Rachel's Blog

Wed, 29 Mar 2006
Culture of the Lost

Kim Torney's book (adapted from a thesis) Babes in the Bush: The Making of an Australian Image explores the ingrained Australian story of the lost child; how it is unique to Australia, it's origins, representations and how it is still part of the national psyche today. Readers get an idea of colonial life, the changing views of children and childhood and the position of aborigines as trackers and (rarely) scapegoats.

Towards the end, in a chapter on two memorials of lost children in Victoria as being unique in their scope (the Jane Duff Roadside Park and the Lost Children's Walk and tombstone in Daylesford), Torney makes mention of the number of memorials in Victoria in general.

Victoria is replete with all sorts of memorials. Why this is so remains open to speculation — one factor may have been size. As one of the smallest states, it seems to have quickly arrived at a sense of being settled, unlike the larger states such as Western Australia, Queensland or New South Wales. This process of settlement was hastened for Victoria by the influx of people and money that accompanied the discovery of gold; impressive city buildings and institutions such as a university and museum-library confirmed that the pioneering days were over. The speed with which the metropolis developed generated what Griffiths calls the 'preservation impulse'. The perception of a rapidly disapearing past was very probably a major factor in the Victorian process of memorialisation. This occurred within what Griffiths also calls the 'evolutionary, scientific vision of history', which he links with the spread of Darwinian theory. He argues that this 'led to a premium being placed on tangible monuments and relics, on original and authentic physical sources that could be conserved as evidence of unique past experience.' [pp 206-207]

Which I immediately related to science fiction, because that's how my brain works. I have not made any kind of examination into this, but there has to be masses of scope for planet-conquering stories to explore the idea of cultural bereftness, where culture is specifically tied to the land.

I think this is why we immigrant Australians have so much trouble pin-pointing our culture. (By immigrant I mean everyone since 1788.) Torney talks about identity being tied to the idea of "loss to the land". We hold most dearly to individuals who have conquered the land, given it an identity we can relate to, by being lost (lost literally or lost as in dead) to it. So the non-Aboriginal Australian is trying to claim the land, not by millennia of tradition, but by lives. This excompasses all our floods, fires, lost children, explorers, bushrangers to a degree, but also soldiers fighting overseas. (Even if the flag wasn't ours, the sentiment was there.) Even the jolly swagman drowned. It's clearly impossible to artifically create a culture that is based on the idea of fear of the land you are occupying.

If anyone would like to take the baton and discuss where this sits with the Stolen Generations I would be most appreciative.

Mon, 27 Mar 2006
Science Verse


Twinkle-less, twinkle-less
Spot of black,
In the starry

Sucking in all
Matter and light.
Turning sunshine
Into night.

Twinkle-less, twinkle-less,
Now we're trapped in
the black hole.

from Science Verse by Jon Scieska and Lane Smith.

Mon, 27 Mar 2006
Kung Fu to save movie industry.

Kung Fu Monkey has the solution. How to save the theater industry.

New Kleptones album - 24 Hours

Run, Do Not Walk. The Kleptones, mash-up royalty, have released a new album. This has increased the greatness of my day by about 3000%. Particularly the inclusion of clips from The Breakfast Club.

There's also a sweet video for one of the tracks on You Tube of 0900 Daft Purple
[via boingboing]

Sat, 25 Mar 2006
Monkey bars, but no bananas

Good news for parents of young kids:
Fed-up parents push for child care choice

Bad news for parents of young kids:
No Bananas for Nine Months

Fri, 24 Mar 2006
Sex and Books and Quoting Neil

Naomi Wolf wrote an essay last week damning "pink books" for teens - glamourous looking YA novels aimed at girls. I haven't read any of the series she's critiquing ("Gossip Girl," "A-List" and "Clique") or even any "Babysitter's Club", so I can't comment directly. She answered some readers questions this week, so now I'll state my piece.

When I was in year nine I inhaled Virginia Andrew's Flowers in the Attic series. Maree and I would meet at the back of the Number 314 bus after school. She would lend me the next book and we'd compare notes. Notes on incest, miscarriage, more incest, kidnapping, murder by arsenic, shallow graves, more incest and cute boys. (The boys might not have been in the novels; year nine remains thankfully blurry for me.)

