The Sandfly Man – Matthew Condon

01/31/2011 at 7:26 AM (Australian Literature, Nostalgia, Short Stories) (, , , , )

I have discovered short stories are something I  put by the wayside unless they are the sort written by Agatha Christie, Roald Dahl and Jeffrey Archer. Thinking it is time I should end this discrimination against the poor genre which is overlooked, I have opened myself to reading and reviewing an Australian short story per day for just this week. We will see how long I manage to keep it up!


Copyright: Franco Vogt/CORBIS

The Sandfly Man by Matthew Condon is a short story about convictions that spring up and take precedence  in the innocence of childhood; he expresses with convincing imagery of the pesticide man of the park how fears that inspire terror from back then can remain with us until our transition into adulthood. His reflective glimpses of  how mundane our life can be in the world of the beach caravan park as a home away from home is insightful in its banality.

Queensland in his idyllic narrative setting of Tallebudgera Creek Caravan Park is described so well you cannot help but feel through how he radiates the hot, sticky feeling of summer and the pleasure evoked through moments at the Burleigh Heads beach in adolescence, that it is being conveyed by a native. It is an odd contrast when he details the pleasure of his parents and their friends in a simple game of canasta while he lies in abject terror of his conception of the Sandfly Man. This figure which has arrested his imagination causes him to fear it far more than the fearsome combination of the ‘government, devil and God all rolled into one’.

In its conclusion, we are left to contemplate the inability of the author to return to the caravan park even though his sister does. The family tradition is carried out by his sister after she had kids herself since she forages out her own caravan park space and the card playing scenario continues with a younger generation in her circle of family friends; but the author is an outsider who sits by himself in the lounge on Christmas morning watching television. The door to the past is not open to him.

The fear of the ghost of the Sandfly Man with his swirling mist is still to elude our writer.

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Gift of the Gob: Morsels of English Language History

01/26/2011 at 1:32 PM (Books, Educational, Inspired, Language) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Are you familiar with Can We Help, the TV show on ABC, partly hosted during the Wise Words segment by Kate Burridge? The show explored in detail where certain words and expressions that are cause for argument originally derived from and how they have progressed. Her vast and in-depth knowledge regarding the intricacies of the English language and its use  has her often explaining about new expressions, shifts in meanings and emerging grammatical constructs because of her linguistic expertise.

To watch videos of the ABC episodes of Can We Help, go here.

Gift Of the Gob - Kate Burridge

Her book titled ‘Gift of the Gob: Morsels of English Language History’ explains to us:

Q: Why can we fall in love but not in hate

Q: What do codswallop and poppycock share?

Q: Why not one house and two hice?

Within this book based on segments from the aforementioned television program and Soundbank from ABC Radio , Professor Kate Burridge investigates our language, untangles words and their meanings and uncovers how differences in interpretation and enunciation has transformed the evolution of English.

It demonstrates the  inventiveness of the tongue in how it exists as a ‘proper’ dialect along with its offending but amusing cousin, slang. Her informative  discussion of the origins of linguistic  appellations  in English answers how frequently used terms that are erroneous in their usage become an everyday staple. Her interview on why she decided to write the book after being inspired by the general public is accessible here.

She describes her favourite  word which has since expired in use as velleity: it means “a mere wish, unaccompanied by an effort to obtain it.” I think my favourite words belonging to the English lexicon are  foreign words that become part and parcel of permanent use. What sort of uncommon expressions do you favour?


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The String of Pearls (The Original Sweeney Todd)

01/21/2011 at 10:30 AM (Books, Horror, Movies, Romance) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

It has been a while since I’ve submitted a book review. So I have now decided it is finally time to address this inadequacy given my future aspirations of becoming an editor. The last book I read which is to be reviewed is titled The String of Pearls, the Wordsworth Classics edition. You might be familiar with it in the form of a musical produced by Tim Burton. I’m of course talking about Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Image of Sweeney Todd - book illustration

The story originally appeared as a penny dreadful in The People’s Periodical and Family Library which was edited by Edward Lloyd  as a series and was given the epithet  The String of Pearls: A Romance. Although published as long ago as 1846, the tale still feels macabre despite the present standards of desensitisation to acts of violence because it touches on a topic that still has not eluded its taboo status. It is commonly thought the tale was co-written by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest.

