Tuesday, January 31, 2012

At the Movies with Bebb...Part Eight...Trollhunter

Happy Wednesday, everyone. I'm trying to deal with the fact that I only have one and a half weeks of glorious summer holidays before the new term starts. The holidays always seem to go far too quickly. But on the other hand, I'm looking forwards to meeting my new class of Kinder students and I'm excited about what this year will bring. Anyway, onwards to today's review...

The film opens by telling us that the following footage was sent to the film company by persons unknown and that it is believed the events are true. We then begin the story...When bears are found dead in Norway, three film students- Thomas, Johanna and the cameraman Kalle- decide to investigate. They find a mysterious hunter, Hans, and follow him to find an explanation for the killings. The reluctant Hans at first tells them to leave him alone, but after saving their lives from a mysterious creature in the dark forest he agrees that they can film him in action- provided they follow his orders. Soon the students learn that Hans is actually a troll hunter who works for a secret government agency. Furthermore, several dangerous trolls have escaped from their territory and Hans is assigned to eliminate them.

This 'found footage' Norwegian movie is one I've been wanting to watch for some time now as it's gotten great reviews. It was made in 2010 but has just been released here on DVD.  'Found footage' films have gained popularity in recent years since the success of the Blair Witch Project, and Trollhunter is definitely one of the better ones.

It looked and felt incredibly authentic. The handheld camera coupled with the very natural, believable performances and some very realistic looking trolls all combined to make one feel that you were actually watching a true documentary. The trolls were a combination of CGI and puppetry and they really did look like living, breathing mythical creatures caught on film, which made for fascinating viewing. The movie had some great moments of humour as well as moments of incredible suspense and other moments that were quite frightening! However, as with the best found footage type films, what we didn't see was far more frightening than what we did, and the filmmakers had used this to great effect. There wasn't much gore at all as it mostly occurs offscreen- and in our imaginations!

The storyline was very captivating and the characters likeable and easy to symphathise with and care about. My only real criticism is that it seemed slightly too long- I think if it had been cut by even just 15 minutes it would have made for a tighter plot. It's a great movie and I was disturbed to learn that an American remake is already underway, which baffles me.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Best 'found footage' movie I've seen in a long time. Intriguing, thrilling and scary enough without being terrifying! See it before the remake.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Incredibly loud and uncomfortably close

So. In a previous post about Bruny Island, I mentioned that I developed a fear of heights a few years back due to an incident while abseiling. I also said the incident was a story for another day. This is that day.

Rewind to 2004. I was twenty years old and along with my sister, parents, and various close family friends and relatives, had headed to Coles Bay for the weekend to celebrate my father's birthday. Here I am, about to walk into Wineglass Bay and meeting a local.

One of the activities planned was abseiling. My father is a qualified abseiling instructor and many among the party had never abseiled and were keen to give it a go. Dad found a suitable rock face for us and set everything up. This is the view from the edge of the drop- not a huge drop, but still pretty high up.

I was an old hand at abseiling. From the age of 12, Dad had taken me and my sister on all kinds of abseils. I had abseiled off bridges, 50 metre high water towers, and all manner of rock faces. This one looked nice and simple. Not too high, but still high enough to be thrilling. I was calm and confident and volunteered to go first and show the beginners how it was done. Dad was at the top with me, and his mate Neil, who was also very experienced, was the off-rope guy at the bottom. We harnessed me up and I started the scariest part- backing up to the edge and leaning right back, ready to start walking down. Too easy. This photo was zoomed in so it looks like we weren't that far from the ground- but we were.

I'm still not sure how it happened. One second I was leaning back, and the next second my feet had slipped and I was freefalling backwards. I didn't actually fall downwards as the ropes stopped me, but I fell backwards. That feeling of freefalling backwards, from a considerable height, was one of the most frightening feelings I have experienced. I had no control. I felt my body and head smash against the rock wall with a considerable amount of force.  I was left dangling upside down, pressed against the wall. There were gasps from the onlookers and I heard Dad say "Shit. Neil, could you come up here please?" Everything seemed strangely muffled as my heart was pounding right in my ears. The sound of my own heart beating out my terror was incredibly loud and uncomfortably close. I hung there, silent.

