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500 movies list – 180 The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz

Directed by Victor Fleming and apparently 4 uncredited dudes

Screenplay written by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allen Woolf based on the book by L Frank Baum… apparently there are also a large committee’s worth of contributing writers as well

This is one of those movies I can probably recite, if someone needed me to. I guess we had it on video when I was a kid and me and my sister watched it quite a lot. The beautiful thing about watching it again on blu ray (special anniversary edition) is that you can see so much detail. In the Munchkinland sequences you can see which munchkins aren’t singing or dancing.

Judy Garland shines in this film, and it’s hard to know if it’s because she was high or drunk or just because she’s a fantastic actor. The songs are beautiful, especially Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

Random trivia about this movie is everywhere, because it’s been popular so long. How about this one? According to lead Munchkin Jerry Maren, the “little people” on the set were paid $50 per week for a 6-day work week, while Toto received $125 per week. That and the fact that most of the Wicked Witch’s scenes were edited down or cut entirely because she was too scary. I can believe it, she terrified me as a kid, her and the flying monkeys.

Of course none of this was as scary as the amazing Return To Oz where there was the Deadly Desert, The Wheelers and head removing Princess Mombie, following on from an evil psychiatric asylum and electric shock treatment. Don’t get me wrong, I freaking love that movie, but it terrified me. This movie seems very easy to deal with in comparison!

Overpaid or not, Toto is a very good dog though, you can see him offering his paw to Dorothy to shake in the Somewhere Over the Rainbow sequence even after she shakes his wee paw. He does stunts and runs where he’s told, it’s adorable.

I actually noticed something I never have before: in the sequence where they’re in the haunted forest they’ve all armed up. I had noticed the Lion had a net before, but not that the Tin Man has a gigantic spanner or that the Scarecrow is pointing a hand gun around the place. I wonder where they got a gun in Oz?

There are so many moments that have been spoofed in such excellent ways – the Winkies ‘oh wee oh’ sequence as Burns’s guards in the Simpsons and of course as Oreos in Wreck it Ralph. This film has entered our lexicon when it comes to moving images. Then of course is the advent of Wicked, which tells the story from the Wicked Witch’s point of view and makes the whole thing a lot more political.

Does it make me love the people? Oh yes. From the very start, Dorothy is a sweet, dreaming and getting in the way. I noticed on today’s watch how protective Glinda is at the start of the movie, when they’re talking to the Wicked Witch she keeps her arms around Dorothy and gives her advice. It’s quite lovely.

Bechdel test: Yes, in virtually the second line, Dorothy talks to Aunt Em about the things Miss Gulch said she’d do to Toto. In fact it passes over and over again with Glinda and The Wicked Witch of the West but that shouldn’t be a surprise given the source material is unapologetically feminist.

Best line: based on what I mostly quote it’s “To the Emerald City, as fast as lightning!”

But I also love what the witch says as she dies “what a world, what a world…” I’m sure we all feel like that when we die, huh?

Wizard: “Remember, a heart is not judged by how much you love, but how much you are loved by others.”

State of mind: It really is a pity that the Wonderful Wizard of Oz that came out a couple of years ago was so misogynistic and bad. It would be really nice to have a new tale from Oz…

My favourite Banksy piece seems relevant:

wizard of oz bansky dorothy gale judy garland police search

Watched movie count
Previous movies in the list

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A Five Year Journal

Five Years ago I was in a bit of A Place. I was a fair temporal distance from a big break up, a shorter distance from an emotional turmoil and break up of my own stupid making, but in a place of change and healing. I was thinking about writing again, seriously. I was living in a friend’s house, and practising proper self care for possibly the first time ever, and I was looking forward to the future.

It was a weird place to be. But the perfect place to start a big weird project like a five year journal. The one I chose was Q&A a day by Potter Fic. I can’t recall how I found it, although I feel like I saw someone else doing one, or maybe I was trawling notebook tags in tumblr or journals in pinterest. I don’t know, there weren’t that many options but this is the beastie I chose, it’s cute af, it has gold on the edges of the pages and the questions don’t suck.

