Professors Walk Cafe

1. Getting my coffee was difficult. I picked up/was given the wrong thing, which definitely does not endear me to them. Frustratingly slow watching the guy making the coffee. Chop, chop, it shouldn’t take 10 minutes to make five coffees.

2. Their prices have gone way way up since they moved into the bookshop and I’m not sure I’ll go there for coffee again. It was no appreciably (to me) better than the coffee I can get for less than 80% of the price.

3. Very tempting cakes. Expensive, I think, or at least over large. The combination of cost and temptingness of cake will further prevent my going there again.

Q: In a playable emulation of a video game a more authentic representation of that game than a recording of the game play on an original device?

Heist by David Mamet

1. So, rewatching this on the otherside of learning a lot of things made me aware of how differntly I read things now and how different my expectations and desires are of the media I consume.

2. It is an intensely clever film. It is really not nice. Also casually racist and transphobic in its language and the movement on the plot is, in part, driven by sexism and Joe’s casual sense of ownerhip of his wife.

3. In my new casting of the film, Bobby is played by a woman of colour. Maybe Whoopie Goldberg at the time. Or Viola Davis now. This does a lot of interesting things to the otherwise problems of the film. Doubles the number of main female characters and more than doubles the presence of women on the screen. It would mean that the film’s treatment of Fran as an object, a prize, do you want the money or the girl, is no longer the film’s statement about women. It would change the dymanic of Fran being the one Jimmy wants and Fran agreeing to go get him. It would also potentionally open up some interesting commentary of the ways in which Bobby follows Joe and the way Fran does. I’m not sure how that would fall out, but it would certainly be a more interesting conversation than the one we have.

Q: Is conservation what happens to certain objects, or is it a way of approaching any potential object?

Julie Rrap Remaking the World at Ian Potter Museum of Art

1. These are two very dark galleries for this work, two sides of it. It’s a little disconcerting to wander through the space that is filled with things.

2. It is filled with very intersting things. Including sculptures. It feels kind of weird to most excited by the traditional media sculptural elements of a work I am exploring as an investigation into new media art. But maybe it’s ok because they are interesting in the context of an immersive new-media work.

3. Julie Rrap Remaking the World: Artists Sleeping is beautiful.

Q: Do ants have brains?

Ryan Gander Read Only at Australian Centre for Contemporary Art

1. I had a much easier time getting and navigating ACCA this time than the last time I was there. I cannot remember how long ago that was. I do not know whether it’s a place I’ll back to regularly.

2. Ryan Gander is terrifically interesting.

3. My favourite work was, of course, the one that was made of pencil on paper.

Q: Can one consider traditional art works (ie paintings) emergent documentation of artistic pratice?

Tuck’s Ridge Winery

1. Quite lovely, small space overlooking gorgeous grounds. Attentive, friendly staff.

2. Mini internal comment on Mr Little Cider: Delicious and properly applely flavour.

3. The food was very good, but there were not enough vegetables. Vegetables are delicious.

Q: It seems meaning only accrues to archives such as collections of personal photographs through their interpretation and use. Is there a way of discussing the uncertain potential of meaning that could be derived from such an archive?

Friends’ Christmas

1. This was even more Christmasy than I expected with crackers, bunting, and lighting a pudding on fire.

2. I look vegetables as my contribution, which were very well received. Yay vegetables!

3. There are so many different sorts of covers of christmas carols. It was something I had never really considered before, thinking that there were basically just annoying christmas songs and choral versions of carols.

Q: How good is it to have friends, hey?

the smell of an oily rag Fort Delta

1. Art openings gets extremely packed. Lots of people trying to juggle glasses of wine, bags, saying hi to people they want to impress and maybe seeing some of the things on the wall.

2. Lots of paintings hanging on the wall. I know what to do with those.

3. Fort Delta’s bookshop is a dangerous place both financially and intellectually.

Q: If we live in a post-media world, what does that mean for the practice of painting and its reemergence?