It may not sound that frightening, but picture it. Picture dangling in midair with no control over your position, and opening your eyes to see the ground a long, long way from you. I knew the ropes were holding me, but it was small consolation and irrational terror held me immobile. Neil arrived at Dad's side in a considerably short time and they spoke calmly to me, telling me I had to sit myself up and reach for their hands. I hung still and silent. I may have said no, I'm not sure. Eventually they convinced me and I pulled myself into a sort of sitting position, was grasped by the hands and pulled up. There are photos, thanks to my insensitive ex who thought I would 'want' to see them (as well as showing them to his entire family. Thanks for that) but I'm not going to put them up. Mum was waiting and as soon as I was unclipped I went to her and she hugged me. I buried my face in her shoulder and wept.

I was left with cuts and bruises, including the bruised imprint of my own ribs on my back, as well as a new fear of heights that did not go away. Dad tried to get me abseiling a few months later, but I couldn't do it. I tried. I got harnessed up and got to the edge and just couldn't do it. For months after I would lie in bed and remember the feeling of freefalling, the loss of control, the dizzying smash of my body against the rocks, the terror of hanging suspended above the ground. I tried to fight it but it would not go away. It seems my fear of heights is here to stay with me, as demonstrated by my panicked state when climbing the lighthouse on Bruny. It makes me sad. I miss abseiling. I want to try and conquer it again, but I just don't know if I can.


In other, very sad news, a beautiful family here in Launceston have been rocked by the sudden loss of their husband and father Aaron last week, just a few months after the loss of their 10 year old son Noah. It is terrible news and my heart is so sad for Lisa and her boys. You can read their family blog here. If you feel you would like to do something to help, a page has been set up so that donations can be made to help them get through the next few months. You can donate here. They have so much love and support around them but I can't imagine the pain they are feeling right now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

At the Movies with Bebb...Part Seven....'The Piano'

Happy Wednesday, everyone. I'm back from yet another trip away, this time to the beach with Jude and another friend from our uni days, Sophia. Sophia is from China, though she has been living in Australia for 4 years now, and had never swum in the ocean before.

I decided it was time to change that. She was pretty nervous about getting into the water, so I grabbed her hand, told her to trust me, and ran with her into the ocean.

Fifteen minutes later I was teaching her to bodysurf and we were catching waves together. It was a lot of fun. The three of us had a great time catching up and laughed a lot. Laughter really is the best...you know where I'm going with this. Anyway, I'm home now and after three trips away in 10 days (and to very varied locations...mountain, city, island and beach), and though I've had a lot of fun, I'm glad to have some time to relax at home before the holidays end.

Onwards and upwards with my Wednesday movie review...

It is the mid-nineteenth century. Ada McGrath (Holly Hunter in an Oscar-winning role) is mute, and she tells us in her narration that she has not spoken since she was six years old. She has a young, illegitimate daughter, Flora (Anna Paquin, who at 11 won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this role) and has been married off by her father to a man she has never met. With Flora, she is sent from her native Scotland to New Zealand to live with her settler husband Stuart (Sam Neill). Accompanying them is Ada's beloved piano.  Life in the rugged forests of New Zealand's South Island is not all she may have imagined and nor is her relationship with her new husband. She suffers torment and loss when Stewart sells her piano to a neighbour, George (Harvey Keitel). Ada learns from George that she may earn back her piano by giving him piano lessons, but only with certain other conditions attached. At first Ada despises George but slowly their relationship is transformed and this propels them into a dire situation.

'The Piano' has been, and remains, one of my all time favourite movies. The acting performances are astonishingly good, particularly from Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin. Holly Hunter does not speak for the entire movie but still won the Best Actress Oscar and it is easy to see why- her performance is shaded with nuance and every flicker and play of expression and emotion on her face is carried out with consumate skill. Anna Paquin is incredible as her daughter, Flora, a fey and creative child who communicates with her mother using sign language and often speaks for her. Anna Paquin was only nine when she made this film and displays a talent beyond her years in a completely believable and heartfelt role. I am currently watching the TV series 'True Blood' and it is a novelty to see her all grown up! Sam Neill and Harvey Keitel also give great performances as the troubled men in Ada's life.

The direction, by Jane Campion (who also wrote the script) is also very strong, and earnt Jane an Oscar nomination for direction and an Oscar win for the script. The scenery is amazing, the depictions are very historically accurate and it is easy to feel transported to New Zealand in 1950. The soundtrack, comprised solely of piano music, much of it played by Holly Hunter herself, is at turns haunting, poignant and unforgettable.

