Monday, August 30, 2010

My new blog for the professional woman

Well I am proud to say it is almost spiffy, still needs some work, but do visit and let your pals know I am OPEN FOR BUSINESS. (:

Monday, July 12, 2010

So ends the hiatus

Let’s work backwards.

My last post was on May 19. My last entry into the lovely diary I keep by my bed was June 10. Did I have a car accident? Did I have a baby? Why does my mind go to both those extremes? (Probably because I am reading 'We Need to Talk About Kevin'.)

No, I am happy to say that, by and large, no real hideous dramas befell me, just your garden variety ones BUT my creative output in other areas of life went into jet propulsion motion and I walked away from a media course I did confused about the kind of (wanker alert!) online presence a professional writer like myself should have.

I was told and was convinced that a more formal, writer-for-sale blog was required, that I should Twitter only for business and that I shouldn't say anything on Facebook I wouldn't mention before a table full of colleagues in the office. The result? I stopped all communications.

Offline, in the world where real oxygen is required, I was pumping out so many words, strategies and 'concepts' for new (much appreciated) clients and the now-in-production magazine I am working on that the idea of either recounting those days to myself in my diary OR banging on here about other topics was just the straw that would break this slapper's back.

Now I am feeling slightly re-energised; I attended July’s Year Of The Novel class at The Wheeler Centre on Saturday where author, Andrea Goldsmith, popped in to take questions on her book, Reunion, which had been a set text.

Thing to note! She reads for two hours every morning before she does anything else. Ah, the pressure!

I came home and got straight onto my homework, a technique called CLUSTERING. Have a read about it here. I also went back to a short piece I wrote about Glengarriff, a small town in Ireland I have some connection to. I might spit and polish it and post it here for my own gratification.

In the meantime a big girl professional blog spruiking for work is on the way. Probably. I think so ... we'll see ...

PS: How about the Julia/Kevin imagery I posted in May. Am I a Canberra insider?

PPS: The book pictured here is 2010 Birds of a Feather diary by Jean Lowe and Greg Johnson, truly gorgeous and currently not in use at my place.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mrs Underhill Book Club update

The next book for the Club is We Need to Talk About Kevin, a 2003 novel by Lionel Shriver, concerning a fictional school massacre. Do not confuse it with a book called ‘We need to talk about me taking your job Kevin’, a new book by Julia Eileen Gillard.

This is the suggestion of ‘founding member’, Fiona Findlay, who is about to move to Sydney and still be a clubber. We love her!

We will meet in the flesh at my place at 8pm on the evening of Wednesday 21 July OR you can make online comments about the book by that date here on

Please do come along on the 21st though and have a wine or a tea or a cheezel and have a laugh with us.

I believe Lionel is a guest on First Tuesday Book Club With Jennifer Byrne 10:05pm - Tuesday, June 1 on ABC1.

If you would like to hear a journo from The Guardian interview Lionel, go to

Alrighty then. Happy reading

PS: Image source:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

In praise of small lives

Sometimes sayings, words, or thoughts come up in life in a synchronistic way. Chatting with someone recently about their frustration over their partner’s “small life” and his disinterest in engaging in the outside world, I began to wonder what is meant by such a thing.

What is a big life and what is a small?

- Is a big life full of big ideas ... daring political thought and activity or ambitious actions on career and financial fronts?
- Is a big life one lived very publically, one that requires loads of people to be involved – perhaps by community participation, public performance, a huge family or so on?
- Or is a big life one that encompasses lots of travel and risk taking?

- Is a small life one that centres on the domestic, the personal, the egocentric or the quiet?
- Is it one that is crowded with unchallenging interests like daytime TV and magazines about pop culture?
- Is it one lived locally, not globally, occupied with personal concerns, hobbies, day-to-day tasks and routines in housekeeping, child rearing and the like?
Is it simply one that doesn’t involve seeing other people’s viewpoints?

