Author Archives: Penny

About Penny

I am a designer in Sydney. That's all you need to know! :)

Merida’s Makeover (Or “The Tale of Beautiful Tough Girl”)

Last week, Disney announced its new addition to the Disney Princess series: Merida, the fiery red-headed star of Disney-Pixar’s movie Brave, had made it to the immortal ranks of little girls’ childhoods all around the world. My three nieces absolutely adore the adventurous, bow-and-arrow wielding princess who tries to change her fate of an arranged marriage. She’s tough; she runs around, rides horses and climbs mountains. In the eyes of a little girl? She is totally cool. However, her unveiling to immortality was received with wide criticism.

To be a matching set alongside Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine and Rapunzel (just to name a few!), Merida had a makeover. With a pinched waist, tighter dress and smoother hair, she is also saliently missing her bow and arrows. This caused outrage from mothers, saying that they had “sexied” Merida up, making everything she stands for irrelevant. One person went as far to say that her new look is subconsciously allowing young girls to take in a “sexy, come-hither” attitude.

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Gadgets at Gigs: Living Live or Phoning It In?

I was lucky enough to have a very exciting week last week. Three concerts in four days, starting with a “red-headed yeti with multiple arms” that goes by the name of Newton Faulkner, then my favourite band, Counting Crows and finishing up with amazing young talent, Birdy. All concerts were amazing; I didn’t want any if them to end. On Monday morning, a co-worker said he wanted to see Birdy live again before he even said hello. It was a very good week.

Yet, something lingers… something I can’t quite understand and I don’t know if it’s because I am “old” or not “cool”: why did everyone watch the concerts through their phones? Continue reading

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Winter is coming: the premiere of Game of Thrones

game of thronesCold rain has fallen in Sydney this week, signalling the end of summer. Yes, winter has come! And, excuse the terrible pun, so has Game of Thrones!

The most anticipated television show of the year has finally aired, smashing records in the US; not only on the ye ‘olde television set but online as well. With the season premiere shown three times in the one night on HBO, around 6.7 million people in the US watched one of the three airings. This doesn’t include more than one person sitting around the TV, so the figure could very well be more.

In Australia, the show is “fast-tracked” onto Foxtel each week. While this next statement could cause arguments in itself, Australia’s free-to-air television has pretty substantial quality on its own without the need to pay for a cable service.

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Derek; m’names Derek: the genius of Ricky Gervais

Everyone has heard of the health benefits of laughter. The average child laughs over 700 times a day, yet the average adult only laughs 7 times a day. With 5 minutes of hearty laughter being worth 20 minutes on a rowing machine, why would you pick the gym over time with friends? So never hold back sharing that funny video at work, it’s exercise!

Comedy isn’t without its controversy though, and Ricky Gervais is a prime example. He is regularly criticised for his work, especially his treatment of good friend Karl Pilkington. But I have always liked Ricky Gervais and I couldn’t understand why until a couple of months ago. I would watch, listen or read his work, feel anxious about his words and wave it off as “not my kind of comedy”. It would then be a day or two later that his point would hit me and I’d go back for more like a drug, insisting that I won’t give up until I understood his intention.

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The Rhythm and Hues of Hollywood

Like anyone, I love a good movie or television series.

I was hooked into Lost and Heroes all those years ago. I couldn’t afford any merchandise at the time, being a high school student; but if I could have I am sure I’d still be stuck with figurines and posters. I even named my indoor plant Ando!

Sadly Ando is no longer with us (the plant, not the actor), but it was around to see the Writer’s Guild of America strike occur way back in 2007 and 2008. All of Hollywood was brought to its knees when screenwriters went on strike, demanding better working conditions and ultimately, payment. (As you’ll know, if you’ve watched Lost or Heroes, both of these shows suffered in terms of storyline through the strike.)

It was at this time that YouTube took to the stage. Many television shows created by actors and budding writers in those months came to light through internet distribution. Probably the most notable is Joss Whedon’s Dr Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog starring Neil Patrick Harris and featuring Nathan Fillion. Internet distribution meant that people could keep the world entertained without having to be a “scab” and deal with studios, who were the people not paying the writers who create from scratch the product they make money from. That all sounds reasonable, right?

Wait, what’s that sound?

My DVD collection of Spartacus, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead call to me; heavy with visual effects in every episode. My House Stark scarf is being delivered from the USA as we speak because I’m so in love with the show! I even saw Oscar-winning Life of Pi at the cinema to be sure I got the entire experience.

Yet, I am horribly saddened. The Visual Effects studio that created the amazing CG tiger Richard Parker (above), has gone bankrupt.

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A Truly Colourful Workout: Putting the fun into running!

