It's a Resolution, Baby!

52 Weeks. 52 New Year's Resolutions.

Week 16. Resolution 16. Make a 3-Dimensional Theatre. April 28, 2010

First off I shall start this week with a little grovelling to atone for the recent lateness of these blog posts.  But, if I had to pick a resolution for you, it would be to forgive.

This week I chose another ‘mini-world’ type resolution which has forced me to wonder if I have a repressed God-complex that is acting out.  I was initially going to fuel this ‘urge to rule the world’ through the form of diorama, but mini people and furniture are disproportionately expensive, and I felt it would be unwise to raid my childhood dollhouse just in case those grandchildren my mother longs for do one day materialise.  Or, in a more likely scenario, it finds its way onto Antiques Roadshow sometime in the next century.

Then I remembered a book that, when I was a younger version of myself, I used to look at with interest, although not enough interest to pick it up and show it the appropriate love.  This book is called ‘Make your own World of the Theatre all you need is a pair of scissors and glue’ which is a particularly verbose and grammatically incorrect title, full of lies.  Published by Angus & Robertson Publishers in 1982 it was obviously not a raging success as Mum purchased it for $2.00, reduced from $12.95.  Sure it looks impressive, but the amount of detail is simply enough to put off any poor soul without the proper level of commitment.  And really, how many people need a 3D theatre in their lives?

When consulting a few book reviews online I was assured that those few people who DID need a 3D theatre in their lives were very impressed.  And one reviewer’s huge claim that the theatre took “a couple of hundred hours to build” was still not enough to deter me.  It’s quite astounding what this challenge can motivate me to achieve, particularly when TV, books and bed sit devil-like on my shoulder, reminding me how enjoyable their company is.

As Mum has every handy kitchen and craft tool in existence I armed myself with the requisite glue and scissors (in big AND small sizes and both extremely sharp), Stanley knives (in a bewildering array of sizes), a cutting board, protractor and metal ruler.  I then spent more hours than I care to discuss cutting out, folding and glueing tiny paper people and incredibly detailed sets.

The book, based on London’s Royal Opera House, includes sets and characters for two different performances—the ballet, Sleeping Beauty and the opera, La bohème.  After finishing the model of the theatre and before starting on any of the sets I realised that “a couple of hundred hours” wasn’t the exaggeration I had hoped and made the call to work on only one of the performances.  As an ex-ballet dancer Sleeping Beauty seemed the obvious choice, but in the spirit of these resolutions I instead chose La bohème as it is the closest to opera that I am ever likely to get.  I find opera quite perplexing and even after reading La bohème’s history and synopsis I can’t fathom how they flesh out the story enough to make one of the world’s most frequently performed operas.

While I probably spent four solid days completing my ‘world of the theatre’ and the work was quite painful at times, it was also oddly therapeutic and exciting to know I was assembling something so detailed and beautiful.  The authors, Rosemary Lowndes and Claude Kailer, have spared nothing in its creation and although the instructions were sometimes vague and a few directions were incorrect I fully commend them on such a thorough imagining.  I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Now I just need a way to preserve it so Antiques Roadshow can discover this theatrical gem, originally worth $2 and one girl’s precious sleeping, reading and TV viewing time.


Week 15. Resolution 15. Check out a Roller Derby Game. April 20, 2010

As one of those girls who perpetually invented excuses to get out of PE I can honestly say that had roller derby been a school sport, my future would have been different.  That we even got to roller skate as part of Physical Education for a short time during high school meant that I didn’t cop a big fat F for the subject that semester and suddenly I was excuse-free when it was time to put on my sports gear.

Sadly, I wasn’t aware of roller derby until 2008 when watching a doco called ‘Roller Derby Dolls’ based on Brisbane’s Sun State Roller Derby League.  I found it difficult to believe that such a kickass sport existed, and has existed in various incarnations since the 1920s, and yet was relatively unknown by younger generations.

Originally, roller derby was a roller skating endurance sport held on a flat, oval track and competed in by both men and women.  When organisers began to realise its entertainment potential, they introduced a more theatrical approach that included staged fighting and exaggerated injury, much like wrestling of today.  As its popularity grew the game evolved into a two team sport, forming the basis of modern roller derby.

These days the game is played only by women and is as much about exhibitionism as it is about competitiveness.  Players are often clad in short shorts, tutus, tats and fishnets with team tees and safety gear sporting their nicknames, generally based on violent puns.