Living a “small life” was something that concerned me much more when I was younger. Then it represented a life of claustrophobic boundaries where I did not meet many new and interesting people, I did not travel enough and I was not a global commercial success of some kind, any kind.

Today I fear a “small life” that does not bring service and joy to others, that is too self concerned and doesn’t impact on others enough in helpful ways and one that doesn’t expose me to new ideas and information.

A recent trip to Sydney brought this home. I was so blessed (staying at The Observatory Hotel for God’s sake) and seeing some very dear old friends and meeting some new ones and thus I became intensely aware of how privileged I am compared to so many people - hence the man sitting at the traffic lights outside the QV building was the recipient of $5.

I am aware of this privilege every day and try to honour and appreciate it but, hell, I am not the Dalai Lama.

Sometimes I think the feeling of “the small life” can come simply from getting stuck in too much of a rut. Personally the sunroom has been home to too much distraction lately. Despite – ironically - recently finishing RAPT: Attention and the Focused Life by Winifred Gallagher my own attention has been wondering, mainly because of that feeling of being a whiskered mouse chasing the wheel.

Being in Sydney, solo, got me some mojo back I hope. Frustrations with my main client are not as exhausting as I was making them. Good ideas and talented people are everywhere and there are new tricks to try if only I open up my eyes and see the rabbit and the hat before me.

I did my YEAR OF THE NOVEL homework (reading an article by Orham Pamuk) about ‘The Implied Author’ in the cafe of the Gallery of New South Wales while a frilly bummed Ibis picked and pecked around me. One of my art heroes – Edmund Capon (Director and Chief Curator of the Gallery since 1978) – was meeting over lunch at a table nearby. In the gallery shop was a copy of his book (I Blame Duchamp, published by Penguin) plus pairs of colourful mismatched socks inspired by the man himself.

I remember hearing an interview with Capon on ABC radio back when I was enjoying my ‘sabbatical’ in Byron Bay six or seven years ago and really enjoying it and becoming intrigued by him. What passion, what humour! I should have bought the coloured socks when I had the chance so I could look down and remember those qualities on days when I need ‘em.

Then I headed round the Archibald show (the winning SAM LEACH/Tim Minchin portrait is extremely impressive up close) before walking back through gorgeous Sydney city to the Rocks, dumping my gear at the hotel before walking, for the first time, over the city’s famous bridge. (I listened to interviews with Peter Carey and Ian Rankin on ABC Radio National’s book show as I walked and took some photos that I really like.)

While not listening to the podcasts I found myself pondering some of what I’d read at the gallery. Orham Pamuk had said, “I feel happy the moment I reach my desk, my pen and my paper. In no time at all I can leave behind the familiar, boring world of the everyday and step into this other, bigger place to wander freely, and most of the time I have no desire to return to real life or to reach the end of the novel.” And he’s mentioned that his “daughter can tell that I have not written well that day from the abject hopelessness on my face in the evening. I would like to be able to hide this from her, but I cannot. During these dark moments, I feel as if there is no line between life and death. I don't want to speak to anyone, and anyone seeing me in this state has no desire to speak to me either.”

No one can say Pamuk lives a small life (a little thing called the Nobel Prize in Literature 2006) but he reminded me of something that bothers me with writers sometimes ... do you have to observe life but not participate in it to be good artistically?

Peter Carey spoke about being a voyeur and how that is a necessary quality for a novelist. Many writers speak of that. Hell, even in my humble magazine writing I sometimes find myself wishing to change an interviewee’s quotes so they sound more erudite or express an idea more elegantly. (Tisk tisk, I don’t do it of course!)

Then Ian Rankin chimes in and lists all the rock concert ticket stubs he has on his pin board in his office, proof of his passion for music and his alter ego of a frustrated musician. He has people like REM inviting him to his concerts when they’re in town because he’s mentioned one of their songs in a book and they’re fans. Now THAT is a big life!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Death at a funeral versus Celine Dion being there ...

