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28 May 2006

self-congratulatory post

Joan was reviewed in The Age yesterday. This is my favourite bit:

Wilkinson never condescends to her young readers but her history is accessible and interesting. Surely a dream come true for any history teacher.

I very much like the "never condescends" bit, because that's something I feel very strongly about. However, the last sentence means that any young person reading the review will be immediately turned off, but how many young people read the literary pages of The Age anyway? Let's face it, there's not much for them there. Still, a message to any brave young thing daring to venture past the reviews of architectural theory books and histories of the first world war: in Joan there are also some gruesome battles, and references to tuberculosis of the brain brought on by drinking unpasteurised cow's milk. And pants. Pants are very important.

I like being referred to as "Wilkinson". Makes me feel very grown up.

27 May 2006

But seriously...

it's all very well and good to post here about star-crossed seals and Eurovision, but if this is going to be a true procrastinatory tool, I suppose I should start doing it properly.

You see, I'm writing another book. A novel. And I spose this blog is as good a tool as any to a) try out some ideas on the unsuspecting readers; b) pretend I know what I'm talking about and c) procrastinate from actually writing said novel.

So the dilemma I'm faced with today, is that my character (her name is Hannah) has just arrived in Rio. She's never been there before. Neither have I. So far we have stuff in common. What we don't have in common, is that I live in 2006, and she lives in an unspecified year around about 1814.

So my first task is to figure out what the hell Rio looks like now. So we go to Flickr.
(thanks to The Mighty Jimbo for his lovely photo)

Looks purty. I also go to Google Earth and Wikipedia, just to figure out exactly where her ship would have anchored and all that. Then I'll just take out all the big buildings, and be generally vague.

I have this lovely playlist for writing this book, with inspiring floaty, soulful things like Bach and Bjork and David Bridie and Vangelis. Except what I have stuck in my head is I Go To Rio, sung by The Muppets.

Then I have this fantastic idea that she should be eating some kind of tropical fruit. This will serve a few different purposes. One is to just generally give an exotic feeling of tropical authenticity. Another is because she has been practically starving eating dried meat and crap on a boat for three months, and I'm feeling sorry for her. Finally, it will be the instigator for a Rather Important Dramatic Moment, which I am not going to disclose (but as a clue: I told my mum, and she said "eewww... Is that actually possible?").

So of course I have to figure out what kind of tropical fruit she is eating. It can't be anything too exotic, but exotic enough that it's foreign to her. She doesn't know what it's called, so it has to be something the reader can recognise. Back I go to Wikipedia.

Orange? Nope. Introduced to Europe in the 15th century. Plus, they're from India, not South America. But I do learn that the colour orange is named for the fruit, not the other way around.

Banana? Also from India. And while exotic, bananas were available in Europe. No good. I need something she's never seen before. But did you know that Alexander the Great ate his first banana in 327BC? Bananas rank fourth after rice, wheat and maize in global human consumption. And they're a herb (in the botanical sense. That means they don't have a woody stem, and they are either annual and perennial. Like daffodils.)

Hmm. Pineapples and passionfruit are too hard to get into. Lychees, papaya and guava are too exotic.

Mango? It's from the same family as poison ivy. The Indians call it the food of the gods. Bugger, another bloody Indian fruit. Does any actual fruit grow in South America? Does South America even exist??? Has anyone ever actually BEEN there???
However, it was introduced and cultivated in the Americas by the Portugese as early as the 17th century. Rio is a Portugese city. They would have had mangos. I also learn that paisley (the design) is inspired by the mango.

Mango it is. Now the only challenge is to write about a young girl enjoying a mango without it sounding... well, dirty.

22 May 2006

Feel the Rhythm

So. I'd like to start by pointing out that this sort of thing is Jelly's job. But as she is on blogging hiatus, I have bravely taken up the mantle. But I am new, so be nice.

So, welcome to Eurovision 2006. In attendance: Jelly, Canoe, the Munkey, Cress, Jez, Jem, Tim, Simon and Myself. And Snazzy in spirit.

In the beginning, there were dolphins... and creatures coming out of a big yellow ball...

Jelly: It's like The Lion King, only less fascist!

Our hosts fly in a'la Nicky Webster...

