Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Not good

I am feeling not good.

I just had my wallet stolen. It's been a bad experience - I know people say this has happened to many people but I've never had it happen to me before. It's an icky feeling knowing someone else is rifling through YOUR WALLET!

I went out today to have lunch with a friend, after which I roamed about the city a little and then came home and noticed - wallet gone!

In a panic I retraced my footsteps, called at stores I'd been to to find out if it had been dropped and handed in, and finally filed a police report and called the bank.

Naturally, terrible and confused thoughts rush through your mind at this time and some of them are:

1. Why didn't they take my phone? Some people have their phones stolen? Why not take my phone instead? It's a nice looking phone. Also, I had just swapped over to another new phone which was sitting at home so the old phone in my bag had no credit on it and was inactive, I wouldn't ave cared if they had taken that. Why didn't they take my PHONE?

2. Why did I withdraw money and keep it in my wallet recently? Why?

3. I had been checking out frivolous things to buy recently and I was thinking "No, Maria, you ought be a good girl, you don't really need that, keep the money in your purse and be more frugal, don't throw it away on silly bits and pieces." Darn it, I should havem and had a good time instead of letting the thieves have it! I should have partied like an idiot instead of letting a DISHONEST IDIOT have the fun of it.

4. In the same vein, why didn't I buy the more expensive lunch? And what about those silly expensive tiny Japanese canned drinks - shoulda got one of those too. Heck, shoulda got ten of them.

5. My library card was in my wallet. Will I suddenly look on my online library card and find that someone has gone to town with putting a whle lot of Barabara Taylor Bradfords or something in my name, for a joke?


Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Check the author!

I've read, in the last few months, backstories, sequels, etc of 'classic works' that have not been written by the original author.

Most have lost the voice and idealism of the original author and you are left thinking "What the heck happened here?" and maybe they just did it to jazz it up. Some are really disastrous.

Books I've read recently that fall into this category are:

March by Geraldine Brooks - the backstory to Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott
Rebecca's Tale by Sally Beauman - the backstory to Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig - the backstory to Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

(I've also read, some time back, Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley, the sequel to Gone With the Wind)

One of the greatest criticisms readers have is that real feeling for style and the geograhic/time period is rarely carried over with flair. If these authors want to see how that's done well, they should take a lesson from Charles Tritten, who wrote Heidi Grows Up, the sequel to Heidi, and captured the style of original author Johanna Spyri beautifully (though not perfectly). Well at least I thought so, though I've only ever read the English translation. The story isn't really original but the voice is much closer to the original than any of the other books above got. Though readers obviously didn't agree with me!

March loses what some readers might see as the innocence that was endearing in the first novel and not really like the idea of Mr March doing all those things that are described - but if you ask me, it's the best of the three mentioned above as it's well-written and the most believable. Ms Brooks has done her homework, and though she has taken liberties, they make sense within the context.

I'm a fan of the book Rebecca and while I read Rebecca's Tale ... let's just say I thought it a bit lame. Rebecca had become for me an intriguing character, and one who was mysterious and could possibly do things and had done things beyond the reach of other women. The Tale seemed to make her life just a bit too ordinary, and even seemed to hint at her reason for Maxim hating her as being a bit petty and stupid - one I just couldn't believe. It by no means captured the amzingly unreal but also fragile Rebecca that had haunted me before, and I guess the events befoer at Manderley - well, seemed mundane? I guess this is what you get for reading the expose of a horror story!

But Rhett Butler's People really took the cake. I advise against reading it if you are a Gone With the Wind fan, or at least don't read it with high hopes. It's an easy skim if you have read the Mitchell novel before, and takes us to before the novel starts and after it ends. By the way, despite going on after the novel ends, it doesn't go into the events that are in Ripley's Scarlett. It makes up different events.

The problem is, to a devoted GWTW fan, it really looks like McCaig only read GWTW a couple of times. There is a severe lack of feeling in atmosphere and also in detail. Sometimes he retells scenes in GWTW and he sticks closely to the dialogue used in the book, and then slips up by a phrase or word or two or three. It could be said this is because he is trying to say that he is tellingit from a different character's perspective, and every character remembers the conversation in a different way, but when he gets so close and then drifts, it becomes a bit pesky to a devoted fan like myself who has the dialogue in the book by heart. I don't have the novel by me and I can correct his dentences for him!