Well she lives, she blogs.

Let’s ignore the fact it’s been more than three weeks since I wrote here. After all it only really matters to me. As I had formed this blog to support creative writing and literary efforts and interests generally on my part, however, it’s a bit of a concern.

Let’s not bang on about what’s been taking up my time. It certainly hasn’t been anything too deep in the realm of art ... though I have put together some pretty saucy emails of late.

The book, DROOD – A NOVEL, by Dan Simmons has finally been completed. I love a big book but 771 pages, when you’re trying to get through a page and a half before nodding off each night, may not be the right way to go just now. Especially when On Chesil Beach (Book Club) and This is How (Year of the Novel course) are waiting in the wings.
Simmons had a review in April 11’s M Magazine (The Sunday Age) for his new book, Black Hills. The first few chapters of that book are included at the end of Drood. The reviewer, Lucy Sussex, says Simmons “makes a number of risky moves” in this new book, “but succeeds”. I’ll leave it to someone else to check out for now. I’ve got to get on with my knitting.

Speaking of knitting, the craft magazine project I was launching in August has now moved to November. Sighs of frustration but frank relief all round. We will now have the opportunity to produce a truly mind blowing mag. After months of planning and spread sheets and mind numbing office politics it will be my great pleasure to kick off the creative, for me, side of the mag today by interviewing an interiors stylist I used to adore in my PR days – one Megan Morton – who has a new book out called HOMElove. Read this piece about her and you will see why I look forward to this conversation.

While not immersed in creative activities of late I have, of course, continued to enjoy and experience the best and worse that life has to offer. I saw two acts for the Comedy Festival – Cardinal Burns and (now novelist) Julian Clary. I took Mum to see Julian ... now how many fisting jokes did he make?

And, sadly, between late March and early April I went to two highly contrasting funerals. I won’t belittle the emotional drought of one by comparing it to the other but I will say that Celine Dion belting out ‘I’m your lady and you’re my man’ at the funeral of an 81-year-old widow is probably NOT the ideal choice. Still, as her middle aged son pointed out, it is one of HIS favourite songs!!!!!

Mr Underhill says there’s a short story there for me to tackle. I find it hard to write while gagging however.

Over and out XX

Monday, March 22, 2010

Planning and magic

Life currently is all about planning and looking ahead; namely planning for the first issue of the new quarterly magazine I will be part of in mid August and looking for a house to buy with all that entails. It’s tiring but inspiring and is often leaving me with that panicky feeling of a mountain of work to do and no idea where to start.

My neck is a stiff rod at the end of many days and I keep moving two things in my diary – write blog and do some Year of the Novel work – from one page to the next.

The Year of the Novel (YON) gang have kicked off a blog ... so I can now bang on there plus at Mrs Underhill and the new one for for the magazine ... overload me thinks!

Of course life in all its glory has continued amidst this with THE WORST HAIRCUT IN TWO DECADES arriving on my noggin, attendance at THE JUNES (with the wonderful Suzannah Espie) at The Caravan Music Club, a visit to Federation Square to see Spotlight’s event as part of the L’oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival, boiled bacon and cabbage for Saint Patrick’s Day, a full day at the Fashion Festival’s Business Seminar ( great line up – I took notes; let me know if you want them) and a trip to Docklands to Pier 21 to see the Harpers Bazaar runway parade with Ms F, a couple of house inspections, a houseful of wonderful overnight guests after mad dinner party and various other girly girl catch ups.

I am slaving away on planning documents, excel sheets and power point presentations for the new mag so my literary adventures have been on the lean, lean, lean side. I would point however to a lovely podcast interview I listened to with the author Dan Simmonds whose book, Drood: A novel, I am currently enjoying.

