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30 November 2008

Barbie + Amy Pohler + Smart Girls = Awesome

I've always appreciated Barbie. 

Barbie is the kind of woman who says 'Hey, girls! You can be a surgeon or a sign language teacher or a UN Ambassador or an astronaught or a paleontologist. And wear a nice hat and pretty shoes.' Barbie had careers. Barbie ran for President in 2000, long before Hillary or Palin came on the political scene. Barbie was never defined by her male partners. And Barbie showed us that deformity can be beautiful too. We don't judge Barbie for her scary legs or her twisted pointy feet.
Barbie is equal opportunity. She has black and Hispanic friends, as well as a friend with cerebral palsy, who gets around in a pink wheelchair. She cares about the environment, and about children's rights.

In the current billion-dollar lawsuit of Barbie vs Bratz, I am 100% on Barbie's side.

And now, Barbie's latest campaign is for the smart girl. She's launched a web TV show with Amy Pohler (of SNL fame), called Smart Girls At The Party. It's basically a show that celebrates smart girls - girls who write, read, play music and think. I highly recommend.

23 November 2008

Thomas Henry Brain

I'd like you all to meet my great-great-grandfather, Thomas Henry Brain.

He lived around the corner from our family home in Clifton Hill, which is weird because neither of my parents even come from Victoria, let alone this area.

He was a brewer, and a travelling salesman. And a Freemason. From which we can infer that he liked drinking, secret handshakes, and cosplay.

Don't you think he looks like he's on his way to a sci-fi convention?

20 November 2008

Christmas Pudding

Much like the Onions, I am loathe to do anything Christmassy until December 1. But there are some things that need to be thought about ahead of time, and puddings is one of them.

Making the Christmas Pudding(s) is a great tradition in the Wilkinson house. My mum and I do it together every year, about mid-November. I do the mixing (with my hands, in a bucket, because we make several), and Mum does the measuring.

We serve the pudding after Christmas lunch, on fire. It's incredibly impressive, and super nommy. And the secret - it's REALLY EASY to make.

The Wilkinson Family Pudding Recipe:
(makes 1 pudding that serves 6-8)

225g currants
100g sultunas
100g raisins
100g peel
25g almonds

Then add:
100g plain flour (sifted)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
225g barbados sugar
100g breadcrumbs
225g grated butter

Then add:
rind and juice of 1 lemon
2 eggs
1 tbsp treacle
4 tbsp mixed milk and rum (half/half)

Then put it in a pudding-bowl, and slosh a little more rum over the top. Cover top with greaseproof paper and then foil, and secure with string.

Put the tied-up bowl in a large saucepan of water, and boil for 3-4 hours (refilling water as needed). Put in cupboard.

If you like, you can 'feed' it regularly with an extra slosh of rum, just to make it really deadly.

On Christmas Day, boil the pudding again (as above) for 3-4 hours. Make custard to serve.

To Flame: Put pudding on table and dim lights. Heat two tablespoons of rum in a metal ladle over a flame. Once the rum is hot, set the ladle alight and pour molten fire over your pudding. Pretty!

(photo by Snazzy)

19 November 2008

Nice words

So Scatterheart was longlisted (but not shortlisted) for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize. Which I think is not a bad effort considering it won't even be published in the UK until early next year.

The lovely people at Waterstones had some excellent feedback about the book:
I loved this book!! I loved the convict/Australian story was superb and really enjoyed the fantasy tale running all the way through it. I thought the characters were complex, no two-dimmensional disney baddies with twirly moustaches here!

I enjoyed this book so much, that as soon as I had finished I wanted to share it with someone else, but also went straight on-line to see if it was available to buy from anywhere now. Want my own copy!!

Loved it! I thought the way that the tale of Scatterheart ran alongside the main story was great, the parallels were not too obvious but it did give the story a nice 'fairy-tale' feel. Great characters, great story - definately one for the shortlist!

A gritty (Celia Reesish ?) teen novel that somehow manages to be both intensely real, moving and compelling - but also manages to be this year's North Child. Or should that be South Child?

Sheer 'Quality'.

I loved this book, it really captured me.

With marvellous characters to love and hate and a capturing tale, this book will take you on a heartfelt journey.

Of what i have read so far to do with the prize this is my fave. adventure, love and characters you can't help but like.

