30 Sep 2016
in Drinks Review, Food Review, Interview
Tags: ancient tea ceremony, black star pastry, Camellia Sinensis, chai & blueberry cheesecake, chai and blueberry cheesecake, chocolate & tea pairing, chocolate and tea pairing, co-founder of sydney tea festival, corinne smith, David Lyons, dessert artisans, drinking tea, english breakfast, essentials of tea, everyone's cup of tea, food, fruity tea, green teas, herbal tea, hot tea, iced tea, interactive tea ceremony, interview, koko black, lychee cake, oolongs, orange cake with persian figs, origins of tea, Perfect South, Pokémon tea cosies, purple leaf kenyan tea, rainbow nourishments, Renee Creer, review, reviews, scones, spicy chais, steeping, strawberry watermelon cake, sydney tea festival, tea, tea blending, tea cosies, tea market, tea party, tea pots, tea wares, the rabbit hole organic tea bar, the rabbit hole tea bar, the tea cosy, tisanes, tongue reading, white tea, workshops
On August 21st, Carriageworks in Sydney was transformed into a Mad Hatter’s tea party of sorts. The Sydney Tea Festival is now in its third year and it’s an event that continues to go from strength to strength. In 2016 over 80 different stallholders came together to celebrate their love of Camellia Sinensis and offered tea for two and three, and more!
The festival consisted of several parts. There were workshops where people could learn about the origins and essentials of tea, about blending their own varieties and participate in a tea reading (or at one stall a “tongue” reading) to enhance their knowledge of themselves and how it relates back to tea. A chocolate pairing workshop allowed patrons to sample truffles from Koko Black along with different types of teas. There was also a cube where patrons could either participate or witness an ancient tea ceremony.
The main part of the festival was dedicated to a large tea market. These stalls were a buzzing hive of activity where ceramics and china were for sale alongside tea cosies (including Pokémon ones!) and various tea pots and tea wares. There were hundreds of different teas that visitors could sample in the ceramic mugs that were included in the ticket price. They also had the chance to purchase boxes of tea on the day. These included things like oolongs and spicy chais to smooth green teas and robust English Breakfasts and even a purple leaf Kenyan tea that was rich in antioxidants. There were teas that promised to alleviate the symptoms of gout, arthritis or anxiety, and another that claimed to help you quit smoking.
The Tea Cosy stall reminded us that cream and jam-topped scones and tea, are a match made in heaven. The amazing Black Star Pastry had lots of gorgeous sweet teats like a lychee cake, an orange cake with Persian figs and their famous strawberry watermelon cake. Other stallholders even added tea to their desserts like Rainbow Nourishments with their chai and blueberry cheesecake.
The Sydney Tea Festival is an annual event that takes place in August, while the Melbourne instalment occurs in May. The Sydney one saw thousands of people descend upon Carriageworks to learn and experience tea, along with some passionate and knowledgeable tea and dessert artisans, in what proved to be one fun day. There was a little something for everyone at this event which meant thatThe Sydney Tea Festival proved it could be everyone’s cup of tea.
Q&A with Corinne Smith co-founder of Sydney Tea Festival and The Rabbit Hole Tea Bar
1. Can you briefly introduce yourself and describe your involvement in the Sydney Tea Festival?
My name is Corinne Smith and I am one of the co-founders of the Festival. I also have a tea business called The Rabbit Hole Organic Tea Bar.
2. How long have you been involved with the Sydney Tea Festival? How did you come to be involved?
I’ve been involved since the very inception as my co-founder, Renee Creer (fromPerfect South) used to sit around drinking tea, lamenting the lack of celebration of tea in Australia – which is how the concept for the tea festival was first hatched.
3. What is your favourite tea and why?
I’m an oolong fan. It’s my go-to, any time of the day or night tea and I love the variety. Within this one style of tea there are thousands of different variants and enormous breadth of flavour profiles. For someone who gets bored easily, I never tire of it!
4. What are you most looking forward to at Sydney Tea Festival? Why?
I’m looking forward to seeing all the new tea companies exhibiting for the first time. The industry is growing so fast and it’s really exciting to see the innovation happening.