For those of us who carry all round white man guilt he has a wonderful passage in one of his books where a Native American character ends up in New York and is wowed by the Brooklyn Bridge and expresses the thought: “So ... they have their magic too”. I don’t know, just liked it!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Elvis' daughter married Michael Jackson for God's sake

February passed by quicker than the bad dim sim my pal, Miss G, once consumed - then ejected - in the time it took us to drive around the block from the Chinese take out.

I often say that February is a crazy month. Following on from all the Christmas and New Year shenanigans I have always either had (in the old days) L'OrĂ©al Melbourne Fashion Festival (LMFF) duties or, in the past six years, magazine duties as soon as the New Year kicked off and, so, Mr Underhill’s birthday would fly past, then mine would (Valentine’s Day in case you’re asking), then more and more festivities and celebrations. Finally, March arrives and I roll into a new size pair of undies and examine new broken capillaries around my nose and I start talking about “taking stock” and really making some life changes. Yada yada yada.

This year really has been crazier than ever and non work-related writing has not just hit the curb, it’s been washed down the drain and I’m not sure I can even find it now.

Quick re-cap … for my own purposes more than anyone else’s … there’s been the birthday bbq festival of the wonderful Mrs Peters, the completion of my company profile job for an architectural firm, Chinese New Year dinner at Bamboo House (tea smoked duck – an ABSOLUTE must), the final issue of the magazine as a monthly publication (it hits stands in May), dinner at Ichi Ni, the Fig Festival at Patsyfox’s house (3pm to 3am!!), renewal of yoga, the first (and really enjoyable) Mrs Underhill’s Book Club gathering for 2010, a night at The Greyhound watching drag shows, lunch with an old writing pal at The Botanical (she is going to finish her first novel this year and has good reaction from very weighty publishing reps already), Quan 88 with Ms O’B and baby Tessa, GEORGE MICHAEL, a suite of 27 press releases for a beautiful spa client, an article for Advance Global Australia (woo – an international audience AND Kevin's Rudd's the patron you know ...) and finally the long weekend at The Windsor. No wonder the back yard is full of weeds and my glass collection has disappeared beneath dust! Who’s got the time for God’s sake?

It doesn’t end you know. Last night was Donovan’s for the birthdays of Mrs Juckert and Mrs Jackson which was one of the most divine nights I’ve spent in a long time and tonight I am honoured to attend the launch night of Patsyfox’s LMFF exhibition.

The blessed life of a completely spoilt slapper – ME – continues.

Professionally I have just also powered through a complete contents breakdown for a new 176 page magazine and done an EXCEL SHEET!!!! (alert alert) for its production time line. And today I wrote my first blog post related to the magazine. My brain hurts, my neck is now officially on solid trunk (luckily I have Aurora Spa Retreat vouchers to cash in) and my poor old runners have not been getting the work out they so desperately need.

Excitingly, however, I think a new phase is genuinely about to commence with, FINGERS CROSSED, work matters becoming more settled and the commencement of The Year of The Novel (led by Sallie Muirden) with the Victorian Writers Centre commencing on Saturday. Again I will be thrown in with group of strangers all sharing a love of the written word and the aspiration to add their own voice to the world’s ever-growing library. I don’t need to write a book. I am currently reading Drood: A Novel by Dan Simmons and cannot get into bed fast enough to start consuming it. The world doesn’t need me but, when I read a book as FUN as this one, I want to join in the fun too.

Hell, we’ll see. As Mr Underhill says to me whenever I wonder if something unlikely will come to fruition: “Honey, anything can happen. Elvis’ daughter married Michael Jackson for God’s sake”.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Mrs Underhill Book Club update

Alrighty, it's been soooo long since I posted. The Book Club had a WONDERFUL gathering, really illuminating, I've been to see Mr George Michael, two babies have been born (not to me), I've stayed at The Windsor, I've had joy, I've had fun, I've had seasons in the sun but now I have just recovered from a computer virus and need to get two huge jobs finished today so ....

Our next book, with TWO months to read it, is On Chesil Beach, a 2007 novel by the Booker Prize-winning British writer Ian McEwan.

