Sunday, September 30, 2007

Celebrating literacy

On Thursday, the community at the primary school where I'm teacher-librarian, enjoyed a glorious spring afternoon celebrating literacy with a multicultural reading picnic. Thematic reading picnics have become a popular tradition at our school. An initiative of our Priority Schools Program (PSP) Committee, these picnics have become an excellent way for the all of us - parents, caregivers, students and staff - to focus on the importance of improving literacy skills and attitudes to reading.

The students arrived at school in multicultural costumes, or dressed in the colours of the national flag of their family’s country of origin. During the day, I presented each class with a certificate acknowledging their participation in the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge for 2007. This year, 313 of the school’s 400 students successfully completed this state-wide Challenge, up from 209 students in 2006. (A lot of independent reading has been achieved, and the students’ confidence in reading for pleasure has soared; it is great to see such enthusiasm for books.)


After lunch, the students and their visitors gathered in the main playground for a presentation of the folk tale, “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”. Our English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher assisted a group of her students to deliver alternating segments of this familiar story in a range of home languages and English. Languages represented included Croatian, Mandarin, Korean, Shona (a language of Zimbabwe), Tongan, Hindi and Farsi (a language of Afghanistan and Iran).

A multicultural trivia competition, organised by another teacher, had also been running in the days leading up to the picnic. There was also a display of multicultural picture books from the library and book reviews written by Stage 3 students (which are soon to be published by the Penrith Star).

Picnic baskets of goodies and favourite books in hand, it was then time for buddy classes and family groups to move off to various grassed areas around the school – each location was named after a different continent – for an afternoon of shared reading. It was very exciting to see all the groups on their picnic rugs so engrossed in their books.

And, today, the Sun-Herald newspaper (page 44) featured a photograph of some of our students at the picnic and quoted me in the accompanying article:
The children's picnics were centred on the joy that came from "literacy and reading, and... the fact that you can read a book anywhere. We're always looking for informal ways to get the parents up and to get them focused on literacy."

The article was titled, "Move over, teddy, this picnic's for bookworms".

How to try to top the amazing multicultural costumes worn by the students and parents? Go intergalactic! My screen-used Tellarite ambassador's costume from "Star Trek: Enterprise" gets its (Australian) debut on home soil. The trousers came with the costume, but how about those Ugg boots, eh? My Westie contribution to the ensemble.


It was a very hot afternoon, but the two layers of costume were surprisingly tolerable. I didn't wear the third layer, of course: the official Paramount Tellarite fat-suit! In fact, I thought maybe my result for Sunday's magic number would have been much better than 93.3 (sigh!) but it has been a week of many little celebrations and indulgences, such as: the staff dinner after Tuesday night's student disco; a thank you pavlova on Wednesday; the reading picnic on Thursday; a staff dinner at King Henry's Court restaurant on the Thursday night; a staff breakfast at McDonald's on Friday morning; end-of-term drinks on the Friday afternoon; and dining out with friends on Saturday night. What's really frustrating is that I feel skinnier. Well, they say that muscle weighs more than fat - and I have been walking a lot this week...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Fighting the inevitable

Book readers are up in arms again. It seems that there's a new trend in mass market paperbacks in the USA, with a move to slightly taller, wider, thinner "prestige" paperbacks, with wider margins, bigger typeface, higher quality paper - but a slight price increase that has everyone worried that this move to a new format is being pushed solely by the desire of publishers to charge a few dollars more.

I just can't see it. Would the many publishers of the USA really plot together to make MMPB books a little bit bigger just so they can charge more money per unit? There must have been some call from the buying public for a "new format". These so-called "prestige" books - which seemingly have whiter, cleaner, thicker paper that won't yellow as easily, plus bigger type, larger cover art, or whatever - are being issued to give the customers a better reading experience. Surely?

More likely, with populations of avid book readers getting older and older, and with failing eyesight, that many people were increasing annoyed by the small size of "pocket" paperbacks. A lot of market research goes into book publishing, marketing and distribution. Many people do judge books by their covers.

I understand that some novel series are changing format in mid-stream, which for those collectors must be Really Annoying. But, if sufficient customers don't like these improved MMPBs, and fail to support them, they'll die out. Certainly in the 80s "prestige" comic books - with whiter, thicker paper - quickly doomed the acid-filled newsprint versions to start to vanish. Most customers were happy to pay a little extra to get something that improved the look of the art and wouldn't turn brittle after only a few months.

Meanwhile, I can't say I've even noticed a new size of MMPB here in Australia yet, although there must be some examples at Galaxy Bookshop, who get a lot of American imports every week. I do know that there has been a trend for many top-selling books to get a hardcover, then trade paperback, and then MMPB set of staggered releases, which again must be Really Annoying for people eagerly awaiting only the MMPB version.