They are Sakis Rouvas (sexually ambiguous Greek singer and pole-vaulter) and Maria Menounos (who you will no doubt recognise as Miss Massachusetts Teen USA 1995) in a particularly cruel shade of yellow. Ouch. Maria tells us it is amazing to be there.
Jelly: Look at the space between them - they hate each other! It's like your high school musical all over again!

Last year's winners come on and demonstrate the fine tradition of deep, meaningful Eurovision song lyrics. You're the one, my number one. Plus bungee jumpers and riverdancers. But really, let's get into the fun of it all.

1. Switzerland
It's basically Julian McMahon, Jackie O and Vesna from Big Brother. Jez is singing along by the first chorus. Somewhat disturbing.

Lili: these guys blow goats
Jelly: but they have a message of peace and love!

Canoe: but no matching costumes.

Jelly: Yeah. Good point.

2. Moldovia
We are informed that one of these people is a Britney impersonator. We're not sure if it's the poppet with the very short skirt (no, wait! she's taken it off!) or the idiot-rapper on the scooter. Still no matching costumes (the fact they're all wearing jeans doesn't count). We compare one of the singers' hair to Lynne's from Neighbours. We wish Snaz was here to do her Lynne impersonation.

Jelly: Taking off your skirt does not a costume change make.

3. Israel
Has anyone else noticed how much Israel is NOT in Europe? How come we don't get to join in too? We're not in Europe either!
But at least, finally we have an entry with matching costumes. Eurovision white, no less, but a bit too Brides of Christ for my liking. But they're all Ethiopian-Israelis, which sparks and interesting conversation about cultural migration.

Cress: I just want them to take their clothes off.

4. Latvia
All white again, but a little schizophrenic with the a capella thing. But we get into it. Until they bring out the dancing robot, which frankly, would have been impressive in the late 70s, but is kind of lame in 2006. It dances around (sort of), waves and then one of the singers brings out a little red heart. Aww. It's like a bad 80s movie.

Paul: It's all gone a little bit Bobby McFerrin.
Cress: He's got lovely eyebrows, though.

5. Norway
We've hit a stride with the all white thing. These guys are clearly influenced by The Corrs. And maybe a little bit of Riverdance as well. Jelly tells us a funny story about The Corrs, involving the Ugly Brother telling audience members to stop perving on his sisters. There are fiddles.

Canoe: They're not even pretending to play those violins!
Jelly: Air violin.

6. Spain
This group are wearing red, which is a bit exciting. They're also called Las Ketchup, which I suppose is to indicate that they are "saucy", but really puts me in mind of burnt sausages. There are two entirely unrelated interpretive dancers, but to be honest, the swivelly office chairs are the best performers of the night.

7. Malta
This guy is a bit crap, but I feel an affinity with him as he is exactly 20 days younger than me. And he's giving it a red-hot go.

8. Germany
Highly anticipated down here in the Antipodes, as it is fronted by a young poppet from Newcastle by the name of Jane Comerford (who looks a bit like Sandra Sully). It's a band called Texas Lightning, and it's very country. Well... Germany is a country. The band are known mostly for their Johnny Cash covers, but have also done 'Highway to Hell' and 'Like a Virgin', with a "country twist".

Jelly: They have CACTUSES! With little lights! I want to sing this song! Is anyone with me? Anyone???

9. Denmark
More white. Terry Wogan says that it is a bunch of girls, and "somebody's boyfriend. Who might be Chubby Checker". He has a guitar, and does some nice knee slides. The song is about a guy named Johnny who didn't know how to twist. Unfortunatley, the rather attracting singing dancing girls don't seem to know how to twist either.

Munkey: Maybe they don't know what the word means.
Cress: They probably just don't want to rub it in in front of Johnny.

10. Russia
This guy has a rather alarming mullet. He hurls his microphone stand away in a fit. Such attitude. He also has two ballerinas doing Giselle (Jelly informs us that it is the actual choreography). There are a couple of backup singers lurking in the background. They look pissed that they didn't get tutus.
Everything goes a little bit wacky, when a white lady emerges from a pile of rose petals on top of the grand piano. This is really quite impressive, but I can't help but think of the episode of Black Books where Manny hides inside the piano so Bernard can impress a girl... Jelly waxes lyrical about how this entry exemplifies the postmodern cultural impact of Russia on the western world.