I guess I didn’t worry too much about taking pictures of it. What was the point of a lot of pictures of blank pages? But at the start of 2016 I put in a little Time in a Bottle quote, no doubt inspired by X-Men: Days of Future Past.

front

I battled with my desire to customise the cover of the book to me and keep it pristine. I gave in to customising, and I’m not sorry I did. I added stickers from the official Pokemon Center, I made little rainbows, fixed the binding with fancy Japanese washi tape, and on the night we came home after watching Captain America: Civil War I did a little star and a ‘soldat’ for Bucky. Yes, I identify too much with superheroes, what of it?

back

This journal has been my companion. It’s gone overseas with me, it’s gone on road trips (including the one where I moved from Wellington to Auckland). It’s gone from the excited, first tentative steps in a new relationship to happily married with that girl. It’s been the last thing I do before settling into sleep a lot of the night.

I was gentle with myself about it though. Somedays I couldn’t be bothered, or I forgot, or I was sick, etc. And it was okay to not journal that day. But I always retro-filled when I was up to it. Sometimes I’d forget for a whole week and have to fudge things, but that was all right too.

Some of the questions showed progress, some showed changed, but there’s one which was ‘how many coffees did you drink today?’ and that stayed the same every year: none. I started listing other things I’d had to drink just for something new to say.

Overall I feel a little sad for having this journal finished now. It’s been a nice habit, a routine which was part of my life for five years. I’m not the same person I was when I started it, and putting it onto the shelf felt hard.

I’m considering how to replace it, or if I need to. I’ve started a bullet journal this year, to help organise my writing and keep track of things. Maybe I can journal a little in that each night, or maybe I do a picture a night instead? Or maybe I just read, and let those past five years rest on the shelf.

Added in some inspiring words from Matilda the musical soon after I saw it

Overall I enjoyed this project, sometimes it was a pain in the ass, but it only being a couple of lines to fill with a guide question made it easy enough to do. I’d recommend it, it proved to me that I can stick to something over time, that a habit can form. It was also nice to know that at least I’d written something  even if it wasn’t fiction, or whatever.

Tonight will be my first night in five years with no question to answer except ‘what next?’

And that’s pretty damn exciting.


I’m not making money off these links, btw. Here’s where you can get the same journal, although there’s a lot more on the market now and probably cheaper:
Mighty Ape
Amazon

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Christmas Movies watch list

There’s nothing like a Christmas movie to get you in the festive mood. Here’s my favourites, and there’s a lot of them! I’ve also put some exclusions in the bottom there…

The Muppet Christmas Carol  – this is my absolute favourite Christmas movie ever. I first saw it when it first came out and it’s the best version of Christmas Carol ever. I can watch it on a loop.

The Man Who Invented Christmas – This only came out last year, but it’s a really good one. An interesting look at the writing process + Victorian Christmas + just really entertaining.

The Princess Switch – This one is a Netflix special and it’s an adorable Prince and the Pauper/Parent Trap thing. I love it.

A Christmas Prince – I actually don’t love this one, but it has some good moments. I think it’s probably just on the far side of twee for me to truly love.

Love Actually – Classic. Skip the Colin sequences and try not to think about how almost all the relationships are about men in power and their literally subordinate women.

Santa Claus the movie this is an eighties classic about the true meaning of Christmas which includes a very charming Santa origin, an upsetting sequence of breaking toys and a very rough ending for John Lithgow’s bad guy.

A Christmas Toy  – this is a weird little Jim Henson special which was Toy Story a decade and a half before Toy Story. Toys come alive! and want to be the special Christmas Toy! It’s emotional and lovely.

The Santa Clause – the old ‘you kill Santa, you have to be Santa’ thing. Surprisingly sweet, aside from Tim Allen is a real douche to his ex and there’s lots of fat jokes. 

Elf – A surprisingly charming Will Ferrell movie in which he’s an honest to goodness Magic Pixie Dream Boy. Zooey Deschenal with blonde hair is pretty disconcerting though.

The Muppet Family Christmas special – this is a gem. A heartwarming found family togetherness story with lots of great music. The ‘careful of the icy patch’ gag is funny every time.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ojtGHXsTXmU

Nightmare Before Christmas  – You can watch it at Halloween AND at Christmas! Also has a special place in my heart because we saw the Haunted Mansion decked out in Nightmare stuff this year. 

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – the friendly stop motion classic which reminds us that it’s only okay to be different if someone can profit of you. This is a pretty rough watch, lots of bullying and trying to force Rudolph to fit in. Maybe don’t watch this, it’s rough and dated. But watching it a few years back gave me all kinds of weird flashbacks so I think I used it watch it as a kid, so it’s still on my list.

Its a Wonderful Life  – A true classic. Many a TV special was based on this classic ‘what if?’ story and although the first half is very rough going, the happy ending makes up for it.

Meet me in St Louis – A year in the life story of a well to do family with songs and dances and the classic Judy Garland ‘have yourself a merry little Christmas’ tearjerker. There’s a fair bit of implied racism and very dated attitudes though.

A Charlie Brown Christmas – they always played this one on TV and I always watched it. Watching it as an adult I found it one of the bleakest and most nihilistic Christmas specials, but hey. 

Bad Santa – This one isn’t for everyone. It’s very rough, with Billy Bob Thornton being a truly terrible person, and Lauren Graham (aka Lorelei Gilmore) as a bartender with a Santa fetish, but if you can watch without getting hung up on it it’s a good laugh.

Rise of the Guardians  – Not technically about Christmas (in fact probably a bit more Easter in this) but you gotta. That bad ass Battle Santa is to die for.

Thomas Kincade’s Christmas Cottage – featuring Jared Padalecki acting his wee heart out in lots of knitted accessories. It’s adorable and silly. 

Holiday Calendar – Hey, it’s a Netflix holiday rom-com with a non-white lead! This is a surprisingly sweet one, and damn I want her apartment and her vintage advent calendar. 

Gremlins – for when you want some horror with your Christmas. Plus Phoebe Cates’ tragic backstory about why she hates Christmas is a classic.

Arthur Christmas – a cringey, family drama misfit story but generally a good watch and I liked the ending.

Deliberate exclusions: A Christmas story, Die Hard, any and all Grinch variations, Home Alone, Four Christmases and The Holiday.

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Writing in cafes, a review of Auckland options

I’ve been writing out at cafes a bit, here’s my rundown of which ones worked for me and which didn’t so much. Here’s what I’m rating on: food quality, service, atmosphere/noise, how comfortable I was, how easy it was to write.

Disclaimer: I don’t drink coffee so cannot give you a review of how good the coffee was.

Cafe Melba , Ellerslie

Cafe Melba is my favourite cafe chain in Auckland. Whichever one you go to the food is great. Ellerslie is great for friend meetups and taking out of towners for a nice meal, but for writing it wasn’t ideal. I think partially because the tables are quite close together, I felt like I was in the way somehow. The table wasn’t quite big enough for my laptop, too. I love this place, food and service are great but I won’t go back there to write.

Cafe Melba, Hillsborough

The other Melba I go to is a bit more of a trip from home, but it is a blessed space of lightness, inspiration and motivation. Something about the amount of natural light, the high ceilings, the weird geometric shapes on display, it works for me. The tables are big enough to have food and notebook side by side (haven’t gone there with laptop yet) but I’ve consistently got a lot done. Love it here. Staff are attentive and friendly but also happy to leave you to it.

Bean there cafe, Onehunga

Bean there has a great line of giant, sturdy tables, and is usually pretty quiet so you don’t have to worry about where to sit. It’s counter service, so you have to either decide what to eat really fast or go and sit and then decide and get back up again. They have excellent orange juice, but the food’s just kind of okay. It’s kind of good, and kind of not. I actually started feeling conspicuous because it was so quiet, like everyone was watching me, or noticing me or something. Little awkward.

Circus, Circus cafe, Mt Eden

Circus Circus is where my writing group meets up in the evenings, and that is always brilliant. Nice large tables, friendly staff who are willing to add another table to the one you already have (if needed) and fantastic food. Going on my own, during a weekday was a different experience, due to different staff, etc. I did get a lot done, and it’s nice being in the middle of Mt Eden for other chores but overall I didn’t feel entirely comfortable. Not sure why.