This movie has some scenes that are quite confronting, and even more so because we come to care so much for the characters. However, there is not one thing I would change about it as it a truly amazing film. See it if you appreciate incredible acting or a character-driven drama.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Haunting, beautiful, ultimately unforgettable.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Three Days, Two Islands...Part Two

My parents are amazing. They are very outdoorsy, adventuresome souls who do a lot of bushwalking, kayaking, abseiling etc and I grew up loving those things too. In 2010 they spent several months as the caretakers on Maatsuyker Island for Parks and Wildlife. They were the only people on the island and had to take all their food and supplies with them and were very busy sending weather reports, doing maintenance work on the caretaker houses and lighthouses, etc. Last year they did a similar stint on Bruny Island and are back there again for six weeks. After bidding farewell to Hobart and Jude, Georgie and I set off to visit them. First step was to drive to Kettering and take the ferry across to the island. The drive seemed pretty short as we did lots of catching up in the car and laughed a lot. Here's beautiful Georgie on the ferry.

Once we arrived on the island we had another drive ahead of us- all the way to the other end of the island to the National Park, where Mum and Dad are living in the caretaker's cottage at the foot of the lighthouse. As we zipped along past paddocks and sheep, with no ocean in sight, I remarked to Georgie, "Wow, I can't believe we're on an island." She replied, "Um, we were just on an island, remember?" Oops. Sometimes I forget that Tasmania is an island itself.

After a few stops, including one at the fudge factory to buy gifts for our menfolk back home, we arrived in the National Park and began driving along a dirt road. The drive seemed so long and into nowhere that we began to get a little nervous that we were going the wrong way. However, once we caught sight of the lighthouse we knew we were on track. We arrived at the caretaker cottage and were greeted by my parents, who were waving off some tourists. People arrive to see the lighthouse all day every day and part of Mum and Dad's role is to answer any questions and let them into the small museum. It was great to see Mum and Dad. They showed us the cottage and then Mum asked if we wanted a room each, or if we'd rather "share one and giggle all night". We chose the second option, partly so we could indeed giggle all night if we so desired, but also because as beautiful as the cottage was, it was old and kind of spooky. After we dumped our stuff, we all set off for a walk down to Mum and Dad's very own private beach below the cottage. On the way we passed a lot of graves...three children belonging to lighthouse keepers have died here, many many years ago. It's quite sad to see how young they are on the graves. There was also a pet cemetary with a lot of graves. Again, sad, but adds to the slightly spooky vibe...

Not many people can say they have their own beach, and in such a beautiful place. Pity it wasn't really warm enough to swim. Plus the hundreds of dead bluebottles put us off a little! They aren't always there though and Mum has been enjoying the water.

I love the following shot of Mum and Dad. In the distance you can see the lighthouse, and below it the caretaker's cottage.

We got back to the house to find some more tourists had arrived. Mum and Dad started chatting to them and they expressed shock that Georgie and I weren't wearing jackets. We explained that we had gotten hot on the walk back up the hill from the beach, but they still thought we were "very brave and tough Tasmanians". After they left, we headed inside for nibblies and drinks before dinner, which Mum and Dad call Happy Hour, and all attempted to eat our own body weight in Bruny Island cheese. The turning circle where tourists park is visible from the kitchen window and we noticed another car pull up. Dad went outside to talk to them and minutes later zipped past on a bicycle. I found this quite funny as I hadn't even known he had brought his bike, and when he came back in I decided I wanted a go. Georgie and I went outside and I quickly realised the bike was far too tall for me and posed with it in front of the cottage instead.

However,  not content with this, I decided to run with it up the road, being watched by some bemused tourists who probably thought that I lived there, and that living out there in isolation had sent me a little crazy. I, however, blame the cheese for my bicycle hijinks. Even though I wasn't even riding it, I got distracted by seeing Mum and Dad laughing at me through the kitchen window and managed to crash into a ditch.

Hey, it takes a lot of effort to be this clumsy.

After dinner, which was one of Mum's delicious stir-fries, we headed up the hill to check out the lighthouse, marvelling at the hundreds of rabbits we could see. Bruny Island has a terrible rabbit problem and we couldn't believe how many there were.