I knew at the time that these were not works of high literature. I read them half-shamefully but, to their credit, my parents did not try to stop me reading them, although they did raise all four eyebrows. As a disclaimer - I come from an almost impossibly highly literate household (and am now cultivating my own).

When the Australian soapie A Country Practice included a school reading controversy in one of their episodes, around the teen-sex surfie novel Puberty Blues, Mum showed me where it was on the shelf in the hallway. It was around this time that Dad handed me a copy of The Iron Heel. Which I read, but didn't really "get" until I read it again last year.

It doesn't matter what teenagers read. Books are fashion items. When you're fourteen sex is cool (talking about it - not doing it), politics not so much. And by twelve or fourteen there's probably very few ideas that kids need to be protected from. It's also a matter of need. At fourteen I needed to know what different experiences of sex could be. I didn't need to know about politics (at least, it didn't have any immediate resonance with me). Wolf says:

They [the "pink books'] may not change the girl's behavior; but they do posit a model of what the dominant culture says holds value. I know from the girls in my own life that they often feel quite alone these days when they do hold out for kindness or integrity in a social setting. Is this a new problem? No, but in past generations the dominant culture of teen fiction did not make this behavior seem so geeky and aberrant.

The point she's missing is that while, yes, the girls in her own life are feeling maligned, and this is awful, they need to read about the same things happening to other girls. It's a way of play-acting the scenes. If a girl can see in some way that being a teenager is survivable, then she is more likely to attempt to survive it rather than bow her head and accept her aloneness.

If a girl were to read the book Wolf is dreaming of, the one where the good girl is good and the bad girls get their comeupance, she is more than likely to dismiss it as unrealistic, or even boring. I'm not saying that Virginia Andrew's reflected my life (far, far from it) but it wasn't boring and it is a tale of survival. Ditto Puberty Blues.

I would like to quote Neil Gaiman at this point, lest anyone suggest I'm promoting trashy and/or sex-filled novels to kids of all ages. (Actually I can't find the quote I had in mind, which is something along the lines of "generally kids will choose to read books that they are ready for and won't read ones that they're not". But this quote is kind of relevant too.)

The enemy is the fact that most people don't buy books. Most people don't read for pleasure. It's like the teachers who proudly stop kids reading R.L. Stine or Enid Blyton or comics or whatever, proud that they've stopped them reading the Wrong Things, without noticing that they've also stopped them reading for pleasure, reducing the chances that the kids will ever go on to read things that the teachers think of as the Right Things...
- Neil Gaiman, 11 September, 2003

I can't change what the dominant culture says holds value, but I'm not letting my daughter into it unarmed.

Australian Novels are Dying. Again.

I've been sitting on a couple of reading related articles for a few days hoping to come up with something profound or even just well thought out to say about them. However, I have had a rotten cold and it's not happening, so here are the incomplete thoughts.

Rosemary Neill in The Australian is tolling the bell for Australian literary novels. This is something we see every few years. Each time the publishing figures get dragged out and are largely inconclusive, (12 published novels in 1996, and 7 scheduled for 2006 is not a pattern - it's two numbers) yet hair is rent because of them. Literature is like anything else. It goes in cycles. Sometimes writing for young adults is the flavour (thanks to a Harry Potteresque hit), sometimes it's mysteries, (are tv shows like CSI et al responsible for, or following on from this?) hell, sometimes it's blogs, sometimes it's slash fiction.

The thing to remember is that human beings will always need stories. The form they arrive in is merely a fashion. Does anyone weep when high-rise pants are brought back into the stores? (Well, yes, but that's another blog entry.) If individuals are going to remain attached to the idea of the Australian literary novel, then they're going to have to keep writing them and keep reading them. They might be hard to come by for a while, and you won't be able to make a living from them, but they'll be back in the limelight eventually. (A hundred years eventually, but I don't know what to say to that. Take your vitamins?)

And trying to blame Bookscan as a quantum observer is just silly.

Wed, 22 Mar 2006
The Future is Goth

I have seen the future - and it's goth.
One of the activities I enjoy the most in suburban shopping centres is smiling cheerfully at the occasional baby goth I see. They always smile back.
Goths are friendly.

