Monday, November 30, 2009

It's 11 in the Morning, The end of Movember *

So, final day of Movember, today. Tomorrow, I can shave this thing off my face.

And thank God for that, I say. It's incredibly irritating.

But, it's also been kinda fun. And for a really good cause, so all worthwhile. I didn't get it long enough to wax the tips up, but I always thought that was a little ambitious.

And the good news (from my perspective, at least) is that while the donations hit a very healthy $490 (as of this morning), they didn't get to the magic $1000 mark, so I don't have to walk around tomorrow with half a moustache on my face. Phew.

For those interested, here's the final product:

Not entirely attractive, but not a shabby effort either, even if I do say so myself.

Thanks so much to everyone who so generously donated - given the number of men who die each year from both prostate cancer and depression-related issues, this is a really worthy cause, and a really effective means of raising both funds and - equally as importantly - awareness.

*with apologies to Leonard Cohen

Saturday, November 28, 2009

One year down...

In a few hours, Toby's first birthday party starts. It won't be a huge affair - just family and a few friends around for a BBQ and a couple of beers. Actually, the party's as much for us as it is for him - celebrating the fact that we've survived our first 12 months of parenthood. 

During the last year, the mantle of parenthood has settled on us like a heavy cloak; sweeping, swamping, and covering every moment of our lives. Every waking moment, every thing we do or think about, Toby is there in the background. Everything we plan, Toby is the first factor we have to consider. He's filled our lives to the point where, when I remember myself 18 months ago, it's like thinking about a different person. Like remembering someone I used to know from a long time ago, but have long since drifted away from.

Parenthood has, without a doubt, been the hardest journey I've ever embarked upon. The exhaustion, the fear (I've never in my life been scared driving before, but whenever I've got Toby in the car, I drive like a grandmother), the emotional ups and downs - we've had plenty of both - and, oddly, the dawning knowledge that part of your life - the part that didn't involve you being completely and utterly at the mercy of someone else's needs - is irrevocably behind you.

I've worried that the lack of time and the constant fatigue would mean the end of my writing - in the past I've been able to set aside months at a time and use them obsessively to write, at the exclusion of all else. That's not an option any more. Now, between parenthood and my new job, I write when I can squeeze in an hour here and there. And in many ways, I think it's making me a better writer.

If all this sounds rather down -it isn't. As well as being the hardest 12 months of my life, this past year has also been the best. Imogen, Toby and I have been learning to understand one another, working out how we're going to make our lives mesh into one another's and building our little family. And even now, in these early, early days, it's a family I'm so proud of. 

I love walking down the street with Toby in his stroller. I love taking him places he's never been before and watching his reactions. I love the look on his face when he tries a new flavour for the first time, or when he's doing his best to climb on top of the dog. I love the way he pokes his tongue out when he's concentrating really hard. I love the fact that he's already trying to play the piano. I love it when Min and Toby and I get on a plane together. Or travel somewhere as a family, or just kick back at home.

During the last year, the mantle of parenthood has indeed settled upon us like a heavy cloak. But it's the warmest, best cloak ever.  

Happy Birthday, Mate.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Future Caffeine addict.

Since the day he was old enough to crawl, Toby has been oddly obsessed with our coffee machine. Largely, I suspect, because it's shiny, has lots of lights and buttons, and makes loud hissing noises.

This morning, I made him his first babycino - (Pure milk foam, for the uninitiated)

It went well...


Friday, November 20, 2009

Half a Tree...

... is a really odd looking thing. Imagine how strange I'll look with half a moustache.

Then donate to my Movember campaign, here.

Remember: $1000 by the end of November is what it'll take to make me look like a total goose for 24 hours. Current total: $300, which is a good start, but not enough to purchase my dignity.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Black Mountain Peninsula, 9.23am, Thursday

Photograph taken on Sony Ericsson Videophone, using panorama mode

Today it will be 37 degrees. Already Canberra is tinderbox-dry; the rich greens of spring have given way to unrelenting yellows and browns. The grasses wilt and wither, the clay is baked hard beneath your feet. On mornings like this, there is restlessness in the air. The lake, mirror calm, reflects a hazy sky; On Black Mountain, the tower gestures towards the sun and on Parliament house the flag hangs limp and listless.

On mornings like this, the early cool is just an overture.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ever wanted to humiliate a writer for a Good Cause?

All right then -

Here's the thing. I'm doing (as most of you already know) Movember. For anyone not in the loop, this is a facial hair festival which raises funds to support prostate cancer and men's health research. At the moment, I'm going on three weeks in, and have (if I do say so myself) a very respectable little Mo going on.

And I've got a few donations, which is great. Just passed the $150.00 mark today, which is fantastic. Even if one of the donors is my wife (How's that for supportive?).