5. Iced tea vs. hot tea and coffee vs. tea. What are your preferences and why?
Of course I have to say tea! I do drink coffee, but I max out on one cup a day before I start getting jittery. Tea, on the other hand I can drink almost intravenously and feel fantastic afterwards. I love hot tea in the cooler months but my go to in summer is one of our sparkling tea sodas.
6. The Tea Festival looks set to feature workshops and an interactive tea ceremony. Can you tell us more about this?
Absolutely. The workshops are an opportunity to discover more about tea. For those starting their journey, Tea Essentials and the Origins of Tea are where it’s at, hosted by renowned expert, David Lyons. For others, perhaps a peek into the world of tea leaf reading might hit the spot or even dabbling in blending your own tea.
The interactive tea ceremony will be an opportunity for festival-goers to experience the ancient tea ceremony ritual with a contemporary slant.
7. Why do you think people should attend the Sydney Tea Festival?
It’s a really great opportunity to discover a lot about tea in a very short space of time. There are so many knowledgeable people, passionate about great tea and ready to share that with you. For those who are already in love with the leaf, it’s an opportunity to get their hands on new blends and special Festival releases.
8. What do you think are the essential ingredients for a good tea? What ingredients should never be used to make tea?
Essential “ingredients” for good tea are quality leaves and the right amount of them, using the correct temperature and steeping for the correct time. In terms of what you can use to make a tea, really it’s only limited by your imagination, there are very few rules.
9. Is the temperature of the water important when making tea? I’ve heard that green tea requires one temperature while black requires another?
Absolutely. The lighter the tea (i.e. white, green or oolong tea), the cooler the water needs to be so as not to burn the leaves and to bring out excess astringency. Black teas and tisanes (herbal teas not actually containing the tea leaf, Camellia Sinensis) can tolerate boiling water with no trouble.
10. Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers of The Australia Times Gourmet magazine about the Sydney Tea Festival or tea in general?
This is tea but not as you know it. Come and discover specialty tea and explore what could be your new favourite drink.
Originally published on 28 September 2016 at the following website:http://www.theaustraliatimes.com/magazine/gourmet/issue/409/#39
Visit The Australia Times’ homepage at: http://www.theaustraliatimes.com/
27 Sep 2016
in Book Review
Tags: anecdotes, artist, barely scratches the surface, biographies, biography, book, books, chronology, composer, creating, cultural context, easy-to-read, facts, glaring mistakes, mick wall, multi-instrumentalist, music, music journalist, musician, not comprehensive, omissions, prince, prince rogers nelson, prince's background, prince: purple reign, purple reign, recording, review, reviews, songwriter, straight-forward, talented, the artist formerly known as prince, writer, writing
Prince was an enigma. And after reading a biography like Prince: Purple Reign the artist formerly known as remains a real mystery. The book is by the accomplished music journalist Mick Wall, and while it presents some facts, anecdotes and chronology about Prince’s life, there are many aspects that are glossed over or omitted from this slender volume.
Wall begins the biography in an objectionable way, including the verbatim 911 call from Prince’s home by an unidentified male on the day the musician’s body was discovered. This biography is bookended by salicaceous text, because at the end also sees Wall speculating on Prince’s alleged addiction to pain killers and other drugs. Fortunately, the rest of the book seems to be more focused on the music and the art.
Purple Reign does not offer any new information for the diehard Prince Rogers Nelson fan (and it is these readers who will notice some glaring mistakes and omissions.) Instead, this biography relies on secondary sources like the few interviews the artist gave himself, as well as articles and books delivered by those closest to Prince. The story is by no means comprehensive, but it does at least present a straight-forward, easy-to-read chronology of the majority of Prince’s projects. This in itself is no mean feat considering how prolific this talented, composer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist was.