I also felt that to appeal to real GWTW lovers, something of passion should be present in the scenes. Maybe not in the same way that GWTW was, but stil, something raw and strong. After all, Rhett had a strong and passionate character too, so why not? But it often seemed like he would get to a scene and merely recount the events and throw in a bit of "This is what Rhett is thinking" without giving it real atmosphere. It didn't grab you by the throat and make you want to stop.

As one other reviewer I've read said, this is embarrassingly written like a moony sentimentalist. Rhett goes about mooning for Scarlett and a lotof the descriptions are written like a Mills and Boon, and even Rhett's motivations for leaving Scarlett on the road from Atlanta are changed to that of a romantic child's. It seems strange that the author does this, in a book meant to capture the male perspective, when the original, meant to capture the female POV, is strong, hard-headed, passionate and earthy.

At any rate, the characterisation was flat. I felt like I was given an overview rather than a real feel for anyone in the book, and this was lazily done to be read in tandem with GWTW where you were supposed to have got your opinions and imagination about the characters from GWTW and this would simply structure and steer the chaacters a little in the way for you, here and there.

Besides, the way Melanie and Scarlett were characterised was absolutely terrible. Scarlett was flat and Melanie was shown to not believe in her husband's honour but simply be putting on an act, for show. Oh dear.

These books are actually out there, published. It makes me think I could get going with my The Darker Side of Mary Poppins and I should have no trouble getting it endorsed and accepted. Hi ho!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

The Darker Side of Mary Poppins; or Tim Burton Presents Mary Poppins

I like to interpret dreams. I dream pretty vividly. Lately I've been dreaming quite a bit about Mary Poppins, and I've come to the conclusion that my dream means one thing: I've got a fantastic idea for a Tim Burton version of Mary Poppins, which would of course star Johnny Depp. What major Burton movie wouldn't?

I've been dreaming of some major new Poppins adventures, but they've been more ghoulish, more dark and more fantastic than ever. The colours would look great on Blu-Ray. I'm telling you. They are straight out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - bright colour contrasts with dark backgrounds. I'll leak some on to the Net, but if Burton would like to contact me for some more material, please post a comment wth a forwarding address. We can do business.

Firstly, lots of people will be familiar with the Poppins scene in the original movie where Poppins talks to erself in the mirror (and the mirror answers her back). My dreams not only had twin Poppins but multiplying Poppins - in fact I had a whole army of Poppins in a desert ready for lift off with their umbrellas, but dancing to a great song, in beautifully choreographed time.

I also had a wonderful idea for an EVIL TWIN Poppins who would have to be controlled by the real Poppins. Who would Bert rather have his way with, this time?

Poppins has several magical tricks up her sleeve this time, including some new fantasy places to visit by blowing soap bubbles and visiting the lands within them, and swinging from trees and eating enchanted fruit, and finding the curiosity in a hiccup.

In my version, I envisualise a cast including:

Freddie Highmore as Michael Banks
Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs Banks, the long suffering suffragette
and Johnny Depp as Mary Poppins (and all her multiple personalities)

It's about time Johnny followed every other Hollywood star and got himself into drag and did some dancing around and singing at the same time, and I'm sure Tim Burton will provide him with that excellent opportunity.

If Burton ever does a dark Mary Poppins, especially if Depp ever plays Poppins in drag, remember you saw the idea here first. I'll be particularly disappointed if I'm not credited and given my cut.

Friday, 9 January 2009

How lame - and cheap - is that?

Now, I've always prided myself on being a real meanie when it comes to books. Avid book buyer that I am, this is no time to not look out for the best specials and discounts!

I browse discount stores, look out for sales, and am very much in favour of giveaways. Hurrah!

This has made me just a bit too much of a Berkelouw's outlet store junkie, and I also signed up for the Borders enewsletter, which gives away coupons each week, usually 2 coupons (and has sometimes surprised us with three).

Coupons can be printed out and presented to Borders and say things like "20% off any full-priced title" or "30% off any kids' book" or "30% off any CD" or "Buy 'The Jane Austen Book Club for $14.95'" or "Buy any 3 Science Fiction titles for the price of two".