A quick tally of all the "former" and "not a" goths that I know indicates that over seventy percent end up in the IT industry, and about the same number in universities in staff or PhD positions with a heavy lean towards the biological sciences.
Goths are smart.

(via boingboing and nulldev)
Goths often gravitate towards the U.K.

Ten Mistakes

Pat Holt, editor and publishing industry critic, has an article on Holt Uncensored called Ten Mistakes Writers Don't See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do).

I read it in a knowing way, nodding along in agreement. Then I picked up a random sample of my own writing. It's back to the editing desk for me.

(via Spinister Blog)

Sun, 19 Mar 2006
Pyweek Themes are Go!

The PyWeek 2 site is up and down like a yoyo at the moment (I stilll haven't caught it on an upswing yet) but apparently the themes for the challenge are up and awaiting your vote.

It's not too late to enter, so if you can drive Python and have an itch to create a computer game, this is a great opportunity to give it a try and have your work evaluated by others. I don't believe there are any actual prizes, but it is fun (not entertainment).

Disclaimer: Yes I am the "person known to the PyWeek organisers, but otherwise independent and not a participant". I can program a VCR, but not a 'puter.

Wed, 08 Mar 2006
Roman Women's History Month

Tansy Rayner Roberts is celebrating her own Roman Women's History Month during March by blogging 50 notable women from Ancient Rome. It's fascinating reading.
Part one - The Wife of Romulus and Lucretia
Part two - Cornelia Mother of the Gracchi and Aurelia

Muppet Lobster

Divers have discovered a new crustacean in the South Pacific which is described as a sort of furry lobster. The animal gets a whole new family and genus to call its own, Kiwa hirsuta.
Scientists say it is about the size of a salad plate, but neglect to mention what it tastes like.
(via boingboing)

Mon, 06 Mar 2006
2006 Oscars Observations Part Eight

I promise this will be the last entry, Oscars-wise. If nothing else my laptop battery is getting low.

Who do you reckon those people are sitting in that little box on the side? Performers? Upcoming presenters?

I never thought of Robert Altman as an old man. It's not an old man's name. Yet, there he is in all his wrinkles. There you go. Altman's family gets the Royal Box. Strange.

OK, so here's the controversy we've all been waiting for. Despite what George Clooney said at the beginning of the ceremony about the Academy not being out of touch, this is proof that Oscar knows what's going down. They're here with the dope thang. Are they lip-synching? I guess someone (everyone) was worried about Rude Words sneaking past the censors.
It's not a very good song.
None of them are very good songs. Dolly should get it for being able to sing without lungs or a diaphragm. See, I can't pick winners. It's why I'm not a gambler. Y'know what I'm sayin'?

Jon Stewart wants to know why the "pimp" guys were the most excited to accept an Oscar. It's because this is the 78th Academy Awards. Everyone else already has one.

Ooh, Jennifer Garner nearly falls. But saves! She does her own stunts.

Holy crap! Is that the the soundtrack from Beetlejuice?
That is the cheapest set design ever. Did they rip those revolving signs off a railway station?

I seem to have stopped typing. Trust me. Nothing interesting is happening.
Chanting - Joaquin! Joaquin! Joaquin! See? If ever anyone I know is nominated for an Oscar, I'll be rooting for the other guy, because that's the only way you'll have a chance at winning.

Less than half an hour to go. I can do this. *I think I can, I think I can*

Did Heath Ledger stuff cotton wool in his mouth to achieve that accent? I don't think I could listen to two hours of that without being unnecessarily reminded of visits to the dentist.

John Travolta. I barely recognise him without his dinky pilot's cap.

Best Actresses get nominated for being sassy onscreen.
(I'm not chanting) Whooo! It worked! Go Reese!

"I'm just tryin' to matter" - June Carter That's a pretty good quote. I'm going to remember that one.

OK. One award left. (I think. I hope)
Adapted Screenplay? What kind of a category is that? This isn't going to end for days is it?
So why isn't Walk the Line nominated as being adapted from a life?

Another screenplay award. Hugging. Everyone is hugging. I remember when hugging became the thing to do when I was in high school. I was in about year ten. So has hugging always been de rigeur at awards ceremonies? Who started it? Who's responsible for these violations of personal space.