Once we reached the lighthouse, Dad pointed out some landmarks, looking very official in his Parks and Wildlife uniform. The lighthouse isn't open to the public, but one of the perks of being the daughter of the caretakers is that we were allowed inside.

We went inside and started to climb the steep, 100 year old spiral staircase, with thirteen metres to the top. Now, I should say here that I never used to be scared of heights. From the age of 12 I have abseiled from bridges, sheer rock faces, water towers, etc. But 5 years ago I had an accident while abseiling (the details of which can wait for another day) and ever since then I haven't felt comfortable with heights. I honestly thought I would be fine climbing to the top of the lighthouse, but about halfway up I felt sheer terror hit me. I kept going and made it up but was not feeling happy. Dad took Georgie out onto the ledge but couldn't convince me to go. I told Mum that I couldn't go back down. Going up had been bad enough but at least I hadn't had to look down as I went. Mum and Dad assured me that I would be fine, and that it would either be head down or sleep there. Neither option was particularly tempting, but I started down. I felt truly frightened...sweaty, breathless, pounding heart. I am ashamed to say that I, a grown woman of 27 years, had to hold my mother's hand the entire way down. She was great, very reassuring and gentle but also no nonsense. Example, about halfway down:
Me: "Oh hell, oh hell, I shouldn't have come up here in the first place."
Mum: "Well, you did. Keep going."

Obviously, I made it down, gave Mum a hug and thanked her, and then took a photo of Dad and Georgie from below as they merrily skipped down, terror-free. I think I prefer the view of the lighthouse from solid ground.

After an evening game of Canasta back at the house (which, despite a shaky start in the first round, Georgie and I won), it was time to meet Blondie. Blondie is an albino possum who has been fed by caretakers for the past fifteen years. We went outside, Mum called his name, and lo, he appeared.

So did another possum, who ran at Georgie and made as if he was going to climb her leg. Understandably, she made a quick getaway.

Most possums that are used to humans can be a bit bold and greedy, and you have to be very careful if handfeeding as they can bite you instead of the food. However, Blondie is very polite and gentle. Mum and Dad were calling Blondie a 'she' until I noticed that 'she' had two, ahem, things that lady possums don't usually have. Mum calls the other possums Pirate Pete, collectively. Blondie (or Blondo as we surmised HE should perhaps be renamed) is really quite gorgeous.

Mum and Dad have to be up at 5.30am every morning to do the morning weather obs, so they headed off to bed soon after our possum feeding expedition and Georgie and I hung out in the lounge room, chatting, and went on an excursion outside with headtorches to look for wildlife. We managed to give each other the creeps- it was so dark outside- and having a bird flying at our heads out of nowhere didn't help matters. We went back inside and into the kitchen, only to have the same bird bashing against the window staring at us. Creepy.

We were up talking (in whispers) until pretty late, so when Mum burst in at 8am declaring "Wake up, it's the fun police!" we were both a bit groggy. After breakfasting and checking out another beach we farewelled Mum and Dad and set off, stopping to buy more fudge as we had, ahem, 'accidentally' eaten our gifts for the menfolk the previous evening.

After a drive back to the ferry, and then from the ferry into Hobart, I decided to hang around at Georgie's for a while to break the journey, as I still faced a long drive on my own back to Launceston. I got to go with Georgie to the Dogs' Home to pick up the twelve-week old puppy she is foster caring. His name is Zeus and he is just adorable.

After reluctantly farewelling Georgie and Hobart, I set off, and one loooong drive later I arrived home at 6pm, was greeted by two very enthusiastic dogs, and even though I was sad my adventure was over, I was happy to be home. Be it ever so humble...

