Saturday, 25 November 2017

Movie Review: Horns

Horns is a 2013 Canadian-American urban fantasy-horror movie based on a novel by Joe Hill.

Ig (Daniel Radcliffe) is going through a living hell. His girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple) has been murdered, and everyone in the small town he has lived in all his life thinks he did it. His family don't conceal their suspicions, and he is constantly followed around by TV news crews hoping to record his confession.

One day, Ig wakes up to find a set of devilish horns growing on his forehead. These horns seem to confer a strange superpower on him. Everyone he runs into loses any inhibitions, confesses all their deepest secrets to him, and does whatever he suggests. This results in a series of bizarre occurences, some tragic, some hilarious.

Ig soon realises that his horns have an advantage -- to find out who killed Merrin and clear his name, all he needs to do is track down the culprit, and they will automatically confess. Of course, things aren't that simple. Meanwhile, the story of Ig's relationship with Merrin is slowly revealed through flashbacks. Gradually, Ig embraces his new persona as a modern-day demon, befriending an army of snakes who seem to do his bidding, and carrying a pitchfork around wherever he goes.

It was the first non-Harry-Potter movie that I had seen Daniel Radcliffe in, and I have to admit, I was worried that he'd suffer from being "the famous Harry Potter". (I forget what this phenomenon is actually called: does anyone know?) This is when, no matter what character the actor plays, you can never forget that it's just them playing a character, or can never forget a character they played before. Thankfully, this phenomenon disappeared after about 15 minutes as I was watching Horns, and I was able to fully engage with the character of Ig. Perhaps the fact that he had an American (or Canadian?) accent in this role helped, too.

The concept behind Horns is a bizarre one, not seen in many Hollywood movies. I really enjoyed it though, and couldn't wait to see how it would play out. To me, it seemed more the kind of concept and storyline you would see in a manga or anime. In fact, I think with the addition of a bit more backstory and both funny and sad incidents, it could potentially make a very good 12-episode manga.

The backdrop is that of a beautiful Canadian mountain town, and the cool soundtrack features David Bowie and Marilyn Manson. The film seems to become more and more rushed towards the ending, with some over-the-top incidents and horror scenes that were a bit out of step with the rest of the movie. Despite that (and being someone who hates horror movies), I would recommend it. I would like to watch it again too, as I suspect it has some deeper symbolism that might be missed from a single viewing.

Would I watch it again? YES!!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Enviro/Thrifty #1: Ten Thrifty Things

Last year I started a very short-lived series called Enviro-Monthly. I keep meaning to re-start it, especially considering that it's on my list of 101 Things to Do in 1,001 days. (Not to mention the environment needs our help now more than ever!) After spending quite a lot on conventions and concert tickets last month, I had a sudden urge to be more thrifty too. In reading some thrifty blogs I found through Bunny Mummy, I noticed that almost all of the thrifty ideas are also environmentally friendly.
(The blogs were: Life After Money, Frugal Queen and Shoestring Cottage.)

It spurred me on to think about the series again. I thought about renaming it Enviro-Thrifty-Monthly or something similar, but it just didn't have the same ring to it. I don't want to be limited to posting about it once a month, so I decided to drop the 'Monthly' and just have a numbered series.

When reading the thrifty blogs I mentioned above, I realised there are already quite a few environmentally friendly and/or thrifty things I already do. Some of them I was taught as a kid, and others I invented myself as just sensible things to do. I thought I'd ease myself into things by listing some of them:

1. squish the last bit of the soap onto the new soap so it can all be used up.
2. collect plastic bags and food wrappers to put in the recycling bin at the supermarket (I wrote about this one last year).
3. bring lunch to work most days.
4. usually only buy food on sale.
5. re-use ziplock bags (as long as they're not dirty).
6. usually when Husband and I cook we make enough for at least 2 meals. We find creative ways to make the leftovers interesting. We NEVER throw food away.
7. use the slow cooker to make a week's worth of meals most weeks in Winter.
8. paid off my car loan 2 years early by transferring extra money to it each fortnight. I made sure to choose a car that cost much less than my upper limit so I was able to do this. Which was doubly a good thing really, because poor Tara only lived for another year after that, otherwise I would have had debt on a dead car. When we bought our replacement car, we had good credit from paying off the previous loan early.
9. work out the cheapest options for my daily public transport.
10. only put the heating or cooling on if I'm sweltering hot or freezing cold. (This is more of a preference than a conscious choice. I just don't notice heat and cold until it becomes extreme. When Husband is home it's a bit different: he's a lot more susceptible to temperature than I am due to his medical issues.)