Jelly: He did a Flashdance thing on his toes! I find that impressive.

11. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Okay, so this song is called Ninanajna, but if you say that out loud it sounds like nya-nya-nya-nya. I apologise if anyone finds that culturally insensitive, but I think it's funny. There is a lady with rather prominant breasts and no pants. Terry informs us that "last year was a breast year. This year the legs have it."

12. Romania
More ballet. But this time in cargo pants. They have all the acting skills of ballet dancers too. Lots of overexaggerated reactions. There is a boy-singer with a bit too much makeup.

Jelly: What's with the ballet? Cress: It's culture!


I'm sure some of you would like to go to the loo or make a cup of tea, so I'll pause for a moment. But in case you don't need to go or you've run out of teabags, here are Three Things You Might Not Have Known About Eurovision to keep you entertained:

1. The 1974 Carnation Revolution in Portugal began when their entry E depois do adeus was broadcast on the radio. It was the signal for the rebels to start the revolution.
2. The 1983 Turkish Eurovision entry,
Opera consisted entirely of the word Opera being repeated over and over while Spain's cleverly titled, La la la contained no fewer than 138 la's.
3. When the UK hosted the competition in 1974, The Wombles were the half-time entertainment.

Jez is still singing the Swiss song from the beginning. Maria is back, but she's changed her frock. She felt a bit left out cause everyone else was wearing white. Now she fits in. She should have known to wear white from the beginning, but she had never heard of Eurovision until she was asked to host the 2006 contest. Explains why she's finding it so amazing.

13. Bosnia & Herzogovina
Again with the white. Again with the air violin. Also an air accordion. And a very squinty man. Someone points out that singing in another language is a good way of hiding the fact that your song is crap.

14. Lithuania
These guys are FUNNY. They look like middle-aged, balding accountants. Their song? An "engagingly modest" chant. We are the win-ners! Of Euro-vision! Vote! (vote!) Vote! (vote!) Vote for the win-ners.
Jez is singing along again.
One of the men has a big gold megaphone. There's more air violin, but this time it's some crazy bald man who is going off like the proverbial frog in a sock. Awesome. There is booing from the crowd... controversy!

(an aside: There has only been booing twice in the history of Eurovision, and the other time was also this year, at the 2006 semi-finals. Iceland's entry was a song from fictional character Silvia Night, who, as far as I can tell, is sort of like a female Icelandic Ali G. She sang a not dissimilar song, entitled Congratulations, and in the opening line, she sang The vote is in, I'll fucking win. Then she threw a tantrum when nobody voted for her, shouting "fuck you, you fucking retards!", and saying that at least she wasn't "an ugly fucking old bitch from Sweden". Wish you were there? Watch the whole thing here. And you thought Bjork was nuts.)

15. United Kingdom
This one is always interesting. Crap, but interesting. It's a kind of Pink Floyd, we-don't-need-no-education, meets the Spice Girls sort of number. Lots of misunderstood and disaffected poppets in very short tartan skirts and school ties. They have desks. They are perky, yet alternative. It might be alright, if there wasn't some paedophilic PE teacher-type in a yellow hoodie rapping up the front and trying to look up the girls' skirts.

16. Greece

This one's a bit ethnic. She's got some kind of scarvey-type-things on, anyway. She's really getting into it. Down on her knees for the key-change. I'm actually concerned that she's having some sort of fit. Simon defends her honour - the way the volume doesn't change, regardless of how far the mike is from her face? That's just her highly trained projecting talent.

Canoe: What kind of a line is that?
I'm still in love with everything I hate? Huh?
Munkey: It's the soul-crushing paradox of life. Der.

17. Finland
Well. Need I say anything other than HEAVY METAL ORCS.
And perhaps, BEST SHOES EVER.
This is the kind of gift that just keeps giving. Once you've got over their fantastic makeup and the awesome shoes, we realise that the keyboardist is a woman (we can tell cause she's wearing pearls). Then, the lead singer opens up his wings. Yep, wings. And just when you think it can't get any better, their GUITARS EXPLODE AND FIREWORKS SHOOT OUT. These are Orcs that even Gandalf would have approved of. The song is called Hard Rock Hallelujiah, and it contains the memorable line: On the day of Rockening. Gold, gold, gold.

