Sunday, September 28, 2014

WHAT IT IS, IS BEAUTIFUL

If you're a fan of Lego it's been impossible in recent days to avoid the charges of sexism that have been levelled at the company since, well, pretty much since the first days that the Friends line hit the shelves. Arguments against the aggressively-girly line have largely centred around the genderisation of creative play: why does a toy that relies on a child's imagination to repurpose homogeneous elements need to undergo a gender split? There's merit to the argument: after all, there was a time when Lego itself marketed just such a question to parents to get them to consider buying the toy for their daughters--




Both my children have a Lego collection, and they've both been given open slather when it comes to collecting sets: we don't direct them, and the only limit we impose is one of price-- no matter who the sets are aimed at, they're fucking expensive. Even so, Master 9's collection is dominated by Star Wars, dinosaurs and a black/grey/dark blue palette, while Miss 12's Friends-heavy collection is a rainbow of pastel shades.

Which got me wondering, because as an AFOL, I love the Friends colour scheme and stock up on individual pieces whenever I visit Bricklink, but I've never bought myself a set, largely because I don't like the minifigs. So I decide to run a little experiment, to see whether something in the marketing was affecting my children's choices, or if it was, indeed, the range of parts and colours that was the deterrent. I asked the kids 3 questions, and these were their responses:

1. Your collection is very strongly dominated by (Miss 12: Friends, Master 9: Star Wars/ Dinosaurs) sets. Is there a reason why that is the case?
Miss 12: I like the story line in Friends, and the colours.
Master 9: I like the adventurousness of the stories.

2. Is there something in the colours and shapes of the parts that you prefer to other sets?
Miss 12: Yes. I like the Friends colours.
Master 9: No. I like the Friends colours, too. I like the Star Wars minifigs.

3. If I gave you $50 and sent you to the shops to buy a set, and you already had everything in your favourite range that was on the shelves, would you prefer to buy a set in the (Miss 12: Star Wars, Master 9: Friends) range, or would you prefer to buy a duplicate of a (Friends/Star Wars) set you already own? 
Miss 12: I'd buy a duplicate.
Master 9: I'd buy a Friends set.

So, conclusions drawn from this exhaustive survey: Miss 12 responds to the Friends sets aesthetically, and chooses them over other sets based on an enjoyment of the palette and the non-aggressive narrative possibilities; Master 9 likes the combat/adventure narratives implied by the "boy" sets (not surprising, given his love of the Star Wars universe), but likes the Friends colour palette enough that he would buy a set and incorporate it into his building. 

All very well and good, and easy to say. But would it hold true if, say, I instructed them to take 150 random elements from their collections and swap them? Could they happily build outside of their own preferred colour and set choices? Without telling them why, I did just that. The kids randomly picked 150 pieces from their collections, and then built with each other's selection. These are the results:


Miss 12 created three works: two different spaceships and a tuning fork.




The space scooper has a scoop at the back to collect debris. The scoop rotates through a 360 degree angle to make pick up and delivery easier.


The Junker is made from pieces of space junk discovered by the Space Scooper.


The tuning fork. A great use of leftover parts.




Master 9 took a different approach, and created a series of smaller works:



Girl colours for a boy concept? A ballista, at any rate.


A beach scene, incorporating a shark net, diving board, and lifeguard tower.


The entrance to a cafe.


A catwalk.


An armchair.


A couch.


An abandoned tree at the end of a garden path.


And to finish, the classic tablescrapper's use for that
pile of random pieces you can't do anything with: some ruins!


So, in a complete lack of surprise, two different genders of children quite happily extended their creative building techniques when confronted with a random assortment of bricks, although I did note with interest that the general theme of their builds did conform to the kind of bricks they thought they were using: girly-girl Miss 12 completing a space-themed build, and rocket-powered-boy-attack Master 9 focusing on situational and domestic concepts. 

What this shows, at least to me, is that the promotion of Lego does have an effect on how the demographic-- that is, the kids who receive the sets-- perceive the purpose of the bricks themselves, despite the fact that, as stand-alone items, the bricks are met with approval and enjoyment by both children. Miss 12, in particular, perceives a definite difference between 'boys' and 'girls' Lego, at an age when advertising and gender-based marketing are concepts she pays attention to. Just as clearly, their ability to create and enjoy the act of creation with any random group of elements that is placed before them, shows that gender-splitting Lego is not only limiting the potential market penetration for Lego themes, it's downright unnecessary

And as Lego themselves once understood, it always has been.