Of course, we're not perfect and we could make a lot of improvements. I've identified many areas where I'd like to do better. Hopefully having a regular series will keep this in the front of my mind and motivate me to keep making changes.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

PAX and Madfest 2017 and Haul

Over the last two weekends, I went to two Cons: PAX (computer and tabletop games) and Madfest (anime). Despite feeling like a perpetual noob in both of those fields, I managed to have a very fun time and came away with an extensive haul from both.

At PAX I enlarged my plushie collection, with a large Jigglypuff and a Bulbasaur from Pokemon Go, a Mr. Meowgi from Neko Atsume, and a dinosaur Pusheen.

My dream is to have a Wall of Plush (well, a shelf, in reality). I'm hoping that once the shelf is full, I won't have the urge to buy more plushies. That's the theory, anyway...

I also purchased some Pokemon Go charms. I was planning to make an Ita Bag (a fan-themed bag), but the bag itself didn't arrive on time for either Con, so I wasn't able to put it together in time. At least I'll have plenty of charms for when the bag finally does arrive. There's also a Crossy Road pin. I've been enjoying playing this game for the last few months, and didn't know until the Con that it's an Australian game! So I had to buy a chicken pin. I somehow snapped up the last pieces of Stardew-Valley-themed merch from the place, too. (Another girl had picked them up, and I was standing behind her, mentally willing her to put them down. It was quite drastic.)

Here are the tabletop games that I convinced Husband to buy. Sagrada is brand new game (well, new to Australia, anyway?) -- it only came into the booths on the last day of the event. Reviews coming soon.

I also spent some time checking out the Australian Indie games area, one of my favourite parts. I took photos of the ones that interested me most as a reminder and thought I may as well post them on my Instagram.

One week later, I went to Madfest. It has a different vibe, but just as fun. This year the area was more spacious, which created a more relaxed atmosphere. I'd estimate that almost half of the patrons were dressed in some kind of cosplay or anime-inspired outfit, so many that I almost felt like I stood out for wearing a normal outfit! While I thought I looked pretty cute, I'm determined to step up my outfit game next year! (I forgot to take any photos of myself, but I might do a What I Wore drawing sometime soon.)

After we had sushi handrolls and matcha custard buns for breakfast in the food hall, I made straight for Artist Alley -- the part I look forward to the most. It's been re-named Creator Zone, which is more inclusive. I was mainly on the lookout for stickers for my Hobonichi, and prints for my art wall. This year there weren't as many stickers -- many of them were larger vinyl decals, which were beautiful, but I can't justify the extra cost for a more durable sticker if I'm only going to use them in my diary.

Here's a visual run-down of everything I purchased from Creator Zone -- I managed to keep track of most of the makers: their Instagrams are linked below each picture.

{Stefanie Palladino}

{Ashlin Day}



{Koko City} // {BunnyLoz}

{CritterCat} // {Miss-a-Ree Guts Creations}

I collected cards from many more sellers whose work I loved, but wasn't able to stretch to buying on the day.

I splashed out and got a large Mystery Bag from Sugart Creations. Actually ... I asked for the largest bag, thinking the medium one was the large one. There was an even larger one hidden behind which the stallholder thought I was asking for, and I felt too bad to refuse it. The stall had many beautiful handmade things as well as commercial merch, and overall I think the bag was worth the purchase. My favourite items from it were the Vulpix wooden brooch, Charmander badge, cat-ear beanie, Lolita headbow and the Sanrio plushie.

Speaking of plush, I only bought one: a Vaporeon from a stall selling official Pokemon Go items. From the discount manga stall, I bought the first volumes of Orange Crows and Planet Ladder. There's the Pokemon Go cookbook for Husband to give me for Christmas, and a manga version of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I haven't played any of the Zelda games, but I've just started learning to play the ocarina, so it would be nice to know the story.

Sometimes when there are obstacles in life, you just
have to learn to work around them!

There were several gallery spaces showing art from the animes Attack on Titan and Cowboy Bebop, and the Studio Ghibli film Your Name. I enjoyed seeing this side of the culture, away from the fandom and commercialism. (It was literally less noisy in these spaces, which I appreciated.) Madfest is a relatively new Con, and I while last year was very good, this year was even better. I'm looking forward to going again next year.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

My October

I had such a busy month last month. I was so busy doing things that it felt like I didn't have time to do anything, if that makes sense!

At the start of the month, Spring burst through with an enthusiasm that I couldn't help being overjoyed at. The leaves on the trees seemed to grow faster than I'd ever seen before. My fruit trees have ping-pong-ball-sized green globes on them already. My lawn is growing so fast that there are some new weeds that look like wheat in it. You know your lawn is neglected when there are cereal crops growing in it!

