The Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort

October 11, 2022 at 1:34 am (Uncategorized)

Why yes, I’m still sorting out photos and videos from our Queensland holiday last March. And my computer and phone are very upset about it all.

I like making videos in iMovie but none of the title options do subtitles well, so here’s the full text of the video (so anyone Hard of Hearing can read them here), with some pics so it’s not too boring.

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We live in Canberra, so it was always going to be a pretty long day to get all the way to the Whitsundays. But our kids had never been on a plane before, so it was pretty exciting, and as soon as we arrived at Proserpine Airport we were pretty enchanted with the features of the airport. Then off we went to the Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort. Not to be confused with the Big4… other place, which is different but in the same area.

Beautiful gardens, barbecue areas, lots of really good facilities including a range of camping/room options, water features, go karts, petting zoo…. But of course the main thing is the water park. There are thirteen slides in the waterpark. It closes … I think about 6:00 or 7:00pm each day, which gives you plenty of time to play, and it was Right On for our kids. We had such a good time—all of us. It also features a huge bucket that occasionally drops water all over you if you’re standing underneath.

And there’s the pool, which has two slides, a spa area, and is huge.

This is our cabin, number two, and our rental car. It’s a relatively long way from the pool but very close to reception which turned out to be really handy. Nice outside light; nice balcony. We had a tree frog juuuust here.

You can see a floor plan on the web site: there’s two very lovely bunks with their own little windows. Top shelf: luggage only… so, this is my daughter ‘Luggage’. Actually she’s very safety conscious and would never go up there.

These chairs are not suitable for adults. I did break one, even though I was very careful, so we had to bring in one of the outside chairs but I really don’t blame myself for that.

Here is the kitchenette, which has basically four knives, spoons, forks, etc. No oven; the electric frypan was our friend. Another window. It’s quite a small space but they managed to have seven windows, a fan, and an air conditioner—which was not quite up to the heat of this week, but it was a lot better being inside than outside.

Basic stuff in the cupboard. Unfortunately not shelves, which I would have liked because a lot of the storage space is down so low it wasn’t useful to me. There’s about…. Well, that’s not a gap I can fit into.

The shower has a water-saving showerhead, which is probably for the best. The door opens this way, which makes it pretty difficult for an overweight person to get in. Basically there’s enough room in the bathroom I would say but you know, it’s tricky. Certainly not a place you could access with a wheelchair but I believe they do have wheelchair specific cabins.

Lizzie loved the Autism Room, even though it was pitched a little young for her. Tim became completely obsessed with Mini Golf, and he and Chris went off to play it pretty much every day. But the best thing of all was night-time swimming, especially with the water slides still open until 9pm each night.

I strongly recommend the Big4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort. It was excellent.

Video link:

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DIY Cat Enclosure, Part 2

October 10, 2022 at 12:11 pm (Uncategorized)

Part 1 is here.

I tried to attach this cat tunnel to our laundry door (where the cat door is) with various combinations of string and temporary hooks. Screws are better, and still somewhat removable.

These cat tunnels cost $59 each and have useful ties at each end, plus reinforced holes and tent pegs.

They’re over 5m long, but a lot of that gets used up when the tunnel needs to turn a corner.

They can also be used to briefly entertain primary-age kids.

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More on Autism

October 5, 2022 at 10:38 pm (Uncategorized)

Like most people who realise they’re autistic as adults, I am unpacking a whole lot of my life through a new lens. Here’s another great twitter thread on autism, with my comments:

I have brilliant time management, but I hate socks and shoes so much that there was a 6-month period of time when I didn’t own a single pair of shoes, and I rarely wear socks even when it’s literally freezing. I also struggle to wear long sleeves, or sleeves at all. I’ll sometimes wear sleeveless tops in winter, despite the cold, because having clothes on my arms is so stressful to me. And obviously that’s one of the main reasons I struggle to wear a mask, too.

Yes, yes, oh hell yes, yes, a bit, dunno.

Not really, or at least not in a big way to any of these (and in answer to your question, ‘T-rex arms’ means standing around with your elbows bent and hands dangling).

Yes, oh so yes (I’ve been getting stressed driving past the Floriade crowds), oh so yes, oh so yes, uh I dunno, oh so yes.

Yes, nah, yes, maybe, maybe, I don’t struggle I enjoy it… as in, when I met Chris and he said he had ADHD my first thought was, “Good. He’ll fit in with my friends.”

I’m a genius at multitasking (although also exhausted by it), uh yes I was diagnosed years ago, better I don’t answer that one, oh so yes (I really really can’t handle funerals UNLESS I’m super close to the deceased because I worry so much about all those who are ‘worse off’ than me, emotionally speaking, that I become a ball of pain too upset to be of use to anyone), oh so yes (I can feel myself ignoring people in favour of animals but can’t seem to stop), no I reckon I’m good at that.

Uh…. my mum made a deal with me at age 16ish to sit up straight for 6 weeks in exchange for a prize (which I did, then immediately went back to slouching), yes, I love change but handle it really badly, oh so yes, oh so yes, yes.

I like to plan and then break my own plans. But if people don’t go along with my plans I often have panic attacks. No, oh so yes, uh… I’m best self-employed for exactly this reason, oh so yes, uh yes (even before I was sick).

Thank you, @neuro_lou!

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DIY Cat Enclosure

September 30, 2022 at 12:35 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Roughly fifteen years ago—before I met Chris—I gained a kitten, and solemnly promised that, since she had a white nose (making her vulnerable to cancer) I would get a cat enclosure as soon as I could.

