Sunday, 30 March 2014

A year later

Hey Z,

I guess I'm just trying to write down my thoughts here, because there are so many things I wish I could still tell you, ask you, annoy you with. And writing down makes it no better or worse, but today was a hard day. Writing it down makes these thoughts concrete.

Here's some things you've missed.
I'm sorry, but I still haven't read the Woman in Black, or finished Return of the King. It's on my reading list for this month, except the month is over and I've been so busy at work.

I stopped writing for a while, because I lost motivation. I didn't have time. It didn't feel like a priority, but it is again. I miss your editorial advice. I've been getting better and learning more about my own writing style and others, but I miss having a writing buddy.

You're missing some fantastic television! Sherlock season three was brilliant, and Game of Thrones gets better with the last season and every new preview. Elementary still sucks.

George RR Martin released another chapter from Winds of Winter too. I hope somehow you're able to read these, because I'm certainly getting excited about it and I know you would have enjoyed these previews. The discussions we would have had about whether they fit in with our theories...

I miss our very few lunch hang outs. I miss our conversations via email. Old school, but always filled with spirited conversation, debate, passion and culture.

I think we'd still be friends today. I think we would have been friends for a long time.

I had plans to do things today, that would make today mean something. That would make it hurt a little less. But that isn't how real life works. I planned to go and sit in the courtyard at RMIT we used to sit in. I planned to have the writing project we dreamed of ready to launch.

So here's my promise that tomorrow I will go and sit in the courtyard and think back to our discussions of Sherlock v Elementary, Tolkien's magic and what we would write next, held over bad, loud Asian pop music.
Soon, I will try and start the writing project we wanted. Review the things I read. Share the things I write. But I don't know that I can, not without you. I won't stop writing things though, you taught me that.

I wish I'd known you better. I wish I knew the words to write. I wish you were still here and the last year of pain wasn't.

I hope as always, that wherever you are there is a library, and there are stories for you to read, and stories for you to continue to tell.

Just know there are people here missing you still.
Your friend, as always.
E x.

Friday, 7 March 2014

My first trip to hospital.

Hello there dumplings.

I've been rather quiet I know, but I started full time work and then what do you know, three jobs at once and I give myself tonsillitis. You know, usual me.

And then, a short 8 days after my health insurance lapsed, and I just hadn't had time to call and renew.... I was put into hospital.

Hospitals are a weird place for me. For someone who has spent a fair bit of time wandering around hospitals as a child, I've never been put in one.  My earliest memories of anything to do with hospitals have been visiting sick relatives, flashes of an ear hospital when my brother was small, my home away from home in the Alfred. Skipping up and down wards in my polar fleece, nice nurses with chuppa chups, the terrible food in the hospital cafeteria... but it's never been me in the bed.

Thanks mum, for this wonderful shot of me, post operation. Of me, dirty hair, a bag of my own vomit, and a ham sandwich. Wow. 
To take my hospital virginity, I was shipping off from the doctors to a quaint, quiet little private hospital in Brighton. Big beautiful old building, nice people, private room, admitted almost immediately. I am probably the youngest person there. The bed is small, but it suffices, the television is awful and the lights are blinding to my splitting dehydration headache. And for a place where I'm supposed to be to rest, things certainly go beep, boop, cough, splutter and clunk a bit too often.

Here are some things I learnt while in hospital. 
- I have really tiny veins. So in case anyone ever thought hey, maybe drugs, my veins are so small they had to put my arm in a bucket of hot water to find one.
- I've not now nor ever been afraid of needles. They're just pointy.
-I'm not afraid of needles, even when a man is about to stab you in the throat with a 15 inch needle. That hurt. A lot.
- My mum will take pictures of me doing pretty much anything. Including me, a sandwich, and a puke bag.
-Hospital jelly is not good.
-Private hospitals serve stupidly fancy meals to sick people. I'm talking lamb shanks. 