These have all been great fun and some of the coupons are better than others, and some aren't ones that I use if they don't fit in with a title that I want to buy.

Just lately, though, Borders has been putting out some really newsletters.

In the section where the coupons are, it writes down "deals" but they are in-store deals, ones that aren't specially available to the people who get the newsletter, you just get them if you walk into the store, and underneath each promotionis written "No coupon necessary"

For instance, if they are selling teddy bears they might write "Get our teddy bears for $19.95 each - no coupon necessary!"

Ahh yeah.

Or "20% off selected summer reads - no coupon necessary!" which simply means that there will be a 20% off table or area in Borders when you walk in.

The whole thing is written in the section where the coupons used to sit in a Borders enewsleter which psychologically makes you think it's a great deal, and also means that no one has to change the format of the newsletter around. If they don't want to offer a coupon this week, they just stick one of those "no coupon necessary" ones on the coupon section and send it off to you.

It's happening so often, if they aren't going to be bothered with coupons, at least for quite a few newsletters, I think they should devise a whole newsletter that looks different. One that doesn't look like it involves coupons, instead of one looking like it involves LAME coupons.

The very fact that they need to write in small writing "No coupon necessary" means that they know that many people are used to coupons being attached to that area and expect them to be there, so saying "Oh, we aren't obliged to give out coupons and we just wrote that there to promote our sale!" is nonsense.

Eating Out - Happy Tale or Horror Story

I read recently this article by Jordan Baker in the SMH on the horrors of eating out and pointing out probably that many people would not dine out so much and would be less likely to put up with such things in the financial crunch.

Complaints were about in-built tipping, restaurants that didn't allow booking, booking deposits, service charges and charges for group bookings.

Today, I read an article in defence by chef Neil Perry. He doesn't defend all practices but certainly defends the practice of no bookings restaurants, saying that it's necessary to keep costs down and while you may have to wait longer, if you know the restaurant and are willing to wait, the experience is worth it.

(Of course there are crummy restaurants with no bookings policies, probably, but then if you know them well enough you probably wouldn't bother waiting around for them.)

Anyhow, it led me to think about what are some of my gripes about restaurant dining.

I'm by no means a "fashionable diner" but hey, I know what I like. So I can have my gripes too!

1. Mandatory tips (as mentioned by Jordan Baker) as well as other "surprise charges". This really craps me up. This isn't America which has a tipping culture. If some place really wants a tip they should work over and above the call of duty to make sure they get it. And even then, they should accept it if the person is a tightwad and doesn't pay up. Too bad. I think this is still no reason to give them dirty or retributory service - trying to serve up dog poo or needling the customer just because they haven't given you a tip even if your service was superlative is wrong. What you need to do is learn from your error in judgment and if that customer comes in again you will not waste your rime in being lavish. Basic ordinary service and that's it.

I dislike the idea of a "mandatory tip" or surprise charges like they didn't tell you before, but this costs you an extra ... and they have already supplied it or you have been charged it just for turning up or booking.

Call it a fee, be upfront, or build it into the food costs and then let's decide whether we will sit down at your restaurant.

By the way, I don't think that you have to pay double time and a half on public holidays etc to employees, so why do restaurants so often insist on charging ridiculous surcharges on their weekend and public holiday menus?

2. Still on the last topic, restaurants who sneak items on you and forget to tell you they're charging you or mislead you or even lie to you.
Some places tell you there is no cakeage fee, and when you turn up with a nice big cake, you find out there is a $4 per head cakeage fee. Oh great. I know some people say cakeage is a fair cost because they want to encourage you to eat THEIR desserts, but still they ought to tell you straight off.
Those restaurants that have a special boutique menu that has pretty much the same food but more expensive than the ordinary menu, that they try to give to groups and parties, and they don't ask if you'd like to see the ordinary menu.
I've been in Chinese restaurants where the waiter will, without asking, pour you tea and put rice out without you asking and then charge you for it.
That's just as bad as those restaurants where they try to charge you for TAP WATER. Oh gosh.

I feel like taking a water bottle and excusing myself to the ladies and filling my bottle up there. can they charge you for THAT tap water?