Oh, and speaking of Fighting The Inevitable, I was finally able to gain access to the clever little link that enables me to Change The Dates on my blog entries. Now that I'm finally able to retro date stuff, I'm finding myself shirking my daily responsibilities for writing posts! Dammit.

Mind you, I've managed to have some early nights this week - and feeling much better for it - and Jack's even had some extra walks around the block. I just have to keep disciplining myself to write Every Day. Sigh...

Monday, September 24, 2007

Waving goodbye

(AP Photo/file)

Marcel Marceau, the amazing French mime artist, has passed away. On MIX-FM radio this morning, Sammy and Subby appropriately farewelled him with one minute's noise (more appropriate than a minute's silence, they reasoned) and played some of Marceau's greatest hits. Very cute.

I was fortunate to see the great man on stage at the (also now-departed) Regent Theatre in Sydney in about 1975. High school French excursion; dinner afterwards at "La Guillotine", if I recall correctly.

Of course, we also remember Marceau as the only character who delivers dialogue in Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie". Where would the Umbilical Brothers be if they weren't allowed to make noise during their mime acts?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Separated at birth?

This is a cool meme! My celebrity lookalikes:

Sunday's magic number: 91.4 - and still falling. It's been quite a comfortable week, especially with the students at school having their annual Peer Support parties on Friday, and everyone bringing in more food to share than one individual could ever have a hope of eating, so there was junk food galore, and I kept being offered (and accepting!) all manner of naughty treats.

A few times this week, I've questioned my decision of putting the numbers into the blog - but I guess, in the old days of just jotting the numbers in my pocket diary, there were inevitably some unsuccessful weeks where I just glossed over the fact that I'd overindulged, not to mention the weeks where I'd misplaced the little book and had to start a scrap piece of paper, carried in my wallet, until the diary turned up again. This new method is certainly working, in that I've only had one fall from grace - and that was the week when a boxful of Krispy Kreme donuts held me down and... Yeah, you get the idea. (And at least the above meme didn't come up with famously roly poly, chubby-cheeked celebrities such as Ricky May, Pavarotti, Magda Szubanski or Matt Lucas.)

Matt and Magda
Karen & Sharon in tonight's episode of "Kath & Kim"!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Great River Walk: Stage 1

Today, I took Jack for a long walk along the Nepean River, on what is being called The Great River Walk, a combined walking and cycling track, that is being prepared in sections to provide a green zone for the people of Penrith and Emu Plains.

I understand that the ultimate aim is for this Walk to follow the Hawkesbury-Nepean River system - from the south of Goulburn to its mouth at Broken Bay, just north of Sydney! Stage 1, the Penrith to Windsor section, is the first constructed section.

Despite the super scary anti-Jack Russell-type metal grill boardwalk and bridge, the Walk is very scenic and easy to traverse. I'm sure Jack will develop his bravery and bridge skills to tackle the metal grills again next time.

Friday, September 21, 2007

You can tell it's September...

Ah! My first outdoor dining experience of the season!

Tonight I dined with friends, al fresco, at Stir Crazy noodle bar in Penrith. How delightful and relaxing to relish the combination of good (but inexpensive) food, great conversation, and perfect weather - and without being rugged up in coats, hats and scarves. We've been waiting all winter to do this!

I recommend the Hokkien egg noodles, the Malay peanut sate sauce and the beef! Yummo.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Doin' the rounds

Thursday afternoon, and I'm once again heading into the Sydney CBD after work, to "do over" my favourite haunts for books, comics, toys and so on. This particular dash around the city shops (and last week's) felt rather odd: the Mid City Center, in the Pitt Street Mall, has been totally vacated for major renovations, and that means no more HMV Megastore, no more Hobbyco (moved to the Queen Victoria Building, I believe), no more kebab shop (I used to enjoy chatting to the woman who ran this for many years, even though my recent dieting attempts meant I did not frequent it as often), no more Oporto Portuguese-style chicken - and no more (relatively new) Krispy Kreme donut kiosk! Of course, I only went to Krispy Kreme for their takeaway coffee. Ho ho.

It was a light night all round. No Star Trek stuff (although a batch of new mail order: "Star Trek: The Next Generation" action figures arrived at the front door this morning). But Galaxy Bookshop did have a Region 4 DVD set of the "Heroes" Season One and, as I've had a curiosity about this show, which has only increased with George Takei (Star Trek's Mr Sulu) joining the cast, and recurring nasty boy Zachary Quinto being announced as the future Young Spock in JJ Abrams' new "Star Trek" movie, it's become a "must have" purchase.