I was pretty lucky, everyone was super nice to me while I was there, for my whole big long two day stint, and there was even some eye candy to oggle, in the form of cute nurse food delivery guy. What a cutie. I called him regularly to bringmore jelly or custard. A jelly-call.

And here comes the tiny little moment we won't tell my parents about, where I admit they are right. I'm only getting better now because I have health insurance, I'd still be waiting for a bed in the public health system. Good thing we called the health insurance company from the doctors office to back date my insurance... Oops.

Very much on the mend and back at home in bed for the next week, minimum. You all know me, I'm going stir crazy already. I've got a lot of movies to watch, a lot of sleep to catch up on and a lot of weight to put back on. I'm not making a lot of sense, and already falling asleep again, forgive me. 

On a diet of sleep, jelly, porridge, meds and little else.
E xx.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Book Thief Steals Tears

Spoiler Alert! Last night I was gifted enough to attend the Melbourne premiere of The Book Thief, out Thursday, with question time by Geoffrey Rush at the classiest of cinemas, Rivoli Cinemas in Camberwell.

The Book Thief is a masterpiece of a book, and the first book I read this year: and just like Death who ruins the ending of the book at least 30 pages before the end, I'm going to tell you up front that the new release visual masterpiece movie of the same name only gets a 4/5 from me.

The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel and her journey from Communist mother to new foster parents, and her conflicts against the Nazi party, Hitler's ideologies and the suffering that followed as they harbour a Jew in their basement through WWII. A story of growing up and true self, Liesel is taught to read and right by her foster father Hans Hubermann in the basement at night to chase away her nightmares.  This girl develops into an incredible character: She gets into fights, steals food and books, defends the downtrodden and publicly makes statements against Hitler and to defend the Jews. 

This is not quite the story the film told: and here comes some spoilers for both the book and film, as we compare the strengths between the two. 

Maybe I'll just annoy him by reading a book over and over until he wakes up and tells me to shut up....

Visually the piece is stunning; shot in Berlin, the fictional town of Molching outside of Munich is stunningly created. Beautiful landscapes, snow settings, the film is a visual delight. 

The film is no longer centred on the narration by Death like the book was, and has lost much Death's cynicism and bizarrely structured timeline that exposes spoilers all over the shop.  It is also missing much of the character development the book centred around, such as Liesel learning to read and write in the basement, growing up to deliver the washing around Molching, the thievery and stealing gang, and the struggles she and Rudy went through at their forced education at the Nazi's youth programs. They were bullied. What happen to Tommy Mueller? What happened to the book Max made for Liesel, the Word Shaker? These were huge developments through the book that were greatly lacking in the film. The marching of the Jews through Molching. The fact that Rosa and Hans had two elder children. The fact that Hans was openly against the Nazis, hadn't joined the Nazi party and was immediately taken away to war because he tried to give a Jew some bread and assistance as they were paraded through the town like animals. That Liesel did the same thing when she finally found Max in the parade years later. Elements of these were still there, but with the main details changed, it lost a lot of it's raw power in standing up to the man and the simplicity of humanity. Much of the book questions humanity and what it is to simply be human, and a friend. 

Here's another spoiler, and it annoyed me: Basically everyone dies. Now Death tells you that very early in the book, and reveals it in a way that you are built up to it and by the time it happens at the very crux of the ending, you are as shell shocked as bomb ridden Himmel Street. The movie is missing much of Liesel's unending despair of survival. She dances one last time with her father, holds her family and friends, throws her book to the ground with an unending cry as she holds the reason she survived in her hands, and casts it off as less valuable than the people who were in her life: All missing from the film. 

Now Geoffrey Rush talked through this a little bit in the question time after the film. He, having read the book after the screenplay, did mention things that changed, like Rudy had died earlier in the book, and he forever went without the kiss he so desired. Rudy was found dead in his bed, . In the film, Rudy died in Liesel's arms. And while she is real sad about it, she was absolutely destroyed that she survived the bombing in her shallow little basement, writing her life story as the Word Shaker as Max had inspired her to do, representing the incredible journey of literacy she had taken. 