3. Waiters who try to argue with you. You order the salmon, they bring out the lamb. you say, "sorry, that's not my dish" and instead of taking it back they try to convince you that you actually ordered the lamb, or tell you that the lamb's just as good, have that instead. SOme of them get realy mad at you and start yelling at you!
I would be fine with it if they simply said "Sorry, our mistake, well look if you like the lamb you can have this lamb instead right now, but we can do the salmon for you, unfortunately that will mean waiting another 20 minutes, which would you prefer?"

I can't stand the way some of them have to convince you that they were right and you're wrong!

4. Dirty cutlery and crockery
Particulary symptomatic of high turnover Asian joints. Wipe well before eating, high chance there is someone else's food stuck to it.

5. Slow service
You can be waving your hand in the air for ages and nobody, but nobody, sees you. They look like waiters from a zombie move, weaving in and out looking like they are vaguely checking for knives and forks strewn on tables, but can't see you waving your hand saying "Excuse me! I'd like some more rice/water/drink/to order dessert/to order another side salad!"

6. When they never have what's on the bloomin' menu
Haven't you ever been into a restaurant and got mouth-watering after a few dishes and decided what you'd like to order? You call the waitress over and say, "I'd like the [whatever dish]" She says "I'm sorry, we're all out of that today". So you scanand you pick the next best looking dish, and she says perkily, "Sorry, al out of that one too!" After aboiut four attempts it seems the only things left on the menu are the two least tasty and most expensive items, plus the drinks that don't go with them. But you've wasted so much time with the waitress you eat there anyway. She tells you it's "just today".

The next time you go back, your favourite dish isn't there.

Nor the next time.

I've been to Chat Thai, a lovely little place in Sydney, plenty of times, but I've NEVER been able to get a coconut juice. NEVER. I ask every dinner time, and I've been there about 5 or 6 times for dinner. Each time they say "Just today!" And coconut juice goes so well with many Thai dishes. It's so yum!

7. When the specials are good, they get rid of them.

There are plenty of cheap places in Sydney to eat, or at least places which run cheap specials, especally for lunch. Why oh why is it when a special becomes popular they automatically get rid of it or hike up the price amazingly?

For instance, there was a $6 meal deal over at SuperBowl, a dollar or so extra for some of the other dishes but still cheap. You got to choose any one of their flavoured teas plus one of the meals on their board.

Then they found out their duck meal was popular, I think it was about $7 for the duck meal deal, so they scrapped it. You had to pay full price now if you wanted duck.

What, did they think people liked the duck so much that they would pay full price for it? People just started eating the lesser deals, and those who particularly liked the duck were less enthusiastic about the deal altogether!

Then they realised that people always ordered the pearl tea drinks, so they took them off the menu too. You could only get one of the other plainer flavoured teas.

And after a while they decided that was enough, and they decided that there would be no flavoured tea whatsoever. You had to drink what Mr Coffee calls "brown water" - the ordinary Chinese tea that usually comes free with any meal anyhow.

People LIKE the specials - they keep coming back if they are good and you get high turnover. You can put them up a dollar or so gradually to cover costs but if the moment someone likes them you make them pay full price for them - well, it's not attractive ay more, it's not special. And they LIKED it because it was special, usually. Not just because it "was".

Anyhow, those are my restaurant gripes. I don't mind so much no booking restaurants (One of my fave restaurants, Spice I am, is no booking) although I must say being able to get a booking is often convenient and it is a factor often in choosing a restaurant, depending on the occasion.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Taller people take home taller earnings

Here is a study saying, in essence, and in general, taller people earn higher wages (than shorter ones).

I found interesting the analysis, if you can call the little bit of Herald scribbling around the findings 'analysis'.

Taller people earn more, the theory went on, because of childhood. If you're taller it seems that you have probably had a healthier childhood and more healthy people are more likely to reach their full height potential as well as their cognitive potential.

Now, let's just pause a minute.

Firstly, I'm not saying this mightn't have something to do with it, but let's just look at some glaringly obvious things the article fails to mention altogether.