Tomorrow I'm off again, taking Jude and Sophia to my parent's home in the North East to check up on things while they are on Bruny, and head to the beach. On the road again...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Three Days, Two Islands...Part One

I am home and brimming with happiness after an amazing three days of adventuring. First stop was Hobart to see my beloved favourite band The Dresden Dolls. Jude and I headed down on Thursday and though I was a bit, ahem, nervous about driving into Hobart after never having done it before  it was fine. I mean, I have been driving for 11 years and road rules are road rules...I think I had just psyched myself out. Jude and I checked into our hotel and met up with my beautiful friend Georgie. She and I are coming up to a decade of friendship...we did our first uni degree together and I try to see her whenever I'm down south and usually manage it. Anyway, we had a quick catch up and gave her her ticket for the show as she had to meet us there at 9pm due to rehearsals of her own. Jude and I did a bit of wandering and shopping before heading back to the hotel to get ready for THE SHOW. We had dinner at a beautiful Italian restaurant in Salamanca called La Porchetta and then headed across to the Prince's Wharf shed, the site of the MONA FOMA festival. The Dolls weren't on til 9pm but I was very, very, very keen to get a good spot so we went inside the site at 8pm, got some drinks and went to the stage. No one else was really waiting yet so we stood right at the stage barrier and I decided that nothing would make us move from that spot. I have loved the Dolls for 9 years, and could face standing and waiting for an hour and a half. Here we are in position (another early arrival kindly took our photo).

That's Brian Viglione's drumset right behind us...He, along with Amanda Palmer, make up the Dolls. We had a great position. We are holding glasses of a very regretful purchase...a $25 bottle of what was supposed to be beautiful Tasmanian sparkling wine but tasted like Passion Pop. No joke. We ended up giving the rest of the bottle away. Very disappointing, Moorilla Vineyard. Anyway, moving on from that shananigan...Georgie arrived at 9pm and managed to make her way through the fast-growing crowd and get to us in the front row. Thankfully, it was quite a friendly crowd and she had no problems.

The show was beyond amazing. I couldn't believe that the Dresden Dolls had come all the way from Boston to little Tassie, and that I was standing right in the front row. Just incredible. Georgie and Jude aren't fans (well, they weren't til now!) but they enjoyed it too. The Dolls rocked it. I was right in front of Brian and was singing along to all the songs, and he kept looking right at me, grinning, and singing along too. 

I didn't get the best photos as I was too busy watching, plus my camera isn't the best in low light. Jude got some great ones so I'll try to get them from her.

After the show we headed outside and lined up (nearly at the front of the line, go us) for signing. I had brought one of my CDs and bought a T shirt for Mr Bebb, who also loves the Dolls but sadly had to work. I had also brought along a gift for Amanda and Brian. Last time I met Amanda, after her solo show in Melbourne in 2006, I gave her a pair of black and white stripey knickers as it was her thing back then to wear black and white striped stockings. She loved them and I decided to keep with tradition and give her another pair of decadent knickers as she loves fancy lingerie and often wears it onstage. I also popped a few of my handmade soaps in the bag and wrote them a card. I mentioned on Twitter that I was choosing knickers for @amandapalmer that afternoon and when I gave her the gift bag she said "Ooh, is this the knickers?" She loved them and I think they liked the Tassie soaps too. Here's Amanda checking out her new underwear and Brian saying "I want them!"

The tour manager had announced at the start of signing that there wasn't time for photos with everyone, but if people really wanted them they could hang around until after the signing. We were part of a small dedicated group of fans who did indeed hang around and I was very happy to get a photo with them.

For interest's sake, here's me with Amanda in Melbourne back in 2006 after her solo show.

What an amazing night. Georgie dropped Jude and I at the hotel and we had fun getting ready for bed and giggling like college room-mates. The next morning, after a yummy breakfast and a bit of Salamanca shopping, I bid farewell to dear Jude (her husband was on his way to meet her for another night in Hobart) and Georgie and I set off to catch the ferry to Bruny Island to visit my parents, who are working as volunteer caretakers for Parks and Wildlife for six weeks. To be continued in Part Two...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Boring, Boring Computer Issues and an Exciting, Exciting Trip

So...it's Wednesday, but I find myself unable to do my Wednesday movie review as my computer is having serious (and very boring) issues. I am typing this on my phone, which isn't even a whizz-bang smart phone that is basically a mini computer and is instead just a plain old Nokia. It's tricky doing an entry on here and I can't even face attempting to put pictures, links etc in. So...no movie review today. Apologies to my hordes of screaming fans.