Mick Wall is no stranger to the world of music. He is a music fan through and through. He was also an early champion of Prince’s music as well as many other artists he wrote about in his decades spent working as a music journalist. Wall is also a prolific writer himself, having penned dozens of music biographies for the likes of AC/DC, Lou Reed, Metallica, Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam, to name a few. There is no question that Wall is an excellent writer who creates interesting sentences that are easy-to-read and follow, but these biographies do feel like they barely scratch the surface.
For casual fans, Purple Reign may satiate your appetite for learning about Prince’s background and the wider cultural context he operated in. There are some interesting moments where you learn about his quest for artistic freedom and his insatiable appetite for writing, recording and creating. But for those readers who want books with more in-depth analysis of their favourite artist, Purple Reign will leave them hungry for a book with more diamonds and pearls.
Originally published on 26 September 2016 at the following website: http://arts.theaureview.com/reviews/book-review-prince-purple-reign-by-mick-wall/
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23 Sep 2016
in DVD Review
Tags: ambitious, ancestry, anthropology, archaeology, australian outback, biology, blackfella films production, cringeworthy, deoxyribonucleic acid, dna, dna nation, doco, documentary, dumbed down, dvd, dvds, entertaining, Ernie Dingo, evolution, fish out of water, genetics, genomes, great outdoors, hadza people, human biology, humanity, Ian Thorpe, interesting, julia zemiro, long-winded questions, mDNA, Mitochondrial DNA, mtDNA, nomadic herders of kurdistan, oldest human remains, over simplifies the science, patrionising, review, reviews, science, tanzania, vivacious, Who Do You Think You Are?, y-dna, ydna
DNA Nation is a documentary that is both illuminating and frustrating. It’s an ambitious TV series that seeks to answer the question of who we are and where do we come from. This project will ultimately challenge our ideas of culture and identity but it is by no means perfect or definitive. Its main flaw is that it oversimplifies the science in favour of playing up what the filmmakers believe are the more “entertaining” aspects at the heart of the show.
The program is produced by Blackfella Films and it brings together the former athlete, Ian Thorpe, actress and Eurovision host, Julia Zemiro and former Great Outdoors presenter, Ernie Dingo. Zemiro has a vivacious presenting style but there are moments – particularly in the first episode with the Hadza people in Tanzania – where she is a tad patronising. Dingo on the other hand does an excellent job of connecting with the subjects that he is interviewing and he is very charismatic and likeable. There are moments where Thorpe looks like a fish out of water and he really seems to be outside of his comfort zone. This is particularly evident when he asks yet another long-winded question and seems forced when participating in activities (it’s almost like you can read his mind and see that this is something he does not want to do.)
Episode two sees the group travelling to Kenya for an archaeology lesson because this is where the oldest human remains were found. In episode three the presenters’ stories diverge. Thorpe and Zemiro travel to North Israel and Turkey before the former travels to the nomadic herders of Kurdistan before eventually settling in Scotland, while Zemiro learns about Phoenicians in Sardinia and meets her genetic equal in England. Ernie on the other hand goes to India and Timor-Leste and eventually winds up in the Australian outback where he learns that 1600 generations of his family have lived in Western Australia.
This TV show wants to delve deeper than a series like Who Do You Think You Are? to get a sense of human evolution and to highlight our similarities and differences. This documentary does have some interesting moments but there are other times where the science feels too dumbed down and some of the presenters are too cringeworthy to really make an interesting point. This series was a great idea and the premise was good but ultimately it was let down by some problems in its evolution. Geddit?
Originally published on 22 September 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/dna-nation-dvd-review/
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21 Sep 2016
in Book Review
Tags: based on a true story, book, books, chairman mao zedong, chariman mao, china, chook chook series, communism, communist party, communist party's re-education program, communist rule, darkness, difficult subjects, fei, fiction, freedom swimmer, harsh, harsh circumstances, inspired by a true story, li, light language, meaningful topic, ming, novel, novels, oppression, optimism, orphan peasant boy, poignant topic, political minefield, red guards, repression, review, reviews, treacherous swim from mainland china to hong kong, true story, wai chim
Wai Chim’s novel, Freedom Swimmer may be a work of fiction but it’s based on an amazing true story. It tells the tale of two unlikely friends who embark on a treacherous swim from mainland China to Hong Kong in order to escape the oppression of living under the communist rule of Chairman Mao Zedong. The story is ultimately an incredible and inspiring one that will get us thinking and talking about an important chapter in history (and unfortunately one where millions of people died.)