Oh, and for the record, I don't ask my troops to do anything I wouldn't do myself. Here's what I came up with, using the 150 Friends pieces I asked Miss 12 to give me:

The lost ruins of the Temple of Ice-Cream, the Pastel Battlestar, and, you know, some ruins...
















Thursday, September 25, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY WILL EX-CA-VATE! EX-CA-VATE! EX-CA-VAAAAATE!

Sometimes, an idea simply falls into your lap: I'm an archaeology nut, and when the following image started appearing around the news and geeky mailing lists I was on, well, one and one met at a party, had sex in the taxi on the way home, and somehow nevee found themselves spending any time apart anymore....


 
 
There's a nice explanation of the image here, at Sci Fi Scoop, if you're interested, but for me, and my little archaeology brain, this is what came out:


"We've yet to establish the reason for this long, quite flimsy, horn
but we assume it was important for display during mating season."
 
 
 
Sometimes, this stuff just writes itself.
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, September 22, 2014

A QUICK NOTE ABOUT WEBSITES

If you've ended up here because you were trying to get to my website and discovered the big Ain't Nobody Here or Nuttin' sign strung across the entrance, an apology: unfortunately, my hosting arrangement has come to an end, and I'm currently too skint to renew it.

Normal service will be resumed once I have some cash to spend on it.

BUSY LEE IS BUSILY

Okay, let's catch up:

It's been a mad period for both appearances and writing recently. Having parted company with my previous agent over concerns regards a lack of communication, I've spent the last couple of week editing Father Muerte & the Divine in order to send it to an agent who caught me on the hop by requesting to see the full manuscript earlier than expected: a good sign, I hope, but let's never line-edit and input 200+ pages of a manuscript in such short order again....

Working so hard on that project threw my timing out for September, which meant that I've spent this weekend blasting my way through The Daughters of John Anglicus, a 5000 word short story I need to deliver by the end of the month. I've always enjoyed writing short stories in compressed time frame: there's something about an impending deadline that's good for stoking the crucible of creation, but it's no damn good for family time: I own Luscious and the kids some serious attention over the coming weekends to repay their indulgence. This week will be taken up with editing and getting it to the market, and then I'll finally have a chance to draw breath and look at what to do next: with Nanowrimo looming in November I may consider revisiting the 15 000 words I've completed on Cirque and pushing that towards the 50K I think it'll take to visit that YA project.

I've also been oot and aboot doing the talking-head-type thing: in August I revisited my old stomping grounds at Curtin University to deliver my annual guest lecture, and Book Week saw me taking to the stage at Churchlands Senior High School to talk about my work, idea generation and the art of entering short story competitions. And when I say 'take to the stage' I wasn't kidding: have a gander at the theatre the school boasts.



No pressure, right? It was a great day, to be honest: I spoke to three groups of incredibly engaged, fun kids, and discovered that one group had been using Luscious' story The Hanging Tree as part of their studies, so I was able to tickle her sense of history when I got home. 

And I've not been the only one: Master 9 has been King of the Kids in the last fortnight, hanging out with famous author types and generally being windswept and interesting. Back on the 9th he was an invited guest at a public talk by his literary hero, Andy Griffiths, after cool frood and AHWA buddy Mark Smith-Briggs organised a personal invitation in the wake of a bad bout of Rumination Syndrome. Master 9 had been one place in line from hearing Griffiths speak at last year's Perth Writers Festival, only for a couple of kids to cut in and leave him at the head of the queue when the door closed. To make it up to him we bought a copy of Griffiths' The 39 Story Treehouse, which he devoured in double quick time, then went out and bought for himself The 13 Story Treehouse and The 26 Story Treehouse, reading all three to the point of destruction. Until that point, he'd enjoyed reading (more on this in a moment) but hadn't been a reader. Those novels changed him. A five minute meeting alone with Griffiths, as well as a signed gift of the new The 52 Story Treehouse just about counts as the gift of the century: it hasn't left his bedside since, and has been read, as of today, no less than 5 times.


How is that grin?



A signed copy. Boy Geek Heaven!



A boy and his hero. A wonderful moment to witness.