But here's the thing. It's as itchy as hell, it catches food and it's generally a pain in the arse. Additionally, Mum is flying in to town next week for Toby's first birthday, and I know she'll give me all kinds of crap over my facial growth. She's not a fan of the facial hair, is mum.

Don't worry - I'm not about to shave it off and do my dough. Like I say - this is a very worthy cause here. Au Contraire, I'm about to up the stakes a little to make this experience truely worth while...

If my movember donations hit $1000 AUD by the end of November, then I pledge that at midnight on December 1st, I'll shave off only the left hand side of my moustache, and wear half a moustache around for a full 24 hours. I'll get lots of photos and post them here at Musings... Promise.

Is this a desperate bid to up my fund raising? Perhaps. But, let's face it, half a moustache is Funny, people.

So, if you decide you want to take part in this strange little escapade, then click here, dig deep, and help humiliate a writer. It's all going to a good cause, after all...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Helping Dad at work...

I've always thought I deserved a personal assistant at work and now, thanks to a childcare shortfall today, I have one...

So far he's re catalogued my lowest bookshelf (it used to be alphabetical, now it appears to be arranged in order from most to least chewed), emptied the contents of the bin onto the floor, pulled a pair of scissors out of a drawer (Until 5 minutes ago, I didn't even know I owned scissors,) and almost managed to unplug my computer.

Aaahhhh... parenthood....

Monday, November 16, 2009

Movember - Week 3

Taken with a silly hat, on the crappy little webcam in my office. But at least you can see it, now. And as of this morning, it's long enough to be trimmed with scissors!

You can donate to my campaign here... And if not, then I'll thank you not to mock my Mo.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Romcom Review - Julia and Julia

Julie and Julia: Is it technically a romcom? Well, it's directed by Nora Ephron, whose pedigree includes our benchmark best-romcom-of-all-time When Harry Met Sally, (mind you, she's also responsible for the execrable Sleepless in Seattle* - which, despite the title, ended up on top of the Empire State Building in NYC, go figure) and a number of other Romcom crimes, so you can make your own mind up on that one. (*you're probably wondering why that link? Anything, and I mean anything is better than Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks...)

I'm calling it a romcom, though. There's romance. There's comedy. If it looks like a duck, and it sounds like a duck...

Julie and Julia is an odd film. The tagline declares that it's 'Based on two true stories.' Technically, this isn't quite accurate: it's really based on:
  • The seminal cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck.
  • The vaguely autobiographical book Julie and Julia, by Julie Powell, which is in turn based on;
  • Her blog The Julie/Julia Project, in which she documented her efforts to stave off a nervous breakdown by cooking her way through the entire 500+ recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking during a 12 month period, in the tiny kitchen of her small, dingy apartment in Queens, NYC.
  • Julia Child's biography My Life in France
Can you say 'Metafiction', boys and girls?

From this, you'd think the film would have the potential to be a mishmash of ideas and stories.

And you'd be right.

Here's the odd thing, though - Ephron is a clever director and storyteller, and I initially walked out of the film (which we saw last saturday afternoon) declaring 'I really enjoyed that!' And I did. It was good brain candy. We'd won free tickets to see it, too, so the price was about right for the film.

In the five days since, though, a few little things about the film have started to retrospectively bug me. Little things - the somewhat overworked layering of the two protagonists' lives onto one another - the implication being that Julie Powell's life very nearly mirrored that of Julia Child. The bizarre 'where are they now' titles at the end of the film which - apart from being the worst kind of Deus ex Machina device for wrapping up a plot - also include perhaps the most utterly mindless caption I've ever seen: "Julie Powell's book was turned into a film" Well, duh. (Hint to Nora: Metafiction works best when you don't have to point it out to the audience.)

Does this make it a successful or unsuccessful film? Not sure.

Certainly the 'Julia' part of the film is beautiful - set for the most part in 1950's Paris, teaming Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci (Last seen together in The Devil Wears Prada - though in a *slightly* different relationship), and operating against the background of the McCarthy witchhunts, this story alone would have made an effective biopic. Julia Child was, by all accounts, a remarkable woman, and her husband too. Had Ephron focussed her considerable filmmaking talent solely on this side of the story, the film could have been a real groundbreaker. (Also in this storyline, and in a piece of genius casting, you'll get to see Glee's Jane Lynch playing the role of Julia Child's 6"2' sister - I kept waiting for her to declare "and that's how Sue sees it!")

The 'Julie' part of the film - less successful. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with it, and Amy Adams is a competent enough actress to fill the role but at the same time there's nothing intrinsically interesting about it either: A woman hates her job, has a shitty apartment, cooks a lot and blogs. Good for her, but when juxtaposed against Julie Child navigating the minefield of the French culinary establishment during the 1950's while her husband was persecuted by Senator Joe McCarthy, it just doesn't really hold a lot of interest. And yet, to my mind at least, this seems to be the story with which Ephron was most invested.