$4.50 Parma Wednesday at Bridie O’Reilly’s Brunswick

1. Definitely cheap. Popular. Efficient set up.

2. Would be infinitely better if the chicken was reliably cooked. We had to abandon one of the serves.

3. Bridie O’Reilly’s has a nice atmosphere with a sense that it’s not real. All the trappings that add up to less than the sum of their parts. This is reinforced by the early 00s whinge rock in the playlist.

Q: Why is it so difficult to do the work required to do one’s best at the things one is good at?

Wednesday

Books

Dust, by Elizabeth Bear
I started to re-read this book in June, because it was the only spec fic book I had that had non-cis characters in it. I didn’t finish it before Continuum, the Spec Fic convention. Then I put it away, because it is not a compelling read, and because I have little time for the author personally.

However, it is a book about a dead spaceship and does have a character who does not have a pronoun and another who is referred to by gender neutral pronouns. The idea is much more interesting to me than the execution. I think a lot of this is just that Bear’s style of writing doesn’t suit my style of reading and there is a lot that I don’t get about the story. I don’t understand the ending, I don’t understand the character relationships. Also, I am wary of the story and the world that Bear has created because she said some very weird stuff about race years ago, about the time that I read this first time round. I was definitely reading for the treatment of the non-gender-normative characters.

Chill, by Elizabeth Bear
Already owning book 2, I decided that I would read it once I finished book 1. It was a little bit of a struggle because a lot of the characters spend most of the book missing someone who died in book 1 and I don’t quite understand why. I mean, I get that they loved her, but I don’t know why, or what it felt like to them. Even when it is explained.

Also, the book is way more about the interpersonal relationships of the Conn family that I thought it would be. There is just not the range of characters and character experience that I expected. A whole lot of the character introspection and engagement with the plot is based on centuries old issues with their dad. I’m fascinated by the way history changes and develops, which is what this series promised to be about, but it is not as much about that as I thought. Or, it’s about that in a different way, and it’s disappointing.

I still don’t know whether I want to put myself through book 3. None of my libraries has it.

Films

Guardians of the Galaxy, directed by James Gunn
This was a fun film. It lacked any of the complexity or unexpected character moments that I would have expected from the other branch of Marvel movies; Captain America: Winter Soldier, Thor 2, Iron Man 3 and The Avengers all said something. Guardians of the Galaxy might have done something with the typical plot of selfish outlaw compelled to do their moral duty, al la Han Solo. But there was nothing complex in anything that happened. Even the characters didn’t seem to notice.

The opening is the white guy’s origin story. Which, given that it’s an ensemble film, serves almost entirely to mark Peter Quill as the main character. I would have much rather had some kind of contextualisation of the setting.

It is a lot of fun if you have no expectations. But not as much of a pay off for turning your brain off as Pirates of the Caribbean 4.

Friday

Books

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, by Ambelin Kwaymullina

I picked up this book after seeing Ambelin Kwaymullina at Continuum in June. I read the first few pages in the bookshop and had to force myself to leave. I ended up buying it about a week later and read the first chapter before I had to set it aside to work. So I ended up reading it on a plane, straight through, five hours. I loved it.

The first pages gave me a sense of the setting enough to compare it to The Chrysalids and Obernewtyn. And, sure, it’s a post apocalyptic story about kids who are born with abilities that make them objects of fear and censure of society. They have to use these abilities to fight for their freedom. But it’s also not like the other books because these characters already know and understand their powers, and society knows and formally recognises (controls) these powers. Further, the debate around the place of people with abilities in society hinges on interpretation of the governing principles of society, inherited from the reactions to the apocalypse. In this case, everyone works to maintain the Balance in order to prevent another disaster. So the treatment of people with abilities by society in general is based on whether they are considered part of the Balance or outside the Balance and a threat to it. This is much more interesting to me.

The story itself is great and compellingly told. Ashala (and Kwaymullina’s) love of the land is so wonderful to read. I have book two, waiting for its turn to be read. And I understand there are two further books beyond that, which is fantastic.

Song of the Lioness, by Tamora Pierce

I have just finished rereading the first 12 Tortall books, so I am not going to treat them separately.

This is still my favourite series. OK, so there are few female assigned male presenting characters that I’ve ever encountered in fiction, and I’m sure that that has something to do with it. It may also be that the world is less settled/planned/worked out in this than later books. Alanna’s adventures have a sense of discovery to them that only comes from an author who is discovering their world as they write. That may not be entirely accurate, but certainly the world building aspects of the later series feel different from the way they are here.