Now, Griffiths' ever expanding Treehouse may be the series that gave Master 9 his obsessive love of reading, but the book that taught him how to read was Norman Jorgensen and James Foley's The Last Viking. Indeed, the reason he was at last year's Writers Festival at all was to meet James as he launched his book In the Lion. So imagine his insane delight when the day after meeting Griffiths, we took him to the State Library for the launch of Jorgensen and Foley's newest, The Last Viking Returns, and he got to meet Norman in person for the first time, as well as catch up with James again, both of whom treated him like an old friend. Norman and James are just about the nicest guys in the West, and the way they both took time out of their being-famous duties to catch up with him was absolutely heart-warming to see. And was my boy bouncing like a crazy thing? What do you reckon? The paper Viking helmet he coloured and cut out on the night is up on his wall, and the book itself hasn't left his bedside table since he got home: he averages one session every two days of lying back on his bed, thumbing through it at his leisure. 


Viking Boyz!



Master 9 meets the lovely Norman Jorgensen. 
That is the smile of a very content and happy young man.


His three literary heroes, in 24 hours. Not a bad two days' work :)

And then there's Crimescene WA, the crime writing convention Luscious and I will be attending in three weeks' time. I'll be presenting a workshop on writing settings, and assisting Lyn deliver a presentation on strong women in crime fiction, which has required watching a metric fuckload of Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Girl With Dragon Tattoos in Fiery Ants Nest, and, in the coming weeks, Number One Ladies Detective Agency episodes, as well as trying to plough through the accompanying novels as best we can. Enjoyable, time-consuming, work, but frankly, it beats what I do during the working week. 

So that's where I've been: racing around, desperately trying to keep myself immersed in the writing world that means an increasing amount to me as my work life becomes less and less satisfying, and Real Life (tm) presents an unending series of complications. There's been a family funeral in there, and money worries, and yet more issue with maintaining my crumbling house, but the truth is, it's the writing life that keeps my psyche above water these days (apart from my relationship with Luscious, who is the only person I can turn to at any moment, sure in the knowledge of pure and instant understanding). Keeping in touch with the writing world is a constant struggle, but it's the one I want to make.

Who'd have a peaceful life?
















Thursday, September 11, 2014

OFF WITH THUMBNAIL THURSDAY'S HEAD

Sometimes a joke is just a joke. Which is my way of saying I thought this was a funny idea and I've got no greater insight than that.


"What a snob!"

Saturday, August 30, 2014

TEN OF THE BEST.... AND THE OTHER BEST

There's a meme doing the rounds of Facebook that requires the recipient to name 10 books that have had an impact upon them, then pass the disease on to ten innocent schmucks. Rather than waste all that typing on just one form of social media, I thought I'd list them here, too.

1. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein. Read it for the first time when I was ten and it blew the breath out of my mind. I'd never experienced such scope, depth and majesty in a story before, and have pretty much never experienced it since. Read it every year until my mid-twenties, and a few times again since then.

2. The Cats by Joan Phipson. The first book I ever bought with my own money. A kids book about psychic cats who kidnap a kid in the Australian bush.

3. Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner. An amazing dystopian near-future SF work that feels as relevant and likely now as it did when I first read it in my early 20s. Brunner is the author David Brin wishes he could be when he grows up.

4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Everything I wanted to write when I grew up, in a single trilogy. It hasn't aged well, but its impact on the 16 year old me cannot be overstated.

5. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene. Sparse, brutal and unforgiving. The perfect crime novel.

6. The Scar by China Meiville. My first Mieville novel, it kicked off an ongoing love affair that has never abated. Beautifully lyrical, ugly, despairing, and epic and everything in the weird that I want to achieve.

7. Science Fiction Stories for Boys, editor unknown. A cheap 'Octopus Books' collection of the type that used to proliferate in the wild 70s before copyright law reached Australia. My first real SF book, it contained the story that set me on the path to an SF future. My first taste of Asimov, Heinlein, Leiber and Harrison. I still have it, and it's still brilliant.

8. Lord Foul's Bane by Stephen Donaldson. The first modern fantasy book I read that dared to break the Tolkein template. A deeply unlikeable protagonist, acres of grit and despair, a true sense of dirt under the fingernails of a real second world. The clear forerunner to the current 'Grimdark' generation of Joe Abercrombie and peers.

9. Booklife by Jeff VanderMeer. The book that helped me sit down and define my career goals at a time when I was floundering. More than one recent success is down to its lessons.

10. The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carre. Sparse, brutal and unforgiving. A perfect 'cold equations' novel, and still just about the best thriller ever written.

And because I'm me:

11. Red Country by Joe Abercrombie. The best novel of the last 5 years, bar none. Brilliantly grim, realistic fantasy, filled with consequences and the kind of bleak beauty rarely seen outside of a John Huston film. A stunning novel

And just for yucks, my friend Stephen Dedman decided I should list 10 films in the same way. So I did:

1. Doctor Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Brilliant satirical dark comedy centred around stunning multiple performances from Peter Sellers, who is never better than here. Kubrick's best film by a country mile.