In other news, tomorrow I will become a screaming fan myself as I am heading to Hobart with my best girl Jude to see my favourite band of all time, the Dresden Dolls. Freakishly excited. I saw them once in Melbourne, a long time ago in 2006, when they were touring Australia...flew to Melbourne for the show and then got food poisoning and had to go to hospital 10 minutes into their set. Yeah, to say that was disappointing was an understatement. I managed to see half of the Dolls, Amanda Palmer, on her solo tour in Melbourne a few years later (not only did I see her show, but I hugged her and gifted her with striped underpants afterwards...but that's another story), but was still hanging out to see them together. Then they broke up and I thought, that was that...but lo, they are briefly reunited and coming to Tasmania this time. It will be a great night. Here we come, Hobart!

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Canine/Feline Self-Identity Confusion

So a few weeks ago I blogged about my cat Pesto joining me when I walked the dogs. I speculated about whether this would be a regular occurance from now on. It seems it indeed has become the norm, as Pesto has joined me on pretty much every walk around the neighbourhood since then. It makes quite the sight, especially when he seems to be wearing an invisible lead and is part of the pack.

The walks definitely seem to cut into his pressing schedule of lying around, but he is willing to make that sacrifice to be a part of the pack. It doesn't matter where he is- he seems to know when we're setting off and comes running along behind us to catch up, sometimes adding a loud yowling if we are too far ahead. It seems to be entertaining to the neighbours and road workers (who have currently taken over our street until the end of February with very noisy machines...how's the serenity). After we get back from our walk he resumes his frantic to-do list involving finding the best place to lie around. This can be either a solo or a pack activity.

The novelty still hasn't worn off and I find myself giggling a lot on our walks now. I'm glad the three fur boys get on well. Pity about Faye, but she has never really liked Pesto anyway so it was a given that the dogs would be extended the same thinly-veiled contempt.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Exciting times for my new venture...

At long last, a package arrived today. Can't say I'm impressed with Australia Post, though. I heard a knock on the door followed by a thump. Opened the door several seconds later to discover the postman had knocked on the door, literally thrown the parcel AT the door without waiting for a response and left. Thanks for that.

Oh well, at least nothing was broken. Inside was...my new goat's milk soap making supplies!

That's right, Fanciful Creations (click on the link to go to the brand new Facebook page) is branching out. As well as my miniature bears, I will now be offering Goat's Milk Soaps and Soy Wax Candles. I used to make soaps and candles years ago and am exciting about getting back into it with new, better supplies and equipment. I got into it straight away this afternoon and whipped up two batches of soap. The goat's milk I'm using comes from Tasmanian goats which I'm thrilled about.

Leatherwood Honey and Oatmeal (using Tassie leatherwood honey and real oatmeal).

Lavender and Vanilla (using Tassie lavender oil and Mum's dried lavender for exfoliation).

I can't wait to make more, as well as get into the candle making once the rest of my supplies arrive. As well as all of that, I've been busy making new bears as well. This is Riona the Princess Bear and Eden the Gardening Bear.

Eden is the first bear I've made with my new blue fabric. I think the colour looks great.

So this post should really have gone on my Fanciful Creations blog, but I'm in the process of re-jigging things over there. I think I want to recreate that blog as a separate, stand alone page so it isn't linked back to my more personal space here. I just spent ages getting the Facebook page up and running, so head over to check it out for more pictures, lists of available fragrances, etc.
Phew! Between all of that, I'm exhausted! Clearly I'm not the only one around here who has had a busy day, however...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

4am Friendship

You know you have a great best friend when it's 4am and you are lying in bed giggling as you text Friends quotes to each other.

MM, henceforth known by her actual name, Jude, (MM was making her think of the Mere Male column from New Idea magazine!) and I did just that last night (this morning?). I was lying in bed unable to sleep at 3am due to my dratted insomnia and checked Facebook on my phone, as you do. To my surprise, Jude had just updated her status so I knew she was up, probably unable to sleep herself, and sent her a text message. Soon enough my phone buzzed back and we spent a merry hour making each other laugh, albeit quietly, throwing in suitable Friends quotes (an integral part of our friendship is our ability to find a Friends quote for any and all occasions, and our love of the show was one of the first things we bonded over, all those years ago at uni) and keeping each other company during the time of night that, when you are suffering from insomnia, can be very lonely and isolating. When I am wide awake and it's so late, I can sometimes feel like I am the only person in the world and knowing that someone else is awake pushes the darkness back a little. I'm not saying we will be doing this every night, but knowing that even at 4am we were keeping each other company and making each other laugh shows me once again how good a friend I have in dear Jude.