The rules are simple.  A ‘bout’ is a 60 minute game composed of a series of ‘jams’ that last no more than two minutes.  Two teams of five players compete to win the most points.  These teams are composed of a pivot, three blockers and a jammer.  The pivot leads the pack of blockers who start the game by skating 20 feet ahead of the jammer.  The jammer needs to get through the pack of blockers and lap them once before they can begin to score points which are calculated as one point for every member of the opposite team that they pass.  It is the responsibility of the pivot and pack of blockers to stop the opposing jammer from passing, without using violence, while allowing their own jammer to advance quickly.

Currently, the definitive guide on all things derby is the movie ‘Whip It’, which in 2009 brought roller derby to the attention of mainstream audiences.  As I was not as well versed in derby rules as hopefully you lot now are, it took a viewing of Whip It to bring me up to ‘speed’ in preparation for the viewing of my first game.

The bout, the first to be held in inner-city Brisbane, was between the Love Rockettes and the Diner Might Dolls, two teams from the Northern Brisbane Rollers (one of three leagues in Brisbane).  Expecting a few hundred people, it turned out to be an immense surprise that 4000 tickets were sold and hundreds of people had to be turned away.

My date for the evening was a friend who recently returned from Glasgow where she had been training with their local league and her invaluable insight made for a more enjoyable game.

There is no fun in attending a sporting event if you don’t have a side to barrack for so I picked the Love Rockettes, mostly because their team colour is pink, which, in a VERY rare occurrence, I happened to be wearing, and also because ‘rockette’ is an alias I have used for years.  My friend Michelle chose Diner Might Dolls to bring some friendly rivalry to our experience.

After watching Whip It I was struck by how violent the game is, but in reality, any violence is mostly accidental and totally ruled out.  Admittedly, I was much more taken by the spectacle of things to focus on the rules, but the game was close throughout and at half time the score was 76 – 71 with the Dolls in the lead.  Michelle was enjoying herself ribbing me and calling out the player’s names, ‘Queen Slander’ and ‘Go you Lil’ Ripper’.

The game resumed with the Rockettes taking the lead, but not for long.  Dead Meat, the co-captain and final jammer for the Diner Might Dolls was the true star of the night, and spurred on by Mexican waves from the crowd, lead the Dolls to victory with a 157 – 113 win over the Rockettes.  But the end was not without its dramas, and the win was bittersweet as with 30 seconds left on the clock one of the blockers for the Rockettes, Dreadly Diva, clipped another player’s skate and was knocked unconscious.  As a sign of respect, all players went down on their knee and silence marked the end of the game as everyone waited to see if Diva was okay.

She was.  A couple of hours later she was at the after party with a cracked helmet as both teams celebrated with the exhilaration that followed the bout, comparing injuries and chatting to their fans.

Michelle & the Derby ladies blinded by flash

It was fantastic fun and although my low pain tolerance means I would never be brave enough to try out, let alone skate in front of thousands, I’m looking forward to buying some skates and getting some rink time in as I follow the game much more closely from now on.


Week 14. Resolution 14. Dress like a Geisha. April 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — H-Ro @ 10:03 AM
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My kimono's first outing

I had no real reason for choosing this week’s resolution other than that I own a kimono which was gifted to me during a sojourn in Japan.  It’s not the prettiest kimono but it has butterflies. That’s right.  Butterflies.

This kimono has sat for 17 years in my cupboard, or more specifically, many cupboards, in a perfectly wrapped bundle waiting for the day when the butterflies would again breathe air that doesn’t carry a faint whiff of mothballs.  Cos, you know, butterflies don’t like mothballs.

To give the kimono a ‘coming out’ party to remember I thought by spending hours and hours on my makeup and hair I could trick it into thinking it was donning the shoulders of a pretty Japanese lady.  I don’t think it was fooled.  If those butterflies could have ripped themselves from the fabric and flown far, far away, someone in Latvia might be looking up right now thinking ‘what an odd looking swarm of butterflies’.

As with all resolutions some research was needed before I could get stuck in.  I don’t know terribly much about geishas so I turned to the one thing I trust the most:  TV.  From watching Memoirs of a Geisha I learnt that basically geishas are entertainers trained in the arts of music, dance and conversation.  Three things I am terrible at.  They also sometimes sell sex for money although they are DEFINITELY NOT prostitutes.  Right.

Next I turned to the 2nd thing I trust the most:  TV on the Internet.  After scouring YouTube I eventually found three videos to teach me how to transform myself into someone resembling a geisha using hair, makeup and kimono techniques.

Step One.  Hair.