What Rush had to say on the changes of the book and screenplay were this: They could have followed down the rabbit hole and played the book to screen exactly. They could have created the every colour Death saw as he carried these souls away, with the twisted plot line and Death being the central protagonist showing us snapshots and developments through Liesel's life, with all the technicolour and CGI in the world. Would it have made as good a film? Maybe. As powerful, and heart wrenching a film? Maybe not.

He's a smart man, and I guess I would have to agree: They followed the book's central inspiration and created a beautiful film inspired by that, but a little bit easier to digest. 

It's all good, just shove a book still on fire down your coat. 

Without this development as the Word Shaker, the film lost much of the unbreakable power the book held over me. I finished the entire book in six hours, I was so enthralled. 

This is not to say however, that the film did not awe, inspire and make one feel hollow: it just didn't make me feel so empty, hollow and dead inside like reading the end of the book did, an all consuming despair and inspiration for this girl, a hollowness and disbelief that the Holocaust ever happened, an unbreakable power to consume words as Liesel did.  

The film is a little easier to devour: a bit less of Nazis killing everyone and beating the crap out of anyone in the way, a bit less of the jarring, confusing presence of Death and his non-chronological timeline, and a lot less details to show it plain and simple: Friendship. Humanity. Literature. Family. 

The choice to not shoot the film in German was an interesting one, as the language of the film is peppered with German words and accents. The film does open in German, however the original text was written in English. Perhaps the most brilliant part which was lost in translation, is Rosa Hubermann calling of Hans Hubermann Saukerl, or calling Liesel Saumensch: These aren't pet names, nor their last name as my mum though. Saukerl means asshole. Saumensch is a word to humiliate a female, loosely translating to "you filthy pig". While these become endearments of affection and nicknames almost, the severity and boisterous-ness of Rosa is lost in the film. However, this doesn't detract from the film at all: for once I could sit through a film without being annoyed by German soldiers with American accents, thanks Hollywood... 

This is not a happy story. It is heartbreaking. 

A quick note on the casting: Brilliant. It could not have been done better, and I can imagine no others playing these roles. Geoffrey Rush is the perfect balance of calm, accepting and teaching, while standing up for what he believes in. He bears consequences, opens his soul to this film and shows us all of the heart. The role of Hans was written for him.  Sophie Nelisse turned 13 on the set, and could not be more amazing. So youthful, so fresh and so inspired, the girl is all focus and captures everything of Liesel from the book: Her despair, her loneliness, her love, her friendship.  Let's not lie, we all know Emma Watson is amazeballs. She just is. The cast is incredible. 

The whole thing has been simplified, and much of the book's rich complexity and colour has been sucked out of it. But what is left is still a visually stunning, heart stopping piece about friendship and the lengths we go to respect it, in one of the greatest war conflicts the world has ever seen. A simple, youthful perspective and desire for understanding of the world around us, why people do what they do and when to pick your fights.

I'm torn between my incredible love of Geoffrey Rush and Sophie Nelisse, and my emotional reactions to the original text, and this beautifully created film; from me it gets 4/5 stars, as it is a brilliant interpretation of the book, however the book may still edge out as my favourite. 

The film is out in Australia on Thursday 9th of January, and I wouldn't miss it if I were you. 
E x. 

more from the Q&A session with Geoffrey Rush about the film soon. 

Sunday, 5 January 2014


There are barely words to describe the year I've had. A wonderful, adventurous, heartbreaking, hard, incredible, insane, out of this world year.

I have difficulty explaining the year I've just had: 2013 was difficult. 2013 was incredible. 2013 was basically hot and sweaty and the year of eternal summer.