1. Some people are just naturally tall. Even if they were fed all the good brans and vegetables in the world, they wouldn't get to the 6 feet that some malnourished person would. In fact that goes for lots of people - they have their natural approximate adult height already set. I'm sorry, I don't think that the fact that I'm not 7 feet tall has anything to do with the fact that I didn't eat enough greens as a kid. A person can reach their full height potential, be 4 feet 6 inches and shorter than most of the population, and also have reached their full cognitive potential because they've grown up majorly healthy. In fact plenty of people are like that. Where do they fit in on this chart?

2. The possibility that it goes the other way round - tallness doesn't necessarily reflect brainpower which earns money. Many people are intimidated or impressed by tall people and these people use that power to gain higher status and jobs that earn more money, negotiate better in pay reviews, and so forth. Tallness can also be a symbol of beauty or power in our society which gains admiration from others, and allows these people to network better or leverage pay or position, or get away with folly. This was hinted at but not explicitly said when the article said that good teeth were a good thing to have as well as height!

3. The fact that 'full cognitive potential realised' doesn't always equal good pay. Some of the richest people around aren't exactly the brainiacs in case people haven't noticed. They usually are smart enough to lever what they have and make the most of it, but they aren't necessarily the most inventive, the most creative, the most profound, the most deep thinking, the most analytical, the most knowledgeable people around.

All this being said, if height and good teeth are the secret to good pay, I would say, if you have got them, why not flaunt them?

I have pretty ok teeth.

I hate high-heeled shoes (they make me shorter not taller as I end up falling flat on my face in them) but I am thinking of going to my next job interview in a par of stilts made from two tin cans and pieces of string.

Anyone remember those? That'll look so cool, I will most certainly get my tin can in the door on that job and the cash will all be mine.

Theory to be tested next time. I think.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The Singing Thorn Birds?

First there was Australia, which I didn't go to see because of the bad reviews. The supposed epic Australian saga

Now there is the talk of staging The Thorn Birds, that Australian epic family saga/romance/tragedy, as a musical!

I've read the book, and I've seen the mini-series, though I've forgotten lots of the mini-series. Now I'm wondering what a musical would be like.

I;m thinking, which are the most memorable scenes to me, and how would the songs go, and I'm wondering, will the stage try to make them serious and dramatic, Phantom-like, or kinda campy and funny, like The Producers?

The first realy memorable scene to me in the whole book is when meggie spews on Sister Agatha and then gets caned. Gosh, that really does it for me. You've got to have a song for that. The nuns could get together, Agatha covered in brown crap, and sing:

"How do you solve a problem like Meggie?
How do you get this disgusting creature to keep it down?
How do you find a word to describe Meggie?
A royal puker? A spewer? A chucker? A clown?"

Here are some other fantastic scenes which I'm sure we'll all find very easy to turn into songs - inspiration, anyone?:

Ralph de Bricassart finds Mary Carson dead in her room, half eaten by maggots (that's gotta to be one of the most memorable scenes in the book)
Hal dies
Fee goes into still shock when she finds out Frank is in gaol
Paddy gets killed in the fire, and the description is that he gets caught in a ring of fire and dies being burnt from the outside in, his heart and brain dying last of all and dies screaming Fee's name. Maybe he could sing Fee's name instead.
Meggie is pretty much forced in bed on her wedding night by Luke (The fact that "Luke" and "puke" rhymeis very convenient here)
Justine loses her virginity

Sunday, 4 January 2009

A Hairy Question

Myself, I'm an armpit shaver (mostly).

Mr Coffee is not. Yessir, I've seen the evidence. In fact, Mr Coffee claims that he has never shaved or plucked his armpit hair his entire life.

I think to myself, "My Lord! His armpit hair should be streaming to the ground by now! He should be Rapunzel from the armpits! We should be weaving ropes from his armpits and asking him to raise him arms and let us swing from them to amuse young children!"

The truth of it, while unruly, his armpit hair isn't even the length of a standard ruler.

Hmmm Hmmm.

On the other hand, if you ask most shavers of their armpit hair, it's a daily dilemma. Shave often. If you don't, it grows back and quickly. It's bristling at around a centimetre long if you neglect it for a week, and then you have to chop it back! And then the next week, another centimetre!

