Friday, August 11, 2017

Another Un-anniversary

Before the ball: All dressed up to head to a Victorian ball at a mock-castle last month.
Today is a(nother) day each year I like to give pause to appreciate Haki.  He is loyal, generous, playful and smart.  We have been married 14.5 years now, and I have to say: we still haven't got it all figured out.  But: I do feel like in the past month I've learned more about what I believe makes for our marriage being happy.  And that was the key of the lesson; the best way for me to strengthen and honour our marriage is to strive to know us and our needs better.  Although we're told often not to compare ourselves to others, I think when we pick up a book or scroll through an essay on marriage or relationships we forget that those are filled with comparisons and frameworks that are for "people," who are not necessarily us.  Even my mind has a hypothetical rendering of what a marriage "should be" that I overlay against our actual relationship.  These types of comparisons (not just to other relationships) sure can be the thief of true happiness.  I'm learning also that deciding what compromises are reasonable or unreasonable isn't so relevant (because in our marriage, we continue to disagree on many things and need to compromise out of those impasses) as it is reminding ourselves we've chosen the person we want to compromise for.  We've chosen someone we should love more than anyone, which to me, is beginning to mean giving them a couple unreasonable compromises.  I don't mean submitting to abuse or dominion, I mean not asking "is this fair?" constantly and instead repeating inwardly, "I'll give him that."   Acquaintances and colleagues -- we should keep how much we sacrifice our own will for reasonable, else we'll burn out.  But in a marriage, I think having a handful of things that you give even though you could reasonably not -- that's the stuff that matters.  Every person out there has things about them that they need more than someone else might -- things borne of their upbringing, insecurities or unique personality.  Those can't be mapped out or prepared for, they can only be learned and either granted or ignored once known.  I think once we know those peculiarities unique to the person we love, we should grant more.  And provided you've chosen well, it'll breed more of that same spirit of giving -- of giving each other things we don't have to -- rather than claiming ground.  Of course I'm sure I'll learn many more lessons between this and each anniversary and un-anniversary to come, but this is the one for now.  And thank you Haki, for not caring how much I spend in op shops, for finding me beautiful even when I do not, and for taking time to explain things to our girls.  Thank you also for being willing to take me to a ball where everyone is dressed up and we dance to called dances.  Happy un-anniversary!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction


Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction, John Austin
Ever fired a pea-shooter?  Or been pea-shot at?  Herein lie the instructions to inspire a return to those glory days of violent engineering, perhaps even the key to your long-awaited revenge; turn everyday stationery items into your very own arsenal (albeit minature).  Author Austin is also a toy designer, and each of the 35 projects inside includes diagrams, a required list of materials (supplies, tools and ammo), along with step-by-step directions.  My favourite feature?  Each weapon's range is listed.  Excellent.  My favourite is probably the coat hanger slingshot.  There are also instructions for various catapults, bombs, darts, trebuchet, launchers, crossbows, shooters, zookas and bows.  Before I had my own copy for closer inspection, I wanted to know if all of the projects would be as "easy" to acquire materials for as the cover illustration seemed (spoon, pegs, rubber bands -- all doable).  The answer is pretty much "yes."  Although materials can become slightly more pricey (a battery or ruler that will be forever altered), they are all items you can probably swipe from your household junk drawer or inexpensively obtain.  Things like aluminium foil, an empty CD spindle, string, corks, pencils, card, wire and a wide variety of tapes are used.  This would be a great book to work through with a son/daughter/niece/nephew you know, or perhaps a flat-full of like-minded hobbyists -- a mini-weapon every Saturday.  If you haven't come across this title already, it's making a second sailing this month.

Originally published by Chicago Review Press (2009), new design and layout out today via Octopus Publishing Group (a Hachette imprint).  Review copy received.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

City of Circles


City of Circles, Jess Richards
Romance and literal tight-ropes you say?  I'm in.  As the tale waxed on, it became clear I was reading tragedy.  I continued, although I ached for the thoroughly-drawn characters.  From midway I found similarities to Neil Gaiman and Trudi Canavan, but Richards' voice is distinctly different from any other I've read.

