Sunday, 11 November 2018

Movie Review: Outlaw King

Outlaw King is a 2018 Netflix movie set in the early 1300s, telling the true story of Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine), a Scottish nobleman. Scotland is a weary and poverty-stricken nation after eight years of fighting the English, whose king Edward I took advantage of a leadership dispute to invade the country and tax them heavily.

After the death of William Wallace (whom you may remember from the movie Braveheart), the people are stirred by anger, and Robert takes advantage of this wave of outrage to gather soldiers together to fight the English invasion. A rash and impulsive decision threatens to undo everything he has done, and leads him to quickly seek to have himself crowned King of Scotland. The English retaliation against this is swift and brutal. Led by the king's son, sadistic Prince Edward, the English forces move to crush any opposition and punish Robert by capturing his family. The rest of the plot will be known by students of history, and for anyone else, I want to avoid spoiling the ending.

The casting of Chris Pine (best known for his portrayal of Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboots) was an interesting choice in my opinion. Pine has been made up with greying hair and a beard, making him look much older than he is, and is almost unrecognisable. At the start of the movie's events, Robert the Bruce was only 30 years old, so possibly looked younger than his movie counterpart. Perhaps this was done to make him seem more authoritative? Then there's the accent. American actors are often put in roles playing non-American characters and the accent can sometimes be an issue, but I think Pine's Scottish accent was very well done.

The movie isn't shy in showing the brutal realities of mediaeval life: the mud, how peasants are treated, people being hung, drawn and quartered, and horses being impaled in battle. If you don't want to see any of this, then this isn't the movie for you! If you want to see a no-holds-barred account of history, Outlaw King does this well.

It's true, critics have pointed out several historical inaccuracies in the movie. No historical movie is one-hundred percent accurate (if there are any, let me know!) and stories need to be appealing to their audience. Robert and his wife had already been married for two years before the events of the movie, but we wouldn't have felt so much empathy for them if we hadn't seen how they met. Fire arrows weren't used in Europe at that time, but we wouldn't have been able to see normal arrows in the dark during the night time battle and, I have to admit, they looked pretty awesome!
(More historical inaccuracies are listed on the Wikipedia page for the movie.)

At times there were visual metaphors more suited to an arthouse movie -- an upturned apple cart, a rainbow. These were jarring and made me wonder if the movie was trying to be something other than what it is. Then it swung the other way with 'that' scene. I have no problem with nudity in movies if it's warranted, but these days it seems almost expected for Chris Pine to be nude at some point in every movie that he's in. If people aren't talking about the movie for the blood and guts, or the accents, they're talking about it for that.

Overall though, I thought it was a decent movie, with gorgeous highland landscapes contrasted with the not-so-gorgeous narrative of Scottish mediaeval society.

Would I watch it again? Yes!

Sunday, 4 November 2018

I'm Doing NaNoWriMo!

Sort of!

Yes, I'm giving National Novel Writing Month another go! With some modifications, however...

A whole 50,000-word novel is a bit much for me. I've never done well at any kind of 30-day challenges. I couldn't even write for 10 minutes a day when I tried it three years ago. During the week I rarely have the time or the energy to work on anything creative, leaving an ever-mounting backlog which means I never get past the first week -- or often the first 3 days!

So I'm modifying the challenge and decided to write a 5,000 word story. That's only 166 words a day. (I rounded it up to 170 for convenience's sake.) At the moment it's easy to tell my brain that's a very do-able goal.

Also, I have to admit, I cheated a little and wrote 500 words on 31st October, because I was so excited when I first decided to do the challenge. This has turned out to be a good thing, because I'm ahead of the count and feel a lot less pressured. Even when I'm ahead, I still aim to open up the document and add something to it every day.

I just have to point out: I never liked the "National" part of NaNoWriMo, as people from all over the world are taking up the challenge. Although, I was doing a bit of digging around today and just found this Melbourne-based Facebook group -- MelbNaNo. So that's nice.

I'm hoping to publish the story at the end of the month on Wattpad or something similar. If anyone knows of a more suitable platform for sharing an original cozy mystery story featuring coffee and cats, please let me know! I'd love to get some feedback on it and perhaps see if I can expand it into a series one day.

Good luck to everyone else doing NaNoWriMo 2018! Now I'd better get back to writing!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

My August / September / October

Oops! I forgot to do my monthly update a couple of months in a row! To be honest, not much happened in August and September. Winter subsided a bit earlier than normal this year though, and my mood lifted enough for me to start looking forward to things again.

As soon as the sun started to appear again, I enjoyed as much time in the park as I could, walking, reading and viewing the Spring flowers.

Husband and I went out several times with our foodie friend, and we ate a lot!

Last weekend I went to PAX, the video game and tabletop game expo. I had quite a laidback time, spending a leisurely couple of hours playing games from the convention's library, and looking at the upcoming indie games showcase. It was so laidback that I didn't buy anything, and didn't even take any photos!

I refreshed my altar to reflect the new season. I wrote more about it on my spirituality blog here.

And recently I participated in my fourth art exhibition as I wrote about here.

I have another art project in the works, and if it comes through, I'll be sure to let you know!

Selections from Instagram

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

My Painting in "Stay Safe" Exhibition

I'd just like to let you know that my painting is part of the Stay Safe exhibition at NOIR Darkroom until the end of this week. Stay Safe invites a visual discourse from female-identifying and non-binary artists. I was lucky enough to be selected and made a painting especially for the exhibition. It's one of the most heartfelt I've made.

Find the details at NOIR Darkroom's website.