I started 2013 quietly, with a few amazing lady friends, drinking tequila and wearing silly hats and nearly falling in the Yarra River. We marvelled at fireworks and had a quiet, wonderful evening. And I ended this insane year sort of quietly, with amazing life long friends, and some cheeky new ones, drinking and laughing, playing basketball and surrounding a bonfire.

So with the year over, here are some of the incredible times had over 365 days of wonder.

Time spent travelling: 7 months.
It begun with a quick skip off to Sydney for an early birthday present, and grew to be time in Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore and recovering from it all in Brisbane. I spent more time away than I did in my home town this year, and it's been incredible. I keep saying incredible, because I barely believe I was fortunate enough to have this amazing adventure with all of these amazing people. I've written thousands of words about these adventures, published or not, and nothing gets past the incredible highlights of facing height fears and climbing the Harbour Bridge in Sydney, being completely awestruck at Angkor Watt, life spent zooming around Ho Chi Minh City and sweating it out chasing food, dancing and just being in Singapore. Time well spent with family in Brisbane, and coming home to the city I love and was born in to worship at it's alter of coffee and culture. I have spent a year in the most incredible places and I am thankful for every minute of it. From muggings and sicknesses to parties and working and uni and friends, thank you all.

I fell in love, I fell out of love, I fell in love... I fell in love with countries and places and people and lifestyles and boys and everything. I left my heart with so many people and so many places this year and I have no regrets about any of it. If I left pieces of my heart all around the world and with all sorts of people, I like to think I'll be coming back there and to them some day.

I lost some people this year. I lost a truly incredible, real, honest friend of mine. That still burns. That is still inexplicable. I'm sorry. And I miss you every day Z.

I very nearly lost my ever stubborn, ever resilient Grandad. Thanks for fighting, for never changing, for still being the man who fed me icecream cones on the back porch and taught me about friendship and the words to Frere Jacques. I'm glad we get to keep you for a while longer, I'm not done absorbing your wisdom yet.

I made some incredible friends. I'm lucky enough to have friends in so many countries now, so many amazing places and times we shared.  I cannot wait to see you all in the future, to visit you all, to make more incredible memories. Thanks for sharing your lives with me, and for putting up with me. I'm glad we're all so weird and wonderful together.

I had a birthday. I'm now 21 I suppose, though having not truly celebrated it and from the day being somewhat of a disaster, it's been decided it hasn't happened yet.

Went through some really hard stuff. I don't talk about it much, but I survived. We always do. Lost some good friends. But made some new ones; and life goes on.

Distinction degrees are ever so tastyface.
I finished uni. No more studying, no more books and lectures and skipping classes and tutes and readings. For now at least, and hopefully for good. Such a big part of my life came to a close, from a course I never dreamed I had the scores to get into, to graduating with Distinctions, I am so proud of myself and everyone who made this same journey. Thanks to everyone who got us here.

This post is pretty much the same every year: I've probably written the same thing year in year out. But each year, I remember to be thankful for the year I've had, the people I'm grateful for and the memories that don't fade.

And so 2014 shall be an equally interesting year: scary, but full of promise.

This will be the year I set out to find an adult job, yet still never grow up, of sleeping tablets and caffeine, of too many books to read and too many things to see and just enjoying the year that I couldn't plan. The year of potential further study, of cover letters and new friends and probably more travel and basically anything, in the year I had to accept came with no instructions, and no plan.

Happy new year everyone, and happily, but with full of unforgettable memories, goodbye 2013.

Avec amour et espoir, E x. 

Friday, 3 January 2014

#remireads and #ellenreadstoo

I might stalk Remi of Fields of Buttercups just a tad too much on Instagram, and has decided to crash her book challenge. And we're not the only ones doing it.

If you're an Insta-person, check out the hashtag #52in52, for other people challenging themselves to one thing a week for the year of 2014: Remi's challenge was that of the things she wanted to achieve this year was to read more, so 52 books over 52 weeks it was! Sounded like a heap of fun to me, so on day two, as she finished book two, I decided to join in.