Bookworm Time with Bebb...Part Five...'Atonement' by Ian McEwan

It's been a little bit quiet here at Bebb and the Bubs over the last few weeks, and for that I apologise. Being on holiday, combined with the hot weather, has made me come down with a massive case of the can't-be-bothereds and I've struggled to motivate myself to do much besides sleeping in and lying around reading. The last few days have been busy and I think it has kick-started me back out of my 'slump' somewhat. I do feel better, having had time to quite literally do nothing, and am ready to leap into some exciting upcoming holiday plans. More on that later...for now, it's Saturday and time for my weekly book review.

On the hottest day of the summer of 1934, thirteen year old Briony watches from afar as her twenty-three year old sister Cecilia strips off her clothes and plunges in the fountain set in the garden of their country house. Standing by is Robbie, Cecilia's childhood friend and son of the housekeeper. Briony does not know why Cecilia is doing so, and as she is a dreamy, story-writing child much taken by flights of fancy, she invents a reason for herself. By the end of that day, Robbie and Cecilia's life will be shattered. They will have become victims of the younger girl's imagination, and Briony herself will have committed a crime, one that once she realises the enormity of what she has done, she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.

If you asked me to name my favourite book of all time, Atonement would be a definite contender. I first read it in 2002 when my English Literacy teacher gave it to me to read as he thought I could use it for my Year 12 major essay. I read it in two sittings and when I told him how much I had loved it and tried to return it, he urged me to keep it. I'm glad he did as it is a book I can read again and again and discover a little more each time.

Ian McEwan is a master story-teller. He has the ability to weave such a spell with his words that the reader is carried along on a wave of imagery so vivid that one can almost smell the scent of sun-warmed grass or see the stately country home through a haze of heat. We are caught up in a slow, smouldering build up of suspense and tension and are powerless to look away, even as we know that terrible events surely lie ahead. The plot is intricate and presented from the viewpoints of several characters; segues into each character are flawless and the writing so assured, the voices so authentic that it is almost like having a window into the private minds of others.

The story is told in three parts- the dreamy hot day of 1934 in England, the depths of war some years later, and finally, into the far reaches of the future as we confront the lifelong attempt for atonement. This book is heartbreaking, a genuinely sad story that nonetheless does not leave one feeling depressed, but rather saddened by the tale and at the same time uplifted by the sheer beauty of the book itself. Having loved this book for years, I was very much looking forwards to the movie, starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, while at the same time nervous that the movie would not do justice to the book as is so often the case. However, this is one movie version that definitely lives up to the book, and is also up there on my favourite movie list.

I can't recommend this book highly enough for novel-lovers who enjoy an intricate, finely crafted plot and genuinely brilliant and masterful writing.

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars. Powerful, devastating, beautiful.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

At the Movies with Bebb...Part Six...Jumanji

I know, I know. I've let the team down by not posting my Wednesday movie review on Wednesday. Blame my mother. She was staying with us last night and forced me to go out for dinner with her to an Indian restaurant, and then insisted that I lie on the couch and watch a movie with her. What a terrible woman.

I was going to review something else today but then realised that most of my reviews so far have been for confronting/sad/distressing movies, and it was probably time to mix it up a bit. I do love movies that push the boundaries and confront the viewer, but a bit of fluff is always good too. So today I am going to review...

In 1869, two boys bury a chest containing something dangerous and terrifying in the woods near Brantford, New Hampshire. When one of them asks what will happen if someone digs it up, the other replies "May God have mercy on his soul". The sound of tribal drums is heard as the boys ride away.
A century later, 12-year-old Alan Parrish, a bullied boy who feels unloved by his wealthy father, follows the sound of tribal drums and discovers a buried board game, Jumanji. He and his friend Sarah begin to play, though they are disturbed that the pieces move themselves once the dice are rolled. After Alan's roll, the game screen reads, "In the jungle you must wait, until the dice read five or eight..." Before Sarah's horrified eyes, Alan is sucked into the game and disappears. We then jump forwards another 26 years and meet Judy and Peter (Kirsten Dunst and Bradley Pierce) who are now living in the house and discover the game. As all manner of jungle creatures begin manifesting around them, Peter rolls a 5 and releases Alan, now played by Robin Williams, who has indeed been trapped in the jungle for all that time. They team up with Sarah, now played by Bonnie Hunt and still traumatised by what she saw that night, to finish the game started 26 years ago in the hope that the creatures and other jungle happenings will all go away...