There is more hope and beauty in the narrative's closure than a textbook tragic piece, but it's essential to emphasise: this tale is less about the fluffy stuff and more about soul-searching, emotional anguish, and management of grief.  An entire interlude is dedicated to a flashback interaction with a woman who invents and defines 15 new words for loneliness.

Segues such as these are frequent and oft-times lengthy.  Although I'm prone to resist too much tangential exposition, in the case of City of Circles, it matched the character's exploratory arc -- with each anecdote, memory, quoted plaque, song or poetry excerpt, scraps of perception were knitting together.  As a reader, we too are searching for meaning, alongside Duna, although occasionally these embellishments felt too long and too effectual upon pacing.

Although one reveal was clear very early, the minutia of everything else spiraling and cocooning around this anchor point was pure mystery.  Coupled with the weighted whimsy, the surprises page to page made the story and world a mystical navigational pleasure.  More than once I felt exhilarated by Richards' possiblity realm.

Duna's world has a timelessness to it that only heightened the mystical notes.  In one moment I was certain my characters occupied a pastoral world without technology, then electricity, paper towels or an elevator would gently intrude upon that visage to challenge my comfort in picking up any established time period and employing it for the story.  As I would rework my imagining with these modern inclusions, the prominence of horses for transport and absence of information technology resisted a new preconception taking the old one's place.  This beautiful setting complimented a world of lonely gypsies; a world separate and apart from our own.  

The text is thick with motifs and symbolism to reinforce the search, the loneliness and the mystical otherness.  Duna's poetry, interactions with sage-like strangers, introspection, dreams, visions, incantations, prayers and conversations with animals saturate the text and demand attention.  Scenes with horses, spiders and magpies were always welcome, for me.  Furthermore, all those that breathed life into the inanimate -- I relished them all.

I found the treatment of sex jarring and sad.  Although this has largely been Duna's experience of sex (warning: there is a violent advance early in the story, ultimately thwarted but rattling all the same), I was disappointed that almost all of the characters lacked any reverence for it.  Given sections have some omniscience and others are another character's perspective altogether, I would have welcomed more alternative treatment (there is one very brief alternative).  Describing having sex as f***ing, from the lips of more than one character, is disappointing.  What an ugly view.  I thought perhaps this word meant less for Richards', but other crass details and breasts being consistently called "tits" seemed at odds with such a poetic work.  Perhaps some might argue that is the point -- this juxtaposition of all that is beautiful alongside something the characters finds jarring and unwelcome, but I say again, supporting characters are portrayed as sharing this view.  This was a missed opportunity, for me, as I felt strongly that the intimacy one character in particular longed for was not at all f***king, and in fact represented an excellent representation of temperance and desire for love-making.  (I'd say there are about 10 f-swears in total and about 5 brief sexual encounters.  You could almost miss the latter for how brief they are, but they are there and sometimes explicit.  I was grossed out by one in particular.  It was the point, I'm sure, but heads up.)

It's unfortunate for me that the unpleasant scenes and pain of this story will probably stay with me longer than the beauty.   But oh there is beauty.


Officially out today.  
Review copy received from Hachette

Friday, August 4, 2017

Mini Movie Reviews: Bulk Hit No 52

The Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Haki and I laughed a lot.  I wish more kiwi movies were like this one.  Loved.
Waking Ned Devine
Haki gave this 30 minutes...but said that was enough.  I found it very amusing.  Haki said it reminded him of a play we saw to support a friend who was acting in it (The Vicar of Dibley), but for me it was more like an Irish Napoleon Dynamite.  I don't think it helped matters for Haki that he couldn't follow half of the dialogue (Irish accents are as good as another language to him, at times).  The film came very highly recommended by a friend, so I watched the rest on my own another night, and I'm glad I did.  It's a treat. 
Nerve
Predictable but effective cautionary tale. I like the script a lot. Wouldn't be thrilled with my kids following the course the heroine takes...but both Haki and I were highly entertained by this one. 
So, so disappointing.  The trailer and opening sequence were so promising!  Did not enjoy.
Better than I thought it would be. 
Okay, I was surprisingly into the love story.  But yeah na, it's not great.  Haki tapped out (yeah, it was tapped in for the zombies).
Europa Report 
I think this movie did great things with a small budget.  If you're not into space movies, this isn't going to convert you.
Arrival (2016)
This is the best of this list (closely followed by Hunt for the Wilderpeople and everything else is a good few tiers down). Haki and I were both impressed.  A slower mover, but worth it for its near-spiritual profundity.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Love the premise, but...this isn't a a great movie.  Because I like Carrell more than I am irritated by Knightly I did watch it to the end.  Of the world.