So is it a successful film? Yes. And No. It's worth seeing, if just for Streep and Tucci's performances, and the glorious scenes of Paris in the 50's. The food is good too. (A warning: we'd planned to have takeaway Chinese for dinner on the day after we saw the film. We ended up going home, digging out our copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and making Boeuf Bourginon. And it was gooooood...)

My Score: .68 WHMS

Monday, November 9, 2009

Today is the day...

When, if all goes well, I'll finish the final rewrite, of the final draft, of the final book of the Darklands Trilogy.

Of course, if all doesn't go well, then I'll probably just have to re-post this tomorrow...

Friday, November 6, 2009

For Those Who are interested in the breeding habits of Caterpillars

...Here's mine: Movember 5 days in.

Not pretty yet, I'll admit. Actually looking at it here, it just looks like I forgot to wash my face. It actually reminds me of (showing my age here) of this episode of the classic 80's sitcom Family Ties.

If you're interested in supporting my facial hair growing efforts for this very worthy cause, then my donations page is here.

Now, back to marking. Yay.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Capital! Capital!

Last week, former prime minister Paul Keating (who, apart from this particular little stuff up, has always been one of my favourite Aussie ex-PM's) decided to engage in a little bit of Canberra Bashing.

Getting stuck into the National Capital isn't exactly a new sport. Ever since Canberra was built as the nation's capital, it's become somewhat de rigeur in Australian conversation to express regular and loud dislike of the city. I suspect that part of the reason for this is that the four main industries in Canberra are Government, Public Service, Defence and Tertiary Education and all of these tend to be rather transient by nature - the fact that a big percentage of people who come to Canberra do so knowing that their time here will most likely be temporary makes them, I believe, maintain something of a distant relationship with the place: You're better off not to really like a place that you're just going to have to leave in a year or two, after all.

Now, I'll admit, I've been guilty of this myself. Hell, when we moved here, going on 3 years ago now, I wasn't a particularly happy little camper. I'd always thought Canberra to be a cold, sterile, dull and contrived little place, and wasn't about to change my opinion any time soon.

But here's the thing - Canberra won me over. Pretty damn quickly, too. To the point where I now get mighty pissed off when people can't resist the urge for a cheap shot or two at my adopted home town. Then I blog about it.

But let's not get all negative. Here are a few:

Things I like about Canberra.
(or, Paul Keating can kiss my arse on this one)

Right, to start off; Canberra isn't a big city. It's basically an overgrown country town, and I'm the first to admit that this won't be to everyone's taste. It suits me, though. There are places here where you can drive between cattle paddocks, while still in full view of Parliament House. I think that's cool. (I also think it's cool that the ACT govt actually employs cows to graze alongside the roads in some parts of the city, in order to keep the grass down for bushfire management purposes. Don't see that in Sydney now, do you Paul Keating?)

But - and here's the good thing - owing to the close proximity of a lot of Senior Public Servants and Pollies to Canberra, we also have pretty much all the facilites of a major city - good cinemas, nice restaurants and so on. We also have Sydney a mere two hours drive up the road, which for an ex-Western Australia boy is just like a trip to the mail box.

But that's all general stuff. Here are some specifics...

This is Black Mountain Tower:
When it was built, there was a fair bit of controversy about it. A lot of people didn't want a big, concrete spike on top of Black Mountain, but I love it. Just about wherever you are in the city you can see it. One of the things I love most about it is that whenever you're driving in to Canberra, from any direction, you can see it from about fifteen or twenty kilometres out - it's generally the first sign you get that you're nearly home. When we did our big drive over from Perth, after six days on the road, the sight of Black Mountain Tower there just a little down the highway was a really welcoming one.

Next: Parliament House:
(Actually, this picture shows both the old Parliament house in the foreground, and the new Parliament house in the Background.) Another former PM, Malcolm Fraser, used the same booklaunch as Paul Keating to suggest that the new Parliament House should never have been built. This makes me sad. If you get to Canberra, take the time to visit NPH - it's an iconic building, a masterpiece of architecture and design, and despite the fact that it's now over 20 years old, it doesn't look at all dated and, according to an interview I heard on Radio National recently (but can't find a link to) is still one of the most functional parliamentary buildings in the world. It's also layered with meaning, which appeals to me. The lawns that you can see running up either side were a deliberate aspect of the construction, designed so that the public would have free and open access to the 'roof' of the parliament at any time, day or night - this was to symbolise that in Australian democracy, the people would always be above the politicians. It's a lovely piece of symbolism that was ruined only when the Howard Administration, sick and tired of all the terrorists who were driving their explosive-laden 4WD's up on to the roof and blowing up the parliament, installed chain link fencing and concrete crash barriers to effectively block off the roof to anyone not prepared to go through a full security check. Thanks, John.