For internet accountability, it is Friday 3rd of January, 2014, Remi is starting her third book and I'm finishing my second book... OF THE YEAR. Between us, in 3 days, we've already managed to read 7 books! Oh the power and delight of words!

So I thought I would keep us accountable and publish our booklists here!

- Into the Wild- Jon Krakauer

-Road to Nowhere- Mark Chopper Read

-Mercy- Jodi Picoult


- The Book Thief- Markus Zuzak

-American Release-

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone- JK Rowling

I certainly want to hear any suggestions and recommendations anyone has for our lists: with time off over the summer so far we're off to a roaring head start on our challenge for the year!

Looking forward to a long summer of devouring books, new things to read on public transport and seeing how far I can get with this challenge. To keep up with us, keep an eye on #remireads #ellenreadstoo and #52in52 !

Off to relive childhood all over again with some more Harry Potter: happy summer and happy reading everyone!

E x.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Desolation of Expectations

Get ready Australians, this magical review comes to you before you get to see part two of the Hobbit. 
Warning, some moderate spoilers. But I expect all you well educated folk to have read the book! 

I never saw the first Hobbit movie in the cinemas, and I'm really really glad I didn't waste my money on that excessively long pile of tripe. I really did not enjoy the first Hobbit movie, and as someone who has read the book and read it many times since I was 8, I knew I would not enjoy it.

Which is why I was hesitant in lining up for the IMAX 3D screening of the Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug on the day it came out in Singapore, a full two weeks before it hits the screens in Melbourne.

And it was stupendous.

Stupendous views are stupendous panoramic.

The movie opens back up where it left off, Hobbit and Dwarves and Wizard running off fleeing orcs and goblins and all manner of nasty things, while trudging onwards to the Lonely Mountain. Except they are being chased, and thus the movie actually has pace and a driving plot line. Not like the previous installation, "111 pages of Bilbo Baggins whinging, in moving image form".

WHO INVITED YOU LEGOLAS? It certainly wasn't Bard. 
Peter Jackson invited Legolas to this party, he was like 'Hey Legolas, wanna come help me prove that elves really are immortal and really old and be in this movie, that comes before the other movies you were in?" And Legolas was like 'Sure Peter Jackson, even though it doesn't appear in the book and doesn't make too much sense, or add anything to the film really, I'd love to come back. But it's been 10 years and I got a bit old and fat so...".

I'm sure that actual conversation happened. Despite Orlando Bloom's expanded waistline and additional frown lines, him being in the movie does make for many an epic arrow battle scene, and allows for the typical Hollywood romance plot line of Elf loves Elf who loves Dwarf who loves Elf love triangle to be written in. Which made for more epic arrow battles, because everyone knows how to show your love in Middle Earth is by being a real man, and shooting the crap out of some orcs.

Barrel o' monkeys just became a whole new dwarf game. 
The film captures some of the more interesting escapades of the middle of the Hobbit story: from the great escape from the elves of the Mirkwood, to the invasion of Lake Town and the reveal of Bard's true identity, to a battle scene straight out of a video game of Legolas bouncing like Donkey Kong on the heads of dwarves and chopping orcs like he was collecting coins on Crash Bandicoot. This sequence was epic, but it had us, and our Singaporean movie going counterparts pissing ourselves laughing, at the comical nature and sheer out-of-placeness of the video game power play. It definitely breaks up the film a bit, which is fully of surprising chuckles and edge of your seat action.

Stealth and wealth.  
Prepare thy loins for this film: it is a full three hours long by the time you watch previews and ads: so the super mega jumbo post mix drink you've got will be gone before the movie is 10 minutes underway, and you will need to pee like a pregnant lady somewhere between the attack of the giant spiders at Mirkwood and the fish smuggling dwarf entrance to Lake Town with the ever handsome Bard. Arm yourself with popcorn and chocolate covered nuts, it's a marathon of a film in 48fpp that will give you slight headache. 