David and Goliath (2015)

Terrible. So so bad.  No amount of Sunday-mercy could make this okay. 
Um...fun. 
Sweary.  But interesting.  Okay overall.
Being prepared for awful it was actually fun.  That cast!  Wooh! The final third has some real doozies as far as moments go, but as a fairytale it was quite fun.  Very derivative, but of things worth being derivative of?  Ha!  That' something!
Overall I found this okay.  The chariot race was fittingly brutal and rivetting, but a lot of places I winced at things I found weak. I found the watered-down Christ particularly blah.
Heaven Is RealThis was a good Sunday-watch for me.  Sunday rules of generosity applied.
Treasure Planet
I like that this is so different, but it ran a massive loss for a reason.  It's just okay.  Bummer.
Meh.  There are some fun scenes, but it's so annoying too.  It's morally disappointing and I wasn't at all into the sensual scene.  It is lame on and off and then just lame.  I disagree with the general consensus on this one; I'd rate it firmly below average, not above.
La La Land
I hoped for more.  It was very fun to watch but also a sadder story than I was prepared for.  I get it though, it's definitely about La La Land not Fairytale land.
It's okay.
A Warrior's Tale a.k.a. Hero Quest
Doesn't that thumbnail look amazing?  Watch 10 minutes of this on your own before you flick it on for your kids, is all I'll say. I'm glad I did.  It's not for us at. all.  Disappoint.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
I think Jessica Chastain is really intriguing...but this movie isn't pleasant.  Lots of mature content and overall...sad.  I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it.  Definitely not a "me" movie.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mini Movie Reviews: Bulk Hit No 51

For me, Moorhouse's direction in The Dressmaker elicits similar satisfaction to a Baz Luhrmann film.   It's this portal into a fascinating, highly-stylised, different and memorable world.  And like Luhrmann, it's not for everyone.  There's mature content (including a no-consent scene), dark ideas and dubious morals.  There's also exquisite costumes and gorgeous tableau after gorgeous tableau.  I did not watch this one with Haki, who would have loathed it.
War for the Planet of the Apes
Guys, I love this franchise.  I can talk for a long time about how much.  I think it is way more consistent than many of the other greats; there's no installment that's a let-down (I'm looking at you Anakin episodes and Temple of Doom).  Being a war movie, it was hard to behold.  In the war of humans versus evolved apes, you best all know which side I'm on.  Apes.  Easy.  Hear me, Apes?  You can let me out of my bunker now, you'll know me by the sign "I only desire peace" hanging around my sorry neck.  Where were we?  There were a few moments that Haki and I thought were silly, but the movie's too good to air any proper gripes.  I think the Moses allegory was decent and the tie-ins to the 1968 film were beaut'.   What an amazing and terrifying ride. 
I can also gush about Moana.  I'm a Mo-fan-a for sure (my coinage; "you're welcome!").  Lin-Manuel Miranda's involvement in the project has plenty to do with that, but the execution of all that musical goodness plays a major part too.  The soundtrack is getting a lot of airtime around here, and you know, those drums call to my hips like nothing else.  Clement as a Decorator Crab being all Bowie-like?  Glorious!  Maui's inner voice represented as an alter-ego tattoo?  Genius!  Also genius: Rachel House.  Her performance (and corresponding animated character) blew me away, LOVE me some village crazy lady.  I'm also so happy about the continued Disney-shift away from shallow romance.   I was nervous about a return to the familial dynamic that irks me about The Little Mermaid (protective father is disobeyed by longing daughter, with little consideration of true risks).  And there is some of that -- an unpleasant in-between-the lines reading on offer.  But the gentle influence of the mother and grandmother characters alongside the concerned father (and an actual backstory that grounds those concerns) AND the island's changing needs mitigate that reading enough for me to feel comfortable.  Oh, I still add Mama-voice-over every time Moana pushes off into the open sea against her parent's wishes, don't you doubt it...but I love this movie.  I was moved by it.  We've spent a lot of time enjoying special features on YouTube together (sound booths, interviews, and animation specials -- so worth checking out with your little fans).
I love this film.  Love.  It is one of the best I've seen in a long time.  It has some mature content (sensuality and adult suggestions), but it is so powerfully performed and masterfully captured. 
Wonder Woman
I may have LOLed in-theatre at some things that weren't there for comedic value.  But that didn't stop me being entertained!  It's entertaining!  Side note: Gal Gadot is distractingly beautiful.  Haki thought it was lame, but I wouldn't go that far.  It's fun!  (and violent)
We saw this as a family for Ivy's birthday in April.  We all enjoyed it and have rented the DVD since.  I was surprised that Mia coped so well with the fight between the Beast and Gaston, but I think having seen the animated story first she knew a) it was coming and b) it ended the way she wanted.  