We will gather in peson on the 12th of May. Make contact if you wish to come.

Or you are most welcome to submit comments by that date over the blog.

I'll be back on air soon.

In the meantime, check out a videod discussion of this book from ABC TV's Tuesday night book club here

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Strengths, disabilities & McQueen

It’s amazing how those who inspire others to great heights, those whose lives cause others to strive and emulate, those who are worshipped or envied from afar can find those very lives a dark burden. They can find craters in those lives so deep they can no longer be negotiated.

I’m not a huge fashion aficionado but, over the years, my work has taken me behind the runways in the local fashion scene and I appreciate the artistry and hard graft that goes into beautiful clothes. So I was saddened to hear of the death of Alexander McQueen, especially as it seems it was at his own hands.

Did you know Alexander McQueen once created hand carved prosthetic legs for a woman called Aimee Mullins who is an athlete, motivational speaker, actress and model? She is also a double amputee. She modelled these beautiful, artful creations on a McQueen runway in 1999. In a truly engaging and meaningful presentation at TED last February, almost a year from Alexander’s death, and this is what she said:

“I did my first runway show for Alexander McQueen on a pair of hand-carved wooden legs made from solid ash. Nobody knew - everyone thought they were wooden boots. Actually, I have them on stage with me: Grapevines, magnolias, truly stunning. Poetry matters. Poetry is what elevates the banal and neglected object to a realm of art. It can transform the thing that might have made people fearful into something that invites them to look, and look a little longer, and maybe even understand.”

Later she observes: “And that's when I knew that the conversation with society has changed profoundly in this last decade. It is no longer a conversation about overcoming deficiency. It's a conversation about augmentation. It's a conversation about potential. A prosthetic limb doesn't represent the need to replace loss anymore. It can stand as a symbol that the wearer has the power to create whatever it is that they want to create in that space ... I think that if we want to discover the full potential in our humanity, we need to celebrate those heartbreaking strengths and those glorious disabilities that we all have.”

Heartbreaking strengths and glorious disabilities, how gorgeous are those two terms? You see these strengths every day and they make me proud (and humbled) to be human, a feeling that waxes and wanes. I felt it when I lunched with a woman this week who’d just lost her husband. The grief glistened, just below the mascara and, yet, I saw her two days later, in full couture, ready to donate her time and mentor some young creative professionals in a role she’d committed to before her loss.

I saw it when I watched The Children’s Ward on TV and saw two little boys who’d been maimed by fucking land mines promise each other they’d never pick anything that looked like a pen again on the road - in Afghanistan one child is killed or injured every day by unexploded munitions.

“I know,” said six-year-old Murtaza, his left arm ending in a stub, his right one sporting one or two blackened fingers and some stumps. “Mummy and Daddy can buy my pens.”

Why did Alexander do it? What was the heartbreak he could not overcome, the disability that was not glorious?

Have a look at the Aimee Mullins video if you’re feeling a bit hard done by today, if some arsehole cut you off in traffic, if you’ve just had the bad test result, the screaming child’s tantrum, the bill that can’t be paid. It won’t change anything in a tangible sense I guess but it will remind us what fine creatures we can be and why it’s worth hanging on just a bit longer to see what fine creatures can do together.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sunday is "trance" day - blame Alexander

I spend too much time comparing myself to others. Ok, I know that. And I spend too much time marvelling about how much other people achieve in my life (perhaps explaining why not enough time then goes into achieving anything in mine) but, really, when an author's Wiki entry begins like this, what's a girl to do?

"Alexander McCall Smith, CBE, FRSE, (born 24 August 1948) is a Zimbabwean-born Scottish writer and Emeritus Professor of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh. In the late 20th century McCall Smith became a respected expert on medical law and bioethics and served on British and international committees concerned with these issues. He has since become internationally known as a writer of fiction. He is most widely known as the creator of the The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series."