2. The Crow. Dark, dystopian revenge fantasy that distills everything that a 19 year old in the late 80s found too cool for words, backed by the single best soundtrack in movie history. Nominally a superhero film and on that basis still one of the best 3 or 4 superhero films ever made.

3. ET. First saw it on an excursion with my under 13 soccer team. We'll all deny it to our dying breaths, because we were Rockingham bogans trying to be tough, but we all bawled like we were sponsored by Kleenex. The special effects have dimmed over time, but the emotional impact never has.


4. The Italian Job. The film that inspired a life long love of heist movies. Good, clean, criminal fun from beginning to end.


5. Fight Club. Nihilistic, counter-culture view of a personal apocalypse. Brilliantly out of kilter, with a career-defining performance from Brad Pitt.


6. 12 Monkeys. The perfect combination of Terry Gilliam's visual and narrative brilliance, Brad Pitt's superb ability to create a beautiful freak, and a thoughtful and finely tuned SF plot. An utter classic.


7. Iron Man. I'm making no excuses here: this is the movie the 8 year old me waited 30 years to see, and it was everything I expected it to be. I loves it with loves that turns any form of criticism at all into "nahnahnahnahcan'thearyoucan'thearyounahnahnah..."


8. Blade Runner. Ridley Scott was never better. Another stunning, beautiful dystopia rendered in images so perfect they will live forever in my internal viewfinder. The flames along the edge of Sean Young's iris may be the most perfect filmic image ever committed.


9. The General. Film's greatest magician at his highest peak. Brilliant comedy, special effects, stunts and storytelling, still genuinely gripping after 90 years.


10. A Night at the Opera. My first Marx Brothers movie, it still has the power to crease me over with helpless laughter and yet, as I grow older, it's the quiet moment of Harpo and Chico playing together on the ship that fill me with wonder. The archetypal something-for-everyone comedy, it should make talentless hacks like Adam Sandler hang his soulless head in shame. A wonder.


So there we go. Now tell me, what's your list? What books and films have had a lasting impact upon your poor, tortured psyche?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY MUCKS OUT SMAUG'S ENCLOSURE

Ahhhhh, the entropic nature of time. When I scribbled this one down, Anne McCaffrey seemed the perfect comic fit. Feel free to insert "Smaug" or "Christopher Paolini" or "that chick from Game of Thrones" or whatever you need to bring this gag up to speed.....

"I'm sorry, Nigel, but being Anne McCaffrey's biggest fan does not
qualify you to be head keeper at the komodo dragon enclosure"

Monday, August 25, 2014

OOT AND ABOOT

One of the loveliest side-effects of reaching a certain credibility as an author (and clearly, as I seem to have reached it, the level ain't that high) is the occasional opportunity to be sally forth and speak to groups of people without requiring your beloved partner-for-life having to follow along two steps behind you apologising to everyone.

Luscious, for those who have not met her, occasionally introduces us at social gathering with the phrase "This is my husband, Lee, and I'm the person who apologises for him". She also occasionally waits until we're in a shopping centre aisle full of old women before shouting "What do you mean I'm fat?" with no fucking provocation whatsoever.

Luscious is occasionally a sick sod :)

For the last 4 years I've been drawn back to my old stomping grounds at Curtin University to give a guest lecture on social media at the School of Internet Studies, an exercise designed to make me feel old, as not only was there no School of Internet Studies when I studied at Curtin there was no actual sodding internet. I made my annual pilgrimage there again this past week, and as always, absolutely loved it: it's a chance to combine day job and writing career expertise as well as expose students to a free form way of thinking they may not get from a structured curriculum-- I can't imagine many courses compare social media to Russian tampon adverts, for a start-- and you know you're doing well when you receive Facebook friends requests halfway through the lecture from people in the room.

I'm also off to Churchlands Senior High School next week to talk about writing competitions and ideas generation. I've done a couple of school gigs in recent years, and they're generally a lot of fun. It's incredibly easy to see which students are there by choice and which are there because they have no other choice, and once you call them out on it you can function in a room full of good will and laughter. Teenagers may be moody buggers but those moods swing both ways: get them laughing and they'll be your friend for life, at least as long as the workshop lasts, and story generation is genuinely the most enjoyable part of the process for me, so we get a lot of writing done, look at a lot of funny photographs, and generally have a fab and groovy time.