I'll join in the praise! I thought it was a compelling read - especially on board the ship. I thought the characters were really well drawn and was terrified but fascinated by the way Hannah's life completely changed in a heartbeat. For me, 'Scatterheart' will be hard to beat!

Love, love, loved it! A real journey in physical and emotional terms. I think the ending was spot on, I won't ruin it, but hopeful without being unrealistic. Definitely for fans of Celia Rees' wonderful Witch Child.

I really enjoyed this book. The mixture of fairy tale and gritty history worked so well. I was enchanted by Hannah's journey all the way through (and polar bears are my favourite animal!) Definitely one for the shortlist.

This was a quality bit of storytelling and if anything is going to give 'Hunger Games' a run for its money - it's this. Proper period writing [literally], infectious characters [literally]...stop me someone please! Hey i just really enjoyed this and this has been another story set on a boat that's been great.

10 November 2008

The Kids are Alright

You know the one age group of Californians who voted against Proposition 8?

CNN exit poll*
Vote by Age Yes No

18-29 39 61

30-44 55 45

45-64 54 46

65+ 61 39

Proposition 8, for those of you who might not know, was a proposed constitutional amendment that would make gay marriage illegal in California. It passed, being the one nasty small-minded smudge on what was otherwise a proud day for America.

But have a look at those numbers. The only group who voted No - voted against discrimination - was the young people.

Have a look at this map, sent to me by the wondrous Snazzy.

It's often easy to cry that the world is going to hell-in-the-proverbial, but sometimes it helps to take a step back. Yes, there is still sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance, religious fanaticism, poverty, discrimination, global warming and racism in the world. But we're getting better. Overall, long-term, things are getting better. And from what I see in the world, and what the data above suggests, is that, over time, we are becoming more open-minded, more unprejudiced, more understanding**.

Here, also from Snazzy, is a letter written by an eight-year-old Filipino-American girl to Barack Obama with some advice about a dog, and a request that he make a law that requires everyone to recycle, and also ban unnecessary wars***.

In Obama's response, he writes, "I want you to look up the word 'empathy' in the dictionary. I believe we don't have enough empathy in our world today, and it is up to your generation to change that... I hope you will always be an active participant in the world around you, and that you will seize every opportunity to make the world better. Seeing young people like you who care about making things better inspires me and gives me great hope about the future of our country."

In today's New York Times Op-Ed, Al Gore proposes to make all of the US's electricity renewable within 10 years. The article is passionate and practical, and I highly recommend you read it (especially you, Mr Rudd). But here is the bit that made me cry:

Looking ahead, I have great hope that we will have the courage to embrace the changes necessary to save our economy, our planet and ultimately ourselves.

In an earlier transformative era in American history, President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon within 10 years. Eight years and two months later, Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface. The average age of the systems engineers cheering on Apollo 11 from the Houston control room that day was 26, which means that their average age when President Kennedy announced the challenge was 18.

This year similarly saw the rise of young Americans, whose enthusiasm electrified Barack Obama’s campaign. There is little doubt that this same group of energized youth will play an essential role in this project to secure our national future, once again turning seemingly impossible goals into inspiring success.

People often ask me why I write for teenagers. This is why.

*Nicked from this post by Justine.

**I was going to say "more tolerant", but I've made a personal pledge to stop using that word. The dictionary tells me that "tolarate" means "to accept or endure something unpleasant or disliked with forbearance". It's a horrible thing to say (I'm looking at YOU, Palin).

***She is an Obama fan despite the fact that her parents are named John and Cindy. For serious.

05 November 2008

Dear America: Yes You Did

So I've been following the US election pretty... obsessively. Like, REALLY obsessively.

And there are a few people who have been eyerolling me whenever I mention it. Because, after all, it isn't MY country. I didn't vote. It isn't MY president. Why should I care?

This is, of course, ridiculous.

I'm sick of people saying "they're all the same". I'm sick of people saying "one vote never made a difference". This is nonsense. Every vote makes a difference. And they are not the same.

I've got a lot more to say on this particular issue, but I'm very tired, so for now I'll just say - today was a good day to be alive. I'm off to bed with the knowledge that when I wake up tomorrow morning, the world will be a little bit better than it was this morning.