18. Ukraine
Some nice ethnic touches here with the backup dancers. They have furry hats. And a skipping rope. And there's a nice whirling dervish moment. They put on some extra clothes, and then decide they don't like them and take them off again. Then they all go away, deserting the leading poppet, but before she can get too upset, they come back with tambourines and everyone lives happily ever after.

Tim: It's Nicky Webster!
Cress: Or Santa's wayward love child.

Canoe: Or both.

19. France
Terry points out that this is the same song the French have been singing for the last 200 years. But more crap. The poor girl couldn't find the right note if you gave her a map and a torch. We've moved on from air violin. Now it's air cello.

Jelly: I don't know if it can be "air" if the instrument is actually there.
Lili: It's Eurovision. It can be anything.

20. Croatia
Also nice little ethnic hats. There is air some-kind-of-instrument-that-looks-like-a-violin. Canoe talks about cultural identity. Jelly talks about childhood ballet concerts. Then the poppet takes off her skirt.

21. Ireland
Air accoustic-guitar. A whole new level of crap. A man with one eyebrow. How the mighty have fallen. The backup singers are practically asleep.

Simon: I think he's a transexual. Or is it bisexual?
Tim: Not exactly the same thing.
Canoe: Look at that little backup singer man! He's tiny!
Cress: A leprechaun.
Munkey: Maybe he's the transexual.

22. Sweden
Imagine Jennnifer Saunders, but not funny, doing the boring ballet thing from Singin' in the Rain where Debbie Reynolds has the big scarfy thing that blows around in the wind. Unfortunately, when the poppet loses the big scary thing, she's left with some very tight gold pants and some rather unfortunate gold fringe. But she looks like she's having a great time, and the boys all sing along.

23. Turkey
The pizza has arrived, so the only thing I notice is that this poppet may actually be a man.

24. Armenia
Mm. Hawaian pizza. There's some wierd-ass bondage stuff going on with ribbons.

Ooh, that's it! Maria and Sakis are back. Maria tells us how amazing it's all been. Maria's gone for a classic silver sparkly number this time, and Sakis is wearing a gold lame suit that appears to be rather constrictive around the crotch area. They have an amazing surprise for us: it's Nana Mouskouri, who is looking a little bit Dawn French. She gets the amazing honour of turning over the voting hourglass, but the art department have obviously cocked up a bit, and it swings back around again. Sakis leaves poor Nana clutching it to make sure it doesn't fall over again, and we get a bit of a recap.

Oh no, folks, it's not over yet.

Maria says amazing about ten times in about two sentences. She's moved onto a black frock, but Sakis has decided he likes the tight gold pants and is keeping them on. We can't stop looking at his crotch - and not in a good way. They count backwards from twelve, and Maria says amazing a couple more times just for luck. Poor old Nana is still hanging on to that hourglass...

Now we get 4000 years of Greek Song.
Jelly: Shit, we're going to be here all night!

There are torches. There are people with sticks on their faces. Some poppet with wings. People dressed as birds come out wearing kneepads. Jelly and Lili have flashbacks to their childhood yoga-and-creative-dance class.

Jelly: As soon as I see dancers with beaks, I just can't take them seriously.

Then there are candles and Christians. This is seriously better than the Athens Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. There's some panto, and everyone joins in. Allo guvnor, jolly good, have a banana.
Some bazouki. Some more riverdancing.

Maria and Sakis explain the voting proceedure. I think I would benefit from some kind of manual and perhaps a diagram. This is more complicated than how they calculated our VCE scores...

So, to the voting.

Jelly: Wasn't Andorra the name of the mum from
All Boys: That's

There is lots of political arse-licking with the voting. Canoe is nearly wetting herself with joy. She squeals, "all the blocs are voting for each other!" just as Terry says "calm yourself, my dear". Canoe ignores him and enlightens us on the Serbia-Montenegro controversy.

Maria obviously needs to pee, so she hands over to Gold Pants.