I don’t watch the television series Bones regularly at all, and coming from a strong CSI background it isn’t my cup of tea. But if I catch the start of the show I can’t stop watching. The writers know how to draw in the audience.

I recently caught an episode where the murder victim, before he died, walked through an Indian market. People had been throwing coloured powder as he walked by. The autopsy showed coloured spots on his lungs. This is how they ‘knew’ where he had been. I have no idea if that would actually happen or not, but after Sunday I think half of Sydney has rainbow lungs.

Last Sunday I was lucky enough to be part of the “happiest 5k’s”, the Color Run, to raise funds for Heart Kids. Based on Holi, a Hindu tradition to celebrate the coming of spring; a series of charity runs have taken on the idea to throw coloured corn flour at people to make things a bit more exciting than your generic fun run. Continue reading

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Social Media Supremacy: The Battle of Facebook and Google+

fbvsgplusI think the oldest internet service I use is Hotmail. It is for no reason other than that my email address is like my home address; I just can’t be bothered to change it. Through Hotmail though, I learned that good ol’ MSN Messenger had been ditched by Microsoft in favour of Skype. Which I think is a smart move, Skype is the number one VOIP service.

It made me a little nostalgic, thinking back to nights wasted chatting to friends, so proud that I knew all the emoticon shortcuts by heart. It then led to recalling MySpace and the realisation that, yes, I’ve been using Facebook now for 5 years. Five whole years!

Facebook first fell into my lap in December of 2007. Having just digitised my parents wedding photos from Kodak slides, my sister insisted I join to share them. Once the pictures were up, there was only one last thing left to do: update my status for the first time. After much personal deliberation, I settled on: “(Penelope) is wondering where the ants in her room are coming from!”

Facebook_vs_Google_01

In retrospect, perhaps I should have waited and begun with a simple “Merry Christmas!” on Christmas morning.

Facebook has held the trophy for some years now. Eclipsing MySpace in what felt like a matter of months, Facebook is now a social machine. Many have tried to take a slice of the pie, Google the most notable. And it got me thinking: what is the difference between Google+ and Facebook anyway? A social networking site is a social networking site… aren’t they the same? Continue reading

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Ruby Review: Exploring Adobe’s Creative Cloud

I had a gym membership once. I used for about two weeks before I gave up. I’m not gym material for one, but the other reason I cancelled my membership was to direct my funds to something else that I love even more: the new Adobe Creative Cloud.

My Photoshop skills are entirely self-taught. As a teen, I would spend hours scouring Google for Photoshop tutorials that ranged from learning how to use filters to create lightning, to professional photo touch-up tips. I was unstoppable.

Then I started working and I felt guilty that, now that I could actually afford to buy the software, I didn’t have to… well, “borrow” it from other people.

So when I caught wind of a possible subscription service to some Adobe products I waited…

And waited…

And waited…

Until finally, Adobe released their new subscription service for their new CS6 range. For what used to be about $1,000+ outright, I can now pay AU$62.99 a month to access all of my Adobe products and receive any updates to the programs for free. So when they finally fix that bug that annoys you?¹ You get it for free and you get it straight away.

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Online Kris Kringle: 6 Quirky Christmas Ideas

I don’t mean to rub it in, but I have done most of my Christmas shopping already. The keyword here is most, but I’m pretty much down to wrapping paper and stocking fillers. Oh, the beauty of online shopping!

The problem with starting so early though is that I often miss great little gift ideas that didn’t filter into my world fast enough. I jump the gun to be efficient, and end up missing out on great gift ideas! First-world problems, huh?

So I thought I’d share my list of ‘Damn, should’ve got that!’ gift ideas in a bid to pay it forward. Some of these you might have already seen, but these are all new to me.

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Photoshop Surgery – digitally manipulating in more ways than one.

I’ve always liked Jessica Mauboy. Not that I have kept close tabs on her career, but she appears to be a good role model for girls. She’s bright, bubbly, polite and a hard-worker; why wouldn’t you point her out to younger children?

So when I saw the headline “White Out, ‘We just don’t do it’; Women’s Weekly denies photoshopping Mauboy pictures.” in the Sydney Morning Herald, I freaked out. I immediately clicked the link. When the page loaded, I saw it wasn’t Photoshopped at all.

Well, not in the way they had implied.

Jessica's Mauboy's picture from The Australian Women's Weekly.

Photograph as supplied to Sydney Morning Herald

Someone claimed that Women’s Weekly had lightened Mauboy’s skin for the purpose of making her appear caucasian. If they had actually done that I’d have been very upset, but they hadn’t, thankfully. It’s not something a good role model needs and most certainly not what young boys and girls need either. Continue reading

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