And, lastly, I'll be heading along to Write Along the Highway twice in November as part of this year's Nanowrimo: I'll be the subject of an author talk and workshop at Mundijong Library on the 18th and a panellist at the big Write Night! event at the South Perth Community Hall on the evening of the 26th. Details are being finalised, and I'll remind you as they're released to the general public, but spaces for these types of events are limited, so if they sound like your thing, it might be worth contacting the organisation soon.





THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, 9-YEAR OLD EDITION

Ah, well. It was worth a try.


Running order, day one.

After scant few months of a return to the school system, we've pulled Master 9 out and have re-commenced home-schooling. While he is currently not vomiting as often as he has in the past, it is still an issue, and his need to leave the classroom several times a day has become a real social issue-- while it's possible to ask 9 year old children to understand a peer's health issues, it's not possible to stop them staring every time he goes in and out, and a teacher can't be asked to stop and wait for him to return before continuing with the lesson.

The overwhelming feeling that he has become the class weirdo, coupled with stress over the feeling that he's falling behind simply because he has to try to catch up with what's been said in his absence several times a day, has taken its toll. The number of sick days was starting to rise, the number of tearful mornings had just about become 1:1, the teacher conferences were happening weekly. With all the good will in the world-- and his school had the very best of good will towards his situation-- it just wasn't working. No 9 year old should suffer stress and depression. Master 9 clearly was.

So we've withdrawn him, to give him a sense of power over his schooling, and a sense of equilibrium about himself and his social situation. It was a nice attempt, but ultimately, until he's well enough to last a full school day, every school day, without being sick, the school system can't make itself flexible enough to fit him and we can't risk his progress any more than it's already being compromised.

Back to work, at the dining room table alone.

I'm creased with fear for the little bugger: fear over his social progress; fear over his educational progress; fear over his mental and physical states; fear for his future. Hopefully, giving him the space and time to work at his own pace again, without the added stress of fitting into someone else's agenda and with some semblance of control over the social interactions he engages in will help him cope with the demands his Rumination Syndrome places on all aspects of his existence.

There is no 'simple' in his life anymore. All we can do is simplify.











HAPPY TALK, KEEP TALKING HAPPY TALK

Nicole Murphy is a truly excellent author of speculative fiction, romance and erotica, and over at her website she's running a series of interviews on the road to publication.

She's been kind enough to offer a platform for my unique brand of self-indulgent blether, and I have complied. You can read my interview with Nicole here.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY LEARNS THE MAZE

"So, your plan is for one of us to learn to build nuclear bombs, be cut up and
fed to the rest of us?... Are you NUTS?"
 
 
 

Sometimes a little factoid lodges itself so far into your psyche that-- apocryphal or not, disproved or not-- it bounces around inside your head, sparking ideas and narratives long after other, potentially more worthy ideas have long since slipped away into the darkness.

Teach a planarian worm to run a maze, then grind it up and feed it to other planarian worms an they will instantly gain the knowledge of how to run that maze, even if they have never seen the maze before.

I can't remember where I read it, and I don't know whether it's actually true or not. More to the point, I haven't bothered to find out, because I've used that little nugget on at least five occasions, and one of the stories I used it in won a bunch of awards and ushered a few cheques into being along the way so I'm hardly going to quibble now, am I?

It also inspired this thumbnail, which has never been completed, won no awards, and hasn't earned me a single cent. Circle of life, my friends. Circle of life.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2014 SNAPSHOT

In happier news, the Australian SF Snapshot series of interviews is being conducted again, and once again I have been snapped and shotted in what's becoming increasingly like a 7-Up version of my again self.

This time, journalist Nick Evans has asked the questions, grilling me on the transition from adult novels to childrens works, my Australian TBR pile and just what the hell I think I'm doing with what's supposed to be my career.

 You can see my response here.

FLY, BE FREE

We lost another divine lunatic yesterday.

Robin Williams, who first helped melt my mind when I was a kid with his anarchic portrayal of Mork from Ork in Mork and Mindy, and who made regular incursions into my artistic consciousness through a series of brilliant live DVDs; early comedic movies like Moscow on the Hudson and Good Morning, Vietnam; mature middle-career performances in Jumanji, The Birdcage and others; and stunning dramatic tours-de-force in a range of intense dramatic roles such as Dead Poets Society; Good Will Hunting; One Hour Photo and Insomnia, killed himself.

