2 gigs in two weeks!

  1. Excited to be presenting a workshop on “Getting started on social media” for the AASRN with Tom Cho next Monday night (16 Feb 2015). It has already proven to be good fun and highly educational for me because I’ve never worked with Tom on this kind of thing before. We google-doc’d and Prezi’d together throughout the last week, and it was a very good experience.I’ve never used Prezi before – EVER – so learning about the new app was useful. I have had a few bad experiences with Prezi (that nausea everyone talks about) and wasn’t sure about it. Now that I’ve played with it a bit more, though, I think it has huge potential and people just need to rein in their enthusiasm about any given presentation’s visual mobility!We’re hoping that this session, focussed on helping Asian Australian communities to engage via social media, will be the first in a series of activist/lobbying/outreach events that will get Asian Australian research, topics, and debates out into the broader public sphere. These kinds of processes should also create conversations and further networks within Asian Australian groups that will generate more cultural and political activity. And, to me, this is always a good thing.
  2. The second gig is at ACMI in Federation Square and I’m chairing an amazing panel of Asian Australian creative talent. “Growing up Chinese in Australia” (TUES 24 Feb 2015) is part of the China Up Close festival, and features William Yang, Annette Shun Wah, Benjamin Law, and Juliana Qian. After the panel is the Melbourne premiere screening of Yang’s Blood Links. I have fan-girled these people for varying amounts of time, in different ways, and being able to participate in the event is just dreamy.


What’s with the gaming aversion?

Galaga (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
Galaga (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

We were out the other night, with our daughter’s class for their ‘class dinner’. It had been a long time coming, and I – typical introvert that I am – had been dreading it.

Jammed together with a roomful of strangers with whom you have nothing in common except children at the same institution…?

Sure. That sounds like a lovely night out.

Thwarted from piking on the event by our daughter’s zeal and a hefty measure of working-parent guilt, we fronted up at the pub.

The evening was fine.

Children ran around screaming in the playground, parmas were eaten, and kids’ meals weren’t.

One moment that stayed with me, though, was when one of the fathers at the end of the evening noted that our four-year-old son was playing a game on S.’s phone.

The father said that they’d kept their daughters away from ‘those things’ so far.

He didn’t say it in an obnoxious way, and went out of his way to defuse any judgement we could have read into it.

But it did make me roll my eyes a bit (internally).

What is the virtue that’s to be had from preventing your child from playing computer games? It’s just one of a raft of things that our kids do. They don’t always only play screen games, just like they don’t always only jump on the trampoline or chase each other around the backyard.

Yes, it does involve setting limits, and prying them off the screens sometimes, but this kind of thing happens with playgrounds, bringing them home from their friends’ places or restaurants, and stopping excessive applications of tomato sauce.

If this sounds like self-serving justification, of course it is!

Did I play computer games? Did I ever.

Granted, not as young as my kids are now, but given that our first computer games involved an Atari console, things weren’t quite as evolved as they are these days.

There’s a cliche of computer games being solo pursuits, where a single sun-starved individual hangs over the keyboard for hours on end. Eating instant noodles and Cheezels. While I’ve had times where this was the case (without Cheezels, but with cheese toasties…), I’ve also racked up many hours of  play with my sibs and cousins on Entombed or Space Invaders. I grew into sword and sorcery quest epics like Wizardry and Might & Magic, then Oblivion and – most recently – Torchlight. I don’t get to play in any concentrated way now. At most, it’s short stints of kiddie-devolved Angry Birds (or Bad Piggies, as is the case at the moment).

While I was growing up, I also had Chinese New Year get-togethers with the large clan where we had all-nighters and played apparently illegal dice and bowl games, or mahjong. This was when I was quite young – pre-teen, I think, and also into my early teens.

My point after all that rambling is that obsessive game-playing – with or without screens – can be unhealthy, but occasional stints and a long-standing love of them, can be a helluva lot of fun.

REVIEW – The Fades (TV series) – SPOILERS


On my sister’s recommendation, we watched The Fades (2011) recently. I’d heard much positive raving about it on Twitter and elsewhere, and I think it’s worth the cultish hype.

