Lindy West was one of the highlights from this year’s All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House. So it is unsurprising that this Guardian columnist and Jezebel blogger’s book, Shrill – Notes From A Loud Woman is funny, accomplished and excellent. West’s book is ultimately a hybrid between memoir, with personal anecdotes, and essays, where she writes about important issues and uncomfortable truths in a compelling and articulate way.

For those people who are unfamiliar with West’s work, the Seattle-born writer first came into prominence while working as a film critic for Seattle’s alternative newspaper, The Stranger. Her review of Sex & The City 2 went viral. Initially her work focused on reviews of the arts, film and comedy but over time she started to become an activist for causes she felt strongly about, and a lot of these causes are covered in some detail in Shrill.

This volume opens with West’s account of growing up as a shy, fat girl. She admits that she was once so overwhelmed and consumed with shyness that she was unable to ask her classroom teacher if she could be excused in order to go to the bathroom. In the end Lindy peed her pants and she tried to blame this on a nearby water jug.

For years West grappled with the shape of her body and society’s demands, where women are often taught from birth that we should be small both physically and in presence. But over time West realised that she could not ignore the fact that she was fat. She also came out of her shell, and all of these things meant that Lindy eventually came to the realisation that she wanted to obliterate those views that permeate society.

Lindy’s fat activism means she’s received her fair share of negative retaliation. Her former editor, Dan Savage tried to weigh into the fat debate, using the argument that accepting fatness contributes to the obesity epidemic. West, however, addressed the argument raising the idea that fat people should not be considered acceptable human punching bags. West’s arguments were both well-considered and thoughtful. It is this same style that was particularly evident in West’s TV debate with comedian Jim Norton, over rape jokes in comedy,  and as well through much of this book.

Shrill includes a lot of things that are clearly quite personal to Lindy. One of the hardest parts to read is where she takes on one of her meanest internet trolls. They had created a Twitter page where he pretended to be West’s father, Paul, shortly after he had passed away. The troll also wrote that Paul West was the “Embarrassed father of an idiot.” This broke Lindy’s heart and she penned an essay about the ordeal. The troll eventually apologised to her and the two had a frank and open discussion on an episode of This American Life. Score sheet Lindy West: 1 Trolls: 0.

In Shrill, West should be commended for tackling some uncomfortable topics (abortion, rape, periods, etc.) and for being outspoken, witty and sassy in her remarks. West makes some compelling arguments, whilst also letting the reader in on some very intense and private moments from her own life (including her love for her husband, Ahamefule J. Oluo). Shrill is ultimately a bit of a rollercoaster ride where you’ll laugh, cry, feel rage and be jubilant at West’s uncompromising and relatable anecdotes and prose. West clearly knows how to strike a chord with readers, so some things are a laughing matter, others will appeal to your grey matter, and then there are even more topics that just matter. Period.


Originally published on 19 March 2017 at the following website:

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A Letter from Italy is a romantic story that isn’t just ruled by its heart. It’s a novel inspired by Louise Mack, the first female war correspondent who worked during the First World War. It’s a book that shows how a determined and strong journalist negotiates the trials and tribulations of being a woman in a male-dominated industry and also through a time of tumultuous change.

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Help Us Find Sunil Tripathi is an excellent documentary and cautionary tale. It tells the story of a Brown University student who went missing in 2013 and how he was wrongly accused of being one of the Boston Marathon bombers. The film is a sensitive one about an amazing character and a sad indictment of social media and how a vocal few could turn into digital vigilantes and participate in a crazy witch-hunt.

The film is directed by former CNN journalist, Neal Broffman and written by Heather O’Neill. It is a story with lots of layers and depth. At the start we meet the family and friends of Sunil “Sunny” Tripathi. We learn that he was a kind person, talented musician and an intelligent student. He loved playing the saxophone and learning about philosophy. A beautiful portrait of him is developed through a series of home videos and photographs.

Sunil had difficulties at university and many believe he was suffering from depression. In March 2013 he left his apartment in Providence and he vanished. His family and friends launched a search party and reached out to people through social media and traditional broadcasters in order to find him. Sadly, this was largely to no avail.

On April 15 2013 the Boston Marathon bombing occurred and Tripathi’s elder brother and sister were there supporting a friend. Shortly afterwards the FBI released two blurry photographs of the suspects. An individual on Reddit falsely accused Tripathi as being one of the individuals in the pictures and all hell broke loose. The family were harassed by hungry journalists seeking an exclusive and the internet turned into the Wild West full of racist taunts and threats. The individuals online made huge leaps and presented unsubstantiated claims as fact and basically tried to punish Sunil even though we are supposed to treat individuals as innocent until proven guilty.

The filmmakers were unable to interview any of the people who wrongly accused Tripathi so this film can be a tad one-sided. But they do interview two representatives from Reddit and the users who made those hateful and ignorant comments have their writings shown in graphics that punctuate the film. The bloodthirsty journalists who left voicemails in the early hours of the morning are also represented through the audio they left on the Tripathi’s phones.