Jelly: Is Holland and the Netherlands the same place? That's really wierd. And they call them Dutch??

After Maria's washed her hands, she heads backstage to talk to the performers. Except that, although Finland is completely kicking arse in the voting, she won't go near them. She's probably scared. Orcs eat little girls like her for breakfast.

Some dour Polish man who is either the stock-market reporter or possibly the Prime Minsiter hams it up by trying to give his 12 points to Poland. Wacky funster.

So. Finland wins with 292 points, the highest score ever given in the 50 year history of Eurovision. Hurrah for Mr Lordi, Amen, Ox, Awa and Kita. Orcs rule. The poppets from Bosnia have a little cry, and a big hug. The Orcs are given bouquets, but no one seems willing to kiss them on the cheek. There is a brief hiatus when they realise that someone's lost the trophy, then the Orcs rock our world once more.

You can view their Eurovision performance here, or see the actual film clip (two words: zombie. cheerleaders.). And make sure you sing along!

Hard Rock Hallelujah
original English lyrics

music & lyrics: Mr Lordi
arrangement: Lordi
performer: Lordi

Hard Rock Hallelujah!
Hard Rock Hallelujah!

The saints are crippled
On this sinners’ night
Lost are the lambs with no guiding light

The walls come down like thunder
The rocks about to roll
It’s the Arockalypse
Now bare your soul

All we need is lightning
With power and might
Striking down the prophets of false
As the moon is rising
Give us the sign
Now let us rise up in awe

Rock ’n roll angels bring thyn hard rock hallelujah
Demons and angels all in one have arrived
Rock ’n roll angels bring thyn hard rock hallelujah
In God’s creation supernatural high

The true believers
Thou shall be saved
Brothers and sisters keep strong in the faith
On the day of Rockoning
It’s who dares, wins
You will see the jokers soon’ll be the new kings

All we need is lightning
With power and might
Striking down the prophets of false
As the moon is rising
Give us the sign
Now let us rise up in awe

Rock ’n roll angels bring thyn hard rock hallelujah
Demons and angels all in one have arrived
Rock ’n roll angels bring thyn hard rock hallelujah
In God’s creation supernatural high

Wings on my back
I got horns on my head
My fangs are sharp
And my eyes are red
Not quite an angel
Or the one that fell
Now choose to join us or go straight to Hell

Hard Rock Hallelujah!
Hard Rock Hallelujah!
Hard Rock Hallelujah!
Hard Rock Hallelujah!

Rock ’n roll angels bring thyn hard rock hallelujah
Demons and angels all in one have arrived
Rock ’n roll angels bring thyn hard rock hallelujah
In God’s creation supernatural high

Hard Rock Hallelujah!

16 May 2006

i went down to the frankston campus of monash university one day...

and i met:

jack russell dogs: 1

people working at cafe: 3

students from local high schools: 157

authors: 3

actors: 3

monash university students: 0

something is very wrong at that campus. i'm thinking zombies. or vampires (it was a very sunny day).

09 May 2006

Romeo and Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss

...that's the title of a new animated children's movie.

(don't worry, they don't die at the end of this one)

can you guess the twist?

i'll give you a clue...

Romeo and Juliet: SEALed with a Kiss

here is the plot summary from moviesite:

Romeo and Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss is a fully animated feature fantasy about two star-crossed seals from warring families that fall in love against their parents' wishes. When Juliet's father gives her hand in marriage to the monstrous elephant seal Prince, Juliet must fake her death in order to be reunited with Romeo. But the plan goes afoul and it's a desperate race to the end. With the help of their friends Friar Lawrence and Kissy, the kissing fish, the day is saved and the young lovers are reunited.

i hope this brought you as much mirth as it did me...

08 May 2006

why i love meg cabot

this is why.

home again, home again, jiggety jig

Well, I am back. and as much fun as it was reading a decidedly average book, discovering some awesome manga, relaxing with some excellent company and having my photo taken with Clifford the Big Red Dog (I may put that up here if you're lucky), there was one Celebrity Brush with Fame that went way beyond any of my previous brushes. Move over, Kylie. Bugger off, members of Icehouse, Crowded House and I'm sure some other House band.