What I've Been Doing ....
Most of the month was taken up with preparing for my gallery exhibition. I should probably make a separate post, but it still feels too surreal so I will just post the photos I took on the opening night. I feel a bit silly because I forgot to take any photos of myself with the art, but it was just such a whirlwind of a night, and the gallery was extremely crowded with the 21 artists exhibiting and all of their guests. The art was amazing and I met some lovely people. The exhibition is open until Sunday 5th November so there's still time to check it out if you're in Melbourne.

What I've Been Playing ....
I started playing Animal Crossing: Pocket Camper. It's a spinoff of the Animal Crossing games, which I never played because they were on a console I didn't have. Happy Camp is a mobile game, however, so I can play it on my iPad. You have a campsite which you decorate and add cosy furniture to. Meanwhile you suck up to adorable animal characters by giving them gifts and placing the things in your campsite that they demand. If all goes well, they visit your campsite and make sycophantic speeches about how great you are. It's extremely cute and I'm a little bit addicted to buying new outfits for my character.

What I've Been Watching ....
Yesterday I finally got Netflix. I got so sick of everyone talking about Stranger Things last year and even more sick of everyone talking about season two at the moment and having terrible Fear of Missing Out. (It wasn't just fear of missing out, I was missing out!) The last straw was when I saw Martina cosplaying as Barb on Instagram. I discussed it with Husband and we signed up. We're only up to episode 3 of season 1 so far, so no spoilers please!

What Else? ....
Earlier this month I started learning to play the ocarina, but progress was very slow because of everything else I was doing. Last weekend I went to PAX Melbourne, the computer game and tabletop game expo. I'll write separate posts about these things soon.

If you'd like to read about my Dias de Muertos altar for this year, you can check it out on my other blog.

Selections from Instagram ....

Friday, 27 October 2017

Why I'm not into Halloween

When I was a kid, we didn't have much to do with Halloween in Australia. It was an American thing. On the 31st of October, there'd be a piece at the end of the news with people in weird costumes standing around piles of pumpkins and that was just about all I'd hear about Halloween. It was an exotic custom that belonged to a different culture.

But not only that. Some years, kids would come around our house dressed up in white sheets and witches hats. (Never with their parents of course. It was a simpler time.) My Mum would give them a lecture on the Americanisation of Australian culture and then send them away. Any time Halloween was mentioned on TV or we saw a display of Halloween-themed merchandise at the supermarket, she'd embark on a rant about how everything American was over-running everything Australian.

With an upbringing like that, I'm sure you can imagine what I thought of Halloween. To me, it was just another overblown commercialised holiday designed to make money, like Valentine's Day. Plus, I don't like anything scary -- scary movies, practical jokes, haunted house rides, etc. Even mock-scary things make me feel uncomfortable.

It wasn't until I was older and did my own research that I found out about the older tradition of Samhain and how it's tied in to Pagan practices. I also learned more about the traditions of Halloween from a psychological perspective and how exposing yourself to mildly scary things can relieve greater fears. It was very interesting and explained a great deal, but I still wasn't into Halloween. While I have a different perspective now, I still don't think I can embrace Halloween the way everyone around me is.

I mean -- I live in the Southern Hemisphere. Why would I celebrate a harvest holiday in Spring?

Spooky Cheese.

The dissonance between my experience of living in the Southern Hemisphere and the Northern Hemisphere experience becomes particularly acute at this time of year. I've felt it especially in the last 5 years or so. I think it's due to social media. Whenever I log onto Facebook or Instagram, my feed is literally filled with photos of Happy Halloween graphics, pumpkins, Autumn leaves, carved pumpkins, people in Halloween costumes, pumpkin pies, Samhain spell suggestions, pumpkin spice lattes. (Seriously, people are obsessed with pumpkins at this time of year!)

We can't even buy pumpkins at the moment because they're not in season. And there's no canned pumpkin in Australia. It might not seem like a big thing, but it does have a tendency to make me feel isolated and out of step. (Not just the pumpkin thing, but the whole cultural phenomenon.)

So when I see the Australians around me wholeheartedly embracing Halloween, it's a bit disconcerting. I'm sure that Pagans who follow the local seasonal cycle will be celebrating Spring right now, so I can't help but think some of the people here who celebrate Halloween aren't doing it with the depth that would show a true respect for Samhain. I can't really begrudge them though and I don't want to sound like I'm complaining -- it does look like a whole lot of fun!