This story ultimately shows us the real Sunil Tripathi. He was an innocent, articulate and loving young man who was unfairly subjected to mob mentality and digital vigilantes. This is ultimately an emotional, thoughtful and important tale that will leave you frustrated and sad about our broken system and the internet in general.

Originally published on 15 September 2016 at the following website:

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Charlotte Campbell-Stephen is one incredible and inspiring Australian woman. She’s also the subject of the raw and gritty documentary film, I Will Not Be Silenced. This tells the story of Campbell-Stephen’s steely resolve and determination in pursuing justice in a flawed legal environment.

The film is written and directed by veteran filmmaker, Judy Rhymer. It depicts Charlotte’s story, from the incident involving violent robbery that turned into a horrific gang rape in Kenya in 2006 and the aftermath. Rather than be knocked down, Campbell-Stephen decides to take the perpetrators on. She is the first rape victim to testify in open court in Kenya and she endures an arduous, seven year battle to see the case fully heard.

Campbell-Stephen is a fascinating subject. She has now become an advocate for women’s rights and is involved in education programs for Kenyan boys and girls. These things have all had a positive effect because it has helped build a grassroots movement and an environment where women feel more comfortable bringing forward and discussing how they have been victims of violence and rape in a cruel and patriarchal society.

I Will Not Be Silenced is a frustrating film to watch. It is heart-breaking to see Campbell-Stephen’s spirit attempt to be broken by an imperfect legal system and a defense counsel that shows contempt (Defence Counsel Evans Ondieki was frequently absent and often turned up late to court). Campbell-Steven also had to negotiate evidence tampering, threats on her life, accusations of racism and different magistrates who didn’t care and forced her to testify about the traumatic circumstances over and over again.

Campbell-Stephen is an amazing woman who shows us how she lived through the pain, hurt and shame because regret was something she could not fathom. It is through these upward battles that she also manages to achieve greatness and affect change. This is a must-see documentary as it shows a complex woman and her strength, courage and determination as she fights back against a bizarre, labyrinth-like legal system. In short, it’s powerful, thoughtful and inspiring.


Originally published on 6 May 2015 at the following website:

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Girls isn’t a glamorous show and in many ways that’s what makes it feel so brutally honest and real. In the third season the characters are the most fully developed and realised versions of themselves to date. It’s also one that is full of the kinds of stories and things that will challenge, enthral, frustrate and entertain viewers, and do so in the most visceral way possible.

The fourth series of the show recently debuted overseas but this ramshackle third series has only just been released on DVD. Once again it is predominantly written and directed by the series creator and star, the uber-talented, Lena Dunham. And like the previous two seasons, it once again follows those four idiosyncratic, young women through various episodes that feel very much inspired by or rooted in real life.

In this season Marnie Michaels (Allison Williams) is heartbroken and reeling from her break-up with long-time boyfriend, Charlie Dattolo (Christopher Abbott). She will wind up forming a few different romantic attachments over the course of these 12 episodes and find herself in a very similar place to the season premiere by the end of it all. Shoshanna Shapiro (Zosia Mamet) cuts loose after her break-up with Ray Polansky (Alex Karpovsky). She will revel in her freedom but her master plan will also unravel spectacularly.

The interesting, Jessa Johansson (Jemima Kirke) has a harder edge this season, especially when she enters rehab. She will go to some very dark places as she tackles substance abuse and forms some unlikely friendships. Hannah Horvath (Dunham) meanwhile, attempts to live with her OCD while struggling with her relationship and the notion of success and what that actually means.

The season sees the gals and the attractive male characters like Ray, Hannah’s boyfriend- Adam Sackler (Adam Driver) and Elijah Krantz (Andrew Rannells) all along for the bumpy ride, which also includes an introduction to Adam’s unhinged sister (Gaby Hoffmann). The story lines include a road trip, a beach party, a reunion, a Broadway debut and an untimely death. These all come to a head in the season finale where a world of possibilities are left open for the next series to take up and explore.

The third season includes guest appearances from the likes of Rita Wilson, John Cameron Mitchell, Richard E. Grant, Patti LuPone, June Squibb and Louise Lasser. The DVD set includes six audio commentaries with the cast and crew as well as shorter “Inside the Episode” segments like the previous series. In the latter, Dunham is interviewed and gives brief descriptions of the ideas and writing process for a particular episode and this combined with scenes lifted from that show.

Girls is a TV show where viewers will find the characters utterly relatable or too vapid for their taste. As it stands, this articulate and clever series remains as deep and sharp as ever. There are many thought-provoking and provocative moments that make things feel fresh and entertaining. It also means that even the most bizarre and narcissistic scenes come with a huge side order of reality and insightful lessons that we can all draw things from.


Originally published on 16 January 2015 at the following website:

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If Elbow were carpenters they’d be considered master craftsmen, especially on album number six. The Mercury prize winners have created an epic, consistent, and beautifully-crafted timepiece that has as much mystery and emotional treasure as a stunning glory box.

The record is driven by Guy Garvey’s thoughtful and emotional lyrics, which have previously moved audiences. Now that he is approaching 40 they are also as mature and clever as ever.