Stuff happened. Tom Hanks needs a hair cut. A dress nearly fell down. Laptop battery went flat. You can all look up the winners anyway.


I can't believe I made it all the way to the end. Sleep! Give me Sleep!

This has been the 78th Annual Academy Awards, the Year of George Clooney.

2006 Oscars Observations Part Seven

Part Seven already? And there's still two hours to go. This is becoming very self indulgent. Don't worry, I don't really expect to go the whole distance.

Sandra and Keanu "we are not on a date". (But they were arm in arm! It's a sign! Woman's Day is going to be all over this.)

Art Direction, pretty, pretty, pretty. They should make some films that are just all gorgeous sets and costumes. Story, writing, music and acting be damned!

This is Scary L. jackson. you can just see him thinking, "Don't you dare disagree with me!"
Can someone please make a list of all the films these clips are taken from. There are some I need to see.

I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!

(Did it work? No. Here are the singing animals again.)

Syd Dennis, Prez of the Academy: State of the Heart? Someone was awake all night thinking up that one. Yeeesh.
Oh, now he's pleading. This is sad. "Come to the cinema. It's great! Please! No, DVDs suck. Watch films with strangers. It's wacky fun!"

*tinkly music with violin*

Actually I'm glad I don't have any alcohol, this could have been a lot worse. But I might have given up already, so...

I am now staring glass-eyed at the screen. Is there a term for slurring while typing?

Oh God! Another "watch films in theatres" speech. This people have a) no clue, b) no shame. But deos this mean we can expect another big screen release of these "epics"? I'd love to see West Side Story or Ben Hur in a cinema, but it ain't gonna happen for most of us.

E.T. with walkie talkies. Sheesh.

Jon Stewart is funny. Except when he suggests Jessica Alba and Eric Bana as candidates to repopulate the earth!?!?

Cool, Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin should be in a film together. They are both great. (I am being simultaneously nice and sincere. Unusual for me, I know) Check it out, someone already had my good idea.

2006 Oscars Observations Part Six

All these ads are turning my brain to mush. Especially the one with the singing animals.

Describing Luke and Owen Wilson as "very talented"? Hmmm.

I always want to see these damn nominated short films. They should cut out the ads and show them instead.

Urrrrgggghhhhh. I hate it when they put the damn animated characters on stage. (I'm saying "damn" a lot aren't I? This is clearly a Night of Passion)

I believe I am patriotically required to chant "Go, Aussie, go!" at the moment.
Not that it helped at all.

Bored bored bored. Speech speech speech.

Why is that costume designers always manage to wear great and interesting but completely unflattering dresses?

Our Russell. (yes, I'm being ironic)

What a bizarre collection of people. Artists, scientists, criminals, sports people, a general, a president, a king, a man in a kilt, and Ghandi.

I can't believe I saw Wil Farrell in The Producers last night and enjoyed his performance, and now this?
Please don't let Star Wars III win anything.
Oh, another Clooney joke. If the poor man kills himself tonight It's All Your Fault, People.

See, it's much better at the Technological Achievement Awards because they get food!

It's Ron Glass! Oh, my mistake, it's Morgan Freeman.
Must see North Country.

Did I miss anything? I was off making a cup of tea...

Token old woman; Lauren Bacall. Must be one of the last minorities left. After all this is the year of the gay film, and when was it, 2002 year of the not-white actors?

What are they trying to say with this set of clips? Films used to have interesting stories and they weren't even in colour?

Let's characterise the Best Actress nominees by their appearances! And their crazy crazy names!

I'm seeing too much Matt Dillon tonight. Where's Johnny Depp?

Documentary Short category. Serious serious...tuning out...still serious... (I think when you win an award, even a serious one, you're supposed to smile on stage.)
Penguin applause from the penguin gallery! Awww, they have toys.

Honestly, how can I be snarky about the outfits when even Jennifer Lopez looks elegant?

2006 Oscars Observations Part Five

Reese! No autoharp? :-(
From the short clips, Howl's Moving Castle looks like the best, most original animated film, but I really enjoyed Corpse Bride. Winner: Wallace and Gromit? Damn. Can I not pick them or what?

Shot of the back row of the audience! Is that a first for the Oscars? (What a place to sit the main character's voice of a feature award winner.)