Last weekend, I met this shimmering star in the celebrity firmament:

Yes boys and girls, I met the Kid with the Duck from the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony. And do you know what he was doing? He was doing the Harry Potter Quiz on my new website.

So. Proud.

(he got 2/10. perhaps he'd have done better if he'd actually had the duck with him at the time.)

06 May 2006

highlights from the children's book council of australia national conference

-watching Selby the Talking Dog get stopped at the registration table because he wasn't registered for the conference

-reading the words 'a French danish pastry'. (that one might be just me)

-wagging the saturday morning session to go to Buddha's birthday party at the Chinese Garden in Darling Harbour

-hearing an author who will remain nameless introduce herself to someone thusly: 'Hi, I'm XXX, I'm a famous author.' Only to have the other person reply. 'Hi. I'm your publisher.'

-creating dirty rumours about other delegates, because there wasn't enough gossip

-sneaking into the cocktail party and smuggling out drinks for the other expo people, who were all shivering outside a la peasants outside the Winter Palace in the Russian Revolution

i swear, you could make the best satirical comedy (The Office-style) about this industry...

05 May 2006

in the Sydney

you know, life is just sometimes bizarre.

i wake up at dawn to the fabulous expansive view of Darling Harbour from our apartment window. eat breakfast. have shower. make way to exhibition centre.

now i am standing here typing this at the internet cafe at the conference. behind me are many exhibitors of children's books.

there is an author in full medieval dress.

people know who i am, and ask me to sign their books. yesterday was a good day to sign books, because it was 04.05.06.

wally has just come up behind me and put his stripy hat on my head. yes. that's wally as in 'where's wally'.

oh dear. about 1000 children are following wally. time to go to work...

03 May 2006

my very first internet meme

i feel so proud to be a part of this...

from the munkey. (and as an aside, how much do we love munkeys and turtles? or not-turtles. is that the same as mock turtles?)

the a to z of a lili

Accent: Australian. Melbourne-Australian to be precise. That means I say "Malbourne" instead of "Melbourne". It was called posh at school cause my mum is a pom.

Booze: The wine of the red. The beer. The ginandtonic. But no yellow. I don't do yellow liquor. (don't say that to a lesbian, btw. they think you're being racist).

Chore I hate: I second the Munkey: WASHING DISHES.

Dog or cat: Cat. I like both, but a dog loves you unconditionally. And loves EVERYONE unconditionally. You have to earn a cat's respect before it will love you. I like that.

Essential electronics: My laptop. it plays music and dvds and helps me talk to other people. I'm rather fond of the iPod as well.

Favourite perfume: I wear something French called Olene by Diptyque.

Gold or silver: Silver, unless it's nana-glamour. Then gold.

Hometown: Clifton Hill, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. I was born in the front room, and I'm (as of very recently) back there for a while.

Insomnia: Often. I listen to talking books to lull me to sleep. Stephen Fry reading his autobiography is a favourite.

Job title: By Day: Web Project Manager and Event Coordinator. By Night: author.

Kids: judging my the monstrous Year 7s I had to give a tour to yesterday: NEVER.

Living arrangements: Back with my parents until I go overseas later this year.

Most admirable trait: I'm honest. This is also my least admirable trait.

Number of sexual partners: erm. Five. Or six, depending on your definition.

Overnight hospital stays: None.

Phobias: Vomit.

Quote: Read in order to live. Gustave Flaubert. Or, I am a part of everything I have read. John Kieran.

Religion: None.

Siblings: None.

Time I wake up: 7am. On the dot. Whether my alarm is set or not. It's a bit creepy.

Unusual talent or skill: I can tie a cherry stalk into a know using my tongue. I do a good impersonation of Yoda dying.

Vegetable I refuse to eat: Squash. Who would want to eat a vegetable with a name like squash? Really.

Worst habit: Speaking my mind. Also biting my cuticles.

X-rays: Once. For the wisdom teeth. The dentist looked at it, went a funny colour, and said "Did I ever mention that you look like Nicole Kidman? bythewayyouhavetogotohospitalsoonbeforeyourteeth-

Yummy foods I make: I make good chili. I'm good at dishes that involve opening tins of things and cooking them.

Zodiac sign: