April 29, 2016

Film Review—Martyrs by Pascal Laugier

A young girl, Lucie Jurin, is found wondering around an abandoned industrial estate. Her body shows signs of malnutrition and physical abuse and police discover that she has been held captive and ritually abused, but her captors and their motives are never discerned. Lucie spends the next 15 years trying to adjust to the outside world and to make sense of her ordeal while being haunted by a ghoulish creature. She eventually tracts down those who held her captive and exacts her revenge, much to the shock of Anna Assaoui, her one friend who has been trying to help her. Anna tries to cover up Lucie's actions, but in the process discovers more about Lucie's captors and the horror that will soon be unleashed upon her.

The film is certainly brutal, and its ending, with its ambiguous nihilism, does not ease its impact, and for many this will immediately remove it from their viewing list. But the violence is not from some voyeuristic viciousness. It forms the heart of the narrative, where pain provides an avenue to something less profane and approaching the sacred, yet having an unbearable cost on the victim and those sanctioning the torture. What allows the film to achieve this is what is surprising of a film this brutal: its restraint. This is especially in the last act. Where cheaper films would see it as an opportunity to unleash a litany of sadistic rites of ever escalating severity, Martyrs establishes a routine of beatings and deprivations. It is testament to the much neglected role of repetition in art, seeing the violence become an ordeal and not a spectacle, to which the audience is forced to bear uncomfortable witness and share in the guilt of the tormentors.

Uncompromising yet executed with admirable restraint, Martyrs is not an indulgence in violence but a meditation on its consequences, both for the victims and the audience.

April 25, 2016

Book Review - Why Mindfulness is better than Chocolate : Your guide to inner peace, enhanced focus and deep happiness By David Michie

Why mindfulness is better than chocolate : Your guide to inner peace, enhanced focus and deep happiness explains the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. The benefits include-

  • Reduced stress
  • Lowers high blood pressure
  • Boosted immunity
  • Reduces health costs
  • Helps manage chronic pain
  • Reduces mortality
  • Helps people suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions
  • Helps manage and prevent anxiety
  • Promotes good help
  • Increases self compassion
  • Helps you break bad habits

With all these benefits David Michie uses Buddhist teachings and contemporary science to discuss and explain a number of related topics in detail.

"David Michie demonstrates the knack for capturing the essence of this important topic and presenting it in a fun and accessible way." Dr Timothy Sharp, The Happiness Institute.

A very insightful and informative read. Anne

April 22, 2016

Book Review—The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine by Krissy Kneen

Holly and her three childhood friends believe that True Love Waits. She is reminded of this every time she looks at her hand, with a silver ring, identical to those of her friends, inscribed with this mantra. This becomes ever more necessary as it becomes the stern contrast to the phosphorescent blue secretion from her groin whenever she becomes aroused, something that has been happening a lot recently. To excise or revel in this moment she has joined a book club that explores the many staples of erotic literature. Parallel to Holly’s discovery are the adventures of Nicholas, told in surreal sci-fi adventures, who embraces his sexuality from a young age and shares Holly’s luminous sexual energy.

Each chapter is named after a different erotic classic, from Andre Breton’s Nadja, to Nabokov’s Lolita and Angela Carter’s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (which Kneen singles out with the title as well featuring very significantly in the work). These texts both feed Holly’s awakenings as well as provide fodder for Kneen’s interplays, with a mischievous wink here and a cheeky nudge of the elbow there. Switching between the more recognisable world of Holly and the seemingly fantastical one of Nicholas, with its grand battles and talk of the Orgone through the teachings of Wilhelm Reich, adds to the quirk of the story, and further exasperates the unfamiliar regions of sexual exploration within a sci-fi milieu. Where it does leave one unsatisfied is in its restraint, not regarding its erotic scenes, but its tone. What could have made for a raucous over-the-top tale that spared no bizarre contortion or delicious predilection often falls flaccid, with the sci-fi adventure aspects being a needed blue pill to garner interest rather than the gleaming blue lubricant that enhances the disreputable absurdities.

Even if it does not make the most of its sordid ridiculousness, The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine is wickedly amusing and without a shred of subtlety.    

April 18, 2016

Book Review - The Yellow Elephant : Improve your memory and learn more, faster, better By Tansel Ali

Written by two-time Australian memory champion Tansel Ali. In this book Tansel explains how he turned his average memory into an extraordinary one. In The Yellow Elephant the practical exercises and provided tests help you to learn and build techniques to improve your memory quickly.