Fridge cafe, Kingsland

The Fridge is great. Large, sturdy tables, various rooms, so if you see a bunch of people in suits having a loud business meeting you can just skedaddle into another room and sit in a corner. Sometimes sparrows come in. It’s quiet during the week and the staff have a good level of checking if you need anything else and leaving you alone. Brilliant pies, do recommend. It’s a bit out of the way for me to get to, but if it was close I’d probably be there all the time.

Allpress Auckland Roastery, Freeman’s Bay

The food here is brilliant, you can get soft boiled eggs and toast soldiers. Hot chocolate is good but not awesome. The table was great, atmosphere pretty good. But I happened to open my laptop to start writing just as a guy came in with a friend and he seemed to decide that he needed to impress her and me (he kept looking at me, it was weird) with his knowledge of generic geek stuff like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. They sat at the table next to me and he was diagonally across and it was so annoying I couldn’t write anything. On another day this place is probably great.

Onehunga Cafe

Too loud, the music was great but I was singing along to it because it was up that loud. The chairs are comfy, the one/two person tables are a little too small for the laptop though. Although the food is delicious, the staff don’t ask if you need anything else, like a hot chocolate. Disappointing. I mean, probably they were being considerate and not interrupting, but also they didn’t bus the plates away when I was done so. Not ideal. Delicious fried chicken though.

 

Now my conundrum is: do I keep looking at other options or do I just keep going back to Hillsborough Melba even though they stopped having the porridge I really liked?

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Inspiration

Currently juggling two projects: the editing of my paranormal mystery, which I’m suffering from the ‘I don’t wanna’ syndrome with, and writing a new romance novel. The first in the series is with beta readers right now, and I’m so excited about this series that I’m having to hold myself back from messaging them and being like ‘well? WELL?’

Actually it’s three projects, if you count the travel blog I’m writing while I honeymoon through Japan, and that has been taking lots of time so it should definitely count.

Also I’m trying to write postcard thank you notes to the people who came to our wedding and donated to our honeymoon fund, so there’s that as well, plus writing my longhand travel journal for me. The longhand one is suffering the most, I haven’t updated that in a few days (it feels like doubling up on the blog a bit).

But the point is, even though I’m doing all this stuff and traveling in Japan, I’m feeling super inspired. My current romance series will likely be published under a pen name, but it’s set in a themepark, and we’ve been traveling to themeparks. I literally had a brainwave of how to bring in external conflict as we got onto Space Mountain in Tokyo Disneyland. Then, a few days later, I realised the format of the first chapter.

Since then I’ve been writing consistently and getting a chapter done each day. My partner, Anna, has been a really good alpha reader, reading each one as it’s completed, making grammar and spelling corrections and pointing out if I haven’t made sense. It’s been a wonderful way to write.

I don’t know if anyone else face casts famous actors for the characters they’re reading or writing, but in my perfect world if a movie was made of my current work in progress it’d star these two boys.

In other news, Suburban Book of the Dead has some amazing reviews on Amazon and I can see that it’s slowly climbing the rankings as a result. Please purchase! and if you have already, please consider leaving a review, it really does make a difference. Amazon are more likely to show it on referral or ‘similar to…’ selections, and that increases the exposure.

You can find it here.:

 

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Issues with reptile resistance

tuataraOr how I overcame my own brain’s freak outs and published a work of fiction

I’ve written about impostor syndrome before, so I won’t go into that too much. Instead I’ll list all the behaviours I tried based on my brain not wanting to try something new.

Internal resistance, as I understand it, comes from the ancient lizard part of our brains that wants to keep us alive. You stay alive by doing the same things you’ve always done, because those things haven’t killed you yet. But it’s not a smart part of the brain beyond that impulse, so the same instinct that prevents us from just walking out into traffic also creates resistance to new things which are quite safe. Such as changing jobs, or going to a new country, or attending a new conference.

This list is framed around writing and publishing fiction but I believe it can be applied to lots of attempts to try something new.

Procrastinate, just put it off

This is the easiest one. There’s always housework to be done or errands to be run. There’s always an enticing new TV show on netflix, or a stack of movies you should get around to watching. I have shelves full of books I need to read, I have a blog that needs posts on it… there’s always reasons to not write. There’s always other ways to spend your time, and they can be good, productive things which makes it easier to talk yourself into avoiding the work.