The births, break-ups, and new romances that happened to the members of Elbow while making this album set the tone. In fact, the LP is nothing short of an emotional rollercoaster; some moments are joy-filled while others are tinged with loss.

‘This Blue World’ is similar to Foals’ ‘Spanish Sahara’ in that it is a broody ballad full of ambience. In this, Garvey makes a romantic gesture but he doesn’t get carried away with Hollywood theatrics, instead keeping things simple and singing wistfully.

These melancholic vocals are prevalent across the album as the singer croons and pleads, sometime rather softly, but in each instance commanding the listener to sit up and listen to what is being said.

There is a pop symphony in ‘Charge’, while ‘Fly Boy Blue’ sounds like something closer to a movie soundtrack. ‘Honey Sun’ sees some of Radiohead’s darker, Kid A-inspired beats coupled with sunnier moments and lyrics that take us to the ends of the earth.

The mood shifts to a more upbeat and spirited set of harmonising not unlike Fleet Foxes on the title track, while the closer sums up the attitudes of some English politicians towards refugees.

The Take Off And Landing Of Everything is not an immediate album nor one filled with makeshift singles. Instead, it is strongly centred on grandiose honesty, gentle storytelling, and a reflective sense of extensiveness. The result is evocative pop and prog that is rich and rewarded by multiple spins.


Originally published on 15 March 2014 at the following website:

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dan sultan


Dan Sultan is a natural, a consummate professional and storyteller, if you will. On his Back To Basics tour he left the seven-piece band and supports at home and instead delivered a strong, two-set show with little more than an electric guitar and a mic. He said it was a “nerve-wracking experience” but you wouldn’t have known it. We all could have been in his lounge room or sitting around the campfire having a chat and a laugh, such was the relaxed and chilled vibe in the room.

The Sydney show was a sold-out one at The Basement. The venue was absolutely packed to the rafters with the security even opening up the back doors that lead out into the alley way, just to let some fresh air in. It certainly created some funny moments when the passers-by outside gave bemused looks and wanted to know who was responsible for such great tunes.

Dan Sultan is a singer-songwriter who is by his own admission, one to dabble in the blues, soul, rock and country genres. But as the sound was raw and stripped back, the emphasis seemed to be on the blues mixed with a country twang. The ingredients were there for some good storytelling, not just in the numbers and their genres, but in the excellent between-song banter.

The fact is Dan Sultan should be given a soap-box or his own TV or radio show. His asides were funny; his humour self-deprecating and other things he said were just so darned interesting. I was a little late for his first performance but one of my initial introductions to him was his describing the recording of his third, forthcoming album in Nashville (AKA Crashsville, which he’d later attribute to its high number of incidents on the road). It’s a place that has hosted the likes of Kings Of Leon, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban, so they’re “Used to a lot worse than three blokes from Melbourne”.

Another important aspect about Sultan is his powerful and soulful voice that can switch from rough to sweet in a matter of seconds. It’s the kind of thing that has a kind of magic of its own and takes you by the hand, willing you to go on a journey. In “Nobody Knows” Sultan sang verse-after-verse to his sweetheart. He sounded like a choir-boy singing a hymn with his velvet croon suiting the love song to a tee. He also charmed the pants off of every lady in the room as he delivered the words: “Nobody knows my love for you”. Awwwwww…

Sultan followed this up with one he co-wrote with Paul Kelly, a man he has admired and become friends with. “Time To Run” is a track that has not made it on any official release but it was an expressive and mature tale that should be put up for consideration someday. After this, he said we’d all take a break so people could, “Have a smoke, get a drink” and he could go comb his hair.

The second half started with “Kimberley Calling”. It was also one that involved his recounting his experiences in Broome, especially while filming Brand Nue Dae. In some ways this song was similar to some of the material John Butler has written, because it was also by a man speaking from the heart as he described his connection to one part of his homeland.

There was a plug for Rock For Recognition, as the purpose of the show was to promote the issue of constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Sultan described the cause well when he said it wasn’t a matter of race or politics.

He would then play “All Night”, which made me think of Paul Dempsey and Adalita entertaining audiences of all kinds with just their voices and an electric guitar. Sultan’s punters were as engrossed as the crowds I’ve seen at either of these musicians because they were absorbed – for the most part – in the proceedings. Sultan really enchants us with his great guitar playing and even more amazing voice, he creates something that’s simply beguiling.

“Mountaintop” was a real heart-on-the-sleeve type moment before “Voices” transported us all back to the west side of our vast, island home. “Your Love Is Like A Song” saw a geographical change to Melbourne with its references to Flinders St station, making it a slice of contemporary introspection before Sultan introduced us to the song that will be his next single. He turned his amp up for this slightly rockier number before leaving the crowd with “Old Fitzroy” another funny story about playing three-set shows in Melbourne in his late teens for a complete tight arse. It was some cheeky fun.

Make no mistake; Dan Sultan is one natural entertainer. His format tonight may have been raw and stripped back but he entertained the sold-out Basement crowd with his thoughtful and emotional music and fun and light-hearted anecdotes. There was really no other way we could’ve shared such a pleasant and enjoyable evening.


Originally published on 25 October 2013 at the following website:

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