As with some of the best cultural ‘finds’ in my life, I had next to no knowledge about it.

These were the things I did know:

  • There are only six episodes. Ever.
  • It’s supernatural horror.
  • It’s a UK series.

I had deliberately not Googled it after my sis told us about it. From what she was saying, I knew we’d be watching it no matter what.

In the end, we inhaled the series, watching the six episodes over three nights. We’ve had a good run of British horror movies lately (i.e. Daisy Chain, The Broken), so were predisposed to this series.

Summary of the show (my version):

Teenage Paul possesses the ability to see dead people, but it’s nothing like Sixth Sense. These dead people – or fades – are out to live again, even if this means destroying life as they knew it. The core of the narrative rests on the ages-old ‘war’ between the angelics and the fades, but evolutionary changes take place that lower humanity’s survival prospects significantly! Can Paul save the world with his best mate Mac, brand-new girlfriend Jay, queen-bee twin sister Anna, and lugubrious comrade Neil?

What did I think?


Totoro + parenting

Totoro in the rain, Studio Ghibli. Source: @cinekatz's website (http://cinekatz.com/my-neighbor-totoro-or-why-i-love-cats-so-much-review/)
Totoro in the rain, Studio Ghibli.
Source: @cinekatz’s website (http://cinekatz.com/my-neighbor-totoro-or-why-i-love-cats-so-much-review)

Last weekend, I spent Saturday afternoon watching Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro with the kids. It was their second viewing, and my first.

I know, how could I not have seen Totoro before this?

The kids loved the movie so much, they insisted I watch it ASAP. It’s not like I need to be compelled to watch Miyazaki. The first film I watched when I moved to Melbourne almost ten years ago now was Kiki’s Delivery Service, which was on at ACMI (it was also my first time at an ACMI screening…). The film evoked themes of curiosity, friendship, and the value of helping. I loved the film and the way I was left feeling that the world wasn’t such a bad place after all if something like this could be created.

I had an immensely satisfying time watching Totoro, too, weighted down with warm kiddie bodies, and having – once again – a beautiful, transporting time. I particularly enjoyed the fine detail of expressions and characters, magnificence of creatures, and communal good that was represented.


Pages for pixels

Commuting dreams (Photo by Tseen Khoo)
Commuting dreams (Photo by Tseen Khoo)

I haven’t read a hardcopy book for close on two and a half years now.

My most common reading window is on my work commute. Given the rarity of seats on the train at peak hour, the likelihood that I’ll be swinging around in an aisle or central section is high. I’m not coordinated enough to hold a book + turn pages + balance… hence, the domination of e-reading. Single hand, one-finger swiping. I can read even if I’m being totally sardined by too many people in suits and with hefty bags. Pressed in on all sides + with nothing to hold on to, I can easily disappear into a book with no bag juggling or trying to gain more space.

Diving into a book on the commute works for me. Others have been shocked that I can read so much on the small screen of the phone, but text size is comparable to what they’d be reading on a Kindle or iPad. There’s just more swiping involved.

On my phone, I think I’ve read over 100 books, including all the “Song of Ice and Fire” series (George R. R. Martin – Game of Thrones), most of Lee Child’s Reacher series (up to book 11), just about all the Rizzoli & Isles series (Tess Gerritsen), + many of the AWW 2012 books.


Flirting with the “Stranger with My Face”

Stranger with My Face - strangerwithmyface.com
Stranger with My Face – strangerwithmyface.com

In mid-February, I signed up for the 10 by 10 short script challenge, which was part of the Stranger with My Face project.

First up, what’s Stranger with My Face about?

To quote the website:

“Deriving its name from the young adult novel by Lois Duncan, the festival is slanted towards the psychological side of horror. It explores the idea of the shadow self, tapping into archetypes like the evil twin and the mad woman in the attic. It’s focused on female filmmakers working in the genre, highlighting bold new work by independent filmmakers.”

The 10 by 10 challenge is to write 10 pages (or 10 mins) of a script that would suit an indie horror film production.