Oh damnation! If hair grows that quickly, the person who doesn't shave should have 50cm growths in a year and should have metres in 10 years!

But they don't. Not that I've seen. Mr Coffee tells me "Oh, after a while it seems it just stops".

Well, I've thought about it and thought about it.

Thought One

Human beings have a set amount of armpit hair they can grow. After a while they've met their quota which accounts for armpit hair just stopping.

But this would mean that after a while shavers, after having cut off a whole lot of hair, just STOPPED having to cut because there was not any more to cut. Not my experience, so far. Maybe I haven't reached my quota yet.

Thought Two

Maybe armpit hair just knows it's getting too long and stops. It thinks "what, I'm 8cm long now? time to stop growing!" But if you lop it it keeps growing.

This seems to be the experience most congruent with the experiences of shavers and non-shavers.

That the hairs have little demon minds that every so often think "What, I got CUT! Dammit, I will grow more! Darn YOU! I'll show you who can make 8cm - will, I will!" And keep pushing their little determined ways past your skin and getting longer and longer each time, whispering encouragement to their friends to FIGHTBACK!

But if that's so, does that mean each of your hairs is a little organism with an independent mind of its own (because by golly, my brain didn't give out those orders, I'm telling you) - and am I amputating living thinking creatures each time I cut a hair - are beauty salons and hairdressers really in the business of amputation, torture and decapitation?

If anyone has any thoughts on this, would like to know.

Meanwhile, I'm going off to shave.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Literary Theme Park!

And here's another one I got from the ABC'S First Tuesday Book Club website the literary theme park.

Apparently, and not that surprisingly, someone is already coming up with the idea of a Hary Potter theme park. I guess there'll be a whole school of Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and little wizarding things to do and games of Quidditch to be had. You can probably pop balls into little owls mouths and if they come out in the right slots and add up to the magic number - and I do mean MAGIC number, you win a Harry toy. Throw cream pies at Dudley's face. Throw cream pies at BOTH of Professor Quirrell's faces. That sort of thing.

But what sort of literary theme park would you like to see, based on what book/series/author? And what would it be like? There have been some nominations on the ABC's website. Of course, they don't promise at all it'll get built ...

I would like to see an Anne of Green Gables tour. I want to do the whole Idlewild, Lake of Shining Waters, Snow Queen and Bonny, Lover's Lane, Violet Vale, Birch Path thing. There should be games where you can walk a ridge pole and win a wig of dyed green hair and somewhere where you can purchase alcoholic raspberry cordial, and a ride where you ave o dodge slates that nearly hit you on the head, and a barge ride down a river.

All sounds good to me!

What literary theme park or tour would you like to see or do, and what activities would you like to be on it?

Five Word Review!

Another idea I read about on ABC'S First Tuesday Book Club website is the idea of a Five Word Book Review!

Choose a book, name the author, and then post a review in FIVE WORDS ONLY!

Many people have chosen to list five very appropiate adjectives, others have gone for a short five word sentence. Maybe you can think of something else?

Will you pick a book to praise or damn?!

Gee, and I thought those 25 word or less comps were hard!

Book Q&A

I found this Q&A on the ABC'S First Tuesday Book Club website and I thought I'd post it, especially since it allows me to bag out film adaptations of books.

1. What are you reading?

The Beautiful and the Damned, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2. What is the book that changed your life?

Many books changed my life; but my set of Childcraft Encyclopedias at home had a huge impact on what I was interested in when I was younger; both fiction and non-fiction. They had excerpts of stories so they encouraged me to look for other authors, and bits of facts and trivia. My first experience of M. C. Escher was in those books - bless them!

3. What is your most overrated book?

I've never read it, but I avoided The Da Vinci Code for ages because of the hype. I still have avoided it, but I have a copy at home.

4. What is the best film adaptation of a book you've seen?

Mary Poppins and Bridget Jones' Diary

I picked these two mainly because they didn't stick closely to the book but I thought they captured the essence of the book and made a wonderful story of it anyway.

I don't think movies have to stick slavishly to the book storyline, though sometimes it works well if they do. The important part is to carry the essence of the character or plot and theme, and satisfy the audience. The Mary Poppins books had a lot to them; I thought a good selection of scenes were chosen for the movie, and the set was delicious as well as the music and that Julie Andrews made a great Poppins. And the whole storyline with Mr Banks as the father seeing the light was nicely rounded into the movie.