This is that cat, Princess Ana, when Lizzie was a toddler:

That cat died several years ago (and not of cancer, which makes me feel a little better about my promise). But I never forgot my promise.

These are our current cats, Zipper and Zoom. Zipper tends to look cranky, and Zoom tends to look aggressively innocent. They’re not related. Once you go calico, you can’t go back.

As you can see, they also have white noses.

During Term 3 of this year, I took on a temporary job that pushed my health far beyond what is safe—confirming that I should NOT be doing more than about 6 hours of paid work per week, and also giving us a brief period where we could buy a few things that weren’t immediately necessary for survival.

So we bought/gained:

A very narrow shed for $500.

A greenhouse for $250.

Two ‘outside pet tunnels’ for $60 each.

3m x 5m of really nice flexible netting, free from a friend (but definitely has chook poo on and in it).

Our own old trampoline, with a 1.8m diameter and high netting all around (plus shadecloth we clipped over the top years ago. The kids have very much outgrown it, but we didn’t manage to give it away so it shall be absorbed into this project.

These are the ingredients with which we shall try to put together a cat enclosure. We’ll probably need another cat tunnel, but we’ll see how far we can get.

Our yard is mostly an L shape; only about 3m wide on the longer side. At the end of the narrower side it continues on around the house (so SORT of a C-shape yard really), with a 1.12m-wide patch of bare dirt and weeds. We have strongly encouraged our cats to use it as a toilet, and they do (but of course also use the neighbours’ yards). We want to keep that area as a cat toilet, so that is what the shed is for: to ‘enclose’ the cats’ toilet while also giving us a teensy bit of extra storage (for items that we don’t mind smelling bad).

Rejoice with us, because after about 8 hours of work by two healthy and intelligent men, the “simple” shed now exists in the real world, complete with a cat ‘door’ cut into the metal shed door.

Tim also helped.

I’ve weeded a bit more since taking these photos. We’ll also tape up the sharp side of the cat door. (You’ll notice it can be folded back into place to almost ‘fix’ the door if that’s useful in future.)

For now, we have put normal kitty litter inside and done our best to let the cats know they’re allowed in there (Zoom is less skittish so we physically picked her up and put her inside; if we did that to Zipper she would swear an oath to never enter it again—but since Zoom has been inside, she knows she’s allowed). We are leaving the door open and letting them take their time getting used to it.

Eventually, we’ll close the main shed door and attach one end of a cat tunnel to the cat hole—but only when all the rest of the cat enclosure is done.

This was, hopefully, the most difficult part. It’s also the most rewarding, since it means we can continue to never deal with kitty litter.

Next step: Attaching one of the cat tunnels to our laundry door, which is where we have a proper cat flap—which means the cats will have to go through the tunnel to get in or out of the house (which will also let slightly outside air into the laundry, yay).

We’ll leave it open at the other end while they get used to it.

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Welcome to Australia

July 13, 2022 at 8:29 pm (Uncategorized)

This is the finished version of “Welcome to Australia”, a book I started writing way back in 2019ish. It is designed to be read by immigrant and refugee children with their parents. 

Eventually there will be versions in Dari Persian, Mandarin, Indonesian, Arabic, and Spanish.

Update January 2023: The Indonesian translation is finished, checked, and being formatted. The Dari Persian version is finished but hasn’t had its final translator check yet. The Mandarin and Spanish versions are with volunteer translators.

Update 6 February 2023: The English and Indonesian/Malay versions are going to the printer TODAY. The Spanish, Mandarin, and Dari Persian versions are all finished and awaiting formatting. The Arabic is… not started yet. But we’ll get there eventually!

See the Indonesian/Malay version in full here!

Comment here, buy a copy in my store, or email FBanksBooks@gmail.com to get your copy.

YES there will be very cheap ebooks of all of the versions, as well as combined English/non-English versions.

I am perfectly happy for these images to be shared, especially in schools and among immigrants and refugees and the organisations that help them. My only rule is that you don’t get paid for our work.

A lot of the illustrators/models donated their images (and there are a LOT of photos of my kids) but I made a point of paying refugees and Aboriginal people (both models and sensitivity readers).

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Aspergirls

July 1, 2022 at 10:14 am (Uncategorized)

My daughter Lizzie was diagnosed with Autism earlier this year. They classified her as Level 2 which is largely meaningless (every autistic person is wildly different from every other autistic person) except it means she can mostly deal with mainstream school but also gets funding for therapy.

Sometimes ‘mild’ (again, a problematic term) autism is called Asperges. Lizzie and I quite like the term “Aspergirl” because it sounds like a superhero. It’s very likely that Tim and I are also autistic, although our lives are clearly much easier than hers.

Autism comes with both advantages and disadvantages. It’s much harder to diagnose in girls as they present differently. I saw this on FaceBook (with the original link long since broken) and was fascinated. I took screenshots, and have commented on the screenshots.

Uh yes, I don’t even wear long sleeves (unless it’s under about 5 degrees Celsius, and sometimes not even then) because they bother me.

I often don’t brush my hair and I almost never wear makeup.

Eccentric personality. Well, yes.

No, I wouldn’t say I’m youthful for my age (immature in some respects, sure), or more/less expressive than the mainstream, or androgynous at all. Lizzie and I are both hyper-feminine in style (I wear skirts and dresses all the time; she wears pink; we both maintain long hair despite finding it a hassle). I’ve read elsewhere that being really really into gender roles OR really not into them are both autistic traits.