The benefits of an improved memory enable you to learn faster, reduce stress, save and improve your focus. I found that the section on brain training for kids was very interesting and easy to apply in Chapter 8. Also the Mind mapping information in Chapter 5 was an interesting concept. Definitely an informative and beneficial read. Anne

April 11, 2016

Book Review- The Careers Handbook By Editor Richard Gilbert

The Careers Handbook contains information on career paths, skill guides and job descriptions offering practical and inspirational advice on more than 400 careers.

The book is concise, comprehensive and useful, whether you are about to finish university or make a career change. The book is informative and has been contributed by over 100 professionals. The book is well set out and colourful. I especially like the job description on page 272 for a Librarian. Anne

April 07, 2016

Movie Club—Casablanca

This month the Movie Club will be screening Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, and Paul Henreid, and directed by Michael Curtiz. Based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick's, a thinly veiled cry for America to become involved in World War II in opposition to the isolationist policies prevelant at the time. The film was green-lighted shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbour and released the following year, with many rewrites to the original script.

Casablanca, in 'Unoccupied' Morocco, has become a haven for many trying to flee the ever encroaching terror of Nazism in Europe. The centre of night life is Rick's Cafe Americain, run by Rick Baline, a American expatriate with a tumultuous past. Despite the suffering and longing surrounding him, Rick prefers to avoid entanglements and proudly claims that he sticks his "neck out for nobody". All this changes one night when Ilse, the woman he loved in Paris years before, comes to town with her husband, the Resistance leader Victor Laszlo. Rick must choose whether to place his emotional turmoil aside and help Ilse and Victor escape the clutches of the local Nazi officer, Major Strasser, or to turn his back on the woman he loves.

The film was just another movie when it was made, as "no one making 'Casablanca' thought they were making a great movie." (Ebert, R. [September 15, 1996] “Casablanca [Review]”) But as time has passed the film has gathered new generations of viewers, with its quotable dialogue (some of the most quoted and certainly the most misquoted line in film), but also for its great use of lighting, cinematography, and the pitch-perfect casting. 

The film will be screened on Wednesday 13 April at 6pm at Narellan Library, Corner of Queen and Elyard Street, Narellan. Tea, coffee, and biscuits provided, but BYO snacks are more than welcome. Stay after the screening to share your thoughts about the film and join in a discussion about the films many classic and affecting scenes. 

April 04, 2016

Book Review - Dreams: What your Subconscious Wants to Tell You by Rose Inserra

How do we know what our dreams mean?
How do we interpret them?
 Dreams : what your subconscious wants to tell you is a comprehensive guide by dream analyst Rose Inserra.

Inserra helps people to-

  • recognise the most common dreams
  • identify themes
  • understand recurring dreams and nightmares.

Rose Inserra is a member of the Internation Association for the study of dreams and contributes regularly to print media and radio.
I found Chapter 5- 10 common dreams explored to be very interesting. I enjoyed the book and found it very insightful. Anne

April 01, 2016

Book Review—The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

Benjamin and his three older brothers go fishing in the nearby river in Akure, the town where they live. Ordinarily Omi-Ala, the river where they have gone fishing, is off limits, believed to be cursed. But they have the freedom to go there each day after school thanks to their father having moved to a faraway city for work, leaving only their mother to care for them. But one day the boys encounter Abulu, the village madman who wonders around naked and has garnered a reputation for fatal predictions. His words strike Ikenna, the eldest brother, who is told that he will be killed by a fisherman, one of his brothers. This causes a rift in the family, with Ikenna wanting to distance himself from all of his family, with his health, faith, and mind slowly succumbing to the horrid madness and his family all becoming victims to the madman’s words.

Told by the adult Benjamin as recollections from his childhood, we gain a sense both of the fruitful potential and as well as the squandered promises, with the lives of the family mirroring the political disintegration of Nigeria after the annulled 1993 M.K.O. Abiola election. Where there should be hope and progress there is instead turmoil, squabbling, and biblical struggles between brothers, African superstition in evil places, and curses that invade these promises and send those involved into a cycle of madness and death. Nothing is secure, nothing is innocuous, in this country where words, like locusts, can transform “from harbingers of good things into the heralds of evil”.

The Fisherman is a striking debut of the turmoil of a family and the sorrow of a nation.