I started wandering back to the train station about 7.30pm, feeling strong about resisting the urge to buy any edibles more substantial than orange-flavoured Strepsils' throat lozenges. Although the diet is going well - I'm eating very little for my last meal of the day, although I'm "maintaining the engine" regularly as the day wears on - I must confess I often miss curling up in a McDonalds' to check out my purchases while I eat. Actually, I feel like I'm saving a lot of money, too; my "top up" treats tend to be apples, or rice crackers with Vegemite, whereas years ago I'd have splurged on a giant size Mars Bar, or a Crunchie.

But I'm also missing the social act of eating a normal evening meal. Very much. In the good ol' days, especially when Brisbanites, Maria and Peter, were living in Sydney, and joined me for my weekly jaunts into the city, or before that when a group of shop assistants and customers from Comic Kingdom would head off for drinks. One could munch away and talk to friends at the same time. Sometimes my pilgrimages into the city can be quite lonely, even though I see friendly faces throughout the night.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"I've seen his doodles, Jocelyn"

Congratulations to Geoffrey McSkimming, a colleague from my "Scan" days - he is still one of the assistant editors on "School Magazine" - and the prolific author of the "Cairo Jim & Jocelyn Osgood" novels for young readers. A copy of "Xylophones Above Zarundi: A Chaotic Tale of Melody", was used tonight on ABC-TV's Spicks and Specks music-themed gameshow!

Jazz musician Paul Grabowsky had to sing extracts from "Xylophones Above Zarundi" to the tunes of three different songs, one of which included the marvelously typical McSkimming quote, "I have seen his doodles, Jocelyn".

Somehow, during the ensuing hilarity, several people misheard Paul sing the line as "I've seen his doodles jostling", which only made it all the funnier when they misquoted it in their own jokes. Twice.

Thanks to Geoffrey, I once featured in one of his "School Magazine" plays ("Touchdown", Vol 87, No 10, Nov 2002, pp 341-346). The character of "Ian, the lost librarian", a Tarzan memorabilia fanatic (instead of "Star Trek", of course), appears in "Mr A at the Floor of Heaven, or, Not Quite Yeti".

"The misguided librarians are lost in the snow,
Dewey's their system, but snowy they go..."

Ian wears a spotted loincloth over his snow-pants, of course. He was joined by my real life workmates, Anne (aka "Mrs Dowling"), Wendy and Deirdre.

Lost librarians
Art by Tohby Riddle

But I digress. It was such fun hearing Cairo Jim get some TV attention. "Spicks and Specks" continues to be a highlight on my TV viewing week.

Captain's Log: Supplemental. Ah, I see that Geoffrey was watching tonight. He made his own blog entry on the topic as the show ended!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Waxing and waning

Last week I complained that my 50-100 visitors per day blog inexplicably fell to about 30 daily hits, which is way below what it even received when I was last on vacation (and nowhere near computer access).

Today, very strangely, and with no additional publicity or potent posts whatsoever, the stats suddenly doubled! Maybe Google Images had been down, or something? I certainly get a lot of site visitors through my Flickr! pics, and these get catalogued by Google. I'm realizing now that it was the referred links from pics that were lacking on the Site Meter data.

I find it quite fascinating, which is making me yearn, even more, for the Sydney-based Webloggers' Meet-up activities. The group has been strangely quiet recently, despite having 133 members at last count, although several are meeting as a spin-off Data Miners' Meet-up group. Now, I'm guessing that the data miners would know what's likely to be affecting my blogsite - numbers are their business, I think - but since I found myself quite out of their league at the regular Meet-ups, I'm not sure the level of conversation at a wholly data miners' meeting would be less scary and/or mathematical.

I'm seriously thinking of trying to run a Hobby Bloggists' Meet-up group through the Meet-up site, since many of those at the regular Webloggers' Meet-ups do their blogging professionally, but I am also having doubts that too many hobby bloggers will be any more free to meet in the CBD for drinks than those at the Meet-ups I run for Star Trek fans or Lost fans.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Memories of the moon

Apollo 11

Today, I had to run a video about the Apollo 11 moon landing of 1969 to some six year olds. Talk about nostalgia! It really does seems like only a few years ago I was in Year 5, sitting towards the back of a school hall at Arncliffe Public School, straining to make out the moving monochrome blurs on a small television set positioned way up on the stage!

On the video today, the narrator suggested that - maybe - someone in the audience might know someone who once saw the moon landing as it happened. Yeah, like their grandparents!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Ian and the disappearing waistline

Sunday's magic number: 92.3 - I think. The bathroom scales were going wacky today. I stepped on them late last night, for a sneak preview, but then this morning they gave the same reading. Since I always lose a considerable amount overnight, I kept moving the scales around the bathroom floor, resetting them, and hopping back on and off. 92.3 was an average of the numerous attempts.

I'm noticing that I'm not even yearning Junk Food Day now, which is probably a good sign! I took Jack for a walk on Friday night to buy a kebab (yes, at the scary mozzie-zapper shop!) and I scoffed at friends' suggestions of hot fish 'n' chips 'n' battered savs, both yesterday and today. Okay, I was being very strong. It wouldn't have taken much arm twisting.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

More Star Trek tie-in updates

Still working through my list of new purchases...

Homage to Vulcan - in Tokypop's second manga collection.

With the wonder of 20:20 retconning hindsight, Tokyopop's newest manga collection does a marvellous homage to all things Vulcan in "Amok Time" (TOS), "Yesteryear (TAS), "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock", the fourth season of "Star Trek: Enterprise", and the CGI-rejigged TOS episodes currently being made for the syndication market (and ultimately HD DVD), in their story, "Forging Alliances" by Paul Benjamin (art by Steven Cummings). The creators have managed to slip in visual and/or text references to Vulcan's Forge, the city of ShiKahr, the planetoid T'Kuht, the sites of several Spock rituals (perhaps all three of Koon-ut-kali-fee, Kolinahr and Fal Tor Pan?)... and more!

When le-matyas attack!

This story is more fun than a pack of le-matyas. And we get them, too.

Less exciting was the Diane Duane story, "Scaean Gate" (art by Don Hudson & Steve Buccellato). I guess I set myself up for disappointment, hoping for some participation by Harb Tanzer*, Naraht the horta or Lia Burke, but Ms Duane avoided any connections to her previous Star Trek work. The story premise was reminiscent of "Elaan of Troyius", in that a member of one planet's royal family was becoming monarch of a tenuously friendly rival planet. Complicating matters are a cute reptilian pet and lots of space battles. The art was nice and bold on this one, and a more enjoyable read because of that. At the same time, was it manga style? Not really. (And the queen's high-heeled pumps looked really out of place - anywhere in space!)

I'm in two minds about Christine Boylan's "Communications Breakdown" (art by Bettina Kurkoski). It's set post-"The Changeling", with Uhura gradually regaining her skills from the memory wipe performed by Nomad in that episode. Great premise (I was planning on using that story point myself once), and an interesting guest alien, but a few things just didn't gel, particularly the wacky little androgynous wild-haired replacement officer, Ensign Hodge, who looks like s/he fell out of an anime one day. Interestingly, the story mentions Cassandra of Earth mythology, who was also the inspiration for an unused "Star Trek: Phase II" teleplay.

Overall, Tokyopop's "Kakan ni Shinkou" is a worthy follow up to Shinsei Shinsei.

My complaint overall with the ST mangas so far: if they are going to be just like DC, Marvel or IDW ST comics, then I'd really prefer them in full colour. A few of the stories in this issue seemed to have one or two guest characters with anime-styled wild hair, but everyone else looking like they stepped out of a DC Comic. Reading the ST mangas on a train, at night, with the flu, was causing me terrible eyestrain, too. I much prefer "normal" sized comic pages for my Star Trek stories. For a b/w ST experience, I much prefer going back to the old "LA Times" post-TMP comic strips!

* An obvious person to tour Diane Duane's alien queen around was Harb Tanzer, I suppose, but then he'd be doing McCoy out of a main role, and most ST fans would want to read about McCoy over the lesser known Chief of Recreation.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Latest IDW and TokyoPop Star Trek comics - in review

A big fortnight in the current realm of Trek comics!

The first IDW Publishing graphic novel-style reprint omnibus, for "The Next Generation: The Space Between", is out - rereading it will be very interesting, to see if the arc is more cohesive in one big lump. It was wonderful that all the rare cover art was included in the volume. It seems that if you collected the photo covers for the individual issues, then buying the collection will complete your collection in one big swoop.

I also picked up the final issue of "Blood Will Tell", the TOS Klingon arc, and the second issue of the "Star Trek: Year Four" TOS series. "Blood Will Tell" #5 was very enjoyable, with a twist that now seems so obvious, but it caught me by surprise, and gave the whole setup a great pay-off. Each of the previous four issues had featured flashbacks to well-known TOS Klingon stories (with Kor, Koloth, Krell, and Kang & Mara), but told from the Klingon POV. Now, the Klingons of the ST VI movie time period have to make their votes as to whether they will agree with Chancellor's Gorkon's quest for peace with the United Federation of Planets. The art of storyline has been consistently fresh in these comics and IDW should be very proud of them.

Andorian prisoner
Tokypop's second manga collection is out!

Flipping through the first few manga stories in TokyoPop's "Kakan ni Shinkou", I was amused to notice a manga Andorian in the alien prison featured in the second of five stories in the collection: "The Trial" by Mike Wellman (and art by Nam Kim). He was near a TOS Gorn and various other aliens, but sitting opposite a Breen, a member of the mysterious race sometimes mentioned in "The Next Generation", and finally featured in several episodes of "Deep Space Nine". The appearance (above) would mark the Breen's TOS debut, I would think.

That story was a little infuriating, in that it tried very hard to be a typical TOS moral dilemma but, in fact, by having the alien Kos race put Kirk on trial for the crime of being human, it really wasn't all that different to Q's complaint about humans in "Encounter at Farpoint" (TNG).

More enjoyable was the collection's opening story, "Cura Te Ipsum" by Wil Wheaton (the former Wesley Crusher himself), which managed to bring together drama and destruction on the Enterprise and a new planet, a life threatening accident involving Spock, a budding romance with an alien healer for Kirk, and a reckless manga-haired, trigger-happy lieutenant who manages to complicate everything.

I still have three stories in "Kakan ni Shinkou" to go, but so far it seems on a par with the previous Star Trek manga collection, "Shinsei Shinsei" (Tokyopop, 2006). I'm really looking forward to the Diane Duane story, and hoping she has some references back to her days with Pocket novels and the DC comics.

However, I'm finding the small b/w panels and fine lines of the captions harder to read when I'm tired, or when my eyes start watering from the head cold I'm suffering, and I do find myself missing the colour of the regular Star Trek comics. More later!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Slip sliding away?

Well, I haven't gone out of my way to promote this blog recently but, where it used to get a comfortable average of 50 to 100 visitors per day, lately it's slumped to about 30 daily hits, which is what it was receiving last April when I was away for two weeks on vacation. Now that's a worry. I wonder what's competing with me for viewers' attention?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

This cold makes me feel funny

Some of my school's Year 3 and 4 students are working with me on an interactive Book Rap, composing and posting emails for other schools to share ideas about selected books. Last week, their progress on some narratives about our school's various playground birds was unexpectedly halted by a visit from poet Steven Herrick, which was apart of National Literacy and Numeracy Week.

Few of our students knew of Herrick's work, but we did have three of his titles in the school library. His visit was an overwhelming success. The Year 4 students had already written their bird stories for the rap and were ready to compose their Wrap Rap-up messages to finalise everything, but we all suddenly realised the potential of applying Herrick's unique style of free verse to such writing as the bird narratives. Therefore, I read a few more Herrick poems to the Years 3/4 classes and, when the Year 3's came in for their catch-up book rapping session, to complete their narratives, I encouraged them to use the option of free verse in their final drafts.

A few groups soon reached a stalemate, having exhausted all of their wonderful brainstormed ideas of two weeks ago. It was not long after recess, so we went out into the playground and waited quietly. Sure enough, in came the pigeons and other birds, one by one, to pck through the students' abandoned leftovers of food! In just a few minutes of observation we were witness to: pigeons' meal time; a young male pigeon's first, tentative attempts at courtship; and the "rules" of avian attack/defence. A few minutes later the huge, glossy black crows had also arrived, swooping down, full of confidence, taking over the new bird bath, and having a great time laying down the law of birdlife. The students quickly noticed the "pecking order" of our school's bird population.

We went back into the library full of renewed inspiration. One group, although they'd written their narrative about pigeons in normal paragraphs (and continued to do so), elected to perform it orally for the other groups as free verse poetry, breaking up the sentences into shorter natural phrasing, a la Steven Herrick. When we typed up their final draft, the new presentation style was retained. I was really thrilled with the result!

Normally I wouldn't share student work online, but the poem already appears elsewhere on a public forum, so I can give you a peek:

by Year 3 students (in the style of Steven Herrick).

The playground is empty,

except for the pigeons.

They go and look

for food

in the rubbish

and eat it.

This is now their territory.

Until lunchtime.

A young male pigeon

strives to impress

a new female.

This will be his first mate.

The other pigeons

peck the ground

and other playground birds, who can’t find food,

follow them.

After their meal of scraps

The pigeons go to the bird bath to relax,

and to decide on the next school to visit.

Once again, raising the bar of expectations caused the students to meet - and surpass it.

I've now put up a display board about the book rap in the library, and one story and one poem have been earmarked for next week's school newsletter. Even though I've been "talking up" this book rap with other teachers at every opportunity, and putting items in the school newsletter, the display board has already caused a few teachers in the other stages to realise that there has been all this amazing creativity going on around them, while they stayed in blissful ignorance. So often, teachers get so caught up with their day-to-day class activities they can manage to miss out hearing of other students' and other teachers' success stories. The display board is going to be a great focal point for identifying examples of successful collaborative teaching, and the use of ICT (information and communication technologies) and cooperative student learning in the school library.

The timing has been excellent! I happened to have my 2007 Teacher Assessment and Review Schedule (TARS) talk today, and I had plenty of positive stuff at my fingertips to talk about (not that I'm usually shy about sharing).

The principal gave me some excellent feedback on my first year back in the library. He especially likes my enthusiasm for children's literature, our school's great improvement in the annual Premier's Reading Challenge (103 additional students made it, making a total of 313 this year!), and how I've made the library extra student-friendly.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

This cold makes me feel funny

My clerical assistant in the library asked me today if I'd seen our stock of invisible mending tape, and did we need to order more? I told her that if the tape wasn't invisible then I could give her an answer!

Later she expressed concern about my cold. Having her revenge on my previous teasing, she said she hoped it wasn't equine flu (the current debacle threatening Australia's horse racing industry). I said, "Yeah, maybe it is equine flu, 'cos I'm feeling a little hoarse".

Har har!

Maybe you just had to be there.

Monday, September 10, 2007

New from IDW

I braved the CBD yesterday, despite APEC; the call of two fresh Star Trek comics, that had arrived late on Friday, was just toooo much. The new Klingon title was finishing up the "Blood Will Tell" mini-series, and the other one was issue #2 of "Year 4" (TOS).

The comics have a new IDW Publishing editor, whose first work will start to influence the line at the end of the year. There's an interview with Andrew Steven Harris right here.

Some fans are getting uppity about potential clashes with the Pocket novels, but the main reason that WildStorm had so many crossovers with Pocket Books was that the same known ST writers sought out projects with both publishers. IDW sounds like it already has its own pool of trusted comic writers. If a Pocket author wants to pitch to IDW I'm sure they be most welcome, but they'd be competing for spots like all the IDW teams.

The IDW policy of "multiple versions of cover art" concept is still causing me some grief, though. When the shops don't order double the copies they anticipate selling, not every customer will get the cover of their choice. It's driving me crazy! (I hope it is planned for all cover art to appear in the eventual graphic novel-style reprint volumes?)

I fully understand the "multiple versions" cover decision from a marketing standpoint but, living in Australia, where we work from a much smaller pool of collectors, here's the problem:

I used to collect "Xena: Warrior Princess" comics for a friend and he liked art covers, since the photo covers used well-known stills he already had in various magazines, video covers, collector cards, etc. I used to be able to specify "art cover" on my standing order. It made me glad I rarely had to worry about Star Trek comics doing the same marketing trick, although when Malibu did a few alternate covers. for its "Deep Space Nine" title, I treated myself to both versions!

But with IDW this year, I decided to use the same principle as my Xena friend: "Star Trek" art as my choice over photo covers, since the colour stills are quite common publicity shots.

Unfortunately, my comics dealer no longer guarantees I can have a choice of cover! There's no space on their new computer ordering system to specify alternate covers! Diamond Distribution catalogues say that the IDW Trek titles come in a 1:1 ratio, plus a few shop exclusives - which is very fair - but if the shop has over-ordered on one issue, they usually decrease the next few months of orders. When sales rise, the shop is caught short - and fewer collectors get to reject one (and buy the other) when they arrive to collect the order. If the shelf copies are already sold out before I arrive to collect my standing order, I'm right out of luck. And shop reorders also cannot specify art or photo choice.

The alternate, rare art covers from IDW are amazing! And what a waste that so few people get to see "Blood Will Tell" rare #1! A magnificent work of art so strictly limited in numbers! I did the happy dance on a recent trip to Brisbane, finding the rare Wesley art cover for "The Space Between" #5 - on special - to replace the Wesley photo cover I had to buy as a placeholder. It was very frustrating to own six comics where only one had the photo cover. (I wish I had room to buy all three/four covers of every issue!)

Luckily my Sydney comic shop refunded me on the Wesley photo cover this week, because two attempts to get art cover backorders had failed. Mind you, I'm probably buying all cover versions of the "Andorian Spotlight" special!

I'll review the new issues tomorrow.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Minnie Pearl and the APEC transport debacle

Minnie Pearl
"Minnie Pearl and the undersea bazaar"
by Natalie Jane Prior & Cheryl Orsini (ABC, 2007)
is being launched today at Muffledux Books, Clovelly.

I'm off the hook, to use a thematically suitable term, although I was quite looking forward to attending this book launch today. But it coincides with the transport havoc created by Sydney playing host to APEC this week, and Natalie rang me yesterday to say that her family cancelled their plans to fly down from Brisbane for the weekend due to her daughter's ear infection. (I think half of Brisbane still has that rotten cold it gave me last week!) So, I shall give it a miss. Cheryl Orsini will still be there. I wish her (and Natalie, in absentia) a very happy launch.

"Minnie Pearl and the undersea bazaar" is a very clever children's picture book about mermaids, with lovely "Roaring 20s" period-style costumes, art deco embellishments, and lots of in-jokes hidden in both the art and text, including a reference to the original version of "The Little Mermaid". May there soon be a fresh haul of Minnie Pearl titles joining this one on the shelves.

Sunday's magic number: 93.3 - and we're back on track! I celebrated today with a piece of chocolate cake (ie. it's Junk Food Day!). Amazing how great chocolate tastes when you haven't had any for an extended period. I was offered a single French fry last weekend and it was... almost orgasmic!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

41 and counting

41 years ago, "Star Trek" premiered on USA television screens, with Filmation's "Star Trek Animated" premiering on the same day in 1973.

I was looking around for other significant dates this week, but only to note that tomorrow is Jeffrey Combs' birthday. He played the recurring role of Shran the Andorian in numerous popular episodes. Onya blueskin!

Meanwhile, I found this amazing old TV segment (from "PM Magazine") about the imminent arrival of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in 1979. It starts off in a KB Toys store, and features the funky Mego Star Trek action figures of the 70s (which are being re-released in 2007 as affectionately duplicated replicas). There are brief interviews with William Shatner, Persis Khambatta and director Robert Wise, plus footage from the extended presentation reel, complete with its temporary soundtrack. Nostalgic!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Stuffed up

Well, it was inevitable. Staying with Maria, Peter and little Benjamin last weekend, all of whom were recovering from nasty bouts of head colds and dreadful hacking coughs, I was fairly sure I'd end up congested myself by this weekend. And so, as predicted, I've spent my bonus APEC Conference Public Holiday in my robe, and desperately trying to ignore the dog's hints about a walk around the block. Sorry Jack, I'm saving my strength to battle this lurgy, and to make sure it doesn't overwhelm me.

I was thinking of going up to Katoomba by train either tomorrow or Sunday, for some second hand bookshop rummaging - but good ol' State Rail have replaced Blue Mountains trains with buses so they can work on the line. (I thought the long weekend was meant to encourage us to avoid heading into the city?) By the same token, my author friend Natalie Jane Prior has a picture book launch over on the north side of Sydney on Sunday. I've been invited and, ordinarily, this may have meant a trip to Central on the country train, and then a leisurely and scenic ferry ride from Circular Quay but, with APEC breathing down everyone's necks, and no country trains doing the Katoomba to Penrith route (and presumably replaced by "all stations" trains to the city), it might be courting with disaster to try to get there. Poor Natalie and her family have to travel to the airport after the book launch; that may require lots of luck as well as good timing. Talk about "stuffed up".

Ah choo!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Faces old and new

My Star Trek Meet-up Group had another coffee meeting tonight and we were joined by three new first-timers, one a familar face from the old days of ASTREX. Nine members all up tonight, with several apologies.

The manageress of the coffee shop finally asked if we all knew each other from work, but she was genuinely surprised to hear that our common interest was the Internet, and that that had been what ultimately brought us together. She's seen our numerous past monthly meetings, where I've requested the furniture moved to create long tables, and then only four people show up!

I do find myself concerned over the fate of Star Trek fandom at the moment. There seems a great reluctance for people to make meeting fellow Star Trek fans a high priority in their lives. My group could only garner three attendees for our recent picnic afternoon. There was an almost-total lack of enthusiasm or interest - or even curiosity - from the traditional ACT and Brisbane fannish groups to the recent Sci-Nut conventions. In fact, the two lone QUEST members positioned behind their trestle table of QUEST fliers and merchandise at Onelia's Brisbane Star Trek day, last Sunday, threatened to outnumber the attendees who weren't already members of QUEST! And no one in the recently-formed, supposedly enthusiastic BrisScifi group, whom I met online recently, were able to coordinate themselves to drop by either. And the Sydney Webloggers' Meet-up Group seems to have gone stagnant, with my emails going unanswered and no new events scheduled. So disappointing.

Now, I do know it was Fathers Day in Australia that day but, in the good/bad ol' days, many geeky Trek Dads would have accompanied their families to a Star Trek event, or else the fans were so estranged from their families that a Star Trek day might have provided an excellent excuse not to attend traditional family lunches.

Hurry up with Star Trek XI, JJ!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


If I close my eyes and wish really hard, I might get inspiration for tonight's entry. Or, at least, I'll drop off to sleep... ;)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Poem envy

Today our school played host to a brief visit by prolific poet Steven Herrick, this year's patron of National Literacy and Numeracy Week. The students (and teachers) were enthralled by his deceptively easy style of almost-conversational refrains, often based on keen, real-world experiences that flow as a series of pithy and/or wry observations of the human condition - and not a stereotypical rhyming word in sight.