Given electricity was yet to be invented and readers perused their reading material under flickering oil lamps, horror tales rose in popularity as a form of entertainment. The gory and violent depictions of ill-met fates in these stories led them to being called curious names like bloods and shilling shockers. Since these stories were produced en masse for a penny per copy, publishers picked up ideas from sources such as popular fiction, legends and news accounts of petty crime aiming to ” make the hackles rise, the flesh creep, and the blood curdle ” says Michael Anglo, the author of Penny Dreadfuls and Other Victorian Horrors; he adds it was difficult in that time to be sufficiently dread inspiring because hangings were commonplace.

The String of Pearls in which Sweeney Todd, “the demon barber of Fleet Street”, makes his literary debut is a tale that is as humorous as it is chilling because of the style of writing chosen. We are first introduced to this barber of shady appearance who runs his own barber and shaver shop. His misabused apprentice boy, Tobias, who is always sent away on impromptu errands when wealthy customers enter the shop notices they keep leaving some apparel behind. Tied into this story is a little romance between the pretty daughter of a spectacle maker and an errant adventurer. Connected to this rigmarole is Mrs Lovett’s pie shop  selling meat pies so aromatic in fragrance and delicious in taste that people cannot help their mouths watering in expectation.

These random little details are connected in the most peculiar way, one will discover when they read the book. It is fairly easy to put two and two together about the meat pies but the mystery about Mark Ingestrie, the owner of the string of pearls, makes it worth reading.

If you would like to read the original penny dreadful, you can enjoy it here at the Victorian Dictionary compiled by Lee Jackson.

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K-Movie Chick Flick Fest

01/13/2011 at 1:33 PM (Movies, Romance) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

My interest in cinema is rather diverse. Korean, Japanese, German, French and Italian films – love them all. For now, I’ll just share a category I always enjoy : Korean chick flicks.

Il Mare



Il Mare with its unprepossessing title is a beautiful cinematic tale  of two lonely people who find each other through a mail box which transcends the space-time barrier.  The intricate plot is made memorable by the love story between Eun-joo (Jun Ji-hyun) and Sung-hyun (Lee Jung-jae) at its heart.  Director Lee Hyun-seung conveys a setting of melancholy interspersed with specks of warmth through his cinematography to generate tension between the two leads during their budding romance. The appeal for the film lies in its innocence in portraying the attraction of the protagonists.

The story starts off with voiceover actress Eun-joo leaving her seaside residence of Il Mare to a newly built apartment complex. Her letter in the mailbox asking the next occupant to forward her mail drives the storyline when it is received by someone who lived there two years earlier. The intricately detailed narrative performs wonders in incorporating the two separate time periods as they begin sharing what each other enjoys.  Since their interaction is limited to this mailbox , they orchestrate a date for meeting which in its culmination is haunting and powerful.

Il mare which means ‘the sea’ in Italian was also remade by Hollywood as The Lake House starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock but it lacks the punch of its source.

Heaven’s Postman

In Heaven’s Postman, we have another romantic movie involving a special mailbox that transcends the heaven-earth barrier. But here the themes are different because the film explores grief , the ways in which people come to terms with death and how they seek consolation with whimsical humour. Despite the subject of the film, some dialogue regarding love in here across can span across continents.

Shin Jae  Joon/ Yuu (Hero Jaejoong from DBSK) is involved in an accident that puts him in a coma and is given the ability to travel back and forth between the real world and heaven in spirit form. He becomes a postman who delivers letters to the dead in heaven from those grieving for their loss and meets Jo Ha Na/Saki (Han Hyo Joo) by coincidence as she is trying to send her late boyfriend an angry letter. Saki is one of the few who can see the spirit of Jae Joon.

