My 2017 in review

fireworks

As I type this, it’s just after 9pm on New Year’s Eve. There are plenty of places I could be, but I opted to go out to dinner with my family, then head home for a quiet one. New Year’s Eve often brings back unpleasant memories for me, and while I’m sometimes able to brave the hoards of drunken revellers and have a good time in spite of those memories, part of effective self-care is knowing when it might be too overwhelming to handle. This year was one of those times.

Nevertheless, 2017 wasn’t actually that bad for me now that I think about it.

Writing highlights

In February, my short story “Aiden’s Flowers” was published in Issue 1 of Flash Fiction Magazine. It’s now available from Amazon in both eBook and print. You can buy Issue 1 alone or get the book bundle featuring Issues 1, 2 and 3. If you do purchase a copy, it would be awesome if you could also take the time to leave a short, honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. 🙂 (You don’t have to, obviously… it would just be a nice thing to do for everyone involved in the publication.)

I wrote four theatre reviews and one film review for Perth Walkabout over the course of the year:

Between my various commitments, I didn’t end up pitching my first manuscript (I didn’t want to half-arse my pitch to an agent or publisher) or working on the second as much as I wanted to, but hopefully I’ll pull my finger out in 2018.

Personal milestones

I finished my Diploma of Library and Information Services in 2017, which means I’m now qualified to be a library technician.

In July, I had a four-hour tattoo session on my ribs to get a black and grey koi fish and some coloured cherry blossoms down my side. It was probably my most painful tattoo, but only by a little; it wasn’t unbearable or anything like that. However, it’ll probably be my last for a while because I want to start donating blood next year, and you can’t if you’ve been tattooed in the last six months.

I sang Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” in front of a live audience in October, which was my first ever non-karaoke performance but hopefully not my last. I was very scared. But on reflection, I think it’s less scary than public speaking and not that much scarier than regular speaking. 😛 (Your mileage my vary, of course. I also practised the hell out of that one song so I knew on some level that I was prepared.)

In November, I attended the Perth premiere of The Disaster Artist and met Greg Sestero. For the unitiated, there’s a movie called The Room, which has been dubbed “the best worst movie ever made” and “the Citizen Kane of bad movies” but has attracted a cult following around the world. Greg, who played Mark in The Room, wrote a book called The Disaster Artist about the making of this infamous movie, as well as his friendship with its mysterious star/director/writer/producer Tommy Wiseau, and their struggles to make it in Hollywood. The Disaster Artist book has now been made into a movie starring James and Dave Franco; James Franco also directed it.

I also reaffirmed my commitment to teetotalism. I’ve never been a big drinker, but I’ve gone through phases where I’d have one or two when I went out with friends. I’ve now cut back to zero and intend to keep it that way. I’m trying to be healthier in general, and while my sugar binges are probably more of an issue than the occasional drink, not drinking alcohol is easy for me, so it made sense to start there. The only reason I ever drank was to fit in, and I no longer care what people think because I no longer care about people.

(Just kidding. I threw that in there to hopefully get a laugh out of anyone who might actually be reading this. 😉 But seriously, your life gets so much better if you’re able to let go of the constant need for others’ approval.)

Other highlights

Other highlights (for me, anyway) of 2017 include:

  • The release of the polarising latest instalment of the Star Wars saga, The Last Jedi. I liked it, but I’m still trying to figure out where it ranks for me.
  • The release of the similarly polarising Star Trek: Discovery, the first Trek TV series since Enterprise was cancelled in 2005. I wish they hadn’t completely redesigned the Klingons for no discernible reason (unless it gets explained when the new episodes premiere in 2018?) but overall, I’m enjoying it.
  • Seeing some awesome concerts, including Bruce Springsteen (for the 7th, 8th and 9th times) and my favourite Aussie band, 1927 (for the 17th, 18th and 19th times).
  • My friends (and others) in same-sex relationships finally being able to have legally recognised marriages in Australia. (But it came with a lot of vilification and heartache.)