I came away from the session feeling like I wanted to reach for a pad and pencil and just let the ideas flow. I wouldn't be surprised if most of the students felt just as inspired. Unfortunately, we were all back to work all too soon.

Steven Herrick says he wanted to be a professional soccer player, wasn't good enough to make it in that chosen field, but started writing poetry at age 18, earning his first $5 after sending a quirky poem to a magazine.

Interestingly, I was working at "Scan" (the professional journal for teacher-librarians) when a bit of a debate broke out about how SCIS was cataloguing Steven Herrick works. Some of his volumes are actually novels, even though they might appear, at first glance, to be thematic poetry anthologies. Because he doesn't want students thinking that individual poems in those books could be read in any order, not to mention that the books might languish unnoticed and unread in the poetry section, Steven Herrick requested the cataloguers to reconsider some of his his books as novels.

In another example of an effective use of Youtube, here's Steven Herrick with the delightful Ten things your parents will never say, from "Poetry to the rescue":

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Farewell to David, Karen & Tal - and my penknife

I've just returned from three days in gloriously sunny Brisbane. I flew up on Friday afternoon - feeling very chuffed at having selected my own plane seat and printed out my own boarding pass at home the day being leaving! Yes, it's now possible to get on a plane without speaking to any human beings at the airport! Bizarre!

Alas, my poor penknife. Travelling with only carry-on luggage as I was, I suddenly realised I had nowhere to put my trusty ol' little penknife, which has been attached to my keyring for about twenty years! No sharps permitted in airline cabins these days so, not wanting to risk a $100,000 fine, into a garbage bin it went. Sob.

Saturday was a quick trip to the local mall for a haircut, and then into the city with my friend Maria and her new(ish) baby, Benjamin, who was born a few weeks after my last trip to Brisbane, last year. We dashed around all my favourite haunts: Ace Comics, Egg (second hand collectibles - I actually completed my "Herculoids" action figure collection!), Comics Etc (where I located an elusive Star Trek comic art cover), Mr Toys' Toyworld and Daily Planet. I think I managed to find something very cool and/or well-priced in all locations! Ben was very considerate and sat looking very cute and patient in his stroller.

You should have seen me, a few hours later, frantically freeing all my toy purchases from their little plastic sarcophagi to squeeze them into my cabin baggage allowance. Even though Maria and Peter had offered me the use of a large suitcase, I had to know well in advance if I needed it or not - before printing off my return journey's boarding pass on their computer! Seeing I don't have photo ID (I'm a permanent pedestrian), it was in my best interest not to have to try to prove who I was with two credit cards (and a current bill in my name with my domestic address printed on it).

Saturday night was spent with my old conQuest buddies at author Natalie Jane Prior's house, sitting on the balcony munching on Thai food and overlooking the annual River Festival fireworks. Most congenial!

Sunday was the Sci-Nut Star Trek Convention, with guests Jack Donner ("Tal" the Romulan), Star Trek novelist David R George III and his wife Karen. I'd been lucky enough to meet them the week before at a Sydney celebratory brunch, but this time my fellow Star Trek Meet-up and TrekBBS denizen, Rosalind, was also able to make the trek up from Sydney to meet David, and we both found it such a buzz that David was as excited about meeting us as we were to get to know him. What a pity so many local Brisbane fans overlooked this weekend's event. I don't think I saw one poster for the con in a bookshop, but Quest members had been made aware of the day, but they were rather thin on the ground. Oh well, their loss.

David & IanTal & Ian
David R George III (left) and Ian McLean. Jack Donner and Ian McLean.

The small, intimate affair that was this convention granted attendees unprecedented access to these most generous and entertaining celebs! At lunchtime, the convention doors were locked and the entire party moved to the nearby Shingle Inn for lunch, and then wandered back for more hobnobbing. Thanks for a great time at the convention, and have a safe trip back to the US on Tuesday, Jack, David and Karen! Hope to see you again soon.

Ian, Karen & David
Ian McLean with Karen and David R George III
at Sci-Nut Convention, Brisbane, 2007.

In a moment, I shall weigh myself and see what damage all this feasting and hobnobbing has done to my dieting efforts...

Sunday's magic number: 95.0 - drat! Musta been those damned "Krispy Kreme" donuts Maria made me buy for her at Sydney airport on Friday night. (Or Saturday's lemon cheesecake, or Saturday night's chocolate Bavarian, or Sunday's carrot cake...) Sigh. Back to the old drawing board...