The book is Chim’s first foray into the world of young adult literature but it isn’t her first story to be set in China. Chim has successfully written The Chook Chook series for younger readers. In Freedom Swimmer she writes a first-person narrative where the perspective shifts between the shy, orphaned peasant boy Ming and the suave and educated city boy, Li. The book opens with some tragedy for Ming- his mother has died from starvation and this has left him an orphan. He is all alone but he does receive some kindness and compassion from a local village girl named Fei.
In 1968 the boys from the village are left to work hard in the fields and survive on a meagre diet of rations. Eventually they are joined by a group of young upstarts from the city that includes Li. This new group are teenage members of Mao’s red guards and they have come to the countryside to help spread the word for the Communist Party’s re-education program. At first the differences between the two groups are stark but over time Ming and Li bond over their harsh circumstances. The pair eventually decide that they need to escape and that they should undertake a difficult swim through shark-infested waters and oceans that are patrolled by cruel guards. What happens next is in their destiny.
Freedom Swimmer shares a few things in common with Alice Pung’s Her Father’s Daughter and Micheline Lee’s The Healing Party. In the case of the former, both authors draw inspiration from their father’s harsh childhoods in order to make us stop, re-think and count our blessings. In the case of the latter, both novels deal with poignant and meaningful topics but also manage to tell their stories through light and easy language.
In Freedom Swimmer Wai Chim manages to negotiate a potential minefield and handle some difficult subjects with a deft touch. This story is ultimately an inspiring one about the resilience of the human spirit and how people can remain optimistic even in the face of darkness and oppression. In all, this book is an excellent one that packs a lot in and is basically like a punch to the heart.
***Please note: a free copy of this book was given to the writer through a Beauty & Lace giveaway. To read the original review on that website please visit: http://bookgirl.beautyandlace.net/book-club-freedom-swimmer
18 Sep 2016
in DVD Review
Tags: aaron paul, Amanda Seyfried, custody battle, disposable, drama, dvd, dvds, epilepsy, family melodrama, family story, fathers & daughters, fathers and daughters, film, films, grief, hollow, Jane Fonda, kylie rogers, melodrama, movie, movies, Octavia Spencer, Quvenzhané Wallis, review, reviews, russel crowe, russell crowe, self-destructive, sentimental, single father, smultz, tension, tragedies, troubled writer grappling with demons, trust issues, unconvincing, underdeveloped supporting characters
Fathers & Daughters is a sentimental film that shares a few things in common with a Nicholas Sparks movie. The story is a rather saccharine one where the love between a father and a young daughter and the same girl when she is all grown up with her new beau is explored and marked by some tragedies. This film ultimately tackles one too many stories and is a bit too smultzy for its own good.
The film begins in New York City in 1989. A gifted Pulitzer-Prize winning author (Russell Crowe) is involved in a car accident. His wife is killed and he is left facing the prospect of being a single father to his cute five year old daughter, Katie AKA “Potato Chip” (Kylie Rogers.) He also has to grieve and deal with other issues like epilepsy and challenges to his right for custody.
The story then flashes forward to 2014 where Katie is all grown-up and played by the gorgeous, Amanda Seyfried. Katie is becoming a therapist but she also has a very self-destructive streak. By day she forges a relationship with her young patient Lucy (Quvenzhané Wallis.) The latter is an intense mute girl who has some trust issues. But Katie wins her over by taking her to the park and coming out with crazy clangers like saying she wants to come back to life as a duck! In the evenings Katie drinks excessively and has one night stands with creepy men. Classy.
Katie looks like she is set on a downward spiral until she meets a fan of her father’s work (Aaron Paul Breaking Bad.) The pair start dating and their relationship has the expected ups and downs. This film also includes cameos from Octavia Spencer as Katie’s boss and Jane Fonda as a literary agent for Katie’s father. These supporting characters are rather underdeveloped and they seem rather cursory.
This story of a troubled writer grappling with his own demons as well as his adult daughter dealing with a fair share of her own seem on paper to be a decent enough premise. But in reality, this story lacks drama and tension. This then leaves the film feeling quite hollow and disposable. Fathers & Daughters ultimately has some good moments and some fine performances but the complete portrait is of one unconvincing family melodrama.
Originally published on 17 September 2016 at the following website: http://www.impulsegamer.com/fathers-daughters-dvd-review/
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15 Sep 2016
in Film Review
Tags: abuse allegations, Anna Vasquez, bizarre trial, Cassandra Rivera, courts, Deborah Esquenazi, debut, debut documentary, doco, documentary, dr nancy kellogg, elizabeth ramirez, emotional, feature, film, films, gaol, heart-wrenching, homophobia, homosexual latina women, hopeful, imprisoned, informative, jail, justice, Kristie Mayhugh, law, low income, marginalised women, miscarriage of justice, powerful, prejudice, queer screen, ramifications, rape allegations, review, reviews, san antonio 4, san antonio four, satanic worship, some questions unanswered, southwest of salem, southwest of salem: the story of the san antonio 4, southwest of salem: the story of the san antonio four, stephanie limon, stephanie martinez, texas court of appeals, the women maintain their innocence, vanessa limon, visceral, witchcraft
It’s frightening to think that the events that are depicted in the documentary film, Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four happened at all, never mind as recently as in the 1990s. The film is a damning look at the trial and convictions of the San Antonio Four, a group of low-income homosexual Latina women who were accused of gang rape. The story is ultimately an important one about homophobia, prejudice and a miscarriage of justice.
In 1994 a pregnant Elizabeth Ramirez cared for her two nieces for one week at her apartment. The girls were Stephanie and Vanessa Limon and they were aged just seven and nine years old. The pair were looked after by their aunt and their aunt’s friends: Kristie Mayhugh, Anna Vasquez and Cassandra Rivera. Vasquez and Rivera were in a committed relationship and had been parenting the latter’s two children for some time.
The two Limon girls made allegations of rape against the four adult women. It was a rough time in America where homophobia was rife and the public were fascinated by stories of satanic worship, witchcraft and abuse. In some cases allegations of abuse were made against homosexuals and this film has some brief scenes about two other individuals who were charged with abuse around this same time and seems to indicate that they were charged for a large part because of their sexual orientation. After the bizarre trial of the San Antonio Four, Ramirez was sentenced to an eye-watering 37.5 years for multiple convictions while her friends received 15 years in prison for sexual assault and 10 years for indecency.
This film is a little like the Making A Murderer series in that it attempts to look at the lives of these four women before the alleged crime as well as the case and sentencing. The Netflix series is by far a more comprehensive and better organised one, but it is important to note that the 90 minutes here constitute the debut feature documentary by director and broadcaster, Deborah Esquenazi.What Southwest of Salem does do well is focusing on the heart-wrenching ramifications of the events (as two of the women were separated from their biological children and all of them from their families) and it allows the group to tell their story and maintain their innocence through candid interviews. In spite of being informative and providing some background, it does leave some questions unanswered.
The women were subsequently released (Vasquez in 2012 and the remaining three in 2013) after over a decade in prison. They were released after one of the alleged victims, Stephanie Martinez (née Limon) recanted her testimony. There was also new evidence from one of the expert witnesses Dr. Nancy Kellogg who admitted that advances in medical science had rendered her previous statements as false. The women were free but their rights are still curtailed and they are seeking exoneration. Their case is currently in the hands of the Texas Court of Appeals.
Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four is a powerful documentary about a system that failed a marginalised group of four women. It’s a story that is demanding of your attention, particularly as it seemed to have alluded much of the media’s attention for some time. This film is ultimately a very emotional and visceral one where you will be angry about the past but hopeful about the future…
Originally published on 14 September 2016 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/queer-screen-film-festival-review-southwest-of-salem-the-story-of-the-san-antonio-four-usa-2016/
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