In the spirit of a challenge, I thought it’d be fun to take on something I’d never done before. Not even rarely done, or only done once, but NEVER done.

Before I even started writing it, I was anxious that it might all end in an embarrassing heap.

But I finished it, and I submitted it.


Review: Jack Reacher (2012) [Warning: Spoilers]

"Yes, I'll need it in lime-green spandex...by tomorrow, dammit. I'm an all-American hero."
“Yes, I’ll need it in lime-green spandex…by tomorrow, dammit. I’m an all-American hero.”

I’d devoted a whole post to “Discovering Jack Reacher” in July 2012. I wrote it after I’d heard from Boy Meets Book and @jaynepersian that none other than Tom Cruise was starring as Reacher in the first screen adaptation of this series of Lee Child’s books.

At the time, I waxed bilious about what a travesty this casting choice was. In fact, I’d declared: “The fact that Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher has killed any appeal the movie may have had.”


So, it was going to be a really hot day. We’re in a heatwave, you know.

We wanted to seek refuge in a movie theatre. What we wanted to watch was Skyfall, but none of the screening times matched our babysitter availability times.

In the mood for an action flick, we finally opted for Jack Reacher (hereafter known as JR), with a fair amount of jaundiced commentary on my part about this choice.


TV miracle

Screencap from “Rigby’s Body” episode (Sourced from http://regularshow.wikia.com/wiki/Rigby’s_Body/Gallery)

There’s a lot of hyperbole about the (perceived, presumed) detrimental effects of television on kids.

I’ll not hear a word against TV. I love it.

I’ve always loved it. And I hope my kids grow up loving it, too, in between bouncing on the trampoline, riding their bikes, colouring in, reading, and whatever else funsterish under-6s do these days.

Our family got its first TV when we still lived in Alor Setar in Malaysia. This was in the early to mid 1970s. We used to watch Ultraman and Astroboy, and creepy Malay horror movies with pockmarked women looming from kampung windows. Through high-school, my parents never really stopped me from watching TV while I was doing my homework. I think about that now and am amazed. Would I have passed maths properly if I hadn’t been watching TV? Would I have not got a distinction in English if I hadn’t been watching TV?


Discovering Jack Reacher

Lee Child’s 5th novel, ECHO BURNING (UK cover) – currently reading

My buddy @sommystar has been telling me about Lee Child’s Jack Reacher crime thriller series for a long time. He’s blogged disappointedly about some of the most recent novels (on Gone Tomorrow and on Nothing To Lose), but was very taken by the first few.

I only started reading them – in order of publication – a couple of months ago. Child’s up to the 17th in the series, and I’m up to the 5th. Child’s an extremely engaging writer, who paces the writing very well and knows how to keep the tension convincing.

When I was starting to read about Jack Reacher’s character and getting to know his voice in the novels, I could understand how he could really annoy the crap out of some people with the hyper-masculine know-how and supreme physicality. He has almost super-heroic abilities in fighting and deduction, like an itinerant, buff and scruffy Sherlock. I felt like I shouldn’t like the books, but I was totally sucked in. Still am – to the extent of almost-missing-train-stops sucked in.


Review: Prometheus (2012) – WARNING: SPOILERS

A new meaning for l’chaim (Prometheus, 2012)

We finally went to see Prometheus, weeks after the rest of the world. That seems to be how we roll with our filmic consumption these days.

We’re lucky if we see things within a month of release, or on the big screen at all.

I’ve been an Alien series fan for decades. I even studied Aliens as part of my Honours thesis, looking at the way that Sigourney/Ripley was represented and what that meant across the various other films of the genre (which could be termed science fiction horror, I guess).

Some consider that Aliens (the second movie) was a bastardised and ‘mainstreamed’ version of the original, the third instalment a mish-mash of directors who came and went, and the fourth a return to some vitality for the franchise (despite Winona Ryder’s presence…).

As much as I like the series, I was happy to let it go at four films. The derivative Alien vs Predator monster movie sub-franchise didn’t add much value.