Creating a geisha’s hairdo is an elaborate process of lots of hair rolling and pinning, so to prevent the kinks and hijinks of curly locks I began by straightening my hair.  Next I enlisted the help of my mother to do all the tricky stuff which, since I don’t expect anyone to watch the above YouTube clip unless you also feel the urge to one day air your own kimonos, basically involved putting a roll at the top of my head, two at the sides, and a couple more in back.  The rolls were created by wrapping the hair around a cardboard tube and pinning the roll down before removing the tube.  To keep everything in place hairspray and bobby pins are your friends.  This took a couple of hours and made mum quite shouty.  Lacking the traditional hair accessories, I finished off with a ribbon and a few faux flowers.

Step Two.  Makeup.

The key to geisha makeup is to have a good white base (the makeup actual geisha use is very expensive so a cheaper substitute is necessary for us Western wannabes), a good black eyeliner and some red lipstick.  I could have picked up some decent white foundation for $22 but my dire financial situation found me scoping the aisles of a cheapo shop and coming away with some costume makeup.  Generally this stuff is not to be trusted if you don’t want your makeup to resemble that of a sweaty clown but the photos on the packet looked relatively smudge free.  Unlike me after applying it, who looked very UN-smudge free.  After my initial setback I tried using talcum powder mixed with water, also a failure.  Then white eye shadow.  And finally just plain ol’ talc applied with a small brush.

As for the black eyeliner I actually had to practice using liquid liner in advance because I’ve never been able to successfully apply it without getting it everywhere it’s not supposed to be.  This I used to line my lids and also my eyebrows (and somehow the frown lines on my forehead but hopefully I disguised these enough so that you can’t see them).

I created geisha lips using bright red lipstick to draw a love heart with a rounded bottom over my own thus completing the look.  All up my makeup also took a couple of hours and made ME quite shouty.

Step 3.  Kimono.

I unwrapped my kimono a little tentatively fearing it would crumble to dust on exposure to the sunlight or that I’d be attacked by mice and bats scurrying for darkness.  Luckily it was fine, excepting the well ingrained crease lines which would at least make it easy to fold back up when I was done.

Following along with the video the kimono was fairly easy to put on although would probably take some practice to get a snug fit.  The important thing to note in wearing a kimono is what NOT to do, for example only geisha under 20 should wear red and unless preparing for your funeral you must always wrap a kimono left over right.  Dressing took about 10 minutes.

With all the preparation I feared I wasn’t going to make it in time to get any photos in sunlight but my fears were allayed.  In fact, as I posed with sunlight streaming directly into my eyes that were already painfully full of talcum powder and eye-liner I’m surprised I didn’t acquire an Asian squint.  One thing is for sure, I certainly don’t make an attractive geisha.

It took all day to look the part but after 10 minutes of photos I’d had enough.  How the geisha endure all of this and then manage to pull off sophistication and grace while plucking lutes and dancing with fans will forever be a mystery to me.  But then I’m not much of a girly-girl.  Nor have I had the years of rigorous training and discipline necessary to be one of these beautiful creatures.

Sadly, the kimono only spent about half an hour out of its wrapping before returning to its home among my other favourite old clothes, maybe never to be worn again, but always to be admired.


Week 13. Resolution 13. Explore the rumour of a local beach. April 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — H-Ro @ 11:34 AM
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Everyone loves the beach, don’t they?  But unless you’re one of the blessed few, the beach is always a bit too far to go to without making a day of it or planning a holiday around it.  I can tell you right now, if I had a beach next door, I’d be there every spare minute I had, leaving me little time for blogging and cultivating my pasty white complexion.  I would also know better than to go near sand or bodies of water without plastering myself with sunscreen.  Yet from my house it’s a two hour drive south to the Gold Coast and an hour and a half drive north to the Sunshine Coast before I can feel sand between my toes.

At least that’s what I thought.

I’d heard rumours of a beach 20 minutes drive east of here.  Sure, it’s not next door but it’s really not that far away either.  I never gave it much thought though as I’d driven by a few times, and while I saw rocks and ocean, I’d never spotted any sand.  Plus no one I knew flocked there religiously which made me a tad suspect.

With Easter on the horizon, Suttons “Beach” at Redcliffe hosts the Festival of Sails, providing a prime viewing spot to watch the Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race as it passes by.  I figured if I was going to assess the place on its “beachiness” I should at least make a day of it and check out the festival simultaneously.  Then if the beach truly did suck at least there’d be festival-brand frivolity to ease my pain.

After the battle for a parking spot, Mum and I planned to put an end to the great sand debate but, like all good women distracted by shiny things, we wandered through the ocean-side markets instead.  At one point I snuck out the back of the market tents, and wouldn’t you know it, SAND!  There wasn’t all that much and it didn’t look like the nicest sand in the world, but sand it was, thus qualifying as a beach!