For a man who had a profound impact upon my artistic, comedic and personal sensibilities, he was surprisingly young: he was only 63.

In many ways, Williams was an ever-present as I grew up. It's hard to explain the impact of Mork and Mindy on my sensibilities: with a grand total of 3 TV channels to choose from and a much higher quota of Australian programming (not to mention viewing choices controlled by conservative, British parents), there was, quite literally, nothing on television quite like it. Mork was a force of nature, a fox in a chicken coop of cookie-cutter sitcom writing, and at a time when I was already glutting my imagination on science fiction and the Goon Show, I was an instant convert, a mini-Exidor running off at the mouth and driving my parents insane.

And, then, somehow he was always just there. Within a year or two we had purchased our first VHS player--at roughly the same time he was making the transition into movies, and if there was a Williams movie on the shelf, I watched it: Popeye, The World According to Garp, Moscow on the Hudson, Survivors, Club Paradise.... anyone who was surprised by his range and depth in later career movies should see these early films back to back. The depth was always there, the range always apparent. It was just the quality of production that altered, just the size of the marquee. Once I was old enough to travel the sixty kilometres to the nearest cinema by myself he became a staple of my cinema visits: Good Morning, Vietnam one of the first films I ever went to alone, without even the company of friends, the soundtrack to the movie a permanent fixture on my walkman (it still features on my iPod play list today).

When I took up stand-up comedy in the early nineties a group of comedic friends and I would gather together regularly to watch live videos and dissect them: Andy Kaufman; Richard Jeni; Steve Martin (another ever-present: when he dies, I'll be just as distraught); Emo Philips, Richard Pryor, Billy Connolly.... the list was unending. Except Williams. Between us we had a mammoth collection, stretching right back to bootleg recordings of early Comedy Store appearances. Those, we just watched, and rolled around, in tears of laughter. Nobody wanted to dissect them. We knew we couldn't learn anything, couldn't replicate what he did in any way. We watched them because we wanted to see great art, and revel in genius.

And so I stopped thinking about him. He was furniture, as much as Billy Connolly and Steve Martin and the Goon Show and science fiction and Pink Floyd and my eyesight and hearing and all the things that are woven so deeply into my being that they are little more than autonomic processes. Always an awareness at the edge of my vision, occasionally popping into full view to stun me one more time-- holy shit, the man did One Hour Photo, Death to Smoochy and Insomina in a single year-- but more often than not just slightly in the background. Let's be honest, he hadn't starred in a decent movie since The Final Cut in 2004, and even that's a flawed work. Supporting roles in Night at the Museum movies aside, it had been fairly slim pickings for a while.

But he was still there, part of my general awareness, a tightly-woven emblem in the pattern of my karass. I'd introduced him to my kids, through Jumanji and the Night at the Museum movies. We'd have gotten to Bicentennial Man soon enough, and Dead Poets Society in its turn.

I hadn't really thought about his influence on my life, my ways of thinking, my approach to art, until I checked out my Facebook feed yesterday morning and was deluged by outpourings of shock and sorrow.

Now, I don't know what else to say.

There's a huge body of work, of various quality. There are artists who have been influenced, and will carry that influence into their own work. But Williams himself is gone, and my karass is wounded.

Mork has finally, irretrievably, signed off.




Monday, August 04, 2014

Review: Marvel Masterworks: Daredevil - Volume 3


Marvel Masterworks: Daredevil - Volume 3
Marvel Masterworks: Daredevil - Volume 3 by Stan Lee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



The very definition of a curate's egg. One of my favourite Marvel characters, who has developed unbelievable shades and intonations over the years, and the beginnings of his complexity are in evidence throughout this volume of early stories. The art by Gene Colan is superb: clear, active, with unexpected depth and elegance.

But, oh Gods, Stan Lee is an abysmal hack. The writing is embarrassing, and the z-grade line-up of villians-- including El Matador, whose powers involve being a matador and having a skeezy Spanish accent; the Masked Marauder, who, well, has a mask that's basically a welding helmet with a mauve hanky hanging off the bottom, and arguably the worst villain Marvel have ever devised (and we're talking the company who gave us Razorback and Rocket Racer...) Leapfrog, with springs on his scuba flippers and a frog costume, whose power involves being able to jump high on his springs (I shit thee not!)-- should have been enough to kill the book dead, dead, dead. The dialogue is leaden, the misogyny oozes from each page, the majority of characters are two-dimensional at best, and some of Lee's plot devices wouldn't pass grade in a Perils of Pauline script meeting. A supposed 'bonus' feature, wherein page are devoted to a supposed meeting between Lee and Colan to work on the scripts, showing what swell and quirky fellas they are, is just teeth-grindingly awful.