That aside, Parliament house is a seriously beautiful building.

Okay - now the bibliophile in me:

This gorgeous looking building is the National Library of Australia. Words cannot express how much I love this place. I wrote all of Into White Silence and Nathan Nuttboard Upstaged at a desk in the main reading room. It has the most incredible resources for any writer, reader, or just general book fanatic. It also looks out (as you can see from the photo) across Lake Burley Griffin, and has the most gorgeous view of Mount Ainslee and, (naturally) Black Mountain Tower.

Other fantastic National Monuments:

The National Gallery and new National Portrait Gallery are both great to walk around in. Seeing Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles hanging on its wall in the NGA is a must. The National War Memorial is a moving and at the same time fascinating museum of our involvement in international conflicts from the Crimean War onwards

Okay, now just a couple of more prosaic things I like about Canberra:

In Garema Place, in the middle of Civic (kinda like Canberra's CBD) you'll find this Historic Merry Go Round:
It was originally built in the early 1900's and for years operated on the St. Kilda Forshore in Melbourne until it was put up for sale in the mid-late 1970's. The people of Canberra all put in and purchased it, restored it to full working order and installed it in Garema Place, where it's been ever since. When, as a 12 year old, I visited Canberra with my family, one of my enduring memories of the entire trip was a ride on this merry go round which was The Best Merry-Go-Round-Ride Ever! (It was the middle of winter, about 3 degrees, and the operator didn't want to come out of his little office and turn the ride off, so we got about a fifteen minute ride). I love that the ride is still here, and a couple of months ago, we gave Toby his first ever merry go round ride on it:

Other things - out at the showgrounds there's a weekly Farmer's Market that has to be seen to be believed. Everything from fresh, locally grown truffles, to all the usual fruit and Veg is there, all grown in the immediate region, all bought direct from the growers and producers, all very, very yummy. One of the lovely things about living here is the proximity to lots of fresh, top notch produce.

There's the fact that the Snowfields are only an hour and a half drive south. Probably the only capital city in Australia where it's feasible to go skiing for a day.

The coast to the east is similarly easy to get to, and just as gorgeous. Bateman's Bay, Tathra, Eden - all stunning and easy to pop down for a weekend, or a summer camping trip.

I could go on... but I won't. This blog entry has already taken up too much of my day as it is. I guess the point I'd make is that Canberra is a place it's easy to mock, especially from a distance, but it's also a place where people live, work, play and have made their lives, and as such has a lot going in its favour, too. I'm probably being defensive here, but it'd be nice if that was remembered, some times....

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's Movember!

Happy November, everyone! Personally, I'm just glad to have October behind me.

It's going to be a big month this one, for a few reasons:
  • Toby turns 1! (More on that, no doubt, in weeks to come)
  • My parents are visiting from Perth in a couple of weeks
  • I'm going up to Sydney a couple of times.
  • I've still got an insane marking load to get through
So, on top of all that, I've decided to do something else fun. I'm doing Movember!

(I'd toyed, very briefly with the idea of doing NaNoWriMo, like a lot of other people I respect in the blogosphere, but decided that growing facial hair was probably, on balance, less work and something I was much more likely to actually get finished.)

Why Movember? Aside from the fact that facial hair annoys mum (or at least, it used to. After my blue-hair thing earlier this year, I think she's adopted more of a resigned perhaps-he'll-grow-up-one-day approach to these things), my main reason is that it's for a really good cause. Money raised from Movember goes towards Prostate Cancer research. My Grandfather on Dad's side suffered from this disease in his later years, and there's a strong hereditary link, so it's something I'm going to have to watch out for. Aside from the fact that when Granddad was alive there wasn't nearly the awareness of prostate cancer that we have nowadays, I've also got something of a vested interest.

So, this morning after my shower, in accordance with the rules, I shaved my face clean and away we go. The first week or so will pretty much just involve growing foundation hair, but then I'll have to make some tough decisions: what style am I going for with this?

My first option was to go the Nick Cave:

Sadly, Imogen used her first veto on this one. (I didn't realise she even had veto's, but apparently this is the case.)

Instead, I suggested the Boonie:

Which drew out Min's second Veto. She then counter-offered with this:

I pointed out that I only have a month in which to grow this thing and, even at my hairiest that was probably a little ambitious. Then, things just got silly:

Finally, after several minutes of tense negotiation, we decided that I'd have a bash at something 'classic'. The chances of me actually growing one of these in all (or even a small portion) of it's glory are pretty remote, but what the hell. By the first of december, if all goes well, I should look something roughly like this:

I'll keep you all posted on my progress. In the meantime, if anyone would like to support me in this very silly, but also very worthy endeavour, feel free to pitch in at my Movember donations page.

Now, I'm off to moisturise my upper lip...


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