everydaysparks

Stuff I see, which you might not.

New York books and things 

I love New York. I don’t have the t-shirt or mug or hat with that message plastered on it, but I really do heart New York. So many amazing things to see and do and watch and eat and drink, but today I wanted to tell you about a book shop (book store, if you prefer). It’s called Book Culture, and it’s brilliant. 

But first, here’s Central Park under snow this week…

Anyway, my favourite link in the Book Culture chain is the store on Columbus. If you’re in town, it’s a great place to look around and spent some quality time with books and gifts and trinkets and cool things. Even if you’re the fussiest fuss-pot, or if you’re looking for a gift for said fussiest fuss-pot, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something (or things) here.

I was lucky enough to visit again this week, and wanted to share a couple of examples of their awesomeness with you: a blind date with a book; and a beautiful desk with stationery and encouragement to sit down, relax, and write a letter. 

The “Blind Date with a book” table is full of different novels wrapped in brown paper. On each mysterious package is a note that helps you choose the best match for your date: with a list of three other novels (if you liked them, you’ll like this book too). Like an old-fashioned book match making service / lucky dip. Love it. 


And then there’s this desk, with a note encouraging letter writers to sit, write, and have their letter posted by the good people of Book Culture. With nearly 2,000 letters sent from this very spot, it’s clearly helping to rekindle the art of letter writing. And they have included some political addresses, but you could also write to your granny, kindergarten teacher, or boy next door. (Or anyone else.) Such a great idea.


And now here’s the city lit with a few touches of green on St Patrick’s Day. (The beautiful view is from the fab Top of the Rock experience.) Just because.

‘Til next time, NYC. Love ya.

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Three things I like a lot right now

Oh, hello. I just wanted to tell you about three things that I am liking a lot right now. In case you might like them too. A book, an app, and a podcast – they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think they’re great.

Firstly, the book. It’s Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance – I’d heard good things, and when the Independent is quoted on the cover: “a great insight into Trump and Brexit”, then I really couldn’t resist. I guess it’s a great insight into that, like a window into a different world. 


I have always known that I couldn’t go on one of those tv talent shows – sure, mostly because I can’t sing and/or dance, but also because I don’t have a particularly interesting back story to my life. Family, friends, education, health, opportunity – this book made me realise that what I consider “normal”, or maybe even “boring”, must sound like fairyland to so many people. And this J.D.Vance kid was born in the 1980s, so it’s not as if it’s a story of how life used to be in ye olden days. It’s interesting and well-written – easy to read on a rainy weekend – and I like that it asks more questions than it answers. Definitely got me thinking.

The app is Lumosity, a “brain training” app that I bought a family subscription to for Christmas. When you google, “apps to prevent dementia”, it always gets a run, and although my parents are (a) reading this, and (b) currently in possession of all of their marbles, I figure it never hurts to give these things a try. We are a competitive people, so the fact that this tracks your performance and compares you to your age group (with an impressive global sample size) is appealing. Some of the games are also quite addictive (looking at you, Train of Thought) and you feel like king/queen of the world when you beat your previous score or get to the next level. 

I think they recently got busted for deceptive / misleading advertising (allegedly over-stating the scientifically proven benefits for dementia / aging etc. But I think as long as we’re enjoying it as a fun challenge, and not expecting miraculous results, then that is all good.

The podcast was discovered by my lovely sister-in-law, Rocky, who shares my interest in slightly quirky books, people, things in general. It’s called Missing Richard Simmons, based on the fact that colourful character Richard Simmons disappeared from public life a few years ago and seemingly flicked the switch on his former life – no contact with his former staff, friends and associates. For someone who was so gregarious and seemed to thrive on his relationships with people, this dramatic disappearance has stumped lots of people. Hence the podcast – the guy is a former friend of Richard and is determined to find make contact. The colourful characters that he meets along the way make this podcast so great – I am sure I have been caught shaking my head or giggling as I listen to it on the way to work. 


It’s become a very popular podcast (we’re up to episode 3, with a new episode released each week) – even if you don’t love Richard Simmons (you monster!) then there are surely enough bizarro people and stories in this podcast to keep it interesting.

And they are three things that I like a lot right now. Hope you like them too!