A Little HelpThis felt real, but also depressing.  Lots of mature content.  It left me feeling stink.  Do not recommend.
Director Paul Greengrass said in an interview that he saw the Somali pirates as criminals, not terrorists, and this depiction of their story -- as well as Captain Phillips' -- is fascinating for it.  The pirates' desperation is something you can almost smell and taste in some scenes, and provides a saddening commentary on the hopelessness of life in Somalia more than anything else.  Haki and I both enjoyed this one.
Watched on Netflix.  By myself *deadpan.*  Scary and so sad.  Has disturbing suggestions.
Yes, this is fictionalised, but I think it's an intelligent contribution to the Black Lives Matter movement.  I hope seeing it will encourage others who have enjoyed a life of privilege to make a closer review of history and resolve to be better.  I read up on Eugene Allen after finishing the film, and think everyone should. 
As expected, this was weak.  There are some fun moments, some horrible ones, and a whole lot of weird and illogical ones.  The script isn't great.  Ah well.
I found this fairly average Woody Allen fare.
I watched this again for the first time in years.  Austen is amazing.  The girls enjoyed this too, especially Esky.
Hidden Figures
This was a great date-night movie for us.  It led to Haki watching The Help finally too. 
Anne of Green Gables (2016)
Like many, I feel THE TV series doesn't need fixing.  Buuut...I love Anne's character and Montgomery's story so much that, like an Austen novel, I'll watch every adaptation.  I find each one brings something new to the story that I appreciate, even if it fails to become my new favourite.  And this one?  Matthew and Marilla were great.  (The new TV series wasn't something I stuck with.  The pilot was enough for me.)
Noah's Ark (2015)
Available on Netflix.  I lower my standards considerably for my Sunday viewing.  It's true.  I can swallow B- or even C-grade movies if they are tasteful and Christian, come Sunday.  This was such a movie.  It isn't great, but I really liked some things about it (how Noah's family lived and reacted to his call to build, in particular).  My girls watched this too (Mia required some hugs of comfort). 
How to Be Single
About what you'd expect.  Just okay.  Lots of sexual references.  Why did I even watch it?  For Rebel Wilson, obvs, and they know it too, those casting con-people! *wagging finger*
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
Not bad.  But also not an animated movie I feel any need to own.  I mean, it's no Moana...
Sing
I was really engaged watching it, but I won''t buy this one either.
1 Night
Do NOT be lured in by the possibility of two romances.  This is bad.  The afterthought SF only soured things further.
Bokeh
Thought-provoking and...depressing.   I think the cover design post-apoc classification have led to a lot of moany reviews, but if you go in expecting something more understated, it's not as terrible as they're saying.
Ms. Matched
If you've seen that purple base banner there wearing a crowned logo and you're still reading the mini review for this one, well, try it!  One for the fellow suckas in the house!  You're my people.  I enjoy these now and then!  Not all, but some.  This was nice and really tasteful.
Here Alone
This has some ripper survivalist moments that are let down by a really sucky scripty.  Some violence (although this is more of a spotlight on the survivors than the...others) and lots of swearing.  The good bits made it a bit good.  If you're craving this variety, Z for Zachariah is probably a better idea.

Second bulk hit coming tomorrow! *gasp* 
Please bear in mind, these two posts are a recap of more than half a year's worth of movies...
Okay, it's still a lot.  Bahahaha.  (Just a bit over one a week.)
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