I test as INFP/INFJ on Myers-Briggs tests (and yes I know they’re not scientific). INFPs in particular are famous for being a different person in different situations, and not being able to turn it off. I had a boyfriend that I broke up with because he expected me to be depressed and needy… so I was.

I think this blog and my entire life support the film/books addiction.

Ah yes, being hyper controlling in order to cope with stuff. Ask anyone who has ever tried to do anything with me, including the recent ZamZam Foundation launch. I can delegate, and I can handle having stuff delegated to me, but I have to be able to say no to stuff.

Home is my safe place—which is difficult when I don’t live alone.

Classic gifted kid.

I’m a writer with a double degree.

I’m not super great at being employed but I’m fantastic at being self-employed.

I’m intelligent but verbal instructions have always been a big weakness for me. People often accuse me of pretending to be stupid when I genuinely don’t ‘get’ what’s going on.

My obsessive writing is more or less socially acceptable.

Yes I’m emotionally sensitive. And I have an anxiety disorder and clinical depression, so… yes.

My computer deleted a draft of this blog entry and I don’t feel like re-writing, but I’ll leave the rest of the article here for you. And a pic of my cats.

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 6

June 18, 2022 at 4:43 pm (Uncategorized)

Hobbit Trilogy: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

LOTR Trilogy Part 1 Part 2

Bonus links: A LOTR marathon I blogged back in 2010. (Focusing on getting through it in one day, rather than actually writing about the films.)

And, Signs you like the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy a little too much. (2012)

And finally, featuring much of the cast, Stephen Colbert’s unique and delightful “The #1 Trilly“.

Every moment of this film is gasp-worthy. That opening scene, even without all the context of the other two (or the other five) films, is incredible: An idyllic scene of two brothers who stumble across the one ring and then attempt to murder one another. One of them succeeds, and we see him degenerate from a hobbit-like creature to the monster that is Gollum.

And then, pipeweed (extended version only).

I won’t list every brilliant scene, because I want to actually watch some.

Ooh, but Saruman accurately hits Gandalf right where it hurts the whole group most: Gandalf does sacrifice those he professes to love.

Grima’s final act of not-entirely-convenient mid-interrogation courage is worthy of a thousand essays on the topics of morality and ethics.

And Pippin, of course, falls for the shiny palantir ball.

Drinking game with Legolas and Gimli. Super dumb, super fun. Merry and Pippin singing and dancing again, ditto.

Super awkward Eowyn crush.

There are loads of really important things I should definitely be doing. But I’ll have an early lunch and then go to bed.

Aragorn and Eowyn are definitely sort of dating. Aragorn, you are nice, but you are a tease. I suppose you think you’ve broken up with Arwen, but in any case it’s too soon to move on.

Oh, poor dumb Pippin and delightfully terrifying Gandalf. Billy Boyd does a good job of being utterly terrified and clearly violated by the Palantir.

And THERE’s Figwit (Frodo Is Great, Who Is That?) Or more accurately, there are the lines he was given after fans become obsessed with him in the first LOTR film (he’s at the Council of Elrond).

Hi Denethor. I dunno how you came to power, but you’ve proved that even non-hereditary rulers can totally suck. Well done you.

Nice moment between Faramir and Pippin.

1:30pm

I didn’t quite make it through disc 1 but I’m awake and have a few minutes before another ZamZam person comes over for yet another delivery of stuff from the launch.

Arg! The friend showed up on time. Still, I have half an hour before I need to fetch the kids.

Time for Frodo to make Sam cry. Frodo, no!

Time for Denethor to send his men to die. Denethor, no!

Gandalf to Faramir: “Do not throw away your life so rashly!”

Faramir: “Where does my allegiance lie if not here?”

And Pippin sings, and breaks all our hearts.

And now we’re at the war camp with King Theodren, Aragorn, and Legolas. Gimli is, presumably, around somewhere. There is SO MUCH movie still to go.

Is this dream of Aragorn’s a premonition… or is it Eowyn getting back together with him by psychic text message?

Even better that either of those options, Daddy Elrond has been sent to play matchmaker. A well deserved opportunity for the vegan elf to eat crow.

Somewhere, unfilmed and unwritten, is a conversation in which Arwen says, “Daddy, you broke us up, and you are going to fix it.”

Aragorn, realising his hot new thing deserves a proper break-up, says, “It is but a shadow of a thought that you love. I cannot give you what you seek…. I wished you joy since first I saw you.”

Excellent break-up speech: Vague enough to let her keep her dignity, kind enough to show she meant something to you, and clear enough that there can be no doubt it’s over.

Little wonder she fell for Aragorn, when every other man she knows treats her like a puppy that just widdled on the floor.

Wait, I forgot to mention the beacons! World’s worst job combined with world’s prettiest office. The sheer unshaking faithfulness of the beacon keepers inspires me so very much.

Okay, five more minutes and I need to get going.

Aragorn and the ghosties. Someone is no longer in any doubt of his role as king.

Hello, comatose Faramir! Still alive!

Aand now it’s 7:30pm and I still haven’t finished the first disc! Although my kids are currently playing with “Sting” which is almost as fun as watching the films (at least until Chris catches them/me and we all get in trouble.


2:00pm the next day. Even with a nap I was too tired to stay awake and watch the rest. Luckily Chris takes the kids to his parents’ house every Saturday arvo. I had breakfast and then went back to bed.