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Book Review – Aiyaiyai

Aiyaiyai is not the name of the book (although that would be a cool title), it’s an expression to summarise how I am now feeling. On the plane this afternoon I read Charlotte Wood’s novel, “The Natural Way of Things”. I had started reading it almost a week ago, on my flight to Perth, but had only read a few chapters and was mostly confused, to be honest.

I chose the book from my favourite local bookshop, The Grumpy Swimmer, because it had a sticker on it saying that it was the 2016 Stella Prize Winner. And the font was nicely spaced out so I knew it would be easy to read on the plane. A shallow choice, I guess, and the purchase definitely went against my new “one in, one out” policy (to limit the number of books stacked on my bedside tables, and bookshelves, and side tables, and on the floor next to the bedside tables).


Anyway, I am writing this on the plane after just finishing the novel (don’t worry, my phone is in aeroplane mode and the post will publish after landing). I am afraid that it’s one of those books (or movies) that has left me feeling as though I can’t speak. 

The praise from other authors (featured on the book’s covers) includes words like: “A brave, brilliant book.” And, “terrifying, remarkable and utterly unforgettable”. And, “it gets under your skin, fills your lungs, breaks your heart”. 

I can see what they mean, but I would describe the book as “bleak”. Really bleak. (I can see that mightn’t help to sell as many books though.) And it’s powerful, but in a horrible way that made me quite happy to get to the end, albeit with a hollow feeling inside. But then I was disappointed with the ending, which made the whole thing even darker. Yikesy mama, what a ride.

In a nutshell, Charlotte Wood is undoubtedly a great writer and this raises some interesting points about how women are seen in society. But it was too dark and bleak and empty for me – definitely not a light or uplifting holiday read!

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Meanwhile, in the Bunbury Herald

Some interesting snaps from the local paper I found on my travels this week…It’s so Australian it almost hurts.

I think poor Dianne is reconsidering how much she loves her job. Not Rosemary, though – living the dream.

Yikes.

Straya.

Oh, that Roysy.

And a warning that the next clipping is from the ‘adult services’ section (which is in the Sport section of the paper, strangely enough)…

Good parking is important. (Really hope it’s not a euphemism for an adult service that I don’t understand.)

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Being four

I don’t really remember being four. I’m sure it was a fun time though, before school started for me, but was well and truly occupying my three older brothers. I guess I hung out with my lovely mum and grandparents a lot. I think I must have gone to preschool part-time (maybe 3 days per week) and I do remember that place a little bit. I swear that War Memorial Preschool had front gates with black jail-style bars, but will need to fact check that (if the building hasn’t yet been bulldozed to make way for an apartment block).

Anyway, enough reminiscing. I’m currently enjoying a little holiday over in WA, where my middle brother lives with his lovely wife and daughter. Milly is four. And I’d better keep spell-checking as that gets autocorrected to Milky. Which would be slightly too wacky as a name, even for WA.

It’s fun to catch up with Milly, and I’m learning a lot. For starters, I didn’t know there were different varieties of Vegemite; or that tiaras make surprisingly practical headbands; or that the free Playschool app is actually really clever. In return, I’ve shown Milly the genius of the funny filters on Snapchat; introduced the celebratory fist bump; and generally complemented an already impressive repertoire of wackiness. We’ve watched some movies and read some books and done some shopping. Good times.

We highly recommend this book.


Spoiler alert: the book is mostly a hit because of funny sounds like these. Inducing snorts of laughter.


And you can never have too much bling. [Disclaimer: I actually bought this one.]


We recommend this movie – it’s like Barbie meets James Bond. With weapons like a glitter bomb, lipstick that turns into a tazer, a robot dog. Usual spy stuff.

So, I never saw the original, but this sequel was ok. The age old tale of the struggle between being a mermaid and a girl. Featuring the worst fake Australian accent I have ever witnessed.

Because four is the perfect age to rock a gold puffy vest around town. #gangstalyf

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Well, hello kitty

It’s winter time in Australia now, and for Melbourne, that means some colder temperatures than I’ve been used to as a Sydney-sider. Which I don’t actually mind at all – it’s a great excuse to wear lots of layers with faux fur trimmings and to watch tv under a crocheted nanna blanket. And maybe even wear a beanie, although I’m still not sure beanies really make anyone look that great.