So all in all, a pretty good year for me personally, but I know it was awful for many others. It’s now almost 11pm, so here’s to a happy 2018. I’ll see in the new year with this song by one of my favourite bands…

New Year’s Day – Bon Jovi:

10,000 review on Perth Walkabout

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I reviewed 10,000 — presented by by the Perth Theatre Trust and Umbrella Works Inc. as part of the Subiaco Theatre Festival — for Perth Walkabout:

In 10,000, we are introduced to Edie and AJ through the characters they are playing in a video game. The game, which AJ bought when he and Edie first got together, acts as a metaphor for their troubled relationship. 10 years on, they are married with a three-year-old daughter, but Edie has recently moved out. A keen gamer, AJ hopes to repair their marriage by sharing one of his passions with his sceptical wife. But before long, the lines between reality and the game’s science fiction adventure world become blurred, and Edie and AJ find themselves fighting for their very survival.

Read the full review on Perth Walkabout.

The Lighthouse Girl review on Perth Walkabout

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I reviewed Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production of The Lighthouse Girl for Perth Walkabout:

As I waited for the Perth premiere of The Lighthouse Girl to begin, I felt like I was on a boat drifting towards an island, with the sound of waves crashing around the intimate theatre, the rocky landscape on the stage in front of me, and even the way my chair shook as the audience walked down the steps to find their seats.

Adapted by Hellie Turner from Dianne Wolfer’s award-winning books, The Lighthouse Girl and The Light Horse Boy, the play is set during the outbreak of World War I. Fay lives an isolated existence on Breaksea Island, south-east of Albany, with her father and old Joe. Fay’s father is Breaksea’s lighthouse keeper; her mother died several months earlier, and her only other companions are her donkey and her diary. Meanwhile, in country Victoria, best friends Charlie and Jim lie about their age to enlist as soldiers, anticipating a great overseas adventure together.

Read the full review at Perth Walkabout.

Help me 2017, you’re my only hope

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I had just woken up in my hotel room in Sydney when I heard the news that Carrie Fisher had died, four days after she stopped breathing on a flight from London to Los Angeles. While 2016 saw the passing of many iconic figures, this one probably hit me the hardest.

Like most of the world, I first saw Carrie as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy.

But the hilariously honest way in which Carrie wrote and talked about her battles with addiction and bipolar disorder made me admire her all the more. So I got her likeness tattooed on me in February 2015, and I’ll treasure that for the rest of my life.

If you spend half as much time online as I do, you’ll know that 2016 was widely dubbed the “worst year ever”, in part due to the deaths of so many beloved famous people. I was fortunate enough to see Prince live at Perth Arena early in the year — which would turn out to be just eight weeks before he died. No photos or recording devices were allowed, so I can’t show you anything from that concert, but by the time I left the building, he was in my top three live acts of all time.

On a more personal note, someone close to me was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, but as I write this, they seem to be doing well. So I’m quietly hopeful that 2017 will bring good news for us.

fireworks
Fireworks for the New Year. Photo by Freerange Stock Archives.
While it’s easy to focus on the negatives, last year had its highlights too. I returned to full-time study with the goal of qualifying as a library technician. And after a few false starts, I began writing what I hope will be my second novel during NaNoWriMo. (I’ve had some rejections for my first novel, but I will keep trying to get it published.)

I also flexed my writing muscle for other websites:

Other highlights included:

  • Seeing 1927, my favourite Australian band, four times — bringing my total tally to 16.

    A photo posted by Lee-Ann Khoh (@leeannkhoh) on

  • Attending the midnight premiere of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I don’t watch many movies, so actually going to the cinema is usually an event anyway.
  • The 50th anniversary of Star Trek and the release of what I consider to be the best of the “Kelvin Timeline” reboots, Star Trek Beyond.
  • Spending the holidays with my Sydney family, which includes my brother, sister-in-law and nephew.