Seeing the film in IMAX certainly added a whole new level of epic to the filM; continuing with the trend away from gaudy objects hurtling themselves towards your face mid-film, the 3D is well done and heightens the depth and detail on the film. It adds a layer of richness of colour, landscape and draws you into the world of Middle Earth completely. 

All the better to see you, precious. 
The CGI in this film is impeccable. Benedict Cumberbatch's own facial features pop out in Smaug's face. Which is gigantic, monstrous and terrifying to behold. In every movement and glisten of his scales is hours of computer generated imagery and action, and the result is simply indescribable. The CGI also backs up much of the fighting scenes, making them seem all the more epic but at times, wholly unreal.

That doesn't even matter though, with the amount of work going into the epic colouration of scenery, the orcs, Smaug, all of the fighting scenes and the speed at which the elves run and move, barrels falling down a mountain side and some seriously epic river scenes... this film has gone above and beyond and is just far too beautiful to look at for it's own good. Prepare those tired eyes for an epic eyeball delight of 48fpp, in rich deep forest colours and golds of treasures on screen.

We're off to see the Dragon...

The movie only loses points for Legolas being there. Seriously. Why. And for some of the action scenes feeling wholly unreal and almost made fun of through the CGI, it made the film epic, however it felt a little cheap. It also still loses points for being a three hour epic in a three movie series which really didn't need to be so long or drawn out, although I'm no longer complaining. And please, stop trying to write in chunks of the Silmarillion because you've realised that three films is one film too many, you're just confusing everyone. While the overall product is getting better with age and time and with each film, it's a touch too money grabbing.
After an absolute disappointment and shambles of a first instalment with the Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug smashes expectations right out of the park. We were set up to expect improvements and it came tenfold, with this 20-something Tolkien devotee not blinking for the entire three hour film. However, my seat mates will tell you I did keep jumping out of my seat: it's a very jumpy film. Hold onto your hats and prepare the snacks!

4.5 out of 5 Hobbit holes.

Bitches please, we've got the key. 

A real review is in store after it is released in Australia, and I see it for a second time on Boxing Day. Because yes, it will be time to tear to shreds the inaccuracies between the original text and the film, and to 

Happy holidays, hobbits!

E x.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Home coming

Well that's it Singapore.

Gird your loins and mark your calendars Australia, I finally booked a ticket home, and this adventure, for now, will end on the 15th of December when I touch back down in Melbourne.

However, I've come to really call Singapore home, and have a lot of places and people here that I really love, and am really going to miss when I head back to Australia.

But after six and a half humid, sweaty months, I'm in need of a hair cut, my bookshelf, and Mumma B's home cooked magic. Here are the things I've been missing about home in Melbourne.

Hand me a strong soy latte or a soy long mac and I'm a happy happy lass. Hand me one from Melbourne and I will probably purr like a cat. So one thing I'm really looking forward to is heading back to the Melbourne coffee culture, with its tiny little cafes and it's distinct lack of Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Coffee Club. Give me Cafe Stax and Brunettis and a hole in the wall cafe tucked down Little Collins St! I miss Cafe le Triskel and the afternoons spent there, restaurants down the arcades and fabulous brunch places.

These are some special special people. Oh you beautiful people, you know who you are, you are the reason I'm following my post cards and air mail love back to you in Melbourne.

I miss the State Library Lawn. I miss Southbank. I miss sitting down by the Yarra, I miss the hustle and bustle, the sound of trams, the brightening of streets with buskers and street art and culture.

I can't promise how long I'll be staying in Melbourne, but you'll get to keep me for a while. There are too many places left to fall in love with all over again. 

Welcoming party at the airport, I'm expecting balloons. And or banners. Everyone else gets banners, can I have banners? I'll see you all bright and early, Sunday 15th of December.

See you soon Melbourne,
E x.