In Bridget Jones, I actually felt the movie was easier to follow than the book - it had to cut out some of the bits and pieces from the diary and condense it into an easy storyline and did it well. And the cast was extremely memorable.

5. What is the worst film adaptation of a book you've seen?

The Firm
The Robber Bride
Hating Alison Ashley

It's hard to pick a worst here.

OK, The Firm wasn't that bad. I just really hated the way that they changed the ending because the book's was so much better and this was a real cop out. It was stupid and I was left with my jaw hanging out, thinking WTF?

But Pollyanna, Hating Alison Ashley and The Robber Bride were terrible, which is a pity because they are all great books. I'll admit, I didn't even see the ending of Hating Alison Ashley because I hated it so much.

All three twisted the stories completely.

Hating Alison Ashley had the whole thing set in High School instead of primary school, and it lost the tone completely from the book. Delta Goodrem couldn't act and looked like a little poser starlet instead of being a really goodie goodie but somewhat sympathetic Alison Ashley. The added in sexual overtones didn't help the movie one bit - it was crass rather than clever.

Pollyanna added in a whole new story that was never in there in the first place and didn't add to the characterisation at all. Something about Miss Polly and her orphanage. In the end I wanted Miss Polly to win and tell the annoying townsfolk to get lost which was obviously not the intent of the movie.

And The Robber Bride - well, wasn't this supposed to be a story about a vamp seen through the eyes of three different people? Firstly, the woman who played Zenia wasn't very vampy or convincing as someone who could knock any man over or play any woman. Then the whole story involving the detective who told the story and then fell for her distracted the storyline and perspectives and moved it away from Atwood's original conception.

The detective was a pain in the ass too.

If you want to see a really good story involving a player vamp, told from 3 different perspectives, I suggest watching One Night at McCool's. Much better crafted than this version. Or just read the book of The Robber Bride.

6. What is your earliest memory of books?

Lying on the floor sorting through books that seemed bigger than me, then.

7. Where do you read?

Anywhere. Except not on the toilet. Public transport, on the couch, lying on the floor. I'm not very good at reading them in bed because I get drowsy too soon. I'm very guilty of reading at work.

8. How do you choose what you read?

If I like the author, I like to read their other work. Recommendations from friends. Book lists. An amusing title. An interesting back cover summary. A funny cover. A good review on Amazon.

9. What fictional character would you most like to be?

Mary Poppins or Emily the Strange

So Bad it's Good

In a recent fit, Mr Coffee and I hired out a whole lot of DVDs from the DVD store. This is what we've hired lately:

Die Hard 3 (Die Hard With a Vengeance)
Die Hard 4 (Live Free or Die Hard)
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The Bank Job
The Black Balloon
American Gangster
The Painted Veil
Gone Baby Gone

We've watched them all except Gone Baby Gone.

There were some pretty good ones there, suh as Die Hard 4, The Bank Job, The Black Balloon, American Gangster and The Painted Veil. I also thought One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was pretty good except I much prefer the book and also the DVD shop's version had some flaws so the DVD "crackled" and paused at some poignant moments which rather ruined the movie for us (why don't they clean the DVDs more often?).

I liked The Painted Veil better than Mr Coffee did - I guess it's a romance and that's something I prefer - I ear the book has a slightly different tone (written by W. Somerset Maugham) and I wouldn't mind reading it to see how it differs.

However, in the BAD category:

Epidemic - this one was so boring Mr Coffee and I watched a bit of it and we didn't even bother finishing it. It looked like it was trying to be so smart it forgot to be interesting. Now, I don't mind a movie that has a clever or philosophical or poignant message - but remember, you're a work of art, a piece of entertainment too, you've got to give us a reason to watch you. You're not a set text for high school or Uni. And even the set texts are best when they are appealingly written.

Equilibrium and Wanted fell into the "So Bad it's Good" category.

Though I think the prize for that category goes to Wanted.

Both were watchable action movies and kind of funny because they're so unbelievable.