The Cult of Lee has been built, over the years, on his personality and bullet-proof self-belief and love for what he does. If it had anything to do with his writing skills, he'd be long-forgotten.

Three stars for Colan's artwork, which deserves-- and, thankfully, regularly received-- a better forum. Thank God Horn-head went on to better things than this tripe.





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Sunday, August 03, 2014

Review: Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants


Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants
Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants by Matthew Inman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Hilarious collection of profane, insane and left-brain strips from one of the few online strips I follow. All the ranty, common-sense goodness that makes this strip so brilliantly funny, presented in large, glossy format. Love it.



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Monday, July 28, 2014

REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL, PART TEN

Over at Facebook, I was tagged in a meme that required me to list three things that made me grateful, every day for three days.

So I thought I'd list them here, too.


  1. I'm grateful for my art. It has provided me with friendships, income, travel opportunities, and was the vehicle by which I escaped the soul-destroying depths off despair I was slowly being crushed by while working in the Public Service. I'll never be famous, I'll never be remembered, and I'll never be considered at even the middle of the tree, but my art has been the thing that has kept me from disappearing into the obscure midst of my mediocre family tree, and I'm grateful.
  2. I'm grateful for a reasonable income. Yes, we struggle, and we juggle finances on a fortnightly basis, but I'm aware that we do so from a level of decent comfort. My children go to a good school, my wife is able to study, essentially, full time, and we have room to both expand our horizons and entertain our hobbies & indulgences. We never suffer, and having both come from backgrounds of grinding poverty, Lyn and I have only ever wanted our children to appreciate a good upbringing.
  3. I'm grateful for the respect of my peers. I get little of it at work, and I rarely feel like an author doing good work, so when a fellow artist expresses their respect or admiration for the work I do then it usually comes as an enormous, and humbling, surprise, because, to be quite honest, I generally don't know what I do to merit it. I've undervalued my work for so long-- it's only in the last fortnight, for example, that I've decided to set a minimum fee for appearances, despite doing them regularly for the last 12 years-- that I'm always a little stunned when others do value it. And grateful, because sometimes, I doubt I'd go on without it.
  4. I'm grateful for my readers. Despite all the mechanical hoo-ha-ra that goes into writing, ultimately it comes down to entertaining a stranger with the power of your imagination and your words. Anybody who comes back for a second helping, or who picks up my work because they like the cut of my snippets, is someone who has chosen to invest their time and imagination into my maunderings. It's a weird kind of long-distance love affair of the mind, and I'm thankful to all who take it on.
  5. I'm grateful for my children. As you've probably noticed if you've read this Facebook page for long enough-- by which I mean half a day or more-- my kids constantly entertain me, fill me with wonder, and enrich my life by keeping me innocent, impish and focused on doing good for others who need me in their life. Whether it be my naturally-arrived Miss 12 and Master 9, or my inherited bonus kids Cassie, Aiden and Blake, granddaughter Little Miss 2, grandson Little Man <1 boys="" enrich="" in="" life="" multitudinous="" my="" or="" partners="" span="" the="" they="" ways.="">
  6. I'm grateful for the quickness of my mind. I've mentioned before that my father's mind is failing, and it's killing me to watch a charming, erudite, quick-witted man struggle for words and concepts he used to fling about like gossamer. I love being funny, I love being deliberately unfunny to spark a funny exchange, I love to tease, to argue, to explain, to build worlds and concepts out of nothing more than my vocabulary and my ability to knit words into never before-seen shapes and tastes. All my other gifts belong to the people who bestow them upon me. This is the only thing I have going for me that is purely mine. If it ever begins to desert me, I don't know what I'll do.
  7. The care and love shown to Master 9 during his illness by people who have no other investment in it than they are his teachers, or our friends. From just-because gifts, to messages of support, to structuring his classroom, people have gathered round him for the 14 months of his illness and provided him with an atmosphere of caring and support that has done wonders for his morale and self-esteem. To Kris, Kim,Grant, Lilysea, Mark and countless others, my gratitude.
  8. Free education. I went to a shitty High school in the 80s, when my pre-Child Support Agency divorced mother raised two teenage boys and covered a mortgage on a single mother's pension and a $30 a month in child support payments, and thanks to a nominally free education system I still managed to claw my way through 4 years of University. Now, it's going to cost tens of thousands of dollars to send my children to a good high school. Much as I would love to do my Master's degree, I simply can't afford it. My wife's attendance at University each semester is a matter of financial negotiation. My eldest sons struggle to hold down shitty part-time jobs and find enough time to attend to their study obligations. If I were starting my educational career today, I'd be working at K-Mart full-time, because that's the best that people like me could have hoped to afford. I'm grateful that free education enabled me-- and subsequently, my children-- to escape a lower-class existence through education.
  9. A stable political system. Yes, Tony Abbott and his Ant-Hill Mob of witless cronies are a blight on our culture, and yes, we can argue back and forth about the relative merits of our chosen allegiances until we're blue in the nads. But nobody shot at me today, and I own my house, and my children are safe and my wife can wear whatever she wants and get herself a tertiary education, and any meal I've missed since I was at Uni has been by choice, and I have freedom of travel, speech, religion and thought. And I'm an artist, and a well-paid member of the permanent workforce. I've never been conscripted, I've never fought in a war, or against my own people. I've never been gaoled for my beliefs, tortured, or disappeared. My neighbours don't spy on me. I'm safe, and warm, and comfortable and educated. And I'm grateful.