I heard a tiny snippet of Alexander on Jon Faine's Conversation Hour this morning whilst driving to the office from an interview. I am working on an article for the group called ADVANCE. I'll come back to that another time.

Anyhoo, over the airwaves came the educated Scottish tones of a writer talking about his notorious prolificness. I was driving so can't quote him direct (didn't jot it down) but basically Alexander said he goes into something of a trance and the stories just come. In a wonderful interview with the Times online he said he tries to "fence off January and February" to write but he can write on trains and in airports and so forth and he describes writer's block as "another way of saying you're depressed".

I'm not completely going in circles with this. Yes I will chase one of his Scotland Street novels up and yes I will look at some of Alexander's literary influences, as mentioned in the Times article, and yes I will podcast the Faine interview but ... I am also committed to "fencing off" some time.

I think the festivas that was December and January is finally dying down. I have touched base with walking meditations, returned to yoga with the divine Caroline and I climbed on the wagon for the week. Hell I even went for a walk before going to work this morning. Next Tuesday, fingers crossed, writer's group starts again and, before I know it, it will be March 13th and my first Year of the Novel class will have commenced.

'Til then I commit to giving some time over to trance this Sunday and get something non work related written. I am making a promise to myself here in blogland. Do you want to commit to doing something you keep saying you want to do this week as well? Lay it on me friend. We can hold each other to it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

just because it's cute

While researching a story today I found this at

Monday, January 18, 2010

Mrs Underhill Book Club update

Word on the street is that end of Jan is TOO SOON for finishing The Brain that changes itself. Let’s try for Wednesday Feb 24th at 8pm – 10.30pm at my place to meet. Let me know if you think this is doable. Online comments in time for this meeting are welcomed too.

Our current book is THE BRAIN THAT CHANGES ITSELF by Dr. Norman Doidge. Yep we are doing nonfiction. The book is available widely and Amazon is selling second hand copies of US$9.

As it happens Patsy Fox has reported that she has "just ordered the book from the Book Depository, for a price including shipping, which is free, of AUD 13.16. This site is bizarre and cheap. It has about 5 versions of this book - I went with the cheapest option, looks the same to me. Here's the link for anyone interested:"

Thanks Patsy!

“Dr. Norman Doidge introduces principles we can all use to overcome brain limitations and explores the profound brain implications of the changing brain in an immensely moving book that will permanently alter the way we look at human possibility and human nature.” - See the website at

We will also discuss DISGRACE by J.M. Coetzee which is long OVERDUE!

I will check in for RSVPs the week before. We’ll just do after supper nibbles as before.

Looking forward to seeing y’all.

Til then, happy New Year.

PS: Knitted brain by artist: Karen Norberg, Location: Boston Museum of Science

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Behind the scenes in the musuem

I've said it before and I'll say it again. You may read fiction just for fun but along the way you'll end up learning something - despite your best efforts.

As usual, because I have some weighty tomes beside the bed waiting to be read, I turned to fiction popcorn. This time it was The Bone Vault by Linda Fairstein who, in 2002, retired from her position as head of the Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's office and turned to book writing. Over-achiever! Anyway, it's a formulaic gold mine with her DA protagonist, Alexandra Cooper, righting wrongs all over New York and beyond.

This time we got a behind-the-scenes look at the Metropolitan Museum and its offshoot for medieval art history, The Cloisters, as well as the New York Museum of Natural History. Funnily enough, with Mrs R and the bairn in town this week and spending two delightful nights at my place, we ended up at the Melbourne Museum looking at its wild taxidermy section. My mind was crossing over between fictional and non fictional representations.

Whilst reading The Bone Vault however I learned of Minik, an Inuit (AKA - Eskimo) who was brought to the USA from Greenland along with five other Inuit in 1897 by explorer Robert Peary. This little boy was only six or seven when he, along with three men and two women, were brought back as living specimens to the American Museum of Natural History to be studied. Can you believe it? To our modern minds it is bad enough to think of graves being plundered to bring back skeletons for scientific study but actual living, breathing human beings...