Dolly Parton? Help me! Hey, where'd all her hair go? And her midsection?
She is her own bobble-headed doll.

Heh, the sound synch is out and now everyone in Hollywood looks like they have no rhythm.

2006 Oscars Observations Part Four

Our Nicole. Lemme guess. A man is going to win Best Supporting Actor?
Clooney. Well, other women find him attractive. Bored bored bored. speech speech speech. Wait, is he winning for Batman?

Oh, no. They're not going to have a adbreak between each award presentation are they? No wonder this goes for so long. And it's the same stupid ad every time. Arggh!

Ah! See that Xander? That's Wynton Marsalis selling iP*ds! Unbelievable.

Tom Hanks - Not funny
Ben Stiller - Not funny

Hey, now narnia would've been heaps better with those running red dots.
(It think that was a shot of the penguin gallery)
Oh, I'm glad King Kong won Visual Effects. I'm a big fan of the writing of the sister of a woman who worked on compositing. (I'm serious).

Why is CrimeStoppers never nominated for an Oscar? Gross oversight.

2006 Oscars Observations Part Three

Ah, the Award Ceremony.

Hang on, is this funny? Yes. Somewhat unexpected.

I'm pretty happy with the idea of Jon Stewart hosting, but y'know, I'm on guard.
OK, the theme for those that missed it is, A Return to Glamour (Glamor, whatever).
Tally: political joke, political joke, breast joke, time to pick on George Clooney.

I guess the summing up of the films is funnier if you've seen them. *shrug*
Ooh, outfit, political, Icelander joke in one! Strike!

My cat is not appreciating the importance of my watching the TV right now. Seems to want food or something. But, Billy, they've hacked together a bunch of old Westerns to make them look gay. This is vital!

2006 Oscars Observations Part Two

Look at my earrings aren't they expensive?
I wonder if Wilkin's smalltalk is this bad when he's not being filmed. (Like that ever happens.)
Telling Lopez that tonight's theme is about colour is kinda wrong isn't it? Tasteless?

Clothes. Haven't seen any shockers yet. Nope, I take that back. Fortunately for the dressee, I don't know who she is.

Those aren't teeth! They're diamonds! That's the dumbest thing I've seen so far. That guy must be so hungry.

Yes Wilkins, Nicole was trying to ignore you.

Am I imagining it or is Channel Nine expecting us to know who the Australian stars are and only providing "nametags" for the locals.

Oh, now I know I'm watching Channel Nine. It's Funniest Oscar Videos. Cheap, guys. Very cheap.

Ooh, quiz. What? Was it all the same film? Lemme think. Spielberg 1999, Hilary Swank 2000, Russell Crowe 2001, Halle Berry 2002. (I think, it was pretty quick on screen.) Errr, Saving Beautiful Million Dollar Monsters?

2006 Oscars Observations Part One

OK I'm prepared as much as I am able for this, the screening of the 2006 Oscars.


  • I have chocolate.
  • I have hardly seen any of the films so I don't really care who wins.


  • No alcohol.
  • I have seen Walk the Line and I liked it, so if it doesn't win, I'm gonna be miffed.
  • There seems to be something more interesting on ABC2 - a documentary on the sound design of action films.

OK I'm on the right channel now for the red carpet.
Sure is red.
Oh, the people on the carpet? They seem to be wearing Outfits.
Oh, fuck. Richard Wilkins. I guess it can't get much worse.
First interviewee: Naomi Watts. Poor girl trying to explain why King Kong sucked and is hardly nominated
Bullock and Keanu on the defensive. We Are Not on A Date. (What a dumb question, like the Oscars would be a good place for a date? Everybody watching, tedious sitting around, not even any food!)

Woah, adbreak. Time to post.

Sat, 04 Mar 2006
You like me, right now, you like me!*

I was considering live-blogging the broadcast of the Oscars ceremony this year, but I honestly don't think I have the blogging stamina. Or the Oscars watching stamina for that matter. I haven't even watched it the last two years, mostly because I didn't see any of the nominated films. I'll do some kind of snarky wrap up at least. Probably not as funny-bitchy as Ken Levine, but he has all sorts of, you know, industry knowledge and professional comedy writing credits and stuff that I don't.