Juuust in time for Gandalf to knock out a hysterical Denethor. I think we’ve all faced people that made the world worse by being awake. *sigh*

I’m glad I don’t have to face orcs or any kind of monster in my regular life. Or battle of any kind. But sometimes I wish life was less morally complex. On the up side, the worst people I know also have redeeming qualities, so that’s something good.

And the disc is done! Finally! At 2:06pm!

Hello, pirate Peter Jackson.

Oh no. Frodo and Gollum are still on that awful black cliff, about to meet Shelob. This is so stressful!

Last night I ate a freshly-roasted chicken salad with avocado, grated carrot, pine nuts, sesame seeds, and fried onion.

The chicken came from the food pantry, as did the pine nuts, sesame seeds, and fried onions. It was delicious, although it doesn’t look like much.

I wish I could hallucinate Cate Blanchett whenever I fell over.

FRODO!!!! BEHIND YOU!!!!

And they say Tolkien didn’t write complex female characters. Hi, Shelob!

Thank you Pippin, for screaming, “He’s not dead!” over and over…. just like everyone else who watches Denethor deciding to burn Faramir’s “body”.

Thank you Denethor, for the line, “Go now and die in what way seems best to you.”

Thank you Eowyn, for the line, “Courage, Merry. Courage for our friends.”

Bye-bye, Denethor. A appropriate death for a flaming asshole. Now all of you is flaming.

Oh no, another army? What is this, The Hobbit?!

They do a really good good of highlighting small moments and big: confusion and one-on-one moments, and the times when the battle-tide turns, and turns again.

Legolas versus an ollyphaunt (I still don’t know how to spell that) is a most excellent moment.

Goodbye, King Theoden. I don’t know what poor decisions you made to end up possessed by Saruman, and not every decision you made was right even when you were yourself, but you deserve to feel pride in your actions at the end.

I like the romance that blooms between Eowyn and Faramir in the Halls of Healing. The two people with the most tragic backstories, united. All the best relationships, platonic or otherwise, have an element of healing to them.

The scars around Frodo’s neck, and on his very young chest, are heartbreaking.

Faramir: “I do not believe this darkness will endure.”

An extraordinary claim (by a man who has recently lost his entire family, and who has been in indirect contact with the ring), and a beautiful one.

Meanwhile Sam, who brought a box of herbs through the black lands in case they happened upon a chicken, now knows that he and Frodo will not be coming back. Even his optimism fails, eventually.

The Mouth of Sauron character is perfectly done (from memory, he’s only in the extended version). *shudder*

Aragorn finally wears the livery of Gondor…. and his first act is to lead his people and others on a suicide mission.

Sam: “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”

Aragorn: “For Frodo.”

Oh no! Gollum attack!

And we’re finally inside the volcano…. and Frodo fails to give up the ring.

And Gollum attacks again, and finally gets his precious back, and dies happy.

Bye bye, ring.

Bye bye, flaming eyeball.

Bye bye, despair.

And Frodo is himself again, even as lava surrounds him. #WorthIt

And Sam, the ultimate friend, says, “Yes Frodo, that’s very nice that you remember the taste of food again now” rather than making a fuss about the burning death they’ve both about to have.

And the screen fades to black in a fake-out ending that foreshadows the many endings yet to come.

Eagles, and Rivendell, and Frodo is okay! More or less!

Gandalf is okay! (Not surprising to us, but surprising to Frodo.)

Merry and Pippin are okay!

Gimli is okay (other than his severe allergy to his own prosthetic face)!

Legolas is okay!

Legolas’s hair is okay!

Aragorn is okay!

Sam is okay!

Aragorn is king!

Aragorn’s finally washed his hair!

Faramir and Eowyn are definitely together, and okay!

Eomer is okay! (And also his sister shall be queen of the Rohan, which might teach him a much-needed lesson about not being a patronising dick.)

Elrond is finally okay with Aragorn and Arwen officially getting it on!

Aragorn and Arwen officially get it on!

Frodo writes a book!

The Shire is okay!

The local pub is okay!

A large local pumpkin is okay!

The local ale is okay!

Rosie Cotton is a-okay!

Frodo’s psyche is not entirely okay!

Dementia Bilbo is “quite ready for another adventure”!

Galadriel’s delighted smile as she leaves is an absolute treat.

Gandalf is okay… with crying, fortunately. Because there’s a lot of it.

Bye bye Frodo—with another perfect smile, and the tiniest of manly nods.

The other hobbits are not okay.

Sam and Rosie’s kids are okay!

My blood sugar is okay!

I mean, that’s not actually part of the movie but it’s been two hours since I started lunch so it was time to test it.

My cats are also okay, you’ll be pleased to hear. Zipper prefers to glower from above and Zoom prefers to hide under things.

Cats are, of course, essential to all the best movie marathons.

And the full HoLOTR marathon of 2022 is done.

Yes, that’s our official Sting replica.

How do I feel?

I’m very surprised it took me a whole seven days. I underestimated my exhaustion and overestimated my supposed free time. But I still feel I’ve achieved something, which is all the more valuable for a disabled person. And the amount of work that went into these films always inspires me—along with the obvious inspiration of courage, hope, love, and faith despite incredible darkness and impossible odds.

There is always hope.

