole journey. And few things make me want to go to the gym more than watching Bob "my hero" Harper and Jillian showing people they are more powerful than they ever dreamed.

Tonight the contestants weighed in for the first time, a pretty emotional event. They are at a weight where they avoid scales and some of them had no idea how much they weighed. I think it's a good way to start - taking stock and finding out where you're starting from. They're so strong. The biggest guy, Damien, is truly enormous ~ 216kg, the heaviest TBL competitor ever, worldwide. He's also calm and determined and beautiful. I can't wait to see him transform before our eyes.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

things I r-r-r-r-really like

I've been meaning to do this meme [name 10 things you love, starting with a certain letter that was chosen for you] for the longest time, but somehow roofshadow just seemed to hit upon a letter (r) that didn't immediately flood me with ideas. 'P' for example, let's see, punk, pistacchios, Picaso, pale pallour (think vampires), pencils, Potter, poetry, passion, purple and political philosophy. Those took about 2min to compile; I've been thinking about 'r' for a month now. But here goes.

1. rock
I like most kinds of music, but I always come back to rock. At the moment I'm drawn to bands like Nickelback, Powderfinger and Jet. Actually Jet are playing the Big Day Out this Friday in Adelaide (will post on that later). Live rock is the best.

2. romance
Flowers, etc, are nice, but romance for me is all about connection and knowing that the person you love understands you. I am a big fan of the mix tape (even if it's now burned on CD it should still be referred to as a mix tape), the leaving of notes, and the well-crafted romantic surprise. And with Valentine's Day coming, here's a tip for all you boys out there who don't know what the heck you're doing: LISTEN. I know it's difficult, but you will get soooo many romance points for doing this. If it is clear from your Valentine's gift that you heard and remembered something she mentioned or pointed out previously, trust me, this bodes very well for you. Sadly you now have only six days till the 14th. I hope this tip didn't come too late for you.

I am also a big fan of the fanciful, piratey kind of romance. Everyone needs a bit of swashbuckling in their lives.

3. rain
Soft rain, hard pelting rain, rain drumming on the roof...basically every rain cliche in existence. I love going to sleep listening to the rain. Rain can be destructive but right now in our drought-stricken country it's the sound of salvation falling over the land. My favourite rain memory is swimming in the ocean while the rain poured down, surfacing from under the big salty waves, lifting my face to the fresh water that seemed so warm in comparison to the sea, drinking deep.

4. research
I used to work in a job where I just dealt with whatever was in front of me ~ invoice to be produced, phone call to the answered, figures to be compiled. Then I went back to university (lots of research) and became a part-time research assistant to boot. I then taught for three years, but now I work doing research and policy formulation. I really like that kind of work ~ finding information, analysing what you find, recognising connections, working out where the gaps in your information are, consulting people, producing papers or legal instruments, turning the research into the realisation of your policy objectives. I sometimes miss teaching, but I'm okay with the job I have now, too.

5. reality
I read fantasy, I watch fantasy, I've edited fantasy and I occasionally play around with writing fantasy, but I don't live in fantasy. People who do drive me a little nuts. I have some sympathy for people whose realities are so harsh they want to escape from them, but I can't help but think that life would be a better place if we faced more and didn't lie to ourselves.

6. reality tv shows

Yes, I'm kidding.

6. reading
I learned to read so early that I don't remember it at all. I do remember trawling the school library for fiction I hadn't already read and staying up way too late because I couldn't put a book down. I remember my mother finding me distraught and weeping one day and being most disgusted to discover that I was crying over something that happened in the book I was reading. My dad taught me to read. He told stories more often than he read them, but he always bought me books.

7. rhyme
Rhyming poetry, skipping chants, scavenger hunt clues. Rhyme has such a nice sense of containment, closure, not symmetry but some word like it that I can't think of right now. I really enjoy trying to write poetry with set rhyming schemes like Vianelles, Sonnets, that kind of thing. The challenge of writing within strict rules seems to bring out more creativity in me and I'm often surprised by what I write.

8. rythym
At some point I worked out that the reason I preferred to be on the hard rock side of the hard rock/heavy metal divide was because there was so much good drumming and less screaming guitar. I love to dance and I find it really easy to memorise things set to music with a beat. A few years ago in Japan all my years of loving rythym led me to the Wadaiko (traditional Japanese drumming) club where Matsuura-sempai taught me to pound out a rhythm. There's nowhere for me to pursue this kind of drumming in Canberra, but if I ever do make the tentatively-planned move to Sydney or Melbourne, part of my choice of location will be proximity to a Wadaiko club.

9. rest
"I believe the world is sick with exhaustion and dying of restlessness. While it is true that periods of weariness help the spirit to grow, the prolonged, ongoing state of fatigue, to which our world seems to be rapidly adapting, is ultimately soul destroying as well as earth destroying. The ecology of evil flourishes and love cannot take root in this sad situation. Tiredness is one of our strongest, most noble and instructive feelings...

Yet tiredness has become a matter of shame! This is a dangerous development. Tiredness has become the most suppressed feeling in the world. Everywhere we see people overcoming their exhaustion and pushing on with intensity - cultivating the great mass mania which all around is making life so hard and ugly - so cruel and meaningless - so utterly graceless - and being congratulated for overcoming it and pushing it deep down inside themselves as if it were a virtue to do this." (Mr Curly)

10. random acts of kindness
Being kind to your friends is too easy, being kind only to those you think deserve it implies an unattractive layer of judgment, being kind to your enemies is admirable, but random acts of kindness clear away all the guff ~ one human being being kind to another, that's all. Suddenly we're all just people and there's goodness to be shared and we don't need a reason to share it. It's nice.

If you would like a letter please indicate so in a comment. You can either just add your 'ten things' later in the comments or make a post on your own blog and then give out some letters of your own.

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