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Cyanotyping Workshop

Last weekend I went to a cyanotyping workshop, and it was brilliant!

The workshop was held at NOIR Darkroom, a new space dedicated to analogue photography and all arts with an emphasis on community participation. Husband and I were the only participants as the other person was unable to attend, so we had the full attention of our host Jess.

Cyanotype is a very early form of photography invented in the 1840s. It uses a combination of two chemicals: potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate. When mixed, these create a light-sensitive solution. Despite their scary-sounding names, the chemicals involved are relatively safe, and that makes the process suitable for children as well as adults. We mixed our chemicals together, after first preparing our paper. We were given several types of watercolour paper with different textures and shades, so we could see the results from each. Preparing the paper just involved tearing it into any sizes and shapes we liked.

Next, we painted the solution onto the paper. At this stage it was a light greenish-yellow colour. This should be done in a fairly low-light environment and the paper turned upside down straight away, to protect it from being exposed to sunlight too soon.

While we waited for our paper to dry, we played with some sheets that Jess had prepared earlier. There was a table of items of different shapes and textures to choose from, both natural and man-made. We arranged items onto clear acetate and laid the paper down on top, then a layer of thick cardboard. It's important for a clear image for the items to be touching the paper, so we used bulldog clips to keep everything as flat as possible.

We laid out our creations outside in the alleyway behind the building. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day, and the photograms took much longer to develop than they would if it was a sunny day. Images are also clearer and more detailed on sunny days as the shadows are sharper. Here you can see prints in different stages of development. The solution turns from a light yellow to dark greenish blue quite quickly. In some there were shades of grey or red as well.

To develop the prints, we washed them in a tray of ordinary water. During the washing, the prints magically turned from greenish-grey to a spectacular blue within about one minute. The shapes often looked quite different after washing, too, so we never knew what we were going to get until the end.

After trying out several of the items from the table, we went for an art walk to find things in the neighbourhood to work with. We took a few sheets with us in envelopes made of black paper, and a couple of sheets of acetate and cardboard backers. Cyanotype is a very portable medium!

We used found items to make more prints, and Jess showed us how to attach sheets to things like a chain-link fence to take imprints of them. It was a lot of fun searching and looking at our environment in a new way. When we returned to the workshop space, we developed them in water and laid them out to dry.

At this point the prints are fixed and no more treatment is needed. Cyanotype is a very stable medium: many prints from over 150 years ago still exist. It can be done on almost any porous surface: fabric, yarn, dried leaves, walls. The possibilities are very exciting. I want to find ways to combine art and craft, so I'd love to try printing on something like a knitted or crocheted surface.

The workshop was a lot of fun as well as informative, and I would definitely return for more. Incidentally, NOIR Darkroom is also where the exhibition I'm involved in opens later this week, so you'll be seeing more of this venue in future posts.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

2018 Hobonichi Unboxing

I have to admit, I was very slack with my Hobonichi art diary purchase this year. Last year, I remembered spending the whole morning of the first sale day refreshing the website until I finally secured my order. This year, I completely forgot about it until I started seeing unboxing videos on YouTube. Thankfully there was still stock left and my Hobonichi arrived to me within 10 days. I then didn't have a chance to take photos and put this post together because I was so busy working on my upcoming exhibition. But finally I can present my 2018 Hobonichi Life Book unboxing:

This year the diary came in a parcel with a rounded top, which was slightly different to last year, but still had an old-timey feel to it. The box inside was a bright yellow colour, with a quote on it: "Don't just reach for a bandage, 365 days is plenty of time to fix things up right."

Nestled under a layer of brown paper, the my diary was accompanied by the customary gifts. I again chose the Hobonichi Cousin, which is the A5-size diary with text in Japanese.

Included with the Hobonichi were the Life Book guide book, the welcome book brochure, a multi-pen and a set of meal planner cubes. I was pleased to see that there were two copies of the welcome book brochure, one in English and one in Japanese. I can keep one and cut the other one up to use in my diary.

The welcome book brochure has cute drawings of various types of people and how they use their Life Books -- including dogs and cats!

The meal planner cubes are a set of two dice. One has 6 different types of meats (including vegetables), and the other 6 different ways of cooking the meal, such as steaming or frying. It's not so much a meal planner as a meal randomiser. I think this is such a cute idea and I can't wait to use them!

I have to admit, I've been lax in using my current Hobonichi the last few months. I've been filling in only a single day here or there and leaving weeks or even a month blank in between. I will of course fill up those pages with drawings and paintings eventually, but that will be a lot of work. Receiving my new Hobonichi and writing about it has stimulated my interest again though, and I'll start again -- tonight!