This is a great adventure movie, if you are prepared to suspend disbelief and overlook a few minor imperfections. I first saw it at the movies for my 10th birthday and remember loving it, and have seen it a few times since then. Mr Bebb hadn't seen it since 1995 so we sat down to watch it together and enjoyed the escapism. ("Is that a little Kirsten Dunst?" Mr Bebb was heard to exclaim at one point.) It's a well-made kid's movie that can be enjoyed by adults as well, and I definitely picked up on a few jokes that I didn't remember as I'm sure they went right over my head when I watched this as a child.

It's scary enough to be thrilling while still a family movie, and the effects still look pretty good considering it was made 17 years ago (with the possible exception of the monkeys, who could have been done a little better). The acting is fairly good- I do like Robin Williams and he is, as usual, a great actor to watch, though I had to question why his character was so grounded and normal after 26 years alone in the jungle. (That's what I mean about suspending disbelief.) I've always thought Kirsten Dunst was a good actress and it's fun to see her in one of her first movies. There are a few less-than-great performances from lesser characters and the occasional jarring moment in the script, but these are minor issues and don't unduly affect your enjoyment of the film.

The action is nonstop once the film gets going and it's easy to get caught up in the plight of the main characters and feel a little tense, even if you know what is going to happen. If it's been years since you watched Jumanji, I recommend rediscovering it for an evening of fun, light entertainment. If you haven't seen it before, it's a great movie to watch with your family as kids today will love it as much as they did in 1995.

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

In the Kitchen with Bebb, Part Two

Hello everyone, and I hope you're enjoying 2012 so far. Welcome to another installment of In the Kitchen with Bebb. I'll post my Wednesday movie review later today but for now I wanted to share one of my favourite recipes that is delicious and very simple. I've tweaked this over the years and have it just about perfect.

Bebb's Basil Pesto

Basil is probably my favourite herb and it's very easy to grow yourself- I highly recommend it as it tastes much, much better than the often wilted or blackened basil you get in supermarkets. It really is the definition of using fresh basil when you can pick a few leaves to go straight on a pizza, chop for a salad dressing, etc. All it needs to grow well in a pot from seeds is a sunny position, occasional feeding (I use organic Blood and Bone) and plenty of water. If you pick the leaves as needed, new ones are quickly put out and you'll never run out.

I've had an abundance of basil over the last few months and grew quite a few pots to give away as gifts. The Tupperware herb planter was courtesy of my mother-in-law for Christmas. My buddy MM came over yesterday afternoon and her eyes lit up when she saw it as she tends to, by her own admission, forget to water things. I promise I won't be mad if you kill your Christmas basil, MM!

Anyway, here are the ingredients you need:

-2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves (as basil tends to bruise very quickly once picked, it's best to leave it growing until you need it rather than pre-pick it. If you are buying your basil, store it with the stem ends in a glass of water and use as soon as possible.)
-2 cloves of garlic, or 2 teaspoons pre-minced garlic
-1/3 cup pine nuts (roasted if you prefer)
-1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
-3/4 cup olive oil

I do prefer to use fresh garlic and freshly grated parmesan cheese, but for impromptu or faster pesto it's fine to use garlic in a jar and pre-grated parmesan- it's something I always have in the fridge anyway.

In a food processor, process basil, garlic and pine nuts until finely chopped.

Add cheese and drizzle in half the olive oil. Whizz again until well combined.

Drizzle in the remaining oil and process once more until well combined. 

That's it! Very simple and delicious. To serve, toss through hot, drained, freshly cooked spinach fettucine or spaghetti and top with a little extra parmesan. If you only need to use a little bit, eg in a salad dressing or on bruschetta or pizza, you can keep the rest in the fridge for up to a week- simply spoon into a jar and cover the top with a thin layer of olive oil. It can be frozen as well.

Oh and yes, my cat is named Pesto as well. I got him when I was living in a flat with my sister and we had a huge outside basil patch in our tiny courtyard and were making lots of pesto. On his first day home I took him, a kitten and still nameless, outside and he rolled in the basil. I picked him up, cuddled him and said, "Mmm, you smell like pesto." Name sorted.

Have fun making some yummy pesto and let me know how it works out!