book: squirrel meets chipmunk

Book: Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Wicked Bestiary

Having read David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day a couple of years ago, and seen the author at two separate live readings over the years, I was looking forward to reading this book. Be warned – despite the illustrations throughout, this is by no means a children’s book. The trademark prose is certainly there, and you’ll see moments of genius in there, but what’s missing is the redemptive quality of the story – the endings of some stories make you wince, which means they’re not as enjoyable as some of his other work. One for the fans.

tartt, forster

tartt, forster

Five senses coffee (Crompton Rd blend). 6/12 Wharf street, Forster. Head far enough out of Sydney, and it’s a safe bet that you can despair of finding a good cup of coffee – pass the F3 to Sydney’s north, and your standards immediately lower. So imagine my surprise when driving through Forster when I see a cafe that looks like it would fit comfortably on the streets of Sydney.

where the magic happens, tartt, forster

Step inside, and it’s a place crowded with options – a range of 12 inch pizzas, a broad range of breakfast and lunch options, and some delicious-looking cakes and slices.

tartt, forster

The menu board is really playful in its style, but somehow the space isn’t intimidating or hipster – families with kids and the full spectrum of age ranges are comfortable here, happy to enjoy the coffee, or a freshly poured beer on tap (tartt is licensed).

babycino and blueberry macaron

They’re family-friendly – high chairs are available, and the babycino was well received.

The coffee is the real winner here. The decaf lattes are really good – worth a visit just for that, but it’s the ability to have a serious conversation about coffee that I really enjoyed. These guys are trying to bring serious coffee to a community that isn’t used to it – it was possible to see owner Michael’s relief when I was able to articulate the difference between an espresso and a double ristretto! The need to drive back to Sydney in a single day made me break my normal decaf habit and try a single origin – an Indian Veer Attikan. It was just as described, a fantastic, well made double ristretto that made the next few hundred kilometres fly by.

A gentle walk from the Forster-Tuncurry bridge, this is a must-visit if you’re in the area.

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TV: SBS Insight – Generation XXX

Atheist thinker Allan de Botton wrote an article on the subject of sex, part of which touches on internet pornography as an inhibitor to lasting sexual relationships. Reading an article – Boy, 11, bombarded by with porn on sleepover made me think it was worth blogging about last week’s SBS Insight show – Generation XXX. You can watch the show or read the transcript on the SBS website (it’s an M-rated show with some expletives and verbal descriptions of some unpleasant content).

The average age that Australian kids are encountering pornography online is getting lower and lower. What does this mean for parents, for kids, and for society’s general tolerance for this kind of content?

On the show was a good cross-section of the community: it was skewed towards more highly educated people (I would imagine that this is standard for a talk-show of this kind), and there were more voices from academia than you might normally hear from the media. There were religious people on the show (Dominic Steele, an Anglican Minister and my one-time beach mission leader among them), and educators of primary aged children.

Easy access to smartphones means that images and videos can be passed around schools in a way that was unheard of a generation ago.

Responses from parents varied: one had sat with her daughter and shown her a porn site, so that they could discuss the topic with examples. Steele talked about a family holiday where they read through the book of Genesis (which contains most of the situations that kids are likely to encounter, but without the visuals). Nothing was made of a later comment from an educator that to show pornography to a child is a form of sexual abuse.

Another educator explained that the personal development curriculum continues to change to help girls know how to say no to unwanted requests from sexual partners: clearly the impact of this technology is changing the way people behave.

I’m asking myself what it means for me as a parent, but do we need to have a bigger discussion around what we’re prepared to put up with as a society? The outcome of the TV show seemed to be that people who want to look at porn should be able to, but we need to have porn that is more positive / respectful of women – I’m not convinced that they’re on the right track.

It seems that it’s going to be up to religious voices to make a difference to this discussion, but will those voices inevitably fall on deaf ears?

book: Resonate

Book: Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences

I grabbed this to help me prepare to give a presentation. I’m always interested in improving my presentation skills, and this is a really practical book. Analysing a range of different “great” speeches, it shows an underlying pattern that fits them all. Show what is, show what could be, and bounce back and forth between the two, leading at the end to a lasting understanding of what can be, and motivating the audience to change.

If you’re interested in improving the way you present, this is worth a look.

movie: The Avengers

Movie: The Avengers

If you’ve seen any of the prequel movies (setting up the backstories of the various characters) – Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, then you’ve probably heard the long-running plan to create an “Avengers” movie – an ensemble piece with a large number of Marvel superheroes.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. There’s enough character back-story to make sense of the different heroes for the people who haven’t seen the other movies. The balance between witty one-liners, the team of heroes not getting along, CGI battle scenes worked: the emotional pacing was good, and the Hulk was the best one I’ve seen on the big screen.

Where the movie worked best was in displaying an emotional life (of sorts) for the characters – their vulnerability makes them more watchable – this has been the main development in superhero movies in the last decade.

The downside with the movie was its treatment of women: yes, there are some stronger characters than we’ve seen in other superhero movies, but it’s still more about eye candy than substantive roles (anyone disagree?)

Overall, it’s an unusually good popcorn movie that comic book fans will enjoy.