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 5

June 16, 2022 at 11:54 pm (Uncategorized)

Hobbit Trilogy Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Lord of the Rings Part 1

An epic opening: the knife-edge of glacier-clad mountains, and then Gandalf and the balrog fighting, with just a teensy bit of flashback for context.

Ahhhhh… that’s the stuff.

And in just a few moments, we get to know Sam and Frodo very well.

It’s 10:30am and I’ve already been impressive today. (Feel free to cheer. I can take it.) It’s Thursday, which means shopping—but not just any shopping; food pantry shopping. On Thursdays I buy cheap (and often delightfully eccentric) food from the St Paul’s food pantry in Melba, then bring it home and unpack it into the West Belco Food Pantry that I run from my front porch. (Taking all the best stuff for myself, OF COURSE.) That’s why I was moving fridges yesterday—the fridge I had in the pantry is very small and it was hurting my back quite badly to try and put the fruit and vegetables in any kind of order, and someone was giving away a medium-sized fridge on Buy Nothing that means more room in the freezer (frozen meat makes all the difference to struggling families) and it’s easier to unpack things into it too.

Some food pantry items I’ve eaten during this marathon: sweet potato and pumpkin hamburger patties; beetroot and hummus dip (which I took partly because it amuses me to see Chris hiss and back away from anything beetrooty like a vampire from sunlight), Maple-Mustard-Apple Cider marinate;

So I’m hoping to watch the first disc during the day, then sleep. I’m getting “aura”—weird visual stuff that is the precursor to a migraine, but if I’m careful I can still fend it off. A nap will help. Then I’ll wake up, fetch kids, and do my arvo work (which, mercifully, has been halved today).

And in a few moments we understand uruk-hai, orcs, Merry, and Pippin—and the relationships between them.

And in a few moments we see Aragorn being skillful, Legolas’s pristine hair and skin even while running for days, and the news that Gimli is only here for comic relief (sorry again, dwarves).

Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe tried to balance a cast with six main characters, Fellowship of the Ring did it with nine.

Although The Hobbit didn’t quite succeed in managing to truly differentiate all those dwarves, it did manage to distinguish a few of them: the king (Thorin), the pretty one (Kili), his brother (Fili; no personality otherwise), the old & wise one (Dwalin I think, or Balin his brother), the dumb but kind one (Bofur, who of course has an Irish accent instead of the traditional Scottish), the fat one (Bombur). Then there’s… the one with the ear trumpet. The one with an axe in his head. Uh… there’s one more. Even after watching this SO many times, I can’t name them all.

I thought I’d forgotten one, but I’d forgotten two (googles for a photo of them): The super young dumb one, and his much older brother. No idea what their names are. Oh wait, and Gimli’s dad Gloin. That’s thirteen I think. So I forgot three.

Googles a photo WITH names:

Okay, so the super dumb young one is Ori, and his brother is Dori. Also their brother Nori, who I’d utterly forgotten. Gloin’s brother Oin is the one with the ear trumpet maybe? And Bifur has the axe in his head. Is that everyone? It is, right? ……right??

Hello Eomyr, and the lands of Rohan. Hello Eowyn. Hi Wormtongue and King Theodren. Not sure I spelled those names correctly.

Hello, grumbly forest! The ents are famously based on CS Lewis, one of Tolkien’s best friends (incredibly boring, oblivious to the world around them, slow-moving, and have forgotten what women look like).

“Oh you’re a writer?” people say to me. “Would you ever base a character on me?”

You’d better hope not.

Bog! Bad bog! Bad battle bog with grabby ghosties! This also scared me half to death the first several times. I’m a sensitive soul.

Hello new, shinier, gently fuddled Gandalf.

“I cast down my enemy, and smote his ruin upon the mountainside.” Yeah! Go shiny Gandalf!

PRETTY HORSIE!!!

Thank you, extended version, for the gentle torture of ent poetry. Where’s some pipeweed when you need it? (Did you ent lads recite a lot of poetry at the ladies, pray tell? Sort of immediately before they left forever?)

Ah, everything is so beautiful about this movie. The landscapes, the costumes, the set design, the music.

Another extended scene, with Merry and Pippin and a peckish tree that’s sick of being teased about being vegan.

And one of my absolute favourite film scenes of all time: The freeing of King Theodren.

If one didn’t already have a crush on Aragorn, seeing him soothe a grieving horse will get you on board. It certainly worked for Aowyn, and can you blame her? And he’s multilingual, too!

I had a friend make me a dress based on the dress Eowyn wears in the scene when Aragon chats to her as she’s practising her swordplay. Still got it, although it most definitely doesn’t fit any more.

It sucks leaving your home, but at least it won’t be as windy inside Helm’s Deep. Legolas and Eowyn must both be quietly pleased that their hair won’t frizz up so much. (Aragorn hasn’t washed his hair since he was 50 so it’s too oily to misbehave; Gimli’s hair became independently sentient years ago.)

Arg, it’s almost 1pm. I should be asleep! I kept having to pause to take calls or deal with other life and/or ZamZam stuff. I’m determined to get to the end of this disc, though.

Smeagol versus Gollum. An echo of the freeing of King Theodren: a person casting off clinging awfulness despite incredible odds stacked against them.

Hello Oliphaunt (ollyfant?) Not that one:

And finally, hello Faramir.


Disc two: Dwarf women. Another moment that is made better by the Hobbit trilogy.

Suuper awkward to find out that the guy you like is definitely still obsessed with his immortal elf princess of an ex. Sorry Eowyn. Don’t worry, you’ll get together with a fully-human male soon enough.