In 2017, I hope to keep writing and improving as a writer, as well as continuing my studies. While 2016 wasn’t entirely awful for me (despite the rather dramatic blog title), I know some people who had genuinely horrific years, and I hope for a better 365 days for them too.

Happy New Year.

[PORTO] review on Perth Walkabout

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I reviewed The Blue Room Theatre’s production of [PORTO] for Perth Walkabout:

Entering the theatre for The Blue Room’s production of [PORTO] felt more like walking into a cosy laneway bar than a play. I was immediately drawn in by the set – the unassuming bar counter next to a stage with a microphone, and the funky little couch in the corner. When [], the omniscient, fourth wall-breaking narrator stepped up to the mic in his ostentatious red outfit, I knew this was going to be an intriguing show.

Read the full review at Perth Walkabout.

A Perfect Specimen review on Perth Walkabout

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I reviewed Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production of A Perfect Specimen for Perth Walkabout:

Haunting squeals and whistles echoed around the room as the audience descended into the theatre for the opening night of A Perfect Specimen. On a dimly lit, two-tiered circular stage stood three A-frames, featuring provocative headlines like Behold! The Monkey Woman. Then Theodore Lent emerged from the curtains, tapped his cane sharply on the ground and – in an ominous, booming voice – invited us to the show.

A Perfect Specimen, by Perth-born award-winning playwright Nathaniel Moncrieff, is inspired by the true story of Julia Pastrana. She was born in the 1830s with hypertrichosis and gingival hyperplasia, which resulted in hair that covered her body, as well as enlarged gums and irregular teeth. Dubbed the “Bear Woman” and an “ape”, among other things, Julia travelled the world as part of a freak show managed by her husband – Theodore Lent.

Read the full review at Perth Walkabout.

From the Rubble review on Perth Walkabout

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I recently reviewed From the Rubble, a production by Perth Theatre Company in association with PICA (Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts). It explores the lives of civilians in war zones and was inspired by the work of Walkley Award-winning journalist Sophie McNeill.

Torn, white buildings. A man with a gun. Piles of paper strewn across the floor like debris.
This was the stage that greeted us when we entered the theatre. As the lights dimmed, the humble stage was transformed through cleverly projected video footage; animation; puppetry; and a haunting soundtrack.

Read the rest of the From the Rubble review at Perth Walkabout.

A photo posted by Lee-Ann Khoh (@leeannkhoh) on

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit review on Perth Walkabout

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It’s been a while since I wrote a review of anything, having focused in more recent times on fiction. But when I was asked to review White Rabbit, Red Rabbit presented by Perth Theatre Company, I was immediately intrigued by the opportunity:

To describe White Rabbit, Red Rabbit as a unique experience would be an understatement. More than just a play; it is a theatrical experiment by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour. Soleimanpour was barred from leaving his country because he refused to take part in compulsory national service, and so his mysterious script travels the world in his place. Every night, Soleimanpour’s play is performed by a different actor, who is not given the script until they step onto the stage.

Read the rest of the White Rabbit, Red Rabbit review at Perth Walkabout.

RIP Piano Man John Gill

Piano man John Gill

Piano man John Gill
Busking in Murray St Mall - Photo by Lee-Ann Khoh
When I read the newspaper today, I was shocked to discover that John Gill had died late last week. He was a highly regarded ragtime and stride pianist, but if you’ve ever been to Murray Street Mall in Perth during lunchtime — whether you’re a local or a visitor — there’s a good chance you’ve seen him entertaining Forrest Place with his wooden piano-on-a-trolley.

I had the pleasure of talking to John just five weeks ago while researching an article about busking for Perth Walkabout. He was polite, affable and knowledgeable. He even stayed behind after he’d finished playing to chat to everyone, including trying to help an international student with an assignment, eventually vacating the area for another group of buskers.

I emailed John the link to the article when it was published online, but I haven’t been into the city since. I still have his business card in my wallet. It’s a strange, empty feeling to know that I’ll never see or hear those keys again.

Rest in peace.