I actually turned up to the opening night this time, and here are some photos I took of the amazing work:

Please note: some of imagery below may be triggering.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Madfest Anime Festival 2018 and Haul

About a month ago, I went to the Madfest Anime Festival. I have attended every year since it began in 2016. In the previous two years, it was held in mid-November, but this year it was moved to mid-September. I think there are pluses and minuses to this timing. It's not too close to other festivals that happen in November, such as PAX and Supanova. On the other hand, the weather isn't as likely to be good. The day I went was dull, grey and rainy -- not very good conditions for cosplay photography! I did see a couple of people braving the rain to take photos, but I did feel a bit sorry for them.

The lineup featured all of the usual: community performances, celebrity appearances and signings, merch booths, creators' corner, and movie premieres (for an additional ticket price). Last year I wanted to build up my plushie collection, but this year I was mainly interested in stickers and crafty things. These things are found in the creators' corner and this year it was huge! All of the little yellow squares on the map below are creator stalls. I was determined to see them all, but I felt like I spent most of my time in that section! However, it was really great to see so many makers getting the opportunity to share their creations.

This year the festival was held in a smaller space -- and it made a big difference. The moment we walked in the door, we were hit with a wall of people and it was quite daunting. There was a much smaller space to sit and only a couple of food stations compared to the spacious area and large selection of food stalls last year. That was a little disappointing. The creators' corner area, too, was very crowded. It took a long time to squeeze through all the people to see each stall. There were some that I wanted to buy products from, but I gave up because of the wall of people in front of them.

I'm not good with crowds, and I needed to take regular breaks after every couple of aisles to reground myself. I'm familiar with the noisy and frenetic atmosphere of conventions, and I was prepared for it, but I still found it overwhelming. I started to get a feeling, too, that I was just there to buy stuff. However, I did enjoy looking at the cosplay costumes, the displays, and being with a group of people who have the same interest as me.

Having said all that, now for the haul! Links to the creators' Instagrams are included where possible (You don't need the Instagram app to view them, links are to a browser version of Instagram.)

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Hello Spring!

After a colder than normal Winter here in Southern Australia, Spring is finally here!

Last year I wrote about looking forward to dressing in pastels (though let's face it, I do that all year round!) but this year I'm excited about my garden again! A earlier this month, I wrote about how my garden is a total mess, but I want to change that. I dredged up the plans I'd made a couple of years ago and I want to start putting them into action.

There must be something about seeing the fruit trees burst into bloom:

Oranges still warm from the slowly strengthening sun:

Daffodils peeking into life in the park:

Dashes of colour everywhere:

And the flowering trees, old friends that I pass every day on my walk to work:

There's also stowing away my woolly Winter cardigans and scarves, and of course, the fact that it's no longer dark when I get home from work. This year I've become very enthusiastic about my garden again, and I've already planted some new plant friends which I'll show in a future post soon!

Happy Spring! And enjoy Autumn if you're up there in the Northern Hemisphere!

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Hobonichi Art Diary 2019 Unboxing

Just like I did last year, I purchased the yearly art diary from Hobonichi. The diaries went on sale on 1st September as they always do, but this year the sales system was different. Hobonichis have become much more popular in the last few years, and the company have had problems with their website crashing, so they divided up the sale over 3 days. Certain products in their range went on sale on different days, and customers had the option to hold their order until the end to enable them to buy everything they wanted and have it sent in one parcel.

I was a little intimidated by this system when I first heard about it, but there was ample information about how it worked (in written, video and manga form!), and it all went very smoothly. I have to commend Hobonichi for this. But let's get on to the unboxing! Get ready for lots of photos! (P.S. Stay tuned for a slightly disconcerting surprise at the end!)

This year the items came in an amazing bright orange-coloured box with a graphic pattern on it.

The quote says:
Don't ever lose hope. It's far too important.
You know how a pinch of salt
changes the whole flavor of a dish?
Your hope is that salt.

This year I decided to buy more than just the book itself. Previously I'd thought to make my own covers, but after 3 years this still hasn't happened! A couple of Etsy sellers are making nice covers, but they weren't any more cost effective than the official Hobonichi ones, so I decided to go straight to the source. I also got a few washi tapes and other things.

I purchased the Peach Sky cover with a Cover-on-Cover. The Cover-on-Cover is a clear plastic cover which slips on over the top of the standard cover, which is made from fabric, and protects it. There is a plain plastic cover, but I purchased the Forest Secrets print.

This years' free gifts were a multi-pen (the standard gift), this time in a beautiful cream colour, and a Not-Scary Bear paperweight. He looks a bit scary to me! But I think it's a reminder not to judge by appearances.

The book came with a cute poster which says "Happy Nothing Special Day!" I'll hang it up on my wall so I can see it when I'm getting ready for work in the mornings.

As I mentioned before, I want to purchase covers for my Hobonichis from now on, and that means my previous books from 2016 onwards, too. My first book was the A6 size, before I switched to A5 size. The shop had an adorable cat cover which I needed to have! The design is called "I Forgot When It Was, But I Sure Had Fun", designed by Ryoji Arai. I'm glad I purchased it, because it sold out on the first day!

I also purchased a couple of washi tapes, and some A6-sized plastic folders which I will use to hold planner stickers. The folders are designed by Nao Sakamoto and are really adorable! The Kitta stickers are decorated strips, and are a bit like a cross between stickers and washi tape.

Lastly ... the disconcerting surprise! Hobonichi have accidentally sent me a second book! It's the English language A6 planner, plus the free gifts that come with all books. I didn't order or pay for this! And I'm not sure what to do -- if I should contact them and try to return it, give it away or use it. What should I do?