And, things being what they are, here's a little bonus extra grateful content:

10. Above all else, I am grateful for the presence of Luscious Lyn in my life. We have been together almost twelve years now, which boggles me to think of, and in that time we have faced innumerable struggles, traumas and hardships, but throughout it all she has been the pivot around which our family revolves. She has brought me unparallelled joy, belief and support, and whatever happiness I have managed to gather unto myself has been, in large part, because she is beside me, pointing me always towards positivity and joy. I cope, and occasionally flourish, because of her. I am a better person because of her.

And for that we should *all* be grateful.

REASONS TO BE GRATEFUL, PART ONE

25 days? Jesus!

Agh, the time has swallowed me up. I'm in the final evening of a two-week vacation from the day job, something I've been in desperate need of for quite some time now, and quite honestly, it was a chance to forget about all my obligations and simply schlep about the house in tracky-dacks, perform some long-awaited renovation tasks, play a metric fucktonne of Baldur's Gate and generally just forget that tomorrow I have to go back to a job I increasingly consider a soul-devouring bucket of hatred and despair.

You know, work.

So, I could bang on about a whole slew of stuff that happened over the last month, but to be brutally honest, I took a holiday to get away from them all and I'm hardly in the mood to bring them back up again. So what I'm going to do instead is post pictures from 3 Lego MOCs I made during my time off, and then list 10 things I'm grateful for, because that will make me happy.

Your mileage may vary.

First up, the Tomb of the Unknow Spaceman, created for the Perth Lego User Groups 'monochrome' challenge during July:









Next, a starfighter, for no other reason that I like building space fighters, and I think this turned out quite cool:










And to finish, a build for PLUGs 'Minifig Monday' that was supposed to symbolise the second week of my vacation:






Thursday, July 03, 2014

THUMBNAIL THURSDAY HAS KRYPTONITE SHOTGUN SHELLS

"Oh, my God, Jake. What have we done?"
 
 
 
That's one hell of a hunting dog you've got there, Jake. Where did you pick him up, the lion enclosure? I'm not even going into the logic gap inherent in bringing down Superman with duck shot.....
 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Review: Gallery of Horror


Gallery of Horror
Gallery of Horror by Charles L. Grant

My rating: 3 of 5 stars



Collection of very mixed quality, of which only 'Nunc Dimittis by Tanith Lee and 'The Chair' by Dennis Etchison' are of the highest quality, stretching through ordinary efforts by Stephen King, Robert Bloch and other horror luminaries to substandard efforts by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Theodore Sturgeon and T.E.D. Klein. The low-light, as seems to be the case with any anthology in which you find him, is 'Death to the Easter Bunny' by the execrable Alan Ryan. Solid, unexciting efforts by Ramsey Campbell, Gardner Dozois & Jack Dann, and Steve Rasnic Tem keep you turning the pages, hoping for something better to really knock your socks off, but it never really arrives. Readers without any previous exposure to the horror genre will find much to enjoy.



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Review: The Man Who Was Thursday


The Man Who Was Thursday
The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars



Utterly delightful, comic crime caper with a philosophical bent that lends the spiralling absurdity a serious underpinning that lifts it above a merely humorous work. Chesterton's mastery of language and deft characterisation makes this a wonderful read. A masterful work by one of the best authors in the English language.



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