One Brave Soldier

Resisting every temptation to throw myself upon it before frolicking in the ocean (even though, unlike all goodbeaches, there was no one else in sight) we instead decided to head up to the area where the yachts were to pass in a matter of minutes.  There is a lovely boardwalk that travels the distance of the beach with plenty of rest stops with a view, and I found myself more and more impressed with the available facilities.  At one point we descended the stairs and before us lay a massive man-made lagoon with a view of the ocean beyond.  This put an end to my question of whether or not you can swim in said ocean but the council has obviously alleviated this problem by building the pool, now overflowing with folk keen for a dip.

Further on there was a huge basketball area surrounded by a rock carved grand-stand.  Awesome.

As we reached the yacht-hot-spot the sand had given way to rock, although there was another beach in view just around the bend.  A feast for the senses, we listened to the drumming workshop and watched paragliding, parasailing and kite flying while waiting for the yachts to head our way.  I took hundreds of photos as the horizon filled with sails.

Afterwards we headed back the way we came, but had we walked on a little further we might have seen the Easter Bunny arrive by parachute, or the sand sculptures, or the Easter egg hunt, and maybe viewed a demonstration or joined a workshop.  But we didn’t know they were there.  Next year.

Perhaps as some kind of pay-off for missing the good stuff we scored ourselves a table with a prime view to enjoy our lunch.  I took too many photos of seagulls but they’re such posers I couldn’t help it.

To walk of our lunch we strolled along the jetty and then ate Dippin’ Dots to ruin all the good we did.  (Have you tried this stuff?  WOW.)

Exhausted, we headed home for a nap.  It was then that I noticed my skin was radiating a hellish amount of heat and when I got up I was a pleasant shade of lobster-red.  I’m usually so careful to protect my eggshell-white skin but I have a lapse in judgement every so often because I’m so rarely in the sun that I just forget.  If I had a beach for a backyard then I would certainly be well practised in slip, slop and slap.

But now I have a beach twenty minutes away which I certainly look forward to exploring minus the crowds.  In fact, looking at the local council’s website there’s a list of 20 beaches in the local area.  Guess what I’ll be doing with my weekends?


Update on Resolution #4. Read 3 Books a Month. April 1, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — H-Ro @ 10:31 AM
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To follow through on the promise I made for resolution #4 in January, here are my latest readings.

In February I only managed 3 books.  A disappointing effort but it was a busy month for me.

  1. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer – a tale about a young boy who lost his father in the NY terrorist attacks of 2001. I usually avoid books written around tragic events but the main character of this story is quite possibly the best character ever committed to print.  Truly wonderful.  Loved it.
  2. The Other Hand – Chris Cleave – a Nigerian refugee becomes entwined in the lives of a London family.  Confronting and tragic.
  3. What-The-Dickens – Gregory Maguire – The true tale of the Toothfairy.  I bought this on a whim which turned out to be a mistake. I think this may have been a filler novel during his Wicked series.  He doesn’t do straight fiction well, it felt rushed and scattered and the book could have used a better editor.

March saw a total of 5 books!

  1. Evernight – Claudia Gray – the first in yet another vampire series.  I thought she wrote well about locations and atmosphere but the plot of the story was a direct Twilight rip-off.  Having said that, these vampire authors have stumbled onto something that really makes a book hard to put down.
  2. Letters To A Young Poet – Rainer Maria Wilke – recommended to me as a “must-read” for aspiring writers.  After reading it, I’ve no idea why.  Has some interesting ideas on solitude, love and depression but nothing whatsoever on writing.  Contains twelve letters written to a poet and none of the letters that the poet wrote in reply, which makes them difficult to understand without context.  Perplexing.
  3. Before I Fall – Lauren Oliver – a compelling book, half Mean Girls, half Groundhog Day.  I absolutely loved it.  Beautifully written for a first time author.  Couldn’t put it down!  Has definitely found a place on my all-time-favourites shelf.
  4. Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies – Michael Adams.  Details a man’s pursuit to watch a bad movie a day for a year in a quest to find the worst movie ever made.  Not a bad read although I sometimes found it a bit hard to relate to without having seen the movies.
  5. The True Story Of Butterfish – Nick Earls – Another entertaining and well-written ‘slice of life’ effort from Mr Earls about a has-been rock star who tries to find normalcy in suburbia.  He’s managed to fill what could have been a very thin story with plenty of engaging characters and references to local landmarks, really bringing it to life.  I loved the ending too – it was only a paragraph – but summed up the book’s journey perfectly.