The Rohirrim + Gimli/Aragorn/Legolas face another great, hilly battle with mountain views and a handy (or not-so-handy) cliff or two. Not so great for Gimli, who gets pinned under a warg for most of it and is repeatedly rescued. The movies did you wrong, Gimli.

Speaking of dwarves and problematic choices, I wonder how Scots feel about dwarves being Scottish? Because they’re ugly and violent and drunk? I suspect Scots feel the same swell of pride as Aussies feel at the line “peopled entirely by criminals” when our very nice nation is described in The Princess Bride. All the same, someone should object. Even if it’s hilarious. (And orcs of course are cockney, because they’re dirty, violent, and perpetually hungry? Ouch.)

And here we are at the cold, crowded block of rock that is Helm’s Deep.

But the two little kids on the pony do get to see their mother again, and that is a much-needed bit of brightness.

Hello Arwen and thanks for the magic kiss. Ditto that highly affectionate and open-minded horse.

Ooh, are we nearly at the FIGWOT scene?

Arwen: “There is still hope.” Yes indeedy. Even if Daddy gives the best “You’ll regret it when the relationship ends” speech of all time. Somewhat weightier when you know he sees the future.

Frodo: “And this is Samwise Gamgee.”

Faramir: “Your bodyguard?”

Sam: “His gardener.”—said with such delicious contempt.

A flashback to Boromir and Faramir in Osgiliath, happy. At least until Daddy Denethor comes along to be a total a-hole. Like Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films, he’s not the most murderous evil, but he’s definitely the one the audience most wants to punch in the face.

Thank you ent council. Now I can get a snack. It’s 10:30pm and I don’t have a migraine but I gotta eat something to stay awake.

Aragorn: “There is always hope.”

Almost word for word was Arwen said, and I only just noticed the parallel on this watch.

Thank you for showing up, elf army. Did you bring a wagon of food again, or was that just for the Hobbit movies? Never mind, it was all salad anyway.

No matter what you say about dwarves, you’d far rather hang out with them than the elves. Better food, better drink, more fun. Although it’s clear both dwarves and elves love a good bit of violence.

Helm’s Deep, as the armies draw up facing one another in the rain.

Denethor is a great villain (although, again, clearly insane—it seems everyone turns insane at the drop of a hat, as far as Tolkien is concerned) but mostly we have a lot of orc and uruk-hai, who are clearly inhuman and inhumane. Not a bit of sympathy for the enemy there, which is usually a sign of poor writing. But if you’ve been in a real war with real humans I doubt you could ever stomach writing human-versus-human battle scenes ever again. Because otherwise the lovely mightiness of manly menfolk defending their home is just a waste of lives and an ugly thing. Like the “war to end all wars”, which… didn’t.

Sadly, way too many men (not all men…. but too many of them) walk away from films and fancy themselves the mighty weapon-toting warrior, rather than seeing the self-sacrifice and mutual affection between these heroes as the thing that truly matters.

Ents: so boring they fall asleep halfway through their own sentences.

But when they get moving, they’re great. Especially the one who bends over into the broken dam-water to put out the fire in his upper branches.

Oh, Frodo. When you nearly give the ring away to a wraith, and then nearly kill Sam.

Sam: “Even darkness must pass.”

And there’s one last flash of Smeagol, listening to Sam and desperately hoping Sam’s optimism isn’t as foolish as it sounds.

Sam: “There’s still some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”

Meanwhile, the uruk-hair retreat into the trees… and are never seen again. Om nom nom.

*switch to Merry and Pippin finding Saruman’s excellent larder, pipe weed and all*

Faramir: “The Shire must surely be a great realm, Mr Gamgee, where gardeners are held in high honour.”

Yes, Faramir. It is.

And a bit of posturing to advertise the third film, and we’re done!

Not quite. We have Sam fantasizing about other people one day telling a story about the two hobbits and their big adventure, and once again we end the film overwhelmed with love for Frodo and Sam.

And then there’s the scene in which Smeagol is shoved deep, deep down into Gollum’s psyche. The tragedy is that, for a little while, Smeagol was dominant. If circumstances has been just a teensy bit different, Smeagol could have stayed redeemed. Or perhaps he could have re-recovered later, if he hadn’t taken a lava bath.

With that thought, I shall go to bed.

Not really. There’s a new episode of Ms Marvel that’s calling my name. No full reviews for y’all, but it’s really good. Joyful and fun and it’s so good to see a nuanced portrayal of various Muslim characters (and yes, the parents are super strict and basically the opening villain… but that’s how all teens see their parents, plus lots of immigrants have a similarly “unfair” upbringing compared to their peers).

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 4

June 15, 2022 at 9:51 pm (Uncategorized)

The Hobbit trilogy: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Opening voiceover by Galadriel, with epic battles.

It’s 9:30am on Wednesday, and I’m finally watching the Lord of the Rings.

Also, moving furniture today: a table, a couch, a big chair, and two fridges. Another task not entirely suited to someone with a disability, but it’s not like disabled people can afford to pay others to do stuff like this.

Huh. It’s amazing to see Ian Holm as young Bilbo, with a tiny section of the cave scene with Gollum, after seeing the full scene with Martin Freeman so recently.

And then Bilbo’s home, which is oh so familiar, and feels just the same even though the whole set had to be rebuilt for the Hobbit films.

Such a contrast from the ‘true’ opening, with Bilbo’s narration which is fantastic. It’s incredibly warm and lovely and funny.