Equilibrium is a sci-fi with Christian Bale which is like 1984 crossed with The Matrix - a world dominated by a Father Figure where having emotions is illegal, and everyone who feels is killed. Then Bale, who is one of the official killers, starts to feel and joins the subversive rebels.

The storyline is weird, but the action scenes are hilarious - like Bale coming into a room armed with two pistols, and is attacked by about 16 men wearing full armour armed with machine guns and who have back up. He avoids their fire by a series of slick martial arts style jumping and tumbling and back flips while slaughtering them gun-kata style using his pistols and slickly reloading them in a synchronised manner. He's wearing a white suit. When he's done, he walks through the body of corpses. His suit is uncreased, and there's not a bead of sweat or drop of blood on him.

Wanted is even more weird, with a fighting style involving stylised knife fights, jumping through windows, looms that spin out fate, an office worker with nervous attacks who has never been trained but who has inherent instincts to know how to shoot the wings of a fly, and bullets that can curve around objects to hit their targets.

These two are good for a laugh!

Often I get scared in violent films - I must admit, I'm one of those people, if I see someone's hand getting chopped off in a film I instinctively grab my own hand protectively because I can almost feel it (Even though I know it's fake - well at least I hope it is. Mr Coffee has derided some films for using what looks too obviously like plastic dummies to beat up or burn in scenes but I'm glad for the reassurance they don't really burn the actors, even an extra! I think that would be very cruel! "Being an extra for a day" would take on a whole new meaning!). However in these films most of the violenced was so fake an silly - curving bullets, etc that it was impossible to really take it seriously enough to relate and feel it - yes, even scaredy-cat me!

Review of Last Year

Last year I made some New Year's resolutions, so let's see how well they held up.

1. Get a job

I am proud to say I got a job. Actually I got a job, lost a job, and got another job so I actually got 2 jobs! Casually employed as of the end of 2008, hoping to return in 2009. Go me!

2. Eat a vanilla slice

Done. I can't say the vanilla slices I've eaten have been that good, but they've been devoured and compared. Cake-wise, I've found a much nicer place called Citrus Cafe in Newtown and I've been pigging out on cakes there, not so much vanilla slices. And just yesterday Mr Coffee and I shared a Portuguese tart which tastes something like a grilled custard tart. Very tasty.

3. Watch certain movies.

I think I've more than watched a lot of movies this year, thanks to getting Foxtel this year and Mr Coffee's collection. I put down specifically watching Pollyanna, Mary Poppins, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Gone With the Wind. I haven't found time to watch the entire Gone With the Wind yet, but all the rest - done. Though I must say Pollyanna was most disappointing and rates as one of the worst book adaptations I've ever seen.

4. Practise playing certain games - Set, Trivial Pursuit, Chess, Jawbreaker

I got plenty of practise at Jawbreaker and I'm a bit better at playing Set. Chess I'm dead hopeless at; I'm one of those one move at a time players who waits for everyone else to get to the middle of the board before they'll get any further and then realises they're checkmated.

And Mr Coffee won't play Trivial Pursuit with me any more because he's memorised all the answers to his set, mostly. (By the way, the answer to most of the questions is "one per cent" or "Tonya Harding" if it's a sports question)

5. Improve my off blog writing

I had a go at writing stories off blog. This works til I hit about chapter four and I get writer's block, or boredom, or I start getting very annoyed that it starts sounding like whiny crap. Before then I can usually convince myself that the whiny crap is simply an artistic technique but something tells me by Chapter 4 that I should stop deluding myself. I have a few stories that stop at Chapter 4, or some at Chapter 1 or 2, or some at paragraph 1 or two.

I opened a few documents and found I'd written stories that stopped at a really good opening title! I'd written at the top of a document, emboldened it, underlined it,saved it ... and that was my artistic effort for the day!

Mr Coffee says I should stop thinking about how it sounds and just enjoy writing it if I ever want to get past Chapter 4.

Chapter 5 next week then! Or at least one sentence under the fancy emboldened title!

6. Touch typing improved.

I think it stayed the same. Damn.

7. Cooking repertoire increased.

I can now marinade chicken wings. I will count that as mission accomplished.

8. Cantonese improved.

Oh dear ....