Surprise surprise the five adults all expired ASAP in the germy client of New York. Minik was farmed out to a man involved with the Museum who, sure, raised him alongside his own son but who is also thought to be the man who bleached Minik's father's bones to be put on display in the Museum at a later date. Get your head around that one.

Legend has it that Minik actually stumbled across his Dad's skeleton on display when he got a bit older and, of course, was destroyed by the experience. When older, and troubled, they tried taking him back to Greenland but by then he couldn't speak his native language anymore and his seal hunting and polar bear whispering skills were a bit rusty after a childhood in NYC.

There's an interesting article about all of this at the NY Times site because in 1993 the Museum of Natural History packed four skeletons into separate boxes and shipped them back to Greenland.

There is so much to think about and meditate on when you discover a story like this. It somehow puts new perspective on the reports we might see in the news such as the 2009 one when a skull and other bone fragments, discovered in the home of an elderly British academic, were handed over to the Australian government in a solemn Aboriginal ceremony. Australian diplomats had discovered the remains in an auction of the contents of the academic's home.

It's easy to feel removed from these stories because it all seems to have taken place so very long ago but imagine for a moment if it was one of your own loved family members up for display in a glass box somewhere. I mean it's not like these people donated their remains to this cause; most of the time they were in fact looted from the grave. Sensibilities have changed. Science is supposedly conducted with more sensitivity and humanity - we hope - but it has an unseemly heritage me thinks.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Where is James Cameron when you need him?

What a bad little blogger I have been. Ten days since my last instalment and not a valid excuse in sight.

I have been having fun. From dinner at The Exchange in Port Melbourne with one of my favourite women to completing and paying my July – Sept quarter BAS and tax (ok, not fun but a sense of dread is removed), and from seeing Avatar to returning to the suburban wasteland of my youth to attend an extremely lovely 60th birthday. If variety is the spice of life, my life has been a whopping big jar of All Spice.


Let’s discuss Avatar because my film studies self found this an absolutely riveting release. We saw the 3-D version. Mr U, the original student of film (he was buying books on the topic before he was 11 or so), said I was witnessing filmic history and this movie represents the kind of jump in technical possibilities that Star Wars did when it was released.

I will take that as gospel but still hate the feeling of the Poindexter glasses increasing my awareness that I am seeing a film rather than being part of something. Truth be told, however, that feeling died down after a half hour into the movie (it’s something like 2.5 hours long) and I stopped pulling the glasses up and down my nose to see what the screen looked like sans specs.

It’s difficult to get one’s head around the role a director plays in a movie like this where so little on screen time is given to bricks and mortar sets and live actors and so much is given to CGI sequences. I would LOVE to see behind the scenes to understand how it is achieved and how James Cameron’s role works.

This movie cost more than two hundred and thirty million (USA) dollars. What could that kind of money do to villages, hospitals and schools in different parts of the world? You just can’t think about it because it is kind of depressing. And, yet, the entertainment that movie brings to all of us with the luxury of time and money to go see it is undeniable. It’s one of those quandaries of modern life, hey?

The computer-generated aspects of this movie are basically magical. In the New Yorker they wrote: The digital elements of “Avatar,” he (Cameron) claims, are so believable that, even when they exist alongside human actors, the audience will lose track of what is real and what is not. “This film integrates my life’s achievements,” he told me. “It’s the most complicated stuff anyone’s ever done.”