The battle scene opening is grand, and gives much-needed perspective. But it’s the hobbits that win your heart.

These movies do fit together beautifully. “The incident with the dragon” indeed! That line is even better than it was before, which is a mighty feat. And Bilbo telling the story of the trolls—not quite accurate, but Bilbo’s obviously told this story so many times he knows exactly how it works best. And we care so deeply for Bilbo after the Hobbit trilogies that everything he does and says has a deeper impact.

Oh my goodness, little Elijah Wood and his giant blue eyes. He really is a bush baby. He was 17 for a good chunk of these movies, so I won’t talk about the crush I had on him any more (he’s a year older than me in real life so naturally as a teen I was obsessed with him, and I maintain an ongoing crush for the actor since he remains both incredibly pretty and incredibly talented). I expect Lizzie will fall for bush baby Frodo once she’s old enough to actually see these films.

So glad the extended version includes the hobbits getting drunk and singing on tables.

Gandalf definitely sent Sam with Frodo to be Frodo’s Bilbo—to be the antidote to the corruption of the ring. And a good thing too.

Oh, that scenery. Worth the price of admission all on its own.

Saruman’s part is also deeper because of the Hobbit trilogy. To see this great good turned evil hurts much more than meeting him pre-evilled. Speaking of pain, the wizard vs wizard fight really hurts to watch. The squeak of bare skin scraped along a polished floor…. *shudder*

Those ring-wraiths scared me so much the first few times I saw this.

Hello, Peter Jackson cameo. And a buuurp to you too.

Nice to see the (presumably) descendant of the same black bar-cat as in the Hobbit.

Hello, Aragorn. My teenage self will fall for your stubbly, unwashed, stinking-of-horse self soon enough. And with every rewatch my affection for you will grow. Including this one. Another actor with extraordinary subtleties of facial expression that I most definitely did not pick up at nineteen.

Love the inclusion of the bog/bugs/Aragorn hunting and singing scene.

I love that Saruman has to wrap up warmly after speaking to his eyeball friend.

This scene of the ring-wraiths attacking the hobbits on the tower is exquisite. And Aragorn takes an already-brilliant scene up a notch.

And I’m genuinely stressed out about Frodo’s safety right now. And so is Aragorn.

Aw, uruk-hai being born! Sweet little murder-babies.

Hello again stone trolls!

Elf flirting is highly dangerous. (But totally worth it. Just ask Aragorn.)

FINALLY a romantic couple in a movie who don’t waste time chatting each other up in the middle of an action scene—but we can still see their affection easily enough.

Oh my goodness. The horse chase scene is excellent too.

Hello, excellent moment at the river. Or three excellent moments, if you count them like so:

-“IF YOU WANT HIM, COME AND CLAIM HIM.”

-Ta-ta for now, ring-wraiths!

-“What grace I have, let it pass to him.”

Oh, I just realised I know exactly where this disc ends: with the freshly-formed fellowship.

Hello again Bilbo. I too would quite like a writers’ retreat in Rivendell, although I imagine with all the water features I’d have to go to the bathroom every three seconds. Worth it.

Elrond: “Nine companions… you shall be the fellowship of the ring.”

Pippin: “Where are we going?”

*end disc 1*

Hello again, Sting. Chris owns a replica. I’ll post a photo sometime in this marathon.

SCARY BILBO! After watching the Hobbit trilogy, this moment of terror breaks your heart.

As the fellowship departs Rivendell, Arwen looks pissed and sulky. I’d be pissed too if I’d FINALLY managed to get my 80 year-old boy toy to get together with me and then he ran off to go and probably get himself killed.

Men! Amirite?!

Hello, Fellowship of the Ring musical theme. You will never fail to make my heart leap.

Good to see Boromir teaching the Hobbits to sword-fight.

Hello, tentacle monster.

Oh, that subtle moment when the monster shoves aside the other hobbits and takes Frodo—because we don’t attack Frodo just because he’s the main character of this film; we attack him because he has the ring. Clever writing.

“It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand.” Yes, the exact moment when invisible, armed Bilbo chose not to kill Gollum was played out in the Hobbit films. Another moment that makes the world better because of its existence.

Other than the many one-liners, this advice by Gandalf to choose what one does with the time given to them is the most-quoted part of the whole film series. It shows up on facebook a lot.

But it’s not the most inspiring part, to me. The most inspiring part of both trilogies is that, over and over again, when there is no hope of either success or survival, the heroes of these films keep going.

As a clinically depressed person (and unlikely to ever recover fully) that means a great deal. Hope, even false or fatalistic hope, is extremely valuable. Or the afterglow of watching these films, which typically lasts a few days.

And hello, dead Balin. We grieve for you now along with Gimli, because we know you.

From grief and horror to Pippin’s accidental dumping of a body down a well oh so noisily, to a fantastic action scene, to the bridge of Khazad-Dûm, to the balrog and then a fresher, deeper grief. Every moment is perfection:

Gandalf: “Fool of a Took!”

Boromir: “They have a cave troll.”

Gimli: “Let them come! There is one dwarf in Moria who still draws breath.”

Hello again, mithril shirt.

And finally: “Give them a moment, for pity’s sake!”


I’m really not getting much of anything done today. This film is so good. Hopefully later, between moving fridges *sigh*.

Ah, somewhat creepy Galadriel. I fell in love with Cate Blanchett because of this film, even though I think she is much better in other films (not her fault! Just the nature of the part. Never speak against Cate Blanchett).