Working together with her new companion, Saki slowly starts to forget the person whom she was mourning and starts to fall for Yuu. This makes things complicated for their relationship because only those who feel the loss of a loved one deeply can see Jae Joon but as she falls in love with him, his spirit starts to fade. Nevertheless because they truly love each other, fate has other plans and ends on a happy note.

100 Days with Mr Arrogant

100 Days with Mr Arrogant


100 Days with Mr. Arrogant on the other hand is a romantic comedy in a different vein.  It goes down a fairly silly route trying to emulate the magic of My Sassy Girl but fails because of overt cheesiness. But if a romantic at heart, you’ll most likely enjoy it anyway.

It begins with Kang Ha-yeong (Ha Ji-won) being dumped by her boyfriend on the 100th day of their relationship. While walking, upset by his rejection, she angrily kicks a soda can in frustration which hits a luxury car and startles its wealthy owner  Ahn Hyung-jun (Kim Jae Won). He consequently loses control of the vehicle, drives it into a wall and it gets scratched. On learning Ha-yeong cannot pay for damages, he convinces her to sign a contract to be enslaved to him for 100 days. She finds out he lied to her about the repair costs and  revenge ploys begin. Over this period, they somehow begin developing romantic feelings for each other.

This is very cute and fluffy in its execution with a dash of cringe-worthy comedy. But as a movie that does not seek to declare a profound message, it is passable. This one takes the most formulaic approach out of the three but at least you’ll get a few laughs.

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01/07/2011 at 4:33 AM (Fairy Tales, Movies) (, , , , , , )

The pleasure of watching the Disney 3D movie Tangled was mine only yesterday with Rapunzel being voiced by Mandy Moore (it’s been a while since I’ve heard her sing and act!). I won’t get into plot details because much of it was covered by my previous article on the ACMI Exhibition. The movie name was changed because it was feared the title of Rapunzel would actually deter young boys from seeing the film.

The movie contains some arresting visuals especially during a spectacular scene of entrapment which creatively even if somewhat predictably employs the 70 ft of long blonde magical hair as an escape tool. By the way,  the  versatility of Rapunzel’s hair deserves recognition as it serves a variety of functions – rope, weapon, lever, ladder, lasso, anti aging potion and healing balm. It is also worth mentioning the lantern scene where Rapunzel finally achieves her goal and Flynn realises and discovers his ability to be sincere.

The Lantern Scene

Flynn, the unlikely hero with a penchant for narcissism is an amusing but sweet character reminiscent of Dimitri from Anastasia (produced by Don Bluth from 20th Century Fox), like all villains concealing good hearts. Maximus, the palace horse is the typical animal sidekick archetype for Flynn although they have disagreements over differing points of view regarding thievery and start out on the wrong foot. In contrast, Rapunzel’s companion, Pascal, is a tiny but domineering chameleon.

As mentioned  by  Margaret Pomeranz of ABC’s At the Movies, Alan Menken’s song numbers brings back true Disney spirit. Though I can’t help but feel Mother Gothel’s songs are sort of cheesy because of the chosen lyrical compilation. Dialogue in this film can also be entertaining in the vein of Shrek. The witty repartee between Flynn aka Eugene Fitzherbert with the feisty and adventurous Rapunzel contains several gems such as this:

Rapunzel: [circling Flynn tied to a chair with her hair] So, what do you want with my hair? To cut it?
Flynn Rider: What?
Rapunzel: Sell it?
Flynn Rider: No! Listen, the only thing I want to do with your hair is to get out of it… literally!

Nevertheless the golden accolades belong to the moment when it appears all is lost and is a significant departure from film’s original roots. Although in Disney form, an undiscovered treasure reveals itself and the matter is naturally resolved with the classic twist in the tale.

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