Here's my snark from 2003 - the last time I tuned in.

Random notes from the Oscar's telecast:
Steve Martin can always be counted on to be a white-wash of a host. So very inoffensive.
So what _does_ Margaret O'Brien look like nowadays?
John Travolta should stop dying his hair. 3D-animated Mickey Mouse is an insult.
How do I get to see these nominated animated and live-action short films?
Is the little laser on the Tatts machine going to damage my eyes if I stare at it too long?
Paul Simon would be a lot more interesting to watch if _he_ was eight months pregnant or had sixteen backing dancers.
Only two nominees for achievement in make-up? Slackers!
Sean Connery really can look good in a frilly shirt.
Gee, I haven't seen Noni in the audience yet...
Woo! Go Panavision!
Dedicating an Oscar to the whole of Mexico is a bit tricky. How are they going to work out the time-share?
Julianne Moore looks like a shy high school student who just got asked to the prom.
Forty-five seconds is not enough time for multiple winners to speak. Even if no one cares if the sound guy thanks his mum.
Hang on - Media Watch is on...
...OK I'm back. Only missed an hour, what could possibly have happened?
I think Nicole is wearing prosthetic eyebrows, she looks really angry.
So why is it in Hollywood that people try to stay as young looking as possible, for as long as possible, when it's the oldest and wrinkliest who get the most applause?
Take off the sunglasses Jack.
Margaret O'Brien just looks old. Fair enough.
Hey, they've brought back the Antz Pantz ad. Sick 'em Rex!
That Pianist actor looks really worried, and he's already won his Oscar.
Harrison Ford has bed hair.
That automatic height-detecting microphone is way cool, every school hall should have one.
Kirk and Michael, so cute.
It's over already? ...thank God.

*Sally Field, 1985 acceptance speech for Places in the Heart.

Last Day for Logan's Run?

I have written a thirty-year anniversary review of Logan's Run which is now online at the Continuum 4 Reviews page.

Fri, 03 Mar 2006
Review: Walk the Line
Walk the Line poster

I am not a fan of Johnny Cash. I can't hear "Ring of Fire" without thinking haemorrhoid cream. Walk the Line requires neither of these constants.

Joaquin Phoenix takes the character of Cash* and, while not providing an impersonation, captures the spirit of the man in a completely convincing way. I know nothing at all about June Carter, but Reese Witherspoon's portrayal makes me want to find out more. Both actors are nominated for Oscars for these roles and have already won scads of other awards.

These were two fascinating characters in fascinating times. Walk the Line rarely stoops to gimmick, although it does contain "cameos" by Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, it was not the focus of the film to be smart-alecky.

This is a respectful telling of Cash's story from the farms of Arkansas to the stages of Vegas. Walk the Line doesn't hide the fact of his drug dependancy. Some reviews have complained it does not show enough of his worst times, but Phoenix's performance convinced me that Cash was as low as a human can go. Recovery did seem to come a little easy, although that never is the most visually interesting part of a story.

It seems to be the rule nowadays that if an actor is cast in a singing role they are expected to actually sing their parts. (Once upon a time this would not have been cause for comment.) Phoenix and Witherspoon, while not possessing world class "pipes" prove that six months of professional training can be sufficient to carry a performance convincing enough that the audience does not stop to take note of the fact they are singing.

The concert scenes are enthralling. All shot from the point of view of those on stage, they provide a continuation of the characters; this is the most important part of their lives. The film-makers do not stop the story for the sake of spectacular set pieces, but by involving the cinema audience in the experience of the performers, the onstage scenes do become spectacular and exciting.

I am not a fan of Johnny Cash.

I bought the soundtrack yesterday.

*An interesting aside to the casting of Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash: Phoenix lost his highly talented brother River to an accidental drug overdose. Cash's loss of his own brother, another terrible accident, shaped much of his character. The film illustrates him having to prove his worth to his father who felt that his elder son was the one with all the promise and that music was not a worthy occupation. Of course I know nothing of Joaquin's preparations for this role, and I seriously doubt he ever felt inferior to his brother, but I though it was worth pointing out.

Thu, 02 Mar 2006
Cover Letter

Dear Editor,
Please find enclosed my short story. I look forward to receiving from you my first rejection letter.
Nervous Writer.