And here in her magic water we get the only glimpse we ever see of the scouring of the Shire. I do like the film ending better, with the strange sensation of heroes returning to a place that barely notices they left at all. Sorry Tolkien. Both endings are powerful in their own way.

Gifts from Galadriel and the elves; thank you extended version.

Hello, giant Argonath statues. You are cool.

Boromir’s madness is done well, I think. And Frodo’s full bush baby look is gone forever.

From this moment on, everything is perfect. Aragorn’s faithfulness; Aragorn’s fight; Pippin and Merry’s courage; Legolas and Gimli and Aragorn fighting; Boromir saving Pippin and Merry—nearly; Boromir fighting on when he should be dead; the ancient statue behind him; the hobbits’ faces…..

Aaaand I need to go pick up the kids from school.


It’s 9:30pm, and I finally get to watch the last little bit.

Boromir is dying. I do love the man-on-man, often very physical, affection shown throughout all these films. It is a beautiful thing.

Frodo, at the water’s edge.

Sam, running to catch up to him.

That moment that drags on just a little too long for hope to endure, as Frodo lets Sam drown—and then reaches down for him, and drags him coughing and choking into the boat.


I only just realised that it’s Boromir’s love for his city and his people that finally gets Aragorn to face becoming king. And he is immediately changed for the better.

“Let’s go hunt some orc.”

Indeed.


And the final line of the movie:

“I’m glad you’re with me Sam.”

You guys, this film is SO GOOD.

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HoLOTR Marathon Part 3

June 14, 2022 at 2:40 pm (Uncategorized)

Part 1

Part 2

That opening scene. . . wow.

“A little to your left.”

That is the mightiest line in all films, of all time.

Incidentally Luke Evans is gay. Always makes me happy to add another famous LGBTIQA+ person to the ever-increasing list.

The scene against the dead ringbearers is excellent too. Christopher Lee was 93 or so, too ill to travel, and still managed (along with several wigs and a stunt double) to convincingly beat up a bunch of potent enemies with panache to spare. And the affection between Cate Blanchett and Ian McKellan is real.

I genuinely forgot for a second I was watching the Hobbit. I thought it was LOTR. If that’s not the highest possible compliment, I don’t know what is.

The greatest tragedies come sooo close to ending happily, and when Bilbo hides the arkenstone the whole audience can’t help hoping that somehow, despite everything, this time it will end happily.

Oh, this moment between King Thorin and Bilbo, and Bilbo talks about gardening… and the king is sweet and good for a moment… but Bilbo has already betrayed him. For all the best reasons, but also in the worst possible way.

Today I’ll watch things in half-hour chunks, and write grant applications in between.

—1 grant application done, and it’s lunch time. In my defense, I had a big meeting as I continue to sort out the takings from the ZamZam Foundation’s Australian Launch.—

When King Thorin betrays Laketown, it still breaks my heart.

Ooh, hello BIlly Connolly! You and the worms are a much-needed bit of fun as the rest of the film has somewhere between 4 and 73 armies pummelling one another for stupid reasons. The next two hours of my life, with breaks for stupid deaths and a bit of painfully dumb love triangle dialogue here and there.

It’s all done very well, really, with great moments—like that troll as a battering ram, charging his head into the wall and then immediately passing out as the army that hired him runs through the hole.

After going through all the grants I wrote for the Afghan-Australian Community and Settlement Support Grants, I’ve decided to stop at two (specifically, tutoring work and free copies of my “Welcome to Australia” book for refugees & immigrants). So that’s that job done.

I can write a bazillion ZamZam Foundation invoices while I continue to watch. I may have to actually work a full day tomorrow (ugh—only if a friend can’t find anyone else to replace her usual babysitter) but I guess I’ll see.

Battle stag for the win!

Uh oh. When pretty music plays in a battle, you know some elves are going to die.

Lee Pace is great in this. And in “Pushing Daisies” (although be warned that “Pushing Daisies” ends badly due to poorly timed cancellation).

On to the second disc!

The thrill of being within sight of the end will carry me through the misery of the gold-floor-crazy-king scene.

When he comes to his senses and throws his crown away against the golden floor—that is good. Keep that bit.

*sigh* Physics, guys. PHYSICS. You can’t gain purchase on bricks as they’re falling through the air. Ain’t nothing to brace against.

The final fight between King Thorin and the pale orc is cool, with a bleached colour palette and ice cracking. Sadly I don’t care for Thorin any more.

Eagles and Bears and stuff, oh my!

Thanks again, eagles, for flying RIGHT over the king and choosing to go fight a bunch of minions instead of preserving the one remaining member of the line of Durin.

Pipeweed makes everything better. At least a little bit.

Oh no what now? Just more funerals, I hope.

Yup. Just more funerals.

The arkenstone: inspiring ambitious grave-diggers for the rest of time.

Bilbo at home is a perfect thing. As good an ending as a tragedy could hope for.

I do like that Tolkien recognises that a person who goes far from home and sees (and deals out) death is forever changed, and their soul will never recover. Having fought in World War 1 just before he began writing the books, he knows all too well.

Oh, that’s Billy Boyd singing! A voice that will always break the hearts of any Middle Earth film fans.

And that’s The Hobbit done until my next HoLOTR marathon! Because you know there’ll be more in future.

I DON’T have to work a full day tomorrow, fortunately, so things should progress at either the same pace or a little faster.

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