Well, I did think that, until I rediscovered the etsy store ToScarboroughFair. Now, I’m not a crazy cat lady, but I don’t judge you if you are. And why shouldn’t cats be able to style up their looks like humans – maybe without the faux fur trimmings, as that would be a bit creepy, but with a beanie or little hat, especially as the weather gets cold. Here are some of my favourites. You’re welcome.

catberet

Bonjour. [image from ToScarboroughFair]

catcap

A round of golf, you say? [image from ToScarboroughFair]

catbeanie

Chillin’. [image from ToScarboroughFair]

catrasta

Rasta cat. [image from ToScarboroughFair]

cattophat

Seriously? [image from ToScarboroughFair]

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Sweet as, bro

One of the joys of not working at the moment is time to do things. All sorts of things, really. Like on Monday, when it was a nice sunny day in Melbourne and I got to walk to the beach and sit on a bench and read a magazine. Sure, I was wearing four layers and had my hoodie on, because Melbourne winter. But it’s so nice to have the time to do stuff like that.

Elwood

Yesterday I had a meeting in the city, and then dinner with some lovely work friends, and I had a few hours to fill in between the two. I wandered around a bit, which wasn’t super fun in the rain, so thought I’d go and see a movie. As you might imagine, there aren’t that many people at the cinema mid-afternoon on a Tuesday. Let’s just say the average age of folks there was 60ish.

What were my old mates and I seeing? A New Zealand film, recommended by my mum and dad, called Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Hunt for the what now? I know, it is a strange title alright, but it is actually a lovely heartwarming film featuring Sam Neill (as his regular character of Cranky Old Man) and a rotund little Kiwi chappie. It was pretty funny and a little bit sad and had some truly stunning images of NZ in all its natural beauty.

As I am committed to research for this blog (and I have the time to google nonsense), I just discovered that apparently the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year, which is a pretty big deal. And after it opened in NZ in March, it’s become the highest grossing locally-produced film OF ALL TIME. Which is also a pretty big deal.

It’s not going to win any Oscars, I don’t think. But I thought it was a great movie – especially if you’re having a crappy time or need some lighthearted entertainment, this film could be just the thing. Cool accents, beautiful scenery, and a lovely, feelgood story. And I can’t get the “Ricky Baker” song out of my head now (it’s in the trailer, below). Sweet as, bro.

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Square One

On Saturday, I was reading an article in the Good Weekend magazine on Eddie Jones, the former Wallabies coach who has gone to the dark side and is now coaching England (see you and your team of losers on the 18th in Melbourne, Eddie). Anyway, the author of the article, Peter Wilson, included an interesting fact that I wanted to share with you here. Just in case any of you are geeks like me, and find this sort of stuff kinda cool…


So, now you know. (Apologies if you already did, and I am the only person alive who had no clue. Awks.) Thanks to Fairfax for still printing newspapers and for still employing journalists (not enough, but that’s another story for another day) to help us learn new stuff.

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Hello again

So, it’s been a while. I just checked and the last post that I made was on 3 September last year, when I was in Washington DC. I really hope no one was waiting on this blog to give travel tips for an imminent US holiday, or as proof of life, or as inspiration for being. Although if you were, then I’m sorry, and I do hope that you found other sources of support.

Hope you’ve been well. I’m all good, thanks. I am a bit (ok, a lot) of a fair weather friend to this blog, only really making the time to write when I feel like I have a lot of spare time. Which, when you’re in the thick of work and family and life, with all of the things that take up time on evenings and weekends, doesn’t happen that often. Usually when I’m on holidays (see 3 September post from Washington DC here). Or when I’m not working as much, as is the case now.

I’ve just finished up in the rollercoaster-ride of a job that I’d been in for the past couple of years. NB, I wasn’t actually working on a roller coaster, although I do note that the ride at Luna Park in Melbourne does have an attendant standing or sitting in the middle of the carts on each ride, so don’t rule that out as a potential career option.