Also, Alanna spends a lot of the first two books things ‘friendship, what is that, how does that happen?’ and ‘they wouldn’t like me if they knew I was really a girl’, both of which resonate with me. And she spends time in the desert, which is always good. Living in a country where one leaves the city and eventually reaches desert areas which are the home of people who have an uncertain and difficult relationship with their formal government (to say the least), the scenes among the Bazhir are the most familiar part of the series.

The Immortals, by Tamora Pierce

Everytime I reread this series I like it and Daine more than I thought I would. Which is odd, because I certainly really enjoyed it the first time round. I remember reading book four while sleeping in my grandma’s swag on the floor of her study. I think the bit that gets me is the sentimentality of the ending of book one. And perhaps the transparency of the moral that Daine needs to learn to like Stormwings. Also, Daine’s anxiety for the first book is based on something that she doesn’t reveal to the reader and I expect to find it frustrating once I know what it is. I don’t understand Daine as easily as I understand Alanna, so some of the decisions that drive the plot don’t resonate with me at all.

That said, I still enjoyed reading all these again and devoured them. There are many great things. Some great humour. A broad range of characters and character relationships and developments. The progress of the war and the work that war takes, and diplomacy, too. Having a story at the scale that Pierce does is good to read.

Protector of the Small, by Tamora Pierce

Kel! I think the first time I read this series it took me some hard going. Maybe it was just Kel’s frustration rubbing off on me. This time was much easier, probably because I understand the dilemma of duty better. Also, I can see what Kel admires about Wyldon now. There are more characters in this series and Alanna’s than in Daine’s, which might explain a lot of what I prefer about them. Or, rather, there is a group that moves through the series together, which is something I very much enjoy reading.

I expected a lot of the things that happen to Kel to seem contrived, knowing how certain bits of the plot fit together pretty neatly. For example, when the Griffin shows up, knowing that the Griffin feathers are important. But in fact that didn’t hr example. The Griffin is more annoying and just there as an ongoing thing to deal with and the feathers less critical than I remembered, so that it seems much more natural. Especially, having just spent so much of Daine’s point of view dealing with immortal creatures, and the fact that Pierce established economies around Griffins. There is an integrated world here.

I suppose that is a difference between Alanna’s series and the later ones. The later ones take place within a world where a lot of other things are established to be happening, and the reader’s imagination gives space to what all those other characters are doing. Not just Alanna, Daine, Numair and Raoul, but also Stephan the Groomsman and Gareth then Younger. The glimpses we get of them are of whole people, whereas in Song of the Lioness the backstory, such as Alan’s relationship with Duke Gareth, takes up literal words on the page.

The German Genius, by Peter Watson

This is a book on the history of German thought from about the middle of the seventeenth century, I think, until the present. It has taken me many months to read it, so the beginning is kind of hazy. It is a well written book. The topic is interesting, being a history of waves of influence. Watson’s thesis is that much of what we think of as modern thought finds its roots in German intellectual history. He’s convincing, too.

I was able to pay more attention in the bits that were about times or ideas with which I was already familiar. Once we got to the early twentieth century it was much easier. Also there were then some women discussed, which was a relief. I know that in a book that encompasses so much so briefly, only those people whose ideas were most widely disseminated are going to get mentioned, and the sexism of history means that this is almost exclusively men. But I would have appreciated acknowledgement of this. Or, include in the history a recognition of the status of women in that time and place. It is not as though the status of women and their access to history did not influence history.

That aside, this was an enjoyable and effective blend of examples, anecdotes and historiographical theory.

Films

The Lunchboxdirected by Ritesh Batra

This was lovely. It was brilliant to see Mumbai. The story unfolds so well. It’s relatively straightforward, which gives it room for a lot of little things to happen and a profound shift that is very satisfying. And it is not at all overworked or cloying. Given that most of what I know about how people in India live is from the news (also Rick Stein), this film was new to me in terms of the rhythm of people’s daily life, which was itself a refreshing thing to watch.