[Read more:]

The colours, the textures, the strange mining of all our stereotypes of magical forests, rainforest Amazon type locations, mythical creatures and prehistoric predators combines to create something incredibly original yet intensely familiar. Crazy! The colour is probably what resonates the most. Then there is the classic, stereotypical “hero’s journey” that main character, Jake Sully (AKA the very cute Aussie, Sam Worthington) embarks on. There are weird new age ideas of the noble savage and of modern man’s distruction of the planet and his lack of connection with the natural and spiritual world. I know, it all sounds like a bad mixed pasta from Lygon Street, complete with spaghetti with clams on a plate with curried rigatoni. It’s hard to explain. The thing works. It’s bigger than life and the most perfect advertisement for the real product that Twentieth Century Fox is undoubtedly going to make the real profits on – THE GAME!!! Even me, fat, forty and cyber-proof felt the urge to get out a console and occupy the world of the Na'vi people. Were they pumping drugs into the air of the cinema?

Other things

Book-wise I am still loving My Life in France and really, strangely, feel renewed in the spirit after this dose of Julia C. I can’t really explain it; I think low biorhythms had me off my normal enthusiastic view of life. Could be that, could be all the Christmas and New Year boozing that I am trying to distance myself from now. Could also be the thought of Mrs R and her brood landing on my doorstep soon and making me so, so excited (and busy – Mrs R is the tidiest, cleanest woman in the world. She deserves a dust free guest room!).

Of course I still can’t resist dipping into some crime porn (The Bone Vault by Linda Fairstein) and hit the library for a huge cache of books including The Children's Book by AS Byatt which I am in no way going to finish before it is due back. And, of course, the Mrs Underhill Book Club is meant to be tackling The Brain that Changes Itself AS WE SPEAK. Lordy, I love to read but there are just not enough hours in the day. I need an Avatar who goes to work, washes the clothes and exercises the body while another self sits and gorges on books. Where is James Cameron when you need him?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy freakin' New Year

The urge to declare resolutions, examine one's life, stocktake one's failings and promise new bursts of energy and commmitment as January 1 comes about is like a noxious weed. I want to stand apart from it, to deny it and remain separate but it's just too hard. The weed is in my garden and I keep fiddling with it.

We went OUT OF THE HOUSE this New Year's Eve and that alone should indicate the start of a very different year. I can't remember the last time Hank Williams was switched off (he died on NYE you know) and glad rags were put on. We went to a party/gig called Bam a lam at a place called Magnolia Courtyard in the charming Collins Quarter. Melbourne has a place called Pink Alley, did you know that?

Anyway it was a wonderful evening, too many margaritas bla bla bla, lost a shoe on the way home, lost a stunning vintage brooch while there. Now we all know why I stay home! You can see why I have resolutions for a more 'mature' 2010.

I've worked on and off over the Christmas New Year period. Contrary to popular belief it's quite a nice time to work. It's soooo quiet on the roads and there are not many people around to bother me with emails and phone calls. Mr Underhill and I have entertained and been entertained, mooched around, ridden our Santa bikes, and I've watched movies and read books.

I saw 'Volver' which renewed my love for Ms Cruz, the dreary 'Have you heard about the Morgans', the challenging 'Public Enemies' and the surprisingly wonderful 'Zombieland', possibly one of the best genre movies I have seen in ages. It's like a roadmovie, a buddy flick and a zombie movie all rolled into one but with some great writing, good gags, good acting and some interesting visual treatments. Get it!

Now I am all about the work, a fresh year, getting motivated and finding Nemo but not necessarily in that order.

Seriously though I have to stop watching crud TV to all hours of night, stay on the wagon for a few miles of the trip, read some of the clever books I buy and not just the fluff and get some projects happening to battle a subtle existential crisis that is currently permeating my being. I think I need to read some texts by smarter people who have already been where I am and were paying more attention when they got there. So I am off to the library to look at Richard Rose, H.P. Blavatsky and others. Luckily I have found an article called 'Existential depression in gifted individuals' which says: "Although an episode of existential depression may be precipitated in anyone by a major loss or the threat of a loss which highlights the transient nature of life, persons of higher intellectual ability are more prone to experience existential depression spontaneously."

And there you have it. Even my laziness and lack of focus points to my innate brilliance!