Image from lunapark.com.au

FYI, the person in the middle of this gaggle is the Attendant standing up on The Great Scenic Railway ride at Luna Park in St Kilda. I don’t know what they ever get called on to do during the ride, but it’s a real job. [image from lunapark.com.au]

I’m also moved and am now technically living between two cities (Sydney and Melbourne), which has been lots of fun. I have been very lucky to have finally moved to Melbourne – a city that I have loved for a very long time, even looking for graduate roles down here back in the 90’s. I’ve spent a bit of time down here with a number of jobs, but when the opportunity came up to move earlier this year, I took it. And then a month or so later, I resigned. That sounds bad, but please don’t think that I tricked my employer into paying for my relocation (they didn’t), or that I found another gig shortly after moving (I didn’t).

It was just a case of bad timing – the work rollercoaster had been on the up and up for what felt like such a long time, and I was in the front cart waving and laughing and screaming and enjoying the whole amazing experience. Best ride EVER. Then the rapid and steep descent started around January and that left me grimacing and holding onto the bars too tight and the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach wouldn’t go away, and so I decided to get off the ride before it put me off amusement parks for life.

silly-serpent-hero1

Not such a silly idea. [image from lunapark.com.au]

Sure, I guess most sensible people wouldn’t get off the rollercoaster until they’d found their next ride – the Silly Serpent (see above) maybe, or the exotic sounding Arabian Merry. Instead, I am going to hang out for a while and see what ride to go on next. I feel as though I’ll know the right one when I see it, and hope that I’m tall enough to get on. In the meantime, I’ll read some books and walk around and do some people-watching while I wait. And hopefully get back to this blog, sharing my particular brand of nonsense with you. Maybe while snacking on the carnival foods that the Luna Park website offers (“Fairy-floss, pop-corn, snow-cones and hot-dogs”). All of the hyphenated goodness.

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Capitol A for Amazing

I feel like I have seen a lot in my two days in Washington DC. Equally, I feel like I have seen hardly any of what’s possible to see in Washington DC. Suffice it to say, I hope to come back for more visits as I had a fantastic time. Even if it was super hot and humid weather!  

The Capitol. Adding to my collection of pics of landmarks under scaffolding when I visit.

 
Given my short trip, I knew I’d be happy if I got to spend time at Newseum (which I have been wanting to see for years), see some of the city, and maybe get to geek out at some other museums and historical places. Yesterday was a great day, but I’ll tell you more about that another time. 

Today was very interesting, with a case of (accidental) great timing leading to a pretty special experience. I was on the hop on-hop off city bus, and, given the furnace that awaited outside the air-conditioned bus, I definitely had to psych myself up to hop off at all. But of course I did, with less than a day left before I hopped on the train back to NYC.   

The Abraham Lincoln Memorial.

 

View from Lincoln Memorial to Washington Monument.

 
Great views, sure. But mostly, I wanted to see this big guy. And he was just as awesome as I’d hoped he’d be… 

Honest Abe.

 

And, for scale, here’s a normal-sized man next to President Lincoln… 

I shall name the other man Honest Gabe. Little pixie man that he is.

So that was all very interesting and in a stunning location. Then I headed down to the Korean War Memorial, and that’s where the magic happened. The memorial itself is incredible – 19 life-sized statues of men dressed in the heavy cold weather gear they would’ve worn during the war. Their faces are modeled on 19 actual US soldiers from that war, apparently. And they are set in a beautiful green garden. Very moving stuff – and proof that traditional art still works: you don’t always need a clever hologram or techno trickery to make your point.   

And then, I noticed a group of Korean gentlemen (mostly old timers, all in uniform) and one young Korean lady (in uniform) gathering, along with a couple of old American gentlemen with service medals and partly dressed in uniform.

I had happened across the beginning of a service of some sort. Some words were said (in Korean), a large wreath was laid, and they all saluted as the anthems of both countries were played. Then a bugler played (bugler, not burglar, to be clear) and everyone that was lurking and watching the scene like me was as quiet as a mouse. It was very moving.  

And a reminder that sometimes when you’re traveling, the unplanned experiences are the best.   

   

And after that, I went to the Museum of American History – yet another interesting museum, and so well designed and presented. These guys know how to do a good museum, that’s for sure. Too many cool things to mention, so I’ll just share this: Al Capone’s mug shot. Doesn’t he look like a nice young man, who would maybe serve you in a bookstore, or sit next to you on the bus to work? 

   

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