Solution: make yourself do the thing. Even if it’s just for five minutes a day, that’s five minutes doing writing that you wouldn’t have done otherwise. Every baby step taken helps to break down your internal resistance and build a new habit.

Forget about it altogether

This one’s insidious. I can’t keep deadlines for writing competitions in my head. I forget if I’ve told myself I’ll submit to a magazine while they’re open for it. Dates just fly on out of there and I focus on other projects, other things.

Solution: write it down somewhere you’ll check. This can be reminders that pop up on your phone, a trello board with deadlines programmed in, post it notes on your mirror, whatever you will look at. Now you don’t have to remember, because something external will remind you.

Multi-task so it’s never done

For example, you could write a blog post about resistance instead of the editing you’re not enjoying. Or you could think about other projects you have on the go and get excited and do those instead. You could promise blog posts to other publishers, and work on those. You could start a new thing! Everyone loves a shiny new project, right? This can lead to a hundred partly done pieces of work and nothing completed. You feel like you’re doing so much, and you’re staying safe because nothing’s ever getting put out there for people to judge.

Solution: force yourself to focus on one or two projects at a time. My current focuses are my new work in progress first draft (fun fun fun) and editing my last big project with beta reader feedback. There’s also a travel journal I’m working on typing up, but that’s it. All other projects are on the backburner until those are at the next stage of feedback. It’s not easy, because the temptation to work on other things is huge, but giving yourself just a narrow focus reduces time lost from switching your brain’s context between different projects and allows for quicker work.

Keep editing

What if this piece could be better? Of course it could. Now that I’ve finished my novel manuscript it needs a certain amount of revising and editing. Of course it does. But this can be a perfectionist nightmare of never being finished. I can do editing passes for intimacy, for story arcs for each character, for repeated phrases and words, for setting continuity, looking at it from a different perspective, etc etc. Editing is super important, but there’s a temptation to just keep on editing the thing so it never has to see the light of day because it’s not quite right.

Solution: Let it go. Nothing you create is ever going to be perfect. The tech delivery concept of ‘minimum viable product’ is useful here. What’s the least you can do that will create something a customer will be able to use and enjoy? I use this question to shape the amount of work I need to do to be able to let a piece of writing go. It has to be spell checked, I need a beta reader to give me some constructive feedback, I need to give it a final pass to check I don’t just have all my characters smiling at each other all the time. Maybe there’s a couple more steps in there too, but after that I have to let it go.

***

So there you have it. These are all real examples and real solutions that have worked for me. And the good news is the more you can push past the resistance, and achieve something new and NOT DIE from it, the less your scared little lizard brain will freak out about it. It learns that the new thing is safe, and it won’t try and stop you doing it in the future, well. Not quite so hard anyway. But each time you do it, it learns a little more, and then it will adjust to the new thing being normal.

Watch out, world, me and my freaked out lizard brain are going to publish a bunch more books!

If you’d like further reading on resistance and creative life, this post was heavily influenced by learnings from the War of Art by Stephen Pressfield.

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How I defeat my self-sabotaging brain

I’ve written previously about Impostor syndrome and the way it’s affected me. One of the really annoying things my brain does is distract me from my goals by forgetting things.

It’s so frustrating, because I’ve missed a hundred different competitions and opportunities because the dates go shooting out of my head. Or even goals like ‘finish this novel’ get forgotten, because I’ll get excited about some other project instead and spend all my time on the new thing.

Once I’d realised this was a problem for me, I used a tool I’d enjoyed using at work for organising projects. Trello. Trello is like a free online to do list, and totally customisable.

Here’s what mine looks like:

writing trello

I like colour coding my works in progress, and it’s very satisfying to move a card from ‘doing’ to ‘done’. It saves all my thoughts for me, and all I have to do is go look at it to see what I should be looking at. You can open the cards and put checklists in it, or due dates or random comments. Very useful stuff.

If you have any kind of organisational problems I recommend trying something like Trello or a personal kanban board to see if that helps.